An Interview with Ultra Runner Champion Sabrina Stanley

An Interview with Ultra Runner Champion Sabrina Stanley

We all know Sabrina Stanley the runner and the current FKT holder of Nolan’s 14, but with all the miles she puts in, it was time to figure out what really makes her tick. And while it was difficult to get her to sit still long enough to ask the big questions, what we learned about Sabrina was certainly enlightening and even brought out some big laughs. It’s not quite 60 Minutes, but this is our sit down with Sabrina Stanley.

 


Hey Sabrina, what's up? Been up to anything exciting recently?

I just finished up pacing/crewing Bryan Paisley at Moab 240. My pacing section was 30+ miles through the La Sal Mountains. Luckily it was in daylight and there were still a few pockets of Aspens that were dressed in bright yellow leaves. Crewing someone as they chip away at 240-miles over 4+ days was truly a treat. This is the second 200+ mile race I have crewed and both times I was left in awe at the human spirit. 


What was the first thought when you saw your Nolans FKT had been beat? Where were you?

Although I was incredibly impressed by Meghan Hicks performance on the route. I was really disappointed in myself for setting a record that could be beat so easily. I texted my congrats to Meghan and let her know she crushed it. Then I sat for an hour really contemplating my next move. I was at my home in Silverton, CO and started looking at weather patterns for the next two months (mid-September through mid-November). Then I started looking at moon phases and hours of daylight.


When did you decide it was time to reclaim the Nolans title? 

I wanted to be able to sleep peacefully through the winter. After doing some research, I was able to see that going for the title again was possible, the only question left to be answered was if my body could handle it. I mapped out a training plan. In the month since I set the first FKT, I had taken 10-days off running completely, and the other 18-days before Meghan reset the record, I had only run up to 12- easy flat miles. My new training plan included two 100-mile weeks with a ton of vert, then 1.5-week taper with minimal vert. I felt confident I could go back and get the FKT although I knew from the jump, I wouldn’t be able to reach my full potential due to how recent the first attempt was, temperatures, daylight hours, and a few descents where snow would be a hindrance. I spoke with my crew and started feeling out who would be available to crew/pace during the second attempt. I also contacted my team manager with Adidas to see how he felt about a second attempt. He was concerned with my body, and understandably didn’t want me to risk injury. We decided I would start training again and see how those two intense weeks went, then go from there. Everything went well, so Nolan’s round 2 was officially on. 


How has the double Nolans run filled the void of races and ultra events this year?

It has overfilled the void. The time I spent route finding, time driving to and from the course, camping on the course. I can’t recall ever investing as much mental and physical energy into a race. I’m honestly really excited to return to normal racing, where the course is marked, other runners are dictating the pace, and all I need to do is worry about running as hard as I can without navigating and not tracking paces off an index card. 


With 2021 approaching, what do you think the race world will look like?

I’d like to be optimistic, but unfortunately, I think the realist in me is shining through. I do see more races happening in 2021 compared to 2020. I don’t see runners being able to travel internationally. Although I think domestic races will be occurring at close to normal volume. There will most likely be mask rules in effect, aid stations and crewing may have a more socially distanced protocol, but the bottom line is races will be held and I can’t wait!  

What is your favorite MUIR flavor? Do you use MUIR anywhere off the trail?

Cacao Almond is my favorite MUIR flavor. I have a huge sweet tooth and the Cacao Almond reminds me of brownie batter. Roughly every two weeks in the winter I will get out for a day of backcountry skiing and MUIR is always on hand for a quick snack half way up the mountain. 


Living in Silverton with winter quickly approaching, how do you find your stride with feet of snow on the ground?

The winter in Silverton is a natural recovery period that is forced on me. The town sits at 9,300 ft and when winter hits, running above 10,500 becomes almost impossible. To get to 10,500 is a very gradual 14-mile out-and-back run. So, there is no serious vertical gain happening, unless I travel somewhere for the weekend, jump on the treadmill, or don’t mind punching through a groomed snowmobile path. The cold naturally slows me down (it’s not uncommon for it to dip into the negatives at nighttime) and the daylight hours are limited. All these factors keep me from pushing too hard all year round. I will spend hours of the day on the treadmill when necessary, but it’s not the same as tackling mountains 12,000-14,000 ft high during the summer. I am unable to get the long pounding downhills I get in the summer. The slow winter pace, and the lack of intensity I think plays a large role in keeping me injury free. Although I am still racking up a ton of miles, I am not beating my body up as much as I do in the summer. 


What’s one thing no one knows about you, not even Avery… that you’re willing to share?

Hahahahah ummmm... Avery knows a lot! I think he may know this but I’ll still share.

I applied to be on Real World. I didn’t want to be on Real World, but I did want to be on Real World Road Rules Challenge, so getting on Real World was step #1. Nothing ever came of my submission video. I am a sucker for any reality TV competition game show. I’ve stopped watching them, because I get so obsessed, that it takes too much brain energy away from my running. 


What is your spirit animal?

I’ve heard a person’s spirit animal is an animal they see more often than is normal.

I’ve seen a cougar in the wild twice, I want to say 3 times, but can’t recall the third. Final answer: a cougar. There is something about a female lioness that I can relate to as well, since she seems to be in charge of her pride, doing most of the hunting. I am also moved by the spirit of the wild mustang and what they represent.  I don’t think you can pick your spirit animal; it is supposed to present itself to you. Who knows maybe my spirit animal is a spunky chipmunk or an intelligent raven? 


If running wasn’t your thing, what do you think you’d be doing?

Anything that puts me at the top of the food chain in the particular field I would have landed in, in a parallel dimension. I would like to assume based on my personality that I would be aggressively climbing the ladder trying to get to a CEO position. If I could be anything and body type/talent could be adjusted, I would love to be a professional jockey riding a thoroughbred down the track for a living, or a Rockstar with the voice of Whitney Houston or Celine Dion, playing for millions.  

How important is nutrition to the ultra community… on a casual trail run? Training? Race day?

Nutrition is one of the cornerstones to ultra-running. Nutrition should be incorporated into training runs, so that when race day comes your body is already accustomed to digesting food on the move. If nutrition isn’t a part of a runners training for an ultra, then they are almost guaranteed to have GI issues on race day. When a person is running for over 5 hours, their body needs to be fueled like a car, if they are unable to convert the fuel, they are putting in their body to energy or they aren’t putting more fuel in, they will hit a wall. 


Do you think you could keep pace with Forrest Gump on his multi transcontinental runs?

Forrest Gump ran for 15,248 miles over 3-years, 2-months, 14-days, and 16-hours. This breaks down to 0.54 MPH. He was “running” barely over ½-mile an hour. I definitely think I could keep up. I worked at Bubba Gump Shrimp company for a few years, eventually climbing the ladder to become the head training manager for their flagship location in Times Square. I love Forrest Gump trivia! 


Burrito or tacos?

Both or neither. I’m the farthest thing from a foodie. Give me a protein shake and I’m happy. I’ve been known to eat gels and drink hydration mix immediately after finishing a 100-miler, just because I was hungry/thirsty and that’s what was around. 


When you hit the trail, aside from MUIR, what’s the one thing you have to have?

I’m not a superstitious person, I intentionally don’t have a single item that I HAVE to have. If I did then I know I would forget it one day, potentially at a race, and I’d mentally be stressed out about that one thing. To prevent this from happening, I avoid having a good luck charm. 

When you’re down and out, what trail run brings the smile back?

I wouldn’t say there is a particular trail, at least not in Silverton. They are all so incredible. When I am bummed about something, I think the key is just to get started on a run whether that is on a treadmill or trail, then go at the pace my body dictates without putting any stress on paces. Sometimes I will just hike for miles and clear my head, other times I will do an intense workout so I intentionally don’t have the mental capacity to think while I’m pushing my body to its edge. 


Are you a headphone wearer? Yes, what are you listening to on the trail?

I don’t wear headphones, but I am one of those runners who puts their phone on loud and listens. This way I can hear if an animal is nearby (and hopefully they hear me first), or if I am on a dirt road, I can hear ATVs approaching. I listen to all kinds of music fast or slow beats, it doesn’t matter. I also have a slew of podcasts that I frequently turn on. My all-time favorite podcast is, Last Podcast on the Left. 


Best training exercise to help with your running?

Yoga! I know this isn’t a specific exercise, but 30-60 minutes of easy yoga in the morning, helps me get started and loosens things up before hitting the trail. I religiously use Yoga with Adrienne videos from YouTube. They are free and have the perfect level of stretching for a runner who isn’t trying to master yoga, but just looking to work the kinks out. 


What is your all time favorite movie?

Is a top 7 acceptable... in no particular order?

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 
  2. The Grinch
  3. White Christmas 
  4. Thelma and Louise 
  5. Dumb and Dumber
  6. Elf 
  7. Big Fish

Can you tell I love Christmas? 


And finally, any last thoughts? A joke, a haiku, the motto that gets you through life…

How about a philosophy? 

It’s so easy to get distracted from your #1 goal. There will be other goals that may seem just as appealing, but you can’t get sidetracked. There will be friends, family, strangers, acquaintances, at times your own mind and even people in your chosen field, that will try to tell you, your goal isn’t possible or that you are going about it the wrong way. You have to ignore these voices and even cut them out of your life at times. Everything goes into that one goal. If there is anything in your life taking away from that goal, then it can’t remain. Accomplishing something incredible is hard, don’t take advice from people who have never had the vision you have or the drive. They can’t comprehend themselves doing what you do, so it’s hard for them to picture you doing it. That isn’t your problem. Keep grinding, keep inching forward, and never trust anyone but your own intuition.

 

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