I had the coolest opportunity from Brooks to interview an incredible woman. Her name is Ashley Walsh and she is from Georgia. She is 25 years old, a mother of two and a beyond amazing trail runner and ultra marathoner (including 3 100 mile races!). It was so great to be able to talk to a woman that is passionate about running but even more passionate about her family and able to fit running into her life (um, she ran 6000 miles in 2011) without it taking away time from her family. Need some motivation? Ashley is your woman!
Overcoming addictions and tips.
1. Why did you start running? What keeps you running everyday?
I began running to shave of the baby weight I gained from my 2nd child. I became fat, lazy, unkempt, and way too comfortable with being that way! As a teenager, I struggled with a crystal-methamphetamine addiction, but conquered it completely. Not taking care of myself or my body reminded me of the bondage that crystal-meth had over me. I needed to escape it, so I started joining my sister at a gym and hopped on the least intimidating equipment- a treadmill! After several painful sessions, I finally found my love. I still run every day to clear my brain. As a mom of two, I need the time to myself to recharge. I don’t run anywhere but trails usually, and running among the trees is comforting and peaceful to my soul. I like to pray, think, dream, and move out there. That always keeps me coming back for more.
2. What got you into trail running? (Your love of adventure, thrill and pain inspires me!)
Aw thanks!:) I started trail running as a way to get back to my roots. I grew up on a huge horse farm riddled with lots of fun trails, and my family explored them on a daily basis. Something about being in the woods feels like true home to me. In fact, when I’m inside of my house, I crave to be outside of it no matter the season. Trail running is the simplest and most enjoyable method for me to explore the outdoors. I love how many places I’ve explored with my own two feet!
3. What are some things that you do to help prevent injuries? Do you ever cross-train?
YES! I cross train very hard. I am not an advocate of cross-fit, but I train regularly with safe functional style training. I do a lot of weighted pullups, pushups, squats, lunges, abs, etc & regularly run up a mountain with my 4 year old on my back. I also mountain bike a lot, and explore any other mode of outdoor fun available to me: rock climbing, kayaking, open water swimming- anything!
4. How do you fit in running 100-140 miles a week while being a mom (I need all the tips I can get:) I know that being a mom is your number one priority so how do you fit it all in?
I trained at very high volume all of 2011. I ran over 6000 miles. I had to wake up regularly at 4am, or stay up running through the night. I got used to the schedule, but was only “happy mommy” with a large serving of caffeine! Eventually, the mileage took a huge toll on my body in various ways and I began to break down. In 2011 I suffered several serious injuries: a hip stress fracture, a torn gluteus minimus, rhabdomyolosis (my body ate my own heart for fuel!! 4 weeks bed rest!) and the added stress of successfully running 3 100 milers in a 1 year span, winning one, and winning a 12 hour race with over 70 miles. This year, I finally succumbed to Over Training Syndrome, adrenal fatigue, and low iron. I realized that due to my addictive personality, I was most likely dealing with a running addiction as means to deal with emotional issues, and not just “training hard”. I took a step back from training, and focused all of my energy on family and fun to get healthy again. I can still crank out a 100 miler at the drop of a pin, but I doubt I will ever take my training above 90 miles a week again. I am positive now that the key to a healthy hobby is staying well rounded, and well rested:).
******I included this to show that running and addictions are VERY dangerous. I think that Ashley is amazing for learning from her mistakes with her training and working on learning how to balance her life!!!
5. What are some of your future goals?
I’m very competitive, so I would like to win some more races. I would also like to go sub 3 in the marathon soon! I had the opportunity to go to AdventureCORPS Badwater Ultramarathon this year to write for my website UltraChicksUnite.com. I realized while out there that I would love nothing more than to competitively race at Badwater- so that one is definitely on my list as well. As for my non racing goals, I would love to do the Appalachian trail, and pretty much just tear up any sick trail anywhere on the globe. The trails call to me the most!
6. How do you fuel during your runs? What do you eat before and after a workout?
I pride myself in not being someone who follows trends, so I tend to stay away from anything I feel is “trendy” in the food realm- even for fueling. I tend to just grab whatever I feel my body needs. For ultras lasting over 12 hours, I drink Boost and coconut water and chow down on anything I can get my hands on. I’m not picky! For daily life, I’m a very clean eater and usually just have some fruit and granola before/after a run.
7. Did you run throughout your pregnancies?
I actually did not run throughout my pregnancies! Running was something I didn’t discover until after my kids were born. I became pregnant with my son when I was in high school, and at the time, I wasn’t concerned with anything other than loud music, fast cars, and punk clothes. So running for health was a foreign concept to me. I actually failed my PE class in 10th grade twice because I refused to participate in the running workouts! Ha!
8. Does your husband run? What do your family and friends say about your running?
Yes, my husband, Daniel, is extremely fit and very active. He is a personal trainer as well. He is obsessed with training like I am with running. Daniel has never been anything other than extremely supportive of my running. He makes it all possible. He encourages me to go on running adventures, and watches the kids for me some afternoons so I can catch a break. When I first started doing100 milers, my extended family didn’t like it or approve because they thought it was something harmful to me, and they didn’t understand it. To this day, I don’t think any of them really get it, but they love me and support me anyway, and that’s all I can ask for. My mom is the funniest. She freaks out whenever I run really really far. It’s so cute! She’s scared my legs will break for some reason. But, she watches my children for me so I can escape to epic trails every now and then. She’s always scared that I run dangerous trails like the Appalachian Trail all alone, but she knows it’s what I love…. so she puts up with me. Typical mom:) I love her.
9. What is your absolute FAVORITE running moment?
Man. I have so many sacred moments in my life that I keep close to my heart. I could name so many right now. The most recent memory I have is from when I went trail running in the Grand Canyon with my best friend. We had a goal to run from the South Rim to the North Rim and back in one day 46 miles- a dangerous feat for two chicks in the sweltering and desolate canyon. The entire trip was filled with beautiful moments between us. Just two girls, pouring our hearts out and pounding the earth-in one of the most beautiful creations in the world. The colors, the conversation, the miles– it was incredible and I’ll never forget it.
10. Tell me about some of your favorite gear to train with?
I am obsessed with Brooks so all Brooks clothes for me. I don’t run any trails without being armed with the Brooks Cascadia 7. Cascadias were my first trail shoes in 2008, and I still prefer them over any others. I regularly wear the Nathan Intensity, a hydration pack designed for women. It has a 2 Liter bladder which is great for my long outings, cord to strap my unused layers, and enough pockets for me to stash my gear & my trusty knife-which I take on every run through the woods! I also love the shoe accessory Sole Spikes from SoleSpikes.com-traction increasing spikes that I find come in handy when tackling the trickiest of trails.
Can you do pull-ups?
-No but I REALLY want to!
Anyone else hate running in high school? Did you love or hate PE?
What was the last thing that you used to fuel during one of your long runs?
Have you had any overtraining injuries (physical or mental)?