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Runner Interview: Anna Mae Flynn | Ultra runner (@annamaeflynn)

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Interview with Anna Mae Flynn


  • Marble CO, USA

 Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

When and why did you start running?

I started running for fun as a child. In my youth, I lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Here I roamed the hills and ran because it felt good to be free. I ran more formally in middle school when I joined the local club called, Striders. I’ve been running basically every day since then.

Describe your ideal race?

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I wake up on race morning at around 8 am. Have a fresh European espresso shot, and an egg on toast prepared by my love, Paul. The race course is mountainous and includes diverse terrain. I’ve never run this course before, and so every climb and descent is an adventure. There’s coca-cola and pickle juice at every aid station.

I take the lead from the 1st ascent, and my legs feel extremely bouncy and light. At that moment I decide it’s time to give it all I got. I win my mental battles, and settle into a pain cave I haven’t quite experienced before. Here I am present and am alive. I dance on the trail. Following the winding trail, scanning the fauna, pulling up on small groups of people chanting enthusiasms and providing support for making me feel grateful for the experience.

An internal dialogue begins: “hahaha weeee this is so fun. Hi, birds. Hi, trees” No but that is actually what my internal dialogue is… in real life. The morning continues, the sun gets warmer, the wind begins to blow and leaves float onto my shoulders. Stride after stride I feel more and more confident in myself: my heart pumping proudly, blood flowing smoothly, toes gripping more confidently… I surge forward with my all. The final shoot to the finish line. Muscles jolt at a halt… Friends, family welcomes you to this destination that we’ve been so blessed to be able to join together to celebrate life in the sport/skill we share in common…

I want to run on, but alas my friends and family assure me 50k should be enough running for the day. It didn’t take long for me to join them at the course finish line where we welcomed other racers while we sipped on IPA’s and went to town on NY original single slices of cheese pizza. Well-worth the 5hr and 45min that I ran up and over the mountains, and danced on the seemingly endless ridges.

Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

What’s your favorite trail race to date, and why?

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I’d have to say my favorite trail race is Speedgoat 50k. My dude Paul came out to Utah with me to support and enjoy the weekend together. I really truly feel like I just have a better time when he’s around, and seeing him through out the course while I was racing was comforting. I told him my goal and it’s easier to try and stick to them when you tell them… they hold you accountable in a way. My goal for this race was to try and go beyond my “uncomfortable” threshold and dig deeper than I have. That’s always the goal, but to attain that goal is ALWAYS a challenge. That race was one of those races.

Congratulations on your recent win at Speedgoat 50k and the course record that you smashed in the process! What did your training look like coming into that race?

I had a few bigger days adventuring with Paul in the Maroon Bells and Raggad Wilderness. Those days consisted of 15-26 miles averaging at 10,000 elevation and most likely similar vert loss/gain. Exploring the backyard has never been so gratifying. Most of my weeks averaged no more than 40 miles, 9-11hrs and 15-17k vert gain. I don’t really focus on the stats, but more about what I want to do that day. Perhaps in the future, I’ll do more focused training, but for now, I’m enjoying the exploration, loose structure aspect.

Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

More recently you came 2nd in the Pikes Peak Ascent, that looks like quite a challenge! What advice would you give someone going into that race for the first time?

I would say focus on training for speed rather than hiking up peaks. Spend a good month or so doing some tunable intervals at 10-14,000 feet if you can. Even running up a pass like Independence Pass and getting a hitch from a friend or a passerby would be even better. It’s EXTREMELY run-able. ( I didn’t do this… but now looking back I’d say this is the way to go).

I don’t really focus on the stats, but more about what I want to do that day.

What has been your biggest running / adventure challenge to date?

My biggest would’ve been transitioning from wanting to trail race just to check out the scene/new sport, to becoming an elite runner.

Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

Tell us about your greatest running fail (we’ve all had – or will have – them at some point!)

Probably my attempt at completing my first 100. I had just raced a 50 miler prior to Western States Endurance Run (WSER), and was so incredibly blown away with the thought of completing a 50. Then when I decided to race a 100 I basically avoided thinking about what I was truly signing myself up for. I was under prepared and naive. Let’s just say I learned a lot and will be back at some point to respect that race for what it is.

Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

What is your approach to training? Do you follow a particular training plan?

I don’t follow a particular training plan. Perhaps I will in the near future. For this summer season, my goal was to fall more in love with the mountain ranges in my backyard, to have a blast, and be healthy and strong. I think there are times when training is more of a focus and other times it’s not. It’s a balance, and I struggle to find that. It’s a work in progress. Meanwhile, enjoy the wildflowers.

Living in Marble, CO must be amazing for its year round beauty. What season do you enjoy running there the most?

I enjoy all seasons, but in the summer the freedom to run more minimal is my preference. When the sun’s rays are more distant and the days become shorter the aspens are magnificently painted gold, this is also a marvelous time to be out running on the trails.

Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

What advice would you give to a new trail runner?

Don’t try and copy someone else’s Strava. Don’t be too competitive with anyone or yourself. Always have a good time, and when it is time to work hard your body will know.

We read that you are a school teacher as well as an elite runner. Do you make an extra effort outside of the syllabus to help educate the kids on the benefits it can bring?

I do, yes! At my last school, I started an outdoor education course. We snowshoed at least once a week during the winter and made a trip to Mt. Shasta in the upper State of CA. I also try to make my math curriculum more engaging by including elements of our local environment.

I’m hoping to include more sustainability-focused goals. I hope that by creating systems in my classroom and pulling resources from our local community, then together we can achieve this goal.

Don’t try and copy someone else’s Strava. Don’t be too competitive with anyone or yourself. Always have a good time, and when it is time to work hard your body will know.

What is your favourite bit of running kit?

The shoes. Nothing beats a fresh pair of your favorite shoes. I could make do without everything else.

I’ll be joining Team Hoka One One in a few days here, and I’m really looking forward to being on their elite team. The Hoka Challengers that I’ve just recently tested out have truly paralleled the rave-reviews I’ve read and heard.

What challenges / races / adventures are you planning for the coming year?

It all just depends on how busy I am with school this year. I’m working at a new charter school, and so it will have its own challenges. I can say this much; I’ll be racing more mountain races and perhaps a few FKTs in the making (Perhaps The Rut, TNF50).

Anna Mae Flynn Trail & Kale Interview

What’s your favourite running/adventure book?

Alone on the Wall – by Alex Honnold

[This one seems to be popping up a lot, amongst our Interviewees! – Alastair]

Finally, what do you get up to in life when you’re not running or adventuring?

Hmmm.. I’d say I’m eating lots of delicious food, caring for my house and playing with my four legged pup friends, engaging in new projects with Paul, painting, teaching, dancing, and all the good life activities one gets themselves into.

 


 

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Thank you, Anna for giving us an insight into your adventurous running life. We love how you are inspiring the next generation to love nature and take up a more active lifestyle, whilst at the same time performing so well in the races that you take part in. Good luck in your future races and FKT attempts. If you are at TNF50 then we may see you out there this year!! 🙂

Happy Trails!

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