FROM THE ATHLETE: AMELIA BOONE
AMELIA BOONE: WORLD CHAMPION MENTAL TOUGHNESS
Amelia Boone is an impressive new-style Reebok sponsored athlete. Enter the world of obstacle racing and you’ll find Amelia’s name amongst as the top women in her class.
She’s a 4 x World Champion Obstacle Racer, ultra-runner and attorney who admits to having no toenails. Now that is a runner we can identify with at JackRabbit!
We sit down with Amelia to talk about endurance training, injury recovery and her move to ultra-running.
JackRabbit: Hello Amelia and welcome to the JackRabbit blog! Firstly, before we delve into your inner world and motivation, tell us how you discovered endurance racing and what you enjoy about pushing yourself to the limit?
Amelia Boone: I started out like so many others first start – running with a group of co-workers. I was a first-year associate at a large law firm and had never run a race before in my life, but I figured why not. I crossed the finish line and immediately wanted to know when I could sign up for the next one, but I quickly graduated to the big leagues – my second race ever was a 24 hour event. I was completely in over my head, and had no idea what I was doing, but that’s where I really found my passion for it.
JR: What do you think are your strengths as an athlete?
AB: I’ve always been kind of a “jack of all trades” athlete – I’ve never excelled at ONE thing, but I’ve always been pretty good at everything, and I think that translates very well to obstacle racing and endurance events. During races, I’m a slow starter – it takes me several miles to get warmed up, but once I get going, I can generally go for days. I can’t remember the last time I felt “tired” (in races or life), so that works out pretty well for long events.
JR: Although you are a world champion, in many ways you’re just like the rest of us! At least on the level you still work a full-time job and compete; the struggle of balance work/life is real. How many hours do you put into training and how is your work/life balance these days?
AB: I’m always transparent in saying that the fit isn’t perfect, and sometimes you have to sacrifice training (or, say, a social life). I’m up at 4am and get in my training then in the hours where I know no one at work is going to be looking for me. I generally am out on the trails running 5x week in those pre-dawn hours – I focus more on “time on feet” instead of mileage because I do a fair amount of vert, but I currently am around 45-60mpw. I strength train 2-3x a week (mostly in the evenings), and I take one full rest day a week. So it’s not as much volume as a professional athlete, but given that I’m juggling two full time jobs, I’ve learned that trying to train like a full-time professional athlete can lead to injury really quickly.
JR: You’ve been quoted as saying, “I'm not the strongest. I'm not the fastest. But I'm really good at suffering”. We love this; perseverance is huge in endurance racing. Can you share with us how you keep your mental game in check while you’re racing? How do you train yourself for the mental aspects of race day while you’re training?
AB: People always ask if mental toughness can be learned. I think, to a certain extent, it can. And part of that is embracing training in less than ideal conditions. I love running in the dark, and I love running in the rain. Cold, mud, etc – bring it on. You don’t race on a treadmill with Netflix in front of you, so you shouldn’t be doing your training like that. During races, I tend to compartmentalize and break the race up into little chunks. If you look at a 24 hour race, it can be completely overwhelming, so instead I just focus on getting through the next hour, or to the next aid station, etc.
JR: You encountered some serious injuries this year; a broken hand (most recently), a femur and a stress fracture in the sacrum. How was/is recovery, rehab and has being injured change you as an athlete? Talk us through the challenges and how you navigated the mental impact of the injury and subsequent healing practice.
AB: When I was first diagnosed with the femoral fracture, someone told me that there are two types of athletes: those that have been injured and those that will be. While I’ve had minor issues here and there, the femur and sacrum set me out a year. It’s a tough process – I felt like I completely lost my identity as an athlete, and I realized how much of myself was wrapped up in race results and feeling validation from others for winning races. So when I didn’t have that anymore, I was forced to step back and realize that I had self-worth apart from those accolades. It was extremely useful for me to blog about that process, to share with others the humbling and trying process.
What I didn’t expect is that the rebuilding process was going to be even more trying than being completely sidelined. I’ve been back running for 10 months, and still don’t feel like I’m completely back up to speed. While I’ve been racing, it’s been a lesson in checking the ego, racing when you know you aren’t quite back in the shape you want to be in, and realizing that these races are stepping stones to future endeavours.
So for those athletes out there that are dealing with injury – be kind to yourself. My biggest words of wisdom are to be patient, especially ifyou have an extended period of time off (6 months or so). I thought I could pick up right back where I left off, and I realize that was foolish. But I’ve learned to enjoy the process in the meantime (celebrating those little rebuilding milestones)
JR: What advice would you give to JackRabbits interested in trying an endurance race for the first time?
AB: It’s easier said than done, but go in with no expectations. Expect to fail things. Expect to make mistakes. Racing is a beautiful metaphor for life. And it always helps to sign up with a friend or two!
JR: Winter is almost upon us. Help us understand how you train in the off-season? How do you approach the shorter days, colder temps and the urge to curl up and hibernate?
AB: I’m lucky in that I live in California, so it never gets TOO cold here, but I did spend a frigid 6 years in Chicago. With the right gear, you can train in almost anything. Good running gloves and a hat are a must (here in California, you’ll find me on cold morning in a sports bra and shorts, but with a hat and running gloves – ha!). If you lack motivation first thing in the morning, I find it’s extremely useful to sleep in your running clothes. And adapt! If you live in a snowy climate, winter is the time to try other adventures – snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are two phenomenal cross-training activities for endurance athletes.
JR:Let’s talk shoes! Endurance racing and ultra-running demand a variety of footwear. What might work for an ultra-race won’t translate over to the Spartan Race. What shoes do you choose for each, and what have you learned from the shoes that get you from training to the start and finally to the finish line?
AB: For Spartan Races and obstacles races, the Reebok All-Terrains are my go-to. I prefer more minimalist shoes, and they have the grip, drainage, and everything you need for the mud and water. I will actually run shorter (50k or less) ultras in them as well because I’m such a fan. For anything over 50k, you’ll end up needing more cushioning. For non-technical trails, the Reebok Grasse Road have worked well for me.
JR: You came to running ultras after competing in endurance racing and in a Runner’s World interview you mentioned that before you took on endurance racing you ran to keep in shape, but didn’t necessarily love it. Share with us how you moved to running ultras and having a different mindset towards running.
AB: At that time, I was living in Chicago, with my only running outlet being one 18 mile paved path. It wasn’t until I was introduced to trails, and especially the trails in California that I really started to love running. I joke with people that I run mainly to see pretty things, but it’s true. If I had my ideal world, I’d be out on the trails for hours and hours a day. Running in nature is my moving meditation – it’s where I do my best thinking, it’s where I plan my days, it’s where I draft legal contracts in my head!
JR: When it comes to music, we love to ask all our blog guests, what are the top three songs you turn to for motivation? What gets you moving before a hard training session.
HJ: Oh man…I’m not sure you want to know the answer to this one! My tastes are…different. When I run, I tend to listen to a song on repeat for miles at a time, so here are three of my current “songs on repeat”:
- – “Wait For it” from the soundtrack to Hamilton: The Musical
- – “Hard Love” by NEEDTOBREATHE
- – “Run Boy Run” by Woodkid
JR: Thanks Amelia!
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