Amanda Basham is a professional trail runner for Altra based in Boulder, CO lining up for the 2023 Bandera 100K later this week.
Finn: Amanda Basham, welcome to the Single Track Podcast.
Amanda: Hey Finn, thanks for having me.
Finn: I was rewatching a video that you did with Altra a year or so ago, and a lot of it revolved around starting a family, pregnancy and how all of that meshed with your pro running career and your relationship with it. You talked briefly in the video about how you figured beforehand that it could somehow negatively affect your racing, it could possibly end your running career. I'm curious, you know, now that you've had one or two years experiencing this lifestyle, what's your outlook about all that now in terms of how it meshes with your professional running goals?
Amanda: Yeah. You know, I was thinking about it. I didn't even realize it's been three years since I've competed, which is crazy. It's like having kids feels so slow sometimes each day and then you look back on it and everything goes by so fast. Or that's just life in general, even if you don't have kids. But yeah, so it's kind of crazy. My outlook is definitely very different than pre-kids. I've talked to a lot of runners that I'm good friends with, that I train with and stuff, and I mean, everyone's concerns about it are definitely legitimate. And I had the same concerns like when do you have kids? As a professional runner and you know, for men and women, it's just so different because while dads can, you know, they have the sleep deprivation, they don't go through the body changes that women go through. And that's huge. I mean, you're out the whole pregnancy and trying to build back from that and be safe and smart about it. So it's definitely something I worried about before, but since having kids, I don't know, it's like none of that really matters. I mean, obviously now I'm kind of like done with the hard part, besides the fact that we now that we have a baby and a toddler to take care of. But we're pretty much out of the like sleep deprivation and the body changes and all that stuff. And so now I think it's easier to look back and be more positive about it. But my first pregnancy was super hard because of all those thoughts, like, there's no way I'm gonna get back to competing, this is so hard, like I'm basically going to zero. And it did feel like zero, but then once we had Rylan, our first one, it was like instantly. I mean, I'm talking instantly, the second I had her, it was like my whole perspective on all of it changed. It just didn't feel like it was a problem and it didn't matter how long it was gonna take. I just knew in my mind, that I'm the kind of person who is gonna work hard enough to get there and I'll get back to it. It might just take a while. And it doesn't really matter because even if I don't go win Western states one day, I have beautiful babies and they're gonna love me either way.
Finn: In that same video, you talk about how at one point in your career you were really living like the pro trail runner's dream. You were able to prioritize sleep and nutrition. You could relax strategically and you could train really hard. I have to imagine, even though you're past the hardest part, some things have changed. What is the model for you right now when it comes to reaching your potential and coming into races like Bandera feeling confident?
Amanda: Yeah, so I've been in this a while. I didn't realize I'm like a true veteran I think at this point. But most of that time I worked a full-time job along with running. I did quit that job in early 2019 though - I can't remember if it was February or March, and then I was full-time athlete. And it was amazing. I could run wherever. I could run however long I wanted. I could sleep 12 hours a night and nap a couple of hours a day. Looking back on it seems so easy and I totally understand why it's such a huge advantage. And it did feel like an advantage because that was the year I got second at CCC and it was a really great race. I still think, I mean, that's gotta be my best race so I remember that. Yeah. And now, it is very different with little kids. You definitely have to learn how to adapt and you're not gonna always have the right amount of sleep. You're definitely not gonna be prepping the perfect meals. You might not even get a meal, or you might be eating leftover mac and cheese, and it's either that or it's nothing. And so you realize the leftover mac and cheese is probably better than nothing. And you just have to kind of run whenever you can. You know, we've kind of set it up better now because we just wanted it to feel better and not be kind of miserable with a lot of sleep deprivation and stuff. So now we have some childcare part-time and that helps a ton. And our kids are old enough that both of them sleep pretty well throughout the night. But initially, when we only had our first kid, she didn't sleep for eight months. I mean, I was already pregnant again by the time she started sleeping. But our first kid didn't sleep for probably the first three months and then she was pretty good after three months, but even after that, and now it's like sometimes you just have to go whenever you can. And I have a lot of weeks where I'm solo parenting because Justin works in Minneapolis and a lot of times I either have to wake up at 5:00 AM to make sure I get it in, or I have to hope that they nap at the same time, which almost never happens. So, you know, you kind of work with what you got.
Finn: I’m curious when it comes to things like ambition and drive and competitive spirit, has anything changed in that category for you? Or like from like a purpose standpoint, are things still the same in terms of what you want to accomplish?
Amanda: You know, it is totally different and I think long term it's gonna pay off and actually make me a lot better. I only say long-term because I'm not totally sure how much time I need, just purely for the fitness side. But we'll find that out at Bandera. My perspective on it now is I have so much stoke for running. Like I thought I liked running before kids, but I love running now. And it's weird because I almost thought maybe it would make me enjoy it less. I don't know why I thought that, but I love it so much and I enjoy the training almost every day. Whereas before I was more focused on the racing itself and not so much like the process of it. And I think that really gets to like, I mean, we spend so much time and effort doing this sport and most of the time you're not gonna win the races that you go to. Like that's just, that's how it is. It's so competitive. You need a lot of things to go right on the day, and that's what makes it so awesome. But it's like you really have to be pretty tough to keep wanting to do it after you go through kind of a lot and you don't always reach your goals. So yeah, I really enjoy every day now, more than I used to, and I think long term that'll just help me race better.
Finn: Moving on to Bandera - talk about your history with this race. It looks like in 2020 you lined up for it. So I'm curious, how you feel about this race? What motivates you to do it? What's bringing you to the start line this year in 2023?
Yeah, so it's a funny story, I guess. Justin and I actually met at the 2020 Bandera. I think some people know that. I didn't know him at all. We'd never met until Sally McRae introduced us. We all went on a run together, and that's what set this whole thing off. Yeah, so it's kind of cool going full circle and coming back with both of our kids and Justin's parents. And, I think part of why I picked it is because I didn't finish it that year. Because of the full-time athlete thing, I did not do what a lot of people do, where they don't run as much, they just rest more. I raced and traveled and took advantage of every opportunity I could, and it was super fun until I felt like I fell off cliff because I had just raced too much. So I started Bandera and I just had this weird sacrum pain and I didn't finish. I just did the first loop. And so I think part of that is I just wanna go back and do it. I'm also super antsy to kind of see where I'm at fitness-wise. I obviously want a golden ticket. Like I don't think you just go to a golden ticket race. I mean, some people do, but I go to a golden ticket race to try to get a golden ticket. But I also am so curious to see where I'm at because I've been out of it for so long and I've actually trained pretty well. I almost feel like I'm new to it. Like I've never done a 100K before because it's been so long. And I think I'm too impatient to wait for the races that are in a few months because I've been out of it for so long. I don't wanna be patient any longer.
Finn: Well, just based on a quick scan of your Strava, it looks like you've been able to string together a, fair amount of consistency and the volume has been high. How's training going? Like, what are your expectations heading and do you feel confident?
Amanda: Yeah, I mean, surprisingly with two little kids and everything, I've been able to train really well. In my second pregnancy, I ran the whole time until two days before I gave birth. And then it was not like, you know, I wasn't doing 70 mile weeks, but I was running. And then I only took a week off and started running again and I felt so good and I don't know why. I don't know, a little bit of luck I guess. And I've been able to train since it was kind of a slow build back. I’ve just gotten really good at taking advantage of the time that we had to make sure that it worked because I just care about it. So I've had a lot of sleep-deprived days, which maybe will be beneficial. But yeah, I've actually been able to train pretty well. I actually compared it to my CCC training in 2019, and it was pretty similar.
Finn: That's one of the cool elements of Strava too. It becomes this multi-year journal that you can easily reference and stack things on top of each other. It's very cool.
Amanda: Yeah. Well, and it's funny because I wasn't looking at it before to like gauge training. I mean, I honestly was just going with how my body felt and I felt really good. And you know, of course I've had a lot of people be like, you know, be careful in postpartum running and whatnot. Because some people just think women are super fragile, I guess. I just went with how I felt and I definitely had days where I had planned on doing more and just wasn't up for it and thought it was a better decision not to do it. But for the most part I’ve been good.
Finn: That's actually one thing you reminded me that I wanted to ask you - when you were pregnant and even in post-pregnancy, do you recall any conversations with fellow professional runners in the trail community that were influential in the way you go about your life, or think about revamping training and stuff like that?
Amanda: I mean, there are quite a few. Someone who I've gotten to know a little bit just because she runs for Altra is Alicia Montonya. She's amazing. She’s doing some trail runs now. Although that wasn't her thing when she was competing, but she's awesome and she has three kids and she's so funny and she does so much still, and not only for the community, but she's also racing still and trying new things and, yeah she's just great. But someone I am really good friends with is Sally McRae. She's kind of like my mom, trail runner friend, and she always gives me all the advice and she's who I usually text or whatever when I'm dying of sleep deprivation orI don't know how to go on, and all of those dramatic things.
Finn: We're stoked to follow your race on Saturday. I think it's gonna be super exciting. Wishing you all the best when it comes to the pursuit of a golden ticket. I know that a lot is gonna depend on what happens in this race, but is there anything else in the 2023 season that you're excited about?
Amanda: There definitely is. It is really hard to plan until you actually like complete the golden ticket race to see whether you got one or not. So I get super excited. I'm such a nerd. Justin just laughs at me. He thinks I'm obsessed. I listen to all your podcasts, by the way, and I consume all of the running media. ‘Ive kind of been in it even though I haven't been competing. But, yeah, I get really stoked about all the races and the lotteries and everything going on, so I'm trying not to look too far into that. I love Western states and I really wanna run it, but I also, it's not the only option and there are other things to do if it doesn't play out. But I also think it's really easy when you're feeling really terrible in a race, if you start thinking about alternatives. So I'm trying to dial in that this is the mission and to get through it first, and then we'll see where it goes from there.
Finn: One of the takeaways I think I'm gonna have from this conversation, and it's something I've been learning as I've been doing this podcast last year and a half, is there are so many pathways and lifestyles that are possible as a pro trail runner. And I think that yours is an excellent example. You can still be a high performer and starting a family at the same time. So, I don't know, I think this is super cool and it seems like this is the first year or one of the first years where things are just a little bit more settled in your life and you can kind of recommit to races like Bandera and Western states. So, wishing you the best of luck and thank you so much for your time.
Amanda: Yeah. Thank you. Thanks for having me, and I'm stoked to race. We'll see how it goes.