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May 24, 2023

Leah Yingling | Lululemon Partnership, Western States 100 Prep, FURTHER Initiative

Leah Yingling | Lululemon Partnership, Western States 100 Prep, FURTHER Initiative
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Leah Yingling returns to the podcast to discuss her new partnership with Lululemon, the FURTHER initiative, as well as her training and expectations heading into the Western States 100.


  • (0:51) - Lululemon partnership announcement and details
  • (2:38) - backstory on how the opportunity came about 
  • (6:07) - Lululemon's "whole human" approach to athlete sponsorship
  • (9:51) - rollout week in Vancouver
  • (13:40) - research for women's ultrarunning
  • (19:33) - FURTHER initiative, world record attempts
  • (26:14) - Western States 100 training, race strategy
  • (34:08) - thoughts on a possible Western States-UTMB double



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Speaker 1: Welcome back, or welcome to the Single Track podcast. I'm your host, finn Melanson, and in this episode, leah Yingling returns to the podcast, this time to discuss the details of her new partnership with Lulu Lemon, her training and expectations heading into Western states, as well as some thoughts on UTMB later this summer. Before we get started, this episode is brought to you by Rabbit makers of the best trail running apparel. I just got a pair of their five-inch orange colored shredder shorts. I love them. I think you will too, so head over to their website, get a pair and in the process, use code single track 20 at checkout for 20% off your next order. With that, let's get started. Alright, leah Yingling, typically we have you on the show to analyze the sport, but we get to share some really cool news about your professional running career. What can you say?

Speaker 2: Yeah, so I'm joining you from up in Vancouver this week. I've been up here since Saturday. It's been a whirlwind. But, yeah, I'm excited to announce a partnership as a global ambassador with Lulu Lemon as part of a huge project that they're putting together called Further that we'll see iterated on over this next year. So we're culminating in a huge six-day ultramarathon event on International Women's Day next year. So this is the first time we're really seeing Lulu Lemon come to the ultra world and we've got a great team of female athletes that they've compiled about 10 of us from across the globe and the initiative is just huge. It's combining science side of things. It's combining a research and innovation side of things. It's combining community. It's it's combining everything that we have women have talked about and asked for tirelessly over the years of running and ultra running. So I think this is the first big brand to really come to the table and meet the unmet needs that so many women across the globe have.

Speaker 1: I was furiously taking notes there because there's so many things you mentioned that I want to go into more deeply in this conversation, but we are recording this on Wednesday, may 24th, and I thought that the rollout on social media yesterday was really impressive and it felt like a landmark day for the sport, because Lulu Lemon is such a massive apparel brand in the space, and not only that, but it appears they want to use those resources for good, and so, anyways, i'm curious in your case, how did this opportunity come about? when did you first become aware of their interest in the sport? what was their pitch to you? walk us through that whole experience.

Speaker 2: I remember my first conversation I had with the team was, i think, early December of this past year. So, yeah, i had been with Solomon for the last two years and at the end of November 2022, i learned that they weren't going to resign anybody that was not on a three-year contract on the North America team and, as a result, i was one of those athletes. So I kind of entered 2023 just trying to figure things out. You know, 2022 was a really big year for me and I was entering December last year a little defeated and I remember just turning to my husband, mike, and saying you know what? I just want to feel supported. I don't care what that looks like, i just want to feel supported as a human, as a person, and I want to be a part of something you know. As humans, i think it's in our nature to feel part of something you know, or parts of family, or parts of community, and I wanted to feel like a piece of something and I felt like that was missing in my last few years of ultra running. I have a great community in Salt Lake City, but I think sometimes, when you partner with a brand, you expect all those things to come with it that I just discussed and I wasn't feeling those things and so I started.

Speaker 2: Just I had a great connection with on Pat Jeffers, who is a part of the senior marketing team at Lululemon. I chatted with him and got connected with him through my coach, megan Roach, and I'll chat a little bit more about her involvement with the Lululemon project here in a little bit. Chatted with him in December and the conversation was just amazing. He was pretty much just saying like I don't want to scare you with this big project, but we have a vision. It's huge, it's multifaceted and we want you to be a part of it. We love your science background, we love your community involvement, we love how you're furthering the voices of women in the sport and we really think you'd be a critical piece of this huge vision we have.

Speaker 2: And on the side, megan was chatting with me about like this potential project that I had. She couldn't share any details with me. She said it might be overwhelming, but just trust me. And I remember having that first conversation with Pat and turning to Mike and saying like that was the best conversation I've ever had with anybody associated with a brand, like I felt like I was talking to my best friend. I felt like I was talking to somebody who understood me holistically and was just actively listening to everything I said and engaging, and I think that is a critical and crucial piece of me, as it relates to running, that I didn't know was missing.

Speaker 1: I really liked the the Instagram post he made announcing this partnership. You really honed in on this whole human approach and how that distinguishes Lulu Lemon and, given that you've been in the sport a while, you've been on this incredible upward trajectory in terms of improvement and results and even just general involvement in the sport and contributions to the sport given all that, can you compare and contrast Lulu Lemon's approach to supporting athletes versus maybe some of the relationships you've had in the past, perhaps more about some of those difference makers that made you really excited to be a part of this team, especially again as it relates to that whole human approach?

Speaker 2: yeah, something I love about them is the fact that you know it's just not performance centric. They said they choose their people and they choose them wisely and, like I kid you, not every single person. Even in the company that I've interacted with, i leave a conversation saying that is the best human, like these are all the best humans. So there's something in their hiring scheme that they're doing as well, that they just curate this beautiful group of people all with the same aligned vision, and I think when a brand stays true to their values in every step of the hiring process, their employment and how they treat their employees, it's visible and it really leaks into everything that they do. Sorry, what was your initial question?

Speaker 1: because I got carried away no, no, i think you answered it perfectly. I was just curious to hear you unpack more of this whole human approach, because I do think there's a lot of people in the sport that feel like the. The relationship with most brands is very transactional. It feels like you're there as an athlete to do one thing. It's either to like, make a certain post or to get a certain result on a podium.

Speaker 2: So yeah, Yeah, and they talked like day one. Like we, like performances Yes, they're great And like the whole project of further is to elevate human potential, specifically women, to see where we can go. But that's not the only piece that they're interested in. Like the athletes that they've compiled it's like 10 of us with vastly, vastly, vastly different backgrounds, like one woman who is like professional jiu-jitsu and entrepreneur, has many companies, like lives in Hong Kong, is doing just incredible things and has never run further than five miles You know there's myrna of larry oh, who's an author ultra marathon or just huge representative for women in the sport when they get pushed down based on their body size, based on what they look like, based on just all the barriers that they're facing.

Speaker 2: So, yeah, i think it speaks to the people that they have on the team. It's, you know, people who are contributing to the community, people who are contributing to science, people who are interested and really bettering the sport entirely. So I think you can see how much they're supporting the human in the team that they compiled, but also in the resources that they're providing us with. So a part of the further project was their partnership with the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific, and what they're looking at is implementing a research protocol that involves all the further athletes and then eventually will expand larger than just the further athletes, but also giving us the resources. So, whether it's mental performance, whether it's nutrition counseling, whether it's strength and conditioning, giving us all those resources and then having consistent calls with their team to see how we're tracking, see how we're doing So, taking away a lot of the barriers that women historically face in ultra running and seeing how far they can go when they're given a lot of the resources that are often given to men and not cater to women.

Speaker 1: All right, Before we hit record here, you were telling me, or you were describing to me, the whirlwind week that you've had up in Vancouver so far And I would love for you, to the extent that you can provide an inside look for the audience, because this is again another, i believe, landmark scenario in our sport where Lululemon is sort of redefining what a rollout week might look like for their athlete team. I think until very recently athletes have had the standard announcement type post on social media, but maybe the whole process is remote. It's otherwise less strategic, less drawn out. So walk us through some of the differentiators here for Lululemon.

Speaker 2: First I want to take a step back and talk to you about before I got to Vancouver this week, because it was the Silver State 50 Miler where I was trying to crew for Mike. You couldn't really crew that race, but he had a time limit in my eyes. He had to finish by like eight hours and 15 minutes in order for me to catch my flight to Vancouver. And he's like, oh yeah, i'll do that, it'll be good And, like, silver State 50 is a hard course And the conditions were brutal that day. It was really hot. I think a lot of the runoff from the winter really affected conditions and slowed the course a little bit down compared to what he was expecting. So luckily, lucky for me, he finished in eight hours and six minutes And I had to go straight to the airport from there.

Speaker 1: So I did not know that. That's amazing.

Speaker 2: So thank you, mike, for finishing under your limit. You're amazing, but yeah. So I got out here on Saturday night And our days, like Sunday, monday, tuesday have just been like booked up. At the beginning of the week We have a schedule of where we need to be, who needs to be where, when, which team you're meeting with and why.

Speaker 2: But yesterday as a whole, i mean our day started at five o'clock, 5.30 in the morning, and we were shuttled over to the Lululemon Cornwall location, which is where they do a lot of their events. Their employees are based there And they're just hosting this big media event where they invite various media. So this is anybody from Vogue and Vanity Fair and L Magazine to outside running, trailrunner Magazine, runners World, people like that, and then also a ton of media from APAC. So I mean, i think there's at least 50 different media here And like going into the event we had like even like PR training, media training, things like that just to learn like how to interact with the media. You know storylines, things to talk about.

Speaker 2: And at the beginning of the event yesterday we had the CEO of Lululemon address the media.

Speaker 2: We had a bunch of different intros and introductions And then they brought out, like all 10 of the women and who are going to be representing further next year, and it was just huge, like it gave you chills, because the whole story they're telling is the story of women And when, where we've had unmet needs, not just in running but in the world today And talking about the initiatives that they're putting forward to meet those gaps, and that is just, it's so.

Speaker 2: I mean you see it on paper all the time, but then to see a company put their money where their mouth is and implement these things, it's. It goes a long way And I think like all day long we were just on a complete high. I mean Monday was all the pictures that you saw go out yesterday were taken Monday And I think the photo and media team was like working and touching those up like overnight, sending them through, like all the appropriate people that they had to go through. So yeah, it was just powerful messaging. We were under embargo until 11am Pacific yesterday, so at 11am it was all systems go, which was pretty cool.

Speaker 1: One of the things you mentioned earlier in the conversation is that Lululemon has identified that until very recently, the whole trail running space has sort of been catered around or built for men, whether it's research or events or apparel, sponsorship, you name it. Go down the line It's been this male built for world And now you have Lululemon and other companies trying to break that paradigm. But anyways, i pulled this quote from the press release yesterday. It says, quote it's time for the research to catch up to female runners End quote. So talk more about, for example, this research program that you identified earlier and maybe some of the other things that they could specifically be studying in the years to come, like with you and other athletes on the team.

Speaker 2: Yeah. So a lot of the research that currently exists. You know it's often mixed male and female, but female. I think they recently performed a literature search and was looking at female only research in sports science And I think it was only four to 13% of research articles focused on a female only population. So oftentimes we're not getting that female only perspective.

Speaker 2: And like, our bodies are different. You know we have a menstrual cycle, men don't? that impacts us in the way we run Our like facts, fat oxidation is different than men. That impacts, like our fatigue resistance and how we race. So something that the Canadian Sports Institute is looking at is a various various things. But you know, as we see the distance get longer and ultra marathons, we see the gap in female and male performance gets smaller. So understanding why that is And it could be a variety of things, it could be you know our composition, it could be you know what's above our neck, so it could be our, our minds, our, our psychology. So understanding why that gap decreases and you know at what point do we meet men directly or exceed them. So understanding it from you know the muscular fatigue level We've we last month, when I was out here two months ago we did VO2 max testing to get baseline We might put together.

Speaker 2: The lead scientist of this project is Trent Stellingworth And he's just huge in the sports science world. He did a lot of research in the triathlon side of things for years and is an expert in reds, for women particularly. So we've done a ton of like female health specific research just in our short time with the project. So we've done DEXA scans, we've done we've done our VO2 max testing, we've done body scans. We've done a ton of things And we're going to be tracking them all this year into next year and then hopefully putting together a protocol too that takes place during the six day event next year on International Women's Day, to take different metrics and whatnot. So yeah, really trying to understand the female as a whole, you know, mind, body, heart, soul. It's just incredible.

Speaker 1: And this is all effectively for the greater good, right, they're going to with all this research, they're going to be contributing to the academic literature out there. So you know it won't just be you and the rest of the team that benefits. There's going to be this, there's going to be all this literature out there for the coaches like the Roaches, brett, anybody else that's coaching female athletes they're now going to have this body of literature to better inform the way they help guide runners in the sport.

Speaker 2: Yep totally So. They're going to start publishing in March 2024, probably some of their preliminary case study data. So an example of a study that we did when I was out here in April was like we did a VO2 max test one day and the next day we did a fatigued VO2 max test. We did a two hour run and then did another VO2 max test to really understand you know how do these differ, whenever you're fatigued and whenever you're fresh. And the results are pretty interesting. Because he had some hypothesis with ultramarathoners and what you'd see in a test like that, and I think they proved that pretty well.

Speaker 1: I think this is a great conversation because there's probably a fair number of people in the audience that get skeptical when a large brand enters into the sport. But, as you're describing here, they're coming into the sport with very good intentions and they're on the ground level. They're doing tangible research, helping move the sport forward in a very concrete way. So I think this is awesome. I also think, as you mentioned earlier, you know this is kind of a new paradigm. I know that the Adidas Terrics team has done this, but you mentioned that, in addition to all of the apparel support and the race support, you are equipped with nutritional counseling, strength coaching. You meet with your team regularly. There's a mental performance coach, like you were telling me offline. You're going to have a mental performance meeting later today, which is so cool. So talk more about any of these facets, because it seems, like I said, like a new paradigm that has been developing in the last few years around sponsored athletes in the sport.

Speaker 2: Yeah, it's really cool, especially whenever it's all in-house. We've formed a team, like you mentioned, with mental performance Charlene Hoare, who works for the Canadian Sport Institute, and the nutritionist Susan, and then Trent. Trent kind of like heads this team, and then he's even invited my coach into the conversations too. So he has a really close research relationship with Megan Roach, who's been a consultant on the project as well, which I think has informed a lot of the science that's going on as well, just because she's an expert in the female specific side of endurance running as well, When it comes to not just the training but also the research.

Speaker 2: So, yeah, we've had like team conversations and we've gone through like the data that they've found from like my DEXA scan and I had some labs taken last time I was out here and we had a conversation regarding like what my iron numbers look like, what my reds, if I had any red symptoms, things like that. So, yeah, being able to do that from even a care team perspective and a science team perspective, like that's huge And we make changes and adapt as needed. Lucky for me, i nothing was too alarming in my data, but like if there was, you know, trent guides the team and figures out like what resources are needed to make sure you're not only like you're feeling your best and like you're performing your best at the same time.

Speaker 1: Let's talk about further for a second. I'm curious on multiple fronts. The first is like in terms of the event, the promotion of it and all that stuff Like is it going to look like Hoka Carbon X? Is it going to be its own individual experience? Walk us through. You know what it's all about, how it's going to look, and after that maybe we can talk more about what your own plans are in terms of record breaking.

Speaker 2: Yeah, we're still keeping a lot of the specifics under wraps until next year, but it will be a six day event and the goal is for every person to have a different goal, you know, and see how far they can go. So perhaps for Camille that's something like going after the six day. You know all around world record for that event. For other people, i think there's one gal from, from China Her goal is to go a marathon a day. Another girls is to do 100 K.

Speaker 2: So yeah, everybody has a variety of different goals, which I think is really cool, and I think it's going to allow for really great storytelling too, because each person is unique. They've got their own story, they've got their own history with running and it's going to be a lot of exciting people to get behind. So that piece is really exciting. There's we're not going to share like the location or the exact course quite yet, but we're going to have, like our research team there as well to be performing different types of studies and measurements throughout the case as well. And what's really cool is a lot of the products that we'll be testing and wearing in this event will then be iterated on and eventually inform a lot of the fabric, the clothing design that they perform for their future, future lines.

Speaker 1: I think before we get into your racing schedule and your training for this year, i want to recount any sort of fun stories or interesting interactions you've had with Lulu Lemon. Like you were mentioning a couple of weeks back offline that there were a couple of members of the team, or many members of the team, that are just so fascinated by our sport and they want to be on the ground level experiencing everything across the board. To the extent that you mentioned, a few of them even volunteered to be a part of your crew at Western. So talk about any fun stories like that with Lulu Lemon to date.

Speaker 2: Yeah, so I think one of my favorite stories. and I wasn't even at Javalina last year but, like one of their directors of research, shantel was actually at Javalina 100 last year Observing from the bleachers and watching the race unfold. A lot of the people involved with the project don't have a background in ultramarathons, so I just love the fact that there are flies on the wall at Javalina. you know watching watching the whole race go down. Like they saw Steph flip in. you know she was out there.

Speaker 2: I think she ended up dropping out a 100 K and later on Steph learned that you know, they were out there watching and they told her like, wow, like I was just so proud to see how you engage with your crew that day and how you interact with your crew and just how you handled having a really tough day. So seeing people just even like witness that side of things is super unique. And then, yeah, like you mentioned, so Peter Tierney he's on their research team as well. He's going to be a part of my Western States crew this year, which is awesome, and I'm so excited to give him exposure to what crewing and ultramarathon looks like, because that's something else that they're informing for their project next year is like how do you like, how do you even facilitate and improve the crew experience of a race, especially a six day race? What do they need to provide from a company perspective for our crews? How can they make crews as efficient as possible? How can they make all the gear that we're using as efficient as possible? Yeah, so Peter is going to be part of my crew, which is super exciting, and he himself has never run an ultramarathon or been a crew for an ultramarathon, so I think that'll be a unique perspective.

Speaker 2: And then, something that Peter's also done is, before we even joined the team. You know his job is to like learn as much about all of us as possible. So I mean, before I even met him, he knew what my race mantras were. He knew, like, the podcast I've been on, he's listened to like every single track episode that we've done, just to like learn as much as he could about me, to inform you know the gear that they're making and the way that they're approaching like interactions with me and engagements with me and things like that. So a lot of the further project is incorporating like who you are as a person. So, you know, incorporating my personal mantras into my gear, like maybe that's, you know, a mantra written on a piece of my gear, things like that. So just being really personal and personalized with just everything they're doing, and I think that speaks volumes to who they are as a company.

Speaker 1: So I think that the vast majority of companies in sport that sign athletes they have typically been native to the sport or they've they've been embedded in the sport for so long. It could be the case that they just take certain things for granted, and I mean this part in a positive way. I love that a company like Lulu Lemon can come in and have this childlike curiosity about the sport And they see, they see it with a new lens. They're not taking anything for granted. They want to know exactly, soup to nuts, how everything works, and I think you could probably get some cool new insights out of the sport with that kind of fresh lens.

Speaker 2: Totally And I think, especially with the product innovation side of things. I've walked them through a few times, like what my crew exchanges look like, especially like I'm a huge proponent of like storage in rate. Like I love packs I love, I love my gear. I love like fast, efficient crew exchanges. I love thinking about ways that I can make that faster. I like the science behind topical cooling strategies, things like that. So just like teaching them and informing them on why I do what I do and them being innovative with me and thinking about like the things I haven't even thought about with my gear. So like, for example, we're brainstorming some different like arm sleeve solutions for Western states. We're, you know, thinking about different hat solutions for cooling and packs and things like that. So just getting really like nitty gritty with it and figuring out you know where areas they can improve, being informed by people who have been in the experiences themselves.

Speaker 1: Another thank you to sponsor HVMN. Hvmn is my choice for exogenous ketones. If you are curious about using exogenous ketones in your training, racing and day to day life, head over to HVMNcom. Get a bottle of ketone IQ And if you want a 20% discount in the process, use code single track 20 at checkout for 20% off your next order.

Speaker 1: You mentioned Western states there and I think this is the perfect transition. Last year, you were sixth female top American at the race. You're returning this year And it makes me curious because there are so many athletes And I think this is a positive thing who have built a career off of making sure at all costs that they're back in the top 10. And I think that there's something cool about that. But just knowing you as a runner and a lot of folks would echo this a lot of us believe you have a chance to be on the podium at that race, and maybe even more So. Talk about your approach to this year's race. Are you thinking about it in terms of a similar execution? Do you want to take more risks? Uh, where are you at with it right now?

Speaker 2: Uh, i'm so excited. Um, yeah, i feel like I haven't been this excited about a race in a long time, which I think is a good place. For me, 2022 was just a lot of racing in general which I liked and I thrived on, and it led to some really great results for me, which I do not regret whatsoever. But I think taking a step back from racing in 2023 has just really ignited my fire and given me the opportunity to put in like a nice chunky block of training, which is something I I said last year. I was like I just want to feel like I have a really great block of training to reflect back on, cause I was in this cycle of taper race recover, taper race recover And I was never, you know, doing these pretty looking blocks of training on Strava. Not that you need those, but like sometimes that gives you a little bit of confidence. Uh, yeah, so this year I, i like I remember leaving Western States last year saying like that was the best race in my life. I executed it perfectly. I um, i had no lows and I don't think I can say that I mean I, yeah, i really can't say that about many races So being able to run Western States for the first time, having zero lows and just having a picture perfect experience. Like why would you want to return?

Speaker 2: Um, i think for me. I know I can get more out of myself. Like I run conservatively, i like to move my way up in the field in the second half of the race. I've run that way every race. Uh, and it works well for me. And anytime I've kind of veered off that path I've either had a terrible day or just things don't go as well. So this year I am I am interested in racing like a little bit different. But I mean, if you've spent any time on Twitter this last week, you've seen what the snow looks like up at Robinson flat right now. So the course is going to be wild and I like wild, i'm very excited. So we'll see. I think I'll pace it. Um, i don't know, i think I'll pace it pretty similarly to last year. I just know what I can do from forest till to the finish And I know what I did last year and my goal this year is to run faster than I did that section last year.

Speaker 1: I remember you were telling myself and I think, brett, a few weeks back, that when you were getting ready for the 2022 race, you had looked at people like Amelia Mayfield and at their execution in years past and you kind of took bits and pieces of that and incorporated it into your strategy. Are there any other runners in the sport that have had these great days at Western that fast at you that you would want to copy to some extent for this year, as you think about either replicating last year's performance or even making slight improvements?

Speaker 2: Yeah, one of my um favorite stats that I found last year about my own race was that, like I think it was Mary Ann in Luja, we ran the exact same time from like mile 30 to the finish. Um, they just got to mile 30, like 30 minutes before I did, which is bonkers in my mind. Um, so I think for me, a lot of the time I have to gain is in that first 30. However, i really think this year is going to be different. 2017 was a pretty comparable snow year and every person you've talked to that runs the rate, that rate ran that race. You never really hear them saying it wasn't that bad, so I have a feeling it was pretty bad and like the snow really did impact their days quite a bit.

Speaker 2: Um, so, yeah, the it's going to be really hard to formulate a plan. Personally, like I think, i won't think much about a plan in terms of timing until the last 50 miles or 40 miles or so. Like, personally, i would love to run. Yeah, i just run similarly to how I did in the last 40 this year And, you know, maybe that means I'm an hour slower because conditions are that much slower this year, who knows? So I think if I'm going in with any time goals, i might be shooting myself in the foot, given how tough the conditions are going to be this year When you look at the women's field from last year versus the women's field this year.

Speaker 1: Is there anything different about the dynamics of this year's race that might influence your strategy at all?

Speaker 2: Hmm, good question.

Speaker 1: Um.

Speaker 2: I like nobody in the top four on the women's side is returning. So Emily Hoggood is the top returning finisher from last year and then I'm the second top returning finisher, um, which is that's. That's pretty unique, i mean. But we've got a lot of people in the back half of the top 10 that are all returning. So I think roughly everybody who was in uh five through 10 is returning. But we've got a lot of people coming to the races here, you know Courtney, eda, keely, heather Jackson, uh, who are just like super fast and like Katie shy Geez Yeah, who just liked to race and shout out to Katie shy. She just threw down a back to back to back long run. Uh session this week that's bonkers.

Speaker 2: So I'm super, super excited to see how she does at Western States this year.

Speaker 2: I think she's on fire and I'm really excited to see, um, how all the training she's doing on course comes out to play on race day.

Speaker 2: But yeah, I think that's going to be an interesting dynamic is, like you know, I'm not one of those people that I don't want to be in the mix at Robinson flat, frankly, Um, but I do think this year, rather than being in you know 20th at Robinson flat like I was last year, maybe I'm closer to, like, the back of the top 10 at Robinson flat. I really, really enjoy snow running. I do a lot of it in the winter and Salt Lake I'm super familiar with it, super used to it and, um, I think training through the winter that we just had in Salt Lake actually like caters um to my skill set quite a bit for what we'll see at Western States this year. So I wouldn't be surprised if I'm in the back half of the top 10 at Robinson flat. Um, and, yeah, maybe I'll make a iron far tweet this year. I don't think I made one until I crossed the river last year in the top.

Speaker 1: Were there any unknowns that you had heading into last year's race that you have since solved for or become confident about? that you're kind of utilizing to your strength heading into this year's event, like it could be something about the course. It could be something about heat management, execution, anything.

Speaker 2: Yeah, i remember approaching Western States last year and like my race conversation with Megan the day prior was she's like how are you feeling? I was like honestly, like not as excited as everybody around me And I felt like that was incorrect, like I felt like my energy needed to match the energy that is lining up for your first Western States. But I think it was because I just I felt so prepared and I told her like I just feel so pragmatic about this. I feel like all I need to do is execute And like I had a plan, i followed it. It went well And that was really, really exciting. I think.

Speaker 2: Because it went well for me last year, i'll follow things very similarly.

Speaker 2: One of the big standouts to me last year was like I did not feel hot once, which is my goal this year is to not feel hot once.

Speaker 2: Yes, so I think if I do the same things I did last year in that respect and like I don't get greedy with it, like I think this year is going to be different in that we're not going to be able to have a crew at Duncan Canyon and Dusty Corners And those are pretty critical spots, especially if you're trying to be like efficient and fast. My goal is to just like take care of myself all day. I kind of chant that to myself in my head whenever I'm on these like longer stretches without crew out there is just like take care of yourself, because that's really all you can do in those situations. It's like you know one foot in front of the other and like you're responsible for yourself. So just going to keep doing what I do and do a lot of that this year, cause I do think the added challenge of not having crew at certain spots could be a hindrance, but I think if I don't look at it that way, it'll be okay.

Speaker 1: One last thing I want to cover before we go. If I understand correctly, you are attempting the fabled Western States UTMB double this summer, two of the most important, probably the most important events in our sport right now, and I've always sort of put you on a pedestal as one of the most prepared professional runners in our sport, like nobody does a better job of preparing for a race like you do, in my opinion, studying the course, et cetera. So what is your approach to this double? Like, where are you drawing confidence from? What are you studying? Take that wherever you want.

Speaker 2: Yeah, i? um, last year I was also signed up for both Western States and UTMB and I told myself going into Western States, like, do not think about UTMB. That was advice that Claire Gallagher had given me. Like two days prior to the race was like you know, don't think about anything else that is lingering on your schedule. Because when the going gets tough in a race it's really easy to give yourself an out. And she's like, if you have another race lined up on the schedule, that's going to be an easy out. You're like, oh, i can, i'm having a bad day, i'll get them at UTMB.

Speaker 2: So I'm going to do the same thing this year. I'm going into Western States like Western States is my goal race for the year and giving it my all. However, last year I didn't end up lining up for UTMB because physically I was just dealing with a torn calf pretty much, which restricted a lot of my training in the summer. So I I've told myself like my goal is to get through Western States healthy this year. I know I can handle the the fatigue side of things that comes with recovering from 100. I'm really good at recovering and I enjoy recovering. I like to not run sometimes. So I I'm going to treat it that way. I'm going to like respect Western States for what it is, respect the recovery from Western States and really let myself fully recover and then put in, you know, a good month of mountain training in Salt Lake. Our mountains are incredible. Hopefully we can touch some dry trails at some point this summer because I think we are a great UTMB training ground. But yeah, we are socked in.

Speaker 1: We are.

Speaker 2: Hi, yeah, i, i, i. Historically I've said like I think the people that struggle with the Western States UTMB double are the ones who are like gunning for the win or the podium in both. You know, my goal is to have an extremely solid race at both And I think if I approach it that way, i'll I'll draw a lot of confidence from that approach.

Speaker 1: It would be totally reasonable, probably advisable and fair to say Hey, if I did the Western States UTMB double. I'm going to end my season at the end of August or or the beginning of September, but is there anything else you're contemplating this summer or this fall or early winter inside the confines of 2023, to add to your schedule?

Speaker 2: Oh well, that's a good question. Yeah, i don't know Um leading so further. Next year will be on March 8th And I mean I don't run flat and long and I have a feeling this will be a probably a flat-ish course. So I think getting some turnover into my legs Great marathon. I know, yeah, maybe CIM, or I think CIM might actually be a little too soon after UTMB if I did UTMB. So maybe something like Houston.

Speaker 1: Awesome, well, leah, uh, we are all very excited to follow your Western States the rest of your summer, potentially UTMB, very excited that you are partnered up with such an innovative brand in Lululemon. Before we go, do you have any any calls to action around any projects that Lululemon is working on? Any final thoughts for the audience?

Speaker 2: Oh yeah, they're actually launching a Strava challenge. I think they started it yesterday And if we all hit like a cumulative number of Strava miles by a certain point, as a whole community, they are donating a million dollars to the Girls Opportunity Alliance, which is awesome. It's a Obama organization that empowers education for adolescent women through education and well-being tools, which I think is just incredible. So, yeah, investing in the whole human, you know, starting young and well through adulthood, so I can get behind that.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening. Before we sign off, if you are a fan of the show, please consider supporting us with a rating and a review in your podcast player, a donation on Patreon or the use of our sponsor discount codes in the show notes. We really appreciate your support. Thank you so much for listening And until next time. I'm your host, finn Melanson, and you have been listening to the single track podcast.