Let’s just say my interest in ultra running is officially piqued and Cory Reese is one of the reasons why. Although I might not be ready to bite off training for an ultra distance quite yet, I jumped at the chance to sit down with a local ultra runner, who had just completed Badwater.
The first time I heard about Badwater, known as the world’s toughest foot race, I was listening to the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. The second time I heard about Badwater, was in Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run, as he described the 135 mile journey from Death Valley to Mount Whitney as one of the most difficult races he ever completed. The third time, I heard about Badwater, I was sitting at a McDonalds in Washington, Utah listening to Cory’s first person account of this grueling race. (You can watch a documentary about the race here, it’s called “Running on the Sun,” and it will redefine what the words hard and tough actually mean.)
That’s Cory Reese on the cover of UltraRunning Magazine. Cory is known for his jump shots and amazing photography that captures spectacular moments like this. Cory has become a local running celebrity, even though he’s much too kind and humble to take notice of praise like that. Here are a few other exploits that, in my book, launch Cory to legend status. Last year during the St. George marathon, Cory ran the course 4 times (up and down and then up and down again) for a total of 104.8 miles. But that’s not even close to his distance record. Cory also ran the “Across the Years” race in Arizona, logging over 200 miles in 72 hours. Anyone who has run these kinds of miles and has battled their way through these kinds of distances has figured out some things about running, and I wanted to know what.
I asked Cory a lot about his training, here are some of the nuggets of wisdom he shared with me. Even if you don’t run ultras, these tips will help your training:
*Cory averages between 70 and 80 miles a week, and his longest training run will be anywhere from 30 to 50 miles, but most days he runs about 10 miles. I honestly thought his miles would be higher, but it’s reassuring to know training for the ultra distance doesn’t necessarily mean training to that distance.
*Cory treats each of his long runs as a “science experiment.” I thought this was genius. He explained that he uses his long runs to not only test out and try new products, but to test his limits with fueling and try to gauge how far can he fill or deplete his body to find that sweet spot of feeling fueled but not stuffed.
*Cory has trained his body to run, if need be, on liquid calories alone. Explaining that in each ultra there will come a point where the body will not be able to tolerate actual food, so it must be able to “run” on liquid calories. He admits that sometimes it’s better to feel a little hungry than sick on a run. Cory credits Tailwind (which he uses in all training runs and races) for saving his Badwater experience when his stomach could no longer tolerate food.
*Cory saves music for the end of his races, you know just a mere seventy miles in, because it’s something that gives him an extra mental boost.
*Cory chose not run Badwater with his Garmin. He explained that when he was deep in the pain cave, he didn’t want to look at the number on his watch and feel discouraged at how slow the race was progressing. I thought this was such a great reminder about the journey that any race represents, especially in a 135 mile one. All you can do sometimes is focus on the step you’re taking or the mile you’re running, because you’re still headed in the right direction.
*In describing the emotions you face when running an ultra distance, Cory has said, “the high’s are high, and the low’s are low.”
*Cory credits his family as one of the reasons he is able to accomplish these challenging races. He admitted that it’s easier to balance running now that his kids are older. His family often accompany him on races and are an integral part of his crew for these events. When you read his recap of Badwater, he writes about walking the last mile with his wife Mel while she reads him letters from their kids, be sure to grab a tissue. It’s one of the most moving stories of a beautiful partnership, and a testament that with the right support behind you, anything is possible. Read about it here.
*Cory, a self-described ‘non-athlete’ in high school, has taken on and accomplished some of the most difficult races in the world which left me wondering how he chose the ultra distance and more importantly why. Cory’s answer was that running challenged him to think bigger, and his running philosophy was engrained in a willingness to try. Because somehow within that desire to seek out and discover what your physical limits are lies ones of life’s greatest rewards. It is a truth that all runners know, whether it comes with a medal or a belt buckle, there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you gave it everything you had.
In his spare time, when he’s not working full time, training for ultras, or working on his blog, Cory wrote a book. I love this title so much, it’s exactly the type of honest and witty running truisms you’ll find on his blog. I can’t wait to dive into this read, I have a feeling I’ll finish it in one setting. You can order your copy on Amazon today!
Since Cory is the jump master, I asked him for a bit of a jump intervention. He said to keep the camera lower to the ground and to lift your legs, not just your arms. My bad (insert “monkey covering his eyes” emoji.).
This one is a blooper.
Finally, we nailed it!