It has been a while since I’ve featured a runner in Going the Distance, a blog series to highlight runners of varied backgrounds to inspire, motivate, and help you reach your running goals. Since I launched the series nearly two years ago, I’ve shared stories of runners who think a 10k is the perfect distance to those who take on the challenge of running 100-mile or longer races, and they all have had something special to teach us.
I’ve always said cheese (specifically fondue) brought my friend Gina and I together after the 2009 Pikes Peak Ascent, but something much messier united Laurie Nakauchi and me—litter. I’ll take this as a sign we’re destined for a great friendship, too.
In October I hosted Take Three For Our Trails, a contest to encourage people to pick up at least three pieces of litter while out running, hiking, or playing outside. The challenge is rooted in the belief that every piece of litter we pick up makes a difference, and if someone spots us packing it out, they’ll be motivated to do the same. Laurie submitted several photos of her trashy runs and subsequently was the winner of a $10 REI gift card.
Since Laurie and I share a fondness for clean trails, I wanted to dig a little deeper and learn more about her and her running background. It’s clear she represents all that is good about our sport—passion, camaraderie, and grit—and I’m honored to share her story.
Where do you live and train?
I live in Lakewood, Colorado and mainly train on the trails close to home here in Lakewood, Golden, Boulder, and Evergreen. During the summer I tend to venture higher to the surrounding mountains.
How long have you been running?
I’ve been running for 35 years. I started out running road races (10ks, marathons) but the past 23 years I’ve focused more on ultras and trail races.
How did you get interested in ultrarunning?
After I had run marathons and qualified for Boston I heard a local woman (Theresa Daus) talk about the Leadville 100 race. I had not run an ultra yet but wanted to try Leadville. I signed up for a 50-miler Theresa was co-directing and after I finished, I signed up for Leadville. That was in 1994 and since then I’ve been hooked. I love to run trails and I love the community and people. Ultrarunners are some of THE BEST people you could ever meet. I find I love the training and pacing my friends more than the races.
Have you ever DNF’d?
(Knock on wood) I’ve never had a DNF and feel very lucky. I do know friends who have had them say that once you have one, it’s easier to accumulate more. I’m careful not to sign up for too many races and listen to my body when I train. My goal is to run ultras into my 70s (and 80s if possible).
Advice for newbie trail runners?
Find some friends and groups to run with. While I spend a lot of time running solo and enjoy it, I’ve found the best way to learn new trails and learn about trail running and ultras is from other folks. The community is so welcoming and fun.
Your biggest challenge when it comes to running?
My biggest challenge is not overdoing it. Since I love to run and have FOMO (fear of missing out) I had to learn that more is not always better. Races, events, trails…they’ll always be there, but I won’t be able to enjoy them if I’m injured or sick. With social media it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of signing up for race after race or trying to keep up with that leader on Strava, but all of our bodies are different and handle the stress of training and racing differently.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever run?
Hmmm…too many choices and too many places I haven’t been. I loved running in Alaska in February on the Iditarod trail because it’s a place you can only run in the winter and I have an affinity for the Iditarod dog race. Costa Rica was amazing too, but at heart I’m a mountain girl and can never get enough of the Colorado mountains.
Your message for people who trash our trails?
Please stop. I realize I can’t change other people’s attitude about trash so I try to just do my part to pick it up. I hope other people will try this too. (Here comes my soapbox speech). What I’d really like is for dog owners to be responsible. I think I’m most upset when I see dog waste bags and dog poop on the trails. I’ve become the “poop fairy” because I don’t want anyone else’s run/hike/ride to be ruined by seeing all the bags. I love my dog and dogs in general, but have to admit I feel a sense of relief when I run a trail that isn’t open to dogs because I know I won’t have to pick up after the owners!
Best running moment?
Sounds silly but every run is a gift for me. My most memorable running moments have happened during pacing though. I’ve been lucky to pace my husband and friends at 100s, and being a part of their races and their finishes has meant more to me than any of my finishes.
What’s on your 2017 race calendar?
So far, I’m signed up for the Bighorn 100 and Leadville 100 and will fill in a few other races. I’m excited I’ll get to volunteer and pace at Hard Rock and hopefully a few other races. If they fit into my schedule I’d also like to do Quad Rock 50 and Never Summer 100k.
When you’re not running, what keeps you busy?
Teaching keeps me really busy but during the summer I love camping, doing trail work, cooking and painting. In addition to running, I do boot camp consistently. I’m a volunteer patroller for our local open space and admit I love watching Broncos football, Avalanche hockey, and am a Words with Friends and Candy Crush addict. I also love listening to podcasts and reading.
What’s your super power?
My friends. I feel so lucky to have such incredible friends who give me energy, inspiration and love. There’s an amazing power in community and being surrounded by positive, kind, generous people.
Who’s one person you’d like to run with?
Ann Trason because her grit, low-key, quiet personality seems like she’d make a great running companion. I’ve always been inspired by her strength and knowledge. I almost had the opportunity to run with her at Leadville in 2015. She was there to pace, but her runner had to drop at Twin Lakes. As I was coming in she asked me if I needed a pacer. I was tempted to say “yes” even though my pacer was waiting at the aid station, but friendship trumps fame and so I had to pass.
Bucket list race?
Hard Rock (if I can ever “win” the lottery) because it’s the technical, mountainous terrain I love. If I can’t get into Hard Rock, I’d like to do Mount Fuji.
If you would like to be featured in Going the Distance or know someone who should, please drop me a note.