Athlete Profile – Vanessa Rodriguez aka Vanessa Runs
The latest installment of the Dirt In Your Skirt Athlete Profile series features west coast based ultra runner Vanessa Rodriguez. This 30 year old, living in San Diego is one of the most passionate people I know about running. She and her boyfriend have built a life around running and writing about it. The smile on her face as she runs is worth a thousand words on paper and she truly loves the trails and ultra running. Her tales of her first 100 miler are inspiring and her posts are often thought provoking. I am an avid reader of her work. Vanessa recently quit her day job and is about to pursue her passion for running and writing full-time.
Vanessa aka Vanessa Runs took some time between looking at RV’s, caring for new kittens, and writing a popular ultra running blog (www.vanessaruns.com) to answer a few questions for me about how she got involved in the sport and what her next adventures hold.
How did you get involved in ultra running?
I started running in 2007 during a very stressful time in my life. I ran as a form of escape, not exercise. I discovered that the longer I ran, the better I felt. I started running trails and I fell in love. The nature, the air, the uneven terrain all made me feel alive. I started running ultras as a way to explore new trails and be out on them longer.
Were you always an athlete?
No. Before 2007, I wasn’t very active at all. Growing up, I was a nerd. I’m still very much a nerd. I’m very analytical and pensive and I read obsessively. I also write a lot.
What are some of your athletic achievements?
From May 2011 through May of 2012 I have completed 14 ultra distance races as well as a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon and a 100-mile race.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
More 100-milers. That’s my favorite distance because it’s so unpredictable, it takes all of your physical and mental strength, and it’s such an adventure. I’ve registered for three more 100-mile races this year.
Who is/are your inspiration?
My boyfriend Shacky is my main supporter, and our dog Ginger. She reminds me every day how amazing it is to run and completed her first 50K with me this year. She’s a great pacer and keeps an eye out for me on the trails.
What is your most proud moment in sport?
Completing my first 100-mile race [Rocky Road 100]. It was an unbelievable accomplishment and I proved to myself that there was nothing I couldn’t do.
What is your most proud moment in life?
Taking the risk of moving to San Diego last year to start a new life and do more trail running. Then taking another big risk this year by quitting my job to train for ultras and write a book.
How do you overcome a bad race or training day?
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a “bad” race or training day, just really hard ones. I’ve DNF’d before (Did Not Finish), and also DFL’d (finished Dead Fucking Last), but those experiences have been some of my most memorable and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
What is your training routine like?
Right now I’m following a 100-mile training plan, which has me running between 50 and 70 miles each week, including speed work twice a week.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?
Welcome to an unbelievable community of runners! Follow your passion and do what you love. The rest will fall into place.
What is your favorite pre-race and post-race food?
I’ve been following a vegan diet and I’m also a registered nutritionist, but interestingly I don’t have a favorite. I run at different times a day and I’ll eat anything vegan. Smoothies, sandwiches, oatmeal, granola, salads… it’s all good.
When not training and competing what do you do with your down time?
Reading, movies, watching TV in my jammies with my boyfriend, or playing with my kittens.
What is your favorite quote to motivate you?
There are so many, but when I’m running I think of this poem by Trisha Reeves:
Run close to the mountains
Stay a heartbeat away
Cover the low moon with your wings
And walk tomorrow’s miles today
Watch the sun race the sky
And know you’ll pass her once again
When time frees your soul and you find
That fabled trail that doesn’t end
What is the best advice a coach ever gave you?
I’ve never had a running coach, but the best advice I ever got was from my boyfriend Shacky. He said, “Don’t listen to anyone.” There are no rules.
If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?
Do what you love. Passion is everything.
I heard you recently ran a race barefoot, can you tell me more about it?
I’ve run a few races barefoot, but recently attempted a barefoot trail 50K. I had heard the course was very barefoot friendly, but it was actually the opposite. It was the roughest terrain I had ever run on (barefoot), and I only made it 10 miles before I switched to minimalist shoes to finish the race. Barefoot racing is much easier on either roads or soft trails. I really love running on rocky terrain, so I don’t get to do many barefoot races.
You just made a big life change what happened and what are your plans?
I quit my job to focus on my true passion, which is running and writing about ultras. I’m so glad I made that change. We’re moving into an RV in the fall so we can be closer to the trails and train daily. I’m also working on a book. I get to run and hang out with my dog all day, every day.
The “sacrifices” are that we won’t have a permanent location, we’re off the grid, and we live day-to-day. But for me, that’s heaven I’ve never been happier. You can follow my adventures at VanessaRuns.com.