Dirt in Your Skirt Profile Series – Frayah Bartuska
This week we feature Frayah Bartuska. She is prepping this year to take on World’s Toughest Mudder and has some pretty big races before then. This 29-year old in Madison Wisconsin with sponsor OCRBUS is ready to take on the world this year one race at a time. Seriously, wait until you read this profile! Learn a little more about Frayah…
How did you get involved in your sport?
I always had a love for trails and the outdoors but I was never a runner until I joined the military. I had met a girl in my unit who would run countless miles every day between duty shifts, and it completely inspired me. I basically made her be my friend and would always try to keep up with her (never could), but it started this competitive drive that I have with running. She really worked with me on how to mentally train running multiple miles, and I caught on very quickly. I began all different types of training and dabbled into many different types of races. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel all the time, and with that I would run countless hours and miles exploring. It was then that I realized that I had this built in endurance that I never knew I had. When I went to my first Tough Mudder right after I got out of the Coast Guard, I began to completely switch gears with running. I loved races that required an incredible amount of athleticism but even more mental grit. After doing many OCRS, I realized I was truly happy with ultra running which is where my focus is at.
Were you always an athlete?
Yes, I was always involved in sports since I was 4 years old, and the only one I liked was basketball. I would spend countless hours just shooting a basketball around when I was a kid and loved the competitiveness of the sport when I reached high school (maybe too much, as I usually fouled out). My siblings and I each had a sport that we excelled at, so it was very competitive in my household.
What are some of your athletic achievements?
I know I should say that is was when I reached the 100K and 100m level with Ultras and placing top 10 in both. It was really the first time that I could really see how my training and dedication to this sport had been paying off. However, when I first started with the “fitness world”, I would be very excited when I can do more than 10 pushups in a row, run more than 3 miles in row, hold a plank for more than 2 minutes, etc. After many years of constant training, I know I’m beyond that level, but those little achievements were huge for me.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
My main focus this year has been WTM. I did have to drop out last year due to a family emergency, and it has been number 1 on my list since then. I never ever predict placement in races, but my goal is 100 miles. I hope to be able to complete Sawtooth 100, which has been ranked as one of the hardest 100 milers in the US, in less than 28 hours. I do not plan on doing OCRs next year as I would like to focus more on the goals I’ve been desperate to hit with ultra running.
Who is/are your inspiration?
Gosh, so many. I’ve always admired athletes who put in an incredible amount of hard work to succeed. Rich Froning has been my inspiration for a long time due to his work ethic. I mean… the guy trains over 8 hours a day and no one can touch him in the Crossfit Games. Sean Blanton, founder of Run Bum tours. An incredible ultra athlete who has this love for the sport and nature that is so contagious. He has truly been a mentor to me to just appreciate my gift and being able to see such amazing parts of the world. I also look up to Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Tony Krupicka, and Luis Escobar for inspirations in the running world. I also have looked up to Amelia Boone, as she has really paved the way for women in the OCR world and just proving that women can dominate in a sport. I’ve met so many great athletes in the WTM community, who are also some of my best friends. I’m also going to be a cliche here and admit that as a kid, I had an incredibly unhealthy fascination with Michael Jordan. I had countless posters, jerseys, shoes, backpacks, books, etc. I would respond to people with Michael Jordan quotes even. I would dress up in my Jordan gear for every Bulls game and my eyes never left the tv screen.
I’ve always been in awe of people who make goals and do everything in their power to achieve them. No bullshit, no excuses, no “big talking”… they just train their ass off and achieve it. I don’t care if the goal is to run one mile without stopping or to run 100 miles in 12 hours. I tend to look up more to that mental capabilities of an athlete more than the physical ones. Keeping a humble, good attitude while achieving incredible goals is pretty badass in my book.
What is your most proud moment in sport?
Easy… completing Georgia Death Race.
This race tested every part of me to no end. I felt every possible emotion, dealt with crazy amounts of pain, and still managed to cross the finish line 7th overall for women and 1st in age group. The elevation change in this race was incredibly tough, and I was very inexperienced (hello, im from Wisconsin!) compared to everyone else. . I was holding great time and always bouncing in and out of top 5 for females until I took a pretty hard fall. I was practically crawling for over 6 miles of the race with a horrible leg cramp and a sprained ankle until I finally reached an aid station. I don’t know if the paramedic slipped me something in an electrolyte pill or if the UltraGods were shining down on me that day, but I got this crazy surge in me to just make up ground and finish it. I held the fastest pace I had for the rest of the race for the next 23 miles, passing people who were passing me during my injury, and covering some serious ground. It was the first time in a race where I knew that a possible DNF may be happening if the RD thought I could not continue. I held back tears for the first time ever in a race, but just kept putting one foot in front of the other as I knew that was the only thing I could do. I left that race feeling so incredibly relieved and also learning a huge lesson.. to never lose faith. Anything can happen in a race, and you just gotta keep going until you cross the finish line.
What is your most proud moment in life?
The proudest “time” in my life was serving in the United States Coast Guard. I know I would not be the person I am today if I never served my country. The military taught me all about mental grit, discipline, and how important it is to have good character. I’ve been through the best days of my life in the military and also the worst days of my life. It taught me how to be strong minded, built confidence, and taught me how important is to put in the hard work if you want to achieve.
How do you overcome a bad race or training day? I’ll admit that there are many times that I will go to Crossfit or start a run, and I immediately want it to be over. However, right when I start training, my attitude immediately changes. If this happens with runs, I usually will tell myself.. “if I still feel this way after a mile, lll stop”, but usually the endorphins kick in and I will keep going. Some of my best training runs have started with a horrible attitude, but ill finish feeling so much better and energized. You will never regret a workout (I know, most overused quote of the decade) but it is 100% true. I also look at a “bad day” as a great training tool for mental grit. Why quit a workout that I said I was going to do because of a bad day? Quitting then becomes part of your training, which will then play out in races. Finishing a workout that you don’t want to do will only help you and make you progress… those “bad days” are an important part of training.
What is your training routine like?
I do crossfit 2-3 times a week. I am always out on the trails on the weekends to work on mileage, speed, and running on different terrains. I bike, stairmaster, kickbox, talk about doing yoga, and some regular weight training. I also love to put in some crazy mental grit/physical challenges about once a month. Rowing marathons, burpee miles, lunge miles, running 1000 floors…i dunno if it makes me crazier or if it has made me drawn to more events that involve “suffering”, but I need stuff like this when things get “boring” with training.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your sport?
You can do anything you set your mind to. If you want to complete a Tough Mudder, you can. If you want to run 100 miles, you can. If you want to place on podiums, you can. Do not let anything intimidate you or think that you are unable to do something. I wasn’t born a runner, in fact, I could barely run a mile in my early twenties without wanting to stop. However, with every goal, comes hard work. I had a goal to be president when I was in middle school, but I’m not mad that it didn’t happen. Why? Because I put in absolutely no work to achieve that goal.
Also, do what works for you and enjoy every achievement. I still remember how great I felt doing my first 5K, doing my first push up, doing my first burpee (ok, maybe not)… the journey is exciting.. enjoy it.
What is your favorite pre-race and post-race food?
Believe it or not, this is when I feel the most pressure… the meal before a race. I’ve done everything from eating everything in sight the night before a 5k (don’t do that) to forgetting to eat before a Tough Mudder (don’t do that). After many hit and misses, I’ve finally hit a routine before races. I do keep my meals more carb based the day before, but I do not go crazy with overeating. The carbs I love to eat the night before are usually waffles, rice, oatmeal, and maybe some delicious oreos for dessert. The morning of, I usually stick with oatmeal/cereal with a ton of fruit, and will snack on granola until the race. After a race… and especially after an ultra… game over. All I want is a Culvers burger soaked in ketchup and a large IPA beer.
When not training and competing what do you do with your down time?
I don’t have a lot of it.. and I’m not a huge fan of free time. However, I do have an addiction to Netflix, learning to play guitar, have a great group of friends who I like to catch up with during the weekends, and spending time with my dog Layla.
What is your favorite quote to motivate you?
I’m constantly telling myself to just keeping putting one foot in front of the other. When a day or a race gets tough, I know that it will soon be done if I just keep moving forward. I also like the quote by Mia Hamm. I grew up in a family who taught us all to love the outdoors and enjoy the world around you. I grew up exploring trails in the woods and loving nature. It’s been a love that I’ve always had, which is why I train hard on the races that I run
““Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back… play for her.”
Also, from Sean Blanton:
“Never be afraid to run with someone faster than you and never be above running with someone slower than you”
What is the best advice a coach ever gave you?
“Someone is always going to be better than you”. Ha, my coach and I have been working together for almost 2 years, and he definitely keeps it very real with me.,,, and I’ve realized just how true that advice is. I may get some fast times in the WODS for training, and I may even placed from time to time, but the only person I need to be competing with is myself, otherwise, I’m just going to be miserable constantly comparing myself to others.
If you could share some advice to the next generation of athletes, what would it be?
Remain humble, enjoy the sport, and know how truly blessed you are to be able to do stuff like this. Earn the trophies you receive, and have a blast doing some epic stuff.
What is/are the races you are most looking forward to this year?
Sawtooth 100, World’s Toughest Mudder, Georgia Death Race 2014, Dances with Dirt 50, Minnesota Tough Mudder, Kettle 100, Chicago Tough Mudder Spartan Super VA, Warrior Dash WI
Any additional information you would like to share:
Since I started running and racing, I’ve been the happiest in my life. I’ve met the most amazing people and have learned so much about myself over the years. I’ve grown tremendously with my athleticness but also have grown with my character. I know I will be an ultra runner all my life, and I’m blessed to be able to be on this journey.