Editors Note: While mountain biking a couple of different times in the mountains surrounding Wenatchee, we came across this woman named Anja. She wore sandals while trail running, and while we were huffing and puffing on the uphill mountain bike grind, she went strolling by us effortlessly while running. Not even breaking a sweat on a hot day. She was talking away to us pleasantly while we felt like we may die on the uphill. She left us in the dust and did so gracefully and kindly. This made us want to know, who is this awesome lady runner? So we asked her for an interview….Little did we know she used to be a competitive dog musher, has broken the women’s record for the Enchantments trail, and enjoys a beer on a nightly basis. Watch out folks, Anja is taking the outdoor running world by storm!
Question: Anja, we heard you moved to Wenatchee about a year ago from Spokane, WA. What brought you to our area?
Answer: My husband and I were looking to relocate to somewhere smaller with more outdoor adventure opportunities, and when he had a job offer to come to Wenatchee, we were like LETS GO! My husband grew up in Leavenworth and as a kid, I’ve always loved central Washington. So it was the move we wanted and haven’t looked back (we love it here).
Question: What do you do for work, do you have kids or dogs? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Answer: My husband and I have been married for a couple of years… and hopefully kids on the horizon soon! Currently we have our two fur babies, a little black kitten and a big goofy German Shorthaired Pointer who keeps me company on most of my runs. I work as a massage therapist for the WRAC, where I specialize in deep tissue and sports treatments. I’m also certified in running biomechanics and do personal sessions as well at the WRAC. On the side, I take clients for running coaching purposes. One more thing, I’m also a freelance artist and I work for my dad’s company where we paint murals on water tanks across the nation (random, right?). We stay pretty busy! Nonetheless, I’m still type B (personality wise). I LOVE relaxing, doing my art, binging on Netflix or eating out with my hubby, as well as getting together with some amazing lady speedsters that I train with.
Question: What do you love about utlra-running and how did you get started with it? How many years have you been a serious runner?
Answer: I got into running about 12 years ago, before then I was a competitive musher. Got into ultra running within the last 6, and have gotten more serious within the last handful! I’m still very much a road runner at heart and LOVE competing in track and road events. I really enjoy mixing it up, and I find that it keeps me fresh. What got me more on the trails was just combining my love of running with the connection to nature… and when I discovered that it was an actual sport, I was sold.
Question: Where did you grow up if you used to do competitive dog mushing?
Answer: I grew up in the foothills of the east side of the Spokane area within 10 min of the Idaho border and was part of the Inland Northwest Dogsled Association! There’s quite a few races in the northwest alone, and not just limited to Canada/Alaska.
Question: Do you train year around for your runs? Do you do ultra-races? Or simply do ultra-runs on your own (non-organized events)?
Answer: I typically have an off season, usually between 2-3 months of just running/playing with no goal in mind just to reboot the system. But yes, I do race ultra distances! Not the crazy long ones, and am recently finding how much I love the shorter more aggressive “sky races” that aren’t even always an ultra distance. Like I said earlier, I love mixing it up.
Question: We have seen you on the trails wearing sandals while running? Wow. What are these and where do you purchase them?
Answer: Haha YES. I was hoping for this question! I’ve always been into minimalist footwear, then when I read Born To Run about 10 years ago, I had to get my hands on a pair. They’re called Luna Sandals and are based out of Seattle. The owner, Ted, is one of the characters in the book… fun fact! The sandals definitely make running more of an experience, you have greater ground feel, and with the lack of support you have to be more mindful. In turn, and in my own experience, I believe it makes you more efficient and a bit more connected to your own body and its surroundings. I highly recommend getting a pair, even just for occasional waking in. If anyone has more questions, they are more then welcome to reach out to me.
Question:What kind of diet/nutrition do you keep while training? Do you have an off-season diet or regiment?
Answer: I understand that calories don’t always equal calories, so I try to stick to high quality, high nutrient dense foods. I was a vegan/vegetarian for most of my life, which didn’t work for my body. I developed illnesses from the deficiencies and malnutrition, so my last handful of years of running have been incredibly difficult and painful. I added in local pasture raised meat (officially one year ago) into my diet, and my body is thriving more then it ever has. That being said, I’ve adapted more to a higher fat, lower carb diet. Not all bodies are alike, but this route seems to give me endless energy (and make me a lot less achy). I’m not strict, by any means, I just like to eat what gives me the best quality of life. Nonetheless, I still enjoy beer almost on the daily (carb of choice) and the occasional treats. Off season is pretty much the same, but with more beer (husband may or may not have brought me beer to enjoy at aid stations mid races)!
Question: What does your weekly training consist of? How many days do you run, how far do you run on those days, etc.? Do you cross train as well? What does that entail?
Answer: Good question! It really varies, but I do tend to thrive on higher mileage when my schedule allows. Ideally 80-100 mile weeks in training (about 6 days a week). I probably average 30-50 miles a week in the off season. This even goes for any distance, including the shorter 5k. The only thing that changes depending on the goal are the workouts/speed sessions or elevation gain. If I’m training for a sky race (which is a trail race, not limited to ultra distances, but involves extreme gain and higher in altitude), I’m more likely to count elevation and time versus mileage. It’s best to listen to your body, I may be able to do 100 mile weeks for the most part, but when I start throwing in thousands of feet of vertical a week, it can be challenging! So you adapt and figure out what’s best for your training. As far as cross training, it’s barely anything. I focus on core, muscle activation, and balance work to improve form and efficiency, just a few times a week. I do enjoy lifting heavy and CrossFit type work, but even just one workout puts my body under too much stress to where it really effects my running. So I do that in the off season. I’m still an outside player though. I skate ski and snowboard in the winter time, swim in the river in the summer, as well mountain bike with my dog (though he’s doing all the work by pulling me).
Question: Favorite piece of running gear. What is it?
Answer: Haha definitely my Luna’s! I also love running in Altras, especially on days I need a bit more cushion.
Question: What was has been the most memorable thing you have seen or experienced while running in the mountains?
Answer: I feel like my experiences have truly shifted since moving here. The mountains here in the Cascades are glorious, magnificent, and absolutely terrifying. Hard to pick and choose a top memory… but doing the Enchantments route for the first time last fall was incredible! The larch trees were in their golden prime, as well as there was little to no one out there, so I got to experience the trail solo and quiet, which made it very meditative. My 2nd time through was more of a hustle. I recorded it and was able to break the women’s course record!
Question: Do you run without ear-buds? If so, how do you stay motivated for the grinding uphills?
Answer: You know, it truly depends on my mood. I’m not anti headphones, as music just adds to the experience for me. It’s almost like listening to a soundtrack to an epic movie! But most of the time, I stay unplugged for safety reasons. I’ve had enough cougar encounters to motivate me to stay aware of my surroundings. Fortunately, I really don’t need music to push me, as my brain tends to go into a meditative state where I’m really not thinking a whole lot, plus I usually have my dog with me, which is very entertaining.
Question: How do you “stay safe” on your longer runs? Do you run with someone else, do you tell someone where you are running? What if any, precautions do you take to keep yourself in contact or so that you feel comfortable while running in the woods?
Answer: I occasionally run with others (more for the camaraderie), especially with some of my awesome friends here! I stay safe by letting my husband know my whereabouts and when to expect my return (we have set times and know that if my window way exceeds the expectation of my return, he’ll act in whatever way is most appropriate, which fortunately we’ve never had to so that). Here in Wenatchee, I’m more concerned about wildlife vs two legged predators, and most of the time, you know what to expect with wildlife. Knowing that you’re in their space, respect them by acknowledging that they’re there and that you’re there, keep your distance. Usually makes life good for everyone! Living is Spokane was tough with the high crime problem, that being said, I think everyone needs to take precautions whatever the gender, and know the risks. Pay attention to your surroundings, unplug from your headset, carry something for self defense (I love Go Guarded running “knife rings”) and also nice having a dog pal to run with.
Question: What is your favorite run to do around the Wenatchee foothills/mountain areas and why?
Answer: Oh gosh, I can’t chose a favorite! I love them all depending what I’m hankering for. Some days I want the alpine, some days I want the hot arid desert. Some days I want a fast fluid trail run on Sage Hills or Squilchuck (sorry mountain bikers). Other days I want a long lung burner on the fire roads beyond Mission Ridge, and then there are days I want a long painful grind up Badger Mountain Road or mile repeats on the Apple loop. Wenatchee has so much to offer, and there’s no way I’ll ever get bored with the variety!
Question: What are your current ultra-running goals or what other physical activity outdoor goals do you have?
Answer: I’d love to do more in the Sky Race category and travel to Europe to compete. I also aspire to qualify for the Olympic Trials for the marathon one day and try to break 17 min in the 5k again! There is also an intrigue with Badwater 135 in Death Valley, and kind of have that in my 5 year plan.
Question: What ultra-running event is your favorite and why?
Answer: This is another toughy! One of my favorite organizations is Rainshadow Running. They put on superb races all over the PNW that involves gorgeous and well organized courses, plus amazing after parties (think fire roasted pizza, beer, live music). Just a good atmosphere. My favorite race would probably be The Rut 50k in Big Sky Montana, it is a really cool event that showcases more of the European side of the sport. People from all over the world come to compete, plus it’s just an overall fun weekend, despite the lack of oxygen (maybe that’s why it’s so fun?)
Question: What else would you like to share with our readers?
Answer: If anyone wants to reach out to me in regards to any questions on Luna Sandals, or more questions on my coaching (all ages, experiences and distances welcome!) you can find me on Instagram @RollickingRunner or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Especially if you’re new to running and don’t know where to begin, I’d love to join you on your journey!