|PHOTO: Aliza Lapierre is prepping for a return to the Western States 100|
With a tight crew of friends and family there to support her, runner Aliza Lapierre will take on one of the most grueling endurance races in the country, the Western States 100, just a few months after undergoing surgery on her left foot. Third-place finisher at last year’s WS 100, Aliza had to train fairly quickly for this one, carefully listening to her body along the way.
Through heartfelt perseverance and dedication, Lapierre will be ready to give it her all on June 29. The Williston, Vermont-based athlete shares thoughts with us on her recovery, support network, and how she prepares for the world’s oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race.
What did you have surgery for?
AL: I had surgery to remove a sesamoid bone in my left foot that had a stress fracture and was decaying. I had run on the injured bone for several months, thinking it was just a sore spot. I then tried to mend in a walking boot, but after six weeks the little bone hadn’t made any progress in healing. At the end of February I had surgery, and every day things got a little better, the scar got smaller, my foot became less sensitive, the pain dissipated, and my toe realigned.
How do you feel going into the WS 100? What are your hopes for this one?
AL: I have never trained so quickly for such a key race. It was risky to go from off the couch to 50 to 80 miles a week, but I really worked to pay attention to what my body was telling me it could and couldn’t handle.
My hopes for the race are first and foremost to finish and in doing so take care of myself. I need to continue to respect my body and if something comes up as a red flag I need to recognize/accept that it isn’t my day. More specifically, if I have a good day I am aiming for top 10 to earn a spot back next year.
Are your family and husband going to support you again this year?
AL: It seems that Western States is becoming a family tradition for my mother, stepfather, my husband George and myself. My stepfather is my crew chief as he has a great attention to detail. My mother is in charge of swapping out my packs/bottles, cooling me off if needed, and pacing some sections heading into aid stations. In previous years my husband’s role has been to be my husband: to support me, listen to me complain and then send me on my way as he looks over me. This year he will be doing that, but he will also be pacing me for a portion. I am really looking forward to running with him; he is a mountain biker at heart, but his pace, running style and humor will be beneficial to me. I will also have the Salomon team manager Adam Chase pacing me; I just hope his energy is contagious.
To prepare, do you still do CrossFit and train with Bryon Powell?
AL: CrossFit has found a permanent place in my off-season and early-season training. The coaches at Champlain Valley CrossFit worked extremely hard when I was injured to keep me in shape. It really helps strengthen my core and has helped redefine what I think I am capable of.
I am fortunate that Bryon Powell of is still coaching me. I really trust his scheduling and value his opinion. He also does a great job of quelling my worries.
This year I have done a lot of training by myself, which has been a major change from past years. I’ve worked hard to rediscover the drive inside myself, but still do enjoy running with others. I am not sure which works best – having a training partner or going solo – but I have learned a lot through each.
How do you mentally prepare for a race like the WS 100?
AL: The mental piece of racing is pretty important to me. For Western States I do a nutrition plan and pace chart. I also have learned more about that course than any other. I read other runners’ race reports to learn from their successes and mistakes and also look over my own. I will be nervous no matter what I do, but I try to find the right balance of information and confidence.
What other endurance races are you doing this season?
AL: To be honest I am not sure; I have a lot I would like to do. This season I am trying to listen to my body and improve my abilities at the 50-mile distance. Other races on my radar are the Leadville 100, Vermont 50, and The North Face Championship in California. Each race is special in its own way and each has a journey leading up and following.
Which Julbo’s do you use while racing and why do you like them?
AL: I am going to be racing in the Treks again this year. I wore them last year and was very pleased. The photochromic lenses adjust to the conditions and I like that I can adjust the temple pieces so the glasses fit well no matter what hat or visor I have on. I think they make me look fast, too.
Is there anything you want to add?
AL: I would like to wish everyone luck at this year’s race, embrace the highs and lows, as each is a gift. Also a big shout-out to my Julbo teammates who will be out there with me on course: Ian Sharman, Dave Mackey, Cassie Scallon, and Mike Wolfe – you all are amazing and I hope to see you in Auburn.