Monday, July 12, 2010

VT100 Interview: Cherie Yanek

Name: Cherie (Cheryl Yanek)
Age: 31
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Years Running Ultras: 4
100 Mile Finishes: Vermont 100 (2009): 29:01; Umstead 100 (2010): 22:32

SJ: Cherie, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about the upcoming Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run.
CY: Thanks. I'm really excited about the race.

SJ: So Cherie, how the heck did a girl like you get into ultra-running and when did you get into it?
CY: In 2006, I met this girl via Craigslist when I was seeking a running partner. We're great friends now, but shortly after we met, she canceled on me for a run. "Sorry, I just ran an ultramarathon." I had always wanted to do an ultra, but wasn't sure what it entailed. I asked her a million questions. It had been her first ultra - the Jay Challenge (no longer around), but the next year, she and I signed up together. You ran through brooks and streams for several miles, up and down Jay Peak (ski mountain), through swamps, mud pits, up sand dunes, up and down super steep technical trails, even by a small waterfall. I learned I suck at technical running, but I had a good time at the same time. It was one of the hardest things I ever did - but I loved it.

The next year, I ended up doing 2 50ks and 2 50 milers. I discovered running ultras becomes very addictive.

SJ: So of all the races you've run thus far, do you have a favorite?
CY: Hmmm, it's tough to pick. I got my PR at Dick Collins 50 Miler, and that was a blast - great course, great aid stations, great people. San Fran 50 Miler (North Face) has beautiful views. I also really liked the Vermont 100 Miler, except the parts where I was crying with pain.

SJ: And now you're a race director. Tell us about the race you are directing this coming September.
CY: I'm hosting (and running) what I hope will be the First Annual Burning Man Ultramarathon. There was a 5k at Burning Man (which was a lot of fun!) but I always felt like an ultra would be the ultimate Burning Man Challenge.

Burning Man is a week-long festival of arts, music, and radical self-expression out in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. You have to be completely self-sufficient (bring food, water, tent, etc.), and there is no exchange of commerce (save ice and coffee). People bring whatever talents, skills, and forms of entertainment they have to offer (i.e., DJing, cocktail parties, pancakes for everyone, sculptures, lectures, skill sharing, yoga, bars, etc.), and share it - completely free.

Part of Burning Man is about bringing yourself, whoever that is. I've hosted the Librarian Cocktail Party the past two years, but always wanted to host an ultra. I met someone wearing a Western States Party at one of the "clubs" at Burning Man, and after talking with a few other runners, decided to do it. My friend is helping me (he doesn't run so he'll be timing everyone), and the Burning Man Organization has been really great and supportive - they're having medical crews help out.

There will be some great costumes, support from art cars, and I'm sure lots of hilarious moments you won't find at other ultras. (Last year, during an easy 9miler, some people from the Death Guild Camp (Heavy Metal Camp) chased us with whiskey and beer, trying to (and occasionally succeeding) pour them into runners' mouths.)
People are really excited - we have a lot of people who want to volunteer. One of my friends will be organizing a water gun fight right along the course so the runners will get wet - which will be nice, as temperatures can easily, climb up to above 100, but hopefully, most runners will be done before then. Right now, there are about 30 runners signed up, but I hope for more.
More info here:!/event.php?eid=174362476725&ref=ts

SJ: So lets turn our attention to this years Vermont 100. This is your second time running at the VT100, what made you decide to come back?
CY: I loved the course - it was absolutely beautiful. The volunteers were great, the aid stations wonderful, (and I won't neglect to mention the amazing cookies at Margaritaville!), it was really well-organized, and close.

I had a tough race last year and am hoping to have a much better race this year - I hope to break 24 hours!

SJ: In last years race you finished in just over 29 hours, what are your goals for this years race? Is this about redemption in a way?
CY: Kind of. Last year, I had a pretty terrible allergic reaction to the dye of my socks. My feet broke out in splotches, swelled up really big, and I had blisters in between and underneath every single toe, and around my foot. It was so painful, I could not bear to run downhill at the end (or uphill). I walked so much. When I finished, I went straight to the medical tent.

I really hope that I can run smart and not run into any problems like that. I had surgery in early May, so I had to take some time off, but I think that has helped me rest.
I hope to buckle this year!

SJ: Having run Vermont, what would you say are the bigger challenges of the race?
CY: I guess pacing yourself. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and go out too fast.

SJ: What strengths do you bring to the race that are going to help you succeed?
CY: I have a positive attitude. I love running and meeting new people, and an ultramarathon is kind of like a party to me.

SJ: Do you have a crew or pacer? If yes, who are they and what experience do you rely on in them?
CY: My friend Matt offered to pace me. He's run a couple marathons (he's quite fast!), but has never done an ultra. He's planning on riding his bike over from the Adirondacks in NY, and then running the last 30 miles. He's really excited about watching the race.

My friend Deidre just ran her first 50k back in March, the Caumsett 50k. She is intrigued by the world of ultras, and is really enthusiastic. She offered to crew me.

They may switch between crewing and pacing, and I'm excited to have both of them helping me.

They're both part of my local running club, North Brooklyn Runners, which is primarily made up of 5k/10k/Half/Marathoners. There's a few ultrarunners, and I'm hoping to convert more people.

SJ: What are you most concerned about heading into the race this year?
CY: The heat worries me a bit, and I hope it doesn't destroy me.

Also, I've had a history of stomach problems in the past (It probably cost me at least an hour at Umstead 100 Miler, and at least 30 minutes at Vermont 100), so I hope my stomach behaves.

SJ: Cherie, final question; For many ultra-running is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. Family, friends, What about the Vermont 100, in your opinion, best exemplifies this sentiment?
CY: The Vermont 100 is an amazing place where I remember WHY I love to run - because you meet amazing people, you have great runnable paths, there's amazing support, pretty scenery, your friends and family can watch you. I have a saying - It all comes back to running. At Vermont, it truly does.

SJ: Cherie, the very best of luck to you this weekend in Vermont. We're all rooting for you and wish you luck in achieving your goals.
CY: Thanks so much! I'm looking to see you out there on the course.

You can peek into Cherie's world via her blog at: