Couch to 50K to 100 milers – Dr. Olivia’s Journey

I met Olivia on Instagram and her journey immediately inspired me. It took a lot of restraint not to ask her a gazillion questions about her ultramarathons, the US states she’s run in, and what I needed to do to achieve my own 100-mile dream.  I also really wanted her to meet Adeline who I featured a few weeks ago when I launched this blog because they’ve both completed multiple 100-milers.   

Follow Olivia on Instagram @OliviaAdventures or join her Facebook group at Black Magic Trail Sisters

Olivia after finishing Yeti 100 mile race

The training is not much different from the 50-mile distance to the 100-mile distance but mindset becomes important.  You have to have your mind right.    You have to believe that you can do it and then never give up.  There will be highs and lows but you have to push through.

Dr. Olivia Affuso

What are your top trail running accomplishments?

I have completed three 100-mile races, but my top trail running adventure, to date, is completing the “marathon” distance of the Barkley Fall Classic directed by the infamous Lazarus Lake. It is STILL the hardest race I have ever done.

How long have you been a trail runner and what inspired you to pick up the sport?

I ran my first 4-mile trail race in 1994 but at the time I didn’t know anything about trail running.  It was not until 2011 that I discovered trail running in earnest.  It was in Tim Ferris’ book the 4-hour body that I learned about ultra-endurance athletes like Dean Karnazes, the book Born to Run, and the sport of ultra-trail running. I was inspired by Dean Karnazes (who I actually got to meet at my very first 50K) and the story about the women of the Tarahumara tribe of running people in Copper Canyon Mexico.

So, I went from couch to 50K in 5 months.  My rationale was that if I could do a road marathon, what was 5 more miles.

To date, I have completed a 50Ks in 13 states (AL, SC, NC, GA, FL, TN, TX, WA, AZ, LA, WI, VA, MS).  My favorite state so far has been Colorado where I did the Transrockies 3-day GU – 60 miler. The views were absolutely amazing! 

What advice do you have for those who would like to move up from the 50M/100K distance to the 100 mile distance?

The training is not much different from the 50-mile distance to the 100-mile distance but mindset becomes important.  You have to have your mind right.    You have to believe that you can do it and then never give up.  There will be highs and lows but you have to push through. It is also an important part of the training to have your nutrition and hydration dialed in.  That means practicing what you are going to use on race day.

Do you have a mantra that helps to get you through the low points in ultra races?

Some of the toughest races are looped courses.  So, for those, I focus on running from aid station to aid station. However, on the last loop, I often find myself saying “Just one more time.”

How do you balance your running life with other aspects of your personal/professional life?

I balance my running and the rest of my life by running shorter distances during the week and saving the longer runs for the weekend.  Since I rarely have long training runs over 20 miles, it is easier to get other things done.

What advice do you have for others who would like to begin trail running?

Find a trail, take a friend, and start running.  Also know that walking and hiking are big parts of trail running so don’t feel pressured to run the entire time.

What should the trail running community do to attract more black and brown women to the sport?

I think that more black and brown women will be attracted to the trail running community when they start to see more people that look like them in those spaces.  The trail running community in my experience has been welcoming, however, I think it will take a more personal approach to get more black and brown women on trails in spaces that may be perceived as not safe for women of color.  So, I think all trail running women should reach out to black and brown women to get more of us on the trails. 

What is your next trail running adventure?

If not for COVID-19, I would be running a 50K in one of the states left on my list. So, for now I am running a few virtual races including the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee (#GVRAT1000K) put on by none other than Laz. And I am hoping to run the Pinhoti 100 in November 2020.

What is your favorite trail running gear and why?

That is a tough question.  I love gear so it is hard to choose one favorite thing.  I guess as a practical person I would have to say the “Buff” is something that I almost always take with me on a run.  They are so versatile and can be worn as a hat, head band, neck gaiter, handkerchief, you name it.  

What is your favorite trail race and why?   

My favorite race so far has been the Yeti 100. Jason Green really knows how to put on a race/continuous party.  He is even there at the finish line to hug all of the finishers.  It was a great experience and I would recommend this race to anyone.

How has trail running impacted you and what has it taught you about yourself?

Trail running has provided me with numerous benefits.  I am the most fit that I have ever been, but I have also met some amazingly cool athletes from around the world including many in my own backyard [Alabama].  Trail running has taught me that I am far stronger than I had ever imagined, and that age IS just a number. 

Olivia getting a congratulatory hug from Yeti 100 Race Director, Jason Green
Olivia at the finish of Barkley Fall Classic

One thought on “Couch to 50K to 100 milers – Dr. Olivia’s Journey”

  1. Love this and Olivia’s energy. Pinhoti is a great race and extremely well organized. I ran it in 2017. Beautiful trails and will definitely recommend a pacer. Greatest success and perhaps Olivia’s and my paths will cross someday. I’m sure it has as we are both doing the gvrat1000k


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