Sarah Lavender Smith April 11, 2012 TWEET COMMENTS 1

Rickey Gates on Trail Running, Traveling and Living the Dream - Page 2

In 2007, at age 26, Gates was named USA Track and Field Mountain Runner of the Year, having won both the U.S. Mountain Running Championship and U.S. Trail Championship in back-to-back weeks. Outside Online named him one of “The Fittest Real Men in America.” He twice won the grueling uphill, 7.6-mile Mount Washington Road Race in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and set a record for the fastest known time (FKT) running Yosemite’s Half Dome (2:28:18, 16 miles roundtrip and nearly 5000 vertical feet).

In 2011, he won the South Pole Marathon (only the second time the event has been held, following an infamous inaugural run with Dean Karnazes and others in 2002). Last year alone, he moved around from the South Pole to Moab, from New Zealand to France to Mexico, back to his home base near Aspen, Colorado, and finally settled (for the time being) in San Francisco.

In the short time he and I swapped emails for this interview, he headed to Yosemite for snowy springtime running and took off for a week in Greece, where he and other trail runners of Team Salomon are training and testing products. He also launched a website (rickeygates.com) to showcase his photography and writing.

His schedule for 2012 includes the Transvulcania (83K) in the Canary Islands, the Zegama Marathon in Spain, the Three Peaks 23-miler in the UK and Mount Washington in June. He’s also eyeing the FKT record for running up and down the Grand Teton. And, he adds, there’s a good chance he’ll seek redemption at the NFEC50 in December.

Last December, I met Rickey at the finish line of the North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler (NFEC50) in San Francisco and observed how he handled his disappointing performance—what he later described as “a death march”—with serenity. Since I’m a fan of his writing for Trail Runner (“Just Kilian,” December 2011, Issue 76, “Nobody Looks for You in Mexico,” March 2012, Issue 78) and curious about his globetrotting, I reached out to ask him some questions.


Please tell us about your recent crossover to ultras.
Rickey: First, I really didn't cross over to ultras. I am not an ultrarunner. I'm not a fan of the title. I suppose that some people like to wear that as a badge of sorts, but it doesn't really do anything for me, as I believe that anybody can do one.

Q: OK. Last year, you set a course record at your first ultra, but your third ultra (the NFEC in San Francisco last December) turned into a 34th place disappointment. How are you feeling about ultrarunning now?
I've enjoyed what little experience I have in ultras. I feel like I have the shorter races more or less sorted out—I know how to train for them; I know how to race them. Ultras—I have a bit more to learn. It's not as easy as just running a bunch of miles. Rest is so important. That was the biggest lesson for me at the NFEC50: learn when to rest and how much.


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