Mel Bos is one of Canada’s top ultra runners. Her long list of athletic accomplishments includes numerous podium finishes (White River 50mi, Frosty Mountain 50km, Whistler 50mi, HURT 100mi), outright wins (Scorched Sole 50mi) and course records (Lord Hill 50km and Walk in the Park 54km) – and that was just in the past year.
In January, she competed in the Hawaiian HURT 100mi and finished second woman and tenth overall, with the fifth fastest women’s time ever. Making it all the more impressive is the fact that it was her first attempt at the 100 mile distance.
Since Mel and I have partnered up for the TransRockies six-day stage race this August in Colorado, I thought it would be fun to ask her a few questions to get to know her better.
SC: As a wife, mother to three busy kids and occupational therapist, how do you manage your time to fit in the training demands of ultra running?
MB: This is a hard one, I’ve been doing it so long that it’s my regular routine. When I sit back and think about it, I fit my workouts in around everything else. For example, I’ll take my daughter and her bike along to my son’s soccer practice and take her along for an hour-long run while he plays. I work out on my own quite often because my schedule changes every season around the kids’ activities. I’m really fortunate to have a husband who supports what I do and is an active cyclist himself.
SC: Have you had any running related injuries? Do you take any precautionary measures to avoid injury?
MB: After my race in Ireland in July 2011, I was off until November with a bone spur in my heel and didn’t compete until February 2012. I’ve learned that sometimes you need to take time off and let your body recover. I try to have semi regular massages and do yoga once a week to stay flexible.
SC: What are your favourite foods to eat before, during and after a race?
MB: I’m so boring. I eat the same breakfast everyday: peanut butter and toast. Coffee is a must; I need a certain amount of caffeine in my system. During a race, I go for the regular gels or bars. After, I always think I’ll be starving, but I have a hard time eating too much, so I’m really into protein shakes. Later, I’ll go for pizza and beer.
SC: You represent The North Face. How long have you been a TNF athlete and do you have any others sponsorships?
MB: This is my third year with TNF. They are a great company to be with. I’m currently working out a sponsorship deal with Wild Mountain, the local Kelowna Store who is the main TNF dealer. I really try not to get overly caught up in the sponsorship world; it has to be a really good fit with my lifestyle to take anything extra on.
SC: Have you always been a runner? Were you on your high school track team? Have you competed in other sports?
MB: Yes, I have always been a runner. I started in elementary school as a sprinter and competed on the senior high school team. This was such an intimidating experience for me when I was young, but I believe it’s helped me develop confidence and the ability to handle competition and training as an adult. I played most sports in school and later experimented with triathlon and then adventure racing. I didn’t start long distance running until after my first child. I joined a Running Room marathon clinic to meet people and get back in shape.
SC: What was the hardest part of preparing for your first 100 mile race?
MB: The hardest part was putting in the long miles in the winter. I got into HURT late and ended up using my “off season” to crank out more miles than I’ve ever done. I had some amazing runs with friends, but also went through my lowest point. On my biggest mileage week, I had three back to back long runs. I was tired, trying to keep up social and family plans and fit in training.
On race day, I didn’t have any big expectations for times, etc. I was definitely surprised at how challenging the trails and terrain were. I surprised myself by moving into first during the first lap, I was feeling great; then I went off course. That was a bit of a blow, but I knew from my experiences adventure racing that worse things can happen and the race was way too long to run pissed off or angry.
SC: What has been the highlight of your running career so far?
MB: My best racing experience was the 2011 World Championship 50mi trail race in Ireland. I had a great race that day; finished first Canadian woman and eighth woman overall. It was an amazing experience running in with the Canadian flag, knowing I had absolutely nothing left.
SC: And your worst race experience?
MB: Easily that was the 2012 World Championship 100km [road race] in Italy, I felt off from the beginning of the race; my heart rate was really high and I felt nauseous. I threw up several times during the race and had to re-adjust all expectations just to finish. I have never run with so much discomfort. After the race, things just got worse and I ended up in the hospital for four days with acute renal failure.
SC: What are your 2013 race plans and goals?
MB: My plans are not definite. I am running Chuckanut 50km and then Leona Divide 50mi. LD is a Montrail Cup race and I’m hoping to get a spot in Western States 100mi for this year. Fingers crossed. I’m so excited for TransRockies this summer, my first stage race and I have a super strong partner to run with. [Note from SC: If Mel agrees to carry all our gear, then I just might be able to keep up with her!] After that, I’m looking at the World 100km again [in South Africa]; that would be an exciting trip for sure.
Read more about Mel on her blog: http://dirtbunny1.blogspot.ca/.
~ Stacey Cleveland is The North Face Trail Ambassador for BC
Editors note: Mel Bos just finished 6th at the super competitive Chuckanut 50k in Fairhaven, Washington.