What would you do for adventure? That distinct feeling of discovery rarely comes to the average Joe. It is fresh, clear and utterly undeniable. Kami Semick, winner of 2009 World Cup 100k, knows this more than any. The mother of one breathes the life of a trail seeker.
Kami Semick, like many of us, found her passion and herself in university. Unlike the majority, she sought it out, honed her skill, steeled her mettle and blazed through trails with a steady beat and absolute focus on her goal. Over the past decade or so, her dedication to the sport garnered her the world trophy 50k and multiple road and trail championships ranging from 50km to 50miles (roughly 80.5km). Here is a peek into the mind of a champion.
We understand that you started ultra-running to be closer to home, what are the considerations when planning a running route starting, ending or around your home?
I enjoy starting/ending my run at home because it maximizes my time away from family. Living in HK, I chose an apartment complex that is within striking distance of the park and trail system on HK Island. From home, I have a variety of routes – if I have a long run planned, I will usually seek out a route that has a lot of climbing and good scenery to keep me interested. For recovery runs, I try to find a softer route – as much trail as possible, and not as much climbing. For quicker, leg speed days, I choose a route that is flat and unobstructed so that I can turn my legs over without having to worry about foot placement.
Kami Semick at Comrades Marathon 2010
What is your running mantra? (What do you tell yourself to keep your feet flying?)
Every step in training is a step towards success for my goal race. Training can be hard and unpleasant at times, especially on long runs in the heat and humidity. When I am doing my long runs and the going gets tough, I usually think about my goal race. During shorter tempo or leg turnover sessions, I focus on keeping up the intensity knowing that I am training my heart to handle high heart rates for long periods of time – again so I can be successful when I am racing.
Given the long distances, what is your choice method of hydration?
I drink water during my long runs and races. I also supplement with electrolyte capsules that contain sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. Electrolytes are very important when the temperatures are high. It is possible to train your body to need less electrolytes, but even a well-trained body needs a basic amount of electrolyte supplementation in the heat.
Again, given the long distances, what is your choice method for energy?
If I am racing long (say 100k – 100 miles/160k) in cooler weather, I can usually manage solid food for the first half of a race – meaning turkey sandwiches, potatoes, bananas. But as the race goes on and my stomach starts to reject solids, I turn to gels and liquid nutrition. Also, in intense heat, shorter races (say marathon to 50k), and hard surfaces, I only take in gels and liquid. Heat, harder efforts and hard surfaces don’t lend themselves to easy digestion of solids; thus, gels.
Is there a particular brand of shoes or model you are hooked on for ultra-running?
For trail running, The North Face has a great trail shoe – the Hayasa that is a nice blend of lighter weight, lower profile and decent grip. For road running, I choose a light weight trainer – and use the same shoe for road training as well as road racing.
In your experience, do you prefer running in a tropical climate or temperate climate?
I grew up mostly on the West Coast of the United States (California, Washington, Oregon), with a brief stint working in the South East USA (Atlanta, Georgia). I find the climate on the West Coast more conducive to trail running – as it’s easy to get out when the temperatures are moderate and the humidity is relatively low. With that said, I have adapted to the heat and humidity of HK, so running in the tropical climate does not affect me as much as it did when I initially moved to HK.
Why? (To the previous question)
I think a body is most comfortable where it has spent the most time – and for me, that’s in a temperate climate.
What's next for you? Any specific country you'd like to blaze a trail in?
Right now, I am looking at putting together an interesting route in the Hengduan Mountain region in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces of China. Snow-capped mountains and deep gorges make that area very inspiring. Although ancient from a cultural standpoint, that region seems relatively new and unexplored from a trail running standpoint.
The elite ultra-runner is in Singapore from 4th October - 6 October to share her knowledge and life experience on training and racing strategies with you. Running is so much a part of her life she chooses real estate by it.
Of course, this is in preparation of the North Face 100, happening on 12th October – 13th October 2012. In its fifth year running, this Ultra Marathon boasts distances of 100km, 50km, 25km and 15km. The Singapore leg of this global ultra-marathon series is often touted as the toughest running race in Singapore, with tough hilly terrain and challenging cut-off times. Will you seek this tropical adventure? Do so at www.thenorthface100.com.sg.