Caroline competes in distances from the marathon to 100 miles. She ran the fastest women’s 50-mile trail time ever recorded at the Brazos Bend 50 miler in December 2016, setting the overall course record in the process, in a time of 5:48. Caroline was the 2017 USATF 100K and IAU Americas Champion and the 2016 USATF 50K National Road Champion. She is a two-time American Record holder in 50K and 50 mile road (40-44 age group), and was voted 2017 USATF Masters Ultra Trail Runner of the Year. In 2016, Caroline represented Team USA at the 50K Road World Championships. Caroline was 6th American at the 2016 Houston Marathon, won the 2015 Santa Rosa Marathon and qualified for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. A resident of California, Caroline is a relative newcomer to running, having picked up the sport at the age of 38. She is a wine industry attorney, youth track coach, business owner of Hill Haven Provisions, wife and mother of two young boys. Her sponsors include: Altra Running, Victory Sportdesign, Drymax socks, Nathan Hydration and VFuel.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
My dedication to training comes from the simple joy of movement and seeing what my body can do. Having successful races is rewarding, to be sure, but the process of getting out the door every day is meaningful too.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
When I wake up in the morning, I put on my running clothes. Even if I end up working for a few hours, (I work from home), I never allow myself to change out of the running clothes until I have actually run. For me, it works.
On average, how many times and miles do you run a month?
I run every day. On average, I run around 80 miles per week. When I'm not training for a race, I'll certainly have weeks that the mileage is much lower, and on the flip side, when I'm in peak training for a race, some weeks I'll average around 100 miles or more per week.
For runners like me about to run my first 50 miler, what are some of your most important tips/suggestions?
Find a compelling reason to finish so that you never allow yourself to quit. Know that you will never feel 'ready' to run your first 50 miler, but your body can do it anyway. Believe in yourself and your training.
We all dream as athletes to represent our country on a World or Olympic team. How was your experience being selecting and competing for Team USA?
Being asked to represent the USA in the 2016 50K World Championships was an incredible experience beyond anything I could have imagined when I began running. Just a huge honor. It gave a whole new meaning to and depth of dedication to the training. Simply being there in Doha, Qatar with all the athletes from other countries, getting to wear the Team USA gear, competing on that stage against the best in the world, it was all very special.
In road running, so many attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It’s very tough and for most, even impossible. Would you consider Western States the trail equivalent? Why or why not?
There are definitely similarities between Boston and Western States in terms of being aspirational for many runners. Both are super competitive races, but ones that anyone toeing the line has an opportunity to win. It's hard to compare the races, as the distance and the terrain are so different. But certainly, runners work incredibly hard, often with years of persistence, to achieve their dream of toeing the line at Western States. The race has that in common with Boston. The methods of how runners are selected to race is quite different for each though. Western States has Golden Ticket races, other qualifying races and the lottery. Boston allows only the fastest applicants that have met a minimum standard in (unless via a sponsor or charity slot).
What was it like to earn the record for fastest 50 mile trail run? Do you still hold the record?
That accomplishment was certainly one of the most magical and memorable days on the trail. One of those days where I look back and think: how did I even do that? I do still hold the record (it's an unofficial 'record' since USATF doesn't certify trail courses), which was an Ann Trason record from I think 22 years ago. Ultra running is getting faster each year and there seems to be a trend towards runners challenging themselves to run fast times on flatter courses, so who knows how long it may last!
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
I have an on again off again relationship with the weight room. I tend to do much more when marathon or 50K training. Mostly body weight exercises like planks, side planks, etc. Still, I do get on the machines at the gym regularly when marathon training. I do less when training for a trail race because the inherent eccentric movements on the trails (climbing, descending, rock dodging, etc) help to make me really strong in ways the road doesn't.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
When I was racing the Lake Sonoma 50 miler a few years ago, at around mile 35, I was running by myself on the trail and I saw a quick movement off over my right shoulder. I turned to look and only saw a snake slithering away down the slope. Because the trail I was running on was cut into a ledge, I realized that the quick movement I had seen was the snake in strike position right at my shoulder. I'm pretty sure now that I know a little more about snakes that the snake was harmless and just trying to protect itself when caught off guard. But at the time I had no idea if it was venomous and it all happened so quickly that I couldn't tell if I had been bitten or not (I was pretty tired). I looked around to see if anyone else had seen it, but I was all alone. So I kept running expecting to fall down, struck with the venom of a possible snake bite, while at the same time trying to keep racing. Of course, I was totally fine, but it was pretty surreal.
If you had to chose, would you prefer road or trail running and why?
Definitely trail! Trail is where I fell in love with running. I don't live near much good trail these days and that means I train on the road much of the time. All other real-world considerations aside, if I could choose, I'd live with trails right out of the back door.
What are your favorite types of fuel for running and why?
I use VFuel for training and racing for the simple reason that I have a very picky stomach. I can't digest fructose, especially when racing or running fast. It destroys my race when I do by causing severe stomach distress. Most gels and other aid station foods have fructose in, which really limits what I can take. I don't think I would have continued running ultras if I hadn't discovered VFuel. Yes, they are a sponsor of mine, but I use them because I believe in the product. Sometimes I will also carry homemade almond butter bars with brown rice syrup and cereal for longer trail races, which helps to break up the monotony of gels.
What's your favorite cheat food & drink?
My husband and I own a gastropub called Hill Haven Provisions in Solvang, California. We care deeply about great tasting, high quality food! I eat a very healthy diet but nothing is off limits. I definitely enjoy wine, or less frequently, beer with dinner, and I'm not good at saying no to chocolate.
Do you like ice baths? Why or why not?
No. It sounds like such torture! But more than that, the science doesn't convince me that the benefits outweigh the discomfort.
In your free time when you’re not running, what other hobby’s do you enjoy?
I love to read. I almost never get to curl up with a book anymore. To do so would be a real luxury. Between working (I'm a lawyer), running, coaching, being a mother and a small business owner, all I can do is dream about still moments.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Be consistent and work the mileage up gradually.
What's been your favorite race to compete in so far and why?
Even though I still feel like I haven't had the race I'd like there, Western States is my favorite race. There's a wonderful sense of camaraderie with all of the athletes about to take the 100 mile journey with you, there's the sense of the unknown, the diversity of terrain, the competitiveness of the race, and the incredible support network of volunteers and spectators. It's unlike anything else I've experienced.
What’s your favorite distance to run and why?
I run best at distances from 50K to 100K, so I naturally gravitate towards those races. The 50 mile distance is probably my favorite, though I love it all!
What is your favorite running accomplishment so far?
I'm definitely proudest of my 50 mile trail record. Also, qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials under very difficult personal circumstances is something that I look back on as a special day, for as tough as it was then (I boarded the plane for the race the morning after my mother's funeral. Basically, I was a wreck).
What have you learned about yourself as a runner?
I'm tougher, faster and more dedicated than I could ever have imagined I would be.
Click the links below to keep up with Caroline Boller