Eric Senseman started running during his first year of college, in 2007, after reading a book about ultrarunning. He ran his first marathon in 2008 and his first ultra in 2011 after running for the TCU cross-country and track teams from 2009-2010. A current resident of Flagstaff, Arizona, Eric specializes in trail and ultra running. He frequents training locations like the Grand Canyon and the mountains nearby. When he’s not winning races like the 2017 JFK 50 Miler or snagging Golden Tickets into the Western States 100 he can be found at Buffalo Park with his dog, Remy.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue competing?
One of the joys of trail and ultrarunning is that no accomplishment can be duplicated. Even if you run the same race multiple times, the conditions are different, the competition is different, and you can set new goals like running faster on placing higher on the same course every year. Then there are new races popping up all the time, providing almost limitless opportunities to accomplish new things
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
Runners often say that you just have to get yourself out the door. Maybe you aren't feeling up for your planned long run, you're tired, it seems too long, your race was cancelled and you don't know why you're still training hard, but if you can just lace up your shoes and take those first steps, you'll never regret it. I've never felt worse after getting out for a run, short or long, and my motivation many days is knowing that I'll feel better after the run. But it's also important to take down time with days off and easy days to ensure that you can stay motivated for the bigger training blocks.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
I recently finished second at the 2021 Black Canyon 100K and gained entry to the Western States 100. It's my third time running Western States. The first two attempts didn't go so well. So, my number one goal this year is to race well at Western States.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
During high school and into college, I lifted weights a lot. I'm lucky in that that strength is still with me in a lot of ways, and I'm lucky that I have big mountains, deep canyons, and tough terrain to train on. As a result, I develop the strength I need through running and don't have a consistent weight training regiment beyond some dynamic body-weight exercises.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
I'm not sure if seeing a bear is weird or funny, but I've had three encounters with a bear while running. Most memorably, I turned to see a bear galloping in the same direction as me during the 2018 Western States 100. Fortunately those encounters have always been peaceful!
What's your favorite types of fuel before a race?
I usually have a banana, a few slices of bread and peanut butter. It's easy to digest and provides enough fuel to get the day started. During the race, I consume liquid calories in the form of powders and gels from GU Energy Labs.
What's your pet peeve?
People like to talk more than they like to act. Words are cheap and results are a lot harder to come by. It's good to have goals and dreams but there's a fine line between aspiring to be better and sounding arrogant. I like to speak with my actions, not my words.
What's your biggest fear?
Failure is tough to swallow. Even when I show up to a race with confidence after a good block of training and lots of mental preparation, there's part of me that's always afraid to fail. But it's a two-sided coin, and you can only find success when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and face your fears.
As an aspiring beer miler, what would be your dream time?
I'm ashamed to say that I've never run under seven minutes for a beer mile; a rather pedestrian time for an aspiring beer miler. I'd like to break that barrier but I need to get faster at drinking beer.
What would be your beer of choice?
As a St. Louisian by birth, I always choose Budweiser for a beer mile. As a resident of Flagstaff, I always choose Mother Road Brewing's Tower Station for recreation.
What's it like to represent Hoka?
HOKA has invested in the running community, and in the trail and ultrarunning community in particular, in innovative ways, from shoes designed for long distances over rugged terrain to live broadcasting major events in the sport. It's a privilege to be a small part of the HOKA journey to inspire all runners to go farther.
Who would you say is the funniest teammate?
Tim Freriks, a fellow Coconino Cowboy, wouldn't identify himself as funny, but the guy is hilarious. If you sit down with him for a beer and give him the chance to open up, you'll get a few side stitches from laughing at his many hot takes.
Do you like ice baths?
Yes, I'm a fan of ice baths, although I've taken to hot epsom salt baths with more frequency. It's nice to do nothing and feel like you're getting some benefit out of it.
In your free time when you’re not running, what hobby’s do you enjoy?
I like to stay busy, whether it's coaching work for Sundog Running or working for Squirrel's Nut Butter. I'm fairly new to home ownership and there's always something to keep me busy around the house if I need to take a break from working or reading a book.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
The mind is a powerful tool and a trained mind can allow your body to accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Get into a routine, get out the door consistently, and enjoy the beautiful places your body can take you.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness?
I've made a lot of progress in the sport of ultrarunning by learning from failures and capitalizing on mental strength. I think I'm good at tricking myself into believing in myself, and the result is that I can endure a lot of suffering, a rather important trait for an ultrarunner. On the other hand, I wish I had a bigger aerobic engine and could motor uphill as fast as my friends.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport?
I try not to idolize people because I think it's important to remember that you can't be anybody else, you can only be as good as you can be. With that said, I'm inspired by people who are bold and courageous in the way that they race, so it's hard not to look up to people like Jim Walmsley and Zach Miller, who refuse to limit themselves in what they think is possible.
Who is one of your favorite athletes to train with?
All of the Coconino Cowboys, Jim Walmsley, Cody Reed, Tim Freriks, Jared Hazen and Stephen Kersh are a blast to train with. That's because they're friends and we can talk for hours or not at all, and because they're all such talented runners, making me better as a result.
What is it like to run Western States?
I've raced my way into Western States three times (2018, 2019, 2021) and it's been equally exciting every time. I have so much respect for Western States, the race history, the race organization, and the competitors that have had success at such a long and grueling event. I’ve always wanted to prove myself on that stage, and it’s such a privilege to have a third chance there after two unsuccessful races in previous years
What's next for you?
I'll next line up at the Western States 100 Endurance Run on Saturday, June 26th, 2021
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