Michelle has been running for 16 years with 13 of them as an ultra marathoner with her first ultra being a 50K in 2003. In 2006 she won her first 100 miler with a PR time of 19 hours and 42 minutes at the Javalina Jundred. She currently holds 25 course records and has 80 wins in races from 10K's to 100 milers. She has crewed Dean Karnazes 3 times at the Badwater 135 mile race. She now has her eyes set on running a 200 miler. She is sponsored by 11 different brands and is also a published author.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
Simple. I love to run. I love trails, being in nature and mountains. My motivation to run does not stem from racking up a pile medals or high placements of races per se. My Dad, Douglas Malewicki is 77 years old and he still runs 50K’s and 120 mile TransRockies. He wrote a book called 'Fit at 75'. I can't imagine life without running. Whenever I am injured for a month or so, I am not too happy at all. I also mountain bike, swim and do weights which I love.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
Is that a trick question? There are no days I lack motivation to run. I look forward to it everyday. If my legs are shredded, hammered or busted from speedwork or racing and I need a day off, then I swim and bike easy. If you have lack of motivation to run, I suggest you switch sports and do something you are passionate about. Why force yourself to do something if you don’t love it and are not having fun? Makes no sense.
What is barefoot running and what made you switch to it?
I have always run minimalist. I ran in the NBMT100s for many years and the NB1400 (a racing flat). VivoBarefoot owners and Barefoot Ted creator of Luna sandals approached me over 2 years ago to use their brands and I figured this was the next step, so I took it. Both VivoBarefoot and Luna Sandals are coming out with amazing new models as we speak.
How has switching to barefoot running impacted your training and performance?
In the beginning I was very careful switching to barefoot since I had run almost 14 years in regular shoes. I know barefoot running is a different style of running. You need to be very aware of your form, technique, stride, cadence and foot placement. You are always getting feedback from your brain; sensory feedback since you are feeling much more than in some shoe with a whole lot of cushioning. Barefoot running is much, much different than just slamming on some shoes and blasting down the trail heel striking. Could you jump rope on your heels? No...so why run that way and risk injury or worse.
Have you found yourself less prone to injury since switching?
I have been running 16.5 years and running ultras 13 years. I have a lot of mileage on my legs and feet. I have had injuries; a broken ankle, a torn medial meniscus, a broken foot (twice), a torn TFL, a broken rib and dropped metatarsals. I never had surgery and usually heal pretty fast and 100%. Lots of these are overuse injuries, others were sudden during a race.
On average, how many times and miles do you run a month?
I don't keep track. All of my data is on Strava. I track my runs with my Suunto Spartan Ultra Titanium and Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. The best answer I can give you is my mileage depends on what race I am preparing for. Currently I'm running about 100KM a week but I'm also doing mountain biking and weights at the gym and swimming regularly. I usually run about 20K a day. I try and take a day off or two per week. I just listen to my body and go by feel. When I'm preparing for a 100 mile race I’ll run 100 mile weeks, maybe more. When I was preparing for a Badwater Salton Sea my mileage got up to 150 mile weeks. But I think that was too much mileage to be honest. I like to incorporate speedwork and tempo work every week or twice a week; if possible as well. I strongly prefer to train alone.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
I have no idea, the weirdest thing would be peeing blood at a 50 miler. Throwing up at almost every 100 miler is kinda weird and funny. I noticed that everyone starts to talk about food at the end of long runs.
What are your favorite types of fuel for running and why?
My favorite type of fuel has been Vitargo since 2007. Now they have a brand new H2Omelon flavor. I also use Red Bull and try to stick with more liquid calories when racing so the blood stays in my legs and doesn't pool to my stomach to digest a ton of chips or candy kinda snacks at aid stations. Sometimes I crave salty things later in races when anything sweet is absolutely revolting.
What's your favorite cheat food & drink?
No idea. I don't have any cheat food or drink ever. Usually when or if I want to eat or drink something or I have a craving I will eat it. I'm not gonna wait for it. Calories are fuel and I really don't care because I will burn that up the next day no problem. I've been a vegetarian for 26 years. I don't worry about stuff like 'cheat foods' since I’m not ever on any special diet or fat adapted trendy, gluten free, blah blah blah. I don't really care about food too much to be honest. I hate to cook. It's a waste of time to me. I like to snack on things when I’m hungry. I just really care about coffee. If I have coffee and running in my life I am dialed.
Do you like ice baths? Why or why not?
I don't do ice baths. It will help with recovery by reducing inflammation, but I'm not patient enough to take a bath in the first place. If I did take a bath I would just use the Epson salt bath. Whenever I raced TransRockies 120 mile / 6 day stage race in Colorado, every stage ends at a river or a lake, so I would take full advantage of soaking my legs in the cold water, knowing that it would help me recover for the next day's stage. Also alternating hot and cold water in the shower, ending on cold, will help a bit with recovery.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If you aren't having fun, then find something that you are fully passionate about and love, something you can't imagine living without.
What is your favorite running accomplishment so far?
Hmmmm, there are so many. I would say finishing Badwater 135 was a big accomplishment. Winning the Javelina Jundred 100 mile in 19:42 was a big accomplishment. Winning the Javelina 100K and beating all the men in 9:50 was a big accomplishment. Winning and setting the course record at the Leona Divide 50 mile in 7:19 was great. Winning the first inaugural TransRockies 120 mile in 2007 was a big accomplishment and a lot of my wins and course records I am proud of!
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