Interview With Ultra Runner Alexa Dickerson

When did you do your first Ultra and how was that experience?

I did my first ultra when I was 19. It was the Mt. Dissapointment 50k and it was brutal. I had only done one road marathon a couple months prior, however a few of my trail running friends who had done the race before encouraged me to go for it and said it was a great first ultra (but they were lying!). The race was slightly longer than a 50k, maybe 33 miles instead of 31, but it was in August in the San Gabriel Mountains and really hot! I was dying by the mile 13 aid station but kept playing games with myself telling myself I could quit at the next aid station. I played this game until I got to the last aid station so I decided to just finish, even though the last 3 miles (which are all very technical and climb 2000ft) took me probably 2 hours to finish. The whole race took me 9 hours and 16 minutes to finish, which is incredibly slow for a 50k, but all in all I had a fun time (kind of) and I was hooked.

Trail running exposes one to beautiful nature and spectacular views.

How was Badwater last year?

Last year was my first year at Badwater and it was harder than I ever thought it could be, but a better experience than I could have ever wished for. I had the best crew and we just had a blast the whole time, which definitely helped to make it a good experience for me. The heat surprisingly was the easiest of the elements of the race to deal with. I had done a lot of heat training in Palm Springs and Mexico with my boyfriend, Mark, who was also running the race, and when we trained we had to be self sufficient on the majority of the runs. We would either carry huge hydration packs of water plus handheld bottles, which was super annoying and we would still run out of water, or we would stash water jugs, but by the time we would get to them the water would be really hot, which was not very thirst quenching! Anyways, at Badwater having a crew to give me ice cold water and ice bandanas whenever I needed made a huge difference and made the heat much easier to deal with. What I wasn’t ready for was the crazy headwind that we had to deal with going up to Towns Pass, which is a 17 mile hill with reported 50mph winds that night. It was just impossible to move fast in that wind. Around mile 30 in the race I also contracted really bad hip brusitis, which made the rest of the 105 miles more painful than they should be. My hip just felt locked up and I had no range of motion in it. We periodically would ice and stretch and I would do leg swings to help open it up, but nothing really worked too well and it was just something that I had to deal with. I ended up finishing the race in 38 hours and 53 minutes, which was under my goal of 40 hours and so I was still happy with how things went, especially for my first Badwater. I’m hoping to break that though this year!

Managing the heat is key to finish badwater.

When did you decide you wanted to do it again?

I think that the second I crossed the finish line I knew that I wanted to do it again. Its amazing how quickly you forgot how hard it was! The feeling of accomplishment made every step worth it.

What’s your worst injury?

I have been injured quite a bit, but my most annoying injury was probably dealing with a piriformis/hip in 2011. My piriformis (which is one of the external rotators in your glute) would just get so tight it would be so uncomfortable to run. Eventually it started to affect my hip and I felt like I had maybe torn or fractured something, however an MRI showed that I didn’t. I ended up just having to take about 2 months completely off running and get some massage and graston sessions for it to finally go away, but I came back really strong after the break. My most painful injury was actually shin splints back in 2010, which I got during a 50 mile. The last 3 miles were all downhill and they hurt so bad I literally thought my tibia was going to snap in half. I have never been in so much pain. However, I wore a boot for 2 weeks and didn’t run and it went away pretty easily, thank goodness.

Runners always seem to be dealing with one injury or another. How do you prevent and deal with yours?

I am probably not the best person for this question because I tend to get injured a lot lately, however if I do feel that something isn’t right, I try and get in to see Jess as soon as I can so that it doesn’t become a bigger problem. In addition, I try and eat really healthy. I have noticed that when I eat junk, injuries start to flare up, so I try and eat as healthy as possible when I am training really hard. After long runs I will also try and do an ice bath and foam roll (but sometimes I get lazy).

Working on Alexa’s hip around mile 30

What are your top 3 exercises for running.

My three top exercises for running would be squats, deadlifts and plank hold. I like to lift really heavy and I have noticed that having really strong legs prevents me from fatiguing during long races and also helps me to be better at hills. Planks are probably the best exercise for your core and having a strong core will help to maintain good posture during long races as well.

Strength is beauty!

What’s your running gear set up right now?

As far as shoes, I love Hokas. I love the cushiness of them and they also help prevent me from fatiguing early in a race and I have also noticed that I get injured less with them. For running bottles, I like the camelback insulated bottles and then I usually wear my UltraSpira vest to carry all of my extra items that I need while running (calories, salt tabs, phone, etc..). As far as fuel of choice I do Vitargo as my main calorie source. I have also been mixing it with Mila (which is a brand of chia seed) which has been great at keeping me extra hydrated. As far as clothes, I love Lululemon because they’re cute and girly and socks, definitely Injinji because I never get blisters with them!

Alexa Dickerson.

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