ULTRA-COOL! = Ultra-Marathon Runner, Holland Carley
At the age of 35, Holland Carley, of Bellevue, TN, was determined to lose the forty-extra pounds she had gained since college. She took up running, joined a local running club and trained for a 5K. Once she completed her 5K, she decided to go a little further. Nine years later, Holland is doing 50K races and has transformed into an ultra-marathon running machine!
*Oh...and she lost the forty pounds and then some!
Adventure Athlete and Journalist, Payge McMahon, interviews Holland Carley and finds out what it takes to run an ultra-marathon (any distance over 26.2 miles).
Ok, give me your stats.
Holland: I am 44 years old and originally from Starkville, MS. I moved to Nashville, TN in 2007. I am the owner and jewelry designer of “Glimmer of Hope” (www.glimmerofhopedesign.com) and love to run!
What in the world possessed you to go from 5K to 50K (32 miles)?
Holland: It was a progression of challenges.
I moved up to half marathons after challenging my 73 year old father to run one with me and he accepted! Dad has run many marathons in his life. In 2003 we ran the Mercedes ½ Marathon together. It was my first and his fortieth!
After knowing I could run a half marathon, I craved a bigger challenge.
Through the East Nasty’s running club, I met Chuck Hargrove, an ultra-marathon runner and former track star. I worked as part of his support crew when he ran the 2010 Key’s 50 Mile Ultra. It was an awesome experience! A light bulb went off and I said to myself “hey, I think I can do this!”
What is it like working on a support team?
Holland: Helping your fellow runners complete their race is rewarding. You drive ahead in a van and provide food, Pedialyte, electrolytes, new socks, sunscreen, soak clothes in ice water, Vaseline, first aid etc. At some point the runner is so exhausted, you have to take over thinking for them.
How did you do in your first one?
Holland: I did the 2010 Nashville Ultra-Marathon 50K and completed the 32 miles in just over eight hours. There was a lot of walking in the end. But I did it!
Since then, you have expanded into triathlons and have completed 3 more ultras, including this month’s Dances with Dirt trail ultra. Do you consider yourself sadistic?
Holland: (Laughing) A little. I crave challenges; what else can I do? How far can I push my body?
Speaking of your body, how does it feel during these races?
Holland: When you get past a certain amount of miles, your body rebels; intestines, Gatorade taste horrible, you feel like you are going to throw-up, even with water. You just push through it.
How do you train for these events?
Holland: I have a 13-14 week training plan. My goal is not to run distance but to train by running hours. Before a race, I will run up to 5 hours at a time.
What is your night before meal?
Home cheese grits, 3 year aged Cabot cheese, white cheddar, smoked trout or grilled shrimp all mixed together…or Mexican, refried beans and shrimp.
What is your post-race meal?
A big, fat, Five Guys cheeseburger with Cajon fries.
Aside from sneakers, what is the one piece of clothing you recommend?
Holland: Compression shorts!
What do you carry on you during the race?
Holland: I wear a small, Camelbak backpack. I don’t want anything in my hands. It has a hydration bladder and lots of pockets to store Ibuprofen, Biofreeze, GU, Cliff Bars, Honey Stingers and NUUNS electrolytes. It weighs about 10 pounds.
What has been your hardest ultra?
Holland: The one I just did this month, the “Dances with Dirt 50K/50M” in Gnaw Bone, IN. It was my first trail ultra. It took 10 hours to finish. Adding obstacles like mud, tall grass and down trees, make a big difference. Plus, where the other ultras had maybe 200 feet elevation change, this course had over 5,000 feet.
What is your favorite ultra?
Holland: Actually, the Dances with Dirt. It turns out, I like the added challenges of climbing over trees, animals, mud, stairs etc. It doesn’t get boring. I want to do more.
Why do you run today?
Holland: To keep in shape, not to look my age, mentally it drives me. It gives me the satisfaction in knowing I have achieved something that most people would never even try. After draining yourself physically and mentally you realize you are stronger for it…I earned it, no one can take that away from me.
What is your next big challenge?
Holland: I am doing the 1/2 Ironman at the Augusta GA Ironman Triathlon in September.
A week after that I’m doing another 50K Ultra in Chattanooga, TN called the “Stump Jump.”
So how far is a 1/2 Ironman for us non-triathletes?
Holland: It is ½ the distance of an Ironman. I will be swimming a 1.2 miles, cycling 56 miles and running 13.1 miles.
What do you recommend to someone who wants to take up distance running?
Holland: Find a group of people who have done this before and train by their side. You will learn much from their experience, as you develop your own.
February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness for the leading cause of death in American women: heart disease. And perhaps no one will be sporting her red more proudly than 20-year-old Nashvillian Nykia Babb.
To read this and other Her Well-Being stories, click here.