Collegiate Runner turned Ultramarathoner: Alex Gold
It's not often you hear about a runner hitting sub 15 5k's on the track before moving up to 100 milers in the mountains just over a year later...but Alex Gold isn't the ordinary runner. In just his first year taking a shot at these longer distances, he's quickly established himself as one of the best ultra runners in the area, and it's just the beginning for him.
Alex's 2019 Ultramarathon Results:
- South Mountains Marathons 50k ~ 4:24:46 ~ 1st Overall)
- Thunderbunny Trail Races 50k ~ 3:49:34 ~ 1st Overall
- Mohican 50 Miler ~ 6:44:23 ~ 1st Overall
- Wasatch 100 Miler ~ 25:01:28 ~ 12th Overall
- North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler ~ 7:47:48 ~ 25th Overall
Read a little about what got him into Ultramarathoning and some of the things that make him one of the best around at it in the survey below:
1. How did you first get into ultras?
I first heard about ultras when I read the book "Born to Run" in high school. I was still pretty new to running but I was drawn to them by the fact that they seemed impossible. I wanted to know if I could complete and win a 100 mile race through the mountains. I liked how the races were less focused on times and more about pure toughness.
2. What was your first ultra race?
I waited until I was done with my college career before I signed up for my first ultra because you only get one opportunity to compete on a college team. When I graduated in spring 2018, I struggled to stay healthy. I healed up and finally got to complete my first one in January 2019 at the South Mountains 50k in North Carolina. The course was beautiful and difficult, having about 7500ft of climb over 33 miles but I ended up setting the course record. I finished 4 other ultras last year including two 50 milers and one 100 mile race.
3. What is your longest training run before your ultras?
The focus of my year will usually be a 100 mile race, but my training runs typically aren't much longer than 20 miles - like what someone would do when training for a marathon. I will however use a shorter ultra of 50 miles or 50k as a way to get a practice run in where I can test out my nutrition plan, gear, etc.
4. What does nutrition consist of during the race?
During 50k and 50 mile races, I have had success using Honey Stinger gels and Tailwind drink which is full of sugar to keep replenishing carbohydrates (it works like magic). When I did my first 100, I wasn't taking in enough calories and I started to get tired of the sugary tastes so I ended up having to eat real food during the second half of the race. When I started eating grilled cheese sandwiches, I started to feel great :)
5. What is your favorite pre-race meal?
My favorite meal before a race is a big steak at Texas Roadhouse. I already made sure there's a Texas Roadhouse in Logan, UT at the start of my next 100 mile race.
6. Do you do anything during the race to stay mentally focused? What keeps you moving when you start to wear out?
Last year when I was really struggling I would always think about the kids I coach at Peebles High School. I told myself that they always show up when it matters most and I did not want them to see me quit. It also helped a ton during my 100 when my crew/pacers would relay all of the nice messages coming in from family and friends back home. I have the most supportive family and friends which ensures that giving up is not an option.
7. What gear do you feel is a necessity for ultra races?
Every ultra is different in terms of terrain, weather, distance, and time between aid stations so my outer gear will change from race to race but one thing that I ALWAYS need is my Squirrel's Nut Butter anti-chafe. Chafing can become a real problem over the course of a 30-100 mile race, and that anti-chafe will work for the entire race to make sure my only worries are about eating and running.
8. Do you begin your races with any type of strategy?
I ask myself throughout the race, "is anything feeling significantly worse than it was a few miles ago?" If any part of your body feels dramatically worse at mile 25 than it did at mile 20, you aren't going to make it to mile 100. If something is getting much worse, than I make sure to take care of it as soon as possible. An ultra hurts a lot, but ideally it should be so gradual that you hardly even notice it. I like to think that if you were placed at mile 90 of an ultra you would be screaming with discomfort, but because mile 90 is only slightly worse than mile 80, and mile 80 was only slightly worse than 70...you can manage it.
9. What will you do differently during your next ultra?
For my next 100 mile race I am going to be wearing Drymax socks that I found to be very helpful during my most recent ultra (my feet turned into balloons at the Wasatch 100 last year when I was wearing cheap cotton socks), I am going to take in more calories during the first half of the race, I am going to be more conservative during the first half of the race, and I am going to adjust my training in several ways to make sure I keep my speed up, have consistent strength work proper for someone who is climbing and descending mountains, and ensuring that I am not overtraining and/or risking injury.
10. What's your next ultra race?
My big focus for the second half of the year is the Bear 100 Mile that goes from Logan, UT to Bear Lake, ID with about 23,000 ft of climb and descent. It is one of the classic US ultras and is known to have beautiful fall colors and variable weather. Leading up to the race I am doing a couple 50ks and possibly a 50 miler as well.
Up next, Alex has the Flying Pig Marathon on the schedule before jumping back into some ultras for 2020: Iron Furnace Trail Half Marathon, Kettle Moraine 50k, The Bear 100 Miler. A very exciting year ahead and we can't wait to follow along!