Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe Violett Shares How to Embrace Losses and 4 Keys to Handling Injuries and Recovery

Every athlete has a different take on dealing with losses. Some may be completely sad and low-spirited for days while others may hardly be affected at all.

So how to be happy again after losing a competition? Read on and learn what ultra runner Stephanie Howe Violett has to say!

In this interview, you will also learn how Stephanie keeps things simple to achieve bigger results. Find out her training tips, her diet plan, her guide on how to handle injuries, the ins and outs of ultra running, and her future plans!

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a lover of all things outdoors, particularly exploring trails and mountains on my own two feet. I currently live in Bend, Oregon, although I’m originally from Minnesota. I made the move out west during grad school and have lived here ever since. Minnesota will always be my roots though.

Currently, I’m over the Atlantic Ocean as I’m flying to France to prepare for Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) in a couple of weeks. I think I’ve spent more time away from home than at home this year. It’s sad, but I love to travel and explore so I make the best living out of a bag.

When I’m not running or traveling the globe, I work as a sports nutritionist and coach, helping others to learn how to learn to eat for health and performance. I love my day job! I love being able to share what I know to help others live a better quality of life. It’s a great thing.

At home, I love to spend time with my dog, Riley. He is my favorite running partner in the whole world! I also enjoy cooking and foraging, hanging out with my friends, drinking wine, and doing all sorts of outdoor activities. I dabble in almost every sport and Bend is full of opportunities. Running long distances is definitely my calling, but I like to jump into cycling, paddling, adventure, skiing, etc. races when I have time. It’s fun to mix it up!

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

How and why did you get into ultra running?

Ultra running was an organic finding for me. I was a Nordic skier in college and enjoyed spending time on the trails running and skiing. As I moved out west I found the trail running scene and really fell in love with the sport. I have to credit Kami Semick (USATF Ultra Runner) for getting me into ultra running. She also lives in Bend and has been a great mentor for me as I’ve made my way into the sport.

Growing up I did almost every sport offered. I’m really thankful for that! I was never actually into running as a kid. I didn’t think it was cool. Turns out you grow up a lot and realize that running IS, in fact cool. I’m glad I figured that out!

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

Why is ultra running important for you?

I love ultra running because it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and push my own limits. I like the feeling of accomplishing something that seems improbably. And running 100 miles seems impossible to me. I cherish the stages of struggle, perseverance, and accomplishment that occur during every 100-mile race. Whether I finish first or last, that feeling is the same.

How do you train and become better at ultra running?

I keep it simple when it comes to training. I want to enjoy the process and not get too intent on one particular aspect. I do follow a training plan, but it’s not set in stone. I make daily modifications to my plan depending on how I feel. So in a way, it’s not really a plan, more or less a template or structure that I adhere to. It keeps me honest, but allows me to tap into my body’s intuition. I’ve found the most powerful tool I have is the ability to listen and abide by what my body needs to thrive.

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

What are the hardest parts of ultra running?

I think the toughest parts are accepting that in such a long race, even the best prepared and most fit can falter. It’s frustrating when you spend months preparing for a race and arrive on the start line fit and ready, yet everything spirals out of your control. There is sometimes nothing you can do but just keep plodding along. And unlike other distances, you can’t just do another race next month. Often it takes months to fully recover and feel like yourself again.

I’ve learned not to become too attached to the outcome of a race. I can only do what I can to arrive with my best self on race day. After that, I just keep a good attitude and accept any adversity that comes my way. Sometimes it’s minor, and other times it’s a major blowup. But, I just work with the cards handed to me that day. Of course, I feel disappointed when I fall short of my goals, but it doesn’t make my race any less special. Anytime you cross the finish line in a 100 mile race is always special.

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

How do you prepare for events and races?

I try to take care of my body and be proactive about recovery. This means my calendar is full of PT, acupuncture, massage, yoga, and rolling on the living rooms floor dates. It’s so easy to neglect the little things, but staying on top of them makes a big difference.

It sounds glamorous to get regular bodywork done, but It’s actually pretty painful and expensive. It’s not like a spa date. My friend and I call those kind of massages “fluffy’s” I rarely get a fluffy.

I plan my races and events based on what I want to do. There are races that mean a lot to me, like Western States, that I am drawn to each year. And there are other races I choose based on the experience or location. I love to travel and visit different cultures, and I love that racing offers me some of opportunities to see new places.

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

How do you eat and sleep?

I eat real food. I don’t subscribe to any special diet because I think they are rubbish. Nutrition really is simple, humans just over complicate it. I like to think of my diet as the foods I choose to eat. Not a list of foods that exist in a narrowly contained paradigm, often arbitrarily chosen. Following a restricted, rigid way of eating doesn’t work. Instead, I like to enjoy the food I eat. There is nothing better than sharing a meal with people you love. It doesn’t have to be stressful!

I think the best advice is to keep it simple. Eat real food, not processed crap out of a package. Move frequently. Get outside and sweat. Laugh often. Connect with others. That’s my recipe for health and happiness.

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe
Photo credit: @ken_etzel (Instagram)

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

Recovering from an injury is always a test of patience. I’ve found that every situation is different, but there are some key themes I’ve taken away from each occurrence.

First, accept the situation. There is nothing you can do to change it, despite how much pleading with your PT. The sooner you accept the injury, the sooner you can start progressing towards recovery.

Second, focus on what you CAN do. Not what you can’t do. With every injury there is usually a lot of things you still can do, like bike, swim, yoga, etc. We tend to just focus on the fact that we can’t run. Get over it and start enjoying another form of movement. And, if you can’t move, start something non-active. I think it’s important to fill the time you’d normally be running with something else. Don’t just work. Or cry. Learn how to speak French or research your family genealogy. Anything that gets your mind off what you can’t do. There is so much more to life.

Third, don’t overdo it with the cross training. Every injured runner wants to “stay in shape” while injured. It’s sort of an oxymoron. Fit injured person. In the past I’ve tried to maintain fitness and I’ve found all it does is use up my mental energy and leave me too fit for my own good when I can return to running. If you are at peak fitness and you have to ease back into running, those two don’t mesh well. I’ve found it feels better mentally and physically when your body and fitness return to activity at the same time. Don’t waste all your mental energy churning out intervals on the elliptical. Save some of that for when you are running again!

Fourth, remember that it’s not that big of deal. It’s just running. I like to put this in context when I get the “Woe is me” Running is a privilege, and there are so many bigger problems in the world. I am fortunate to be upset that I can’t run. Think of other areas of the world and the struggle to just meet the basic needs of life. That’ll get you feeling grateful.

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

What is your best advice people new to ultra running?

There are so many new ultra runners. I want to tell them to learn the culture before stepping in too far. Trail running is not like road running. No one cares about pace, race times, or splits. We don’t throw our gel wrappers on the ground. We take the extra time to smile and say hi on the trail. Much of the point of racing is the experience, not the outcome.

Also, don’t get into long distances too fast. New runners don’t necessarily understand the preparation and recovery time involved in longer distance races. It’s not a great idea to do your first 50k, 50 mile, and 100 mile within the same year. Heck, within the same two years! Unless you have a lot of running under your belt and have superhuman genetics, start slowly. There is no rush!

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

Best advice for people who have been ultra running for years?

The veterans are the old wise men in the ultra running community. If an elder does something, I follow suit. There is a reason they are still in the scene. If they are willing to share some of their advice, absorb it like a sponge.

How do you balance normal life with ultra running?

To me they are one in the same. My life is just my life and I enjoy having many interests. I like to keep my time and energy spread over all the important areas of my life: Family, health, running, work, etc. I don’t think of my life as “running” and “normal” life. It’s just all part of who I am.

What kind of running shoes and clothes do you use?

The North Face! I love all of their products. They are really made for active people and have such great durability, from the mountains to the city.

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

What has been your best sport purchase below $100, what other favorite gear do you have?

Hmmm probably anything from The North Face Better than Naked collection. The material is so light and smooth and is really functional on the trail. And cute!

My other two favorites are the Nathan VaporHowe hydration vest and the Drymax Stephanie socks. Both were products I got to design with the company. It’s really cool seeing something with your name out on the market!

Ultra Runner Stephanie Howe

What will the future bring?

I like to dream big, and have some great ideas on the horizon. In terms of racing, my goals are somewhat qualitative. There are races I’d like to run, but I seek out the atmosphere and community more than the actual race itself. My dream race is in a beautiful area that I haven’t explored with a really great group of runners racing and an even better community supporting the race.

I’m intrigued by alpinism, but right now I like to admire it from afar. The lines can get blurred between a long run is the mountains and a summit push. I haven’t really explored the other end of the spectrum, but I’m definitely interested in the concept.

I also have a musical background and may try to get back into it when I have more free time. I used to play piano and the flute and was totally a band geek. I loved it though! Someday I’ll jam with my flute again. Lol!

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