Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Sam grew up with the Rocky Mountains as her playground. After a rough collegiate career, Sam reignited her passion for running by, in her own words, “dancing on the trails”. In her debut year, Sam was named 2019 USATF Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year, won a USATF National Championship, and represented Team USA twice.
Sam – why running, and how did you get started? I ran my first race, the Bolder Boulder 10k, when I was seven years old. All I wanted to do was walk but my mom, who was doing the race with me, kept me running. A few weeks later, I received an age group medal in the mail. I’d never received an award for my own effort. I had plenty of ‘participation’ soccer trophies, but the Bolder Boulder medal was different. It ignited my running journey. Ever since, my passion for running has grown. It’s as close to humas have to flying, at least under the power of our own two feet.
When you don’t feel like training, what inspires you to get out there? I think about how hard my athletes at the University of Idaho are working to chase their dreams. They’re a constant source of inspiration for me. They hold me accountable. I also have some post-collegiate teammates who are riding the rollercoaster with me, which makes getting out the door significantly easier.
Can you tell us about a race you’d like to relive? Two races from the 2019 trail season impacted my running. First, the 2019 USATF Mountain Championships. The top four finishers would represent Team USA at the World Mountain Running Championships. I was in fourth place most of the race, but I knew fifth and sixth were in the hunt. As we crested the final climb, I was only two miles away from qualifying for the Worlds. I’ve never been so terrified and excited at the same time. I didn’t look back. I charged down the hill like prey being chased. About 1,200m before the finish line, there was one last climb – and the defining moment in my race. I finished fourth and qualified for my first Worlds team. It was proof that if you keep fighting for your dreams, anything is possible.
The second race, the Spartan Trail US Championship, taught me to have the courage to go with the leaders. To truly draw the best from yourself, you need your competitors by your side. Right from the gun, a lead pack developed. I found myself just off the back. Without hesitation, I closed the gap and figured I might as well try to hang on as long as possible. Every time I thought I might fall away, I felt the energy of my competitor. But instead of focusing on beating her, I focused on working with her. We traded leads throughout the race and brought the best out of each other.
Do you have a special pre-race ritual? I tell myself: “I’m just here to play.” I remind myself to have fun. To enjoy the experience of achieving my potential on race day. And to focus on the process of the race rather than the outcome.
Is nutrition a big focus? What’s your go-to meal after a tough run? Nutrition is a big thing my college coach would emphasize outside of running. Running is the easy part. But sometimes we forget about the significant impact sleep, nutrition, hydration, strength exercises and post-run recovery have on your overall performance. I listen to my body’s hunger cues and eat enough during the day. I don’t believe in the restrictive diet culture, so my diet doesn’t change when I’m in-season. You can always bet on me eating ice cream! After a tough morning workout, as Donkey from Shrek says: “I’m making waffles!”
What are your top tips for a speedy recovery after training? Sleeping eight to nine hours every night has been a game-changer. I also try to take naps whenever possible during the week. Besides sleep, I lift three times a week to induce a hormonal response to aid in recovery. And I use compression boots, foam rolling and dynamic stretching.
Who is your ‘team’? My biggest fans, my parents, have traveled all over the world to watch me race. My boyfriend, teammates and coach keep me grounded and focused on the big picture. And the athletes I coach remind me to continue to chase my dreams.
What was the best piece of running advice you ever received?
“Just go play.”
Apart from running, what are your passions? Coaching, teaching, and people. There’s nothing more fulfilling than being part of someone else’s journey. Especially when you help them reach their goals, grow and learn.
What’s your favorite On gear? I absolutely love the Cloudventure Peak. It provides all the security and comfort I need, regardless of how rugged the trail and how long I’m out there. I also really like the Weather Shirt because turtlenecks are perfect for windy days on the Palouse and I can wear it running or casually.
Finally, why On? Not only have I been impressed with the gear, but On genuinely supports its athletes. From my first conversations with On’s leaders, I knew they believed in me and will support my dreams and goals moving forward. I was also impressed by how they were not only focused on recruiting talented runners, but people with good characters. I’m very excited to be continuing my journey with On!