We had a chance to catch up with one of our 2017 rookie runners about what she's up to outside of training for the Golden Ultra. Reading her response made us tired... but also inspired to put our own headaches in the back seat and get out for a run!
Meet Willa Balfour
On first glance, Willa is one of those crazy people you see at events... wearing costumes, talking to everybody, posing for pictures and totally givin'er. You gotta wonder where their bubble and energy comes from. After talking to her, we can't answer that question but we realize its part of her entire life and hopefully some of that shine sparkled off onto us.
Running and training for Ultramarathons takes dedication and training. We know that. Busy people get more done. We know that. Holy heck is Willa ever busy! Let's just roll through her day to day: 3rd year Registered Nursing student; VP of the Nursing Student Association, student representative on the Faculty Council, Senate Research Committee, Research Excellence and Grant Award Selection Committee; member of College of Registered Nurses of BC Student Representative Program; coach for competitive cheerleading and gymnastics programs; and... wife and mother to 3.5-year-old Toby. On top of all that she runs between 100 to 200 km per week and totals over 5000 miles per year! Whoa.
Sometimes you gotta learn the hard way...
Willa was training super hard for the Fat Dog 120 mile race in 2016 when she came down with a cough a few weeks before the race... (cue ominous movie tunes)... But, hey, what's a cough when you've got energy coming straight out of your ponytails? It turned out to be viral pneumonia and starting the Fat Dog was a bad, bad idea.
In the Coles Notes version of the drama, Willa ended dropping from the Fat Dog at 105 miles after suffering excruciating cramps and pain in her hips and back. This was not an easy decision as it was the first race she's ever dropped out of. But Willa's not a quitter so she made up for it by heading back to a full week of school the next week despite having trouble catching her breath.
Finally, common sense (as opposed to superhero sense) prevailed and Willa got some health tests - she had pneumonia fluid-filled lungs and her kidney function was down to 5 (normal is 70-90). Needless to say she was immediately hospitalized and basked in hospital for a month, including a stint in Intensive Care.
After taking some time to recover from her hospitalization, Willa set her sights on 2017 running goals and the Golden Ultra made the cut. In her words, "This race has been on my radar for a few years now. I absolutely love the town of Golden and the scenery is stunning. ... "Ad Astra per Aspera": to the starts through rough places. Something about the stage names - Blood, Sweat and Tears - makes it even more appealing! ... the trail runner "sadist" in me definitely wants the challenge and reward of blood, sweat and tears!
We're looking forward to meeting you in Golden in September, Willa! Stay healthy until then!