Tips for women on the trails: Introducing Amy Rusiecki

Trail running tips for women is a series of articles supported by ATRA Steep & Rocky member, inov-8. In this installment our Outreach and Partnership Specialist, Peter Maksimow, spoke with inov-8 ambassador Amy Rusiecki. If you have questions for a future installment in this series please email them to Peter (petermaksimow@trailrunner.com).

Amy has been around and experienced a lot of the mountain, trail and ultra running world, from representing the United States on three occasions, completing the grueling 170KM UTMB around the famed Mont Blanc, to directing the Vermont 100 Mile and Seven Sisters Trail Race and being able to juggle a love life and a running obsession with her husband, Brian. Amy has been running for over 25 years is a award-winning college ski and cross country coach, as well a USATF Level 1 Certified Running Coach. She is sponsored by inov-8, Drymax Socks and Dion Snowshoes.

[Peter] As race director of the Vermont 100, what obstacles do you see for a women in a similar role?

[Amy] Being an race director is an awesome experience—I sometimes feel like I’m throwing a really huge party every summer (at the Vermont 100), with all my friends and get to watch them kill it during the race. There have been a few challenges along the way, especially being a female race director. My biggest advice would be to not be afraid to be firm with your decisions. Being an race director is all about organizing, coordinating, and bringing fairness. I know that I struggled at first to be firm and decisive, worrying that folks would think I was a b*tch (and I often wonder if male race director’s worry about this?). I’ve found over time that I just need to be the leader that I am, and that if I’m being fair and open about my decisions that folks can’t fault me for that!

RACE DIRECTOR TRAIL TIP: Be firm with your decisions once you solidify them.

[Peter] Do you find it more difficult being a woman race director or do you not see barriers when it comes to gender in that role?

[Amy] I sometimes find it hard to be taken seriously as a female in a leadership position. During the first meeting with the permitting agency for another race I direct (Seven Sisters Trail Race), the permitting agent spent 20 minutes lecturing me on the fact that I couldn’t possibly know how unsafe the trails are, and how hard it is for emergency personnel to extract an injured runner from the course. It wasn’t until the end of the meeting that the local fire chief made a comment about all my years on the local fire department, and on the local technical rescue squad. The permitting agent looked at me and said “why didn’t you tell me that?” Well, he never asked. He just made an assumption because I’m a younger lady that I must not know anything. Shame on him!

[Peter] What suggestions would you give to other woman race directors?

[Amy] The biggest advice that I’ve got for any race director (regardless of gender) is to do what you think is right. You’re never going to make 100% of the participants happy, and while folks that are upset with a decision might be the most vocal group they are rarely the majority.

RACE DIRECTOR TRAIL TIP: Do what you believe is right.

[Peter] You run ultras. Your husband, Brian Rusiecki, is also a competitive ultra runner. That involves a is a lot of training! How do you find that balance? What advice can you give to other women trying to get into ultras with a busy life schedule?

[Amy] I do run a lot of ultras, as does my husband, Brian. We sometimes struggle to find balance with running, work, our time together and everything else in life—but we do our best to set aside time together. I multi-task by combining catching up with friends along with running, rather than grabbing dinner or a coffee with friends. I do a lot of running before work so that I have time in the afternoon to do my side jobs (race director stuff, coaching) but other women could use the same tact to have quality time with kids. With all that’s going on, it’s often easy to get sucked into laziness—so I use plans with my training buddies (and girl friends) to get me out of bed at ungodly hours or to get me to the trailhead during crummy weather. That’s my time away from work, away from a computer, and to catch up with a great friend (or many!).

And when it comes to being competitive while having a competitive husband–that’s also sometimes a balance. We strive to chose several races each year that we’re excited about and that we’ll both do. However, after a few high profile races that we both tried to do (that ended is disaster), we decided that only one of us gets to race at a time if we’re going to do any high profile races—because hearing that your partner is struggling can really ruin your focus. Plus, when you’re having a rough day on the trails…who else’s face do you want to see to make you feel better?!?

TRAIL TIP: Make running plans with trail friends instead of coffee or dinner plans. You’ll be able to get together with friends AND get your run in!

*Note: Amy and Brian made their household doubly as proud when both won the Snowshoe Marathon National Championships in Woodford, Vermont earlier this month. Results here.

[Peter] In your running career, is there an obstacle or challenge you had to overcome in which you learned more about yourself as an athlete?

[Amy] As a runner, I’m constantly learning more about myself—it’s pretty darn awesome! I likely learned the most about myself during my 40-hour UTMB finish a few years ago. I amazed myself with how much I was willing to struggle to get to a finish line and achieve my goal and I never realized what a great quality stubbornness is to an ultra runner until then!

I am also someone who is sometimes extremely scared of messing up a huge opportunity and everyone realizing that I didn’t deserve it. In 2011, I saw the U.S. Trail Team compete in the Trail World Championships and decided that my goal for 2013 was to make the USATF national team. It was so scary to want that, I could barely say it out loud to friends because I was afraid of how badly I wanted it. Then, once I made the team, I almost didn’t take the opportunity because I was deeply fearful that I would do poorly and prove everyone right who thought that I didn’t deserve to be there. It took a lot of runs with my friends to remind me that I worked to hard to deserve that, and that no matter the result that no one could take away from me the fact that I earned the right to be at the Trail World Championships.

The best advice (that I heard years later) was to treat yourself (with your self talk) as you would any of your friends or teammates because we tend to always see the best in them and believe in what they are capable of! However, sometime self-talk isn’t as positive and don’t we all deserve to believe in ourselves and celebrate our accomplishments?!? So, treat yourself as you would treat others!

TRAIL TIP: Positively talk to yourself as you would positively talk to your friends.

[Peter] You recently went to the UK for an epic 24 hour adventure in the fells of the Lake District in the UK, tell us about that.

[Amy] I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life, running has taken me so many places and offered me so many amazing opportunities. This past fall was another such adventure when inov-8 flew me out to have an adventure in the Lake District Fells, where the company was founded. You can read the full adventure here. It was truly an epic adventure including getting caught out in the elements by one of the worst rain storms to ever hit England! My waterproof inov-8 gear worked amazingly. Now I truly understood why they need to make their gear so durable, because that’s what running in the English Fells necessitates.

I used to be afraid of these types of opportunities, just feeling like I didn’t deserve them. However, I made a decision many years ago to welcome any opportunity and always say ‘yes’ to crazy fun adventures! It’s what got me to the top of Mount Rainier a few summers ago and up Mount Washington (dragging a keg of beer with a friend, mind you) last winter, and heck, it’s what got me into ultra running in the first place. So just say ‘yes’ to adventure!

TRAIL TIP: Just said ‘YES’ to adventures!

Article photos provided by Inov-8.