Dana Novak

Dana capturing the moon while hiking around Mt. Doom (the mountain in the Lord of the Rings) in New Zealand.

Describe your experience with the Equinox.  Have you participated in the full marathon, the relay, and/or the ultra?  How many times?

I first ran the Equinox in 1989, the full marathon; and then I ran it as a relay, the last leg, in 2002; and then I hiked it in 2007.  

When do you start training for this race?  How much of the course itself do you incorporate into your training?  How often do you incorporate the Dome into your training?

The first time I ran it in 1989, I had never run a marathon before.  I had no idea what to do for training, and I actually had never run any of the course before the day of the race.  It’s probably a good thing because I came in completely unaware of what Ester Dome was like until I had climbed it.  I started running in July and I started out running four to five miles a day, and then on the weekends I’d try to do a 10-miler.  In late August, I did Farmer’s Loop – a 15-miler, and that was the longest I ran before the actual race.

I had no expectations so  I actually felt pretty good.  It snowed on the top of Ester Dome that year, and a lot of people were tripping and falling, but I felt quite good and finished the race with a big sprint. I ran it in 4:02, and finished 3rd in my age group.  I was 29 at the time and I had way too much energy when I finished, and I could have run more!  I had no idea how to pace myself.  I ran most of the race alone, but my husband supported me, drove the car, meeting me wherever he could where the trail intersected the roads.  

I ended up meeting a lot of the people I worked with who happened to be running the race that year.  I’d see them and run with them for a little bit, and then move on.  I found it to be a really fun experience.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

Essentially, just running.  I really didn’t know anything about training.  When I did the relay in 2002, I did a lot more training and used to run with a running group and that was really fun.  

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The setting – it’s absolutely beautiful.  The fact that so much of it is on trails, going up to the top of a mountain, and the people. The people I meet during the race, the people supporting the race, the people who have run it previously and are cheering you on; that’s what makes it so special.  I think it’s the time of the year, too.  The Equinox is the last chance to get out before the bad weather sets in.

What’s your favorite part of the course? Your least favorite part?

My favorite part is the trail after you go down the chute.  I think that is absolutely beautiful.  

The least favorite part is anytime you have to run on the roads going up Ester Dome. I love going up Ester Dome on the trail.  I wish the whole thing was on trails, but when you have to pop out to the road and see how much further you have to go – that’s what I don’t like.

Describe the best moment you’ve experienced during this race. Describe the worst.

Best moment was sprinting in that first time and seeing my husband there, and passing people as I’m sprinting to the finish, and feeling so good.  It was one of my dreams; it was on my bucket list to run a marathon, and being so naive about it and finishing it, and feeling so good.  That was really special.

Also, the time when my husband and I hiked it 2007, we finished in six hours, and we had a delightful time.  We finished with so much energy, we worked out at the club afterwards!

We found this amazing energy drink, Perpetuem.  Every mile, we’d take a drink of it and we ended up with more energy when we finished, than when we began.  We never ate anything or drank water – just took a drink of Perpetuem every mile.  We use it on all of our long distance hikes.  It tastes like orange creamsicles!

The worst moment is when I had to go to the bathroom, and I couldn’t find a private place, and having to hold it!

Do you consider yourself a competitive runner? What are your running goals/fitness goals?

Not anymore.  I was a competitive runner when I was younger and ran track.  And even when I ran in 1989, or as a relay, it wasn’t competitive.  It was just simply for fun.  I’ve transitioned into more hiking and am not running much anymore.  It’s just something I do for the social aspect of it, and to get out.  

My fitness goals are to be able to do long-distance hiking and yoga until I’m 80 or 90.

What’s the best advice or training tips you can share with others who are new to this race?

Don’t overtrain.  Give yourself plenty of rest, especially the few days before the race.  And do at least one 20-miler so you can feel what it’s like to put a lot of miles on your body, but don’t do a lot of them.  The earlier you start, the better, but not too early so you don’t end up with overuse injuries.  I think the best training tip is to use Perpetuem for energy.

Have you made any big training errors, or race day flubs that adversely affected your enjoyment or time in this race?

No, I don’t think so.  I never got sick, or cramps, or dehydrated.  

Any plans on participating in the Equinox this year? This race has been described as one of the most grueling marathons in the country!  What keeps you motivated to participate in this event?

I would like to continue hiking it.  Hiking it was by far the most enjoyable time I’ve ever experienced with the Equinox.  You really get a chance to converse with people, and you get a chance to really look around and see where you’re going – take in the beautiful views, and enjoy the scenery so much more.  It’s not as fatiguing, and afterwards, I wasn’t sore or tired.  I’m not suffering at all afterwards, and that’s what made it so much more enjoyable.

It’s just a wonderful way to spend the day.  

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