Andrea Swingley

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

My first experience was the 3rd leg of the relay, and I dragged my sister up here from D.C. to do the first leg, and that was the year of the yellow jackets.  She got stung by them; I didn’t.  She said it made her run her last mile faster because of all the adrenaline!  This year will be my third full Equinox.

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?

I’ve only done it with Team in Training, so I start when Team in Training starts in the spring, usually in May.  I was never a runner before, and I still do a lot of walking.  I start training late spring when the dog mushing season ends because I’m also a dog musher.  I run the Dome whenever the team runs it, and we cover the entire trail through the course of our training, so we have seen every bit of it.  I live off of Miller Hill, so I tend to run those areas of the trail.  And working on campus, I’ll often go over and try to torture myself with the hill at the start, and run that whole first part of the trail when I can.

What are your key workouts in preparation for this race?

The Team is out there a lot on the trail and getting familiar with it, making sure we do the out and back at least once if not more than that.  Having enough trips up Ester Dome is how you get a feel for what you’re doing and how long it will take you to do it.  We usually do an 18 to 20 mile peak workout.

What’s your favorite thing about this race?

The people.  Everybody says that I know, but it’s the people.  It’s just a Fairbanks event and it makes it so special.  I just love it.  

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

My least favorite part of the course is the out and back, but the good thing about the out and back is you see all these people.  That’s the redeeming factor.  That, and the cookies! 

My favorite part of the course is the trail right after the chute.  The trees, and the smells, and the rotting cranberries, and the leaves turning golden… The peacefulness and the beauty of it.  There are such interesting smells: rotting cranberries; somebody mowing their lawn; someone having their wood stove going…

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

Yes, and they’re kinda the same.  It was finishing my first full Equinox; it was my first marathon ever, and it didn’t go as planned.  And that was because I stopped on top at mile 12.5 and used the Porta Potty up there which I will never ever do again.  After that, my right IT band gave me trouble and in force.  So I hobbled the remaining 14 miles of the marathon.  It was extremely painful, but still extremely amazing because of all the support I got from my team, the coaches, the people that I knew out on the trail.  Ned Rozell ended up passing me.  His wife, an old friend of mine, would drive past and check on him and then come back and check on me, and then go check on him.  I was in such pain, but all these people were doing what they could to encourage me to the finish, and be there at the finish some eight hours 40-something minutes later.  It was amazing.  

I’m going to try to find a tree to lean on instead of squatting so it doesn’t happen again!

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

No, not in the least.  I still have to be talked into calling myself a runner.  My fitness goals are to stay healthy, and to have fun doing it.  Make the load a little lighter for my dogs if I can.  In terms of my running goals, keep getting out there and having fun.  I’m a big advocate of the Team in terms of what we do and why we’re out there doing it, and that’s what got me to finally get off the couch in the first place.

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

Enjoy the beauty; enjoy the people.  Stay on the trail!  Don’t go off the trail!  That’s how the yellow jackets got stirred up!  Enjoy the whole community and the Equinox atmosphere.  It’s so special.

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

It’s hard to make training errors when you’ve got the Team coach looking out for you.  Race day – not yet, but there’s still time!

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?

You bet!

It’s hard, but if you know that and train on it, it makes it easier because you know what to expect.  I keep coming back because it’s beautiful and fun.  I like the challenge.

This interview was conducted on September 16, 2011, the day preceding the 2011 Equinox Marathon.

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