Ultra-Runner, Attorney, and Oenophile Caroline Boller
Caroline Boller is incredibly impressive. She recently placed first (F1) in Arizona’s Javelina Jundred 100K, and has run, won, and podiumed in dozens of races across the US, including the Brazos Bend 50 and JKF 50 Mile. And yet, she didn’t run competitively in college, and only took up distance running in her late-thirties. Have we mentioned she’s an attorney, and that she has two kids? She’s way, way impressive. Caroline took the time to tell us about her incredible rise, how she balances work and training, and what kind of wine she’d recommend for a post-run aperitif. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and her blog, Ultrarunner Mama.
Finishers Club: You mention on your blog that you only got into running in your late-thirties. Since then, you’ve run – and won or podiumed – in dozens of races. What do you feel has enabled you to compete with, and vanquish, folks who’ve “been at it” longer?
Caroline Boller: I first started running with any consistency in my late thirties. I started with the intention of finding something physical that I enjoyed doing and would be motivated to continue to do throughout the rest of my life to keep me healthy. I had a few extra post-baby pounds and struggled to keep my blood pressure under control. I knew that if I didn’t start doing something about that, my health was only going to decline from there.
I’d always enjoyed a short run around the block from time to time, but it had never stuck and I had been extremely inconsistent with running up until that point. When I was younger, I had dreamed of doing a marathon one day, but then I never did. Later, I thought I was “too old” to try something like that for the first time (which is pretty funny… now). So when I started running in my late thirties, it was purely recreational. I would run on the treadmill in the garage while the kids were napping, with their baby monitors next to me. My husband encouraged me to head out to the local trails near our home. One day, I finally listened.
I remember that first trail run as though it was an awakening. I fell in love with the peace and serenity of the trails, the crunch underfoot, the wind through the trees. From that moment on, I was a trail runner. I work hard at running because I want to be the best runner I can be. It brings me so much joy. Being competitive at it is a surprise to me. I’m always grateful when the work pays off and my body performs the way I hope it will.
Finishers Club: You’re an attorney in the wine industry; Can you give me a sense of what that entails? Are there wine-specific legal issues you specialize in?
Caroline Boller: I’m an attorney who works as General Counsel for a wine company. I love my job. Mostly it’s transactional/corporate work just like for any other company. However, the compliance and regulatory issues related to alcohol beverage are complex and specialized, and add another layer. In my day-today, I work on anything from grape purchase agreements to employment agreements, occasional litigation matters, vendor/supplier contracts, that type of thing.
Finishers Club: I’m sure this is a question you get frequently, but: You run crazy distances. You practice law. You have two kids. What does a given day look like for you? How do you manage the rigors of training and competing with the stresses of work and life? (I know this is broad, you can feel free to answer however you’d like).
Caroline Boller: I’m very lucky to be able to work from home 90% of the time. I go in for meetings, but in general, do everything I need to do from my kitchen counter. This has amazing advantages over an ordinary 9-5 desk job. I get to take the kids to school. I go running at lunchtime. I sit in my sweaty running clothes all day. It also helps that my husband does the shopping and cooking. We have a nice balance going. Also, I prioritize sleep, which is much easier now the kids are little older (they are 8 and 9). I often go to sleep not long after they do, which sets me up for good recovery from training.
On the Run with Caroline Boller
Finishers Club: What’s the next race on your docket?
Caroline Boller: I’m still deciding what my next race will be, but I’ll probably get in one shorter ultra, either a 50k or 50 miler, as a tune-up before December’s Brazos Bend 100 miler.
Finishers Club: When you’re in the last few miles of an ultra, what’s going through your head? Are you visualizing the finish? Are you staying in the moment?
Caroline Boller: The last few miles of any race are hard, whether it’s a half marathon, marathon, or an ultra. For me, I take it one mile at a time. I try to see what is the best I can get out of myself for that one mile, so long as it is sustainable for the remainder of the race. If I know there may be a competitor close by, whether up ahead or just behind, I mentally prep myself for going to the well and digging to find every last ounce of energy that I can to secure the best finish I’m capable of. If it’s just me and no other competitors are around, I try to calculate my finishing time and see if I can shave some time off that a little. I definitely do visualize the finish line and how good it will feel to cross it.
Finishers Club: What are some gear items you love, and couldn’t train without?
Caroline Boller: Gear I couldn’t train without: for ultras, it’s Drymax socks, my Nathan vest and my Victory Sportdesign gear bag. The socks keep my feet blister free and comfortable even over the longest distances and in the worst conditions. They are a sponsor, but I used them exclusively long before they sponsored me. The same goes for Nathan hydration products. I always used them for races, and later they became a sponsor. I’m a vest wearer and Nathan makes the best vests on the market, hands down. No chafing, no bouncing, lots of smartly placed pockets.
Finally, whether I’m being crewed by a friend or using a drop bag, Victory Sportdesign makes the most incredible bags. They have see-through compartments for storing everything from gels to bandaids, and no time is wasted digging through everything to find what is needed. Time is everything in an ultra, and these get me in, get me out, and keep me moving!
Here’s What You – yes, you – Should Do
Finishers Club: Any training recommendations for regular, non-elite, trail runners?
Caroline Boller: My biggest training recommendation for everyday runners is consistency. More than anything else, consistency will help to maintain a base level of fitness that can be built upon when training for a specific race. Do what you need to do to ensure you get out the door, whether that’s sleeping in your running clothes, publicly sharing about your runs on social media with sites like Strava or Instagram, or hiring a coach who holds you accountable.
Finishers Club: Any particular post-run wine recommendation?
Caroline Boller: I’m a wine lover, and like to treat myself to a modest glass with dinner most nights. My husband and I have a small business selling wine that benefits the Western States Endurance Run Foundation. The Western States 100 is basically the superbowl of ultrarunning in the US, and wine sales benefit trail maintenance and other good works related to the race. Our wine is called Robie Point Pinot Noir, named after the last aid station on the course, at mile 98.9. You can purchase Robie Point Pinot at www.robiepointvino.com.
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On our daily traverse across the inter...