Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Unstoppable Monica Scholz (An Interview)

When Monica Scholz, 37, is in the race, male and female ultra runners all know she is going to be a contender for the top 5. In just the last five months alone, she placed third overall at the Badwater Ultra in a stunning sub-30 hour time, just two weeks after a 22:06 at the Western States 100, and then went on to place third overall at the HURT 100 in Hawai'i in January ‘05, continuing her 4-year reign as first female finisher there on Hawai’i’s treacherous trails. Many ultrarunners don’t realize she’s also an ultracyclist, placing 2nd female at Death Valley’s Furnace Creek 508 (her winning combined Badwater/Furnace Creek time also gained her the “Death Valley Cup”). Monica also cleaned house on the 2004 Trail Runner Magazine Trophy Series, winning the female ultra division by racing all over the U.S. and Canada. And somehow through all this, she seems to have more fun than most, and manages her career as a divorce lawyer in her hometown of Jerseyville in Ontario, Canada.

(Monica Scholz on the final miles at Badwater)

I got a chance to catch up with Monica this week (in the virtual sense, that is).

1) It seems like you’re always racing an ultra-something, and we know you’re capable of doing 23 100-milers in one year like you did in 2001 (world record). How many races, and of what type, are you planning for 2005?

MS: My primary focus in '05 is on Race Across America (RAAM). It's 1000 miles longer than the Tour de France in 1/3 of the time. It's THE race of all races. RAAM aside, in '05 I've already done HURT. I'm hoping to better my Death Valley Cup time at Badwater and Furnace Creek. I'm running start to finish at Leadville with a friend of mine who has had trouble completing that race. Thereafter, I'm hoping to get to MN for Superior Trail, then Dan Rossi in Nov and Ancient Oaks in December.

2) Do you prefer the one day ultras, or the multi-stage races like the Marathon de Sables that you did in 2003?

MS: I totally prefer non-stop races, not necessarily only one day. I love the Sahara Desert but was totally frustrated by the stages at MdS. I wanted to keep going. I don't consider stage races ultra-events. There were alot of non-runners at MdS and for them the stages were important and necessary to get through the event. But it wasn't an ultra.

3) With races in such extreme temperatures, how do keep yourself hydrated and blister free? In Badwater, for example, how much fluids and calories are you taking in per hour? Any special equipment needs?

MS: For hydration, just keep drinking constantly. To stay blister free, I use Injinji tsoks. At Badwater, my calorie goal is 600 calories per hour. You gotta be constantly drinking and eating. No special equipment needs, just be ready for the heat.

4) What do you prefer to eat/drink?

MS: Anything protein based. Limited sugar, and I stay away from a "mostly liquid" diet like some. During the race I basically eat whatever proteins an aid station offers (nuts, turkey, ham, burgers). Friends have been known to bring me beef jerky or KFC along the race route.

5) You’ve run over eighty 100-milers all over the world – what do you think are the most difficult ultras out there? Are there any you haven’t done that you would like to?

MS: In terms of 100 milers, the HURT 100 is one of the toughest as well as Massanutten. I'd like to do the Trans 555k (a.k.a. La Route de Sel 555) one of these days.

6) Do you find synergy from training for the bike and run at the same time, or are you faster when you train race-specific? How much of each do you do? Do you do any other sports regularly?

MS: Bike and run training complement each other I think. I've been having consistently faster running times during the eight months or so since I started riding, so I think the riding is helping my running. I dabble in different other sports but don't do anything consistently other than running and riding.

7) You clearly have a great crew. Have you been working with them long? What’s the secret to you all having so much fun?

MS: The key to having a great crew is picking a group of responsible, non-egotistical folks who are focussed on the goals of the event and not on themselves. I have known my crew members for different lengths of time, some shorter, some longer. The length of time does not matter. It's just a matter of having quality people. The only secret to having so much fun is keeping everything in perspective. We all have day jobs and run for kicks. If we ever stop running for kicks, then we may have problems. So far no one's quit their day job.

8) Rumor has it you also have a four-legged training partner. Who is he/she, and how far can he/she go?

MS: Natash, my 12 year old Malamute/Shepherd is the reason I started running. I work 10+ hours a day and used to swim for 3 hours per day. Then Natash came into my life and I thought it sort of silly to have dog that I never spent any time with. So I started running to be with her. At one point we did 10 miles per day together. Natasha has had some knee issues so we do about 5km per day these days.

9) What advice would you give to somebody looking to do their first ultra? Their first Badwater Ultra?

MS: Fist ultra - go easy. Run well within yourself. Badwater - can't really answer that question in a nutshell. It depends alot on the person.


  1. Does that picture say "final miles" of Badwater? If so, she looks pretty good!

  2. It says she did 23 100-milers in one year for a world record. Is that for both men and women, just for Canada, or is that the overall record?


  3. monica is amazing!!!! There are more pictures of her at the badwater web site. Andrea

  4. Scott, I see your first race of the season is Saturday. I hope you have a good race and a solid start to the aggressive schedule you've laid out.

    Take it step at a time.

    : BE

  5. I was at Bad Water last year and yes, she did look that good! Monica is ALWAYS smiling. I've also seen her at AC 100 and WS 100 and she is ALWAYS smiling. I adore her!


  6. I just did a local 50k and Monica was doing the 100. I was just reviewing splits and times (thinking of doing the 100 myself next year) and noticed I was literally steps away from her for the first 3 hours! Missed out on a great opportunity for conversation there. Aarrgh!


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