Eli Nettles is a local Nashvillian and one of two runners being trained up and featured for the new season of the Becoming Ultra Project, a weekly podcast about people training for their first ultra. She's coached by Zach Bitter, the current American record holder for fastest 100 miles. Eli graciously made time out of her busy schedule to discuss the podcast and her training.
NRC: How long have you been running? Why did you start?
Eli: I only started running about 8 or 9 years ago when my husband John and I moved to Nashville. He'd started and stopped a bunch before (always tried to do too much too fast and earned himself shin splints every time), but he had read about the Couch to 5k and encouraged me to try it with him. He would listen to the program on his ipod and let me know when it was time to switch. He is faster than me, so I am sure we made quite a spectacle running through the neighborhood with him yelling back over his shoulder "RUN!" every few minutes. I caught the running bug and ran my first 1/2 marathon (in Louisville with a friend who has always been a runner) the next year.
NRC: Why did you decide to run an ultra? and why/how did you become involved with Becoming Ultra?
Eli: I love listening to podcasts when I run - running podcasts especially. I found Becoming Ultra and really liked listening to the stories of folks training for something they never thought they'd be able to do. John and I have talked about ultras - but had never done more than a 1/2 marathon, so it seemed insane. When they started taking applications for the new season, I saw that it was a 50k (easier to get my head around) and in ZION! Zion, Utah is literally my favorite place on earth, so it just seemed the time to apply. Then when I got it, I got so excited because the Becoming Ultra listeners are a very supportive community and my coach, Zach Bitter, is an amazing runner and going to be an invaluable resource.
NRC: What's been your favorite race so far?
Eli: I think my first 1/2 marathon in Louisville. The race runs through Churchill Downs and is part of the Derby week, so there is a lot going on and it was exciting to see the horses and all. As sappy as it is, I teared up a little as I crossed the finish line. It was a big deal that I had just run 2 hours. It was especially fun now having running in common with my friend, and we've run a few races since.
NRC: What's training like for you? Favorite places to train/run?
Eli: My training from now until April is being scheduled by my coach Zach. He schedules me by time instead of mileage which I LOVE. If he said "go run 12 miles" it would seem too much. But he says "go run 3 hours" and then I get to the end of it and can't believe how far I have run. This week, he has me down for 8.5 hours total. I run 4 days a week right now and go to Poe's Gym for strength training 3 days a week. Matt Poe is helping me with strength training for my legs and core that is the least likely to result in any injuries. It's working great so far.
I love Percy Warner and even though I run the red and white trails 3-4 days a week, I don't think I will ever tire of it. We also go out to Long Hunter when I want something flatter. Montgomery Bell will start to come into play more when we want variety. Zion has a 4000' elevation change so I need to stick with hills.
NRC: Besides running, what do you do for fun/a living/etc?
Eli: I am a math professor at Nashville State Community College, and it is the best job in the world. It also gives me the freedom and time to train for something like this. I am married, no kids. We have a chocolate lab named Bull (not a runner). I love to be lazy on the couch and read after a long run until Bull decides it is time for walking. We have a pretty great life. John works at the college too, and we live close enough that we can both walk to work and avoid the Nashville traffic.
NRC: Any other tidbits about yourself you'd like to share, more on Becoming Ultra, etc.
Eli: Becoming Ultra is a great site (they have a great facebook page) for folks interested in running, stories about running, training tips and inspiration. I have been a part of this project for only 2-3 weeks so far and the amount of support I have received from the BU community. There are already 20 or so runners from BU signed up for the race at Zion in April and there is a coupon code for folks interested. It's going to be a PARTY and it is amazing to know I won't be alone. This is the first season that the BU host, Scott Jones, has worked it so that other runners, besides the two featured runners, are going to the race, so I am really lucky.
Thanks so much, Eli, and best of luck on your training!
Becoming Ultra: http://becomingultra.com/
Zion Race: https://www.facebook.com/ultradventures/videos/1473604492734367/