The Runner Diaries — Katelynn Wagner

This week, we have 24-year-old Katelynn Wagner of Ithaca, New York — a plant-based trail and ultra runner who is training for the Finger Lakes Fifties 50 miler.

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Inspired by Refinery29’s Money Diaries and The Cut’s Sex Diaries, welcome to The Runner Diaries, where we’re sharing a behind-the-scenes look into a week of training with runners of varying ages, paces and GPS coordinates.

This week, we have 24-year-old Katelynn Wagner of Ithaca, New York — a plant-based trail and ultra runner who is training for the Finger Lakes Fifties 50 miler.

The Rundown:

Name: Katelynn Wagner
Location: Ithaca, NY
Age: 24 years old
Occupation: Molecular Biology & Genetics at Cornell University
Goal Race: Finger Lakes Fifties 50 Miler on July 1, & Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon (also pacing a friend at the Leadville 100 mile race)
Training Plan: Very loosely following a schedule of long runs that I made, and letting my body determine the mid-week miles.
Running communities & clubs: I am a member of Janji Corps and an ambassador for Trail Sisters
How long have you been a runner? I ran XC in high school but a 10k was as far as it went, until I had my daughter in 2013. I signed up for my first half marathon to try to shake the “baby weight.” Then signed up for a trail 30k and couldn’t get enough!
Why do you eat a plant based diet? I chose a vegetarian diet shortly after having my daughter in 2013. I chose this equally for both health and ethical reasons. I had always thought of making the next step to a vegan diet but had never been able to make it stick. Then after reading Eat & Run by Scott Jurek and Thrive by Brendan Brazier I decided to make the transition. It is certainly more work, but well worth it. My performance has increased significantly and my recovery time has plummeted. I can’t say that I am super strict. Eating out (which we don’t do often) can be a challenge. And the thought of sending someone a list of ingredients they can and can’t cook with when they’ve invited me over for dinner always seemed too rude to even think of. So in those circumstances, as long as it is vegetarian I am happy to eat it. But when I cook for myself it is vegan, and I can tell the difference in my health and performance.

Katelynn Wagner
(From the top of Table Rock Mountain, Marion, NC Sept. 2016)

Runners Statement:

I had big, BIG plans for the 2017 race season. Unfortunately, a gnarly fall that left me with a deep bone bruise in my knee meant I was unable to run all through January and February. Then, three weeks after I was finally training again, I had a bout with Plantar Fasciitis that dropped my mileage to almost zero for another two weeks. I am now four weeks into training like a mad woman to make sure I am prepared for Finger Lakes Fifties 50 miler on July 1st, without risking another injury (knock on wood.) I have added a few days of cross training to lower my mid-week mileage. The goal is to limit my chances of an overuse injury, since I have a very narrow amount of time to prepare for this race and need to kick up my fitness quickly.

Monday: Day 1

5am — Groggily drag myself out of bed, do the whole bathroom routine and grab all my stuff I prepared the night before. The goal is to leave the house by 5:30am. I have never in my life been a morning person, I would sleep in until noon if given the chance. Which is why my husband gave my getting up at 5am to workout and run about two weeks before I gave it up. But here we are two years later, and he has been made into a believer.

6am — Jump in the pool to swim laps for 1.5 hours. I usually get in about a mile and a half in this time. I rotate from doing freestyle stroke to using a pull buoy and a kick board. The buoy and kick board help me focus on certain muscle groups to make them work harder on the laps they are being used. I was a lifeguard for 6 years and have always enjoyed swimming but never swam laps until this season with the flurry of injuries that hit me. Now that they are resolved, I am almost thankful for them, because they made me expand my training and I have seen huge improvements in my fitness while running lower mileage.

7:30am — Hit the shower and get ready for work. I am lucky that the gym on campus is right next to the building I work in, so it takes no more than 5 min to get from the locker room to my office.

8am — Clock in and have a bite to eat. Breakfast today is a Garden of Life Protein shake in almond milk, and an orange.

10am — Snack of an apple and peanut butter.

Noon — I usually use my lunch break to get in a quick 3 miles on Cascadilla Gorge Trail. This is an out-and-back route starting from my office and running down through one of the gorges that cuts through Cornell’s campus. It spits me out in the city of Ithaca, and I run out until I hit 1.5 miles before turning around and heading back up the gorge. This route has a ton stairs and is a great leg workout.

1pm — Lunch today is my favorite vegan burger recipe. The Almond Flaxseed Burger (from the book Thrive if you want to look it up) with some sweet potato fries and a small spinach salad.

3:30pm — Snack of a banana and some carrots and hummus

6pm — Dinner tonight is Rice, beans, onions, corn, and salsa.

7:15pm — Take my husky, Kobe, on his nightly walk. We have a mile long loop we do every night. He is older and I run a lot so it helps loosen up our muscles before bed.

9pm — Flop into bed

Total Mileage: 3 miles running & 1.5 miles swimming

Tuesday: Day 2

5:30am — Wake up already wearing my running gear, pack lunch and head out the door. I find sleeping in my running clothes makes the mornings just a smidge more efficient, and makes coaxing myself out the door that much easier.

6:25am — I relent to running on the road this morning; I usually have 1 road run during the week. There is a killer climb on campus called “Gun Hill,” it leads up to where the old Ithaca Gun Company used to be. The route is 5 miles, has 600’ of elevation gain, and passes by Ithaca falls. So If I have to run on the roads, this is a good route to hit.

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7:30am — Shower and get ready for the day

8am — Clock in and have breakfast. Today, it’s oats, with almond milk, flax seeds, and grapes mixed in. I do not drink coffee, I’ve just never liked it. I rarely drank anything with caffeine in it at all, so I don’t have the dependency that many people have. Which I feel works to my advantage when racing. If I’m feeling low and eat/drink something with caffeine in it, I really feel it and it pulls me right out of whatever rut I’m in. (I like PROBAR Bolt Energy Chews)

10am — Snack of apple and peanut butter

Noon — Use my lunch break to ride the stationary bike at the gym. My goal is to get 9 miles in, in 30 min with the resistance set at 10. I made it with 45 sec to spare!

1pm — Lunch is leftovers from last night’s dinner

3pm — Snack is an orange and a small spinach salad.

6pm — Dinner tonight is Plant-based Alfredo Florentine Casserole with Italian seasoned tempeh

7pm — Nightly walk with Kobe

8:30pm — Crash into bed.

Total Daily Mileage: 5 miles running & 9 miles on stationary bike

Wednesday: Day 3

5:00am — Hit snooze

5:05am — Hit snooze

5:10am — Hit snooze

5:15am — Attempt to his snooze again until I hear my husband groan, “Get up or turn the d—m thing off!” so I get up and scramble to get out the door by 5:30am. Running is my thing, my husband has joined me on a grand total of 1 run in the 5.5 years we’ve been together. He is very active, being a college lacrosse ref he runs the equivalent of a half marathon some days, but he feels like running for the sake of running is torture. So I gladly take running as my “me time.” At this point it is such a big part of my life I feel like it is critical to my sanity to have the hours of solitude in the woods to work through my thoughts.

6am — Jump in the pool for the same routine as Monday. This is the general schedule I try to stick to, swimming the same workout on Monday and Wednesday. But I’m not strict on anything but my long runs. If something comes up or a friend wants company on a run I have no problem moving things around. Having a general plan is helpful when it comes to training for endurance sports, but being so strict it freaks you out and throws you off when something strays from the plan seems counter productive in my mind.

8am — Clock into work and have breakfast. Today it’s Quinoa with Mixed Berries.

10am — Snack of apple and peanut butter (are you seeing the trend here?)

Noon — Run Cascadilla Gorge, this time going up and down all of the stairs in the gorge twice instead of hitting the flat out and back through Ithaca. This ups the elevation gain and the amount my legs are working to get the most out of my 3.5 miles.

1pm — Lunch is the leftovers from last night with a small spinach salad

3pm — Snack of 2 kiwis and a serving of wheat thins

6pm — Dinner tonight is “Meatloaf” Nut Loaf

7:20pm — Walk with Kobe

9pm — begin my nightly love affair with the pillow.

Total Daily Mileage: 3.5 miles running & 1.5 miles swimming

Thursday: Day 4

7am — Wake up after squeezing every possible second out of my snooze button.

8am — Breakfast today is a Hearty Brown Rice Breakfast Bowl prepared the night before

10am — Daily Apple with Peanut butter.

Noon — Run my “fast and flat” 4 mile route on my lunch break. This route is an old rail trail that has been converted to a footpath just off campus. I try to get in one speed training a week, and this is the route I use to gauge my progress. Every week I push myself to have my per-mile average lower than the last. Today I was dead even with last week’s run coming in with a 8’15 min/mile. That is an easy pace for the road runners that are on this campus, but for this Trail Sister that focuses on distance and elevation gain 99 percent of the time, I was pretty proud to hit this time two weeks in a row.

1pm — Lunch is leftovers from last night.

3pm — Snack of a banana and carrots with hummus

6pm — Dinner tonight is Tacos (using Lightlife smart ground crumbles)

7pm — Walk with Kobe, in the pouring rain. He was very stinky (and happy) upon returning.

7:30pm — Pack my lunch and clothes for work the next day, and put my running gear on before bed. If I have an abnormally early morning during the week, I try to make sure everything is ready to go the night before. This minimizes the amount of thought I have to process that early, and lowers the chances I will leave behind something important. My goal is to only need to wake up, grab my stuff, and walk out the door.

8pm — Hit the hay as quickly as possible, because I’m hitting the trail early in the morning.

Total Daily Miles: 4 miles running

Friday: Day 5

3:45am — I question my sanity as the alarm goes off and I roll out of bed to gather my gear and head out the door.

4:45am — Meet my friend Ashley at the Black Diamond Trail Head. We do 5 miles out, and 5 miles back, she cuts it at 10 and I add another 2 miles to get in the 12 miles I have on my schedule. The BDT is an old converted railroad bed that is fairly flat and ideal for a fast and easy run. This run didn’t seem as hard as I expected it to. I hadn’t taken on a pre 5am run in almost a year, but my body didn’t protest too much.

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7:30am — Shower at the gym and get ready for work

8am — Breakfast this morning is a Garden of Life Protein shake in almond milk, a bagel with hummus, and some baby carrots. The “runger” doesn’t usually hit me until the next day for some reason. But I try to make sure I give my body what it needs immediately instead of waiting until I’m starving and eating half the kitchen in one swoop.

10am — snack of apple and peanut butter

Noon — I use my lunch break to go take a 45-minute nap in one of our empty conference rooms. The 3:45am alarm has caught up to me.

1pm — Lunch is leftover tacos from last night, and a small spinach salad

3pm — Snack of oatmeal with flax seeds and an orange

6pm — Dinner tonight is spaghetti and Meat(less) balls.

7:35pm — Walk with Kobe

8:30pm — Crash hard on the couch

10pm — Husband finally drags me up to bed.

Total Daily Miles: 12.2 miles running

Saturday: Day 6

8:30am — Wake up gloriously late. Today is my recovery day for the week. My husband is a college lacrosse referee and he has games all day, so I take the day off from running to recover and have a “mommy and me” day with our 3-year-old daughter. She is the reason the 3:45am (and earlier) alarms happen as my training progresses. When I decided I wanted to start running ultra’s my husband expressed concern for the time commitment that training would demand. So I make sure I am always back home by 11-11:30 at the absolute latest. So as my runs get longer, my alarms get earlier. I am taking the training time out of my time to sleep instead of my time to spend with my family. I get home, have a bite to eat, and snuggle up with Vera to read books and take a nap. Luckily, Vera still takes naps during the day that I can take with her. I’m not sure how I will cope when she decides to kick those to the curb! But for now, this schedule seems to work out well for us. We nap, wake up, and venture out into the world for an afternoon of adventure together. But today is one of the nice weekend days that I get the entire day with mini me.

9am — Breakfast today is peanut butter toast (on bread that my daughter helped my husband make the day before) and mixed berries.

10:30am — Snack of an orange and steamed broccoli.

12:30pm — Lunch is vegan mac and cheese with some Italian seasoned tempeh

1pm — A nice snuggly nap with my daughter for about an hour and a half.

3pm — A snack of carrots and hummus

6pm — Dinner tonight is Polenta Veggie Bake Casserole

7pm — walk with Kobe

8:30pm — Prepare for tomorrow’s long run. Fill my pack with water, cut up an apple, bake a sweet potato in coconut oil and salt, stick them both in baggies in the fridge,  pack a baggie of cashews, and steal one of my daughter’s apple sauce squeezy packets. Throw on my running clothes for the next morning.  

9pm — Head to bed regretting my earlier nap, not feeling tired at all.

Total Daily Miles: 0 miles running

Sunday: Day 7

5am — Roll out of bed, grab my stuff, have a quick piece of toast with peanut butter and head out the door.

5:45am — I arrive at Robert H. Treman State Park where I had planned my route. Only to find that they have closed all of their trails for an “undisclosed reason.” I am very frustrated, as I don’t have time to look up a different route and map it out. I just moved to the area and don’t know that many of the trail systems. The only one I know well enough to run without a map is 6 mile creek over on the other side of town. So I hop in my car and make the trip across town. By the time I get to the trailhead in 6 mile creek I’ve lost an hour of my running time and most of my motivation. I had 25 miles on the schedule, but now only have time for 20. The route I had planned was a long out and back, the new route was only a 6.5 mile loop, which meant I was going to have to run laps, while it was 40⁰ and raining. I was not a happy runner, but I forced myself out of the car and got it done. Taking time to snack on my applesauce, diced apple, sweet potato, and nuts every time I hiked up the big climbs of the loop. By the end I was cold, wet, and tired, but my attitude had moved from grumpy to grateful for the mental training of pushing through plans breaking apart and being in less than ideal conditions.

11:30am — Meet my husband, daughter, and in-laws at the Ithaca Farmers Market.

12:15pm — It’s finally time for lunch! We take my in-laws to our favorite Thai place and I indulge in Tom Kha Mushroom Soup with tofu and Pad Thai (minus fish sauce) with tofu.

1:30pm — Curl up on the couch with our Toy Poodle, Molly, and pass out for a solid hour.

3pm — Shuffle my way to the fridge to finish of the remainder of the Pad Thai.

6pm — Dinner tonight is Beyond Mean Beast Burgers on the grill with all the fixin’s, a small spinach salad and some sweet potato fries.

7:15pm — Walk with Kobe. I am moving much too slow for him, so his sled dog instincts kick in. He ends up dragging me most of the way.

9:30pm — Finally, I collide with the pillow, to be sound asleep within 30 seconds.

Total Daily Miles: 20 miles running

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Total Weekly Miles: 47.7 miles running, 9 miles on stationary bike, & 3 miles swimming

A Look Back — Thoughts On The Week

This week went as close to according to plan as I can hope for, with the exception of the Sunday long run. However, it did give me quite the mental workout, so not all is lost. I have been feeling extremely rushed to prepare for this 50 mile race, due to missing a couple months because of injuries, but it all seems to be coming together. I may not be able to compete at the level I had anticipated when I signed up for it, but I am confident that I will at least get to the finish line. The next step is finding every possible steep incline and hitting it to try to prepare for pacing at Leadville 100 on August 19th and running the Cat’s Tail Trail Marathon in the Catskill Mountains on October 14th.

About Katelynn Wagner

Katelynn is a plant-based trail and ultra runner living in Ithaca, NY and working at Cornell University. She is a member of Janji Corps, and an ambassador for Trail Sisters. She juggles working full time, being a parent, and training for ultra marathons. Out on the trail is where she feels most at peace with the world around her.

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