You’ve probably seen the name Jojo Reuland on the Challenge leaderboards – after leading the pack in the Run Base Mile Blast, she was among the top five women in the GU 100,000 Mile Challenge. Jojo, a Seattle native, moved to California for college and now works in marketing at The San Francisco Marathon. Fresh off a stellar performance at the Lake Sonoma 50, she sat down with us to shed some light on how she goes about logging all those miles.
When did you start running?
I started running with my dad in high school. I had always played sports – soccer and volleyball – and my dad was an endurance runner and a hiker. At first he had to give me incentives – I’d run with him and he would give me prizes – but after a couple of months I realized that I really liked it. When I went to college I kept running. It was my escape from campus – I found this little trail behind the school and when I went out there I would see maybe one or two people on my whole run. My running evolved into half marathons and then marathons and now ultra marathons.
When did you run your first marathon?
I ran my first marathon (the California International Marathon) during my senior year of college. When I signed up I was terrified. And it was definitely a tough training cycle because I was training all by myself – being in college, not that many people wanted to tackle the whole 26.2 and get up at 5 AM and do a long run. It definitely gave me mental toughness because when you train on your own, come race day you don’t need your friends there, you’re totally dialed in. I thought it would be a one time thing, but I loved it and after taking about nine months off from seriously training I decided to run more marathons. Still, never in my wildest dreams did I think ultra marathons were in my future.
What led you to your first ultra?
I decided to do my first ultra after Seattle last year. I had tried to qualify for Boston a handful of times and every training cycle went pretty well, but I would get injured or I wouldn’t feel well on race day or I would be so nervous that I would be sick to my stomach. I think mentally I wasn’t ready for the pressure of really racing and it had taken me away from what I love about running, which is being out there and putting in the distance and zoning out. So I decided to take a break and just start trail running. I sent a link (for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k) to a friend of mine and said I thought it looked fun, and if it ended up being really bad we could just hike it. We started training completely secretly – we didn’t tell any of our family or friends that we were registered until about two weeks before the race. It was a completely different way to look at my running and that’s why I did it – to take my head out of it and run by feel. I crossed the finish line and felt like I wanted to keep going – I wondered how far I could go. I signed up for my 50 miler probably four or five days later – I didn’t waste a minute.
How did you come up with a training plan?
I didn’t really have a training plan in mind when I signed up for the race. I started looking online, but I just wasn’t finding anything. A lot of the training plans didn’t have anything in common – they were all different and the mileage really ranged. I decided that I was going to run by feel and make my own plan and so I started from scratch, building from my current base and following the marathon standard of not increasing mileage by more than 10% a week. I certainly have gotten the feedback that I was overtraining and that I was running too many miles, but the way I looked at it I was really enjoying the training process and I loved being out there. If it had started to feel like too much I would have scaled back, but it didn’t – my legs really adapted and I wanted to be out there.
Any setbacks while you were training?
My last tough run was a 32 miler. It had been pouring the day before and the trails were a wreck – standing water on most of the switchbacks and the singletrack and so my feet were cold and soggy. I ran with my friend Aron who lives in East Bay, and the run was actually really fun, but we were very tired by the end. Somewhere along the way I stepped funny and twisted and hurt my Achilles. I had one more big week of training after that and I ended up having to cut back my mileage. It was disappointing not to be able to get out there and be on the trails for that last week of training but I knew that I was ready, and I think the whole training cycle was a success. I took it one week at a time and every week there seemed to be enough energy in there to do it. Once I wasn’t focusing on time anymore the mental game totally changed.
What was the hardest part of the race?
Mile 41 or 42 until probably 46, when it was really heating up. Because I had such a good base in my training, I felt really good up until mile 38, which was the last aid station where I saw my crew. I had a smile on my face and no muscles were really sore or tight. When I hit the 40′s the tough course was taking its toll and I was getting tired and none of my fuel was sounding good. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other to keep moving. I expected some of that, but I tried to ignore it until race day because it’s inevitable and you can’t do anything to prevent it. Once I left that last aid station I knew that I could make it, and the last few miles were all right.
I find that there’s a sweet spot in the middle of my runs. I loved miles 11 through 25. It was just a beautiful section of rolling hills, and at that point my body felt good and I felt like I could run forever.
Would you ever sign up for a 100 miler?
I think so. During my training cycle a lot of people looked at the mileage I was putting in and said it looked like I was training for a 100 miler. Right now I think the most important thing is to get my body back to 100% where I’m not injured and I’m back in the place where I was when I was training for the 50, which was really happy and enjoying the whole process. I think my body will tell me when it’s time instead of my forcing it. I don’t want to jump too far forward, but 100 is in my future eventually.