Going The Distance For Pam Reed Has Never Been A Problem

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Article by Anthony Gimino
Photography by Jeff Diener

Pam Reed’s quads felt like they had given out. She was trying to run, but her legs had other ideas, merely wanting to shuffle along the trail, as if they had fallen asleep.

 “It just frustrates me,” she said.

Reed prepares for a run along the Snake River  in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Reed prepares for a run along the Snake River
in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Well perhaps she can be forgiven. It was halfway through a 100-mile run, after all.

Reed, at 54, renowned for her distance running and as one of the greatest endurance athletes in the country, continues to (mostly) out-run Father Time. Slow down? Not a chance. A week after running in that 100-mile event on the outskirts of the Zion National Park in southern Utah on April 10, she talked about everything else on her calendar:

A half-Ironman triathlon in early May, perhaps a 50-mile race, a half-marathon in June, a 50K race later that month, then the prestigious Western States 100-mile endurance run at the end of June … and then, starting on July 10, comes the Hardrock 100-mile test in Silverton, Colo., a trail that includes a 34,000-foot climb, followed by the corresponding descent.PamQ

“It’s the hardest 100 in the country,” she said. “You have 48 hours to finish it.”

Makes you tired just thinking about it.

It’s nothing new for Reed. When she was 41, the Tucsonan became the first woman to win the grueling 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley in July. After doing something like that, what’s a 100-mile “stroll” through the beauty of southern Utah?

“I just had a really tough time,” she said. “I think I’m going to have this easy time, and it just isn’t. It was one of the most difficult. It just took so much effort for me to finish this one. …

“I don’t know what happened in this race. I talk to other crazies like me — people who run Ironmans or a lot of ultras — when you have a day like you had, it’s kind of scary because you think it is over. Is this what it’s always going to be like? Am I not going to feel good doing these?

Reed gets intense as she poses for a photo shoot.

Reed gets intense as she poses for a photo shoot.

“I finished and my time was good, but there was just something in this run that didn’t feel great and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t feel like this next time.'”

She probably won’t.

Reed remains in a great place, physically, emotionally and professionally. Not quite four years ago, after a hamstring injury, she discovered hot yoga, which she says she practices religiously, especially when she and her husband spend time living in Jackson, Wyoming.

“I recommend that highly to people,” she said of hot yoga, performed at 104 degrees.

“It’s really helped me, helped my life, my body. It has helped strengthen and balance me again. And it really works on your breathing, which has really helped me a lot in running.”

Other than that, age is just a number to her.

“From my ages of 45 to about 50, I was having a hard time,” she said. “I was doing triathlons, Ironmans, 100s, and I was feeling it. I was feeling old. I kept saying, ‘I’m old and slow. I’m old and slow.’ Then one day, I just decided I wasn’t going to say that anymore. I stopped saying that, stopped focusing on that, and I got better.”

The bulk of Reed’s fame was gained through running but she espouses the virtues of cross-training for any level of athlete.

“When I do an Ironman, my bike time is in the top three in my age group, and I don’t do a lot of training on my bike,” she said.

“This is what I think: If you put too much stock in one thing, you become obsessed mentally about doing it. Cycling is kind of a sidebar to me, yet I do really well at it, and I think it’s because I don’t over-think it. I just get on a bike and ride. If you just let it go, it happens.”

Reeds starts yet another long run in preparation for another event.

Reeds starts yet another long run in preparation for another event.

Reed just keeps going and going and going. Earlier this year, she competed in the Arrowhead 135-Mile Winter Ultra Marathon in Minnesota, finishing in 47 hours, 11 minutes.

 She has big plans for Tucson, too.

 Reed, the co-owner and director of the Tucson Marathon, has run the El Tour de Tucson cycling event in the past, covering more than 100 miles before the cyclists hit the course. She has a new idea for this year’s El Tour — full details to come — about holding a three-day triathlon, with El Tour serving as the cycling leg. The swimming and running parts of the triathlon would sandwich the Saturday bike event.

“I do think this would be a fun kind of thing. I really want it to happen,” she said.

“I think this is a cool idea. El Tour is so popular, and if we can put these other two things together with it, it’s exciting.”

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