Have you ever wondered what it would be like to race 100 miles?? I know I have! Every once in a while I actually get around to interviewing other running moms from Arkansas on this blog and after this year’s Arkansas Traveller I knew I wanted to reach out to Bailee Wilkerson. I’ve been following Bailee on Strava for a while now and knew she was ready for a great race. Bailee won the AT100 this month with a time of 22:20! It was also one of the hottest Traveller’s on record with temps reach 91 during the day Saturday. How did she do it?? As a hopeful AT100 finisher I had plenty of questions for Bee!
Interview with Bailee Wilkerson, October 2017
- How long have you been running?
I grew up in a family of runners so I spent many many miles in a jogging stroller with my dad. I remember my mom coming back from runs when I was little and asking her to take me running and since we lived on a dead end dirt road we’d always go back out down the road for a “run”. I ran my first 1 mile fun run when I was 7 and from then on I guess it is safe to say that I was hooked! I began running local 5ks and then joined track. I LOVED track and I was a sprinter, to me there was nothing like the high of coming off the turn into the final stretch. I swore I’d never run over 5 miles which was my long run base during the summer. Then my parents decided to run the Little Rock half marathon in 2008. They had so much fun at that event and after hearing their stories I told dad that I wanted to run it with him the following year. Well he decided that he wanted to do the full marathon and since I’m stubborn and not always the brightest when it comes to this kind of thing I convinced him that I could do it too and we should train and run together. That began my love affair with the long distance running.
- Can you share a little background info on your family?
Both of my parents are from Ohio originally and we moved here when I was 1. I grew up in such an active family. Mom and dad both ran (dad only a few miles now but they both cycle for exercise since its easier on joints) and we were always hiking, camping, riding horses or doing something outside! Even our family vacations were crazy in most peoples eyes…doing things like hiking down the Grand Canyon or spending the week hiking in Ouray! I met Tyler at the Nebo fun run in 2013 and he asked me to pace him at Traveller that year. We joke that it was our first date! So this race definitely changed my life for the better and will always hold a very special place in my heart. We actually had a few “normal” dates while he was recovering and then we were back to running! Once he was recovered he convinced me to run a 50k just for fun (not a race) which we named First Kiss 50k. We got married in 2015 and had River! Poor kid has been dragged from race to race ever since!! Running is definitely a huge part of both of our lives and we love the community of runners that we have in the area. We are so blessed to get to be part of it and to raise our kiddos within this community.
- Why did you decide to run the Arkansas Traveller 100?
I have wanted to run Traveller for several years just because of the history it has for Tyler and I. After running LOViT I kind of wanted to try a different type of course and this year it just fell into place!
4. How did you train for this 100 mile race? (with job, family, etc.)
Wow how to even begin!! It takes so much support from so many people! Tyler and I say that it is a blessing and a curse that we both are ultra runners because we understand and support each other for the hours of training that go into something like this but it can also be a bit of a logistical nightmare! We have figured out that I am a morning person and he isn’t so my weekly runs are all before work and he either goes when I get home or pushes River during the day. Then we really just have to take turns on weekends for long runs or since my parents are close enough they are a huge help and keep him for us on some weekends so that we can both get in long runs together! I have finally found someone else who is crazy enough to get up at 4:30am to get in a run before work and Lindelle has definitely made my morning runs more enjoyable not to mention made me another life long friend!! I struggle with leaving River on the weekends to go for hours of running on the trails even though I so enjoy it. Since I work full time I end up doing most of my training miles on the roads and frequently pushing River because it means that I get more time with him!! I also have a great group of friends that help keep me company on those long road runs! And a little cheerleader in the jogger.
- What were your feelings going into the race? How many pacers did you have? What kind of race / pace plan did you have?
I was nervous going into the race. I knew I decided to run this race a little late in the game and that I didn’t have as many miles in as what I did before my last one and that was definitely in the back of my mind. The heat was also something that was a bit of a curve ball. So my plan was to cover some ground before it got too hot without pushing too hard and causing problems for myself later in the race and then just keep forward motion through the heat of the day. I had three pacers: Michael Witt, Tammy Hottinger, and Carson Miller. I knew I would be picking them up as it started to cool off a bit and that we would hopefully be able to move out again and cover some ground better than in the heat of the day!! Michael and Tammy had paced me before and are amazing and know me so well that I knew they would be great if I was struggling. Carson is my younger brother and a very talented runner so I knew if I could get to him with anything left in the tank he would be able to pull me into a strong finish!
- Was there ever a point you weren’t sure you if you were going to finish?
I was never worried that I wouldn’t finish but from Powerline back to Winona I was in a low and walked almost every step of that section so I was very concerned that it would be just gutting it out to the finish. I was very out of it, not wanting to eat much, and so tired at that point that I felt like we were only shuffling forwards. That is when your pacers are extremely important!! Tammy knows me so well that she was able to push me exactly how I needed to be pushed and she never stopped asking me to run in sections that were run-able! She was able to keep me eating and drinking which was crucial and kept me motivated to move forward. Tammy didn’t let me forget that it was still a race and it was so doable. At that point forward movement was so crucial to not get too far behind pace and Tammy was amazing at pushing me towards that! She was definitely huge in me coming out of that low spot and being able to pull it together and finish a little stronger than I thought I could.
- What was it like crossing the AT 100 finish line?
It is such an amazing feeling!! I was so emotional at Crossroads because that’s where it really hit me that I was going to finish! (I felt really good and only had ~2.5 miles left.) The actual finish was fun because we saw another runner that I’d been leapfrogging with all day as we were closing in on the turn to the finish. My pacer and I decided to try and catch them which turned into a sprint to the finish line and added much laughter about the stupidity of sprinting downhill at the end of 100 miles. But on a more serious note it is a feeling like no other. To know that you were able to push through so much and complete a feat that is incomprehensible to so many people- to get there is such an overwhelming roller coaster of emotions, all of them happy, of course. Especially seeing your crew there and knowing that without them it wouldn’t have happened! There is a huge sense of gratitude to look around and feel so loved that all these people gave up so much time and sleep to spend the weekend following me around through the woods all so I could achieve a goal is a very humbling feeling.
- What were the 24 hours like after the AT 100?
I was so very emotional for the next few days. Just watching runners continue to finish and see the support and camaraderie around the finish line for the rest of Sunday makes you realize how special it is to get to call all of those people your friends and really your family. At the same time I was definitely walking around on cloud nine (and still am). Knowing that I was able to be blessed to have that ability and support to complete a race like that is a great feeling but definitely makes you walk around with an extra thankful heart.
- What is your favorite distance to race?
It is quickly becoming the 100 mile. I really enjoyed the 100k I did but I didn’t race that one (I was still breastfeeding and pumped at every crew station) but I think I would enjoy racing that distance as well. I really like the strategy and mental side of running a 100 miles. I may not be super speedy but I am definitely stubborn and determined not to quit.
- What is your favorite race you have ever run?
That is a hard question. I absolutely love LOViT!! It is such a beautiful course and I think it plays to my strengths as a runner. I love the climbs and beauty around each corner. There is always something to engage your mind and just when you think a climb will never end it tops out on a ridge with a breathtaking view. But with that said Arkansas Traveller definitely holds a very special place in my heart since it’s the race that first introduced me to this crazy world and definitely where I fell for Tyler.
- What would you say is one of your biggest running goals right now? If you could pick any race to run what would it be?
Definitely to keep running 100s. I would really like to run a sub 20 hour hundred! That will definitely take some more experience for sure! Western States is definitely on my bucket list as is Hard Rock but that one will be way in the future! Boston is another race that is still on my bucket list as well.
- What inspires you to train and motivates you to run?
I truly love to run. We all have good and bad days and there are days when it’s hard to roll out of bed especially when it’s cold outside but to me there is nothing better and more comforting then starting the day with a run. To me it’s also about pushing limits. With running there will always be something that I haven’t done and I’ve always felt like if I can push myself out on the course to attain whatever goal I have set I can do that through my daily life. My family is a huge motivator as well. I want to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be and I feel like running helps me be that person. It also sets a great example for River not just about health but about perseverance, dedication, and determination. Then there are the people he will get grow up with and call family. Our world is a scary place but the running community and especially the ultra-community is amazing and it teaches so much about what it means to be a community and the caring and kindness of everyone involved. The volunteers teach selflessness and each runner’s willingness to stop and help someone or cheer them on teaches a kindness that the rest of the world doesn’t always teach. To be part of that and to raise a family in that environment is priceless to Tyler and I.
Then there is Jake. He is my buddy through I run 4 group. He is such an amazing and sweet young man! Getting to know him and his family has been a huge blessing and watching him face and overcome his struggles daily is definitely a huge motivator for me!
Thank you Bailee for letting me interview you!! I’m not quite ready to jump into running 100 milers yet but Bailee’s already offered to be one of my pacers whenever I decide to do it.
Official Results from the AT100 can be found here. Congratulations to all the runners who participated this year!