I recently had the opportunity to speak with busy ultra running couple, Stephanie Howe and Zach Violett, and engage them in our version of “too many” questions… Full Disclosure.
Zach, congratulations on a strong outing at Western States! Five words to describe your entire day.
ZV: Solid, problem free, strong finish.
Stephanie, congratulations on earning your Ph.D. in Nutrition and Exercise Science! Which was harder… defending your dissertation or running UTMB?
SH: They were both incredibly difficult! By comparison, UTMB took me 30 hours to finish, which was about 5 hours longer than I was expecting, and there were many tears and doubts I could finish. My Ph.D. took me 6 years to finish, which is 2 years longer than expected. There were weeks and months of stress, doubt, and tears. So yeah, Ph.D. takes the win here.
Three words to describe each other.
SH: Optimistic, loyal, and fun.
ZV: Focused, intelligent, beautiful.
What is the one thing you never leave home without on a long run or race?
ZV: My Nathan pack.
SH:My Nathan pack, filled with all sorts of food, water, clothing, etc. Adventures with Zach can sometimes take a turn for the worst (i.e. we get lost a lot) and I’m always prepared!
Who would win at a game of Scrabble?
SH: Me! I usually win every board game!
ZV: She has a much bigger vocabulary and her mind thinks that way.
How about thumb wrestling?
SH: His thumbs are twice the size of mine.
Go to the movies, rent a Redbox, or watch Netflix?
ZV: We’ve been watching documentaries on Netflix.
SH: Yeah, I’d pick a documentary on Netflix.
Your 3 favorite pizza toppings?
SH: Pesto, prosciutto, and goat cheese
ZV: Bacon, artichoke hearts, prosciutto
Who is the fiercest competitor you have ever gone up against?
SH: Fierce? Hmm, I don’t often see my competition as fierce. I think Anna Frost is one of the toughest, most determined athletes I know. She inspires me!
ZV: Steph… We are so close in every race. I’m always looking over my shoulder for her.
What superpower would you want and why?
ZV: Ability to fly. It would make my work so much easier. Just fly from one meeting to the next and not worry about traffic!
SH: Teleporting. I travel so much that it would really handy to snap my fingers and be at my destination.
Your most magical moment on the trail…
SH: Crossing the finish line at Western States in 2014. I swear I floated around that track.
ZV: Proposing to Steph on top of a mountain in Switzerland.
ZV: Bovine Climb at UTMB
SH: UTMB. I spent way too many hours on the trail including seeing the moon twice.
Yikes! UTMB! Then again, I see the sunrise twice and the moon twice in those distances. Haha!
What’s your go to pre-race meal?
SH: The night before, salmon, rice, and sweet potatoes. Race morning, an ocean roll (like a croissant but even better), coffee, peanut butter, and a banana.
ZV: The night before, pasta. Race morning, Muesli.
What do you do when your stomach goes south?
SH: Salty soup broth can bring be back to life!
ZV: I’ve never had my stomach go south in a race. I follow a routine that works great for me, one gel every 20 minutes no matter what.
Best advice you can give someone starting out in ultra running.
ZV: Don’t try to match other people’s miles. Have fun and do what works for you.
SH: Take it slow and don’t try to do everything in the first two years. So many new runners get excited, train way too much, race way too much, and end up injured.
Here it comes… you’re on the trail, and it’s that time. Sock, glove, or sleeve?
ZV: I carry a little roll of TP in my pack.
SH: None of the above! I’d find leaves or a pinecone.
OUCH! Okay, two more questions…
Your second anniversary is approaching and the traditional gift is cotton. What do you gift each other?
ZV: Thanks for the reminder. Now, I need to go shopping.
SH: Ha! We actually were talking about that! That’s a lame tradition! Um, maybe cotton candy. Zach really likes sweets!
As a busy couple with hectic traveling schedules, it has to be tough to balance everything. What’s your secret?
ZV: I don’t think there is a secret. Just prioritize what matters.
SH: I think we try to do a little of everything and not get too focused on one area. We both have other passions in life and spend time doing those things too. Sure we like to run, but we also like to be social, go out, and travel. We both love to travel! I think not taking yourself too seriously is key.