Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Michele "Bomb 'chele" Yates talks about Western States 100, Babies, Health and Ultrarunning

Team Colorado's Michele "Bomb 'chele" Yates was ready for Western States 100 after the birth of her daughter, Maya, but unforeseen health issues that have spiraled out of control forced her to withdraw. We haven't heard from Michele in some time, so we reached out to see how she was doing.

Bomb 'chele, it's been a while, we miss you! We are bummed to see you were forced to withdraw from WS100. How did you feel going into it? What were the circumstances that lead to the eventual withdrawal?

Oh man, I was soooo ready for Western States (or so I thought!). My climbing ability had significantly increased and I was super excited to test out my skills. Postpartum issues were pretty much no longer, and I felt strong. Although I felt these things, a few days before we left, I also felt like something was wrong. I have thyroid disease I inherited it from my dad (we found this out when I tanked at Rocky Raccoon 2014 before I got pregnant). I told myself 'whatever I needed to do to get on that starting line with a smile'. I figured it's too late to do anything about it now. Eventually, the extreme sleepiness I felt would take me out of the race. I was forced to have a "pacer" with me (in which I choose my hubby to run behind me, be quiet and make sure I didn't fall off a cliff :) I kept getting stopped at medical checks, so in order to speed up the process, I just kept my hubby with me. A day later when we returned to Colorado I saw my doc at Boulder Sports Medicine. Turns out my TPO anitbodies were in the 500's. They are supposed to be BELOW 9! Thus indicating a severe infection (my thyroid was destroying itself). A few other levels were off, too. I'm told that with levels that high, it typically means other autoimmune diseases are in play.

Preggers!        photo: Bomb 'chele
What is the situation with your health now?

My health would take a turn for the worst this past month. I had days were I couldn't even pick up my baby. The fatigue, depression, and weakness were almost unbearable. I was told anytime I step on the starting line, I would only have a 50/50 chance at performing. There is no cure for this disease, you can only try to manage it, but we would also have to take it a day at a time to see if I may have another disease or possibly cancer, too. Well, about a week ago I stared feeling better. I was able to get out of bed, and I am able to run some. So hoping for the best and still working with doctors.

We have seen a lot of athletes, particularly ultra runners, really suffer some detrimental health issues, even at the top of their careers (thinking of Geoff Roes, in particular). Do you think ultra running has something to do with this phenomenon? Running until your adrenal glands or kidneys give out or you become so dehydrated that your are negatively affecting your health is not exactly smart, right?

Yes, I think we push too hard sometimes or maybe just don't rest enough! I don't blame anyone--I love this sport and I think we all do and we have this uncontrollable passion when the trail are calling our names! My approach is to include cardio cross training and recovery days in my program so I know "this is the time I need to enjoy days off and this is the time I need to work hard." Although my adrenals were checked and they are working well for now! Yeah, it's just the infection and disease that needs to be managed.

So, you think there is a way to be more cautious about ultra training/racing with out causing
irreparable health issues? It can be done in training but a 100 mile race is still a 100 mile race?

Well, mine is inherited...however with the adrenal fatigue, etc., yes, I think structure in your training is a great idea. Build in recovery days and truly listen to your body. What is listening to your body? Do you have muscle tightness, soreness you don't normally? Yoga-roll out and ice bath. Are you sick- cold, sinus or respiratory infection? Don't work out!!! Rest!!! As I get older, I realize the importance of nutrition! Take care of yourself. What you put in is what you will get out!!!

You know when Michele is in the race, it is going to be fast.
photo: Dork Bros (hometown sponsors of Bomb 'chele)
Do you think running long distances so far into your pregnancy or so soon after giving birth contributed to where you are now? 

Nope, as far as the thyroid goes--yes it could have been birth that raised my levels so high but it doesn't have much to do with the sickness. Also, I feel as if I rested well in between and the hubby and I were a good team for my running comeback and taking care of Maya.

What would you do differently?

I don't think I would do anything differently at all. I really felt like I executed well. The only thing I think I would have to change is my mentality a bit. When I raced Black Canyon (2.5 months post-partum) I took a hard fall because my core stability just wasnt there yet. I needed to recognize that I can't eat/drink and run over technical terrain at the same time and if I am able to have another baby, I would do everything the same but take note on that only try to fuel when the terrain allows or stop and take care of myself then continue running.

What are your thoughts on Overtraining Syndrome?

Overtraining, geesh, it's such a tricky thing for some elites because we want to push that redline but not redline! So I think, again, if you build in recovery days to your program (and I believe you should have some structure, I know some people like to just go run trails every day, but again, that is where you aren't taking note of how much mileage you are putting in, nor are you resting enough, most likely). Everyone gets caught up from time to time in this awesome sport, it's learning from those mistakes and/or listening to your body that will keep your running life long.

What is the one race you want to run in your lifetime? 

I'd like to do UTMB, I was offered to this year but passed it up because Maya is still young, next year for sure if given the opportunity.

What are your thoughts on doping in ultra running? Do you think it is happening? There are "recreational drugs" going on (mainly Mary Jane: like in Half Baked: Jon Stewart Enhancement Smoker "Ever done an ultra? Ever done an ultra…ON WEED!?). Do you think that is the same thing?

I believe any race that is a national, world event or has prize money the runners should be tested! I do believe it's going on and I'm not sure about marajuana because I've never tried it but I know it's given to those who are in pain for medical purposes to ease the pain so if that is the case than I'd say it's cheating but again I'm not educated enough on that.

Fair enough. Don't do drugs, kids!

Thanks Michele! We hope for the best with your health and can't want to see you out there again, wrecking havoc on the trails! 

Michele, ready to get back to work!                                   photo: Bomb 'chele