Intro by Steve Woo
Some people try to avoid obstacles, while others see them as a challenge but only something they need to take on once, and never to do again. Then there’s those who choose to face the same obstacles over and over again – that’s Kelly Fuson and one of the first things I learned about her. Yes, she’s into OCR (obstacle course racing) – big time.
While it seems like Kelly has been a part of DPMR for longer, it was only about a year ago that she showed up at the first DPMR newbies run of the season looking to get more running in, but also to connect and immerse herself in the community. Over the past year, she’s done just that, and has been among the most active first year members with her presence at DPMR events from runs to races to volunteering. I’ve had the pleasure to get to know her over this past year not just as an athlete/runner but the person she is.
As you will quickly find, running is just a part of what Kelly does to stay active. While she will drop in on anything from a 5K to 50K trail race, her primary focus is OCR and specifically Spartan series racing of which she is a seasoned veteran having competed in 36 races and counting (she plans to do 8 this year!). She’s also all in as an avid climber and snowboarder (who put me to shame for number of days we put on our passes!).
Inside the athlete, is a genuine and giving person with a good heart who is loyal to her friends and the causes she believes in. What sticks in my memory is DPMR’s first trail clean up day last year on Brockway Summit, where Kelly was noticeably one of the few, if only newbie members to show up and volunteer. She actually reminded me about it that morning and got me to go just as I was heading out for a run! That morning we watched her pull a giant object out of the forest – an old discarded TV! We joked it was just OCR training for her! (google Atlas Ball or Bucket Carry). We laughed about it over lunch and then she was off to fulfill another commitment to meet up with a friend at Palisades!
Beyond the running community and trails, you’ll see Kelly supporting other great causes and contributing to other areas within our community as well, including the Humane Society along with her pup Pixel.
When she’s not conquering obstacle courses, running, climbing, or chasing pow, Kelly’s juggling time zones as a global marketer for one of the largest companies in the world, and rallying friends for theme parties and trivia nights.
If you’re considering jumping into a Spartan race, Kelly’s our resident expert. But be careful – if you bring it up, she’ll rope you in! I had the pleasure of spectating her at the Palisades Spartan race. It was inspirational to watch her run, climb things, throw spears, and carry massive weighted objects! (Yes, she’s holding me to my commitment to do one.)
A well balanced, dedicated, and determined individual, it is such a great pleasure to have Kelly as part of DPMR and as a friend.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA and I feel so lucky to now be living in Truckee which was always a fun place to visit growing up.
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies? Why?
I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember. I loved doing the mile run in school and I was always faster than the other girls so when I was in 8th grade my PE teacher let me run the mile with the boys, which of course was an opportunity for other kids to tease me, but it didn’t stop me from loving the sport. I started running competitively in high school when I joined the XC team and specialized in the 800 meter race in track and field. I took a break from running in college but picked it back up in my twenties which is when I decided to try my hand at half and full marathons.
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
Yes I love to race! I’ve never been the fastest but I’m always the most reliable. I often have other racers tell me at the end that they were unofficially using me as their pacer. I like challenging myself and inspiring others.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
I would like to do more races in Europe. I’ve done the Prague and Vienna half marathons and aside from making sure I don’t trip on the cobblestone I really loved the passion that Europeans bring to the sport and the scenery that you get to run through.
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage?
For ultra running I try my best to eat “real” food and my go-to trail snack is a rolled up tortilla with peanut butter. I’ve never had any trouble eating while running thankfully, let’s be honest, food is why I run! My favorite post-run beverage is milk chocolate and you can’t go wrong with a good cheeseburger. My nutrition strategy depends on the length of the race, the terrain, and the weather, but in general I try to consume calories every 3 miles or 45 minutes. I have done a few races where I didn’t bring enough calories and there’s nothing worse than hearing your stomach growl and getting a little lightheaded when you’re just a few miles from the finish.
Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I’m not much of a cook, I like to stick with the basics, and my favorite pre-race breakfast is hot oatmeal with a heaping spoonful of peanut butter and a dash of honey.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
I managed to make it back to Oahu, Hawaii for the Spartan race in August and it’s the most stunning race venue I’ve been to. It takes place at the Kualoa Ranch where they’ve filmed a bunch of movies including Jurassic Park and you run by a lot of the movie props throughout the course, including giant dinosaur bones!
What was your most challenging/ character-building experience this past year?
The Broken Arrow Skyrace is always a humbling experience. I thought that living in Truckee full time would give me an advantage, and I suppose on a small scale it did, but the course never fails to test your willpower and risk tolerance. Downhill is where I shine, but with the new course that took us down the rocky single track, I spent almost as much time on the downhill as the uphill for fear of tripping. I’ve seen people trip and split open their heads on that trail before and it’s hard to keep that visual out of my mind.
What are your upcoming racing/adventure plans?
I’m headed back to Montana in early May to do the Spartan Beast in Big Fork. It takes place on an Elk preserve and it’s very rugged terrain (I got lost the last time I did it in 2019). I’m also doing the back-to-back Super/Sprint Spartan races in Monterey in early June, which is always a favorite in California that the pros usually show up for. That should all prepare me well for a regularly-scheduled Broken Arrow 26k in mid-June, followed by a brief break before fall races.
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I work in the field of channel marketing for Nest smart home products. It historically involved a lot of travel across the globe which made training difficult. Thankfully I’m able to bring my full self to work and my colleagues know that I’m an athletic person and are understanding when I block off a long lunch or late afternoon to get in a run before it gets dark outside. Every now and then I’m able to convince them to take a HIIT class with me as well.
What led you to join DPMR?
I first learned about DPMR when I did the Racing Gnome Snowshoe Race several years ago. They seemed like a really fun and seasoned group that took running seriously but was also open to welcoming newcomers. It’s been really fun to be a bigger contributor to the group since moving to Truckee full time in 2020.
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
The newbie runs have been my favorite experience so far because it has been a chance to meet new people and check out trails that I haven’t been to before. I also appreciate that it caters to all levels and isn’t intimidating.
Favorite local trail?
I really like the section of the PCT after Mt Lincoln, especially in June when the wildflowers are growing and you pass by all of the backpackers who have been on the trail for days. It’s fun to know that you made it that far on your own two feet and a hydration vest while they are carrying 35 lbs+ backpacks.
Do you have a mental training technique, mantra, or similar that you rely on to combat the mentally trying times of a longer run?
When I get hit with mental fatigue or boredom I try to focus really hard on form and I pick a spot and tell myself I’m going to run to that spot, and then when I get to that spot I say, that wasn’t hard, let’s pick a new spot! And I keep that up until it passes and I’m able to take a nutrition break or catch a new view.
Do you listen to audio while you run and if so, what have you been enjoying lately?
I am hardcore about needing some form of audio while on a training run, although I’m fine without it during an actual race. I tend to listen to music on longer runs but stick with podcasts for shorter runs. For a quick afternoon ~3 mile run I’ll listen to the WSJ daily news which the morning and evening sessions are the perfect duration for that distance.
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
Ice baths! I take ice baths religiously anytime I run farther than 13 miles. The only catch now is that my bathroom is on the third floor of my house and it’s a lot of stairs to haul bags of ice, in which case a quick dip in Donner Lake will suffice.
Do you have a favorite piece of running gear (sports bra, shoe, layer, sock, etc.)?
I’m a huge fan of compression sleeves in lieu of long sleeve shirts. I heat up pretty quickly while running and I love being able to easily peel them off and roll them back up as the conditions change. Everyone should own at least a couple pairs, one thin and one thick, just like socks!
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
Rock climbing is my other passion and how I like to crosstrain. It has a lot of similarties to running in terms of the meditative state you can enter and the flow that happens when your training is paying off. And because my focus over the past 4-5 years has been on OCR (obstacle course racing) it’s really helped me become a more well-rounded athlete with a combination of endurance and strength.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I got a tattoo on my foot of XXVI.II to commemorate my second full marathon. I told myself I had to do at least two before getting it, and thankfully I did three more after that!