Sitting across the table from Kristina Meyer, I am immediately struck by her passion and humility.
It is telling the way her eyes light up and her smile broadens when she mentions a recent run or past race.
I had selfish reasons for wanting to talk to the ultra runner.
Kristina has a reputation as a bad ass on the trails. Her determined nature and hard work have paid off with frequent trips to the podium and one impressive medal collection.
Foolishly, I thought by picking her brain I could somehow tap into her athletic ability and become a rockstar on the trails too.
But my self-indulgent ambitions were quickly forgotten as Kristina shared her story.
Kristina, 37, started running short distances in 2007 and took breaks between having her two boys.
Five years later she got a glimpse of her future when her “non-runner” husband Chris signed up on a team for the mountainous Death Race in Grande Cache. Kristina said she still remembers his text.
“I have been begging him to run with me for years,” she laughed. “I thought what have you done?”
Another team needed a runner but Kristina said, “No way. I value my life. I don’t want to get eaten by a bear.”
Instead she volunteered for the weekend before rushing to Vancouver for her third half-marathon.
“Then I was addicted,” she said. “My brother-in-law also ran with my husband on that team. He was going to do it solo next year. So I signed up to run Leg 4 on a team. I said if Matt finishes I am so doing it next year. I was doing the same amount of training as him.”
That quick decision became the defining moment in Kristina’s trail running career.
“I love running because it is my me time,” she said. “It’s my anti-depressant. Let me put it that way. It is my time to myself and to think and work through problems.”
Kristina went back to Grande Cache to run the 125-km race in 20 hours and three minutes, good enough for fifth overall female in 2014. That year she also ran Blackfoot 50K and three legs of Sinister 7, Grizzly 50K and Rundle’s Revenge.
Good things were happening and Kristina was poised to have an even stronger year in 2015.
Soloing Sinister 7 and Lost Soul 100K were inked into her race calendar.
But her car was rear-ended near the Collicutt Centre in November 2014, which forced her to shake up her racing plans.
There was no damage to her car but within an hour her neck seized up while she was in spin class. Next she would have issues with her lower back and hip. By February, she couldn’t walk.
She took it easy and allowed her body to heal with physiotherapy and massage.
Eventually she called the Sinister 7 race director to roll over her entry to the next year. He convinced her to run the Black Spur 50K because she was feeling better. Kristina placed fourth, three minutes off third place.
At Sinister 7, she was ready to volunteer but was easily persuaded to run a couple legs on a team.
At Lost Soul in September, Kristina finished in 15 hours and 39 minutes, sixth female. The next weekend, she ran a half-marathon.
Are you as impressed as I am yet?
The weird thing is Kristina has not always been active and she does not run crazy mileage weeks. It’s her 20th high school anniversary this year. No doubt she will be the talk of the party.
She was the “fat kid that did nothing” in high school in Sparwood, B.C.
“I was not active at all,” she laughed. “I was the person who couldn’t run. My knees hurt. My hips hurt every time I tried to run.”
But when she quit smoking and started working out, she got that high that you get when you start losing weight and feeling good mentally and physically.
Kristina is also one of those people who does not let excuses stand in her way.
As a busy mother who works part-time as a registered nurse at the hospital, Kristin teaches fitness classes and running clinics to help pay for her race entries.
Kristina has to make her training time count.
Right now she averages 40 to 50 kms per week as she slowly increases her long runs. Closer to her races, she runs between 80 to 100 kms each week. She also cross trains with yoga and spin classes. Her runs are squeezed in when her children are in gymnastics or on her way to and from work.
“I could not do any of what I do without the love and support of my family,” said Kristina. “My kids and husband are my “pit crew” and are beyond supportive and understanding. I also have tremendous support from my parents, my in-laws and my sister. They all help where they can, cheering, helping at transitions or looking after the boys while Chris meets me at transitions. A lot of these races (especially Death Race), have become family events where we all camp and I run.”
Her can-do attitude is admirable.
Last September she was in another car accident and her injuries took her off work for nearly three months. Fed up with injuries ruining her life, Kristina made a decision on New Year’s Eve.
“I am taking my life back into my hands,” said Kristina.
“I am sick of everybody telling me to take it easy. I am done. I went out and ran 8K, which was the furthest since I had the car accident.”
Despite still dealing with whiplash and back pain, she is determined to have a strong 2016.
“I am in the middle of a run streak,” she said. “Whether it is 2K or 20k I have run every day since Jan. 2. My goal for 2016 is to see how long I can do this run streak, whether it is 1k or 100k.”
Races on her calendar this year include Blackfoot 100K, Death Race solo, Black Spur 50K, and her first 100 miler at Lost Soul.
“If it is something you really want to do you can do it. It’s mind over matter. If I can do it, anybody can. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”