Lindsey Rust was hoping the third time — or year — was the charm for getting into Western States. Every year, she monitors the drawing on her computer.
She heard the names being picked for the starters list. Then the wait list began. Rust remembers hearing 20 to 30 names and then resigning herself to trying again for 2020.
"Oh, no. I'm not getting in," she recalls thinking. “I just turned it off. It was like a week later when someone told me, ‘You're on the wait list.’ And I was just like, ‘What? What number am I?’ And I looked it up — 40."
In the previous two years of the lottery the final wait list ticket to get into the historic race was No. 36 last year and No. 39 two years ago. Recently runners holding Nos. 37 and 38 withdrew, leaving Rust right behind No. 37 Mike Sveum, who is training and hoping to get the call.
Rust, who has not officially withdrawn, has resigned herself to not being summoned to Squaw.
"That is extremely unlikely for me to actually get in,” she says. “So I structured the rest of my year's training plan completely different. I'll try again for next year. It's a race that I would love to get into, but there's a lot of other things that really intrigue me and other challenges that I really want to take on.”
This year’s challenges are: the Bryce 100, Ouray 100 and the Tahoe 200. Bryce is a Western qualifier but Rust wants to perform well at Ouray and Tahoe, with proper recovery in between.
“Ouray is about a month after Western,” she says. “Ouray has 42,000 feet of elevation gain. it's just in this really wild, crazy country. So, I’m going to try to take on that challenge and then later head over to Tahoe. I'm really excited about that one because I've never done a 200 before.”
Still, Rust admits there is a chance she would reconsider.
“I'm more of a data person,” she says. “The possibility of that actually happening (having her No. 40 called) is so slim, I would say I'm probably 95 percent sure I'm not going to do it. But, if for some crazy reason, suddenly, 30 people drop out in the next month, I would probably … I don't know, I might think about it.”
Rust began her running journey around age 12 with her dad. “We'd go running out on our streets when I was younger and then I started doing cross country,” she says. “I ran for the city team and then did the Utah cross-country team, and traveled a bit, and in high school.”
It was during that time when burnout struck and Rust stopped running. She picked it up again in her 20s and ran a few marathons with her husband, Josh. Soon enough the trails called her.
“I've always been a nature girl,” she says. “My husband and I are extremely outdoorsy. Nature is a huge part of our life. We spend a lot of time whether it's camping, skiing, hiking. Running has always just been a part of me. It's just something I've always loved to do. But I love to do it for me not for the pressure of being on a team or whatever it may be. It's very therapeutic for me.”
Even though trails can be intimidating for women runners, Rust’s passion for the outdoors helped her transition. “I just fell more and more in love with it.”
The Rusts continued to run as their family expanded. When their fourth child was a toddler, Rust persuaded Josh to sign up for a 50-miler at Bryce Canyon. After the race, it was something that Josh never wanted to do again. But it had a different impact on Lindsey.
“It just lit this fire in me — ‘Wow! There is huge potential … I was very curious about what else my body could do.”
Like many others, Rust found her tribe in the trail and ultra community.
“There was something really special about the community, the people who were out there at races,” she says. “You're both out spending the day pushing through your demons, working through this, trying to cross the finish line. There was also something ... I'm not necessarily a religious person but obviously my religion is nature so being able to use my own two feet, my body, and being out in nature for all day long. I had been on a lot of runs but I had never really spent all day out on the trails running, running and hiking. And a race of course that gave me that opportunity to do that.”
She was also inspired by realizing her goal.
“Crossing the finish line means a huge amount of accomplishment,” she says. “I worked really hard on this and I was really able to do this. I love taking on challenges. I love looking at something and saying, ‘Oh, this really intimidates me.’ The 50 miles — that was intimidating to me at the time. The fact that taking on something that I was a little scared to do but I still went and did it and I finished it, that was something that drives me and I really enjoyed that.”
A bigger goal
Not satisfied with a 50-mile finish, Rust opted to challenge herself with the Bryce 100-miler just a year later.
“To be totally honest I had no idea what was I getting into. There was a ton of unknowns,” she says, noting she followed a training plan from a book. “I was really naïve, extremely naïve going into it and just basically did the training that I thought was going to be best. I'm not someone who gets too terribly nervous but for that first 100-miler because there was so much unknown in my mind I was like, ‘How on earth can you start in the morning and still go throughout the night and still be going the next morning?’ It just seemed really, it just seemed so crazy for me but with that being said that's also what drove me to want to do that because I was very curious if I could.”
Rust strictly followed her training plan, which worked for her on race day. She finished in just over 28 hours, placing fifth among women.
“The first Bryce 100-mile race, for it being my first 100, I actually felt it went really well,” she says. “For really being naïve to it and not really knowing what I was doing it went really well. I definitely bombed toward the end of my race but overall it went really well.”
An active family
While Josh focuses on mountain biking and skiing, their kids go trail running with Lindsey. And the younger ones are interested in helping pace her at big races.
“it's important for me to teach my kids to enjoy whatever kind of movements they love doing,” she says, noting they range in age from 7 to 14. “Enjoy getting out and moving in a way that makes them happy, whether they want to bike or run or ski or roller blade. Whatever it is they like.”
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I asked her to describe her perfect Mother’s Day for me. It should be no surprise that it would be a day spent with family in nature.
“It would probably be my kids actually listening to me — just kidding,” Rust jokes. “Honestly, it would probably be going out camping where there's no one else around, waking up, having my cup of coffee, hanging out, hiking with the kids during the day, and then winding down with a glass of wine with my husband by the campfire and kids. Honestly, that would be my perfect Mother’s Day.
As she balances various family and other real-life commitments, Rust remains dedicated to her trail and ultra running. With it, she keeps a strong perspective when it comes to bucket-list races.
“This past year was a year that kind of lit the fire even more with the competitive side of me,” she says. “It’s the love, even more now, of getting out and racing. For me, I'm totally fine if I don't do Western States this year because I'm excited about what I have going on. It's more important to me to focus on the races I have signed up for. And I’m OK if Western States doesn't happen for a couple of years.”
Name: Lindsey Rust
Hometown: Draper, Utah
Number of years running: 20 plus years - I started running at 12 years old.
How many miles a week do you typically run: Not sure, My training is based on time and intensity. If you were to add up the time in a training week during peak build up season it would range from 18-23 hours. This includes weightlifting, mobility work, cross training and running.
Point of pride: My biggest point of pride outside of running is my marriage to my amazing husband and 4 awesome kids I get to mother. In the sport of running I take pride in having patients in choosing to look at my ultra career as something I want to be doing for the long haul. I train for longevity in this sport and make sure there is always some kind of joy I'm getting out of it. Once you lose the joy of the sport and why you're it's hard to keep going when times get hard and you just want to give up.
Favorite race distance: 100 miles, but I will be running my first 200 mile this year, so that may change. ;) I love the challenge that 100 miles give you, I thrive off of the unknown of what might happen out there on those trails, I like being able to strategize and figure out plan B when things go wrong and I love the reward I feel after conquering something the strikes a little fear in me every time I line up at the starting line.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: Pre: guacamole and coffee. On all my training runs my go-to is Tailwind Nutrition. When I get further on in a race my body always craves Doritos and ramen.
Favorite piece of gear: Running vest. You might say I'm a running vest junkie. I have a closet full of them and usually buy one, sometimes two, a year. My go-to vest right now is the Salomon Advanced Skin 12. I love vests with large kangaroo pockets that I can stuff a ton of items in.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: I usually don't listen to music while running because many of my runs are out on the trails by myself, so I typically like to be fully aware of my surroundings. But when I'm racing I love listening to my chill folk playlist. I like my mind to be able to relax, listen to my body and enjoy my surroundings.
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: What I say to myself when I'm struggling during a race or during a hard workout. "You choose to do this, you are lucky to be able to do this, so suck it up and enjoy the ride."
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• @happyandhealthyrunning on Instagram