Healing animals for work; healing herself through running
Teresa Kaiser just loves running for the physical and emotional resets it gives her. “It makes any day seem better. Maybe that counts as an addiction. But something that feels so good can't be bad, amiright?”
Kaiser, who won both the San Diego and Wasatch 100-mile races this year, began her journey on her middle and high school cross-country teams. It was a way for her to keep in shape for her other sports, basketball, softball and ultimate frisbee.
“I was never a speed demon,” she admits, adding that in college she ran on her own to relax and stay in shape.
The Wisconsin native would run a marathon or two each year. Then, during her senior year of college, she took a marathon running class. “It was a fun elective and I met more serious runners,” she remembers. “Running also became more of a fun social outlet as well. My running teacher/coach was this sweet old-school die hard runner who had run a marathon in each state. He had the best mustache anyone has ever seen!”
During veterinary school, Kaiser continued road running. “At this point it transitioned from a fun way to stay in shape, to a vital part of my mental health routine,” she says. “No matter how busy I was in veterinary school, I always gave myself a break to run and reset each day.”
Using running to overcome stress
After veterinary school, Kaiser moved from downtown Madison to a rural part of the Badger State for her internship. While she had always wanted to be a veterinarian, the reality hit her hard during the internship.
During one of her first emergency room shifts, she had to euthanize over 10 very sick animals in a day. Overnight shifts lasted anywhere from 12 to 20 hours. The stress mounted. Kaiser needed running more than ever.
Road running was sketchy. So she found many accessible trails.
“Once I hit the trails, I was addicted and interested to see how far I could push myself,” says Kaiser, who ran her first 50K the summer after veterinary school near Devil's Lake in Wisconsin. “As my internship became more stressful, I used running more and more as an outlet. I had a really hard time mentally and physically that year. I never anticipated veterinary medicine to be so emotionally draining.
“I had to learn how to cope with not only the stress of attempting to save super sick animals, but to learn how to work with their very stressed owners. If it wasn't for running and the alone time to decompress and think, I would be in a bad place.”
Kaiser continued on with her vet school and running. She did her first 50-miler, the Ice Age 50. “It didn't go amazing, but also didn't go horrible — not bad for working 80-hour workweeks flip-flopping day to night shifts for the year.”
Onward to San Diego
Now, she loves her job in emergency veterinary medicine and helping pets and their owners. After vet school, she packed up her car — with her two cats, of course — and relocated to San Diego for a job.
Even before completely unpacking, she met up with the San Diego Ultra Running Friends group at an event called "Trails and Ales."
“I had the most fun since early times in veterinary school,” she recalls. “A couple veteran ultra runners kind of took me under their wing and gave me advice on racing and training. At this same bar/meetup a couple months later I met my current boyfriend/partner (Dmitri) who was just starting to get into the ultra scene himself.”
The couple set out on many run-cations and adventures, including the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim, cactus to clouds to cactus, and Joshua Tree traverse. “By this time running went from a pure stress outlet to my main social outlet and source of fun and adventure,” she says. “Dmitri is my main training partner and we definitely make each other better in both running and in life.”
The keys to two 100-mile victories
Her victories at San Diego and Wasatch came almost exactly three months apart.
Kaiser wanted to test herself at San Diego as a benchmark to see whether she had improved since her first 100-miler there two years earlier. She listed Wasatch as her A race this year. “Even before moving to Utah about a year ago, I had my eyes on Wasatch since it's one of the original 100s and just is so epically hard but rewarding.”
After doing the Georgia Death Race in the spring, Kaiser signed on with coach Alicia Shay-Vargo. “I was running consistently like 80ish miles a week before SD100, took a two-weekish break, and then had a super solid two months, including training races like Speedgoat 50K and Snowdance, an awesome 40-mile run organized by our super speedy Utah friends Leah Yingling and Mike McMonagle) before Wasatch. It was a lot of running.”
Before getting a using coach, Kaiser focused on would easy runs. “Now she is convincing me that some speedwork — effort-based strides and pick-ups in long runs — is beneficial. I think it's helped!”
Entering the San Diego 100, Kaiser wanted to beat her first time (22ish hours) and “ideally win the race. Both of those goals went to plan which was awesome.”
Beyond achieving her goals, the race had an extra special meaning for Kaiser. “A lot of the people who got me into trail running were there running or volunteering and everyone seemed to know me. The race is also ran super well. Scotty Mills was RD for a long time, but Angela Shartel and BJ did an awesome job of taking over the reins. I highly suggest this race to anyone!”
On the flip side, Kaiser didn’t set specific goals for Wasatch 100. “The course is so hard. I was hoping for around a 24-hour finish, and to run a smart race ... I figured if I ran smart a podium was possible, but I was honestly surprised I finished that well.”
Nutrition, sleep and consistency
She credits her success with being able to problem-solve. “The longer the race gets, the more those benefit who are prepared for Plan A, B, C, and maybe even D. Something is bound to go wrong — whether you get lost or eat something weird, overheat, etc. I've learned that it's best to stay calm and that there is always a solution to every problem.”
Kaiser also admits that she can eat a “disturbing amount of gels in a day. My record is 40. One every 30 minutes for a full 100).”
When it comes to nutrition, she keeps it simple. Her race-day menu includes water, gels, and real food, mostly avocados, fruits like strawberries and potatoes. “I also am a big fan of kombucha or ginger beer in races - gotta love that good GI flora baby!”
Kaiser prefers to run every day, it’s that consistency she credits for her success. “I am all for taking a day off, but most days I prefer to run over not to just help me mentally,” she says. “My mileage is decently high, especially when compared to the hours I work to pay the bills. I have always been pretty good at making a schedule and sticking to it, and I really think there is value in those long adventure runs that keep you on your feet.”
Her work schedule — on for three or four days then off — does mess with her sleep schedule. But she sees it as an unplanned part of her training for long ultra marathons.
“The good thing about this is that I don't really every get sleepy in races and can stay up for 48 hours with no issues at any time. Running and snacking is a lot easier than a critical patient and surgery at 3 a.m.”
Name: Teresa Kaiser
Hometown: Wauwatosa, Wis.
Number of years running: 18
How many miles a week do you typically run: 60 to 100
Point of pride: I'm an OK cat mom, full time veterinarian, part time runner :)
Favorite race distance: 100 miles
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: GT Ginger Kombucha or this other Yerbe mate kombucha only found in bougie stores
Favorite piece of gear: Pearl Izumis N2 trail... so sad I can't find any. Nothing compares!
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Anything Marshmellow!
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: Try harder
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram: tmkaiser21