Katie Asmuth balances motherhood, ultra running and nursing all with a huge smile
(Photo by Luke Webster)
By Henry Howard
Katie Asmuth developed her lifelong passion of trail and ultra running in her 30s.
Describing herself as a “late bloomer when it comes to running,” Asmuth said it was a challenge from her husband, Pete, that led her to the trails, ultras and most recently, a fifth-place finish at the 2021 Western States.
Growing up she played basketball, volleyball, softball and soccer. She also enjoyed backpacking with her parents and four siblings.
“I loved the team aspect of sports and pushing myself,” she says. “But I didn't start running until after college when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. I used running as a stress relief and a way to escape.”
After working the night shift as an emergency room nurse at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, Asmuth would run on the roads. “It was the easiest place for me to run after working,” she explains. “I hadn't considered running on trails at the time. Being from Ojai, Calif., I’ve always loved being in the mountains.”
During their honeymoon in New Zealand, the Asmuths started running on trails to cover more ground while exploring in a campervan.
“We ran on pristine trails, past glaciers and jumped in rivers,” she recalls. “After that, I was hooked on trail running. But I wasn’t thinking about racing ultras yet.”
Fast forward to 2015 when Asmuth was pregnant with Noa, their first child.
“Pete was training for an Ironman,” she says. “He would take off on six-hour bike rides, and I remember feeling jealous and imagining myself as a new mom and not being able to escape. He challenged me, ‘Well, then sign up for a race.’ And from that challenge, I didn’t look back. I set my eyes on running 100 miles, knowing it would take hours of training on trails.”
Their second son, Liam, followed Noa by two years. Asmuth competed in some shorter trail races, but she knew she needed coaching to reach her goal of completing 100 miles.
“I had never run competitively or had a running coach before, and I wanted to get better,” she explains. “I was lucky to join Some Work, All Play (SWAP), and have been coached by David Roche since 2018. He helped to get my body to a second place finish at my first 100-miler, Angeles Crest 100 in 2018, behind the legendary Darcy Piceu!”
(Angeles Crest 100 was one of four major victories that year for Piceu, which was the focus of this interview.)
The AC 100 was a hometown race of sorts for Asmuth. It is nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains that borders Los Angeles.
“All of my family and trail running friends were there, volunteering, pacing or racing,” she says. “I had an unbelievable 22-plus hours of running in my local mountains with my favorite people surrounding me. It was a feeling I wanted a lot more of!”
‘Balance is all about priorities’
Asmuth is a master of balancing motherhood, wife, her training, work as a nurse and more. Is she Superwoman?
“I think balance is all about priorities,” she says. “I spend time doing what's important to me. I am intentional about being present where I am. When I’m on an adventure with my kids, I’m present in that moment. When I’m running, I’m giving it my all. And when I’m at the clinic, my mind is only with my patients. Balance to me is about setting priorities, and then being present in the moment.”
She credits her support system for allowing her to pursue her running.
“It would be impossible to train for ultras as a parent without a village of support. My husband, Pete, specifically, is my partner in everything and is key to the balancing act!” says Asmuth, who will pace Pete at the Waldo 100K, his first at that distance. “Perspective is key. I know that while I’m trying to balance many things, I am privileged to get to run, to be a parent, and to have a career as an NP I love.”
Looking ahead, Asmuth promises she’s “not a visitor to the sport and have loads of races on my bucket list,” including racing internationally.
(Photo by Paul Portland, trailjunkiephotos)
Smiling every mile
Roche coached Asmuth to her first 100 at Angeles Crest. (Read about David Roche's path to coaching.)
“I had never had a running coach before and I trusted him completely,” she says. “He is the ultimate cheerleader and may be the happiest human on the planet. He helps push me to my limits while knowing that I’m balancing work, parenthood, etc. Hence my lower mileage, mental stressors are physical stressors!”
Asmuth credits Roche for her success at Western States.
“He got me to a top five finish at Western States with a constant attitude of gratitude,” she says. “I’ve never felt burned out or overtrained. It’s a pretty beautiful relationship.”
Perusing the photos taken at Western States, Asmuth is smiling in every one.
“I’m just generally stoked to race — and running Western States multiplied my excitement! David has helped me to never take myself too seriously, and somehow to stay light and happy, whilst still sustaining the fire to compete and dig deep.”
Ice, ice baby
The 2021 Western States was a hot one with lots of carnage. How did Asmuth persevere and move through the field as the day wore on?
At every aid station, she packed ice everywhere she could — in her hat, bandana, shorts, bra, armsleeves and two handheld water bottles.
“It was hot, and I felt it early,” she says. “I am usually a master of the heat but I just couldn’t get my core temp down. We estimate we used over 80 pounds of ice. And I still felt hot ALL day. Even the river crossing didn’t help! I’m proud of myself for being as on top of heat management as I was.”
As ultra runners, it’s not just the physical challenge of 100 miles. There’s also the mental game and problem solving on the run that separates a top 10 finish from others.
“It’s the ultimate multitasking out there! Doing everything you can to take care of yourself throughout the day with heat, hydrating and eating … oh and running. Ha ha! I didn’t have necessarily one bad patch. It was just a long struggle fest, probably starting at Cal-2 (mile 70) trying to slow down to bring core temp down. But I’m proud I never totally imploded and ran my race responsibility.”
A ‘ferocious’ crew
Asmuth describes entering and running around the Placer High School track as an “absolute high. I wish I could express with words to that emotion! It was as if everyone that got me to that moment was running with me. I was overcome with gratitude.”
She carried that gratitude over to Instagram where she wrote, “My 'ferocious' dream team crew and pacers got me to that finish line.”
She credits that description to livestream commentators Corrine Malcolm and Dylan Bowman, who referenced her crew looking like a NASCAR pitstop. Her crew included crew chiefs: her husband Pete and brother Danny, and members Mark Moromisoto, Greg Houston, Emma DeLira and Gwen Ostrosky.
“My crew and pacers are the best in the sport,” Asmuth says. “My pacer from Foresthill to the river was Courtney Rouse and from the river to the finish was Alissa St Laurent. World class with decades of combined experience in the sport. I’m so lucky. It takes a village to finish any ultra!”
Name: Katie Asmuth
Hometown: Now resides in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Number of years running: Competitively running ultras for six years.
How many miles a week do you typically run: Around 50 to 60.
Point of pride: “My boys! Noa (6) and Liam (4).”
Favorite race distance: 100 miles.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: “Fluid Nutrition hands down! Best clean nutrition on the market.”
Favorite piece of gear: “Prototype shoes for Saucony. I work closely with trail development team and super excited for what’s in the pipeline!”
Who inspires you: My mom.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: “Oh so many! Always love Lindsey Sterling’s ‘Song of the Caged Bird’ while running on sweet single track.”
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: “’Slow down to speed up.’ Sometimes while running I’ll have a mantra and say ‘Gather’ to help ground me or ‘Perspective’ to bring me back into myself. Helps!”
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram: Kt_runshappy; I love this community and happy to connect!