Ultrarunner Katie Asmuth on winning the Bandera 100K with a broken nose
Recently, ultrarunner Katie Asmuth won the Bandera 100K and with it a Golden Ticket to the legendary Western States 100 race in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California later this year. Her win has taken on legendary status, not just because of the challenging race and stiff competition, but because she broke her nose and kept moving after shoving a tampon up her nostril. Well played, we say. Get Out There checked in with Asmuth to ask about the race, and how her face is doing.
“Oh it’s fine,” Asmuth says. “I’m pretty bruised up and swollen, but it will heal just fine.”
And Asmuth should know, she’s a frontline health care worker from California.
Asmuth was competing against a deep field that included Erin Clark and Emily Hawgood who finished 2 and 3 behind her. Recently, Hawgood had beaten Asmuth in Idaho at the IMTUF 100miler, where she placed second.
The Bandera course in Texas is known to be particularly gnarly and technical, so Asmuth says she was playing it fairly conservatively over the first 20 miles of the race before picking up the pace. Emily Hawgood was leading the race but Asmuth caught and passed her around mile 36 and was feeling pretty good heading into the aid station and she threw her hands up in excitement to acknowledge the cheering fans then tripped on a rock and face planted.
“There was complete silence in the Aid Station,” Asmuth says. “I had blood pouring out of my nose, and still trying to comprehend what had happened. An Aid Station crew lead walked over to me to tell me to make sure to let him know if I’m dropping. This fueled my fire — heck no! I’m not dropping!” Fittingly, the motto of the Bandera 100k is “No whiners, wimps or wusses.”
According to Asmuth, a girl at the aid station offered her a tampon for her bloody nose, and that was all she needed.
“She was a dream and probably saved my race,” she says. “As she handed me the tampon, Emily Hawgood ran through the aid station and kept running. I yelled, “Emily slow down! I want to race you!” I shoved that tampon in and off I went! I ended up passing her in the next couple of miles and didn’t see her again until the end of the race.”
Asmuth was almost unable to race. She’s a health care worker who lives in Los Angeles County, one of the COVID-19 hot spots. She works as a family nurse practitioner at the Venice Family Clinic, which offers primary health care for low-income, uninsured and homeless families and individuals. She is also a mom. So, Asmuth and her husband decided that if she didn’t receive a vaccine shot in time, she would stay home.
“It became very real when I was able to get the second Pfizer COVID vaccine the Tuesday before the race,” she says. “I scrambled to make travel plans. Another SWAP athlete, Ryan Miller (who won the men’s race!) connected me with a crew and pacers 12 hours before the race started. It took a village!”
The experience gave the runner a great feeling at the beginning of the race, knowing she almost didn’t make it.
“The start line was pretty surreal. I was full of gratitude for being there. I ran with that stoke, and I think it helped,” she says.
Asmuth has always been into sports, describing herself as a “super active” kid, who also enjoyed being outdoors, and camping with her four siblings and parents in the surrounding mountains. She played club volleyball in college but didn’t start running until after college.
“I started running as a release after night shifts in the ER at LA County General,” she says. “During our honeymoon in New Zealand in 2014, my husband and I started running on trails so that we could cover more ground. After you start running on trails- there is no going back to roads.”
Although she has her outlet in running, Asmut is keenly aware of the impact of COVID-19 as well as the privileged position in which she finds herself.
“Anyone in healthcare has been rocked to the core. It has been a very tough year. Of uncertainty, of sacrifice, of loss. I run with this perspective. I am deeply aware of the struggles of my patients,” she says. “I try to be aware of my white privilege, to have had the opportunity to be educated and now have a career that I love. I used to say that running is for everyone, just grab a pair of shoes and head out the door. I know now that’s not the case. It is sadly a luxury to feel safe running in my neighbourhood, let alone having the time to spend training in the mountains.”
Asmuth ran her first ultra in 2015, 10 months after giving birth to her first son.
“I was hooked and kept training through my second pregnancy, with eyes set on Angeles Crest 100,” she says. “I joined Some Work All Play (SWAP) with David Roche as my coach, in 2018. That same year, I ran the Angeles Crest 100miler, and was hooked! I’m not a visitor to this sport and hope to run into my 80s!”
Her win at Bandera came with a Golden Ticket and entry to the Western States 100.
“It’s a pretty incredible feeling to finally be able to say, ‘I’ll see you at the States,’ she says. “That’s a lifelong dream for most ultrarunners.”