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Q&A: DTR Athlete, Ashley Erba

By DTR 0


Tell me a little about yourself?

Where to begin? Haha. I’m a 20-year-old Central California native who grew up primarily in Northern Indiana. For the first many years of my life I was homeschooled alongside my two siblings and together we truly learned the value of learning through living, embracing the outdoors and pursuing our passions – whether or not they may have been deemed ‘normal’. Growing up in such a tightly-knit, open-minded family was a huge part of making me who I am today: a free thinking, animal loving, tree hugging, mountain running vegan with a propensity for going against the grain and plunging into unknown territories. ;-D

What was your first trail running experience?

I was fortunate as a kid to have ten miles of mountain bike/hiking trails directly across the street from my house. I took to running at a very early age – I did my first 1-mile fun run when I was 5 years old – and went on numerous trail hikes with my family even before then. While I spent a good amount of time in the woods and on the trails through grade school and high school, I was still racing on the roads and track so I saw the trails in a different light than I do now: as a training tool rather than a destination in and of themselves. My first trail running experiences for their own sake took place at the end of my freshman year of college and the following summer. I needed a change from the stress and confines that my collegiate training schedule was bringing me so over my spring break I headed to Northern Georgia to accompany my mom as she raced the Georgia Death Race. Rather than simply crewing for her as I had done the previous year at four of her 100mile races, I took to the trails with her for the final 15 miles and felt SO FREE. Two months later the school year ended and my trail running life took off – ultimately leading me out west where I’m now exploring trails from Colorado to California, Arizona to Montana.

Photo: James Carney

Photo: James Carney

Who inspires you?

So many people I meet on my travels inspire me – I couldn’t possibly name them all! A few influential people continue to inspire me in ways I can draw from daily, however. When I was just beginning to explore the inner part of myself that craved an outdoor lifestyle, I stumbled upon Jennifer Pharr Davis’ books ‘Becoming Odyssa’ and ‘Called Again’ in which she writes not only about her experiences on the Appalachian Trail but also her journey defining to herself who she was called to be. Her words really spoke to me. Since first reading her books, I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with her and follow the path her life journeys have taken beyond record-setting/FKT hikes. She now has a beautiful daughter and isn’t spending weeks or months on the trail at a time, but she hasn’t ceased pursuing the kind of life that makes her thrive. Jennifer founded her own hiking guide company where she shares with countless others the amazing power of the outdoors and enables them to find their own peace therein. I’ve never heard her preach about the “importance of balance in life,” instead, she just lives it. The other person who I never fail to be inspired by is my mother. The power and inexhaustible depths of her love, understanding, and resilience are nothing short of God’s work. I hear many women say their mom is their best friend but when I say it I don’t just mean we get along and go on social outings together, I truly mean it. Time and time again, through every strain of ridiculous mishap, disaster, and turmoil, my mom has risen beyond human expectations and given more of herself to me than anyone would expect or perhaps think possible. Knowing that such a bond not only can exist but does exist in my life, forever makes me want to be the better person, to never stop fighting for who I am, and to find the ways that I can give back – allowing others to know and find the power that love can have.

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What is your daily training like?

What my daily “training” looks like is almost completely dependent on what time of year it is and where I am. Though I’m in my second year of ultra running, I’m still working to find my groove, my routine, what really works for me. I’ve always loved high volume training but after having been through a few solid bouts of injury, I’ve found that daily high mileage can be more frustrating than freeing for me since it tends to cause flare-ups of old injuries. Instead, I’ve become a big proponent of cross training – hiking, biking, elliptical, skimo, and even the occasional pool day (when I can coax myself into the water) have proven to be incredibly helpful tools for me.

I do still have an integral need to be outside, on my feet, and away from people, however, so big days in the mountains or canyons are a necessity for my mental health as much as my training! Since my daily schedule is fairly flexible and my traveling is extensive, it’s been difficult for me to get into a consistent daily routine over the past several months. Instead, I’ve been selecting my mode of cardio as the spirit and weather moves, incorporating combinations of running, skiing, biking, and swimming to fulfill my training needs for the day. The one day to day constant I do have in my training is my core/strength work which I believe has great benefits for all forms of running and adventure.

What are your goals for 2016?

I’m super excited for what 2016 will bring! I’ve separated my 2016 race focuses into two parts. My first set of goals leads up to Western States 100 where I hope to race my first 100M. Gorge Waterfalls 100k will be my 2016 race debut as I pursue a Golden Ticket for WS100. I will be competing in one other tune up race this spring at the Ultimate Direction Dirty 30 – a fantastic local event with a great atmosphere. I won’t really start thinking about the second part of my season until after WS100 since racing and recovering well from that is my primary goal. The second set of my race goals includes taking on the US Skyrunning series as I look to secure the US Skyrunning Series title this fall. 🙂

Ashley 🙂

author: DTR


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