Featured Runner “Debra Norman” January 2018

Debra Norman (in her own words): I grew up on a small farm south of Grain Valley, Missouri, and graduated valedictorian from Grain Valley High School (back when it was a little school). As a girl, I loved horses and my pony Sunrise was my best friend. We did barrel racing in 4-H horse shows and almost always won the pony division, even making it to state competition one year. Don and I married in 1978 when he was 21 and I was 18. It was one of the best decisions of my life! After our three children came along, we decided to home school. We taught all three of them from preschool to high school graduation. It wasn’t always easy, but the family time together was priceless.


Nicknames: Debbie, or in the local ultra community, “Aaron’s Mom”.

Date of Birth: January 9, 1960.

Place of Birth: Independence, Missouri.

Currently Residing: We live on 40-acres in rural Lafayette County, north of Oak Grove, Missouri. We love the quiet country life!

Marital Status: In April, Don and I will have been married 40 years! We are still sweethearts (and I love it when we run together)!

Job(s): My main jobs are wife, mom, and grandma, but I also absolutely love my part time work at the local library where I am in charge of programs for elementary-aged children.

Children: Three grown children, Aaron, Elizabeth, and Jared (all runners), plus two lovely daughter-in-laws, and SIX grandchildren, ages 3 to 12!

Height: 5 foot, 4 inches.

Weight: 115 pounds.

Shoe Size: Usually 8.5 in running shoes.

Best Physical Feature: My hair (when it’s behaving–usually in drier weather). Yes, I color it because I don’t feel old enough to have gray hair. I have considered letting it go gray when I turn 60 . . . Wait! That is only two years away! Maybe when I turn 70!

Worst Physical Feature: My hair (when it’s humid).

Religion: Church of Jesus Christ, Restoration Branches.

Political Affiliation: Conservative

Educational Background: Some college. I was pursuing a degree in Speech Pathology, until I decided that I didn’t want a career, but wanted to be a stay-at-home and home school mom.

Personal Strength(s): Determination

Personal Weakness(es): Stubbornness that sometimes gets me in trouble.

Make Of Car You Drive: A Dodge Grand Caravan minivan–so I can haul all my grandkids around!

Make Of Car You Would Like To Drive: Probably a Honda or Toyota SUV.

Pets: My Australian Shepherd, Tess, who runs with me sometimes; an outdoor barn cat named Butterscotch; and an indoor long haired (girl) cat named George (whose life mission is to get as much cat hair as possible on everything in our house). We have *retired* from raising farm animals, but in the past have had horses, sheep, cows (including a milk cow), rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, etc.


Favorite Author: Lisa Wingate

Favorite Book: I don’t know that I can name *one* favorite book. I love to read! Besides the Scriptures, I like to read contemporary Christian fiction and also nonfiction books about health and fitness. Working at a library, I always find plenty of books to check out.

Favorite Non-running Magazine: Guidepost Magazine.

Favorite Movie: I rarely watch movies, but if I do, it’s usually a kids’ movie or a faith-based film.

Favorite TV Show: I don’t watch TV.

Favorite Actor/Actress: I am totally illiterate about actors and actresses.

Favorite Music: I love the Bach Cellos Suites!

Favorite Spectator Sport: I don’t like spectator sports unless one of my grandchildren is playing.

Favorite Subjects in School: Math, Reading, Writing, Art, Speech and Drama.

Favorite Game: Freeze tag with grandkids. I’m always “it.”

Favorite Vacation Destination: Anywhere with awesome trails! We have had some amazing vacations in Oregon and Colorado, as well as the Great Smoky Mountains.

Favorite Time Of Day: Evening (I am not a morning person).

Favorite Item Of Clothing: A comfy pair of jeans.

Favorite Non-Running Leisure Activity: Reading, playing with grandkids.

Favorite Running Shoe: Inov8 TerraClaw 220, although they are not quite enough shoe for an entire 100 miles. I have yet to find my favorite 100-mile shoe.

Favorite Food/Drink Before An Ultra: Whole wheat toast (homemade bread) with honey and butter.

Favorite Food/Drink During An Ultra: What I eat during training and want to eat during an ultra: Honey Stinger Waffles, Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, Lara Bars. What I actually can stomach during an ultra: Candied ginger, baby food, soup, watermelon. During a 50K, I stick with just Tailwind. During longer ultras, I am prone to stomach problems, so it’s a matter of just getting down what I can. Being a smaller person, I have learned that taking in the commonly recommended amount of carbs per hour is too much for me and causes nausea. I have also learned that a very empty stomach (because I’m scared to eat) causes nausea. I’m working on finding that middle of the road sweet spot.

Favorite Food/Drink After An Ultra: A smoothie with homemade kefir, greens, banana, tart cherries, whey protein powder.

Favorite Crew/Pacer Person(s): My family is the best crew and pacers ever! Both of our sons, Aaron and Jared, as well as our daughter, Elizabeth, have paced me at ultras. They are top-notch pacers (and crew)! My husband is completely supportive and my biggest encourager. He is awesome crewing for me, and my daughter-in-law, Sarah (Aaron’s wife) is the best crew organizer ever! Even some of my grandkids helped crew and encourage me at my 100-mile races.

Proud Mom, Debra, with her two sons (both ultrarunners), Aaron & Jared.

Debra with her husband, Don, daughter, Elizabeth &
two grandsons after her Black Hills 100 Mile finish!

Favorite Place To Run: Landahl Mountain Bike Park, Blue Springs, Missouri.

Favorite Type Of Running Surface: Technical, rocky/dirt single track trails!!!

Favorite Famous Quote: “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).


Number of Years Running Ultras: I have been running ultras since 2011. I started running in 2002 and ran several years before I even did a 5K race. Once I did, I was hooked on racing. When our son Aaron introduced me to trails, it was the beginning of a serious addiction.

Number of Ultras Finished: My first ultra was the FlatRock 50K in 2011 at age 51! Since then, I have run twelve 50Ks, one 50-miler, FlatRock 101K, and two 100-mile races (although I was only an official finisher in the second 100).

Best Ultra Performance(s): My most exciting race performance was my 50K PR at Rock On, Lake Perry in 2013. I amazed myself by finishing in 5:59:50 and being the third overall female finisher. Being the oldest female to date to finish Black Hills 100 was pretty exciting too!

Most Memorable Ultra: My races the past two years at Black Hills 100 are definitely my most memorable ultra experiences. In 2016, my training went well, but on race day we had record breaking heat. Early in the race, I had a brush with heat exhaustion. Severe nausea plagued me the rest of the race. I could not eat anything and simply ran out of energy. My race degraded to hiking and stopping to sit on rocks. Finally, at the last aid station, I was able to eat. I felt like a new person and could run again. I covered every step of the course, but I was way over cutoff time. I learned so much at this first 100-mile race! I knew I had to go back. Again, my training went well this year. God blessed us with much cooler race temperatures, and I felt incredibly strong during the race. I had a short period of bad nausea, which Elizabeth helped me recognize as my stomach being totally empty. As I started trickling in some food, I felt better. The rest of the race was amazing! I felt good all the way to the end, and to my surprise, never hit the *pain cave*! If you would like to read my full adventures at these and other races, please visit my blog which is devoted to training for and running ultras: www.Hundred4owlHollow.wordpress.com

Typical Training Week(s) Before A Major Race: As an *older* ultra runner, I have found that I need more recovery than younger runners. It works best for me to run four days per week. I do strength/weight workouts three times per week and cross training twice per week (max incline hiking with a weighted vest on the treadmill for races with a lot of vert). I stack my workouts so that all my running, strength workouts, and cross training are on four days and the other three days are total rest. Training for my 100-mile races, I incorporated back-to-back long runs. I ran quite a few weeks with back-to-backs in the 15/30 range, with my longest one being 18 miles on Thursday followed by 32 miles on Friday. My usual training pattern is two heavy weeks followed by a recovery-lighter mileage week. In this year’s training cycle for Black Hills, I ran 6 weeks total in the 50-70 mile zone (not counting hiking), maxing out at 72 mile per week, with an added 12 miles of hiking for a total of over 84 miles. Although it is difficult at times, I love the heavy training, and look forward all week to my long miles on the trails. For more complete details about my 100-mile training plan, see my blog referenced in the previous paragraph.

Injuries: I have an amazing sports chiropractor who keeps me out of the injury zone. (Thank you, Dr. Nathan Uhl). I am also committed to foam rolling and other soft tissue work, as well as mobility work and strength training. These things have kept me free from major injury for a long time, although I do have some nagging issues from time to time. Right now it is low-grade issues with tight adductors. Before I started running ultra distances/trails, I had some nasty IT band injuries that stopped me from running for several months. I basically had to start over. I strengthened my hips and glutes, improved my form, ditched the heavy shoes, and became a more *minimal* runner. ( I still tape my IT bands.)

Ultrarunning Idol: Kaci Lickteig

Why Do You Run Ultras: I love the adventure! I love being outdoors, especially in the woods. Most of all, I love the challenge. All of my life, I have had a stubborn streak. If someone says to me, “You can’t do that,” something inside me wells up and says, “Oh yeah? Watch me!” Also, for me, trail running is a family event. I get the best kind of quality time with my kids and my hubby during training runs on the trails. We talk, talk, talk during runs! I love it when we go to races together! I get just a wee bit excited when one of our kids finishes well—or WINS (which happens quite a bit)!

Advice For Other Ultrarunners: Be patient moving up to longer distances. Strength training will improve your running! A foam roller is your friend. Also, I would like to say a few words to my fellow *older* ultrarunners (or older wannabe ultrarunners). The rest of you can listen in if you want:
Your age is just a number. I am 58 (or will be in a few days). I feel better now and I am definitely more fit now than when I was thirty. If you have aches and pains, and health issues, don’t buy the line that you just have to accept them because you are getting old. Do some research. Look for alternatives. Find the root of the problem and do all you can to improve your health and strength. Strength training is KEY for older athletes. It can slow muscle loss dramatically as we age. It can prevent injuries and even fix injuries that you already have. Eat whole foods. I think as we get older, a cleaner diet is even more important to feeling well.


Personal Hero: My dad. Our family had some rough times during my growing up years, but my dad has always been there to love me, encourage me, and guide me.

Personal Philosophy: Be kind to one another. Forgive and don’t hold grudges.

Short-Term Goal: Plan our 40th anniversary trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.

Long-Term Goal: Stay healthy, fit, and running until an incredibly old age.

Most Prized Possession: Eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.

Most Proud Achievement: Becoming an official finisher of a 100-mile race is right up there, but I would have to say raising and home schooling our kids was my best achievement.

Happiest Memories: Our wedding day, and the births of our children and grandchildren.

Secret Ambition/Fantasy: I would love to run rim-to-rim-to rim at the Grand Canyon. I also dream of running/ fast-packing the Appalachian Trail end to end. Or maybe the Pacific Crest Trail. Why not dream big?

Greatest Adventure: Outside of ultra running, I think my biggest adventure was when my husband and I as youth leaders for our church took about 14 teenagers on a 1000+ mile caravan/camping trip, stopping at churches along the way for the youth to sing and bring ministry.


Least Liked Subject: Football

Least Liked Household Chore: Mopping floors.

Pet Peeve(s): People who choose to be offended.

Greatest Fear: Car accidents.


Book Currently Reading: Just finished Saving Parker by Dan Walsh (Book Three in the Forever Home series).

Hobbies: I like to be creative. I like to write. I like to make things–crafts, sewing (sporadically), painting. I like to make music. I play the piano, flute, and cello–though I don’t play any of them extremely well. I love to grind my own flour from wheat berries and bake fresh bread. If you haven’t had hot bread out of the oven with butter and honey, you are definitely missing out!

Collections: Refrigerator magnets, race bibs.

What’s Next: I have applied in the lottery for Superior 100. As soon as I finished Black Hills, I knew I wanted to do another 100 Miler. The distance still scares me, but I think I am hooked on the 100-mile race adventure experience. If I don’t get into Superior 100, I may find a 50 mile or 100K race in Colorado and give mountain running a shot. I am signed up to run WinterRock 25K and toying with doing the FlatRock Triple Crown again this year. (I completed the Triple Crown in 2015.) I am already signed up for the FlatRock 50K in September, of course. This will be year nine in my quest to enter the Hall of Pain!

Debra, “extremely jubilant” her son, Aaron, won the FlatRock 50K (4-time FR50K Champ, Hall of Pain Inductee) after finishing it for the seventh consecutive time herself!

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