Exclusive Athlete Interview with Michele Yates (Suszek)

Michele Finishes 4th at One of Her Favorite CO Races: Pikes Peak Marathon 2012 (First American Female)
Michele Finishes 4th at One of Her Favorite CO Races: Pikes Peak Marathon 2012 (First American Female)

Running aficionados will see a new name among the top ranks of distance runners these days, as elite speedster Michele (formerly Suszek) Yates recently tied the knot.  Her familiar face and top finishes, however, will stay the same.

Upon initial review of Michele’s recent accomplishments (2012 USA 50 Mile Trail Champion, 2013 USA 100K Trail Champion, 2011 USA Mountain Trail Teammate, 2008 and 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier, to name a few), it was clear that this dominating road, trail and ultra runner had something up her sleeve.

That something, after further review of Michele’s interview, was a clear list of goals set out.  While her motivation clearly comes from her faith and a fire within, Michele sets out each day with an image of where she wants to go, and chases her dreams with hard work and determination.

Quick Stats

Name: Michele Yates (Suszek)

Age: 30

Hometown & Current:  Alpena Michigan, current: Littleton Colorado

Professional & Educational background:  Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiological Sciences, concentration in Fitness Management

Sports participated in: Distance Running- Road Marathon/Trail/ Ultra’s

Years in current sport: 17 years

Racing Team:  Dream Live Run

Sponsors/Affiliations:  Icespike, GU Energy, The Simply Bar, Body Armor Super Drink

The Long Run

What are some of the biggest highlights in your racing career ?

One of the biggest highlights in my racing career was coaching myself to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials in the road marathon…and then again for 2012 (although by 2012 I did have 6 months of coaching in 2009 that I learned a lot from and experience ).  My proudest moment was earning a spot on the USA Mountain Trail team in 2011 to compete at the world championships in Tirana, Albania.  The most surprising highlight would have been winning the 50 mile USA trail championships last year as well as the USA 100k Trail Championships this year.  The 50 mile was just a challenge I wanted to take on for myself and it sounded like a fun road trip with my best friend Erin.  I tried to race smart (obviously never racing this distance before), but I was confident in my trail abilities.  The course was 3 loops and for the first two I stuck with Melanie Fryer (an elite ultra runner). I decided that if I felt good I would just hammer down on the last loop (with Melanie or not).  I felt good :).  

2011 Team USA
2011 Team USA Mountain  Trail Team

The 100k training did not go as planned (due to illness). I was hesitant and even at one point decided on not going.  However, with great support from people who hardly even knew me, (but I guess believed in my abilities)…I was on the long car ride down to Bandera Texas with my new buddy Dan Vega.  After discussing my race plans with him, he inspired me to give it all I had (something I’ve been longing to do for so long, but did not have the confidence).  This time, I felt like I had nothing to lose though.  I have never raced this distance before either, but oh how I love the feel of the rocks, mud, and roots beneath my feet!  I surely didn’t think I would be leading the race after the first few miles, but if I was going to lead, then I would give it all I had all the way to the finish line…no matter what kind of lead I had.  Funny though, no one ever told me, nor did I ask, where the other women were in the race. For motivation, I always tell myself there is a lady right behind me, keep moving!  So after finishing, I learned that at one point, at least one of the women was 2-3 minutes behind me.   I don’t feel this kind of success is possible without God. 

Michele Wins the 2013 USA 100K Trail Championships at the Bandera 100K
Michele Wins the 2013 USA 100K Trail Championships at the Bandera 100K

What are your long-term goals?  What do you want to achieve as an athlete?

My long term goals would be to win a World Championship (maybe ultra this year?!), make the USA team for the Mountain Trail team again…and have the team dominate! I’d want to earn a spot on some USA running team for the 2016 Olympics (I was hoping trail would become a sport!) Another win and course record at the USA 50 mile trail race this March, break the “American Trail Record 100 mile” (doesn’t necessarily exist, but one women has run a 14 hours, 57 minutes and 18 seconds time on a trail which some consider “the record.”  Win the USA 50k Trail Champs, marathon trail champs, and  ½ marathon trail champs :).  Nothing big! …but I’m sure going to try! Oh and finish top 3 for females at the Western States Endurance Run!

Why Colorado?  What makes Colorado so special for endurance athletes?  What makes Colorado special to YOU?

Actually, I hated the fact that so many athletes trained here and fought moving here for a little bit because I didn’t want to be caught up in “just moving to Colorado because every other athlete did.”  I like to train a lot by myself, and even though I’ve moved several times in this great state, I realized there are many places to train here that aren’t crowded and that are absolutely beautiful and perfect for training.  Colorado has the four seasons (which I love), the mountains and trails (that are perfect for outdoor activities, training, and fun!), as well as the pretty mild winters that keep runners training through the winter months. Colorado just feels like home to me.  As mentioned, it’s a state with many year round activities, so if you are bored…it’s your own fault! 

Middle Distance

Take us through a “day in the life,” what type of training regimen do you follow?

My days start out at 6am with a tempo run, then a quick run with one or both of my dogs, breakfast and a shower, some paperwork/programming for my online coaching business, eat again.. then go to the gym to work and train clients, back home to do a speed workout, lift weights with core work, stretch…shower and dinner with a little bit  more work. 

What are one or two things you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?

I focus on leg turnover (aka speed).  My training is more quality not quantity…I don’t do long slow distance, why practice running slow?  When I really get rolling in my speed workouts, my volume is high enough to replace those long slow runs (which are done for the purpose of increasing volume), so my speed endurance is the increased, helping me achieve faster times over longer distances.

Do you follow any specific nutrition plans?  What are you favorite recovery meals, drinks, etc.?

I am dairy and gluten free so I actually make a lot of my own food with the products I can have ( I have food allergies!)  I pretty much eat the same things everyday which consist of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, The Simply bars, and Honey Nut Chex!  I use GU Energy products pre, during, and post workouts…and GU Brew is great after workouts.  I also drink at least one Body Armor Super Drink a day…liquid vitamins! (makes it easier to reach your daily intake!)

Do you have any recommended resources to share (books, seminars, websites, coaches)?

www.dreamliverun.comwww.guenergy.com, www.icespike.net, www.thesimplybar.com, www.drinkbodyarmor.com, www.ontarget4veterans.org, www.tejastrails.com

What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?

Having to work part-time at a gym and getting my training in is the biggest challenge in order to achieve my goals.  I just take it a day at a time and my wonderful husband, Wyatt …helps out a lot too.  I try to stay as organized as possible and prepare for the week on Sundays (hopefully there is time), for example: make a huge pot of homemade chicken soup to have on hand if I can’t fix dinner. 

What are your favorite races in Colorado?  Why?

Pikes Peak Marathon because it’s not just the challenge of 26.2miles…its technical trail, elevation, and one heck of a fun down hill! Crazy legs 10k is also a great trail race in Loveland CO.  The speedy start and finish make for a great time, while the technical, hilly trails in between make it a real race. 

Where do you like to train in Colorado?   Why?

I now reside in a beautiful home in Roxborough Village (by Waterton Canyon, Chatfield Reservoir, Deer Creek and Roxborough state park)…so as you can see, I have candyland in my backyard and this is where I like to train.  Although, Colorado being as awesome as it is, I do shoot up to Chimney Gulch trail in Golden sometimes and truly miss Rabbit Mountain (where I used to live).  I am always open to new trails, back country roads, and any speedy cement I can find :).  Colorado’s trails, parks, bike paths, and roads…all make for easy, no excuse training because of the majestic beauty of the land here. 

Michele at Downhill Worlds
Michele at Downhill Worlds


Favorite running shoe: Saucony Peregrine, Mirage, Omni

Favorite post-run/race beverage:  GU Brew

Favorite post-run/race meal:  Pizza (although with my food allergies, it is a rare treat)

Role models:  My family (Angela Soltysiak, Nicholas, Bob and Carol Suszek, and my husband, Wyatt Yates)

Day job:  Personal trainer/coach/elite athlete

Solo runner, running partner or team/group?   I like to run solo!

Favorite Restaurant: Joy Sushi

Favorite Coffee Shop:  Don’t drink it!

Favorite Bar:  Ecks Saloon, Mirage Sports Bar

Favorite Running Store: Road Runner Sports

Favorite non-running activity: Hiking

Favorite book: The Bible

Favorite movie: Inspirational Running Movies (no favs)


Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?

Yes, making a really hard decision to leave Colorado, my awesome little ranch cabin, and dance team for a few months during the spring of 2011, in order to get help from my family in Northern Michigan to pursue my running goals.  After a few weeks, I had traveled to NH and earned a spot on the USA Mountain Running Team (the proudest moment in my life).  From there, I competed in the World Championships and when I returned back to the States, I was on my way to make life work in Colorado again. 

What was the best advice you were ever given?

“With God all things are possible.”

Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by?  That you train by?

“Never settle in a race…Never settle in life.”

What keeps you motivated?  Where do you draw your inspiration from?

God…and the fact that he has given me talents and gifts that I can show the world and hopefully inspire and motivate others to believe in him and themselves. 

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