I have had a few coaches throughout my athletic years.  The first time was in 2010 when I hired a coach to help improve my performance on the bike and running, focusing on cycle cross and duathlons. In 2012 I hired a coach to learn how to swim to attempt triathlons.  Learning how to swim was not only hard but impossible for me.  That coaching session did not last long once I realized mastering swimming was not going to occur.  I recently started working with Danielle Snyder. Those who do not know Danielle, she is an amazing runner and owner of several FKTs. Danielle is also the founder of Inner Drive Athlete, which focuses on mental endurance, resiliency, and positive self-talk.

I asked my friend Summer Amauba, who recently hired Izzy Ray of Chaski Endurance Collective, about her motivation behind that decision.  Here is what she has to say:


Summer at Daybreak Racing’s Tillamook Burn 50k (Steven Mortinson)


Tell us about your history of running and what led you to trails?

This is actually a funny story, well, sort of. I played your typical sports growing up, basketball and soccer. And, as an adult, I have always enjoyed being active, hiking, kayaking, exploring the outdoors, SUP, things of that nature. But I was never a runner. That is until I was 35 and met a man we shall call “Bill.”

Bill was a runner. And he invited me on a date to meet at Willamette Park and run to the downtown waterfront. I told him I was not a runner, but he said, “but you are active; you’ll do just fine.” So, I bought a pair of running shoes, and I met him at Willamette Park.

We started running, and after about 1 – 2 minutes, I was gassed and told him I needed to walk. He started to make fun of me. Saying things like, “you look like your in shape, but you’re not” Needless to say, Bill went bye-bye after that date. But I was a little unsettled that I couldn’t run, and I thought to myself, “I’ll show him.”

I bought an app called Couch to 5K and went back to Willamette Park every day that I was instructed to by the app, and after a few weeks of run/walk/jog, I finally got to running 20 minutes straight; without walking! Then I got to 30 minutes, and then I got to 40 minutes!

I soon found out that roads to me were rather boring and found a MeetUp group running 4.5 miles in Forest Park one Saturday morning. The only requirement for this run was that you needed to run 3 miles without stopping, and I could do that! I courageously went to this one run in which I fell in love with the trails, and 6 years later, I’ve never looked back. So thank you, Bill. Thanks for being such a putz!

Why did you decide to get a coach, and when did you begin training?

For years the longest distance I could get myself to run was a half marathon, and it took me several years to get to that distance. I didn’t believe that I could run longer distances. The moment I ran my first 50K, I was elated! I couldn’t believe I had done it. I was fascinated and wanting to know more and do more.

I hired a coach to help me achieve the personal goals I have when running ultras and trying to get me out of my comfort zone and try longer distances. I am also aware that there are many things I do not know about, like strength, nutrition, and other tricks to the trades when out on the trails, such as finding and getting my “cheap speeds” after I ran my last 50k race. I started working with my current coach in Mid-April to gear up for big plans this summer.

What about this coach’s philosophy were you drawn to?

I don’t just get one coach; I get a team! Or a Collective! Even though I work with one coach independently, they speak with other coaches within the organization if I have something come up that my coach has not seen or dealt with before. It really fosters community. I have access to the other coaches in a weekly event called “Coaches Corners.” All of the coaches are either Elite or Professional Athletes. They all work together to achieve our personal goals and improve each athlete’s health and performance.


Summer at Smith Rock State Park in Central Oregon.


What do you expect to get out of it?

I am not sure what my expectations were. I was hoping not to have wasted my money. I had planned some big excursions this summer, a 40 miler, a few 20 milers, and also (2) more 50K races. Because I had all this planned and was a novice at these distances, I didn’t want to waste money I had already spent signing up for these events. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to take it all on, and I really wanted to experience more excursions and even circumnavigate Broken Top or Mt. St. Helens, so I wanted to try to get into better shape to take on all these tasks. I just decided that I wanted to invest in myself and try to see and do all I could because I love it out on the trails.


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Where is your fitness now? Where do you expect to be in a year?  In two years?

I am so shocked at where I am now. My longest run before this year was a Half Marathon in 2018. December 2020 was my first 50K, and since then, I’ve run two of them.

The type of elevation runs I’ve done has significantly increased, and I don’t see things changing. I hope to run a 50 miler in 2022, and within 2 years, I hope to maybe place in my age group when running a 50K just one time.

How is training going?

Love it! So far, it has exceeded my expectations. It’s only been a short amount of time. He’s really gotten to know me and has already fixed some of my reoccurring aches by implementing more mobility and strength training. I am really excited to see what happens as we move along. This is the best training experience I have had. I am really grateful that I took my time in selecting a coach. I interviewed about 4 different companies before making a decision.

What is your lineup of races/adventures for 2021?

I just got a big smile on my face thinking about this summer!

R2R June 6th, and I will be planning R2R2R 2022!!

BackCountry Rise 50K 7/17/21

Wyeast Howl Half Marathon 7/31/21

Goat Rocks 20ish Mile Excursion August 8/21/21

The Enchantments!!! 8/29/21

North Cascades 40 Mile Excursion 9/11/21

Rogue Gorge 50K 10/17/21

I have concrete on the books, but I also hope to fit in a trip around Broken Top, Loowit Trail, or Timberline. I have a few gaps, so I think we can get them filled.

I’ll also be volunteering at Wyeast Howl 100K, and I hope to fit in a couple of other volunteer opportunities.


Summer and I volunteering at Tillamook Burn 50 mile race. (Steven Mortinson)


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Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Although I have a coach now, before that coach, I met some amazing women. These ladies really helped support and encourage me to run my first 50K. I experienced it with these gals and got to share it with them. I was really nervous to always run in a group because I couldn’t keep up or just felt like I didn’t fit in. I was fortunate to have met a couple of women that included me, showed me ropes, shared tidbits with me, told me I could do it, and were there with me with all my firsts! It took me several years on the trails to find these ladies, so if you are still searching, don’t give up, we are here.

If you are considering a coach, please also consider these other coaches that have contributed to Northwest Dirt Churners:

Portland –Wy’east Wolfpack

Portland – UltraU

Portland – Fit Life Run Life

Bainbridge Island, WA – Keith Laverty of TeamRunRun

Challis, ID – Gauge 20 Running

Cannon Beach, OR – Cameron Francey

Bellevue, WA – Adam Stuhlfaut of Stride Sports


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