Daughter of Distance of the Week: Stephanie Fronk

One of my goals this year is to support more women in endurance and help them connect to each other. There are so many of us out there, grinding out those miles and sometimes feeling alone in our awesomeness.

I thought: What better way to promote female athletes than to feature one Daughter of Distance each week? These will be women who love and embrace endurance sports of all kinds. They are not necessarily elites, though they can be. The majority of them are “regular” moms and wives and girlfriends and friends, balancing work and kids and training.

This week’s Daughter of Distance is: Stephanie Fronk!

Check her out:


Who Is Stephanie?

I am a graduate student, a chemist, and a crazy ultrarunner. I’ve finished 13 ultras, 10 marathons, and a variety of shorter distance races. Graduate school is kind of like an ultramarathon too – you work really hard for four or five years and hope you finish with a doctorate. Juggling 50+ hours a week in the lab, spending time with my boyfriend, and running can get kind of crazy at times. I can’t imagine yet what it would be like to add kids into the mix.

I love playing on the trails. The chance to get outside in the mountains is one I rarely pass up. When I’m trail running, I can forget about all of my failed experiments, rejected papers, and real life stress and instead focus on how lucky I am to live in Santa Barbara, CA with unsurpassable views of the Pacific Ocean, Channel Islands, and the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Running is also social time – a chance to talk and laugh with my friends. If I’m not running one of the local races, I’m usually volunteering. The running community in Santa Barbara has really made me feel at home.

What are your plans for 2016?

I plan to run Nine Trails in March and The Canyons 100k in May. I really want to run another 100 miler in the fall but there are too many choices. Maybe Headlands, maybe Kodiak, maybe someday I’ll dig up the courage to run Chimera.

I will volunteer at a couple of races as well—most likely Born to Run and Red Rock. I hate to miss all of the excitement at Luis Escobar’s events and I love cheering for my friends. I also need to develop a definite plan for graduating and then maybe decide what I want to do when I grow up (to support my running habit).

Tell me about a memorable endurance experience.

A little over a year ago, I ran my first 100-mile race at Rio Del Lago. My labmates thought I was crazy, my parents were worried about my health, and I had no idea if I could run 100 miles. My first ultra was only a year and a half earlier.

My only goal was to finish the race so I didn’t even bother to wear a watch. I didn’t really have a plan—I just wanted to keep moving forward without resorting to a death march at the end. Returning to the start/finish line with 22 miles left in the race scared me. However I rolled into mile 78 to meet my friend and pacer Loren. It was tough, my legs were cramping up but it was also surreal to be running in the dark during the early hours of the morning and so much fun crossing paths with my SB friends also running Rio.

The last section of the race crosses a levy such that you can see the finish line more than a mile away. My first sighting of those lights was definitely emotional—it meant I was going to finish my first 100! The last mile or two is a bit of a blur in my memory but Loren says I must have been “smelling the barn” as we started hitting sub-9 minute miles at that point. Finally crossing the finish line I realized that if you want something badly enough, you can succeed (especially if you have friends to help along the way).

You can connect with Stephanie on Facebook

What does it mean to be a female in endurance sports?

This series is inspired by my book: Daughters of Distance: Stories of Women in Endurance Sport. Here, hundreds of women open up about their realities as athletes, wives, girlfriends and mothers. From the intimacy of the bedroom to the community of competition, some of these stories will encourage and uplift. Others will surprise and infuriate. Welcome to the beautiful and complicated world of strong women.

Check out the Amazon reviews and purchase at tinyurl.com/daughtersofdistance

Will you be our next Daughter of Distance?

Interested in being featured as a Daughter of Distance? Shoot me an email at vanessaruns@gmail.com.

This is a project to feature one woman in endurance each week on social media. The goal is to connect strong women across sports and across the world in celebration and appreciation. Each Daughter of Distance will receive a copy of my book, Daughters of Distance: Stories of Women in Endurance Sports.

And don’t forget to tag your photos and stories with #daughtersofdistance to connect to this awesome community.

See you on the singletrack!

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