Updated: Jan 8
Ilene Bloom is a consulting attorney in the Litigation and Trial Group at Sherman & Howard L.L.C. and will celebrate her 24th year of practicing law this May. She graduated from Indiana University in 1992 and went on to earn her Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Ilene’s active involvement with Colorado bar associations began 18 years ago when she decided to trade the hustle and bustle of the Windy City for the mountainous adventures awaiting her in Denver.
She wears many different hats: practicing attorney, mother, and strong supporter of pro bono efforts. So, what’s her secret to work-life balance? Ultrarunning. In her ultrarunning endeavors, Ilene has developed an impressive physical and mental toughness, serving her well in both her career and family life.
To paint a clear picture of just how tough this sport is: as of November 2019, the total percentage of the world population that has run an ultramarathon is a mere 0.0025% (about 198,000 people world-wide).
For Ilene, 26.2 miles just was not enough. She decided to forego running road marathons and instead train for ultra-marathons, a phrase used for any foot race longer than the standard marathon. Her inspiration to train for ultramarathons came in 2014 when she was at the Rocky Mountain National Park and spotted a fit-couple running on the hiking trails. This phenomenon was unknown to Ilene at the time, but the possibility to combine her passions: running, hiking and outdoor adventure, was too tempting to resist. Around this time, Ilene reconnected on social media with a colleague she used to practice law with in Chicago, a friend who also turned out to be a mountain ultrarunner. Ilene gathered enough information from her colleague that it inspired her to sign up for her first ultramarathon in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming. Ilene has since completed 18 ultramarathons ranging in distances from 50k, 50 miles, 100k, and a single 100 miler.
A popular topic when it comes to endurance training is nutrition. What item is essential to bring with you to an ultramarathon?
Ilene: “In general, I would say that you must bring the nutrition that works for you. Nutrition/calories/energy is so individual and so important to getting through the race, and race day is not the time to be trying out new nutrition.”
What does a typical training schedule look like for you?
Ilene: “My usual training block for ultramarathons consists of running 6-7 days a week. (As an aside, at the time of this writing, I have run for 150 days straight!) I try to run a minimum of 50 miles a week, depending on the length of the race I am training for, and depending on the flexibility of the rest of my life. Emphasis on the word try. I also try to incorporate one day of speed work into my training. I don’t really cross train although I probably should. In addition, I usually have coaching support to keep me on track and focused. “
What are you most looking forward to at the finish line?
Ilene: “Food and taking off my shoes! And seeing the people I came to the race with waiting for me at the end long after they have finished. The support and camaraderie is real. While I am often relieved to be done, I am often also kind of sad it is over, because the experience is so unique and fulfilling. It is not often that I get that many hours of uninterrupted running time outside in the mountains and I try to savor the moments.”
And for a parting tip for aspiring ultrarunners, Ilene says, “If I was to provide any insights to runners new to the sport, I would encourage them to appreciate the highs and lows (of which there are many) of training and racing and just to keep at it. That might sound cliché, but serious discipline is necessary if you want to sustain your ultrarunning and get the most out of the experience.”
Hanna Yearout is a student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.