Chatting with Rory Bosio on the patio of her apartment near Donner Lake, she seems like any other down-to-earth Tahoe gal. In her characteristically bright attire — a mix of neon purples, greens, pinks, and blues — she happily soaks in the late-summer rays, occasionally interrupted by her dog Louie, who’s keen to play. She looks in her element, relaxed and content.
But this down time is a rarity for the 29-year-old, who in fact feels most at home when she’s many miles into the wilderness, conquering one of her favorite Tahoe running trails. And while her humble, carefree demeanor might suggest otherwise, Bosio is quickly emerging as one of the most talented female ultrarunners in the world.
On the day we chat, Bosio is fresh off a trip to Europe, where she turned in an unprecedented performance at one of the world’s most challenging ultrarunning races: The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The UTMB is a complete tour of the Mont Blanc massif that starts in Chamonix and travels 104 miles, passing through three countries: France, Switzerland, and Italy. It features a brutal 31,496 feet of climbing, and racers have a maximum of 46 hours to complete the distance.
It only took Bosio 22 hours, 37 minutes, and change. She didn’t just win the women’s race; she dominated, besting her next female competitor by nearly two hours, eclipsing the previous women’s course record, and finishing seventh overall in the men’s field.
It was a historic feat, but in her usual low-key approach, Bosio’s focus is on how much she enjoyed herself.
“I couldn’t have expected that result at all,” she said “But sometimes you have races where things just kind of click, and that was one of those days. Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking too much about the results, I was just happy with the way I felt running. I think people tend to read too much into the results and times, especially over such long races with different conditions.”
Bosio says that while the UTMB was a lot harder than anything she’s done before, and she wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, the longer and more challenging courses actually suit her best.
“I tend to feel better in longer races; I like the slower pace,” she said.
And while she has competed in several “shorter” races in the ultrarunning circuit, from 50 kilometers to 50 miles, the 100-milers have proven to be Bosio’s stomping grounds. She’s completed five of them so far, including three historic Western States 100-mile runs in which she has never finished outside of the top five women, and finished as high as second in 2012.
Despite her successes, Bosio doesn’t consider herself a natural talent when it comes to running long distances.
“I still don’t feel I have a knack for it,” she said. “It’s just something I really like to do.”
As such, results are never her primary focus. She takes a laid-back approach to racing and training, and aims to keep it fun. She doesn’t keep track of her mileage, and doesn’t even wear a watch.
On a typical summer training day, Bosio will head out for a three- to five-hour run in the morning, and then come back and paddleboard or ride her cruiser bike in the afternoon. She is regularly spotted riding this hand-painted steel cruiser bike up Donner Summit, and even once rode it all the way around Lake Tahoe “just for fun.” In the winter, Bosio replaces her running hours with cross-country skiing. She also does yoga to help with injury prevention and general flexibility.
Bosio says Tahoe makes for an ideal training locale, mainly because it gives her so many different options to explore.
“I just love running here,” she said, scanning the surrounding mountains. “There’s a great variety of trails, and the scenery and environment is just so beautiful. I literally have a dozen or so different runs within a 10-mile radius of home. It’s so nice to be able to run out your back door.”
Bosio is also quick to credit the region for her love of the outdoors. She says she spent her childhood days in North Lake Tahoe hiking, skiing, running, biking, playing soccer, and exploring the mountains she called home.
And today it’s that genuine passion for exploring in nature that keeps her going, even through distances most could only dream of running.
“Honestly, for me it’s just a great way to be outside for a long period of time and see some amazing places,” she said of ultrarunning.
But the strong sense of community she’s developed through the sport is another big factor behind Bosio’s love of long-distance running.
“You end up running with the same people in a lot of races,” she said, “and they’re all really nice. We’re all very like-minded people, but there are some really colorful characters, too.”
Bosio, who works as a registered nurse in pediatric intensive care at UC Davis Medical Center three days a week, said she has never thought of running as a job, and enjoys the balance she has between nursing and running.
“I like to keep work and running as separate worlds,” she said. “They are completely different. Nursing is my work, and I’m pretty serious at work, whereas running is the opposite; it’s just a good outlet for all sorts of things.”
And as long as running continues to be fun for her, and doesn’t start to “feel like a chore,” Bosio said she has plenty of miles still ahead of her.
“There are still so many other races I would like to do,” she said, smiling. “It will be at least five years before I can get them all in.”
And with that, she sprawls out in the sun and begins to read, embracing her last few minutes of down time before heading out, with a friend, on another journey into the mountains.
~ Comment on this story online, visit moonshineink.com.