With one championship in hand this month, Elizabeth Laseter will attempt to earn another one at the Beat the Heat 5K's N.C. USATF championship race July 22.
This time, she can enjoy the beer after the race instead of having to consume it during the race.
Laseter is the newly crowned women's champion of the Beer Mile World Classic, held July 1 in Chicago. She consumed 48 ounces of beer and sprinted a mile, in four segments, in a mere 6 minutes and 3.75 seconds.
With a 5K best of 16:48, Laseter can simply focus on speed and her competition in the Twin City Track Club event at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.
"I'm excited about the race," she says. "I haven't run a ton of road races in Charlotte, let alone North Carolina. I'm just excited to come do that in my home state."
Laseter spoke with me this week via video. We talked beer and running and all that comes with that.
RS: Congratulations on your Beer Mile World Classic championship. What was the key for you in pulling that off?
Laseter: "Unlike past years, I really tried to hone in on practicing this year. That's everything from practicing chugging, practicing drinking and running, when you're out of breath, which is always the challenge with that event.
"And it's kind of hard to practice for a beer mile (laughs) because who wants to go and chug four beers in the middle of the week? Where I cracked the code was practicing with non-alcoholic beers. Athletic Brewing has this one beer, Upside Dawn. It's a very easy-drinking – they probably wouldn't love me saying this, but kind of tastes like Budweiser (laughs). But that was great because you get the same effect but you're not stumbling on the track afterward (laughs).
"I just found myself a low-key track in Charlotte and I tried to go out there at least once a week and just really tried to improve my chugging, which has always been my weak spot. That definitely helped for sure this year."
Day job: Content strategist for Apartment Therapy Media, based in New York. "My background is really in food, cooking, writing, editing," she says. "I went to culinary school after college, worked as a line cook, personal chef, recipe developer, all sorts of things in the cooking world. In terms of media, I worked at Whole Foods Market in Austin. I was there originally as their digital editor. I've done writing and editing for food websites, Cooking Light, Allrecipes – just kind of a little bit of everything in the food world."
Beat the Heat experience: First race.
Running background: Ran middle distance and steeplechase for Johns Hopkins University, which competes in NCAA Division III. Has competed in mile, 5K (16:48 PR), half marathon (1:18:04) and marathon (2:48:46) distances since college. Represents the Bat City Track Club of Austin, Texas, and is coached by Jeff Cunningham.
RS: I couldn't chug water if my life depended on it. How do you get good at that?
Laseter: "It's really hard. There's so many things that can happen that are out of your control. Eighteen seconds (per-beer average) was a bit slower than I was expecting. This is just what can happen: I knocked over, accidentally, one of my beers off the table and someone had to put it back up there. And when I opened it, my third beer, the foam just exploded everywhere (laughs). If you've ever tried to chug foam, it's a very miserable experience. I really tried to not throw up. That was definitely a minor setback in the race.
"The best chuggers can open their throats, and the beer just slides down in five seconds or less. I can't do that. I have tried many times, but I can't do it. I get beer all over my face (laughs). It just doesn't work. So everybody kind of adopts their own technique. If you've seen the live stream, my technique does get called out a bit in the video (laughs). I don't know if it's the most efficient, but I always try to breathe as much as I can through my nose while also just forcing down the beer.
"This sounds awful just talking about it (laughs)."
RS: What's your go-to beer mile beer?
Laseter: "I don't know if it's go-to; it's just the one I've practiced the most and it's what I've stuck with. But Bud Light Platinum: You'll see a lot of the elite beer milers use that one. It comes in a bottle. It has a twist-off top, which is really important. A lot of people wear a glove, and that's to help twist off that bottle cap quickly. I've done it a lot of times without a glove and I get cuts on my fingers (laughs).
"It's 6%, which is a bit higher than I would probably prefer. But something about the shape of the bottle; I don't know what it is. It's definitely been one of the easier ones to get down quickly."
RS: What's your experience in managing your beer at a race?
Laseter: "You definitely do not want to try to drink an ice-cold beer. It's painful, it hurts to get it down (laughs). But you also don't want your beer to be too warm. I've had that problem before. The times I've almost thrown up have been when the beer is too warm.
"You really want to get that sweet spot where it's not 100% chilled but it's also not necessarily room temperature. I probably like mine a little colder than most people. This is going to sound crazy, but it's a very careful balance between figuring out, 'OK, what's the temperature outside? What's the optimal time to take the beer out of the cooler so that it gets to the temperature that you want?' If it's hot outside, you don't want to give yourself much time at all. But if it's cold and it'll take longer – it's just all of these little things you weigh, which is absolutely nuts to break down."
The key rules of a beer mile, according to BeerMile.com:
• Each competitor drinks four cans or bottles of beer and runs four laps around a 400-meter running track (chug a beer, run a lap, and repeat three times).
• Minimum alcohol by volume is 5%.
• Beer must be no less than 12 ounces with no specialized cans or bottles that would pour at a faster-than-normal rate.
• Beer must be consumed within a 9-meter transition area.
• A reversal of fortune, or vomiting, requires the runner to complete an extra lap.
RS: What are some of the things you have to think about, or not think about, to keep your beer down and not get penalized?
Laseter: "This is going to sound gross, but don't forget to burp. Burping is very important because it settles down the carbonation in your stomach. Sometimes I have to mentally remind myself. Even if I feel OK, just reset yourself every lap.
"Also making sure that your stomach is in the right place before you even do it. This sounds silly, but I prep for it much like I would prep for any road race. You don't want to go and eat the world's spiciest burrito an hour before a beer mile because you're going to throw it up. That's just not gonna work (laughs). I try to eat really bland, typical foods like oatmeal, peanut butter, toast, bananas."
RS: How long does it take after you've finished before you start feeling the full effects of four beers?
Laseter: "I'd say between 10 to 15 minutes. And you're like, 'Oof, I've been hit by a truck.' (laughs). It hits you hard. But it's kind of fun because you're just in party mode and it's great. Maybe it's that mix of endorphins as well."
RS: Shelby Houlihan, the suspended track athlete, ran, although not in the championship division, and she finished in a world-record 5:43.81 (read more). Does a runner who is suspended have a place in a beer mile?
Laseter: "That was definitely a big point of controversy this year. Shelby was not technically violating any terms of her ban. She cleared it with USATF.
"But in the athletes' perspective, we felt that having her compete in the event, in our race, was violating the spirit of her ban. It was definitely a bit of a point of frustration for us, with the event organizers. I don't think they should have allowed an athlete serving a suspension to compete.
"My concern was really preserving what makes the beer mile so special and unique. And it's the community around it. We're all there to have fun."
RS: I've asked you a bunch of beer mile questions. But you're a very fast runner! What's the key to your speed these days?
Laseter: "I've been really fortunate to have a great coach, Jeff Cunningham. He's the coach of the Bat City Track Club in Austin. His training is probably some of the toughest training I've ever taken on. But it's really paid off.
"Since working with him, almost been three years now, I've PR'd in almost every distance: the mile, the 5K, the 10K, the half, the full and the beer mile as well (laughs). I owe a lot of my success to him. When I lived in Austin, the team was great. I had so many awesome teammates to train with who really pushed me. I've been doing a lot of my training alone here in Charlotte, which is tough. But I still have the support of my coach and my group."
RS: What lies ahead for your running career?
Laseter: "I'm focused on trying to get the most out of myself as possible. I mean, I'm 34. I don't think I'm going to be fast forever. But I love the mile, I love the 5K. I want to really focus on those events and run as fast as I can in those races while I still can.
"I can't ignore the marathon. Training for the marathon makes me a better runner overall. I'm going to commit to doing probably one marathon a year, but then the rest of the year I'd like to focus on some of the faster stuff."
RS: Do you prefer a beer mile or a traditional race? If you had to pick one.
Laseter: "I'd pick a beer mile. Of course. Always a beer mile (laughs)."
RS: When the Beat the Heat 5K ends, will you celebrate with a beer?
Laseter: "Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Oh, yeah. That's the most refreshing thing after, especially in the summer."
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