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Audrey Dunne of Curation Foods: Extreme exercise makes her day

When Audrey Dunne was a senior in high school in Dana Point, CA, she went on a little biking trip with her dad and sister. Over a four-day period, they rode about 300 miles from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo, along California’s coast.

“My dad was a long-distance cyclist and thought it would be a great trip for us,” she said.

Turned out it was.

The trip connected several dots that have proved pivotal in the 33-year-old Dunne’s life. She ended up going to California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, got hooked on endurance exercise while there and joined the produce industry ranks a decade later in the same general vicinity.if11Rob and Audrey Dunne at the Wodtoberfest regional crossfit competition.

Dunne, who is a business development manager for Curation Foods (formerly Apio Inc.) in Guadalupe, CA, grew up in Dana Point in Southern California’s Orange County. Her mother had spent part of her youth in San Luis Obispo, which is about 250 miles north of Dana Point, and a lot less congested.  

“We used to go up there all the time and I loved the community. There was not as much hustle and bustle as in Orange County,” she said.

So when Dunne started considering colleges, Cal Poly SLO (as it is called) was high on her list. She majored in marketing and business and envisioned a career in brand marketing. While in college, she joined the college cycling team and got somewhat hooked on endurance training.  After college she started running in long-distance races, competing in both a half marathon and a marathon,  “And then a friend said ‘Let’s go run a 50-mile race,’” she said.

Dunne accepted the challenge, began training and in 2009 she ran her first 50-mile race. Over the next several years, extreme endurance runs (ultra races) were her passion. She completed eight 50-miles races and two 100-mile races — and she wasn’t just content on finishing.  “At first you just want to finish,” she said. “Only about 30 percent of the runners who start these races finish them.”

Soon, her competitive spirit took over and placing was a goal. “I was able to place in several of the races,” she said.

These ultra races each have their own set of rules. In 2011, Dunne (Audrey Watson at the time) ran the San Diego 100 in about 27 hours and 22 minutes, finishing 50th of 109 finishers. She was the 15th fastest woman and among the top few in her age group. About 300 racers started out that day. The race has a time limit and entrants have to finish in 33 hours.

Her other 100-mile ultra race was run in India in the Himalayas at 12,000 feet. The race took place over four days with the racers running between villages about 25 miles apart.  That’s basically four marathons over four days.

Dunne loved the adrenaline rush she got from those endurance races but admitted the training regime makes it difficult as one gets more entrenched in a job and time constraints limit training.Rob-and-Audrey-Dunne-and-Family our-dog-CharlieAudrey and Rob Dunne with their family, including their dog, Charlie.

After graduating, Dunne embarked on a career. She absolutely loved San Luis Obispo but there are more grads every year than jobs in the area, so she had to look elsewhere.  She was hired for her first position back in Orange County as a marketing assistant involved in brand marketing, but Dunne discovered she was a sales person at heart and realized she needed a much more customer-facing position. For the next eight years, she enjoyed a territory sales career based in Orange County specializing in the medical industry. It was also in Orange County where she met her future husband, who was a plant manager for Greenline’s West Coast production facility.

Greenline was purchased by Apio and Rob Dunne was asked to move to the San Luis Obispo area to be a plant manager for Apio. He asked Audrey to go with him and she jumped at the chance to move back to her favorite area. Rob Dunne and Audrey Watson were married in the summer of 2016 and soon thereafter a recruiter began talking to Audrey Dunne about a job in the produce industry. “It took about five minutes to realize it was a position with Apio,” she said.

Dunne had attended social functions at the firm with her husband and liked the atmosphere. “I knew what I was getting into,” she said.  “I knew it was a warm and inviting environment.”

She was hired on Halloween Day in 2016, and after more than two years on the job, her opinion hasn’t changed. In fact, it has expanded to include the produce industry in its entirety. “They say people never leave the industry once they get into it and I can see why,” she said.

Dunne has immersed herself in the industry, taking part in the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s Apprenticeship Program and is a regular attendee at industry events including those involving the council and one of the produce industry’s favorite charities, City of Hope.

Dunne is especially excited about the changes occurring at what is now Curation Foods. She is on the grocery team for the West Region, calling on retailers and representing the company’s brands, especially its Eat Smart line. “This is such an exciting time for us as we expand and add new items,” she said.

While at its core, Curation Foods is a vegetable company, it also provides many other items — literally from soup to salad, with olive oil and guacamole being part of the mix. With her husband being involved in operations and herself on the front line in sales, she has familiarity with all the opportunities and challenges that come with a company in a growth mode.

On the exercise front, Dunne has not retired her running shoes. She still runs about three days a week and she and her husband have become devoted to the CrossFit Training regimen, which involves training across several different strength and endurance activities. It basically takes a whole body approach to fitness. Members compete against their own personal records but there are also competitions involving CrossFit devotees throughout the region and country.  

“What I love about it is that no matter where I am I can go to a CrossFit gym and exercise,” Dunne said. “This morning I was in Sacramento (on business) and found a CrossFit gym there. I have been doing CrossFit for about four years and I try to work out four to five days a week.”

If that isn’t enough, Dunne is also a certified yoga instructor. She is clearly a great representative of the millennial generation, checking all the boxes in building a work/life balance.