Renaissance Man - Page 3
How did you get into trails?
I’ve trained on trails forever. Even in high school we did a lot of our training in the arboretum at Carleton College. And I’ve always liked cross county—trail runners don’t even think about it but it’s the same thing, just with shorter races.
My first real trail race was the Superior 50K in 2009, which really was just part of my marathon training. I like to do an over-distance run one or two times before the marathon, three-plus hours, and I like to do it on trails. It’s easier on the body, and you get extra strength work on your legs.
I looked at the course record and thought there’s no way [Superior 50K] was going to take me four hours. The trails I had been on were tamer and didn’t have the technical footing of Superior. It was more challenging than I thought it would be.
As a seasoned marathoner, do you think you have an easier time with 50Ks than 50-milers?
In my 50Ks I’ve always felt really strong and I can never say a 50-mile has gone really well, but I think that just comes with the territory. At American River I was really struggling between 35 and 45 and had to remind myself that it’s 50 miles, and it’s not supposed to be easy. Same at TNF—I had done a lot of training on those trails when I lived out there and knew the course, so I felt great through 33, 35 miles and then I was in the hurt basket for a while. But the cool thing was that for the last seven or eight miles I felt good again. I definitely learned something about the distance that day.
Ultras require a very different mentality, and where most of the talented road racers struggle is being relaxed enough early on. I don’t think people understand the consequences of miscalculating your pace, even in just a 50K. You see it in a marathon—you’ll have a 13:10 5K guy who’s never tried the distance go out too fast and either he can’t finish he is giving away lots of time over the last six miles. Then put that on rugged terrain in questionable conditions and you see my point.
The other thing people don’t realize is the muscular strength aspect. People who have transitioned well to trail stuff are road racers who have a little more muscle mass and a little more strength. Super-skinny guys might not have the strength to go up—or more importantly down—the steep stuff and be intact on the other side.
Will you ever try a longer race—100K or 100 miles?
I’m not sure. I’m really fascinated by the longer stuff, but I’m not sure if I’m fascinated by doing it or observing it. I’ve gone to Western States twice to watch or crew. I kind of feel like I need to get to the point where 50 miles doesn’t feel that ridiculously hard before I try something longer.
You’ve shown a lot of talent on both the roads and the trails. Which would you say you’re more focused on?
It definitely goes in waves. After I left Team USA Minnesota I really was focused on trail running. At the end of 2009 and 2010 I did a lot of trail stuff, but this past year I was trying to get ready for the Marathon Trials. Then this spring I’ve been back on the trails. With trails there’s still so much for me to learn.