Timothy Olson had a breakout year in 2011 and he followed it up with a 2012 USATF 100k trail national championship. We talked about the strength of top ultra fields these days, how his race played out, keeping a positive attitude during a race, his 2011 season, what he’ll be racing this year, and his collaboration with Pearl Izumi on developing new shoes.
Timothy Olson, 2012 Bandera 100k Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: I’m with Tim Olson of Pearl Izumi Ultrarunning Team who just won the Bandera 100k, which was also the USATF Trail 100k Championship. Nice work, buddy! How are you?
Timothy Olson: Thank you! I’m good.
iRF: You looked strong all day. Is that what it takes to win a top ultra these days?
Olson: I think so. Every race I go to it seems there are just more and more fast people out there. I always try to be smart in the race and stay in back a little bit. Then I lose the front pack and play catch up all day long. Today, I was like go out and hang on for dear life. That’s what I did.
iRF: So you were running out there with Dave James?
Olson: We did the first 50k together. I had a little bit of space after that last aid station of the first 50k. I had a little gap there. Then, on the out and back, I saw he was a few minutes behind me and, then, Dave Mackey. So I knew there were people hot on my tail.
iRF: This is probably the biggest race you’ve led at that point. Half way through you’re leading alone. What’s going through your head at 60k?
Olson: Definitely. “Just hold on!” It would be really nice to win one. I’m always in the back 1/3 a little bit so let’s see what I can do. Just keep givin’!
iRF: You always seem to have a positive attitude. I saw you at the turn around as I drove through the park headquarters (60k) and I cheered out to you and you were FIST PUMPIN and…
Olson: I had to say, “Hi!” I heard my name shouted. I try to keep a positive attitude going throughout the whole thing especially at aid stations. My wife usually crews for me, so I try to come through with a smile. It makes her feel good and we get to bring that moment there together where it’s like ok, I’m pushing it hard but I also want to enjoy it, the moment, and running the race. I’m giving it all I’ve got.
iRF: When did you think you had it?
Olson: At a couple of the last aid stations a few people told me I had 10-11 minutes up, so I thought that was a nice little buffer zone. They’d have to really be cruising. I was still trying to give it hard. I definitely wasn’t moving very fast, but I figured if I kept putting one foot in front of the other I should be ok. Towards the last little bit when someone tells you a time, I try to not take that too seriously. They could be off by 5 minutes and when Dave Mackey’s on your tail, you don’t want to know… it doesn’t matter if it’s a few minutes or 10 minutes, he could be there in a second. So I kept pushing it as hard as I could.
iRF: Did you have any low patches during your race?
Olson: Yeah, the last 20 miles were pretty low. Around mile 50 or so I was having a little bit of stomach issues. It was hot out and I haven’t been doing any heat training as of recently. That was definitely messy with the stomach a little bit. I took a moment to kind of step back. I hiked up a couple climbs and got some deep breathing to calm the stomach. I did feel a little bit better. Things turned around. I take those moments to kind of relax and I was just hoping for the best. I didn’t want to blow up too badly.
iRF: How do you feel about your 2011?
Olson: Very satisfied with it. There were a lot of good races. I got to run against a lot of amazing people. I’d love to podium at more races but each race you learn so much from these guys who have been doing it for years. You just have to take each race for what it is, “Ok, I had a good run, I pushed it as hard as I could and I learned what to do for the next time.” So I finally got one today, so that was nice.
iRF: What are you looking forward to in 2012?
Olson: Just going at it! I’m probably going to do a lot of the Montrail Ultra Cup series. Some races are close to where I live [in Ashland, OR] and they’re in California, so I’ll just cruise over there. I’m going to do Lake Sonoma 50 mile, Leona Divide 50 mile, and Ice Age Trail 50 mile. I’m originally from Wisconsin; it’s where I grew up. My wife and I moved to Ashland, OR, 3.5-4 years ago. We want to go back, see the family, and run a Wisconsin race and see what that’s about.
iRF: I recall there’s one heckuva stout course record at Ice Age, are you going to be shooting for that?
Olson: I don’t think completely. It’s definitely preparation for Western States 100 mile.
iRF: So it’s not a focus race?
Olson: No, but I’m going to give it a go. Get a little “speed workout” in beforehand. It will be nice to be with the family. As long as I’m going to visit, I might as well run 50 miles and enjoy that and then get ready for Western States.
iRF: So that’s your big focus on your calendar at the moment? Are you going to try to improve upon that 6th place finish [at Western States in 2011]?
Olson: Yeah, exactly. I’m hoping to.
iRF: How far back were you from first? 40 minutes?
Olson: Yeah, I was 16:18 last year. It was my second 100-mile race. I was quite happy with that. I went from 18:30 at Pine to Palm  to 16:18. I was very ecstatic that I could get to around 16 hours. I’m definitely going to keep pushing it and see what I can do for next year.
iRF: I chatted with you a month ago at the running event here in Texas.
Olson: Yes, this is my second time in Texas. It was fun to see what the trails of Texas are like.
iRF: You mentioned you were working with Pearl Izumi to develop the shoes going forward. Can you tell us a little about that?
Olson: Yes, I’m really excited to see what’s going to be happening there in the next few years. The Peak 2 is great, but I’m really looking forward to the Peak 3. I’ve been running in some prototypes and working very closely with Mike Thompson of Pearl Izumi. He’s just a bud; he’s great. I love talking with him. We just sit there and geek out about shoes. He throws a lot of the prototypes my way.
iRF: What were you running in today?
TO: I was running in a crossbreed: the Peak 2 and the Streak upper. It gives a little more room for the toes to kind of play around a little bit and not bump them as much. I’ve lost 5-6 toenails last year, so hopefully… We’re just trying to find the right balance between having a nice fit, tighting shoe around the foot, but also having some room to feel comfortable.
iRF: Well, they must be doing something right at Pearl Izumi with a first, fouth, and fifth today.
Olson: Yeah! Watch out for us! We have a great team there. These are my friends I run with and people that I’ve looked up to. Nick Clark is one heckuva runner! To be on the same team with him and many of the other runners… it’s a solid group of people and we have a lot of fun. Hopefully you’ll see us at a lot of race this year.
iRF: Thank you and congratulations!