Team USA: Women’s 2012 IAU 100k World Champions Interview

ChampionshipFor the second time in three years, the women of Team USA won the IAU 100k World Championship. This year, the three scoring American women were Amy Sproston (1st), Meghan Arbogast (4th), and Pam Smith (5th), all of whom reside in the state of Oregon.

In the following interview learn about the team racing dynamic, the nuances of the “separate” men’s and women’s races, how the exciting final 20k played out, and how they feel about their races overall.

Team USA: Women’s 2012 IAU 100k World Champions Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Good evening from Italy. It’s about 9 pm local time here, and we’re at the finish line of the 2012 IAU 100k World Championships. I’m standing next to some very fast women right now. This is Team USA who just took gold as a team and finished (from left to right): first (Amy Sproston), fifth (Pam Smith), and fourth (Meghan Arbogast). Ladies, how the heck are you doing?

Team USA: YAAYYY! WHOOO WHOOOO! Excited!

iRF: Well, that’s the right answer. Probably shouldn’t say you’re upset with any of those performances.

Amy Sproston: A little bit shocked.

iRF: Shocked and happy?

Sproston: Shocked and happy.

Pam Smith: Big PR’s for everybody.

iRF: Let’s start with the team finish and the team dynamics today. As you guys went into this race, did you possess any strategy for how you were going to tackle this to try to go for gold?

Victorious American Women's Team 2012 IAU 100k World Championships

The victorious American women’s team along with the Japanese (2nd) and Russian (3rd) teams.

Meghan Arbogast: I think it’s kind of funny. Amy and I planned on running together early, and we were, first 40k. We talked about not going out too (fast)… 7:15 pace… well, we were 7:05 pace the first 40k.

Sproston: We kept talking about slowing down, but we just couldn’t.

Arbogast: We kept surging and fading, surging, fading. I went ahead on the third lap and I was pushing it pretty hard but I felt great.

Sproston: She was doing some 6:35’s.

iRF: During the third lap?

Arbogast: Yeah. But my third lap was about like the first two. And I knew Amy wasn’t that far back.

Sproston: And I was trying to hang with you but I couldn’t, so…

Arbogast: But that was kind of our approach, to run together as long as we could and then just… Amy’s time goal was a little bit different than mine, so it made sense for me to go ahead. I was shooting for sub-7:40, so I was kind of going after that.

Smith: I had planned ahead of time to run with Carolyn Smith. I like to start a little more conservatively and go for a more even split. I felt like I kind of got sucked into the Winschoten start last year when everyone went out really fast. So we started out “slowly” in 7:20s.

iRF: “Slooowww 7:20s, ok.”

Smith: Yeah, so I ran with her for about 12k and then she felt like she was pushing it a little too much. So I pulled ahead at that point and pretty much ran the rest of the race by myself. I’d catch up to guys for the most part and run a couple hundred meters with them and then we’re not really supposed to be running with them, so I’d try to pass them or pull off to the side pretty quickly.

iRF: And do your own thing for awhile?

Smith: Yeah.

Sproston: Which is really challenging when then men around you are… everyone around you is pretty much men and you can’t run with them so it makes it really… like, I yelled at the Andorran guy a couple of times and I finally switched into Spanish and said, “Leave me alone. You cannot run with me and if there’s a problem, I’ll claim that I told you several times that I said, ‘Please don’t run with me.'”

Smith: I think the men kind of like to have somebody else to pace with as well so they kind of glom onto us.

iRF: Just to clarify, that’s an IAU rule.

Smith: They’re supposed to be two separate races, so technically we’re not in the same race as them. So we’re not supposed to be running with them.

Arbogast: And that’s really to get at teams where, say, if X country had a team with three men and three women and one of the men was having a bad day, he could decide, “well, I could run with one of my team’s women and help her because slowing down would mean her pace,” and essentially pace his own teammate in for a good finish. But we’ve run into men from other teams that just want to run with somebody and they’ll run with us. So you can say, “Run behind me, but don’t run in front of me.” But that’s ok. And I think it’s really, no one’s going to say anything if it’s another team, but we try to…

iRF: Stick to the rules and you’re good.

Smith: And it probably doesn’t become a problem unless you’re running two or three laps with them.

Sproston: And that’s when I started to get worried because he would slow down and speed up with me.

iRF: It’s time for us to break up.

Sproston: Yeah, you’re a nice guy, but, uh…

iRF: I know you’re liking to follow me when I’m wearing my spanks and all, but … Let me ask just one more question about the team dynamics. Were you getting any reports from your crew about where everybody was, where other girls were, or were you pretty much just doing your own thing and letting the results just shine through?

Sproston: I knew where Meghan was, but besides that…

Arbogast: Basically, all they say is how far ahead someone is. So I wasn’t getting any. But there was one little turn around, a little short dogleg and I saw Amy on both of those. The second time I saw her she was even closer, so then when I hit the wall, she was coming trotting up… YOU GO!

Smith: I didn’t know exactly what place I was in but the team had let us know, I think it was the third lap that I was in, that we were in gold medal position so just hold on.

iRF: Be chill, be cool.

Smith: And then it was pressure on me. Pam, don’t choke because your other two teammates are doing really well.

iRF: Don’t fall and hit your head and have a concussion. Don’t swallow a piece of candy and choke literally.

Smith: Maybe they only told me that.

Arbogast: Actually, it was really nice, because when I hit my walland I struggled for a long time, I came into the last aid station, I asked for some Coca-Cola, which did revive me, and Lynn says, “Stay in there, go for the gold.” I said, “Oh yeah, this is a team thing! I gotta go!” So that was good, it was really helpful.

iRF: There was definitely some internal motivation and external motivation.

Sproston: Our motivation was for team gold, so we were not really thinking about individual places, but we were running as fast as we can for the team.

Arbogast: Yeah, because they do score us on times.

US Womens Team 2012 IAU 100k World Championships

The US women’s team after winning their world championship medals and trophy.

iRF: Let’s talk for a moment about each of your individual races. Each of you personal bested by a shit load … So your [Arbogast’s] personal best was by 5 minutes, and your [Smith’s] personal best was by almost 11 minutes, and your [Sproston’s] personal best was 36 minutes.

Arbogast: WHOO HOO!

iRF: Wow. Wow. So, take us through the last 20k of the race. We saw a huge shift in terms of the two of you [Arbogast and Sproston] coming thorough pretty close together, with Sweden’s Kajsa [Berg]. Then, we got a lot of rumors from organizations and text messages, but we’re not actually sure what was going down, so take us through the last 20k of your races.

Sproston: At some point Meghan and I were mostly in fourth and fifth, and so a couple of women had dropped and I started hearing I was in third and I wasn’t far behind Meghan. She was in eyesight, but I wasn’t super close. As we got to 90k, I was starting to reel [Arbogast: There wasn’t much reeling, WHOOF.]. Yeah, it wasn’t that my pace was increasing, but they were coming back to me. I was a little nervous to pass, because I would never expect to be leading. So I was a little intimidated to make that move, but they came back enough that it was like, well, might as well go for it, because it’s a cool position to be in though it’s a little scary.

iRF: Oh yeah, I’m supposed to step into first now.

Sproston: I passed Meghan around 9.5k to go and then passed Sweden right at the 8k, so 5 miles to go, and I tried to make an aggressive move to put some distance, so…

iRF: So during that last little bit were you looking over your shoulder or just running like heck?

Sproston: I really didn’t look over my shoulder, but on the turnaround I could see that there was no one else in the turnaround with me, so I knew I had a minute or so. The motorcycle stayed with Sweden and Meghan. I think it was more of an exhaust issue?

Arbogast: I think it was with Sweden as I was way off the back.

Sproston: So I didn’t have the lead motorcycle with me, but when we got onto the last 2k, it’s a loop around the lawns, I could kind of look back to see where someone is, and I could tell she was at least a minute or so behind, so that was cool.

iRF: So you knew you had a little breathing room?

Sproston: Yeah, it wasn’t like a kick to the finish, it was more like survive, you’re far enough ahead.

iRF: It’s going to be ok.

Sproston: Yeah, it’s going to be ok.

iRF: What about you [Arbogast]? Walk us through the last 20k of your race.

Arbogast: So my first 3 laps were under [1 hour and 30 minutes] and I was pretty stoked. The fourth lap it was like, “Just be Zen.” Just get through it. It’s probably going to be a little slower and it was 1:33. “Ok, and the last lap, run hard!” And I did starting with 20k to go, which was a little too soon, but soon I could see the Swedish woman. “Well, do I pass her? Yes, but make sure when you pass her you’re ready to PASS her and make it assertive.” And I didn’t last very long.

iRF: It was a good surge and then you slowed down?

Arbogast: Yeah, I passed her and then I just about passed out, so I kind of shot my wad. But it was kind of cool to go for it after thinking about it, kind of like you, Amy. “Do I really… I don’t know it’s kind of scary to be out there, but yeah, c’mon, just go for it!” So she passed me back shortly after that and I was just probably going 10:00 pace thinking I might be laying on the sidewalk any minute now. And it wasn’t like a bump, it was more like a lose. Then I could hear Amy coming up behind me, so she passed me and I said, “Yessss, you got it, Amy, go get her!” And then the Russian lady passed me like I was kind of standing still.

I was doing all these things in my head like, “Am I going to finish? What’s my time going to be?” But then with 5k to go I stopped at the aid station and said, “I need some Coke.” I just bonked, but the Coke will totally help. But then Lin [Gentling, US Team Leader] saying, “We gotta go for the gold.” “Oh, that’s right!” And, actually, I had a nice finish. The last 4k were pretty good and I had a strong kick to the finish, so that was nice. I didn’t look ugly.

iRF: So the last 4k was sponsored by Coca Cola.

Arbogast: Yeah, right? Right.

iRF: Just in case Coke is looking to expand their marketing.

Arbogast: iRunFar.com.

iRF: Um, Meghan Arbogast. Well, all is well that ends well, I guess. Maybe the day wasn’t perfect. Maybe the last 20k wasn’t perfect.

Arbogast: Well, in a way it kind of was, I mean, you make these mistakes and it kind of adds to your experience: a lesson learned and what to do next time. So, it’s kind of perfect.

iRF: And you came home with a personal best. And you also came off with a massive new world record for the Women’s 50-59 age group, which is outstanding. I would like to be half as outstanding when I’m 51.

Arbogast: There’s time.

iRF: There’s always time. Pam, walk us through your race.

Smith: Ok, I knew from some of the Italians on the course that were holding up fingers and such that I was seventh, eighth, ninth. I wasn’t getting consistent report but I knew I was somewhere in the top 10. Then, at the last aid station that was manned, which was at about 4.5k to go, all of our people said, “You’re fourth, you’re fourth, we’ve got the gold medal locked up!” I knew Amy and Meghan were ahead of me and they said, “She’s 1 minute in front of you.” And I’m thinking, “Holy crap, if I catch this girl, we’re going to sweep the podium!” So on the out and back I saw here and it was just before the 3k to go mark. I thought, “She doesn’t look that good.” It was a Hungarian woman. So I passed her right before the 1k to go. I just passed her. She had a guy on a bike giving her the lowdown that I was coming. So I passed her and I was totally stoked. I was just giving it my all. I’m giving it everything I can because I want that third place. This is awesome. And I crossed the line…

iRF: You think you’re coming across in third.

Smith: I did. I crossed the line and they said, “You’re fifth!” And I was like … I was still excited by the result but it wasn’t quite the result that I’d been … So it was still a great day for me and I laid it on the line the last 2k there, which was nice to dig really deep when all you want to do is stop. I felt good about that. I think I knew the third lap or so that we were in gold medal position. There was some pressure being the third one on the team to just stay there, and I was pretty solid for the day so that part was good.

iRF: One last question on your race. Knowing that you were the … not last… but the other spoke to the wheel, did that make you run more conservatively within yourself so that there wasn’t anything major that happened on your part?

Smith: Actually, I think the opposite. I don’t want to be so conservative that someone comes and passes us for the gold. I wanted to be really sure that I’m giving it everything that I have because if we lost it, being the third scorer, I’d kind of feel like it was my fault. So yeah, I was trying to go! I also knew I was kind of flirting with that 7:45, which for me was kind of a big barrier, so I definitely wanted to be under that, too.

iRF: You definitely surpassed that barrier, and you brought home a new personal best. The three of you collectively have some pretty sweet personal rankings and the team gold. Inside this building right here they’re getting ready to award you guys your individual medals as well as your team medals. So congratulations to each of you!

Sproston, Smith, Arbogast: Thank you, Meghan and thanks for coming.

iRF: I’m just proud to be standing next to three tough girls like you. So on behalf of iRunFar, congratulations to each of you!

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 17 comments

  1. Dean G

    I love everything about this piece. The team spirit, the accomplishments of these amazing athletes. The word 'inspirational' gets tossed around a lot nowadays. But Meghan Arbogast… wow!

  2. Kristin Z.

    loved that interview!!!!! like 4 old friends talking… except, oh yeah, those 4 friends just placed individually in the top 5 of 2 international competitions a few weeks apart and 3 of them are gold medalists as a team in the 100k!! awesome, ladies! awesome! Great job on the interview, Meghan!

      1. Kristin Z.

        I would sure think so… doesn't she travel to that continent frequently anyway? :) or maybe iRUNFAR Meghan should go for the road 100k! :)

  3. ALDO

    Hands down, best interview ever on iRunFar. Thanks for all the great coverage on the 100k & all that you do for the running community. Meghan Hicks is fantastic.

  4. Sea Legs Girl

    Meghan, thank you so much for all of the Worlds coverage. It was amazing fun to be able to follow along. And how cool to get to hear these articulate ladies talk discuss their experiences.

    Hope somehow your trip gets paid for!!

  5. Amy

    Thanks so much for the coverage. I know that it meant a lot to friends and family back home and it really did help bring home the spirit/flavor of the event to those following from afar.

  6. Timo Yanacheck

    Excellent interview, Meghan. But I suppose you'd say that Amy, Meghan, and Pam made interviewing them easy. I like your asking them to focus on the final kilometers, because there is so much drama and excitement in the second half of this race. Pam, for example, couldn't be sure of what place she was in. That's not at all unusual in a loop course, with slower runners getting lapped, and faster runners dropping out, and other competitors sometimes off to the side getting aid or using the restroom. As you can tell from Amy's comments, you couldn't even count on the the motorcyclists to indicate who the frontrunner was. In the end, though, we all knew who the winners were: they were the six American women on the top step of the podium, the ones with the gold medals around their necks.

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