Timothy Olson is the defending Western States 100 champion as well as the course-record holder. He’s back this year to defended his title. In the following interview, Timothy talks about the pressure of having the bullseye on his back, how he’ll approach this year’s race, which newcomer has the best chance of winning, and where he’ll look to for inspiration on race day.
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Timothy Olson Pre-2013 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Timothy Olson, defending Western States champ and course-record holder and the man with the bullseye on his back. How’s it going, Timothy?
Timothy Olson: Good. I’m doing well. Besides this bullseye on my back, I’m doing fine. It’s good to see you.
iRF: Likewise. You’re such a low-key guy, I mean, focused on race day, but jovial and low key. What is it like? There has to be pressure. There has to be something different heading into the race after being unknown two years ago and being sixth going into last year.
Olson: Yes, there’s definitely pressure. There’s pressure in every race. You just learn how to deal with it as best you can. Once the gun goes off, it’s all everyone’s game. I don’t feel like a favorite by any means. There are tons of fast runners. I’m just excited to share the day with them and try to keep up with them and see how it goes. Otherwise, I’ve just been keeping really mellow. We’re just chilling in a room. We have some family here—my parents-in-law and sister-in-law are here watching Tristen for me. So I’m getting some good nights’ sleeps and just kind of hanging out, going for little hikes, a little run, reading some books, and, yeah, just chilling.
iRF: You don’t feel like having M1 on you makes you have to be running in the lead to maintain that position in between the start and the finish?
Olson: No, finally where at the beginning of the year I was running 50 miles, 100k, 50k, so those you have to go so much quicker and maybe with a little more strategy where with 100 miles, it’s just you’re going for a long run, so if you’re back a few minutes early on, I’m not going to be concerned about that. There’s plenty of race to go. I know there are some fast dudes out there that I’ve seen take off. I’m not going to let them get too far ahead of me, but I’ll try to just run my own race the whole time. Sure I’ll push it earlier than I did last year, but just to stay with some of these fast guys. Otherwise I’ll just run my own race.
iRF: Nothing to do with the heat wanting to push it early or you’ll avoid that?
Olson: I’m not really too concerned with the heat. We all have to deal with whatever weather is out there. Last year it was kind of nasty at first but then it turned out to be a good day and I was able to throw down some good splits there towards the end. This year will heat us up a little bit but we’ll all be suffering through that. We’ll see who can maintain it and keeps on their hydration and electrolytes. I’ll be concentrating on that.
iRF: It sort of feels like it’s going to have to be a race of attrition whether somebody takes it out and tries to hold on or maybe you take care of yourself better for the first 60 miles and then hold it together and catch people that way.
Olson: Yes, some of the guys like Karl (Meltzer) and AJW, they know. They like to pick up the carnage. They’re going to have fun out there because they’re going to be passing people towards the end. Hopefully it’s not me, but we’ll see. That’s how this race will be run different than last year. It will really need to be about concentrating on yourself and how you’re feeling internally and what you need.
iRF: Does that favor some of the grizzled veterans? Nick Clark just stands out as someone who is tough and runs their own race and in control. Is that somebody you’re going to be thinking about on your shoulder?
Olson: Definitely. There are 10 that could be up there. Nick Clark is an animal. He has it dialed in. He’s run this race so many times. I think he’s quite tired of third place, so I think he’ll be going for… like you’ll do. He’s going to run a smart race and I think he’s ready to win one. Dylan Bowman (DBo) is really ready to run as well. I don’t think people have noticed him as much, but I think he’s really ready to race this. There are a slew of others. Hal (Koerner)—you can’t forget him. He’s the master of the heat and this race; he’s run it eight or nine times.
iRF: He’s won it.
Olson: He’s great in the heat.
iRF: He’s paced you.
Olson: Yes, he got a little time in last year, so it’s good to be running with him again. We have a little bit different roles this year, but we’ll have a good time out there. That’s the fun thing about ultras. We’re all a team running together and pushing each other. However it ends at the finish, we’re stoked for whoever ends up winning.
iRF: Let’s look at the newcomers this year. You’ve got Mike Morton—he’s won, but that was in 1997. Rob Krar, Cameron Clayton, Karl Meltzer—is there one of those guys that you think stands a better chance than the others in the hunt for the win?
Olson: Morton’s just a solid 100-mile runner. He knows this course. He’s been on it every weekend for awhile. He’s super dialed in on the race. He’ll have a solid run. He’ll definitely be running hard from the beginning. I think Krar and Cameron will be running hard from the get-go, too. I know Cameron will—love that kid—he’ll be shooting out of there.
iRF: Going for a 13:30 or something like that.
Olson: Yes, we’ll see a “Kilian” little white suit up there and that kind of thing. He’ll be having a good time. He’s smart, so he’ll know to pull back a little bit. I’m really excited for all the newcomers that are really fast, but Krar too. It’s an amazing year he’s had thus far. It’s just awesome to be running with these new guys. This race I’m finally in the middle. I’m 29 and there are some younger fast guys and then there are the seasoned vets who know what they’re doing.
iRF: You’re bridging that gap with the speed and the smarts and the spirit for sure.
Olson: Yes, we’ll see. I’ve got the spirit down for sure. We’ll see how that rolls tomorrow.
iRF: Last year coming across the line in 14:40 and change, kissing Krista’s big belly… what’s it going to be like seeing Tristen on the course? Is he going to be in on the course?
Olson: He’s going to be on the course. He’s almost 11 months and getting big. He’s quite the handful; he’s moving all over the place. He keeps me quite busy. He keeps me very humble because there’s always the fun of having him at each aid station cheering me on with Krista there. They’re a huge inspiration, so Saturday I’ll just be looking at them and focused on my race and get some inspiration as I pass through the aid stations. They’re my heart, and I push with all my heart, so it’s nice having them there.
iRF: Being here now, it’s your third year, what makes you excited about Western States? Is there anything that stands out?
Olson: I love the beginning of the race, just getting up to the top of the Escarpment and seeing the sunrise. Sunrise is always the best part of the race and enjoying that with others. No one is going all out yet so we’re joking around. I always love that beginning of the race with just the calm before the storm. Then you get 30 miles into it and, Oh yeah, I’ve got a lot longer to go and it’s going to hurt a little bit. I just kind of wait for that to kick in and enjoy the beginning. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful course. I love point-to-point races. The history behind it and all of the different stories with the females and the males… everyone on the whole list has their own story as to how they came here. It’s a very meaningful time to come here and make dreams come true and hopefully make it across the line. That’s the goal for all of us on Saturday, to make it to the finish line in one piece and try to remember as much as you can to have those good memories to take back and tell stories later.
iRF: When you get to the top of the Escarpment, do you actually turn back and look at Tahoe?
iRF: Enjoy that view, Timothy.
Olson: Will do, thanks.
iRF: Do you and Hal have a bet going on as to who is going to have their shirt on longest or take it off first?
Olson: No, we don’t have a bet, but that’s something to think about. I’ll try to keep it on as long as I can, but those things get a little scratchy.
iRF: Four hundred, 500 yards?
Olson: I’ll wait until the light comes up first. I’ll get one or two candid pictures with The North Face logo on there. Then it might disappear for awhile, but then it might come back. Who knows?