Four years ago, Troy Howard finished second to Karl Meltzer at the 2009 Hardrock 100 when Karl set the then counterclockwise course record. This year, Troy again finished second with the winner, Seb Chaigneau, again breaking the counterclockwise course record to beat him. In the following interview, Troy talks about how his training and racing went this spring, how his Hardrock went, how he uses cycling to train for Hardrock, and why he used trekking poles after not doing so in 2009.
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Troy Howard Pre-2013 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Troy Howard after the 2013 Hardrock 100. How are you doing, Troy?
Troy Howard: Doing great. Doing great.
iRF: You had a very consistent, very solid run out there this year. Tell us about it.
Howard: I felt like I was pretty fit. It’s really hard to tell. The last time I was here was four years ago, so just comparing my training. Actually, my training wasn’t quite as high of volume as it was four years ago, so that was the only thing I was a little nervous about.
iRF: You finished second four years ago.
Howard: Yeah, I happened to finish second and also that year the course record was broken, so there’s a trend there. But maybe third time is a charm. Who knows? But overall I felt really, really good out there. I think the key as it is in most 100s, though this one is a few notches higher, is to not overdo it early and just try and stay steady and take care of yourself when you get really high at the higher altitudes—make sure you continue to eat and drink. I never really had any major lows, and I just tried to keep moving.
iRF: Seb (Chaigneau) and Joe (Grant) were ahead of you all day. They were working together and sort of relaxed. Did you end up having any company along the way early on?
Howard: Early on, yeah. Actually, I probably need to give a big shout out to Scott Jaime for telling me to go right when I was trying to go left a few times out there through Putnam and a few of those places I wasn’t as familiar with. I’m familiar with a lot of the course but I just couldn’t remember, and it was too hard to get some training runs in due to logistics leading up to it. Scott and I swapped places quite a few times, but I guess going up Engineer is when I went a little faster than him. Before that, he and I were always really close together. Actually, even through Sherman as well he was just right there too. So yeah, other than that, I think Chris Price was close to us early on—great job to Chris for coming out here and his first time being on this course. He did a great job as well. I let Seb and Joe kind of… you know I always find it hard to run with somebody because one of those people are always running the other person’s race trying to keep up. I do really poorly when I try and do that. I did not want to try to even come close to those guys yet keep them within striking distance and see what happened later on.
iRF: How long do you feel you had Seb in striking distance?
Howard: Actually leaving Telluride and going up to Oscar’s Pass, I think, it’s hard to remember now, it was somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes depending on who you asked from the aid station. I figured, okay, if I’m going to push, I’m going to push up this pass and see if I can make up some time on him and just see how it went from there. Unfortunately, I think Seb also felt the same way, trying to put time on me and I think he was more successful in that, and I didn’t feel very great pushing that hard at the top of Oscar’s. From that point forward I just went back to what I was doing before and tried to stay steady. Had Seb slowed down, then I maybe would have made another push, but he was really, really strong and had a great race. I didn’t ever feel that I had near enough energy to try to make up that kind of time.
iRF: He must have made really great time from Telluride through Oscar’s because Seb was on Chorier’s pace from 2011 pretty much all day through that point. But from Telluride to Chapman, he really picked it up. If you were still only 10 to 20 minutes behind, you must have been cranking out of Telluride.
Howard: I was still feeling really good through there, but it was kind of after Telluride at the top of Oscar’s that he was feeling better than I was or he’s probably just in better shape. He just ran an amazing race. It’s great to see him be that enthusiastic about it. It’s great for the sport and great for Hardrock.
iRF: You’re always running your own race, but you’re obviously racing at Telluride and Chapman area. When you get to KT, you’re 45 minutes or so back (I can’t remember the exact split). I was there and we told you how far you were. You were with Dakota (Jones), your pacer. Did you sort of back off another step because you had a big lead over Scott (Jaime)? Do you sort of Okay, I’m running my own race, and I’m conservative… what’s going through your head there?
Howard: No, not really. My real goal was to make sure I beat my time from 2009. I really wanted to make sure that happened. Once I realized there was even potential that I could even get under 25 hours, I did not want to… I wanted to just see. I was pretty tapped out at that point and kind of at my limit.
iRF: What was your old record?
Howard: 26:01. I had to get under 26 hours. That was my goal. I accomplished that. I didn’t realize at that point until I saw you that I was doing that well. I don’t really ever like to look at my watch in this race because it’s such a long race. So I really just wanted to see what I could do there and still try to finish still with the best time for me personally on this course. I was really happy. I went off at least a couple of miles coming off of Handies Peak. I missed the turn off at Grouse. If I come back and do it again and don’t get myself lost and I don’t need Scott Jaime to always tell me where to go early on, I’d love to come back and hopefully get under 25 hours and see what I can do.
iRF: What was your final time this time?
iRF: I remember people said at Grouse you said 25 minutes you got lost for. Maybe it’s time to invest a little in those logistics next time.
Howard: Maybe I should look at the math a little bit more before the race. That would probably be helpful. That’s a very clear turn off and there’s nobody to blame but myself. I had my headphones in and there were hikers yelling at me, but I was listening to music so I didn’t hear them.
Hardrock Assistant: Where was it that you went off?
Howard: I missed the left turn to Grouse, the cutoff of Handies.
Assistant: You went around the basin…
Assitant: Fantastic race.
iRF: You’ve now, like you said, been here twice, counterclockwise both years, personal best, two second places. Are you doing to try to get in for the clockwise direction? You’re not a Hardrocker yet.
Howard: I’m not a legitimate Hardrocker.
iRF: Two second place finishes and you’re not a Hardrocker.
Howard: No, I absolutely have to run it the other way. I’d love to see just the difference in the course. I think I look forward to running down some of those really long roads instead of having to hike and run up them.
iRF: Camp Bird—you don’t like running up Camp Bird? Walking up Camp Bird?
Howard: Oh, man. No, totally, I’ll put in next year. I’ve put in every year since 2009, so I’ll continue to put in. It’s still my favorite race out there.
iRF: It’s amazing you ran such a great race. You said you didn’t quite train as much as 2009, you had a couple races this spring… you ran 17th place at Leadville last year, you won a 50k or 50 mile on the roads in Florida, but then you had Quadrock and what was the other?
Howard: It’s another local run called Golden Gate Dirty 30.
iRF: Not that you ran poorly, but…
Howard: Yeah, on paper you look at it and I’m not even a contender here. But until you really understand every person and what they’ve done leading up to it, it’s really hard to say somebody is ready or not. That’s why you see a lot of people that come here and they do really, really, really well that you’d never kind of predict that they’d do so well. That’s really how I have to treat Hardrock. I can’t be one of those people who really races hard in a 50 mile or 50k leading up to it. Honestly, the longer the distance, the better I do generally speaking. So those were all training races. I was a little surprised at a few of those results, though, so I did have to go and look up who I’m racing against, and I realized that a lot of these guys are actually fairly new to the ultrarunning sport. I didn’t recognize any names and they were really fast. It makes me feel a little better. It is a little surprising when I’m pushing pretty darn hard, though on high training volume, I still don’t expect…
iRF: To be 14th…
Howard: Yeah, it’s great. It’s great to see fast guys coming into the sport and really pushing the limits. Faster people make me run faster, too. So it’s all good.
iRF: You didn’t have as much training volume, so what do you focus on? Hardrock is the focus of your training season, so what are the keys to getting ready for this race?
Howard: Totally. I am not a pure runner. My background is that I played college hockey. That doesn’t translate well to running at all and certainly not ultrarunning. I’m not a high-mileage runner. I never break 100 miles in a week. I’d say my peak week might have been 70 miles, but I also do a lot of biking. This year I did a lot of road biking which I’m a big believer in doing a lot of road biking and a lot of time on a road bike which really translates well to hiking a lot. I really alternate and I probably do as just much biking as I do running. That was really my lead-up. I think the difference this year versus 2009 was that I actually was a little more focused in the training I was doing. In 2009, I would go out and do 200-mile rides just to do them. This year I did shorter rides (130 miles) with equally as much climbing, though, and it’s a little more focused.
iRF: I saw a couple pictures early of you descending—you always seem to be descending into an aid station unless you’re climbing to the top of Kroger’s or Virginius—and every time I saw these pictures of you coming in, you were crushing the downhills. Your quads were blown out. It looked like you were going to blow out your quads. How do you season your quads for a race like this? You obviously didn’t blow out your quads.
Howard: My friends always make fun of me just because it’s just genetics. I was born with these things. I can’t go to the gym and have somebody not say, “So what do you do in the gym to get quads like that?” I don’t do anything. I have that advantage. It’s definitely genetics. I just make sure, especially in a race like this, you’ve got to find some long runs where you get a lot of downhill running. I was up on Pikes Peak and we’d run from the top all the way down there. I did a double there one time with one of my pacers, Joe, that helped me out. That’s how you condition your quads. Then you wear really short shorts to make sure everyone sees how big your quads are.
iRF: Totally, secret of the big-quad people… something to focus on. Well, congratulations on your second-place finish and hopefully we’ll get to see you on a clockwise year one of these years.
Howard: Thanks, Bryon. Yeah, sounds good.
iRF: One quick bonus question. It’s the same question I asked Seb to wrap things up—poles. You didn’t use them in 2009, but you did use them this year. Did you train with them? How did they work out?
Howard: I did train with them. Absolutely. I think if you’re going to use poles, you should train with poles. I also don’t really do much in the weight room in the summer because I try to get pretty light. I did do some exercises that mimicked pole motion in the weight room. I think that totally paid off. My arms are fine. My shoulders are a little sore today, but absolutely… hopefully none of my competitors hear this but you’ve got to use poles on this course if you want to go up at a decent pace. It definitely helped.
iRF: What poles?
Howard: I have two pairs. I have some backpacking light sticks which are fixed and not collapsible. I used those on Handies. Then for variety I used the Z-Poles out of Telluride.
iRF: Black Diamond?
Howard: Yes, Black Diamond Z-Poles which are awesome. That’s a great engineering marvel right there.
iRF: Cool. Thank you very much.