Chris Vargo is a rising star. He finished 17th at last year’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships and he ran to third place this year. In this interview, Chris talks about how his 2013 race season went, his previous-to-ultrarunning athletic career, and why he likes the ultrarunning community so much.
[Editor’s Note: For more information, we’ve published a full TNF 50 results article.]
Chris Vargo Post-2013 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here Chris Vargo after his third-place finish at The North Face 50. Great race, Chris.
Chris Vargo: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.
iRunFar: You’ve had a… I think in my preview I wrote, your stocks arrived and you certainly…
Vargo: Yeah, man, I think I ruined some people’s predictions contests.
iRunFar: I’ll admit you were not in my top five.
Vargo: Yeah, I think my mom probably had me #1 but that’s about it.
iRunFar:You’ve had some great racing this year. Back at Sonoma you were…?
Vargo: I was sixth at Sonoma. That was my second 50 miler that I’d ever done.
iRunFar: There was some really great competition there—really great.
Vargo: Yeah, it was hard.
iRunFar: How did the rest of your season go?
Vargo: After Sonoma I ran Golden Gate Dirty 30; I set the record there at the 50k in Colorado.
iRunFar: Which a lot of people don’t know the Golden Gate Dirty 30, but it’s sort of like the start of the season 50k in Colorado and always has a lot of great Front Range runners.
Vargo: Yeah, I know Dylan Bowman and Nick Clark, they’ve all run it. So yeah, that was fun. That was hard. I wanted to break the course record and I had a great race. Then my Achilles went out on me. No Speedgoat—that was a good race. I haven’t raced since then.
iRunFar: Wow. That’s a long time on the shelf.
Vargo: Yeah, I got some good training in though.
iRunFar: Could that have been an advantage in having been away from racing when everyone else has run themselves ragged?
Vargo: I think so. Back in my cycling days, whenever I got sick or injured, it was always good to take time off. It’s just the body telling you to chill out for a bit. I think it was good, yeah.
iRunFar: You were talking about your cycling days, it would be great to know a little more about your endurance-sports background.
Vargo: Yeah, I grew up as a swimmer; my parents had me in the pool early. Then raced bikes in high school, college, and post-college.
iRunFar: You were cycling for a long time?
Vargo: Yeah, I rode road. I was racing on the road. Now I mountain bike. I just got burned out from cycling. The whole ultrarunning community is hands down the best community in any sport community that I’ve been involved in.
Vargo: Yeah, for sure.
iRunFar: What’s different about it? What makes ultrarunning and trail runners unique here?
Vargo: I think everyone, no matter if you’re “elite” or “back of the packer,” we all get along with each other. It’s fun to talk to people that break their PR’s and do well in races. I think everyone is just cool with each other. It’s a great community. Cycling is more of an elitist sport.
iRunFar: More ego involved or power…?
Vargo: Yeah, I mean there’s a little bit of ego here, too, but it’s dumbed down a little bit. It’s not as bad at all. It’s fun hanging. Rob Krar is amazing and he’s so humble and it’s fun to learn from a guy like that.
iRunFar: And he was crewed by Timothy Olson.
Vargo: Timmy Olson, yeah, who is also amazing. I really look up to those guys, so it’s fun running with them. Mike Wolfe, too, Cameron [Clayton], Adam Campbell for awhile—it was everything I could ask for. I had fun.
iRunFar: How did your race go? What were you looking to do beforehand?
Vargo: I wasn’t super confident coming in just because it was so stacked. I felt like I rested way too much. I was questioning training even though I trust Ian Torrence—he’s been training me so well. I question… I shouldn’t have questioned it. I felt great pretty much the entire way until about five miles out when Cameron worked me over at the end. We were running with Mike [Wolfe] and Rob [Krar]. I thought we were all going to run in.
iRunFar: Hold hands?
Vargo: And duke it out in the end. Rob ran up that second-to-last climb incredibly fast; it was fun to watch.
iRunFar: Didn’t quite have anything left in the tank there?
Vargo: I couldn’t keep up with him.
iRunFar: It was still a great race. You should be proud of that.
Vargo: Yeah, it was a big one for me, yeah.
iRunFar: Since you’ve had all this time off over the summer, are you planning on taking an off-season now or are you just going to keep rolling with it?
Vargo: Sean O’Brian race on February 1, so I’ll probably take about a week off. I’ll hop on the bike a little bit and maybe swim. It’s hard for me to sit around for too long.
iRunFar: The 50 miler at Sean O’Brian?
Vargo: Yeah, the 50 miler there and then Squamish in August and hopefully Western States for my first 100 miler.
iRunFar: I was going to ask if there is an ulterior motive for running Sean O’Brian.
Vargo: There is. I don’t know if I got picked in the lottery today.
Vargo: Okay. I figured I probably didn’t.
Vargo: Yeah, so that’s Sean O’Brian, Lake Sonoma, and Way Too Cool I think I’ll do again.
iRunFar: A lot of time out in California.
Vargo: Yeah, I feel like that’s where everyone is racing. I like to race the fast races. It makes sense to me. You just get stronger that way. So it’s a no-brainer.
iRunFar: Sounds like you have a good season lined up for next year.
Vargo: Yeah, should be good.
iRunFar: Keep up the good work, man.
Vargo: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.