Chris Price is one of the SoCal favorites for this weekend’s inaugural Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. In the following interview, Chris shares his local knowledge about the course, how he got into running just a few years ago, his recent and serious health issues, who he expects to see in the lead pack on Saturday, and what his year of racing could look like.
Chris Price Pre-2014 Sean O’Brien 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Chris Price before the inaugural Sean O’Brien 50 Mile. How are you doing?
Chris Price: Great. How are you doing, Bryon?
iRunFar: Alright. You just took me out for a great run here in the San Gabriels—not quite on the course but beautiful southern California.
Price: Yeah, nice, little, steep climb in the heat.
iRunFar: There are going to be some of those this weekend, yeah?
Price: Yeah, definitely.
iRunFar: To kick things off, tell us a little about the course out here.
Price: I think it’s going to be a fast course, but a difficult course at the same time. It’s not too different than Leona Divide or The North Face [TNFEC 50, San Francisco]. There’s a little more climbing than Leona; maybe a little more technical then TNF on some of the singletrack.
iRunFar: So, what do you think the winners come in at—6.5 or seven hours?
Price: I’m going to say D-Bo [Dylan Bowman] or Vargo [Chris Vargo] in 6:18. There are some long, downhill fire roads where they’re just going to be laying down sub-five minute miles maybe.
iRunFar: Are there any long downhills early? Are they going to be tempted to take it out?
Price: No, there’s maybe a mile or so where it’s flat and gradual in the beginning. Then there’s a good, steep, three to four-mile climb with 500 to 700 feet/mile of climbing. I think that will keep people kind of going out a little slower.
iRunFar: Is there any point 25 or 30 miles into the race that could be a defining point where someone gets broken or breaks someone else?
Price: The course is generally kind of a big lollipop. The bottom of the big loop is the lowest point of the course. Climbing up from there it’s a three-mile climb and a little dip down and another four-mile climb up.
iRunFar: So is that at the Corral area?
Price: It’s coming up from near Zuma Beach—I think it’s called Bonsall Aid Station—back up to Kanan. I think that’s really going to be where the pack thins out a lot. It’s going to go from 12 guys to four maybe.
iRunFar: Real quick.
Price: Yeah, that climb is really going to separate the men from the boys.
iRunFar: And, a lot of us (not you) are coming from a cooler-weather climate this time of year. When does it start heating up out here? It’s a 6 a.m. start, so when’s it going to… 10 a.m.?
Price: We’re right by the course, so I don’t think it will be too hot unfortunately. I was hoping for a scorcher just being from here and how hot it’s been lately. I think like 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. Again, on that long climb—it’s a fire road, so it’s really exposed—there are beautiful ocean views, but it will get hot.
iRunFar: So you have run some really good results. You’ve won Angeles Crest 100; you were fourth at Hardrock 100 last year. You’ve only been running since 2009. How did you start running? How did you start trail running and ultrarunning? Why are you out here?
Price: A good buddy of mine, Pat Clark, talked me into a half marathon. I did it and said, “Oh, that felt horrible. I’m never doing that again.” But I was like, “My dad ran a marathon, so I have to do one and I have to beat his time.” In doing marathon training, I just ran into a guy on the trails—“Oh, I’m doing Leona Divide, a 50-mile trail race.” “Cool.” So I just went home and signed up.
iRunFar: So your first 50 was how long after your first half marathon?
Price: A year or so.
iRunFar: Okay, so you had a little bit of time.
Price: Yeah, I got some training in.
iRunFar: Then you were going to move to Colorado. You were going to move from SoCal to Colorado and be a Front Range guy. You’re a pediatric nurse?
Price: Correct, yeah, in the ICU.
iRunFar: So a buddy was testing you on a new machine and threw you into the scanner?
Price: Yeah, my wife last July… we were all set up to move to Golden, CO, and it was a couple days after running Angeles Crest 100 and I was at work…
iRunFar: You won the Angeles Crest and it was a couple days later.
Price: Yeah. I took a patient down for an MRI, and the technician says, “Hey, we have a new MRI machine, we’re asking staff to volunteer.” I was like, “Cool! I’ll come back on my lunch and get an MRI of my brain.” While I was in there they noticed there was a nice tumor sitting right on top of my brain. I think you can kind of see the scar. It’s kind of grown out [hair].
Price: So a couple months later I had it taken out, but it definitely put our moving plans on hold. We stayed put.
iRunFar: And life plans…
Price: Yeah, but it was a pretty minor surgery. It’s called a meningioma. You don’t have to go inside the brain. It was real quick and uneventful.
iRunFar: When you first heard the news it was pretty darn scary though.
Price: Yeah, because you don’t know if it’s cancerous or benign.
iRunFar: So sort of a scary situation but one that you could recover from pretty quickly, and you were back out there racing this spring. How long after surgery?
Price: Let’s see, surgery was in September and in February I ran a race, so five months later.
iRunFar: Did you run Ray Miller last year?
Price: Yeah, Ray Miller—just the 50k.
iRunFar: Did you win that?
Price: No, I got second—who was it—I got smoked. The guy set the new course record. I can’t remember his name… from Colorado.
iRunFar: You’re out here this weekend just over four years into your running career and ready to mix it up with the big dogs. You’ve been around the scene long enough to know who’s there. Who do you think is going to be up at the front come the end of the day?
Price: I think obvious front contenders are going to be Dylan Bowman, Chris Vargo, Mike Wolfe, Timmy Olson maybe. He’s been running around here like crazy lately, not really tapering, kind of more like a long training run, but he’s going to get caught up in the excitement. He’s just so talented he’ll still run really well even if it’s not an ‘A’ race. Jason Wolfe, Josh Brimhall, Mike Aish, Chris Wehan, Gerad Dean.
iRunFar: Chris—do you know Chris?
iRunFar: How did you know… he’s from the area I think, but he also signed up for Rocky Raccoon.
Price: Oh, he did?
iRunFar: So I don’t know which race he’s running.
Price: Well, he can’t do both.
iRunFar: There’s a 30 hour cut-off at Rocky, so I guess you could fly back.
Price: Technically, yeah.
iRunFar: Somebody should try that next year. You are going back to Angeles Crest. So you’re probably not specifically shooting for a Western States slot right now in the [Montrail] Ultra Cup.
Price: No, that’s not my main goal for this race, but I’d take it if it came.
iRunFar: Oh you would, okay.
Price: I’m also signed up for San Juan Solstice which I just love that area of the San Juans after being at Hardrock last year. But I’d probably take the States ticket if I won it. I think it’s an outside shot for me, but I don’t know.
iRunFar: That’s not your goal number one.
Price: I want to race the best I can, and if I got fourth place I’d be stoked for that in this field definitely.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well, best of luck and have fun out there on your sort of hometown trails.
Price: Thanks, Bryon, I appreciate it. Yeah, hopefully it will come to my advantage and help out.