Dakota Jones won the 2012 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. After a year away, he’s back to give the race another shot. In the following interview, Dakota talks about why he didn’t race Transvulcania in 2013 and why he’s back in 2014, how he’s improved as an ultrarunner since then, and what he’ll change for this year’s race.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Dakota Jones Pre-2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dakota Jones before the 2014 Transvulcania Ultramarathon. How are you doing, Dakota?
Dakota Jones: I’m doing good, Bryon. I’m standing here in a banana plantation here in La Palma.
iRunFar: Not a bad spot.
Jones: Yeah, exactly. Look at all these bananas.
Jones: No. Not for these bananas. Not yet.
iRunFar: Not yet.
Jones: They’re not sweet enough.
iRunFar: Wait a couple days.
Jones: We learned all about it yesterday.
iRunFar: You were fascinated.
Jones: I’m still fascinated, honestly.
iRunFar: So why are these ‘fingers?’
Jones: Well because it looks like a hand. They explained this to me for a very long time. It’s a ‘hand’ of bananas because there are fingers. Each banana represents a finger.
iRunFar: So there can be an ‘eight-hand’ bunch.
Jones: Yeah. It’s crazy, man. Bananas are amazing.
iRunFar: This is not your first time to La Palma.
iRunFar: Two years ago you were here.
Jones: Yes, two years ago we all came out here with the Skyrunning Federation and we raced and it was awesome and I won. That was really pretty much the best day of ultrarunning I’ve ever had. So there are quite the expectations on me this year.
iRunFar: Yeah, we’re walking around La Palma and the hotel and everywhere and you’re a celebrity over here.
Jones: Yeah, it’s the first time it’s ever really happened on this scale. It’s pretty wild. It makes me feel silly.
iRunFar: You didn’t come back last year.
Jones: Yeah, last year I was in Alaska actually. This time last year I was ice climbing in Alaska which was super sweet, too, but a totally different kind of super sweet.
iRunFar: What brought you back to race Transvulcania again?
Jones: I don’t know. It’s just always one of the big races that are really fun to do. Having done it, I knew that it was an awesome race and totally worth doing. The competition is always top notch. Why not?
iRunFar: If you were to think back two years ago, you were still a pretty new ultrarunner. You were 21. What have you learned over the last two years that will make you stronger?
Jones: I don’t know if there’s any one big thing that I’ve learned. It’s more a matter of gaining experience. I have two more years of strength in me, two more years of training, two more years of experience knowing how to run long distance. You just get to a point where you know how hard you can run, generally, for 50 miles or whatever this race is, 75k. You push a little harder for that in the race because you’re trying to keep up with everybody. I start to get tired and feel a lot of fatigue in my legs, but then I know mentally because I’ve done this before that I can keep going. I don’t get scared as easily.
iRunFar: Which can happen if you don’t have a lot of experience or are uncomfortable with it, you can be at 35 miles thinking, My legs are already dead.
Jones: Yeah. It’s easy to get psyched out when you’re not familiar with this and be like, My legs are really tired, and I still have 20 miles to go. How am I possibly going to do this? This is a really long way. And it is and it’s hard and it’s not like it makes it easier, but if you’ve done it before you realize that you can push through it. That’s the benefit of experience.
iRunFar: Through the experience of training you gain fitness, but you also can through racing gain long-term benefits.
Jones: That’s the thing especially these long races, it really matters to have the experience of having done this before because, yeah, you just need to know what you can do. It’s about getting your head around the distance, and it takes several races and several years to be able to do that.
iRunFar: Two years ago when you were here, you were, I think, at that point training on your own?
Jones: Yeah, well, no, I had just started training with Jason Koop. So I had a coach for about two months there.
iRunFar: But now it’s been two years and two months.
Jones: Yeah, exactly. So now I’ve had two more years of good training whereas before I was just winging it. I had no idea what I was doing. But now I have a coach and for two years now, Jason Koop has been awesome. I think that is totally allowed me reach a new level of ability because before I didn’t know what I was doing. Now he tells me how to do it and we discuss it and go through it. I feel way more confident about my fitness now than I’ve ever felt.
iRunFar: That’s kind of scary. You did win this two years ago.
Jones: Well, I mean I’m sure everyone else feels a lot more confident about theirs, too. We all have the experience. Pretty much all the same players are here as they were two years ago except now there are more.
iRunFar: Luis Alberto [Hernando], Xavier Thevenard.
Jones: Lots of people. I don’t even know. Then there are always the people I’ve never heard of—a bunch of Euros who are just going to come out of the woodwork and keep up with us most of the way if not the whole way. Who knows? There are a lot of really strong runners here. That’s what’s exciting about it, right? That’s why I want to do it is like to have this competition. But when it comes down to it, it’s also super intimidating.
iRunFar: Having raced this course before, are you going to change your approach at all on race day in terms of your preparation or what you’re bringing or anything like that?
Jones: I don’t think so. Last time I ran with two handheld water bottles. This time I’m just going to run with one and have another smaller bottle in a pack just so I have to carry less and I have a hand free to do things like eat food. As far as racing strategy, I don’t think I’d do much different. It seemed to go pretty well last time. I felt like I ran my own race, and that was what allowed me to do well is that late in the race. When Andy Symmonds and Kilian [Jornet] ran off the front really fast, I was dejected and I was bummed but I let them go because I couldn’t run any faster. But then it ended up working in my favor as they kind of burned themselves out. Who knows how things will play out this year, but I think it’s pretty smart to run your own race.
iRunFar: Nice. Well best of luck out there and have fun.
Jones: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
BONUS FOOTAGE B-ROLL
[Some Spanish utterings]