Meghan Arbogast has been a fixture at the Western States 100 for years and, at 53 years old, you might think that her best days are behind her. In the following interview, Meghan gives us multiple reasons to think that’s not the case, including her recent move to nearby Cool, California, her increased access to and comfort with trails, and her fastest speed workouts in years. Along the way, find out why Meghan thinks she keeps getting faster.
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Meghan Arbogast Pre-2014 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Meghan Arbogast before the 2014 Western States 100. How are you, Meghan?
Meghan Arbogast: I’m well, thanks. How are you?
iRunFar: Doing alright. Here we are in beautiful Squaw Valley after a rainy morning.
Arbogast: Right. I missed the rain, but it’s beautiful.
iRunFar: You missed the rain because…?
Arbogast: I was driving from my home in Cool.
iRunFar: For those of you who don’t know the area around the race, Cool, California, is very close to the course. You’re out on the trails…
Arbogast: Everyday, almost. Yeah.
iRunFar: How has that transition been?
Arbogast: Really good. Really good. I have come to realize that as much trail running as I had done in Oregon, it just doesn’t compare to how much I’m able to get here. The specificity of the trail is something I’ve just gotten better at just learning more and more. My body is learning how to run it better.
iRunFar: Was the proximity to the Western States course a major draw in you moving?
Arbogast: Oh, I’d say 99% of the reason why. There might be 1% reason otherwise, but I’m not sure what that would be. Why not?
iRunFar: Yeah, so you’re here. You’ve been running Western States for awhile. You’ve had great results. Living on the course, I’m going to guess that you think you can run faster.
Arbogast: I think I can. I guess we’ll find out. I feel like I am more fit and more fit for the course, but only the day will tell.
iRunFar: If you do have a good day, what do you think?
Arbogast: I think it’s possible to get in the 18s. I think that’s reasonable.
iRunFar: So given a field like we have this year, can you win it with that kind of time? Does that put you in the top three?
Arbogast: I think if I were low 18s, that would be considered a winning time. Higher 18s probably top three-ish.
iRunFar: So winning the race is something that crosses your mind?
Arbogast: Sure. Everyone wants to win. I can’t say, “Oh, no, no.” That wouldn’t be truthful.
iRunFar: How has your training come this year?
Arbogast: It’s been really good. I’ve gotten to run on the course so many times. I’ve gotten to do some really long days. I think I’ve gotten three or four 50-mile days on the course. Then I did Bishop High Sierra 100k in May and that just went really well. I recovered fine. So that was a good confidence booster.
iRunFar: Now do you think on race day, now that you live here, it’s going to make you more relaxed having the intimate knowledge of the course? Or is it going to allow you to attack more?
Arbogast: I’d say a little of both actually. Relaxed that I know what’s ahead. I wouldn’t say I have the AJW, “How many seconds between trees” down, but I feel I can get after it because I know what’s around the next turn. I feel like the long runs on the trail have just gotten me more ready for that.
iRunFar: Pretty cool down in the canyons these days?
Arbogast: It’s different with the fire. Getting down into Deadwood Canyon is pretty ugly, scary in a way. It’s sad, is what I think. The rest of it is pretty decent.
iRunFar: Is it going to change the… I think when there was the Star Fire, they had to go out of Duncan Canyon and then they came back into Duncan Canyon, but all the burn out changed the complexion of the race having all the exposure there. Do you think having exposure around Devil’s Thumb will change things?
Arbogast: I definitely think it will especially if it’s hot because that exposed climb out is such a hard climb anyway. It’s usually getting to be afternoon. It can really fry some people. It can make a big difference.
iRunFar: Who’s up there for the win on the women’s side?
Arbogast: I’m not big on predictions, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Emily Harrison. I think she’d be the one I’d be the least surprised. Then Pam [Smith] wouldn’t surprise me at all either.
iRunFar: Do you think Emily has enough experience from racing this last year to make a step up?
Arbogast: I think she’ll make a step up, but having just done one 100, that’s not in her favor. But she’s got such great speed that I think that can override some of that inexperience.
iRunFar: Speaking of speed, when you were living in Oregon, you did a ton of track work. Has that been on your menu this year still?
Arbogast: Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah.
iRunFar: You can really tell with times on the track if you’re in better shape or not.
iRunFar: Are you in better shape?
Arbogast: Yes. I’m running some splits on the shorter, faster stuff that I haven’t run in three or four years.
iRunFar: You’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about it a bunch, but every year is another year over 50. You’ve been training hard for years, and now you’re running faster on the track than you were three or four years ago. How does that work?
Arbogast: I don’t know.
iRunFar: It’s not like you’re changing your lifestyle. You’re not coming from having a horrible lifestyle and then turning the corner.
Arbogast: No, I just think paying attention… I’m lucky that my body adapts to running as well as it does. I’m not breaking down. I think that because I’m not breaking down and I’m not male—I’m not losing testosterone—so I think I’m able to maintain speed and come back to where I was three or four years ago. It’s not that big of deal because…
iRunFar: And if your training is not degrading, and you’re not getting injured, then you’re consistently building and that cardiovascular base just keeps coming along and your experience…
Arbogast: Right. Yes.
iRunFar: Now that you are in Cool and running trails a lot more, does that mean you’re going to step away from the World 100k team or is that still on your radar for this year?
Arbogast: I’m on the team and I’m definitely planning on going. It’s usually far enough away from Western States that it’s not an issue. I like running on the roads still. In fact, I raced Craig Thornley in a 5k recently.
iRunFar: I’m not even going to ask if you won because I’m sure you won.
Arbogast: [laughs] Yeah, I did. It was pretty funny. It’s a good story.
iRunFar: Are you going to get Thornley out on some more training runs?
Arbogast: We’ve been running on the track together, and he’s getting back. For now, I’m faster than him in a 5k.
iRunFar: Would you like to see him back out here racing Western States one of these days?
Arbogast: Oh, yeah. You bet. He needs to, and he wants to.
iRunFar: Who doesn’t?
Arbogast: Yeah, right?
iRunFar: You’re still excited after all these years?
Arbogast: Yeah, I am. I am. There’s a great energy and it’s fun to get everyone back together and the new people, too. Yeah, it’s quite the party.
iRunFar: Nice. Well, have fun and good luck.
Arbogast: Thanks, Bryon. Thanks.
iRunFar: Bonus question, If you win on Saturday, because you would win on Saturday, what bottle of wine do you open up on Sunday?
Arbogast: Oh gosh, some red. Something red—It’s always red. Some red wine. Something red—a little slutty.
iRunFar: I’m hoping you get to do that.
Arbogast: Yeah, gosh, I feel like it could happen. We’ll see. Yep. MonkeyBoy says 18:16 is the time he has for me.