While injuries sometimes keep Alex Nichols at bay, a bit of down time before the 2014 Speedgoat 50k may have paid off as Alex took third at the event. In the following interview, Alex talks about what he’s been up to since the Zegama-Aizkorri Marathon in May, how his most recent injury affected his race, what his race was like, and where he’ll be racing next.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2014 Speedgoat 50k results article.
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Alex Nichols Post-2014 Speedgoat 50k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Alex Nichols after his third-place finish at the 2014 Speedgoat 50k. Alex, a little surprised today?
Alex Nichols: Yes, definitely. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I didn’t even know if I was going to be racing this a week ago today last week. I’m having some injury problems and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be up to it. I decided to give it a go and it worked out.
iRunFar: A week after Zegama you finished second at the GoPro Games 10k and then you injured yourself… or you fell and were injured.
Nichols: Yes. I was getting into really good shape. I had a couple of good training weeks after Zegama. Then, yeah, I just took a misstep and slammed my kneecap against a rock and really had some bad consequences from that.
iRunFar: You said your quad bothered you after that?
Nichols: Yeah, the quad just sort of locked up and I just couldn’t run a step without really, really excruciating pain.
iRunFar: Obviously that didn’t necessarily affect you for the worse? Did you talk to Rickey Gates before the race?
Nichols: Yeah, he was just saying how sometimes it’s good to have a little break in the middle of the season. It was really tough mentally to do that, to cross train and do all that stuff, but it seems like I’ve been able to come back where I was.
iRunFar: Totally. You had to miss the Skyrunning World Championships, but you showed up at Speedgoat and ran a good race. You were off the lead from the go.
Nichols: Yeah, I wasn’t going to try to get the prime for the top of the first climb. I just knew if I tried that, especially not knowing my fitness, the race would be over for me.
iRunFar: When did you start moving… when did you and Paul [Hamilton] start moving into that second and third area? You guys ran together for awhile.
Nichols: Yeah, we ran most of the race together maybe within a couple of minutes here and there. We were fourth and fifth after that first climb. Downhill we caught up to Mike Wolfe. Then it was just sort of seeing if we could chase down Sage [Canaday]. I’d gap Paul a little bit and then he’d catch up. He’d gap me.
iRunFar: Were you more suited for the ups or the downs or was it just how you were feeling?
Nichols: I wasn’t climbing very good today especially the really steep stuff. Paul was really, really good at that. I built up a lead on the more runnable stuff, but then I could just see him coming the whole way. It was inevitable that he was going to catch me.
iRunFar: When did that final pass happen when he moved into second?
Nichols: Right at the very last aid station.
iRunFar: The last time through with five miles to go?
Nichols: Yes, one of the highest points on the course. It was pretty much straight downhill from there.
iRunFar: You weren’t able to hang on the descent?
Nichols: It’s horrible to say, but I’d pretty much given up hope of getting second at that point because I was just thrashed. It’s a really hard course. I was just hoping to hold onto third.
iRunFar: How do you feel about mixing in ultras more these days? Are you feeling pretty good at the 50k distance?
Nichols: Yes. This kind of race is really comparable to a Sky marathon. There’s not a huge difference. So, yeah, it’s not too difficult to step up, although, this was a little bit longer than 50k as advertised. That was a little frustrating on the final descent. I was a little angry.
iRunFar: Were you aware of the extra climb Karl [Meltzer] threw in this year?
Nichols: Yes. I didn’t realize how steep it was going to be. It was one of those off-trail ‘run up through the woods there.’
iRunFar: The heat was probably a little more than expected up here at 8,000 feet.
Nichols: Yes, I was hoping for a nice cool day and maybe some rain that they were predicting originally.
iRunFar: Nah, it’s a bluebird Utah day here.
Nichols: It was hot out there especially near the end.
iRunFar: What do you have coming up?
Nichols: I’m pretty sure I’m going to Sierre-Zinal August 10. Then I’m going to try to jump right back and run Pikes Peak Marathon.
iRunFar: Just a week later?
Nichols: Yes, it will be a good rest week in between the two races.
iRunFar: You just won’t train.
iRunFar: Then are you thinking about The Rut later in the season?
Nichols: Yes, I’m signed up for that, too. I had a few thoughts during the race today like, Oh, man, I don’t know if I really want to do this again. The Rut’s kind of similar in profile and difficulty, maybe even harder.
iRunFar: If there are all these hard aspects, then what gets you out there and gets you excited about racing one of these super-tough races?
Nichols: I’m a pretty competitive person. I like that aspect of it. I’ve just found that for whatever reason I can hold my own on the steeper, harder courses better than the flat 10k’s.
iRunFar: It seemed to suit you pretty well here today. Congratulations on your third-place finish.
Nichols: Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you, Alex. It was kind of cool, everybody before the race, not that it’s a super-hyped-up environment, but even Sage was shaking out his hip. Patrick Smythe is doing plyos or something.
Nichols: I saw that.
iRunFar: You’re just sitting on the bench. Is that your approach to running?
Nichols: Just kind of not having high expectations for the day. It’s 5.5 hours. I can warm up for the first 30 minutes. It’s not going to be the worst thing ever especially not going for the first prime. So, yeah, I try to take it pretty laid back. They’re such long races. So much can happen.
iRunFar: No reason to push it.
iRunFar: Well, it seemed to work out for you.
Nichols: Yeah, thanks.