Bryon Powell Pre-2015 Hardrock 100 Interview

Okay, so Bryon Powell here. While I’ll be far from the podium this weekend, Andy Jones-Wilkins insisted on interviewing me before I run the Hardrock 100 starting Friday morning. In the following interview, I talk about, well, a lot… as it’s a 40 minute interview. Among many topics, we talk about my training, my renewed purposeful pursuit of a race, and the gear I’ll use during the race.

To learn more about the other competitors, read our 2015 Hardrock 100 preview.

[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]

Bryon Powell Pre-2015 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Hello, everybody. This is Andy Jones-Wilkins reporting from Silverton, Colorado, moonlighting with iRunFar this weekend for the Hardrock 100. I’m here interviewing Bryon Powell, Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar and a contestant in this year’s Hardrock 100. How are you feeling, Bryon, going into the race?

Bryon Powell: I’m feeling pretty good.

iRunFar: I understand you and Meghan have been living here for about the last month or so. How’s that been?

Powell: It’s been great. I got here June 1st or 2nd and have been up in Silverton ever since except for a couple day hiatus to go cover Western States. Yeah, I’ve loved being up here training and acclimating.

iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit about your year. You had a big chunk of time in which you were on the road. You had your winter, most of the winter in Moab, but between, say, The North Face San Francisco. But then you were off in Europe for, what, a couple of months?

Powell: I was in Nepal for a month…

iRunFar: Oh, Nepal.

Powell: And Europe for a month. I guess I’ve really been on the road, now that I think about it, since about the beginning of the year. I was in Hong Kong in January, and then went to the Outdoor Retailer shoe in Salt Lake City, then Tarawera, New Zealand in February. March was Transgrancanaria, and so on and so forth.

iRunFar: So that’s a lot of frequent-flier miles.

Powell: A lot of miles—a lot of non-running miles.

iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit about that because you got the word on Hardrock in December—a surprise to you and Meghan and, I think, a lot of people.

Powell: People who heard me screaming on The North Face 50 course—sorry, Kim Gaylord.

iRunFar: But that “never before been in the race” lottery is really competitive and things just fell into place. You’d gotten the qualifier in the fall before your fall race coverage season at the Bear. You ran that 100 with a very different sort of attitude than I think you’re going to run this weekend but also than your past other Western States and your Wasatches and so forth. How did that Bear qualifier sort of set up this whole season?

Powell: It was great. All I was doing at the Bear was getting a qualifier for Western States and Hardrock. I had 36 hours to finish, and that’s all I needed to do. I went out pretty undertrained. I got a couple long runs in the couple months before but not a whole lot of mileage generally. I went out and ran for 75 miles, got to mile 75 and I wasn’t sleepy, I wasn’t tired, nothing was wrong. I sat down stopped for six hours, had a five hour nap, got up, and it poured all night. The trails were the muddiest I’d ever seen, no exaggeration. I ran to the finish.

iRunFar: It was almost like you did a stage race—a 75 mile first stage. So then… you had that, you had that in the bag. You got in by the lottery. You had this travel. You settled in here to the beautiful environs of Silverton where there are late-season snows. I think those first couple of weeks here you were limited to the kind of places you were able go. How did, in terms of training cycle, how did it play out from the beginning of June to when you took off for Western States because I know that was a huge chunk of mileage, of vertical, of kind of focusing… you were still doing iRunFar stuff, but you had that dual focus? You were in one place, even though it was here. It was one place for a big chunk of time where you were just able to absorb yourself in the environment. Talk a little about that. How did you get from that June 1st place to where you are now?

Powell: It took a couple days to settle in. I had been in Nepal and Europe for two months, so a couple days to catch up on email. The weather was really crappy for a couple days. I just got here, acclimated, did a couple shake-out type runs. Then I put in two weeks of 28 to 30 hours a piece—100 miles the first week, 120 miles the second and closing in on 35,000 to 40,000 feet of vertical gain each week. So just getting out there every day, not crushing it, just Hardrock effort—maybe a little bit harder than Hardrock effort each day. The first week, I’d go out in the morning most days. Then there’s Anvil Mountain on the north side of town—there’s one mile with 1,500 feet of climb that’s pretty technical. I’d run over there for a mile, hike really hard up, run pretty hard down to try to work on my quads a little bit, and run back. Yeah, it was nice to have an evening routine. I did it every day for…

iRunFar: I’ve got to say, you and I are big fans of peaking. You, while your run up was relatively short, you do have a decade and a half of ultras on your body, so you can actually do that, I think, with a certain degree of ease when you’re focused on it. But that last week, that week that took you up to… I think you headed out to Western States on Monday or Tuesday…

Powell: Tuesday.

iRunFar: But that week that ended up on Sunday, talk about that final workout which I think if there’s… when all is said and done, if you were to look back on Monday morning after the race, but looking at that week, I remember reading your report on that. It was more vert than you’d ever done, more miles than you’d ever done, you’d gotten yourself down to a fighting weight that was as light as you’d been in your ultra career, maybe as close as you might have been to college cross-country weight and so forth. That week really was kind of the pinnacle of this cycle. Walk me through that week a little bit.

Powell: Yeah, I don’t remember the details of the runs, but it was just a great week. I’d just come off of a huge week for me and felt great. I was really monitoring myself during the week to make sure I wasn’t overdoing it. I took a day off during the week. I technically had seven runs that week, but one was… my birthday was that Monday, and I went out in the morning and did a decent run and then just did my four miles up Anvil in the evening.

iRunFar: And then the solo nine-hour four times up-and-down Kendall Mountain. What was that?

Powell: I just kind of wanted… there were people doing some runs in other places, but I just knew I wanted to get in a really long run that day with a lot of vert. I sort of jammed my foot a couple days earlier and was just taking it easy with that, so I didn’t want super technical trail. There’s a dirt road, but it’s not smooth dirt road; you work. Yeah, so I just kept going up that. I had an aid station at the bottom. I just parked my car right at the bottom of the mountain. I had a jug of water. It was a hot, hot day for here.

iRunFar: That’s 2,000-plus feet each time up?

Powell: Where I was going up to, up to the turn off to the peak—there was still a lot of snow up high—was about 2,800 feet per lap.

iRunFar: Whew. So you’re talking about 10,000-plus feet…

Powell: I added a little bit, so it was a total over 12,000 feet.

iRunFar: 12,000-plus feet, so a third of the total Hardrock vert in a third of the distance. That’s pretty cool. You finished that. You kind of dusted yourself off, and you’re like, Okay, I’m ready.

Powell: I could have kept going that day. I was just like, Alright, it’s 5:00 p.m. I want to go get pizza.

iRunFar: So thinking about the race, you and I are big—in edition to being fans of peakers—we do take seriously our mentors. Scotty Mills is here, and I know you’ve probably been out with him a couple of times and soaked up some advice from him. I also know that you’ve spent some time with Billy Simpson. You’ve been talking a little bit about keeping an eye on Billy’s splits. He’s a multiple-time finisher. Those guys and a couple of the others, how are you… as a first-time Hardrocker, not first time… you’ve paced here before and you’ve run a bunch of hundreds, how are you calibrating your own “here’s what I want to do today” with the advice and counsel of the council of elders that are here every year?

Powell: They are two very different things. In terms of like, yeah, I’m absorbing every bit of knowledge I can. There are the people you’ve named and there are just lots of people at this campground that I’ve been at, at Avalanche Café, just in town—I soak up every bit of knowledge I can. I sent out an email to a bunch of Hardrockers from the past and just got where they made mistakes and what advice they’d give. This race, having observed it so many times, is so unlike any other hundred I’ve been to. The altitude plays such a part. It is rugged and wild and remote at times. I really want to respect the race as much and see where the people who have done it before respect the course the most. Then there’s calibrating my own plan which is, I think, very different in that I want to… all along my goal is to finish. I love Hardrock having been here so many times. I want to be back at Hardrock sometime. So my first goal is to finish this time. I want to know what it’s like to run for 30 hours. The Bear doesn’t really count because I was just messing around. I had a bad Wasatch where I blew up to 28-and-change. I want to know what a steady effort for 30 hours feels like and what I can maintain. I’d rather do that from the conservative side and then let more out later. I don’t want to go out too hard and just suffer my way to the end because I don’t think I’ll learn as much about what I can do here.

iRunFar: So are you doing the classic, at least in this year’s counterclockwise direction, are you breaking it into the four classic chunks? Are you thinking a little bit more…

Powell: Three, maybe two. Since I got into Hardrock, I’ve just been repeating to myself, “30-hour shape, 35-hour pace.” I know I probably won’t be able to go out that slow. I don’t think I’ll be able to reign myself in that slow, but I have Billy Simpson’s 33:14 splits from two year ago, same direction. He ran 33:14, so he was 16:47 to Ouray. That is exactly half the time on the nose to Ouray. It’s 56 miles, but…

iRunFar: If we saw you in 16-and-change in Ouray, we’d know you’re executing your plan.

Powell: Especially if that’s in line with where I am at Grouse.

iRunFar: I’ve only run the race once, but it was in this direction. That section going into Pole Creek has a tendency to just naturally slow you down. You’re high for the longest period of time. It’s kind of meadowy. It’s a little bit of a grind. You can stay controlled up there and have some nice legs for what is a glorious descent into Ouray, and then you begin the roads and the rest of that.

Powell: The one thing I’ve done very… I’m a big fan of specificity in training. Especially… it was actually two different components. For the first couple months that I was really training for Hardrock, it was just about fitness. I didn’t care about vertical. I didn’t care about that. Since I got here, I walk every uphill. I don’t care if it’s like something at Western States that I would shoot myself if I was walking it. But it’s such high elevation and such a long time up at high elevation, I walk all of it. I hope to do that through Pole Creek. That’s something I really want to do. If I can run one of the later climbs, maybe mix something in at Camp Bird if I’m still really fresh between Ouray and Telluride, I might do that. I really want to approach it conservatively definitely to Ouray, maybe work a little harder if I still have something between Ouray and Telluride, but I’d really like to be conservative. I’d rather be at Telluride and think to myself, If anybody is within an hour ahead of me, I’m going to beat them.

iRunFar: You might reel them in.

Powell: I’d much rather have… it’s more fun that way. Really, my approach is to maximize my fun during this race. That sounds cheesy or weak or something, I don’t know. Just having seen people suffer the whole way, from the front of the pack to the back of the pack, it’s just not the most productive way to get this done.

iRunFar: I’ve seen… we ran a little bit out in Squaw Valley, and you have focused on the hiking. Just in that little 6k run, you were hiking past people who were running. You’ve got your hiking legs ready to rock. How about your downhills? Obviously Kendall the other day, quads are seasoned up and ready to go?

Powell: I can’t make my quads sore.

iRunFar: You can’t make them sore, yeah.

Powell: It’s been that way all year. When I did Hong Kong 100k, which I think is 16,000 feet of vert, in January off the couch, I couldn’t make my quads sore. So, it’s something that I’m pretty… it’s a strength of mine, the strong quads. I might be regretting saying that, but it’s something I’ve worked on for years, and I know how to season them. I’ve tried my best. There was Kendall Mountain which was 36 miles and 12,000 feet of descent, but I also did a less than 20-mile run with 19… a 19-mile run with 10,000-plus feet of descent on the Hardrock course.

iRunFar: Wow. These babies are ready.

Powell: As ready as they can be unless I went out and did a 50-mile race on a crazy course. There really wasn’t an opportunity to do that here in training. The passes were all snowed in and closed, and it just would have been miserable trudges that weren’t going to be there during the race. I just thought that was wasted energy.

iRunFar: As far as you know… I know things have melted out real quick here. Are things…

Powell: Tons.

iRunFar: There will be the usual snowpack…

Powell: The usual suspects and that’s it—American Basin after Handies, Wasatch Basin going up to Oscar’s Pass, the Virginius climb will have some snow, and other than that just little patches.

iRunFar: Regular little patches you have to go across.

Powell: Putnam we went up a couple days ago, and Putnam’s clear.

iRunFar: Is it?

Powell: A couple little patches, the cornice at the first little pass there, but snow is not… I mean, it will be annoying at times when you’re tired and it’s in the middle of the day or the middle of the second day. I’m sure I’ll be hating the snow in Wasatch Basin, but…

iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve got set up first for crew and pacers. If I’m not mistaken, your sister is coming out? She’s crewed you before, right?

Powell: My sister is out here. She’s crewed me my first Western States with my parents. She’s crewed me at Leadville and Wasatch by herself or with a friend, but she’s a veteran crew person. She knows what she’s doing. She’s now an ultrarunner. She wasn’t the other times she’s crewed me. She ran the Laurel Highlands 50k last year.

iRunFar: That’s right.

Powell: She’s kind of gotten back on the running kick a little bit. She’s psyched to be out here. She knows of you, but I don’t think you two have ever met. She’s excited to meet Bill Dooper and some of the stars of ultrarunning.

iRunFar: It will be fun to meet her finally.

Powell: She’s there, and then my first pacer I’ll pick up just got set up yesterday—Hillary Allen of The North Face team. She’s going to pace me from Grouse Gulch to Ouray. Then I’ve got my buddy, Vince Heyd, from Park City. He’s going to…

iRunFar: He’s paced you before? He hasn’t paced you before?

Powell: No, it will be a fun experience. He’s a character and a chatter, so he’ll be a good one to bring me up Camp Bird Road.

iRunFar: And I think you have some music in reserve in case you get into the tunnel?

Powell: I really… I had a couple good realizations in training. One day we were running up from town up to Ophir Pass Road and to Ophir Pass, and an hour in I was totally bonky. I’d found out that a friend had died the day before. I don’t know if it was emotional or energy or what, but I was just on zero an hour in. I just popped two gels and put on some music and was singing to myself or dancing or whatever I could do. That externalization of positivity, it makes a difference if you can smile. I’ve seen it in tons of the people winning the best races in the world in this past year and really watching them. The people who are smiling and laughing at the end, that almost leads to their good performance. It’s not the good performance that makes them smile.

iRunFar: I agree. I think positive attitude, optimism, hope, it will get you, especially since so much of this is…

Powell: You can have… there’s time for grit, but in a race like Hardrock, there’s a lot of time for balloons and streamers and some dance music. I found in training, especially when I had my jammed foot, I didn’t listen to music or anything downhill because I was trying to be really careful, and I think I’ll stick to that. I also found that podcasts or books on tape, just some really long hiking climbs, more than music which could get me too excited, just listen to Freakanomics podcast or whatever and go hike up a mountain for 90 minutes.

iRunFar: That’s cool. I know this is iRunFar and you have so many fans out there, we want to know what you’ve got going for gear. Let’s start. Are you going to have a pack? You haven’t long used a pack. You’ve had handhelds.

Powell: I am, and I’m not… I don’t like packs. I’m a handheld guy. That’s mostly because you’ve of where you’ve seen me at Western States or Leadville where it’s only 80 but it feels really hot. I don’t like a vest because it traps heat, but it’s going to be relatively mild temperatures. I wore them in training when it’s cooler temperatures. I don’t mind the fit of the vest. With the cooler temperatures, I’ll probably go with a vest all day. I’ll have the Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek vest probably all day. It just means I’ll have one set up. I was thinking of starting with a bottle or starting with the Jurek pack, but I’m trying to simplify.

iRunFar: Two-liter bladder?

Powell: No, we’ll get to that. I sort of set aside Saturday to make a plan because I’ve been so busy with work as well. I made a plan, and now I keep simplifying it just taking moving parts out—so one pack, one bottle, no bladder. I’ve finally come to peace with the bottle boob. I really wasn’t a fan.

iRunFar: So you’ve got a single boob?

Powell: A single boob. I really wasn’t a fan of that at first, but I’ve come to get used to it. Really, I preach about being safe with water and filtering everything and treating everything, but weight at Hardrock… carrying an extra liter, that’s 2.2 pounds, or an extra two liters, that’s 4.4 pounds up a huge mountain at high elevation. I don’t want to do it.

iRunFar: You’ve been around this course. There’s water everywhere. The longest section is up and over Handies and through American Basin, and it’s just flooded with water. You can dip in there.

Powell: I’m going to dip in there. I’ll have one UD kicker-valve bottle which is a bottle I’ve used forever, and then I’ll also have a Salomon Soft Flask that I’ll roll up and put in my pack. If I know there’s a long stretch coming up without water, I’ll fill both up. Like going up Handies, I’ll have both. Or if I’m in a spot where I actually miss and have to go dry for a half an hour, the next stream I come to, I’ll fill up both and then carry on. Then I’ll have 40 ounces of water.

iRunFar: Then, you have a jacket? You’ve got to throw a jacket in there.

Powell: On and off. I have two that are in the mix right now. The North Face Featherlight jacket—it’s been on and off the market in the U.S. It’s super light. If it’s going to pour for seven hours, I probably won’t use that one. My bomber jacket at the moment is The North Face Stormy Trail jacket. It will take whatever comes.

iRunFar: Your usual shorts?

Powell: At the moment, my usual shorts are New Balance… I don’t even know what make they are. I come from a running background. I like the split shorts. Trail shorts that are long and hangy, just, I can’t do. They just feel comfortable on me.

iRunFar: Down on your feet—socks?

Powell: Socks—it’s going to be Drymax. This is the one area…

iRunFar: Do you know which Drymax? You haven’t decided yet? Bob, he hasn’t decided yet.

Powell: I usually wear the MaxPros for long, hard stuff, but with all the water on the course, I do wear the Hot Weather socks a lot for racing especially where there’s a lot of stream crossings just to not soak up as much water. It’s a little bit for the weight of just not being absorbed into the shoe and the sock, but it’s also for drying out and trying to prevent that maceration.

iRunFar: Which is a factor here.

Powell: I’ve almost thought about going with their Hyperthin. I haven’t run much in them. But just having no water held in the sock…

iRunFar: It basically goes right through them.

Powell: At a race like Western States, you can get your feet wet and they’re going to dry out because you have time between. This, my feet are never going to dry out completely. It’s just a matter of, Can I clear that water from my shoe?

iRunFar: And then the shoe. I know everybody is dying to know… or maybe shoes. I don’t know. You’ve been known to wear one on each foot at times.

Powell: I have on the past in that one.

iRunFar: Or certainly insoles have been interchangeable. We still have three days.

Powell: It will depend a little bit on the water situation and how much it’s going to rain during the race. I have seven shoes that I’ll choose from. Part of that is that I have four shoes in the same category that I really like, the somewhat lightweight but well-lugged, not minimalist at all, but well-lugged not uber heavy shoes. New Balance, I don’t want to say too much about it, but they have a Vazee Summit coming out that’s sort of their 110 v 3… I don’t know if they want me to say it, but it’s kind of the continuation of that line, but it’s heavily lugged and breathable. The North Face Ultra MT, the New Balance 110 v 2, and the Salomon Fellraisers—they’re all kind of similar shoes.

iRunFar: Heavily lugged, light-ish, feel the trail…

Powell: Yeah, and I like them all, and it’s kind of just whatever I pull out that morning. Right now it would probably be the Vazee Summit, but we’ll see on race day. The big variables are I have a pair of the Hoka Speedgoat. I’m not really used to the height because I haven’t run in them a ton or in any Hokas for technical descents, but I have them in case I need… they have great traction, and they’re great on wet rock with the new Vibram… I’m forgetting the name… the new Vibram grip outsole. They’re great. I have Salomon S-Lab XT Wing Softgrounds which are the 12 ounces versus the 10 ounces, with a little more structure and good drop for me. I like more drop. Then my New Balance 1400 v 3.

iRunFar: Ahhh, there you go.

Powell: I love my road racing shoes. You can’t beat 6 ounces.

iRunFar: Seven to choose from. iRunFar listeners, I’ll just have to have my camera ready on race morning to document it once and for all.

Powell: Those road racers are most likely to come out at Telluride. I do slip from the Altras, they have a removable insole in their Superior shoe, and I’ve cut them off from behind the metatarsals and I just slip that in my road shoes because I do want a little more rock protection in my road shoes. I used that combination for 75 miles at the Bear.

iRunFar: There is something nice about throwing a new pair of shoes on going this direction at Telluride. As a guy who… I’ve changed shoes exactly once in any of my hundreds, and it was here. Just putting that nice, new cushiony shoes on… it was 2009 and I put on, you wouldn’t believe it, an Asics Gel Cumulus. It felt like a Hoka at the time.

Powell: That’s one thing I’ve debated. I’m not aiming for time, but if I can minimize aid station time I will. If I have to take a nap at Telluride, I have the time. Or if I have to take a nap and walk every step in, I have the time. I don’t want to give time up. It’s free time.

iRunFar: As you’ve observed being around the race so many times covering it, there are some solid veteran 30, 31, 32, 33 runners who really make good use of the aid station time. They’ve got a crew ready to go and they’re just walking out, and they’re eating, and they’re doing their thing…

Powell: I remember there were 11 people to have less than an hour of aid-station time last year. It was the top 10 and Scotty Mills. Oh, but we never really finished up on my goal. It’s to finish, but I really wouldn’t mind finishing under 39 hours, not for a time reason, but that’s second sundown.

iRunFar: You wouldn’t have to pull a headlamp out for a second night.

Powell: That would be nice.

iRunFar: By the way, are you going with the Petzel NAO?

Powell: Petzel NAO, the second version—it’s super bright, the batteries are great.

iRunFar: It’s amazing.

Powell: It’s super bright, but I still am a fan of having one light low and either carrying a little handheld or putting a simple headlamp around my waist to get more depth perception on the rocks.

iRunFar: Are you going to program it for nine hours, or are you going to bring a second battery?

Powell: I’m going to program it for a little over 10 hours just to be safe. Then I’ll have a battery if I need it for a second night.

iRunFar: So finish, not having to go into a second sundown and sunrise…

Powell: Then there is really no time goal above that. I have Billy Simpson’s 33:14 split to try to be conservative earlier, and after that we’ll see. I have seen enough people who have run this course and have trained with enough people beforehand, and I’m in 30-hour shape, 30-and-change or a little under 30.I have no idea what it is. I feel that’s it, but that’s not the goal. I’d rather…

iRunFar: And there’s so many variables, too, with what happens with the weather and thunder. You and I have talked and thunderstorms—I don’t mess with lightning, and you don’t mess with lightning. If it happens, it happens, but if you have to scrub an hour at an aid station because of waiting something out, it’s an extra couple of grilled cheese and you’re good.

Powell: So be it. I know how to make use of that time. That was an awesome thing when I took that nap at the Bear last fall. I ate a ton of food and then slept. I’d say I’d do the same thing if I get shut out at an aid station. I will actually have a couple hundred extra calories with me if I have to take cover on the course.

iRunFar: That you’ll just be carrying with you in your pack.

Powell: I will take 400 calories, and I will sit and eat 400 calories, and I will be digesting while I’m sitting there. Yeah, it’s not wasting that time, and drinking and doing whatever I can to up my odds.

iRunFar: So this is… it’s been a couple years since you’ve come into a 100 with the kind of focus and the eye of the tiger and the drive.

Powell: For sure.

iRunFar: How’s it feel to be back in the game? [Powell: It’s awesome.] You’re back in the game. 2014 was a great year for you business-wise and all that, but not necessarily out here. [Powell: No.] Now, here we are. How does it feel?

Powell: I regretted it last year—not having a focus race, not having… and for me a focus race, it really helps if it’s one of those special races, prominent races. I don’t know what you want to call it—it’s Marathon des Sables, a Western States, a Leadville, a UTMB, a Hardrock. I missed that last year. It probably seems like I’m on vacation all the time, but I pretty much work all the time even when I’m in cool places. So if I don’t have something that I have to or really want to train for, I end up just working all the time. I did that last year, and having Hardrock, I mean, I’d go work for a week at a race and run 15 miles, if I’m lucky, for a week, then train 100 miles per week. But it got me those 100 mile/weeks. Having that on the calendar was awesome. Regretting not having that on the calendar last year, I signed up for Comrades Marathon to know that I’d have a race to look forward to. I put in for Western and Hardrock, and I got into Hardrock. It ended up working out.

iRunFar: And you stayed free of the injury bug. You jammed your foot, but…

Powell: No, that was just more of a slight thing that I just babied for a couple days because there was no reason not to.

iRunFar: So even though your job is all-consuming and you could do nothing but that and still be plenty busy and still not have time to… one of the things I observed as your friend, literally from the time you were picked in the lottery through now, is your sense of purpose. You always have a sense of purpose of what iRunFar is about, and I don’t mean you were obsessed with Hardrock because you were doing all this other… just a general sense of purpose has just been imbued in every conversation we’ve had, email exchanges, even the content of, if you’re a subtle observer, even some of the content of iRunFar these past six months has been very purposeful and very thoughtful. It comes from the mind of a guy who’s focused on something. If ultrarunning does give us something, it’s a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Powell: It’s great to have that back. It makes me want to have it every year going forward. Long after iRunFar is off and doing its own thing and I’m off and doing my own thing, I want to be doing this kind of stuff. Maybe someday I’m not able to race anymore, to have that focus on a hiking trip or whatever… just having that purpose of getting out there. I ran all through last year, just not much and not with a purpose. But having that little spark behind… there wasn’t much in the winter. I was really busy with work. Even up until mid-March, I was working a ton and didn’t get to run. But as soon as middle of March came around, it was time to put the head down. It’s felt awesome getting the fitness back—it came really quick. I basically fell into a couple straight 100-mile weeks starting in Moab and then up in Leadville. I just had amazing training there. I had a little downtime with travel and then went to Nepal and had some huge weeks there including some racing at the Mustang Trail Race which was an amazing experience. It was shorter racing, but racing up high and just sprinting ten miles at 13,000 feet—two weeks there. I’ve run seven 100-mile weeks this year. I’ve run three 100-mile weeks in training the rest of my life.

iRunFar: You know what? You seemed to be able to compartmentalize the distractions, too. You’re always going to have iRunFar on your mind. You’re always going to have your travel on your mind. You seem to be, especially coming here, you were able to just be like, “You know what? I’m doing it.”

Powell: I’m doing it.

iRunFar: I’m going up Anvil…

Powell: F*** it. I’m doing it.

iRunFar: The best ultrarunners can turn it on and turn it off. If you’re on all the time, you’re going to burn out, you’re going to be fried, you’re going to be… You’ve already had a long ultra career. You’re going to have a lot longer one. This is one of the real ways to do it. I think what so many of the iRunFar readers are so excited about going into this weekend for you, is this is your chance to really give back the way you do with iRunFar, but give back as a participant on the course. You said to me at the end of Western States last year is, “Couldn’t you give back better on the course?” What you’re going to do on Friday and some of the day on Saturday is give back.

Powell: Hopefully not on Sunday.

iRunFar: No, hopefully not on Sunday, but you’re going to give back in that other way. I think that’s going to be pretty cool.

Powell: It will be fun because I know a lot of people will be psyched to see me on the course. Hopefully I’ll have lots of good interactions.

iRunFar: Aside from kissing the rock, is there a part of the race that you’re really looking forward to? I know you haven’t seen every inch of the course, but you’ve seen a whole lot of it. You’ve paced here. Is there a place when you start out and you’re rolling and you’re, “Gosh, I’m looking forward to that.”

Powell: Part of that is I specifically kept sections of the course I’ve never run before. I’ve not run from here to Little Giant.

iRunFar: You’ve not run the first 10.

Powell: I’ve not run the Pole Creek section to Sherman. I’ve not done the Top of Putnam to Mineral Creek.

iRunFar: There are some rocks there. Be careful.

Powell: I’m looking forward to it. I’m probably the only one to say this. I’m really looking forward to the descent off Oscars.

iRunFar: Are you? Really?

Powell: I’ve only done that fresh, but I love it. It’s like the most heinous…

iRunFar: Oh, my gosh. It’s like the Fred Flintstone wilderness—boulders…

Powell: I think it’s a good reminder or a good thing for me to keep in my mind early in the race—I want to be able to run that, not crush or destroy it running down, but it’s so technical. If I can run that upper part, oh, those last 20 miles… it’s going to be fun.

iRunFar: That’s actually pretty cool to look forward to that because I could see if you were fresh, if your feet were together… yeah.

Powell: It’s not just that mental aspect. The view from Oscar’s Pass looking over to Grant Swamp, it’s one of the best views of the course.

iRunFar: And disheartening to know you have to get there.

Powell: Nah. It’s funny because I’ve done all these climbs, and there are none that really individually… I mean, the whole totality of Hardrock freaks the crap out of me, but any hill itself… there’s nothing that really, “Oh, that’s so hard. That’s so whatever…”

iRunFar: Yeah.

Powell: Doing this Anvil climb, I’ve done it so many times that anything on the course… there’s nothing steeper.

iRunFar: Nothing steeper or grindier than that.

Powell: Nothing more technical for a long descent.

iRunFar: One of the things I’ve often thought about working with young athletes is knowing the difference between anxiety or nervousness and fear. How are you doing… this is an overwhelming event for just about everybody, even the 10-timers. It’s huge. It’s different every time. There are some parts that are genuinely something one can be scared about. How are you mitigating your nervousness? Nervousness is healthy; fear can be debilitating. How are you…?

Powell: On that spectrum, anxiety, and I deal with anxiety in my life. It’s something I have a problem with and try to deal with, but it’s not here. There’s none right now. There’s none on the work-front which there could be because I’ve got a ton of work to do with the race coming up and my personal preparation and resting and whatnot, but that’s not there. I’m not anxious about getting on the line. I’m not anxious about getting around. I do find myself more anxious for shorter races. Like if I was doing the Jupiter Steeplechase in Park City at the beginning of August, I’m nervous before that. I don’t get anxious before a 100 miler anymore because there is so much time. If I screw up the first seven hours, who cares? There’s nothing to fear in that. I do have fear for some parts of the course. I was really fearful of Little Giant-Dives for awhile, but that snow has melted. There was this couple hundred meters on this pyramid face, and it looked really sketchy. It’s melted out. I’ve not been there, but I’m okay with that. Virginius… Bear Creek I don’t mind. There’s a lot of exposure…

iRunFar: You don’t mind the exposure…?

Powell: No, you’re on a trail, and that’s fine. I don’t think I’ll mind Virginius too much because you’re facing the wall, same with Grant Swamp Pass. They’re kind of a pain in the butt to get over. There’s one place I’m totally blanking on that I was thinking about the fear about it… I think right after Virginius, you do a little sidehill section…

iRunFar: Where it’s real off-camber…

Powell: With slidey crap. I don’t mind going up a steep face. I don’t like traversing a steep pace. At first when I came to pace at Hardrock, I was fearful of Bear Creek. Then I got there and I’m pacing somebody, and you just do it. I’m sure I’ll have the same attitude during Hardrock. I’m not fearful about the stomach. You learn through making mistakes. I got sick at Western States two years ago, and I don’t regret dropping. I would have loved to have one more toward my ten-year buckle, but I was in a pretty crappy place, but I also learned that you get sick, and I’ve done enough runs since on zero calories for a really long time, I should have or probably could have kept going with no calories, especially at a Hardrock-type thing where you just keep walking. So I’m not going to let that bother me. It was persistent puking and nausea.

iRunFar: Like you said, too, if I screw up seven hours, I still have so much time. You could stop and eat a cheesestake…

Powell: I could go to Ouray, sit in the hot springs, go into town…

iRunFar: Get a couple vegan quesadillas…

Powell: And then come back and go. I could do that in Telluride, too. There’s that much time.

iRunFar: You have been good about nutrition and the solid food and knowing when you have to hit reset and so forth.

Powell: I don’t have a problem with fueling. I’ve been sick at very few races in my life. It wasn’t a terribly hot year at Western States, but it was a hot year. It was a little too much on the sodium front and diagnosing it after the fact. I kind of have that fact. I’ve kind of been a low sodium guy for a long time, and it works for me. I’ll have some S-Caps to pop if I need it, and I’ll have some sports drink with a little bit of electrolytes.

iRunFar: I imagine in this race, you can really just base it… you’ll be sweating and there will be warm spots, but it’s not going to be that relentless heat.

Powell: No, and that’s why I don’t mind going with one 20 oz bottle for most of this race. At Western States, I’m carrying two bottles no matter what.

iRunFar: Bryon, I’ve got to say, on behalf of all the iRunFar team and everybody out there in iRunFar land, we are really looking forward to an awesome race and an awesome experience.

Powell: You know what I’m looking forward to?

iRunFar: And now my bonus question.

Powell: Oh, yeah? What’s that?

iRunFar: One of the things you’ve done in this run up that I could never do, I could never do, is you’ve given up beer.

Powell: Since June 1.

iRunFar: The bonus question is, because I’ll take this on myself, what beer do you want me to hand deliver to you when you kiss that rock?

Powell: It’s going to have to be after champagne because I’m going to have champagne. A reporter from France, Christophe Rochotte died just a couple weeks ago.

iRunFar: I remember hearing about that—very tragic.

Powell: A guy I’d only met in person a couple times, but a really great dude. I just want to have a little…

iRunFar: A little toast to him?

Powell: Yes, especially since I have not drank since he passed away. I’d like to raise a glass to Christophe. After that, I don’t suppose you’d have a 395 IPA in your car would you?

iRunFar: I knew you were going to say that. No, but I might try and track one down.

Powell: If you can’t, a Pliney wouldn’t be bad either. There’s lots of good beer here. It’s IPA season.

iRunFar: Yeah, I think it will have to be an IPA.

Powell: Even the Modus Operandi from Ska Brewing in Durango… I hope to get down there if not Sunday, Monday after the race.

iRunFar: Not like I’m making predictions about the race, but I think I might get a good lunch IPA.

Powell: Crap. Let’s call it a late lunch, buddy. Late lunch.

iRunFar: Alright, late lunch it is.

There are 22 comments

      1. perryligon

        Yep, love that race – ran it twice, skipped it this year, but may be back in 2016 – saw you there last year and hoped to say hi, but you know how it goes at start lines – have a great Hard Rock, I'll be rooting for you from Harrisburg, PA! :-)

  1. boybunting

    Have a rad run out there, man! Did I catch at the beginning of the interview that it was your first time entering the Hardrock lottery? So cool that Anna Frost got in too already. I had the sense that most people never get in and the ones who do, do only after like years and years of trying. Is that more mountain myth, or do they hold a few spots to make stuff happen for a few chosen folks every year?
    Cheers!

    1. EvanKimber

      It is INCREDIBLY tough statistically speaking to get selected into Hardrock for those who have NEVER run it. Last year in the lottery they allowed 47 slots for the "Never" folks and there were 4,093 tickets cut by 1,133 qualified runners trying to get in! For those with just "1" ticket (1st year trying) the odds of getting selected were 1%!

      1. boybunting

        Wow. All the more miraculous for this years folks then! Insane. I'm not so mathy, but i guess that your explanation also shows why i recognize so many repeat names in what seems impossible to ever even just get into once. The group of runners for the previous finishers part of the lottery can't be growing in applicants nearly as fast as the nevers. pretty slick actually, in terms of preserving and shaping that cool kid family vibe they got going. I'll never probably get in, but I reckon that i'm glad it exists…thanks for the tutorial!

        1. EvanKimber

          To add to the stats: This year for Veterans (5+ finishers) 34 of 43 (79%) got selected. For the "All Else" (not a veteran or a never, for example if you've finished 1 to 4 times) there were 69 of 176 selected (39%).

          In short, yes, Hardrock is one damn tough family to get into. How Bryon and Meghan BOTH beat those odds in the same year is…….astounding! So I know they will make the absolute most out of it. And us lowly "nevers" will keep on trying!

          1. boybunting

            Then if Hardrock were a country it's immigration policies are more Denmark and Japan, and less USA or Canada. Ha! Those lucky Danish do seem quite happy and homogenous ;)

  2. deanger

    That was a really great interview… I can't believe how much traveling you've done… And have managed to get in some quality training. I hope you enjoy the run and that we get a "post run" interview between you and AJW as well!

  3. paulandmer

    Great Interview, and love the enthusiasm from both of you. What a fun exchange! Wishing you the best Bryon!!

  4. @theMarkCRyan

    So the way I figure it, for a lunch time drink with AJW at the finish, you just need to stay with Darcy Piceu the whole way and finish in just under 30 hours…you're welcome for the pacing tip.

  5. CharlieDalziell

    Surely Bryon is a shot for top ten…..assuming he doesn't have a 6 hour nap mid race.

    Very jealous of your lifestyle Bryon, I may need to make some changes to mine.

    1. iRunFar - Bryon

      I'd be careful what you wish for. I worked past 1 a.m. on 12+ hour days three-straight days last week… and that's not including Western States coverage. Ain't no vacation here. ;-)

  6. totops1

    Loved this interview, AJW is aways so animated, it's a pleasure to see him interviewing you Bryon! :-)
    I also loved the GEAR talk (as a matter of fact, Id like to hear more gear talk when talking to elite runners too!) and it mad me wonder : Do you use a particular software or website to track your runs/gear ?

    Best of luck for hardrock!

  7. @RudyShepherd

    This was a very entertaining and instructive interview. I am going into my first 100 miler next weekend (Vermont 100) and it was great to hear about Bryon's game plan, especially when he said it's no big deal if he runs the first 7 hours poorly, there's still a lot of time and running to do. What a revelation! Takes the pressure off of me thinking I have to run the whole thing perfectly or I won't finish.

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