Mike Foote placed third in his first and only Hardrock 100 back in 2010 when he was just getting rolling with ultras. In the following interview, Mike talks about why he’s more scared of the course this time around, why he’ll run his own race, why he’s excited to run a race with such a small field, and what he’s looking forward to in this year’s race. In a bonus conversation, Mike talks about why he partners with and uses Omnibars.
To learn more about the other competitors, read our 2015 Hardrock 100 preview.
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Mike Foote Pre-2015 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mike Foote before the 2015 Hardrock 100. How are you, Mike?
Mike Foote: Doing well, Bryon. How are you?
iRunFar: Are you excited to be in Silverton?
Foote: I am, yeah. I just got here a few days ago and it’s good to be settled here in the San Juans and poke around the course a bit.
iRunFar: You ran Hardrock back in 2010 and had a pretty good run here?
Foote: Yeah, it was great because I had absolutely no expectations. I didn’t really even know much about the history of Hardrock or the course. It was pretty early on in ultrarunning for me, and I just lucked out by getting in the lottery. I kind of went in a little ignorant which I think probably played to my benefit because I wasn’t as scared as I probably am this year.
iRunFar: It went well. You ran 29-and-change?
Foote: Yeah, 29:30 or something like that.
iRunFar: You’re back five years later in a little bit of a different situation. You’re a much more accomplished runner. You’re stronger. You know more about Hardrock and its history. So how does that have you feeling?
Foote: Yeah, kind of like I mentioned earlier, I probably know more about it now which makes me more scared of it which is a good thing. I think I have more respect for it.
iRunFar: For the course?
Foote: For the course, absolutely. I think I actually at the same time feel more confident as far as my strengths and really enjoying a course like this—one that is slower and involves a lot of hiking, involves a lot of strength being out there for so long. At the same time, every year you just never know what will come. I’ll probably have a pretty similar game plan going into it which is just… my whole goal here this year is ‘go slow to go fast,’ which is to say don’t rush anything. Don’t panic. Don’t go out too hard. I doubt there’s ever going to be a point where I felt I left way too much in the tank on a course like this. I think my best performance hopefully will be just being really smart early on.
iRunFar: You’ve proven that. Some of your best ultra performances have probably been at UTMB which is a long, mountainous course in which a lot of years you’ve been really conservative. In 2011 I think you were back with me early on and you were 11th that year. You’ve gone on to finish much higher than that. How do you keep yourself with that mindset? There’s going to be Kilian [Jornet] there and Iker [Karrera] and then a couple other people running but pretty open. How do you not try to hang with somebody?
Foote: I think having bad races where I try and go out too hard can sometimes lead me to that. In the last year, I’ve had a couple more races where I’ve been more aggressive early and I’ve paid for it. I think sometimes that’s a good reminder to know that my best racing strategy and my best performances have come from being more conservative early on. It kind of holds me accountable in a way. Also I’ve raced a lot of big races in Europe in the last few years, and there’s something really exciting about being on the start line with 150 other people. Even though the Hardrock has a lot of excitement around it and people are paying attention, it’s such a low-key race. I think the ability to keep the heart rate low at the start line and the first few miles of the race is so different than Transvulcania or UTMB or Lavaredo or UTMF. They all have the loud music and the energy of the entire town and you’ve got this frantic, manic level for the days leading into it. To be able to just be here and have such a quiet atmosphere, I’m really excited about that.
iRunFar: We’re looking out at the course and you could be in those trees in there a mile into the course and be alone.
Foote: Yeah, I probably will be.
iRunFar: How’s your training gone for this?
Foote: It’s gone well. I’m healthy. I’ve been really consistent. I started working with Jason Koop at Carmichael this January mainly because I wanted to have a little more structure in my life. There’s no doubt it’s been a very different program than I’ve ever really had before. I think confidence-wise it’s sometimes hard because I don’t have those benchmark training things that I’ve done in the past to fall back on. But at the same time, just to be at the start line with no issues health-wise—I haven’t had any issues health-wise in the last six months—to have that consistent of a block has been really good. I normally do quite a bit of volume leading into a race like this, and I normally do it for quite a long time. This year, it’s been much more consolidated. My volume kind of training cycle really has only been in the last six weeks or so. I think from the outside looking in, I think it’s probably a darn good thing to not be overcooked, but at the same time it’s always hard because my character is such that I like to prove to myself multiple times over that I can handle a certain distance leading into a race of this distance.
iRunFar: You haven’t had those benchmark workouts, but you also haven’t had those benchmark races. You haven’t really raced this year.
Foote: That’s a good point. It leaves it as an unknown, but the hope is… it’s all by design. I want to be rested. I want to be well-trained going into this. At least on paper, it’s all going in the right direction.
iRunFar: It’s not like you’re… I think, personally, for somebody maybe doing their first 100, it’s really good to have a couple 50k’s and 50 miles to build the confidence and tune the plan, but you’ve done enough long, hard 100 milers, you know what to expect and what to do.
Foote: Yeah, and it comes down to being smart and reminding yourself to be at peace with where you are and to bring what confidence you can to race day and just enjoy it.
iRunFar: What are you most excited about next weekend?
Foote: Gosh, that’s a good question. I’m already getting that feeling of, “Okay, let’s get going. This is going to be good.” You know, I do. Having been in the San Juans before and being back here the last few days, it does, it comes down to just being out in the mountains for a really long day. Obviously there’s going to be a lot of suffering involved, but I’m kind of embracing that. I’m looking forward to the latter parts of the race and really going in with myself and testing what I’ve got. That’s why a lot of us are here—to see what we can do. As scary as it is, as race day approaches, it gets more exciting.
iRunFar: Any thoughts on what you might be able to do?
Foote: No. I just want to be consistent all day long. That’s my real goal. I think that will lead me to my best performance. Sometimes when I pigeon hole myself into numbers with time, splits, and all that, it can be a disadvantage. This year I am under the impression the course is going to be a little bit slower due to the snow up high and how unconsolidated it is in spots and the postholing that we will all be doing. It doesn’t bother me, but I think if I were trying to stick to somebody’s splits from a drier year or that sort of thing, it might get my frustrated if I’m behind.
iRunFar: If you lose 10 or 15 minutes in American Basin off the splits…
Foote: Yeah, then maybe I’ll feel rushed or something in Grouse or Sherman. My goal is to race who I’m racing on race day against the same course on the same day. Everybody wants to do well. I want to do well, but I won’t throw any numbers out there. I don’t think that’s good for me.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there and have fun.
Foote: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: So Mike, you’re not afraid to have different sponsors, and you don’t have a whole lot. We’ve talked about Big Dipper Ice Cream store a couple times. Here’s another one that’s sort of different in your small portfolio of sponsors—Omnibar. Why? Why Omnibar?
Foote: Yeah, actually we were just talking about this this morning with some friends I was camping out with. I’ve got an ice-cream sponsor, a beer sponsor (Big Sky Brewery), and a meat-bar sponsor (Omnibar). They were telling me I need to finish off with coffee and my life would be perfect which would be good. Yeah, Omnibar—I’ve been with them for closing in on two years which is pretty much been since day one. They’re a company based out of Missoula, small. It kind of feels like family. They’re ranchers who live in Western Montana and source their meat from their ranch right outside Missoula. I got to know them just by living in the area and knowing about their product and what they’re all about. I kind of really got into it. I got into the science behind it. Unlike a lot of other bars out there, it’s a science-based mixture of carbs, fats, proteins. Doing things like the Hardrock and races like this, it fits the bill a little bit more for me. Obviously I eat a ton of sugar when I’m out on a race. I’m not eating just Omnibars. But especially leading into my training this year I’ve been integrating them more especially on my long runs. I wouldn’t need them on shorter, faster stuff, but on a race like this, it actually fits perfectly to have something that’s a little more substantial, savory. It kind of settles me.
iRunFar: Satiates your stomach.
Foote: Yeah, it kind of resets so I’m not getting a little too burned out on the sugar side of things. Yeah, it’s been a really good fit. They’re good people making a really good product. I love working with big companies as well. Being a part of The North Face has just been great these last few years. I hope it will be for quite awhile. I do feel like I’m a very big part of such a small company like Omnibar. Just being able to swing by the headquarters and shoot the breeze with them and see what they’re up to and see who things are going has been really fun.
iRunFar: You feel more of an integral part of the operation?
Foote: Yeah, oh yeah. We’re planning when I get back to do a lot of product-development stuff, checking out new flavors, hanging out in their commercial kitchen, making new bars. They really love the athletes’ feedback which has been really fun. Yeah, so it’s been… that’s why Omnibar.
iRunFar: On the science side, do you know anything on that in any more detail? A lot of people might, especially at a race like Hardrock, have a turkey wrap or a little beef jerky. Why something that’s… what is it about Omnibar?
Foote: I’ll give you the general overview of the science. There’s a guy named Brent Ruby who lives in Missoula and is a sports physiologist science researcher at the University of Montana who is a part owner of the company and helped bring the macronutrient ratio guide to the table. “These are the standards we need to hit.” They started using real food—sweet potatoes, flax seed, almond butter, beef. They put it all together but at a different ratio so it’s only 35% beef and 65% everything else like oats and all that kind of stuff. They hit the ratio for essentially… they were thinking about the military, they were thinking about smoke jumpers, they were thinking about endurance athletes who this would work for the best long term. If this is what you’ve got to go through all the time, this will be that good burning source of real food that will keep you going. Again, Brent could give you the numbers and all that kind of stuff, but that’s why they hit what they did and the ratios they found.
iRunFar: Give us an example of a flavor.
Foote: I’ll be probably exclusively eating a Mango Curry during the race.
iRunFar: It’s so strange to think that we’re talking about beef bars but it’s a mango curry?
Foote: Yeah, exactly. They’ve still got some sweetness. I think there’s some brown sugar in there. It’s not overly spicy. I can’t actually take too spicy. That Cranberry Rosemary is another one that I like. Those are probably the two that I actually eat while running. They have a Chipotle Barbeque that’s actually too spicy for me to eat while running. Yeah, again, just like anything else, it feels like real food when my stomach needs that. This year, I’ve trained and hopefully trained my stomach to hopefully integrate that much earlier than… I used to go sugar, sugar, sugar, sugar, I-can’t-do-it-anymore-so-it’s-time-to-switch. This year the hope is I can keep it all rolling and integrate that stuff early on. Again, if this were a 50k, it would be just sugar. If it were a four-hour race or something…
iRunFar: Or even TNF 50…
Foote: Yeah, that kind of stuff. For this race, it’s perfect because I’m moving slowly. When I’ve been doing slower training at Hardrock race pace which is like 15-minute miles, I put down real food and it’s great. It feels less peak-trough-y energy-wise which I really enjoy.
iRunFar: Will actually bring… with my nutrition, there are some things I bring on the course, and some things I just have at aid stations. Will you bring them for when you want them between different aid stations?
Foote: Yeah, one bar is a couple-hundred calories, so if I just have one bar in my pocket along with some gels and blocks, I can essentially pick and choose what I want as I go especially if it’s a few hours between aid stations.
iRunFar: When you’re on the trail, would you down a whole bar or would you nibble at it and then 20 minutes later have a gel?
Foote: Yes, 50 to 100 calories at a time. If I did 200 calories especially while running downhill, I think it might be a little much, but I am planning on… the way I work, I’m not afraid to do a fair amount of extra calories at the bottom of a big climb because I know I’m just going to be burning it all the way up, and I’ll have time to digest it. For me personally if I down too many calories at the top of a long descent, it’s a whole other story. I’ll cramp up, just the jostling of my stomach. I eat more at the bottoms than I will at the top. That’s just how it’s been for me.
iRunFar: It’s usually the opposite… just my personal… descending I have a much lower heart rate, so I feel like it doesn’t jostle so much and with my heart rate, I can divert a little more blood. It’s interesting.
Foote: If I’ve just eaten at the top of a climb, I tend to get side cramps from the digesting. I would definitely eat more at the base. Again, it’s just a preference and what I’ve learned about myself.
iRunFar: So, guys, experiment.
iRunFar: Thanks for sharing with us.