Patrick Smyth, 2015 US Mountain Running Champion, Interview
After taking second last year, Patrick Smyth is now the U.S. champion after winning the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships in Bend, Oregon. In the following interview, Patrick talks about how the men’s race was more dynamic than it might have appeared, what he thinks about the U.S. team’s chances at worlds, where he’ll be racing in the next two months, why he watched the Tour de France for cues on how to descend, and how he planned on celebrating his win.
For more on how the race went down, read our 2015 US Mountain Running Championships results article.
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Patrick Smyth, 2015 US Mountain Running Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Patrick Smyth after his win at the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships. Congratulations, Pat.
Patrick Smyth: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: You looked darn fast out there today. Did it feel that way?
Smyth: Not on the ups, I’ll tell you what. The game plan from the get-go was to maintain and hold steady on the ups and try to run scared and get away on the downs. It worked out. It was scary for sure. Every time I’d come off the downs with some kind of lead and then just have it cinched up at the top…
iRunFar: It was like an accordion out there.
Smyth: Exactly. It was just like… yo-yoing it.
iRunFar: At the top of the first climb, were you at least on the shoulder of Joe Gray?
Smyth: Yeah, the first climb it was Joe and Andy [Wacker] and I was just tucked in behind them. When it flattened out at the top, I swung around and had the lead going into the first down and put a little bit of a gap. But then again, it got cinched up on the second climb and then just repeat for the last one, too, except for Andy, he was actually trying to pass on the last climb because he cinched it up way quickly. Every time he tried to go by, I was just digging and just was trying to not let him go by because I knew if I had the lead and a clear line of sight, I could get it going again on the down.
iRunFar: That’s interesting because I was at the bottom of the lap and every time you had a five-second lead at the first lap and a 10-second the second. It was just incremental. But no, every time it was rebuilding that lead.
Smyth: Yeah, it had to be deceiving for people down here because each time I’d come with a little bit bigger lead, but that was not how the race played out at all. The perspective from up to down was totally different.
iRunFar: You were not even racing with a small gap, literally you were coming together.
Smyth: I could hear their breathing, both of them. I’d start the climb, and I didn’t hear any breathing. Halfway up, I could hear some huffing and puffing. Three quarters of the way up, they were pretty much right there.
iRunFar: Did you have confidence when you were at the top of the final descent that you could reengage that speed and hold them off?
Smyth: Yeah, I still had a little something left. Again, it was so hard to switch from full aerobic redline on the up and then just trying to get that turnover going again. It was… my body was just like, What are you doing? This is crazy!
iRunFar: Do you have any sense of how fast you topped out on that descent?
Smyth: Like we were talking yesterday, I think I probably had a 4:30 min/mile or quicker in there on the descent. I didn’t wear my Garmin. It was a last-second decision. I was just like…
iRunFar: You don’t want to see it.
Smyth: I don’t want to see it, just…
iRunFar: You don’t want to see the nine-minute pace…
Smyth: Exactly—the differential.
iRunFar: You’re a national champion. What’s that like?
Smyth: It’s pretty awesome. It’s awesome because it was so-darn hard. I really feel like I earned this one. I wasn’t able to run away. I really had to work and engage at multiple times in the race. Guys were right there. It was super competitive. It feels amazing to come out a champion.
iRunFar: Will you take a national team spot for Wales?
Smyth: Yeah, I think so.
iRunFar: That’s a pretty solid team. Like you said, you had to work for it. That’s pretty promising for the U.S. prospects.
Smyth: I think so especially with an up-down year and the guys that made it. I think it bodes well for Team USA.
iRunFar: What do you have lined up between now and then? Any racing?
Smyth: Yeah, I’ll do the [USATF] 50k championships at the Tamalpais Headlands race in Marin right around there. That will be my first time there. I know there are a lot of great trail races there, historic ones. It will be good to get up in that area and have another crack at a 50k. I think I’ll get some strength between now and then. I’ll first recover from this and then try and get some longer strengths runs and training in and then try to sharpen up before worlds.
iRunFar: Not too much racing then?
Smyth: Not too much racing especially with a 50k thrown in there. For me, at least, that’s pretty long.
iRunFar: Looks like you’ll get to race Andy Wacker again?
Smyth: Yeah, out at Tamalpais. I’m worried, too, because I looked at the course profile and I saw how good of a climber he is. He’s going to have multiple opportunities to… again, I’m just going to have to try to get away on the downs. It will be good, a cat-and-mouse game.
iRunFar: Nice. What shoes did you end up wearing?
Smyth: I wore the [Nike] Kiger 3 and they worked out great. They were light enough but enough protection to fend off a lot of those rocks. I could bulldoze through a lot of the stuff on the downs.
iRunFar: On the descents, when I’ve heard there was a road at the end, I was envisioning a groomed country road. You had to pick lines on that.
Smyth: For sure. I was watching the Tour de France yesterday and I was looking at how those guys come into those turns. I was trying to envision that as I was coming down, kind of like cut the tangents and swing wide without flying off the side.
iRunFar: Never take a sharp turn.
Smyth: Exactly. Come into hard, pitter patter with the brakes, then come out of it quick.
iRunFar: It was also somewhat loose at times.
Smyth: There was one time where I thought I was just going to burn out.
iRunFar: I only saw one of those today, your teammate Mario [Mendoza].
Smyth: Yeah, Mario, there was a bloody body for sure.
iRunFar: Totally. I don’t think we saw any broken bones out there.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your win.
Smyth: Thanks. Thanks for being out here and for the great coverage.
iRunFar: It was a pleasure. Good luck at worlds.
Smyth: Appreciate it.
iRunFar: A bonus question for you.
Smyth: Hit me.
iRunFar: We’re in Bend. You just won a national championship. If not a particular beer, is there a particular style of beer you plan on celebrating with later today?
Smyth: Yes, in the fridge I have a Deschutes Saison that they did with… I forget the chef’s name, but it was some sort of collaboration and limited edition. Saison is my style, the funky farmhouse kind of ale. That’s what I’ll be sipping on. Gosh, I wish I could remember the name of it. Deschutes, Limited edition, Saison, done with a chef from Spain, I think… some collaboration.
iRunFar: Maybe a few more later? Are you going to head out to the Crux after party and the crit tonight?
Smyth: The bike race?
Smyth: Yeah, that will be awesome.
iRunFar: I’ve been to a lot of ultras and covered those, but it’s kind of nice to wrap this up and… there’s a fun day in Bend to be had.
Smyth: Yeah, you have an afternoon to enjoy.
iRunFar: I’ll see you out there.
Smyth: You, too. I’ll see you out there.