Dylan Bowman has finished fifth at the past two The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships and is back at the race for his fourth time this weekend. In the following interview, Dylan talks about his up and down season, what he’s done to get his feet back under him, and what far-off TNF shoes he’ll be racing in this weekend.
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Dylan Bowman Pre-2015 The North Face EC 50-Mile Championships Transcript
iRunFar: This is the end of the season with Bryon Powell and Dylan Bowman. We’re here at The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler. How are you, Dylan?
Dylan Bowman: Good. Welcome back to Mill Valley, Bryon.
iRunFar: Yes, we’re back in Mill Valley again—your fourth time at this race. You live here now. What does this race mean to you?
Bowman: It’s always kind of a highlight of the season. I love 50-mile races. This one takes place in my backyard on my home trails, so it’s really easy to obviously logistically prepare for it. The level of competition is something that’s really attractive to me. Yeah, like I said, when it comes to racing, 50 miles is my preferred distance, I think. As the sport trends longer, you sort of have to take advantage of those opportunities to race competitive fields. Yeah, there’s a lot that’s attractive about the race.
iRunFar: So you’re not a huge fan of the 100k or the growth of that distance as opposed to 50 miles?
Bowman: No, I think 100k is a great distance also. For me, I’ve had a lot of success at 100k’s.
iRunFar: You won two big ones this year at Tarawera 100k and TNF – Australia 100k.
Bowman: Right, so it’s not a commentary on anything besides the fact that I really love the distance.
iRunFar: It suits you.
Bowman: Yeah, and the way the sport is evolving, it’s starting to get longer, but it’s still the shorter-distance mountain-style racing, the Sky races are also gaining a lot of traction as well. It’s sort of that middle ground about 60 to 80k that races are sort of being forgotten about. So this fits in that niche, and I love that niche. I’m excited to race on Saturday.
iRunFar: How are you feeling going into that? You had a really couple great performances early in the year and some rough goes at Way Too Cool and Western States. Where are you going into this one?
Bowman: Yeah, so this year has been really interesting. I’ve had obviously a couple really successful races early in the year and then a couple of moments where my body is just cracked. I think more than anything it’s a matter of finding balance between those two things. The early part of the year, everything was clicking. After Australia, I didn’t really fully appreciate the stress that I took with the heatstroke incident that I had.
iRunFar: At Way Too Cool?
Bowman: It was at the Marin Ultra Challenge 25k. Obviously Australia was a race I had to go really, really deep. After Australia and before Western States, that’s a time when you feel like you really should be training really, really hard. For me, it was a time when I should have been focusing on recovery. Unfortunately I ran myself into the ground at that point in the year. The last couple months have just been about building back up, finding that balance again, and I think I’ve been able to do that fairly successfully. We’ll see on Saturday.
iRunFar: Have you been monitoring more on volume or intensity in that period since you went a little too deep?
Bowman: A little bit of both. The intensity has definitely come down. Instead of doing what I usually do which is about three workouts per week, I’ve been doing one with an option of a second. That has helped a lot. The overall volume also has been a little bit down. But I think because of the fact that I’d done so much earlier in the year, both racing and training, taking a little bit of a break has allowed me to absorb a lot of that really hard work that I did earlier in the year. I think I’m still benefiting from it. I’m working hard to not sort of put myself back in that same situation. I feel that I’m a runner who does better on lower volume.
iRunFar: You did a decent amount of racing earlier in the year, but then had more or less a complete break since. You had The North Face Endurance Challenge – Wisconsin race. Do you feel like you’re kind of fresh mentally coming into this weekend’s race?
Bowman: Mentally, yes, I definitely feel very fresh. Historically, that’s always when I’ve had my best races. That being said, usually before races like this, I have a pretty good intuition about how my race is going to go. For this one, I really don’t know. The mental freshness is there. I’m excited to hurt. I’m excited to put myself through what’s necessary, and that’s not something I could have said before Western States. I think that’s a good indication. Where the fitness is at, really, I don’t know.
iRunFar: While you’ve been working out maybe a little bit less, having seen your Strava 20- to 30-mile runs on the Headlands trails here, it looks like you’re in pretty darn-good fitness. Are those your key workouts during the week?
Bowman: It’s certainly an important run, the long run, and the energy has been good. It’s been easy to get out the door and get the long runs in, which I couldn’t have said between Australia and Western States. It was really a grind. While there wasn’t anything at that point in the year at least in my GPS data to indicate that I was at the bottom of the tank, physically, emotionally, and mentally, I felt like I was at the bottom of the tank. Now, I feel much more rejuvenated. I feel like I have something in the tank. That makes me excited to empty it out there on Saturday.
iRunFar: Good luck out there, Dylan. Have fun.
Bowman: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: One bonus question for you. I was on Twitter or Instagram or something out there today and you threw out a picture of a shoe you’re going to be racing in this weekend. It’s a long way off. It’s three seasons off still—Spring 2017—but what will you be wearing on your feet on Saturday?
Bowman: It doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m really excited about it. I’ve been working with The North Face on what is sort of the next generation of the Ultra Cardiac which was pretty successful on the trail scene this past year. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the same name or if it’s going to be different. Essentially, it’s the same shoe that fits sort of in the sweet spot. It’s not a minimal shoe. It’s not a maximal shoe. It’s a shoe that performs really well for me on the smooth fire-road stuff here in Marin, but also can handle the more technical, rocky stuff. It’s versatile in that respect. It’s been a real pleasure to work on. It’s the first time in my career I’ve been able to really help on a project like this. The benefit of living in the Bay Area, of course, is The North Face is also here. I’ve been going over to headquarters frequently and meeting with the designers, and I’m able to go through samples quickly. We’re able to look at them together which I think has been helpful both for me to learn the process and for them to have that feedback.
iRunFar: Knowing you and your shoe preferences pretty well, I’d guess there’d be some cushioning and some protection in this shoe. Is that sort of the hallmark of the everyday use?
Bowman: Yeah, I mean, for me, I’m a bigger guy. I’m not a minimalist shoe runner. I like shoes that I feel comfortable going 100 miles in. This is definitely a shoe that fits in that category. At the same time, it’s not like a big cushioned sort of shoe that we’re seeing become very popular on the market now. I feel like it fits into the sweet spot that you don’t really have a lot of options in now. It’s sort of between the minimal end of the spectrum and the maximum.
iRunFar: Back in the day, did you ever run in the Brooks Cascadia? Is it in that sort of range?
Bowman: Yes. I would say, yes. I’ll be wearing it on Saturday. I’m really excited about it. At this point we’re aiming at spring 2017. That’s still flexible. Yeah, take a look.
iRunFar: A little zoom in… stay where you are… alright, that’s all you guys get to see.