Dan Metzger is an up and comer to the California trail-running scene, and he’s looking to make a national splash at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile this weekend. In this interview, hear about Dan’s background with collegiate running, how he found his way into trail ultras, and how he’s going to strategically approach this weekend’s race.
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Dan Metzger Pre-2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Healdsburg, California, with Dan Metzger. It’s the evening before the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Hi.
Dan Metzger: Hi.
iRunFar: How’s it going?
Metzger: It’s going well. Thanks for having me.
iRunFar: Of course. So you just rolled up the coast from your home in Monterey Bay.
Metzger: Yeah, we live in Marina just north of Monterey right by there.
iRunFar: You are—I don’t know if there is a better definition here in California—and up-and-comer. Like if I open up Wikipedia, it’s probably your face in there right now.
Metzger: Yeah, I don’t know about that.
iRunFar: Who the heck are you?
Metzger: I ran college for about three years at Cal State Monterey, and then sort of just focused on graduating early there, so I didn’t run my last year. Then I started running a lot on my own and stumbled across ultrarunning like a lot of people I read about. I said, ‘What the heck,’ and jumped in a local race right in Marina called the Ordinance 100k, and did that one.
iRunFar: So 100k was your first ultra?
iRunFar: Well, go big or go home.
Metzger: I didn’t know any better at the time. I kind of was reading about the high-mileage people.
iRunFar: Maybe does common sense say 100k is a long way?
Metzger: Yeah, and when you don’t know a lot about the sport, you kind of read about 100 milers. Well, it’s not a 100 miler.
iRunFar: It’s shorter than that. So how did that go?
Metzger: It kicked my butt, but I had so much fun. It was just so different than anything I’d ever done compared to college. Yeah, it was just a lot of fun even though it was the hardest thing I’d ever done.
iRunFar: This was about 14 or 15 months ago now?
iRunFar: So what’s happened since then? I know you’ve run a couple ultras. We saw you for the first time at The North Face 50 in December.
Metzger: Yeah, I’ve run a lot of little races. We’re running for Inside Trail Racing right now—me and my girlfriend, Jenny—so I do a lot of their races because…
iRunFar: [off camera] Do you like how he got the mention of you in there?
Metzger: She wanted me to give her a shout out.
iRunFar: Jenny’s back there watching. She’s our single fan right now.
Metzger: Yeah, so I’ve just been doing a lot of local races. Then I decided to do The North Face 50 because I wanted to do some competition and see what I could do. That was the first time I’d really raced against really good people. That was just an eye-opener at how fast people actually run these things. From then, I took a little break, like a week or two, of low, easy running, and then focused on training toward this race as the next big one.
iRunFar: You placed 16th at The North Face which in a field like that, finishing inside the top 20 is pretty decent. Talk to me for a minute about how that day went for you. Did you… we saw you a couple times just sort of wearing this shit-eating grin around the course.
Metzger: I kind of just said I was going to do my own thing. I knew it would go out really fast because that’s what everybody said. The leaders, I could see their headlamps off miles ahead of me. I was just running back with all the SF crew, all those guys just hanging out. Slowly, I just was working up, and then it was the first time I really bonked hard. After Marincello, I was just so dead. It was a struggle to the finish. Yeah, I kind of just did my own thing and then realized that it kind of was going to hurt no matter what, so I might as well go a little harder and learn to surge and actually race.
iRunFar: Since the beginning of the year, you raced Way Too Cool… was that a month-and-a-half-ago-ish?
Metzger: Yeah, I got into that race based on a race giveaway on Instagram from Sufferfest Brewery. I kind of just got into that through a caption contest that had to get tagged. I was like, Alright, that’s a good tune-up for Sonoma. I jumped in that one.
iRunFar: That’s a race that moves even faster. How did that feel?
Metzger: It was good. I knew how competitive it was. The last few years it’s been stacked. So that was the first practice I had actually trying to race legitimately in the longer sort of race.
iRunFar: You are young. You’re 21?
Metzger: 22, just recently, as of last week.
iRunFar: Happy birthday. You’re 22. You come off of college running. What is your training? What’s a daily workout? What’s a week’s routine now that you have a year’s worth of experience?
Metzger: It’s changed a lot in the last year. The last year of college, I kind of was slipping away from college running. I started stumbling into high-mileage people to try to get good at college originally. Then me and my buddy who’s really good—he runs at Chico now—we just started cranking out as much miles as we could.
iRunFar: Like literally?
Metzger: Yeah, we did some 200’s here and there. I actually got into ultrarunning and saw that people had success more in ultrarunning with high mileage, too. So I was like, Alright, I’ll just keep doing this and running a lot of pure miles. Until just recently, honestly, just in the last month, I kind of… David Roche has been talking to me trying to get me constantly, because he always does the local races, to actually do workouts and such. I was like, “I don’t like doing workouts. That’s what I didn’t like in college. I like to just run a lot.” Finally, after he kicked my butt constantly at Way Too Cool and then at Marin Ultra Challenge, I was like, “Alright, I guess I’ll listen to you and start doing some workouts.” Lately I’ve been running about 130 to 150 miles per week with threshold work in there on hills. Yeah, that’s about it. Nothing really too focused.
iRunFar: Are you finding that certain types of terrain or certain pieces of runs you go out and do come to you more naturally or is eagerness your biggest positive factor towards running?
Metzger: Yeah, I really like trail running. I feel like I’m a lot stronger on hills. Cross country when it’s just flat on grass, I don’t have that natural speed. I even see that like in Way Too Cool when you hit a flat section, I kind of get dropped a little bit. So, I love running hills. I sometimes crave hills because I think I can catch people. It’s a lot better than running on the road and etceteras. Doing workouts out on an awesome trail makes it more beneficial and worthwhile.
iRunFar: At The North Face in December, earlier when we were talking, you said you might have had your first experience bonking. Are you taking into tomorrow’s race lessons learned? Are you changing your nutrition, your energy expenditures? What’s your plan so you don’t get there tomorrow?
Metzger: Now that I’ve been doing it kind of for a year now, I kind of actually read about ultrarunning and what you should be doing and how to focus on nutrition and stuff like that rather than just going out and running a lot of miles. Yeah, I’m totally going to focus on actually eating and drinking a lot. The first race I’d ever done, Ordinance, I did that again at the beginning of this year, and that was much better. I think I ran an hour-and-a-half faster. Me and another guy were just pushing it up front. I’m basically going to try to that same thing taking in Gu and water. That’s what works best for me.
iRunFar: Strategy-wise, are you going into tomorrow looking for a Golden Ticket? Are you going into tomorrow looking to just see how you stack up with some of these guys? Are you trying to win?
Metzger: Yeah, this year I’ve actually started to believe I could do really well in competitive racing. Last year was always about learning and getting my butt kicked at The North Face. Now, doing so well at Way Too Cool, maybe I could actually start finishing up on the podium at competitive racing. The Golden Ticket, yeah, that’s always on the back of my mind. That would be awesome.
iRunFar: So you’d race Western if you got the ticket tomorrow?
Metzger: Yeah, I could never turn that down. That’s such an awesome opportunity. But that’s not the reason I’m here. It’s just that it’s so competitive, and I’ve read such great things about this race and how it goes out really fast and a lot of people always have breakout races… and it’s close to home.
iRunFar: Alright, Dan, this is going to be fun. You’ll add an element of entertainment for us fans out there tomorrow.
Metzger: Good. I hope I live up to it.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you.
Metzger: Thank you so much, Meghan. That’s awesome.