In his three previous 100 milers, David Laney has improved from 20th to eighth to third… at the Western States 100 twice and, then, UTMB no less. He’ll go for his fourth 100 miler this weekend. In the following interview, David talks about how he’s been able to consistently improve in 100 milers, how his time training in California has gone, what shoes he’ll wear, and how he’ll fuel among other things.
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David Laney Pre-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with David Laney before the 2016 Western States 100. How are you, David?
David Laney: Good. How are you doing?
iRunFar: Doing alright. It’s your third year back here in Squaw Valley, ready to toe the line. What keeps bringing you back?
Laney: Good question. I forget quickly. Obviously it’s an historic race. It’s a great race. It’s competitive. But it’s pretty fun. The people here… it’s about the people.
iRunFar: If I’m correct, you’ve run three 100 milers?
Laney: Yeah, I’ve done three.
iRunFar: So you went from 20th at Western States two years ago to eighth last year and third at UTMB?
iRunFar: To what do you owe that progression?
Laney: Getting slightly smarter every time… or maybe slightly less stupid.
iRunFar: In what ways?
Laney: Yeah, just training less. I think… my first year at Western States, I did all the climbing, all the mileage, and all the heat, and I was really fit a month before the race started. Every time, I’ve gotten a little bit closer to hitting the peak right on.
iRunFar: So less in-race actualization?
Laney: More about the preparation than the race.
iRunFar: With that in mind, you’ve been out here for how long?
Laney: Since April.
iRunFar: One problem ultrarunners tend to face, maybe all runners, is that you’re in a good spot, how do you not do too much? How do you not say, Oh, I’m going to go out and do another 10 miles tonight?
Laney: Yeah, it’s definitely challenging. I just quit doing doubles. I just said, “I’m not doing doubles anymore.” I just run once a day now. I think getting on the course has been really helpful because it just breaks it into chunks really well. I’ve been able to manage it by just deciding, This is what I’m going to run today, and I’m not going to go further even if I feel good. Plus there’s been a lot of rattlesnakes on the trail. I don’t really want to go anymore when I’m done.
iRunFar: Did you spend most of your training on the course itself?
Laney: I would say I drove to Auburn three or four days per week or up in the canyons. Half here… I would have liked to have spent more time training up here not on the trail, but there were some good runs that I got out in different places, too.
iRunFar: Do you feel like you’re sick of the course at this point or is it like the back of your hand where you can just go on autopilot?
Laney: It feels good. They’re kind of like home trails now. The climb to Michigan Bluff, I’ve always not really enjoyed that climb. Now, I hit the bridge at the bottom of El Dorado and I’m like, Yes, I love these next 15 to 20 minutes.
iRunFar: In your first couple 100s here at Western States, were you conservative at all in racing?
Laney: Yeah, for sure.
iRunFar: At UTMB it looked like the same way. Do you think you’ll have that same approach, or now that you have a little more experience, can you go closer to the line a little earlier?
Laney: That’s the idea, yeah. I think to really run well, you have to go to that line a little bit earlier and be able to hold onto that grinding zone for the last 50k. That’s what kind of worked out at UTMB. But UTMB is also a little bit trickier because I think they go out especially fast there. Here, people go out more moderately. UTMB people are just running so fast. I think this will be a better fit early on.
iRunFar: That being said, Jim Walmsley kind of has a tendency to go out pretty fast. Do you think you’ll just do your own thing?
Laney: Oh, yeah? That’s okay. Yes.
iRunFar: This year is kind of interesting with Western States in that aside from Thomas Lorblanchet who was fifth last year, the top four aren’t back. Sixth isn’t back. Does that kind of…?
Laney: Yeah, I was surprised. Yeah, I was really bummed to hear Seth [Swanson] was out. I always like running with him. I was disappointed to hear Rob [Krar] was out. I wanted everyone to come back. But it does make it a lot of people who haven’t been up front… so it will be fun.
iRunFar: It will be an interesting race. It’s not the Nick Clark versus Ian Sharman… people who have raced each other for years…
Laney: Yeah, you kind of know how it’s going to shake out… kind of like the election… We have no idea what’s going to happen… except much better.
iRunFar: Except much better. A little more camaraderie on the trail. Less dirt.
Laney: People don’t hate each other.
iRunFar: Generally speaking, yeah. You’ve not raced an ultra this year. You’ve run one race, the Olympic [Marathon] Trials, which happened… is behind you. But I think that’s pretty rare not having run an ultra previously in the year. What was your thinking behind that?
Laney: Again, just doing less. I’ve always been a little bit overcooked going into the race, and so it was hard. I wanted to run Sonoma, and I wanted to run Chuckanut, and I just decided it wasn’t a good fit to get ready for this.
iRunFar: This course is… there are some technical sections early, but generally it’s a really fast course. For someone like myself, I’d probably end up running in road flats in this. Are you going to go with trail shoes for this or road flats?
Laney: Yeah, like a Nike Lunar Trainer.
iRunFar: Why would you choose that?
Laney: Just spending enough time out here, that’s the shoe I’ve been grabbing every morning.
iRunFar: Is it the weight, the breathability, the feel—what makes you lean toward that?
Laney: It has a really soft, smooth ride, and it weighs nothing.
iRunFar: Are you particularly excited about any section of the course this weekend?
Laney: Yeah, I like the climb up into Michigan Bluff and the climb up Devil’s Thumb right now.
iRunFar: Really? That really surprises me just with your background and running in the Olympic Trials Marathon as your only race this year… you’d think Cal Street.
Laney: Everybody loves Cal Street. I’m excited about the harder canyon climbs.
iRunFar: Is there anything that intimidates you about the course?
Laney: I’ve been swimming a lot, so I’m ready for the river crossing.
iRunFar: You’ve witnessed the Krar technique?
Laney: Yeah. Honestly, no, there’s nothing… It’s still 100 miles. It’s going to be hard, but I’m ready for that.
iRunFar: You’re ready for the heat?
Laney: Yeah. It’s really nice being down here and being able to drive to Auburn because it’s been pretty warm, not quite as hot. Last week was cool, but it’s been pretty warm.
iRunFar: I haven’t checked the forecast this morning, but it doesn’t look like one of those record epic hot years.
Laney: I think it will be just warm.
iRunFar: One nice thing is it hasn’t been baking overnight. Sometimes the canyons continue to heat up over days. It’s not going to be the case. How do you fuel for the 100 miles? One of the most impressive things I witnessed last year was over the last half of UTMB where you just looked like you were running a 50k versuss everyone else running UTMB.
Laney: I like root beer Gu and Coca Cola. During a race, that’s pretty much it.
iRunFar: No solid foods?
Laney: Not really. I don’t like eating that much while I’m running.
iRunFar: Even at UTMB? Because some people can kind of get away with that at Western States, but…
Laney: I don’t know what I ate at UTMB. I think Coke… I ate an orange at one point…
iRunFar: Not a whole lot?
Laney: I think as long as you eat well leading up to it, your body doesn’t… when it’s this hot, you’re not digesting that well. I eat a big breakfast like pancakes with Trail Butter, a pretty high-calorie breakfast.
iRunFar: Do you do that at all on purpose… obviously to fuel, but to kind of slow yourself in the early going?
Laney: Having a full stomach keeps things under control for 20 miles.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there this weekend, and have fun out there, David.
Laney: I appreciate it. Thanks.