Jesse Haynes finished the Western States 100 in 10th place, his third finish inside the top 10. In our first interview with Jesse, he talks about how he approaches a competitive 100-mile race like Western States, how the second half of the race unfolded for him when the men’s top 10 was shifting around constantly, if it’s nerve-racking to run in the pivotal M10 position, and what he has left to accomplish at this race.
For more on the race, read our 2016 Western States 100 results article.
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Jesse Haynes Post-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m at the finish line of the 2016 Western States 100. I’m with Jesse Haynes who finished in the revered M10 position.
Jesse Haynes: I just got in.
iRunFar: You squeaked in.
Haynes: I did… by the hair of my chinny chin chin.
iRunFar: I want to rewind to before this race. You’ve been at this race several times. You’ve finished in the top 10 several times. But the race is changing as the years go on, and it’s not just a couple dudes who can finish M9 and M10. It’s five or six, seven, eight at this point.
Haynes: There’s a group of 10 or 15 guys who could finish in the top 10, no problem.
iRunFar: Dudes I think of as late-race workers who move up and who sort of play it cool in the beginning, watch the shenanigans, and then just roll right in in the second half of the race.
Haynes: Yeah, you’ve got to, from what I’ve found out in this race at least, I’ve got to hold back throughout most of the race and just go consistent. You’ve got to play with the heat, play with nutrition, and then like you said, let the shenanigans happen out front. There are guys who are chasing course records. There are guys who are chasing top 10. I really don’t chase either of those. Obviously in the back of my mind, it would be great to get the masters record, and it would be great to get in the top 10, but at the end of the day, when it all plays out I get into the top 10, but I’m not thinking about it at all.
iRunFar: This is a race that gets faster as the years go on. You guys are playing well ahead of the course record most years. For 20 miles, 30 miles, 40 miles, there are a lot of guys in front of a person like you. You’re not even close to the top 10.
Haynes: No. I’m in the 20s or close to the back pack of 20s.
iRunFar: How do you… there’s the tangible, “There are these many dudes in front of me,” but then there’s the intangible ego that lives inside. How do you literally let a village of men go off in front of you?
Haynes: Honestly, the first year that I did it, I was with Karl Meltzer for the first 16 to 40 miles. I figured he’s got a pretty good track record, so I’m just going to stick with Karl for awhile even though in my mind I couldn’t believe I was with Karl Meltzer. I learned early on just to hold back and he even said it. He said, “We’re in perfect position. We’re in the 20s. Five to eight guys are going to drop, so we’ll keep moving up.” It turned out just like that. The second year I was in the top 10, and I was with Jez Bragg for that period of time as well. I figured if he’s here right now, this is a great pace. I hope I can hold it. That worked out well, too.
iRunFar: Talk about yesterday. Who are some of the dudes you were running with?
Haynes: Actually, yesterday I was alone.
iRunFar: The entire day?
Haynes: The whole day. I came up on guys and passed guys. The only guy I switched spots with many times was Kyle [Pietari] who I think was eighth. We switched spots constantly from Foresthill on, and he had great downhill speed. I had no downhill speed. But he was suffering on the uphills, and I had good uphills. That’s why we played back and forth. I think it was responsible for a little bit of trail dust, but yeah, everything worked out good. We got to the river and I came up on a group of three or four people. It always seems like it happens that way. I get to the river and all of a sudden there are three or four guys. So in my mind, I can just get to the river and see what happens.
iRunFar: See who’s there. Was there a point in the race where you knew that you passed into the top 10 or were hovering around there?
Haynes: No, as a matter of fact, I was told as I was going up to Green Gate that I was in 14th, but there were four guys ahead of me who looked like crap.
iRunFar: Oh, that looked bad?
Haynes: Yeah. There was a really good chance that I would get into the top 10. Yeah, it’s great to think that, but I still wasn’t thinking it because it’s still hot out there at that time that I still wanted to maintain and just maintain my pace and see what happens. I got up to the aid station and I was told I was 12th. Chris DeNucci had just left, so that’s 11th. No, I was 13th and Bob Shebest wasn’t looking good and Chris had just left, so that’s 13, 12, 11. I’d heard Sage [Canaday] was in a bad way, so possibly I could play with this. But I really had my doubts running the whole last 20 miles.
iRunFar: At the highway crossing at mile 93 and No Hands Bridge at mile 97, it was basically sixth through 11th guys within just a couple minutes, couple minutes, couple minutes.
Haynes: Super close. I just didn’t have any speed. I knew I wasn’t going to be catching guys up front even if they were only two minutes ahead. My legs were so trashed. This was the toughest Western States that I’ve run for myself personally. It was… my legs were just hammered. It wasn’t even my fastest time, so it’s kind of interesting why it happened. I don’t know. And I took it easy.
Haynes: Yeah. Totally.
iRunFar: You now have multiple finishes in the top 10. Is it three?
Haynes: It’s three finishes in the top 10.
Haynes: Thank you.
iRunFar: Does a guy like you say something like, “Yeah, I’m having a good run. I’ve had a good run at Western States.” Or when you cross the finish line as M10, are you automatically thinking about next year and try to be better and try to feel better?
iRunFar: So we’ll see you next year?
Haynes: You’ll see me next year. Yesterday I was not saying that.
Haynes: Yesterday I was saying, “Ugh, I don’t think I ever want to come back here.” It’s such a tough race. Ask anybody. It’s a tough race. It’s a runnable race, but it’s tough. Yeah, yesterday I was saying, “I don’t think I want to come back,” but there’s still a goal I have. I haven’t met it yet. I don’t really want to put it out there because I don’t like doing that.
iRunFar: Well, well played yesterday. Congratulations on M10.
Haynes: Thank you. Thank you.