With her sixth-place finish at the 2016 Western States 100, 55-year-old Meghan ‘The Queen’ Arbogast earned her 10th Western States buckle. In this interview, Meghan talks about how and why she thinks her 10th race was one of her best, the joy with which she ran during this race, and whether she plans to run Western States again.
For more on the race, read our 2016 Western States 100 results article.
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Meghan Arbogast Post-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2016 Western States 100. I’m with the other Meghan, the other M-E-G-H-A-N, the other left-handed Meghan, with the Queen, Meghan Arbogast. You just finished Western States for the 10th time. How are you feeling right now?
Meghan Arbogast: Yes, I feel good actually. It took me 10 years, I think, to let go of trying to hit splits. I like to set really high goals and a really high bar, but this year, all I needed to do to be able to come back was to be in the top 10. I knew the time goals I’d tried to hit over the years are probably not attainable, and that’s okay because really, I just want to be in the race. So, I feel good because I was conservative all day. I didn’t really crap out until the last eight miles. Yeah, I didn’t really have a lot of down times. It was just a lot of fun. It was comfortable.
iRunFar: I just want to clarify. Did you just say that the only thing you needed to do to come back next year was finish in the top 10? So, you’re apparently not done. You’re going to keep going?
Arbogast: Yes. Correct. As long as I can.
iRunFar: You’re going for the next set of 10 buckles?
Arbogast: Yeah, why not? It’s there, right? The 20-year buckle.
iRunFar: It’s there. You’ll be coming back with the F6.
Arbogast: Yeah, I like that.
iRunFar: Sixth place and a fast time—tell me about your day.
Arbogast: Yeah. So from the start, going up the Escarpment is the worst part of the race because there’s no air, people are in a hurry, and people are freaked out. You look up and you see ponytails. Why am I back here? This time I was just like, I don’t really care, and this time I had a great ascent. Then we got in the high country and we were spread out enough that I was actually able to run on the singletrack right from the start which a lot of times I’m behind people, and I’m better at the downhill. I just had all this space. Some people passed me, and I didn’t care. I’m just going to chill. It was so enjoyable. It was the most enjoyable high-country experience I’ve had. Then when I got to Duncan Canyon what my place was because I kind of wanted to know what place I was. Top 10 was what I wanted. She said 14th or 15th. That’s kind of what I thought I would be. I got into Duncan and I’m like, I’ve never felt this good in Duncan Canyon. I took my first spill which wasn’t too bad. My climb up to Robinson, I’ve never felt this strong because I wasted too much energy in the high country which takes too long to recover which would have been a bad patch. No bad patch there. Then I got to Dusty Corners and I think I was 12th. I only remember passing one person, but when you go in aid stations you never know. That’s pretty darn good already to be in 12th. From Robinson Flat all the way to Last Chance I was by myself. It was so weird. I’m glad I know the course because one could get a little unsettled by that. Then I passed a couple gals going down to Swinging Bridge—Amanda Basham. We had quite the history that day… yesterday.
iRunFar: That was an historic yesterday. That was an historic 12 hours ago.
Arbogast: I moved into 10th by Devil’s Thumb. Then on the descent, Jodee Adams-Moore caught up, but then she was like, “I have to slow down.” She was in the creek at the bottom. I didn’t see her until the finish. On the way out up to Michigan Bluff, here comes Amanda Basham again. We were chatting and it was her first 100. She said she didn’t anticipate the long climbs and the long descents. Again, she pulled ahead of me, but when we got to Michigan Bluff, I’d caught back up again with her. So I was ahead of her. I had a great split both down and up and from Michigan Bluff to Foresthill. I had really good splits and all because I took it easy in the high country.
iRunFar: Lesson’s learned on the 10th year.
Arbogast: I was trying not to pay attention to the splits because that was the other thing that can get after you a little bit. A couple times it did. You’ve got to stop doing that. You’re in a great position. You feel good. It’s not likely you’re going to get passed by a bunch of people. I was seventh leaving Michigan Bluff. A couple people either dropped or stayed.
iRunFar: FYI, you’re the most lucid post-interview person. You know all your places and all your times. You’re very clear.
Arbogast: So then I picked up my pacer, Andrea, and last year I really wanted to push through Cal Street, and she didn’t like that because she had to push me. I blew up last year there. That was stupid because we usually have a good time. I just cruised it. I was down to the river in under three hours which is just perfect. I passed another person there, so I was actually sixth at the river. Then from Green Gate all the way to Brown’s Bar… well, first, Amanda passed me again, and then I caught her at Brown’s Bar. Then we passed Caroline Boller, so I was in fifth. Craig had said, “Why don’t you get top five this year?” I’m like, “Okay.” Cool. So then when I got to Quarry Trail about eight miles out, I was like, Okay, I think I’m pretty… pretty slow.
iRunFar: Starting to feel cooked. The turkey’s done.
Arbogast: Yeah, I was having a hard time. Yeah, it’s loose rock and you’re stumbling all over stuff. I’m kind of losing my core. I got into 49 and in and out pretty quick. On the way to No Hands, here comes Amanda Basham one more time. She killed it at the end. She took down another girl, too.
iRunFar: She hammered.
Arbogast: She had moments of “ugh” and then she was really strong. I was able to run a lot of Robie, and the last two years I’ve been so broken coming in that I just had pretty crappy days. This was like, Yay, and I feel really good to be back in the top 10.
iRunFar: So what factors do you attribute one of your best runs as your 10th run? Sounds like perhaps giving yourself the mental space took some pressure off?
Arbogast: It was a big part of it. I think just realizing that I set these time goals and not getting them and then I end up getting too tired. I’m just going to give my crew a big window of when I might come in and then just not worry about it… and then actually listening to Erika Lindland talk about patience and what she did last year and then again this year. It’s like, why not? We need to have some momentum still at the end. Last year I got passed by her and someone else in the last 10 miles. That was not fun because I was going so slow… and I was a little broken, too. The big piece was that I got fit at Marathon des Sables.
iRunFar: Training camp in the Sahara Desert.
Arbogast: And then training before I get really fit… and I’m not injured. In the past two years I’ve been injured… the lean… but I was upright the whole time except I did fall down one more time, but it was alright.
iRunFar: Well done. Congratulations on your 10th Western States buckle. Time to start working toward the next decade of buckles.
Arbogast: Thank you. Yeah, why not?
iRunFar: We’ll see you in Squaw.
Arbogast: Okay! Hashtag.