Jeff Browning Pre-2016 Hardrock 100 Interview
Jeff Browning took third at the Western States 100 19 days before taking on this year’s Hardrock 100. We started talking to him after his finish at Western States and, then, picked up the interview after he showed up in Silverton, Colorado. In the following interview, Jeff talks about how he’ll recover for Hardrock, what he hopes to do with the race and the States/Hardrock double, and how he’s feeling a couple days ahead of the race.
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Jeff Browning Pre-2016 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: We are going to change this from the post-Western States interview to the Pre-Hardrock interview… a little early for the transition you want to make probably, but…
Jeff Browning: Okay, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about it.
iRunFar: You’ve got three weeks until Hardrock.
Browning: I’ve got 19 days. Every day counts.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar with Jeff Browning before the 2016 Hardrock 100. Jeff, 19 days until Hardrock.
Browning: And we’re at the Placer High School Track. Let’s put that in there. Yeah, 19 days. Recovery. Walk.
iRunFar: You feel okay now?
Browning: Yes, there’s nothing weird except my foot, the ball of my foot. I’ve got to take care of that. That’s going to be triage. I already started on that last night. I did an Epsom salt soak on it last night and slept with it airing out outside of the covers. Hardrock.
iRunFar: Obviously you ran third, so you had to push, but did you go really deep in the well?
Browning: No, I went hard, and I was worked at the end…
iRunFar: But not that deep…?
Browning: No, because I tried to run consistently because I knew that Hardrock was coming. I didn’t hammer any downhills until we were in the rolling stuff after Green Gate. None of it’s huge. You’re not hammering downhill very much. Any of the steep sections, I totally laid back on them just to save my legs a little. I don’t know. The biggest thing is… that race, I show up and see what happens. We should do this right before because…
iRunFar: We can have an addendum.
Browning: We might need an addendum to know how I feel. I’ll know more in about a week to ten days.
iRunFar: But right now you feel good?
Browning: There’s nothing after this race that would keep me out health-wise.
iRunFar: You’re not the first person to have done the Western States-Hardrock double. It’s a big double, and people have kind of made a thing of it. AJW did. [Nick] Clark did. I’m sure he’ll point out you had 19 days and he had 12. I’m sure that’s a little bit in your mind, but that’s kind of a thing.
Browning: It’s a total thing. Clark and I have a little… he told me what his times were, and I’m behind already.
iRunFar: How far behind?
Browning: I think he told me he ran close to 16-flat that year. I think I’m either 25 minutes back or 35 minutes back. I’m not sure. Why don’t you look it up?
iRunFar: What did he run the Hardrock? I think he was around third, so it was pretty quick.
Browning: I think he ran third. Was it around 30 hours?
iRunFar: Must have ran faster than that.
Browning: Or 29? Maybe he ran 29-and-change. Where I’m going to make it up is Hardrock definitely.
iRunFar: You said you had a calf issue in your training, and you had Western States which you didn’t train for specifically. What amount of Hardrock training have you done?
Browning: Well, I just did power hiking and I figured this would be plenty of downhill training.
iRunFar: You got 22,000 feet of downhill training in one day. It’s a good day.
Browning: It’s a good day. I’m three weeks out. Taper. Starting now. What were we talking about?
iRunFar: Hardrock training. Balancing an injury, Western States, Hardrock—very different races.
Browning: I tried to do… I just kind of came into this race generally trained with power hike training. I knew that the downhill running in this would get me ready for Hardrock’s downhill running, and I just needed to work on power hiking. Power hiking helps on this course. There’s tons of grunt sections, and you’re running so much, it’s nice to hike. Ian Sharman and I love to hike. Give me a chance to hike, and I’ll hike fast. I love to hike. I’m ready that way. I’ll use poles. That will take a little pressure off.
iRunFar: The whole race? You’ve trained with them?
Browning: Yeah, I used them at Hardrock in 2014 and then at UTMB. I trained a ton with them getting ready for UTMB even though I rolled my ankle. Hate that. It is what it is. That definitely helps in that race. There are so many steep sections, it’s nice to have that upper body pulling.
iRunFar: There really are big climbs.
Browning: Yeah, they’re big. You just have to settle in and climb for a long, long time. You know. You’re a Hardrocker.
iRunFar: I’m not a Hardrocker. I have to go the other direction.
Browning: They tell you that…
iRunFar: And you?
Browning: I am. I’ve done it both ways—2007 and 2014.
iRunFar: And in 2014 you had a great run. You were third, right?
iRunFar: Fourth. Darn good run. How does that sort of set a benchmark? There you were fresh. Now you have Western States.
Browning: I’ll be honest. I really want to go around 25 hours there really bad.
iRunFar: You think you could have an “A” race there after doing this? Because 25 hours is an “A” race.
Browning: One time I had a good race, in 2014 I did Run Rabbit Run and Grindstone three weeks apart, and I had a good Grindstone. I’m hoping if I manage the recovery right, I’m hoping that I’ll just… you don’t know. You’re so laid back right at three weeks after a 100. All you’re doing is settling in and just relaxing all day, so mentally you’re cooped up. You haven’t been training…
iRunFar: You’re not at six months of training for Hardrock.
Browning: No, it’s totally chill mode mentally. It’s way different when you’re running them back-to-back like that. You’re not even checking in until 30 miles in. How am I doing? I feel okay. That’s a good sign. [Karl] Meltzer told me… The first time I did it I called him, “Dude, what do I do?” He just basically said to sit around and do a tester run about a week out to see how you feel. Then you’ll know at 25 miles whether you’ll have a decent day or whether it will be a lonnnng day.
iRunFar: Have some beers in between?
Browning: Yeah. So, yeah, if you check in and you feel okay, good, and if you don’t, you have different plans. It’s finish only.
iRunFar: You won’t know until after Virginius. You can tell Roch [Horton]…
Browning: Yeah, at Virginius I’ll know if it’s going to be a really long day or it’s going to be good.
iRunFar: Does the prospect of… obviously you want to have a good race, but does just being out at Hardrock… even turning into a long day, is that an enjoyable experience to you?
Browning: Oh yeah, Hardrock is such a beautiful course. To actually look around and not be trying to race… you definitely look down more when you’re racing. You remember too look up, but there’s a lot of looking like “this” mode.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of looking at rocks in front of you whether you’re ascending or descending.
Browning: Yes, and it’s technical, too. To be able to chill at the top of passes and really be able to take it in… I mean, I take it in, but it’s different when you’re racing.
iRunFar: This year’s Hardrock has to be the strongest field ever.
Browning: Yes, it’s pretty stacked. To be honest, I haven’t really looked. I’ve been looking at this race… this race was pretty strong, too.
iRunFar: When you do, it’s pretty deep. I guess just run your own race again?
Browning: Absolutely. That’s all I can do.
iRunFar: Is it more fun running your own race at a race like this where there are going to be 15 people to catch? At Hardrock, you might have four people to catch over 16 hours.
Browning: Right. It’s just such a different race, different than Western States. It’s like polar opposites. It’s such a cool course, and it’s such a cool race to go back to. I love going back to Silverton.
iRunFar: When are you getting out there?
Browning: I’ll get there a week early, the Friday before.
iRunFar: You’re not going to do too much… of course, you don’t have to deal with the whole FOMO issue because you know you’re just resting.
Browning: Yeah, all I’m going to do is rest and hike a bit and read a book in a camp chair or something at some altitude. I already have been altitude training, so it will just be the icing on the altitude training.
iRunFar: How have you been doing that?
Browning: I use a mask. It’s like high intervals…
iRunFar: At a gym?
Browning: No, you sit and watch TV and AltoLab is the product. It works great. I’ve been using it for probably three seasons now. I used it before Hardrock in 2014, and I feel like it worked better than the tent for sure. It’s more enjoyable because you don’t have to sleep in a tent. My wife prefers not to sleep in a tent. Actually, she won’t sleep in a tent. I don’t like sleeping in a tent. You don’t recover very well.
iRunFar: So you want the mask?
Browning: Yeah, the mask is just intervals, so it’s quick and you sleep at normal altitude.
iRunFar: Best of luck recovering, and see you in Silverton.
Browning: Thanks. See you in Silverton.
[Interview resumed on July 9th in Silverton, Colorado]
iRunFar: This is the second half of our interview with Jeff Browning in Silverton, Colorado, before the 2016 Hardrock 100. How have your thoughts progressed in the two weeks since Western States?
Jeff Browning: Good. Everything is good. I don’t have anything weird going on. I hiked a week, ran a week easy, and now I’m here a week early. The last five, six, seven days I’ll get a little hiking on the course and a little jogging.
iRunFar: Energy bounced back pretty well?
Browning: Yeah, I feel good. I’ve had good sleep. I wasn’t super slammed with graphic design work, so that’s always good. I didn’t have any super late nights, just one late night packing. That’s it. I’ve pretty much recovered as much as I can in 19 days, or not quite 19 days… 12 days.
iRunFar: Do the muscles feel good?
Browning: Yeah, everything feels good right now. I don’t have anything weird going on.
iRunFar: You had a foot issue, some maceration?
Browning: Yeah, I had a little maceration, and it’s fine. It will be fine. Part of that was I just didn’t… I forgot to pack some of the stuff I put on my feet before the race to help with that kind of stuff, some anti-blister stuff. I’ll be ready for this one because your feet are wet a lot in this race.
iRunFar: Now, if your body is all recovered, one of the important things especially at the 100-mile distance in a race as hard as Hardrock, is to be emotionally into it and mentally into it. Has your mind switched modes?
Browning: This is the second time I’ve done a 100 three weeks after a 100. I did it in 2014 with Run Rabbit Run and Grindstone. You’re definitely mentally more laid back going into the second 100. You just did a 100. You just put a bunch of effort into that race. You just packed, unpacked, repacked… It helps that I’ve already done this race twice, so the logistics and all that kind of stuff I already kind of have in my head. So I just come into it really laid back. I’m super stoked that Hardrock is my 25th 100. It’s so fitting for it to be number 25. I love Hardrock, and it’s so cool it’s going to be my 25th.
iRunFar: We were talking about your first Hardrock in 2007. You went out a little hard. How does having a 100 three weeks in advance maybe temper that a little?
Browning: Absolutely. You’re laid back. No hard effort in the first half especially… just until Grouse. I’ll definitely be pretty laid back until Grouse. You don’t know. You really won’t know until 50k in. When I get to Virginius, if I’m feeling really worked, it’s probably going to be a long day. If my legs are feeling okay, that’s a good sign. That’s kind of how I see back-to-backs. You kind of have to go out easy and check in at 50k and see, Do I feel heavy? Not a good sign.
iRunFar: That could happen to someone who’s fresh, too.
Browning: Absolutely. Absolutely. Hopefully everything will be a go, and I’ll just keep plugging away. This course just keeps coming at you, so you just keep plugging away.
iRunFar: Alright, well best of luck. Let’s go check out that last climb.
Browning: Thanks, man.