2016 The North Face 50 Mile Men’s Pre-Race Interview Show

We’re trying something a little different before the 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships, a pre-race interview show hosted by iRunFar’s Meghan Hicks and TNF runner Dylan Bowman. In this debut show, we interview Zach Miller, Hayden Hawks, Jorge Maravilla, and Alex Nichols. Check it out!

If you prefer to view any of the four interviews individually, just click on the runner’s name: Zach Miller, Hayden Hawks, Jorge Maravilla, and Alex Nichols

This is an experiment, so leave a comment to let us know your thoughts on how it went. Thanks!

[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]

To see who else is running, read our women’s and men’s previews of the TNF 50. Watch our women’s pre-race interview show, too. You can also follow our live coverage of the TNF 50 starting at 5 a.m. PST on Saturday, December 3rd.

[Editor’s Note: We owe a big thank you to Dylan Bowman for suggesting this concept along with co-hosting the show as well as the San Francisco Running Company for hosting us in their Mill Valley location.]

2016 The North Face 50 Mile Men’s Pre-Race Interview Show Transcript

iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the San Francisco Running Company. It’s Friday morning before the 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. I’m with Dylan Bowman of iRunFar this weekend.

iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Yes.

iRF-Hicks: I’m in your homeland. I’m in your turf.

iRF-Bowman: Yes, you are. Yes, you are, and we welcome you with open arms.

iRF-Hicks: This is a pretty exciting day in ultrarunning. The eve of what has become one of America’s most exciting days.

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, it’s the end-of-the-season party. Everybody seems to descend on Mill Valley, which is lots of fun for those of us who live here. Some people have great races; some people have bad races; some people aren’t racing at all; and nobody really cares. It’s a great get-together of the American ultra family. I’m really looking forward to it.

iRF-Hicks: What we’re doing this morning is we’re doing a men’s pre-race interview show. We’re bringing to you interviews with four different men’s favorites for tomorrow. We’ve got interviews with Hayden Hawks, Jorge Maravilla, Alex Nichols, and defending champ, Zach Miller. We’ve just had our chats with them. It was a pretty exciting morning for us, wouldn’t you say?

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, it was great. It got me really fired up. I kind of wish I was racing, but I can’t wait to see the men’s race tomorrow.

iRF-Hicks: Let’s talk a little bit about the course. In the women’s pre-race interview show yesterday morning, you gave us an update to the two course changes that are there on the outbound. There’s also a course change on the inbound. Let’s talk about that.

iRF-Bowman: I lied yesterday in our introduction. I spoke to Gary Gellin who, of course, is very analytical and very well-informed on these kind of matters, more so than I am. He said that with these two deviations that I mentioned yesterday, you actually do add a bit more than a mile before they get to Muir Beach the first time. Then, you should gain the mile back with the third deviation, which I didn’t mention yesterday which happens at the top of the second-to-last climb.

iRF-Hicks: After you’ve left Muir Beach and you’re heading to Tennessee Valley, the course is changed?

iRF-Bowman: The most notorious climb of the race, the second-to-last climb out of Muir Beach, the descent from there is also different—a little bit shorter—back to Tennessee Valley. So Gary thinks the winning times should still be within five minutes of what they usually are. Yeah, I guess it’s important to note that third deviation and note that maybe I was a little bit ill informed yesterday in terms of the course being maybe faster. It might be about the same or maybe a little slower.

iRF-Hicks: This is a course that changes every year. I’m just not surprised that there are some changes.

iRF-Bowman: It should kind of be a wash.

iRF-Hicks: The men’s field is exciting this year as it has been for the last five or six years. We have four returning men’s champions. We’ve got brand-new collegiate runners, guys who didn’t even pass the ‘go’ of road running. They came straight from collegiate running. We’ve got the guys that have this robust experience but still the leg speed to hammer with the guys coming out of college. What are we going to see in the men’s field tomorrow, Sportscaster Bowman?

iRF-Bowman: I think it’s going to be really interesting just to see the dynamic. Typically to a couple years ago, you’d see a pack of five to seven guys together on the out-and-back and then things kind of splitting up when you get to halfway at Stinson Beach, which has always been the crux of the race. In the last two years, we’ve seen Sage [Canaday] take it out hard and win in 2014 and then Zach [Miller] doing that last year, which has kind of changed the dynamic of the race. I anticipate it will kind of be similar this year. Obviously we expect Zach to go out hard. I would expect Sage to go with him.

iRF-Hicks: That was going to be my question—what do you think Sage will do?

iRF-Bowman: I think Sage is a classic frontrunner, not to the point that Zach is. I don’t think he’s quite as… I don’t want to say reckless, but I don’t think he’s quite as aggressive. I don’t think he’ll let Zach too far out of his sights. Then there’s I think going to be a few other new characters that I think go with them as well. I expect Hayden Hawks to do so and maybe Cody Reed. Yeah, it will be really interesting to see that. For the second group, who can hold it together to potentially make a late push?

iRF-Hicks: Last year, you were the sweeper of carnage. There’s always epic carnage in the men’s race. Last year was no different. You were the front of the guys who rushed in as carnage happened and moved up to finish second place. You’re textbook for that group.

iRF-Bowman: I benefited from the Zach Miller strategy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch up to him. I think there’s definitely going to be somebody if not a couple people who are able to do that tomorrow. Of the men in the race, I’d definitely expect Alex Nichols to be one of those people. He has in the past, historically, done well here. I think he’s been in the top five a couple of times. He was winning the race one year when he had a mid-race injury. I think it was back in 2012. Also, David Laney, who nobody seems to be talking about, who was the ultrarunner of the year and perennial top finisher at a lot of the world’s toughest races—he usually employs a more conservative race strategy. I think historically this course is one that could suit him. Yeah, I think that’s going to be really interesting.

Just in terms of the other characters in the race who I think will be really interesting to see, Miguel Heras, obviously a two-time champion here and somebody who when he lines up in a race, he can absolutely win no matter the distance, no matter the terrain.

iRF-Hicks: He’s 41 years old on race day. He’s 15 years the senior of Zach Miller, but I fully expect he’s going to go out with Zach or perhaps ahead of Zach. To me, the sport is speeding up little by little each year, but to me, it’s incredible that a dude who is 41 is going to be able to race.

iRF-Bowman: I just ran Templiers where Miguel won the race this year, which is one of the most competitive races in Europe and a course that is sort of similar to TNF more so than almost all the European races. Miguel actually employed a more conservative strategy there. I’ll be interested to see if he does go with the front train or if he tried to run a more even race.

Then also another European who is sort of an unknown quantity is Benoît Cori, who is also French who has won Templiers a couple times, again, an important European race. I’m going to be really interested to see how he does and where he stacks up in the field.

Then there are a lot of other interesting men in the field, too. Obviously we talked to Jorge [Maravilla], who is probably the most experienced person in the field and someone who has really worked a lot on improving his speed and who could implement that skill to his advantage.

iRF-Hicks: He just told us that he might take some risks tomorrow. For me, if he does, it’s going to be fascinating to see because I always see him as somebody who knows where the line is and tries to hover a couple centimeters under it.

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, he’s refined his training a little bit, too, worked on some weaknesses, and knows the course and lives on the trails basically.

Another Bay Area guy I’m really interested to see is our good friend Paddy O’Leary who is Irish but lives here in San Francisco and is quietly coming up through the ranks, somebody who is super talented and loves to suffer and isn’t afraid. He won the Canyons 100k this year in Auburn in a really fast time as well as a few other good performances at the 50k distance. He’s been targeting this race for a long time, so I’ll be interested to see that.

iRF-Hicks: Any other dark horses who we should be watching out for tomorrow?

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, one in particular who I’m really excited to see and who I’ll actually be crewing for is former champion Mike Wolfe, who is a good friend and who had a very dominant presence on the scene until a couple years ago when he struggled with some injuries. It seems like he’s fit and healthy and ready to race again. If that’s the case, Mike is as tough and as talented as they come.

iRF-Hicks: He told us he was planning to race but off-the-couch-old-man-style. Was that a full-effect sandbag or what do you think?

IRF-Bowman: I think he’s probably sandbagging a little bit, but like I said, I’ll be out there helping him out which I’m really excited about. Yeah, other than that, there are probably five or 10 other people we haven’t mentioned who could play a significant role in the race. That’s kind of the fun of this weekend.

iRF-Hicks: My last question for you before we move onto the interview part of the show, tomorrow has become a rather exciting day in ultrarunning, or rather this weekend in general. Not only do we have TNF 50 tomorrow morning right here, but we also have the lotteries for the two big American 100 mile races—Western States and Hardrock. There are a lot of people who are going to be tuned into a lot of computers tomorrow morning.

iRF-Bowman: Yes, I think it’s probably the busiest day on the ultrarunning internet of the year for sure—a lot of dreams made and obviously a lot of disappointment, too, I think. It’s kind of the point at which people really start thinking about the 2017 season. Then also, with the excitement of following TNF 50 miler which is always one of the most entertaining races to follow online every year, I think a lot of people are going to be glued to the Twitter feeds. One of the things I think would be really cool going forward, and I suggested this to Craig Thornley (if you’re listening)…

iRF-Hicks: Craig, are you listening?

iRF-Bowman: I think we need to make TNF 50 a Golden Ticket race to add an extra level of excitement and even more incentive to the front of the pack in conjunction with the obvious prize money they offer here. I think it would be really cool if on the day of the lottery there was a Golden Ticket race going on at arguably the most competitive race in North America. I think it’s a worthy race to put those kinds of stakes on the table, and I think it would make for another interesting dynamic.

iRF-Hicks: D-Bo’s hot take.

iRF-Bowman: Hot take.

iRF-Hicks: We’ll wrap this up, and we’re going to take this show into the interview section. Standby for an interview with Zach Miller.

Zach Miller Pre-2016 The North Face 50 Mile Interview

iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Good morning. Day two here, Friday, at the San Francisco Running Company. I’m Dylan Bowman with iRunFar.

iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: And I’m Meghan Hicks with iRunFar. We are with Zach Miller, The North Face Endurance 50 Mile Championships defending champion. Good morning.

Zach Miller: Good morning, Meghan. Good morning, Dylan.

iRunFar-Bowman: Good morning. Welcome back. Good to have you.

Miller: Thanks, it’s good to be here and good to be back in the Bay Area.

iRF-Hicks: Three years in a row. You keep coming back.

Miller: Yeah, I guess I like this race.

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, you’re the defending champion like we just mentioned. You’ve had another 11th-place finish two years ago when you came in a little tired after a huge season. How does it feel to come in as the defending champ? Does it add to the pressure, or did you approach it in a different way?

Miller: The approach isn’t too much different, just trying not to come in comfortable at all, knowing nothing is a done deal. I’m coming in with hard training and a mindset that it’s anybody’s game on Saturday. Pressure? I guess it feels like there’s a little more pressure, but I try not to let it get to me too much. It’s just another day of running. Yeah, there’s maybe a little extra drive to try and defend, but like I said, it’s anybody’s race, and anything could happen, especially this year.

iRF-Bowman: You’ve had a great year. It seems like you started in April where you won the Madeira Ultra on the Ultra-Trail World Tour and used that sort of as a springboard to attach UTMB which you did in August. How do you feel about your season, and are you excited to step back down to some shorter distance racing this weekend?

Miller: Yeah, I’m excited to get back to the 50-mile distance especially here in Marin. I really like this course. They’ve changed it a little, but I really like these trails. Yeah, the UTMB experience was really good just tackling that new type of training and that new type of race. I’m looking forward to giving that another go at some point, but I’m excited to get back down to a race distance that’s a bit more familiar to me, a race distance I really, really enjoy. Yeah, we’ll see how it all plays out on Saturday. The season as a whole, I think it started off really well racing internationally and doing Madeira Island Ultra Trail and then onto UTMB which was a really good experience. The first 100 miler is always kind of a wild ride, but it was good, and then just trying to learn the recovery process after that, trying to figure out how I train for The North Face coming off of a 100 miler, and then I guess I’m still pretty hungry. I feel like I still want one more punch for the season. Any year you can get at least one big ultra win I think is really good. I managed to do that at Madeira, but to be honest, I’d like one more punch before I go back and start resting.

iRF-Hicks: I want to ask you about the recovery process, mind and body. At the finish line of UTMB, you were quite heartbroken. It was actually quite hard for me to interview you that day. But then you wrote about your experience for this one website called iRunFar, and your perspective kind of changed. You had grown from the full-on disappointment to, “I know there’s a learning experience here; I still haven’t figured out what it is, but I’m in the middle of that.” You just said that running 100 miles is always a mixed bag. Is that kind of where you’re at now that you can toss that into, “I had to start somewhere with 100 miles?”

Miller: I think I knew all along that it was a learning experience and that there was value in the experience that I had, but in the initial days and weeks and maybe even month after the race, it was still… it was that acknowledgement mixed with a whole lot of disappointment and just trying to figure out… because I’m just so ingrained with, “Well, if you just work hard enough, you can do it.” I got to a point in UTMB where it was almost like, “I want this so bad, but it just isn’t going my way.” Dealing with that is very difficult. So, yeah, I guess as time went on it was almost like it was this grieving process. At first I was just too overwhelmed. I could rationalize it and think of it in a positive light, but to actually live that out was difficult. I was just in this slump. Then as time went on and there was more time between me and the race itself, I was more and more okay. Then eventually the legs came back and the training came back, and then I was focused on The North Face and able to learn and think how I would strategize differently for next year, how I would train differently for next year. Yeah, so the mental was the biggest thing. The physical was just longer. The soreness was less… the soreness was gone quicker, but the deep-set fatigue and feeling labored on runs… usually for me that’s gone by the end of two weeks—I’m ready to train again and to run something fast. This took about two months. Yeah, it was until about The Bear 100 when I went out and paced Kaci Lickteig out there. It was like the day after the race I went out a run… I was talking to Kaci because she’s obviously run a lot. She said, “One day, it’s just going to all come back. All of a sudden you’ll just be like, ‘Okay, it’s here.’”

iRF-Hicks: How much more?

Miller: I went out the next day and I was like, “Well, it feels like it’s back.” Maybe that’s because I was 7,000 feet lower in elevation, but yeah, that was about a month out and I was like, Okay, I can start again.

iRF-Hicks: Did you do a month block prep for The North Face?

Miller: That was about a month out after the race. I would have had about two months left. Then I was… I had been running all along, but that’s when I started my build for The North Face. Even once I started it, it was different in the sense that maybe when I did hard efforts I didn’t recover quite as quickly after them. Then little niggles here and there—normally I’m pretty niggle-free in terms of an adductor hurting or a groin muscle or a calf or something like that. In the training blocks themselves, I noticed a few things here and there. Nothing ended up being too serious, but it just felt like my body was a little more fragile after 100 miles.

iRF-Bowman: So you just talked about your build-up and your training block. I’m curious to know how the training looked in comparison to when you were building up for your first 100 miler at UTMB. Did you get back to doing some shorter distance and harder efforts?

Miller: Yes, the volume was still high but probably not as high as for UTMB. Basically for UTMB, I let the volume—the adventure days where I’m just out all day—I kind of focused so much on that for UTMB that instead of doing my typical two hard workouts per week, in the UTMB stuff there were probably some weeks where I did one or I did two but the quality was a bit less because I just didn’t have the pop in my legs. For this one, I kind of went back to my more usual 50-mile method. There were some long days, but there weren’t as many as in the 100 training, then just trying to keep things a little snappier and steadier.

iRF-Bowman: Do you feel like you’ve got that pop back a little bit in this training block?

Miller: Yeah, I change things from time to time. I don’t just do the same workouts all the time. I think there was a lot of strength carried over from UTMB. Then I think I kind of brought a bit of that pep back by cutting the volume back a little and maybe keeping some of my runs a little more focused.

iRF-Hicks: Is it fair to say we don’t need to even ask you what kind of strategy you’re going to employ tomorrow? Are you just going to time trial it?

Miller: Yeah, that’s probably pretty fair. I don’t really see me running any other way. I don’t know. The dynamic of this race is interesting. It changed a bit when Jim Walmsley decided to sit out, which I totally understand. I’ve done JFK [50 Mile] and I’ve done The North Face and the two weeks in between is not a lot of recovery. I chatted with Walmsley last night, and it sounds like it was a smart decision. It would have been fun to have him out there on Saturday, but I totally understand the decision. So it’s changed a little bit since he’s absent, but even without him, there are still so many good guys and new faces and fresh young legs and guys with fast backgrounds.

iRF-Hicks: D-Bo, do you kind of want to know from him what he was going to do if Walmsley was here?

iRF-Bowman: I think the world wants to know, the world demands to know what would have happened if you and Walmsley were on the start line. I think honestly there’s a huge appetite, or people around the world were very excited and are still excited for the day when you guys line up on the same start line. Do you have an idea how that would have played out?

Miller: I think it would have been very painful. I joke to people that the world was going to blow up once the gun went off. Eventually it was just going to explode. It’s hard to kind of say how it would play out, but I just feel like it would have been a ferocious pace, and we would have just both ran until somebody or something snapped. Either one of us would win or somebody smart and level-headed like Alex Nichols would come in from behind and take the win which would be fine because we’d get a very exciting race and somebody smart would take it. It could have also been we hammered and it got to a point where I couldn’t hammer anymore and Walmsley goes off and wins or vice versa. I spent a few days down in Flagstaff while Jim was running JFK. I thought I’d go steal his Strava record. Not at all—I’m not on Strava. I have no Strava, and I’m not after Jim in anyway like that. It was just funny that I happened to be in Flagstaff while he was at JFK. I was down hanging with the Vargos. When I got down there, I think I said to them one day, “Well, I kind of honestly think I’m just going to go absolutely as hard as I can, and I don’t even care if I win. We’ll just go as hard as we possibly can. I want to win, and if I win, it’s great. If Jim win’s, then he wins. If we both break and someone else wins, then that will be a cool thing, too.

iRF-Bowman: You brought up JFK and his performance there. I was curious to hear your perspective on his race there because you are a past champion at that race. That was almost your ‘coming-out party’ to the ultra world. Do you have an opinion on that performance? It seemed like just an otherworldly type day.

Miller: I saw him last night, and I congratulated him on his performance. I’ve been there. I know the course, and it’s super impressive what he did. I think Jim can probably go faster. I think there are a couple other guys who could go similar times. I think Max King’s record was really good, but I think… people will call it crazy, but I would like to see someone flirt with the five-hour mark at JFK just because…

iRF-Bowman: Get a bunch of guys there?

Miller: Yeah, if you got all the top guys there that are good on that type of terrain all at once… I know it sounds nuts as it’s another 21 minutes, but it would be… Jacob Puzey ran 4:57 yesterday for 50 miles on a treadmill, so that sub-five hour time for 50 miles is doable. It’s challenging at JFK because you have that AT section that’s slow. I think that’s one of the most impressive parts… well, maybe not, but that’s one of the impressive parts of Jim’s performance there was how fast he came off the AT. It takes… I’ve been there, and I remember when I ran, I was about four minutes off Max’s course record. I think I came off the AT about four minutes off of his time off the AT. Basically Max and I ran the same pace on the towpath and the road, and Max ran faster on the AT. Jim came off the AT 10 minutes ahead of course-record pace, so he was going right from the beginning. That’s a heck of a way to do it. I know the terrain up there; it’s pretty rocky. It’s impressive he could chop that much off. Yeah, it was a really impressive performance. I wouldn’t doubt that he or someone goes faster at some point just as the sport develops.

iRF-Hicks: So tomorrow, we’re not going to have Walmsley on the line, we’re going to have you shooting off. I think there are a couple guys who are going to go with you, though.

Miller: Yeah, I think so.

iRF-Hicks: There are some guys out there with raw leg speed that it’s going to feel super easy. They may not have raced 50 miles before, or they may have done it once or twice, but they just have the raw leg speed that it’s going to feel easy. How do you expect things are going to go the first half of the race tomorrow?

Miller: Yeah, I think for me personally it’s a question of what pace do I want to go out at the beginning. If someone goes out really hammering strong, do I want to go out with that? I usually just try to feel it out for myself and try and stay at up at the front. Last year it was Ryan Bak and Tyler Sigl who came along, and we all rolled for about 20 miles together. I don’t discount anyone. I don’t say, “Oh, you’ve never run 50 miles. You couldn’t win this race,” because that was me at JFK.

iRF-Hicks: Somebody is going to stick it whether it’s for the win or third place or fourth place. Somebody will stick it.

Miller: I think there is some really good talent here. I think it’s an interesting dynamic. In the past when I’ve had really good races I’ve noticed that the break just kind of happens naturally. It just kind of eventually just… the field just starts to break apart naturally. It’s not like I get to a certain climb and think, Okay, I’m going to drop the hammer here and try to get away. It’s more like, Okay I’m just going to run comfortably and see if that naturally ends up separating things. That’s kind of probably going to be my mindset for tomorrow. I expect there will be guys that will go. I don’t expect to be alone. You’ve got guys in there, new faces like Cody Reed and Hayden Hawks, and then you’ve got veteran guys like Sage Canaday and Alex Nichols and Miguel Heras, and Dimitris [Theodorakakos] from Greece. It makes for a very interesting dynamic. You know a guy like Alex Nichols is likely given his style—who knows, maybe he’ll sprint off the line—but he’s likely to lay low for awhile and possibly Sage, too, but Sage could go either way. He can go out hard, too.

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, a few years ago he kind of employed your strategy. He held back a little bit at the beginning, but then he made his break.

Miller: Yeah, going up Cardiac. Yeah, it’s just a whole slew of dynamics. I think it will make for an interesting race. Sage and I haven’t raced since I think maybe Templiers… before then we raced at [Lake] Sonoma, and then we raced at Templiers. Since then we’ve just been doing different things. It’s been awhile since I’ve really gotten on a start line with Sage. I think Sage ran really well at Moab the other weekend. I think he’s got a lot of talent. He, like anyone, is nobody to discount by any means. There could be someone we didn’t even put in the preview, some total dark horse.

iRF-Bowman: Good luck on Saturday, tomorrow, I guess. You’re obviously always a fan favorite. I think everybody really enjoys watching you race. Put on a good show for us.

Miller: I hope to.

iRF-Hicks: It’s all about the entertainment value.

Miller: I know. I like that.

iRF-Bowman: It should be a great race. Good luck.

iRF-Hicks: Good luck, Zach.

Miller: Thank you.

Hayden Hawks Pre-2016 The North Face 50 Mile Interview

iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in the San Francisco Running Company in Mill Valley, California. It’s the day before The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. I’m with Hayden Hawks. Good morning.

Hayden Hawks: Good morning.

iRF-Hicks: You’re Utahan, I’m Utahan, and we came across the country to be here this weekend.

Hawks: Yeah, I’m glad to be out here. I was out here three weeks ago. D-Bo showed me the course a little bit and helped me out a little bit. I’m glad to be back.

iRF-Hicks: The soon-to-be-mayor of Marin gave you a tour of his homeland?

Hawks: Exactly.

iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Welcome back. You’re sort of an enigma to most of the iRunFar viewers at this point. I think this is the first chance you’ve had to speak with Meghan, but I think it’s good given those circumstances that you give us a little intro to who you are, where you came from, and what brought you into this race.

Hawks: Yeah, for sure. I grew up in Utah. I’m from St. George, Utah, which if people don’t know, it’s right next to Zion National Park. It’s a great area to train. I grew up running trails in that area. I went to college at Southern Utah University. I ran five years there at SUU and then graduated this past May and jumped right into the trail scene. I started with the U.S. Mountain Running Championships. I was able to qualify for the U.S. national team there. Then I jumped into Speedgoat and was lucky enough to win that race. I still don’t know how I did it, but it was a good race. Then I went and ran the World [Mountain Running] Championships out in Bulgaria in September and did really well there. I’ve always loved trail running. I’ve always really just enjoyed being out there on the trails. I did track just to kind of get my leg speed up. Now I’m full blown into this trail thing, sponsored by Hoka—I picked them up in July—and it’s been a fun run so far.

iRF-Hicks: Let’s talk a little bit about your collegiate-running background since you’re so fresh from college. I don’t know that much about the Southern Utah University running program. Can you describe what it was like and your focus there?

Hawks: I ran with a guy named Cam Levins. He was a two-time national champion for SUU in Division I. We are a Division I program, one of the smallest Division I programs, but a lot of people don’t know that. We’ve had a really good running program for awhile. We had a guy who took third in the nation in cross country awhile back. Cam was a national champion. Our team has always been really good. We qualify for nationals almost every year for Division I. I had a great coach there, Coach Eric Houle, and great teammates. I was able to really progress as a runner at SUU.

iRF-Bowman: You mentioned Speedgoat, and that was kind of your coming-out party for the ultra universe. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? I think I heard it was sort of last minute and that you decided the day before to run the race. Talk about that experience and were you surprised with how well you did.

Hawks: I was definitely surprised. I was surprised about the course, too. I didn’t know how hard it would actually be. I was kind of blind going into it. I had no clue.

iRF-Hicks: ”Sure, I’ll run 30 miles.”

Hawks: I knew the distance. I’d run 30 miles before in a training run, but I didn’t know how much climbing it would be, and I didn’t know how hard it would be. I signed up the day before the race, drove up to Speedgoat—it’s not too far from where I live—and jumped in the race the next morning. I got some advice from Magdalena Boulet, another Hoka athlete. She helped me out to get going with that. I had some help from other friends who were running the race who are avid ultrarunners. They helped me out.

iRF-Bowman: Bryce Thatcher.

Hawks: Exactly. He’s the owner of UltrAspire, and he was there. Yeah, I jumped into it and just kind of went into the race with the same mindset I always go into racing. Just go out there and do the best that I can and run my race. That’s what I did and ended up turning out pretty good for me.

iRF-Hicks: Tremendous leg speed that you bring straight from collegiate running—just great raw speed. You’ve now had a race, a long race in the mountains. You’ve got 30 miles, but 50 miles is still a big jump in distance. The time increase is pretty on par with Speedgoat.

iRF-Bowman: Although Speedgoat kind of runs…

iRF-Hicks: It runs like a 50 miler. But tomorrow is just going to be different. How have you set your mind to what’s going to happen in the morning?

Hawks: Yeah, I was talking with another one of my teammates yesterday, Jim Walmsley, and Jim was just talking to me, and I was talking to him about my training, and he told me, “All you have to do is go into this race and trust in your training. Trust what you’ve done. Know you’ve done the work. Trust in it.” That’s kind of my mindset. I’ve worked hard for this. I’ve set my whole training regimen up for this race. I’ve run 40 miles. I haven’t run 50, but I ran 40 and didn’t bonk in 40 miles. I felt really good. I feel like I should be able to handle the distance. You never know though. Like D-Bo said, at Speedgoat, I ran 5:30, and this race will hopefully take around six hours or a little bit more. I think I should be able to handle it. That’s my mindset going into it.

iRF-Hicks: Your 40 miler, did you do that on the trails in St. George?

Hawks: I did.

iRF-Bowman: It seems like you are kind of a high-volume guy. Talk us through what your training looks like on a normal week.

Hawks: I average probably around 120 to 130 miles per week. Recently I had a stretch where I did three straight weeks of almost close to 140 miles leading up to this race. I just like being out on the trails. I love running. We have a good community in St. George to run with. I can always find somebody to run with. I’m always down to do some miles with whoever.

iRF-Bowman: Are you sprinkling in some harder efforts there, too?

Hawks: I am. Most of my runs are under 7:00 pace. I do a lot of tempos. I do a 10-mile tempo at least once per week at 5:00 pace. I do some track work as well. I really am an advocate of making sure I keep that leg speed. I do some strides, some 400s, some 200s—I still like doing that stuff. I think it gives me an advantage.

iRF-Bowman: Do you think your experience at the World Mountain Running Championships also might have set you up? I’m of the belief that the shorter-distance stuff really does translate well to the 50-mile race particularly for races like TNF that are so fast. Talk about that experience on the world stage and how that may have helped you for this.

Hawks: The level of competition there is tremendous with some of the best runners in the world for mountain running. Having that under my belt where I know how to go into a really high-stress competitive race and know that I can do well, that really helps a lot. Also, the training going into that was a lot of fast climbing, short interval climbing. I really learned how to climb during that period of time. I feel like that’s one of my strengths is to climb because of all the training I did for mountain running.

iRF-Hicks: It’s interesting to hear you say that because it seems like you might have all the pieces of what it takes to do this race well from different parts of your running career. You saw deep competition at the U.S. and World Mountain Running Championships. You’ve done a 40 miler in training. You’ve done time on feet at Speedgoat.

iRF-Bowman: You can do the volume that it takes.

iRF-Hicks: It’s all there. It’s just putting it together tomorrow, right?

Hawks: For sure.

iRF-Bowman: Last question. I’m curious to know a little bit… you mentioned you live in St. George. Obviously it’s right outside Zion as you said. I’m curious what it’s like there to train, what the terrain is like, what the community is like because at this race there are a lot of people from Boulder, there are a lot of people from Flagstaff, a lot of people from Marin, a lot of people from Bend, but you’re sort of living outside those four bubbles. Talk a little bit about what it’s like there.

Hawks: Yeah.

iRF-Hicks: Our country of Utah.

Hawks: Utah is great because anywhere you go you have altitude pretty much. I don’t live in the highest part of Utah. I live at 3,000 feet which isn’t super high, but I can get up to 7,000 to 10,000 feet in 30 minutes, and I can drop down to sea level almost within 30 minutes, too. It’s a perfect location. I go down and do a lot of my speed down low so I can really get some good fast stuff in. Then I’ll go up and climb at high elevations.

iRF-Hicks: Do you go up to that mountain range that’s just west of town?

Hawks: Pine Valley, Zion, Cedar Mountain, which is not too far either. Bryce Canyon is not too far, too. So it’s a beautiful place to train. It’s really rocky. It’s a lot different than the trails here; it’s really technical. It’s really rocky. I’ve had to do my footwork a little bit, but that’s helped me and gives me a little advantage for some of the technical spots on this trail. My track background will help me on some of the real runnable sections.

iRF-Bowman: That will definitely help you.

iRF-Hicks: That will help, let’s just say.

Hawks: I love it. I love St. George. I grew up there. My family is close by. It’s always nice to be close to family. I can always run to my mom’s house and get some good food if I’m ever hungry. It’s kind of nice.

iRF-Hicks: The aid station of mom.

Hawks: Exactly.

iRF-Bowman: It seems like you have a great attitude. I know a lot of people are looking forward to seeing how you do tomorrow. Good luck. Enjoy. It should be perfect weather. We’ll be out there cheering.

Hawks: Alright. Sounds good.

iRF-Hicks: Good luck, Hayden.

Hawks: Hey, thank you.

Jorge Maravilla Pre-2016 The North Face 50 Mile Interview

iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Good morning. This is Dylan Bowman of iRunFar.

iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: I’m Meghan Hicks of iRunFar.

iRF-Bowman: We’re here with our great friend and the General Manager of San Francisco Running Company, Jorge Maravilla. Good morning, Jorge.

Jorge Maravilla: Good morning.

iRF-Hicks: Welcome to your shop.

iRF-Bowman: Thank you for opening your doors to us.

Maravilla: Yeah, of course. Welcome to you guys. Glad to have you.

iRF-Bowman: You are the returning fourth-place finisher from last year. You’ve run the race a number of times. That was your best finish. What do you think going into this year? You haven’t raced a ton of ultras. What’s going through your head as you return to trail running?

Maravilla: Thank you. Last year was the best performance I’ve had to date. I think going into it this year, I’ve focused a little bit more on actually covering the terrain and covering the course whereas in years past, I didn’t draw so much focus on that.

iRF-Hicks: You mean you’re actually training on the course?

Maravilla: Yeah, on sections of the course and getting a little bit more intimate with the course as opposed to, Oh, I live here and I run immediately accessible here in the Headlands, and not covering so much of the far side, partially because of my life and everything that I have to balance out. But having the opportunity to do that a little bit more going into this year and trusting the experience that I’ve had this year with the little bit of variety have given me a little bit of confidence with where I am. I feel good going into it.

iRF-Hicks: You mentioned life balance. I want to ask you about that. You know, you’re pushing into your late thirties now; you’ve been around the block a couple times. You have a family. You have a real job. Yet tomorrow you’re going to be competing against people who bring a world of different experiences, younger, not quite in your stage of life, haven’t quite been around the block a couple times. What’s it like trying to train at a high level and trying to compete with 24, 25 year olds but try to have what you want to have in your life right now?

Maravilla: I think it’s a valid, good question. I think personally it inspires me. I think part of it is because when I got into this sport, I looked at people that were inspiring me, and I think some of those people were of older age than what I was at the time, individuals that are still a part of my life and friends now that I look up to. And through my experience, I feel that age is just a number, to be honest.

iRF-Hicks: ”I’m going to tell myself all day today and tomorrow.”

Maravilla: Up until whenever… up until the clock tells me so. To be honest, I feel like I’ve yet to run as fast as I’m fully capable of in all distances whether it is a 10k, half marathon, marathon, or executing a 50 miler. I think this new generation of younger mountain ultrarunners coming in is great for the sport. I look at them not as the 24, 25 year-old, but, Great, that’s another competitor and another member hopefully long-term contributor to the sport and to the community. I respect them. I respect where they come from. I admire where they come from. I think the 50-mile distance can be the equilibrium of that speed and the experience perhaps myself and others have.

iRF-Hicks: You should be an iRunFar interviewer.

Maravilla: Well, you know, iRunFar en Español! I’m open to that.

iRF-Bowman: You talked a little bit about the variety you’ve had this year. You started the season at Way Too Cool which is of course a Northern California classic. You were second there behind David Roche. You had a great race. Then you transitioned and focused on mainly road racing for most of the year with the ambition of potentially making the El Salvadorian Olympic Team. I think it’s a great story. Obviously I know a good amount about it, but I think the viewers of iRunFar would find it interesting to know a little bit more about what motivated that chase for the Olympics and how that opportunity came about.

Maravilla: Yeah, it was a surprise inquiry to me. Honestly, I was contacted by the Olympic Committee from El Salvador. For those who don’t know, I was born in El Salvador, and I came to this country when I was two years old. I have dual citizenship for both El Salvador and the U.S. thankfully.

iRF-Hicks: Is that because you want to go back in January?

Maravilla: No, I’m just thankful to have that opportunity, and that’s certainly a longer story in and of itself. I was reached out to by the Olympic Committee, which was a complete shocker to me. They gave me a very short notice in terms of how I understand marathon training now. Essentially, about 10 weeks of training where they said, Hey, the IAAF standard is 2:19, which here in the U.S. we know as the standard for qualifying for the [Olympic Marathon] Trials, which always has kind of been a goal of mine. Then to think of that time as achievable not only for the Olympic Trials but for the actual Olympic representation of my birth country is pretty honestly emotionally overwhelming for me. It took me probably two to three weeks to even wrap my head around the thought and also change the direction of my year and what I wanted to do. I honestly don’t know the world of training for a marathon as I’d never trained specifically for one even though I’ve run one before. So I hired a coach, Joe Puleo, and Joe was fantastic in training me up for it and gaining confidence and tap into an ability I wasn’t aware that I had, and I gave it a shot.

iRF-Bowman: You targeted a race in Australia to go for the 2:19. You ended up running 2:21, which was an enormous PR. You fell a little bit short of the 2:19, but how was the whole experience? Were you disappointed, or were you overwhelmed with how much you managed to take off your PR? Are you hungry to continue to chase that goal?

Maravilla: There was obviously a little disappointment with not achieving it, but not very much because it was more than anything a huge PR. I understood that the process to achieve that was short training.

iRF-Bowman: How much did you take off of your PR?

Maravilla: Five minutes which was also—I always feel like I’ve got to say this—my PR previously was a 2:26, which was also two weeks after Lake Sonoma [50 Mile] on a very hilly and great course down in the Central Coast, but yeah, more than anything it made me super hungry. Honestly, as I’m trying to develop and evolve my 2017 race calendar, I also have in mind what is that going to do for 2018 and my ambitions and goals from there and beyond. The 2:19 is still very much on the top of my priorities if not to the top. As soon as that window opens up again, I’m going to do my best to achieve it while I’m still young and at my youngest capacity.

iRF-Hicks: While we are still young.

Maravilla: It’s still very much a desire for me. It goes without saying, just to even attempt it again and to even think about the possibility of Tokyo 2020 is very intriguing. It’s a world of effort, but I’m going to try to get it absolutely.

iRF-Bowman: I’ll come with you.

Maravilla: Yes.

iRF-Hicks: ”Put me in your bag. I’m very tall and need a big bag.”

Maravilla: After we’ll just go do Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji.

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, that’s perfect.

iRF-Hicks: Naturally. I want to ask you a few questions about tomorrow. You’re back at TNF 50. You’re a many-time finisher and many times in the top 10 now. Last year was your best finish. From the outside looking in, your run looked textbook from start to finish. Where are you at mentally coming back this year from that? Are you thinking, I can run a more perfect day still? If I can do the same as last year, I’m happy? How do you think you improve upon a really great day?

Maravilla: Thank you. I feel like I definitely can improve. I think it’s because I’ve worked harder in my training. I’ve built a little more mental confidence. I’m very fortunate in the position that I’m in in terms of being able to train in such an amazing training backyard that happens to be our race course but also to be surrounded by an incredible community of people that inspire me, that come in through these doors as well as fellow world-class competitors in our area like Dylan and Alex Varner and a remarkable number of members in the community that are incredible athletes that… I think we all inspire each other. To be honest, it wasn’t too long ago when I was out on a Saturday morning group run and I asked Dylan, “Where do you think I can do better?” Listening to him is just words of wisdom from someone I admire and look up to who is also a fellow competitor that I respect greatly, to hear him confirm to me what I know I really need to work on… “Hey, you should work on your climbing. You should really do this.” I think a large part of last year, we ran a good portion together even though we weren’t necessarily immediately next to each other, so I think he got a good gauge of what my first 25, 26 miles of race effort was. Going back and looking at that and seeing where did I do well and where did I not and just even talking again to Alex Varner and being like, “You know what, tomorrow, there’s a lot of great athletes, but it’s going to be a matter of taking those calculated risks and fully owning them without any hesitation.”

iRF-Hicks: Okay, so you’re going to take risks tomorrow?

Maravilla: Yeah, because I choose to, and I want to.

iRF-Hicks: And just try it?

Maravilla: And try it. I think generally I try to run conservatively and enjoy and embrace the whole challenge and effort, and by default it turns out to be a good result, but I think I need to be a little more aggressive and trust my training and my ability to trust it and recognize that it’s going to hurt regardless, so why not just embrace that pain and take a calculated risk and run with these young lads.

iRF-Hicks: Sorry about that. We are the same age. I thought I could speak in parallel.

Maravilla: You can, absolutely. I will say this, honestly, back to your earlier question, it’s actually very inspiring and motivating to be like, “Yep, I’m 39.”

iRF-Hicks: “C’mon, bring it, world!”

Maravilla: At Way Too Cool with David Roche at the finish, he was surprised and like, “Wow, Jorge, you’re so great! You’re how old?!”

iRF-Hicks: ”You’re so great, and you’re so old?”

Maravilla: He was really surprised. “You’re 38? Wow, okay.” It’s something gratifying to try to line up against younger guys that are a decade younger.

iRF-Bowman: Speaking of a decade, I went back and looked, and it looks like you’ve been running this race for nearly a decade. It looks like you have three 50k finishes and five 50-mile finishes. This will be your ninth run here at The North Face Endurance Challenge.

Maravilla: Yeah, I’ve actually only missed one year.

iRF-Bowman: Tell me, since you haven’t run a ton of ultras this years—I think you’ve only run Way Too Cool and [Tamalpa] Headlands—do you think that leaves you more fresh coming into this year’s competition? Do you think that might be an advantage you have over guys that may have raced a lot more ultras than you?

Maravilla: I think so. I think fresh in my mind and fresh physically is how I feel regardless of the rest of the field. Knowing where the rest of the field and what they’ve done this season, because I’m a fan of the sport, I feel like yeah, I’m fresh. More than anything, part of those calculated risks that I talk about, is that I’m very hungry to go and compete and to draw hopefully the best out of myself that we all will do for each other. Yeah, there is that element of that I feel like my season is just starting. I’m very anxious to go out and race.

iRF-Bowman: I think having a ton of experience on the course and being fresh and being hungry is kind for the winning recipe.

iRF-Hicks: It’s a really great thing for December, too. There’s not a lot of people who feel fresh in December, let’s be honest. Awesome. Best of luck to you tomorrow.

Maravilla: Thank you.

iRF-Bowman: One more thing—like I said, Jorge is the General Manager of the San Francisco Running Company. Again, thank you for letting us in the store to do this show for the last couple of days.

Maravilla: Of course.

iRF-Bowman: Maybe a couple words about what it’s meant to be part of the store and seeing it from opening day to what it is now.

Maravilla: It’s hard to express in words, to be honest, because Brett [Rivers] reached out to me knowing I previously had running-industry experience and managing a shop. It’s been something that, to see what we talked about and perhaps envisioned without really understanding what would come about, our focus from day one, I remember specifically talking to Brett on the phone, pulling the trigger, and saying, “Yes, I’ll come on board, and I’ll help build this. Let’s do what we can. And number one, let’s focus on community, strictly and solely, and the second was, we’re going to put specialty in ‘run specialty.’ Period. That’s all we’re going to do, Brett. Everything else will come.” To see that flourish and continue to grow and continue to flourish has been amazing and beyond what I think any of us would have imagined. To see that community evolve and to see people grow and develop from the shop, there are an incredible number of athletes who are now evolved and grown from this that will be racing on Saturday as well, and people who really got into trail running… I think that’s really exciting to be a small contributor to that.

iRF-Bowman: 100%. Thanks again for all you do for our community, and we’re psyched to see you race.

iRF-Hicks: We’re psyched to see you race.

Maravilla: I’ll try to still smile while I’m out there.

Alex Nichols Pre-2016 The North Face 50 Mile Interview

iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar.

iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Dylan Bowman of iRunFar.

iRF-Hicks: We’re here at the San Francisco Running Company. It’s a little less than 24 hours before the 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. We are with Alex Nichols. Good morning.

Alex Nichols: Good morning. Good to be here.

iRF-Hicks: How are you doing?

Nichols: Pretty good.

iRF-Bowman: Aside from the traffic jam?

Nichols: Yeah, travel was a little rough getting over here.

iRF-Bowman: Hopefully you won’t get stuck in a traffic jam on the trails tomorrow.

Nichols: Yeah, could be at least for the first 10 miles or so.

iRF-Bowman: You’ve obviously had a great season. I feel like you’re sort of one of the most quietly consistent people on the international circuit over the last several years. You had a fourth-place finish at Broken Arrow. You won the Pikes Peak Marathon for the second year in a row and were second at Speedgoat. You won Run Rabbit. How do you feel about your season? How do you think it helped set you up for TNF this weekend?

Nichols: I was pretty injured for the first part of the year. That’s why my first real race was Broken Arrow. I feel like that’s kind of a nice thing to push everything back since this race is so late. Yeah, I feel actually pretty good about that. It doesn’t feel like a long season the way it did last year or the year before. I feel pretty good.

iRF-Hicks: Let’s talk about your injury. You were here last year, and I interviewed you on the same day. You had some plantar fasciitis that you hoped would hold itself together during the race but it didn’t.

Nichols: Yeah, that had started… Les Templiers last year was when it started getting bad. Then I trained for this race, and it just got super terrible.

iRF-Hicks: Inflamed during the race.

Nichols: Yeah, I tried to take time off beforehand to taper and also just to hope it could hold together but no.

iRF-Hicks: PF is a common injury for runners, and it’s one that’s really difficult to heal from for many people. What was the process like for you?

Nichols: It was… as people know, it’s a matter of trying everything. Lots of time off…

iRF-Bowman: Sleeping in the boot?

Nichols: Yeah you try everything because there’s no specific thing that cures everybody. If there was, it wouldn’t be such a bad injury. I did all the standard things. I went to physical therapy all the time. But I didn’t run from December after the race… I probably didn’t run more than 50 miles for the next three months. Even that didn’t necessarily help that much. Eventually in May I started to have a good couple days here and there and it turned into more good days and it kind of went away. I have no idea how it went away.

iRF-Hicks: You just threw enough at it and took enough time off that eventually the inflammation went away?

Nichols: I guess. I don’t know. I don’t want to jinx myself.

iRF-Hicks: ”My feet feel good. My feet feel good.”

Nichols: Good for now.

iRF-Bowman: You’ve sort of been known for mostly Sky racing over the last few years, but this year you ran your first 100-mile race at Run Rabbit in Steamboat. You managed to win the race in a very impressive time. Talk about your experience stepping up in distance there. Do you think maybe you have strength in the longer-distance races? Did it give you more ambition to do races like that in the future?

Nichols: Yeah, it was obviously a huge difference running that race from… I’ve done the Limone Sky Race, and it’s a whole different world. I think, yeah, I think 100 miles… I was pretty nervous about it because I just had no idea what to expect, but come race day I kind of realized it is still just another ultra race. Even though it’s twice the distance of the 50, a lot of the same things happen. It’s just more spread out. I think my racing strategy of being a little more conservative is obviously helpful with the 100 miles. I think it could be a race that suits me pretty well in the future.

iRF-Bowman: Were you surprised and satisfied with the day?

Nichols: Yeah, it’s still just kind of a surreal experience. I felt really good for 80 miles, and then I felt kind of bad for 20. It was good.

iRF-Bowman: That’s about as much as you can ask for.

iRF-Hicks: I think many people would die for that kind of day. I’ve got to be honest, I was really surprised that you signed up for a 100 miles. You have said before that you prefer the shorter stuff and the quicker recovery. Was it the money that called your name, or what drew you there ultimately?

Nichols: I think it was going to Broken Arrow, having a bad day, kind of feeling like I was stuck in this marathon-to-50k-Sky race rut almost. Then the rest of my season was pretty much up in the air. I didn’t really have any solid plans, so it worked with my work schedule, and it worked nicely with Pikes Peak and the end of the summer. I was just like, Well, we’ll try something new.

iRF-Bowman: How did you change your training between the Sky races like you mentioned leading into the 100 miler, and how has it adjusted since then leading into TNF?

Nichols: It was pretty different. I pretty much just focused on volume. With Sky running, I do quite a bit of vert and workouts, uphill workouts. For Run Rabbit Run, pretty much my mantra was, “When in doubt, run more.” That was going through my head every day. Well, I can run tonight, might as well. I just ran more but not necessarily fast. I got a fair bit of vertical in, but Run Rabbit Run is not a super-steep race, so I didn’t focus on that as much. My workouts definitely suffered. I didn’t do as many of them, and when I did they were always slow because I was always tired. Then I had little rest period right before Pikes Peak. That kind of let me recover from all the training. Pikes Peak was the final long run and then recover from that and made it to the starting line.

iRF-Bowman: So, after Run Rabbit, what was the recovery like? How’s the training been since then?

Nichols: It was pretty rough. I definitely came down with some injuries during the last 20 miles that were rough. I had some tendonitis in my knees and something in my left foot. I didn’t do too much for the first four or five weeks just because I couldn’t. I was in a decent amount of pain trying to run, which was good. A lot of people talk about that 100-mile fatigue that they feel for a long time afterward. I think I kind of got to bypass that just because I wasn’t running enough to feel that.

iRF-Bowman: Yeah, that’s probably a blessing.

Nichols: Yeah, so then it was getting closer and closer to this race and I was like, Oh, I don’t know if I’ll really run. I kind of got to the point where all my injury stuff cleared up. That was still only the end of October though. Since then I’ve focused back more on speed and not quite the volume I was doing before Run Rabbit Run and a much shorter period. I’ve only had three good weeks of training.

iRF-Hicks: We really want to ask you about strategy. You have developed a name for yourself as the lurker or what I like to call it, ‘the lurker.’

Nichols: That sounds creepy.

iRF-Hicks: You are the guy people are afraid of seeing late in the race because you don’t go out necessarily aggressive. You hang back. Then you come blasting by people in the last third or quarter of races. It has been said more than one time in the last couple days that people are readily expecting you to employ this strategy. Are you?

Nichols: Yeah, I always try to run my race and try to run my best possible time. I coach cross country and track, and this is always what I tell them: The best finish in terms of position is always going to come from the best time. When you look at world records and best runs, people have run generally pretty even. It’s not that waiting back and trying to blast by people, it’s more like in those first 10 miles, I think, Whoo, 7:00 minute/miles? That’s pretty fast. I’m not going to be running 7:00 minute/miles at mile 47. So, yeah, I’m just trying to run consistent.

iRF-Bowman: It’s interesting because there’s the Zach Miller approach and then there’s the Alex Nichols approach. You guys both live in Colorado Springs.

iRF-Hicks: I think you run together sometimes, don’t you?

Nichols: Yeah.

iRF-Bowman: I’m curious, do you ever feel tempted when you see somebody like Zach spring off the line? A race like this when there’s a lot on the line, do you ever feel like, Maybe this race I’ll try to be more aggressive?

Nichols: Yeah, it’s definitely tempting, but the few times I’ve tried it it hasn’t worked out very well for me. So I’m just going to run my own race especially tomorrow since I haven’t had the greatest training. I’ll be pretty far back I’m guessing at the beginning.

iRF-Bowman: At the beginning—that’s an important caveat. You just mentioned you coach at Colorado College. It seems like you all just had a successful end of the season. I’m curious to know a little more about that and the satisfaction you probably get from coaching.

Nichols: Yeah, our women’s team ended up 12th at Division III [NCAA] Cross-Country Nationals, which ties their best finish that the program has ever had. It’s really cool. The people we get in Division III, our number-two runner this year, she was a 19:45 high school 5k runner. In college, she really enjoys running, she works hard, and she got it down to 17:25.

iRF-Hicks: That’s awesome.

iRF-Bowman: Great coaching, I guess.

Nichols: It’s that, but it’s also just working with people that enjoy running. That’s a huge part of Division III, and to see it come to fruition like it did this year after four years in the making, it’s really fun to do.

iRF-Bowman: That’s your alma mater, too?

Nichols: Yes, there are a lot of stories like that that we have because a lot of people were undertrained in high school or they just didn’t take it seriously. Then all the sudden they get to Colorado College and we have trails and altitude definitely helps. People just get better.

iRF-Hicks: Awesome. As Dylan said, the trails are looking good out there in his homeland. The weather forecast is actually looking brilliant.

Nichols: Yeah, it’s like once every couple years.

iRF-Hicks: Things are lining up for a pretty fast race.

Nichols: Yes, definitely.

iRF-Bowman: Good luck. Hopefully we’ll see you sweep a lot of carnage in the second half of the race tomorrow.

Nichols: Thanks, that would be nice.

iRF-Bowman: Alright, buddy, thanks for coming in.

Nichols: Thanks a lot.

iRF-Hicks: Good luck, Alex.

Nichols: Thanks.

2016 The North Face 50 Mile Men’s Pre-Race Interview Show Conclusion

iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: We are back. Thanks for joining us for our 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships men’s pre-race interview show. This has been pretty fun, hasn’t it?

iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Yeah, it’s been a blast. Thanks so much again.

iRF-Hicks: iRunFar owes a debt of gratitude to you, Dylan, for not only suggesting this idea but for co-hosting this all along the way.

iRF-Bowman: It’s a pleasure. It’s as fun for me as I think it is for anybody else. I hope everybody out there watching enjoyed it. Big thanks to The North Face for sponsoring the coverage this weekend. Big thank you also to San Francisco Running Company also for opening their doors. I’d like to use this moment to come into the store and buy things from them while they’re here this weekend. Also, donate to iRunFar please. If you’re going to watch the coverage this weekend, please donate. Thank you.

iRF-Hicks: Thanks. Yeah, it’s really expensive to hire Dylan. Alright, here we go. Let’s do this race tomorrow.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

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