Diego Pazos really hit his trail running stride in 2016, including his tie for third at Transgrancanaria, where he’ll race again this weekend. In the following interview, Diego talks about how he converted from soccer to trail running, what his motivations are, and why you may see him cross the finish with another runner from time to time.
Read our Transgrancanaria preview to find out who else is running this year’s race!
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Diego Pazos Pre-2017 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Diego Pazos before the 2017 Transgrancanaria. How are you, Diego?
Diego Pazos: I’m fine. Hello, everybody! I’m fine. I’m feeling good.
iRunFar: We’ve seen you at a lot of races the last year especially, but before we get talking about today, I’d love to know more about your background as a trail runner and runner in general.
Pazos: I started in 2012. It was my first big season to prepare for the UTMB 2013. I did soccer before, so I wasn’t experienced in running and athletics. I started in 2012, and then I improved a lot the last three or four years. Now, I’m really feeling like a real train runner. That’s the point. I will see what are my limits and do some nice challenges and discover very nice places. That’s my aim.
iRunFar: Why did you take up trail running in the first place?
Pazos: Because I did 22 years of soccer, and I wanted new challenges and adventures. I wanted to discover new places and to get to know myself better. I think trail running is the best sport to do that. Endurance, I feel good with endurance. I feel better and better with the distance.
iRunFar: How did you know of trail running? Did you see certain races around or did you have friends… how did you first learn of it?
Pazos: It’s kind of a cliche, but watching UTMB on the internet in 2011 with my wife, I saw these three crazy guys—Iker Carrera, Miguel Heras, Kilian Jornet—together with Sebastien Chaigneau just behind. It was so nice to see Col de la Seigne with the sun. For me, it was kind of incredible to do that. So I said, “Okay, that’s a challenge I want to be part of,” but not in the elite but just to finish it.
iRunFar: Right off the bat, UTMB was on your radar, and it kept you going in that direction?
Pazos: Yes, sure. It was like I wanted to finish this race, and I did it, so now I’m looking for other challenges and other nice trails to discover and nice adventures to get to know me even better.
iRunFar: So in 2011 you learn of UTMB, and by 2014, you were 11th place at UTMB. Is that correct?
iRunFar: That’s an incredible journey. How does that happen in three years?
Pazos: I have no idea. I felt that my body adapted itself very fast, and that I felt good with endurance. In 100 miles, after 80-100k, it’s all in your head. I think I have quite a strong head, so it can help me. It was an incredible experience. For me it was kind of a revenge for this race.
iRunFar: Then in 2015, you were fourth at CCC and Diagonale des Fous. Then there was last year. You both ran a lot more races at international level and did even better at them. What changed for you last year?
Pazos: I changed a bit my preparation. I did more speed to maintain my speed as well, not only mountains. I think mentally I passed a step. I realized I was able to compete with some strong guys, so it’s as well funny. I enjoyed it. In 2016, I did Transgrancanaria and Mont Blanc 80k and Eiger and the World Championship. I want to continue in this progression, not to do too much but to do good races.
iRunFar: So you had a lot more confidence last year. You were third here last year with Pau Capell. You won EIger Ultra Trail. You were sixth at the World Championships among your other results. What do you think was the best of those? What performance are you most proud of?
Pazos: I think I was very proud of the third place here because it was very challenging as well. It was very hard. But I think the best performance in terms of results is maybe the sixth place at the World Championships because the level was very high. It was a great battle, and from the first k to the last k, I was one hundred percent. It was a total race. The guys in front were stronger than me, so I’m really proud of what I did.
iRunFar: You had really good races at a number of different distances and time durations. Have you sort of found yourself liking the shorter and faster ultras, or is it always, “The longer the better?” What sort of ultras have you found yourself being the best at and enjoying the most?
Pazos: I discover myself in shorter ultras last year like 80-100k, but I think I’m still more competitive in longer distances like 100 miles or 125k like here. I think that’s my best distance that I can perform the best. I enjoy the long as well because I think it’s totally a different races. You have other parameters as well. You have to manage other problems with 100 miles. I love that—like Diagonale or UTMB or others.
iRunFar: This is 125k here on Saturday, and it’s February, and it’s very mountainous. How do you prepare for a race like that through the winter in Switzerland?
Pazos: It’s very hard. You reach the point where we have a lot of snow, so you cannot go very high, and I did one preparation race in the south of France where I could run. It was a 45k. I came here one month ago just to see the track in three days with Jordi [Gamito] and Pau. It was very nice, and I could do a bit of elevation, but you never know how you will react. Last year it was good, but this year we’ll see. I feel good, but you never know—maybe not enough elevation or maybe it’s good. It’s hard in the winter.
iRunFar: You obviously prepared enough for the challenges of last year’s race. How specifically do you get that training in? Do you find short hills and do repeats on them? Do you find stairs? What does that look like?
Pazos: Yeah, I do short hills. I work in Bern and live in Lausanne, so I’m training at midday in Bern, and I have short hills there. I do more intervals and short hills. I try to do not as much stairs, but I ski as well and bike inside sometimes. Mostly, it’s small hills.
iRunFar: That’s enough to prepare your quads for all the descending?
Pazos: Hopefully. Last year it was. I think, yes.
iRunFar: This year’s race, we have a lot of the same top finishers from last year coming back. Is that exciting or daunting?
Pazos: Very exciting. Since last year, I really enjoyed being with top runners and to compete with top runners because I think it’s the best way to know where you are and how you feel. I’m really enjoying it. It’s going to be a really tough race. If you don’t feel good, you can be away from the 20th position maybe, but it’s aways fun to fight with them and to run with guys that maybe you’re not used to running with and to get to know them a bit and talk with them before and after the race. It’s always nice.
iRunFar: Last year you were here and finished with Pau Capell. It’s not the first time you’ve finished with another runner. This is a race. What makes you compelled to cross the line with other runners?
Pazos: I think it’s part of the values of our sport. We are sharing very hard moments, and when you are running with a guy for 50k and you are really doing your best and at the end you are together, I don’t see the point to just sprint and do the last k at 120% just to have one minute advantage. It’s different if you are running alone and somebody comes from behind or you are joining somebody. Here, you can do the race, but it depends on the moment. I don’t plan it. It’s just like… I like to share. I like to spend nice moments in the mountains with nice guys. That’s why I do this sport.
iRunFar: We were just hanging out with Pau back at your apartment a few minutes ago. Who is going to finish ahead of the other?
Pazos: That’s the point joker. We’ll see. He’s strong. He’s very strong. I feel good. There are other many, many runners, so if we can run a bit together, it’s very good. Now we’ll see.
iRunFar: Thank you, Diego. Good luck!
Pazos: Thank you, Bryon.