YiOu Wang, 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Champion, Interview

YiOu Wang had big expectations going into the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile: defend her champion’s title from last year and earn a Western States Golden Ticket. In this interview, watch YiOu talk about how she led the race wire to wire in running by feel, what sections of the course were easier and harder for her, what it was like to run much of the race solo, and how she feels now that she’s achieved both of her big race goals.

For more post-race interviews and details on how the whole race went down, check out our Lake Sonoma results article.

YiOu Wang, 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the finish line of the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. I’m with a very tired but a very relieved women’s champion, YiOu Wang. Congratulations.

YiOu Wang: Thank you so much, Meghan. It was a great day out there.

iRunFar: You crossed that finish line looking like you put it all out there. Is that what you did?

Wang: Yes, mostly I really wanted the Golden Ticket, and I knew that given the depth and strength of the women’s field that I really just had to give it everything.

iRunFar: You took the pace out for the women’s field from the get-go. The two-and-a-half miles of road, you were leading Kaci [Lickteig] and Magda [Boulet]. From there on, were you just in front the whole time by yourself?

Wang: Yes, I was in front the whole time. I actually ran a lot of the race totally by myself, which is fine. I’d kind of hook up with some guys for a mile or two, but they’d always be going a little bit slower than I wanted or a little bit faster than I wanted. I just focused on running at the effort level that I wanted to that I knew was sustainable.

iRunFar: You are a pretty analytical person with your running. You’ve run this course multiple times before. You’ve raced it. You’ve trained on it. Were you keying off numbers at all or strictly how you felt?

Wang: I was keying off strictly how I felt. I feel like year to year if you look at your splits, your training is always a little bit different, you always feel a little bit different, your body is always a little bit different. This spring I had some hamstring issues that kind of set me back a little bit in my training, so I really didn’t want to compare to last year’s performance, because that was a really great day and I had the perfect lead up to it. This year, I really just wanted to go out and give my total best effort, whatever my body had today.

iRunFar: This race, you’re spending 50 miles in the same place and you’re basically running out and back. Different parts of the race have different characters, the trail does. There’s the more technical bits on the south side of the lake. There are some of the fire roads with the steeper climbs on the north side. Can you talk about how you felt on the different pieces of the course?

Wang: Yeah, I felt great on the rolling singletrack part, which I really love. I feel like I could really get a lot of good momentum going. I felt like the climbs were hard. I haven’t really done a lot of climbing in my training at least definitely not as much as last year leading into Sonoma. So those long fire road climbs I felt like I was kind of gassing it a bit. Then I thought, Oh, there’s only three of them, so just get them over with. Yeah, they definitely felt tougher than the more gradual rolling stuff, which I really like. On the south side once you start coming back, there’s the little mini-canyons where you drop down, cross the stream, then drop back up. I have to admit I power hiked a lot of those out of the stream.

iRunFar: It’s like a guilty verdict, “I admit I walked.”

Wang: Well, I don’t feel so bad about it now, but at the time it was, Oh, I’m walking!

iRunFar: “I can’t believe I’m walking!” You were here as the defending champion. You were here to fight for the win again, but you also wanted the Golden Ticket to go back to Western States. Was your crew or were people on the trail giving you reports of where the other women were?

Wang: My crew gave me a few reports. For the first part of the race I could kind of hear there was a group of women behind me. I’m not a very chatty person on the trail, so I get into these zones where I just focus in really intensely. So, part of it was like, ideally I would have had someone to run with, but also I didn’t want to talk to someone for that long.

iRunFar: “Run with me, but don’t say anything.”

Wang: Yeah, it’s like I really wanted to pay attention to how I was feeling and what I was doing and just be very focused on how I was feeling. My crew did a really good job of not telling me too much information. “You’re doing great. Here’s all your stuff.” My friend Kim Gaylord gave me a few splits and they seemed to be trending in the right direction. “Great, I’ll just keep running.”

iRunFar: One of the things you said in our interview before the race was that you wanted to explore the hurt box a little bit more in the last miles of the race. I saw you at mile 38, that wasn’t quite the last miles of the race yet, you looked like you were pretty focused and perhaps a little bit uncomfortable. Did you explore the hurt box?

Wang: I explored the hurt box.

iRunFar: What did you find in there?

Wang: A lot of hurt. I think I definitely had a tougher last eight miles or so than I felt last year. I really just tried to keep the intensity there. I ran this year again a lot of the race by myself, so it got kind of lonely between the turnaround and the finish. I did sort of see two men that I ended up passing along the way that was really helpful. I think the last person I passed I think finished right behind me. We kind of kept each other going. He was a little faster than me on the uphill, and, then, I’d catch him on the downhill. I found that very motivating. That last mile is just evil to the finish.

iRunFar: Rocky, muddy, uphill. John Medinger wherever you are, you’re evil.

Wang: He knows what he’s doing. Jamil [Coury] was out there. There were all these camera crew people that would run behind me for awhile. “I have to keep going.”

iRunFar: There’s somebody watching me.

Wang: I’m on camera!

iRunFar: You finished 13th at Western States last year. You had your eye on the Golden Ticket. You now have a Golden Ticket. What’s going through your mind about that one race at the end of June now?

Wang: How soon can I sign up? I’m really excited to go back to Western States. That was a really huge goal for me this summer was to get back to Western States and just look for redemption out there on the course, not necessarily finishing at a certain place but just having a good day where I feel like everything was planned and I could run and didn’t have crazy stomach problems.

iRunFar: Awesome. Congratulations to you on your win today. #SeeYouInSquaw.

Wang: Thank you. Exactly. Thanks so much.

iRunFar: Congrats.

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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