Dakota Jones won the 2012 Transvulcania ultramarathon in an upset over favorite Kilian Jornet. In the following interview, he discusses how his race played out against Kilian and Andy Symonds, what happened with Kilian fainting after the race, what he thinks of the European race hype now that he’s been the center of attention, and whether he plans to alter his season’s racing schedule to compete in the Skyrunner World Series.
Dakota Jones, 2012 Transvulcania Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell here with Dakota Jones after his victory at the 2012 Transvulcania ultra. How are you doing?
Dakota Jones: I’m doing fine, Bryon, thanks.
iRF: You’ve had a nice, relaxing day, jumping into the ocean and enjoying a nice café here.
Jones: Yeah, it’s awesome. We’re hanging out in the Canary Islands, which I still haven’t wrapped my head around.
iRF: Have you wrapped your head around your performance yesterday?
Jones: No, I haven’t done that either. That was nuts. I was as surprised as anyone else out there.
iRF: I think about a month ago I asked you if you thought your Lake Sonoma 50-mile was your biggest win. I don’t think I have to ask you that question now.
Jones: I think at the time it was. This probably trumps that, for sure.
iRF: You’re the king of the understated quote. Last interview you said, “I ran hard and I won.” I’m going to put you on the spot and have you talk a little bit more about your race this time because it was actually a pretty tight race. About half way through the race distance-wise, I saw you were 10 seconds from Kilian and Andy was 2 minutes back. Take us forward from there.
Jones: Well, that was when we were getting up to the caldera. We started at the ocean and we run up this really long ridgeline to the summit of the island which is a volcano and it’s got this huge caldera in it. We run along the rim of it which was just amazing. It was stunning. It’s a huge vertical cliff that drops into, I don’t know if it was a rain forest or… It was super steep, incredibly dramatic, the ocean was on both sides, and it’s really kind of choppy on the top. We go on a lot of ups and downs and ups and downs. We were at about 2000+m (about 6500 feet). This whole time I was running with Kilian and just waiting for him to get with the program and blow me away. Then we got up to the highpoint of the race, there’s a big aid station there, everybody’s excited. From there it’s 20k and 7000ft of downhill, which is pretty brutal. I kind of was hoping since Kilian hasn’t been training at all this winter for running, he’s just been skiing, that I would be able to put some time on him there because he’s not used to the pounding of the downhill. But he kept up with me, which isn’t surprising given that he’s Kilian. We were just running downhill pretty hard and we came into an aid station about half way down it and then Andy Symonds shows up out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen him for hours. He was psyched and just charged ahead and blew me away. I didn’t see him for more than 5 seconds until he was out of sight. Kilian couldn’t take it so he took off after him, so I thought I was going to get 3rd place, this is it, as long as no one else catches me I guess I’m just going to get 3rd. I don’t know. I just kind of kept running at my own pace and all of a sudden they kind of came back into view. I caught Kilian which really surprised me. He just kind of stepped aside and let me go. I said, “Are you OK?” “Yes, Yes.” I don’t know. Then I caught Andy, too, a bit further down the hill. [iRF: Running downhill you caught him?] Yes, this downhill lasted forever. There were these switchbacks down to the bottom and then I caught Andy and he asked, “Did you have a second wind?” I said, “No,” because I didn’t. I think they went really hard there, got excited and in the moment and wore themselves out. Without meaning to, I guess I ran smarter just doing my own thing. So then I caught Andy and I expected him to give me a really hard race to the finish and I guess he did because he was definitely in the back of my mind there just running my own race, running my own pace as hard as I could. It was enough to win.
iRF: Andy said he thought he actually ran… with about 5k to go you hit the ocean and you come back up a really steep climb [1000ft] up some cobblestone streets and it’s pretty tough. Andy said he thought he actually ran more of the climb than you did. Apparently you were walking a good portion of the climb at a ridiculous (fast) pace.
Jones: It wasn’t a question of should I run or should I hike. I was hiking. That’s where my legs were at. I couldn’t run. It was 5k to go and I didn’t have anything left. I just hiked as hard as I could.
iRF: You probably do some hiking in your training. You select out steep routes and stuff. Do you end up… ?
Jones: Yeah, I’d like to think all my training from Hardrock last year and all the steep mountains I climb got me good at hiking.
iRF: And then at the finish, you won and then Andy comes in soon after and then Kilian finishes and promptly passes out.
Jones: Yeah, he collapsed, it was pretty wild.
iRF: What went on there, do you know? You were standing next to him when he did.
Jones: I think he just got hot, overheated, probably dehydrated. He doesn’t really believe that, apparently. I don’t know. I think he just got hot. I think he’s been skiing in a cold, wintry place, and then he came to this tropical island where it’s hot and humid. Kilian is the kind of guy where he’s going to push it to the limit and he did that. He came across the line blowing kisses and then passed out.
iRF: And then you put a flower on Kilian, what happened there? People are talking about that.
Jones: Are they really? Well, I guess it was a dumb thing to do. When I was finishing a guy gave me this rose, it was cool. I was coming down the finish chute about ½ mile from the finish and this guy gave me a rose. I was like, “Yeah, I’ll take it.” He was psyched! I wish I could make people that psyched all the time; he was fired up! So I finished with this rose and I kind of dropped it and when Kilian finished I walked over, he collapsed, I found my rose on the ground. I was like, “Good luck, Kilian, feel better.” And I placed the rose on his chest, kind of threw it on him, and people were like… I did that and it looked like he was dead and immediately I was like, “Oh, no.” But yeah, sorry, Kilian.
iRF: You guys are friends, so…
Jones: Yeah, let’s not look too deep into that.
iRF: Exactly, it was just a thing in the moment. We talked a little in the pre-race interview with everybody. You wrote the “Hype Machine” article on iRunFar.com a couple weeks ago. Then yesterday… you’ve seen UTMB before, Sierre-Zinal, but you won yesterday.
Jones: Yeah, it’s very different being in the front. Thinking back on that, it’s kind of funny that I wrote that saying there was all this hype around Lake Sonoma 50-mile which, compared to this race I did here yesterday, was just a joke. There was 100x the hype here. They just build so much energy around the race. The entire island was out. There were 1000s of people there at the finish just going NUTS! It was incredible yesterday. I couldn’t believe it. I kind of thought about going back and doing another article on the same subject reflecting on that article and what I feel now. But really it’s just, I feel like I said what I had to say there and it’s just I run because I like to run.
iRF: What were the details there? You were on Spanish TV yesterday.
Jones: Apparently, yeah, I haven’t seen anything. There were helicopters flying around us while we were running. There was this one really excited English dude running next to me with a camera that was bigger than him and he tripped four times. There were a lot of media there; it was crazy. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t like that. Of course, I like being the center of attention. Who doesn’t? But if it was like that all the time, if I had to be around that every time I ran, I’d go out of my mind. I run because I like to run and the fact that it gets a lot of attention is really cool but it’s not going to change me. I think that’s actually the point. As I get older and I have more successes, people give me more attention. I’m afraid as people tell me so many times that I’m an amazing athlete and an amazing person that I’ll start to believe them and be a d—. I don’t want to be a d—. I just want to be a good guy and keep it in perspective. It’s really nothing more than just running a lot. I wrote that article and I guess I had some contentious points but it’s really just one guy’s opinion and people take it seriously because I run fast.
iRF: Speaking of running fast, you’ve now won a Skyrunning singlet. You don’t see this in the US.
Jones: Yeah, I’ve got the winner’s singlet: Skyrunner World Series 012.
iRF: And you’re going to run another Skyrunner World Series race at Zegama.
Jones: That’s right. I hope nobody expects me to win because there’s about 0.2% chance I’ll win. I’m going to finish. It’s going to be cool. I can’t wait.
iRF: Do you feel any desire or draw to modify your summer plans to add in some more Skyrunner races? You’re the leader. You’ve won a big race!
Jones: Yeah, I’m the leader after the first race. That’s a start, I guess. I probably won’t amend my schedule after Hardrock 100. But it’s definitely tempting to come back to Europe and do these trail races because they really love trail running here. They’re very clear about that. It’s exciting to be a part of that. Hardrock’s still my focus. Hardrock’s my race.
iRF: There’s already a lot of chatter going around both here and the Canary Islands around the dinner table about your potential at Hardrock.
Jones: You win any race and people are going to think you’re amazing. Hardrock’s completely different. I think I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been, I’m training much better, I’m older and more experienced, I have more training from past years in my legs, but it’s totally different. I’m not going to go into it with any different expectations than I had last year. It’s just that I know it better because I have one year of experience there. It’s just foolish to think you’re bigger than that race.
iRF: I think you said it best last year when you crossed the line and said, “I can’t believe I felt that bad and still finished 2nd.”
iRF: Experiencing the race yesterday, the hype, hoopla, the 1000s of fans, the support, the money behind it, the organization, you got a decent check out of the deal. Is there anything that you think the US could learn or things that you would like to transport back to the United States, also in terms of sponsors, teams, that sort of thing. What can we learn from yesterday?
Jones: It’s hard to say. This is kind of the extreme on the mainstream side of things. At this race there were 1000s of fans, there was Spanish TV, there were helicopters circling around, there were cameramen and journalists everywhere covering the race, there were 1000s of fans and people everywhere. It was crazy. It was just overwhelming. Whereas there’s the other extreme, such as Geoff’s 350-mile run through Alaska…[Hardrock]. Yeah, Hardrock is a good, more general example. Yeah, it makes sense. There are aid stations, there’s a start and a finish. The only people who are there, who are in it and understand it and are the core people. So they’re kind of opposites, but really, I like them both. I think it’s kind of cool that I can come over here and do this race and be a part of it but then pull out and, “Holy cow, that was a lot,” and then go do Hardrock and spend a month in Silverton by myself.
iRF: And the bartender doesn’t give a care who you are. Today we’re in this random café that you wouldn’t know existed unless someone told you where it was and the owner wanted their picture taken with you.
Jones: Yeah, I was signing autographs yesterday. I’ve never signed my autograph before except on my bank account, but I couldn’t believe it. I’m still kind of blown away. Holy cow!
iRF: Well enjoy the experience, Dakota, and the ride. I’m sure we’ll be chatting again soon.
Jones: Thanks, dude, it was great!