Ellie Greenwood is the defending women’s champ at the Western States 100. In the following interview, find out why she’s confident in her fitness this season, how she’s transitioned from training for flat and fast races to the mountains this season, and what effect the tremendous women’s field will have on the race.
Ellie Greenwood Pre-2012 Western States Interview
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ellie Greenwood, the 2011 Western States 100 champion, before the 2012 race. You won last year and you’re returning. How are you feeling?
Ellie Greenwood: I’m feeling good. It’s good to be down to the day before a big 100 miler like this, but, yeah, just getting excited to go tomorrow morning.
iRF: You’ve had a tremendous year. You won at [the American River 50], Chuckanut, took second place at Comrades, two marathon PR’s; some of those races weren’t even focus races. You’ve got to be feeling really confident in your fitness.
Greenwood: Yes, I am. Obviously, 100 miles is a different thing, but it’s nice to have those indicators like Comrades at 56 miles, American River at 50 miles. It’s sort of like a confidence builder that I’m fast at that distance and faster times than last year. So it’s good to have that in the back of my head, sure.
iRF: Those are all, well I know Comrades has rolling hills and Chuckanut has some mountains, but those are all not mountain oriented. Have you had a chance to transition from that flat, fast mentality in your training?
Greenwood: Yes, definitely, and even a little bit before Comrades. The last marathon I did was Vancouver, which was at the start of May. So after that, I knew I had enough leg speed for Comrades so I then did more. Even before Comrades, I moved away from the road and onto the trails to do more elevation. Definitely since Comrades, I’ve been power hiking hills and so forth.
iRF: Are you power hiking [Western States]?
Greenwood: Power hike, well, yeah, you’re allowed to in a trail race, so, yeah.
iRF: One of the transitions you made this year was that you’ve been living in Banff for the last couple of years and mountain running comes pretty naturally when you’re living in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. Now, you’ve moved to Vancouver. How has that transition been?
Greenwood: I’ve lived there before and it’s kind of odd because I think people think, “Oh, Banff, in the mountains, it’s great for trail running,” but I felt like a runner in a ski town. There were runners there, but it was so snowy a lot of the year that though there were amazing trails, the access to get to them was quite limited to the summer months. So then in the winter you were left on the flatter trails with less variety. In Vancouver, I’m now living at 200 meters above sea level, but I look one way down my street and it’s sea level and I look the other and it’s the North Shore Mountains. So, actually, I moved to Vancouver and I don’t have the altitude anymore, but it’s year-round trail running, and I get more elevation in. So despite lower altitude, I get much more elevation in. There’s a great running community too which is quite outstanding.
iRF: So there’s a tremendous women’s field. Last year was great, but pretty much everyone is back except Tracy [Garneau] and Becky [Wheeler] from the top-10. What’s it feel like? There are four IAU 100k World Champions in this race.
Greenwood: Yeah, you look down the list and say, “Oh so-and-so is my competition but oh, what about that person or that…” So there’s quite a list there. It’s exciting, to be honest. We’re seeing it more in women’s ultrarunning and so it makes the women’s race as exciting. I think it will push all the women harder to run better or faster or stronger races. But ultimately, you’re going to be running your own race. I want to run the best race that I can and I hope that puts me into a good position. But we’ll just have to see, especially when there’s the competition there is.
iRF: You’re going to do your own thing early.
Greenwood: You have to in the 100-mile race. You can’t run somebody else’s race because they’ve done their training and you’ve done your training and the real… It’s getting to Foresthill and, then, if you’re in good position and good shape, that’s when you can be more thinking about the competition and that kind of stuff.
iRF: Yes, with such a deep women’s field there are just so many people who could win it and a lot of them are really suited with speed from the 100k background. It’s also a wonderfully cool year. Is it going to take someone going out aggressively and just hanging on? There’s going to be less attrition in this one. How does this play into your race?
Greenwood: You don’t want to get too far in back of the lead, for sure, because I think you can count on one or two people going out too fast and dropping off. But with the number of good women, there will be some people who go out fast and stay fast. So yeah, we’ll just see. I’m not normally the most aggressive starters in the company, but I’ve gotten more comfortable doing that. But yeah, we’ll just see what happens.
iRF: Are you looking forward to the conditions?
Greenwood: It’s unreal how little snow and how mild it is which is good really. I know that the heat is part of the Western States event for sure. But then some people deal with it better and you sort of think well, now have you dealt more with the heat as much as being a good runner. It’s a combination of both. So I’m from Canada, so there’s a little pressure.
iRF: So I won’t ask you to pick who you think is going to win the women’s race, but who do you think is going to win the men’s race this year?
Greenwood: Oh my goodness. It’s hard to say, but I’d put my money on someone like Ryan Sandes. Maybe the fact that it’s not quite so hot, had it been a hot year, I’ve never seen him race, but maybe if it had been a hot year it would play to his advantages; but I would say something like that. You know Mike Wolfe seemed pretty keen. It was cool to see him gaining on Kilian last year, so I guess I could like Mike for it.
iRF: Well, good luck pursuing the win yourself. It’s going to be a beautiful day out there with lots of competition. We’ve talked about it before, but that Ann Trason time is out there. So good luck! Good luck with the win and I know you know what the splits are. Best of luck, Ellie.
Greenwood: Thanks so much!