Emily Harrison has been running for most of her life, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’ll be racing the 100-mile distance for the first time at the 2013 Western States 100. In the following interview, Emily talks about the best advice she’s received on running a 100-mile race, her race plan, and what she’ll try to do to temper her pace.
[Editor’s Note: You can learn more about Emily in Meghan Hicks’s long-form profile of Emily.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Emily Harrison Pre-2013 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Emily Harrison before the Western States 100. How are you, Emily?
Emily Harrison: I’m doing well, thanks.
iRF: When did you show up here in Squaw Valley?
Harrison: Well, this is my first time in Squaw Valley as of about 10 minutes ago when we rolled in here to meet with you. We came into Truckee, CA, last evening. We started the drive on Tuesday and kind of made our way.
iRF: So you’ve kind of been thinking about this since November and you’ve been pretty focused on it? What does it feel like to step into the spot, the place where it’s all going to begin?
Harrison: It’s exciting. You see it on, of course everyone knows Unbreakable, and you walk into the square and it’s like, Oh, okay, this is where it happens. It’s still intimidating, I think, but I’m just trying to take it one step at a time until race morning.
iRF: I’m sure you’ve gotten lots of advice over the last eight months both from Ian (Torrence), your coach, and from everyone else. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten on running 100 miles?
Harrison: I think the biggest things I’ve taken away are just how important it is to take care of yourself early on, not going out too hard, which is probably relative. Some people can probably push a little harder early on and be okay, other people maybe not so much. Taking care of yourself and being ready to go at mile 62.
iRF: Coming from a track background and cross country and a couple fast marathons, what are you going to try to do to hold yourself back because it’s going to be tempting… we were just talking about running up to the peak.
Harrison: Exactly. I’m really going into it with going by feel, so there’s not really any paces involved. It’s going to be hard. I won’t be surprised if I still go out a little too hard. I think just really gauging my own body and being like, Okay, I’m starting to redline a little bit here, it’s time to step it back a notch, and really dial my effort back and make sure I’m staying relaxed.
iRF: Are you going to factor in your pacing based on heat?
Harrison: I think the heat will definitely play into it. If I’m working too hard on a hill that I normally wouldn’t be working too hard on at that pace, then I’ll dial it back for sure. We’ll stay as cool as possible; that will be important.
iRF: Totally. Have you gotten any great advice on Western States itself? Every course is different and this one has a lot of history and you know a lot of people who have run it.
Harrison: Right. Yeah, I still haven’t seen the first 30 miles, so that will be a learning experience for sure to see what’s out there. You know, a lot of people just tell me that if I can have my legs under me that last 30 miles or 40 miles, that would be great. That’s in my head. That’s where my strong suit is and that’s my background, being able to run those sections. Again, I have to be able to get to those sections in one piece and still be able to run.
iRF: There are two big factors that come into play with that at Western States. One will be the heat that comes in two days which we’ve already talked about. The other factor is quads; there’s so much downhill.
Harrison: Right. I’ve done a lot more downhill running than I have in the past. I’ve been spending a lot more time on the trails. So just being able to… we were out here for a road trip for a Western States training camp. It was good because I got to run the canyons on that trip a couple times. Then we ran in Tahoe. We’ve just done some bigger trail runs, at least for me, that have the downhills as well as the climbing. I think my quads are as toughened up as they’re going to be right now.
iRF: You did a rim-to-rim-to-rim (Grand Canyon), right?
Harrison: No, we actually ended up not doing that. It was going to be a little bit too hot that weekend. When people from Vegas are like, “I think this is a bad idea,” I think it’s probably not a good idea. So we decided to pull the plug and ended up not doing that. I was kind of disappointed about that because I haven’t gotten to do that yet, but eventually…
iRF: It will be waiting there in the fall.
Harrison: Yes, eventually.
iRF: Speaking of waiting for you, I assume Ian will be waiting for you at Foresthill and pacing you the whole way in?
Harrison: That’s the plan.
iRF: What’s it like having such a well-studied, intelligent, familiar pacer waiting for you for those last 38 miles?
Harrison: It’s reassuring, for sure. I think he’ll say the right things when I say, “Oh my gosh, I feel horrible,” or this or that, he’ll say, “Okay, that’s normal,” or “This isn’t normal to feel.” It will be nice having that experience. He’s someone who also is not afraid to push me. I think he knows my limits and he knows what I can do, so that will be nice.
iRF: Are you looking for more of the carrot or the stick type of pacer?
Harrison: I don’t know. Maybe a stick.
iRF: Best of luck out there and have fun!
Harrison: Thanks, Bryon.