Dylan Bowman is back in Squaw Valley for his third run at the Western States 100. In the following interview, Dylan talks about how he feels about his year to date, how his fitness compares to past 100s, his success at 100 miles, and how he thinks fellow Marin, California runner Alex Varner will do.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Dylan Bowman Pre-2014 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dylan Bowman before the 2014 Western States 100. How are you doing, Dylan?
Dylan Bowman: Doing well, thanks.
iRunFar: It’s a much shorter trip out here these days for you.
Bowman: Yeah, three hours via the Jeep—another good trip in the Jeep. I’m happy to be back—another year at States.
iRunFar: Still feels like a long way though, right?
Bowman: It feels like a long way in that you think about this weekend all year. Then when you’re driving you think, Wow, I’m actually driving up to Squaw. It’s that time of year again. Happy to be back.
iRunFar: Meghan asked why you keep coming back in our written interview. But as you’re driving back or as you’re getting here, what are the emotions you’re feeling and how have they changed since you came here the first time?
Bowman: Yeah, it’s hard to believe that this is already the third one. The emotion is still the same. When I got here the first year, I’d qualified at the last minute at Leona Divide. I really came in with an attitude of, I’m just going to go for it. I’ve got nothing to lose. Who knows if I’ll ever be back? I’ve been lucky enough to come back two more times. The emotions are still the same. It’s basically the focus of my entire year. I’m really, really excited about it. My whole family is coming back again. They’re all really excited about it. It’s an awesome time of year. I get to see a lot of friends. Everybody gathers here in Squaw. It’s just a special time.
iRunFar: Yeah, you’ve got your friends here, your family, everyone’s coming out. Is that your normal set-up—your family crewing for you and Zeke [Tiernan] if you can get him to pace?
Bowman: Yeah, my family is as big of ultra fans as I am at this point. They wouldn’t miss Western States. Even if I wasn’t racing they’d probably still want to come out. Yeah, the Tiernan brothers are coming. I’m so, so excited about that. Zeke has obviously been a huge mentor and inspiration for me since I started running these races. Alex is a good friend as well. I’ve run with him a lot. So I’m psyched, yeah.
iRunFar: With Zeke, how has he been a mentor to you? He’s on the radar for a year or two and then he pops off.
Bowman: Yeah, but we stay in touch. We talk as much as we can, probably every month or so even though I’m living out here in California now. He’s just always got good things to say coming from a really structured CU program kind of background. He’s just really smart. He’s just really, really strong, tough dude. The thing that inspired me to run ultras was an article that was written about him. It’s kind of funny how it’s come full circle. I’m really excited to share some miles with him on the course.
iRunFar: What’s the best advice he’s ever given you?
Bowman: I think he mores just keeps me out of my own head. When I’m fat and out of shape, he’s there to kind of talk some sense into me. Yeah, you know, I’ve always bounced ideas off of him. We’ve always had different training methodologies, but now my training is more like his training was a couple years ago. Yeah, he’s helped me in a lot of ways.
iRunFar: Much different than last year, you’ve been living with the Marin boys and you’re training with Jason Koop. Then so far this year it’s seemed to get you sharper with a great run at Sean O’Brien and win at The North Face – Bear Mountain. Do you think you’re sharper now than you were in those two races or have you found a point where, Maybe I’m training too hard and too intense? Whether it’s from the workouts you’ve been doing or you living with a lot of fast guys to run with?
Bowman: You know, I think I probably don’t feel as sharp as I did going into the 50 milers, but that’s because the training has been different. For a 50-mile race, my volume was significantly lower than it has been over the past four or five weeks, but that’s kind of the strategy. That’s been the plan from Coach Koop. There have been times when I feel like I’m barely hanging on and barely able to get out the door for some workouts. But I think pushing yourself to that limit is what allows you to reach your real potential and allow you to have those breakthrough races. That’s obviously the hope for this weekend is to have a breakthrough kind of race. The training has been as good as I could possibly ask for. I’m injury free. I’ve put a lot of really good work in. I’ve suffered a lot. I feel like I’ve absorbed it really well now. I’ve tapered down. I just did a 45-minute run where I had to force myself to stop because I felt really good and really energized. So I’m hoping for a good one.
iRunFar: What does a breakthrough race get you? I know you talked about the time a little bit—maybe sub-16 or 15:45? Can you get on the podium? On your perfect day, do you visualize winning this race?
Bowman: Well, I think the dream is always to win a race like this. As somebody who has been an athlete my whole life and coming from a team-sports background, it’s either win or lose. There’s no second place in a lacrosse game. If you get second place, you lost. The dream is always to win the race. Whether or not it’s realistic, you know, I have those internal conversations a lot, and if I’m being 100% honest it’s probably not realistic to win this race this weekend. If I have my absolute best day, yeah, I could run onto the podium. But if you give me a whiff of the victory in the last 20 miles, I’ll definitely bury myself to get there. Who knows?
iRunFar: For someone like you who is sort of on that fence where you can dream of winning but a podium would be a great race, in the first 50 to 60 miles, how do you approach the race? Do you approach it to put yourself in a position to win or do you run the smart race that gives you the potential to run a strong time?
Bowman: Yeah, I’ve learned in my two races here, really, you have to be able to run hard in the last 20 miles and if you’re not, you’re losing time to a lot of people. I think this year it’s going to go out hot just because of the cast of characters that are coming out this year. I’m definitely going to be focused on keeping it very relaxed until Foresthill. I have a general idea of the splits I’d like to hit, but I’d really hope to not get caught up in the…
iRunFar: Could there be a group like you and Nick Clark and Ian Sharman who are like a second pack off the front group at 40 to 50 miles that work together?
Bowman: Definitely I could see that happening. There are a lot of really fast runners in this race. There are also a lot of really smart, tough runners in this race. I kind of see myself as a mix between those two styles of athletes. I like to be near the front because I think I lack a little bit of toughness that it takes to really push at the end of the race. Of course, these are things I’ve tried to work on in training. So I don’t have a major plan outside of trying to remain conservative. There are definitely guys who I’ll key off of and mark in terms of guys I’d like to be around. There are also guys I probably shouldn’t be around early. Hopefully I’ll be able to evaluate the dynamic of the race on the fly and make the smart decisions because at this race, the tiniest little error can mean a lot.
iRunFar: One thing you have really done having looked back in writing the preview for this race, you’ve just been so consistent at 100 miles. What do you think gets you there—is it the preparation, the strategy from the start, how you check yourself along the way?
Bowman: That’s a good question. Yeah, I have been consistent and it’s something I’m definitely really happy about and proud of. I’ve been pretty consistent across most distances, too. I feel like the 100s, at least recently, have been where I’ve lacked better consistency. That’s where I’ve seen my poorer performances come. If you lump Transgrancanaria into that picture as well, which was a 16-hour race for me, I sort of put that in the same category as the 100’s. Being consistent is something, like I said, that I’m proud of. I definitely would prefer to have more wins and maybe a few 20th-place death marches.
iRunFar: So you’d like to be a little riskier?
Bowman: I think there’s something to be said for that. Who knows? I definitely am here for a third time and fully prepared to put myself through whatever it takes. I hope I’m man enough to take those risks on Saturday.
iRunFar: Whenever I talk to somebody from NorCal this year they keep talking about Alex Varner. Tell me what to look for in him this weekend.
Bowman: Varner is a really, really strong runner. He comes from the collegiate and road background, but he grew up in Marin. He’s been running on Mt. Tam since he was a kid. He’s really smart. He’s a tough cat and he likes to win. He’s a competitive guy. I’ve said this to you already, but I see a huge parallel between him and Rob Krar from last year. He’s only done one 50 miler. He’s never done a 100. But he’s the kind of talent where he’s been running since he was a kid; he’s just going to have to run a lot further than he ever has. If he nails it, I think he could turn a lot of heads. He could have a race like Rob had last year.
iRunFar: Are you going to beat Varner?
Bowman: The Bay Area race within the race is going to be an interesting one this year. If I had to put my money on it, I’d say Varner would probably win that race. Who knows? We’ve got a big group.
iRunFar: Well, best of luck to you and have fun out there.
Bowman: Thanks, bud.
iRunFar: Bonus question, the beard. What’s with the beard?
Bowman: Yeah, it’s the first beard of my life as a nearly 30-year-old man. I figured it was about time to give it a try. It’s not the best beard in the world, but it was time to make a change from the clean shaven, clean cut, and I think the record has shown that people with facial hear at Western States tend to have better races.
iRunFar: Is that going to stick with you through the summer or is it one and done?
Bowman: Probably not. It will probably come off on Monday or TuesDAY.