Stephanie Howe won the 2014 Western States 100, her debut 100-mile. In this interview, she talks about when she knew it was going to be a good day for her, if she made any mistakes, what she enjoyed about the Western States course, and if she thinks she’ll run 100 miles again.
Be sure to check out our results article for the whole race story including links to the rest of iRunFar’s post-race coverage.
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Stephanie Howe, Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Stephanie Howe after her win at the 2014 Western States 100. Congratulations, Stephanie.
Stephanie Howe: Thank you.
iRunFar: This was your 100-mile debut. Could you think that this was going to happen?
Howe: Not in a million years. I am so surprised. I mean, I just wanted to finish.
iRunFar: You did.
Howe: I did finish.
iRunFar: When did you start knowing that this was going to be a really good day?
Howe: Kind of after Robinson Flat. I felt great on those downhills. It just felt like I was moving well but it wasn’t hard. I’m like, I think I’m going to do alright. Kind of as it progressed later in the race I’m like, I might be able to hold this lead.
iRunFar: Were you afraid sort of being out there in the lead so early?
Howe: Yep, I was. I was like, Did I do this too early? But I started really slow. I just picked it up a little bit going into Robinson. There were some moments where I was like, Maybe that was a little early, because there were 70 miles left of racing at that point.
iRunFar: So you were scared at times?
Howe: I was because I just didn’t know how my body was going to handle the distance. That was what I was most scared of, that I would fall apart at mile 80.
iRunFar: What did you learn about yourself in terms of what falls apart first? What can you work on?
Howe: Well, I had a little bit of knee pain into Foresthill. It was unfortunate because I stopped and hobbled right when everyone was around me and they were probably like, “Oh, that girl is not going to finish.” But that’s just muscle imbalance and I’ve been working on it. I did well with everything else. I fueled well. I was patient. There’s not too many things that I needed to work on. It kind of just fell into place.
iRunFar: Do you think that if you were to run it again, with the knowledge of what you’re capable of, that you could run it even faster?
Howe: I do. I was pretty conservative at places especially near the end, well, the last 20 miles. I walked a lot of the climbs because I wanted to finish. I didn’t want to blow up and have things end badly. There were definitely sections I could have run but I was, No, just walk.
iRunFar: So if somebody was either pushing you yesterday or…
Howe: Right, right. Yeah, I mean, who knows? I think I could have run faster, not a lot faster, but there’s room for improvement for sure.
iRunFar: Would there be anything that you would change in your preparation for your next go at 100 miles, if you’re ever going to run another 100 miles?
Howe: I think I liked it. Not really. I felt good about what I did. I focused on this race, for me. That’s probably not as focused as some other folks because I’m not too meticulous about what I do. But I trained well. I got some good mileage in. I hit some downhills. So I feel good about my training.
iRunFar: And you didn’t race a lot.
Howe: I didn’t race a lot. That’s key. I really feel like that’s key.
iRunFar: You and Rob [Krar] both were…
Howe: Yeah, I mean, I’d rather just do a few races and do them well and recover and not break myself.
iRunFar: I think a lot of people use races as training runs. How were you able to motivate yourself to get out and get long training runs?
Howe: I did. Some of them were hard. I’d bring my dog with. You can’t help but smile when you have a dog.
iRunFar: What kind?
Howe: He’s a mix of a pointer and a black lab. He’s a good runner. There are a lot of folks in Bend to run with, so I’d try to cherry pick people for parts of runs or the whole thing. I don’t know. You just get out the door. I love it. It doesn’t to me feel like a chore.
iRunFar: What was the roughest part out there on Saturday?
Howe: Probably Bath Road to Foresthill. The pavement didn’t feel good. I was a little warm and my knee was a little bit tweaking out. I just moved through there and five minutes later everything was fine.
iRunFar: So you never got really into a mentally low place?
Howe: Not really. No. I mean, I got pretty dang tired at the end. I was like, I just want to stop, but I just kept going.
iRunFar: Coming across the line, John Trent, the Western States [Board] President, interviewed you and you looked a little queasy. Were you…?
Howe: Oh my gosh, I felt totally fine until I stopped, and then I was like, Oh, boy. I was totally woozy.
iRunFar: Did you manage to hold it together?
Howe: I did. I did, yeah. I feel a little better today.
iRunFar: So 100 miles, do you think you’ll… sometime?
Howe: I think I’ll do another one. Yeah, it was a good experience. Yeah.
iRunFar: How does it compare to running hard 50k’s or 50 miles?
Howe: It’s just different. Some of the 50k’s and 50 milers are more intense and so in a way they’re a little more difficult. This is just a long duration. It breaks you in a different way.
iRunFar: What did you enjoy most about the 100-mile distance?
Howe: I enjoyed the first 20 miles because you can just relax and take in the sights. I’m stubborn and I like to just push. So it was that slow suffer. I’m good at that.
iRunFar: Was your fiancé out there pacing you?
Howe: He was. He did the whole thing, the last 38 miles.
iRunFar: What’s that like?
Howe: We’ve done TransRockies together, so we’ve had some good tests on how we run together. It was great.
iRunFar: So aside from, you’re compatible in life and training, but in races, too, because it’s different.
Howe: We are. It is different. You turn into a different person. I was definitely short with him at a few times and he just put up with it.
iRunFar: You do change?
Howe: I try not to, but you get a little cranky.
iRunFar: Why do you think is that? Is it the focus on doing well?
Howe: Focus, and just not feeling well, low blood sugar. He kept being like, “You need to eat.” “I KNOW. I’m trying here.”
iRunFar: What’s next?
Howe: The Rut, which is in September. Maybe something in between then. I’m going to see how I recover.
iRunFar: Gotcha’. Start sharpening once you’re feeling well.
Howe: Yes. I’m going to take a little break from running.
iRunFar: Yeah? Middle of the season—that’s great. How long?
Howe: It just depends on how long it takes me to feel good—weeks, a month? I don’t know. We’ll see.
iRunFar: How are you going to know you’re ready again because it’s different when you’re running a shorter race—it’s muscles, you’re tired, you kind of know when you’re ready. What are you going to be looking for?
Howe: I’ll look for when I’m hiking and I feel like I don’t have low energy or lead in my legs and when my joints don’t hurt. Then I’ll try some easy runs and see how they feel.
iRunFar: Gotcha’. Well, congratulations, Stephanie. Well, done.
Howe: Thank you. Thanks.