Timothy Olson will run the Hardrock 100 for the first time this year, even though he’s no stranger to the challenge this race will no doubt entail. In the following interview, Timothy talks about how long he’s been looking to run Hardrock, what he’s most excited about, whether he’s prepared as well as he was for his pair of Western States 100 wins, and what his thoughts are about this year’s Western States.
For more on the race and links to other resources, check out our Hardrock preview.
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Timothy Olson Pre-2014 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Timothy Olson before the 2014 Hardrock 100. How are you, Timothy?
Timothy Olson: I’m doing well. What about you?
iRunFar: I’m doing great. It’s Silverton—you always are, right?
Olson: It’s a wonderful town.
iRunFar: How long have you been dreaming of doing Hardrock?
Olson: Many years—the last four basically. Well, actually, I rolled into Ashland, Oregon, in 2008 when Kyle Skaggs destroyed this course. I really had no clue of what he accomplished being a very greenhorn at the time. But just being in Oregon, you hear all about that just having quite the crew of runners—Hal [Koerner], Ian Torrence was there at the time, even Tony [Krupicka] was hanging out for awhile. I was brought right into the ultrarunning scene. Everyone around me crushing records or winning races. Hal was winning Western States. Kyle was winning Hardrock. It was quite the crew to be around.
iRunFar: Not only had you been looking forward to Hardrock, you were actually born into ultrarunning having this as one of your pinnacles.
Olson: Yeah, I knew this was the ultimate challenge, and I’m here for the ultimate challenge.
iRunFar: You seem to draw a lot of energy or inspiration from your surroundings. What are you most excited about at Hardrock?
Olson: I’ve been here for, not here in Silverton but here in Colorado, about a month now all over the place. I’ve gotten to run on 80 to 90% of the course, so I know it well. I don’t have a favorite spot on the course. It’s all just incredible. I’m blown away. The first few weeks were kind of lifting up the jaw through that. Then you kind of just get a little more comfortable with the area and realize that, yeah, they’re massive mountains and they’re going to be a challenge, but I’m so stoked to run this. Just to link up the whole route and see it all and get to experience it with all the amazing runners that are out there, and I have a bunch of family here cheering me on and inspiring me. I have family and the mountains to inspire me on. It’s going to be a good day.
iRunFar: It seems like as much as you get that positive energy and inspiration from beautiful scenery and your family and whatnot, you also draw a lot of strength from the harder it is. The really hard stretches of UTMB it seems like I’d see you really get into it.
iRunFar: There’s plenty of that here to go into beast mode.
Olson: Many good chances to be stripped to my core and see what I’m made of that day. It’s going to be a special day. However it works out, I’d love to finish it. I’d love to get to that rock and kiss it. I’m definitely hoping for a little bit more than that. But I’m just inspired to be here and draw energy from the earth as I pass through and just really experience this land and with some amazing people. It’s going to be quite incredible having that… hopefully I can stick with some of the leaders and watch the likes of Kilian [Jornet], Seb [Chaigneau], Julien [Chorier], Dakota [Jones], on and on, Joe Grant. It’s just incredible, incredible runners out there. I’m stoked to be part of them and hopefully I can hang on with them for awhile and see how it goes.
iRunFar: There are a lot of characters out there in that front group who similarly draw energy and inspiration from around them. Kilian obviously displays that passion, Seb, Joe, all of them really. They’re really vocal about it. The chatter up front, at least when you’re descending…
Olson: Yeah, descending. There will be lots of [deep breathing sounds], at least me. I know I’m a big breather. I’m going to be trying to gasp as much air as I can when I can. On the descents we can talk a little bit as long as Kilian doesn’t fly away.
iRunFar: Is it fair to say that you’ve spent the last six months preparing for this race—your time in Southern California, Transgrancanaria, Transvulcania?
Olson: Yeah, definitely preparing for this race. Once I got into this race, it was like this excuse, Oh, I can just do vert every day. I don’t have to worry about getting fast as much as I would in Western States years. That’s just what I love. Living in SoCal was wonderful. I’d just run up to the top of a peak, Mount Wilson or Mount Baldy, relatively every day. Here, I’ve just been getting up to the big peaks. I’m just enjoying it. I go for big runs by myself or with some friends showing me the routes. I had a lot of really awesome runs with some friends out here. Then I’ve done some big five-hour-plus days up hiking with Tristan on my back and with Krista, so we experienced it together. That’s what makes this race special is just getting to share it with so many awesome people along with connecting with yourself, so doing my own runs, but getting to have fun with your family up there and watching Tristan running around which I’m definitely been impressed. We get him out of our pack and he’s running at 10,000 to 11,000 feet. I’m like, I’m dying up here. I don’t know how he’s doing so well. It’s cool. It just motivates me to have a fun day out there.
iRunFar: Obviously the previous two years, not only did you have great races at Western, you had to prepare meticulously and really nail that. Do you feel that you’ve nailed your Hardrock preparation as well as…?
Olson: I think so. I’ve had lots of really good training and lots of long days in the mountains. This race… like Western I knew I was really fast and strong and ready to go. I was doing a lot of descending to really pound the quads. This race, I’ve just spent a lot of time up at altitude. It’s different. I’ve never really lived at altitude. Being up there, you’re more sluggish, you’re slower, and you recover a little bit slower. So that’s… I’ve definitely had to learn that it’s okay to have to recover a little bit more or you’re going to be going slower. It was kind of funny. The other day I did from Grouse Gulch to Cunningham with my pacer, Jamil Coury, and we did it and we took some breaks and had a good time. Just the other day Jamil sent me a message saying we did it about the time Kyle did. I mean, Kyle was running for a long time prior to that, but it was just kind of cool to realize that hiking and enjoying the mountains is the race pace. That first bit of the race is definitely going to take a lot out of you, but if you can just keep moving forward towards the end there, you can accomplish it and you can do it in a decent time. Like I did last year at UTMB, suffering through it and just not stopping, just being really present there. Taking each step is very important. You don’t need to stop too much. If you do have to rest up against a tree for a little bit to grab your breath, that’s okay. Take it and just keep rolling and not get… just stay positive.
iRunFar: So knowing that, not a slow pace but a very steady effort at Hardrock was what Kyle’s pace was, how do you prepare yourself to be with Seb and Kilian and Dakota, this crew that has a ton of talent? Somebody could go out fast.
Olson: I’m going to be running my own race as much as I can—’running’ or hiking my own race as much as I can. The crew out there is… this will be the race with probably the most talent of any that I’ve ever run in. These people are seasoned vets with the running and legends—Kilian is just… he inspires me more than anyone out in the mountains. I’m looking forward to running with him. It will be a good time. He might get ahead, and I’m going to try not to worry about that. In this race, a 20-minute lead, you can easily catch that back up.
iRunFar: An hour at 15 miles out is…
Olson: Yeah, not a big deal. I’m going to be very aware of that and try to run my own race and know that I’ve got to try to save something for those last 50 miles. The altitude is going to kick you and it’s going to be a doozy. There’s no way around it. We’re going to be hurting. Just taking that and being aware of it and not being frustrated with how you’re moving for a certain time, getting through that and listening to your body, taking care of yourself, and just continuing to move forward. That’s all I can do.
iRunFar: You’ve known a lot of people who have won this race, close personal friends. Have you gotten any good advice out of Hal or Kyle?
Olson: Yeah, I’ve gotten little tidbits. Hal’s a good friend of mine and he’s given me some pointers and kind of just told me a bit about what he did for his race. That’s in my mind. So this race more than any other race, I know it a lot more coming into it. The first couple times I did Western, I didn’t really know the names of the aid stations or where I should really give it. This one, I think I’ve studied it a bit more than most races. I feel a bit more prepared. I think it was kind of preparation, just mentally preparing for what’s out there. Yeah, but once race day comes, I don’t have a plan. I’m going to go when I feel good and I’m going to try to take care of myself when I’m feeling really crappy. We’ll see how it goes.
iRunFar: Obviously you want to run your own race. I’m sure you’ve thought that winning would be awesome. Have you thought about 23:23? Is that at all in your mind?
Olson: I know the numbers. Yes, it’s in my mind, but I won’t be focusing on times or anything. I won’t be having anyone giving me splits. I’ll just be focused on trying to stay with those leaders and just try not to blow up spectacularly.
iRunFar: Will you wear a watch during the race then?
Olson: Yeah, I’ll wear a watch but more so to have a rough idea of when to eat. I’m not meticulous on every 20 minutes or something like that, but just making sure that if an hour has passed I’ll put some food in me or just what time it is, just roughly being a little bit aware of what’s going on.
iRunFar: Having spent some time up here the past couple of weeks, have you found yourself able to eat at the highest elevations or are you going to time that for the lower elevations?
Olson: No, I’ve seemed to be able to stomach it well. I have been using a Hypoxico tent. Being in SoCal, I started it a bit and then used it a little bit out here as well. I’ve definitely spent some time in there at 12,000-plus feet. I feel like I’ve done some hiking around here and early on I think it will be easy. It will just be see what happens 15 or 20 hours into a race if I can get food down.
iRunFar: Just like any 100.
Olson: Yeah, just like any 100. I seem to be able to eat at 12,000 feet, so I think that won’t be a huge problem, but you never know on race day. I could be spewing all over the place. My stomach is normally good for that department, so we’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: Nice, well best of luck out there, Timothy.
Olson: Thanks, Bryon.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you—can’t help but ask you. Just over a week ago, Western States 100, what do you think?
Olson: Awesome. Incredible to watch. Rob [Krar] had a killer race. Stephanie [Howe] had a killer race. There are so many. It was really fun to watch. It was difficult not to be a part of it because it’s been such a huge part of my life the last couple years. It brings back lots of memories and lots of good times. It was just fun to watch it. I had this in the back of my mind, and this is what I’m really excited for. So it wasn’t terribly hard to watch it go on, but Rob was just killing it out there. I didn’t really think about my course record until that day. Then when he was just right there, I thought he was going to get it. I was like, Good for him. I hope he gets it because that’s what records are for, to be broken and to motivate people. I know Rob was super motivated for the race this year, and I’m stoked that he just laid out a good time.
iRunFar: Were you able to transport yourself back into the stretches during your course-record run?
Olson: Yeah, when they were going through sections it definitely took me back to those times and gosh, I’ve had really crappy experiences, not crappy experiences but feeling really bad through the Cal Street, so what Rob did on the Cal Street…
Olson: Yeah, is just phenomenal. That kid can just blaze. It’s awesome. It’s cool to be with the group of so many amazing runners coming out into ultrarunning—lots of fast dudes. There were so many at Western this year. It was fun to just watch.
iRunFar: Thanks, Tim.
Olson: Nice. Fed-Ex.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Bob Loomis, package-delivery service, baby sitter, crew-manager extraordinaire.
Olson: Thank you, Bob. You’ve got my Fed-Ex packages.
iRunFar: Good stuff?
Bob Loomis: Special delivery.
Olson: I don’t know what they are.
iRunFar: Back to our regular scheduled program.