Timothy Olson had a strong run at last year’s TNF UTMB, finishing fourth. In the following interview, Timothy talks about why he thinks he can run a couple hours faster at UTMB this year, how he bounced back from a rough go at the Hardrock 100, and what he thinks of the chances for an American man on top of the podium on Sunday.
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Timothy Olson Pre-2014 TNF UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Timothy Olson before the 2014 The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. How’s it going, Timmy?
Timothy Olson: Doing well, yeah. Good to see you.
iRunFar: Good to see you as well. You ran Mont Blanc last year and had one heck of a good race, I’d say.
Olson: Yeah, I got it done. I think I was fourth last year, so that was… having a good, strong effort here was great. It was a hard run, and it should be. There are a lot of good mountains here, a lot of good climbing. I’m excited to be back and give it another shot. Now knowing the course, I can kind of use that to my advantage and kind of know when to push it. I’m excited for it.
iRunFar: Yeah, over the years that you ran Western States, you continually improved. Was it course knowledge or just increased training?
Olson:Yeah, I think course knowledge is huge. Knowing what’s going to happen. I kind of like having the surprise in some races of what’s coming up, but the more you’re used to it, you know what to expect, the more you can push it if you’re feeling good. That’s going to help you. I’m definitely feeling good knowing the course. I ran some more of it here. You never know what’s going to happen come race day.
iRunFar: You think you have the capacity to improve upon that result from last year?
Olson: Definitely. Yeah, last year, I definitely think I could improve by hours even, so we’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: What parts of the race do you think could have gone better?
Olson: Last year I was having some calf issues that I really couldn’t climb at all. This year, I’m feeling healthy right now, so I’ll see how it goes into it. I might actually use some poles, some Black Diamond poles this year. I’ve been using them some around here. I’ve always kind of been against the pole thing, but I’ve just watched so many people using them and march up. I got a pair from Roch [Horton] at Black Diamond back right before Hardrock. I didn’t want to use the right before because I’d just gotten them, but I’ve been using them ever since and kind of like them. I’m thinking I might give them a go.
iRunFar: That’s awesome. Click-clack down the trail.
Olson: Click-clack. Yeah, keeping that rhythm.
iRunFar: That’s cool. So you think can improve on the actual physical part that way. You’ve gotten a lot more, at least from the outside perspective, vert in your year this year. Do you think this is true?
Olson: Yeah, that’s what I love to do. I’ve been in good spots to do it. I spent a lot of time up in Colorado tagging big mountains. I think that will help me for this. I’ve just had a lot more experience in the mountains where in years passed I’ve progressed slowly to getting into bigger mountains and more climbing and feel more comfortable at it. Yeah, things are lining up good for this race. We’ll see. I just spent 30 hours on the Hardrock course just a little while back. Fun experience there. I think I recovered well from it. I’ve been throwing in a lot more not doing as long as stuff. Big days where I like to spend sometimes nine hours out on a run, I’ve been keeping things shorter. I’ve been doing the vertical k from here in town really hard and throwing in a little bit more faster, harder efforts.
iRunFar: So, sharpening more? Because basically from the beginning of the year, you were in Southern California with long days pretty frequently in the mountains.
Olson: Yeah, now it’s sharpening it up a little. I’m feeling really strong and feeling fast. We’ll see how it goes.
iRunFar: Physically how did you feel coming out of Hardrock? It was well off the time you were capable of. You hit a really low point as well. Did you feel more drained after than, say, your fast Western States or did you kind of just survive at the end and come out feeling okay a couple days later?
Olson: Yeah, during the race I was just crushed. I was thinking about it in the middle of the race, I already bought a ticket. I’m going to Chamonix. I do not want to run that. Then a few days later, I wasn’t as sore as I usually am after something like Western States or this last year. The legs were feeling good and ready to go. Just having a really rough race like that definitely makes you a little more hungry to have a good one. I try not to focus too much on that, but also I’m hungry to do a good run. This might be my last big 100 of the year, so I might just really give it everything I’ve got come Friday.
iRunFar: Awesome. You’re excited for this weekend?
Olson: Yeah, I’m really excited for this weekend. It’s going to be good. There’s lots of good competition there. Just more and more people keep coming—a lot of people who really know the course, and a lot of people who are really hungry as well. Tony [Krupicka] had a rough finish last year and didn’t get to finish, so he’s definitely hungry. Dakota [Jones], like me, kind of had a rough go at Hardrock and now he’s ready to go. The list goes on. There are so many good runners.
iRunFar: American women have seen a ton of success here winning a lot of years.
Olson: Yeah, Rory [Bosio] is amazing.
iRunFar and Olson: Krissy [Moehl].
iRunFar: Krissy has won a bunch. When are the American men going to win?
Olson: Yeah, we’re going to…
iRunFar: You’ve run strong. [Mike] Foote’s been third. You’ve been fourth. Foote was fifth last year. It’s been close. Tony was in very good position last year.
Olson: Yeah, Tony was in the lead for a lot of it. Things just go bad sometimes. I think Americans are definitely enjoying more mountain running and getting out to the mountains. Someone like Jason Schlarb has been here for basically the whole summer practicing out here. He’s ready to go. I think the Americans will be right up there with them and I think have a good chance of definitely podium and see if we can surprise some people and maybe get a win.
iRunFar: On the Euro side does anyone in particular stand out for the win?
Olson: François [D’Haene] is just… he’s awesome and a great runner. He knows the course and knows the place. He’s a solid dude. He’s very mentally tough as well. Luis Alberto Hernando, he hasn’t won thus far, but he’s super strong and anybody that can beat Kilian [Jornet] is definitely going to be a favorite. He’s just had so many good solid runs. Miguel [Heras] was second last year and is back this year. Yeah, I can’t even think of… Tofol [Castanyer] is another amazing runner. The list keeps going. We’re going to have a good crew with us early on and we’ll see what happens after Courmayeur and from there.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there and enjoy it, man.
Olson: Yeah, thanks, man.
iRunFar: Bonus question. You’ve been here for a couple weeks. What kind of cool stuff have you seen out in the mountains?
Olson: Just being around here… I think last year I came here and I was in awe, just maybe just too in awe that I just really couldn’t take it in. Now just this time being back here, it’s just incredible how beautiful these mountains are. This town is just so sweet. You’ve done some traveling around here on the course and stuff, but just on Chamonix itself, you just have miles and miles of trails every which way. The views are just so stunning. You get to see some wildlife. We saw some chamois up there. They’re just up there hanging out. They pick the best views. You want to go and check out the views and you’ll get to see some animals.
iRunFar: So if you want to see the best views, go to Brevant.
Olson: Go to Brevant up the back side. It’s awesome.
iRunFar: That’s over the massif?
Olson: Yeah, check it out. It’s a good one.