For the second time in three years, Dakota Jones took second at the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships this year. In the following interview, Dakota talks about how his race went this year, why he had so many doubts during the race, what it’ll take for him to win the TNF 50, and where he’s looking to run next year.
For more information on how the race played out, check out our results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Dakota Jones Post-2014 TNF EC 50 Mile Champion Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dakota Jones after his second-place finish at The North Face 50 Mile Championships. Congratulations, Dakota!
Dakota Jones: Thanks, Bryon. It was a good day.
iRunFar: This is the first race I saw you at. How many years ago was that?
Jones: Five years. No, it was 2009.
iRunFar: It was five years ago.
Jones: That would be five years ago.
iRunFar: Holy &*#$.
Jones: Yeah, dude. I’ve been running it every year since except for 2012.
iRunFar: It’s been a long trip, eh?
Jones: Yeah, it’s kind of cool. It is super cool.
iRunFar: Do you kind of mark the passage of time at all with this race?
Jones: You probably could. I don’t know. It’s definitely a different style of racing than it was then. It wasn’t that long ago. Five years really isn’t that long.
iRunFar: Were you ninth here your first year?
Jones: I think I was somewhere like 14th, but I wasn’t really competing.
iRunFar: Fourteenth then versus 14th now…
Jones: Yeah, it was a different field. Today was crazy. There were so many people at the front. There were 30 people within a two-minute stretch at the front of the race for 20 miles. I couldn’t believe it.
iRunFar: Pretty crazy.
Jones: Yeah, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what was going to happen. How long is this going to last?
iRunFar: When did things start to break up a little bit?
Jones: At Pan Toll. I don’t know what mile that is anymore because they changed the course because of weather.
iRunFar: Like 24 miles or something in there.
Jones: Yeah, it was almost like a light switch. Everyone was together and then right at Pan Toll, Tòfol Castanyer was behind me and we caught up to Ricky Lightfoot and then it was me and Alex Varner and we ran ahead and we were chasing Sage [Canaday]. That was it. Then we did the out-and-back and we could see people, but it broke up.
iRunFar: I think it broke up right at Pan Toll. Sage was…
Jones: Going for it.
iRunFar: He made a move.
Jones: He was going for it for sure.
iRunFar: Did it feel like someone just blew it apart?
Jones: I don’t know. I was just running along and then I was suddenly a lot more alone than I’d been all day.
iRunFar: Where did you end up alone? Where did you kind of settle in there?
Jones: On the way back, I passed Varner and then I was alone for a long time. I ran all the way down the Matt Davis Trail into Stinson Beach alone and then all the way up the next climb back to Pan Toll by myself even though I knew Alex Varner was really close behind me. A few times I could see him down there. Then you get up to the Pan Toll station and you do the same descent that we’d come up an hour or two earlier and it was like a freaking highway. There were at least two races coming up because there was the marathon and the 50k coming up and it was super muddy. We’d already been through that section, and we were going down. Everybody, I want to stress, everybody was so accommodating and friendly and helpful in getting out of the way and cheering us on, but…
iRunFar: It’s still a pain in the ass, right?
Jones: It’s still a pain in the ass and especially because there are puddles of mud, crazy mud. I’m still destroyed from mud.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of mud there.
Jones: Yeah, so it was hard to deal with that, but it was harder for Sage to deal with that, and I liked that because I caught him.
iRunFar: Did you?
Jones: I was psyched about that. I was just running along trying to catch him but trying to not go too hard. I looked up and, Oh, he’s right there. I caught him and he jumped aside and I passed him. He seemed like he was epic-ing and having a rough time. He stayed with me. Then down at the bottom I had to go to the bathroom, and I jumped off the trail for 30 seconds and, I don’t think that’s what let him beat me, but then I was 30 seconds behind him. I just didn’t catch him after that. I think that would have happened anyway because he was just climbing stronger than me. He was able to put in enough distance on the climbs that even though I was running downhill better than him, the climbs are what did it. He’s super strong.
iRunFar: Sage can climb. He’s broken an hour at Mount Washington, right?
Jones: Totally. He was incredible. Seriously. He earned what he got today. I ran really hard, and I feel like I ran really well. But he ran a lot better, and I’m glad he got that. He’s tried a few times. He’s earned it.
iRunFar: So you were second to Mike Wolfe a couple years ago. You were second to Sage today. What’s it going to take to win this thing?
Jones: Just a good day. I feel like I’m capable of winning it given today’s run. I feel like I’m capable.
iRunFar: Do you think this kind of course suits you pretty well?
Jones: Yeah, I do think that. I think it’s enough climbing and enough trail that I can stand out over the road-runner guys, but it’s super fast. You have to be really fast to be able to run this race well. I think that my training with Jason Koop, all the interval work he makes me do, is super helpful. It may not be super inspiring to watch—just running back and forth on roads a lot—but I actually enjoy it. It makes me fast.
iRunFar: Speaking of Jason Koop, there were four Koop protégés in the top 10.
Jones: Yeah, the dude is doing something right.
iRunFar: You were second, Varner was third, D-Bo [Dylan Bowman] was fourth, fifth, or sixth, somewhere in there, and then Timothy Olson is now on board.
Jones: He had nine runners here.
iRunFar: Did he? That’s a pretty good stable.
Jones: It’s pretty cool. He’s a good guy to run with.
iRunFar: Was this one of your best races you think?
Jones: It’s hard to say. It was definitely a good one. I’m happy with it. It’s weird. I felt like, I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve had a rough year results-wise, but I was totally wracked by self-doubt the whole time. Only when I caught up to Sage, I was like, Wow, maybe I could do this. Especially the first part when there were so many people around us, we were running hard especially for early in the race. I was like, I don’t know if I can do this; what am I doing? This is really fast now. Am I…?
iRunFar: So there was a lot of self-doubt going on?
Jones: Yeah, I think that’s normal. I do that a lot.
iRunFar: You do do that a lot.
Jones: But it wasn’t like necessarily detrimental. I think I was a little more negative than I needed to be, but it didn’t stop me from going hard.
iRunFar: What’s it going to take to give you that next level of confidence?
Jones: Confidence—I don’t ever want to be complacent. I want to keep questioning myself. I feel like I did a little too much today. I wouldn’t say I felt great at all today. There was never a point where I was like, Yeah, I’m kicking ass. I was always just feeling like I’m running really hard and my legs are heavy and just hoping I can keep it going for as long as possible.
iRunFar: So 10 miles to go, five miles to go, are you thinking about Sage in front of you or are you thinking about the 12 dudes behind you or are you just running?
Jones: I wasn’t thinking about the guys behind me. I didn’t worry about those guys. It doesn’t help me to look back and try to find them. I knew… I was watching Sage ahead of me. He wasn’t that far. I was just trying to run hard and do my own race, but it was kind of cool. I was like, You know what? I can only do as much as I am doing right now. There was no ambiguity. This is what I’ve got. And I did it, and it wasn’t good enough to catch him. Maybe it will be next time.
iRunFar: So, a little down time coming?
Jones: Yeah, definitely. I’ve had a long year.
iRunFar: Not to sign you up for any races, but are there any races next year that you’re super psyched to go for?
Jones: Yeah, I think I’ll do the Ultra Sky Series next year—the Skyrunning Series.
iRunFar: The global, the world series?
Jones: Yeah, so that would be Transvulcania, Chamonix 80k, then maybe The Rut and Ultra Pireneu. You know, it could change. It’s still December. That stuff changes all the time. That’s the goal.
iRunFar: Right now that’s sort of…
Jones: That’s the kind of races I like to do. I’ll probably throw in a few other ones between some shorter-distance ones and maybe this one. Honestly, I don’t want to do this race again. I love this race, and I think it’s really well put on, but it’s too late in the season. This year and last year it’s been really hard for me to train for it.
iRunFar: Can we move this up to October?
Jones: I’d love it if we did that—October or even early November. December is late. I think it’s a permitting thing. There’s a lot going on in this place.
iRunFar: So far it’s suited you well. Congratulations on another second place here, Dakota.
Jones: Thanks a lot. It’s been a lot of fun.
iRunFar: Let’s celebrate a good season.