By all accounts, Timothy Olson has had a rough year on the race front. That said he’s excited to toe the line one last time at the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships this weekend. In the following interview, Timothy talks about the rough parts of his season, why he’s enjoyed them, what may have contributed to them, and how those dark spots differ from the ones he relishes. He also talks about his move to Boulder and recent changes to his training regimen.
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Timothy Olson Pre-2014 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here in the lovely, rainy Mill Valley, California, with Timothy Olson before the 2014 The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships. How are you, Timmy?
Timothy Olson: Doing great, man. Good to see you again.
iRunFar: Here we are after a very long season…
iRunFar: You haven’t overraced but it has been since February through the summer.
Olson: I’ve overdone something.
iRunFar: Let’s get to that right away then. You haven’t had the season you wanted. Any thinking of what went on?
Olson: I haven’t had the races that I wanted. Two races weren’t what I feel like I can put out there, but overall the year has been amazing. I’ve traveled to a lot of beautiful places with my family with me pretty much the whole time. I’ve seen amazing things. I’ve went on big runs, went on big hikes, did a lot of fun training. I’m very happy with the year, but I definitely burnt myself out a little bit. Definitely something I’m learning for this coming winter season because last year we were in Southern California and it’s 80 degrees and sunny every day. I loved it. I was running a lot, but I ran a lot.
iRunFar: You ran a lot, and you ran a lot hard, too. You were like, “I want to set an FKT on THIS mountain.”
Olson: FKT pretty much every day. It was just running up Baldy or Mount Wilson every day. I don’t regret it. I loved it. It was a perfect time, and I really got to enjoy that place and just got to know SoCal a little bit. It definitely perked my interested at doing Angeles Crest 100 at some point. There are so many good people there. The SoCal running community is great. Dom[minic Grossman] is one of the best guys out there—just a funny guy. (To Dom: By the way, I have your shirt. Come and get it at some point.) Anyway, I had a great time there, but it definitely led to too much running and too much fun and it burnt me out a little bit for the races. That was one factor that played its toll in the races. I felt really fit for each race that came there. I just had a couple of bad runs.
iRunFar: In particular, Hardrock and UTMB.
Olson: Hardrock and UTMB. There was maybe a little bit of overtraining but also you just have bad days sometimes. Not every time when you have a bad day you have camera crews and everyone following your every step, so that’s just part of it.
iRunFar: Not every day do you lay down on the side of the trail and your buddies take your picture.
Olson: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely been shown to the ultrarunning world my rough races. I think it’s great. It’s definitely humbling to see yourself in pictures broadcast of me laying sprawled spread eagle on a dirty mattress, but I find it funny. It’s part of ultrarunning where ultrarunning is just a humbling sport. It really can take a lot out of you, and it really brings you to your core which is why I love it. Yeah, maybe I didn’t have the races that I wanted, but I had a good time and I learned a lot in the process.
iRunFar: It’s interesting because one side of you is very inspiring and about peace, and the flip side of that combined is your love of finding the darkness. In a really good race like Western States, is there anything—you know, there’s also sort of a darkness in having a bad race—is that flavor of darkness different?
Olson: There are different parts of it. I appreciate the yin and yang of everything, of life in general, and that you’re going to have good days and bad days, good races and bad races. It’s just all part of the whole. For those races like Hardrock, that was a really rough day but I really enjoyed it. Even though it was really hard, you’ve got to find the joy in the crazy chaos of something like that. I made it through it, and it was a really awesome experience. I was just asked the other day what has been my favorite race. A lot of people expect me to say Western States, and those were amazing races for me and I love it, but Hardrock and what I dealt through with that was a really cool experience and something that I can’t wait for tomorrow when I find out if I get in again.
iRunFar: You’re in that lottery?
Olson: Yes, I’m in the lottery.
iRunFar: Good luck.
Olson: Thank you very much. A lot of you—good luck to all of you and to Western States. There is a lot of fun stuff for people tomorrow.
iRunFar: Should I let you know if I see you out on the course if you’re in?
Olson: Definitely. Definitely. Don’t tell me if I’m not in. That might get me down. But it could pump me up and I could run a little harder. Yeah, it’s been a good year. UTMB was just a really humbling, rough experience, but I learned a lot through it. One of the things I definitely learned from my first time dropping from a race was that sometimes in the middle of the race, things can all be going wrong and you’ve maybe just… I wasn’t enjoying myself as much. I try to kind of get through that. A lot of times I accept what is and those struggles and I can make it through it and that leads to really cool experiences. Sometimes you’re just really broken down and you’re not having fun, and I run to have fun and to be in bliss. It wasn’t there for me. There were other factors, but I just needed to stop that time and learn from having my first DNF. That’s a hard thing to swallow, but I think it’s a really good thing for me to learn and to go through and now to bounce back from that and work on a little bit on what my training is going to be for this race, but also learning to take a nice extended break after this race and really let my body regroup and digest and just find that passion and that love for running.
iRunFar: Even though you’re in Boulder, just fresh in Boulder, you’re not going to be going up Green Mountain every day?
Olson: Not every day.
iRunFar: Can you swear on something?
Olson: I need to swear on something. No, my wife will make sure I do well.
iRunFar: Thank you, Krista.
Olson: She looks out for me. I’ll get there and I’m planning on just doing some more getting in the mountains and having fun with some buddies, but it will be a lot more chill and not really running at all. Maybe I’ll do some hiking and stuff like that, but also work on some skiing and some climbing and just enjoying the gym, too. I’ll probably go to the gym. It’s nice; I can bring Tristan there and we are going to teach him how to swim. He can learn how to swim. I get to sit and lift some weights, do some pull-ups and whatnot, and build some other muscles. Yeah, and just take a break from really intense running, let my knees regroup, and let that fire and passion build up again and get ready for next year.
iRunFar: So you’ve had a really long season with some results you weren’t hoping for and in past years you’ve sort of declined to run The North Face 50. Like last year, again you’d had a long race season…
Olson: Yeah, I was beat up.
iRunFar: …but a really good one and you were like, “Not going to do The North Face.” Why are you here this year?
Olson: Why am I here this year? I love coming out here. It’s a party here. This race is a celebration of a year of everyone digging deep, working hard, and seeing what they have left in their tank. After UTMB I took a whole month off of no running and that definitely helped me get ready for this. I took the month off started actually having a coach kind of help me. We really emphasized the quality and took away much of the quantity that I’ve been doing. I was talking with someone the other day and I think I’m probably at 20 to 30 miles less especially for peak times. Yeah, so I worked on a little bit of speed and worked on a few more engines that needed some work.
iRunFar: Have you done an interval workout or tempo?
Olson: Nothing on the track. I did some tempos and interval-type things where I’m pushing it really hard for between 10 and 20 minutes, and then going down. I’m doing this going up a good climb.
iRunFar: That sounds like a classic Jason Koop workout.
Olson: Who is Jason Koop you speak of? No, he’s been an amazing coach and it’s really nice to talk things through and yell at me when…
iRunFar: And is part of that restraint?
Olson: Yes, restraint.
iRunFar: Because you may have a problem…
Olson: A good story with that is just the other day I’d just got into Boulder and I did a run the other day and it was hard. I drove across the country with everything, so that was just a big move. We moved a long way. We got into town and I was going to go run with some buddies and do a big run. So I texted him and like, “You know, I know I’m supposed to do an easy day tomorrow, but can I do three-maybe-plus hours…?” It was instantly like he was waiting for me, “No.” I LOL back, “Yeah, you’re right. I probably should listen to you.” It’s something I need because I just like to go have fun in the mountains and that’s a great thing that’s led to… like the first few years of my running, I needed to put big miles and really just keep falling in love with the mountains and enjoying my time. Now that I’ve done that for years, I need to really respect my body and learn how to recover and learn how to take care of it better because I want to do this for a long time. I love it. I want to be part of this community of people and get to different races.
iRunFar: That unbridled passion can lead to burnout or injury or whatever that could keep you out of it. A lot of people experience it. It’s common.
Olson: Yeah, and a lot of people burn out. It’s talked about a lot which is a good thing. People burn themselves out. Like anything in life you do, everything should be in moderation. You can definitely burn yourself out with work, with a hobby that you really love. Those passions can lead to not loving it anymore. That would be a sad day if I woke up every morning and didn’t want to run or didn’t want to get outside. To keep going for years to come, you’ve got to take care of your body. That’s what I’m trying to do.
iRunFar: Thanks for talking, Timmy. Good luck tomorrow.
Olson: Thank you very much.
iRunFar: Alright, let’s get out of this rain.