Dylan Bowman won the 2015 The North Face 100k-Australia with an end-of-race surge up the final climb. In this interview, Dylan talks about the tight men’s battle, what it took for him to break away from the rest of the field and win, and how he’ll next turn his attention to the Western States 100. He also answers questions about going the wrong way on the course and his mid-race penalty.
Check out our results article to see how this year’s race played out.
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Dylan Bowman, 2015 The North Face 100k-Australia Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Hi, I’m Kerry Suter of iRunFar. I’m here with Dylan Bowman, champion of the TNF 100k-Australia. Congrats, Dylan.
Dylan Bowman: Thanks, Kerry.
iRunFar: Outstanding run yesterday. Record time with 8:50. Did you ever think you were going to go under nine?
Bowman: I kind of wanted to go around nine hours just judging from how fast the course had gone last year and the fact that it was a little bit faster this year with the removal of a stair section. So I figured 9:10 to 9:15 was going to be in the cards, but secretly I kind of wanted to go around nine hours. So, yeah, I was just a little under that.
iRunFar: Now, it was a massively talented men’s field. I haven’t seen a race like that in Australasia. We had runners down to 15 places all of which were internationally renowned and recognized. You went into the race as certainly one of the dominant runners with runners like François D’Haene in the mix, Andrew Tuckey, Brendan Davies (former course champion). You knew you were surrounded by very capable runners and that it was going to be a battle. Tell us about how that played out.
Bowman: It was a heck of a battle the whole way. Basically how it played out for me was that I hung back from the early leaders. I ended up running a lot with François and the Australian guys—Tuckey, Scotty [Hawker], and Jono [O’Laughlin]. Eventually we caught up to the front group which was Julien Chorier, the Nepalese runner [Purna Tamang], Yan Long-Fei, and another individual I didn’t know. That was basically right as we came into checkpoint two. As we left, things started to split up a little bit more. Of course, a few of us made a little bit of a mistake and got off course. I ended up running with François and Yan not really knowing there was a problem. Then coming into checkpoint three, we were held back for about 15 minutes. At that point, the guys went through and then we left behind three of the guys and were able to catch back up to the lead by maybe 56, 57k. From there, there was four of us—Scotty Hawker, François, Yan, and myself—just battling. Then Yan and I split from the other two, and he and I battled for a little while. Then I just made my move going up the last climb.
iRunFar: There’s, I think, two parts to the story. There was an incredible story that happened for you really from about 66k through to the 100k. But also that pivotal moment in the first part of the course between CP2 and CP3. I don’t want to dwell on it, but there was a point where you maybe missed a bit of the course, only a short section, and then got a standing penalty at CP3 and obviously that meant Scott Hawker and some of the other guys were able to go through ahead of you whilst you stood down with François and a couple of others. There was a little bit of a discussion about that and if it was fair and how you think that sits with you in the race.
Bowman: First of all, in trail racing these things happen. It obviously wasn’t an intentional, malicious thing of us cutting the course. We followed course markings at a place where it was confusing. In fact, it wasn’t confusing, we followed course markers and had no idea we were off course at all until maybe 5k later when we weren’t catching up to the guy in the lead, Jono O’Laughlin. To the point about fairness, I think absolutely it was fair for them to hold us back. They have to account for cutting the course in some way. From what I understand, it took the leaders about eight minutes to go through the 1.3k that we missed, and they held us at the aid station for about 15 minutes. I thought that was a fair penalty given the fact that we had not run the full course. I do thank the race management, Tom [Landon-Smith] and Alina [McMaster], for allowing us to continue. But I think generally speaking, the results and how it played out is a fair reflection of how everyone was moving on the day. I certainly am confident in the fact that I was the strongest runner yesterday, and I’m super happy with the result.
iRunFar: We were with you around about 80k into the race, and it was actually really close. It was yourself and Yan in the front, and then Scott Hawker was in the hunt about 90 seconds adrift. Then not far back, there were a couple of other runners that were all working to get back into that lead group. Tell me about that last 20k and how hard you had to push.
Bowman: It was really an interesting moment in my ultra career. I was running with Yan shoulder to shoulder for a couple of hours. We didn’t say a word to each other the whole time. I honestly felt he was the stronger runner of the two of us. I felt like I was the one who was barely hanging on. We got to the bottom of the last climb together and there are a couple little ups and downs before it goes up proper for the remainder of the race, and at that point I just made the decision that even though I didn’t feel great, I was at least going to try to win the race. I didn’t want it to come down to a sprint finish like Tuckey and Stu [Gibson] had last year. I figured, I do a lot of workouts hammering uphill on smooth fire roads, and that was basically what the course was like at that point in the race. I figured I would bag that part of my training. I made my move on Yan there, and blew through the last aid station and didn’t stop at all. I didn’t look over my shoulder for awhile, and I was able to hang on basically at the end. It was a heck of a race, though.
iRunFar: The speed must have been pretty big. You’ve had a really tough start to 2015. You blew that Tarawera ultra course to pieces—45 minute course record. You did stuff to that course that I’ve wanted to do to Emma Stone for some time. Now another course record here. Seriously, you’re spending a lot. What’s left in the bank? What are you going to do now?
Bowman: Well, to be honest, I’m really, really happy with where the fitness is right now. I had to take a couple weeks off during the spring due to a little health scare thing so I really only had five or six weeks of training going into this. Now I’ve got six weeks until Western States. Obviously the endurance is there and the speed is there. Now it’s just all about recovering properly and getting a few more weeks of solid training in. Then I’ll give Western States one more good crack and then after that, the plan is to go to CCC. How much will be left in the tank at that point, who knows? At this point I feel really good. I feel confident. I’m excited to go back Western.
iRunFar: I’m excited for you. You’ve had such a great 2014 and 2015. You’re certainly a crowd favorite wherever you go—well-respected and liked by everyone. We do wish you all the best. Congratulations again, Dylan. Well done.