Scott Hawker took second at the 2015 The North Face 100k-Australia. In this interview, the Kiwi who lives in Australia talks about his training on the course and how he strategized a consistent race with a strong ending surge. He also shares his thoughts on the mid-race time penalty for some of the lead runners.
Check out our results article to see how this year’s race played out.
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Scott Hawker Post-2015 The North Face 100k-Australia Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Hi, I’m Kerry Suter for iRunFar. I’m here with Scott Hawker, the second-place finisher at The North Face 100k-Australia. Congratulations!
Scott Hawker: Thanks.
iRunFar: Outstanding time—8:56, well under course record, an incredible battle for you. Tell me a little bit about your race.
Hawker: Yeah, I think yesterday was just all about trying to enjoy it as much as I can. I was trying to think back to previous races what I’ve done in other races that went well and why last year was okay but nothing sort of seemed to really click. I came to the conclusion that when I’m smiling and having fun running, I’m generally running pretty well. My form seems to be better, and I’m sort of doing things how I should be doing them. So I was trying to transfer that to TNF 100k and tried not to get too carried away with the hype of the events and all the international guys that were running. That was kind of my main focus—play it smart, have fun with it early on, and then in the later stages of the race, do what needs to be done.
iRunFar: You’re a resident out here in Katoomba, and we want to clear this up because it’s one of those discussion points. Australians are trying to claim you like they’re trying to claim pavlova. But as we know, you’re a Kiwi through and through. You’re from Christchurch. Is that where you call home?
Hawker: Yes, definitely. Whenever I’m booking flights back to New Zealand, I’m telling friends over here that I’m going back home. As much as I love living in Australia—Australia is an amazing place and it’s been fantastic to me over the last four years and it will be for a little while yet—yeah, I’m definitely a Kiwi and I think Mom and Dad wouldn’t have that any other way obviously. Yeah, I’m definitely a Kiwi, but I’m loving living in Australia for the moment.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s quite different out here. There are a million hectares of bush out here that will kill you if given the opportunity whereas it’s entirely different at home. I mean, you can pick up a lizard and lick it and put it back down and you’re not going to die. You can drink the lakes and do anything you want. So how is it different being out here and training?
Hawker: Yeah, I’ll be honest. We used to live in Perth up until about a month ago. The first few runs I did, anything that moved or made a sound I was running sub-4 minutes per kilometer just because I was thinking, Is something trying to kill me? Basically, everything here either bites or stings and some of it’s just plain evil. You’re definitely keeping your eye out. I think the more you run out here the more you realize that the snakes aren’t all this fat and they don’t all have the big fangs and everything. You realize they’re out there and you need to be wary of it, but it’s kind of just running as usual. You do just have to take a few precautions that… back home in New Zealand you kind of just chuck on your shoes and you don’t need water because you can drink from the streams and everything like that. It’s different but still just an awesome experience running here in Australia. Yeah, being here for four weeks just recently up until now has just been amazing. It’s new terrain to go out and play on and see parts of the course and, yeah, it’s just been fantastic really.
iRunFar: It certainly worked out well for your training with specificity in getting ready for this race. Incredible execution. So many people saying your name with the phrase “run of a lifetime.” It certainly was just a standout performance for you. Tell me a little bit about your run and how it unfolded.
Hawker: Like you said, over the last four weeks, every single run has been on this course. My recovery runs, my hill-repeat sessions, my tempo runs, my long runs—everything has been really focused about this race. I think being the biggest race in Australia, if you’re going to do well in the biggest race in Australia, you want to make it TNF 100k. It was just a major focus. You can see Mt. Solitary out there. That run itself, that loop, is just out of control. It’s an amazing loop, but I’ve been saying to myself, “No, no, no, just hold back. You can go and run that in four weeks’ time. At the moment it’s just focus on TNF and do what you need to do.” So I think my race plan was always to just have fun, enjoy myself to the hospital, the Queen Victoria Hospital at 78k. From there, I know the back half of the course so well. I’ve run that at least a half a dozen times. It’s getting to the point now where I’m knowing which side of the trail to be on when I’m going down because it’s a slightly smoother ride. Going up the climb to Sublime Point, I’m knowing roughly when the peaks of those little climbs are. It’s sort of goes up and down and up and down again. Yeah, that course knowledge is just invaluable. Definitely when I was in the last stages of the race and knowing what I needed to do and knowing where I was on the course, it was just in valuable really. That was where I kind of made a bit of a move and caught the two Chinese guys that were a bit ahead of me.
iRunFar: Yun [Yan-Qiao] and Yan [Long-Fei]?
Hawker: Yeah, Yun and Yan, and those guys were just so strong. I was actually in third place at the hospital when I left there. Then half way down, Yun (who ended up getting third place), I was moving well going down Kedumba, and he flew past me like I was barely moving. I looked at my stats and I was moving about 4:10 min/k average down there, so he was easily running sub-4:00 min/k. Because I knew the course, I said, No, no, let him go. You can hopefully make up the time on the climb. Then luckily enough, about half way up the climb I pulled him in and then I caught Yan not too much further on. Yeah, it panned out really quite well in the end.
iRunFar: Yeah, no one knew who was going to come over that hill. The whole time people were talking about whether D-Bo [Dylan Bowman] could hold them out, and then you came through in second place. The crowd was pretty excited about it because you’re the hometown guy. So that is a really good result. Of course, there is this other thing that happened in the race. Earlier in the race, there was some confusion about how some of the guys might have missed some of the course. I’d like to probably just ask your thoughts on that and maybe put that to bed. Tell us a little bit about what happened and what you think if it was fair.
Hawker: Yeah, it was basically just really unfortunate. Jono O’Laughlin, local Aussie hero and absolute mad bugger, he was making a surge going towards the out-and-back on Ironpot Ridge and he was roughly sort of 10 seconds ahead of Dylan, François [D’Haene], and Yan Long-Fei, and Julien Chorier—yeah, those four guys. Basically, Jono had gotten to the track junction where you start the out and back. Jono hung a left, local knowledge and knows where he’s going obviously. And from what I hear, the volunteer or the track marshal at that point wasn’t exactly at that junction. She was sort of about 10 meters up high perched on a rock. When the four international guys came through, they got to that point and glanced around. Dylan mentioned he glanced right and saw some pink flagging tape, so naturally you’re going to follow the pink flagging tape. Yeah, so those guys went down there. During the out-and-back section coming running back towards me was Jono. I thought, Light the fire! Jono is in the lead; how cool is this! All the sudden I’m going out and I get to the out-and-back and I don’t see the other four guys, so I’m thinking, Were they ahead of Jono and had done it so much quicker and had done the out-and-back and gone down before I’d even got to the out-and-back. I thought, Yeah, that’s probably fair enough. You’re talking about those international superstars. Yeah, that’s probably possible. And then I dropped back down, and I ended up catching back up to Jono on the descent. Jono sort of mentioned those guys had gone off course. It’s just really unfortunate. None of those guys were meaning to do that. It was just purely an accident. At the end of the day, they got to the checkpoint, they spoke to the race directors, Tom [Landon-Smith] and Alina [McMaster], and Tom and Alina made a decision about a time penalty. The four guys took it on the chin, to their credit and waited at the aid station. When I came in there and basically was told that those guys had the penalty and I was now winning TNF 100k. Yeah, goosebumps came pretty quickly. I was pretty excited thinking that, Yeah, this is starting to get pretty real. I’m at the pointy end of TNF 100k. I’m still pinching myself that I was even running close to these guys. Yeah, so I was in first place. I had in the back of my mind that those guys were going to be pretty motivated once that 15 minutes was up. I sort of just decided to consolidate a wee bit between that checkpoint and the bottom of the Nellies Glen climb. I didn’t want to make a surge or try to make up more time buffer or anything but just sort of let it play out as naturally as I could. Yeah, not long after the Aquatic Center checkpoint at 57k, those guys caught me. We ran together for awhile, so it was what it was. At the end of the day, Dylan ran a phenomenal race. I felt I ran pretty good in that last section from the hospital down Kedumba and up the climb to Sublime Point, and to know how well I felt I ran it, Dylan must have been flying going down there. Full credit to him, he totally deserved to win. He ran the quickest time, and he was first across the line. Regardless of what happened, Dylan, kudos to him. He had a phenomenal run. I’m just here happy to grab second place behind someone like Dylan, and also in a field as deep as it was, I’m just really happy with how things panned out.
iRunFar: Yeah, fastest Kiwi and a top 10 for Jono, Australia just snuck one in. I don’t know, maybe we can bring Jono over later and show him around Tarawera. So on top of this outstanding result, the future is looking bright. Everyone will want to know what’s next? Where are you going to go?
Hawker: At the moment, I’m heading back to the Lavaredo Ultra-Trail which starts in Cortina which is about two hours north of Venice. I’ll be doing that at the end of June. It’s actually the same weekend as Western States, so the 26th. Then after that, it’s looking like I’ll be going back to give UTMB another crack. I raced it last year. It was my first 100 miler at UTMB last year. Yeah, it didn’t go to plan at all. It was a real battle, and I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know beforehand. Hopefully, yeah. UTMB is kind of the pinnacle for the year. Everything is kind of building towards that at the moment. This was fantastic and has sort of given me a heap of confidence, obviously, as it’s going to having a performance like this. It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to getting back to training out here and getting the hard yards done. Hopefully I’ll have a few more good races this year. I’m looking forward to it.
iRunFar: There was a heap of national pride with what you’ve achieved as a Kiwi. We’re loving the results. There’s a lot of buzz about that. Congratulations, man. It was a great result. All the best for the rest of the year. We hope to see you around.
Hawker: Cool. Thanks a lot.