Aliza Lapierre is no stranger to the Western States 100. In her three runnings of the race, she’s placed sixth, third, and sixth. She missed last year’s race due to a foot injury, but she’s back and eager to race again. In the following interview, Aliza talks about how her running has gone this year, what her race plan looks like, and what she’s looking forward to most over the weekend.
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Aliza Lapierre Pre-2015 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Aliza Lapierre before the 2015 Western States 100. Welcome back, Aliza.
Aliza Lapierre: Thanks, Bryon. Happy to be here.
iRunFar: How many Western States is this?
Lapierre: I’ve completed three, so this will be my fourth attempt.
iRunFar: There’s one non-completion in there?
Lapierre: Last year I was not able to run due to injury. I’ve completed three out of three attempts but did have to decline my spot last year.
iRunFar: What was that injury last year?
Lapierre: Broken metatarsal.
iRunFar: But you’re all good now?
Lapierre: Knock on wood, I’m coming in healthy.
iRunFar: You had a good season in fact?
Lapierre: I would actually disagree. Bandera was a good race, but it was kind of off the couch and not in peak form. Transgrancanaria—I was hoping for a good day. That was an epically bad day. I’m happy I finished. I learned a lot, but it didn’t play out the way I wanted it to. Then I’ve got two training 50-mile races under my belt. Those went well but again training races and not really A-races.
iRunFar: Three out of four isn’t bad.
Lapierre: Yeah, it will be interesting to see what happens here.
iRunFar: It’s a bit longer of a season. You’re generally pretty conservative on number of races and when you start racing, but you also… a number of those races have been training races. How do you feel… have you been able to gauge your fitness? (Throwing Transgrancanaria out; we have bad days.)
Lapierre: I definitely felt relatively fit at Transgrancanaria, which was stomach issues. My legs felt good, but I couldn’t fuel. That definitely regulated my pace and all of that. It’s really hard for me to gauge my fitness and my ability racing in New England versus racing at larger events just because the competition level isn’t always as high. Obviously we’ve got great racers in New England, but this field is outstanding and very competitive. It’s hard to gauge myself against Stephanie Howe or Michele Yates because I don’t get to race them often.
iRunFar: Although you haven’t raced them particularly very much, you’ve been racing on the Western States stage enough and other big races that you know how to race the top women.
Lapierre: Yeah, for me, I don’t think I’m necessarily as talented and as gifted as those ladies. So I just try to rely on patience and knowing my own pace and my own limitations and hoping it plays out later on and just having fun out there and seeing what happens.
iRunFar: When you’re going within your own limits, how do you gauge that? Are you running based on heart rate or feel or is it based on splits? How do you know that, Oh yeah, this is a good pace for me at 30 miles or 40 miles?
Lapierre: Yeah, I think usually it’s conversational pace. If I can’t be having a conversation and cracking jokes and being silly then it’s too hard especially that early on. I did my last training race by heart rate which was the first time I’ve ever done that. It was pretty interesting. It was fun actually. It really made me regulate my pace and make sure I didn’t go out too hard.
iRunFar: Now do you do that the whole race or… I’ve run with Nikki Kimball here before and it’s conversational, singing songs, cracking jokes until a point. Then it’s game face and go.
Lapierre: I’ve been working on that. I’m definitely the friendly runner, I would say. “Oh, you look tired. Do you want a Gu? Do you want a Shot Block? Do you need salt?” I just want to have fun up to the end and make sure the people around me are doing the best they can. If that means I give them a Gu then so be it. We’re all out here because “it’s fun.” Yeah, at the end of the day I want to place well, but if I didn’t have fun then it doesn’t mean as much.
iRunFar: How does the competition—because obviously that has to be one of the draws for you to come back here year after year—how does that play into the fun or the enjoyment or how does that play into you coming back?
Lapierre: I think it’s just a good test to see where I’m at and if I’m staying honest with my training and my abilities. I’m definitely a pessimist. I call myself a realist, but most people probably call me a pessimist.
Lapierre: I’m not super confident and definitely have a little negative self-talk, so it’s good to get out of my comfort zone and race the best in the world and see where I stack up.
iRunFar: Obviously this is a lot of the same people coming back year after year with the top 10 returning and the Montrail Ultra Cup and the Ultra0Trail World Tour. Is there anybody up there who you particularly like to run with?
Lapierre: You know, I’ve never actually met Stephanie Howe. I hope we get to share a few miles together. I’ve raced against Michele Yates but have never gotten to share any miles with her because she’s definitely more aggressive off the start than I am. But I’ve always found it a treat to run around any of the ladies. Even the guys kind of gravitate towards the women and the conversations they’re having. “Oh, my gosh, this is great. I’m just going to stay behind you and just listen because you guys are so entertaining.” So sometimes we gab it up, and sometimes we just go silent and encourage each other along the way.
iRunFar: Do you have any particular goals going into this one?
Lapierre: I’m a little cautious. I think Transgrancanaria was the first time I kind of had my heart set on a finishing—you know, I really wanted to finish top three. That was a reach, but I thought I was capable. That didn’t happen. I was way off my time goal and my position goal. So I’m definitely hesitant to put my mind and my heart out there again. I do have some goals, but a lot can happen. You don’t really know what the temperature is going to be yet. As we move closer to race day, I think my goals will… I know we’re close right now, but right now it’s like maybe it’s going to be 90 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Tomorrow is going to be 100.
iRunFar: This time tomorrow you might have a better idea.
Lapierre: Better idea of it. If it’s 100 degrees out, am I going to run 18 hours? Probably not.
iRunFar: But if it’s 90 degrees in Auburn…
Lapierre: Yeah, and 100 miles is a long way, so I’ll take it…
iRunFar: So you do run this awfully conservative—not awfully conservative, but that’s the way you trend in racing. Do you ever feel that you want to just throw it out there one day because this is your fourth time out here and… just go Michele Yates style?
Lapierre: Yeah, I think it was two years ago before I got injured, you and I had talked about how I really wanted to train for Western like I could go out and win it. Then I got injured and then it was, “Okay, now I’m going to run it to finish it and hopefully top 10 and get a slot.” I’m back and this is a competitive field. Do I think I’m going to win? No. Do I want to have my presence felt out there and give those girls a run for their money? Yeah, I do because that will help them have their best day and hopefully help me, too.
iRunFar: Good luck there and enjoy it.
Lapierre: Thanks, Bryon. Thanks for your coverage.