Magdalena Boulet won her first attempt at a 100-mile race and it just so happened to be the Western States 100. In the following interview, Magda talks about where she went off course, how she reacted to that situation, how she approached the aid stations, and what it feels like to win Western States.
For more on how the race went down, check out our Western States results article.
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Magdalena Boulet, 2015 Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2015 Western States Endurance Run. I’m with women’s champion, Magda Boulet. Holy smokes!
Magdalena Boulet: Holy smokes, is right! Wow!
iRunFar: You won Western States! What’s going through your head right now?
Boulet: It’s just such an honor and privilege to add that to my resume. It’s been a dream to show up here and be competitive. I wanted to be on the podium, and to walk away with the win is truly an honor.
iRunFar: I want to hear about your day. It had so many highs and lows, watching it from the external perspective. Talk about the first high. Talk about those first three-and-a-half or four miles, cresting the high point of the course.
Boulet: I just kept getting reminded by my friends, even Stephanie [Howe], during the race that when you get to the top just make sure you take a look at the lake, take a look at the view, watch the sunrise. I really just wanted to take it all in. Probably the first 30 miles, it’s just such a beautiful… it’s my favorite part of the course. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Tahoe. It’s where I spent most of my altitude training leading up to major marathons. I love it up there. I really took it all in. The first 30 miles wasn’t that bad. Even being in the high country, it felt challenging, but it was still pretty early on. I was feeling good.
iRunFar: You took a wrong turn fairly early in the race. Tell us about what happened.
Boulet: I didn’t take the turn, the right turn. I just kept going straight. Not that it was poorly marked, I just had my head down and there was a log, obviously, saying, “Wrong Way!” I jumped over the log and just never saw the split. Pretty soon I run into the women’s first place girl [Joelle Vaught] and she mentioned she hadn’t seen the yellow flag for awhile. I said, “Oh, we’re in trouble.” We were probably already a mile in, so she might have gone just a little further than me. Then we ran together to make sure that there wasn’t another flag. Yeah, I turned around and started booking back up to get on the proper course. That was disheartening. In 100 miles, you don’t want to run extra. I don’t want to run extra. I was already going…
iRunFar: “You’re going to make me go another two miles?”
Boulet: It was already long enough. So, I really had to regroup. It took some courage to just stay positive. When I got to… I think I already had two or three minutes at Robinson Flat on Stephanie. So when I took the wrong turn and got to the next aid station, I was 20 minutes back… a lot of regrouping.
iRunFar: I think I was there, and I think I saw that. I think I saw just this sort of big sigh come over you like, “Oh, no.” You’re 40 miles into a race. You’ve done a ton of running already. You have a ton more running to go. How do you deal with that?
Boulet: You told me, that was at the second aid station I saw you, you said, “18 minutes. It’s a long ways to go.” I said, “Okay, 18 minutes might not be that much if I can just… if I don’t do anything stupid and I don’t start hammering trying to make up that ground in the next few miles.” I really just… I needed to pull everything out of my head and stay positive and tell myself to be patient and just try to do a little bit at a time. Every aid station after that I kept asking, “How far am I behind?” Stephanie and Emma [Roca] passed me during that stretch. I caught up to Emma at the first aid station, and then the second aid station was when I saw you. I knew that I was gaining, but I also didn’t want to give so much away where I would struggle at the end and just walk all the way home. I don’t know what I was doing. I knew that I needed to be patient, and that’s what I tried to do.
iRunFar: From the outside looking in, looking at your splits through the canyons, it looked like you were making a concerted effort to catch up. You were putting down some pretty good splits in there. You wanted to see the leader again sooner rather than later?
Boulet: Yes, I think I wanted to be closer. I wanted to be close enough. At that point I was still feeling good, but I didn’t want to be too aggressive. So I definitely pushed. I definitely made an effort to get back on track and kind of used the downhills to my advantage that I can open up a little bit but at the same time not give up my quads. That was the number one advice that everyone gave me: you’ve got to get to Foresthill with your quads being ready for the last 40 miles.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about Michigan Bluff and you get a time check and you’re really close to Stephanie at this point. Then you see her on the far side of Volcano Canyon coming up Bath Road. When you arrived to Foresthill, mile 62—this place where you said you need to arrive in a position to race—you arrive there and you arrive there in the lead. Were you in a position to race? How were you feeling at Foresthill?
Boulet: I was feeling good. My strategy going into the race was to really move very quickly through the aid stations. I’m 42 this year, so I have to have my own tricks.
iRunFar: “Use my time wisely.”
Boulet: Yeah, I don’t have the same speed as I did 15 years ago. Strength is definitely something that I was relying on and just being very efficient with my fueling and just going through the aid stations just smoothly. I think I did a great job with how I fueled and how quickly I went through the aid stations. I really didn’t waste any time. I came in and swapped my bottles and that was it. I think my crew kept asking me if I needed anything. “Nope, this is what I need. I’m out of here. See you guys at the next aid station.” That was my strategy. I know I flew by Foresthill pretty quickly. For me, that’s where I really needed to dig deep inside and start thinking, This is where it starts right now. Everyone was going to be tired at the end. So was I. The last 10 miles were really rough. You’re in the dark, and I’ve never really finished a race in the dark. I tried to look at the moon which was incredible and listen to crickets and the river. You could hear the river especially coming to the bridge and just still trying to take it all in.
iRunFar: Take us there for a minute. The last aid station, I guess the last real aid station, No Hands Bridge (almost mile 97 on the Western States course) is a pretty iconic place. It’s lighted up with decorations. It’s a huge party down there. From there to the finish is kind of intended to be a joyous celebration. How does it feel to cross No Hands Bridge and run those last three miles knowing that you’re going to win Western States?
Boulet: I definitely was getting a little bit choked up. I knew I had a pretty good lead. In the back of my mind, I could just envision myself coming to the track and finishing with my crew and my family and just really appreciating the whole journey. To commit to this race and go through the whole experience is just so overwhelming right now. I’m so honored at getting to be a part of the incredible list of men and women who have done this race. In my own hometown, there are so many people and so much history with Ann [Trason] obviously setting the stage and so many other guys from Mill Valley who have finished in the top 10 here. So much inspiration. So to be competitive feels really good.
iRunFar: Awesome. Congratulations to you. My last question for you: you were asked last night if you were coming back next year and you sort of tempered your response—has another 12 hours changed your feelings at all?
Boulet: Not yet. Not yet. I definitely want to come back to this race. Next year is a really tough one. I’m definitely doing the Olympic Trials in the marathon. I’m toying with the idea of doing also the Olympic Trials on the track.
Boulet: I know. I know. We’ll see. This really has my heart. This race has stolen my heart. I’ve got to figure out what 2016 has to offer me.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations to you on your win at the 2015 Western States Endurance Run.
Boulet: Thank you.