Seth Swanson surprised many with his second-place finish at last year’s Western States 100. This year, it won’t be a surprise to see him running at the front of the field. In the following interview, Seth talks about how his running has gone since last year’s Western States, whether he feels any more pressure this year, and what result would leave him feeling satisfied.
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Seth SwansonPre-2015 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Seth Swanson before the 2015 Western States 100. How are you doing, Seth?
Seth Swanson: I’m doing well, thanks, Bryon. Good to see you.
iRunFar: You’ve had quite a different past year, I’m sure, in terms of running after coming in second at Western States last year. You’d had some great performances before then, but that was a real breakthrough performance on a big stage. What’s the last year been like for you?
Swanson: Yeah, to be honest, I ran Cascade Crest 100 after Western last year. That was a great race. It was another Pacific Northwest regional event, but it’s a classic. The first half was really tough for me, but the second half I kind of got my things together. I kind of wanted to pull out of it because I was feeling lousy, but I pulled it together and finished.
iRunFar: And won and set a course record.
Swanson: Yeah, it was awesome and just the icing on the cake. Finishing was a huge accomplishment at that point. I was feeling pretty rough. This spring I’ve kind of had some alright races. I ran Sean O’Brien early. That was tough. It was really early for me. I was just grossly underprepared.
iRunFar: That’s in early February, right?
Swanson: Early February and Missoula was under two months of ice, not that that’s a reasonable excuse, it’s just a lot earlier than I usually intend to race. Things just worked out, so I went for it. It was a good experience. It was really, really tough. It was hard to feel that great about it knowing that I was so underprepared, like taking a test and doing well but just out of total dumb luck. Wow, it was a relief, but you don’t really feel that good about it. Then I ran Sonoma in April which was a great experience. It was just a blast. It’s so beautiful there. John Medinger does not hold back at all. It was a great event with great hospitality. It’s crazy fast and a beautiful course. I didn’t really run that great. I just wasn’t prepared to… just underprepared for going that fast for that long.
iRunFar: Was it just general training volume you lacked or was it that it’s a really fast course in parts, so the speed that you didn’t have? What was lacking?
Swanson: I think maybe a little bit of both. I think the ability to sustain that level of effort for so long. That’s why I think it comes in both parts—the training volume to hold that kind of endurance, and definitely that kind of leg turnover. Alex [Varner] just kept that the whole way. It was really impressive. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and it was great to be out there. It’s always kind of a good experience to be racing again. It was fun.
iRunFar: How has it gone since Sonoma? You’ve had a couple more months to train and prepare in a little less snow and ice as well?
Swanson: Oh goodness, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather, so it’s July-type conditions. There are huckleberries already. That doesn’t do much for training, but…
iRunFar: It’s a nice bonus.
Swanson: The trail has been great, and I’ve been able to get out quite a bit. Yeah, I feel pretty good about it.
iRunFar: Overall, is your training more or less on par with last year? Do you feel about as fit?
Swanson: Yeah, I think so. It’s just that there are so many variables. It’s hard to figure out what that right mix is without real objective measurements to know where you’re at. You can feel good and not feel good. Kind of compared to last year, I think I’m about where I feel I should be hopefully. Maybe a little bit underprepared, but I don’t think I’m overcooked. Just with work and family, it’s hard to put in that huge volume, and I don’t think it’s really sustainable. So I think I try to go on the more conservative side of things.
iRunFar: Last year you came into this race pretty much off the radar unless you were talking to someone from Missoula or the Pacific Northwest. Taking second here last year and now being on The North Face, do you feel any more pressure or expectations?
Swanson: Yes, certainly. There are definitely some expectations, I feel, just having the support of The North Face and, yeah, just kind of how things were last year. But when it comes down to it, I figure pressures are within myself and what I want to make sure I do is the best I can do. Being out there on Saturday is going to be really challenging just to stay within myself and not blow myself up trying to outdo what I’m capable of doing
iRunFar: That’s a good point. It happens for everybody. If you go to the next level and race, you can push that forward and even want to do better.
Swanson: Yeah, absolutely. It’s easy to get carried away.
iRunFar: You can go to the starting line on Saturday and say, “I’m going to run this, and it’s win it or nothing.”
Swanson: Last year I think I had a really great day. Things just kind of came together. It’s a long, long day, so no matter what I kind of hit some down spots. I felt good for most of the part of the day and felt within myself. I think that’s going to be really, really hard to repeat, having that kind of race. It was just really ideal. Even if I don’t improve in my time or place, I think if I can walk away with that same level of output and internal satisfaction, I think that would be really, really good.
iRunFar: You’ll know if you have a good race whatever the numbers say.
Swanson: Yes, sure, if I can have a good race and feel confident and happy about it, whether that’s 20th or worse, there are a lot of fast people. No matter what, I think just trying to pull off doing the best I can do is my ultimate goal.
iRunFar: Along the way, you keep it pretty simple out there in terms of aid stations and crewing.
Swanson: I do. Yeah, I pretty much stick to just gels and water and some salt pills. It’s pretty gross to eat gels all day, but it’s just what works for me. My wife, Norel, is going to be out there helping me out again. We have our grandparents in to watch the kids, so that’s helpful. Mike Wolfe happens to be up in the area, so he’s going to hang out with Norel and maybe put a little fire under me.
iRunFar: I was going to say, support? Probably more like heckle.
Swanson: It’s good. It’s in good fun. It will be helpful to have that support and enthusiasm.
iRunFar: Awesome. Best of luck out there, and have fun.
Swanson: Thanks, I appreciate it.