Steve Way was one of the favorites going into the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships in Doha before having a crappy race. Now, he’s back at the world championships here in Winschoten in the Netherlands. In the following interview, Steve talks about his 2014 IAU 100k, how that’s led him to make pre-race changes, how his running has gone this year, and how he’ll be approaching this race.
To see who else is running, check out iRunFar’s 2015 IAU 100k World Championships preview.
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Steve WayPre-2015 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Steve Way before the 2015 100k World Championships. How are you, Steve?
Steve Way: Very well, thank you. I’ve been traveling for a good 12 hours today.
iRunFar: How is that?
Way: I was going to say, the one thing different about Doha and this is this is nice and close and no long-haul flight, but it turns out when you’ve got to drive halfway across England on rubbish motorways and then when you get here it was a good three hours on the train.
iRunFar: Three hours on the train, and then you have another 20 minutes on the shuttle.
Way: Two stops on the train—yeah, it’s been a long trek actually. I’m glad to be here. Thankfully when we arrived, it was just in time for food which was obviously the most important thing.
iRunFar: Well, then you’ve had a not so bad day. So you were in Doha last year. You came in as one of the favorites and we got to learn your life’s story before the race.
Way: I was. We did.
iRunFar: Then you did not have the best day on the course.
Way: Then I screwed it right up.
iRunFar: What did you screw up, Steve?
Way: Well, my stomach got screwed up actually, which my Garmin informs me that I spent 18 minutes not moving during that race. They were all basically spent in port-a-loos actually.
iRunFar: There were other movements happening.
Way: Yes, exactly. There was a period in the middle of the race, between about 40 to 60k, when literally my only goal was to get to the next set of port-a-loos without embarrassing myself.
iRunFar: Which does occasionally happen in 100ks.
Way: For the first 20 miles, I was in that group with Max [King] and Jonas [Buud] and everything was ticking over nicely. We were at the pace I’d planned to run at. I was in a group where I knew these were where the winner was going to come from. I was reasonably confident that was the case.
iRunFar: There could be people up front. People who…
Way: I was hoping they’d come back, and they did. So I was exactly where I should have been. I think I was quite smug about it. I even had a little chat with Max and Jonas about it sort of giggling at the fact that these people have shot off and aren’t we the clever, sensible ones. It was probably a couple miles after that I had to make my first unscheduled stop.
iRunFar: Now were you feeling ill at all before the race or was this…?
Way: No, this was totally out of the blue. I got to 20 miles, I think it was, maybe a little bit before, and even when I had to stop for the loo the first time, I thought nothing more than, Oh, well. Then my stomach just never recovered basically.
iRunFar: Do you think that ended up being some sort of an illness because it was also very hot? You were running fast and it was hot—there’s not blood going to your stomach.
Way: In all honesty, I never got to the bottom of it. I do not know to this day whether it was the time of day, the heat and humidity, the food—because that hotel we were staying at was far too nice and the food was far too good and there was far too much selection—even though I was trying to be disciplined, I’m sure I wasn’t…
iRunFar: It was quite luxurious.
Way: It was. I think in the back of my mind, I knew we were going to be flying out the next day straightaway, so there would be no opportunity to take advantage of this restaurant. I was pretty good with the food, but you never quite know what’s in. I tend to avoid fatty or any kind of saturated fats before races. The trouble in that kind of environment is you’ve got no idea to a certain degree exactly what’s in what you’re eating.
iRunFar: Even today, the food here has been decent but there’s been nothing spectacular, and it was pretty ‘normal,’ but you’d wanted to go to the grocery store.
Way: That’s one of the reasons I’ve just been to the grocery store to basically buy all my food for tomorrow and race-day morning, so you won’t see me at the pasta party tomorrow evening. You won’t see me at breakfast on Saturday morning either.
iRunFar: Better safe than sorry.
Way: Yeah, so it’s bland for me.
iRunFar: It could be a lesson not just for yourself but for anybody who’s traveling to race.
Way: I would say, yes. It’s probably worth making the effort. It’s a bit boring, but you put all this trouble into the race, it’s just a little bit of extra effort to go and get your own food and sort your own food out.
iRunFar: Maybe not the whole time, but those couple key meals.
Way: Yes. Basically, I’m going to have my main meal pre-race tomorrow lunch time, will be my main meal tomorrow. Tomorrow evening, I’ll just have some sandwiches that I will have made myself and will know exactly what’s in them. My main bulk of my meal will be already done and dusted by tomorrow lunch time.
iRunFar: Will that be of your own making?
Way: Yes, and then just a very light breakfast which won’t be in here either. Hopefully I’ve learned. To be honest, I’m not convinced it was the food.
iRunFar: But you don’t know, so you might as well take one variable out of it.
Way: Exactly. Part of me thinks it also might have been… I’d had a brilliant 2014, the best of my running career. Last year was the best year of my running career. The year was coming to an end. My training had gone alright, but I was almost sort of forcing my body just that one more race sort of thing. Maybe it was just my body’s way of saying, “We’re not really in the mood for this.”
iRunFar: Has your body been in the mood for this since then?
Way: No, no, unfortunately, and this is something I’ve come to… the worse your race goes, the longer it takes to recover. My best performances are normally followed by my best recovery periods. At the end of Doha, I was almost dead. So there’s a couple pictures of me where I really don’t look like I’m going to make it past 10 minutes past. My stomach had just taken it all out of me. Just getting to the finish line, it was quite surprising how happy I was at the finish—obviously partly disappointed because there I was thinking I was fighting for a podium finish. I was just ecstatic that I’d got to the end and managed to finish under seven hours on that occasion.
iRunFar: Yeah, you still helped your team.
Way: Yeah, so we ended up with the bronze.
iRunFar: Had you decided the port-a-loos were enough and you stopped, your team doesn’t get a bronze.
Way: Exactly. That sense of achievement was great, but I had put myself in quite a lot of stress. I think a combination of that and the course itself, I know quite a few people who came out of that race not recovering very well. You’ve got Jonas who came out of it with an injury…
iRunFar: Ellie [Greenwood] has not been right since. Max hasn’t necessarily run as strong.
Way: On the flight home, my ankles were about twice the size as my normal ankles. So, just that uneven surface that we were on…
iRunFar: And very hot as well.
Way: Just, I think, led to some nasty reactions.
iRunFar: So you’re looking forward to the forgiving pavement of The Netherlands.
Way: Yes, hopefully. My winter was nonexistent. December was a write-off. I didn’t really get into any kind of training until early January. Because I had all these high ambitions of trying to qualify for the marathon for the world champs in Beijing, I was then playing massive catch-up in order to try and get a sub-2:14 at London. Risks were taken which did not pay off basically. I ended up with a torn left glute about February time, and basically, my 2015 in general has been as bad as my 2014 was good.
iRunFar: So if you had a bad race at world 100k’s last year, maybe you’ll have a really good race.
Way: I’m hoping this is the change of fortune in my 2015. What I’m looking forward to for one thing on Saturday, is to have a strong, enjoyable race whether or not that’s good enough to get me a podium or a win or whatever, what I want to do is finish that race strong and not put myself into the same sort of state I did in Doha. Just for my own sort of enjoyment and pleasure, I’d like to actually come out of a race thinking, Yes, I’ve actually had a good one. That’s one of my main aims for Saturday. I’ve had a couple of good races in the last month or so in the build. I had to sort of struggle to qualify for the team because I’d done nothing since Doha, and they needed some sort of proof of fitness. I did Edinburgh Marathon, but it wasn’t that long after I’d come back from injury, and I wasn’t at full fitness. I’d guessed my fitness levels, and I’d guessed wrong. I ended up going through halfway in 70 minutes and finishing with a 2:29 which was pretty miserable because I was actually probably only in 70-minute-half shape. So if you go through halfway in 70 minutes, it doesn’t bode well.
iRunFar: So do you think you’re in pretty good fitness now?
Way: So that was just about good enough to please U.K.A. to get on the team.
iRunFar: But not quite.
Way: But not quite. So I then I subsequently had to prove fitness along the way as we got closer to this race. I’ve had a couple good races. I had a race on the Island of Jersey (Round the Rock Jersey) which basically goes around the whole coastline of Jersey, about 45-mile race, which is very sort of trail-y and not a fast course. I ended up smashing Dan Doherty’s course record. Dan is an Irish 100k runner who has done quite well in European and world 100k’s before.
iRunFar: So, legit.
Way: Yes. It was quite a pleasing performance there and it was a decent distance, so that was quite good in the buildup. I did a nice 50k trail race which was the final tick in the box that UKA was happy with because I beat my own course record from last year which was quite handy. So, yeah, things have gone reasonably well now. So I’ve had the best phase of training I’ve had all year. As I said, it hasn’t been a particularly good…
iRunFar: Maybe you’re fresher than you were last year?
Way: Yeah, I’m hoping I’m going to do a Jonas. I rock up to my first race of the year and absolutely smash it.
iRunFar: Holy moly. His run at UltraVasan.
iRunFar: You’ve run that.
Way: It’s changed slightly.
iRunFar: Maybe five to 10 minutes faster.
Way: Yeah, Jonas said he thinks it’s somewhere between five and 10 minutes and it was drier, but even so, that was a stunning run.
iRunFar: I don’t think people who have not run that course realize how… yes, it’s ‘flat’ and a road course, but it’s off road or dirt road.
Way: Some of the trail is technical singletrack…
iRunFar: With roots and not flat.
Way: There are some 10k sections where it’s proper technical trail. To do a 5:45 90k on that…
iRunFar: It’s a 6:25 100k equivalent off-road.
Way: Yeah, I’d say that was probably worth, on a flat road, sub-6:15 type run. That was stunning. He’s done that off… he’s had as bad a year as I’ve had. He’s done very little mileage. I know he’s done a lot of work on the bike, but yeah, I’ll have some of that, please.
iRunFar: There you have it.
Way: Hopefully Jonas isn’t on quite the same form. I’m hoping that a performance that good needs a little bit of recovery time although, yeah, we shall see. He’s certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with on Saturday.
iRunFar: So last year, the U.K. men’s team got the bronze. Your team only has three members this year.
Way: We do. We lost a couple along the way unfortunately.
iRunFar: It’s tough because if anybody has a bad day, you can’t…
Way: Then we’re out.
iRunFar: Does it make you more conservative in hoping you guys can get a bronze, or does it free you to say, This is more about me having my best race or as fast as possible race?
Way: I don’t think it will change any of the individual race plans. It certainly won’t change my plan although as I mentioned already, mine possibly will be at tiny bit more conservative simply because I want that strong finish. I know that Marcus [Scotney] and Craig [Holgate] have both got their own plans and their own strategy in terms of pace. I don’t think that will be influenced by the team. What it will do, though, it gives us all that little bit of extra motivation because we know if we finish, we’re in the scoring. It’s as simple as that.
iRunFar: So there’s some pressure there in that you’ve got to make it around.
Way: Yeah, so I think the both of those guys and myself can take the positives more than the pressure side of that to be honest with you. Let’s be honest, when it comes down to it, it’s an individual race and everyone’s real purpose there is to do well for themselves no matter how… we all love being part of a team, but…
iRunFar: It’s an extra motivation, but it’s an extra motivation.
Way: Exactly. The primary goal is the individual. When things are getting tough, we all know that we are definitely scoring for the team, it might give us that extra bit of motivation. I know the other two guys, we’ve all had some decent training. We had our U.K. 100k Championships which Marcus and Craig both ran in, and I know they both think they’re in better shape than they were then. They both are quite confident about running some decent times. There’s no reason if all three of us do have a good run that we can’t be there in the podium. We need to beat the odds of all three of us having good runs, but the option is still there. We’ll do our darn hardest to get back on that team podium I think.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you and your team then. Have fun out there. May you have an enjoyable race.
Way: Thank you, sir. Thank you.