Seth Swanson is popping out of the Montana winter to take on Transgrancanaria 2016 this weekend. In the following interview, Seth talks about how his winter training went, how he’s approach the race on Saturday, and whether he might push his risk level up in any upcoming races.
Seth Swanson Pre-2016 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Seth Swanson before the Transgrancanaria 2016. How are you, Seth?
Seth Swanson: I’m doing well, thanks.
iRunFar: How has your training gone this winter?
Swanson: I think okay. I was saying earlier that it’s hard to tell. Missoula has just kind of thawed out in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been slogging around on snow and ice for the past three months. I’m hoping that translates to some strength and endurance. Maybe it’s a little less speed. It’s hard to establish or meet some of those established benchmarks to really know where I’m at.
iRunFar: Yeah, you’re also shifting the start of your season a little earlier than in past years.
Swanson: Yeah, it’s early.
iRunFar: Have you had to adjust your winter training in regard to that?
Swanson: Yeah, I would have liked to have been skiing more and enjoying the winter. I definitely still enjoyed winter, but I was running a lot more. I guess last year I ran Sean O’Brien in early February. I was totally unprepared for that. I hope I’m a little bit more prepared for this. Yeah, so there was just a lot more dedicated, long, slogging days out there in frustrating conditions.
iRunFar: You were staying off the pavement and on the packed dirt when you can, or packed snow?
Swanson: Yeah, we’ll call it snow and ice and maybe some slush.
Swanson: It’s a good mixed bag. You never know what you’re going to get.
iRunFar: Some good mental fortitude training?
Swanson: I hope so. I hope that’s where it’s really coming in. I guess we didn’t have a ton of snow in Missoula this year, but we had fairly consistent temperatures. The snow just stuck around rather than thawing out earlier. Like I said, we just got thawed out now, so it was fairly consistent snow up there.
iRunFar: In some big trail running towns that get snow, a couple main trails get packed down with good climbs. Does that happen in Missoula?
Swanson: Yeah, we definitely lose the diversity of trails. Mental fortitude again—you kind of get stuck with the monotony of a couple of trails, but it’s great that we can still be outside. Yeah, there are some that are a little bit more exposed that tend to get wind-exposed which sloughs off the snow a little bit or get cooked a little bit. Those can be a little bit more runnable. It’s still snow, so it’s good.
iRunFar: You’ve run Sean O’Brien which was a 100k when you ran it, correct? You’ve run a bunch of 100 milers. This race is only 125k, but the times aren’t that much faster than Western States in terms of the winning time. How will you approach this race in terms of effort and pacing?
Swanson: Yeah, that’s going to be a really big challenge. I’m just going to have to figure it out tomorrow and just try to stay within myself and hopefully stay at a point where I can hopefully maintain some competitive position. Yeah, there’s just a ton of climbing in this one. Hopefully I can just put my head down and grind it and hopefully pull through to the end.
iRunFar: Do you think this early in the season you can really gauge your effort or do you pace it off other people for a competitive position?
Swanson: Yeah, I think it kind of goes both ways. It’s hard. I have no idea how it’s going to start out. I’d kind of imagine pretty fast. It seems like it’s just the way it goes, and then we’ll probably settle into some sort of a steady pace. Yeah, I just kind of go into myself and feel what is capable. I think I kind of have an idea.
iRunFar: On that point, the last couple years, the really big races you’ve run—the Western States, the UTMB’s—you’ve been so consistent right up there. How do you nail race after race?
Swanson: Maybe I haven’t nailed them. I think Western States worked out to pretty much the best I could do on that particular day. I was pretty pleased there. At UTMB, I had a rough end. I kind of feel like I let off the gas, and I should have pushed a little bit harder towards the end, but it’s all hindsight now. I think it’s really challenging. I think I’ll just try and stay within myself and try and stay really cognizant of how I’m feeling and try to push that upper… there’s a fine line, but push that upper line of comfort and not going over that.
iRunFar: That’s what I was going to ask you. You’ve been second at Western States twice. You’ve been a top-five finisher at UTMB. Is there any day or race where you’re going to say, “I’m going to go a little bit further than I think I can maybe even early on?”
Swanson: I like to think that everybody is trying to figure that out for themselves. It’s a hard gamble. It’s hard especially coming to a race I have no experience with. It’s hard to tell where you should throw in that effort. It’s just such a big thing to bite off. There’s just so much climbing in this race.
iRunFar: Could you see yourself doing that at another race like Western States where you’ve run a couple of times in the future?
Swanson: Yeah, I feel like maybe I have an idea of where I could push it a little harder. I’ve run that one twice, so I at least have that experience to fall back on. It wasn’t a one-time deal. It’s hard to gauge anything from there. Having two years, I think I know where I could push a little bit harder. Hopefully that would translate to something better whether it’s a faster time or feeling better or whatever it might be.
iRunFar: In a race like this, there are going to be people who go out very hard, but also probably the most runnable terrain on the course is at the end.
Swanson: I know. Yeah, so hopefully—that first climb is a doozy—hopefully that kind of puts people in check and slows things down. Yeah, I totally expect it to go fast. That’s fine. That kind of splinters up the group. Then I would imagine that the climb will kind of shake things up a bit and hopefully settle dust and some nerves and adrenaline and whatever. Yeah, I have a feeling it’s going to settle down quickly.
iRunFar: Cool. Best of luck out there this weekend, Seth. Take care.