Last month Jason Schlarb won the Hardrock 100 along side Kilian Jornet. Now, he’s about to race UTMB, a race he placed fourth at two years ago. In the following interview, Jason talks about how he’s recovered from Hardrock, how he’s approaches the excitement at UTMB, and what’s it’s been like spending the past month in Europe with his son Felix.
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Jason Schlarb Pre-2016 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Jason Schlarb before the UTMB 2016. How are you, Jason?
Jason Schlarb: I’m doing great, Bryon. It’s good to see you again. It hasn’t been too long.
iRunFar: No, it hasn’t. Speaking of not being too long since we last chatted, how has recovery gone since your win at Hardrock?
Schlarb: That is the biggest question mark for me at UTMB. I don’t have that much experience with doing back-to-back 100s. I was pretty scared, pretty nervous. So I took nine days absolutely no running. I left Hardrock on Monday and flew to Geneva. It was a 36-hour turnover. I got out here and took those nine days off and kind of reverse tapered back into a two week average training block. Quite frankly, I was able to do a 50k long run with 11,500 feet of climbing and felt pretty good. I felt pretty average. You never know that deep, dark post-100k+ energy requirement part of the race and how it’s going to go, but right now all things are pointing in the right direction.
iRunFar: Come the gun you’re going to feel good.
Schlarb: Exactly. There are a number of people that have tried to do the double and it didn’t go so well, so we’ll see what happens for me. I’m confident. I feel good.
iRunFar: Legs are strong. It’s always important to have mentally the spark. Is that there?
Schlarb: That is there, because if you can’t have a spark at UTMB, I don’t know… there’s so much excitement and people and hype. The weather is perfect here right now. The views are absolutely stunning. This is inspirational land right now. That’s there. The legs and muscular system is all set. Just need to make sure that deep 100-mile energy reserve… that’s the big question.
iRunFar: Two years ago you were fourth here. You obviously managed to handle the hype and excitement and the energy that’s at a really high level here. How did you do that two years ago?
Schlarb: For me, my racing style—maybe not so much at Hardrock for some reason but maybe that’s because we started so easy—tends to be kind of chill. I don’t get caught up in first-half heroics. My strategy will be and has been and just will continue to be to run within myself. I’m a little bit older. I’ve run in university and collegiate levels. I can handle that excitement. I do a pretty good job of running within myself. That will always be the strategy for me. That’s what I’ll do.
iRunFar: How does your fitness feel in comparison to two years ago?
Schlarb: I’m definitely stronger on the long climb. Also, I’m just good at that long distance stuff. The last two years I’ve acquired… I did well at Run Rabbit Run last year, I did the Eiger, so I think my endurance has only improved.
iRunFar: They should be scared, the other competitors.
Schlarb: Yeah, yeah, maybe. I’m confident. I’m happy to be here. I want to do better. I will say that. I want to do better than I did last time. Kind of like Hardrock, I’m not scared. If I find myself with Luis [Alberto Hernando] in the front, so be it. I’m ready. I’m ready to do it.
iRunFar: There’s always a balance. You say you run within yourself and you’re not scared to run with anybody. There’s going explicitly for the win versus running your best race. How do you balance that out?
Schlarb: It has a lot to do with what the other guys are doing. Let’s say there’s a situation where you have Zach [Miller] and Luis running a “Zach” kind of race. I’m not going to be there until maybe after 100k. That’s my approach. That’s how I will view that. It’s a lot in other people’s hands how the race pans out. Yeah, I’ll just do what I always do.
iRunFar: The other people’s races can provide you with opportunity. Even looking back at last year with David Laney’s race—moving up after running a smart first half or two-thirds and then making everybody look like their standing still.
Schlarb: Yeah, David’s approach… Mike Foote has the same kind of classic approach… Last weekend, Ian [Sharman]… That often times does well. In review, Francois [D’haene], Xavier [Thevenard] and Luis last year, there have been some other examples of always at the top… Julian [Chorier] loves to run from the front.
iRunFar: There’s the dichotomy of you could run to a third or a fourth place by running that conservative/run your own race/pick people off approach, but it seems like the win always comes from that—maybe not at Les Houches, but by Les Contamines—five to seven guys who are running together. The win comes from that group.
Schlarb: I’ve thought about that a bit. Francois, Xavier, Kilian [Jornet]—none of them are here. You have nobody that’s won UTMB—is that correct—that is actually here in the men’s race. So, those guys aren’t here. I don’t know. It’s arguably the most competitive UTMB ever, but there’s no winner in that. There’s also a Zach who hasn’t done a 100 miler, and Luis who has only done one. So the dynamics could be kind of crazy and wild. I don’t think it will necessarily be safe to say that pattern is reliable. I think a medium conservative approach and pushing in that last 80k might be the winning strategy. That’s the strategy I’m going for, too, but I don’t want to say… yeah, whatever. We’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: You’ve been here for quite awhile—you and little Felix. You’ve been here with your son for a month now. What’s that been like?
Schlarb: That has been good. My favorite part of the Alps, well, not the Alps, but the Dolomites of Italy is where have spent a lot of our time. The refugios, the trail system—it’s super steep. There are lots of valleys that are close to the next ridgeline. It’s very entertaining running and very much a lot of vert without having to try. It’s been good. Spending that with my son, he’s actually at the age where he’ll remember it this time. He’s five and a half. It’s been very rewarding outside of the training aspect as well.
iRunFar: How do you end up training? It seems like a dream for any trail runner with a kid.
Schlarb: It ended up I was able to convince one of our friends, a young lady named Claire, to come and watch Felix while I run. She’s been with us the whole time. Maggie had to work. It was kind of a good middle ground compromise. We were able to do a good father-son time and also had someone so I could train while we were out here.
iRunFar: Do you think having Felix around in that environment where you probably spend a lot of focused time with him is a nice balance, where if you were over here solo you might do too much training?
Schlarb: Yeah, I think maybe I’d get carried away. Oh, look at that next spot. But I’m pretty good about that. I think the overall life balance, I’d rather not just be here running. It’s cool to see this and take pictures and be here by yourself, but to share it with somebody is really where the homerun is for me.
iRunFar: Starting Friday afternoon, you get to share it with 2,300 other runners. Enjoy, Jason, and good luck.
Schlarb: Thanks, Bryon.