Hayden Hawks came out of Division I collegiate running last spring, jumped head first into trail running in 2016, and will wrap the year with his first attempt at 50 miles in The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. In our first interview with Hayden, he talks about his collegiate running career at Southern Utah University, life and training in his St. George, Utah home, and what his first season of trail racing has been like.
By the way, Hayden’s interview is part of a pre-race men’s interview show. Check it out!
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Hayden Hawks Pre-2016 The North Face EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar-Meghan Hicks: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here in the San Francisco Running Company in Mill Valley, California. It’s the day before The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. I’m with Hayden Hawks. Good morning.
Hayden Hawks: Good morning.
iRF-Hicks: You’re Utahan, I’m Utahan, and we came across the country to be here this weekend.
Hawks: Yeah, I’m glad to be out here. I was out here three weeks ago. D-Bo showed me the course a little bit and helped me out a little bit. I’m glad to be back.
iRF-Hicks: The soon-to-be-mayor of Marin gave you a tour of his homeland?
iRunFar-Dylan Bowman: Welcome back. You’re sort of an enigma to most of the iRunFar viewers at this point. I think this is the first chance you’ve had to speak with Meghan, but I think it’s good given those circumstances that you give us a little intro to who you are, where you came from, and what brought you into this race.
Hawks: Yeah, for sure. I grew up in Utah. I’m from St. George, Utah, which if people don’t know, it’s right next to Zion National Park. It’s a great area to train. I grew up running trails in that area. I went to college at Southern Utah University. I ran five years there at SUU and then graduated this past May and jumped right into the trail scene. I started with the U.S. Mountain Running Championships. I was able to qualify for the U.S. national team there. Then I jumped into Speedgoat and was lucky enough to win that race. I still don’t know how I did it, but it was a good race. Then I went and ran the World [Mountain Running] Championships out in Bulgaria in September and did really well there. I’ve always loved trail running. I’ve always really just enjoyed being out there on the trails. I did track just to kind of get my leg speed up. Now I’m full blown into this trail thing, sponsored by Hoka—I picked them up in July—and it’s been a fun run so far.
iRF-Hicks: Let’s talk a little bit about your collegiate-running background since you’re so fresh from college. I don’t know that much about the Southern Utah University running program. Can you describe what it was like and your focus there?
Hawks: I ran with a guy named Cam Levins. He was a two-time national champion for SUU in Division I. We are a Division I program, one of the smallest Division I programs, but a lot of people don’t know that. We’ve had a really good running program for awhile. We had a guy who took third in the nation in cross country awhile back. Cam was a national champion. Our team has always been really good. We qualify for nationals almost every year for Division I. I had a great coach there, Coach Eric Houle, and great teammates. I was able to really progress as a runner at SUU.
iRF-Bowman: You mentioned Speedgoat, and that was kind of your coming-out party for the ultra universe. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience? I think I heard it was sort of last minute and that you decided the day before to run the race. Talk about that experience and were you surprised with how well you did.
Hawks: I was definitely surprised. I was surprised about the course, too. I didn’t know how hard it would actually be. I was kind of blind going into it. I had no clue.
iRF-Hicks: ”Sure, I’ll run 30 miles.”
Hawks: I knew the distance. I’d run 30 miles before in a training run, but I didn’t know how much climbing it would be, and I didn’t know how hard it would be. I signed up the day before the race, drove up to Speedgoat—it’s not too far from where I live—and jumped in the race the next morning. I got some advice from Magdalena Boulet, another Hoka athlete. She helped me out to get going with that. I had some help from other friends who were running the race who are avid ultrarunners. They helped me out.
iRF-Bowman: Bryce Thatcher.
Hawks: Exactly. He’s the owner of UltrAspire, and he was there. Yeah, I jumped into it and just kind of went into the race with the same mindset I always go into racing. Just go out there and do the best that I can and run my race. That’s what I did and ended up turning out pretty good for me.
iRF-Hicks: Tremendous leg speed that you bring straight from collegiate running—just great raw speed. You’ve now had a race, a long race in the mountains. You’ve got 30 miles, but 50 miles is still a big jump in distance. The time increase is pretty on par with Speedgoat.
iRF-Bowman: Although Speedgoat kind of runs…
iRF-Hicks: It runs like a 50 miler. But tomorrow is just going to be different. How have you set your mind to what’s going to happen in the morning?
Hawks: Yeah, I was talking with another one of my teammates yesterday, Jim Walmsley, and Jim was just talking to me, and I was talking to him about my training, and he told me, “All you have to do is go into this race and trust in your training. Trust what you’ve done. Know you’ve done the work. Trust in it.” That’s kind of my mindset. I’ve worked hard for this. I’ve set my whole training regimen up for this race. I’ve run 40 miles. I haven’t run 50, but I ran 40 and didn’t bonk in 40 miles. I felt really good. I feel like I should be able to handle the distance. You never know though. Like D-Bo said, at Speedgoat, I ran 5:30, and this race will hopefully take around six hours or a little bit more. I think I should be able to handle it. That’s my mindset going into it.
iRF-Hicks: Your 40 miler, did you do that on the trails in St. George?
Hawks: I did.
iRF-Bowman: It seems like you are kind of a high-volume guy. Talk us through what your training looks like on a normal week.
Hawks: I average probably around 120 to 130 miles per week. Recently I had a stretch where I did three straight weeks of almost close to 140 miles leading up to this race. I just like being out on the trails. I love running. We have a good community in St. George to run with. I can always find somebody to run with. I’m always down to do some miles with whoever.
iRF-Bowman: Are you sprinkling in some harder efforts there, too?
Hawks: I am. Most of my runs are under 7:00 pace. I do a lot of tempos. I do a 10-mile tempo at least once per week at 5:00 pace. I do some track work as well. I really am an advocate of making sure I keep that leg speed. I do some strides, some 400s, some 200s—I still like doing that stuff. I think it gives me an advantage.
iRF-Bowman: Do you think your experience at the World Mountain Running Championships also might have set you up? I’m of the belief that the shorter-distance stuff really does translate well to the 50-mile race particularly for races like TNF that are so fast. Talk about that experience on the world stage and how that may have helped you for this.
Hawks: The level of competition there is tremendous with some of the best runners in the world for mountain running. Having that under my belt where I know how to go into a really high-stress competitive race and know that I can do well, that really helps a lot. Also, the training going into that was a lot of fast climbing, short interval climbing. I really learned how to climb during that period of time. I feel like that’s one of my strengths is to climb because of all the training I did for mountain running.
iRF-Hicks: It’s interesting to hear you say that because it seems like you might have all the pieces of what it takes to do this race well from different parts of your running career. You saw deep competition at the U.S. and World Mountain Running Championships. You’ve done a 40 miler in training. You’ve done time on feet at Speedgoat.
iRF-Bowman: You can do the volume that it takes.
iRF-Hicks: It’s all there. It’s just putting it together tomorrow, right?
Hawks: For sure.
iRF-Bowman: Last question. I’m curious to know a little bit… you mentioned you live in St. George. Obviously it’s right outside Zion as you said. I’m curious what it’s like there to train, what the terrain is like, what the community is like because at this race there are a lot of people from Boulder, there are a lot of people from Flagstaff, a lot of people from Marin, a lot of people from Bend, but you’re sort of living outside those four bubbles. Talk a little bit about what it’s like there.
iRF-Hicks: Our country of Utah.
Hawks: Utah is great because anywhere you go you have altitude pretty much. I don’t live in the highest part of Utah. I live at 3,000 feet which isn’t super high, but I can get up to 7,000 to 10,000 feet in 30 minutes, and I can drop down to sea level almost within 30 minutes, too. It’s a perfect location. I go down and do a lot of my speed down low so I can really get some good fast stuff in. Then I’ll go up and climb at high elevations.
iRF-Hicks: Do you go up to that mountain range that’s just west of town?
Hawks: Pine Valley, Zion, Cedar Mountain, which is not too far either. Bryce Canyon is not too far, too. So it’s a beautiful place to train. It’s really rocky. It’s a lot different than the trails here; it’s really technical. It’s really rocky. I’ve had to do my footwork a little bit, but that’s helped me and gives me a little advantage for some of the technical spots on this trail. My track background will help me on some of the real runnable sections.
iRF-Bowman: That will definitely help you.
iRF-Hicks: That will help, let’s just say.
Hawks: I love it. I love St. George. I grew up there. My family is close by. It’s always nice to be close to family. I can always run to my mom’s house and get some good food if I’m ever hungry. It’s kind of nice.
iRF-Hicks: The aid station of mom.
iRF-Bowman: It seems like you have a great attitude. I know a lot of people are looking forward to seeing how you do tomorrow. Good luck. Enjoy. It should be perfect weather. We’ll be out there cheering.
Hawks: Alright. Sounds good.
iRF-Hicks: Good luck, Hayden.
Hawks: Hey, thank you.