Amy Sproston returns to the 2017 Western States 100 after having finished second place here last year. In this interview, Amy talks about her long break from running over the winter due to injury, her conservative start to training this year, how much she thinks her previous experience at the race will play into her performance on Saturday, and how she fits training into a job that involves much international travel.
Amy Sproston Pre-2017 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Amy Sproston before the 2017 Western States 100. How are you, Amy?
Amy Sproston: I’m great. How are you?
iRunFar: Alright. You have run this race, if I’m not mistaken, four of the last six years?
Sproston: That’s correct.
iRunFar: You kind of feel like a fixture here now. Does it feel that way to you?
Sproston: A little bit, yeah. It was kind of nice to take a break of about two years, and then it was great to come back last year.
iRunFar: One year where you weren’t entered, I don’t think, and one year where you…
Sproston: I got third in 2013. Then I tore my hamstring at Comrades and had to walk the last 15 miles, so States was just not happening. So, I was out for 2014, didn’t run in 2015, and then raced back in in 2016.
iRunFar: So you have two eighths, a second, and a third in that stretch, I think?
iRunFar: What brings you back? You’ve accomplished a lot here.
Sproston: It is a little cliche again, but it’s the community, it’s the history of the race, and it’s also really nice to have a really big early season goal to keep me motivated in training because I’ve just got a lot going on in terms of work and travel. So, it’s good to have something on the schedule to keep me racing.
iRunFar: Speaking of keeping things on the schedule to keep you racing, I was only able to find one result for you since Western States last year. You won Silver State 50 last month. Is that it?
Sproston: Yeah, I did States last year, and I felt great. I had some hamstring problems leading up to States, but at States, I had no issues and felt great in recover. Then about three weeks before UTMB, I started to feel some niggles. The week of UTMB, running four miles in Chamonix was painful. It was really dumb of me to start UTMB last year. I stopped in part for some… I was vomiting and whatnot, but when I got to where I could eat again, my hamstrings were toasted by that point, and I just couldn’t pick up running anymore. I knew it was going to be a 30-mile walk. After trying to recover from UTMB, my hamstrings, I got an MRI, and I had some tearing and chronic fraying and tearing at the attachment, so I really didn’t run all winter. I took three months off.
iRunFar: How have the hamstrings felt since then?
Sproston: I was really cautious, and I felt like it’s kind of a chronic injury… I feel like women have a lot of longevity in the sport, but the one thing that kind of takes people out of the sport is chronic hamstring issues for women. So, kind of keeping that in mind, I was really careful in trying to listen to my body and not run through pain in the winter and spring. I did a really slow build up back. My hamstrings are great.
iRunFar: Any rehab or strength training…?
Sproston: Yes, I see a PT every two weeks year-round. I’m always kind of working on stuff. Yeah, they’re good. I feel healthy in general. I’m not as fit as I want to be, but I’m never as fit as I want to be. I think I’m less fit than I usually am less fit than I want to be. Yeah, I’m also doing UTMB again this year. Whereas I’m usually pretty consistent there and a train wreck at UTMB, so I’m really hoping that while I may not be as fit here, but that will work my way into UTMB. Then I’m doing Cappadocia and a race in Guatemala. I’m hoping to maybe have a better end of the season this year.
iRunFar: Sort of saving yourself a bit?
iRunFar: You do have a lot of experience here and especially on a day where there’s snow in the beginning and heat later, that means a lot. On Saturday or Sunday, what do you think the best you can do is?
Sproston: Even though I don’t feel quite as fit as last year, you always want to go after what you’ve done in the past. Last year I broke 19 hours for the first time which I was really excited about. If you look at my times from 2011, ’12, ’13, and ’16—granted one was a snow course, one was a cold year, one was a really hot year—they were all kind of different… last year was a warm year. They’ve all been very different years, but my times are 18:54 and 19:36…
iRunFar: And there’s been a general trend in the positive direction.
Sproston: General trend, but slower, then faster, then middle, then faster. So, a trend, but I’m pretty consistent. I’m really just hoping… one of those years I’d strained a calf and hadn’t run super high mileage, so I’m hoping that course knowledge and consistency will hopefully work this year as well.
iRunFar: Maybe you don’t have your A-game, but is top five still in the…?
Sproston: I’d never have guessed—I don’t think anyone would have guessed—that I’d be second here last year. Maybe when I was third, that was maybe more expected, but last year, I don’t think anyone would have picked me for second. Maybe five people did in the pre-picks. I don’t think people would normally pick me for podium, but I’ve podiumed here the last two times I’ve run it. I’m not saying I really have a chance at podium, but you never know how the day is going to unfold. There’s always a chance.
iRunFar: Now that you’ve had this series of strong finishes and consistent and in a very smart way… do you at all look at Meghan Laws and that history and could it be that you’re sort of building in that direction to continue progressing?
Sproston: I would love to have the longevity that Meghan has. I think we all would. Again, I think States is just a great… I don’t like to go back to races generally, although I’ve gone to States several times and I keep banging my head on the wall with UTMB, but… there is something to be said for the early season, historic big 100. I’d love to potentially keep coming back here and try to continue to improve. This year, I’m kind of hoping I’ll stay in the top 10 and sneak my way in for next year, so that maybe next year, assuming injury and work travel and whatnot allow me to, to really focus on having that really perfect day at States.
iRunFar: Speaking of work travel, that’s something I deal with in trying to be a runner myself, and you definitely do. How much have you traveled so far this year, and how do you fit any training in?
Sproston: Since December, I’ve gone to three separate trips to Africa—Uganda, Rwanda—and Columbia. In March, I went around the world in 12 days where I stopped London, Delhi, and Myanmar for four days each. I went to Costa Rica in May for a race. I did do another race. I did a 50k in Costa Rica the week after Silver State. Then I was just in Uganda for work two weeks ago. That’s one thing I really enjoy about running is that you can run anywhere. I don’t have that thing where I need to be on a trail. I’m happy on a treadmill, I’m happy on a road, or I’m happy on a trail.
iRunFar: Some of the places you go probably aren’t the best places to even be out by yourself running on the roads.
Sproston: No, but I mean, since I went back to Afghanistan last year and did an outdoor running camp in Bamyan, that was the only country I’d never actually run in. I’ve run in the streets of South Sudan, I’ve run in Iraq, I’ve run in a lot of places where… when you’re running in Kurdish Iraq, you’re getting a lot of looks. It may not be comfortable, but it’s not ‘dangerous.’ I almost enjoy that kind of trying to get people to start seeing women running in those types of environments. Training is not perfect, but you can usually get out anywhere you go.
iRunFar: Even coming back from trips like that leaves one pretty tired. How do you transition back into trying to have a good routine again when you’re home?
Sproston: I unfortunately joined Strava a year ago, and I avoided Strava for years. I think a lot of runners are competitive. I do enjoy going to new countries and trying to tag at least one course record in every country I go to. But, I think the one thing about the travel, is it does give you forced rest. If you look at Strava, I don’t have the highest mileage of anyone they’re predicting for the top 10. I probably have the lowest mileage. I’m averaging 60 to 70 miles per week. A lot of the women are averaging 100 to 120 or so. I’m definitely not overtrained. I think that’s one good thing about travel. Every time I go to Africa, there are two travel days on the way there, and there are two travel days on the way back. Sometimes I can sneak in a run during travel but often not. You have these forced rest periods which I think is not a bad thing at the end of the day. I think a lot of people probably don’t rest enough.
iRunFar: What are you excited for on Saturday?
Sproston: I’m kind of excited to see where I’m at compared to this field. Again, it’s just the energy of States—it’s kind of hard to explain to people that haven’t run States, but to me the course is not the most interesting course that I’ve done. There are parts of it I don’t love. There are parts that I do really like. But it’s coming into Robinson Flat and having the crowds there. It’s not UTMB-sized crowds by any means, but it’s people you know. It’s a really kind of fun community. It’s the energy and excitement. I’m really excited for seeing my crew and enjoying the heat.
iRunFar: Enjoying and hating the heat at the same time.
Sproston: I always say that I love heat. I like that feeling when you get in the hot car or the feeling you get when you’re just about ready to start having heat stroke. I used to try when I lived in D.C. to run at lunch downtown in the hot, baking time of the day. When I’m around it, I love it. The problem is that Bend, Oregon, has been very… I’ve been back for two weeks, and I came from Costa Rica and Kampala which were both warm, but the first weekend back in Bend, it was snowing. Bend has not been super hot.
iRunFar: I think you’ll deal with the heat. Best of luck out there, Amy, and have fun.
Sproston: Thank you.