Get to know Elov Olsson of Sweden before this year’s Western States 100. Elov got into Western States by way of placing second at the Black Canyon 100k back in February, but already has run a pair of sub-14-hour 100 milers. In the following interview, Elov talks about what his racing history looks like, how he came to trail running, and why he hopes to run with Jim Walmsley.
Elov Olsson Pre-2017 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Elov Olsson before the 2017 Western States 100. How are you, Elov?
Elov Olsson: I’m good.
iRunFar: Welcome to California.
Olsson: Thank you.
iRunFar: You earned your way into this race by running second place at a very, very muddy Black Canyon 100k. How was your experience there?
Olsson: I was expecting a little bit more hot, but it was good for me. I was coming from winter in Sweden, and I got 10 degrees Celsius and rain, so it was good.
iRunFar: Before that, at the end of last year, you were 11th at the [IAU] 100k [World] Championships on the roads—another good experience for you, yes?
Olsson: Yes, absolutely.
iRunFar: How did that race come together? It wasn’t flawless throughout?
Olsson: No, the first half I ran with a group, and maybe at half way, I was a little bit tired, so I slowed down for two or three 10k loops. Then, I got some more energy back, because I ate a lot. The energy came back, and I did strong last loops.
iRunFar: You made up a lot of places.
Olsson: Yes, I think in that last lap I made up eight places.
iRunFar: Is that something you’ll keep in mind this weekend?
Olsson: Yes, absolutely. I’ve experienced that sort of thing a lot.
iRunFar: You’ve not run 100-mile trail race, correct?
Olsson: Yes, I ran UTMB.
iRunFar: How did that go?
Olsson: It was horrible.
iRunFar: Not indicative of your fitness?
Olsson: No, from four hours until the end at 30 hours, I was sleepwalking every uphill. It was a disaster.
iRunFar: Maybe something not to remember?
Olsson: It was good. I finished.
iRunFar: Is that sort of a goal you keep in this race, to finish?
Olsson: To finish? Always to finish the race, I think, but my goal is much higher than that.
iRunFar: What might that be?
Olsson: I’m going to go for the first, of course.
iRunFar: All your talk with Jim Walmsley on social media, there’s a basis for that?
Olsson: Absolutely. I’ve never gotten such good training as I have for this one, so…
iRunFar: Jim has been quite public in that he plans to go out really hard and go for 14 hours. Are you going to try to stick with Jim, or is there another plan?
Olsson: I don’t think he will let me do it. He wants to do his own race and run alone. I think it might be hard to run with him, but I will also go out quite hard, I think.
iRunFar: Be aggressive?
Olsson: Yes, I will not stay back. I will run in my comfort zone, but not stay back.
iRunFar: We’ve got to see your countryman, Jonas Buud, run a lot of races, and he’s not super conservative, but he always runs his own race from start to finish. Do you look up to the way he races, or are you more aggressive?
Olsson: I think I’m a little more aggressive, but I look up to him, absolutely. He’s a great runner, but I think I’m not the same runner as he is. I will take some advice from him, too.
iRunFar: Obviously, he’s really well known with great results from 100k on the roads and some trail races. Do you think you’re fitter than him right now?
Olsson: I got more training and better training, and at the training camp, I felt more fit to do this, I think.
iRunFar: How did you get into trail running? What is your athletic background?
Olsson: I think maybe the adventure stuff, being out in the nature, is awesome and not just the road stuff. I like the road stuff, too, but in training it’s much more fun to run on the trails.
iRunFar: That’s where your passion is?
iRunFar: Were you involved in sports when you were a child, or when did you start being more active?
Olsson: I’ve always done ball sports like football, basketball, ice hockey, floor ball, and, then, I started with extreme skiing like slopestyle with jumping and vaulting and doing loops and spinning around. But I injured my knee in 2009 by twisting it really bad.
iRunFar: No more—kind of ended that career?
Olsson: Yes, I’ve done five surgeries on my left knee.
iRunFar: How did you find running?
Olsson: After two years of rehab, I just thought, No more skiing. I didn’t fall for it. I needed something to keep on training, because my knee is not good when I’m not training. It gets swollen and stuff. I started with cross-country skiing and did Vasaloppet on skis for three years.
iRunFar: The famous 90k ski race.
Olsson: Yes, I started with that, and in the summer I was running a little bit. But quite fast, I started to escalate with more and more longer stuff. It took me maybe two or three years, and, then, I tried my first ultra.
iRunFar: Which was, which race?
Olsson: The Tec [Täby Extreme Challenge] 50 Mile in Stockholm. I started out in my comfort zone with just running, and I think my last 10k loop was the fastest one in that race. It was a good experience.
iRunFar: And you’ve keep those good experiences going.
Olsson: Yes, one year later I held almost the same pace for 100 miles. That was 13:38 in my third ultra.
iRunFar: 13:38 for 100 miles, so you’ve broken 14 hours in the 100 miles. Jim, have you done that?
Olsson: Yes, I’ve done it twice.
iRunFar: Did you do that also as a split at the 24 hour?
Olsson: Yes, it was right under 14 hours at 100 miles.
iRunFar: You carried on and ran 157 miles—200-how-many kilometers?
iRunFar: That was an indoor national record or an overall national record?
Olsson: No, indoor. It was a 239-meter loop.
iRunFar: Which is more than 1,000 laps.
Olsson: 1,058… that’s mental.
iRunFar: That is mental. Do you think that makes you stronger in what is presumably a more enjoyable experience?
Olsson: Yeah, I think so. I’m not afraid of running alone, and I can keep on pushing for quite a bit.
iRunFar: When did you decide you wanted to run Western States?
Olsson: At the world championships, me and Johan started talking about next year and how I should get into Western. It was not an option to put my name in the lottery, so we looked for Golden Ticket races, and Black Canyon was the best think, I think, because I had to relax a bit after the world championships and then start training. It was good.
iRunFar: If I remember correctly, you and your Scott teammates swept that race. It was you and Alex [Nichols] and who was third at that race?
Olsson: Eric Senseman.
iRunFar: Did you know those two guys before the race?
Olsson: I’ve met Alex before, but Eric, it was the first time.
iRunFar: That was a really muddy race. How did you get through the challenge of that?
Olsson: It was insane. It was like having snowshoes on. The mud was just building up. You just have to deal with it. It’s the same for everyone.
iRunFar: The early miles of this race—they’re going to run the traditional course rather than an altered snow course—so you’re going to be running on the snow a lot. Obviously, you do some training on the snow. Do you think that gives you an advantage early in the race?
Olsson: I think I’m quite good at the snow. I’ve done a Vertical K at Broken Arrow, so that was a good uphill. Getting down from the mountain, you just have to turn down on snow. It was pretty good.
iRunFar: The heat will also be a challenge this weekend. How have you prepared for that living in Sweden?
Olsson: That’s the hard part. I don’t have the Phoenix desert to train in like Jim, but I’ve done some sauna and stuff to try to keep some heat training. It’s been quite hot here, but not 100 Fahrenheit.
iRunFar: Aside from trying to do well this weekend, is there anything you’re most excited about or anticipating?
Olsson: I am absolutely excited about nature. It’s a beautiful course. If I’m having a bad day, I will enjoy the nature.
iRunFar: I understand you saw your first-ever bear in the wild?
Olsson: Yeah, yesterday a car came across the street and just braked. I looked out to see why he did that, and a bear came across the road just across the street.
iRunFar: Best of luck to you this weekend. Enjoy.
Olsson: Thank you.