For the second year in a row, local runner Dylan Bowman co-hosts iRunFar’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships pre-race interviews. In this video, Dylan gives us his perspective on the men’s and women’s races, as well as this year’s new course and finish over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Dylan Bowman Previews the 2017 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with special guest, Dylan Bowman, before the 2017 The North Face 50 Mile. How are you, Dylan?
Dylan Bowman: Excellent. Can’t wait.
iRunFar: You’re not racing this year, but you are no less excited about this year’s race.
Bowman: I’m more excited than if I were racing.
iRunFar: Why is that?
Bowman: I’ve done the race four times, and I love the race. It does take place on my home trails in my home town. For that reason, it’s always a highlight of the year. As a fan of the sport, I enjoy spectating and experiencing the race from the other side as much as I enjoy racing it myself.
iRunFar: You’re not the only notable Bay Area person not running this year. There’s no Jorge [Maravilla], no Alex Varner, and on the women’s side, no Magda [Boulet], no YiOu [Wang].
Bowman: It’s true. This is actually maybe the least represented we’ll be in the last five or six years at least, or at least since I’ve been here. We are represented by Paddy O’Leary, who I spoke today and who I’m very high on going into the race whose training I’ve been able to see firsthand.
iRunFar: You were talking about that before the race a little bit.
Bowman: I’ve been talking about that for the last few weeks to anybody who will listen to me. I’m really excited about Paddy. I think he’s primed to have a good day.
iRunFar: Who else on the men’s side?
Bowman: The men’s race, I think, is going to be really interesting. Obviously, you can’t go past the two-time defending champ in Zach Miller. It will be really interesting to see how he bounces back from UTMB given the fact that it is three weeks less preparation time between the two races this year. But knowing Zach, and having been with him at The North Face athlete summit and seeing how he was training and how seriously he was taking it, I’m sure he’s going to be ready to go. Obviously, no one likes to hurt themselves as much as he does, so… you can’t go past him. Hayden [Hawks] obviously, who finished just one or two minutes shy of Zach last year in what was one of the greatest races of all time, is back. He seems to be really confident in his training when we spoke to him. When you’re doing 120- to 150-mile weeks, if you can stay healthy, it seems difficult to look past somebody like that who puts in that kind of work and is that prepared.
iRunFar: Who might surprise us?
Bowman: Beyond Paddy, who I think could legitimately finish in the top five or even on the podium if there’s a lot of carnage caused by the Zach-Hayden train, I think the other guys to look out for are Tim Freriks—I’ve heard that his training has gone really well. He won Transvulcania earlier in the year which is basically almost the TNF equivalent in Europe.
iRunFar: And he seems to pick his battles, too, apart from a very busy work and life schedule.
Bowman: He does. He seems to be racing intelligently and building up appropriately. I’ll be interested to see how he does. Max King is someone I’ll be really interested to see. He’s had an amazing season. He started out winning both the USA[TF] 50k [Trail National] Championships and then Chuckanut in a course-record time beating Hayden Hawks there, and, then, he had an insane run at Mont Blanc Marathon where he was just a few minutes back of Kilian Jornet and Stian Angermund-Vik in third place. It seems like he’s taking it really seriously this year. He’s just a guy who hasn’t raced to his potential here yet. I think it’s a course that really, really suits him.
iRunFar: It’s a runner’s course.
Bowman: It’s totally a runner’s course. I’d love to see Max get close to landing on the podium this year. Two guys who I’m really interested to see—Tayte Pollmann, young kid who has been racing really well over the last couple years.
iRunFar: This may be his 50-mile debut—I could be wrong.
Bowman: Probably. He specializes in skyracing stuff. I think he won Broken Arrow this year. He’s been consistent in the mountainous-type racing this year. I think he also did well in the [WMRA] Long Distance Mountain Running Championships. I’m really interested to see how he does. He’s really young. If this is his 50-mile debut, he probably has a good amount to learn, but I could envision him in that top-five range. Also, Nick Elson, from British Columbia—he’s an athlete who has always interested me because he’s a really great mountain runner and ski mountaineer.
iRunFar: He kind of flies under the radar in the U.S., because he hasn’t raced much in the U.S. He’s had some really good results up at Squamish 50 [Mile] before.
Bowman: He’s won Squamish a couple of times in a time commensurate with what Dakota Jones has run on that course, and Dakota is one of the best 50 milers we have. Those are the group of guys who I’m sort of keeping an eye on. Obviously, there’s probably another seven to 10 you could name who could be in contention.
iRunFar: And the women’s race, which I think both you and I are pretty excited about?
Bowman: Yeah, the women’s race, as we just talked about with Megan [Kimmel], I think is the most intriguing it’s ever been here. I’d love to see it play out in a similar way as the men’s race has the last several years in that often times there’s a pack that is running together and people pushing the pace up front and just a more aggressive dynamic, which I think we could see this year.
iRunFar: I think it’s hurt a little bit with Ruth Croft being a late pull. Emelie [Forsberg] is also a DNS, but she’s maybe a less aggressive racer than Ruth.
Bowman: Yeah, it’s too bad they’re not going to be here because they’re both amazing athletes. Obviously, Ruth is coming off maybe the biggest win of her career at Les Templiers. Even with them off the start list, the women’s race is just as intriguing as the men’s if not more so. Ida Nilsson, the defending champ, really put on a controlled but almost dominating performance last year. The couple times I saw her out on the course, she looked phenomenal. She was second at Templiers.
iRunFar: She was, in an amazing battle with Ruth. She was second, but it was an honest second.
Bowman: Then, she did rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon. Assuming she’s recovered and feeling good, you can’t go past her. Obviously, the champion from the year before, Megan Kimmel, seems to be doing well having come off a much better training block this year than she did last year. One person who I think could really throw a wrench into the whole race is Megan Roche who is a local runner who has won Way Too Cool three or four times near the men’s top 10 usually.
iRunFar: In fast years and slow years or muddy years.
Bowman: She, I think, is naturally a really aggressive racer, so I wouldn’t be surprised—even though this is her 50-mile debut—it we see her kind of pushing the pace.
iRunFar: It’s her 50-mile debut, but she’s been running 50ks for a number of years now, so it’s not like she’s inexperienced in the sport.
Bowman: This is the terrain she just destroys. It’s kind of like Way Too Cool. She does a lot of local races where she’s frequently on the overall podium. I think Megan Roche is someone to look out for and somebody who could have a big impact on the dynamic of the race. I’m also personally rooting for Stephanie Violett who had a tough go at UTMB a few months ago and who I think has been in Nepal for six weeks this fall. She’s put in good training there. I’d love to see her come back, because this is a type of race she excels at—the faster, more runnable type races. Obviously, she’s won Western States in the past, and she’s been on the podium here at least once, but I think maybe a couple of times. Clare Gallagher is somebody to look out for as well.
iRunFar: I know when I was thinking about the race, it’s easy to remember, she had a rough go at the end of Western States, but then you have to remember she just crushed CCC.
Bowman: Yeah, and I spent some time with her last month in Arizona, and she’s motivated. She always has such a good attitude, and I think that’s important going into big races like this. Another person who I think is interesting to watch is Anne-Marie Madden also from Canada. I think two years ago she was fourth, and then she also just had a great race at Templiers.
iRunFar: Yeah, she was battling Emelie Forsberg the whole way, and it was a great run for her there. There’s a really great Canadian women’s group, not just her, but Annie Jean who was fourth last year racing wearing a pair of Dawgs, which for the American crowd, like, raced 50 miles in Crocs and finished fourth.
Bowman: Really? You’re kidding!
iRunFar: Yes. No joke. The whole way. She’s said she’s a little tired, so maybe not racing so hard. Marianne Hogan had some really great races earlier in the year at Quadrock and Behind the Rocks 50 Mile and…
Bowman: Speedgoat maybe, too?
iRunFar: I think she was there, but kind of just threw herself out there really quick earlier this year. She has the kind of talent that could be in the mix for the top five.
Bowman: Yeah, I’ve said this to you and to a couple other people, but I’m running the marathon on Saturday, and based on our start time, I’m really hoping to be mixed in somewhere with the top-10 females in the 50-mile race while I’m out there running the marathon. Hopefully, I’ll have a front-row seat.
iRunFar: Will you send me some updates? Carry your phone please?
Bowman: I’ll be iRunFar’s correspondent from the field, yes.
iRunFar: Having just been at the Moab Trail Marathon a couple weeks ago, Renee Metivier, I’ve never met her, she ran a really impressive race there to win. She was more than a dozen times All-American collegiately, super strong runner, not well known in the trail world yet. This will be her first 50 miler. Chasing her down, I haven’t seen her on the entrants list, but I got a message last night that Sandi Nypaver is racing. She was less than a minute back of Renee and charging at Moab Trail Marathon a couple weeks ago. That’s a race that Megan Kimmel has run well in previous years and then come and run well here. It’s a marathon that’s only a couple weeks before, but it’s a pretty good tune up.
Bowman: Well, having two good late additions to the field will make up for, at least a little bit, losing Emelie and Ruth. I agree. It will be interesting to see how they both perform.
iRunFar: The women’s field is just stacked. I forgot Anne-Elise Rousset who is a tremendously strong runner from France. It’s going to be awesome. Before we go, the course—you live here, and I assume you’ve run across the Golden Gate Bridge. What’s the going to be like best case and worst-case scenarios?
Bowman: The bridge specifically, I think they’re going to do a good job controlling the traffic. From what I hear there’s going to be volunteers up there at least alerting people for approaching runners. If it comes down to something like last year with Zach and Hayden, worst-case scenario is there is a collision or somehow pedestrians affect the dynamic of the battle, but we know that’s probably very unlikely. It could be close, but I doubt they’re going to be shoulder to shoulder crossing the bridge. For me, I think it’s so cool. It’s just such an iconic landmark in the U.S. and, specifically, in the San Francisco Bay Area that to be able to cross it in an ultra is phenomenal.
iRunFar: How many physical spaces are that iconic globally that you could actually run on—maybe like the Great Wall of China, and there are a couple other ones?
Bowman: Yeah, I think it’s really cool. In terms of how it might affect the times of the race, I think the course will run similar to how it did on the old course, not the one last year which I think was fairly significantly faster, but on the course that we basically ran from 2008 to 2015. There were a few years with weather-affected courses. I think the men we’re still going to see in the low-sixes. I doubt we’ll see them go under six, because removing the out-and-back on the north end of the course, even though it doesn’t have a lot of vertical gain or loss, it’s one of the slower parts of the course historically, because you’re dodging two-way traffic and you’re on a very thin piece of singletrack. They’re replacing that with the road section where you crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I think that will actually make it a little bit faster, but then adding a little bit of extra mileage and a little bit of extra vert may cancel that out. I would still expect to see the men again in the low-sixes and the women in the low-sevens.
iRunFar: In chatting with Paddy, looking forward to that last super-straightaway finish, if there is a close race whether it’s for first or 15th… seeing that…
Bowman: You’ll definitely have a visual.
iRunFar: But also for the racer—it’s not like you’re winding through the trees, and you don’t know exactly how far that distance is linearly.
Bowman: Yeah, I think it’s going to be amazing. I’m excited about this change that The North Face has made to the race and to the course. Hopefully, it will bring in maybe some people from the city to the finish and bring more awareness to the sport and to the even itself.
iRunFar: It’s interesting, because it’s always been something that has been talked about with a big race whether it’s in San Francisco or the Front Range or somewhere where there’s a big population and you can put on a big trail race, but we really haven’t seen that in the U.S. yet where there’s a real buy-in from the larger community as there is in any race in Europe.
Bowman: Culturally, it’s a little bit different, but ideally, as the sport continues to grow, we’ll start seeing that. It starts with having creative ideas like having a new finish line at a race like this. Kudos to TNF for putting it together. You and I are going to have a front-row seat.
iRunFar: Thank you for this, and thank you for helping out with the interviews this morning.
Bowman: Heck yeah.