Hayden Hawks took second at last year’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in one of the tightest and most entertaining 50-mile races iRunFar has watched. In this interview, Hayden talks about what he’s learned through his 2017 successes and failures, how his recovery from winning CCC and his TNF 50 training have both gone, and if he’s seeking a different outcome at this year’s TNF 50.
Hayden Hawks Pre-2017 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with co-host, Dylan Bowman, and Hayden Hawks before the 2017 TNF 50 Mile. How are you, Hayden?
Hayden Hawks: How’s it going?
iRunFar: Alright. You return after your great second place here last year—one of the classic battles of ultrarunning that I’ve seen in a decade.
Dylan Bowman: Of all time.
iRunFar: I think we can say that.
Bowman: I feel your pain because I finished second to Zach [Miller] the year before. We are kindred spirits in that regard.
Hawks: It wasn’t too much pain. I’m alright finishing second to Zach.
Bowman: You guys had a great race. Talk a little bit about that race. You don’t have to rehash the whole thing, but it was one of the greatest races of all time that I can remember witnessing it first hand. I think it was two minutes at the end or even less. How did that affect you because it kind of puts you on the map to a certain degree? You had won Speedgoat last year, but The North Face 50 Mile race, at least in my mind, was sort of like your coming-out party. You’ve had a lot of success since then. Talk about how that race has affected your career.
Hawks: Yeah, I was really surprised. The video that Run Steep Get High did of me and Zach, I was really surprised how big that blew up, but it really helped my career. It helped catapult me into all the ultrarunning and build a little bit of a name for myself. I just went out there to compete—that was the biggest thing. I knew that it was going to be tough competition like it always is. My whole perspective going in was just to run hard, run as hard as I possibly can, and give everything I have and make sure I have nothing left at the end. It’s kind of what I did. Zach just had a little bit better day than me. That guy is a champion. He’s an amazing runner. Yeah, it was probably one of the most special races I’ve had so far. I’m just excited to be back here because this race means so much to me—being my first 50 miler and being the race that got me going in the sport.
iRunFar: Late last year you had that great race at The North Face, and then you absolutely crushed Moab Red Hot. Then you were second to Max King at Chuckanut which was another great race—maybe a bad shoe choice. I know you were slipping around a little bit at Chuckanut.
Bowman: Under the previous record.
iRunFar: Yeah, just nailing them. You kind of had a strategy going for that and then tried to burn a little too hot at Transvulcania and [Trail] World [Championships] and realized you messed up and just were racing a little too much and too often. Does having that CCC… did that feel like redemption? Did that feel that it showed that you need a couple-month lead-up to a big race?
Hawks: Yeah, for sure. That was my goal race for the whole entire year. After this race. I set that goal that I wanted to win CCC. Having that tough little spell there in the middle was kind of tough, but I learned a lot from it. It really helped me become a more mature and stronger runner. It helped me realize what I need going into races. I need a good training block. I need to recover a little bit and make sure I’m not doing back-to-back-to-back stuff. I did well for three or four of those races, and then the last two, I had nothing left. It was just too many—six races of 50k or more during the spring is just too much especially at the level I’m trying to run in that. I’m really excited going into this race because I’ve had that same type of training block I had going into CCC and going into Moab and Chuckanut. The good thing, too, is it’s raining outside, and every race that I’ve done well this year, it’s rained. So, we’ll see.
Bowman: How did you work out of that slump in between Transvulcania and worlds and then building up to CCC? Did you take a lot of time off and then…?
Hawks: I took two weeks completely off with just a little bit of hiking. I took two weeks completely off to just kind off reset everything—reset physically but also mentally. I spent some time with my family and was just like, Okay, I’m not going to think about running for two weeks. Then after that, I’m going to go straight into it. Coming back, I didn’t feel very good because I think I was still trashed from a lot of those races and then the two weeks off. In my head I knew that if I could get a good training block in and not have injuries, I could win CCC. The fitness has always been there, it’s just a matter of recovering for me.
Bowman: Speaking of winning CCC and then recovering, have you found that that has gone well as well? We were just talking to Zach, and he did UTMB. The races this year—UTMB and TNF—are three weeks closer this year, and the same is true for CCC obviously. How did you recover from CCC, and do you feel like you bounced back pretty quickly and trained well?
Hawks: Yeah, for sure. I felt really recovered actually. I think I had a really good day at CCC. I had a really good race. Everything went good; my nutrition and everything went great. I think it was easier to recover because I didn’t bonk. I didn’t have a bad day. At the end of CCC, I finished and I was like, Man, I could run more. I felt great.
Bowman: Really? You should have jumped into UTMB.
Hawks: I don’t know about that, but yeah, I felt great. I think feeling so great and learning from my previous races how to recover, going into this, I recovered really, really well. I tried to transition into some more faster speed stuff going into this. That was kind of tough. Coming from mountains to speed is kind of a hard transition, but I transitioned really well. I have some really good leg speed going into this race.
iRunFar: You’re a dad now. How is that, and how is that affecting your running?
Hawks: It’s not affecting my running at all. I have an amazing wife who supports me so much. She’s a runner herself, so she knows exactly what I’m doing. She’s been super supportive and lets me get my workouts in. She’s always like, “You go do this. You need to do this. You need to do this.” She pushes me actually. It’s been awesome having a kid. He actually motivates me even more. It’s helped me become more mature and helped me grow up.
iRunFar: You come from running. You’ve been running for a long time. It’s a thing that’s been fun for you for a long time and through competition and all that… but does it make it feel more like a job now? You do the workouts to get the results to support your family, or does it still feel like you’re getting out there because you still just love to be out there running?
Hawks: I just love to be out there running. I love it so much. I’ve always loved running. If anything, it makes me love it even more because I spend a lot of time during the day taking care of the kid, changing diapers, so it’s good for me to be able to go out and be able to get up into the mountains and get that fresh air and kind of relax and get my mind off some stuff. Then I go back to loving the kid as much as I can when I go home. It’s been a good transition, and really, it hasn’t changed much at all. If anything I’ve trained harder leading into this race even with a kid.
Bowman: Talk about that a little bit. You obviously have a reputation as a high-volume trainer, and you can see what you do on Strava. But can you tell us what this build-up has looked like or what an average week has look like for you?
Hawks: After CCC I did a 30-mile week, kind of a little bit of recovery but got some good vert in. The next five weeks or so was just a gradual increase up to 150 miles which was my highest week with 20,000 feet of vertical.
Bowman: That qualifies as high volume.
Hawks: Yeah, I guess. Then I’ve slowly built back down leading into this race.
Bowman: You do a couple workouts a week, and you said you’ve been trying to do faster?
Hawks: Yeah, usually two workouts per week. I started off doing a lot of climbing. I had a week in there with 24,000 feet of vert. I was in the Grand Canyon doing some stuff. I’ve actually put in some really good speed leading into this training block, like track intervals and really fast stuff. I did a workout last week of 4 x 1 mile repeats and averaged 4:45 pace. I did a workout during this period that was 4 x 5k and averaged 15:37.
Bowman: I never ran track, so I don’t know what that means, but it sounds fast.
iRunFar: Really fast.
Hawks: Yeah, it’s been a mix of speed and long runs. I’ve gotten a couple good 30-to-35-mile long runs in.
iRunFar: It sounds like a good lead-up here, Hayden. Best of luck out there.
Hawks: Thanks, man.
Bowman: Good luck, man.
Hawks: Take care, man.