After a three-year hiatus following his win of the 2015 edition, Dylan Bowman has returned to compete at the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. In this interview, Dylan recaps his 2017 racing season, his training approach ahead of Tarawera, and how he celebrated the Super Bowl last weekend in New Zealand.
Dylan Bowman Pre-2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Dylan Bowman. It’s a couple days before the 2018 Tarawera Ultramarathon. Hey, we’re in New Zealand!
Dylan Bowman: Sweet as!
iRunFar: You’re apparently supposed to say that here.
Bowman: Yeah, I guess so. I try to pick up as many of the Kiwi and Aussie words as I can while I’m down here.
iRunFar: This is not unfamiliar space to you. You were here three years ago. You are the 2015 Tarawera champion.
Bowman: Yeah, I am. Yeah, in 2015 I came down and it was kind of my first big international win, at least. It was a good day, with lots of good memories. I made a lot of good friends, and it worked out to come again this year. I’m glad to be back.
iRunFar: The last time we spoke on camera with you was back in 2016. So we need a 2017 season refresh. You had a year.
Bowman: Yeah. Last year was great in that I kind of focused on 100 milers. That was a little bit unintentional. Basically, I needed six points for the UTMB because the Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji had been rained out the year before. So I went to 100 Miles of Istria on the Ultra-Trail World Tour in April and had a really good race there. That gave me the points I needed for UTMB.
And then, UTMB was an amazing day. Incredible racing. I was really satisfied with seventh place, but I definitely feel like I can go back and improve there, which is a good feeling. Then, I tried to close the year last year at Ultra-Trail Cape Town and, unfortunately, got a bit of a stomach bug the day before the race. I wasn’t able to do it, but it was a really cool event and I was happy to be able to see it. I’ll look forward to going back there. So that was my year. I haven’t raced since UTMB. It’s been a while. I’m looking forward to knocking the rust off and feeling fresh.
iRunFar: So going into Ultra-Trail Cape Town back in December, you had trained quite hard for that?
Bowman: I wouldn’t say I trained that hard for it. I trained for four or five weeks really hard for it, but I wasn’t doing major mileage. I think it was more a matter of benefitting from the huge training I did for UTMB. So I was doing short intervals and 70 to 75 miles per week. Nothing super [tough]… but my body really responded well to it just, because it was so different from the UTMB slog training in Aspen. I was feeling really good and really primed for the race, so it was a shame I got sick. Ryan Sandes was there and the same thing happened to him at Western States a couple years ago, too. It happens. It’s part of the game. It’s disappointing. Hopefully, it will give me motivation for this weekend.
iRunFar: After Ultra-Trail Cape Town you probably thought you’d get to sit down, put your feet up, watch a little sports on TV. But you came home sort of fresh still. Did you end up still taking a little downtime? What did that look like?
Bowman: First of all, the trip–it’s so far away. Getting sick and then coming back meant my body was totally discombobulated for a little while. I didn’t force myself back into training, which was good, because obviously I was disappointed, so I was happy that I was able to restrain myself a little bit. I kind of intended to go to the Hong Kong 100k in January, but because I was just coming off that disappointment, I didn’t want to rush myself into it and potentially have another disappointment. So I took my time and, I mean, I did some decent training for this but definitely not as much as last time. I feel fresh and motivated, certainly, and I’m just excited to go again and in the opposite direction this year.
iRunFar: This sport is getting trickier and trickier in that there’s no real off-season where everybody rests now. Did you say after Ultra-Trail Cape Town, “I’m going to take a little downtime. I am going to recover.” And now this is starting the new season?
Bowman: I guess it was balancing both states of mind. I was disappointed and wanted to capitalize on the fitness that I felt like I had in Cape Town. But I didn’t want to rush into it, so I did take it pretty easy over the holidays and had some turkey. At the beginning of this year I had a little thing with my hamstring that I thought was a big thing but ended up being pretty minor. That basically put me down for a week or two. So, it’s sort of been fits and starts but over the last two or three weeks I’ve been feeling really good even though I’m not training that much. I think part of it is that I’ve been in the sport a long time. So sometimes I benefit more from rest and shorter training blocks than I do from those really long, intense training blocks.
iRunFar: It’s the 10th anniversary of Tarawera and you mentioned that one of the unique features is that they’ve turned the course around. You’re finishing in downtown Rotorua and you’re starting at what used to be the finish line. So everything you know about Tarawera you just do it backward. What do you think?
Bowman: I think this year’s course is better, for me, definitely. The first marathon is really, really fast and, then, it becomes progressively harder throughout the race. The back half is slower terrain than the first half so it becomes more of a strength race at the end, which I think suits me a bit more because I didn’t come from a road/track kind of background and leg speed is something I lack confidence in. I think the course as a whole is a great race to start the season, because it’s a pretty forgiving 100k. The trails are soft and the weather is usually pretty mild. I think it’s a good race for me to get the racing juices going again. Racing in the opposite direction, I think, is good at least to make it feel a little bit more novel. Yeah, I’m looking forward to going in the opposite direction and finishing at the lake. The finish line looks pretty cool. I hope I make it.
iRunFar: You’ll make it. One of the tricky parts you mentioned earlier in the interview is the hardship of doing international travel. To come, I mean, we’re effectively on the other side of the world from our home in the US. Some people can wash off 15 hours of time difference a bit easier than others. Some people, their legs get pretty locked up on long travel. Have you figured out how to do this yet?
Bowman: Some trips are easier than others. I think it’s easier to fly the west. I’m lucky in that from San Francisco I can fly direct most places. If not direct, I can get most places pretty easily. Even if it’s a long flight, often time it’s direct. That was the case with this, it was San Francisco to Auckland, so it’s a 14-hour flight. But the time difference is also pretty easy, which is another reason I think it’s a good way to start the season. It’s a 21-hour time difference, so it’s really only three hours and a day. That makes the adjustment a little easier. But I always have a difficult time racing in Europe. The jet lag seems to stay in my system. I can never adjust my sleep schedule well enough until I get home, and, then, I can’t sleep at home. I often talk to my wife about how I feel I’m really sensitive to travelling and the stresses of it. I try to hydrate as much as I can and stretch to stay loose, get a massage, sleep as much as I can. But again, this race is probably the easiest international trip you can do, at least on the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
iRunFar: Winter trip to New Zealand.
Bowman: Yeah, tough life [laughs].
iRunFar: Good luck to you this weekend. We look forward to chasing you from out of town back to in town again.
Bowman: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: I have a bonus question. Don’t think you get to go away yet. Rumor has it that you might have had a little bit of Super Bowl festivities here in New Zealand. Tell me about what happened.
Bowman: Well, first of all, I was sober for the month of January.
iRunFar: Was this just to drop a few pounds, or a good life habit?
Bowman: No. This was the second or third time I’ve done it. It’s just a good way to start the year, especially after the holidays.
iRunFar: Does that mean you like to enjoy yourself in many capacities over the holidays?
No, I mean, not to excess. But it feels good to go off the booze for a little while. But the fun thing was that a good friend from college who’s been living in Australia since we graduated, a Colorado boy, he flew up to meet me in Auckland to watch the Super Bowl. So we kind of reminisced about old college days and put a couple back. But it was more mellow than it may have seemed on Instagram. This was my second time watching the Super Bowl in New Zealand, and both times have been fun. The Patriots won one of them and they lost the second one.
iRunFar: Really? You watched the Patriots both times? So, not too much excess before the race.
Bowman: No. I had a couple frosty cold ones but, you know, nothing that would be detrimental to racing on Saturday.
iRunFar: I’ll hold you to that on Saturday. Thanks, Dylan.