Taylor Nowlin had a breakout race in taking second at the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. In our first interview with Taylor, find out her history with running and about who she is outside of the sport, what it was like competing successfully on Lake Sonoma’s big stage, how she managed nutrition issues in the race’s second half, and where we might see her race next.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile results article.
Taylor Nowlin Post-2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m with Taylor Nowlin. She’s finished second at the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Hey, congratulations!
Taylor Nowlin: Thank you so much!
iRunFar: You had a heck of a race.
Nowlin: Yeah, it was a wild ride. I’m so sore now. I feel like everything on my body hurts. I just started walking semi-normally getting out of that restaurant.
iRunFar: I just met you at a pizza place where you’d had some pizza and beer, so things are looking okay.
Nowlin: Yeah, things are looking up.
iRunFar: This is iRunFar’s first interview with you, and to be honest, I googled you last week. So who’s Taylor?
Nowlin: Well, I’m from Edgewater, Colorado, and I’m about to move to Flagstaff, Arizona, though.
iRunFar: Are you going to become a Coconina Cowgirl?
Nowlin: Oh, gosh… I’ll live in Flagstaff.
iRunFar: The rest is TBD.
Nowlin: Yeah, I started running… I ran in college. I was actually a steeplechaser in college.
iRunFar: Where did you go to school?
Nowlin: I went to Oregon State University. It was a great sport. I’ve never done another steeplechase barrier since graduating.
iRunFar: But I’ve appropriately trained for trail running should there ever be a tree in my path.
Nowlin: Yeah, exactly. I actually think about that a lot when I’m trail running. Okay, I trained for this. My form is not where it was because I’m not flexible anymore. I can’t go over hurdles, but I think it’s applicable.
iRunFar: I’m ready. So you were a steeplechaser at Oregon State…
Nowlin: Yeah, I moved out to Crested Butte, Colorado, and lived there for a year. Then, I moved to Denver. I started trail running when I was in Crested Butte. Stevie Kremerlives there, and I was really inspired by her to test it out and see if I liked it. When I first moved out there I tried to train for the California International Marathon. I wanted an Olympic Trials Qualifier, and I didn’t get it. I got the flu instead and still raced. It was just a terrible day. After that, I said, “I’m not road running anymore,” and immediately switched to trails.
iRunFar: The rest is kind of history, or do you still race on roads?
Nowlin: No, I haven’t. I should hop in a half marathon to see if I still have a little bit of speed left, but I don’t think I’ve done a road race since that dramatic experience.
iRunFar:What’s your trajectory in trail running. I saw you finished Behind The Rocks 50kabout a month ago, and then I know you also tried Sean O’Brien [100k]?
Nowlin: Yeah, I got third at Sean O’Brien, and those were my only races this season so far.
iRunFar: What’s your history with trail racing? What did you do last year?
Nowlin: Last year my goal was to win the US Skyrunner Series. I was able to do that thankfully.
iRunFar: The shorter distance or ultra distance?
Nowlin: I did the shorter distance. That was a really fun experience. I love really, really technical trails, so that’s why I chose that as my goal. That was a big year for me just to… I realized that instead of doing random trail races here and there, I kind of needed something to focus on to be a little bit more motivated and not just spend all weekend skiing instead.
iRunFar: That’s why you put the Skyrunner Series on your schedule?
Nowlin: Yeah, it kind of gave me something to build on. I was still doing a lot of climbing then and…
iRunFar: Rock climbing?
Nowlin: Yeah, I rock climbed last year. I tried ski mountaineering. I can go up stuff, but I’m a terrible skier. This year I bought a season pass and said, “I’m going to get really good at skiing.” And then there was no snow in Colorado, and I decided that now was the time I really needed to focus on… yeah, just run through the winter. This is the first winter that I’ve ever really seriously trained. So, yeah, it worked out well.
iRunFar: Okay, so I have to ask—you’ve run Sean O’Brien, and now you’ve run Lake Sonoma—are you wanting a Golden Ticket? Is it not just coincidence that you show up at these couple races?
Nowlin: I just wanted to get into some more competitive fields. That’s why I’m here. I haven’t done a lot of big races with a lot of fast women. That’s what really attracted me to this. I might do Lavaredo, or I might do Western States.
iRunFar: They’re both on the same day, so you can’t do both.
Nowlin: Yeah, that hasn’t been decided yet.
iRunFar: That’s my answer to the question about whether you’re going to take the Golden Ticket. It’s also to be determined.
Nowlin: Yes, also to be determined. La Sportiva needs to come through on Lavaredo. If they don’t, I’ll be at Western States. That’s the plan.
iRunFar: La Sportiva better decide in the next week. Did you see that wink? I did.
Nowlin: If it works, I don’t care. I have no shame.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about today’s race. You took it out pretty hard. You were immediately in second position.
Nowlin: Yeah, which I didn’t realize. I honestly thought… because I saw Keely [Henninger]in front of me, and, then, I saw someone else who I thought was a lady, but it turns out it was a guy. So, the whole entire race…
iRunFar: Sorry, buddy.
Nowlin: Yeah, he was a ways away. Yeah, I know. I’m not naming names.
iRunFar: Except for it was the guy in the red jersey… just kidding.
Nowlin: Yeah, I know what he looks like. Anyway, so I thought I was in third the whole time. People kept saying, “You’re in second! Second female! Good job!” I was like, “No, that’s a lie. I’m in third. I know this. I saw that woman.” But I was wrong. It was a fun day. Yeah, I have a little bit to work on with my nutrition. I kind of had some hiccups towards the end. I think the last 15 miles all I had was a Gu, so the finish was really rough for me.
iRunFar: Let’s talk a little bit about how the course went. For people who are from the Rocky Mountain West, they usually find this course unusual. It’s not a technical track, but loads of climbing built into the track.
Nowlin: Yeah, I don’t train on stuff like that in Colorado, but it really reminded me a lot of growing up in Portland, because Forest Park looks really similar. A lot of the trail runs I did in high school when I lived in Portland looked a lot like that. So when I was out on the course I was like,Oh, it kind of reminds me of home. Yeah, but those rolling hills are hard. At first I was like, Whoo, this is fun. It’s like I’m on a roller coaster. But the longer it kept going on, I was hurting.
iRunFar: It’s all about momentum on this type of terrain. When you start losing your momentum when you get tired, it’s hard to keep transitioning over and over.
Nowlin: Yeah, I definitely had a lot of difficulty with that especially towards the end. Hammering the downhill and then trying to run back up… it hurt. The last four miles, I was on the pain train.
iRunFar: I saw you on the inbound at Warm Springs at mile 38, and you were one of the first people who hiked the hill up to where I was standing, and at first I thought, “Uh-oh,” but you were hiking just as fast as the gentleman who was running with you. You are a strong hiker.
Nowlin: Thanks. Yeah, I think Skyrunning helped a lot with that, because so much of the hills are just not runnable at all. So, last year I got a little bit better at power hiking at a decent clip. I definitely power hike a little bit more than the people around me in races.
iRunFar: I was going to ask you, did you use hiking as one of your tools today?
Nowlin: I hiked a decent amount. I think I need to work on that a little bit more, not falling back to hiking. That’s kind of like a safe place for me.
iRunFar: I feel good when I hike.
Nowlin: Yeah, I know. Nico [Barraza]was telling me that it was a runnable course. It’s all runnable. It’a all runnable. I started hiking pretty early. I won’t lie.
iRunFar: That’s possibly why you finished second place though if you started hiking early.
Nowlin: Yeah, maybe it helped.
iRunFar: Talk about the inbound. I think everyone suffered the last 10 miles, but I think you seemed to suffer a little bit better than everyone else?
Nowlin: Ooooh, I didn’t feel very good at all. I just stopped eating. I haven’t really done anything like… I was like, Oh, my stomach can handle everything, but I had no appetite, and I had a bunch of goldfish and chips and pretzels because I couldn’t do Gu anymore because it was disgusting, so I was just eating all these salty snack foods.
iRunFar: So you were craving salty stuff?
Nowlin: Well, initially, but then I was trying to eat them, and my mouth was immediately just so dry that I couldn’t… I was having to drink Gu Roctane with pretzels with goldfish or whatever. It was a weird combination.
iRunFar: But it was working?
iRunFar: It was not working?
Nowlin: I don’t think I’m going to do that again. It was the only calories I had. I was just trying to be resourceful with what was stuffed in my sports bra.
iRunFar: Get anything in.
Nowlin: Pretty much.
iRunFar: Did you have any read on where the other women were? Were you looking back? Did you ever get a glimpse of anybody?
Nowlin: I think at mile 30, me and third place were really close to each other. I took off and I was like, “Okay, I’m going to try to drop her, and hopefully she won’t catch me, and I’ll be in second and just stay in second.” Then, coming into the little aid station at mile 45, it’s a tiny out-and-back, and when I was coming up the hill, she was coming down. She looked great and said hi and was just so cheery. I was like, “Oh, no!”
iRunFar: This is my worst nightmare!
Nowlin: I know! I can’t get past. So those last 4.7 miles, I was running really nervous and very scared.
iRunFar: It must have made you run fast enough to… yeah.
Nowlin: Yeah, it was motivating, but I think I needed it in a good way.
iRunFar: The last 4.7 miles are pretty mean. Yeah, it’s 4.7 or 4.8 because this is a 50.3 mile race. It’s a mean finish.
Nowlin: Yeah, it was gnarly. All those little bumper hills become more and more painful the further you’re running.
iRunFar: And they trend uphill, too.
Nowlin: The hard part about that course is you never… the terrain blocks sound, so I couldn’t really hear… my watch was a little off, and I couldn’t hear the finish line. I was sort of waiting, When am I going to hear that I’m close? Where is it? Where is it? It needs to be here soon because I’m dying. I rounded the final corner and crossed that road and had a mile to go and it was like, Thank goodness. Now I can eat pizza and sleep for four days.
iRunFar: Get onto the most crucial part of the day.
Nowlin: Yeah, recovery.
iRunFar: Congrats to you on your second-place finish.
Nowlin: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: We look forward to seeing where you head next.
Nowlin: Thank you!
iRunFar: See you in Europe maybe… or see you in Squaw.
Nowlin: It’s a win-win situation.
iRunFar: It really is.
Nowlin: I really can’t complain.
iRunFar: Congrats again.
Nowlin: Thank you so much.