Kaytlyn Gerbin took second at the 2018 Western States 100, proving up even further on her fourth-place finish last year. In the following interview, Kaytlyn talks about going out harder this year than last year, riding that edge between too much and just the right effort, what it felt like to finish second at this race, and if she thinks she’ll return to race again in 2019.
Kaytlyn Gerbin Post-2018 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m with Kaytlyn Gerbin. She just finished second place at the 2018 Western States Endurance Run. How does that feel?
Kaytlyn Gerbin: It feels so awesome and very painful.
iRunFar: First of all, congratulations. What an epic you had yesterday!
Gerbin: It was an awesome run. It was hot. It was hard. I was pushing myself more than I sometimes tend to do, so I was feeling it, but I feel like I ran strong and smart. I’m happy with how things turned out.
iRunFar: When we interviewed you before the race, that’s sort of one of the things I remember you saying—you were planning on testing yourself just a little bit more and putting yourself out there. You did that with intention right off the start yesterday.
Gerbin: Yeah, actually, I weirdly spaced out at the beginning of the race. Right after the Escarpment I went down and pretty much that next 15 miles I was running mostly by myself. I’d sometimes pass somebody or somebody would pass me, but mostly I was by myself. Actually, it was really good because it forced me to forget about everybody else who was running the race which was good because I just kind of settled into my groove and into my pace. I was trying to maintain something comfortably uncomfortable. It was good. Then, I ended up running a little bit with Nicole [Kalogeropoulos]in the canyons which was fun. Otherwise, it was more spaced out than it was last year.
iRunFar: Can you talk about that feeling? I think the idea of being on the edge of comfortably uncomfortable is something that lots of ultrarunners both experiment with and are terrified about. What did that feel like? What were you doing?
Gerbin: Last year, I came into Foresthill and I was ready to rock and roll. Green Gate was the same thing. Then, I finished and I still felt like if the race was 10 miles longer, I’d probably be able to keep going. I’ve been noticing that I think sometimes I tend to be maybe not too conservative but conservative, so I wanted to constantly check in with myself. When I was walking, Is it any harder to run?If the answer was no, then I would jog. I would just switch back and forth like that just checking in. I was wearing a watch, but I wasn’t paying attention at all and was just going by feel. I had splits from my crew, but I kind of only had the first one memorized, and then after that, it didn’t really matter. They were telling me how it was… they were following. That was good because then I could just run by feel.
iRunFar: Speaking of feel, two times, fourth place last year and second place this year, your race played out a lot differently. You were in it with the women from the get go. Last year, it was all the sudden you were a steam train and you just rolled through the whole field. This year it was like, bloop, bloop, bloop, and gently picking your way forward. How was the ground feel of the women’s competition?
Gerbin: This field—last year was stacked, but this year was also stacked. I didn’t really know… part of trying to run my own race was I wasn’t entirely aware of where everyone else was. I was paying more attention to what felt within reason to run but knowing I wanted it to be a more aggressive pace than I ran last year. A lot of it was paying attention to the time and not so much where people were. I knew that the canyons were where people tend to slow down, so maybe I would catch somebody in the canyons. After that, I wanted to come across the river and not be totally burnt out either. I was just trying to… it’s hard. With the heat and everything, it’s hard to entirely gauge, but definitely knowing the course from last year it helped a lot. Last year when I ran the course, I hadn’t been on the course at all, so everything was new which was really fun, but this year then I was going through different sections of the course going, Oh, I remember this part. That was also a big confidence boost for me yesterday because as I went through certain sections…
iRunFar: I walked this last year and now I’m running.
Gerbin: Totally, and with my pacers, too, they were like, “We were walking a lot of these hills last year.” So that was fun.
iRunFar: Now, you came in second place right around the mile 93 or 94 aid station.
Gerbin: Lucy [Bartholomew]was in third (second) and we passed her after Green Gate and before the Highway 49 crossing. I can’t remember what the mileage was.
iRunFar: Where you moved into second place?
Gerbin: Yes. She was actually moving pretty well when I passed her. She stayed pretty close behind for pretty while. I think after that last aid station she was only a minute behind. We rolled through, and we could hear people cheering for her behind us. She was moving really well.
iRunFar: Our reporters at the last few aid stations said that you spent zero seconds in the aid stations. It was all business, and some of them you didn’t even stop at. You just ran through. You were racing.
Gerbin: Yeah, and I think even throughout the day, a lot of my crew was the same as last year, and I thought we had things pretty dialed last year, but this year we even thought back to what things we could speed up or improve, so it felt like we were very efficient. I know some of my crew was excited because they got comments from people, “Whoa, you’re like a NASCAR pit crew!” Towards the end, I was definitely filling up on water and grabbing ice and stuff because it was cooling off, but I was still feeling hot from the day. But I was trying to move through pretty quickly. At that point, I knew Lucy was close, and I also know that there are some strong women and I was not going to be surprised if I turned around and someone was moving up in the field.
iRunFar: Because you were exactly that women last year. You were your own worst nightmare last year.
Gerbin: I know a lot of these women… well, it wasn’t a nightmare. I would have actually been excited if somebody did it because it would be so cool. Yeah, if I didn’t need to stop, then I wasn’t going to waste anytime.
iRunFar: What was it like coming around the track finishing second in the time you finished in? What was it like to put the package together, wrap it up in a bow, and plop it on the finish line?
Gerbin: I was incredibly excited and mostly just really proud of my race and sticking to my plan and listening to my body.
iRunFar: For 100 whole miles—there’s so much time to screw it up!
Gerbin: Yeah, and there were definitely low points in there and things I definitely had to work through, but to be honest, 18:30 was my A-goal pace. I thought that maybe I could run that, but that would be hard. Coming in at 18:40 was awesome. I’m so happy about that. Courtney[Dauwalter] ran an amazing race and was untouchable. It would have been awesome if I could have been a little closer to her. I was actually looking forward to trying to race her, but no, she blew the course out of the water. That was an incredible performance by her.
iRunFar: I always think it’s kind of mean to ask people the day after a 100-mile race what they’re doing next, but it’s inevitable, people will want to know. What are you dreaming of doing? What are you thinking of doing next?
Gerbin: Yeah, it is mean. After most races I have a plan, but yesterday was really hard, and I feel like I need to give my body and mind time to recover.
iRunFar: So that’s what you’re doing, right?
Gerbin: So that’s what I’m doing. I definitely have a few other 100s on my radar. Whether or not I’m going to double back and do something this summer is… I’ll see how I feel. I feel like my effort at States this year was harder than last year, so running another 100 in two months might not be the best idea. I’m going to just listen to my body and see how things go.
iRunFar: See how the recovery goes in the next couple weeks. Congratulations to you on your second-place finish. I suppose you’ll come back?
Gerbin: I think so.
iRunFar: Pretty hard to turn down the F2.
Gerbin: Yeah, it is pretty hard to turn down, and also this is just such an amazing race and such a fun course and an awesome environment, so it’s a pretty special place.
iRunFar: Awesome. Congratulations.
Gerbin: Thank you.