Having taken third last year, Mark Hammond is the top returning runner at the 2018 Western States 100. In the following interview, Mark talks about being more relaxed for this year’s race, whether his race plan will be similar to last year, and how he’ll tweak his nutrition from last year.
Mark Hammond Pre-2018 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Mark Hammond before the 2018 Western States Endurance Run. How are you doing, Mark?
Mark Hammond: Doing great, thanks.
iRunFar:You just got in last evening?
iRunFar: You feeling relaxed?
Hammond: I am, yeah. More relaxed than last year.
iRunFar: Why is that?
Hammond: Oh, I know the race now and I know what to expect. I’m a little more confident.
iRunFar: And this year you’re not relaxing in the back of your car before the race?
Hammond: Yeah, I stepped up. I’ve got a hotel now, so I’ve got to run better.
iRunFar: That’s going to be hard to do – you were third last year. That was a good run.
Hammond: Yeah, that’s going to be hard to top. Especially because it seems like a more competitive race this year.
iRunFar: It is. You’re the top returning runner, having placed third last year. Do you feel like you have a target on your back? Or are there enough other folks in the race that you can kind of do your thing?
Hammond: There’s plenty of other talent out there for people to focus on. But I think people will pay attention to where I’m at in this race.
iRunFar: Last year Jim Walmsley took out the pace pretty quick. Do you think the race will go out as hot as it did last year, or do you think the forecasted heat will make things a little more tempered up front?
Hammond: I think it’ll be a little more tempered. People will watch Jim, and he’s going to be more tempered, I think. It’ll scale the pace back just a bit at the start.
iRunFar: Are you planning to run with the same strategy as last year?
Hammond: [Chuckles] My strategy for last year was to run with Jeff Browning for the first quarter or so. That worked pretty well. So we’ll see. Maybe I’ll do that again.
iRunFar: Between Western States 2017 and now, you ran a lot of sort of high-level races.
Hammond: I kind of did, yeah.
iRunFar: Was that by design? Or did you just roll with it? Because you had a good race at Run Rabbit Run, and you were at The North Face Endurance Championships 50 mile, and the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji.
Hammond: 100-milers are my focus. Run Rabbit Run was good, I got second there. I almost won, but I had the whole blurriness in my eyes.
iRunFar: You did, too?
Hammond: Courtney Dauwalter[women’s winner at the 2017 Run Rabbit Run] had it in both eyes. I only had it in one, but I was leading through to mile 93 and then Jim Rebenack caught me, but I still got second there.
iRunFar: Was that the first time you’ve had that partial vision loss?
Hammond: No, I had it the year before at Run Rabbit Run. I thought it was because of some other factors, so I didn’t really do anything about it. Now I realize that I just need to wear goggles or something clear. I think it’s a mixture of the cold, dry air and the exertion, that I get the cloudiness in the eyes.
iRunFar: In the past year, we had an article on iRunFarabout how this condition is a lot more common than people think. It doesn’t happen to everybody, but your vision comes back fine, right?
Hammond: Yeah, it does. It takes about half an hour. Dylan Bowman told me it happened to him at the Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji last year. I think people don’t really realize what’s going on so they kind of brush it off.
iRunFar: Speaking of UTMF, you were there this year and didn’t have one of your best races.
Hammond: I mean, it wasn’t a terrible race. I do think I took it out too fast. I ran with Dylan Bowman and Seth Swanson for the first 18 miles. Our average pace was like 6:30. That’s kind of fast for a 100.
iRunFar: Yeah [laughs].
Hammond: And Pau Capell, he was going even faster. I think he was running like a 6:00/mile flat pace.
iRunFar: That’s tremendous. I don’t know what the current course is, but there are faster portions on that Fuji course. Was that some of the reason you were running so fast?
Hammond: Yeah, I mean a lot of the course goes through cities and stuff, but a lot of it is rolling terrain. So that took a hit on me. Then, after that section, there was a 17-mile section with no aid through the mountains, the Tenshi Mountains. I didn’t bring enough food or water. Those mountains are brutal.
iRunFar: Was it wet at all? Because those mountains are pretty… slidey, splippery.
Hammond: Yeah, it was a little bit wet on the way up. It was actually pretty cool and foggy, too, so I was like, “oh, I don’t need too much water.” I was really wrong. I bonked pretty hard after that section.
iRunFar: You still held on for eighth place.
Hammond: Yeah, I’ll take it.
iRunFar: Did you race anything between UTMF [in April] and now?
Hammond: Yeah, I ran a 50k in Arkansas. It was good heat training. It was called the War Eagle Trail Festival. It’s actually one of the most popular races in the Southeast. I had fun, got the win. I finished without getting any ticks, which was good.
iRunFar: Was it good to check out a different part of the country?
Hammond: Yeah, it was good. It’s a different flavor of racers down there.
iRunFar: So, it’s going to be hot out here. How do you handle the heat?
Hammond: You know, I thought I handled it pretty well last year. I made sure to put ice in my sleeves and dunk myself whenever I could. I wore a cotton shirt to hold the water longer. As long as I pace myself and drink enough, I think I’ll be all right.
iRunFar: Did you have Altra make a cotton shirt for you this year?
Hammond: I actually just ironed on an Altra logo onto a cotton shirt. I’ll cut some holes in it again [laughs].
iRunFar: It’s race day, you do what works for you. Did your nutrition work well last year? Handling nutrition tends to be more challenging on hot days.
Hammond: Yeah, it mostly did. I mostly had VFuel, and that worked well. Toward the end of the race I ran out of VFuel and I was drinking something the aid station was offering. That didn’t work so well. So in my tight battle with Alex Nichols [who finished second], I had to pull over a few times. That wasn’t ideal.
iRunFar: Not ideal, but I assume you brought more VFuel this year?
Hammond: Yeah, yeah – I should be good.
iRunFar: Cool. Well, thanks for chatting and best of luck tomorrow.
Hammond: Thanks, Bryon.