After dealing with a few years of injuries, Dakota Jones is running strong this summer and running the Ring of Steall Skyrace this Saturday. In the following interview, Dakota talks about what injuries he’s dealt with, how his racing has gone this summer, and what he thinks about this weekend’s race.
Dakota Jones Pre-2018 Ring of Steall Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dakota Jones before the 2018 Ring of Steall Skyrace. How are you doing, Dakota?
Dakota Jones: Doing well, thanks.
iRunFar: Welcome to Scotland.
Jones: Thanks. It’s cool.
iRunFar: This seems like your type of race.
Jones: Yeah, I’m excited. I don’t know what to expect. I’ve never been here or run on these trails but it seems really fun. It seems like it’s going to be wet and wild.
iRunFar: Wet and wild and technical. It’s not the Glen Coe Skyline race, which is actually climbing.
Jones: I think that I’d probably prefer to do Glen Coe, only because it’s much technical and like a real mountain race. Ring of Steall is obviously a mountain race, but maybe a little less technical. It accommodates more runners, and this is about getting as many people as possible for the Golden Trail Series.
iRunFar: I’ll ask you after you do a stint on the course.
Jones: I haven’t actually been out there. Maybe I’m full of shit.
iRunFar: It’s kind of fun. It seems… not unapproachable, but it’s hard trail.
Jones: Cool. I’ll probably see it for the first time mid-race.
iRunFar: There you go, perfect. You’ve had a pretty good season of late.
Jones: Yeah, a bit of a late season. I didn’t do any races until after July. But yeah, I feel good.
iRunFar: Where’d you kick the season off?
Jones: I ran in Silverton, Colorado. I ran the Kendall Mountain Run. A few weeks later I did a race in Albuquerque, [New Mexico, the La Luz Trail Run,] a classic. That’s the cool thing, I’ve been doing smaller local races, but they are classics.
iRunFar: For people who don’t know, La Luz down to the bottom of the mountain, up to the top of the mountain kind of race.
Jones: It’s been going on for 53 years. It’s nine miles uphill. And then Pikes Peak [Marathon] is definitely the most competitive race I’ve had this year. Then just last weekend in Colorado, I ran another classic race called the Imogene Pass Run. It’s a road run, really. It’s on a dirt road but it goes over a 13,000-foot pass. It goes from Ouray to Telluride–two iconic mountain towns.
iRunFar: A nice, natural route.
Jones: It’s cool because it’s the old route. The old mining route that connects the two towns and the old mines.
iRunFar: There’s even more history there. Rick Trujillo, who’s a great, classic Colorado mountain runner, founded it. Because he lived in Ouray.
Jones: He actually ran it this year. He’s like 70 years old. He’s awesome. So it’s good. I honestly feel a little tired. Or… I’m not sure. I don’t know if I feel tired, but I’ve had a lot of injuries over the last few years and I’m always nervous about injuries. I have been racing a lot, and I’m nervous about it and I don’t want to overdo it.
iRunFar: And it’s different. You’ve run high-mileage races before, but now you’re racing with more intensity and more frequently.
Jones: Yeah, so I’m hoping I can get through this without getting injured. I do think that I might be a little tired from the last… I mean, after Pikes Peak, I rode my bike home. I did take some rest but I also did some training. Then I did Imogene last weekend, which is hard, you know. It’s 17 miles, which is a lot of running. You’re pushing it. So then I didn’t run at all today, it’s Thursday. So, I might be fit or fat, I don’t know. Or tired, who knows. I’m just going to go out and do it.
iRunFar: You do have pretty good fitness. It’s pretty cool to see.
Jones: Thanks, I appreciate that. I think that I am fit. I don’t know if I’m as well-prepared. I guess that’s how I’d put it. But I might have a spectacular run, you never know. It’s hard to say.
iRunFar: Can you walk me through the injuries you’ve had over this last little bit? I’m guessing it’s been a really trying time.
Jones: Yeah, it’s been up and down. I think my first real injury was a stress fracture. In the middle of 2015, I got a stress fracture in my left foot, the metatarsal. I didn’t realize it, because a stress fracture often isn’t that bad. I’d walk around and be like, “Yeah, I’m good to go.” Then you’d go out and run, and if you hit that spot it’s like the end of the world. So it took me a long time to figure it out. It took me a year to actually get over that. A whole year.
Then I had a pretty good summer in 2016, but then I was running at The Rut 50k and almost broke my ankle. That’s just a freak accident, but it happens. I do personally blame Mike Foote for that. I didn’t race again until 2017 in April, and I strained my hamstring. It was this stupid little thing. I was like, “Hmm, my leg’s tight.” But then, you know, it was like eight months later before I could run again.
iRunFar: When did you finally feel healthy again, like you were able to consistently train?
Jones: I started training last November a bit, then my Achilles started hurting. I was like, “Oh, I’m just gonna’ quit.” But I didn’t. I did stretch regularly–but not too much. I roll. I actually think rolling is super-helpful, with a foam roller. I graduated to the foam ball.
iRunFar: That sounds very painful.
Jones: Exactly. I do a lot of that. I also just listen to myself, listen to my body. Actually not getting caught up in this culture of overtraining and over-racing that we do. I am racing a little too much right now.
iRunFar: But that’s short-term.
Jones: Hopefully. The idea is… over the last few weeks, I do have specific workouts that I do occasionally, but three or four times this summer, I’ve actually dialed back the amount of intervals that I’ll do in a workout because I’m tired or my legs are a little tight. I have this idea that it’s okay to be a little less fit as long as I’m still running. I like it. I want to keep doing it.
iRunFar: Is that what maturity is?
Jones: I don’t know. Maybe, yeah, getting old.
iRunFar: So Pikes Peak. That’s an American classic. You ran the marathon. You won the marathon and set the downhill split record. That’s a damn good run. Don’t you think so?
Jones: Yeah, definitely. I was really proud of that. I was super-satisfied. I didn’t know how I’d compare because I haven’t raced in so long and that race is a little shorter than what I’ve done in the past. As much as a marathon is short. It’s a super-runnable trail, so there’s a high intensity you maintain from start to finish. Which is actually quite cool. That’s why I like it: it’s so high and so fast. It’s a really hard race and it’s competitive.
It’s one of these things where you can’t really tell how you’re going to feel. I was going uphill and I was with Oriol Cardona. We were in fifth and sixth for most of the climb and I thought, Well, guess I don’t have it. When we got to the tree line I think I was actually more acclimatized than some of the other runners and I was able to catch them there. Which is funny, because it’s not like I’m a better runner or more fit than Sage [Canaday]. He was acclimatized. It’s funny: there’s so many variables in a race. I was just able to catch a bunch of guys before the top and then, yeah, I had a really good downhill.
iRunFar: That’s impressive. Because there were some really fast runners who come from a road or a track background, and you don’t.
Jones: It’s a trail going downhill. It’s not a technical trail like Glen Coe, but it’s certainly a trail. There are people going in both directions for a while.
iRunFar: So your trail experience helps you there.
Jones: I think a lot. That’s what I like about trail running and especially downhill, is there’s like skill involved. It’s not always about who has the biggest VO2 max, or who can run the fastest pace. Well, I guess that is what it comes down to. But it’s a skill you can learn, to run down a trail. Some of these guys are probably more fit than me. If I can dance down this technical bit faster, it can give me a bit of an advantage.
iRunFar: Nice. The guys out here this weekend…
Jones: I don’t think anybody out here has as much experience as I do. That’s for sure [joking, but deadpan].
iRunFar: [Laughs] You have Kilian Jornet, Stian Angermud-Vik…
Jones: All the best ones in the world are here. I’m gonna’ lose.
iRunFar: Is that exciting?
Jones: It is. It’s super-fun. I say I might lose in jest, because I might not. But, you know, I’m probably not going to win. I’m going to go out there and try. That’s what I do with every race. People are like, “Are you going to go win?” I’m like, “Well, I’m going to give it a shot. I might be 20th. I might drop out if I start to get an injury. But I think I could win. I’m capable of it if everything went right. I might as well give it everything I have and it’s fun to try that. I mean, that’s the whole point, right?
iRunFar: Yeah. Have fun trying out there this weekend, Dakota.
iRunFar: Let’s go get some dinner.