Having taken third at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in April, the U.K.’s Tom Evans returns to California to run the Western States 100. In the following interview, Tom talks about what he’s enjoyed most about being in the area for two weeks, what his training has looked like since Lake Sonoma, and what he’s looking forward to most in his 100-mile debut.
Tom Evans Pre-2019 Western States 100 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Tom Evans before the 2019 Western States 100. How are you?
Tom Evans: Yeah really good, really happy to be here thanks. How are you doing?
iRunFar: I’m great, it’s a beautiful day here, how are you liking the weather?
Evans: I preferred it like 10 days ago when it was a bit hotter.
iRunFar: Why is that?
Evans: I quite like the heat and now it’s just a little bit cold especially up here, a little bit windy but I think that’s going to be favorable for the race, a little bit cooler. But I think also may be a little bit more dangerous because the canyons are still going to be hot.
iRunFar: Yeah. So you’ve been here for two weeks?
Evans: Yeah, just over two weeks.
iRunFar: And how is your time here?
Evans: Yeah it’s been amazing. My only problem with running in the U.S. is everything, all the animals and snakes and plants; everything wants to kill you out here.
iRunFar: It’s not Australia. It’s not that bad.
Evans: For a European, it’s pretty bad. I’m used to the occasional mountain goat or a cow or sheep. That’s as far as we go. It’s been incredible. The trail is amazing. What I found most is people are so friendly. Like you go to the supermarket and you are in your run kit and people just want to talk to you. They realize that you’re not from around here, they hear that you’re from the U.K. and they guess that you’re here for Western States. It’s just been an absolutely incredible experience. It’s so much more than a race.
iRunFar: So you’ve had a chance to go scout part of the course yet?
Evans: Yeah, I’ve been really lucky, me and Jordi Gamito have run a couple of big sections of the course and yeah it’s been incredible.
iRunFar: So how did you line up with him to get some training in?
Evans: We have known each other for a while just through racing and we’re both here from thankfully from the Ultra-Trail World Tour. So we just got chatting and decided to go run with each other. It made sense, two guys not really knowing where they are, what they’re doing. So do it together.
iRunFar: And you know each other well enough that you’re not going to get caught up in racing one another?
Evans: Exactly, exactly. Sensible enough not to do that. So yeah, it’s been perfect.
iRunFar: Nice. So I last chatted with you after Lake Sonoma, which was a really good run.
Evans: Yeah. It was good, I was a little bit disappointed in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have raced, it put me back a little bit, I was carrying a little bit of an injury–a little, serious niggle. I was in that denial stage where I thought, I’ll just put a Deep Heat on it and I’ll be okay. Yeah, I recovered real well after Lake Sonoma and took a couple weeks off and I went out to Ethiopia, did two months in Ethiopia that was incredible. Training with some incredibly fast guys at serious altitudes and yeah, just had the most incredible time before coming out here.
iRunFar: Nice. So I guess you weren’t planning to take those couple down weeks after Sonoma as much?
Evans: I would have taken probably a week off, but I actually just thought be a little bit sensible. I’d rather arrive one week out of date then have blown it a little bit too much. Actually, I think I’m in way better shape now than I would have been had I just tracked on.
iRunFar: Nice. So you’re pretty confident with your fitness right now?
Evans: Yeah, I’m really happy, I’m completely injury and niggle free which is nice. I’m healthy. I feel like I’m fit. It’s nice not running at serious altitude even here, we’re still pretty high but it’s lower that I’m used to know which is amazing.
iRunFar: Yeah, we’re up at 6,000 feet now, you go up to 8k and change very briefly but are back down, so it shouldn’t be a factor for you then, no?
Evans: It’s still going to be hard. I’ll still be breathing and if any photographers are at the top they’ll say, I thought you were in Ethiopia?
iRunFar: Doesn’t quite work that way.
Evans: It’s still hard.
iRunFar: Now. I mean there’s a lot of talented folks in this race. Are you going to try to race from the front or run your own effort out there?
Evans: For me, it’s my first hundred miler; I am genuinely going to be sensible. There’s going to be snow. I’m not going to force it. I’m not going to push it. I’m just going to be really patient. My word for the day is going to be patience. Like I showed myself at CCC last year, you haven’t got to be right at the front for the whole race especially in a long race like this I’m going to learn so much during the race and I would so much rather hit Foresthill feeling good and enjoying my experience in the first 100 miler, and it’s like yes, I would like to do very well. But if my best is good enough to be the best on the day then great but if it’s not, for me this is still a 100 miler. This is still the process and all learn so much from this build-up going in to the next one and I’m sure this won’t be my last time at Western States.
iRunFar: Do you have some confidence coming out of–knowing that you have some leg speed, like you’ve done well at races like Marathon des Sables or some races that are faster than just your typical European mountain ultra, that you have that extra gear late in the race?
Evans: Yeah, I take huge confidence from that. And yet from doing some faster training with my training group, the AB group in the U.K., to running with the slowest dude that I was running with in Ethiopia was a 2:08 marathoner, I say running with–running at the same time.
iRunFar: “Attempting to run with.”
Evans: Precisely. It’s all the same, same bloodlines. So yeah, it will be super interesting and I just think that if the race opens itself up that opportunity then I think that, yeah I trust my fitness, I’m confident that I’ll be able to give it a seriously good go certainly from Green Gate, it’s quick. And I would love to be able to run hard from–I’d like to be able to run hard for the whole thing but realistically…
iRunFar: But it’s also fun to be able to run relatively hard effort wise at the end. It’s more fun than suffering your way in, right?
Evans: Yeah, I plan on enjoying myself and, yes, there are things that are going to go wrong and I say this all now and I’m probably going to shoot off right at the beginning.
iRunFar: See you in first at the top of the Escarpment.
Evans: I’ve heard that’s the best way to do it.
iRunFar: You want to lead from the top of the first climb.
Evans: Yeah and it’s all downhill from there.
iRunFar: Oh, totally.
Evans: Everyone knows it’s a net downhill course.
iRunFar: So this is your first 100 miler, what are you looking forward to about that experience?
Evans: I’m looking forward to suffering. Like it’s going to be–a 100k, yeah it hurts but you can kind of pull it together. You know it’s going to last even if things go really badly you know it’s not going to be that long. Where as here you’ve just got no idea, you could have the best day ever and you’ll be finished before a head torch. Or you can have a not so great day and also not finish with it and finish not without a head torch because it’s the morning. I’ve never run through the night. I’ve never put a head torch on in a race. Yes, I’m not planning on doing it this year, but you just don’t know. It may be really slow. Things may go wrong, so yeah, I’m just looking forward to the whole experience but also getting to line up. It’s my first 100 miler, my second race in the U.S. Getting to line up against such an incredibly talented group of athletes that a lot of them have never raced before. I’m just really looking forward to the whole thing.
iRunFar: Are you prepared to suffer? Obviously ,you want to have a good race, but if it goes wrong are you prepared to be out there for 26, 28 hours to get a finish?
Evans: Oh, 100%. Before I signed up to Marathon des Sables, the only ultramarathon I had heard of was Western States. For me this has been, I’ve always dreamed of doing this race and having a buckle. No matter what the color is.
iRunFar: So there’s almost two goals. Obviously, there is you as a top athlete trying to compete for a spot on the podium, win, whatever. But there is a second, a clear second goal.
Evans: 100%. I think at the end of the day anyone who does a 100 miler; you’re all there, everyone’s going to run the same, everyone’s running the same route. Everyone who crosses the line is going to get a buckle, like it kind of doesn’t matter what color it is because you’ve gone on this incredible journey with everyone else. And you’ve run 100 miles, but this is going to be 40 miles further than I have ever run before which is pretty daunting. For someone who’s only been running for two years. I reckon on the start line I’m probably the person who has run the least amount of ultramarathons.
iRunFar: Or maybe the least miles.
Evans: Yeah, the least miles, in races, 100% in races and probably–I think this is my sixth ultramarathon.
Evans: Two of them are 50 milers.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there and enjoy the journey.
Evans: Thank you very much. Thanks very much.