Scotty Hawker has a long history of ultrarunning success, but he took things to a new level in placing third at this year’s UTMB. In the following interview, Scotty talks about how his race was rough in the early going, why he kept going, how the rest of his race played out, and how changes to his daily and race nutrition contributed to his breakthrough performance.
Be sure to read our in-depth results article to find out how the race played out.
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Scotty Hawker after his third-place finish at the 2019 UTMB. How are you Scotty?
Hawker: Yeah really good, yeah.
iRunFar: That was quite the performance out there.
Hawker: Yeah, it didn’t kind of quite go to plan early on but I’m here to kind of hang in there and just give myself a chance to stay in the race with some, ended up…
iRunFar: What went wrong early?
Hawker: Just yeah, before Les Contamines, just legs that fell flat. I was having a few issues with my hamstrings, sort of nerve kind of stuff, which was basically what hampered all of last season. So just after Saint-Gervais I was like, far out here we go again, sort of back to the same old same old. So eventually got to Les Chapieux, I think I dropped to nearly 40th position. I walked half that descent, people were just flying past me. In the first 50k I was like, this isn’t quite how the script was supposed to go. But yeah, arrived into Les Chapieux and then literally as I arrived I was about to say to the organization people, just like I’m out, can I get a ride back to Courmayeur? And Jason Schlarb and another buddy, Harry Jones, came in and just a couple of bits of advice and words from two really good friends at the right time, yeah, sort of them saying that, I was like –
iRunFar: What did they say?
Hawker: Basically Jason just sort of said, you are better than this and give yourself some time and then Harry basically just said, there’s still a lot of time to go. So I just sort of said to myself, all right we’ll get out of Les Chapieux and we’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: Did Ludovic Pommeret [the 2016 UTMB winner]ever crossed your mind?
Hawker: It did actually, so I remember I think 2015, 15, 16, knowing that I think he was having some stomach issues like he came into an aid station as white as a ghost and his crew were like, Ludo you know you’re done. I do think about how he bounced back, to be honest I didn’t think I was going to bounce back to third place. But yeah, as I kind of left Les Chapieux and got further and the race I just started feeling better and better and I finally felt like I was kind of running and moving in the mountains how I knew I could based off how training had been going so like a bit of motivation from there. Then, all of a sudden, I started passing thirty something people that had passed me on the down into Les Chapieux.
iRunFar: Do you think that’s a good mental boost at the middle part of the race?
Hawker: Yeah, for sure. The first dozen people that I passed it was like okay the other guys, either lead female at that time I think was the Chinese runner. She just flew past me I was like, oh man. She was just moving so well and I was like, I want to run like that. And so once I started catching a few people and then sort of started running in and around some of the guys that I knew were going to be contending for the podium, top five, top 10, started to get a bit of motivation from that, which definitely spurred things on and just kept at ‘er really.
iRunFar: When did you feel like, when in the race were you thinking this could be a special day?
Hawker: Yeah, I think probably coming into Courmayeur, I knew that I had passed a few people but I didn’t really know how many because so many had passed me basically on the climb up to Col du Bonhomme and then down to Les Chapieux and then when I arrived into Courmayeur someone told me that I was in 10th. I was sort of like, far out, when did that happen? And then I sort of thought moving how I’d been moving and now I’m in tenth. Basically, in a roundabout way, I arrived to Courmayeur almost where I wanted, I mean like position wise I was where I wanted to be. Timewise I was way off where I wanted to be for sure. At the end of the day sometimes the time doesn’t matter, it’s the position. And then basically climbing out of Courmayeur up to Refuge Bertone started passing a few guys and I think I climbed up to sixth by Refuge Bertone.
iRunFar: How do you, were you pushing then or were you still able to control?
Hawker: I basically decided before the run, as everyone does, that the race begins at Champex-Lac, you’ve got to run easy until then. I was really trying to stick as true as I could to that and even though I was feeling really good and I felt like I could have just opened up the tanks.
iRunFar: How do you do that? You’re also passing lots of people from being further back, so how?
Hawker: Just trying to stay as current and in the moment as I could. Like checking in on my nutrition, how’s my form going? Am my staying hydrated? I knew the Saturday was going to be really hot. so I was just kind of I was just trying to set myself up to arrive to Champex basically ready to race essentially, which again sounds crazy, 125k in. Okay I’m ready to race so but that was kind of what I felt I needed to happen to hopefully have a good result.
iRunFar: So you get there.
Hawker: Yes, I go there and it was just again more motivation just like an amazing feeling to be that deep into the race, I think I was in fourth position, but also knowing that there were guys breathing down my neck. I think Tom Owens was just behind me.
iRunFar: Probably someone you don’t want to have feeling breathing down your neck.
Hawker: And that guy, you want to see that guy run downhill, he’s got a dodgy ankle at the moment and he was just insane going down. So you that last little pitch as you get up to Champex-Lac, I basically hiked this part of the climb and then I turned back and see Tom and he’s just sort of sprinting up the hill. I’m like, okay this is going to be a battle. And then I just certified that I had gotten this far and there was no way I was just going to roll over. I mean I thought even if Tom catches me and passes me I wasn’t going to let him have it easy so I just thought the faster I moved, the smoother I move I can run some of the gradual uphills and force Tom to at least run those to catch up to me. I thought that’s going to make it harder for him.
iRunFar: Now as it, you kind of had a person to focus on in Tom, was it easier to have that then think of the field more generally? Either chasing them or?
Hawker: Yeah, I think Tom was probably the guy I was kind of scared of the most. Just because he was so close and I felt like if anyone was going to catch me it was probably going to be Tom. But at the same time it was kind of a strange feeling because I was feeling pretty good I was always just thinking, who’s in front of me? Who’s in front of me? And knowing that Robert [Hajnal] was there and even Xavier [Thevenard], because I felt like I was moving well enough and if I kept things going, same deal I thought see what happens and see who I can catch.
iRunFar: Is that a really cool thought to be like, three quarters of the way through UTMB and, maybe I’ve got Xavier, who’s having a good race?
Hawker: Yeah, that’s what I mean. It’s just been a real kind of, I guess switch with this year and kind of my goals and aspirations as a runner and an athlete have kind of changed just with like having some relatively consistent training and just a bit more self belief that, I took a big hit last year with races not going to plan.
iRunFar:Would you like to talk about that a little bit, you had many years with solid results then that period of time that was for you, not up to par.
Hawker: No, I was a train wreck. It was just literally race after race, whether it was my hamstring, sciatic stuff going on or last year a lot of it was to do with my stomach. So literally the end of last year I was chatting with my wife Liz, I was just like, babe, I don’t know if I can do this anymore. My body and my stomach isn’t allowing me to race how I want to race and how I feel like I can race. And then we just sort of thought, let’s go back to the drawing board. What’s the biggest issue at the moment, which was my stomach so I spoke to a nutritionist, changed out the nutrition plan for general day-to-day kind of stuff? And then also obviously for race day as well. So yeah changing all of that up and all the sudden you’re in a race and you can actually eat and keep nutrition down. It’s amazing what you can do certain things.
iRunFar: So what did you change day-to-day? Did you have a huge switch?
Hawker: We’ve been vegetarian for quite a while and then basically switched to a full vegan diet. About 14 months ago I think it was. For me, it was basically just cutting out a lot of dairy and milk and cheese and stuff like that. As much as I love them, my stomach doesn’t love them.
iRunFar: So more of a practical change.
Hawker: Yeah exactly, I mean it is changing gradually with regards to the animals and the environment and stuff and that’s becoming more important for sure. But it’s purely just from a performance standpoint, I feel like I recover faster, my stomachs happier day-to-day and then the flow from there has been going to races and now I feel confident. Even with the heat yesterday, it wasn’t until probably the last hour that I was having a couple of those burps where you feel like you’re going to follow through little bit. Yeah, apart from that I had a happy stomach pretty much all day yesterday. So it was just an awesome feeling to just eat and run.
iRunFar: Your race day nutrition workout as well then?
Hawker: It’s been kind of just reverting to more solid foods and stuff. Normally in the past, I’ve actually had a strong stomach and I could just take gels and chews and drinks, but obviously with all of the sugar and gels and that I was just drinking so much fluid and then I would end up loading up. Downhills were just a nightmare with all the sloshing in the guts and stuff.
iRunFar: So you enter the outskirts of Chamonix here, you’re in third place, what does that feel like? And then coming across the line.
Hawker: Yeah, it was just overcome with emotion. I dreamed of getting on the podium of UTMB, but I wasn’t really sure if it could happen and what happen. So you get on the outskirts of Chamonix and then running into town you’re kind of feeling like you got the job done, it was just unreal and I made sure I ran pretty hard into town because I said to Sienna, my daughter, before the race I said – we always say to Sienna, if there’s not too much time between papa and some of the other guys that I will see you right at the finish line where as if I have a bit of a buffer we can hold hands and run down the finishing chute. So I just hammered the last 5k the descent, knowing that if I had a bit of a buffer then we could hold hands across the finish line, which is yeah, that’s number one for me is to sharing those moments with her and with Liz, as well.
iRunFar: Yeah it’s really cool, out of the sort of front of the pack it was you who had, a lot of them had a spouse but Sienna was out there. It’s so cool, what was it like for you?
Hawker: It’s just awesome, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Some people maybe look at what we’re doing, sort of dragging a three-year-old around the mountains of Chamonix, Courmayeur, middle of the night stuff.
iRunFar: [Gestures to the side] You can hear her laughing, having a ball.
Hawker: Yeah, she’s a pretty happy wee kid. And we just sort of feel like the environment that we can expose her to through trail and ultrarunning is just so amazing. Having her at the aid station asking papa if he wants some mashed potatoes with some sushi rice with chips or coke or whatever is just such a boost, for me obviously to race is amazing as a person but then to be able to share it with the two of them it just makes an already amazing experience that much better.
iRunFar: Awesome. So congratulations Scotty.
Hawker: Thanks so much, cheers.
iRunFar: Thank you.
iRunFar: A bonus question for you Scotty. Some people after the race asking what shoes were you wearing? Maybe not a brand that folks have seen around.
Hawker: Yeah, I’ve got the Kailas Fugo Pro. So the ones I wore yesterday for the race were limited edition NASA pair, so they were white to start with.
Hawker: Whitish at the finish, running in the Fugo Pro since probably December last year. Just an awesome shoe and combining a great shoe with a Vibram Lite Base. It’s kind of like you’re getting a super comfy good performance to and then obviously the Vibram LiteBase speaks for itself.
iRunFar: Well maybe it doesn’t, we don’t do articles on specific components but I’ve used light base. Tell me a little bit, give me the 20-second spiel.
Hawker: Yeah, so it’s basically, I mean the traditional Vibram Megagrip has obviously been around for years, it’s on hiking shoes and running shoes and stuff. I think it was about three or four years ago that they basically made the same grip and same performance but basically 30% lighter. So they can, basically, with the Vibram track this year in Chamonix and also goes to Lavaredo [Ultra-Trail] as well, they can basically resole a pair of shoes. They can make the shoe lighter in the performance of the shoe increases with regards to traction.
iRunFar: And there are some shoes that have it.
Hawker: So yeah, there are now, there’s Kailas and I think there are a few other brands that have the LiteBase as kind of standard on their shoes now. Just brands and athletes being more aware of the benefits of the LiteBase, just a good thing to have on your feet when you’re on the mountains.
iRunFar: Cool, thank you Scotty, congratulations.
Hawker: Cheers man.
The second article in a two-part series about the hip-hinge position for efficient running.