Dylan Bowman returned to Transgrancanaria this year, and ran a steady race to take third. In the following interview, Dylan talks about how he came into the race with a lack of confidence (and why), why his goal was just to go have a solid run (and to not make mistakes), what positives he took out of the race, and how he’ll return to what’s worked for him in the past going forward.
Read our results article to find out what else happened at the front of the race.
Dylan Bowman Post-2020 Transgrancanaria Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Dylan Bowman after his third-place finish at the 2020 Transgrancaria. How are you doing, Dylan?
Dylan Bowman: Pretty haggard to be honest. I think we probably both are.
iRunFar: It’s been a long day for both of us, or two days.
Bowman: But wow, what a wild ride it was, and really happy with the result, so.
iRunFar: How do you decide to kick off your season with a 128km of race that turns out to be harder than you expect?
Bowman: Right. Well you know it’s my second time here on the island so there’s a lot of different reasons for me deciding to kind of kick off the season here. One was because the last time went really poorly.
Bowman: And I wanted to sort of like, one of my ideas this year as part of like coming back from injury and stuff was to go back to races where I had a tough time the first go around, so that was one of the reasons. And the timing is good, you know, the climate is nice coming from Portland, Oregon. And I was supposed to be going to an event with The North Face in a couple of weeks in Annecy[, France], so I was just going to hang out here for a couple of weeks.
Bowman: That’s of course been cancelled because of the coronavirus.
iRunFar: That thing.
Bowman: Yeah, so heading home. We’re going to go to Morocco tomorrow actually for a few days, and then home after that.
iRunFar: You can practically swim over there.
Bowman: Yeah, basically.
iRunFar: Pretty awesome. We’re just off the coast of Africa here. So this kicked off your season.
iRunFar: Were you ready to go, when you were coming to the line?
Bowman: Honestly, no. Like I’ve just had so little confidence recently that I’m surprised and relieved more than anything to actually put together a good run. I went to Sean O’Brien and did the 50 miler there just sort of like as a long, sunny training day to try and simulate the conditions here on the island, but to be honest, all week this week I was not really feeling it. Just sort of like both physically, energy-wise, just sort of–
iRunFar: Is that a lack of confidence or lack of stoke? What was lacking?
Bowman: I think it’s mostly a lack of confidence. Yeah, having gone through sort of a tough year for the first time in my career, and just trying to kind of get back to a point where I can trust my body again after injuries. To sort of trust that I still have what it takes to compete in the way that I want to at least, and that’s sort of been really hard to come by recently when you’re not proving it to yourself after a year and a half since really my last race that I was proud of at TDS in 2018, the last time I went this distance. After 18 months of not really having a good race, you start to feel like huh, well maybe this isn’t coming back. It was really,
iRunFar: And TNF [The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships] didn’t really offset that?
Bowman: Yeah, like I finished sixth there. It was not terrible, right.
Bowman: But certainly not what I train and hope for. I actually felt pretty good going into that race. My legs were just not used to that kind of a race pace after a year plus of injury. I think it really helped to harden me for this race and kind of get the competitive juices flowing again, but that race really helped me to kind of decide to do this race, because I had a very specific plan coming in, which I never do, right.
Bowman: And that was basically to like go have a solid run, you know?
iRunFar: Which is funny because I feel like that’s your plan always is. It feels that way from the outside.
Bowman: Yeah, I don’t know though. I feel like sometimes you sort of like, get in this mode where you put pressure on yourself and you feel like you have to crush it for your friends and family and sponsors and I think that’s what really sort of like left me in a really confused place for the last year and a half. So to come here just with that mentality like, don’t go out and try and win the race. Don’t go out with Pau [Capell]. Just go have a solid one. Put a result on the board, and build toward the Hardrock 100, which is of course my major objective for the season, as it is for you.
iRunFar: Indeed. Indeed.
Bowman: So like as you saw, I took it very easy early on.
iRunFar: Not super conservative, but easy.
Bowman: More conservative than I would usually run. And the whole intention of that was to just make no mistakes. Don’t get to a point like I did in TNF where my legs just were gassed. And especially knowing the island at least a little bit and knowing how hard of a race it is, I think that really helped me to have a good, solid day. Because like I really made no mistakes. I had no major low points. And at the end of the day I was able to just move up.
iRunFar: Can you call that mastery?
iRunFar: Not in an overly cocky way, but if you don’t make any mistakes and you feel good throughout.
Bowman: Well, I actually counted recently, and this was my 52nd ultramarathon, if you can believe that. And so I’m a veteran, you know. It’s crazy how time flies but I’ve done a lot of these things.
iRunFar: Mm hmn.
Bowman: And very rarely do you feel like, okay, solid. You know? I got a little lazy with nutrition the last hour and a half and it was hot so I didn’t feel amazing coming into the finish line, but aside from that I was just clicking along all day. And not concerned about the guys in front of me or behind me and just trying to go have a solid run.
iRunFar: That’s one you put in a frame and put on the wall, or at least put on the fridge.
Bowman: It was a good one, man. I’m really happy with it. Definitely showed me that I’m closer to the form that I want to be in than I’ve felt.
iRunFar: You’ve described going with a plan and being even keeled in a positive way throughout. Were there any moments where there were flashes of like, I feel really good and I should kind of go for it?
Bowman: Yeah, a little bit. One of the things I always look for in my racing is how am I climbing late in the race.
iRunFar: Mm hmm.
Bowman: Because I think that’s a good indication of how you’re pacing it, and that’s the time in which you’re most likely to make up time or put time into your competition is who’s climbing the best late in the race, right? And I mean I just was climbing good again finally and it felt like it’s been forever. I intentionally took all the downhills super easy just knowing that once you get to the top you just bomb all the way down, and very technical, hard, steep trail. So I think that helped me to climb well, too, just not beating the legs up too much really in the race.
iRunFar: So how after this experience, in this whole positive framework, do you take this from an early season, important, but not your Hardrock….
iRunFar: …And how do you box it up and unpackage it again in mid-July?
Bowman: Well, so there’s just so many different positives I think that came from the run. Not only the fact that I was able to redeem a really poor performance from 2014. The 15th of this month, of March, will be the five-year anniversary of my heat stroke that you might remember from 2015.
iRunFar: Yeah, a little bit of that.
Bowman: And I really haven’t felt normal in hot temperatures since then, and I actually felt pretty good in the heat today. It’s an extremely technical race as you know, and I wasn’t wearing any ankle braces, and that’s like, for me, I mean that’s been my Achilles heel especially in the last year is having confidence in my feet. And to not wear the braces and to feel good on the technical trail just like, thank you. Finally starting to feel a little bit normal. So yeah that’s the key to sort of like put the brick in the wall toward Hardrock and understand that, I definitely still don’t feel 100%, but what I was able to show myself is that I’m not as far off as I’ve felt. And being behind Pau, and Pablo [Villa] who ran amazing races, those guys are incredible. I wasn’t that far behind. I spent a lot of time off course, too, so I was really pleased to be at least within 30 or 40 minutes of them.
iRunFar: How do you not get overly frustrated with that?
Bowman: You know the whole thing for me was just go out and enjoy it.
iRunFar: Even when you hit yourself in the head with a branch?
Bowman: Yeah. I took some facial abuse out there.
Bowman: Part of the consequences of being a large man on a not-so-large island with lots of vegetation. But yeah attitude was everything for me today. And just again, just trying to nail the fundamentals. Make zero mistakes. Not worry about where I was placed. But again when you make zero mistakes, you ultimately place better than you would otherwise.
iRunFar: See, I’m seeing so many teaching moments in this. So now here you are. You’re five-and-a-half months out from Hardrock…
Bowman: Mm hmn.
iRunFar: Do you now approach that from, that whole period like you did today and don’t aim to hit those next five-and-a-half months out of the ball park, but to be solid throughout, not make any mistakes, and just feel good to the goal?
Bowman: Yeah. 100 percent. And that I think is something I lost track of a little bit, having a really successful 2018. Starting to feel like I need to continue to prove myself and get away from the things that have worth for me in my career and have gotten me to a point where I can be competitive in most races I enter. And sure, at Hardrock for example, I’ll be racing against Xavier [Thévenard] and François [D’Haene], Jason Schlarb, Jeff Browning, among others. It’s important for me to not necessarily in the same way I was thinking this morning, okay I’m not going to try to keep up with Pau, he’s won this race three years in a row with ridiculously fast times in tough conditions on an insanely hard course. Like that’s not going to lead to me having my best race, you know. So I mean being a Colorado boy, I’m excited to get to the San Juans.
iRunFar: But overtraining in April is not going to be the ticket to hang with François, is it?
Bowman: No, no. This is going to be the major massive long run leading into it. I’ll do the VVX [Volvic-Volcanic Experience] race in May and, then, go to Colorado and march around in the San Juans for a few weeks before the race.
iRunFar: Let me know when you have an easy day. I’ll show you around.
Bowman: Hell yeah.
iRunFar: Dylan, congrats on a great run, and nice race out there.
Bowman: Thanks, man.