In his first-ever 100-kilometer race, Anthony Costales handily won the 2021 Canyons 100k, in the process securing a Western States 100 Golden Ticket entry. In this interview, Anthony talks about the big changes in his life over the last year including the birth of his daughter, how the race went from his perspective, and his thoughts on preparing for Western States in just two months.
Catching Up With Anthony Costales Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m with Anthony Costales. It’s a couple of days after the 2021 Canyons 100k, where you won the men’s race. Hey Anthony, congratulations.
Anthony Costales: Thanks Meghan, how’s it going?
iRunFar: Good. I’m in Silverton, Colorado. Where are you?
Costales: I’m back home in Salt Lake City, Utah.
iRunFar: Today’s Monday, the race was on Saturday, and you traveled home yesterday?
Costales: Yeah. It went pretty smooth, but it’s always a longer day than it should be. And then coming back, it’s only an hour time-zone difference, but it always makes a difference.
iRunFar: You were back at school, teaching today, on 100k legs. How did that go?
Costales: It was good, I teach P.E. [physical education]. We’re doing this balancing workout and I got in that with my students. The first one was kind of rough. By third period, I was like, “I’m feeling good.” And then fourth period, I was like, “I’m not doing this anymore today.” It was fun though. It was a yoga kind of thing.
iRunFar: So you had a warm-up, and then you plateaued where you were feeling good, and then…
Costales: Kind of like the race. [laughs]
iRunFar: [laughs] I want to talk about how the race went down, but it’s been about a year and a half since we’ve seen you race. A lot of stuff has happened. As we were getting ready for this interview, your wife and a baby were in the room. You have a new baby?
Costales: Yeah, her name is Piper and she was born in November. She’s right at five months. It’s still new to us. She’s not a pandemic baby though, that was before. We joke about it now—not a COVID-19 baby.
iRunFar: How is life as a dad in terms of having a baby as well as a teaching career and running?
Costales: It’s going good. Around August and September, I had a nagging injury that wasn’t going away. I was like, “I’ll take three days off and then this…” It kept prolonging. There was nothing on the schedule, so there wasn’t too much seriousness to it. Finally I took almost a month and a half off completely and got healthy.
When I started coming back, I was barely running, like eight-mile runs, and that’s when the baby was born. When she was born, I was like, “I need to keep this rolling or else you’re probably not going to get into it very well.” She’s been my little good-luck charm because I’ve been healthy and training has been really well since we’ve had her.
I juggled a lot of things. I like that. The more spare time I have, I get more lazy.
iRunFar: I like that you said that Piper is your good-luck charm for healthy running. Also during the pandemic, you changed sponsors. You became a Salomon athlete this year?
Costales: I was with Rabbit for a couple of years and they were a great sponsor and we parted ways at the end of last year. I ended up with Salomon, which is great because it’s pretty much the only shoe I’ve run in on trails except my first trail marathon back in 2017. I was in Skechers road flats in Moab, Utah [for that race.]
iRunFar: The slickrock of Moab can be a little bit like pavement in places.
Costales: But I also kicked a cactus and that didn’t work out too well.
iRunFar: Your name has been on the entrants list for Canyons 100k for kind of a while. I think this was your first 100k?
iRunFar: You did a couple of races in Moab over the springtime—you were there for the Red Hot 55k and the Behind the Rocks 50 Mile. Have you been intentionally stepping up to Canyons?
Costales: We were planning to do Way Too Cool 50k, but that got canceled. And then they emailed me, asking me to come out to Moab Red Hot and I had two weeks to decide and I did it. You gotta’ take advantage of races right now if you want to race. I ran that pretty aggressively because I was hoping to get some international [ranking] points.
Then Behind the Rocks, that was for training. I don’t like saying I’m just doing a race for raining, but it was that day. It was more for learning little things that I need to fix for the next race. Like whether it be nutrition or putting fresh batteries in a headlamp like I didn’t have that morning, little stuff like that.
iRunFar: Get all the glitches out before the goal?
Costales: Yeah. One of the biggest ones was that I went off course that day [Behind the Rocks]. When I went off course, Jimmy Elam was telling me, “You need to put the GPX [file of the race course] on your watch.”
iRunFar: Nice. So Canyons 100k is probably the most competitive race that we’ve seen in America since before the pandemic started—I’m thinking the 2019 The North Face 50 Mile…
Costales: Speedgoat 50k was pretty competitive I thought.
iRunFar: I wanted to preface my next question with the idea that it was known for a couple months beforehand that Canyons 100k was going to be a competitive race. Were you going into it for the competition? For a Golden Ticket to the Western States 100? For stepping up to the 100k distance? What were your goals?
Costales: The original goal was the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. As soon as Sonoma got canceled, I emailed [Canyons 100k] seeing if I could get in, and was able to luckily. I wanted a race where I could get more eyes on me, just more respect maybe, if I do well. So that was the main thing.
Taking the Golden Ticket, for the longest time, I wasn’t really sure. The main reason right now is I was planning to do the Golden Trail Series, but right now it’s still not clear if we can go overseas to race this year. You don’t want to give [the ticket] up and want it back later. So, I’m taking it.
iRunFar: Those are two really different things: competing in the Golden Trail Series, which is made up of marathon-distance mountain races, and a runnable 100 miler.
Costales: Honestly, I just really want to go to Chamonix, France, and have that experience. When I see those races, they look so fun with the people that are spectating, and that has made me want to go over there. That’s the reason why I got into the sport, Tim Tollefson was showing his Instagram off about all these awesome places he was going to and it looked like fun—being from Chico, California, Tim went there as well. Once I saw those races overseas, I thought it would be fun to go do that.
iRunFar: My next question was going to be, if you took the Golden Ticket, what does the next couple of months of training look like? But now the question gets even more interesting if you’re trying to juggle two…
Costales: I’m going to let Golden Trail Series know that I’m not going to be able to go and I’m going to take the Golden Ticket. The other big reason I’m taking it is that the field’s just so stacked this year. If you get a Golden Ticket and you don’t go compete, it almost feels like a cop out. I love competition. You couldn’t ask for a better year at Western States.
iRunFar: I want to talk for a couple minutes about how the race played out on Saturday, and then maybe finish this interview with talking about prepping for Western States. I followed the race on UltraRunnerPodcasts’s Twitter feed, and it seemed like you were a pace setter or sharing the lead for almost all of the race. Is that an okay way to put it?
Costales: I was in the front pack of anywhere between four to six of us the whole first 30 or 35-ish miles. The first 20, we were moving along with our friends for a little bit. We were talking a little too much, which was great, it was fun. It made it a little bit more relaxed…
iRunFar: Was it one of those, “I haven’t seen humans for so long. Let’s talk?”
Costales: A little bit. Someone was saying, “It’s great doing a race, you get to talk to someone.” I was really quiet in the beginning because I wasn’t feeling that great for the first three miles and then everything shook out. I was having a little bit of morning stomach issues. You’re kind of concerned about that being three miles into 100k. But yeah, we were all switching off leads and talking and it was a pack of four to six of us.
iRunFar: It looked like, maybe for the first third to half of the race, you were sharing the lead with a bunch of different guys. Then in the middle miles, you were just ahead of the leaders?
Costales: Foresthill was probably when people saw that, and it wasn’t for very long. Four of us were together. It was Cole [Watson], this kid Preston [Cates] that a lot of people are talking about right now, Max [King], and I. Noah [Brautigam] kind of dropped off the back for a little bit. He dropped off at the aid station before and caught back up later in the race.
But it was us four and then basically the last climb to Foresthill, there was a lot of walking going on. I got antsy and took off on the last hill, not by a lot. So when I popped out over Foresthill, I was maybe 30 seconds ahead.
iRunFar: When did you ultimately shake the rest of the guys?
Costales: Cole and I left the aid station pretty close together and down the hill he was adjusting his pack. I was a couple strides ahead. It was a really long asphalt downhill. We got to the trail and I turned around and I was like, “Oh, glad that’s over because it was kind of brutal.” And it wasn’t Cole. It was Max then.
So Max and I were together for maybe the first half of the next climb. I think he was trying to be more conservative than I was, and I left him a little bit on that climb. I’m not sure by how much, because I know within the first five miles after that is when he got lost.
iRunFar: The profile of this year’s race course is amazing. The end looks brutal.
Costales: Yeah, it was. But after Michigan Bluff, you go downhill pretty hard for two miles, and then it’s a really steep climb. I think that was the hardest part of the race. After that, it was more flowy from there on in. I didn’t think the last climb was too bad. It was a hard finish, but I would say the other climb was a little bit harder.
iRunFar: Interesting. You cleared everybody and I think you ran the last 10 miles something like 30 or 40 seconds a mile faster than everybody else, Max notwithstanding because he was spent some time off course. You crossed the finish line and there were no guys around for 10 minutes or so.
Costales: Yeah. You do a five-mile loop, and before you start that loop, you go out a quarter or half mile, and then you come back. You get to see people around you.
Back at the mile-25 aid station, Noah wasn’t feeling good. I waited around for him a little bit because we are friends. We have a lot of strengths and weaknesses that we could help each other out with. He said, “I’m not feeling that good.” I kind of waited and I was like, “Okay, I gotta’ go.” So I thought he was having a bad day, which I was really bummed about.
And then we do this out-and-back section and I’m expecting to see Cole or Max. Out of nowhere, it’s Noah. I got really excited because he’s my good friend. And then my next thought was, “Well Noah’s coming back pretty hard, I’ve got to step up another gear because everyone keeps talking about how this finish is brutal and Noah is a way-better climber than me.” He put in a million feet of vertical last year. He’s done those crazy, month-long challenges for vertical. So I started to hammer as much as I could the flowy section and was seeing how long I could hold him off for. It sounds like he ended up struggling in the last part anyway.
iRunFar: That’s amazing. [laughs] Your first thought is like, “Yeah, that’s my buddy.” And then the second thought was, “Oh no, that’s my buddy.”
Costales: We’d previously talked about, if it was the perfect day and we were running together, we’d break tape together. My thought was, “If he catches me on a climb, he better not wait up for me. He needs to just go. But if he starts to slowly catch up to me or we get into a spot where it’s the last mile, we could have that cool friendship finish.” I wanted to get to that point where that could potentially happen.
iRunFar: That’s awesome. So you crossed the line. You win the race by quite a lot. You get handed the gigantic Golden Ticket board. Now you have two months to recover, build for your first 100-mile race, and then race. What what’s going through your head right now?
Costales: I’ll try to keep it going as much as I can. Luckily the body has felt pretty well from this. I’m not sure if it’s because the trails are so nice in California or that we had 4,000 less feet of descent, which gets you a lot. Yeah, just get recovered as fast as I can and keep things rolling. It a bad timeline for that ticket because you got gotta’ taper going into this race, you have to recover after the race, and then now you have seven weeks and you gotta’ taper into the next race. It’s a five-week period that you have to really hammer. I’ll do the best I can.
iRunFar: There are blessings and curses of racing. There’s the taper and the recovery, but then there’s the fitness earned from the actual race itself.
Costales: The fitness and the experience are definitely good.
iRunFar: This was a nine-hour race this past weekend. You’re now jumping up to something in the 14- to 15-hour time frame…
Costales: I don’t know how else you really do it. There’s not too much in between a 100k and a 100 miler.
iRunFar: You talked earlier in this interview about using the 50 miler in Moab to work out the hitches for a 100k. Did you learn things this past weekend that you’re like, “Oh, that’s good to know for Western States?”
Costales: One of the biggest ones was having that elevation profile on my watch. I didn’t count miles. I counted how much more elevation gain I had left.
iRunFar: Oh, wow!
Costales: When I saw that was available on the watch, I was like, “Oh, that’s a really cool setting.” It counts down your feet, how much is left throughout the race, and it shows you what’s coming up next. I think learning that was the biggest benefit.
iRunFar: That’s a really fun way to break down a race, looking at the amount of uphill left.
Costales: At the 2019 The North Face 50 Mile, that’s what I looked at, too. I think it was 10 climbs. Getting through 10 climbs was the thought that day.
iRunFar: What a fun experience to go to your 100k and earn entrance to your first 100 miler.
Costales: Max and I were talking about that. It’s interesting. It’s different.
iRunFar: And it’s going to get a lot more different in just a couple of months.
Costales: Yeah. Knock on wood that nothing happens.
iRunFar: Apparently you just need Piper by your side.
Costales: Yeah, she’s done me pretty well so far.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your win at the Canyons 100k and we look forward to chasing you around the Western States course in just two months.
Costales: Thank you.