They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but Cameron Clayton proved this is not the case. At the 2013 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-Mile Championships, he bettered his third-place performance from last year with a second-place finish this year. In the following interview, Cameron talks about how his pre-race bout with the flu affected his performance, who some of the guys were with whom he spent time on course, and why this year’s second-place run felt easier than last year’s third-place effort.
[Editor’s Note: For more information, we’ve published a full TNF 50 results article.]
Cameron Clayton Post-2013 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Cameron Clayton after his second-place finish at TNF 50. Nice work, Cameron.
Cameron Clayton: Thanks very much, Bryon.
iRunFar: I think when you came across the finish line or shortly thereafter you told François [d’Haene] that it feels a lot better to finish second than third.
Clayton: Much better. Tremendously worlds different.
iRunFar: You had a great race out there.
Clayton: Thank you.
iRunFar: How did it go?
Clayton: It went good. It went awesome. I’m so proud of getting second. I did really well. The first 20 were really easy. I couldn’t eat anything because my stomach is still messed up from having the flu. So downhills which I typically love were tremendously difficult. It was playing a balancing game not throwing up, not feeling like I’m going to tear anything. Uphills were great. One of the upsides of having the flu was that I slept 10 hours per day and I didn’t run very much, so I was pretty well rested and had some good training going into it. You know, I got the flu at a much better time than Sage [Canaday] or Dakota [Jones], so I’m very lucky actually looking in hindsight.
iRunFar: You young kids need to take better care of yourselves.
Clayton: It’s Boulder—it’s an epidemic there.
iRunFar: The plague has hit Boulder.
Clayton: All my friends have the flu in Boulder. You’re going to have it now in a week. Bring it out to Utah for us.
iRunFar: Flu is going to Moab folks. Yeah, you went out conservatively for you.
Clayton: I was out two minutes slower than I was last year coming through six miles.
iRunFar: You weren’t full throttle.
Clayton: No. I just felt decent, so I was like, Alright, let’s see how it goes. I felt pretty good until the group caught us, then I had a rough patch for about 25 miles with some okay.
iRunFar: When I saw you at mile 30, it looked like you were going to be putting out the parachute and going backwards.
Clayton: That’s what I thought I might be doing. I passed Dylan [Bowman] going downhill and I started being able to really go downhill pretty well, so, There’s hope. I didn’t catch the guys in front of me as much as I didn’t die as badly. It was a war of attrition really, like how this race can be so often. They all just came back to me more than I went up to them.
iRunFar: Even though you like to talk a big game sometimes, the race of attrition and sort of evenness does more count in the end?
Clayton: I’m a master of attrition. I go into attrition every race. I go into the red zone and live in there.
iRunFar: Last year it was your second 50 miler and could you have imagined having the season and the strength you’ve had this year?
Clayton: You know, this race wasn’t as hard as last year’s race.
iRunFar: Really, how’s that?
Clayton: Just doing a couple more… you get better; you get used to it.
iRunFar: Physical aspect, the mental aspect, fueling—what have you gained over the last year?
Clayton: Physical aspect—I gained a little bit. I could continue rolling out some miles a little bit easier. My climbing has gotten quite a bit better. Last year I wouldn’t have gotten… I’d have gotten fourth this year if I had the same kind of climbing fitness. Yeah, I could climb a lot better this year. Then, probably my hydration actually improved a lot this year. I have to drink a lot more than I thought I ever would.
iRunFar: You’re probably not eating more than you used to.
Clayton: No, especially with the flu, I had two gels today and took in all my energy with GU Brew.
iRunFar: That’s like the anti-Western States plan there.
Clayton: My plan was going swimmingly until I hurt my foot there.
iRunFar: Yeah, but you were eating how many gels an hour?
Clayton: I think by the time I hit 50 miles, I had already taken in 30 gels.
iRunFar: It was a bit of a different approach to things even if unintentional. Are you taking some time off?
Clayton: I am. I’m taking three weeks off completely, then I’m doing some more skiing toward January (half and half), and then full event training come February and March.
iRunFar: Anything already on your schedule next year?
Clayton: A lot more Skyrunning—I’ll probably do the Skyrunning Series and Sky Distance and then also some ultras thrown in here and there.
iRunFar: Any race in particular inspiring you for next year?
Clayton: I’m really excited, especially if I get on the US Team for the Championships out in Mont Blanc, there’s a Mont Blanc marathon I’ll be a part of and probably the vertical K. If I get onto the U.S. Team, which there’s a chance, it would be great to go and see if we could get a U.S. guy on the top of podium… or two… or three. I’m really excited for that. It’s fast. It’s a fast mountain marathon by the standards of them. It’s exciting.
iRunFar: Your dad says you have to buy me a beer. I’m not making this up. What would you buy me if you had to buy me a beer tonight?
Clayton: I would send you a beer because I can’t buy anything here in California.
iRunFar: It’s illegal for Coloradoans to buy California beer?
Clayton: At least as a gift.
iRunFar: I like that.
Clayton: But you know, I’ll go ahead and mail you out one. I’ll think about it and come up with a really… I actually have a really good idea of what I’m going to send you.
iRunFar: Keep me warm—give me something good for the winter.
Clayton: Absolutely. This has a pleasure this year.
iRunFar: It’s been fun, Cam, and it’s great to have you and your performances and your personality out on the trails. So congratulations on a great season.
Clayton: Until 2014, probably.
iRunFar: Yeah, see you around.