Chris Mocko’s third place at the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile may not have come easy, but he’s happy with what he achieved. In this interview, Chris talks about how he almost dropped early in the race, using the race’s middle miles to put himself back together physically and mentally, and finishing the race feeling strong and positive. He also talks about a lot of things unrelated to running–you’ll just have to watch to see.
For more post-race interviews and details on how the whole race went down, check out our Lake Sonoma results article.
Chris Mocko Post-2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and we’re here at the finish line of the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. I’m with men’s third=place finisher, Chris Mocko. Two interviews, one weekend—I think you’re hitting it big time. Congratulations!
Chris Mocko: Thank you so much. I wanted this to be my very first running-related interview but folks with Dispatch Radio beat you guys at Behind the Rocks [50 Mile], Moab.
iRunFar: Found you.
Mocko: Bucket list for me was getting onto a podcast or getting interviewed. They got me first. Unfortunately, this is not popping my cherry. I’m kind of a pro now. This is my second one this weekend! I’m all warmed up.
iRunFar: Super pro. What is all the references to sex all the sudden? I’m feeling so uncomfortable.
Mocko: Moments ago, Dakota Jones walked by and said, ‘At least I’m getting laid tonight.’ I was like, ‘That doesn’t seem appropriate with your mom standing right there.’ Apparently there was some background that I was not aware of.
iRunFar: Everything is appropriate with Beth Jones.
Mocko: Second-most disappointing moment was that I thought I was getting interviewed with Kaci [Lickteig], and I thought, That’s a little odd. I don’t really know her. But you are interviewing Magda [Boulet] and Kaci together after this.
iRunFar: I’d hoped to if they’d like to be interviewed together. But I’m kind of here right now to talk about you. Do you want to talk about you?
Mocko: Yes, I’m also trying… I know, third place, I probably don’t get as much time, but I think [Alex] Varner set the record with a 26-minute interview.
iRunFar: I think he also had multiple beers, and you’ve only had one. I’ve had zero.
Mocko: This is mostly so I don’t have the awkward… I just have something in my hand. In case…
iRunFar: In case you need something to hold, I can get you a teddy bear.
Mocko: In case Bear Republic is interested in sponsoring an ultrarunner… I’m Chris Mocko, third-place finisher, and I love Racer 5.
iRunFar: Chris, I saw you at mile 11 today, and you looked okay to me, but you just said a few minutes ago that you were thinking of dropping early in the race. So maybe you weren’t feeling so good early on?
Mocko: It’s kind of becoming a thing. At Moab, the 50 miler Behind the Rocks, the first 15 miles—a little different scenario as we got lost and I missed the start of the race…
iRunFar: You missed the start of Behind the Rocks? I didn’t know. That’s funny.
Mocko: I was putting on my gear. Anyway… that race did not start perfectly. Probably through the first 15 miles, my heart rate was elevated, and I wasn’t feeling very good. I finally got over that hump and started being able to run well. Today, we went out pretty hard.
iRunFar: You guys went out really hard. You came into mile 11.5 just about on the fastest pace anybody has… the only person who has gone through there faster was Jim Walmsley a la 2015 when he had a bit of a burn to finish in the back half of the top 10. You guys were 20 seconds behind his pace that year.
Mocko: Okay. So it is a little demoralizing. You think you’re in good shape. As soon as you hit the climbs on the trails, you just get dropped. The road running is great. I loved the first two miles. I feel great! We did the descent, and I kind of took off. Okay, this helps. That’s probably because I’m the heaviest guy in the field, and I have way more inertia than the rest of the field.
iRunFar: The gravitational force of planet earth was working on your side?
Mocko: The guy up front, Jared… I don’t know his last name.
iRunFar: [Jared] Hazen.
Mocko: He was my roommate last night. We were chatting. He was like, ‘Yeah, I ran this two years ago, but I couldn’t go to the afterparty because I wasn’t old enough.’ I was like, ‘How young are you?’ I have a decade on him! Dakota is pretty young, too. It was Dakota and Jared, and then myself, Pat [Smyth], Ryan [Bak], and Sage [Canaday] as the older crew representing the ’80s. We’ve got to represent. Anyway, back to the race… I digress… I thought I was running pretty well, but somehow I found myself in sixth. Nobody was around. I wasn’t really checking my watch, so I didn’t really have a good sense for splits. This is killing me because I just wrote a blog post. Every single time I talk to somebody I say, ‘Run your own race.’ I’m at mile 10, I don’t see anyone, and I’m just demoralized. I don’t feel good. My calves are tight. I’m not climbing well. I’m not descending well. It was just a negative place. I knew my friends were going to be at mile 18. Let’s get to 18, tell Brian Gillis, ‘I’m dropping out, Brian. I can’t do this,’ and then probably run to 24 because it’s an easy return. But then I thought, I’ve only run 35 miles this week. I need 50 to…
iRunFar: ‘Boy, this is really going to screw up my weekly average.’
Mocko: It’s going to screw up my weekly… exactly. I need to hit triple digits! I’d better come back or maybe run tonight! Anyway, I kept going. The main thing for me was, Hey, you can’t drop out of a race. As soon as you do that once, that gets in your head. When I show up at [Western] States, if that has crept into my mind at all, it’s going to happen, and I can’t let that happen. I kind of rebounded from that a little bit. I started to feel a little bit better. I probably got enough Gu and water in me. By the turnaround, I started feeling great. People were telling me, ‘Oh, you look so much better than everyone else.’ ‘I know.’
iRunFar: ‘Clearly I feel better, too.’
Mocko: I did run very slowly for the first half, so that makes sense. From mile 25 to 30, I think I passed three runners, which was shocking. I think… I can’t even remember. I passed Jared on the way out. Then I passed Ryan Bak. Right at 30, my buddy who was crewing there said, ‘You just passed Pat as well.’ ‘What is going on? This is awesome!’
iRunFar: ‘I guess I do feel good.’
Mocko: Yeah, so that obviously helped especially because Pat and Ryan, I just idolize them. I’ve told that to their faces. These guys are so good. They’re so fast. I watched a documentary on Ryan in 2004.
iRunFar: Puppy Ryan, right?
Mocko: It’s crazy to think that people are going to come back, but it happens every single time. You have to trust that your fitness is there, and if you run your race, you’re going to have a good day. Fortunately I didn’t quite do that, so I got excited. People are like, ‘You look so good! They’re only two minutes ahead!’ One aid station was like, ‘Sage is five to 10 minutes up.’ That’s the least-helpful update.
iRunFar: ‘That’s a lot.’
Mocko: That’s a pretty big range. That’s like giving me a condom with holes in it. That’s not going to do me a lot of good.
iRunFar: Another reference. Number three.
Mocko: We’ll cut that out. I could do that all day. I got excited. I got juiced up. I ran very hard for that middle 10-mile section.
iRunFar: From 30 to 40?
Mocko: Basically 25 to 35. That was also fire roads which was a little bit easier for me. Then we reentered the singletrack, undulating and in and out…
iRunFar: The really mean singletrack… at least mean at that point in the race.
Mocko: I’d actually talked to some of the race organizers yesterday, and they said, ‘Yeah, we were cutting the hedges for Varner height to make it Varner certified, but Oh, Mocko is in this, and he’s 6’3″.’
iRunFar: ‘He’s really tall.’
Mocko: They did not do a great job with it. Those undulations were not built for 6’3” and 170 pounds. Not perfect. I was kind of cursing myself. Why did I eat all that food this week? If I was just two pounds lighter it would be easier.
iRunFar: If the people behind you found the trail to be more eroded it was because you came banging down it.
Mocko: Exactly. We entered that, and all of a sudden I lost my climbing legs. I had just gotten a little excited. I think. It was also 35 miles into a pretty hard day. I don’t know what my turnaround split was, but I think it was quite a bit faster than my return. I started getting in my hike. Pretty much every uphill was a little bit of hiking and a little bit of running. The downhills were fine. The downhills felt great which are usually my weakest part. But the uphills were pretty rough. There were no breaks. Okay, you get, I swear, a half mile down, two miles up. Half mile down, one mile up. I was like, This is a brutal course. Then I was looking at my watch, How did this James Walmsley guy almost break six hours here? Oh, my gosh.
Mocko: Anyway, that was the day in a nutshell. I got a sense that there wasn’t anyone behind me, which helps. I felt like all the guys around me were dropping out, so it helped to have a little cushion. I try never to race thinking about the people back. I’m trying to think about the people ahead. I just didn’t get a sense I was catching up unfortunately, because for awhile there, I was like, I’m going to win this thing. We’re going to do it. But it didn’t happen today.
iRunFar: All the way through around the south side of the lake, you didn’t see anybody. You didn’t get a glimpse of anybody in front of you or behind you—solo mission?
Mocko: Solo mission. I was getting, ‘Oh, they’re three minutes up.’ At one point somebody said, ‘100 yards up!’ They were actually six minutes up. How are you running this race, and you don’t know how far 100 meters is? Unbelievable.
iRunFar: That’s the type of person you don’t want to help wave you into a parking spot because you’re going to really slam the car ahead of you.
Mocko: The final climb, they’re like, ‘Dakota is only two minutes up! You’re getting to him! You’re catching him!’ I don’t know if he didn’t time it well, or… it was my buddy, Chris… I don’t know if he didn’t time it well or if he was just trying to encourage me…
iRunFar: He was really excited.
Mocko: He was actually four minutes up. I started hauling. I’m going to have a 2006 [Western] States moment where I just black out on the course and don’t make it. Actually, I’m very curious to see what my Strava Flyby is to see if I was making up ground or losing it. The only real fiasco on the day at four to go is my shoe started to get lose. What’s going on here? The lace had snapped, which tends to happen. I don’t think Salomon does a lot of testing on 170-pound guys slamming and bombing downhills. The lace snapped, and I salvaged it at the very last minute and tied the last bit together. As I was bending down, I kind of lost control of a lot of my body. So I started doing a bit of peeing.
iRunFar: You just said that in an interview, and a lot of people are going to watch that. No shame.
Mocko: Let’s bookmark the pee. We’ll get back to that in a second.
iRunFar: We don’t need to get back to it. We really don’t.
Mocko: My shoelace came off. I’m peeing on myself. I’m trying to tie it back up. It starts going in my water bottle. Well, that water bottle is done. A mile later, I’m thirsty, and we’re still drinking out of it. I’m not making any excuses. I wasn’t catching anyone.
iRunFar: You drank the pee water?
Mocko: I drank the pee water. I don’t think it actually was that bad, but it will be a better story if I say… Something I did notice is Dakota, five miles in, took a break to relieve himself. I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but I’ve trained myself to not have to stop anymore for bathroom breaks… for number one. So it was probably a little more embarrassing coming back because there are so many athletes running out. Why are his shorts soaking wet right now? You’d be amazed, a little bit of warmth—normally I like cool water—but a little bit of warmth goes a long way. There are so many river crossings, you cool off by the time…
iRunFar: Bringing triathlons to ultrarunning one pee break at a time. So awkward.
Mocko: Yeah. Super awkward. Hi, Mom and Dad, yes, your son just talked about peeing himself on live TV.
iRunFar: So, you’ve had a good spring so far, raced a lot, and you’ve got your eye on Western States. Are you going to give yourself a little downtime between now and then, or are you just going to keep going full bore racing every weekend or every other weekend? What’s the plan?
Mocko: Twice weekly. The plan is, on Monday, I’m going to fly to the Big Island of Hawaii and take a week to enjoy myself.
iRunFar: Have a vacation? A proper vacation?
Mocko: Yes, coming through mile 15 or probably when I saw you I was like, I’m not going to be able to enjoy this trip. I’m going to be grumpy the whole time.
iRunFar: ‘Because I will have dropped or finished 100th.’
Mocko: Yeah, This is going to be awful. I’m going to be grumpy. The weather is going to be terrible in Hawaii. The beaches are going to be ugly. Yeah, I have an ex-coworker who is getting married. Fortunately I hate running in the heat, so I will have no desire to run. I’m hoping I will take a down week. That’s the plan.
iRunFar: So you’re saying there’s a chance.
Mocko: There’s a chance, but I’ve surprised myself before. After Monday’s interview, my Strava base is growing. They’re expecting something big, so we’ll see what happens. Right now, and I was already questioning it out there, I’m signed up for Canyons at the end of the month.
iRunFar: Canyons 100k?
Mocko: Right now I’m in the 50k.
iRunFar: Keep it that way.
Mocko: Might keep it that way. Then I head to Virginia for UROC. That will be 100k.
iRunFar: What month?
Mocko: May 13.
iRunFar: Yeah… so you’re going to show up either in one-heck-of-a-good-shape Chris Mocko at Western States or you’re going to be totally overblown. One or the other.
Mocko: Yes. The motto for this whole training cycle is that I’m flirting on the edge of glory—Lady Gaga, Edge of Glory…
iRunFar: Edge of defeat.
Mocko: It will go really well, or it’s going to go really poorly. The first climbs today, all I’m thinking is, I need to do more climbing. I need to do more squats. I need to do more butt exercises. I can’t climb. I’m the worst. I’m terrible. I was texting my roommates last night, ‘Guys, I need to train harder.’ ‘Okay, not today. Not tonight. You don’t need to do that.’ It’s the same thing I’ve told myself 100 times, The day before the race, you’re going to self doubt, you’re going to feel terrible. I feel like the reason I probably felt terrible is probably from standing for that interview on Monday.
iRunFar: Yeah, that really screwed things up.
Mocko: That 10 minutes—I usually like to stay off my feet after my runs. That was a lot of time.
iRunFar: There we made you stand on that hard concrete of your back porch.
Mocko: I might even drop out of Canyons. I might even try to get a training cycle. The benefit to running that is you get to see a lot of the course. I’ve never run the canyon section and not felt completely dead, so I feel I need to build some confidence there. So I would like to go up there, and it seems like a great race. I’ll probably show up for something there. This guy, Cole Watson, just ran 49 minutes for 10 mile, and he’s in the 50k. That’s brisk. That’s brisk. Yeah, if I do run the 50k, it’s going to be a fast day.
iRunFar: This is Pear Blossom Cole Watson, right? New course-record guy? Yeah, that’s a pair of legs.
Mocko: Yes, he raced the TNF 50k in December, and I had a buddy, Chris Baird who is a triathlete and my training partner, also in the race. I saw this guy take off, and I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. He’s going to blow up. Nobody goes that fast in a 50k,’ and he did.
iRunFar: They either blow up or they stick it, don’t they. Well, as much as I’d like to hang around and see what comes out of your mouth next…
Mocko: We haven’t talked about dating yet…
iRunFar: No, that’s okay.
Mocko: Okay, we’ll keep that for next time. Keep the audience entertained.
iRunFar: We’ve already had enough awkward moments for today.
Mocko: I promise this is my first beer. We’re good. This is not beer. This is just me.
iRunFar: Congratulations to you on your third-place finish. We’ll see you in the beer line and in the wine-tasting line tomorrow.
Mocko: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: We’ll see in you in Squaw.
Mocko: See you in Auburn. That’s more important.
iRunFar: Okay, see you in Auburn. Hashtag.