In her second 100 miler, Corrine Malcolm ran to ninth place at the 2018 Western States 100. In our first interview with her, Corrine talks about how running a conservative strategy paid off, where she lost (but gained) time on other women, and why she transitioned from high-level biathlete to trail runner.
Be sure to read our results article for the full race story.
Corrine Malcolm Post-2018 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Corrine Malcolm after her ninth-place finish at the 2018 Western States 100. Congratulations, Corrine!
Corrine Malcolm: Thanks!
iRunFar: How did it feel out there?
Malcolm: It was special, I guess. I thought if I had a really good day and was smart, I could be top ten, and it kind of came together towards the end of the day which was really exciting.
iRunFar: This is your first interview with iRunFar. You write for us which is awesome, but this is your first interview. So I’d like to know and have you tell everybody what your background is in endurance sports and sports. How did you come to be a trail runner?
Malcolm: I was a Nordic skier and actually dropped out of college for a while to do biathlon. So, I skied with a rifle. When I was thoroughly overtrained and retiring from that, I took a year-and-a-half off, but we’d routinely do four-to-six-our long runs in the mountains. I thought Skyrunning would be a natural fit, so I actually did that for a year. Then my dad was like, “You know, I think you’d be better if you ran longer.” So I took him up on it. In 2016, I did Gorge [Waterfalls] 100 with [the] Chuckanut [50k]as a warm-up for it because I realized jumping into a 100k wasn’t probably super smart. Only since 2016 have I been running ultras.
iRunFar: I assume you were probably high-level Nordic and probably did that for a while?
Malcolm: Yeah, I raced collegiately, and, then, for the national team for biathlon.
iRunFar: Here you are trail running and have worked your way up to the 100 miler. What were you expecting going into the race this weekend?
Malcolm: I ran Leadville 100 last August, so it’s not my first 100 but they’re very different—altitude versus high heat. I live in a pretty temperate area in Bellingham, Washington. 65 degrees is kind of warm.
iRunFar: Cool and sea level.
Malcolm: Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of not great prep for most of my racing. I was worried about the heat, but I also knew that when conditions are really bad I tend to do pretty well, because I try to race really smart, and I think that I’m tough generally speaking. I tried that yesterday to be super conservative and spent a lot of time at river crossings, and I think that paid off.
iRunFar: How did that feel because you were running with some of the… Camelia [Mayfield]and [interview’s mistake] Kaytlyn [Gerbin]and some of the other runners, and they’re not stopping?
Malcolm: Yeah, you definitely question whether you’re doing the right thing. I also changed my shoes a lot in part, because if I can minimize some of that stuff going wrong… I played it really safe. I didn’t take a lot of risks. Could I have gotten away with changing my shoes a time less? Probably. That’s five minutes. Could I have… I was eating solid food really well, so whenever I changed shoes I was eating solid food from my crew, so I took advantage of that. I’d come to river crossings and let Kaci [Lickteig]and Kate Elliotgo—and Camelia was part of that group for a long time—and I’d be the one going off trail to get into Swinging Bridges, that creek there, or Eldorado. It was just like,Am I doing the right thing? I think it was worth it in the end because staying really cold actually helped me eat for so long. It’s scary when no one else is making those decisions.
iRunFar: You have to run your own race, right?
Malcolm: Yes, 100%. I felt good for so long, and I think that paid off.
iRunFar: Now, do you think… you did all these shoe changes and creek dips, is that because you’re new to this distance and you want to play it safe and conservative, or do you think you’ll engage in incrementalism and sort of pare it down some of that as you go along?
Malcolm: Yeah, I was talking to Jason Koop about it this morning about how you kind of have to weigh the risk and the reward a little bit. Yesterday, I think I was very, very conservative as far as the number of shoe changes and running sock changes and creek crossings—you know, you get your feet wet in a creek crossing, so if you’re doing that maybe you do want to change your shoes as opposed to missing those things. I do think getting more comfortable with not only the distance but also the environment, those kinds of things, it’s a learning process and takes a little bit of experience.
iRunFar: You’re involved with the science side of running in extreme circumstances. Aside from what experiments you’ve been a part of, you write about this for iRunFar. Do you think that’s a big advantage to know that,Oh, this is really hot. There is a huge benefit to lowering my core temperature.
Malcolm: Totally. I’m super science-y and super nerdy. Like you said, I just wrote a heat article for you guys. I do think that’s always on my mind not only for prep pre-race but for during the race. I know how inefficient we are as humans as far as keeping ourselves cool. Even though we may not be working that hard, we’re producing all this heat, and our bodies don’t do a great job of dispersing that. Yeah, I was like, Stay cold. We made these ice socks out of nylons and ice and shoved these ice logs in my pack. It kept all the ice in my pack instead of bouncing out. I’d leave aid stations about 10 pounds heavy just carrying ice with me.
iRunFar: That’s also evaporative cooling not just the coldness of the ice.
Malcolm: Totally. I think it’s helpful to be aware of that stuff. Is it necessary? Probably not, but I think there are tricks you can put into play really easily when it comes to racing in this kind of extreme weather.
iRunFar: Do you feel like you had any low points even with that avoidance?
Malcolm: I was talking to people about it that I’d feel so great for 10k and then I’d be like, This is impossible. Then I’d feel really good again and be cruising. I think there’s some natural highs and lows. I never got super down yesterday. I think the aid stations helped with that. You come into aid and see all these people. I’d feel really desperate maybe a mile before the aid just wanting to be there. Then, I’d get a high from the aid station, and I’d be fine again. It was the five-to-six-mile spread ones that were really hard. That’s where I think I was at my lowest. My pacer did a good job at that point of keeping me focused.
iRunFar: You needed to stay focused because there was some racing in the back of that top 10.
Malcolm: Yeah, it turns out that it was really close for a lot of the race. I was outside of the top 10 for a long time hanging out in 11th-13th. All the sudden it was very much apparent. When we left Foresthill, my pacer and I were hauling, maybe too fast, because I got really crampy all the sudden. I was like, Ohhh, okay. I need to back off so I can get this under control. Then, it was fine once we backed off a little bit and recalibrated. We caught two women right away. We caught Nicole [Kalogeropoulos]and Camelia right away, but then Camelia came back with a vengeance. But it was one of those things where, balancing out wanting to hunt and also not wanting to hunt, I told my pacer, If a woman catches us and I’m moving as fast as I think I possibly can right now with knowing how far we still have to go, she deserves to pass me. I’m not going to surge to counter it which is probably not great race tactics, but…
iRunFar: But it’s not the last half mile of a 5k.
Malcolm: Exactly. Even though you’ve run 80 miles, it turns out the last 20 miles is still pretty long.
iRunFar: And tough. And it’s kind of the hardest part with that 80-mile prelude.
Malcolm: Yeah, I knew I was running the downhills really well, but I was kind of struggling on the gradual uphills at that point, so I tried to use that to my advantage and stay really smooth. Yeah, you had to be focused towards the end there. Amy [Leedham], my second pacer, was ready to go hunting. I was like, Okay, I’m almost ready.
iRunFar: She was building up the competitive spark for herself.
Malcolm: Oh, yeah. She’s very focused and driven and very organized, so she was a very good second pacer to have heading into the last 20 miles.
iRunFar: Did you have any favorite moment or experience during the race?
Malcolm: No, but coming through those big aid stations, like coming through Foresthill is really special just because there’s such mass of people that are just there watching. They don’t even have anyone in the race. They’re just out with their families. That’s really cool, because I don’t think a lot of our racing has that in the US. Then there were moments in the last 38 miles when we were just cruising. That feels kind of amazing.
iRunFar: How am I doing this?
Malcolm: Then when I picked up my first pacer, Nicky, and my boyfriend, Stephen—Stephen is not a runner at all—he was like, “You guys can’t drop me finishing. This is my normal running pace and you’ve run 99 miles.” “Okay, come on.” That was kind of fun to say, “Keep up!”
iRunFar: Maybe you would have dropped him if some woman came up rolling on you at that point?
Malcolm: They jokingly… yeah, if someone came up rolling… I’ll say I’m not competitive to my crew or that I don’t want to, and my pacer will be like, “She says she doesn’t care, but when she heard someone behind us she’d pick it up.” That would have totally happened at the end. He would have been SOL at that point. Aliza [Lapierre] wasn’t that far ahead. She’d crested Robie Point just in front of us, but there’s a long uphill on the road out of Robie Point, and I was like, Nope, it’s not happening.
iRunFar: Where else might we see you? Where are you racing this summer?
Malcolm: I’m not racing in the US for the remainder of the summer. I’m going over to Europe for all of August.
iRunFar: Sounds nice.
Malcolm: Yeah, I’m really excited. Western States was not… I was off the waitlist. I’d not been planning on this initially. I’d planned to go to Europe in the spring, and, then, race a fall 100 in the US, so I’m flip-flopping it. I’m racing this now and a bunch of races going into this, and then I’ll race Sierre Zinalas a warm up race for TDS.
iRunFar: Those are two very different races. You can’t concentrate on both.
Malcolm: No, so TDS will be the focus. I got offered a spot for Sierre Zinal, and I’ve always wanted to run it. It’s 30k and super hilly, but I like that stuff.
iRunFar: It’s also really fast.
Malcolm: Yeah, and I think for me the timing between that and TDS is really nice as far as I hate long intervals. I’m really bad at doing them. My athletes probably don’t like hearing that, but I personally hate them. So finding a half marathon to 30k race a couple weeks out is super nice.
iRunFar: Perfect. Congratulations on your great run here and good luck in Europe.