On Saturday, seven men broke Hal Koerner’s course record at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile; however, only one owns the new course record – Montrail’s Dakota Jones. Not only did Dakota set a new course record by more than 50 minutes, he won by nearly 20 minutes in a time of 6:17:27. In the interview, Dakota discusses his race, his transition to working with a coach, and what he’ll be focusing on in the next couple months… among many topics.
Ps. Thanks to Drymax for letting me borrow a video camera for iRunFar’s Lake Sonoma 50 interviews and to Kristin Zosel for tirelessly transcribing iRunFar’s videos!
Dakota Jones 2012 Lake Sonoma 50 Interview
iRunFar: I’m with Dakota Jones the morning after he won the Lake Sonoma 50 miler. This is probably your biggest win yet?
Dakota Jones: Yeah, I think so. I didn’t think of it like that, but I suppose so with the number of people that were here. I’ve had some other good results, but I guess they were all second place last year so that’s nice. It’s a good feeling.
iRF: Tell us a little bit about how your race played out. It was a good group of people that went out from the start.
Jones: It’s pretty simple. It’s not like there was a big story behind it. I just ran a lot and then I won. Lucky me. We just started the race and there was a big pack and like most races it dwindles and there was just a few people. Eventually it was just Tim Olson and Jorge Maravilla running together at 12 or 15 miles in. Just behind us a few turns were Dave Mackey and Hal Koerner. Tim and Jorge and I ran together for a long time and then there were these two biggish climbs before the turn around point. I was climbing a little better than those guys and so I got ahead of them on the second one. Then, I hit the halfway point at the turnaround ahead of them and just kind of fired it up from there and tried to get ahead of them. I just hammered the descents and tried to get out of sight. I got ahead and got by myself and ran alone for the rest of the race.
iRF: Tell me about trying to get out of sight. There are a lot of twists and turns on this course so is that a big mental deal?
Jones: I’ve done that before where I try to get out of sight because if you’re trying to catch someone and you keep going around turns and you can’t see them, it’s got to have some kind of psychological toll. It seems silly to have some kind of a strategy like that, but I guess there is that aspect in it. Mainly I was just trying to go as fast as I could to get ahead of them and run by myself.
iRF: So once you’re out in front, what’s it like being chased by Dave Mackey and Hal Koerner?
Jones: Well, I thought it was Dave Mackey and Hal Koerner behind me, but I don’t know… Dave wasn’t too happy with his day. Hal felt pretty good, he was pretty fast.
iRF: Do you feel any kind of pressure, or were you scared at all? That was your first time being up there with that kind of group behind you.
Jones: I was running hard and I wasn’t going to slow down, but I was afraid that I might. My mind would kind of wander and then I’d focus back on the race. I’d kind of nervously check everything, “Am I going too fast or too slow,” because you really don’t want to get complacent. Running by yourself you can kind of get into that mode where it’s just like another long run. In a sense, that’s kind of what it was, and it’s a good way to think about it to keep the pressure down. But at the same time, if you do that too much or take it too far then you’re going to slow down and get caught and you lose and I want to win.
iRF: Unlike some in the ultra scene, you took an off season. Tell us about that.
Jones: Yeah, I took it easy from the end of The North Face 50 miler in December until I started actually “training” in February, the end of February almost March. I was running. I like running. But I was probably doing 40 miles/week – just totally go out and running, no speed work or anything, just run around when I feel like it and stop when I’m done. I think that was really good. I did a lot of climbing and just focused on different things. One day I was just running in Denver and I was like, “I’m really ready to train now.” It was cool, you know, I really felt that fire peaked back up. I got back into training, and I’ve been working hard ever since. It feels good. It feels really good to be fit again. I think it’s good to have those times when you’re not so fit because it’s so motivating. When you get it back it’s such a good feeling.
iRF: Helping you get fit this year, you have a coach. How did that come about?
Jones: I did an interview and then in passing I mentioned I’d thought about a coach before but I’d never done anything about it. Then a guy from Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs, Jason Koop, contacted me and said, “If you want help, I’m happy to help you.” So we talked for a while and, yeah, we haven’t been working together that long, but he’s definitely got me doing some speedwork and some training that is a lot more focused than the training that I’ve done in the past. I’ve never really known what to do for training in the past, I’ve just kind of winged it. It’s kind of his job to know what to do for training, so judging by yesterday’s result I think it’s working out really well. I look forward to continuing it.
iRF: Well, you have a bit more flexibility in your training schedule these days living on the road out of your car.
Jones: Yeah, the hardest part is finding a good place to run when you’re in a new town every day… which is OK if that’s the hardest thing to do.
iRF: So what made you decide to leave school and go out on your own?
Jones: I just decided that I was in school paying a lot of money to do something that I didn’t really care about. I didn’t really have any purpose. It’s not like there was a job that I wanted that required a degree. Because of that I was just spending a lot of money and I didn’t really want to be there. I was doing a poor job and I hate when I do things poorly. I couldn’t take that. I figured I’ll go back, there’s nothing bad about school, but I think I need to know what I’m doing when I’m there. So I’m figuring it out, I’m doing what I like now, and it’s good to know that I’m doing it pretty well.
iRF: With that newfound freedom, you have a lot of exciting events coming up. What are you most excited about in the next three or four months?
Jones: Well, races as I’m in full on running mode now for sure. A month from now I’ll be in the Canary Islands running the Transvulcania 50 mile race which is the most stacked field I can think of. It’s got everybody there from Europe and America. That will be really cool, but it’s also running over a volcano in the Canary Islands, so that’s really cool, too. There’s really nothing bad about that that I can see. Then a week after that there’s the Zegama Aizkorri Alpine Marathon in the North of Spain, which I’ll suffer through, probably slowly.
iRF: You’ll be focusing on Transvulcania?
Jones: Right, exactly. And then I’ll come back and go into the mountains and spend the rest of the summer up high, probably in the San Juans in southwest Colorado, training for Hardrock on July 13. That’s kind of the main focus race of the year overall.
iRF: So in winning a Western States spot through the Montrail Ultra Cup you will be declining your entry?
Jones: I know, it’s hard to do that. Western is a cool race, it’s got so much history, and there’s so much competition there. It’s really a race that I’d love to do, but I don’t know. I dropped out of school because I didn’t feel like I was doing a good job. If I did Hardrock and Western, I don’t feel that I could do a really good job at both of them. You know, you kind of have to choose one or the other. So, since I got into Hardrock and it’s really hard to get into Hardrock, I’m going to do Hardrock this year and maybe next year I could do Western States if I get in.
iRF: That’s a hard decision to make, but I think a lot of people will agree that it’s the right decision.
Jones: Yeah, well when I do it, I want to do it correct.
iRF: Well, good luck in training this season and we’ll see you in Spain. We’ll be in the Canary Islands.