The 2024 Hardrock 100 is history! Check out our in-depth results article for the full race story, as well as our interviews with champions Courtney Dauwalter and Ludovic Pommeret.

Dakota Jones Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview

A video interview (with transcript) with Dakota Jones before the 2023 Western States 100.

By on June 21, 2023 | Comments

Despite an already long career in ultrarunning, Dakota Jones is racing Western States 100 this week for the first time. In this interview, he talks about his adventure biking to the race from his home in Utah to raise funds and awareness for the climate-action charity Footprints, and the different approaches he takes in preparing for mountainous versus more runnable ultras.

For more on who’s racing, check out our in-depth men’s and women’s previews. Follow along with our WS 100 live race coverage on Saturday.

Dakota Jones Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just a couple of days before the 2023 Western States 100. And I’m here with Dakota Jones. Dakota, how are you?

Dakota Jones: I’m doing great, Sarah. Thanks so much for having me.

iRunFar: Yeah, thanks for meeting us. I believe you had quite an adventure to get here. So you biked here all the way from Salt Lake City. So how was that? How long did that take?

Jones: Yeah, yeah. I rode my bike here from Salt Lake, from my house. It took me about seven days. It was like 680 miles, more or less. And we did it, I did it as a fundraiser for my nonprofit Footprints where we help trail runners address climate change. So, fundraiser’s ongoing.

iRunFar: That’s brilliant. So you’ve recently moved there to Salt Lake, I believe. So, what’s your current training ground like?

Jones: Salt Lake City is a really, really good place to train for trail running, and in general. The mountains are fantastic. You can get a lot of really steep technical training in, but there’s also plenty of trails that are fast and runnable. It’s also a pretty big city, like a biggest city, the biggest city I’ve ever lived in. So, still adjusting to that but it’s nice. There’s a lot of really good people there. My sister’s there. It’s a lot of fun.

iRunFar: Okay, cool. And have you bedded in well with the community there? Have you found like, new people to train with?

Jones: You know, I haven’t been as good at outreach as I should have been. I’ve been going to school, and run my nonprofit, and train. And so I just let myself get so busy that I let my relationships fall to the side and it’s actually a big bummer. It’s something I’m really trying to work on. So, that’s something I’m going to work on this summer, okay?

iRunFar: I do find that a difficult balancing act. Because a lot of people running at your level or just focused on running. Is it hard to manage it all with school as well?

Jones: Yes, yes. I don’t like being super busy, and I find myself really busy all the time. And so I make sacrifices all the time, which tend to be sacrifices of things that are not quantifiable, like family and friends. Like my relationships, you know, it’s easy to put that on the side and finish an assignment. Or create an event for Footprints, or go train, you know. And so, I think on a piece of paper, I’ve been able to accomplish a lot and I’m really happy with that. But I think the quality of life that I’ve developed is not super great. So, it’s been a bit unsustainable I’d say.

iRunFar: Do you think maybe after this you might be able to make some room to take some downtime from running to fit in other things?

Jones: Certainly after Western States I don’t intend to run for a while. And I’m not going to school this summer. So yes, I hope to have a break.

iRunFar: Okay, cool. It’s going tobe a fun summer.

Jones: Yeah.

iRunFar: Yeah, so the last time we talked to you was last year, when you took third at the Hardrock 100. So obviously, that’s a super hard, mountainous ultra. And then later on that year, you run the opposite at Javelina [100]. Really flat and fast 100 miles. So, did you change up your training much in between those two races to do something so different?

Jones: Yeah, certainly. Hardrock, I feel like it’s a hiking race almost. And there’s so much altitude. It’s very much a mountain race. And so I focused really heavily on running a mountain race. And then for Javelina, I have to run, it took 13 hours you know. It’s 10 hours less than Hardrock. And so I focused a lot more on running fast. On running more mileage. You know, at Hardrock probably the training time was similar, maybe a little more for Hardrock, but a lot more mileage for Javelina. And just trying to get practice turnover, a lot more speed work.

iRunFar: Yeah. And a lot of the other Golden Ticket races were pretty close up to this, like the Canyons [100k] was only in April. So you had your entry for Western States a lot earlier than a lot of people. And do you think that that was an advantage to have a more relaxed build up and more time to prepare specifically for this?

Jones: For me? Yes, absolutely. I can’t speak to other people. I think that maybe there’s benefits in racing often and staying excited and motivated. But for me, getting my ticket at Javelina into Western States last year in October was really, really positive, because I took a lot of time off after that. Didn’t have to worry about anything. I rested really fully after that. And then I was able to, as you say, build back up in more time this spring.

iRunFar: Okay. But you weren’t totally just chilling. You did also win the Transvulcania Ultramarathon. So you’ve done that a few times. So, how did that go? How was that?

Jones: Yeah, Transvulcania was a surprise, but a very, very pleasant one. [laughs] Like I said, I’ve been pretty busy this spring running around doing all kinds of things. And we also had the wettest winter in Salt Lake that they’ve had in decades, probably. There was so much snow. So it was really hard to train on trails at all. I did a ton of road running, and I don’t know, that makes my calves get really, really tight. I struggle with that. I had a bit of a knee problem at one point. And I felt like I was fit going into Transvulcania, but not fit enough. But I think maybe I’m old enough that I have enough strength after all this time running that I was able to do okay. I don’t know. A lot of these races are like that. I show up and I think I’m fit. I don’t know. We’ll find out. And then yeah, at Transvulcania, I was. So that was that was positive.

iRunFar: Yeah. I guess it was a good distance for a build-up race.

Jones: I think so. Yeah. Especially as it’s six weeks, seven weeks out from Western States. Perfect.

iRunFar:Great. So yeah, it seems strange for someone of your experience, who’s has been racing really big ultras for so long, that you haven’t done Western States before. But I know you’ve raced a lot in this area. You’re done Broken Arrow [Skyrace], you’ve done Lake Sonoma [50 Mile] and I believe paced some of Western States. But does it feel exciting to be kind of breaking new ground on something big that you haven’t done before?

Jones: Yeah, it’s amazing. I’ve been running ultras for at least 15 years, and I’ve never run Western States, and it’s crazy. But I’m really, really excited to be here. It’s one of the most important races in the entire sport. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and for whatever reason, I’ve always just done other things. But to be able to come here and to feel fit and healthy, and to be able to give it my all, it’s a big honor. You know, I get to feel like I’m participating in a major part of the sport, you know. It’s a milestone for me.

iRunFar: Great. And you were saying just before we started this, but you haven’t actually seen big sections of the course. So, from what you’ve heard about, and the things you haven’t seen, is there anything you’re really excited about?

Jones:I’m excited about the snow and the water. It feels like it’s going to be a bit more adventurous and more of a mountain race than other years. You know, I’ve been running on snow. I like the snow, and being up in the mountains. You know, I say this, I’m probably going to trip and break my ankle up there or something in the snow, but hopefully not. But I think it’ll be really nice to explore the trails. I’ve seen the last 40 [miles]. I’ve paced from Foresthill into the finish. But, before that, I’ve studied the maps really well. I’ve seen the photos. I’ve done everything I can short of actually coming here and being on the course. So, I guess I don’t know. There’s some discovery left.

iRunFar: Yeah. And so given the conditions, it’s quite a bit cooler than most years. There’s some snow. I believe there’s about 10 miles of snow. But do you think that this could be a course record year? Do you think the ingredients are there for it?

Jones: I don’t know if I can say. Having never run the race before, it’s really hard to say for sure. I mean, 80 degrees is the is the highest, or 84 being the projected high in Auburn or something, is a lot easier to run fast in than 104. Right? So I think that’s certainly helpful. Maybe the snow slows us down a little, but honestly, I think it’s probably going to be a faster year. The temperature plays a huge part of that.

iRunFar: Okay. It’s a super deep men’s field. There’s lots of returning runners from last year. There’s lots of really good newcomers as well. So, who would you be expecting to be up front and who would you anticipate maybe sharing some miles with?

Jones: It’s almost like there’s so many that I’m going to forget somebody, and I’m going to offend them. But it’s, I mean, Tom Evans, Mathieu Blanchard, Arlen Glick. I need to see the list. There’s like, Tyler Green. Sorry, I’m forgetting so many people because I’m on the spot here, but there’s so many great runners. Like I expect it’ll be a pack of 15 or 20 through Robinson Flat.

iRunFar: Yeah.

Jones: Within the 5 or 10 minutes. You know, so many people will be running up at the front. So many people are capable of winning this thing. I don’t know. It’ll be fun to find out, you know.

iRunFar: For sure. Do you have kind of a pacing strategy, or I’m not going to ask you what they are, but have you figured out any kind of splits to break it down? Or do you just run by feel?

Jones: I largely run by feel. I’m super non-quantitative in my racing and my running. I tend to just try to hit an intensity that I feel like I can maintain, and well, a little faster than I know I can maintain. You know, it’s always a risk in a race, but I’m always pushing, but trying to maintain. It’s like trying to hit that balance. But at the same time, I’m also always aware of where every other runner is, and I don’t want to go off the front too hard, but it’s like if you get way too far behind, it’s really hard to catch up. And so, trying to manage all that can be tough. For myself, I just want to run a consistent race. And, before the race I’m going to tell you, I’d love to just go chill to Michigan Bluff or Foresthill and then race, you know. But of course, I’m going to be pushing from the start.

iRunFar: Of course.

Jones: Hopefully on the Escarpment I go easy, you know. I’m going to try to be conservative, but I also think that this is a race where it’s worth taking risks.

iRunFar: Absolutely. And you were very fun to watch in Hardrock, the way you just took a downhill and took it out hard, so.

Jones: Thanks. Yeah, that risk didn’t pay off. But I don’t regret taking it.

iRunFar: Yeah, no, you still you still did phenomenal. Anyway, brilliant. And then this is a silly question. But do you plan on cycling home after?

Jones: So the plan is to take the train home, because there’s a train from my house. Well, from here back to my house. And I think that that is actually part of the story. I rode my bike here. We’re trying to make a spectacle and talk about climate change and climate action in outdoor sports. But the solution to climate change is not giving up your car and riding a bike everywhere. There are many solutions, but part of them is investing in infrastructure, like trains, which are pretty efficient. And I think it’s a really great solution. So that’s kind of the story we’re trying to tell.

iRunFar: Okay, that’s great. And I think you’ve done to a race before, haven’t you? And you had a pretty good race after?

Jones: Yes, yeah. In 2018, I rode my bike from my house in Colorado to the Pikes Peak Marathon and back. And the race went really well. But it’s funny because the race was a quarter of this distance. And the bike tour was less than half of this distance. So I’ve scaled it up a bit. [laughs]

iRunFar: Brilliant. Well, I hope you start a trend with it, because it’s a great idea. It’s a super good initiative. So yeah, best of luck. Hope you have a super race. And yeah, we look forward to seeing you out there.

Jones: Thanks a lot. I’ll see you guys out there.

 

Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is Managing Editor at iRunFar. She’s been working in an editorial capacity for ten years and has been a trail runner for almost as long. Aside from iRunFar, she’s worked as an editor for various educational publishers and written race previews for Apex Running, UK, and RAW Ultra, Ireland. Based in Belfast, Ireland, Sarah is an avid mountain runner and ultrarunner and competes at distances from under 10k to over 100k. When not running, she enjoys reading, socializing, and hanging out with her dog, Angie, and cat, Judy.