Norway’s Didrik Hermansen was the 2016 Western States 100 second-place men’s finisher. In the following interview, Didrik talks about the runnability of this course playing to his strengths, if and how the heat factored into his race, how he struggles with stomach issues during long races, and whether or not he’d like to race Western States again.
We’ve also got video of Didrik finishing the race.
For more on the race, read our 2016 Western States 100 results article.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Didrik Hermansen Post-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2016 Western States 100. I’m with men’s second-place finisher, Didrik Hermansen. How does it feel to have finished second place at Western States?
Didrik Hermansen: As I was telling you, physically, I feel okay right now, mentally, very, very, very happy. I’m really satisfied.
iRunFar: Us Americans, here in the US, we have a perception of what our race is, what our iconic trail 100-mile race is. I’m always curious about what people outside of the county think about Western States. Entering into this race, knowing that this was going to be one of your races for the year, what impression does a person like you have of a race like this before you come over and do it?
Hermansen: This race, I think it’s on the bucket list of every ultrarunner. Historically and iconically, it’s just been on my list for a couple of years now. I’m really happy to be here. It’s also the course is so different than back in Europe. In Europe, the mountains are much steeper. Here, it’s much more runnable, the whole course, at least it’s supposed to be runnable.
iRunFar: “Hypothetically runnable.”
Hermansen: People say that, but I wasn’t running all the time for sure. Also, the heat is… I think that was the main thing. I think that was one of the things I was focusing the most on during the race, to keep cool, and also in my workouts before in the weeks prior to the race as much as I could. It’s never going to be like this in Norway, but actually there’s been a little bit of summer. It hasn’t been that bad.
iRunFar: For me, considering someone like you, that’s a big question that I have. You’re from Norway. You possess Northern European blood, the genetics for performing well in polar, arctic air. This is something you have to adapt to in your training as well as race day. Is that okay?
Hermansen: I was hoping for snow the whole way. That didn’t happen. The heat almost knocked me down. I felt it several times especially the last part down to Rucky Chucky. It was a very dry road and no shadow just the sun. The little swim over the river was very, very refreshing.
iRunFar: “Do you care if I stay here for a little while?”
Hermansen: Yeah. I said that. I also said to all the guys at the aid station, I had a request for strawberries. Every aid station that had strawberries I asked if I could stay. “Can I stay? Can I stay?” “No, no, you have to run. So I did that.
iRunFar: Talk about how your race played out. You were sort of in the men’s top 10 basically from the get-go.
Hermansen: This is my second attempt but my first finish of 100 miles. It’s a long day. I was planning to do my own thing from the beginning but also try to find some other nice guys to run with. I didn’t want to run alone. Still, I did that or some miles at the beginning. Eventually I caught up with the other guys number four, five, six. We were a little group going together. Then I ran together with Thomas Lorblanchet for a long time, almost all the way to Michigan Bluff. Then Andrew [Miller] was passing me on the climb up to Michigan Bluff. I think the canyons went well. I don’t think that was the worst part. I think I managed to cool down very well. Then I think the heat was starting to get me down to the river. From Green Gate I was rough.
iRunFar: You were done.
Hermansen: I was done. Yeah, I was having a hard time eating and drinking, so I couldn’t keep that. I was diving in every creek even if it was a little creek trying to cool down. I just tried to keep up the pace as good as possible all the way to the finish.
iRunFar: And you did. Your splits to the finish don’t really lend to the fact that you weren’t feeling as well.
Hermansen: No, Andrew had only a minute to me at the river, so for sure I lost some minutes. I think I managed to keep up quite well. Second place, I’m really, really happy.
iRunFar: This is your second attempt at 100 miles. You had your first go with it at Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji last fall. What did you go into this race doing differently? You said you wanted to go out a little bit more conservatively, and you must feel like you successfully did that. Do you have any other different approaches?
Hermansen: I did some other little things differently. I tried to eat a little different with a little less sugar. Normally I don’t eat sugar.
iRunFar: It was your stomach that was the big issue?
Hermansen: Yeah, also heat was an issue there as well. But perhaps I also just mentally was prepared that it’s going to be hard. Perhaps I wasn’t that prepared at Mount Fuji. I think I was puking and when I got it all out, I felt actually okay. Then I came onto the next aid station and tried to get something. Sometimes it went well and sometimes it didn’t, and I was doing the same again. The miles were rolling on.
iRunFar: You are known in Europe for your leg speed and excelling in races that have runnable terrain. How would you rate the “runnability” of the Western States 100 course?
Hermansen: From 0-10? I would say a 10. It’s very runnable. I was hoping my legs were feeling a little bit better at Green Gate. As everybody says, if you have something left and fresh legs at Green Gate you can catch up several minutes. I was hoping for that and to use my speedy legs, but yesterday I didn’t.
iRunFar: Not quite there.
Hermansen: But in the beginning, I could see the speedy Americans. In Europe, yes, perhaps I’m the speedy guy and not the slow mountain guy, but here I think it’s different. Yeah, the Americans are really, really fast.
iRunFar: Last question for you. This is something you’ll probably get over and over in the coming weeks. By finishing in the men’s top 10, you earn an automatic entry for next year. You would possess the M2 bib coming back. What do you think about a second go at Western States? Do you think about improving upon time, place, or position?
Hermansen: Is that the right question the day after?
Hermansen: For sure I want to come back. We’ll see. Next up is UTMB. After that I haven’t made any more plans. Next year I’ll decide later. The race and the course and the history, yeah, for sure. M2? Yeah, I really want to come back.
iRunFar: We’ll see you next year. Congratulations! Well done, Didrik!