Dylan Bowman is a force to be reckoned with whenever he races, but given the upward trajectory of his running career over the years, he’s a serious podium danger for this weekend’s The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. In the following interview, Dylan talks about the previous two times he’s run this race, where he thinks his fitness lies this year in comparison, and his tactical plans for the race.
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Dylan Bowman Pre-2014 TNF EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks here of iRunFar, and I’m here with Dylan Bowman ahead of the 2014 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. It’s always a mouthful, isn’t it?
Dylan Bowman: It is. It is.
iRunFar: How’s it going?
Bowman: It’s going really well. Yeah, aside from a little weather that we’re just experiencing now…
iRunFar: We’re having a little bit of a downpour.
Bowman: I think it’s going to be a nice day on Saturday, and I’m really excited to be part of the race.
iRunFar: You’re predicting some sunny skies but maybe some slippery surfaces still?
Bowman: I think it may be perfect and tacky. I don’t think it’s going to be nearly as sloppy as 2012 assuming this drizzle we’re experiencing now tapers off between now and then. It usually dries out pretty quick, so I would expect it to be pretty nice actually.
iRunFar: So we’re here in Mill Valley which is your current home town and the race course is just couple miles off from here. You know about every curve and hill and rock out there. Pretty excited to be on your home territory and in one of North America’s most competitive if not most competitive 50 milers?
Bowman: Absolutely. It’s always great to have this end-of-season party and in the home town every year. I think it’s a world-class trail system. Obviously, it’s not a mountainous course, but there’s plenty of vert and amazing scenery as well. The fact that it is sort of my local course does mean that I am familiar with all the twists and turns of the course. I love these trails and I think most everyone else will, too.
iRunFar: You love these trails. You love this course. There’s a lot of aesthetic out there and there are some really fun climbs and downhills. What are a couple of your favorite parts of the course?
Bowman: I really like the descent down Matt Davis after the long out-and-back and then the subsequent climb up Dipsea. So we go down Matt Davis into Stinson Beach, climb up the Dipsea Trail, both of which are kind of iconic Marin County trails, and it tends to be where things start to break up a little bit at the front of the race. I’m hoping to be near the front of the race at that point, and when things start breaking up, to remain near the front of the race.
iRunFar: You’d like to be near the front of the race this weekend. You have, I don’t know, what I’d sort of call a textbook progression with our sport right now. This will be your third time doing this race. Last year you went fifth; the year before you went seventh. If there’s any upward trajectory left to go, it’s onto the podium.
Bowman: Yeah, you’d hope so. Obviously in a field like this it’s hard to really predict how your fitness is going to translate into performance. I think I’m super fit right now. Fifty miles tends to be my best distance and this course tends to be the kind of course I usually do well on or that my best races occur on. So, I’m hoping for a good day, but I obviously know that the best runners in the world are here and even on my best day I may be well off the podium. But I’m pretty confident in the workouts that I’ve done, and I’m hoping I’ll be on or near the podium.
iRunFar: On or near the podium—you heard it here first. Let’s talk about that competition for a minute. (I just got a huge raindrop on my face.) Let’s talk about the competition for a minute and the race tactics that we know are going to go down. There’s going to be some serious speed off the start, and then there are probably going to be a couple guys who are still there and able to go for it at mile 40 on a la Rob Krar or something similar to that this year. How are you putting yourself in that strategically? What are you going to do early to ward off some of the crazy stuff, and what are you going to do to keep yourself there later?
Bowman: That’s a great question and I don’t have any plan written out or anything. There are obviously guys who I feel are important to mark or who race similarly to the way I like to race. I’d like to be near the front at the beginning although not with the inevitable early leaders.
iRunFar: So if we see you in 10th place at mile eight or 12 it’s all good? Or 20th place?
Bowman: It’s all good. Hopefully not 20th place. Hopefully closer, inside the top 10. Then it’s all about at the end of the day being able to push on the last three or four climbs, particularly the second-to-last climb.
iRunFar: This is the one coming out of Muir Beach coming up and then down into Tennessee Valley?
Bowman: Right. I’d like to be in the group that usually consolidates on the out-and-back, remain in the group as it breaks up going up Dipsea as it usually does, and then just hanging on. Whether I’m in the front group or in the second group, I’ll do my best.
iRunFar: You said that there are some guys you would mark and who you race similarly to. Whose head are you going to be looking at the back of early on?
Bowman: I think the guy who races the best is Rob Krar. He’s just textbook. The way he raced last year was perfect. He was behind me until mile 20, and then we were together in the group. Then he just sort of stayed with whoever was in front and allowed them to dictate the pace. Then at a certain point he made his move and nobody could hang with him. He always races smart. He’s never the guy who goes out off the front. I wouldn’t expect him to do that this year. Aside from him, Alex Varner is also a guy who runs similar to me as well. He’s a smart, tactical guy. We train together a lot. Those are really the two guys who I would expect to run at least some miles with. You’re right, I think it’s going to be an early charge from at least four or five guys.
iRunFar: So the famous adventure hiker, Andrew Skurka, ran some analysis of guys’ splits from the 2013 race. He picked about 10 guys on the front. You and Rob Krar were two of them. He was basically looking at pacing throughout the race. Who purged less seconds per mile in the second half of the race versus the first. Whether or not that’s the mark of a good race or a best race or not, he didn’t look at that, but the point was that Rob Krar and you had the most even pacing last year. It was just that he had those 11 or nine miles of insanity and you had those 11 or nine miles of near-insanity.
Bowman: Yeah, I ran well last year. It’s important to note that it was only people who uploaded to Strava. A guy like Dan Kraft definitely had a better last 20 miles.
iRunFar: So he was using Strava statistics, not just high performers?
Bowman: Right. I was definitely happy with my race last year particularly because I got off course for a few minutes. Obviously, yeah, the last 10 miles is what makes or breaks races like this. It’s kind of all about who slows down the least at that point. Like I said, I think I’m pretty good at 50-mile races. I think that’s probably my best distance. That’s definitely what my focus has been on in training is to visualize those last 10 miles and do everything I can to make sure I can finish strong again.
iRunFar: Awesome. Last question for you. You just made an announcement this week about switching teams. You became a The North Face global athlete. Congratulations! Are you feeling psyched about that?
Bowman: Thank you so much. Yes, I’m very, very excited. I’m extremely honored. The people on the team are all good friends of mine and people I admire a lot. To be part of that group is a true honor. To start my tenure with them at their championship race is also important to me and something I’m taking very seriously. I’m very excited about the future and hoping to start it off on a good foot.
iRunFar: Yeah, this is their flagship race. Nothing like adding on a little pressure to that hot, burning fire.
Bowman: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t added a little bit of extra anxiety, but I’m very excited and I know that if I don’t have a great day, I’ll probably be the only one who cares at the end of the day.
iRunFar: Thanks a lot and good luck to you this weekend.
Bowman: Thank you.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you, Dylan. New sponsor, kind of wet course, hopefully it will kind of drain out and dry a little bit—what shoes are you going to wear?
Bowman: I’m going to wear The North Face Ultra Cardiac which is actually named after an aid station on the course that we go through twice. It’s kind of a fitting shoe name for this particular race. It’s a shoe that I really like, a shoe I can train in every day and do speed work in, and also race in. I really like it. I think The North Face is taking the shoe program seriously, and I’m excited to be a part of that.