Dylan Bowman placed second at the 2021 Hardrock 100. This year he is returning for round two. In this interview, he talks about what’s different in his life and his preparation this time around, how a busy schedule outside of running has meant fewer 100 milers for him in recent years, and what to expect from course conditions at this year’s race.
Dylan Bowman Pre-2023 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here before the 2023 Hardrock 100 with Dylan Bowman. Dylan, how are you?
Dylan Bowman: Hey, Sarah. Nice to meet you.
iRunFar: Yeah, you too. So, we usually see you on the other side of the microphone. So, first question, are you doing Hardrock to get a weekend off?
Bowman: [laughs] Yeah, no, it’s become rare that I actually get to pin bibs on nowadays, and so I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity. Obviously Hardrock is one of the great races in the world, and a race that I have a lot of affection for, so I’m glad to be back.
iRunFar: Okay. Super. And you had a really good result here before. You were second in 2021, the last time the race went in this direction. So, what is it that brings you back?
Bowman: I got pulled off the waitlist and into the race. You know, obviously Hardrock is a sacred opportunity for trail runners. When you get an opportunity to do this race, you sort of have to take that opportunity. And I’ve been in the sport for a long time, grew up in Colorado, started putting in for the lottery I think in 2010. Finally got pulled in 2019. There were two cancellations. Finally got to run in 2021, after, you know, more than a decade of trying to get in. And now, luckily after a two-year hiatus, I got pulled sixth on the waitlist in the lottery, and due to some attrition, I have the good fortune to be on the startlist this year. Yeah.
iRunFar: Okay, fantastic. It sounds like something you can’t really turn down.
iRunFar: So yeah, I believe you’re living in California, but you’ve been over here a good bit the last few weeks on the course. So, how’s your buildup been?
Bowman: It’s been abbreviated. I’ve been, as I’ve said to Bryon [Powell] and Meghan [Hicks] sort of implementing the François D’Haene approach, which is arrive two and a half weeks early, and just sort of, do as much as you can on the course in a short period of time. Trying to force some acclimatization, force some fitness adaptation. And so, I’ve been doing a lot of big days. It’s been slow. The course is really snowy. Especially in the back half of the race. And so, I’ve been here about two weeks now with you know, five days to go until race day. I’m starting to feel pretty solid, but the training has definitely been lower than 2021. And so, sort of, not really sure what to expect.
iRunFar: Okay, interesting. And also, you have some really, really good 100-mile results in your back catalogue on this race, Western States, Istria, but last few years, you’ve been doing a lot more 50k to 100k races. So, I suppose you partially answered it there that your training’s been a little bit lower, but have you changed anything significantly to go back to 100-mile mode?
Bowman: Well, I mean, so much in my life has changed, and you know, that has been reflected in the volume at which I’ve been racing the last couple of years. I really haven’t been fit and committed as an athlete since Hardrock 2021. Obviously, with, you know, the birth of our son last year, with COVID-19, with all the things that we’re doing in the sport right now, it just hasn’t left a lot of room for me to focus on my own athletic life. And so, you know, that’s really sort of like, the reasoning that the last couple years there haven’t been a lot of 100-mile race results. It’s been more just a lack of ability to put in that type of training, and to really put any goals on the calendar. And yeah, like I said, I’ve just sort of tried to open up as much space as I could for myself this spring to prepare for Hardrock. I did a race to Japan, a 70k [Izu Trail Journey 70k.] I did a local 50 miler in the Bay Area [Marin Ultra Challenge.] Both that I approached just as good long training efforts and recovered from quickly. And I’ve gotten a lot of say five- to six-hour training days in in the last eight weeks, but fewer of the nine- to 12-hour days that I got in before 2021. So, different approach. Every year is different, and I’m trying to keep that mindset, or keep that understanding, that every year is different. You just have to do the best you can.
iRunFar: Okay, brilliant. I visited the Bay Area just lately and ran your local trails, and they’re awesome, but obviously, it’s sea level. So, is there anything, as someone who lives in trains a lot of time at sea level, that you have to particularly do for this race, for the elevation?
Bowman: Yeah, I mean, it’s so hard because I think even for the runners who live on the Front Range in Boulder and Denver, they come up here and they really struggle with the altitude. And I, like I said, I grew up in Colorado. I lived for a long time in Aspen. I feel like I adjust pretty quickly. I like the feeling of being at altitude, but there’s just no getting around that it’s painful at first when you get here. And so yeah, that’s just sort of like, what I’ve been trying to do is just get up and tag 13,000 feet basically every single day. I just went and did Little Giant a little while ago, just finished about an hour ago. Yeah. Starting to feel stronger at altitude, but you know, you really need to get here early in order to mitigate that a little bit. Two and a half weeks is sort of the bare minimum that I was willing to do. In 2021 I did six weeks in Mammoth. So, again, shorter acclimatization period this year, but it’s certainly better than nothing. I’m starting to feel pretty strong up high, and with the Colorado roots and DNA, hopefully that’ll play to my advantage.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And we know with the massive winter that’s been here, the course conditions are going to be really different to last time you ran the race. So, just for all people who might have seen the course in different conditions, is there anything in particular you can say as a heads up like — this is different this year?
Bowman: Yeah. So, I think it’s going to be a uniquely difficult year. I actually just saw Bryon Powell out in Cunningham Gulch, right before I did my run this afternoon. And he made the analog, or the comparison, to the fire and ice year at Western States. For those who don’t know, it was a year where there was a lot of snow in the high country at Western States, but it was also a uniquely really hot edition of Western States. That’s sort of how this is setting up. It’s supposed to be very warm on race day, and there’s still a lot of snow on the course. So, I think it’s setting up to be uniquely difficult. I do want to give a big shout out to Brett [Sublett] — he sort of runs the trail crew that puts the course together. And I just met him also a short time ago, and they have done a lot of work to mitigate some of the dangerous sections on the course. Because there were a lot of snow fields that you would have to traverse. And especially those ones in the early morning, or in the middle of the night, could be really dangerous. And so, shout-out to the race for making that effort to put the course in the type of condition to make it as safe as possible — even though it is a “post-graduate race,” as they say.
iRunFar: Yeah, it does seem like a massive effort, and it’s great to see so many runners out there just pitching in as well. And then — maybe it’s too soon to ask this — but have you thought of what’s next? Have you anything else in mind for this season?
Bowman: No. Honestly, you know, my goal is really just to enjoy Hardrock. To like not… you know, to hold on to the memory of 2021, where everything was just like, perfect. It was one of the great days of my life, and I’m so happy to have the opportunity to do it again. But also, I know it’s going to be different. I think it’s going to be a lot harder. I think I’m way less prepared than I was. So, it’s sort of like, just go and enjoy what you do, and appreciate the opportunity. And then after that, we’ll see what the rest of the year holds. I’ll definitely be over at UTMB, but likely won’t be racing. I’ll just probably be enjoying and working over there. So competitively, it’s hard for me to set a lot of goals right now. But it’s been a good phase of my life and career, and I’m just lucky to have the chance to run this weekend.
iRunFar: Okay, fantastic. Well, it sounds like even if less prepared, you’re going in pretty relaxed. So that has to be a good thing.
Bowman: Yeah, feeling good. And yeah, I’m just appreciative.
iRunFar: Great. Okay, brilliant. Well, I hope you have a fantastic run. We’ll see you out there. Thanks very much.
Bowman: Thanks for doing this interview. Fun to do, first iRunFar interview with you.
iRunFar: Yeah, for sure. It’s been great. Thank you.