Hayden Hawks took second at the 2016 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in his 50-mile debut. In the following interview, Hayden talks about his race-long battle with eventual winner Zach Miller, why he was confident in attacking the course and its competitors, where he thinks he excelled and where there is room for improvement in his skill set, and what he might race in 2017.
Read our TNF 50 results article to find out what else happened at this year’s race!
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Hayden Hawks Post-2016 The North Face EC 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Hayden Hawks after his second-place finish at the 2016 The North Face Endurance Championships 50 Mile. Hayden, one heck of a race out there.
Hayden Hawks: Yeah, man, I’m just glad that we were able to put on a show for everyone today.
iRunFar: You sure did. It was incredible from start to finish. What did it feel like going out those first 20 miles? Who was setting the pace?
Hawks: Kind of both me and Zach [Miller]. Zach took it out from the start, and then going up this first hill here, I kind of took the lead there and started pushing the pace a little bit. Going down into Tennessee Valley I was still trying to push the pace. Then after that, I kind of veered off, got lost for a couple minutes, and Zach took the lead. He was pushing the pace from then on.
iRunFar: Was it your plan to push the pace at a couple miles into the race?
Hawks: I kind of knew with the field we had today and the weather that it was going to take a course record to win today. I knew what fitness I was in. I knew I could break the course record. So I just said, “I’m just going to go out. I’m going to run how I usually run right from the start and push the pace from there.”
iRunFar: Zach was saying you were incredible on those climbs. You were something else. If Zach Miller is saying that, that must have been something. Do you consider that a huge forte of yours, the climbing?
Hawks: A little bit. I work on it a lot. I love doing vert. I do a lot of vert every week. I’m a mountain runner. I competed in the World [Mountain Running] Championships this year. I really like to climb.
iRunFar: A lot of real focused sharp stuff climbing-wise or do you also do long grinds? What does that look like in training?
Hawks: Kind of both. I do some short intervals and also some long… I have a buddy back home and we love to peak bag. We just go bag some peaks every now and then and do some long grinding.
iRunFar: Some fun outings, as well?
iRunFar: Mile 20, you come through Cardiac aid station for the first time with Zach. What happens on the out-and-back there?
Hawks: We just kind of stayed together. I took the lead for a second there, and then on the turn around, Zach took the lead. We were just kind of working together the whole time there going back and forth. Dropping down into Stinson, he got a little gap on me. I still need to work on my downhill running.
iRunFar: You beat me asking the question. You think that’s a place you can improve next year?
Hawks: Definitely. I just need to work on it. I feel like I’m pretty confident on the climbing. I’m not quite confident on the downhills yet.
iRunFar: Is it the technical aspect or just pushing the pace on the downhill?
Hawks: I think it’s just the muscle adaptation, too. My quads just started killing me when I dropped down into Stinson. I was like, Man, how am I going to climb up now? My quads are destroyed.
iRunFar: You guys come back through Cardiac for the second time, and it’s still super close. What happens in the last 20 miles? Are you just sitting off Zach’s shoulder looking right ahead seeing him?
Hawks: Yeah, he had 10 or 15 yards on me, and I was just trying to close the gap, but Zach, he’s an amazing runner. He’s one of the best of all time, I feel. He just had an amazing day today. I just couldn’t quite get him. If I were to lose to anybody today, Zach’s the guy. He’s just a stand… he’s a class act and really, really a salt-of-the-earth type of guy.
iRunFar: Are you happy with your performance on the day?
Hawks: Yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect. This is my debut 50 mile. I’m definitely happy. I went under course record, but so did Zach. I gave it everything I got. I did what my plan was. Zach just had a better day than me today.
iRunFar: Can you imagine your 2016 trail running season as it turned out back in January?
Hawks: Not really because I was still on the track in January trying to make the [Track and Field] Olympic Trials in the 10k. I never really thought… I thought I’d get into trail running someday. I didn’t think it would be this soon. I definitely didn’t think I’d run a 50 miler this soon. I’m happy though. I’m really happy now. I’m happy as a runner. I love the trails. I love the environment here. I have an amazing group of people I get to run with each and every day and race against. It’s awesome. It really is.
iRunFar: Perhaps you enjoy a little peak bagging rather than another set of 2k repeats on the track? 2k vert?
Hawks: For sure. I still do those, and I think leg speed is important, but I do like peak bagging more.
iRunFar: Any thoughts on next season?
Hawks: I’m signed up for Chuckanut in March. I’ve been working with my sponsor, Hoka, and they’ve been awesome to me and really helped me out. I think we’re going to shoot for CCC in August.
iRunFar: Really. It’s only another 12 miles, but it’s a lot different environment than this.
Hawks: Yeah, I did Speedgoat, and it’s kind of similar type of climbing and everything.
iRunFar: Would you try to get another World Mountain [Running] Championships in again?
Hawks: We’ll see.
iRunFar: That’s a wide range to really focus on it again.
Hawks: I do enjoy the shorter mountain running though, too. I took fourth this year at Worlds, and I want to win it. I definitely want to win Worlds. I’m definitely going to go to the U.S. [Mountain Running] Championships and see what I can do.
iRunFar: It was a really good U.S. team—Joe [Gray] and you and a bunch of other guys.
Hawks: Yeah, first time in U.S. history to win the team gold medal. It was an amazing experience.
iRunFar: It would be nice to defend that title?
Hawks: Yeah, it would. Definitely.
iRunFar: When does that happen in the season next year? I haven’t had a chance to look at that.
Hawks: Beginning of June is the U.S. Championships out in New Hampshire, so I’m definitely going to do that. I think Worlds is at the end of July.
iRunFar: That would be hard to mix that with really focusing on CCC.
Hawks: Yeah, but it’s short enough and it’s all uphill.
iRunFar: It’s an uphill year.
Hawks: Yeah, no, actually it’s an up-and-down. Sorry. I was mistaken. I don’t think I’d get too sore. I think it’s short enough that it would actually prep me good for CCC. We’ll see.
iRunFar: Congratulations on a great 2016. Look forward to seeing you out there next year.
Hawks: Thanks, man. Awesome.