Hayden Hawks took second at the 2022 Western States 100, improving upon his eighth place last year. In the following interview, Hayden talks about running easily during the early miles with the rest of the men’s field, what it was like to lead the race for something like 40 miles, how he moved through a rough patch at about 12 hours in, and what he thinks his maximum potential at this event could be.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2022 Western States 100 results article.
Hayden Hawks Post-2022 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Hayden Hawks. It’s the day after the 2022 Western States 100. You’re the men’s second-place finisher.
Hayden Hawks: Yeah. Pretty happy about that. You know, it’s definitely an improvement on last year so I felt really good about being able to improve my time and my place. It was a good day. You know, it was good till it wasn’t. So, yeah. [laughs]
iRunFar: You must feel good though, like moving up from eighth place to second place, improving your time by so much, like it sounds like, we were talking off camera that it was a little bit difficult for you at the end, but maybe less difficult than the end last year?
Hawks: It was probably actually about the same.
Hawks: But maybe I just had the experience of being able to fight through the hard time. I don’t know what it is, but like the last two years, right around 12 hours in, so like right around the river, maybe it’s because of heat, I don’t know. But I start getting like really dizzy and just don’t feel very good at all. And so, I have to really fight through that section. And this year it lasted for about two hours. Last year it went on for the rest of the race and I couldn’t get through it. But this year, for about two hours I just felt really, really bad and dizzy and like I couldn’t do anything. And then I puked a few times, and all of a sudden I started feeling decent and was able to at least run in the last hour and a half or so.
iRunFar: I feel like there was a lot of vomiting out there yesterday.
Hawks: I mean it was hot. I think the change in temperature was pretty dramatic yesterday, too. You know we started with like 40 degrees Fahrenheit and then got up to around 100 degrees. So, but yeah, you know, I hope you know, I’m going to come back for sure. After a second-place finish you kind of have to.
iRunFar: Yeah. Well, that answers one of my questions.
Hawks: [laughs] But yeah, hopefully I can figure this out and be able to finish all the way strong to the end and not have that low point in 12 hours. But I’m still, I’m happy, you know. And to lose to somebody like Adam Peterman who’s just a beast out there, and be able to share some miles with him, it was definitely cool.
iRunFar: Let’s backtrack to sort of the early hours of the race first. The men’s race was very different this year from last year. The last time we saw you I mean, you front ran for like a good 30 miles last year with Jim Walmsley and this year it seemed like you were, I mean, sharing the lead? Sharing the lead and sharing setting the pace? Is that a fair way to assess it?
Hawks: Well, the French guys, Ludo [Pommeret] and Sébastien Spehler, they went out pretty hard. You know, they were really crushing the downhills at the beginning, and I just felt like it wasn’t sustainable for me. It felt like it was going to blow my quads up and so I decided to kind of sit back and run my own race. Didn’t want to fall into that trap like last year and just was you know, focused on that. And then when we got to Robinson Flat, I made a kind of little move up the climb there to the aid station and was able to pass Sébastien. And then soon after the aid station passed Ludo. Yeah, like you know, me and Tim Tollefson ran a bit together. Me and Adam actually ran some miles at the beginning together. And I was just really focused on running my own race. And that just happened to be a little slower than last year. I was monitoring, you know, my vitals and monitoring my effort. I felt like I paced the first part really, really well and was hoping that would give me a little bit more energy toward the end. But it didn’t. [laughs] But at least I was able, maybe that’s why I was able to fight through the hard time though, because I had to conserve a little bit.
iRunFar: You weren’t so ripped apart.
Hawks: Yeah, not so ripped apart. I mean, I feel pretty ripped apart today. But yeah. It was definitely an improvement on last year, so I can’t complain.
iRunFar: You led the race for a good bit there, sort of in the race’s middle to going into the final third. Can you talk about, yeah, sort of running out front and being chased as opposed to chasing?
Hawks: Yeah, so I passed Ludo at around 35-ish miles.
iRunFar: Okay, it was earlier than I thought.
Hawks: Yeah. And then I lead from 35 to about 75. So about 40 miles there. And I actually like, I was like, especially when I went down into El Dorado … Oh I ran into a bear in El Dorado Canyon, by the way.
iRunFar: You did? Ooh!
Hawks: Yeah. It was really cool. I was descending into El Dorado and I saw a black thing on the trail and all of a sudden, boom. It crashed through the trees and ran down the mountain. But I was kind of monitoring stuff, like I was I was climbing out of El Dorado and I was feeling really strong. I kept trying to hear the cheering, you know, from the bottom, the aid station at the bottom thinking like, “How far do I have?” lead-wise.
Hawks: I honestly thought like, because nobody was telling me where Adam was, I thought I had like a 15-minute lead, maybe 20-minute lead. So, when Adam caught me on Cal Street dropping down the river, I was actually kind of like surprised. Because I felt like I was having a day. You know, I was like, “Man, this is this is going to be my day!” I’m going to have, I’m just having a really good day. And then when Adam caught me, I was kind of like, “Aw, man!” Like I’m having a day, but I guess he’s having a better day.
iRunFar: Darn it. This guy shows up.
Hawks: [laughs] Yeah. But that’s how it is sometimes, right? Like you do the best that you can and that’s what, I gave it the best I can. And Adam was just better than me. And I can’t control that. You know, maybe there’s a little luck involved, you know, you never know. But yeah, it’s just what it is and so I feel happy because I did the best I could.
iRunFar: Yeah, I mean, I feel like you had a really great synthesis. Like, as soon as you crossed the line last night, you said at the finish line interview, “I had a great day. And it’s just there was a dude who had a slightly better great day.”
Hawks: Yeah, and it’s been like that in my career. You know, sometimes like, you know, the whole Hawks versus [Zach] Miller thing at The North Face 50 Mile Championships a few years ago, like, same thing. Like I had a great day that day, but Zach just had a better day than me, and sometimes that happens. But I’ve also had days where I win, you know, and it’s just you do the best you can. You work as hard as you can to prepare for the race and I did. I couldn’t have been more prepared. But yeah, I’m getting experience. Every year I’m getting a bit more experience and especially at the 100 mile, I’m getting more experience and I feel like a lot more consistent with my 100 milers now, and like it’s going to pay off in the future.
iRunFar: You’re a runner, you’re a coach. You’re a pretty good study of the sport. Objectively for a second, what do you think is your maximum potential at Western States?
Hawks: I think I can win Western States for sure.
iRunFar: How fast do you think you could run this if you didn’t have any big issues? Come on?
Hawks: I think I could go under 15 hours, you know, if it’s a cooler year, you know, maybe challenge for the course record. You know, I tend to run better in colder temperatures. Everybody does.
iRunFar: Well, darn, you picked the wrong race to really like. [laughs]
Hawks: But that’s the cool thing about Western States. It’s a challenge for me. I grew up in the heat. For some reason like my best races have come when it’s cold, I guess most people do. [laughs] But I don’t know why. But like I have a little hard time with the heat but I’m working on some things to maybe fix that in the future. And I’m gaining some data and different things like that, that I can, like you said, I’m a student of the sport. I’m always trying to find ways to get better and yesterday was a good test and helped me learn some things.
iRunFar: Well, I objectively think you should be proud. You took second Western States in a pretty competitive field, that stayed competitive all the way through.
Hawks: Yeah, like I said, I’m really proud. I really am. You know, and I think like all of us, we want to be better. You know, it’s just how it is as elite athletes and anybody, like you want to try to improve. You want to get better. But I’m very proud of the performance. You know, second place Western States is no joke and you know, I’m happy that I was able to represent my family well, and also represent the state of Utah, you know, which is really cool. I think it’s the best finish by a Utahan ever at Western States.
iRunFar: Damn, that’s awesome.
Hawks: Which I’m happy about, that you know I’m from Utah. I was hoping to bring the cougar trophy back to Utah but maybe someday.
iRunFar: Maybe someday.
iRunFar: On that note, congratulations on your second-place finish and we’re about to do the awards over there. So, congratulations or enjoy collecting, your buckle.
Hawks: Thank you so much.