Hayden Hawks found quick success in ultrarunning before hitting a rough stretch this past spring. Now, after a rest, he’ll try to tackle what will be by far his longest race to date at the CCC. In the following interview, Hayden talks about how he changed his racing plans after rough races at Transvulcania and the IAU Trail World Championships, how he’s dealing with becoming a new dad, why he thinks he’s in the best shape of his life, and why you might see a new strategy out of him at CCC.
Hayden Hawks Pre-CCC Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Hayden Hawks before the 2017 CCC. How are you, Hayden?
Hayden Hawks: Doing great. I just arrived a couple hours ago, so I’m a little tired right now but ready to go.
iRunFar: You’ve got enough days. It’s only Tuesday afternoon, and you don’t race until Friday morning.
Hawks: Exactly. I kind of like to show up just before the race and do all the partying after, just kind of get down to business and be ready to go.
iRunFar: You have another reason to stay at home a little longer. You’re a dad of less than a month.
Hawks: Yeah, three weeks. My little boy is three weeks old. I’m pretty excited. It’s an awesome experience. It’s the most amazing experience I’ve ever had in my life.
iRunFar: Congratulations. You’re tired from that as well as the travel, or are you getting enough rest this first month?
Hawks: Not too bad actually. We actually got really lucky. He’s super calm. He sleeps through the night pretty well. Also, my wife is just incredible. She’s the most supportive… most awesome person in my life. She’s been very supportive making sure I get enough sleep, making sure my training is good, and making sure I’m ready for this race.
iRunFar: Finally, you’ve become a full-time ultra-trail runner just recently.
Hawks: Yeah, I finally stopped working a little bit at the St. George Running Center. I decided I wanted to invest everything I can into this. Also, my wife is going to have to go back to work, so I’m going to be the stay-at-home-dad taking care of the kid and training.
iRunFar: You’re going to do a lot of the stroller thing?
Hawks: Yeah, we bought the Thule Chariot which is pretty nice. Maybe you can take it off-roading sometimes when he gets a little older. We’ll see.
iRunFar; The last time I saw you was at the IAU Trail World Championships and that was after Transvulcania, which did not go as you wanted. What was going on there?
Hawks: I think I was just racing too much. Being new to the sport, you get all these invites and everybody is like, “Come run our race.” “Come run our race.” Free trip here… free trip here… I got a little excited about that. I wanted to show that I was fast and that I could do these things, so I just signed up for too many races. But I learned. I learned a lot from that experience. Luckily I was able to be, Okay, I need training blocks going into these big races especially in the training world we’re in today. You have to be on your A-game every race. There are too many good athletes out there, too many good runners. So I just learned. I learn from my mistakes.
iRunFar: You made that decision there in Italy a couple hours after the finish. I know you pulled out of Speedgoat right away.
Hawks: Yeah, I was going to do Speedgoat. I thought, No, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to focus solely on CCC. I’ve had a 12-week training block leading into this.
iRunFar: Including a three-week break.
Hawks: Yeah, a three-week break and about a 13-week training block with a three-week break and about 10 weeks of training. My training has just been perfect—a gradual incline up to 150 miles per week and a gradual decline down, great vert, great workouts. The training block actually looks really similar to the training block I had before The North Face, Chuckanut, and Red Hot 55k.
iRunFar: Those were all great performances. You were second at both TNF and Chuckanut but in tremendous performances.
Hawks: Yeah, honestly, I was telling you earlier that I do a fitness test. I’ve done it the last five years and started in college. I did that fitness test a few weeks ago, and I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in in my life according to that fitness test. Even when I was running 28 minutes for 10k and 13 minutes for the 5k, I’m in better aerobic fitness than I was then.
iRunFar: You don’t have to give us the details of what the results were from your test, but what do you do for your test?
Hawks: It’s called a progression run. It’s something we do at SUU [Southern Utah University] where you start off at a seven-minute-mile on the track and you slowly work down to where you’re running a 4:30 mile by the end. Honestly, I’ve never felt so good in the workout. I was mostly there just pacing some of the athletes from SUU, but I think I could have dropped a sub-4:30 on that last mile pretty easily. I felt that great during the workout.
iRunFar: Does that give you some confidence going into CCC on Friday?
Hawks: Yeah, it gives me confidence that my aerobic fitness is there plus all the vert I’ve been doing, I feel like my mountain legs are there, too. I have a good amount of confidence but knowing also that I need to respect the course, respect these mountains. They’re incredible; they’re so big.
iRunFar: This is going to be your longest race to date?
Hawks: Yeah, this will be my debut at 100k.
iRunFar: And time-wise by a good bit.
Hawks: Yes, I think the longest race I’ve ever done is six hours.
iRunFar: What do you think… what would be a good time out there?
Hawks: Zach Miller ran 11:53 or something a couple years ago, so hopefully around there.
iRunFar: So basically double your longest race. You’ve run pretty aggressively at races—at Transvulcania this year and at The North Face last year—you’re an aggressive racer. Are you going to be any different running a distance that’s twice as long as you’ve ever raced before?
Hawks: Let’s just say I’ve learned a lot with especially these longer races. I’m going to race smart. I’m going to race smart. Probably you’ll see my strategy change a little bit in this. Honestly, I know with the leg speed I have, I can out-run a lot of people and out-kick a lot of people, so I’m going to use that and hopefully maybe chill a little bit at the beginning.
iRunFar: Having a half an hour lead at 70k doesn’t really matter if…
Hawks: Exactly. The thing about it is I was always going for these course records, and yeah, I want to break course records and I still want to do that, but I want to win first. That’s what I’ve learned—the win is number one and the course record is number two.
iRunFar: This race is the CCC, and we haven’t covered it before on iRunFar, but it’s as competitive as UTMB was five, six, seven years ago. It’s a world-class field. It’s going to take an amazing race performance-wise and strategically to win.
Hawks: Yeah, there are some incredible athletes here—Ludovic [Pommeret], the winner of UTMB last year–is doing CCC this year.
iRunFar: Did you look at his performance from last year and say, “That’s a totally different way to win a huge race?” He was 50th at 50k.
Hawks: Yeah, I’m good friends with Ludo, and I respect him a lot as a runner. He, honestly, could be my dad. We kind of joke around about it, so I can say that. I respect a lot of what he does and how he strategically wins these races. I’ve kind of dug into that a little bit and seen, Maybe I can learn from this.
iRunFar: Who else do you think might be a challenge up there?
Hawks: There are a lot of incredible athletes. Ryan Sandes, winner of Western States, is doing it this year. Jorge Maravilla from the Bay Area…
iRunFar: He’s been over here and training on the course.
Hawks: Yeah, he’s been training. He’s an incredible athlete. He’s super fit right now. Tom Owens is a great athlete as well. All these guys are guys I’ve raced against before. I know them. They’re all good friends of mine. I’m just excited to get out there and hammer these trails with them.
iRunFar: During a race like TNF 50, you’re throwing down for six hours and probably not talking a lot. Could you see spending time with one of these runners and sort of teaming up and getting through some miles?
Hawks: Yeah, you never know… maybe Jorge? We’re Americans. We kind of want to bring home this title for the Americans. We’d like to see it in UTMB. We’d like to see an American win that. We’d like to see an American win CCC this year.
iRunFar: So that’s a motivation?
Hawks: Yeah, for sure. I love coming to Europe. It’s incredible. They put on incredible races here. It’s awesome. That being said, I come in here and I want to bring that title back to the U.S.
iRunFar: That’s part of your motivation?
Hawks: For sure.
iRunFar: What else is going to be motivating you out there because it’s going to be a huge test for you?
Hawks: I’ll probably be thinking a lot about my new baby. I’ll be thinking about him and about how awesome he is. That gives me motivation that I’m not just doing this for myself now. I’m doing this for my son, and I’m doing this for my wife. This is a way of living for us. Also, just my sponsors as well… my sponsors do so much for me. They take care of me. They flew me out here. It’s been incredible how they treat us. I do it for them as well.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there, Hayden. Enjoy the test.
Hawks: Thank you so much.