Hayden Hawks Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview

A video interview (with transcript) with Hayden Hawks before the 2023 Western States 100.

By on June 22, 2023 | Comments

Hayden Hawks is the top-returning man at the 2023 Western States 100, after taking second last year. In the following interview, Hayden talks about the incremental improvements he’s made in his first two Western States races, how he’s trying to improve yet again at this third attempt, and if he thinks he could win this year’s race.

For more on who’s racing, check out our in-depth men’s and women’s previews. Follow along with our WS 100 live race coverage on Saturday.

Hayden Hawks Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Hayden Hawks. It’s a couple of days before the 2023 Western States 100. Good morning, Hayden. How are you?

Hayden Hawks: Doing well. I just got back from a run. Went up to High Camp and just testing out the snow. Seeing what it’s like. Excited to race.

iRunFar: This is now your third time at this race. Just as a quick recap, you came here for the first time in 2021. Got yourself inside the top 10 with an eighth-place finish. Came back last year and improved by a huge amount, secondplace. I think it was around two hours faster. Is that right?

Hawks: I think around two hours faster. Definitely an improvement from the year before.

iRunFar: Last year was hotter, but you experienced a heat stress type thing a couple years ago, right?

Hawks: Yeah,I think it was more of like a nutrition and hydration thing.

iRunFar: Okay.

Hawks: Yeah, mixed with the heat, of course. Because you know, the hotter it is and if you’re dehydrated, you’re not hydrating properly. Of course, the heat is going to affect you more. And, so, I think that was probably more of what it was, dealing with some nutrition problems. I hope I’ve got that dialed in now so.

iRunFar: Well, I have to ask, a person who takes second place, and who has a finish time that has a 15 in it, those are really strong things for Western States. So, there are reasons, very specific reasons, a person like you would come back after a finish like that. Why are you here again?

Hawks: I want to win this race. That’s been the goal since the start, you know. I want to win every race that I enter. I felt like I hadn’t really nailed it. I made so many mistakes the first year, and the second year. And this year, I feel like I’ve really focused a lot on getting better and not making those mistakes. And I feel like I’ve really dialed in a lot of things that I need to do. I was really happy running 15 hours, taking second place, but I wasn’t content because I knew that I didn’t run the race that I wanted to run. It wasn’t a perfect race. It’s never going to be a perfect race. But it wasn’t even a good race for me, because there were so many mistakes that I made. And I feel like, for me, it’s always been about improving myself. I do care but I don’t 100% care [about] the placing. Like what I place or what my time is. It’s more of do I feel good about that performance, personally? Do I feel like I nailed things? Did I do what I could do, you know? And I feel like I didn’t.

iRunFar: Okay. You walked away with that feeling of like being drawn back for more?

Hawks: Yeah, I felt like I needed to, I wanted to improve on all those mistakes that I made and I really wanted to nail it for myself, and for the people around me. Because I have so many people in my corner, so many people supporting me. And I feel like it just didn’t nail it like I wanted to. And I wanted to come back and improve.

iRunFar: So, from the outside looking in, and I guess maybe comparing it to your prior year, it looked like a fairly clean run for you last year. But as you said, 100 miles is never a perfect race. What’s an example of a thing that you really took away of when I’m coming back, I want to do this better this time?

Hawks: Yeah, I think the biggest thing again was my nutrition and my hydration. It was terrible last year.

iRunFar:Also last year. Even though you ran so well.

Hawks: Yeah. It was an improvement on the year before. I’ve never really been that good at nutrition and hydration. I thought I was, but then I started working with my coach, my new coach a couple years ago Robbie Britton. And we started, I started getting some work with Precision Hydration, my new nutrition sponsor.

iRunFar: Okay.

Hawks: And we just really started breaking it down and being like, Hayden, what are you doing? And they were like, man, this is not good nutrition. This is not good hydration. We need to fix this. And so, I worked a lot on that over the last year. I was in the lab. I was doing a whole bunch of things to test things out. I’ve been training my gut. I’ve been using nutrition and hydration on every long run and workout, and it’s just so much better than it was in the past. And so, I think that’s been a big benefit for me, and I hope that it will help me in this race.

iRunFar: Cool. Let’s talk about sort of your season lead up to this. You started off 2023 with a visit to New Zealand.

Hawks: Yeah, I went down to New Zealand. My friend Dan Jones, who’s also running Western States. He came out and visited me last year in Utah. We did some training together, he invited me to come down. And I was like, hey, I might as well get away from the winter. And it was a rough winter this year, so it was actually nice to be down there, and spent a New Zealand summer. And so, we had a great time down in Australia and New Zealand.

iRunFar: You stayed for a while, didn’t you?

Hawks: Yeah, we were down there for three months. Met a lot of…

iRunFar: Used all your visa. Some of it.

Hawks: Yeah, well, yeah, a month in Australia, and two months in New Zealand. And so, it was just an amazing place. Amazing people. I got the opportunity to run the Kosciuszko 100k, and then Tarawera 100k.

iRunFar: I forgot you ran in Australia, too.

Hawks: Yeah. I ran a race in Australia in December. And then I ran the Tarawera race in February, and yeah, the one in Australia.

iRunFar: What was the distance on that one?

Hawks: 100k.

iRunFar: So two 100ks.

Hawks: Yeah, two 100ks in the space of like eight weeks. Which is fairly close, but they both went really well for me, and it felt really strong and we wanted to really try and nail some of those things that we were working on with the nutrition/hydration. They were both well, because the Kosciuszko race was supposed to be hot, but it didn’t end up being hot. It ended up being really cold.

iRunFar: Is the cool weather following you this year? Because we’re here wearing sweatshirts at Western States.

Hawks: Yeah, I think so. But it’s alright, right? I grew up in the desert. Grew up in St. George, [Utah], so I do like the heat. But for some reason it’s just been cold all year.

iRunFar: And then a couple months ago you played on the Western States vicinity trails, down by the finish line in Auburn. You ran Canyons 50k, right?

Hawks: Yeah, I ran the 50k down in Canyons, just as a good tune up. Kind of wanted to see where my fitness was. I think the 50k distance is a great distance to test this overall fitness. See how fit you are. It’s not 100% applicable to the 100-mile distance, because it’s completely different. But I think it helps you nail that fitness, and see where that’s at, see what you can work on. And then you bring all those 100-mile aspects in, and then you can be like Okay. I’m ready to go. And so, it was a big confidence builder. And honestly  I witnessed that my fitness is at an all-time high right now. I feel very confident about that. I feel confident about you know, all the other little aspects I’ve worked on. I mean, all I can do is go out there and execute on race day, and hope that it works out.

iRunFar: See what happens. You came out for the Memorial camp training weekend.

Hawks: No, I didn’t.

iRunFar: Oh, you didn’t. Sorry. You were here for Canyons then.

Hawks: Yeah. I went to Canyons and then I did actually my own training camp. Me and Dan and Tom Evans.

iRunFar: Here?

Hawks: No, in the Grand Canyon.

iRunFar: Okay, okay.

Hawks: So, we did this week-long training camp in the Grand Canyon. I ran Tom Evans out there, Dan Jones. We had a great training camp. Was able to do some good heat training and in the canyon. Some long climbs, long descents. The Canyon’s, of course, a special place.

iRunFar: Yeah.

Hawks: I really enjoyed that.

iRunFar: Cool. Last question for you. The men’s race, so exciting. So many returning top 10s. And then all these different gentlemen who are really going to mix it up. Unique conditions this year, too. Like fairly cool weather. It’ll still feel hot, but cool by Western States standards. Some mess, a bit of messy miles. How do you see this goingbetween conditions and competition?

Hawks: Yeah, it’s hard to say. And I would actually say the women’s race is more competitive and more exciting, personally.

iRunFar: Good answer. [laughs] You win.

Hawks: I really believe that. I do think the men’s race is going to be pretty exciting as well. There’s a lot of really good competition. Of course, we lost some guys like Adam [Peterman] and stuff, which would have been great to race him again. I was really looking forward to that. But at the same time, it’s deep. Western States is really deep this year. It’s exciting. I don’t know. I really haven’t been looking at anybody’s training, or really caring about anybody else in the race. I know who’s in the race, of course, and I know they’re really, really good. But I’ve been so focused on just myself, and what I need to do, and what I need to nail and accomplish on this race. I think if I run the race that I believe that I can run on race day, I’m going to be hard to beat. I do believe that all I can do is focus on that. And if that’s enough, then that’s enough. If it’s not, then good on the other guys. I mean, they had a great day, right? So, I’m just really focused on that.

I think the race itself, the course, it’s going to be a challenge, but I love challenges. It’ll be different than the last two years that I’ve ran. But I’m actually really looking forward to that. Because I think it’s cool to have this new experience, right? And to see what happens. I’m really looking forward to that last 20 miles, because I think it’s going to be fast. And I think it’s going to be exciting. And I think we’re going to put on a show. And I’m really excited for that.

iRunFar: Cool. Best of luck to you on your third trip between Olympic Valley and Placer High School. It’ll be fun to see the show.

Hawks: Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, excited to be out there.

Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.