With his third-place finish at the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships, Joe Gray has made his record-setting eighth-straight U.S. Mountain Running Team. In the following interview, Joe talks about what it’s like to make so many USMR teams, how the U.S. team is looking for worlds, how his race went, and what shoes he ended up wearing.
For more on how the race went down, read our 2015 US Mountain Running Championships results article.
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Joe Gray Post-2015 US Mountain Running Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Joe Gray after his third-place finish at the 2015 US Mountain Running Championships. How did it go out there, Joe?
Joe Gray: Not like I wanted, but I’m happy. It’s my eighth-consecutive team, so I’ll take that.
iRunFar: That’s incredible. Have you set a goal for yourself on that? As long as you can, do you think about, I want to be on 10-straight mountain-running teams?
Gray: That’s the record, eight right there, for consecutive and also for total teams. At this point, it’s just that I want to represent my country as much as I can. Yeah, it’s a great goal going forward.
iRunFar: You guys had a really dynamic race out there, a competitive race. Walk me through it from your perspective.
Gray: The climbs, I think, more suited me. The singletrack descent was good for me, but it opens up and it’s a really diverse course, so I was losing time on that. Coming into the last lap, I kind of lost my lead there. I ended up moving back into second on the last lap and lost it on the descent to Andy [Wacker] and Pat [Smyth]. I just kind of realized I’m not maybe tapered enough for this kind of course just kind of getting ready for some more technical stuff. If nothing at all, it was a great speedwork for me to get the legs moving and get used to fast terrain which I think is a special thing in mountain running. You mix it up. It’s not always super technical, and it’s not always super fast. You kind of get a mixture of both. Yeah, it was great.
iRunFar: Although it looked from the base that every lap, Pat was putting a few more seconds on and Andy was putting a few more seconds on, but you were catching up to Pat every climb. Even on the last one he said he heard you half way up the climb.
Gray: Yeah, he wouldn’t let me get by him. I got up on him, and he was able to get away from me again. Yeah, it was a good battle.
iRunFar: How do you think this year’s US Mountain Running Team compares to past teams going to worlds?
Gray: I think we’ve got a lot of experienced athletes on the team, so that always plays a big role when you go to a world championship with guys who are used to it are not fazed by the level of competition or the number of people.
iRunFar: Or the travel probably?
Gray: Yeah, you never know how that’s going to treat you. When you get older it starts to affect you differently. No we’ve got a good team. In terms of knowing how good the team is, you know when you see the course for the world championships. I think that’s the best time to say, “Okay, this is obviously a really good team for this course.” It’s hard to say it when you haven’t seen it.
iRunFar: You can try to match the profile, but if it’s a technical singletrack descent at the end versus a road downhill, it could favor you over someone like Pat or…
Gray: You never know what it’s going to look like. I’ve talked with a couple buddies who have seen the course, my European friends, that it’s a little different. Clearly, the descent is much different than this. It’s going to suit some other countries on that section, but I think on the uphill, the U.S. team is going to do really well on that course.
iRunFar: Do you have anything lined up between now and then?
Gray: Yeah, I’ll go over to Europe. I’ve got some racing in Switzerland and in Norway.
iRunFar: What races are those?
Gray: I’ll do Skaala and Sierre-Zinal, and then come back and get ready to represent my country in Wales at the world championships.
iRunFar: Awesome. Congratulations on making another US Mountain Running Team, and best of luck in Wales.
Gray: Thank you. Thanks, man.
iRunFar: Bonus question for you, Joe. Before the race we talked about what shoes you were going to wear, and you were undecided. You posted a picture, but what did you end up wearing?
Gray: That’s one of our models we got, the RC, it’s a new race kind of shoe that we’re developing and not really the Kinabalu. It’s the SCOTT Sports RC Kinabalu. It’s really lightweight, seamless upper, and it has a really good protective rock plate to help you on really choppy stuff. Definitely, I got through today and my feet are feeling great. You don’t want to leave a race like this and be hurt. I’m healthy.
iRunFar: It ended up being a good match for the course?
Gray: I think so. It was a good shoe for this course for sure. It will be an even greater shoe for the courses over in Europe.
iRunFar: An even more technical course?
Gray: For sure.
iRunFar: Do you have any idea what they weigh in at more or less?
Gray: I don’t know that actually. I’ve got to imagine… for people who are familiar with the SCOTT Trail Rocket, it’s a very similar weight to that one. The upper is much lighter, but it has a rock plate, so I bet they’re very similar to the weight.
iRunFar: I was going to ask you how they compared to the Trail Rocket.
Gray: Yeah, I’ve worn one on one foot and the other on the other to see how they felt, and it’s really strange. The RC feels lighter even though it technically shouldn’t be because it has a plate in it, but the rock plate we have in the RC is amazing. It’s really protective, and it’s flexible. It doesn’t feel stiff like a rock is in your shoe. It’s really flexible. Then when you step on something sharp, you feel really confident that nothing is going to happen. They did a really good job on this one.
iRunFar: Cool. Can’t wait to check it out.
Gray: Yeah, man, you definitely should.