Kaytlyn Gerbin improved from fourth to second place over the past two runnings of the Western States 100 and she’s back for more this year. In the following interview, Kaytlyn talks about how she enjoys having her race logistics dialed, why she wishes it was going to be hotter this weekend, and why she likes to include more mountainous races in her lead-up to Western States.
Kaytlyn Gerbin Pre-2019 Western States 100 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Kaytlyn Gerbin before the Western States 100. How are you?
Kaytlyn Gerbin: I’m awesome, how are you?
iRunFar: You are awesome. How are you doing? It’s a beautiful day out here, you’re back at Western States for the third-straight year.
iRunFar: You’re so excited about it.
Gerbin: I’m still super excited. It’s awesome to be back here for the third year in a row. We have a lot of similar logistics in what we did last year so it’s pretty familiar. We drove down, we left around the same time, we stopped in similar places, we’re staying in the same house this year. It kind of feels like it’s just another year back here, which is pretty fun.
iRunFar: Takes out some of the mental work of preparing.
Gerbin: Yep, yep.
iRunFar: That’s nice?
Gerbin: I think that’s nice. It’s nice that I’ve done the race–this is my third year so because of that, I’ve got two years in a row of figuring out all of the nitty-gritty logistics and crew stuff and all that and I’ve saved all my spreadsheets and notecards and all the stuff from the other years. So a little bit less planning maybe.
iRunFar: Nice. To dive a little deeper into that, have you changed anything? So you have this base plan, and what have you tweaked over the last two years?
Gerbin: I had a really awesome icing strategy for this year but it’s maybe not going to be quite as hot. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to do that. But I have a plan for different shapes and sizes of ice cubes depending on where they go.
iRunFar: Do you put sonic ice in the hat?
Gerbin: No. I love putting ice in my sports bra to cool down but all the tiny little cubes just bounce out so I got the cocktail ice, so it’s nice big ice cubes. But I don’t know if I’m going to need them. We’ll see.
iRunFar: It’s not a hot year at Western States, but in the canyons it’s still going to be warm.
Gerbin: Yeah, and it will still be hot for me, coming from Seattle. We actually had a nice-weather spring so far but this is still relatively hot compared to what I’m used to lately. I’ll still be icing, but I think in terms of last year, I had all these crafty ideas about different ways to stay cool and maybe I will try them.
iRunFar: All using the existing apparel? You haven’t sewn up any bandannas or–?
Gerbin: I have some crafting, some ice bandannas, but I’ve had those in the years past too so I’m just making some new ones.
iRunFar: I’ll have to keep my eyes open for those.
Gerbin: Just making some new ones, fresh ones.
iRunFar: And how has training gone? Because you’ve had years to sort of perfect your approach.
Gerbin: Training is good. It’s always fun and every year I think I’ve come into it a little bit differently. My goal this year was just not to overdo it. I did two longer-distance races earlier in the year already and so I knew that I have the endurance. I’ve got the strength and I just wanted to fine tune some speed. The key was just not overdoing it for me, which is not that much.
iRunFar: How do you balance that? You did Madeira Island Ultra-Trail, which is a long race, long time. How do you balance that in April? And get back to training?
Gerbin: I did a similar thing last year with the Trail World Championships. I found that having a break in the spring was mentally the best thing ever. I started off last year in the spring training specifically for States, trying to pick races that would really cater to a Western States build-up. I just wasn’t enjoying it as much. [Then] I got the opportunity to be on the U.S. team around April. It was pretty close to the race and it was just a breath of fresh air. I was like, “Great I will do a bunch of verty, technical stuff, that will be fun. Then I can get that fitness and that strength and come back and have a couple weeks of just focused States training.” So I did a similar thing with Madeira this year. And Madeira for me was fun, it was a birthday run. A bucket-list place to go and run and Ely came with me too. I just made sure I got recovered from them and then went into a few weeks of faster, shorter runs.
iRunFar: So Madeira, I mean training for that course is not in sync with Western States?
Gerbin: Not at all.
iRunFar: But it’s fitness. And you had a good time.
Gerbin: It’s fitness and it’s fun. Western States is definitely a goal race for me, so I wanted to be cautious and what I did for training. But at the same time I’m doing this for fun, I want to have fun with it, and I was super excited about the opportunity to get to run there. The same as Transgrancanaria earlier in the year. I’m just like, “You know what I’m just going to go for it. I will do it, I will listen to my body, make sure hopefully I can stay fit and stay healthy and not do too much.” But it was fun, so I don’t regret it.
iRunFar: You feel fresh and ready to go?
Gerbin: I’m excited. I’m excited for something new. I tend to be drawn more to verty, technical stuff and so training for stuff over the spring and the winter, that’s just what I have access to. So then I came back, recovered, and then it was like, “Okay, now I just need to work on the speed.” Which is something I don’t normally focus on.
iRunFar: You would mentally or physically burn out if you did that for a six-month block.
Gerbin: Exactly. This way I could kind of keep it compartmentalized and still have a lot of fun with it.
iRunFar: How is the Pacific Northwest this year? Because in Colorado and the Sierra Nevada here, there has just been a shit-ton of snow. It has been really hard for people to get as much vertical training, at least until recently. That wasn’t the case in the Pacific Northwest?
Gerbin: We had a crazy snowstorm that hit the lower foothills in February and March, so a lot of those trails were not runnable. Then things melted out and we have had access to all the Issy Alps. Cougar, Squak, and Tiger are right where I live. We can get pretty good running in there and there’s no snow. Things are starting to melt out. One of my favorite trails, the PCT nearby where I live, I just did last week. I’m like, “Great, of course it’s all melting out right as I’m tapering and getting ready to go into the race.”
iRunFar: But that’s fun, you’re getting new terrain as the season goes on.
Gerbin: That’s true. We actually didn’t have that nasty of a winter.
iRunFar: Gotcha’. I bet you’re pretty psyched about the cool temperatures? Relatively.
Gerbin: I don’t know, I really wanted to use my icing strategy. I feel like I would be more excited if it was really hot again. I know how to manage the heat here and I figured that out and I know what my pacing and effort level should be in that heat. I feel like States in a cooler yeas is a different kind of race and it’s a new variable and I’m thinking about it in that way. Normally the heat would be the variable for people. But even removing the heat is also a variable and making sure that I don’t just go out too hard because it’s cooler and it feels easy. It’s still a long race, it’s still going to get hot in the canyons, you still finish through the canyons and have 40 miles to run.
iRunFar: It’s still 100 miles.
Gerbin: Yeah, it’s still 100 miles. There are a lot of different things to manage.
iRunFar: There are going to be a lot of variables in the first 30 miles this year with the snow and the cool temperatures. People are going to feel good temperature wise and effort wise, but it’s also somewhat inefficient conditions with the soft snow and whatnot.
Gerbin: My first year here in 2017 was the same way with the snow all the way through the high country. The snow and the mud. And with going into the high country that year I slowed down a lot, I was way behind my splits. Then I was super glad I did that because later other people burned up and had to push really hard to try and get through those conditions and–I’m going to lose my hat. [A gust of wind nearly blows Kaytlyn’s hat off.] I think it’s all about managing the terrain and the race and just have patience. Reminding myself that it’s going to be a long day and a lot can happen.
iRunFar: It sounds like there is a common theme, whether it’s because of slower conditions, whether it’s because of snow or because of heat, you’re not going to try to push through that artificially. You’re going to respect what that is. And just take it.
Gerbin:. Yep. Got to be patient.
iRunFar: Nice. Well good luck being patient out there and have a fun race.
Gerbin: Thank you.
iRunFar: Thank you.