Mario Mendoza said he wanted to podium at the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and that’s exactly what he did in taking third for the second time at this race. In the following interview, Mario talks about how the first through third men shook out early in the race, what it was like to race solo almost all race, and what he learned that he’s going to apply to his preparations for racing the Western States 100 in June.
For more on how the race played out, read our 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile results article.
Mario Mendoza Post-2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with Mario Mendoza. He’s the third-place finisher of the 2018 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. Hey, congratulations!
Mario Mendoza: Thank you, thank you.
iRunFar: How are you feeling?
Mendoza: I’m beat [laughs]. I’m excited though. I really wanted to get on the podium and I’m happy with the result.
iRunFar: This is not an unfamiliar finishing place for you. You’ve been third place at Lake Sonoma before.
Mendoza: Yeah, 2/2.
iRunFar: How did it feel?
Mendoza: Today, it felt a little easier, through to about 40 miles, than last time. Then, I think those last 10 miles were harder. That last part was harder. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have Dylan Bowmanchasing me down or I missed his company. I think that helped last time, it made those last miles go by a little bit faster and more exciting. I was really trying to see if I could catch Jared Hazen, but it didn’t happen.
iRunFar: It’s only April and you’ve already had quite an ultra season.
Mendoza: Kind of, yeah [laughs]. Bandera 100k, Transgrancanaria. I had an issue there with my bag.
iRunFar: Your bag didn’t show up and you didn’t get your nutrition or anything.
Mendoza: They called and said the bag was going to come in, so we stopped worrying about it. Eventually the airline said they didn’t put the bag on the plane. So the last day, it was “okay, you don’t have any of your stuff.” It was hard because I was trying to get through it. Just finish it, even if you’re not competitive, just finish the dang thing.
iRunFar: There’s Devon Yankoback there.
Mendoza: Her hair’s awesome. Nice hair, Devon.
iRunFar: You ended up putting in quite a few miles at Transgrancanaria before you called it a day.
Mendoza: I got over the halfway mark. Lately, I try to not even let myself think about not finishing. So that day I was like, “finish, walk, even if you walk.” And I’ve hiked to a finish with trekking poles before. The funny thing is, somebody loaned me trekking poles for the race but they didn’t work. It was really old hiking poles. They literally didn’t work.
iRunFar: Not just that they didn’t for you, they weren’t working.
Mendoza: The person was trying to be kind by letting me borrow them. They just didn’t work.
iRunFar: So, you had 100k in your legs [at Bandera], 70k at Transgrancanaria and then another 80k here. You’ve got a lot of miles on your legs.
Mendoza: Yes. I think last year I actually raced more consecutively, though a little shorter races. I race quite a bit. Last year, I racedRocky Raccoon, and, then I ran IAU Trail World Championships, then I ran a 50k in Bend, then I ran the Long Distance Mountain Running Championships, then two more 50ks, then Moab [Trail] Marathon. I was going to race The North Face Endurance Championship, but my ankle wasn’t that good. I kind of messed it up.
I used the races as a training stimulus. I don’t have a lot of time to put in super long runs. I like to race and I think part of it is mental more than anything. If people get burned out I think a lot of it is because they rush back into the training, so I let myself recover and enjoy it.
iRunFar: Let’s talk about how the race played out today. Jim Walmsleyas expected took it out.
Mendoza: Yes. Incredible. You know, I was hoping to be within a mile at the halfway mark and I think he already had two miles on us. It’s crazy, just unbelievable.
iRunFar: Did you go into this race with the goal of being on the podium and work with that all day? What was your “A” goal going in?
Mendoza: Yeah, my goal was top three and then compete as best as I can. That’s really what I’m focusing on, is what is the best effort I can do. And to run it smart. I don’t want to go out super fast and then blow up. I want to be consistent and steady. I really, really wanted second place, like really bad. But Jared Hazenhad it, and he was better. I can’t be bummed at that because Jared ran a really good race.
iRunFar: I interviewed Jared right before you and he talked about each of the first, second, and third men being in no-man’s land for a long time and running alone. How many miles were you alone today?
Mendoza: Oh man, I would say 30-something miles. I had one little five- or six-mile section where we were in a pack and it’s because I had an issue with getting my hydration in the very first aid station. I lost contact with Jared there and was basically in a pack after that. I basically told myself, “don’t freak out, just run with the pack and get in a rhythm, get positive thoughts back in your head.” It worked. By the halfway mark I was feeling good again and breaking away my own. It’s a lot of running on your own but that’s the thing. Walmsley basically ran 45 miles by himself at an insane pace. I guess that’s how it is now.
iRunFar: We’re standing here under what feels like the hot California sunlight but the thermometer in my didn’t even say 70˚F but it feels hot.
Mendoza: Come on, yeah, you can feel it.
iRunFar: You’re running in the Western States Endurance Runso it will be the same sun but the air temperature is going to be way hotter. Were you thinking about that sun and Western States today at all? Was it a reality check of “I have to heat train”?
Mendoza: Yeah, I’ll admit that I thought I was going to catch Jared and then when it got warm I was like, “oh man.” I started hurting. It was a good wake-up call, because if this [temperature] is rough right now, I’m definitely going to have to do lots of heat training, because Western States is going to be ten times worse.
iRunFar: Almost double the heat.
Mendoza: You’re making me feel bad [laughs]. I think it’s good. Sometimes it’s good to have those wake-up calls. We’ve got time. We’re still a couple months out. I don’t think you need two months of heat training. A couple of key weeks.
iRunFar: Why is Mario a raisin at the starting line? Overdid heat training.
Mendoza: Exactly. I’ll be gone.
iRunFar: Zero water content. Okay, it’s a couple of months between now and your next goal race, Western States. What does the training world of Mario look in that time? How do you recover from this, transition back into training, and what’s going to happen?
Mendoza: In my opinion, you’ve got to focus on the recovery first of all. After these races, I really think your body goes through this wave where you’re feeling okay and you’re like, “oh, I don’t feel so bad.” And, then, suddenly it jumps at you. So I wait for that second wave before I finally do get back into good training. I’ll probably cross-train most of this next week.
Then, I would really, really like to do a lot more downhill running, a lot of heat training. If I can make it work I was thinking about going to the Western States training camp as well to see parts of the course. The nice thing this year is that we have a lot less snowpack in Bend, Oregon. I’ll be able to get into the mountains more. There’s a place called Rooster Rock where a lot of guys go train. I’ll just try to run with Max King. He does crazy stuff. If I can run with him a little bit, I can get some quad resistance going.
iRunFar: Well, congratulations on your third-place finish. The hashtag of today is #seeyouinsquaw.
Mendoza: Yeah, see you in Squaw.