Matt Daniels has signed up for the TNF 50 for the third time, and will be hoping for his first finish here after a DNF in 2017 and the race’s cancellation last year. In the following interview, Matt talks about how he’s been purposefully holding back his progression with ultramarathons, what he’s learned from his successful runs at the Black Canyon 100k and Western States 100 Mile this year, and why he’ll approach this race like a 50k.
Matt Daniels Pre-2019 TNF 50 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Matt Daniels before the 2019 TNF 50. How are you doing Matt?
Matt Daniels: I’m good, how are you?
iRunFar: All right. You were scheduled to be your last year, correct?
Daniels: I was yeah; it’s going to be round two hopefully.
iRunFar: Yeah, last year you’d run all of two alternatives heading into what would have been last year’s race and in the year since you’ve run four ultras at least, including Black Canyon 100k and Western States [100 Mile]. You have quintupled your ultrarunning experience.
Daniels: Yeah, it was on a fast progression for sure.
iRunFar: What have you learned over this past year?
Daniels: Oh gosh, so much, you know I think the biggest part of it is I’m working with David Roche this past year and he’s helped really just kind of calm me down and hold me in and look at the bigger picture of ultrarunning. To do it right, it’s going to be a three, four or five year plan and before I wanted to have instant success and that’s just not how it works.
iRunFar: Well you kind of have had instant success.
Daniels: You know I think we’ve really kind of actually held back a lot, like I think there’s a lot more to show and hopefully these coming years that’s where we are going to go.
iRunFar: Some good initial successes, but you can see even brighter future.
iRunFar: This year has been great, you won Black Canyon, you were fourth at Western States in like your second race over 50k.
Daniels: Yeah, it was, it’s kind of a shock to me actually I’m just going out and enjoying it and using the fitness that I do have and not putting any pressure on myself and the results that kind of just come to be what they are.
iRunFar: Did you have any lessons come out of Western States or any surprises?
Daniels: Yeah, I think the biggest thing was recovery. 100 miles is so different than trying to recover from a 50k or even 100k. I felt okay physically and I was all amped up after being fourth place and everything and I wanted to get out there and go race in Europe and I went up to Sierre-Zinal and really quickly two or 3 miles and not race realized I need to recover a little longer. Took a step back for about a month and just ran easy. Didn’t do a whole lot of hard workouts or anything and yeah, it’s proven to, you know I feel good now a few months later and kind of ready to get going I guess.
iRunFar: I mean I think you’ll find if you choose to do more hundreds the recovery kind of goes a little easier.
Daniels: It was kind of that way I remember when I first in my 50k I was like, how do people do this? It took a good long while to recover and now that’s changed.
iRunFar: I think you – did you do one pretty recently or?
Daniels: I went out and did a 30k in Oakland. Yeah, it was like another long run.
iRunFar: And two years ago that probably would’ve felt like…
Daniels: Destroyed me. Absolutely.
iRunFar: So you have only raced Sierre-Zinal and that, both kind of in the 30k range since Western States, do you feel fresh and focused for this?
Daniels: Yes, really fresh actually. I was just talking to David, I’m just chomping at the bit to get going again. Ever since Western I just wanted to do nothing but longer races and he’s been like, okay just relax and chill out sort of. So just listening to him and putting in the training runs and not getting too far ahead of myself, yeah it’s allowed me to be feeling good and ready to roll this weekend.
iRunFar: Did you feel like during Western States you did a good job of, during a single race, not getting ahead of yourself?
Daniels: I think so. You know there was a few moments did not race where I probably could have practised a little bit more patience and it maybe would have paid off in a few of the later miles, but it was hard to say. The top three guys were just running out of their minds. It’s one of those things you just don’t normally know, it was a learning experience, but I think it went well for debut.
iRunFar: And how do you think about coming into the 50 mile this weekend, a pretty fast 50 mile?
Daniels: Yeah, it is. You kind of have to look at it as how you would race a 50k. I mean this course especially there’s no brakes, if you spend longer than a minute at an aid station, 30 seconds at an aid station here you lose three or four spots, so really just kind of reminding myself it’s going to be a grind and not one of those that we’re, you know, they’re going to need to test a little bit of your patience early. I think you know you’re always doing courses like this with a lot of vert, but it’s also you need to stay engaged in stay in it, too.
iRunFar: So how do you balance, because you have the wheels to run with anybody at the front for the first 20 miles. But somebody could also go out spectacularly hard?
Daniels: Yep. That’s tough especially at this race, because there’s a lot of guys that we’ve never seen run 50 miles too that I know, like Robbie Simpson. I raced him a few times in Europe and stuff and I know what he’s capable of. He’s never run 50 miles and he’s a smart racer too, and then you have guys like Jared [Hazen] who likes to go out blazing fast, I like to go out blazing fast so I think knowing your competition and just trying to be smart about where you are with your own limits and what you can do towards the end of the race as opposed to where you’re at in the beginning.
iRunFar: It’s kind of interesting, a lot of years we show up in The North Face 50 and there’s a lot of people that have had a really long, really grinding season. Like you’ve done a bunch of races, but it seems tempered and same with Robbie and same with Jared and all these people who go out really aggressively, maybe there’s less chance of half of the top guys blowing up.
Daniels: Yeah, I think so. That’s something you always have to be careful with, because I remember when I did this two years ago I started this race and I was leading through half marathon and I was one of the ones that took it out without the experience and everybody went with me. And so you also kind of have to watch out for those guys that haven’t done the distance before and they could be the Hayden Hawks three years ago. Nobody knew of him. So things like that you have to be careful of.
iRunFar: Anthony Costales is up there at the front usually.
Daniels: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: He could pull it off.
Daniels: Yeah, it’s what makes this race so fun and wild is you never know what’s going to happen; you just have to be ready for everything.
iRunFar: Do you feel like if you have that great day that you could end up winning this one?
Daniels: Yeah, I think so. There’s a lot of really good guys and lots is going to depend on how nutrition goes and how the early miles go and how the legs are feeling and that sort of thing but you never know, I’m not ruling anybody out, definitely not feeling myself out. I think I’m in shape to run really well and we’ll see what happens.
iRunFar: How did nutrition go at both Black Canyon and Western States this year? Because a 50k you can kind of get away with a lot.
Daniels: So Black Canyon, it was flawless. I didn’t have any issues at all I was getting all my gels and calories down and then Western I ate until, gosh everything was going well until about 100k in and then I don’t think I consumed one calorie from 100k to the finish. So that was a learning experience, but I was also kinda of in unknown territory at Western at that point in the race too so something I’ve been working on a lot in workouts and it’s going well now. So we should be good.
iRunFar: It’s not a 100 miler on Saturday and it’s also not as hot.
Daniels: That’s true.
iRunFar: Well, I hope you have a good time out there and enjoy the race.
Daniels: Thank you so much.
iRunFar: Take care.
Daniels: Thank you.