Four past women’s champions will be lining up for this year’s Western States 100 … IAU 100k World Champions that is. Amy Sproston (’12), Ellie Greenwood (’10), Kami Semick (’09), and Lizzy Hawker (’06) have all won the 100k World Championship as well as trail 100 miler. These highly versatile ladies shared their thoughts going into this weekend’s race.
[For more, check out our full women’s field preview and stop back at iRunFar tomorrow for more pre-race interviews.]
iRunFar: Holy crap, you won the IAU 100k World Championships. How have you wrapped your head around your performance there… or have you?
Amy Sproston: Holy crap is right! Winning the World 100K was a huge shock to me. It took me about a month to stop pausing frequently and asking myself if it really happened. I had hoped to be top 10, and maybe top 5 if everything came together, but winning never crossed my mind until I moved into the lead 5 miles from the end. I still call it a bit of a fluke (I’m really not that fast.), but it seems to have actually happened. That my time is only 10 seconds slower than Kami’s fastest World 100K time still causes me to shake my head a bit, because I don’t see myself on the same level with the Kami’s of the world. But hey, I’ll take it. It should be a huge confidence boost for me, and I think it is, but I guess time will tell. It’s still a bit hard for me to grasp, except that everything came together for me on that day.
iRF: Last year, you were a respectable eighth at Western States. Has your IAU 100k win given you the confidence to try and run with the likes of Ellie, Lizzy, and Kami from the gun this year?
Sproston: Last year, I was happy with my race based on the fact that between an injury in April and a work trip to Africa, I averaged about 45 miles a week for the 3 months heading into States, and really wasn’t expecting much. This year, after some strong races for me at Hellgate, Ray Miller, and Worlds, I feel like I’m in better shape, have hit some higher mileage weeks (Although not crazy high – I usually top out at about 80-90 miles.), and am feeling more confident going into the race. However, I don’t think that will change how I approach the race – it’s 100 miles and a lot will happen. I’ll try to start out stronger than last year, but I’m not going to kill myself in the first 30 miles to try to be anywhere in particular in terms of place. I’ll go out strong (for me), run my own race, and see how the day unfolds.
iRF: Rumor is that you’ve been doing some specific Western States training with Meghan Arbogast. What has that training entailed and how has your relationship with Meghan evolved since you moved to Oregon?
Sproston: As we all know, Meghan is a complete rock star and an inspiration to many, as she seems to defy aging, and has such a positive outlook on life. Meghan is a very good friend of mine, and that relationship really developed while being part of the past two World 100K teams. We did do some specific training for Worlds, and those workouts, along with Meghan’s confidence in my abilities, really helped me at Worlds. There was a time not long before Worlds when I was trying to make the decision as to whether it was selfish of me to stay on the team based on my DVT/PE issues in March, and whether I should forfeit that spot to an alternate. Meghan was instrumental in keeping me on the team, convincing me that the team needed me. Likewise, at Worlds, she told me that we would go out together, and that I was fast enough to do that. Whereas I don’t always trust in my own abilities, I somehow trust in Meghan’s confidence in my abilities, and that has really helped me get to another level. We have done some long runs together in the past few weeks, including the WS training camp weekend, and then a trip to Flagstaff and Sedona to seek out some warmer temps, as it’s still pretty much winter here in Oregon.
iRF: You’ve had an amazing season with top performances at the Chuckanut 50k, American River 50, and Comrades to go along with a pair of marathon PRs. What you call your best performance so far this year?
Ellie Greenwood: Comrades for sure. It was the most competitive race that I have run this year (and ever) and being in the position that I was for the final half of the race (first or trailing 2 minutes behind first) in such a competitive race pushed me to run at a level that I haven’t in any of my other races this year. I ran the fourth fastest female time ever on the down run and pushed Elena to a PR – I think that shows that despite coming second, I put in a decent performance. :) The other races (Chuckanut, AR, marathons) were not focus races and although I am very happy with my races results and ran pretty hard in all of them, none of them pushed me so hard for so long as Comrades did and none are such prestigious events as Comrades. (Well, maybe London marathon is, but I came 20-something position!)
iRF: There are four women with IAU 100k wins in the race, all of whom have also seen great success on the trails. Do you have any thoughts on why women ultrarunners seem to excel at multiple disciplines so much more than the men?
Greenwood: The depth in women’s ultra running is rapidly growing, but is still not as deep in men’s field, which I think in some ways allows us ladies to race both road and trail to success, where men might have to focus more on one or the other if they truly want to be at the top level in one – they can’t have both. Maybe it is also just that many of the ladies who have done well on roads and trail (Kami, Meghan, Amy) are not true mountain specialists on trails, so this allows to be good on both terrains. Of course Lizzy is the exception to the rule – a mountain runner who also sets a world record at 24hrs! Maybe some of the trail men are a little more ‘mountain’ focused – Dakota, Geoff, Anton, etc, and they have high profiles and also no desire to run on tarmac, which is just the way it is for no reason other than they like to run mountains!
iRF: Speaking of men’s and women’s comparisons, there was one woman who only had men to compare herself to – Ann Trason. In many of your best races – Western States, AR, etc. – she’s the only standard that you’re compared against. To what degree is she your measuring stick and what do you think it will take for you to start bettering her best performances?
Greenwood: Ann is clearly still the lady to beat, but I always go into races (especially WS100 this year!) focusing on the other talented ladies on the starting line that day, and not Ann. Yes, I have had success, but there is growing depth in women’s races and I always know that there are numerous ladies who could beat me on most race days so that is my focus. However, to actually better an Ann Trason performance would be a dream and I am aware of her course records when I race an event she holds the record on, so I am certainly keeping them on my radar. To beat her times would take a perfect race for me and I think it is a very high goal to set, but I’ve got to believe that it just might be possible because without believing that I will certainly never achieve it.
iRF: Last year at States you encountered a bear, had a dramatic track sprint against your teammate Nikki Kimball, and finished second. What’s your best memory from that race?
Kami Semick: Well, you named my worst memories, outside of being happy to see Nikki running well again. My best memory was feeling good in the canyons.
iRF: Later last year you moved to Hong Kong and we’ve not heard much about your running back here in the States since you returned for the TNF EC 50 Mile. Can you fill us in on how your running has been since then?
Semick: I moved to HK in August. I’ve done some racing here in HK and in China. I need to update my blog, as I’ve had some really great experiences, but suffice to say the training and racing here is very different than in Oregon, or anywhere in the States for that matter. It took me a while to adapt – which looking back on is obvious, but not obvious to me at the time. I went from a dry, relatively flat but soft terrain environment to a very humid, concrete and step dominated trail system. When I showed up for the TNF EC in December my legs were hammered. So I had to take some time off to recover from the change in terrain. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
iRF: What do you see as the primary pluses and minuses as you train for your first Western States while living in Hong Kong?
Semick: I think I’m ready for the heat. After 10 months in Hong Kong, I have finally adapted to the heat and humidity. I also am a better hill runner – I have no choice, HK island is very hilly, and where I live requires a steep climb and descent on a daily basis. But, I honestly have no idea where I am at fitness wise. In Bend, I knew what I needed to do to train for specific races – Comrades, Western, etc. Here, the terrain is so different, that I can’t exactly repeat my ideal training runs that I did in Oregon. So who knows? I’m just looking forward to being back in the States and running on soft trails.
iRF: Over the past year, you’ve had a mix of amazing accomplishments, such as another UTMB win and the 24-hour road world record, and setbacks with your Himalayan adventure cut short and some injuries. However, despite the setbacks, you always seem to have a positive outlook. How important do you find that keeping a positive attitude is for your running and your life?
Lizzy Hawker: A positive attitude is very important both for running and in life, for all of us. But I think it goes beyond that… for me it is about developing an attitude of ‘mindfulness’ informed in part by the yogic and Buddhist philosophies. It is about living in the moment, having a necessary ‘detachment’ from what you have or have not achieved in the past, and what you would or would not like to achieve in the future. It means having those hopes and dreams, and demanding dedication and focus from yourself, but also reminding yourself that you have to let life ‘flow’ and be mindful, and it is then that we reach beyond what we thought possible.
iRF: We’ve previously chatted about your desire to run some 100 milers here in the States. What does it mean to you to be running Western States?
Hawker: It is an incredible opportunity to be able to come to run Western States this year. As with any big race there is that wonderful mixture of emotions – apprehension, fear, doubt, hope, excitement, joy!!
iRF: You have been plagued by injuries as far back as UTMB last year. How is your health and fitness heading into this race?
Hawker: I think I’d put it differently… problems during UTMB last year were probably caused by a fall during the early part of the race, a couple of days off & some physio solved the problem, and I actually recovered quickly… going on to have a good race at the 24hr Commonwealth Championships and pushing myself to the limits in the Himalaya with my ‘SkyDance’ adventure, a tough stage race and then the record run from Everest Base Camp back to Kathmandu! It was probably not surprising that my body really didn’t want another race by the time the TNF EC 50 miler in San Francisco came about – so yes, I did have some tendonitis there – but again – it is something that cleared completely once I gave the body a few days rest. Training started well at the beginning of the winter, but it is really from the end of February that I have been ‘plagued’ by injuries. What started as just niggles seems to have developed into back/bum issues that have been ongoing. It is all too easy to think you can train through… I had physio, but didn’t listen to the body early enough and back off. So, everything got a bit more tangled up than it needed. But with the timing, and loss of specificity of training it meant first pulling out of the World 100km Championships and then Comrades – two of my ‘goal’ races for this year. I’m still not 100%, so I will be standing on the start line of WS100 with a mixture of apprehension and hope! I can’t really say where I’m ‘at’, but what I can say is that I’m looking forward to giving absolutely everything I’ve got on the day… and that is all I can ask.
Call for Comments
- Will one of these women win this year’s Western States?