Stephanie Violett won and then took third at the Western States 100 in 2014 and 2015 before missing last year’s race due to injury. In the following interview, Stephanie talks about what it feels like returning to the race after a year off, how a serious injury changed her perspective, how her fitness level is coming into the race, and what she thinks about the level of competition in this year’s women’s race.
Stephanie Violett Pre-2017 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Stephanie Violett before the 2017 Western States 100. How are you, Stephanie?
Stephanie Violett: I’m doing well.
iRunFar: How’s the heat?
Violett: The heat is hot. In Oregon, it was 50 [Fahrenheit] when I left. Today, I went down to Auburn, and it was 104. I kind of like the heat, but it’s hot.
iRunFar: Last year, you were not able to run Western States. What was that like?
Violett: Honestly, I think people thought I was more sad than I was. It was kind of cool to be here on the other side of it. I much prefer racing it, and I think crewing is really hard. Yeah, it was cool to watch the race unfold and be the one chasing the runners around.
iRunFar: Did that give you any new energy or spirit with regard to the race?
Violett: It made me want to be on the start line this year. Yeah, it was a goal. I’m happy to be racing and not crewing.
iRunFar: It’s been a big journey.
Violett: Oh, yeah. It’s been a huge journey. Honestly, everyone says after an injury, “Oh, you’re so glad for that,” but I really am. I really am. I have a different perspective. I’m a different Stephanie right now. I’m so happy to be running. I don’t want to say I’m not nervous, but I’m not nervous like I used to be.
iRunFar: Did that sort of kick you into a different track? Before you were a competitive runner, you were a very competitive Nordic skier. You’ve gone through the regiment for…
Violett: Yeah, I think I’ve gone through… and it’s forced me through it. I wouldn’t say I’m not competitive, but I’m not competitive with other people. I’m just out there to do my best.
iRunFar: How do you think that is right now? You won it a couple years ago, and you were in third two years ago. Are you at that level again?
Violett: I’m fit. I feel good. This is probably the most fit I’ve felt and the most relaxed, so that’s good. But with 100 miles, you never know. Yeah, I’m ready to start.
iRunFar: You’re bringing a good Stephanie to the start line.
iRunFar: You haven’t raced much this year. You ran Bandera. You’ve always been sort of conservative with racing, which is great, but…
Violett: Yeah, I had plans to race more, but the races came up and I was kind of like, “Oh, I don’t know.” Chuckanut, I was going to race, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Silver State, I was going to race, but then I’d been traveling a ton and was worn out. I don’t know. In my mind, I raced more because I did some cross-country ski races.
iRunFar: How was that?
Violett: They were great.
iRunFar: Was it different there? Because, again, you were even more competitive in the skiing world.
Violett: I know. I know. It was fun because I actually did as well as I used to do. It was kind of funny. I was just like, I don’t know, I just didn’t feel like racing and forcing it. So, I didn’t do it.
iRunFar: Does that success on the Nordic side make you itch a little bit to switch back?
Violett: No, I don’t miss it. I like to dabble. I like to dabble in a little bit of everything, but I don’t want to be a ski racer. Running is so simple. You just put on your shoes and go. Skiing, you have to worry about your skis and waxing and testing your skis, and there are all these other nightmarish things. I prefer running.
iRunFar: It’s pretty simple. You can have a quiver of shoes to choose from, but you can probably choose any of them…
Violett: You can choose any of them, and it will be okay. It won’t ruin your day.
iRunFar: What is your shoe choice this weekend?
Violett: I’m not sure yet. I’m still testing some shoes.
iRunFar: Testing some shoes?
Violett: Yeah, because I have a little sore Achilles, and I’m just trying to figure out the shoes that will feel best on that.
iRunFar: How are you managing that? Obviously you had surgery on it, so that’s a big deal.
Violett: It’s my other Achilles that’s sore. The one I had surgery on is the bomb. That surgery was so great. I’m so glad I did it. We should talk.
iRunFar: I need to do some rehab.
Violett: Here’s the thing, a year ago at this time, I was walking. It’s incredible how fast—it felt slow at the time—but how fast I came around in a year. Bandera was a year post-surgery. I don’t know. It’s worth it for the long term.
iRunFar: In the long term, the women’s field, there’s been some really competitive Western States, but having watched this for a long time, to me, it feels more competitive than it’s ever been.
Violett: I think so. I think there’s more depth. I think the top is always usually pretty competitive, but yeah, there’s more depth. If you have a bad day, it’s not like you’re going to finish in the top 10. I think you have to have a solid day.
iRunFar: The depth for the fifth woman, it could be—obviously there’s the heat—but in terms of overall performance versus the past…
Violett: Right, it could be anyone.
iRunFar: Is that exciting?
Violett: It is exciting.
iRunFar: You say you’re not competing, but there are other people there. You can’t probably help but…
Violett: Yeah, and I’m going to compete, you know, but I’m not so worried about it. It’s a long day. I’m really more excited to run with my friends. Magda [Boulet] and Kaci [Lickteig], we’ve got a little sunrise thing. I’m excited. We have a sunrise date. Then other people like Meghan Arbogast… Meghan Laws. She’s married. She changed her name.
iRunFar: Congratulations, Meghan.
Violett: Congrats! I’m just more excited for that part. I think there’s just going to be more women around me whereas in the past, there are big gaps. I think that’s not going to be the case. It’s going to be more like a men’s-style race where there’s not necessarily a pack but kind of.
iRunFar: There tends to be, last year excepted, a group of guys coming into Foresthill within a couple minutes. Then things change.
Violett: I think that will be the women’s race this year.
iRunFar: Even with Camille [Herron] in the race?
Violett: Welllll, I don’t know. By Robinson Flat, I think there will be some people together. I think there will be some people way off the front. I will not be one of them. Just sayin’. That’s not me. I think there’s going to be some fast people of the front who may not be off the front at Green Gate.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of time to the finish at that point.
Violett: There still is a lot of time.
iRunFar: You’ve run this course a couple times. What do you think your strength is at this point?
Violett: I’m good at the downhills. I feel I descend well. There’s not technical downhills, but my quads are strong. I also do well with adversity, so the heat. I wouldn’t say I love the heat, but I think it’s an advantage to me. The snow, I love the snow. I think all of those things…
iRunFar: You’ve got your really small skis on.
Violett: I’ve got my little skis on, yeah. I actually ran on snow all spring in Oregon. When I got here the other day, I went for a run in the snow. I like it.
iRunFar: If you’re comfortable with the snow, I’ve run in some pretty snowy years, but it can be as fast or faster. In the morning, it’s not soft.
Violett: Yeah, and you can kind of glissade down. I think you can waste a lot of energy running in the snow, so…
iRunFar: If you fight it…
Violett: Just chill out. All of those things taken together are my strengths. This is a good course for me because there are a lot of challenges.
iRunFar: Would you think it unusual if you were running into Robinson Flat with Kaci and Magda?
Violett: I’m not sure. I don’t know if I start as fast as them. I think I used to start a little faster than Kaci, but I think she’s become faster or just changed her race strategy. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m not. I think we’ll be near each other.
iRunFar: What are you looking forward to most? Is it being with your friends out there?
Violett: Yeah, I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to the high country. I think it’s stunning and beautiful. Just each little check point, like going into Robinson Flat, that’s something I look forward to. You haven’t seen your crew. Then Foresthill of course—seeing my crew. I’ve asked for some special treats there from my crew. Hopefully they’ll…
iRunFar: Are those special treats secret?
Violett: It’s ice cream.
iRunFar: You’re going to have ice cream?
Violett: I want to want it. I don’t know if I will. I love ice cream. I should knock on wood. I can eat most anything when I run, and that to me, sounds like a really good change from gels.
iRunFar: In a way, it’s also a really good goal because if you’re totally gassed and your stomach is already started to turn, you’re probably not going to go for ice cream.
Violett: Right. I want to get to Foresthill happy because the past two times I’ve run, I was not happy there. It was kind of that kind of day where it’s getting really hot and I didn’t feel great. Cal Street I kind of suffered. I want to have a good Cal Street this year.
iRunFar: Are you going to miss getting in the river this year?
Violett: Yes, I think I’m going to get in on the other side, but yeah, that’s one of my favorite things.
iRunFar: Especially on a real hot year.
Violett: I know. It’s like, “Oh, it’s right there, but we’re in a boat.”
iRunFar: It sounds like you’re in a great place going into the race.
Violett: Mentally, I am. I’m happy. I’m just thrilled to be here. This race means a lot to me. It was my first 100.
iRunFar: It still carries that significance.
Violett: It does. It really does. I think about rounding the track in Auburn, and to me, it just gives me goosebumps whether first or last place. I’m going to do my best and be happy with that.
iRunFar: Awesome, Stephanie. Good luck and enjoy.
Violett: Thank you so much.