Timothy Olson has now won the Western States 100 twice in a row under conditions that couldn’t be more different. In the following interview, Timothy talks about how his race went, what it was like running the two different years, and what his race plans are for the future.
[Editor’s Note: iRunFar also recorded the race’s finish-line interview with Timothy Oslon.]
[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]
Timothy Olson, 2013 Western States 100 Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Timothy Olson, two-time Western States 100 champion.
Timothy Olson: Thank you.
iRF: How does that feel?
Olson: It’s a very good feeling. Pretty unreal.
iRF: Yes, you honestly surprised me this weekend. There is a difference. There’s a bullseye on your back. I know you played that down a little bit but there is more pressure.
Olson: Yeah, now that it’s over, it’s definitely a lot of pressure. You just feel it the whole time building up, all the talk, and you just try to keep it low key as possible. Yes, I just try to keep the nerves at bay. I didn’t concentrate too much on it. It was just nice once we started running. Once you start up the first climb it’s like, Okay, it’s just a normal run…
iRF: A little more on the line…
Olson: Yeah, a little more on the line, a few other people running with me.
iRF: Not just a run with Hal (Koerner).
Olson: Not just a training run. I did get to run with Hal, though, so that was good. It was just a normal training day for us.
iRF: That’s cool. How long did you run with him?
Olson: Gosh, we spent the morning running together. We ended up at Last Chance together, weighing in at the same time. Then, in the canyons, we were kind of trading back and forth. He was cruising a little more on the downs. I’d get up on the climb, which is definitely more my stronger suit. It was fun. I didn’t have a lot of conversations with a lot of people—it was a little too hot for that—but I did get to run with a few people. It was nice.
iRF: Early on, I was really impressed. Most of the guys on the Escarpment were pretty chill. You and Hal and Cameron (Clayton) just flew up the mountain, at least it looked that way compared to everybody else.
Olson: We took off maybe a little more than we should have. I was feeling good. Even I ended up in the lead way too early compared to what I was planning. What I just kept telling myself was, I’m feeling good, so I’ve just got to go with that. I was never pushing myself—I was hurting, but—for the first 50 or 60 miles, I was just going when I felt good and then relaxing a little bit when I was not feeling so good.
iRF: So you weren’t ‘green light’ all day
Olson: No, it wasn’t green light all day. That’s what I like about racing, too. I had no game plan going into it. I was just waiting to see how I feel. I went by feel all day. Things worked well. I felt stronger through the first sections. Last year I had a low patch on the climb with all the cold. This year I was feeling pretty smooth through the beginnings. Then Cal Street came, and that was hard.
iRF: Not as comfortable as last year?
Olson: No, I wasn’t cruising through Cal like I did last year. The first one I did pretty well just because I was trying to put some space there. Then I blew up wonderfully I was dunking in every creek I possibly could trying to keep water on my head.
iRF: Did you have a pacer at that point?
Olson: Yes, ‘Dominique’ (Dominic Grossman) was pacing me there.
Olson: Sorry, Bud! ‘Unicorn Man.’ We had a good time. He was keeping things lively. I was really struggling at Cal 2 and Cal 3. I was dizzy, really dizzy. I soaked down for a couple seconds and got up too quickly. I remember taking my step and almost stepping right off the trail. I was so dizzy there. I just kept telling myself through that section, Just keep taking care of myself. Keep up on electrolytes, water, and trying to put a gel in when I could. It was rough. It definitely turned to Sprite in the later stages because it’s just hard getting gels down in all that heat.
iRF: Good to hear that it’s not just the people further back that are not…
Olson: It’s not gel-eating weather.
iRF: Not at all. Not at all. Last year you had Hal (pacing), someone you know like a brother. What’s it like versus having Dom there?
Olson: He’s just a cool dude and fellow Injiji athlete with me. I always love going to L.A. and visiting all that clan there, and I thought I’d go on a little run with him and show him some of the course. That’s kind of the fun things about pacers. I know that people differ on pacers, but it’s hard to get into the race and it’s fun to enjoy with people. I had Renn (Chris Rennaker) help me out again. It’s just running with friends. You lose people throughout the race and it’s just nice to have that little break where you can run with someone and show them the course and share the experience with them.
iRF: So you come down Cal Street and you get to the River and you have Rob Krar breathing down your neck. How far back was he? Did you know how much of a lead you had, sort of?
Olson: No, I had no clue. Kind of the whole way I was just guessing. People give you numbers, but it drives me crazy because people give you so many different numbers and you just can’t think about it.
iRF: You’re in the lead and somebody is behind you.
Olson: Yeah, that’s all you need to know. When I crossed the river, I tried to move through there really quickly and started climbing. On the climb four minutes later—I wasn’t up very far—I heard cheering. I was like, Oh man, they’re closer than I thought! I needed that because that lit a fire under the can. I climbed up really hard there. I’ve always loved the climb to Green Gate. I really push it there. Then it was just gritting your teeth and giving it. Running, I love it and it’s a great experience, but there’s definitely pain sometimes… just a tiny bit.
iRF: Yesterday more than normal?
Olson: Yes. My quads were just destroyed. The heat—my legs were just radiating this heat. You’re just pounding them. We didn’t take any of the downs… I mean Hal was flying to the first canyons and I tried to stay along with him. He knows how to run those way better than I do. You try to make your quads last through it all. They hurt, but you’ve got to keep going.
iRF: Last year you set the course record at 14:45…
iRF: This year, 15:17. In my mind, this one is almost more impressive than last year under the conditions.
Olson: Yeah, it was hot. I guess for me, for myself, I wanted to come back. I don’t know how many interviews I had to say, “Oh yeah, it was cold.” Yeah, it was cold, but I still ran a really hard race last year and gave it everything I had and that’s what time it was. I gave it everything I had this year and I’m satisfied with it. I came here to have a satisfying race. So whatever place… I’m not going to say it’s not awesome taking first, but giving all you have… that’s what these runs are all about for everyone that stepped out there and was going to race this weekend is just giving everything you have. When you can do that, it’s satisfying.
iRF: This race has a great history of repeat champions or return champions. I know it’s right after the race, but is this the sort of race you could see yourself coming back to?
Olson: Yes, it’s definitely one I’ll be back to especially with two wins. Last year with my son being born right after, and this year being able to cross the finish line with him… it’s a special, special place for me and I’ll always remember this race. I’ll be back.
iRF: Probably next year?
Olson: We’ll see. We’ll see.
iRF: You’re not going to commit.
Olson: I’m not going to commit to anything. There are lots of places I want to race all over the world, but this is one that’s just home here. It’s a few-hour drive from where I live. When I first moved to Ashland, Oregon, Hal had just won this and that’s how I was introduced to ultrarunning. I thought I’d come here and try my own hand at it. I’ve had fun here.
iRF: Anything else coming up for you this summer?
Olson: UTMB coming up here with a little bit more climbing and really awesome competition there. I know that Dakota (Jones) and Tony (Krupicka) will be there… Mike Wolfe, Mike Foote… just so many good runners.
iRF: Great American talent going over there.
Olson: Yes, I’m really excited to go. I’ve never been there. I’m excited to see that and experience it with some other friends and get to run in another place in the world.
iRF: Congratulations and I look forward to seeing you more out there.