Tom Evans has come over from the U.K. to race the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile this weekend. In the following interview, Tom talks about what took him out of the Vibram Hong Kong 100k in January, how the speedy Sonoma course will suit him, and how the trails remind him of his home in the South Downs.
For more on who’s running the race, check out our in-depth preview and, then, follow our live coverage on Saturday!
Tom Evans Pre-2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Tom Evans before the 2019 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. How are you, Tom?
Tom Evans: Really good, thanks. I’m loving being here in California.
iRunFar: Is this your first time here?
Evans: First time in California—I’ve been here for a week now, and I’ve done some exploring. Yeah, it’s awesome.
iRunFar: Have you been to the States before?
Evans: I’ve been in the States before a little bit for running and a little bit for traveling and holidays. Yeah, this is my first race out here. I’m really excited.
iRunFar: I did just see you a few months ago in Hong Kong for the Vibram Hong Kong 100k. That did not go well.
Evans: No, that didn’t go to plan. Not ideal. I went over hard on my ankle. I probably could have carried on, but the sensible thing was to pull out. It’s meant that I’ve had a really good training block leading into the rest of this year. I’ve spent a bit of time working on my relative speed over 10k and half marathon back in the U.K.. Yeah, I’m in one piece now which always helps.
iRunFar: Perfect, so it’s not a huge injury, just a right call to shut it down.
iRunFar: Have you done anything race-wise since?
Evans: Yeah, I’ve raced 10k and half marathon on the road but no real trails. Everything now is building up to Sonoma this weekend and then onto the Western States 100 in a couple months.
iRunFar: I assume you’re not staying out here.
Evans: No, I’m going back to the U.K. and then off to another training camp to train really specifically for Western States.
iRunFar: Nice. You mentioned speed—the 10k and half marathon—this is a really fast course, but you have speed. We were just talking about Marathon des Sables which people think is a 150-mile stage race. It is a fast-as-heck event.
Evans: Yeah, I think speed is relative. I am a ‘fast jogger.’ It makes a difference if you’ve got a quick half marathon or marathon, it just makes running a six-minute-mile on trails seem a bit easier.
iRunFar: And you feel comfortable with that.
Evans: And you feel comfortable, and then things that happen where you’re a little bit wet or hotter and you can just adjust off that, but I think that having that bit of relative jogging speed is really important.
iRunFar: Which, for you, you’ve run some road marathons?
Evans: No, a road half in 65 minutes on a hilly course which is quick jogging, sub-elite jogging.
iRunFar: It’s speedy ‘jogging.’ But for the trails, you’ve shown you have the strength in a CCC or something like that, so…
Evans: Yeah, I think it’s really important to be able to train specifically for a race. They can be so different. If you were to take UTMB and Western States, they’re both 100-mile trail races, but they’re so different. Actually being able to train specifically for a race, I think it’s really advantageous.
iRunFar: I might be wrong, but I think I heard in the last couple days that where you live in England is very similar to here?
Evans: Yeah, out of complete surprise. It’s relentless where I live. I live on the South Downs Way where there are lots of small climbs. The longest climb where I get to train on at home is a nine-minute climb which, funny enough, is pretty similar to here—lots of rolling. As I was running out here the last couple days checking the course out, here is much more beautiful and more singletrack, but the elevation is pretty similar.
iRunFar: It must be comforting to know that.
Evans: Yeah, I think it is. It’s not that I can switch off, but my legs are quite used to this.
iRunFar: A lot of people who live in the mountains come here and it’s a shock how runnable, if you’re at the front of the field, how runnable this course is.
Evans: Yeah, on paper, these are the sort of races I enjoy doing because I can run. I don’t like using poles, and I don’t really like hiking. If I’m training, I want to run. It’s just been great. I train with an awesome training group int he UK, AB Training Group, and they’re all really quick runners—out-and-out runners from 800 meters to marathon guys. Being able to train with them on hilly terrain is awesome because they’re panting to keep up.
iRunFar: Yeah, it’s a good situation to be in.
Evans: Yeah, it’s great.
iRunFar: You’ve been here for a week and out on the course. It rained a ton earlier in the week, but it’s firming up a bit out there?
Evans: Yeah, it’s really firming up. The first couple days running on the course was pouring with rain and running in a jacket feeling a bit sorry for myself in very muddy trail shoes, but the sun and the wind is baking the trail. It’s looking like it’s going to be warm here for the next couple days, so I think the trail is going to be in perfect condition. You’re not going to need that much grip on the shoes which is going to be nice.
iRunFar: You mentioned it’s going to be warm. It’s not going to be Marathon des Sables warm, but it’s going to be warm for this time of year. How are you approaching that?
Evans: Yeah, I think it’s good. I quite like the heat, but coming from the U.K., I’m not that used to it. I’ll approach the race pretty cautiously the first half and make sure I’m hydrating enough and things like that. I’ve been told the aid stations out here are incredible, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them but also not getting caught up in the madness of the aid stations. I’m sure people are going to fly through them, but I’m taking my time and making sure I’ve got enough water.
iRunFar: Being deliberate. It’s not about a few seconds here or there.
Evans: Exactly. You’re going to lose much more time if you get to the bottom of a climb and go, I’ve got no water. This is going to be a pretty horrible hour. Yeah, being deliberate, and I’ve planned it out—I’ve got a crew out here, so it should be fun.
iRunFar: You’re quite a ways from home. Who is your crew out here?
Evans: I’ve got one of the guys from Flagstaff who is coming over to watch the race and volunteered to crew, so I was like, “Sweet!” We met for coffee this morning and planned it all out. That’s the amazing thing about the running community especially in trail running—people want to help.
iRunFar: That’s so true.
Evans: If you were running a road marathon it’s like, “Yeah, I’ll wave and take your photo, but I’m not spending my day crewing you.” It’s incredible.
iRunFar: I’ve seen that both ways like you coming over here and when Meghan [Hicks] ran the Bob Graham Round a couple years ago, there was a slew of people that came out—people she knew and people she didn’t.
Evans: It’s the beauty of social media and people being able to track races and know what’s going on. They want to help out and feel involved which is amazing. I think it’s what makes the sport so great.
iRunFar: Now at a race like this, there’s a variety of runners and some newer ultrarunners who come from a very fast track or road background which means some people will go out very fast. Are you comfortable running your race or are you going to try to hang with whoever is out front?
Evans: I say now that I’m very comfortable running my own race, but we’ll see.
iRunFar: Easier said than done?
Evans: Yeah, I’m very competitive and I love a race. I train hard so I can race hard. It takes confidence to let people go in the beginning especially on a course you may not have done. I think a couple of the guys who are going to go out fast have run this course before and finished in the top-three. They know the course and the race. I’ve said to myself, “Right, I want to keep my legs in the second half.” But, people fly off, and it’s pretty difficult not to get caught up. I’m hoping I don’t get too caught up in it and I’m running my own race. I’ve planned it out, and I think I know what I can run at to make my legs feel okay for the last 12 miles.
iRunFar: And there have been big changes in this race in the last 12 miles. It’s most generally climbing, but it’s still runnable terrain and it’s warm.
Evans: Yeah, if you can run the last 12 miles pretty hard or at similar speeds to what you’ve run the first 12, great. I’d like to negative split which is the slight ambition at this race.
iRunFar: That’s more fun, too.
Evans: Exactly. I’d much rather be overtaking people in the second half than getting overtaken. As soon as you get overtaken everything just drops. You lose motivation, and you start feeling a little bit sorry for yourself. I do, anyway.
iRunFar: I think that’s fairly universal.
Evans: I actually want to be the person who is feeling great. Everyone has described this race as being a sort of a party and a really fun atmosphere, so you’ve got to enjoy it. If you’re feeling good and can run hard, great. You’re going to enjoy the race even more.
iRunFar: I hope you do enjoy the race, Tom. Have a great race out there.
Evans: Thanks very much.