In 2019, Tom Evans placed third in one of the fastest times in Western States 100 history. Now he’s back for round two, and in this interview he talks about his time in the U.S. and how he’s prepared specifically for the race, as well as his run at the Black Canyon 100k earlier in the year and the possibility of returning to UTMB this September.
Tom Evans Pre-2023 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar. I’m here just before the 2023 Western States 100 with Tom Evans. Tom, how are you doing?
Tom Evans: I’m very well thank you, Sarah. How are you?
iRunFar: Good, good. So, it’s taper week. How’s that going? You managing to rest a little?
Evans: Yeah. For me, there’s like, tapers — it’s tough, but it’s part of the process. It’s as important as your biggest weeks of training so I guess that’s how I frame it. Yeah, I want to look at it like it’s as important as the biggest week of training. So yeah, it’s fairly easy to do.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And so, you’ve been over here in the U.S. for a while. And Hayden Hawks mentioned you had your own little unofficial training camp in the Grand Canyon. What was that like?
Evans: Yeah, it was really good. I’ve been in Flagstaff for the last five weeks, and sort of, kind of decided that is the reason — my sort of views on it — is the reason that an American man hasn’t won UTMB because of the culture? So now Jim [Walmsley] is moving to France and preparing for it. It’s also very rare for an international male to win Western States. So I thought, is it to do with the culture? So yeah, let’s fully bind to the culture. So yeah, I’ve been in Flag. And yeah, spent quite a bit of time in Phoenix training for the heat. Bit of time in the Grand Canyon, and met up with Danny Jones and Hayden there. And yeah, did some good training there together. And yeah, it’s just been an amazing training block of five weeks. And yeah, it’s crazy that it’s the end of June and race day in a couple of days.
iRunFar: Yeah, it flies by. So yeah, you just mentioned UTMB there in passing. So, I believe you’re doing the double?
Evans: We’ll see.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah.
Evans: I’ll let you know on Sunday morning. If I’m fortunate enough to have a iRunFar post-run interview, I will know what I’m doing by the morning.
iRunFar: Okay, that kind of answers my next question. I was going to ask, have you been like, approaching it to try and train specifically for both sort of simultaneously. But are you just taking it race by race? Just this one first?
Evans: This has been 100% Western States. I have not touched a set of poles since I finished UTMB at the end of last year.
iRunFar: Okay. I think that’s probably the way to do it. There’s plenty of time. Very good. And then just to talk about like, the buildup you’ve had, you’ve done some good races this year. So, you were second at Black Canyon [100k]. That was really, really fast race — the top three men all under course record. So, how did that go for you?
Evans: Yeah, it was, I guess, finishing last year was great at UTMB. I then had a really busy end of the year. I got married and went on honeymoon. So, I took eight weeks off, and training then started again on the 1st of January. So, I always knew it was going to be a tight turnaround. And yeah, it was such a quick race. And I guess I sort of, probably went in slightly naively thinking I’d just be able to run. To kind of do my own thing, and we’ll see what happens. And yeah, when Anthony Costales — who is, yeah, insane — when he sort of broke away, I just had absolutely nothing. And so it was a super fast race. And it was a great part of the process, and it was a great benchmark to know where I was, and what sort of values I could push out for 100k. And yeah, it’s always nice to come and race in the U.S. And one of the main reasons for doing Black Canyon was to spend a little bit more time in Flagstaff, and to just make sure that everything worked for me. Made sure that I could train at that altitude, and I wasn’t getting ill. And I could just do a dress rehearsal before coming back in the end of May, beginning of June, for this block, which I think just made things way more simple.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah, it sounds like a super relevant tune up race anyway, like really different from UTMB. So, just to change gears.
Evans: Yeah, I think it was really nice that I went from that, and then two weeks later race the British Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships 10k. Yeah, again, even quicker. And had my best result over there, which is always nice. And I’ve done a skyrace, and then raced a couple of weeks ago in a hilly 55k in Wales. And I think it’s yeah, kind of paying the respects to Western States. UTMB, it’s an incredible race, but it’s all very similar. You’re either hiking on the climbs, or you’re running the flats and the downhills. Whereas I think Western States, it’s a race of three parts. And the terrain is so different in the three that you kind of need to train for all three. And the mistake that I made in 2019 is I didn’t do that. I was like, Oh, it’s a running race. So, I went to go train with a marathon running group. Because I was really, I was quick, but I didn’t have the trails skills that I needed for a race that’s still a trail race. So yeah, I guess I’ve just used that. Yeah, I’ve used those races to sort of just test a bit of everything. And I enjoy racing. I love training, but I train so I can race. So yeah. And that’s yeah, all sort of been very much part of the process building up to this weekend.
iRunFar: Okay, brilliant. And then so in 2019, you ran one of the fastest times on record to come third. But I’m just wondering, will you have that time in your mind as a benchmark? Or with different conditions, do you just have to treat this as a fully separate race and focus on your race and the competition?
Evans: I think actually running relatively quick in 2019 is not a positive for me this year. I see it more as a negative. Because I have got that benchmark and I know what the splits are for it. And the course is — yes, it goes on the same trail — but it’s a completely different course. We’re going to have more snow. You’re then going to have so much more sun exposure. Pretty much up until the river you’re, there’s no shade between the Olympic Valley and the river pretty much. So, yeah, I think being aware that I’m capable of doing it gives me good confidence, but at the same time being very wary not to think, Oh, well in 2019… I think I’m better now than I was in 2019. I’m in better shape on paper now than I was in 2019. Does that mean I’m going to be able to run quicker? No, because nature always wins and you’ve just got to adapt. Really adapt to the conditions.
iRunFar: Okay. And this is a super strong men’s field. Is there anyone in particular that you’re excited to race, or excited to share some miles with?
Evans: I think a bit of everyone. I think what makes it so fun this year is it’s such an open field. Whereas I think in previous years, there’s kind of always been an out-and-out favorite. Whereas in my opinion, that isn’t now. There isn’t a favorite this year. I think it could be between six to eight people. There will definitely be someone who no one’s really thought about who finishes on the podium. And I think the really exciting thing this year, exciting but nervy part of this year is the guys from China, who no one knows anything about. And having raced against some incredible Chinese athletes before, they like to go out really, really fast. And do I have the confidence to let them go in a year that it’s not going to be that hot? Who knows? So, you can go in with a race plan. At the end of the day, it’s 100 miles. But no one knows much about them. So yeah, I think that’ll be a really, really interesting dynamic.
iRunFar: For sure.
Evans: But yeah, I’m just really looking forward to getting back out on the Western States trail. It’s my favorite trail that I’ve run on. And yeah, just really excited to hopefully have a good day.
iRunFar: Yeah, awesome. I think as of course it probably plays to your strengths because you’ve got like, good fast leg turnover and you can handle mountains as well. So yeah, is there any bit — do you have a favorite part in the course or is there any bit you’re really looking forward to?
Evans: I love Cal Street. I love Foresthill to the finish. I mean everyone loves the finish. But yeah, Foresthill to the river is, yeah, it’s probably my favorite part of the course. It’s flowy, it’s fast. If you’ve been sensible, you can have amazing legs. And if you’ve not been sensible, you’re going to get caught by someone. So yeah, that would be my favorite part of the course.
iRunFar: Okay, yeah, it’s exciting that this race tends to be so close, and like, it’s really not over till it’s over.
Evans: I think it’s going to be even closer. I think you’re going to be able to throw a napkin over the top 10 this year.
iRunFar: Okay, brilliant. That’s exciting. And then just lastly, so we’re from pretty similar locations. My mind’s blown by the wildlife here. Everything’s really different. Have you seen a bear or anything cool?
Evans: No, thankfully. Yeah, lots of squirrels. No snakes yet. No bears.
iRunFar: A lot of squirrels.
Evans: Squirrels. A lot of big cars as well.
iRunFar: For sure.
Evans: More big cars than anything else. But I have been to a rodeo since being out here.
Evans: Which is very cool. I went to Flagstaff Rodeo with Molly Seidel and Matt [Sharipo]. Matt is going to be here this weekend doing some filming stuff. So yeah, that’s been the most American thing that I’ve done. And I do own a pair of cowboy boots now.
iRunFar: [laughs] You’ve been changed. I think we’ll leave it on that note. So best of luck. Look forward to following you out there.
Evans: Thanks very much, Sarah.