While she’s long lived in the area, YiOu Wang will start the TNF 50 for only the second time this weekend. In the following interview, YiOu talks about why the TNF 50 was a challenging target in her early years of ultrarunning, how she’s figured out the 50-mile distance since then, and how her training has gone since a couple disappointing races over the summer.
YiOu Wang Pre-2019 TNF 50 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with YiOu Wang before the 2019 TNF 50. How are you?
YiOu Wang: I’m doing great. How are you?
iRunFar: I’m good. You’re at home, basically.
Wang: It’s my backyard.
iRunFar: What makes running here and living here so special?
Wang: The climate. As you’ll notice it’s mid-November and it’s beautiful out so I think this is the perfect place if you want to be able to trail run year round. All our trails are always in great condition no matter the time of year. We never have snow and we have just glorious California carpet.
iRunFar: Yeah. It is mid-November and it is a shorts and t-shirt day.
Wang: It is, yes.
iRunFar: For running.
Wang: It will be. It will probably be 75[F] later today.
iRunFar: So going back in history a little bit, for a number of years coming out to the TNF 50 you were kind of this speedster from the Bay Area. Great marathon success, some 50k success. You came here to TNF, DNFed once, had a couple years you didn’t start.
iRunFar: What were those years like, before you figured out?
Wang: I always figured that TNF was always so late in the year that I was either burnt out or broken in December, as I think a lot of people end up being when this race was in December. I just think with such a long season, well that’s one of the pitfalls of living in the Bay Area is that you can run year round, so I never would take any sort of off season to do anything else other than run in the winter, so by the time December rolled around I was always fighting either injuries or had been training all year and was just totally over it.
iRunFar: Mm hmm.
Wang: [laughs] So I think the one year I started and DNFed I had a hamstring issue that I was dealing with for weeks leading up to the race, just from a full year’s worth of training and racing.
iRunFar: Yeah. And then sort of at the end of that period, separately, you really figured out the 50-mile distance.
iRunFar: You nail Lake Sonoma pretty much every time you head out there, so.
Wang: I think I’m much more comfortable knowing how to run 50 miles now, as well.
iRunFar: Does that feel like your sweet spot right now?
Wang: I think 50k to 50 mile is really my best distance. I think I’m going to take a break from trying hundred milers for a while.
iRunFar: We can get into that. Let’s just say it didn’t go so well.
Wang: No. I think I’m going to take a break and come back to it later.
iRunFar: Yeah. But you have figured out the 50-mile distance. What works for you at this distance?
Wang: I think I’ve figured out the kind of effort that I need to spread out over the course of the race and also I figured out a lot of things about fueling. I was a very bad eater during races, which I think a lot of people that go from shorter road racing to these long ultras, they struggle with taking in the calories that you need to take especially early on because when you do a road race you can kind of get away with getting in a hole, you know. You’ll take a gel at mile 20 and like make it to the finish. But you can’t do that for a 50 mile. You’ll always pay for it later in the race. So I think realizing that I need to take in calories consistently and early and in different forms, right. Because I used to be like I’ll only take one gel every 40 minutes and that’s the only thing I’m going to do. After seven hours it gets really old. [laughs] So I think learning how to drink more calories. Not just drinking water. Also actually eating food at the aid stations, nothing, no Egg McMuffins or anything like that, although that might be amazing at 5 a.m. on Saturday. I’ll eat more things like candy or potato chips or stroopwaffles just to feel like I’m taking in more solid food throughout the course of the race and I think that’s helped maintain my energy levels and helped me still be able to have some legs in the latter parts of the race.
iRunFar: Do you think you’ll be able to bring all your confidence at Lake Sonoma to this race now?
Wang: I think so. I train a lot on these trails, so I think I have good memories from good training runs on the trails, and I’ve run every single piece of trail on this course. Not necessarily in a race but in training, throughout the I don’t know, 12 years I’ve lived in Marin.
iRunFar: Even besides the specific trails, you run the same terrain. It’s all, the grades and the footing and everything.
Wang: Yes. Yes. I’m very familiar with how the trails are and it’s very runnable. We haven’t had any rains yet this year, so everything is super buffed out and dry and there shouldn’t be any like, mud years like there have been in the past.
iRunFar: So it should be a pretty fast year on the course.
Wang: I think it’ll be very fast. I think the weather is shaping up to be nice and cool as well, because yesterday it was actually pretty hot during the day, around 11 a.m. when the sun came out. I think Saturday is supposed to cool down and it’s I think partly cloudy all day.
iRunFar: That would be perfect.
Wang: We should not be getting roasted by the sun. And everything is just super dry out there, but with the fog that’s been rolling in, it’s keeping the dust down.
iRunFar: It is basically perfectly conditions.
Wang: It’s going to be perfect conditions out there.
iRunFar: If we could pan the camera we could see fog rolling over the Headlands.
Wang: The beautiful San Francisco Bay fog.
iRunFar: It’s real.
Wang: it’s real.
iRunFar: So you ran Western States this year. Didn’t finish. You went to Sierre-Zinal, didn’t have your,
Wang: Kind of had a crappy day at Sierre-Zinal. [laughs] I think I, well Western States I just felt horrible from the start. Really flat. Turns out I was sick, you know, shit happens, which was really disappointing because I felt like my training had gone really well and I was prepared, and my fueling had gone well, it was just like my body said no.
Wang: And then Sierre-Zinal I think I just underestimated what the jet lag would do, because I felt like I was asleep at the start of the race, and then could never have, there was just nothing there. [laughs]
iRunFar: So despite all your international experience with other travel it was a good lesson in maybe two extra days of travel?
Wang: This racing thing is so different. You need to be dialed in to your body clock. And it’s kind of like I flew in, I could have flown in earlier but for some reason I was just thinking oh, I’ll get there on Wednesday. It’ll be fine. It’s plenty of time. No. It’s actually worse. I actually felt better the day right after I flew in, and then you know, two days later I felt awful.
iRunFar: So no injuries, no burnout, nothing like that, just two bad days for those races.
Wang: I just felt like my legs weren’t working for Sierre-Zinal, and then you know later that month I had really great training runs in the Alps. [laughs]
iRunFar: Nice. So your training has gone well, sort of since then.
Wang: I’ve had a good training block going into these past couple months, I think. I did a trail marathon down in the South Bay six weeks ago and that went really well. I think I ran it faster than I thought I would, and I’ve been doing you know trying to get my speed legs back after doing a lot of power hiking in the Alps.
Wang: So I think I have some good climbing legs right now, but I think my descending has been faster than ever, which has always been my weak point. I’ve never been a great descender, so that’s been really confidence boosting in the past few weeks. Just chasing Fernando [de Samaniego Steta] through the headlands.
iRunFar: Awesome. Sounds like you’re ready to go. Good luck out there this weekend.
Wang: Thank you so much, Bryon.
iRunFar: Thank you.