Topics Covered In This Episode:
- Pros and cons of setting pacing goals in goal races
- Aid station strategies that saved serious time
- Heat management strategies that really worked
- What support crews did well and can do better to help runners reach the finish
Host Corrine Malcolm is joined by three CTS Ultrarunning Coaches to break down what they and their athletes experienced during the 2022 Western States Endurance Race.
- Podcast – You Got Into Western States…So Now What?
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Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.
Corrine Malcolm (00:08):
On today’s podcast. I sat down with not one, not two, but three of my coaching colleagues from CTS to discuss recent race experiences from both the running and crewing side of the sport. I was joined by the knowledgeable trio of Andy Jones, Wilkins, Neil palace, and Michelle Foster, who were all recently either at the big horn trail run or the Western states endurance run and had a lot of takeaways to discuss. We cover what we saw, go wrong for runners in their crews. What individuals in the broader race field did really well. And the big take takeaways we’ll be implementing with our own athletes and maybe even into our own racing, moving forward without further delay, let’s dive into the conversation. I am joined today by brilliant, brilliant colleagues of mine with Neil and Michelle. And AJW because, well, in the email I sent to you all, I called this the post mortem discussion, which sounds like pretty, I don’t know, devastating or sad or something that might happen in a hospital setting, but we all were either at Western states or big horn.
Corrine Malcolm (01:09):
And we got to witness a lot of athletes race. Some of us raced ourselves. Um, and I’m curious to kind of know, perspectives, like what did we learn? What did we see? What, what, what went well and what didn’t go well, cause I think there’s a lot of value in kind of taking that information and going back to the drawing board with it, to tweak things for people, or maybe it means keeping it the same. Maybe we had, we were wildly successful and that is also okay. And so I think we’re just gonna kind of round table it, you know, round Robin discussion it. And so I’m wondering, um, Neil, I’m gonna pick you pick on you first, just cuz you’re in my, your, your top right on my computer screen. So, um, I’m wondering, you know, was there, I think we’re gonna talk about let’s first talk about things that maybe we noticed went wrong for someone and maybe there’s nothing there and we’ll kind of skip around, but I think we’ll start with what might have gone wrong and then how we can see that being tweaked, moving forward. And I’m wondering Neil, if you’ve got something to kick us off with,
Neal Palles (02:03):
Yeah, there, there are little things that I learned thing that didn’t work. Um, you know, I made these rice balls, I practice with rice balls, but I froze the rice balls the night before and I froze and I was like, oh, this is gonna be great. They’re gonna be nice and ready to go. And they’re not gonna go bad on me. And they were dries all get out <laugh> well, you know, once they started. And so they were only good for the first first section. And then I just changed my plan, you know, I said, all right, I’m gonna go stick with the goose and stick with the other gels that I had and eat what’s on the course and I’ll be fine. And I was, but it was okay. That’s the one thing that I didn’t experiment with is freezing them. What happens when you freeze them?
Neal Palles (02:46):
Well, they dry out. So, um, as far as you know, other things I noticed with other people is there were a lot of people who just didn’t take care of themselves. Um, this was a very warm race. Uh, it was very buddy. It was very wet. You had to have extra socks, you had to have extra shoes. You had to go at a slower pace cuz of the heat. It was 90 degrees during the day during the start and finish. If you’re a longer runner, you know, took, took you longer. Like I did, um, you’re still running in 80, 90 degrees at the finish. And so it was, uh, a matter staying hydrated and staying on top of it and being really consistent and patient, uh, you know, patience was key, uh, throughout the entire race. So just like, I’m not gonna push it. I know what my pace is and I could manage this and stick in with that. So it gives you a little bit of a flavor there.
Corrine Malcolm (03:44):
Yeah. You guys had Western state’s temperatures at big horn. It looked, it looked brutal and people’s feet looked particularly brutal, which I think happens a lot of that race, but it seemed to be out control this year. It
Neal Palles (03:54):
Was, it was outta control.
Corrine Malcolm (03:55):
Yeah. The poor completely outta control. I’m worried I’m going to bad water in a couple weeks. And the foot thing is the thing I’m wor I’m, I’m crewing. I’m not running bad water. And I am, I am patiently relearning a bunch of foot care stuff because I am so worried that that will be our, our weakest, our weakest piece of our puzzle. So I’m trying to go in as prepared as possible to crew for that very thing, because it can end, it can end someone’s day for sure. Um, yeah,
Neal Palles (04:18):
I ran. You could not bring enough socks
Andy Jones-Wilkins (04:20):
<laugh> yeah. I ran big horn last year and I was so I was so interested in talking to the, uh, at the finish line with the medics and stuff. And they have said the last two, three years, the, the biggest thing has been feet. And it sounds like this year was the biggest foot issue ever. And I mean, I think there’s a lot of theories, but one of the biggest ones is that it, it starts out sort of regular temperatures. It heats up really a lot. Then it cools down and you go up a little bit higher, you deal with all the mud and then assuming you’re, you know, a 29 to 34 hour finisher, it gets hot again. And so your feet are going through all of these, um, ups and downs. And I just think it trashes people. Um, and, and of course they’re, they’re a, they’re kind of an old school race. It’s not like they have podiatrists at every aid station. So you’re kind of like on your own, you know, you’re trying to troubleshoot that
Michelle Foster (05:14):
<laugh> so my feet, it’s not my
Corrine Malcolm (05:16):
Feet, not Western states.
Michelle Foster (05:17):
My feet got absolutely trash and I am generally a, I finished a race without a single blister type of runner. So I went in overly confident about my foot care regimen. And, um, that was my recovery was all feet just trying to get around the house with no, with the balls of my feet gone. Uh, I think what happened in my case is that muds in the middle and you do get wet later on, but, and for somebody, my pace, it’s also nighttime. So you get that and it’s deep mud. It’s not like it’s deep mud. And so that silt just gets through and then I changed my socks and it didn’t matter. And you have the longest gaps between aid stations up there too. And I stopped on the side, changed my socks and got taped up with 50 K left, but it was too late. Um, I was screaming curses at the sky and anything I could do just to grit out the final miles on gravel Legos.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (06:27):
Isn’t it brutal you guys to have to link down that road
Michelle Foster (06:31):
Andy Jones-Wilkins (06:32):
Completely exposed your feet. You’re like on, on stumps coming down there, that road,
Neal Palles (06:39):
It was, it, it, it was, it was, it was, it was brutal <laugh> um, and I, and I tried to figure out if it was better for me to run or, or walk fast and, and it really turned out running was the best option there and just keeping it cons, you know, and, and, you know, and it took a while for me to figure this out, cuz by that time, and even the days after my feet, I’ve never seen my feet, this swollen before. I mean, it was this, I mean they look like balloons and I was, I was concerned that I would, you know, had compartment syndrome or something what’s going on here. This is strange. And uh, but yeah, it was, it was what is, you know, finding that what is the right balance of running and, and walking through this last porn part, for sure.
Corrine Malcolm (07:26):
We are really selling ultra running to anyone who is currently on the fence <laugh> so if you’re listening to this, trying to decide if you’re gonna run a hundreds so
Neal Palles (07:34):
Corrine Malcolm (07:35):
Fun though, this is the cell a G w you were also at Western states. I actually got to see a really sweet moment on the live stream with you and Paul Lynn, as Britney came into Michigan bluff and you both kind of sat like she sat down and you guys were kind of both there, you know, hands over each other’s shoulders, having a little, having a discussion. And I think that was a really, really special, beautiful moment for many of us to, to witness. And so I’m just, you know, maybe not necessarily about Britney’s race, but about, you know, what, what did you take away at Western states that you saw maybe not going well for some of the athletes out there. And then we’ll talk about what athletes did really well.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (08:08):
Well, I, I appreciate you. I mean, just a little that’s, there’s kind of deep history there, right? Paul Lynn is essentially Brittney Peterson’s father-in-law and Paul Lynn’s father is Bob was Bob Lynn, who was the medical director at Western states for 35 years and, and a really a close personal friend of mine and a mentor to me and somebody who helped me and my wife Shelly in our early years. So I have the, the connections I have with the Lynn family are, and Western states in general are pretty strong. And just to, just to put a little bit more color on that moment, you know, we knew Britney wasn’t having a good day. She was, she was, uh, sick at the start. She was sad about how things were unfolding. And Paul and I just talked about what we were gonna do to, to thinking through what we were gonna do to try and get her back on her feet and get her, get her to a finish, you know, get her to a finish like, um, Claire Gallagher had last year where she knew she wasn’t having her day.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (09:06):
And, and yet she, she got it finished. And, uh, and I think Brittany ended up doing that and it was, uh, it was satisfying to her. And, and that was just, that was just one of those little, little moments that happens during Western states that, um, that you just have to just have to kind of go with, for me as a coach, you know, I had, I had eight, I had eight athletes in the race. Uh, I’d never had that many in the race before, and I wasn’t really sure how I was gonna manage it, but I basically told them I would be at Michigan bluff and, and then hopefully to see them all finish. And, um, you know, I was lucky enough to have seven of the eight finish. That’s huge, the eight Dana Dana Baxley from, um, from Kentucky. I should probably start with her, you know, she left, um, pointed rocks at nine 13.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (09:54):
And so she had an hour and 47 minutes to go about six miles and she just didn’t make it. I mean, she, she made it to about 200 yards below Roby point and couldn’t oh, just the clock ran. She just couldn’t go any further. She sat down. Um, she ended up having to take a, take a vehicle back to the finish line, but she ran 98 and a half miles, you know, three tents more. She would’ve been at 98.8 than that last little hill. Would’ve been all downhill. Um, you know, and in, in for her, I think, uh, if she were here, she would say Western states was like death by a thousand cuts and not so much physical cuts, but mental cuts, I made this mistake here. I didn’t change socks here. I, I should have filled up my bladder all the way here instead of halfway.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (10:45):
But those were the little things that as we say about these long distance races, the little things like your feet, the little things become big things. Um, and that was a negative. I was, you know, obviously hoping in all of all seven of the other, uh, class of 22 were hoping that she would, would make it to the finish on the plus side. Oh my gosh, my athletes nailed nutrition. Their quads were ready for the race. They took care of themselves in the aids station, in the aids stations. And more importantly, even than that, while they did all the heat protocol leading up to the race, they did day of race, heat management, really well, too. You know, the ice bandanas, the hats, the Matt Marino, who was the fastest of our, my eight runners, you know, he had his mom making one of those, you know, hats that it looks like, you know, like you’re like a cone head and then the, the ice melts and it’s all, so like all of that.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (11:39):
So not only the prep, but the race day execution was really, really great. And, and I was, uh, was pleased with that one coaching mistake I made. And maybe the three of you could, could comment on this as I gave all of the athletes projected split times, you know, I’d been working with them for a long time. I, I knew, okay, maybe you’re a 24 hour person. You’re a 26 hour person. You’re a face, the cutoffs person and it, and for a few of them, it gotten their heads. And in, in retrospect, I probably either shouldn’t have done that at all, or I should have given them like a huge range, like, oh, it’s okay if you get here between six 30 and seven 30, because I would, I had some of them being like Andy, Andy, I’m four minutes behind where you said I should be.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (12:31):
And, and of course by then it was too late. And they were running with that stress of, oh, I’m four minutes too late. All of a sudden I’m not gonna get my silver buckle. And, and then they like just mentally cascade downhill. So I think that I learned a lot, first of all, having so many athletes in one race, especially a race that I love so much and learning how to help people who are not having a good day, have an okay day like Britney and how people are having a better than average day can like Dario from the bay area, who was his dream was to go 24 hours. And he did 2352 and he just nailed it every time. And he kept his aid station time short and he kept it all together. He had, he had, he was one of those guys. He had shoes at all these drop bags. He never changed shoes at all. He was just like my feet feel. So he saved, he probably saved his silver buckle by not changing shoes, because if he finished 2352, that would’ve taken eight minutes. So those little things, I think this was the year of little things at Western states.
Corrine Malcolm (13:31):
Yeah. I feel like we witnessed that too. I like the splits thing is super interesting. Cause I definitely have athletes. Who’ll be like, what, what time do you think I can run? What time should I run? Like, how do I do this? I’m like, okay, okay. Like, let’s talk about big goals here. Let’s talk about stretch goals here. Let’s talk about, you know, I’m happy to help you make splits, but I want you to give, like, we’re giving it to your crew chief and then you’re forgetting about it because I don’t want you thinking about it until mile 80 when your pacer is like, Hey, if you run this, run this section, instead of walk this section, we’re looking at, you know, breaking 28 hours. Like that’s to me, like when those time goals are important, but you still have to give the crews like a ballpark estimate.
Corrine Malcolm (14:06):
So they don’t miss a runner somewhere. Particularly if you’ve got, you know, an, a team and a B team at a race like Western states, one hitting, you know, the Robinson flat, the forest hill one hitting the, the Duncan Duncan canyon and dusty corner. So I think it’s, you know, but it can like, I, I am hesitant to put together those projections for an athlete because I’m worried that they’ll be fixated on it. Particularly like if things aren’t going well, it’s a good way to shut down your race. I feel like mentally by being like, oh, I’m behind like days over game over. And I think that if you looked at people like Cody Lynn and, um, Leah Yingling and Alex Nichols who ran very patient races and like ran really strong back 40 miles, if we’d given them a specific, you know, this is what you have to run at forest hill to be under eight, 18 hours, Leah, like I’m, I do not coach Leah she’s coached by other people.
Corrine Malcolm (14:56):
Um, but like watching them execute on that, like I wonder if paces were like drilled into their brains, if they would’ve been able to be adaptable out there to take the time, to get extra ice on them, to take the time to do X, Y, or Z. And then another interesting Western state story before I let anyone else weigh in on splits is, um, Katie ASM, I heard today that her GI issues were actually due to, in like an increased salt intake that they had done some salt testing or like some sweat testing. And they had determined what that range would be, but they didn’t do it with any of her cooling strategies involved. And so she was actually like sweating less than she might have otherwise been. And she overdid it on the salt and gave herself like massive GI issues kind of out, both ends in part, because she was over salted, which can actually make athletes, hypo bone, a tree mix, all of a sudden too, cuz it encourages them to drink too much.
Corrine Malcolm (15:44):
And well, you know, it’s kind of a cascade, a cascade effect there, but I thought that was really interesting. Like something that could have worked really well for her was like actually a little bit too far. And I wonder if they recognized it at some point and were able to like if they did recognize it or not, could they have turned that dial back soon enough to like spare some of that GI stuff? I’m not sure, but I thought that was a very interesting, like specific Whoopie that I think, you know, we can all take forward with like a little bit of caution as far as like what’s good in practice versus what’s good or like what’s good on paper versus what’s good in practice. How do Neil or Michelle, anything about splits or anything else to kind of build off of that?
Neal Palles (16:23):
You know, I, you know, I can speak for myself and then what I’ve had some athletes do is yeah. Create those goals three, create three goals, have those in mind, give them to your, give them to your crew and then forget about it. And then I, and then really just, I, you know, and I think I’ve had some good luck, uh, with the athletes that I’ve worked with is let’s just focus on effort and what we’re doing and, and just the process and working through that process. Okay, what’s happening in the aid station? How are you taking care of yourself? Because that is the key that is ultimately what is going to get you to the finish and what’s gonna get you to finish with a good time. And I’ve seen it work out really, really well. I could speak for myself and I just, you know, I gave, I created splits for my crew.
Neal Palles (17:16):
So, you know, they had an idea where I was gonna be when they were more obsessed about this than I was, I was obsessed with the process. I just was like, look, I’m here to have fun and stay healthy. And I knew if I was gonna run at this effort, this is how I’m gonna, how I’m gonna manage it in this heat and these conditions. And I’m gonna finish no matter what, you know, I, I didn’t, it didn’t really think about, you know, okay, I’m gonna need to get this time because 90 degrees is 90 degrees and that’s gonna wear you down. Well, and I don’t know
Corrine Malcolm (17:46):
What happened to you, Neil, but I was
Michelle Foster (17:48):
Way over what I had planned because that course was, it looks easier on paper than it is. But, um, so I had an athlete doing the 50 K who wanted to place in the master’s because she came forth last year. Um, so she had really specific times in her head from last year and I said, that’s fine, but like, let’s try and go by that effort we’ve been training with. And she sent me an email saying, so I’m gonna write down my mile, splits from last year and have every single mile. And I said, oh, please, please don’t do that. Let’s maybe <laugh> maybe like the halfway point or something like that. Um, she responded back. I don’t know what I was thinking. That was like, she was like, you’re right. That’s a bad idea. But I think she still had some of that in her head. And she told me she got to the first aid station or some, some point in the beginning and she was 15 minutes behind last year. And she’s like, well, I can’t do anything about it. I’m just gonna keep moving. And she finished an hour and a half faster than last year. So those sometimes she
Corrine Malcolm (19:00):
Took care of herself.
Michelle Foster (19:01):
Yeah. It’s just, you never know what those splits. And so yeah, it can. I think if she’d been looking at every mile in panicking, I think it would’ve gone very poorly instead of as well as it ended up going.
Corrine Malcolm (19:13):
Yeah. Before we switch over to the positive things, anything else that anyone wants to add? Things that we notice that were issues out there? I think overwhelmingly there was a lot of positive experiences. I think we got most of the CTS athletes to the finish line at all these events. Um, but I just, you know, trying to like think of like things that we can correct. Moving forward, things that might have gone well versus didn’t go well. Is there anything else that anyone has to, to add there where we were little hiccups were made either in the field in general or, or within some of our athletes?
Andy Jones-Wilkins (19:44):
I think, um, I I’ll just add cuz Corin. We did a podcast a few months ago about the crew and, and, and most of, most of our CTS athletes, especially really paid attention to that and kept their crew small and created discrete roles for them. I think that’s still something, you know, we, as a group of coaches can work on, I, I, I saw some crews making mistakes, um, or kind of going off script with their, with their athletes. It didn’t necess, it wasn’t necessarily, you know, uh, death sentence or anything, but I, but the crews get tired out there. Uh, crews like we’ve we talked about with, with young families and kids running around. I think, I think we should continue to emphasize all the other non-training aspects of preparing for, especially a race like Western states, where there’s all this hoopla and all this, you gotta drive a long way and then get on a bus and then sit in the heat for four hours. And like all those things that those of us who’ve been there a bunch of times take for granted, those of us who are there for the first time are like, oh my gosh, it’s hot. And I gotta sit here four more hours. When’s my, when’s my athlete gonna get here. So I think those are, those will continue to be learning experiences. But I think from a standpoint of the athletes prepared for the race and executing the race, we were, we were spot on.
Corrine Malcolm (21:01):
Yeah, I did. I, I heard from a number of your athletes in Tahoe that said, oh, we listened to your podcast about the crew and about crewing this race and we’re so ready. And they were very excited to yeah. To, to use some of that. And I do think you’re right. I think that having that crew prepared really well can be, can be a big deal, particularly in a race like Western states where crewing becomes kind of a critical component of the race, as opposed to some other ultras where there’s either not good crew access or it’s very, you know, almost autonomous as far as like the athletes making their way across the course. I feel like Western states has so many good career access points that you can really utilize them to be, to benefit your day in a, in a really big way. And those can be, there were a lot of, I, I saw, I saw and heard there are a lot of very well oiled, like F one, you know, formula one race, car style crews out there that did a really good job being expeditious with athletes and getting them, getting everything they needed and then getting them out of there. And that was to me, like really, really good to hear and really good to see.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (21:55):
Yeah. You know what I that’s trickling. It used to be that only the, uh, top runners had had their act together enough to have that. And now, especially because it’s like a once in a lifetime thing, potentially everyone is dialing in their, uh, their like F1 type crew to the point where a lot of ’em will have someone timing it and be like, okay, you’ve been here 90 seconds. We gotta get outta here. I mean, I talked to one of my 20, my, my 2352 guy today. And he, he spent no more than one minute in any aid station throughout the entire race. That’s
Corrine Malcolm (22:28):
How you go sub 24.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (22:29):
Yeah. Good for him. You know, but, but he knew, he knew he had to just be moving forward. So if he’s gonna take food and shove it in his pockets or whatever that, and so I like that the, the, we used to just be like, oh, well, you know, all the front runners, they have all their fancy crews and they’re supported by all these people. But you know, it’s, it’s an equal playing field out there. You know, everybody has to take the shuttle. Everybody has to hike in to green gate. Everybody has to do what, whatever it is that the race makes them do. And it’s what they do in the moment that that makes a difference for their runner. Now, I mean, the runner obviously is the most important. They just slump in a chair and, and they’re there for 10 minutes,
Corrine Malcolm (23:04):
Which, which we saw that on the livestream.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (23:06):
Uh, yeah. But I, I was really impressed with that as well. Just seeing how, how people are just really realizing, Hey, this is it, this is my shot. Let’s not get this wrong.
Corrine Malcolm (23:17):
Yeah. And the attrition rate, I don’t know what the attrition rate was at big horn. I can almost be, I’d be surprised it’s probably higher than usual at big horn, but for race like Western states where it’s your once in a lifetime shot to get in, even on the pro side of thing, like the attrition rate was really low, lots of silver buckles and honestly like a very low attrition rate. I think given that it was like a, a pretty prototypical hot year to, to top 10 temperature time. So I was impressed that people, you know, had their stuff together. They, they, they managed and mitigated the heat really well to get to the finish line and not waste quote unquote waste that opportunity. Which sounds kind of mean, I think when I phrase it that way, but I think that’s how we’re looking at races like this, that it’s an opportunity.
Corrine Malcolm (23:59):
It’s like your shot to do it. And you wanna, you wanna do everything you can to, to get to the finish line. So I think why don’t we talk about good things that happened? Why don’t we, we switch to the positive, what did we do well so that hopefully people can take home some of these things and maybe they’re little things that went while we talked about crewing, that was a big thing. Um, but other at big horn or Western states there, any other race recently, um, and Michelle, I’m gonna have you kick us off on this. Was there something that, I mean, even your own race personally at Bighorn, like what went well that you’re like, wow, I need to make sure this, that my athletes do this. I need to make sure that I do this again. What was that? What was that thing or things out there?
Michelle Foster (24:33):
Oh, the biggest thing would be, um, I actually ate <laugh> and in the right amounts. Cause I, I mean, it’s, it’s one thing to know how much you’re supposed to eat, but it’s a completely different thing to actually execute it. Um, <laugh> and I might have yelled at my pacer a few times for telling me to eat too many times, but, um, like it, the recovery and the fact that I could still run at a, what we’ll call a good clip into the finish. Um, I pretty much entirely attribute to the fact that I was actually taking in calories regularly through the whole thing. And I made and adaptable with that when needed, like when I was starting to get stomach upset, I realized if I took in one of those, um, salt stick shoes, my nausea went like burped. Once nausea went away, I could keep eating. And so I ended up eating so much more of those salt stick. Ch those were like a just in case thing that I ended up almost relying on. I think probably primarily because it did end up being so hot out there. Um, yeah. I, so, yeah,
Corrine Malcolm (25:43):
I just got off the phone with an athlete that said, I said, you know, like if you’re feeling low, like it’s probably cuz you need a snack. Like that’s, that’s our plan. Like if you’re feeling I’ve got an athlete going up to altitude for the first time ever, um, in a couple weeks for a race. And I said, you know, what, if you’re feeling off at all, it’s probably a good indicator that you should eat a snack and drink some fluid. Um, which seems really simple and maybe like a little bit patronizing to be like, it’s, it’s time for a snack. But honestly I think when it comes to ultras, we’re all just like three year olds running around, out there and truly a snack is probably what we actually need. Neil, what about you? What did you see go, well, what did you, what did, how can we implement those things going forward?
Neal Palles (26:20):
You know, it was knowing what I could tolerate in that kind of heat and, and what kind of pace I could tolerate in that heat. I called it, um, compassionate self discipline, you know, it wasn’t bravado, self discipline. It was just compassionate, knowing not, yep. It’s time to eat. It’s ti you know, it’s time to change your socks, be disciplined about that. And, and then just knowing trust in the trust in your training, you know, you know, what you could do is I think three days, four days, uh, before I knew it was gonna be a really hot race. And I was like, you know what? I’ve got a little bit of a long run today. Let’s see what that pace looks like. What does that pace look like on similar terrain in 90 degree heat? And I went out and just said, okay, this is, this is the effort you need and locked it in and just locked it into my brain. And then if you’re self disciplined and patient with yourself and compassionate about it, I, you know, there was no reason, no reason to get into trouble then. So that worked really well for me, you know, and then eating and taking care of my feet when I could take care of my feet. Um, and uh, yeah, just the big pieces right there. It’s about the process.
Corrine Malcolm (27:32):
Yeah. A good, a good thing to focus on is like checking. I always call it checking the boxes, which is very unsexy. I’m like, what’s the goal. You gotta check the boxes, right. Are you eating, are you drinking? Are you taking care of the little things that to be taken care of? Did you grab that squirrels nut butter or whatever it was the last aid station? So your pack will stop Chaing, um, you, or make it feel a little bit better. It says little, those little things. I know HW, we kind of stressed little things earlier about what went well with your crew. I’m wondering if there’s anything else, even if it’s just from like the broader field, like you witnessed a lot of people come through Michigan bluff, for example. And I’m wondering if you saw people,
Andy Jones-Wilkins (28:05):
You know, I think that, well for my athletes, it was pretty interesting to, uh, around middle of April. I decided to, uh, encourage them all to really embrace the Western state’s experience. You know, everyone at that point was really trying to dial in their nutrition and their plans and so forth. And, and, and, and at that point I decided to talk to ’em all about, do, do you understand what the aid stations are like at Western states? Do you understand that it’s like going to an all, you can eat buffet for a hundred miles and, and I encourage folks to start ex experimenting and training with solid food, you know, with avocados, with not NES frozen rice balls, but with versions of rice balls with, with all the kinds of stuff that you see along the trail, that the, that the pizza that the guys at cow too roll out in the middle of the night.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (28:53):
And so one of the biggest surprises was, you know, a G w you were right, man. There’s so much good food out there. I feel like I just ran Western states and gained 10 pounds. And so that the opening up, like in a small picture with my athletes, and then I’ll get to the second part of your question. I think that the, that the, the idea of that, the idea of just taking you of your point about having to snack, that’s gonna make you feel better. I, we had one of my runners, Tom came into Michigan bluff and he, he hadn’t had a, he puked coming at a devil thumb. That’s eight miles from Michigan bluff. It’s probably at two hours, hour and 15 hour and 45 to two hours for him. He was hoping he finished 22 and changed, but he was open for 24.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (29:36):
Right? Well, he took him, he puked out out of devil’s thumb and didn’t have a calorie all the way to Michigan bluff. And he, he got in and it was, you know, 98 degrees and he was shivering. And we were like, okay, we got a little triage here, you know, so we brought him and, and, and I took a page out of the guys at Kroger’s canteen at hard Rock’s book, where I just went over to the eight station and got a plate and put like two frees and three M and Ms, and a banana and a piece of ginger and, and just shoved it in front of his face. Cuz like it’s interesting. The dynamic of how cuz if you just sit there and ask somebody, do you want a banana? Do you want a, this do you, they’re gonna say I don’t want anything.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (30:12):
And, but if you put it in front of their face, they might be like, okay, I’ll try one of those. And I might try and I mean, at one point he was sucking on a potato chip. Right. But I mean, Hey, it’s something right? So, so I think that the, the coming back to life, I really saw happen a lot. And a lot of it had to do with, with nutrition. I think generally, yes, I saw probably, you know, 280 runners come through Michigan bluff. And if I could just make like, like, just to make a statement about Western states and where the race is now, then where it was 21 years ago when I went through Michigan bluff for the first time is, you know, number one, people really care about the race they want. They, they respect the idea that it’s, um, it’s an institution in the sport.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (31:02):
They don’t abuse that they follow the rules, they care about one another. It really builds community. Number two, in those moments, when you can encounter your crew, you know, whether you’re a front runner or a back of the packer, you take advantage of those moments and you make them part of the experience. And number three, you just, you, you, you use Western states as a, as something, as a celebration of the human experience, you know, and, and I saw that over and over and over again. And in a place that I consider kind of sacred, like to me, Michigan bluff is just, it’s the crux of the race. It’s I call it I’m, I’m a golf fan. So I call it the 12th hole of Augusta national, where the masters is right where you never know what’s gonna happen there. Sometimes someone hits a hole in one, it’s a little, it’s a pretty easy hole.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (31:48):
Other times they hit it in the water, like over and over again. And, and you can make that mistake, like going up to Michigan bluff up El Dorado canyon. And, and what I loved about this year is just seeing that sort of victorious feeling coming in there. And then of course at the finish as well that, uh, the it’s a celebration it’s it’s, and not only a celebration of accomplishment, but just a celebration of human human experience. And I think the lives of every finisher are changed. And even the non finishers, even Dana who made it 98.5 miles, I mean, she, she feels a sense of accomplishment in there and, and, and she wants to come back to maybe not this race, but some race and figure out a way to get it right. So I saw that from the front to the back of the pack.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (32:34):
And I think, um, I think the stories that unfold at Western states are, are special stories. And I love getting to know the people, you know, with coaching as I think the four of us know, especially if you spend time around athletes at like big races, you get to know their spouses, you get to know their children, you get to know their friends. You, I mean, if you’re standing in an aid station for six hours, you got a lot to talk about. You’re actually gonna maybe end up knowing their, the spouse better than the athlete themselves. And it’s, and that was really fun for me this year.
Corrine Malcolm (33:09):
That’s so, I mean, I think we got to witness that play out, given that we, we had cameras kind of all over the course in places that we’ve never had footage from before. And that was highlighted amongst, amongst the things I think my biggest takeaway from watching, watching Western states, which is anomalous in part that like there are other hot races, like big horn. There are hot races that happen in Europe, but like the ability to utilize like in race cooling mitigation at a race like Western states is so special just because of the, the crew access, the aid station access like hot races in Europe don’t have ice. They had, uh, 32,000 pounds of ice at Western states. I was 82 pounds of ice per runner. And I saw people utilize that ice. I think I saw the largest ice bandanas I’ve ever seen on runners, leaving Michigan bluff and forest hill in these places where routinely I’ve seen athletes that get dabbed with ice.
Corrine Malcolm (34:01):
And like their ice bandanas were like footballs on their back. Like they, they weren’t, they weren’t like using an ice cube here or there. They like, they were like, okay, like staying cool is important. I got scared after last year. It is still hot. I’m gonna eat a lot better if I’m, if I’m staying cool, I’m gonna feel a lot better if I’m staying cool and witnessing people actually taking some of that seriously, it felt like this year, or at least successfully utilizing it. And this goes from the front of the pack to the back of the pack. Like I felt like I felt frustrated watching the race last year, cuz it was really hot. And I think we were all really rusty coming back to racing after a year off with the pandemic. And then they all got slammed by like the hottest race ever, basically at Western states or one of the hottest years ever at Western states.
Corrine Malcolm (34:44):
And we combined that with being rusty and forgetting how hard it is to run in those temperatures. And like I just watched this implosion across, across the entire field last year. So I thought it was really cool to see people take it seriously and, and utilize what was available to them. Like actually kind of it, it made me rethink, um, which I think is the next thing we’re gonna talk about. It made me rethink a few things. And so I think to kind of close out the show, I’d like to hear from each of you, if there’s one thing that was really, really stark, good or bad, that is going to either that is going to adjust how you talk to an athlete about an upcoming race, like something that you’re gonna take forward to be like, this is important and we need to hit on this when we prep you for your a hundred in, in August or September or October or next year, I don’t know who wants to go first.
Corrine Malcolm (35:29):
I can go first. I’ve always run like an extra lean mean crew at a race like Western states. I’d never sent anyone to Duncan canyons. I never sent anyone to corners. I’d never sent anyone to Michigan bluff or Rocky Chucky. I went to my crew, went to Robinson flat forest hill green gate and pointed rocks and pointed rocks is kinda like for fun. They were just like there just in case type of thing. Like I look at the way crews executed throughout the entire field with like utilizing crew well and utilizing aid station transitions really well. Um, while the, while the volunteers at Western states are maybe the best volunteers in the business, um, they’ve been working those aid stations for 5, 10, 15, 20 years. They know what they’re doing. Um, getting to watch crews be utilized so effectively is gonna one make me use crews better, but also make sure I really talk to my athletes about that. Like if they’re gonna use a crew, how are we going to use it and also kind of, and sit down and make that plan, like really make a crewing plan for them. Um, more than even a race strategy plan, I think is gonna be a thing I highlight with athletes throughout the rest of the season and, and in seasons beyond this year. So that’s my, that was my takeaway who wants to go next?
Michelle Foster (36:40):
Uh, my big takeaway I guess, is like, don’t let things slide. Like if you’re starting to feel too hot and it’s an hour into the race, don’t keep up at the same pace. Like do something to cool off or like with my feet. Um, I probably could have been a lot quicker to do something because if they start, I mean, you’re just out there for so long little things just pile on and pile on and then you don’t finish a race or you finish really mad. Um <laugh> and so like just be smart. And I, we like to think how tough we are, but if we try and ignore things, it’s gonna make you DNF or at least have a real long recovery.
Corrine Malcolm (37:25):
Yeah. Yeah. You don’t take, you just, can’t just roll. Like it’s in one, you’re not rolling with it. You’re addressing it head on. I think that’s, that’s really important. Um, Neil, why don’t you go next? And then we’ll close that with a G w
Neal Palles (37:37):
Uh, it’s it’s kinda like I just said earlier, it was, uh, this probably one of my best executed races and it was really just, it came down to my mind, you know, is just being patient and having fun and trusting my fitness, trust your fitness, you know, you’re going into this race, you’ve got the fitness go at the effort. That’s gonna get you to the finish line if you can go faster. Great. But trust that process, you know, you know, you’re hitting those check boxes, but it, it was confidence. You know, it just came down to confidence. And I think if, if I can instill that in my athletes and I think that’s the piece and you know, we I’ve had one athlete who did a 50 K and yeah, we just took away those numbers and she won the women’s division and it was totally psyched, you know, and it was just trusting that process. And she, she, she was thrilled with that. So
Corrine Malcolm (38:33):
Yeah. Trust, trust the work you’ve done. I think that’s, that’s super, super valuable. A J w what do you, what do you have to leave us with
Andy Jones-Wilkins (38:39):
For, for me, for the, for the seventh time, since I stopped running the race, uh, the most inspiring hour of my year has been the golden hour and it’s becoming more and more inspired. This year’s 78 people finished in the last hour of the race. I mean, if you’d been up in the announcer’s booth, it was like, it was like chaos up there, just trying to keep track of all the runners. And the takeaway for me is you want to finish, these athletes want to finish. And I’m sure of those 78 people, probably 30% thought they could run 24 hours and another 30% thought they were gonna run 27 hours, but guess what? They all finished between 29 and 30 and they, and they went home with their buckle. And I think for me as a coach, I wanna tell people that that’s a really inspiring experience, not to mention the fact when those people come into the track, there’s a roar that doesn’t even exist when the winner gets there.
Andy Jones-Wilkins (39:40):
I mean, the, the, this sports and this event is the only place where the last place finisher gets geared more loudly than the first place finisher. And it’s incredible. And so if that doesn’t kind of light a fire under somebody, or get them out of the chair, you know, or, or make them train a little bit harder or put one more ticket into the lottery to get one more qualifier, even though they’re so frustrated that they’ve been trying to get in for six years and they haven’t gotten in yet, like it’s worth it. And if you are there for that hour, you would totally get that. And I know it’s, it’s crazy for you and Dylan per to like, just be like, oh my God, this whole scene. And, but it’s an incredible scene. It’s out of the chaos that comes a certain triumph that like, that you just take away. When you walk away from that track, you just, you bring that triumph with you. And whether you’re a spectator, a crew, a pacer, or best of all, one of the runners, you’re gonna bring that with you and, and bring it back to the rest of your life. I will say that to whatever future, uh, Western states runners, I coach that there’s gold in them to our Hills and just keep moving.
Corrine Malcolm (40:47):
I love that so much. I hope that this postmortem of sorts is helpful. I hope that those listening find it helpful and inspiring. And maybe that you can recognize there are things that have gone well for you recently, and things that haven’t, and I think that’s the best part of any races getting to sit down and, and kind of hash that out and figure out what, what went well. Cause the likelihood of something did. And then what went poor, cuz the likelihood of something did cuz the sport is impossible to do perfectly. And I hope that having this discussion allows each and every one of you to, to take some of that forward and, and race and train just a little bit smarter. And I wanna thank you all for joining me today to have this little discussion.