Western States podcast episode

You Got Into Western States…So Now What?

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Topics covered in this episode:

  • Planning out race logistics
  • Determining how best to prepare for Western States
  • Preparing for the unique demands of the event
  • Key Western States course insights
  • Choosing appropriate build-up races

Guest Bio:

Andy Jones-Wilkins, known as AJW, is an ultrarunner and CTS Coach who first began running ultramarathons in 1992. AJW ran his first 100 miler in 2000 and to date has completed 32 100 mile races, including 10 finishes at the Western States including 7 straight top ten placings.

Connect With Andy Jones-Wilkins

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ajoneswilkins

CTS Coach Bio: https://trainright.com/coaches/andy-jones-wilkins/

iRunFar: https://www.irunfar.com/author/ajoneswilkins

 

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Episode Transcription:

Please note that this is an automated transcription and may contain errors. Please refer to the episode audio for clarification.

Speaker 1 (00:06):

[inaudible]

Corrine Malcolm (00:07):

Hi. Welcome. We are talking about the famed lottery season. Lottery season is upon us. We have athletes with six years, seven years, eight years worth of tickets in the lottery. And the lottery that I am speaking about specifically is the Western states lottery. We are thrilled that people are getting in this year that more people than ever are getting in this year because of some stuff that we can talk about from last year. But I am here with AGW ADW. Why am I talking to you about Western states?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (00:41):

Oh, Kerryn. Well, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. Um, I, I think sometimes over the years, my initials have become synonymous with Western states. I just, I love the event. Uh, I’ve run it a bunch of times and, and now I volunteer there every year. And, and this time of year, this lottery season, uh, is just a time that’s filled with excitement and expectation and for thousands of people disappointment as well. But for those lucky few that, uh, that get in, uh, this is a time, uh, uh, for planning. This is a time for preparation. This is a time of great excitement. So I’m thrilled to be on.

Corrine Malcolm (01:23):

Yeah. I’m jokingly calling this podcast, this episode, the, so you got into Western states podcast because yes, there’ll be thousands and thousands of people who do not get into the race this year. Again. Um, I think there are over 3000 people with one ticket in the race, which is kind, you know, it blows my mind. Um, but for those people who are getting their ticket drawn or getting drawn on the wait list with a high chance of getting in over the coming months, what should people start thinking about? It is it’s only, it’s only December, right? So if their name came up this weekend and they are getting jazzed about putting their team together, heading towards the big dance at the end of June, what should, what should the first thing these people do besides dancing around in a circle?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (02:11):

Well, what they shouldn’t do is go out for a 60 mile run, uh, and start their training right away, what they should do. I’ve always felt that the first thing to do is to control what you can control. Now you’re in, you know, that the next six months, six and a half months of your life are going to be taken up with, with training and preparing for this, this what for many people is a once in a lifetime event. The first thing I would do is plan out the logistics. Maybe you’ve done this already, but think about, do you want to have a pacer? If so, who would you like that to be? Do you want more than one pacer? Do you want to have crew? Have you talked with people already about if you ever get in, I’d love to be your crew, uh, think actual, the nitty gritty, where do you want to stay when you’re there?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (03:03):

How long are you going to be there before, after the race? Um, think about those logistics starting actually on race weekend. What do I want my Western states experience to be? I think the next thing you want to do is okay, I’m in, how am I going to prepare for this? Um, you know, Corinne, you and I are both ultra marathon coaches. I think we’ve both realized over the years often after the Western states lottery, uh, our phones start ringing with people who’ve gotten in and are interested in, in being coached by an experienced Western states runner, like, like yourself or myself. And so thinking about, okay, do I want a coach? If so, what kind of coach, what does that look like? Well, how will a coach help me maybe talk to other people who’ve run Western states. And if they’ve had success with coaches, think about that because in relatively short order, you’re going to want to map out your training.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (04:01):

You’re going to want to map out how you’re going to get from December 4th, which is when your name was pulled to the fourth weekend in June when, um, you’re going to have the run of your life. Uh, so the logistics, how you’re going to prepare, I think then you really want to think about, uh, what am I going to do? Am I going to run any other races? Maybe you’re already signed up for some other races. Maybe you’re already signed up for something in February or something in April. And do you want to continue with your plans to do that or not? I would say you want to think about, will you, depending on where you live, would you be interested in making the trip out to the Memorial day training camp, which takes place, uh, you know, what’s a typically a month or a little bit more than a month before the race and you can run 70 miles of the course with several hundred other people. Maybe that’s something you want to do and see if you can figure that in. And if you can’t do that, what do you want your training? You know, four or five weeks before the race to look at, look like, so control what you can control, make the plans, uh, and then get excited and, uh, and move towards this incredible day that you’re lucky enough to have.

Corrine Malcolm (05:16):

Yeah, I think the, the worst thing someone could do right is get into Western states and then pull up Jim Wamsley’s training plan from last year or something and be like, how do I replicate this? Or, or any, any other runner? Right. Um, Kat Bradley, Addie Bresee, um, Tyler Green, right? Trying to replicate someone else’s training is not going to be in your best interest. So yes. Get excited. Read. I like, for me, going into my first Western states, I needed to read about other people’s days. Right? What was their experience out there? Get, get hyped on that a little bit, but then kind of take notes, write, take notes about what that might look like. So kind of taking some steps back right towards, you know, we’re still in December, you’re trying to figure out if you want a coach, if you need a coach you’re running, maybe, maybe he waited six or seven years to get into this race.

Corrine Malcolm (06:05):

Right. And this is your one shot for so many people. This is your one shot to run Western states, right? You’re not, if you’re not in that top 10 or golden ticket group, you know, this is your one opportunity. So trying to make the most of that opportunity can be really good, but that can also be a ton of pressure on someone. So I do think that either finding someone in your community or a coach who can kind of help, help take that pressure off of you and just say, I’ve got you, I’m going to help you with this. Like, and go from there as a great, a great first step. When you talked about races specifically, like can maybe below are already signed up for races, right? They’re signed up for canyons or black canyons or a local, a local 50 K or 50 mile, and they’re in their area.

Corrine Malcolm (06:48):

And sometimes that means changing those plans. What do you think for someone going into Western states? Let’s say it’s not their first hundred, um, that they’ve done a hundred K a hundred mile to get into this race. They’ve been putting in for years in the lottery. What do you think? An ideal? And obviously it looks different for everyone got a caveat that right. Training and racing looks different for everyone. I’ve seen it done so many different ways in your ideal buildup with your athletes for a race like Western states. What do you think, how can athletes use racing between December and the end of June to prep for Western states?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (07:25):

Excellent. I think first of all, having a couple of races, two, three races that are, that are buildup races, training races, pick your distance 50 K 50 mile a hundred K makes really good sense just to keep yourself, uh, in the race mindset. Um, it, it won’t have anything, none of these races will have anything close to the, the hype and the magnitude of Western states. But just that feeling of putting a bib on, of preparing your gear of thinking through your, your nutrition and your hydration and so forth, I think is really smart. And, uh, you know, there was the old, in the old days when there were far fewer ultras, uh, and many of the Western states runners came from California. Everybody ran way too cool. And March, which is a 50 K American river, 50 miler in April and the MEWA hundred K in may.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (08:17):

And then they went to the Memorial day training camp and, and they were ready to go. Now that’s not a recipe that works for everybody, but something along those lines, uh, would be a really wise. I think the second piece is, think about, you know, Western states. In addition, let’s just put the hype and the magnitude of the event aside, there’s some really unique components to it. We all know about the heat. There’s not much you can do about the heat in December, but you can start thinking about it, Korean Euro, you’ve done incredible research on, on heat training and heat adaptation and, and how people from cold weather climates can use things like the sauna to, uh, to, uh, climatize themselves, to heat. You don’t need to do that now, by the way, I mean, maybe talk about that a little bit later, but as the race, you, when you’re a month or so away from the race, you, you do need to do that.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (09:07):

So there’s the heat. Can’t do much about that. There’s the net downhill. Uh, people often forget the race starts at 6,000 feet, goes up to about 8,700 feet and then drops all the way down to a couple of hundred feet, uh, when it crosses no hands bridge before, you know, a little climb up, uh, and into the town of Auburn. So you want to think about you and your local running or what races you might sign up for places where you might be able to get some, some downhill running, uh, that you might not typically get in, uh, where you live or where you typically race or train. Uh, and then this is more about wrapping your mind around it. And if you read any of those, uh, blogs or websites or articles to which Korean referred people will talk about saving yourself for the last 20 miles, it’s not too early to start thinking about that.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (09:59):

If you, if you walk out to green gate and run the last 20 miles of the race, you’ll be like, what’s the big deal with Western states. This is just this nice rolling course. It’s a beautiful trail with under, under these nice trees with lots of shade. Why is all their hype about this? And that’s the beauty of Western states. If you have your legs together, have your head together, have your stomach together. And by the time you cross the river at mile 78 and climb up to Greengate, there is a lot of running. And if you can run, you can make up a lot of ground, uh, on, on competitors, on goals on your time goal. And that’s, it’s not too early to begin the mental training of how on earth can I be ready to run at mile 80? So some of the, some of the things you need to do are practical, and some of the things you need to do, or a little bit more cerebral, and I’d say that’s a little bit more cerebral.

Corrine Malcolm (10:53):

Yeah, that definitely is an, and you will, you’ll hear that, right? Like the last you can run the last 20 miles of Western states, if you’re ready for it. And it’s, I’ve, I think we’ve both seen that firsthand from witnessing the race in person, but also from having, you know, a lot of finishes between the two of us on that race course. And yet, if you go to those last 20 miles and it’s a death March, it’s a long walk back to Auburn. Um, so getting, getting into that mindset of, you know, the race, you know, the other, the other thing people say is the race, doesn’t start the forest hill, right? What do you think for, for people who obviously for the front of the front of the race, that’s very important because you can, there, you’re fighting for the top 10 after that, at that point. But what about for everyone else going into the race of that mindset of the race, doesn’t start to forest hill. What does that mean for people that are trying to break 24 or break 30 hours in the race?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (11:43):

Yeah. I love that line. The race doesn’t start until forest hill. I’ve seen a lot of people come into forest hill and their races ended there. Uh, and so that is, uh, is definitely something, nobody who gets picked in the lottery wants to have happen to them. You’ll hear a lot about the canyons, uh, capital T capital C, you know, they’re three of them, Deadwood canyon, Eldorado canyon, and, uh, and volcano canyon. And they are big descents, you know, thousand to 2000 foot descents followed immediately by big us cents, a thousand to 2000 feet, uh, climbs. And you, they, you repeat them three times. It’s hot down in the bottom. There’s not a lot of air moving around down there. Uh, and that those three canyons come between mile 43 and mile 62, which is where forest hill is. So a lot of that saying the race doesn’t start until forest hill is designed to get people to stay under control through those canyons.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (12:50):

Anybody who’s run a hundred miler before knows you get to mile 40 or 43, which is what happens when you get to last chance and dry dumped out, jumped down into Deadwood canyon, you feel like, okay, I’m starting to get tired. I’ve been out at a long time. Um, you’re working hard on pushing nutrition. It’s getting into mid day or even the afternoon. And now you have to go through these three canyons and then you get to the place where the race quote unquote starts. So it really requires self-control. And a lot of thinking about, uh, how you’re going to execute that middle section, those canyons, uh, so that you have everything together. By the time you get to forest hill, that you can run those last 38 miles with good strong legs, and some assertiveness, those canyons you, you can. And I think even the front runners and the, uh, people who’ve come won the race or come close to winning the race. We’ll, we’ll say the canyons. You’re not gonna win the race in the canyons, but you could most certainly lose the race in the canyons.

Corrine Malcolm (13:51):

Yeah, that is, that’s definitely the case. I feel out there. And for those of you who are listening to this at home, who maybe you’ve never been out to the American river canyon or never been out to Western states, um, coming from the Midwest and having lived in Montana and Washington state, when I heard about the canyons, I don’t know what I was thinking, but I pictured Utah slot canyons. So this is like, this is, um, this is, you know, behind the scenes, Kerryn, Malcolm, trying to run Western states for the first time. Um, I had no idea what the camp, what they meant when they said canyons. And these are forested pine forest going, dropping down into the American river canyon. Um, and, and what happens there as ADW mentioned was that there’s no wind that comes through these canyons oftentimes. And so it, when, if it’s really hot in the week leading up to the race of the two weeks, leading up to the race, the heat just sits down there and you legitimately on a hot year, feel the heat coming out of the ground, out of this pine needle surface, and just baking you from, like, from the ground surface upward.

Corrine Malcolm (14:55):

It’s a very, very weird experience, but it’s not, it’s not slot canyons. Um, it’s this big forest that canyons that just hold onto the heat, retain it in there. But one thing to keep in mind for the canyons and ADW could tell you every single water location, I think in that, in that zone is that there’s a lot of water through the section. And AGW, can you tell people what, what does that mean when we say there’s a lot of water in there? What should people be thinking about when they’re either previewing this section at, at Western states Memorial day camp, or coming out in April to preview it, um, or in the race itself? What do you mean by there’s a lot of water in these?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (15:29):

Well, certainly as, as I think any experienced runner in the heat knows the evaporative cooling that comes from soaking yourself down with water is really, really effective, particularly in the, in the dry heat of Western states. And as we’re talking about this section, the canyons, these, this, this 20, sorry, 19 miles section from last chance to, uh, forest hill, you come across water, uh, probably a dozen times sometimes at the bottom of a canyon in a full river, a raging river, uh, that’s a tributary of the American river to small little creeks that literally run right across the trail to a spring at the bottom of Deadwood canyon. It’s about a hundred meters past the swinging bridge that you can drink water out of. It comes right at the base of the steepest climb of the day, the climb up to devil’s thumb. If you can stop at every one of those sources of water, get yourself wet, dump water on your head, put your hat.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (16:37):

Sometimes even your shirt into that water, uh, your going to be so much happier on those climbs. You’re the evaporative cooling is going to continue to, to help you, uh, so that when you do get to those dry parts, there are some dry parts as well. Uh, you know, you’re ready for them. And, and there’s enough information out there too, that, um, I mean, I know with the athletes I coach, I will, I will help them make a little, make a little sort of cheat sheet so that they know, okay, after two miles going down this hill, I’m going to be able to soak myself in volcano canyon, a little story. I remember the 2006 Western states, which was a notoriously hot one. And, uh, there’s a, a really nice Creek, very cold water at the bottom of volcano canyon, which is the third of the three canyons, right before you begin the climb up to forest hill.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (17:31):

And I got down there and there were three other guys, literally swimming in that Creek. And granted, we were like top 10 runners at the time. And most of us had realized how hot it was and that we had thrown our splits out the window. So we had four runners all in the top 10, all soaking themselves in this Creek. Now, of course the competitive level of Western states has, has gotten a lot more as we’ve gotten a lot more competitive since 2006, but nonetheless being down there and seeing that even the top runners are soaking themselves and taking 30 seconds to a minute to get wet and stay cool, uh, is so important. And it just, I can’t stress that enough as you’re, as you’re starting to think about people out there starting to think about that, uh, make sure you take advantage of it.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (18:18):

I want to say one more thing about the canyons if you’re not able to get out there. You know, so because of technology, there’s so much available information about how long the climbs are, uh, at what grade, the climbed, you know, it’s a 12% grade for a mile and a half, things like that. You can get that, that information is easily available and you can, you can seek to find those kinds of similar training grounds wherever you live. I mean, obviously if you live in Florida, you’re not gonna find those on, on, uh, highway overpasses, but you might be able to find it, go to a training weekend up in north Georgia and, and find a type of a climb and descent that say mimics Eldorado canyon. And, and those are the kinds of little tricks that really help come race day.

Corrine Malcolm (19:03):

Yeah. There are, that are going to help with that up and down the canyons that can feel just really, really hard, particularly because you’re, you’re hitting them. Yeah. After the 40 mile mark and then in the heat, in the heat of the day, I think the other really important takeaway there was that people feel really rushed during these races rushed because they’re competing rushed because they think they’re up against this time goal. And the little bit of time you take to truly get what truly soak yourself down to get ice at the aid stations, that, that time that you take that, that, you know, 30 seconds a minute, two minutes to, to actually really get yourself cool and wet, um, is going to pay back dividends up that next climb or at mile 80. So taking time early to take care of yourself, um, in any race, but particularly at Western states with this water is so important.

Corrine Malcolm (19:55):

I sent an athlete out to his own little training camp because he couldn’t make Memorial day weekend work in may. So he went out in April, um, and he ran that section and he’s like, I wanted to know where every single water spot was because I wanted to make sure that on race day, I had it in my mind that I was going to get wet there, that I was going to put my hat in it, that I was going to lay down. And it, that I was going to, you know, snow angel in six inches of water, if I had to. So there’s water out there, use it. We’re telling you that now use the water. Um, so we’ve talked a little bit about race is going into Western states. I guess one question I have is with your athletes, what do you think? And this is obviously different for everyone. We’re going to keep saying that. What do you think is the latest, someone could do a big training race, like a 50 miler or a hundred K in that, in that build up, just because some of these races you’re right. Like Milwaukee is in may or, um, Canyon’s a hundred Ks at the end of April. Like how close do you think people can work that race in to, towards Western states? Just because springtime racing can be hard in a lot of places.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (20:59):

Yeah, I think it’s, it’s, uh, it is, uh, it does vary from person to person, but I don’t think you’d want to do a hundred K uh, much later than, than when Milwaukee is, which is the first weekend in may. And we have seen over the years, some runners kind of ruin their Western states by running a race like Milwaukee too, uh, too aggressively. And it’s too close to the race for them to adequately recover. Um, I think, I think you can get away depending on what your overall training volume is. You can get away with a 50 K um, you know, five weeks before or even four weeks before. Um, if you go out to the training weekend or if you create your own training weekend on Memorial day weekend, which is historically five weeks before race day, it’s great to cover 70 miles in three days, but you really, you want to try and run that at at a hundred mile pace, not at, um, you know, not at, you know, what you would normally run a 50 K in.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (21:58):

I think it would be helpful for, uh, runners to think about now they’re in Western states, think about the last hundred K they ran, or in the last hundred miler they ran and how long it took for them to feel recovered from that to actually be recovered from that, and then design your calendar that way. You know, I had a couple of years where I ran the walk every year, and then I thought, I wonder if I’ll be a little bit less tired if I, if I do, uh, you know, kind of a maximal effort a little bit before. And I did Zane grey, which is down in, uh, in Arizona and it’s a 50 miler instead of a hundred K and I tended to be more successful at Western states. The years I did Zen gray, which is a full eight weeks before then when I did me walk, which is like six weeks before.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (22:46):

So, you know, you don’t, you can’t really experiment because you kind of have a one shot deal here with Western states, but you can look back at your history and how long it’s taken you to recover, uh, and map it out there. I’d say to Corrine, and I know we’re not talking about the end, but the same would be true for tapering. Everybody tapers a little bit different needs, a little bit different amount of time to taper. And so you’ll want to think about, okay, if I let’s say an athlete has done 300 mile races, and this is their first Western states, look back at your training for those 300 milers and see, did the taper work, was I tired going into it? Did I, you know, and try to figure out way ahead of time, what your plan is going to be in that regard and with races, we know if it’s a popular race, it’s going to fill up.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (23:34):

So you might need to plan on I’m going to do this race, and this is what I’m going to do. I would never lose sight though. No matter what other race you sign up for the prize is Western states year in Western states right now. Yeah. These other races are going to be fun. Maybe they’re going to be in beautiful places. You can go there with your friends and so forth. But your goal now that you’ve gotten in, maybe you’ve gotten in after seven years of putting tickets in your goal is to have a good day or two days at Western states. Everything else is geared towards that.

Corrine Malcolm (24:09):

Yeah. Keeping that, that a race priority, really, really giving it that distinct designation is so, so important when it comes to our race like Western states, don’t let it be race or a C race become an, a race effort and really derail, derail you going forward towards Western states. So question kind of in regards to training camp, I think there are pros and cons to Memorial day training camp. And I’m wondering if you can lay out some of those pros and some of those cons that people are considering going out to Western states training camp, what should they be? How should they be thinking about that?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (24:44):

Well, the number one pro is experiencing 70 miles of the course, unless you are fortunate enough to live in the, you know, in the bay area or up in the central valley or Tahoe or somewhere a couple hours from the course, uh, you’re not going to get a whole lot of familiarity with it. So having three days of catered training runs where the transportation is provided for you, where there are aid stations, where there are other runners is absolutely invaluable. Uh, I will say the second piece is it is actually good training to run three lengthy runs in a row, you know, at this camp, they do, you do 32 the first day, 18 or 19, the second day and 20, the third day miles adds up to 70 miles. It’s a pretty nice little, three day, uh, batch of running. And, and that is a definite pro now, of course, as Corinne.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (25:42):

And I both know you can do that anywhere. You know, if, if you, if you live in Germany, you can find, uh, a couple of friends and figure out a way to get a three-day training camp in, uh, you know, five weeks before the race. And, and you probably will have a similar benefit minus the, um, minus the course knowledge that everybody who goes to the training camp, uh, we’ll see. So that’s good training. And then the third piece is you can, you can experience, this is a third pro you can experience some of, and I’m going to say only some of the sort of pre raise hype and excitement at the training camp that you’re going to see, you know, exponentially more at the race. And let’s be clear that different people respond to that kind of pre-race excitement and jitters and stuff in different ways.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (26:35):

Some people love it. Some people hate it and it drives them crazy. So going to the training camp gets you used to big of people. The Western states course announcements being made by famous runners, milling around things like that, that I think are important pieces of, of the Western states experience cons running it too fast. If you go to the training camp and you try to race every run, you know, you look over and you say, oh, look, there’s Jim Wamsley. I’m going to see if I can hang with him down, cap down, cows free, you know, or, oh my gosh, there’s Kat Bradley. She won this a few years ago and I, I, you know, and she got one at, with one ticket in the lottery. Maybe I can do that too. You want to instead think about, you know, this is I’m here for training and I’m not going to do this too fast.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (27:27):

Um, and con and attached to that is it is only five weeks before the race. So the con is you want to make sure that, uh, that, you know, you can recover suitably from a 70 mile weekend in five weeks. Uh, and the third con is, you know, for those of you who would be impacted and would have to travel, you know, there’s, let’s face it, it’s travel, travel can be tiring, travel costs, money travel gets you out of your routine. Uh, some people would rather just stay at home and do their thing there. So, um, you know, there are pros and cons to it. It is, I mean, it’s a wonderful experience. And I say to people who have never run Western states and may not even ever wish to run Western states, if they want to experience a little of the flavor of the event, then go to the training camp there, no lottery for that.

Corrine Malcolm (28:21):

Yeah. There’s definitely like if you, if you want to run Western states, even just in the coming years and you, and you didn’t get in this year, go to the training camp, it’s super, super fun. Getting to run with a bunch of friends, a new friends, old friends, a bunch of pros. I think that that is a very cool experience this past year. It was really hot on training camp weekend. It’s not always really hot that weekend. They’ve had years where it’s been cold and rainy. Um, I was in Colorado Springs for, for us, like we were running our own CTS camp that weekend out of the Springs. And I think we were warmer than the cold rain in Auburn that weekend. But this past year it was super, super hot. And I had athletes at training camp. And for some, I think it was so important to see that heat and feel that heat.

Corrine Malcolm (29:05):

But I had an athlete who I think probably got over cooked that weekend too, because that he takes such a toll on the body, right. And getting heat exhaustion or heat stroke five weeks before Western states, you gotta be careful with that. Okay. So I think it’s one of those things where yes, you’ve got to go into the mindset of, this is a training camp. I’m here for this purpose, da race. The, a goal is still Western states. So don’t, don’t ruin your Western states by racing Jim Walmsley or Kat Bradley or someone else down Cal street, um, and derailing yourself. One thing that keeps coming up in this conversation though is the around Western states, right? That there’s a lot of hype around it and not everyone does well with hype. I’m wondering, is there things that athletes can think about when it comes to handling the hype, going, going into it, like not losing sight of their goals, dealing with the pressures of race week, you know, how can athletes prep to be ready for the hype that surrounds the Western states machine?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (30:12):

W I’ve actually had this conversation with several of my athletes, including one actually, who is in the race already, because she was one of those lucky few who won entry through a raffle ticket. And the first question I asked her when she was asking questions like, where should I stay? And, um, w what airport should I fly into is I asked her if she was an introvert or an extrovert. And, you know, the most simple definition of those two things is, you know, extroverts get energy from other people and introverts get energy from being on their own. I think if you’re an extrovert and you know that about yourself, uh, you can, you can probably manage the hype and, and you can enjoy talking to people and taking selfies with the famous runners and things like that. If you’re an introvert and let’s face it long distance ultra marathon running has more than its fair share of introverts.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (31:11):

You’ll want to think very clearly, very thoroughly about how much social time you’re going to want during that week, how much talking to other people, how much of taking in of that, because it’s going to drain your energy. It’s going to drain everybody’s energy, but it’s particularly going to drain, uh, an introvert’s energy. And by the way, this isn’t exclusive to Western states. This happens at hard rock. This happens at the entire UTM be festival of which is a week long. This happens in a lot of large events happens in big city marathons. But if you know, you’re an introvert, you’re going to want to think about booking a place in Olympic valley. That’s maybe a little bit away from the starting area. You’re going to want to think through. I know this sounds crazy, but you’re going to want to think through when you’re going to go pick up your packet, you’re going to pick up your packet, and then you’re just going to leave.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (32:09):

You’re going to want to think about what, who you’re going to eat with, who you’re going to talk. The last thing you want to do is talk to someone on the day before the race about what they did for training, and it totally doesn’t match what you did and you start freaking out. So you want to be really careful, uh, especially if you’re an introvert and managing that. Even the pre-race meeting, I mean, the pre-race meeting has about 600 people at it. It’s almost like it’s almost like being at a, at a small concert venue, you know, for some people going to impact them and, and drain them of their energy. And you want every little bit of your energy to go into that race. Uh, so first and foremost, what kind of work are you an introvert? Are you an extrovert? I think then just think through the logistics and while it sounds weird, that’s where literally planning out what you’re going to spend.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (33:01):

Those, those many people get there several days before literally plan out, you know, maybe on the Thursday before you’re going to, you know, you’re going to gather, uh, your crew together and have lunch, and then maybe go, go over to lake Tahoe and look at leave, never seen lake Tahoe before, and maybe just take a walk along the shore of lake Tahoe or something there’s plenty to do to get away from the hype. Um, but if you, if you just stay in that bubble of Olympic valley, you can really be derailed from it now for the extroverts out there who love this community. And, and over the pandemic have missed being with other people. I mean, Western states weekend is a place for you. You know? I mean, I’m one of those guys. I always got energy from just being around the whole event and talking to people and because it gave me energy, sure. I went to my room and napped and all of that stuff. But, uh, I mean, I think some people over the years have blamed me for causing some of the hype. Um, but I think that, that you want to ask yourself who you are, what you are, and then, and then when then once the gun goes off, you know, you can put all that aside, which is the best feeling in the world, actually.

Corrine Malcolm (34:12):

Yeah. I loved being like, okay, once the race starts, like I’m not responsible for anything anymore. I just get to run. This is my, my favorite part of the race. And I think that many of us too might be what I would consider like an extroverted introvert. Like I think that I’m a very extroverted person. I love talking to people. Um, hence the reason I keep doing these things, but I also know that I need a lot of recharge time. I need time away. I need time to myself. I need time to be quiet. Um, that might be going for a run or taking a nap, or just like, you know, sitting and reading. So recognize that about yourself going into these races. Maybe that means that you need to show up later to the race, right? Like my I’ve got friends who they don’t, they to them, it’s energy draining, even if they’re extroverted.

Corrine Malcolm (34:54):

And so that they know that they actually need less time in the location before the race, or at least the race location, because they’re there for days, they kind of go crazy. So think about yourself. Think about that. Think about what’s easiest for logistics, for you, for your family, for who whomever is coming out to crew you, um, and kind of build it from there. And I guess this is kind of a great, maybe transition point to kind of slowly wrap things up with, but what, what about, you know, they’re, they’ve done the training they’re doing, they’ve done the racing building up to it. They did the heat acclimation. Don’t worry. We’ll send you a podcast about heat acclimation, um, long before you need it. I promise, um, this spring, but what about those other little pieces? Like the crew? I think that the crew and the Pacers for Western states, we’re not going to argue pro or anti Pacers on this. I think if you’re going to Western states, the likelihood is that you’ve got to pay, sir, maybe two, how can a runner in the race utilize their crew and their Pacers to the best of their ability without it being this crazy frenetic thing?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (35:59):

I think let’s start with Pacers. You want to choose your pacer very carefully, especially at Western states, uh, because they too will get caught up in the hype. They too might spend, you know, five hours at forest hill watching all the front runners go through and they themselves are just fired up from, from, uh, being there. And that can wear off on the runner. Uh, so you want to pick your pacer carefully. You want to pick somebody who knows you pretty well. Uh, who’s who you, you know, will be comfortable seeing you, uh, maybe in pain, uh, who, you know, will be somebody who might need to convince you not to drop out, uh, who you won’t be afraid to, uh, barf in front of, or go to the bathroom in front of, or ask to put, you know, lube on you. I mean, this is you get pretty intimate when you’re out there at a race like Western states.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (37:01):

Um, you want to, you want to talk to your pace or ahead of time that it’s your race, not their race, uh, Pacers get very excited, uh, adjusted viably. So if you’re fortunate enough to find a pacer who has already won Western run Western states, and if they’ve won Western states even better, but if they’ve run Western states, uh, it’s fantastic to, to have somebody who’s experienced in the race. Even if you know, they did it 20 years ago, uh, crew crew is another story. You, uh, you also, you want them to know you well, but you also wanna make sure that they are able to stay on task, that they are able to execute what you tell them to execute. Uh, you’re gonna want to decide way ahead of time. Are you going to have one crew or are you going to have two crews?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (37:58):

Are you going to send your crew to every aid station or just the easy to get to aid stations? You’re going to want to make sure the crews are prepared that crewing Western states is no picnic. It’s hot. Many of the aid stations required that you hike into them. Many of them require you to take up a shuttle, typically on a hot yellow school bus. Uh, they, the crew needs to take care of themselves through the whole day. They need to feed themselves. They need to, uh, be ready to stay up all night in many cases. Uh, and so choose wisely. It may not necessarily be that the best crew and best Pacers are your best friends. It often is the case. Often your best friends can do that. Often your family can do that. Uh, and for those of you, who’ve been planning for years to do this.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (38:48):

You’ve probably thought about that far in advance. Uh, but I would say you really want to, uh, choose carefully. And then if you, if you have a coach, let’s, let’s say you have a coach like Korean or myself, and who’ve been to the race a bunch of times know where to park. When you go to the Robinson flat aid station to know that when you get to the, uh, dusty corners parking area, it’s a, it’s a long walk. I know that you can get coffee at Kool before heading down to, you know, down to a highway, not highway 49, heading down to, uh, pointed rocks, right? So if you know those things and you have somebody’s experience, it can help you some of my most best pre-race meetings at Western states, the last four or five years have been sitting with athletes and their crews, just talking about that stuff, just like, okay, when you get to Michigan bluff, this is what it’s going to be like, and this is what you’re going to have to do. Cause they, sometimes they get there and they have a 60 pound cooler and there’s like, no way, can I carry this three quarters of a mile down the road? You know? So, uh, choose wisely and think through who those people are. And, and then of course take really good care of them. Thank them. Let them know that it’s they, that you really appreciate them being there for this, you know, this once in a lifetime opportunity for you.

Corrine Malcolm (40:06):

Yeah. Yes. Show gratitude for your crew and your Pacers. They, they are, you know, pouring it out there for them, but right. If you’re a crew or you’re a pacer listening to this too, right? Like you have to take care of yourself out there. It’s not an easy race to crew. In fact, my husband, Steven, after my second year at Western states, he was like, do we have to go back next year? Like, I don’t know that I can be your crew chief again next year. Like it’s hard. So I think that people get really worked up about crews. Sometimes crews can get really, really big too. Like you’ve got many moving parts, like be really thoughtful about it. I’ve always run. I call it a poor man’s crew. I had a really lean mean machine. I had two Pacers and Steven, um, basically, and that was it.

Corrine Malcolm (40:47):

And they, they just did the bare, the bare minimum in a lot of ways, I went to Robinson flat. They went to forest hill and they went to green gate. Um, so very, very simple they’re easy aid stations to get to, um, as opposed to having people go out to dusty corners and all these places, they went to pointed rocks too, which was just kind of fun to see them there. It was a bonus. Um, but that like keeping it lean and mean meant that I ended up the worry about anything and it gave, it, gave them each a task and they were very task oriented and they could take care of me when I got into the aid stations, my, um, Stephen’s parents came one year and my mom has come both years and I didn’t want, I didn’t want the parents involved. I said, you’re out there cheering.

Corrine Malcolm (41:25):

I said, that is your task. Your task is to cheer and stay out of the cruise way. So oftentimes they wouldn’t even go to the same aid stations. They would they’d to Michigan bluff. They’d go to Rocky, Chucky, um, just so they could be there for moral support, but they didn’t have a task. And I think, you know, think about that. Do you want your significant other, your parents who members there to be, be your crew or are they just there for moral support? And they’re just going to be out there being spectators. And I think that’s a fine thing to ask them, like, have these conversations with your crew, with your support system ahead of time. So that expectations are clear for everyone, right? Like what do you want to hear? I hate when people ask me, how am I doing? I hate that if you want to make me upset during your race, just ask me how I’m feeling.

Corrine Malcolm (42:08):

Um, because I know for me then I dwell. And so like knowing that about myself, I could tell my crew that, and we had very like set kind of not rules, but like, this is what I wanted. I knew what I wanted and I knew, and they knew what they were supposed to do in their tasks. And so I think that you have to be adaptable, but like those crew meetings ahead of time, like how many, how many times do you wish a crew meeting would have happened? And it didn’t write with expectations between we actually heard from one of our coaches recently that the, the, they had a runner come through and the crew person wasn’t on the same page as the runner, as far as like, was the runner going to drop or not. And being able to have that conversation, it’s hard to see your friends or your significant other, or a loved one hurting during a race like this, but going into that expectation of like, this might hurt and I might sound miserable and I need you to, you know, ask me these things and then send me on my way.

Corrine Malcolm (43:00):

So I think that that is important, right?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (43:02):

I’d like to offer up one more, your, your story of Steven’s excellent. Uh, I was always fortunate enough to have my family with me, and there’s probably people listening to this podcast. Who’ve been waiting seven years to get into the race and they’re in, and they’re like, I’ve got to bring my spouse and my kids to this thing. It’s going to, it’s going to change my life. And maybe they, you know, they have a spouse and a seven-year-old and a nine-year-old, uh, you can do it, you can do it. Uh, what I did, my wife, Shelly, and my three sons, Carson, Logan, and telly, they came to every one of my Western states, uh, finishes and, um, and got to know, I mean, it was, it was a long, long time. So they got to know the people at the aid stations over the years and, um, and, and, and so forth.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (43:46):

But I gave them each a job. We’d have crew meeting and everything, but, and Kerryn. Similarly, I, Shelly, she’s a counselor by trade, which is a good, good quality to have by the way, in a crew chief. But, uh, our rule was no questions, no questions. So, and plan ahead of time, like, okay, Andy, you’re going to eat a Turkey sandwich here. Here’s your Turkey sandwich? Not do you want your Turkey sandwich, but here’s your Turkey sandwich. And telly is shoving the gels in the bat, in my back pockets. And Carson is filling the water bottles and Logan is taking pictures and has the sponge bucket and is putting the sponge over my head. So they all had a job. They all had a discreet job. And then we were out of there. So for those of you, with families that might be coming to Western states, know that you can do it.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (44:32):

Now, you’re going to want to think about which aid stations to go to and which maybe not to go to, depending on whether your children can hike a mile in the heat and so forth, uh, staying up late at night. Sometimes it’s helpful to, I had my mom come a couple of times when my kids were really little. And so when the darkness came, uh, they would go with my mom and go back to the track and go to sleep. And Shelly would crew, you know, on her own the rest of the way. So you, for those of you out there who might be thinking, oh my gosh, I can’t possibly have my family come do this. You probably can, but it’s just an added layer of something to think about, uh, in terms of, of the logistics of it and, and, and giving everybody a, uh, making them feel valued and responsible while also for them as well, understanding that it’s, uh, it’s you your race and you’ll pay them back later.

Corrine Malcolm (45:23):

Yeah. You’re going to be nice to them as nice as you can be during the race. And then you’re going to give that you’re going to pay them back for the next, you know, for the next while for that sacrifice. Um,

Andy Jones-Wilkins (45:33):

Yeah, I learned, I learned from experience, watch out if your kids get to the aid stations, tables and, and start eating the caffeinated gels, uh, cause we’ve got it. We had a couple of years when my kids were little, they, they might’ve been up for two days after the race because they discovered the caffeinated gels at Michigan bluff.

Corrine Malcolm (45:51):

That’s amazing. I got to witness. Um, and for those of you with family going to, like, I witnessed this firsthand with an athlete. I have Alina, I’m an athlete there had his, his two boys and his very pregnant wife. And so his wife was not doing a whole lot of the crewing. It was the two boys taking care of everything. One was timing them to make sure that they were fast enough in the aid stations. It was so cool to watch these two boys take care of their dad and get him back out on the course really quickly at heavily Anna. So once again, akin to any, any crew, right? Like tasks are important. Organizing those tasks ahead of time are important so that, you know, there aren’t questions come race day. Um, so set, you’re set yourself up for success by setting your crew up for success, I think is kind of the big, the big takeaway there. So we’ve talked about the heat a little bit. We’ve talked about the canyons, we’ve talked about the nerves and the hype and the crew and the Pacers. Is there anything else about Western states that we should leave listeners with as they make their long training journey towards race day?

Andy Jones-Wilkins (46:55):

You know what, a few days ago, 385 lucky people found out once. And for all, for sure that they’re in the race, you know, 200, 225 or so got their names pulled out of the, out of the bucket. First thing, savor that you’re in for the experience of a lifetime, you’ve got six and a half months to get ready for it. Uh, and you are, you are going to be ready. So go into it right now. This could be, this could be the best six months of your life. So take advantage of the opportunity to make it the best six months of your life. Um, I would say to think about in thinking about these next six months, what are, what is out there in these next six months that you need to think about right now, maybe, you know, your cousin’s wedding is in the first weekend in April.

Andy Jones-Wilkins (47:52):

Maybe, you know that you’ve got a big work trip, you know, in the second week of may, you know, and by the way, if there’s any way you can change any of that stuff, try to do that, but it’s not likely you can, right? So you need to know right now that this, this is, this is your priority for the next six months. Obviously there’s other things maybe your children are going to graduate from school or, or various things are going to happen, but now you’re in Western states and you don’t want to screw it up. And that’s a big part of why you’re listening to this podcast, right? It’s like, so you got into Western states now, what?

Corrine Malcolm (48:28):

Yep. So we’re gonna, we’re going to continue to put out information in the buildup to Western states, things like heat acclimation, we’ll probably do another crewing and pacing, how to be the best crew in pacer possible. It’ll be prerequisite for your crew meetings moving forward, but we’ll, we’ll continue to provide you with information on this Western states journey because it’s maybe our favorite race of all time. We’ll both be there with bells and whistles on, um, cheering for each and every one of you on your journey, um, from Palisades that Tahoe all the way to the track in Auburn. AGW thank you so much for joining us today. We cannot wait for the next,

Andy Jones-Wilkins (49:06):

Uh, thank you so much, Corinne and you’re right. I can’t wait. It’s the best weekend of the year.


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