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Alex NICHOLS looks back at his Western States 100 performance

03 July 2017

Alex NICHOLS is a confirmed mountain runner who had his 100 mile debut last year at RRR100. He won it. Giving another crack at the distance, on the legendary course of the Western States 100 and in a stacked field, Alex played his usual strategy of racing his own race quietly on a more difficult course than usual. The result was mind blowing and here is some more details on how the day unfolded for him.

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Your training leading into the race wasn’t ideal. How much do you think it influenced, negatively or positively perhaps, your race on the day?

During the months of March and April I did almost no running as a result of a foot injury. This meant that my training leading up to Western States 100 was basically just six good weeks of training and one week of rest. For a 100 mile race it was far from ideal. I was able to build up my training pretty significantly during that time, up to 145 miles in a week with over 25000 feet of elevation gain, and somehow managed to stay injury free. Although it was a short training block I think it did allow me to come into the race relatively fresh. Since I only had six weeks there was almost no way I could feel burnt out or over trained. So in a way I think I did benefit from the short training block, but I would certainly not recommend it for everyone!

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Tim Tollefson was your pacer. Can you tell us a bit about your relationship with him and how he kept you going during the race?

I first got to know Tim at the 2015 IAU World Championships when we were teammates. He is a runner with a fairly similar background to myself with a history of track and cross country running in college. He contacted me and offered up his help as a pacer. At first I was unsure of using a pacer because I had never run with one before, but Tim had paced David Laney at Western States before and I thought his knowledge of the course would be helpful. On race day Tim's course knowledge proved to be essential to my success. He did a great job of letting me know what to expect and how to approach the next section of trail. He patiently guided me through the later portions of the race when my legs and my mind were failing. Without Tim's help I really don't think I would have held off the late charge from Mark Hammond in third.

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So, you were first in your first ultra, second in your second, do you want to keep going?! ;-) You said that the canyon part suited your skills, would you then feel a more rugged 100 miler would suit you better? Like UTMB, HardRock or La Diagonale des fous?

Western States 100 was definitely a race outside of my comfort zone because of the course profile, but I really wanted to compete there because of its history and competitiveness. In the future I would like to try a more mountainous 100 mile race like UTMB or Hardrock. I didn't want to rush straight into those races however. I felt like I should first try some races in the 15-18 hour range and see how they went before attempting something in the 24 hour range. After my success so far I feel like I am now ready for that next step.

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Next up is RRR100 correct? This is a runnable one. Do you feel more confident now you have two 100 milers under your belt, or the unknown from last year’s first experience turned out to be an asset for you?

I am definitely excited to return to RRR100. The race is one of the most organized and friendly I have ever experienced. Plus the course is beautiful that time of year. I'm really looking forward to going back and fixing some of the small mistakes I made the first time around. Course knowledge can make a huge difference and now that I have some experience on those trails I think I can run an ever faster time in 2017.

Discover more about Alex on his Twitter and Facebook.