Jon Albon Pre-2024 Western States 100 Interview – Football News

Jon Albon Pre-2024 Western States 100 Interview

Jon Albon (U.K., living in Norway) is prepared to put himself out of his comfort zone with the heat, altitude, and occasionally overgrown trails in lining up for his first Western States 100. In this interview, he talks about how his best-laid plans for a final training block in America were derailed by COVID-19, how he plans on coping with the altitude early on in the race, and what he expects to be his biggest challenges.

To learn more about who’s racing, check out our men’s and women’s previews and follow our live race coverage on race day.

Jon Albon Pre-2024 Western States 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Jon Albon. It’s the day before the 2024 Western States 100. Jon, hi. How are you?

Jon Albon: Good. How are you?

iRunFar: Good. We were just talking off camera that you have been to Olympic Valley before to compete in the Spartan World Championships, in what year was that?

Albon: It was four or five years in a row, so a few times.

iRunFar: Okay. Welcome back.

Albon: More in the autumn, so it’s been nice to come in the spring actually, to see the snow melt, and sort of experience more the trails. Because when I’ve come before, it’s been more sort of smash and grab, whereas now I’ve been here for a few weeks. I’ve gotten to actually get around and see a little bit.

iRunFar: First things first. I think, this is your first 100-mile race, and you have chosen one that, at least from my perspective, is a wee bit different from the races you typically choose. This is a flat, fast, 100-mile race. How do you react to those thoughts?

Albon: I think, it’s not my first time running 100 miles, because I have done an obstacle race, which was 24 hours.

iRunFar: Right. Yes.

Albon: In [Las] Vegas, wearing a wetsuit, doing obstacles. We ran 105 miles, me and Ryan Atkins.

iRunFar: So this is going to be easier.

Albon: [laughs]

iRunFar: You’ve already done 100 miles with obstacles.

Albon: [laughs] No, no. There’s never an easy race, because you just end up trying to go faster.

iRunFar: Okay.

Albon: So sometimes I’m torn. What’s more painful, 400 meters on a track as fast you can go, or 100 miles? I think it’s just a different sort of pain. This one’s going to be a lot sort of more dragged out, but less, less intense, I guess. So no, it’s always going to be a challenge. And yeah, it’s not like the sort of race I’m used to. I’ve never really done a trail race in the States. It’s going to be far hotter than I’m used to, net downhill, more like a running stride throughout. So all these things are a little bit new to me. But I mean, it’s a challenge, isn’t it? I didn’t really choose to come here. Someone said you won a Golden Ticket. So, do you want to? So I said yeah.

iRunFar: They chose you.

Albon: Pretty much.

iRunFar: [laughs]

Albon: Why not? Sometimes it’s nice to leave up to the fates, and the fates chose this year for me, and I’m excited. It should be interesting.

iRunFar: Air quotes interesting. I think that’s a great way to say that. Let’s backtrack in your running year a little bit. You’re on a pretty hot streak when it comes to trail ultras. We have a win at Transvulcania a couple of months ago.

Albon: Yep.

iRunFar: A win at CCC last year, and then squeeze in between that a win at Les Templiers. Are you on, is this officially a winning streak right now for trail ultras?

Albon: I don’t know. I guess so. I mean, whenever I run, I try and do as best I can. Sometimes that means I can win. And I do feel like I’ve learned a hell of a lot in the past 12 months, and some of those wins haven’t been the easiest, and I haven’t been in the shape I’ve wanted to be in, but I’ve managed to pull other things out the bag. So I actually do think that that’s going to be, this is going to be in a sort of similar sort of direction to the others, so we’ll see how it goes. But I mean, it’s been fun. I think ever since I had the foot operation around Covid time, I’ve really been, sort of like, laying one block on top of the other, and sort of going places. It’s been a lot of fun. Let’s just hope I can continue having by having a solid race here.

iRunFar: The last couple of weeks you’ve been in America with the hopes of coming, acclimating to the heat and the altitude. I think America might have had other plans for you. What happened?

Albon: Yeah, so the way I schedule my training very much is I’m building up my training, and I’m trying to do the most training just a few weeks before. And that was the plan. To arrive in the States, have the last training block on the course, in the heat, get some altitude. But it was just two days after landing that I tested positive for COVID-19. So that’s like, never something that an athlete really wants to get at the best of times, let alone just before a big race. But it could have been worse. I mean, I could have got it a couple days ago, but then, to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have raced. So it was, it happened at that magical time where you’re kind of thrown into bit of a disarray. And you don’t really know how much time you should spend resting, how much time you should spend trying to get back to training. And then also there was the with COVID coming up to 2,000 meters above sea level, which for me is high. I live at sea level. And also it was quite hot that week as well. So you’ve suddenly got the post-COVID, the heat, and the altitude. All these things you have to deal with. Then try and work out how much training you should be doing. So.

iRunFar: Mother Nature of all kinds was coming at you that week.

Albon: So it’s been a bit of a balancing act. It’s certainly not been the easiest run into a race, but I’ve done the best with what I had, and I feel like I’ve got myself into at least a healthy state where I feel like it’s not going to be dangerous for me to race. But it’s not exactly the preparation I would have liked to have had going into it. But still, actual Transvulcania, and the whole preparation to Transvulcania, that was really good. So I felt like I was in a really good place before coming to the States, which leaves me a bit disappointed with how I am now. But then it does show that there is form in there, and who knows, on the day, and there’s a lot of other pieces of the puzzle, rather than just how fit you are. So, let’s just see if I can cobble together some of the other ones.

iRunFar: Yeah. So let’s talk about this race for a minute. This race is something where there’s all kinds of history to look back in terms of, like, what works for people, what doesn’t work for people. You’re a person who like, I like to think of as, like, a very intellectual-type runner.

Albon: [laughs] Thank you.

iRunFar: Like, you can tell you’re a study of pace and effort. Hi guys.

[A dog runs over.]

Albon: Animals! Just what I need.

iRunFar: This is not the first interview that we have had dogs.

Albon: I think some of the best races I’ve had is when someone’s brought a dog in the week before. It always takes away the nerves, and the anxiety, you know. Nothing like a good support animal to see you through.

iRunFar: So, I think of you as like, yeah, like a racer who races as much with their mind as with their body, and this is a race that there’s no short of information to be had, of like, what works and what doesn’t work. You said earlier in the interview, you’ve been thinking about what you can pull out of your bag of tricks for this race. What’s going on in your head in terms of like, these are the things that I really need to focus on as my strengths or maybe my weaknesses?

Albon: Yeah, I think it’s tough, because normally all of that can come from experience. And I’ve not experienced this race before. I think most people say you don’t really have a good Western your first race. You have to experience it to then know how to train, and how to prepare, what tactics to use going into it. There’s a lot of information out there. I’ve done some research. Henrietta has done her research. We’ve tried to put together a solid nutrition plan. Trying to get the electrolytes, making sure I’m going to be drinking enough, knowing like, what I need and when, and having a few backup plans.

But I think the main thing I realized I’m going to be needing is the best possible ice plan and cooling plan known to man. So the last three days has been just me stitching and stapling race vests like absolutely stuffed with ice. Race ice bandanas, hats I’ve been customizing here the front and center to try and make sure I can keep myself as cool as possible. Because I’m not used to the heat. I can’t operate as well in the heat as other people. So I’m going to need to maybe use some of my obstacle racing. I can carry some extra weight skills and just carry a couple of kilos of ice with me pretty much wherever I can on the course.

iRunFar: Well, Western States has always a pretty fantastic fashion show with people’s innovations on how to stay cool, so I’m looking forward to yours.

Albon: It’s going to be interesting to see what works and what doesn’t. I’ve had some support from sponsors as well, where they’ve tried to help out with help out with some sort of new thoughts for gear and what we can do. Like, I’ve got a really nice, thin white top with some pockets sewn in, so I can throw ice in those, or get given ice bags. And then the race vest is stuffed full of ice with all my nutrition in the belt. The race vest is just ice.

iRunFar: Just ice.

Albon: Then I can dump that and grab another one at the next aid stain. There’s a lot of aid stations on this course, which I’m also not very used to. So it’ll be interesting. We’ll see how it goes. Obviously, the best made plans normally always fail when you have to roll with the punches. And I’m just looking forward to getting into that second half, when everything sucks, and seeing if I’ve got what it takes on that dayto grind, grind it out. I don’t like the beginnings of races when you’re waiting to be tired. I just want everyone to have shown their cards. Everyone to be destroyed. Can we find out who’s got the heart to keep pushing through?

iRunFar: Who’s going to grind the hardest and the best?

Albon: We shall see.

iRunFar: Let’s talk about some of the guys you’ll be grinding along the course with tomorrow.

Albon: Doesn’t sound the best. [laughs]

iRunFar: Let’s talk about some of the guys who you’ll be running with tomorrow. What’s interesting for me is that we have the men’s course record holder, Jim Walmsley, who’s a notorious front runner. And then we have Tyler Green, who’s a two-time second-place finisher….

…We have this really nice dog who wants to join us again…

[The dog runs up again.]

…Who’s, like, a notorious, like, goes out kind of hard, but likes to sort of sit and watch and come through and like, you know, take names in the second half of race. Have you thought at all about how you plan to tackle these 100 miles, or who you might find yourself running with tomorrow?

Albon: I think it’s definitely me versus the course. And with CCC, especially, I’ve never been able to start being at a little bit of altitude and hold with the front runners. This is a little bit further than those races, so  maybe it’ll go off a bit slower, and I’ll find myself comfortably at the front, but really, I need to be comfortable at the beginning with the elevation. So I need to run my own race.

And to be honest I’m really happy that it seems to me a really deep field of guys especially. I mean, obviously having Jim here is great, because you want to measure yourself against the best person on the course, and it’s going to be really interesting to see where everyone pans out, both for the mens race and the females race. So think it should be a fun one to watch. I mean, I’m here to hopefully give Jim a race. That’s what I want to do, and I’d be disappointed if I couldn’t. At least I know that if I can’t, there’s a few other people to give him a good race, too.

iRunFar: Well, I think that think in that statement is also a bit of a hint on how you intend to race tomorrow.

Albon: For sure, I want to execute as well as I can. That’ll be the number one goal. And as long as I execute well, and I learn a lot, I should be happy with coming anywhere in the top 10, to be honest, because it is a deep field. And I think it’s just great trail running, ultra trail running, especially, is getting there. Because, I mean, in years gone by, it might be that you could win by 25 minutes, half an hour, but I just don’t think that’ll be the case this year. Hopefully it makes for a great spectacle for everyone to watch.

iRunFar: Yeah, I personally am looking forward to a couple sprint finishes on the track tomorrow night from the men and the women.

Albon: I’ve already done one track session this week.

iRunFar: [laughs]

Albon: Actually this year, sorry, which was actually last week. I’m hopefully not going to be having a sprint finish on the track because I don’t think I’m in the best of track shape at the moment.

iRunFar: Jon Albon, best to luck to you on your first Western States 100.

Albon: Thank you very much.

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