Tuesday, July 2, 2013


As I sat in the sauna (heat training) reading all of the pre-Western States interviews on irun far, I couldn't help but wonder why Pam Smith was left out. I have ran in races with her and she has always kicked ass. We are both on team La Sportiva and I decided to do my own pre-ws100 interview. Since Pam ended up winning Western I thought people would be interested in what she had to say...

Pam Smith, in my opinion, is the biggest under-dog coming into Western States this year. I think she has the talent to place in the top 10 and if she is on her game, she could take it all. In 2010, in her 100 mile debut, Pam placed 10th in the women’s field. I recently contacted Pam to pick her brain about how she feels going into Western States 100 this year.
Pam, you have had quite the year so far, most notably your win at the prestigious American River 50 miler. How has your training been going since then?

My training went really well this year. Last year I was really focusing on road running through April for the 100km World Championships, but this year I felt like I could concentrate a lot more on trail and hill running for Western States. Also, my mileage was a bit higher this spring.
You were the 10th  female in 2010 and 2011, but your time improved by almost an hour. What time do you think it’s going take to squeeze into the top 10 this year? 
Last year, with cool temps and a bit deeper field, the F10 time was 19:45. I think with the heat this year, any woman going under 20 hours should be in the top 10. In 2011, my 10th place time was 20:40, and it could go that high again, but I think any lady gunning for top 10 needs to target sub-20.

You had a pretty horrific experience in 2012 and just barely got in under the 30 hour cut off. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened there? What are you going to do differently this year to ensure that doesn’t happen again?

Things just snowballed out of control from the very beginning last year. I was not prepared for the cold and listened to a few guys at the start who said once you got over the ridge, you'd be out of the rain. Well, 40 miles later the rain, snow and sleet finally let up! By that point, I was hypothermic and not eating, so very behind in calories. It also triggered my asthma really early on and I was having so much trouble breathing uphill. I think the whole thing just overstressed my system so my body wasn't functioning normally. By the time I rolled into ALT, I was 7 pounds over weight and I got held for over two and a half hours there because they were afraid I was hyponatremic (testing at the finish showed I was actually high normal) and they wanted me to pee off weight. That just didn't happen. By that time 24 hours was way past possible but I still wanted to finish; however, the medical captain was advising me to drop. Fortunately, the Aid Station Captain, George Miller, came to my rescue and he convinced the medical team to let me go, but only after I signed a waiver!

At that point I was stiff and tired and the medical team had me pretty scared, plus, I still wasn't breathing very well, so I basically just walked it to the finish. I will say that I am glad that I decided to finish. Despite the slow time, it ended up being a really positive experience. It was a true test and I felt like I had such support from not only my crew but the whole ultra community.

This year I've got a running jacket packed even though it is supposed to be in the 100's and I am taking some stronger asthma meds. My asthma is hard for me to deal with because it is very "all or nothing". I really don't have any problems with anything under 8 hours so I can run all 50k's and 50 milers without meds. Also, it doesn't seem to be a problem on roads. So I can go months without even thinking about it. I think then I maybe get a little complacent and think everything is fine. But when it does hit me, it is very incapacitating and makes it near impossible to run fast or uphill at all.
The heat is going to be an interesting factor this year compared to last year. How does the heat affect you and what strategies do you have to handle such hot temperatures?

I live in Oregon, so I don't have much chance to run in really hot temps and I am not sure how it will affect me. I'll pretty much be doing the same things as everyone else: staying wet, hydrating well, taking salt regularly, and using lots of ice. 
Pam, every time I see you, you have a smile on your face. How important is having fun to you while you are in a race?

That's nice to hear you say that because I feel like in so many of my running pictures I look completely dazed and confused! I know a few people are trying to make it as professional ultra-runners these days, but I have a full time job and kids, so for me this really is just a hobby. Hobbies are supposed to fun, the pursuit of something you enjoy and are passionate about. So the real reason I am running is to have fun and to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. I do get competitive in races and sometimes that can be painful (and maybe not fun at that very moment), but there is also a joy and satisfaction that comes from finishing a race well and knowing you gave it your all.
I just want to say that it is such a joy having you on team La Sportiva. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate and I look forward to towing the line with you on Saturday. 

Ditto! Thanks for the interview.


Unknown said...

Thanks for this interview! I've been wondering about Pam Smith, great!

Kevin Luu said...

Great race report. I'm hoping to make this race my next 100+ miler in 2014!

I did Bear 100 in Utah in 2012.

Fat Dog 120 looks like a great race, beautiful course and awesome volunteers. Can't wait!