Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interview: Travis Liles

The McNaughton Park Trail races are a week away and there is no better way to start giving you an inside look at the race then with an interview. Travis Liles is an Ultrarunner from Illinois who is no stranger to McNaughton Park and I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about the race.

Name: Travis Liles
Hometown: Girard, IL
Years Running Ultras: 3

SJ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today about the 2009 McNaughton Park Trail Races Travis.

SJ: How many years have you been running races at McNaughton Park?
TL: This will be my 4th time running one of the distances at McNaughton. I ran the 30 in 2005 as my first trail race and ultra. I swore off ultras after that but have been back every year since.

SJ: And in what race are you entered in this year?
TL: 100

SJ: You tried the 100 mile event last year, what prevented you from finishing?
TL: I think a few things added up to me only getting through 50 last year, but mainly I can point back to my training. The course conditions got pretty bad. I had not been training in conditions that matched what I might have seen on race day. That caused some unhealed injuries to pop up and for me to ultimately drop. It was the right decisions as I was laid up for about 8 weeks, but I think overall I had not prepared by body enough.

SJ: How are you feeling about your chances this year to go the distance?
TL: I've done the things like getting in the miles regardless of weather or trail conditions. These were things I might have pushed off to road running or not at all the year before. This time I would just tell myself to "suck it up and get going." It's been a muddy mess here in the midwest up until about the last few weeks, so as far as slopping around goes, I've done a lot of that. If it's dry, I'm not sure I will know what to do! I feel like I am physically where I want to be, I just have to go out and execute now.

SJ: So tell us about McNaughton Park, what's it like there?
TL: It's a place that is easy to under estimate. The footing is not really technical. There are not a lot of rocks or roots to deal with. There are lots of steep short climbs and, of course, short steep down hills. It's a loop course, the same every single time so those short ups and downs add up.

SJ: What's the best part of the race?
TL: For me it's the atmosphere. McNaughton was my first trail race, so it's a special place for me. On top of that, the 3 fully stocked aid stations and volunteers are top notch. Also, it's not far from where I grew up so I can con my family and friends into stopping by. Lastly, like in any ultra I have run, the other runners are the best part. That is what keeps me coming back.

SJ: What's the worst part of the race?
TL: The sand after the first creek crossing. You come out of the water with wet shoes then step in the sand and just do your best to keep it from getting in your shoes. Golf hill kind of sucks too, but I have found that crawling up it on all 4's seems to be easier than using the rope.

SJ: 10 Mile loops, advantage or disadvantage?
TL: I see it as an advantage. I'm never that far away from my stuff. I know that after I complete another 10 mile loop I can grab whatever I might need out of my bag. My family and friends can also drop by and catch me coming through. The other thing is pacing yourself. You get to know the course really well and can be strategic about when to walk or run.

SJ: What kind of role does the weather play at this race?
TL: It's a huge factor. The course can get really slow and even more taxing on you if it is muddy. Take last year for instance, there was something like a 19% finish rate in the 100 and the course was a slop hole. The big issue is that you are in Illinois in April. You don't know what kind of weather you are going to get. When I ran the 30 in 2005 it was around 80 degrees and dry. The last 2 years have been in the 30's and raining.

SJ: What do you think are the major keys for success at this race?
TL: Be prepared for crappy weather, bad footing and remember that the course never gets any easier.

SJ: The stream crossings, are they as awful and cold as it sounds?
TL: I was up there 2 weeks ago and they were cold. It has just not been that warm here lately. The good news is that they were not that deep. I never went in much above my ankle.

SJ: What are your thoughts about Andy Weinberg directing this race for the final time?
TL: Like I said, this is a special race for me since I started my ultrarunning "career" at McNaughton. I still remember Andy calling me an "animal" as I limped my way though the finish line of the 30, high-fiving me and treating me like I had done something awesome. Andy is always a good time. Telling jokes and making sure everyone is tended to when they come through the start/finish. He makes you feel good to be there and to be part of the event. It's unfortunate that he won't be the RD after this year, but he's got to do what is right for him and his family. Hopefully the event continues on. I'd hate to see it go away for selfish reasons and because there are not a lot of 100 milers around middle of the US.

SJ: What is your goal for this years event?
TL: FINISH! I'm going to listen to my body and do what I am capable of. If that means sub 24 hours, great! If that means I stumble in at 33:59:59, that's ok too. Though with the 12th being Easter I think my wife would like it to be before lunch time :)

SJ: What strategies will you use to help you achieve your goal?
TL: I have a tendency to over think things so I am going to keep it simple - eat, drink, and keep moving. I'm going to do my best to enjoy the journey. I know there will be times where I will feel bad and I just have to remember all the time and effort I put into training for this. I have to remember the sacrifices of time my wife and daughter made (and are still making) to support me, especially over the last few months where I was gone a lot for long weekend runs. Lastly, I have not had a drink since New Year's and a cold celebratory beer at the finish line is going to hit the spot. Who wants to join me??!?!

SJ: Thanks Again Travis... Good Luck and We'll see you in Pekin next week, I'll join you for that beer!