Trail Butter Pros, Jeff Browning & Tyler Green, will be running Western States Endurance Run (100 miles!) this Saturday under HOT HOT HOT temps - but, it isn't their first rodeo at this iconic event.
We sent Jeff & Tyler a few questions in advance of the big dance. Read on to learn about their preparation, run experience and more leading into one of the most exciting weekends in the world of ultrarunning.
How many times have you run WSER? How many times have you run 100 miles?
Jeff: It was my first 100 miler in 2002, so 5 finishes. I have forty career 100-mile finishes.
Tyler: This is my second time competing at States! I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to race it just once, so it's even more dreamy to get to do it again. This will be my 5th 100 mile race, and I'm keen to keep learning and making this something like a specialty. It's a distance that will always humble you while simultaneously offering beautiful life lessons.
Has your training differed in any way for this year's race? How so?
Jeff: A little more vert, as I’m running The Double again. So, I have Hardrock 100 19 days after Western States. I also moved to Flagstaff, so I’m getting more altitude training than my past training leading up to The Double.
Tyler: There's no way around it: training for a 100 mile race means running a lot of miles, often week in and week out. That said, I have included some easier recovery weeks so I'm feeling energized and not run down come race day. For big races like this, the simplest answer is to do MORE, but that isn't actually the case. In these ways my training has been much the same as other times preparing for 100 milers, but one thing I've really committed to is a well-rounded strength training plan. It's been great to see the improvements that come in the weight room and I believe it shows out on the trails.
Describe a typical week of peak training for WSER:
Jeff: 96 miles running (~19 hrs) with 18,200 ft of climbing, 1 hour of cycling, and 2 hours of strength training (3 full body sessions).
Tyler: During the week I'll run easier 6-10 miles runs and a faster workout in the middle of the week. That faster workout has normally consisted of some type of tempo workout where I'm getting in a total of 8 to 12 miles around half marathon or marathon pace. For my peak weeks, I carved out three days to truly focus on just running, eating, and sleeping, sort of a mini training camp. By the last day I feel a little worn out like I'm running in the latter part of a 100 mile race, which is exactly the point.
What is your strategy for race day?
Jeff: Run a progressively harder race and finish strong.
Tyler: My main strategy is to respect the fact that I'm running 100 miles through rugged terrain in extreme heat. I've always taken the view that you should "run with the trail, not against it". At least the first half of the race requires a degree of mental effortlessness, letting the miles slide by one by one. Only after that will it be time to press towards the finish line, hunting down competitors.
What do you rely on for nutrition during training?
Jeff: I do an IV drip of liquid calories with electrolytes, strategic gels — including strategically-timed slower burning gels like MUIR Energy and Trail Butter in smaller amounts.
Tyler: On training runs I like to practice eating above and beyond what I'd eat in a race. Sometimes that means eating a piece of pizza or even a burrito right before heading out on a run. The Trail Butter single serving packs are always in my pack for long runs, along with sports nutrition gels and an electrolyte drink.
What's your nutritional plan for race day?
Jeff: Same as the long run with the addition of some fruit from the aid stations.
Tyler: I have my go-to gels and solid foods like boiled potatoes and watermelon. Some of my calories will come in liquid form as well. Beyond that, I like to supplement with foods that will make me feel somewhat full, so I'll probably eat a piece of pizza at Robinson Flat and, of course, enjoy a TB single somewhere out there as well.
Do you have a favorite section or the WSER course?
Jeff: The river crossing at mile 78. It’s a 20 second respite from the heat and the intensity of racing hard while you cross. I always fully submerge as I pull myself across on the rope line.
Tyler: The flowy, long switchbacks going down to Eldorado Canyon are a blast. I really like to get going in that stretch.
What section do you think is the most challenging?
Jeff: The canyons can be pretty hot and demanding. You have to manage yourself well during that section or pay the Piper later.
Tyler: The Canyons are known to be the crux of the course, but Cal Street, the trail down to the river, throws its own challenges at you that can't be underestimated. Those challenges include some punchy climbs, experiencing the heat of the day, and needing to be really patient after running through the energizing atmosphere in Foresthill.
What gear will you absolutely have with you on race day?
Jeff: Squirrel’s Nut Butter Anti-Chafe, MUIR gels, Trail Butter, Injinji socks, Altra Timp 3s and UltrAspire Iso Pocket Handhelds (big mouth opening for putting ice in), and an old school bandana around my neck to keep wet.
Tyler: Does my crew count? They're absolutely essential to making this thing happen by keeping me cool and rolling efficiently, but most of all because they give me a greater reason to charge towards the finish line. Ultrarunning is a team sport.
Do you have a race day mantra? Something you tell yourself to get out of dark moments or to keep your spirits high?
Jeff: Execute. A double meaning: Execute your race plan by taking care of yourself, eating, drinking, managing effort; but also executing my competition as I run them down in the last 60K.
Tyler: "All you have is this moment. Move well now." This mantra allows me to be present with the task at hand, not thinking about the finish line or just being done with the damn thing. In the darkest moments of ultrarunning, I believe we must fight against becoming apathetic to what we are doing because it's become so hard. The point of running and racing 100 miles is to challenge ourselves, to do something hard, and grow because of it. I gotta remember that.
Who will be pacing you this year?
Jeff: I typically don’t use pacers. Only five times for a grand total of 95 miles in forty 100 mile finishes: 2004 Wasatch 100, 2007 Hardrock 100, 2011 Leadville 100, 2013 San Diego 100, and 2019 Western States 100. I’ve dropped my pacer in 2 of those 5 times. However, I like having a pacer at Western States because I use them as eyes behind me to keep runners from sneaking up and passing me. Jesse Haynes will be pacing me from Foresthill to Green Gate and Krissy Moehl will be pacing from Green Gate to the finish.
Tyler: My Portland friends JT Lehman and Yassine Diboun, another TB Pro!