Editor’s note: The Quick & Dirty is a new column on UltraRunning.com by Matt Flaherty. The column will report on breakout performances, top age group performances, new talent on the trails, and other compelling stories from ultrarunners around North America. For the first edition, Flaherty interviews Kelsie Clausen and Jared Hazen, two young ultrarunners (20 and 19 years old, respectively), who both ran impressive races in January’s Bandera 100K /USATF 100K Trail National Championships. As a 2015 Montrail Ultra Cup (MUC) race, Bandera offered two automatic entries per gender into the Western States 100 Mile for a first or second place finish. Clausen and Hazen both narrowly missed gaining entry into Western States. Clausen finished as fifth female with a time of 11:01:50, while Hazen finished as third male in 8:47:55 (full results from the Bandera 100K can be found here).
Quick & Dirty: You recently finished as the 5th place woman (4th in USATF standings) at the Bandera 100K. Were you shooting for a Western States 100 Mile entry via the Montrail Ultra Cup?
Kelsie Clausen: Yes, the only reason I signed up was with Western States in mind. I’ve been dreaming about doing that race since I first heard of it!
Q&D: What was your race plan at Bandera, and how did the race play out for you?
KC: My race plan, since the course was two 50k loops, was to take the first 50k relatively “easy” (conversational, having fun) and get a lay of the land. Then, in the next 50k the plan was to start to move up (depending on how the race with the women was playing out) and just totally leave everything on the trail in the last 10 miles. As for what actually happened, I pretty much stuck to plan with a few bumps in the road—the unforeseeable, totally underestimated negative mental pits and just my inexperience at long distance running ended up making the second 50k pretty much the exact same as the first pacewise. I did feel like I was absolutely gunning it the last ten or so and not knowing how far ahead the other women were made things exhaustingly difficult.
Q&D: Your coach is veteran ultrarunner Meghan Arbogast, a perennial top-10 finisher at Western States and last year’s Bandera 100K champion. When did you start working with Arbogast, and how has that experience been?
KC: Meghan is awesome. I started working with her directly after the Way Too Cool 50K last year and it’s been really amazing. She keeps me accountable, offers the best advice (not just for running—she is an amazing friend), and is totally flexible if illness, work, or school gets in the way. I really feel like I’ve improved so much as a runner and gained knowledge about how the heck one should run around in the mountains for a really long time.
Q&D: Apart from Arbogast, who in the ultrarunning community do you look up to for inspiration or as a mentor?
KC: There are really so many beautiful examples of people in this sport; really, truly an extensive community of just all around awesomeness. However, I’d have to say that I really owe my love of the trails to my high school coach, Mary Churchill. She is one of my best friends and someone I truly look up to who can balance so much—kids/family, running like crazy, coaching/teaching—and still has the time to call me and give life advice.
Q&D: You work at San Francisco Running Company (SFRC), which is a store many people know for its engagement in the trail and ultrarunning communities. Were you already an ultrarunner when you started working there, or did the store’s culture draw you into the sport?
KC: I started working at SFRC as I was gearing up for my first 50k. I had known Brett and Larissa [Rivers, owners at SFRC] and many of those folks through my coach, Mary Churchill. In high school I started running cross country (quite randomly) and was really attracted to long distance trail running through Mary’s stories, pacing her and her friends, and partaking in the Marin Headlands ninja run, which is 12 miles at 5:30 a.m. (that was a lot for me at the time and I had to beg Mary to let me come!). As a wide-eyed 15 year old, I was drawn in to this world and I’m just so happy to have had opportunities like working at SFRC to perpetuate my involvement and wonder. They’ve really fostered my mentality of this sport as a community, and I’ve gotten some remarkable inspiration/advice from those folks!
Q&D: What was your running background prior to running ultramarathons?
KC: I mostly ran high school cross country and track with a lot of injuries, always knowing at some point I’d do ultras. Also, I was a ballerina for 14 years, up through high school.
Q&D: You’re just 20 years old, less than two years into your ultrarunning career, and you have already partnered with major players like The North Face and Julbo Eyewear. In what ways has being a sponsored athlete affected your running?
KC: Having support from The North Face (entry level status) and Julbo is awesome. I wouldn’t say that my running has really been affected in some major way. I am still hyper competitive, absolutely enjoy pushing my boundaries, exploring, and love to dream big. Being a part of these companies’ families has introduced me to an even bigger network of the people in our community; I love the vision and enthusiasm for the outdoors that everyone I meet has. Like most competitive athletes, I do always want to do my best, but I also want to do my best for the people who believe in me and are encouraging me. I’m still just learning, gaining experience, and exploring, so I just hope I can continue to grow as an athlete and assimilate with the “Big Leagues.”
Q&D: Now that you have had time to decompress after Bandera, do you have any major goals formulated for the rest of your year? Are you considering chasing a Western States entry at another MUC race?
KC: Well, most of the races are sold out and I am not proficient enough to turn around and race again in the next few weeks, so a Western States entry at another MUC race is not going to happen. I am definitely gunning for my first 100 miler this summer. I’m putting my name in for Cascade Crest, and if not that, maybe The Bear. Also, I just signed up for the Leona Divide 50 Mile! (As a student a lot of racing/traveling can and will take a toll on my GPA.)
Quick & Dirty: You recently finished 3rd at the Bandera 100K, just missing a Western States 100 Mile ticket by eight minutes. How did that race play out for you?
Jared Hazen: It was a good race for me. A few miles into the race, I let David Laney and Paul Terranova go. In my eyes they were the runners to beat. At the 50k point they had about 9 minutes on me and I was liking the position I was in. I felt great and started to put in some effort to catch them. 41 miles in I was 5 minutes back from Paul and had moved up to third. Shortly after that though I started to just have some low energy that lasted to the finish. Paul put 3 more minutes on me by the next aid station and ended up keeping that lead to the finish. Looking back it was a simple mistake of not getting enough calories. I was racing without a watch for the first time and had trouble judging when I needed to take gels. Plus David and Paul ran really solid races, they weren’t easy to beat!
Q&D: You ran Western States last year at 19 years old, finishing a very impressive 14th place, after qualifying at the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile. Will you run another MUC race to try to gain entry to this year’s race?
JH: I hope so. I’m trying to run the Gorge Waterfalls 100K in March. Right now I’m just trying to figure out the logistics of getting to the race, but there’s a good chance I’ll be there.
Q&D: If you don’t run Western States this year, have you considered another goal or focus race for the year?
JH: If I don’t get into Western States I’ve started to consider doing some of the Skyrunning Ultra races in the U.S.: mainly the Power of 4 50k and The Rut 50k. Or running the Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile (I did not finish last year and would like some redemption). Plus I would like to run at least one 100-mile race this year; it’s my favorite distance so far.
Q&D: What do you consider your best race to date and why?
JH: The Rocky Raccoon 100 [in 2014] has been my best race. It was the first time I was racing against some top level runners, I had trained really hard, but really had no clue what would happen during the race. It was also only my second 100 miler. I went into the race with the mindset of “I’m just going to do my thing, I don’t care where that puts me in relation to everyone else.” And it worked out really well, I felt like I ran to my potential on the day. Since then I’ve kind of struggled in races, I always seem to lack confidence to run with the top guys in races, and feel like I’ve underperformed since Rocky Raccoon. Although in training it feels like my fitness has improved.
Q&D: What drew you to run ultramarathons—and 100 milers at that—at such a young age compared to most of your competitors?
JH: I kind of found ultrarunning by accident. I was running cross country and track in high school, and I started running more miles just to be a better runner. I found that I liked running farther distances and running on trails a lot more than traditional track and road running. I’ve always been into the outdoors so spending several hours running through the woods was a lot of fun for me. It also seemed like a niche I fit into really well; in high school I wasn’t very sociable and I had always been a bit excessive in everything I did. If I did something, I wanted to do it 110%, not just dabble in a little bit of everything. Running 100 milers was exactly that, 50ks and 50 milers weren’t far enough. I had to see what it was like to run 100 miles. It seems like a pinnacle in the sport.
Q&D: While you’re from Pennsylvania originally, you now live in Colorado Springs, a hotbed of ultrarunning. Do you have many training partners in the ultrarunning community or anyone in particular you look up to in the sport?
JH: Yeah, there are a lot of great people to train with here in the Springs. I run with Dan Vega, Zach Miller, Brandon Stapanowich, Alex Nichols, Peter Maksimow, and Justin Ricks quite often. Some of them I run with more than the others, but it’s always a lot of fun to run with those guys, and it’s cool for me to listen to their stories about winning these big races, or racing in Europe. It makes me dream big, and think “I want to do that someday, I want to have those opportunities.”
It’s kind of weird for me to say I look up to him, because we’re good friends, but I look up to Zach Miller quite a bit. His approach to racing, is, “I’m going to go for it, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. Who cares who else is in the race.” He seems to just have no fear about that stuff, like it doesn’t even matter. I always like to hear about his races.
Q&D: Do you currently have any sponsors?
JH: I’m sponsorless, but it is something I would like to work on. I know it’s more than racing well, so I’m trying to work on some of the other stuff, like being more active on social media sites.
Q&D: What type of mileage do you run? Vertical gain?
JH: I run 130-200 miles a week, depending on what event I’m training for. I reserve the 180-200 mile weeks for the last couple of weeks before I taper for a hundred mile race, it’s not something I do constantly. Again, vertical depends on the race, so anywhere from 10,000 – 30,000 feet a week would be my best guess; it’s not something I track. I do one or two workouts a week if I’m getting ready for a race, things like hill repeats, mile repeats, or tempo runs.
Q&D: Do you have a coach or anyone advising you?
JH: Not really, I like having the freedom of making up my own training schedule. Occasionally I’ll bounce ideas around with my friend, Jeff Nelson. We ran together a lot when I was in high school, and he’s been running for close to 40 years now so I appreciate his thoughts.
Q&D: I read in an interview that you think the most competitive 50 mile races might be a bit fast for your skill set—often being won by guys with fast marathon PRs. That said, you ran 9:42 for 3200 meters in high school; and with your youth, surely you have enough talent to develop your speedier side. Any interest in doing so?
JH: Possibly, right now my interests are all over the place. I could see myself doing some long, multi-day runs like the Tahoe Rim Trail, or even the Colorado Trail, and at the same time I would like to run The North Face 50 in San Francisco. I think it’s a matter of what opportunities present themselves. I can say for certain that trying to run a fast road marathon, or any road race for that matter, doesn’t interest me right now. That could always change in the future though.
You can learn more about Clausen and Hazen and follow their progress on their social media channels:
Jared Hazen: Twitter @JaredHazen.