Saturday, June 05, 2010

Faster as a Master - An Interview with Rob Evans

For most people, entering the Masters ranks means saying sayonara to PR’s and the glory days of old. But for some, like 43-year-old ultrarunner Rob Evans, it may just be the beginning. Rob has had a string of great finishes this year, including 2nd overall at the Tahoe Rim Trail 100m (USATF/RRCA 100-mile championship), just a few minutes behind winner Erik Skaden, 2nd Master at the American River 50-miler, a 2nd overall/Masters win at the Quicksilver 50-miler, as well as a Masters win at the Napa Marathon (RRCA National Marathon Championships). Rob is now zeroed in on the 2010 Western States 100-miler on June 23rd, where he hopes his new fitness will do well among the most competitive runners on the planet.

 (Rob takes charge at the 2010 Quicksilver 50-miler)

I caught up with Rob to ask him about how he manages to be “faster as a master”.

1) Congratulations on the great times you have posted this year. Your 20:46 at the 2009 Tahoe Rim Trail 100 (2nd overall, 1st Master), 6:37 at AR (13th overall, 2nd Master), 6:54 at Quicksilver (2nd Overall, 1st Master), and 2:46 at The Napa Marathon was a clean sweep of Masters wins. Are these pr's for these distances/courses?

Yes, they are. I had not done a marathon in nearly 10 years, the last one being the Silicon Valley marathon and I ran a 2:52. I have done the AR50 3 times, each time having cramping problems, so this was my fastest. The Quicksilver 50 was a first. Felt great to run that time. Really focused on having it be a training run for Western States but also wanted to get a feel for my fitness on a hilly trail course. Last year I was really stoked to have done that 20:46 at the TRT100 course. My focus was on the USATF/RRCA Masters 100 Mile win. I would have never thought I could get 2nd overall!

2) To what do you attribute your newfound speed? Are you training differently as a Master?

My training this year has been incredible. My primary problem in the past has been injuries. I have had a few stress fractures and a few episodes of ITBS. The first go at Western States back in 2005 I had such a bad case of ITBS that I could not run even a quarter mile during May. Last year I had really bad ITBS before and after the AR50 where I had to take several weeks off. It appeared that when I got over 80 miles per week I got injured.

This year I really focused on diet, stretching and doing electronic muscle stimulation (EMS). Peter Defty has really helped me with my diet. Both Kate (my wife) and I started a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet back in January. After 3 weeks of “hell” we started feeling fantastic and our recovery was incredible. We both have been using VESPA which I have found gives me consistent energy and helps with my fat metabolization. I can run 30-40 miles on 2 VESPA’s and 2 gels without any problem.

My key races for the year were the Napa Valley Marathon, AR50 and WS100. I did a 2 week mini taper for each race and focused on my ability to train hard the week following the races. I was able to run 100 mile weeks directly following Napa, AR50 and QS50 without any problems. Again, this is very new as historically I would have to take a down week to recovery after a hard effort, this year I have been strong and able to run well after a hard effort.

With my diet and the EMS (I use the Compex EMS Recovery Program after every run) I have been able to run over 100 miles per week since March. The EMS thing is something I tried about 8 years ago on the recommendation of my chiropractor. After Napa I got a little Achilles Tendonitis from the flats I was wearing, this COMPEX thing got rid of it in two weeks while doing 90-100 miles per week.

I think my marathon time is better 10 years later as I have been doing ultra marathon training with some traditional marathon components. On weekends I will run 30-40 miles on Saturday and 10-20 on Sundays. During the week I have been doing track workouts and tempo runs. For a while, I was doing regular very fast tempo runs on Thursdays with Mark Lantz, and it was a tremendous help to have him push me like that. I can’t thank him enough.

With the focus on the diet as well as recovery components, I have been strong and injury free. It has been awesome…

(Rob on his way to this 2nd place finish at the 2009 Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler)

3) Your target race for 2010 is Western States. Coming off the 3 day training weekend, how do you feel?

I had a great training weekend. It was my last really hard effort before States. On Saturday I ran 48, Sunday 19 and Monday did from Forest Hill to the Auburn High School (38). The last day I ran it in 5:30 which was great. Frankly, I am a bit tired as last week I got 130 miles in, however, I do not have any indication of injury, just fatigue. The goal for this weekend was to simulate, as best as I could what I will feel like at States the last 38 miles. I ran well.

4) Were you always a runner? Judging by a few of your tattoos, you were once a cyclist too.

I have been doing endurance sports since the late 80’s. I lived in Japan from 88-91 and watched the World Championship Bicycle Race when it was there. I got hooked on the cycling thing and raced road cycling for San Jose State University’s “A” squad for awhile. In 1991 I got picked up by a team called, “Bontrager/Boss Racing” and raced expert cross country for awhile. I also did a little cyclo-cross. Racing bikes took a lot of time to be competitive. You cannot just have a bad few moments like in ultra running and pick it up later. If you get dropped – it is over. So when I went to graduate school I started running to stay in shape. Well, I have an addictive personality so after I finished my Masters Degree I started doing marathons etc. I am sure you know how that goes. My first Ultra was the Quadruple Dipsea. I loved that race.

I have a couple cycling tattoos, some God tattoos and a few others. I am grateful for God and have Isiah 40:31 tattooed in Kanji down my spine. That verse, along with Jasper Halekas, helped me win National Masters 100 Mile Championships last year – thank you God and Jasper.;-)

5) In the last couple of years, you've gotten married and relocated to Pollack Pines deep in the mountains. I've seen Kate's name popping up in race results. Are you the new power couple of trail running?

You know, it is funny – people are asking, “what is in the water in Pollock Pines?” Kate was a great runner in the UK. She competed at the National Level in Cross Country and Track and Field when she was a teenager. She is a fantastic downhill runner. Her first trail races were faster than mine (she did the Quadruple Dipsea as her first Ultra and ran a 5:10). She won her first road marathon this year (Avenue of the Giants). We love the mountains. I really wanted to get out of the bay area and live closer to some high altitude running. 3400 feet is perfect, just a little snow and only a few miles from the high Sierras.

 (Kate picks up a win at the Avenue of the Giants)

6) What does a typical training week look like for you? Any favorite foods/drinks for racing? How do you like to celebrate after a big race?

Lately, since I am focused in 2010 Western States 100, my typical week is about 95-105 miles. I continue some track workouts and tempo. I broke this season down into two sections: flat 50 mile training (AR50) and Canyon Ultra stuff (WS100). I have been doing triple canyons for a couple of months. I also integrate 2-3 total recovery runs per week into my schedule. They are 8-12 miles at an 8-9 minute per mile pace. My tempo has been around 6 minute miles. Prior to Napa my track 800’s were 2:42 and now they are around 2:47-2:50. We will see how this does me for States. My training is outstanding and if I have problems at the race, I can at least say to myself that I did everything I possibly could. When I race, if I don’t do well I am ok with that as long as I tried hard.

My favorite drink is Amino Vital. They are an awesome company and have been working with me for several years now. I love the taste and it sits really well with me. For gels, I really like the Crank Gels as they are a bit more fluid like than other gel products and I can take them down well when I cannot eat during the last 40 of a 100 mile race. I also do PB&J and most anything at an aid station.

I like to celebrate after a big race with a very large, rare steak, potato with sour cream and cheese and a few good movies in bed. I don’t drink alcohol or party at all but love watching movies and sitting around. I have got the best wife and dogs in the world. They give me a lot of joy.

(The family)

7) What motivates you to train and race so much?

Well, I do believe I am an addict – I never had any major issues with it, but quit drinking completely in graduate school. I saw my addictive potential and just stopped. However, I have this genetic thing to go hard, fast and do crazy things. I have progressed in this endurance world over 20 years and think this will be my last year competing in ultrarunning for awhile. We are in an adoption process and I cannot see how I could spend all this time training with a little one. If I cannot be competitive, I will just run trails for fitness. I am not the biggest fan of racing as it does stress me out. As Kevin Swisher said on Saturday, “you put too much pressure on yourself”. He is right!

About 4 years ago I fast-packed the John Muir Trail (JMT) with my good friends Brian Robinson and Sophia Lewis-Robinson. I really enjoyed that trip. I think in the future, I may find other ways similar to the JMT to get “fed” on the trails. I truly experienced God above 10,000’. I think I may try to do it a bit faster and maybe do some other things like the full TRT or the High Sierra Route. Those sound like a lot more fun than training for a 100 mile race.

Man, I am tired just thinking about it!

Thanks for the time, Rob, and good luck at Western States!

- SD


  1. Whoa, do I ever actually "train?" Hope you kick some butt at States, Rob. Thanks for another great interview you two.

  2. I love the Diet Rob is on, it promotes fat burning, not carb burning,for energy. Vespa works for me,too, if I'm running more than 2-3 hours.
    Great interview,thanks.

  3. Lots of miles, high altitude, cutting out carbs, and living a happy, simple wonder he's faster!

  4. Thanks for this interview, Scott!

    And thanks especially to Rob. I really appreciate all the personal insights you shared. I suspect many of us, as ultraruners, can relate to the "addictive personality" you mention. And good luck with the adoption process. I hope it goes well! Congrats on your awesome season so far, and have fun at States this year!

  5. Thanks for sharing the interview!
    I especially liked the insight into solving the problem with injuries... I know that there is no one solution, but may be a correct nutrition has it's influence...

  6. Thank you so much for this beautiful Article

  7. I tried the EMS thing, but it was just too creepy having my muscles twitch and dance around. Does it really work?

    How does the active recovery setting work? Is it just at a lower level?

  8. It is a bit odd having your muscles bounce around but I absolutely believe it works... Active Recovery, I think is really the core rehabilitation mode and on the Compex you can adjust the intensity however you like.

  9. Rob- Is there a specific diet plan you followed for the high protein/low carb diet? I'm looking to revamp my diet and would love some tips.

  10. I am something called, "Optimal Fat Metabolization". It is a very high protein, high fat diet with very little carbs. Before hard workouts and races I sneak in the carbs. Peter Defty at Vespa created the plan for me. If you facebook him or email him I am sure he will help you. I found it to be amazing. The first three weeks where I ate no carbs at all were very difficult but after that it things got really great.

  11. What a great interview! I can definitely relate to the addictive personality thing too--I'm in graduate school and have also quit drinking, although, I never had any "issues" with it either, same feelings, suddenly I've become very motivated to build my running mileage : ). I'm backpacking part of the John Muir Trail in just a few weeks, will be ending in Yosemite!

  12. Thanks Rob for your interview and sharing your professional and personal life.I am big fan of Rob.He's excellent in his area.This post will motivate new runners and advise you given is very useful.I follow this Trail runner blog.I like your posts a lot.

  13. Hello, Rob, I've also achilles tendonitis, what program did you use with the Compex to get rid of it? thx !!!


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