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2014 Western States 100: Taper Chat with Shannon McFarland, Ryan Holler, and Jeremy Day of Arkansas

Enjoy our pre-race elevate the legs Western States 100 chat with Shannon McFarland, Ryan Holler, and Jeremy Day of Arkansas!


Shannon McFarland #221


Credit: John Watt ©

How has trail running impacted/enhanced your life?

Trail running has enhanced my life in a few different ways.

I appreciate the outdoors much more than I ever had before, previously I was taking something very special for granted. The beauty of the Ozarks here in Arkansas and the many other places that running has taken me cannot be understated and I am truly grateful for having had the opportunity to see it.

The people it has brought into my life, I think trail runners are the coolest people in the world, and I cannot think of any group of people I would prefer to spend my free time with.

Then there are the physical impacts, the “By-product’ of running through the woods for great distances has helped me improve my fitness and maintain that fitness over time.

100 continuous miles by foot can be tough to wrap your mind around. How are you mentally approaching the distance at Western States?

Very carefully. I think this race will be the most challenging event I have participated in and a very thoughtful approach is necessary. If I was doing a no fee/no frills race with only 25 folks I may purposefully race very hard from the beginning just to see what I can do. When I do that 90% of the time I get humbled significantly, but it is always fun. This will not be one of those races. I will be very patient in my approach, and do my best to make sure I have legs late in the race.

Being your first Western States, is there a particular part of the course you are most excited to experience? Maybe a little apprehensive?

I think the Rucky Chucky water crossing is going to be a lot of fun, especially if I get there at a point in the day when it is still hot. In my mind it is the iconic point of the race. The other part I am super stoked about is the finish line. I have visualized that moment going across the line, hugging my wife and crew, and getting that buckle many times.

If there is a part of the course I am concerned about it is the canyons. I have asked a few folks about what I need to be most concerned about, and that was their feedback. It can be 90 to 100 degrees on race day, and dealing with that heat will be quite a chore. I think mile 45 to 62 will make or break my performance. If I run the canyons smart, I am confident I will do well.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

I think I would be a beaver.


I will be very meticulous and conscientious in my approach to this race. Like the way a beaver builds his dams, they must utilize those attributes to ensure the dam holds, that the water is deep enough to keep their family safe from predators. Their lives depend on it, just like my life/race depends on a conscience race plan, and then meticulous execution of that plan.

Ryan Holler #225

Credit: Jeff Genova

Credit: Jeff Genova

What is your running background and how did you get involved with trail running?

I don’t have much of a running background. I played the big three sports (in the south)—football, baseball and basketball—until I was 15. Then my height and stature guided me to basketball, which I played through college and a little rec league through my 20s. I have no track and field experience aside from high jumping as a high school senior.

After spending most of my 30s relatively sedentary, I started jogging around the block, then worked my way up to a 3-mile routine within a month or so. My wife signed me up for a fundraiser 5K without telling me. I ran it and enjoyed it. Then I started working my way up in distances through a half-marathon, which I ran very conservatively but still finished surprisingly high in my age group. That convinced me that maybe I could be a fairly good runner at longer distances.

I soon met Mike Rush, who was about to open Rush Running Company in Bentonville. He invited me to join him and a couple other guys for hill repeats at a place called “George Bush Push” a the local Slaughter Pen Trail system. It was my first experience of both trail running and hill repeats, fueled by a little social competitiveness.

I loved being off the pavement. It just felt right. Soon after that there was a 8-mile trail race at Slaughter Pen. I ran that race and was hooked. My love of tail running has grown ever since and definitely exceeds my feelings for road racing, although I still do both. My first ultra-distance trail race was Sylamore 50K in 2010.

Why Western States? As a first-time starter (I think), what interests you in this 100 mile event?

Yes, this is my first Western States, as a runner. This might be hard to believe but I’d never heard of a 100-mile race until around the time of that 2010 Sylamore 50K. My friend Jeff Genova, after hearing me express how much I liked trail racing, asked me if I’d like to crew him at Western States that year. He was returning for another go at it, after collapsing at 99.3 miles in 2009 (Yeah, you heard me right, 99.3 miles) unable to finish. Jeff ended up in the hospital that year with severe kidney trouble after returning home. He fully recovered, but it’s a wonder running 100 miles myself would interest after hearing about that. But I said yes, and of course got to be there for the famous race featured in J.B. Benna’s ‘Unbreakable.’ I’ve spotted myself standing in the background at a couple spots in the film. It was a great experience. Jeff ran a solid race until just past Rucky Chucky, where he sprained his ankle, which hobbled him to a slow walk. He left Hwy 49 crossing aid station just ahead of the cutoff, but we all knew that, because of his ankle sprain, he couldn’t move fast enough to stay ahead of cutoff, therefore, he dropped. So, in witnessing some great performances earlier in the day, then feeling heartbreak for my runner (his 2nd year in a row), I got an up-close-and-personal experience of the good and bad that can happen in a 100 mile race all in one famous event.

How could I not want some of that?

Western States is not your first 100, what about a 100 mile race interests you to return to this challenge?

No, I ran Pinhoti 100 the following year (2011). That race had everything I wanted in my first 100… mostly single track, runnable, only moderately technical in places, point to point, and at a fairly cool time of year. I finished 9th out of 120-something starters, 60-something finishers. That validated my feeling that I was capable of running this distance fairly well.

My interest in 100 miles is multifaceted. I was an only child, so even though I enjoy being around and running with others, I also am equally at peace and and even like solitude, whether it’s in training or the lonely parts of a race.

I’m a creative, daydreamer type with ADHD, and I’m a Christian. Those things come heavily into play during the long hours of a run. I allow my mind to take me wherever it may. If my mind is on work, I think about work (I’m a product designer, so that’s usually enjoyable, creative thinking that involves a degree of problem solving.) If my mind is on my family and friends, I usually take a moment to pray for them, which usually leads me to thoughts of gratitude for the blessing of being able to enjoy God’s creation in the way that I am… moving on foot across the dirt and rocks, and under the shade of His trees, breathing hard, eating sugar, drinking stuff with caffeine in it, generally acting like a kid. Of course there’s the pain of the late miles, and that leads me to pray too, not for relief from it, but for perspective as I embrace it and press on.

100 miles is the ideal running distance for experiencing a lot of the joy, fears, challenges, and hopefully victory, of life in general, but all in one day. I recently read about how Anne Trason (14-time WS100 winner) approached the race that way, but even more literally… comparing miles to years, complete with learning to walk, resisting a midlife crisis, and eventually overhearing comments on how bad she looked late in the race, and saying “What do you expect? I’m 85!” It makes total sense.

Fun Q – Which animal best characterizes that way you plan on running Western States?

A mountain lion, or course. (wink)


Jeremy Day #164

Along with Western States 100, Jeremy is getting after the ultra slam. Western States is the first 100 stop of this four 100 miler adventure.

Enjoy the audio interview Jeremy as we get to know him a little bit and then chat about Western.

Podcast: Download (Duration: 21:16 – 9.74 MB)

Special thanks to Shannon, Ryan, and Jeremy for sharing some thoughts about themselves and their Western States 100 adventure. We wish them all the best!

Beaver photo: Credit Steve @

Mountain Lion photo: Credit TM @

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

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