A select rare one who can claim “Native to this Place”, meet Incline Village local Conor Drewes. One of DPMR’s young guns, Conor ran his first 100-miler at age 20, has finished our own Castle Peak 100K twice and last month placed first overall at the Marlette 50K. A fan of French Toast, neon shirts and daily 10-milers, he’s the guy you’ll also want on your Trivia team if obscure military history is in the lineup.
With no slowdown in sight, I’ve been watching on Strava as Conor racks up consistent high mileage through rain, snow or shine, on road and trail and through an ongoing pandemic. Positive and humble, he’s also a guy who always seems to be sporting a bright smile. Conor indulged me recently by answering a bunch of questions and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know him as much as I have.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I have been fortunate enough to live in Incline Village for almost 22 years, with some time in Reno for a period when I was not commuting to school. A small town has some quirks and disadvantages, but overall Incline is an amazing place to live and would not trade having grown up here for anything!
When did you begin running and/or long-distance running, if that applies? Why?
People always find it funny that I have gotten into such intense levels of running, because I never really showed much interest in it through middle school/high school—in fact I never joined any of the cross country or track teams our schools offered. However, when I was living in Reno for my first semester at the University of Nevada, Reno, (right next to Rancho San Rafael and Peavine area) I began to run a bit as a complement to weightlifting. As soon as I realized how much cool stuff was out there and explorable on foot, I became hooked!
Unfortunately, UNR did not have a men’s cross-country team until just recently (brought back after a 25-year break) so I was not able to really do competitive shorter distances as I am graduating this fall!
Running, as well as biking/outdoor sports in general, have also helped me significantly in dealing with mental health issues, as some of you might know, so there were a multitude of things going into picking up running.
I was inspired to go into trail and ultra-running (rather than into road races) due to a summer and a half spent doing day hikes of the whole Tahoe Rim Trail with some family and our two dogs (Tucker and Boomer, who are the 101st and 102nd dogs to complete the trail!). This segment hike experience is where I really fell in love with trails.
I was initially going to start with the Reno marathon, but there happened to be an amazing looking race right near family in Redwood City—the Woodside/Purisima Creek Crossover 50k. My training was in retrospect highly non-optimal, but I had an amazing time. The day after, not so much—walking up and down stairs was rough. I will always credit this wonderfully organized and beautiful race with sending me down the path to a sport and hobby that has taken me beautiful places, helped me meet amazing people, and bettered me in so many ways.
The immense support my parents, brothers, and family have given me throughout this whole time truly allowed me to turn it from just “beginning running” to a major passion–for that I am eternally grateful! Regardless, after Woodside 50k I began instantly wondering how far I could take this distance wise…and here we are, countless pairs of shoes and thousands of dollars on Ultrasignup later. 😊
Do you race? Does racing motivate you? If not racing, what motivates you?
I do race, sometimes not well, and sometimes pretty darn well if I can get my notoriously weak stomach to cooperate; but I love the motivation, atmosphere, and long-term goal a race provides—especially hundred milers! While I have many other sources of motivation for my running, I like to have some direction for training even if I am enjoying the training miles themselves immensely.
To me, one of my favorite feelings in running is a race where everything falls into place—legs feel good, breathing is easy, the trails are tough but feel completely do-able, and there are lots of fast competitors that push me. But more importantly, the experience of bonding and making friends with others through a shared struggle is a huge motivator to me. Some of the best, most genuine people I know are people I have met at races.
I tend to really “race” at flatter 50ks because I know that type of terrain/distance is my strong suit, but I like to try and be competitive at longer distances while still prioritizing having fun with no expectations.
Do you have any dream races (either hoping to qualify for or get selected for)?
I will, with a little bit of reservation, answer this question first with Western States—I include the reservation because I am terrible at dealing with heat so the canyons will probably wipe the floor with me. But otherwise the history and community surrounding the race seems amazing, unique, and are something that must be experienced at least once. I’ve been in the lottery twice, and this year was going to be my 3rd but there are far more important and pressing issues going on the world right now so that was a no-go.
Other than that, I’m pretty low maintenance in terms of races. I sign up for ones I can get into, don’t stress about lotteries, and stay pretty local. Though I think that Run Rabbit Run or something in Colorado would be a dream sometime.
Also, the Barkley Marathons would be pretty fun to be selected for and is a dream race. Kidding, completely and entirely. Unless…
What was the best running advice you’ve received?
“Stop looking at your watch!”. A bit of backstory–I ran without a watch for a while, but when I finally got one, I tended to get too concerned about keeping specific paces and meeting goals. During my first 100 at Rio Del Lago, I fell into conversation with Alex S at No Hands Bridge not knowing he would soon become an amazing friend. Although he passed along many great bits of advice (some of which I was too mentally “out of it” to remember especially as it got dark), one that always sticks with me is relax on the watch-checking. You’re out doing something extremely cool, crazy, epic, and likely in a beautiful place to boot, so don’t stress about timing too much unless you’re at the front of the pack and racing hard. I try and channel that approach to all races—really at the end of the day we’re all out here just trying to enjoy the day and experience some cool stuff so…STOP CHECKING YOUR WATCH 😊. From that same day, I still remember Ian P’s relentless positivity and willpower (that I am still constantly in awe of) which I kind of took as advice to just be positive regardless (unless a bone is sticking out or something). One other that, one bit of advice that pops into mind is at mile 25(ish?) of UTLT I got some incredible wisdom from Ken Z who I shared many miles with. “No willful DNFs”. It seems obvious, and is extremely simple, but it really has been powerful. Your brain, as all of you know, will at a certain point do anything it can to get you to quit. Little irritations or stresses suddenly get turned into mountains by your brain so focus on not allowing will to be the source of quitting. Injury is a 110% valid reason to stop, but willpower is something that can be repaired quickly. Essentially, don’t let yourself will yourself into dropping. That got me through a hard night at that race!
Do you have a favorite on-trail food or nutrition strategy and favorite post-run meal or beverage?
Some of you might know me as the weirdo who starts asking if anyone happens to have milk towards the later parts of races—many people can’t stand milk/dairy/etc at any point of a race, let alone in the later half when the body starts getting really unhappy! I don’t drink cow’s milk really outside of races as I am always vegetarian (and am vegan part of the time, though I know it doesn’t really count switching back and forth), but it always does wonders during a race. I have been trying to use oat milk more during races instead but haven’t really had a chance to see how it works having not raced much this year (though it is still by far my favorite plant milk for day to day use).
Other than that, I have kind of bounced all around with what I eat during races. In my initial foray into long distances, I did go the traditional GU/electrolyte water route, but those always made me super sick and queasy, so I almost only eat solid food now. I love peanut butter sandwiches on thin whole-grain bread, a mix I make out of nuts + cheerios + dark chocolate, and baby food—a suggestion my mother gave me!
For 50k and under, generally I try and eat as little as possible and get some calories in through Gatorade or coke and the like. It worked extremely well for Marlette 50k and Red Dragon 50k (at Marlette I had only one Larabar, and at Red Dragon I had maybe ¾ of a PB&J), which are some of the only races I have ever had where I did not worry about my stomach at any point!
And for post-race meal—French toast all the way!
Do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I feel like if I start answering this question, I would write an entire novel—my binders of favorite recipes are an ever expanding project, and I have shelves of cookbooks both from my own collecting and ones that have been passed along to me. I do love baking challah bread though; the braiding process is super satisfying and fun. Any cooking or baking in general though is a joy, as I am very passionate about both—especially vegetable related recipes.
What was your favorite running experience this past year?
My solo 50k loop from Tunnel Creek out to Spooner via TRT and the Flume was very fun as that is the longest I have done unsupported (and it went pretty well, though I did misjudge water consumption and ended up filtering out of Marlette Lake). Race wise, Marlette 50k was an absolutely rad experience –it went so well and felt so good right out of the gate all the way up until the finish line. I ended up holding my own against some extremely talented and wonderful people and got accomplished much more than I thought possible the whole way.
With most races being cancelled this year, do you have your own adventure or virtual race plans?
Nothing too firm yet, though once it cools off, I was considering trying to fastpack the Tahoe Rim Trail (nowhere near the speed of Adam, Helen, or Candace though!). I was also considering a double century on my road bike once the traffic gets a bit better—a bit too scary out there right now though, so I’ve been sticking to my mountain bike!
What do you do for a living? Is it hard to fit in time for training?
I am currently a full-time student and I work at a café in Incline right at the bottom of Tunnel Creek road, so I get to talk to a lot of fun people getting ready for bike rides or runs! Come by and say hi sometime, though I’ve seen some familiar faces already!
Ever since my first semester at UNR I have driven to school two days a week for my full schedule, so some semesters where I have gotten unlucky with class times it has been tough to fit in runs before I drive (and after 5 classes back to back each day often I would be too tired to run when I got home). With my last semester being moved all online however, I am having a fair amount of time for running, biking, and general adventuring!
What led you to join DPMR?
I really wanted to support the organization that has done such wonderful things in the area (and put together epic races), and possibly make new friends through membership in the club. Plus, it’s what all the cool kids were doing.
What has been your favorite DPMR experience so far?
Castle Peak 100k volunteering/racing aside (helping set up the finish line as a volunteer and then going under it to finish the next day was pretty special!), I have to say volunteering at the DPMR aid station at high camp during Broken Arrow 52k was an extremely fun experience—hanging out all day with cool people and helping all the participants get their races finished regardless of pace was rad.
Favorite local trail?
Cliché again, but anything on the Rim Trail. Though often times I end up just doing the Flume trail from where I live in a loop most of the time (it’s beautiful too, and pretty mild compared to the TRT). I am constantly grateful for the lack of ticks, poison oak, and snakes on the trails up here!
Do you have a mental training technique, mantra, or similar that you rely on to combat the mentally trying times of a longer run?
Personally I never use music or audio during runs or training and never have (I don’t judge those who do, just a personal thing for me), so I find that my mental game has to be very strong as distraction from difficulty or discomfort is not as easy to do. I have experimented with many methods, from the classic “toughen up and don’t be a baby” self-critical technique to more mindful and “compassionate” techniques. I find that anything where I criticize myself for my feelings (both physical and mental) during the hard parts of a run do not produce very good results—it really increases the negativity in your mind and can make things feel even worse. For a while, I have been trying to incorporate some ideas from mindfulness—just experiencing the trail go by and the rhythm of my breathing while trying to minimize thoughts both positive and negative for periods—in conjunction with positive thinking that emphasizes recognizing achievements small and large during the course of a run. Sometimes these thoughts are just positive thinking about big occurrences like reaching the halfway point, or sometimes they are small little self-congratulations on running a hill I thought I was going to have to walk. Over the course of hours, negativity builds if you let it so more and more, I have realized it is important to just not even let it take root.
Recovery technique(s) that you swear by?
Treat yourself a little bit and take care of the aches and pains, but don’t “rest on your laurels” as the saying goes and get back out outside and moving in some way within a few days! And French toast!
Do you have a favorite piece of running gear (hydration system, shoe, clothing layer, sock, etc.)?
I am an absolute sucker for anything bright, neon, or running shorts that have an emphasis on the “short” part. I love to make people smile, so anything that is funny or outlandish is also a favorite of mine. These are some general rules for favorite gear, but I love Salomon and Hoka (for shoes/vests, and shoe respectively).
What other outdoor or indoor interests do you have?
I absolutely love biking (road and mountain), and these have been a consistent theme in my outdoor interests for probably a decade plus. Downhill skiing, and to a lesser extent, cross country, have also been major parts of my life at times especially when my mother was really skate skiing a lot. My parents got me on skis very early, so I’ve skied most of my life though I have taken a break from downhill after a freak accident that was particularly unpleasant. I tend to get interested in a lot of sports/hobbies and not particularly excel/focus on any in the same way I have focused on biking and running, so I have lots of outdoor interests too numerous to list! I still do sometimes play tennis with my dad (who is excellent at it) and brothers for example—in fact I played tennis on Incline’s high school team.
Any interesting facts about yourself you would like to share?
I absolutely love anything related to history, political science, law, or anything even tangentially related! 20th century military history is a particular love of mine. If you ever meet me on a run and are bored, ask me for some random, fun, and weird history fact and I will more than deliver!
I am not sure what I will be doing after I graduate with my B.S in a few months or where I will end up, but anyone who needs a running, hiking, or biking partner just send me an e-mail or find me on Strava!