iRunFar.com and TWIR recently caught up with ultramarathon speedster Michael Wardian to ask him about his recent win at the White River 50 mile, this year’s USATF 50 mile trail championship. Wardian’s victory was his third USATF title in as many ultramarathons this year. Early in the year, Mike won the 50k road championship in record time (2:55:05), and followed that up with a victory at the Mad City 100, the 100k road championship. While not one of the young ultra phenoms everyone seems to be talking about, Wardian has quietly put together a four ultra winning streak dating back to his victory at the JFK 50 mile in November 2007. Enough with the chatter, on with the interview.
iRF: Michael, thanks for taking the time out of your extremely busy schedule to speak with us.
MW: IRF, glad to be here and “Thank you” for having me.
iRF: Michael, how did your race at White River play out? Did you take off from the gun or did you have to battle throughout the race?
MW: I definitely did not run all out from from the gun. I ran in the pack of about 18 guys until about 17-18 miles and then there was an opportunity for me put some time into people, so I took that opportunity and was able to hold off all the studs that were in the race till the finish line. I did have to battle during the race against the course, it was not easy, but I loved every minute of it.
iRF: Do you think that your vast experience in road racing and relative speed provided an extra advantage at any point in your White River race?
MW: I think I definitely had an advantage on the section of the course that runs on the “fire road” and that really was a blessing for me as there were so many good guys (and girls) in the race that gave me some breathing room and allowed me to open of my legs and really cover some ground quickly.
iRF: What did you enjoy most about your experience at the White River 50? Is there anything that you would do differently if you were to race White River again?
MW: I really enjoyed everything about my expreience at WR. The Race Director (Scott) and his wife (Leslie) and family were terrific as were the rest of the people at the race, from the timers to the aid station volunteers. It was a first class event and I would highly recommend it. If I ran White River again, I would try and push a little harder on the hills (mountains), as I would like to break Uli’s course record.
iRF: Most folks don’t know, but earlier in the decade you put in solid runs at the Vermont 100 and the Old Dominion 100 in addition to winning the Himalaya 100 stage race. After years away from ultras, what made you decide to go beyond the marathon again?
MW: Well, I have always had a passion for ultrarunning and I like to challenge myself and I feel like these longer distances races are doing that (challenging me). Also, I want to represent my country and to do that I had to move up to a longer distance at the moment, so that I can compete for the US of A.
I was fortunate enough to earn a spot on the USA 100K World team and will be making the trip to Italy this November to represent the USA. I am planning to bring home some hardware and help the team earn a Gold Medal.
By the way, we need support (as USATF is not funding the team directly), so please visit the USA 100 Team website if you are interested in helping us get there: www.usa100kteam.com.
iRF: Have you noticed any changes in the ultrarunning since you’ve been away? Is there anything you like better about the trail and ultra scene than the shorter road racing scene?
MW: Great question, I have noticed that ultrarunning is much more “mainstream” then it was even a few years ago. I think that is terrific and I hope that more and more people get interested in it. Ultrarunning is a great way to challenge yourself and you get to do it in some of the most scenic places in the world.
Concerning your second question, I can’t say that I like anything better in the trail/ultra scene, but I do like the change of pace (no pun intended) and the chance to meet a different group of athletes.
iRF: Is there anything that you are still trying to dial in with respect to ultramarathons?
MW: Yes, I am always working to get faster, stronger, tougher and better, so I can’t say I have figured out the ultramarathons. Not even close. I have a long way to go and just try and improve on each race that I do and during every run and/or workout.
iRF: What does your typical training week look like? Have you modified your training at all to prepare for racing trails and longer distances?
MW: I don’t do too many miles – I am really happy with 100-115 miles per week, including workouts. I have been running with some ultra guys to get ready for the ultra races, but I have also been running some track workouts with some really quick marathon guys to make sure I keep on top of my speed. I try to balance my training and I am always adjusting things to maximize my running.
iRF: Mike, you race more often than a Nascar driver and often run multiple key races in close proximity. For instance, in June you ran the Mount Washington Road Race the weekend before you were supposed to run the Western States 100. How do you respond to those who say you’d run even faster if you cut back on your racing schedule?
MW: Yes, I have heard that I race a lot and I agree that I might race more than some people, but I like running and racing and perhaps I could run faster, but I might not also. I just don’t know and I never want to miss an opportunity to compete if I can help it.
iRF: You recently attempted to retake the world treadmill marathon record, but came up short when you encountered technical difficulties with the treadmill, as well as heat exhaustion. Did you learn anything from this attempt? Do you plan on making another go at the record?
MW: I learned a lot from the failure and I am so glad I failed, as I will always remember that day.
The really exciting thing is that I ran sub 2:19 pace and know I know what it feels like (for a long distance), so I will be ready for it the next time I attempt to get the record.
iRF: You made the US 100k team with your win at the Mad City 100k. Are you planning on running the 100k World Championship in Italy in November? Given that this is a World Championship are you going to approach the race differently in terms of training, tapering, or strategy?
MW: Yes, I am planning to run the 100K World Championships in Italy and it is huge event for me.
I approach every race with the same plan, to win, but I know that will be difficult, as these are the best guys and girls on the planet, so I will make them prove it. I am going to run as fast as I can and see what happens. I plan to be in peak fitiness and as I heard lately “if their fast is faster than my fast,” then so be it but they are going to hurt to beat me.
iRF: Are you planning on running any other ultras over the coming year? Do you intend to defend any of your USATF titles (50k road, 100k road, 50 mile trail) or your JFK 50 mile title? Will we see you toe the line at next year’s Western States 100?
MW: Yes, I plan to continue to run Ultras and I could definitely see myself trying to defend my titles at all the above mentioned distances and I might also try to do some other races that are on the Ultra scence. Yes, I definitely would like to race Western States next year and hope the same people are able to race.
iRF: You are undefeated in four races since your return to ultrarunning at last year’s JFK. Are there any particular ultramarathoners who you really want to race?
MW: Yes, I want to race whichever ultramarathoners are at my next race and I hope they are healthy and in shape so that we can test ourselves against each other, the course and conditions.
I have also thought it would be neat to test myself against Dean Karnazes (who many consider “Ultramarathon Man”). Dean, if you are reading this, perhaps we can have an “Endurance off” against each other under mutually agreeable terms, it might be fun and a good laugh for both of us.
iRF: You’ve had great success at many distances, so what keeps you racing? Are there any specific goals that you are hoping to attain over the coming years?
MW: I love to race and to test myself every time I step to the line. Each race is different and I learn from every experience, good or bad, so I think that is the key to take something from each event and really challenge yourself not to get comfortable. Yes, I have a lot of goals for the upcoming year and years, but briefly I would like to run Western States, Comrades and the Marathon Des Sables next year. Make the 2012 Olympic Team for the marathon. More short goals are to win a Medal at the 100K World Championships in Italy and help the USA bring home an overall Gold Medal. In addition, I plan to run sub 2:19 and get my Olympic Trials Qualifier for 2012.
iRF: Can you tell us a little bit about your life outside of running?
MW: I am an International Ship Broker and I work for a terrific company called “Potomac Maritime, LLC.” We deal in US Government Food Aid, Project Cargo, Military Cargo, Automobile transport and anything else we can to help our Owners achieve their goals.
I have been with the company for 12 years and I love it as much today as the first day I started and I hope to be doing this type of business for years to come.
iRF: Anything about Michael Wardian that we don’t know that you’d be willing to share ?
MW: I think many people know this, but I can’t do what I do without my family (Jennifer, Pierce, Nikki, Maggie, Vivienne, Dick, Matthew, Mariele, Tony, Carol, Tony, Susan, Leo, Vivian, Billie & Colin) and sponsors and my work (Potomac Maritime, Keith, Naomi, Rick, Tony) being behind me and without them I would not be where I am today.
iRF: Michael, thanks for sharing your thoughts with iRunFar’s readers. Congratulations on your race at White River and all your recent ultrarunning success. iRunFar hopes that you get the acknowledgement you deserve when folks are considering the 2008 men’s ultrarunner of the year.
MW: Thank you so much. I am just happy to be running pretty well and hope to keep it up and continue to improve for years to come.
If you enjoyed iRunFar’s interview with Michael Wardian, consider subscribing to the iRunFar blog to catch the latest in trail and ultrarunning news and gear. Also check out last week’s interview with Jamie Donaldson, the 2008 Badwater 135 women’s champion.
For those looking for a coach, Mike is now offering coaching services. Email Mike directly at [email protected] for more details.