Our prediction of fast times at this year’s JFK 50 mile came to fruition thanks to perfect conditions and great competition. Both David Riddle and Michael Wardian broke Eric Clifton’s 17-year-old course record of 5:46:22, which had been the only previous JFK run under 5:50. Riddle came out victorious in 5:40:44, while Wardian ran a blazing 5:43:24. On the ladies side, Cassie Scallon and Meghan Arbogast ran the third and fourth fastest women’s times in JFK history, logging 6:31:22 and 6:35:16, respectively.
We published deeper JFK 50 results on Saturday, so today we’re focusing on just a few performances, namely on the folks named above. Click on one of the names below to jump to an interview with the runner:
- David Riddle (a lengthy recap proportionate to the scope of Riddle’s accomplishment)
- Cassie Scallon
- Michael Wardian
- Meghan Arbogast
Is you’re looking for a shorter, narrative approach check out the excellent local newspaper story by ultrarunner Andy Mason. That paper, the Herald Mail, also has a photo gallery and a video summary of the event.
Call for Comments
- What are your thoughts on this year’s JFK 50 Mile?
- Did Wardian bolster his case for Ultrarunner of the Year?
- How does Riddle’s performance stack up against other possible performances of the year? Heck, could Wardian’s JFK run get some top 5 votes?
- How solid has Meghan Arbogast’s year been? How much more incredible is it that she’s done it at age 50? Personally, I think she’s doing something similar in redefining possibility a Marco Olmo has done on the men’s side.
- Not to get lost in the mix, what about Cassie Scallon running the third fastest women’s time in JFK just on the (imaginary) heels of Devon Crosby-Helms and Anne Riddle Lundblad? One looks for marathon speedsters to have a breakout ultra performance at JFK, but Scallon did so as a relatively unknown ultrarunner. Anyone else excited to see her run some major trail ultras next year?
David Riddle: When I set up my strategy, I basically laid out splits that were on course record pace. I wanted to improve on what I did last year when I ran the 5:53. I felt like I ran well, but it wasn’t a perfect race for me. There were some problems with my nutrition and some issues with my pacing. I just felt like I had more room to grow. I wanted to run faster than I did last year, so what do I shoot for? Do I want to go sub-5:50 or run 5:48 or 5:46? I just arbitrarily said there’s only a few seconds per mile difference. so let’s just go for the course record and roll with it. See how it works out. I think that was my goal coming in, pace wise, but, of course, I really like to race people, and I really want to be there for the race. You don’t want to race too early in a 50 miler, so I had to lay out some time goals so I wouldn’t get over extended early.
iRF: You were the runner-up last year in 5:53 as I mentioned, you’ve won all thirteen 50ks you’ve run and they’ve all been under 4 hours, and you represented the US in the 100k World Championships. Yet, I didn’t include you as a contender to win and the Herald Mail really didn’t. Were you at all motivated by people not really considering you as a contender for the win?
Riddle: You know, I read it, I watch the stuff, I pay attention, but I don’t worry about it too much. I always like to say I let my legs do the talking. I didn’t have a great performance, well, I dropped out at the world championships. That was the first time I’ve ever dropped out of a race. I wasn’t very pleased with that. I know there’s been a lot of discussion in the community lately about dropping out (DNF’s), and I’m not a big fan of them myself. I was really disappointed that I felt like I needed to do that. So really all I had on my resume was a bunch of fast 50k’s, one trail 50 mile, and one road 100k. I wasn’t too upset that no one really considered me. I kind of like to be the underdog or the dark horse so there’s not as much pressure. I just go out there and surprise people. It didn’t really change what I thought I could do. So, not too much, but I noticed it.
iRF: You put on Facebook on Friday a quote from the Herald Mail from Spinnler saying the only person in the US that can break the record is Wardian. You certainly noticed it.
Riddle: Yeah, I think I intentionally didn’t comment with my opinion on it. I put Spinnler’s quote there and kind of left it at that; you make of it what you will. It was more to get people to thinking 5:30, 5:33, whatever Wardian said he could run. I’m not saying he can’t do it, I think he might, based on his marathon times to my marathon time, I think it’s possible. But I knew I wasn’t ready to do that, so I never… that’s why I didn’t put pace down for that. But yeah, I figured I’d shoot for it and wasn’t going to shoot for 5:30.
iRF: So this weekend’s race was incredibly exciting to follow. I wasn’t there, but I was getting some great updates. How did the first half of the race play out from your point of view?
Riddle: We definitely took it out a lot harder than last year the first 3.5 miles up to the trailhead and I think that was good because last year it was pretty slow going up there. I always forget, well, I’ve only run the course twice, but I guess I forgot after seeing it last year how technical and slow the trail can be up there. It’s pretty steep in sections. So I think when you have some time to run you kind of need to use that. Those first 3.5 miles we kind of had to get on our horse. So we got out pretty good. Wardian was pushing it up the hill, up the road to the trailhead. I kind of laid off, and was just kind of watching to make sure he didn’t get away, but I didn’t want to push him to go out faster than I wanted to go really. But I was feeling good and by the time we hit the trail I just caught him and pulled up on his shoulder. So we entered the trail section together, but then I felt like he picked it up a little bit and I wasn’t ready to start pushing it yet so I kind of let him go up to the peak at 5.5 miles. Wardian pulled away from me a little bit and Matt Woods, and Kalib Wilkinson, the 2:19 Boston guy, I think they were around this part of the climb. Matt, Kalib, and I were all basically together at 5.5 when we hit the highest elevation point. But as soon as we started coming down off the peak and we’re on the real Appalachian Trail, the technical stuff, I caught back up to Wardian pretty quickly. I put in a nice little surge to catch him, and Matt Woods actually came by us for a little while. I stayed behind Wardian for a little while there.
One of my goals coming in was to press on the trail a little bit. I felt like that was one of my advantages, being able to run quickly but efficiently on the trails. I thought that’s why I had such a good race last year. I could get through the trail section and put some time on the faster road guys. These guys that I was fairly confident would beat me in a road 100k, I feel like I had an advantage with the trail start. So I passed Wardian before the 9-mile aid station and started pushing ahead.
The guy that ended up in third [Jeffrey Buechler] passed me and Matt Woods in that section and was just flying on the trails. That guy was hauling on the trails. So I went through the 9-mile aid station with Matt Woods in second or third and came out of there and kind of broke away from Matt and was in second by myself. I ran by myself for most of the next trail section. There were times when I could see Jeffery, but I never completely caught him. I’d catch him a little bit on the uphills and fall away on the downhills. I had to stop and use the restroom one time and that put me probably about a minute behind him coming down the Weaverton Cliffs and into the 15.5-mile aid station. But Jeffery stopped to change his shoes at the aid station, so when I crossed the mat they told me I was in first. Of course, I didn’t know why I was in first until later on when Jeffery caught back up to me and told me he had stopped to change his shoes.
So anyway, I hit the towpath and was just cruising along trying to be really consistent. I figured 7:30 pace on the trail section and 6:36 pace on the towpath plus the road section would put me right under course record. I wanted to be really consistent on the tow path section because last year when Wardian came by me, I dropped a 6:12 mile with him, which was really great, we were moving, but I think it came back and kind of bit me in the end. So my focus was to be really consistent and try to run mid-6:30s and that’s what I did. Eventually, Jeffery came back by me and I just let him go at that point and then around mile 27, Wardian comes hauling up, just motoring, and I can’t remember exactly what he said, something encouraging me to come with him, “Let’s go, let’s do this,” and I said, “No, I’m good, I want to be consistent, I don’t want to get caught up in it.” It was even earlier than he caught me last year on the towpath so I chilled out.
iRF: Was he flying at that point?
Riddle: Yeah, I think he was doing probably 6:10s or better at that point. I think you know what he averaged on the towpath, but he was absolutely moving. He caught me, passed me, and put 4 minutes on me in 10 miles.
iRF: Did you know he had a 4-minute lead on you at mile 34?
Riddle: Yeah, at one point people were telling me 3.5 minutes or 4 minutes so I was pretty sure, but honestly, at that point, I didn’t care. I was completely focused on running my race. But yeah, people would tell me he’s about 3.5-4 minutes ahead of me so I knew he had a pretty big lead at that point.
iRF: So at that point you were sticking with your plan?
Riddle: Yeah, I was sticking to my plan but mile 35-40 was that mentally tough section that everyone that’s pushing themselves hits at some point in most races when you’re just like, man, this is the hard part, this is where I just want to quit. But I’m sitting there telling myself, “I’m second place in this race. I’m still running really good splits consistently. I’m still on course record pace. I just need to keep moving; I just need to roll. Don’t worry about Wardian, he’s in a league of his own. Just do your thing and keep moving.” So I did that. I just kept moving and kept rolling.
I got to the next aid station and someone said 3 minutes and you look better than Michael. I said, “Oh, that’s interesting, it’s still a long way and I’m not feeling exactly great.” So I just focused on getting to the road section. I got to the road section and I can’t remember exactly how far back I was but someone said maybe 2.5 minutes. So I started thinking, started doing some math, considering the possibilities at that point. I still had to get onto the road and feel good and get up that hill coming off the towpath. That hill is mighty tough at that point but the strangest thing is that road, after running so long on the tow path, actually seemed to refresh my legs a little bit.
So, I hit the road, made the climb and started trying to get in a rhythm on the road section, and I guess that somebody in a car (it’s so foggy at this point), maybe Andy Mason, starts telling me I’m looking better, I’m moving, I’m closing the gap. After a couple miles on the road, I was moving really, really well. I start seeing the line of cars backed up from the lead cop car and [race director] Spinnler’s lead vehicle. I could see that on the horizon well before I could see him. I knew what those cars were there for but I was back there by my lonesome just grinding out on this road. But that was definitely a mental boost to see that he was just right up there and that he was coming back because he did have four minutes on me and that’s not four minutes right there.
At that point I got the fire. I switched gears. I got out of that mental survival mode and started to get into race mode where I was “let’s see what I’ve got, let’s see if I can go catch him.” I started pushing, eased the pace down a little more and kept closing. I’m getting closer to the line of cars that are backed up behind him and this lady pulls up next to me and she’s blaring “Sweet Home Alabama” out of the car window. That’s my home state. Before I moved to Cincinnati a year and a half ago I’d lived in Alabama my whole life. So I about lost it there, pretty emotional point in the race and she’s playing that music next to me, but it was a little boost there. I just kept closing and at the 6-mile-to-go aid station I could see Wardian as we made a turn.
I kept pushing, closing fast, running really good splits, sub-6:20s on the Garmin. That’s motivating in itself when it snowballs in a good direction it really helps mentally and physically. I caught him at 4.5 miles to go and I tried to say something encouraging to him. I wanted to make a race of it, but I have so much respect for him and his abilities, I knew if I wanted to win I needed to put him away as quickly as I could. I needed to stay on my rhythm. So I passed him quickly and decisively. I made a strong move and just kept going. I probably didn’t pick up the pace a whole lot, but I knew the type of runner and racer Michael Wardian is that if he had it in his legs to run the pace I was running, he’d be doing it. But I just don’t think he was able to for whatever reason. The blistering pace he put on the towpath maybe was just too much.
It was a great feeling after I got by him I said, “Alright, it’s your race to lose now.” When I went into the race, I was thinking it was Michael Wardian’s race to lose, but when I passed him it was now my race to lose. I just couldn’t cramp, I couldn’t tie up. So, of course, my calf started cramping, and then little twinges. I realized I’d probably been ignoring my nutrition trying to catch him and pass him, so I really focused on draining my bottle, getting my electrolytes back in my body. I took a salt tab and backed off the pace just a little to collect myself and said, “You just keep moving and don’t let those cramps take over and you’ll be alright.” That’s what I did. I looked back a couple times and he faded back and wasn’t there. I just enjoyed it.
iRF: When were you thinking about the record during the race? You had the splits so that’s what you were shooting for. You came off the AT about 3 minutes off Clifton’s pace? How did you compare?
Riddle: I didn’t know delta’s off of Clifton’s time. I knew what average pace per mile I needed to be at on my Garmin and that is what I was keying off of. My Garmin said I was averaging 6:50 pace when I came off the tow path and I knew, even considering my Garmin’s inaccuracy, that I was under course record pace as long as I continued to run 6:50s. So that’s what’s I was keying off of. I knew when I left the tow path I was on pace, so I just needed to continue on the road section at that pace.
iRF: So what are your thoughts setting that record? It was 17 years old. No one else had broken 5:50. In your mind, how substantial was that? What does it mean?
Riddle: I don’t know. I’m still in a state of disbelief. It’s really surreal. It wasn’t really my dream to win the race and set the course record. I thought I could set the course record, but I didn’t think I would win the race. I thought Michael would win the race. I don’t really understand how I ran that fast or why I was able to and so many other people haven’t been able to. There have been some really great marathoners a lot faster than me that haven’t been able to do that and there have been some really great ultrarunners who haven’t been able to do that. I don’t understand what it is about my talents and my gifts that allowed me to run that fast. But I feel like I was able to run quickly on the trail section without tiring myself out and was very consistent pace on the towpath. Definitely having Wardian to chase down on the road section and having my momentum going in the positive direction was huge. I maybe gained 30 seconds per mile on the road section because I was racing Wardian at that point. But I don’t know, I’m still kind of in shock. I don’t know what to think of it.
iRF: You said you had problems with your nutrition last year. What did you change this year? What worked?
Riddle: I was much more patient this year. There is a pretty big spread in between where they want handlers to be, something like 12-mile stretches between where my dad who was crewing for me was supposed to be. Last year we set up the plan and there were two 12-mile stretches there. We didn’t find out until really late this year that Spinnler gave us an official race vehicle tag and said my dad could go anywhere he wanted but that was the morning of the race. We already had the plan set so we just stuck to the plan at that point.
Last year, I was basically relying on my dad for all my nutrition and just blasting through all the aid stations. This year, I stopped and walked through a lot of the aid stations and took Coke, which I hadn’t been doing before. I used the Gu Brew electrolyte mix, that’s what I get from my dad. I really, of late, have struggled to get down the gels. It’s not my stomach, it’s just I have started to gag on them and just can’t get them down. So I switched over to Coke. So between the Gu Brew in my bottle and walking through the intermediate aid stations between when I got my new bottle, salt tabs 1-2 every hour, that’s basically what did it for me. I did take a couple gels earlier in the race when I wasn’t having any problems and when it became more trouble to get down than it was worth I said forget it. But it was really my patience this year. From the ultras I’ve done, I realized that stopping, catching your breath a little bit, walking through an aid stations, while you lose a little time in that mile in the long run it really pays dividends towards the end.
iRF: So are there any keys to your training? This is a phenomenal performance. What enabled that in the months leading up to the race? What are the key factors in your training for this?
Riddle: Years of consistency. That’s my big strength. I just turned 30 years old a few months back and I’ve run competitively since the 7th grade. I wasn’t a standout in high school, I wasn’t a superstar in college. I only ran 2:26 in the marathon post college, but I have never quit running. I’ve never stopped training consistently. I thankfully haven’t had injury issues up to this point. But my progression up to this point has also been very, very gradual. It’s the combination of consistent mileage and track workouts once per week. I think that’s very important if you want to run 6:49 pace for 50 miles it’s got to feel pretty easy to run 6 flat pace.
I try to do trail tempo runs once I’m in trail season. But then I qualified for the US 100K team and until September I spent all that time running on the road this summer doing back-to-back long runs of 20-25 miles at 6:30 pace. I don’t have great access to trails here in Cincinnati. It’s really not a great trail running place; I don’t have mountains like Boulder or anything like that. I don’t do a lot of training on the trails. I seem to be able to handle technical trails pretty well naturally. I do try to get on them a little bit and get some ups and downs. For a race like JFK you really have to have some speed to get through that flat section. That’s why I picked it last year. With my road running background and marathons I felt like it would be a good race for me, better than one of the really hilly or technical 50 milers to choose from.
iRF: So what’s next for you?
Riddle: That’s a tough question. I kind of have to recalibrate and refocus to decide what I want to do. It was such a big accomplishment for me personally I want to reevaluate where I want to go from here. The 100k World Championships in Italy are in April nexy year, and even though I DNFed last year, I think I have a good chance of being on the team again. I’m not sure that a road 100k is exactly my strength, but it’s still an amazing opportunity to run in an amazing venue with some amazing athletes and I don’t know that I can pass that up. I’d like to get a little redemption at that race.
iRF: Yeah, if you could get Wardian, Henshaw, and the other guys back together, there’s nothing preventing you from getting another team gold which is pretty exciting!
Riddle: Yeah, that’s a solid group of guys and I’d like to be a part of that again, I think. I guess I’ve got to decide about this Montrail Ultra Cup Western States spot if I’m into that. I’m definitely thinking about it. I haven’t made up my mind yet. I’m not underestimating the difference in the JFK 50 to Western States 100. That’s not just double the distance, that’s like triple the distance based on time and pace. I’m really having to think am I strong enough mentally and physically to handle my low point which was mile 35-40 at JFK and do that for 20 miles or more at Western States. And I don’t have access to mountains here either and I know it’s not the most climbing of any 100 mile but it’s still a lot and something that I couldn’t train for very well right here. But it’s a really tough call to make. Some people have suggested I should pick another easier 100 miler to test out and build my confidence, but then again, it’s so hard to get into Western that it’s almost like I should just do it and shoot for top 10. I’ve proven time and time again it’s really hard to run well your first time in any race until you figure it out. Mountain Mist this year, my second attempt at Sylamore, and now JFK were all second time running and course records on all of them this year. I think the first time running a 100 will definitely be a learning experience. I’m not sure it really suits my abilities right now. I’ve really never run slower than about 8 minute pace and I’m going to have to figure out how.
iRF: Those are some very wise perspectives you have. You’re not taking it with some blind confidence. That’s the right way. Whether you run it or not you’ll go into it with the right attitude.
Riddle: I feel like I’ve accomplished what I needed to accomplish. I don’t know what more I have to prove. Maybe I did take into account what people were saying more than I should have. The whole thing with Killian [Jornet] backing off and getting away from it a little bit to get back what he loved, I completely understand the pressure. There seems to be the pressure now to run a lot of events if you want to be respected. I’m not sure it’s really good for the athletes personally. I’m not a Michael Wardian in that I’m not the type of guy to race every weekend. I like to pick a couple big focus races and really do them well. So, yes, I was tempted to try to get into North Face 50 miler on the West Coast that I’ve not been in. I feel like there’s a lot of attention out on the West Coast and I just want to say, “Hey look, guys, I can run with these guys, I can!” and prove this. But I think after this I need to be smart. I’ve proven I can run with these guys, so I need to call it a season rather than trying to force something at The North Face and come up disappointed. I want to be in this sport for a long time. I don’t want to have a couple really good years and blow everyone off the charts then kind of struggle. I want to do this for awhile.
iRF: Perhaps it’s a temptation, not just pressure to run more events. They’re competitive guys. They see their friends at races. It’s hard to say no.
Riddle: It’s fun. It’s fun to see all the guys. The ultra running community is so tight knit but so spread out. It’s awfully tempting to want to go and do these events. But when you’re running at the level that the top guys in ultra running are doing, I think it takes a lot out of our bodies and I think we need be careful to take our time to train right, recover correctly, rebuild if we want to do this for awhile. It’s just my opinion.
[Thanks, Kristin Zosel, for the transcription help!]
Cassie Scallon: Definitely. It was totally unexpected, I wasn’t planning on doing that, so pretty cool.
iRF: You’ve run a dozen or so ultras but none really suggested that you’d run the third fastest time in JFK history. What were your goals and expectations heading into the race?
Scallon: Well, I didn’t even know if I wanted to run it. The past couple of weeks I hadn’t been feeling really good and every time I went out to run it felt like I had cement legs. I talked to my boyfriend Sean Meissner a few times and I just told him I didn’t wanna run it and he was like “OK, fine then don’t.” So, I didn’t know if I was going to, but if I was going to run I wanted to run under 7 hours.
iRF: You headed out with Meghan Arbogast for the first 3.5 miles or so before you pulled away when you hit the trails. What were you thinking as you ran away from her? Did you have a race plan?
Scallon: I didn’t run away from her. She forgot her water bottle at the start, so I knew she was going to stop at the aid station and I just figured she’d catch right back up. We went on the trail for a short bit and I just ran across the trail. On the other side I kind of slowed up a little bit thinking she was going to catch back up because we were talking about music and different things. I usually run with music and she doesn’t, but I wanted someone I could at least talk to while was running so I was thinking she’d come back and she just never did.
iRF: You ran the rest of the race alone in the women’s lead. How did the rest of your race play out? Did you have any high or low points along the way?
Scallon: Definitely not much for high points and none of it felt very good. The Appalachian Trail was definitely the best part for me. I really liked how technical it was and I was passing a lot of people there. It was really pretty. Getting down onto the towpath it felt really good. It felt good to start moving on there, but then it got to be so long. I only talked to one person the entire time on there. It was pretty funny, I came up to the guy and we started talking. I asked him where he was from and he said “Flagstaff.” I asked, “What do you think about that area? I was thinking about moving to St. George.” He responded, “The guy right ahead of us just said the same thing” Sean was right ahead of him, so I took off and caught him. That was just a funny little coincidence. I guess I talked to Shawn I guess for a little bit, too. He was not very talkative.
iRF: What were you thinking as you passed Sean? I’m guessing you weren’t expecting that?
Scallon: I wasn’t expecting it all, no. I came up on him slowly in case all the sudden he took off when I got next to him, I’d have energy to go with him for a little bit, but he was in no mood for that. He said to go on without him and I responded, “I don’t know if I can, I kind of want to walk right now.”
iRF: During the race were you aware at all what the course record was and sort of how close to it you were at that pace?
Scallon: I had no idea how close I was to pace; I had no idea what pace I was running at all. I did know the course record. Sean mentioned it the night before, but that wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I wasn’t thinking about running like that.
iRF: You ended up two minutes off that the course record, 6:31 to 6:29. What do you think about your performance? Is there anything that ranks close to it in your running career?
Scallon: No, absolutely not. I’m just starting to realize how important that was for me, because I wasn’t even really thinking about doing this race. This whole idea is kind of new for me. It is pretty spectacular, but it wasn’t something I was thinking about a lot and I don’t know how seriously to take that.
iRF: This was your first time at JFK. Is there anything you’d do differently if your were to run JFK again?
Scallon: I would definitely wear different clothes. I would wear my Race Ready shorts. Sean gave me all kinds of crap about them and he goes and wears little tiny stars and stripes shorts and looked pretty ridiculous in those. When I was ready to put on my Race Readies that I’m used to wearing so I have somewhere to keep all my gels and he said “Really, you’re wearing those?” so I didn’t. I wore tights instead, but I couldn’t carry anything in those. I was keeping the gels in my bra instead and that didn’t work out well.
iRF: What’s up next for you?
Scallon: There’s a traditional fun run in Wisconsin the week after New Year’s that I’d like to do, but nothing that I was planning on racing.
iRF: You did earn the chance to run Western States with your win, but you’ve never run a 100 miles before. Is that something you would consider next June?
Scallon: Yes it was something I would consider. It was a goal of mine to run 100 miles next year. I didn’t know which one. This might help make the decision.
[Thanks, Kodi Kutler, for the transcription help!]
iRunFar: You went for it this weekend with the goal of running in the low 5:30s. Do you felt like you ran fast enough through the Appalachian Trail (AT) section? What kind of pace were you running early on the tow path? Were you able to keep it throughout the marathon-length tow path section?
Michael Wardian: I definitely felt like I ran the AT fast enough. I was off between 1:57-2:00 and that is right where I thought I should be. I was running 5:50-6:00/mile early on the tow path. I should have been able to hold that and I didn’t and that was why I let David back in the race. My pace slowed and, even still, I felt ok, but I should have been able to lock in a faster pace.
iRF: David Riddle outran you by 5 minutes or so in the final 8.4 mile road stretch. Was that more a matter of David having an incredible finish or did you have troubles in the final miles?
Wardian: David ran incredible. He actually put most of that time into me on 2 miles section. I think I out ran him by a couple seconds over the final 1.5 miles. but it was not enough. He was too strong. I am really happy for him; he earned it.
iRF: As much as you dislike getting beat, are you excited to know that the American men might have a runner of caliber David has now shown himself to be on the US team at the 100k World Champions next April?
Wardian: I knew that David was a great competitor and I knew he was really disappointed by how he did at 100k Worlds but he came back strong yesterday and I can’t wait to race in Italy next April, think it is going to be very hard for any of the other teams to compete with us. We have incredible depth and experience.
iRF: Speaking of teams, you were the ace on Team America, which also included Jake Reed, Andy Henshaw, Sean Meissner, and Matt Woods, that set a new JFK 50 mile team record. What roll did you have in putting the team together? You seem drawn to team competitions, what’s behind that?
Wardian: I think everyone on Team America was an ace. It was a stacked team and I was just honored to be a part of it. I definitely had a roll, but it was pretty organic in its origin. I was looking at the course record on the JFK website and then I saw the team record. I thought, well, I know that a bunch of guys like Andy and Matt were going to be running, so I asked them to race with me as we did so well at 100K worlds. I even asked David Riddle, but he had already committed to Fleet Feet, so then Matt Woods, asked Jake and Sean. It was pretty cool to meet those guys. Also, it was great of Mike Spinnler to allow us to race as a team and for always supporting USA athletes.
iRF: Back to your own race, you ended up running 5:43:24 to break Eric Clifton’s old course record by three minutes, which is an incredible run. For most people, we’d ask how that performance ranks against the rest of your career… but, given the year you’ve had, how does you run at JFK fall in among your other runs this year? Does it have you excited about your fitness heading into The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile championships in two weeks?
Wardian: Thank you so much about the races this year. I have been working hard, so it is rewarding to keep putting up solid results. JFK is a special race for me as it was my first ultra ever and Eric Clifton has always been something of an ultra God to me, so to break his record and to run for Mike Spinnler and the rest of the staff of JFK was incredibly special.
I am very excited to race the The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships in two (2) weeks. The North Face Endurance Challenge is definitely a focus race for me and I have been working hard to be in the mix to win it, so we will see. That is what is all about lining up and seeing what you can do on that day against the competition, course and yourself.
iRunFar: You might be having your best ultrarunning season to date. Given you’d already run a 6:56 at JFK two years ago, what were your goals going into last weekend’s race? What was your plan for meeting those goals?
Meghan Arbogast: My goal was to break the course record. I felt very fit and that it would be doable. In 2009 I bonked terribly and had a slog from mile 42 to the finish.
iRF: Although Cassie Scallon pulled away from you once you hit the trail section 3.5 miles in, you were never more than a few minutes behind. Did you stick to your race plan through the run or did you make attempts to go after her?
Arbogast: I kept to my plan of staying in control, staying focused, and keeping the calories going in. I wanted to have a strong finish, so I certainly had ebb and flow going throughout the day. I certainly thought about Cassie. She out ran me on the trail, very nimbly on the rocks. I didn’t do great in there – not bad, but not great. Once I hit the tow path I was told she was 3:40 ahead. Having looked at her results in other races, I really expected she would eventually come back to me, but the further I went the great the spread. It wasn’t until about mile 35 or so (?) that I started to reel her back in a little. Once I hit the road (the last 8 miles) I was able to run very strong, and gain on her a little, but not enough.
iRF: As has become routine this year, at JFK you shattered age group records, beat all the 50+ dudes, and so on and so forth. How do such accomplishments fit into your running?
Arbogast: I don’t think the accomplishments motivate me. They satisfy me as long as I tried my hardest and didn’t leave my brain at home. I pay attention to them in that they are raising the bar for my age group, and I think that is a good thing. I hope they motivate other 50+ runners, male and female, to stick to their goals, take care of their bodies, and don’t succumb to the mind set that they will slow down just because of the year they were born in. Yes, we will all slow down, but no reason to expect it comes with a specific number.
iRF: How do you think your run at JFK compares to your other performances this year?
Arbogast: This was one of my best – probably second to WS. I never really had any down moments that affected my performance. It was really hard, don’t get me wrong, but I kept the calories and hydration up – something I didn’t accomplish well at World 100k.
iRF: You’ve got your fourth consecutive Olympic Trials marathon coming up in a couple weeks. What have you been focusing on in your training? Do you think it helped your JFK?
Arbogast: I just started back up with the marathon training shortly after Twin Cities Marathon. All of my speed work has been geared toward that. I do speed work all year, so yeah, it helped, but not as much as eating and drinking enough.
iRF: Regarding this weekend’s run, you’ve said that your nutrition was better this year than in 2009. How so?
Arbogast: I just got so far behind in 2009 that I bonked badly. I have not bonked like that before, so I was really looking for a better performance based on that alone.