Fellow Brits Ian Sharman and Nick Clark have raced one another quite a few times the past few years. This summer, they’re facing off four times at each of the races in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. Sharman took Western States. Clarkie took Vermont. Next up, a two-mile-high battle royale at the Leadville 100. In the following interview, Nick and Ian talk a lot about running as well as a little smack. Enjoy!
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Nick Clark and Ian Sharman Pre-2013 Leadville 100 Interview Transcript
iRF: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ian Sharman and Nick Clark before the Leadville 100. How are you guys doing?
Ian Sharman and Nick Clark: Good. Good.
iRF: I’d say you’ve had a busy summer, but you two race all the darn time anyway.
Sharman: It’s less busy than normal. I’ve only been doing one race per month, and I’m doing nothing in between. It feels like I’m kind of lounging around a lot.
iRF: When you did the Western States and Hardrock double, was that a two-week year?
Clark: Thirteen days. 13 days—baker’s dozen.
iRF: You have even more time this year.
Clark: I know. Four weeks is luxurious.
Sharman: It must feel easier when it’s something like Leadville after it rather than Hardrock.
Clark: A nice easy race like Leadville.
iRF: Ask him that coming down Hope Pass the second time.
Sharman: I will when I pass him on Hope Pass or something, yeah, I’ll ask him.
iRF: Passing on Hope Pass—on the climb or the descent and inbound versus outbound?
Sharman: Who knows? Who knows at this point?
iRF: You guys are taking part in the Grand Slam officially (Sharman) and unofficially (Clark), right?
Sharman and Clark: Yes.
iRF: You had a pretty good race at Western States, Ian?
Sharman: Yeah, that started off nicely, but we’ve been pretty close in both the races so far. I think it’s going to go all down to Wasatch. I think in this one there’s not going to be a huge difference probably, although Nick might want to beat me by two hours, but I think it’s going to be Wasatch because that’s the one you can make the biggest mistakes and it’s the hardest and the most time out there. So I think that’s the one that counts the most.
iRF: Do you agree with that, Clarkie?
Clark: Yeah, obviously Wasatch is the course which takes the longest. It’s a 20-hour course—19, 20, 21-hour course versus 14, 15, 16 hours at the other three. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.
iRF: So 16—are you thinking sub-16 or 16-and-change?
Clark: For tomorrow? Oh geesh, no, it’s whatever the clock says at the finish. You just want to run a sensible race. On fresh legs, I’d like to think that 16-something would be doable, but that would have been my time last year on the regular-length course. We’ll see—maybe 16-something for me and 18-something for Ian.
Sharman: [Laughs] I think it’s really difficult to tell because at the moment, my legs feel great, I’m sure. But they felt like that before Vermont and weren’t. Three weeks recovery wasn’t much there. Four weeks is better, but now we’ve done two 100 milers already. I’m thinking it’s probably going to feel great for 30 miles and then who knows after that.
iRF: Even for you guys, you’re the top of the top and you’re super strong and you do race a lot. But even for you guys there is a cumulative effect across the 100s?
Sharman: Well, we’ll find out. There certainly was at Vermont, but I’ve heard that a lot of the Grand Slammers get stronger through the four races. So I’m hoping that’s the case, because I don’t want to have as bad a day as at Vermont. That wasn’t fun.
iRF: What happened at Vermont? Western States was hot for everyone, you suffer, and you made it through. Vermont—walk us through that.
Sharman: It was pretty hot as well. It was hot and humid; it had been raining a lot in the few weeks before. I think it was more—I think Nick said the same when we talked—the legs being more tired than we expected, not having the kind of speed we’d expect, not being able to run as well as we wanted to run. The times weren’t bad. We were both just under 16 hours, but it was just feeling a lot worse than it should have for that kind of run.
Clark: Yeah, mile 30 felt like mile 70 at Western States. It didn’t deteriorate too badly from there, but it was just a grind from mile 30.
Sharman: A greater amount of pain than normal.
Clark: I think it’s going to be a little better tomorrow. That extra week definitely helps. We shall see.
iRF: You guys both seem like pretty fierce competitors, no matter what the race. We could probably have a beer mile right here and you’d both throw down.
Sharman: He’d destroy me in that.
iRF: Well, that’s true, but going into the Grand Slam, do you guys meter out the effort over the races, or do you just on the day go for it and deal with the consequences?
Sharman: You’ve got to go for it. That’s what we’ve done the first two. I don’t think if you hold back a bit that it’s going to make a difference in terms of your recovery being better for the next one. I think you race four races.
Clark: For sure.
Sharman: You may be a little more conservative in how you approach it, but you still give it your all.
iRF: So what would that difference in your approach be? Would it be going out hard?
Sharman: I never tend to go out hard anyway. I like to evenly pace it. It just means I’m trying to allow for a bit more deterioration than normal.
Clark: Yeah, last year at Leadville things got off to a pretty quick start. I think we were 3:05 through the Fish Hatchery which is two or three minutes ahead of course record pace.
iRF: I don’t see you there that time this year?
Clark: There were a few eager beavers last year. I think Tony (Krupicka) was the one who was pushing the pace, and I think he’d agree with me on that. So I expect it to be a much more mellow pace this year, hopefully. Certainly if it is like last year, I’d expect myself to hang back a bit and just try to be a bit more sensible about the pacing. I think the two races prior to this help you to be more sensible about the pacing.
iRF: Up at the front of the race this year at Leadville, obviously you guys are coming in with a little more tired legs so people are thinking about (Scott) Jurek, (Mike) Aish, and (Ryan) Sandes going up to the front. What do you think that race looks like?
Sharman: They’ll go out harder than us, I’m sure.
Clark: Yeah, they’ll beat each other up, and Ian and I will cruise by going around the lake the last 10 miles.
Sharman: We’ll pick them off later. I like that.
Clark: And it will be Ian and I battling it out for gold.
Sharman: I like that.
Clark: We’ll put two Brits on the podium and we’ll let them scrap it out for third.
iRF: Which of those three are you going to pass first?
Sharman: I think personally that Mike Aish and Scott Jurek are going out so much for the win maybe that it might be a first or last.
Clark: No, Mike just wants to get a finish. He learned his lesson last year.
Sharman: I have no idea really.
Clark: Ryan Sandes always seems to pace himself quite well. So like I said, I don’t expect the pace to be too furious off the front this year, just because you’ve got a lot of wise heads in there this year. Scott’s been doing this for years. Ryan is a pretty wise customer when it comes to running these things. So maybe it will be Mike off the front. Who knows?
Sharman: Or it could end up being someone who ends up not even being anywhere near. There are 1,000 people running. There’s bound to be some people who go out really hard for a half marathon at least.
iRF: Ian, you’ve not run this race before. You’re going to be going down the boulevard and five miles in there are going to be 50 people ahead of you. Does that happen at Comrades? Do other people do that?
Sharman: Comrades, I’d be in 300th place for 10 to 20k but know that some of those guys aren’t even aiming at finishing because there are spot prizes anyway for different points on the course. Mainly though, some of them go off and do a 30-minute 10k. There’s nothing I can do about that anyway even if I wanted to. I start off running going, Okay, this is the pace I want to be running. Why is everyone else zooming past me? You do your own race. After you get some finishes where it works like that, you just ignore people that zoom off.
iRF: So far in the Grand Slam, it’s been a little counterintuitive because, Nick, you’ve had some really good Western States the past couple years, and Ian, you took that one. A lot of people probably would have picked Ian for the top spot at Vermont.
Sharman: I think this works in my favor because also you would have said Leadville and Wasatch in his favor.
iRF:No, Leadville, I’d actually… I mean, Clark’s a little more altitude acclimated, but…
Clark: Leadville’s a toss-up, eh?
Sharman: Wasatch should be his because he’s the mountain guy and I’m the sea-level guy. So I think that means I’ll win Wasatch.
Clark: [Laughs] Maybe you win Wasatch but I win the Grand Slam because I beat you so handily tomorrow.
Sharman: Maybe that’s how it plays out again, I don’t know. I like this kind of talk.
iRF: So do I.
Sharman: Especially because I can show you this video after.
Clark: I’m prefacing it all with maybes and hypotheticals.
Sharman: To be honest, my first priority is to make sure that I don’t not finish. There are two hard races left. I’ve never done this many 100s close together. Even if things go horribly wrong, I’m finishing races unless I break my leg. But after that, then it’s the competitive side of things. In Vermont, I was starting to think, Is this going to really go downhill? Am I going to be walking it in for 30 miles? Luckily it didn’t end up like that.
iRF: Did you do anything to sort of save yourself or did it just come around?
Sharman: I just focused on eating and taking it a little bit easier when I needed to. It’s not so much that it came around but it’s like in a lot of 100s where you get to that point where it just doesn’t get any worse. You realize you can still keep moving at a decent pace and so you do. It doesn’t feel nice, but you can keep moving anyway.
iRF: So that’s like mile two for you, Clark?
Clark: Well, like I said earlier, that was pretty much mile 30 for me at Vermont where you just keep grinding away and get it done.
Sharman: I don’t mind grinding the last 30. It’s when you have to grind the last 70. That’s a long way.
Clark: Yeah. Mile 40 at Leadville—it gets tough at the top of Hope, especially you coming out from sea level.
Sharman: Yeah, well, I’ve been doing some hiking high up. I went over Handies at 14,000 and felt pretty good actually at that kind of altitude, but then I feel worse when I come down and do a job at 9,000 or 10,000. It doesn’t make sense.
iRF: That’s because you’re actually running.
Sharman: Running downhill at that altitude definitely feels fine, but the uphill is definitely more of a challenge.
iRF: So speaking of uphill. Neither of you guys are using the poles?
Clark: I’m toying with the idea.
iRF: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Nick Clark with wizard sticks?
Clark: Wizard sticks? Yeah, a little bit of wizardry. My pacer is going to carry them out of Winfield. I’ll give them a go. I really haven’t used them that much in training, so I’ll give them a go going up the steep side of Hope. If they feel good, I’ll keep using them. If not, then it’s muling allowed, so I’ll just ditch them to Scott who is going to be pacing me over Hope.
iRF: Who is going to be pacing you?
Clark: He’s a friend from Ft. Collins, Scott Slusher. He paced me last year over Hope and we had a great time. He did 10 miles last year and he did such a great job that I upgraded him to 20 miles this year.
iRF: Sharman, who do you have in your corner?
Sharman: I’ve got Sean Meissner who did the beer mile very well yesterday.
iRF: Looking promising?
Sharman: Hopefully he’ll have a day to recover from that so we’ll be okay. And Meredith Terranova—she and her husband paced me at Rocky Raccoon and at one of my Western States as well. They’re very experienced pacers.
iRF: So I’ve asked this question of a bunch of the people this week. It’s sort of a mixed course—you’ve got paved running, dirt road, singletrack, steep downhill. What kind of shoes are you guys suiting up with on Saturday?
Clark: We’ll I’m going with the Pearl Izumi Trail N2’s. It’s a super cushy shoe. It’s the perfect 100-mile shoe. It does well on the roads. It’s not a hybrid shoe, but it kind of feels like it just the way it runs on the roads. Then I might actually switch out to the M2’s just to get a little bit extra medial support at Twin Lakes (mile 60) as my form starts to break down a little bit.
Sharman: I’ll have the Scott Kinabalu T2’s, the same as I had at the other races. They feel really good. You can kind of run over anything and they’re nice and light and flexible. I know this isn’t a particularly technical course, but it’s just long, and I like having a little bit of cushioning in there. It has good grip as well.
Clark: N2, M2, and the T2.
iRF: Race 3.
Clark: Race 3.
iRF: Alright, guys. Good luck out there and have fun.
Clark: Thanks, Bryon.
Sharman: Will try to.
iRF: One quick bonus question for you guys—tea or coffee. It’s early this morning.
Clark: Coffee, coffee, coffee.