Nick Clark and Ian Sharman Post-2013 Wasatch 100 Interview
Nick Clark and Ian Sharman both had incredible summers with top placings at the Western States and Vermont 100s before the duo alternated taking the top two spots at the Leadville 100 (won by Sharman) and Wasatch 100 (won by Clark). At the end of the summer, Sharman had a lowered the record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning by nearly five hours. In the following extensive interview, the duo go on about their runs at Wasatch and their incredible summers.
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Nick Clark and Ian Sharman Post-2013 Wasatch 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Ian Sharman [center] and Nick Clark [left] after the 2013 Wasatch Front 100. You guys have had a long summer.
Ian Sharman: Yeah. Ten weeks and I’ve just completely destroyed my body. I’m glad it’s over. I’m very, very glad it’s over.
iRF: So, you [Clark] ended your 10-week stint before he did.
Nick Clark: I did, yeah, like what was it 40 minutes or something?
iRF: About that.
Sharman: About that.
Clark: So I held the record for the four races that make up the Grand Slam for 40 minutes. So that was cool. No, I was very excited to come back to Wasatch and win. That definitely made it all worthwhile.
iRF: It is your second win here.
Clark: Yeah, my second win, yeah.
iRF: It was really cool to see you guys—you know, you’ve placed well all summer at Western States, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch. You all had good runs at each of them. But these last two, you guys have gone one, two…
Sharman: And then switch around…
iRF: And then switched around. You [Sharman] won Leadville; you [Clark] won Wasatch.
Clark: I think by around the same margin as well.
Sharman: Exactly the same margin—to the minute.
iRF: Would you guys have predicted that to happen?
Sharman: I’d have predicted that he’d beat me here.
iRF: But in terms of overall this summer, like you guys coming to win the last two races?
Sharman: Not Leadville. You don’t do two 100s and then turn up to a race with at least two or three fast guys and beat them. But we both ran really well there. We both had good days and didn’t feel as bad as we did in the previous one of the month. So we were able to knock out a good time.
Clark: Yeah, I think the fields obviously at Leadville and Wasatch were not as deep as Western States. Vermont probably falls into that category, too. But yeah, it’s interesting as you go through the summer series, you get stronger, and yeah, we both had good runs.
Sharman: There were definitely elements today where I felt like I’d gotten stronger at certain things. Definitely the climbing, for example, even powerhiking. The first 5,000-foot climb, I felt like the other three races had all helped. Then a bit after that, they also didn’t help because they made me tired.
iRF: What aspects do you [Clark] think you got stronger with over the summer?
Clark: Well, my legs, actually.
Sharman: My legs didn’t feel bad on the downhill, even 26,000 feet of it.
Clark: My legs were good all day today. Going up—I didn’t have much power going uphill, but going downhill I was great. I think the mental game gets… you know, you just become accustomed to hurting and knowing that eventually it’s going to be over if you keep going forward. So I think on the mental side of things, definitely, you get stronger as the series goes on.
Sharman: Stronger, but not necessarily enjoying the pain. I’m not the kind of person who embraces the pain and that kind of thing.
Sharman: I knew that in these races, it was going to get tough. Western States in the last 20 miles always feels like hell, but I had no idea what it would feel like to do the other three so close. Vermont felt really bad for 70 miles. Leadville was pretty good. This one felt pretty bad at several points?
iRF: What degraded over the series? What aspects of your running?
Clark: I think I lost a bit of fitness actually.
Clark: Because and basically you’re racing 100 miles and then recovering.
Sharman: And not really doing much training.
Clark: You don’t really gain any fitness in racing 100 miles. You just break even…
Sharman: I think you get a little bit of endurance and maybe a little bit of extra leg strength uphill and downhill.
Clark: Yeah, maybe I’ll give you that, but in terms of your speed, it disappears. Basically you train for Western States and your fitness kind of deteriorates over the summer because you’re not training.
Sharman: You’re just coasting.
Clark: You’re just recovering.
Sharman: So I made sure I did a lot of marathon training before Western so I’d have enough speed so as it faded I wouldn’t be too slow. But particularly with the altitude in the last two, I really felt it in this one where I didn’t really in Leadville partly because there’s not that much climbing there and it’s over much, much sooner.
iRF: Yeah, you spend a lot more time… you’re high all the time at Leadville, but here you’ll have a big climb and the hardest part is definitely…
Sharman: Also it just keeps going up and down and up and down. I keep thinking, Okay, the next aid station is 2,000 feet below. Okay, it’s four miles and that’s 500 feet per mile. But it’s not; it does this [makes up/down motions] the whole way. It’s just several steep uphills and downhills.
Clark: It’s one of the hardest last 25 miles in all of ultrarunning.
Sharman: It’s evil.
iRF: You’ve [Clark] run the last 25 before. How different were the changes? Does it make it any easier?
Clark: So they changed it from Pot Bottom which basically is the last…
iRF: So you have the Irv’s Torture Chamber still?
Clark: Oh yeah, you do the Dive and the Plunge and all that bit.
iRF: That stays in… so you say that one last climb… out of Pot Bottom…
Clark: Well, yeah there’s still a little climb…
Sharman: It’s a little bit easier at the end from what I understand, is it? Some gentle downhill?
Clark: The descent is easier because it’s on a nice groomed road as opposed to a trail. I think it’s about 10 minutes quicker maybe if I had to put a number on it. Yeah, so they cut one of the aid stations. There’s a 10-mile stretch from mile 83 to 93, basically. That’s just a brutal stretch of trail. The trail is atrocious. It’s littered with dust and marble-sized rocks, really steep descents, really steep climbs.
Sharman: And very technical. They’re all just water drainages with a path that wide kind of thing that has a v-shape and dusty and rocky. I fell over so many times. I like my descents, but on that I was dizzy and just tripping over myself the whole time. I thought it was really weird. I had a really bad section through there, but clearly Nick did, too, because we had about the same splits for that. I thought he’d have knocked 20 minutes out of me there.
iRF: You stayed pretty clean from falling a bunch.
Sharman: On my bum. Not on my top. It was more my feet sliding out from under me because it was scree.
iRF: Pretty loose. Pretty chewed up by the ATVers out there.
Sharman: They couldn’t go on that. It’s steep and v-shaped.
Clark: No, it’s dirt bikers. They go up the hill there and just like horses, they cut the trail to pieces.
Sharman: It wasn’t any fun to do especially when you’ve already done so much in the race to that point. And your legs don’t want to do it, and your feet don’t want to do it. The last few miles are all gentle downhill and felt really good—not nearly as many rocks. But those bits, I just had to walk bits of it and trip over. That’s why I felt like I was going so slowly, but clearly Nick had the same issues.
iRF: Clark, you took a good fall.
Clark: I took many good falls. But I did take one particularly impressive fall. I think there were maybe two or three mud holes on the whole course and I found one of them and superman-ed, like literally in a mud race where you dive through the mud. I was covered in mud head to foot. So I had that all drying on me and all sorts of stuff because it was a hot day and windy. I was coated in mud, but it was a good sun-tan lotion. I wasn’t getting burned.
Sharman: I bet it was.
Clark: So at every aid station I was dousing and trying to get all the mud off and grit out of my shorts and got there eventually. Yeah, it was a pretty good fall.
iRF: What are the highlights on the day here? Any good spots?
Sharman: There were some bits of cruising early on that felt nice and you could actually take in the view while you didn’t feel bad. Later on, actually around 60 miles, I was able to take in some sights. These are very pretty hills. But most of it, particularly because in my case you have six hours in the dark and Nick had 5.5 or five or something. That means you don’t get to see much in the end. It’s just a very narrow beam of light.
Clark: The end is actually quite scenic. Have you run that?
iRF: Never during the day; racing, not pacing.
Clark: Oh, okay.
iRF: Yeah, I hear it’s nice as well.
Sharman: It’s very pretty, but I couldn’t enjoy it most of the time. I was suffering.
iRF: Suffering too much. So any advice for people doing the Grand Slam?
Sharman: I’d say the main thing is to be prepared to really grit it out? You can’t go into any of them with anything but the certainty that you’ll finish even if you have to get there at the end of the cut-off. Because if you think, Oh, it’s a bit tough and my legs are sore; maybe I won’t finish, you won’t finish and that’s the end of the Grand Slam. You’ve got to be certain you’re going to finish every single one no matter bad it gets.
iRF: So, total investment in each race.
Sharman: Exactly. It’s being fully prepared to take on a lot of hell basically and not quit at that point… four times. Many times I was saying to my pacers, “Why on earth am I doing this? This is not fun right now.”
Clark: The good thing about Wasatch, though, when you get to that point of, This is ridiculous. Why am I doing this? like you do in every single 100 that you ever did…
Sharman: More here at least with that last section…
Clark: At least with Wasatch it’s, Oh well, shoot, when I cross that finish line, I’m done. No more 100s this year. Maybe no more 100s next year.
Sharman: No more ultras for me this year. Maybe some marathons.
iRF: There are still a few spots in Run Rabbit Run.
Sharman: Yeah, we’ve got a whole week before that. Why not?
Clark: I’m captaining the mile 70 aid station, so I’m already spoken for for Run Rabbit Run.
iRF: You’re going to be a couple time zones away…
Sharman: I’m definitely not doing that. I’m having a well-earned rest now. That kept me pushing. If I keep pushing and feel like I’ve given it my all, I can rest easily for months afterwards. If Nick beats me in this race or overall, then he’s done an amazing run and that’s great for him.
Clark: If I’d have gotten my goal today, I’d have smoked you. I was thinking that low-19 gets the job done, but…
Sharman: You must have been around nine [hours] at the halfway?
Clark: Yeah, I can’t even remember what I was at halfway, but I went for it early and then I started, not falling apart, but just slowing down.
Sharman: Yeah, not quite being on 100% of your game which is what we’d expect at this point.
Clark: Yeah. Right.
iRF: At what point for each of you during the series, was there any point where you had literally going through your mind, I’m not going to finish?
Sharman: No, because the cutoffs are long enough that even if it gets really tough half way, you can walk it in. You know, at the speeds we were doing, we could easily walk it in. I was prepared to do that. Here I was prepared to do 36 hours. The idea terrifies me, but if it’s the difference between not finishing the Grand Slam and finishing it, I was going to do that. And if that meant he won by 16 hours, great for him, but I was not going to be a DNF in the Grand Slam.
iRF: No moments for you, Nick, where you were really on the precipice?
Clark: No, like I was saying, you always kind of question your sanity when you do these things, all you’ve got to do is tell yourself, “Right, well, I’ve got to run another 40 miles and that’s going to suck, and it’s going to take however long 40 miles takes at the end of a race—nine hours or something…”
Sharman: When you start doing numbers in your head… even the last 6.2 miles I was thinking, It’s a downhill 6.2 miles, and if my legs were fresh it would be so quick. And I was wondering if I could do it in 75 minutes—downhill, gentle downhill.
iRF: So can you imagine, try to wrap your head around this, there are people out there that literally could be taking 50 or 60 hours longer to do the Grand Slam.
Sharman: That’s a lot of extra pain, I would say. While I was running along I was thinking, This is really tough for me doing 21 hours. I can’t imagine, if you’re going slower than that, surely you must be suffering to some degree otherwise you’d push harder. I can’t imagine it’s fun to do 30 to 36 hours on that.
Clark: If you’re hiking…
Sharman: It’s got to hurt still. It’s a long time.
Clark: …70-75% of the course, and there’s a lot of social activity that goes on in the middle and the back of the pack. Sometimes I kind of wish that…
Sharman: I’ve got a lot of respect for it. I couldn’t do it… well, I was prepared to do it, but I would have hated it.
Clark: Yeah, but I mean, racing 100 miles hurts like hell, but…
Sharman: Yes, but do you think you can jog one that doesn’t?
Clark: I would love to go out and not race a 100 and just kind of spend time with the middle of the pack and just socialize and take it easy…
Sharman: But then you’d be out for so much longer and you’d have sleep deprivation.
Clark: But it would be fun…
Sharman: I agree for 50 miles or 50k or maybe 100k. I’m not sure for 100 miles I could ever just go easier and it would be easier. At the end, the main thing driving me on is the harder I push, the sooner I finish, and therefore the easier it is.
iRF: What was it like… either of you could have gone to try to run these four races this summer, but you’re both there together. There’s a bunch of other people doing the Slam, but you guys were sort of racing for it. What component did that have in this summer?
Sharman: Well, we had conversations before I entered and he thought entering, and we definitely thought it would be even more fun. It was almost going to be Karl Meltzer and Neal Gorman, the record holder. That would have been really cool to have four guys with a genuine chance of breaking the record. It was still very cool to have two, and we did. Nick knocked 4.5 hours off and I knocked five. It made it exciting for us, although more exciting in hindsight and not necessarily on the day. On the day, you just want it over. You want it to go well, but you want it over.
Clark: It’s been a fun summer, and…
Sharman: It will give me memories for years, even though there’s a lot of negative memories that will disappear of the pain and stuff.
Clark: You’ll just remember the glory.
Clark: Obviously we ran a very similar pace and we’re pretty stubborn and managed to get the job done.
Sharman: I think ‘stubborn’ is one of the key things for it. If he’s ahead of me and I’m ahead of him, it’s not to go, Oh, the Grand Slam’s over. I’ve lost this race. It’s, Maybe I’ll catch him at the end. I knew that no matter how bad of day he had, he’d still be pushing and maybe that’s an hour slower than he thought. Like you said, you had a bad day and you’re maybe 1.5 hours slower than you thought. That’s his bad day. It’s not 10 hours later like it would be for a lot of people. I think that’s one of the reasons it worked well that my bad day was also not too far off my good day. So Vermont, we both had bad days, but we were still third and fourth.
iRF: Do you guys have any desire to do this…?
Sharman: Anything? No. no. I’ll stop on a high.
iRF: You’re retired?
Clark: Desire to do the Grand Slam again, is that what you’re saying?
iRF: Or to do the ‘Last Great Race’ or to take another step?
Sharman: That was enough for me.
Clark: Oh, like… uh… brain fart… just finished 100 miles… like Paul Terranova who did the Kona?
iRF: Grand Slam plus Kona.
Clark: No. I’m done for the year.
Sharman: This was a big effort, and I knew it would be. It completely drained me. It’s not so much the physical—that kind of gets better three our four weeks later. It’s just the effort. I wasn’t looking forward to this because I knew it was going to be so tough and that I’d be pushing myself and it wouldn’t be fun for a large portion of it. So because of that, I wasn’t really looking forward to this or Leadville after how bad I felt at Vermont.
iRF: Did either of you find out anything new about you like a new strength?
Sharman: I think we both found out how stubborn we are—more than I thought. It was really cool to have the challenge. In between the races and the banter, we had fun. During the races as well, we had large portions where we ran together—not here as he took the lead from three miles and went. But the other three we had a bit of back and forth. He was ahead of me at all of them at some point and ended up ahead in Vermont. It was fun to run with him in the early miles when we actually felt good and could chat.
Clark: It was a cool series. Ian and I both—four races and we both won, too—we both got a win and we ended up pretty close at the end of the day after 400 miles and uh…
Sharman: It’s pretty ridiculous that we went 70 hours and half an hour separating us.
Clark: It will definitely be a summer to remember. It will be an enduring memory and that will be the big takeaway from this summer. Like you say, you’ll forget about the pain and all that in a couple of days…
Sharman: Yeah, the pain you completely forget after a couple of days.
Sharman: Leadville, the next day, “That didn’t hurt.” Of course it did. The next day you’ve forgotten about it.
Clark: Yeah, Leadville hurt. That was definitely my most hurtful of the four.
Sharman: The other thing we both learned is we both puke because we’d never done that before. He did it both the last two and I did it this one. It shows I think we were trying quite hard.
iRF: Anything set it off for you today?
Sharman: I think it was the effort level, to be honest.
Clark: There’s definitely an effort level later in the 100-mile race where if you cross a red line with your stomach, it’s like, “Yeah… no,” and…
Sharman: And this is a lot more hours for that to happen in. At about… I think 17:26 was my longest 100 miler to this point, so after that I’m going, Yep, this is new territory and it does not feel good.
iRF: So did you wait until after 17:26 to puke for the first time?
Sharman: It was after then, yes.
iRF: Obviously you are both running each of the four races, but throughout the effort, you’ve had your family behind you and you’ve had pacers and crew. How important is that?
Sharman: The support helps. It’s a huge one. I think particularly both of us would say our wives, I’m sure. I was away for half the summer. She wasn’t particularly happy about that. At least with the Leadville win and the Grand Slam working out well, I think Amy’s happy. –Ish. She’d probably rather I stayed home all summer.
iRF: You are flying home in six or seven hours?
Sharman: Ten hours. Nine hours. That was because I don’t really think about prize-giving ceremonies and stuff. If I thought I could sleep in my own bed tomorrow, or should I say today, that’s preferable for me. It’s not too far to get from Salt Lake City to the Bay area.
iRF: Maybe Nick can pick up your trophy for you.
Sharman: He can. I was actually going to suggest that you drive it back from Leadville—you could have driven that huge thing back with you to Colorado, and then when you come out to Western States next year, you could give it to me. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? You could just drive out the mantle piece?
Clark: Yeah, well I always do drive out to Western, so… I don’t think I’ll be picking up your Grand Slam trophy. I will enjoy the awards for the Wasatch 100, but I will keep a very low profile for the awards that come after the main race.
Sharman: That was another incentive for me. If it was over 30 hours, I’d have to rebook my flight. So I was thinking if I finished…
iRF: Did you have your phone with you to do that?
Sharman: No, I’d have to buy a new flight. I felt like if it took me more than 30 hours, my wife would be more worried about that than me buying a new flight.
iRF: Nick, it was a bit revealing a minute ago that you weren’t just talking about not racing this year, but not running a 100 next year. Is that somewhat serious? It was in the moment obviously, but is it something that’s crossed your mind before today?
Clark: I guess I do like running 100s or there’s something about them that keeps me coming back. I’ve run a whole bunch now. I’ll be 40 next year and…
Sharman: Masters records.
Clark: Well, I’m thinking about maybe doing some marathon training and running and maybe trying to post a fast time in the masters category there. And I…
Sharman: We both started the same year at Western States, 2010, so we both have four in a row. I was kind of liking that thing we had going every year where he generally beats me.
Clark: There’s probably a pretty good chance I’ll toe the line at Western next year, but outside of that, I think I’ll maybe just do some more of that kind of adventure type stuff—not races, but just getting out doing some cool stuff in the mountains. It’s been a very busy summer with all the racing this year. Of course, I’ve got two kids and a wife and I think they’d appreciate it if I didn’t race quite so much.
iRF: Maybe tag all the 10,000-foot peaks in your county or what’s your…?
Clark: All the ranked peaks—the definition of a ranked peak being 300 feet or more above the saddle. Yes, so I’ve got 155 still to go. I have 100. I’ll do some of those with my son or with my daughter. She’ll be three, so maybe she’ll be up for a bit of that. So that’s a fun project. That’s the next two months off. I’m not going to do any running, but I am going to do some peak bagging. That typically is a lot of bushwhacking. It’s hiking.
iRF: Did you do that as a kid growing up in the UK? It just seems like something typically in the fells…
Clark: No, I grew up in…
Sharman: In Cheltenham? Not many hills…
Clark: I grew up in Kent.
iRF: It’s a pretty small country relatively speaking.
Clark: We have rolling hills, but not really… Hey, we’ve got another finisher.
Sharman: Third place.
Clark: Yeah, third place. But no real peaks. You have to go up north to get the good peaks in England… or to Wales.
iRF: And you, Ian, do you have any… obviously you’re not racing this year, but… things in store?
Clark: I’m not doing any more ultras this year, but I do want to do some half marathons and marathons. Then next year, have a flatter year—Rocky Raccoon, Spartathlon, stuff like that.
iRF: Push the speed?
Clark: Comrades, again. Yeah, just trying to get quicker. I feel like, at the moment, I’m really missing so much speed because there’s just been so much slower running and hiking and stuff. Just before Leadville, I tried to run one mile fast, and I’m not even going to tell you my time. It was very embarrassing. It was quite a lot slower than my marathon pace. That’s one mile. So, that didn’t exactly feel very good for me. I’d like to see if I can get quicker and get my marathon time down.
iRF: Congratulations to both of you on a great summer. Congrats on your win [Clark].
Clark: Ian, congratulations on your win. It’s been a fun summer, and…
Sharman: And on your win today.
Sharman: Your win today.
Clark: Oh yeah, thank you. You know what we should do–we should do one of those stage races because we’re obviously very similar in ability.
Sharman: I think we’d be good at that. That would be fun.
iRF: I think you guys should do that, too.
Sharman: He’s not doing any races anymore.
iRF: Oh, that’s right.
Clark: Well, if it’s local.
iRF: You guys would make a pretty good team.
Clark: We could probably swing that, and the kids could camp for a week.
Sharman: At some point maybe, yeah.
iRF: One bonus question for you guys. Something you’ve learned about the other over the course of this summer?
Clark: Ian is a very, very consistent 100 miler.
Clark: Honestly, right? I didn’t really think I had a chance in taking 69 minutes out of him today. I was getting reports I think at some stage of 45 minutes…
Sharman: It went up to 40-something…
Clark: Darn, I might just do this. Then I slowed down and fell apart a bit.
Sharman: Very nice of you, thank you.
Clark: No, great runner. I’ve got a lot of respect for how consistent and…
Sharman: I think we had a lot of respect for each other through the whole thing. We’ve had a lot of banter obviously. It was just fun to have someone… we were so evenly matched over it. Nick was definitely better at really steep stuff like this, but not enough that it outweighed the other three as well. I thought that was kind of cool to have something that was very uncertain. Coming into this 69-minute lead I had, I wasn’t confident that was enough. One bad patch can lose that. He took 36 out of that. So it was pretty close. But we’re not doing that again. No way.