Even though Mike Wardian has something like 10 days of racing under his belt in 2014 already, the guy thrives off running hard and he’s rip-roaring ready for this weekend’s Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon. In the following interview, Mike tells us about his recent racing adventures, how he manages to train for mountain ultras in his urban home, and what he thinks of this weekend’s course and competition.
For more on who else is racing this weekend, read our preview article.
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Michael Wardian Pre-Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Michael Wardian before the 2014 Tarawera Ultramarathon. How are you doing?
Michael Wardian: I’m doing great, man. Thanks for having me.
iRunFar: It’s been a long time since we spoke on camera, but what have you been up to running-wise? Last year you had a lot of… at the beginning of last year, you were coming off a long bout of injuries. What have you been up to?
Wardian: Yeah, I had four months off with a bunch of stress fractures and some hernias, but I was able to race 41 times in 2013. I had some mixed results mostly good and everything moving in an upward progression. So I started off 2014 with the Dopey Challenge at Disney World. I won the inaugural Dopey Challenge which is the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon. I’d always wanted to do Goofy Challenge and this was the first year they had all four races that you could do; so that was cool. Then I had a really neat experience at The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica. It was their 10th anniversary, so they had a bunch of pretty amazing athletes come in and I was able to mix it up with those guys.
iRunFar: And win.
Wardian: And win—that was a nice benefit, but really it was cool just to get to experience Costa Rica and to have an early-season race with some good climbing and descending and being able to come out on top.
iRunFar: While a different situation than Marathon des Sables, do you think your stage-race experience multiple times helped out there?
Wardian: I think, yeah, having done stage races in the past was helpful. Some of the guys hadn’t; so I think it’s a different type of event. That one, you don’t have to carry, so it’s kind of nice. You just wake up and hammer every day and then you get to eat as much as you want; whereas at Marathon des Sables you just starve the rest of the time. That was really cool. Then I was able to do pretty well and win the Cowtown Ultramarathon in Fort Worth.
iRunFar: Was that a 50k?
Wardian: It was a 50k.
iRunFar: Time-wise, how did that go?
Wardian: Good. I ran 3:00:21 and broke a course record by 10 minutes. I think my next competitor was 30 minutes back. I had a good day. Two weeks ago I was second at the [USATF] 50k Road National Championships. Good lead up to this.
iRunFar: You’ve always been very strong on the flat races and nontechnical races. This year you said at The Coastal Challenge that you felt much more confident about your climbing and descending ability. How did you work toward that?
Wardian: Yeah, when you don’t do as well as you want, you work on those things. So I’ve been trying to make sure I get on more technical descending-type trails. We don’t have long ones in [Washington,] D.C., but whenever I can, I do that. I try to get on the treadmill and just crank that sucker up and powerhike and run. It was cool to be able to stay near the guys at The Coastal Challenge and to feel like I wasn’t out of my realm. I was there.
iRunFar: There were some very strong climbers and descenders—Nick Clark, Martin Gaffuri.
Wardian: And Philipp Reiter. I was lucky because Philipp is such a stud, and all the other guys, and I was able to just fall in and just be one of the group. That was kind of good for me. Even on the descending, Nicks a really strong descender and so is Philipp and I was kind of near them and not like… a doe or something. So it was cool.
iRunFar: It’s probably really encouraging for anyone out there who lives in a flattish big city or flat area of the country who wants to go run an ultramarathon or whatever their goal may be. You can prepare yourself even if you don’t live in the…
Wardian: Yeah… even if you’re a flatlander which is a lot of us. A lot of us don’t have the access that other people do, but if you want it and you’re willing to keep working at it… I’m not saying I’m dialed in yet, but I’m working on it.
iRunFar: This weekend at Tarawera, it’s even more your style.
Wardian: I hope so, yeah. We were able to get out on the course yesterday, and it’s unbelievable. It was hard not to just jump and say, ‘Okay, I’ll see you guys in three hours,’ because it was just… everywhere you look it’s jaw dropping. I’m happy I actually saw a little bit of the course beforehand so I’m not spending half the time with my head on a swivel trying to see everything and so I can really kind of focus. It looks like there’s some climbing but also some sections that hopefully will bode well to the things that I can be competitive with.
iRunFar: There’s a bunch of guys in the race that have had some success on trail ultras but have also done so on really fast and flatter ones—Vajin Armstrong is one at American River, Sage [Canaday] obviously has tons of speed as do the rest of the competitors.
iRunFar: Unlike some other ultramarathons, if it’s 30k to go it’s slightly downhill, there will be a lot of… guys still around.
Wardian: Yeah, I’m expecting to have some serious pain at that point and to know that there are going to be a lot of guys that might not be near you… or they may be in front of you… and there’s going to be a lot of back and forth and a lot of people attacking and a lot of people biding their time. It’s just going to be cool. I can’t wait to see what happens. There are so many guys who aren’t getting the love that other people are, but are still incredible athletes. I’m looking forward to getting to run with those guys, too.
iRunFar: So this race might be a little more strategic than a mountainous 100 miler?
Wardian: I think so. Yeah, I think there is definitely going to be some gamesmanship. It’s going to be interesting to see when people try to make moves and if anyone goes with them or if they kind of let them break away and then hope they come back. I know that last year Timothy [Olson] was almost catching Sage but he kind of ran out of real estate. It will be curious to see how it goes. The weather has been kind of off and on and it looks like it’s going to turn out to be a nice day, and that should be great for the race.
iRunFar: Best of luck out there. Good seeing you, Michael. Take care.
Wardian: Thanks a lot.