Mike Wardian, 2014 Squamish 50/50 Champion, Interview

Mike Wardian, where do we start? First we start with the ridiculous weekend he just had in winning the 2014 Squamish 50/50, a mini-stage race of 50 miles this past Saturday and 31 miles on Sunday. With his amazing ability to recover, Mike started with a strong day on Saturday, finishing ninth, and then he ran more aggressively to finish as the third male on Sunday. In the following all-over-the-place typical Mike Wardian interview, we talk about everything under the sun, from how his two races in Squamish went, to his personal recovery program, to some of his favorite places to eat, and to his next race in two weeks, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. You’ll want to watch this!

Be sure to check out our results article for the full story on the Squamish 50 Mile and 50k.

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Mike Wardian, 2014 Squamish 50/50 Champion, Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Michael Wardian. He’s the winner of the first ever Squamish 50 Mile/50k. I don’t know, what do we call it—the 50/50 or the 50/50 stage race?

Michael Wardian: I think it’s just the 50/50.

iRunFar: Just the 50/50.

Wardian: I feel like a stage race has to be a little longer maybe.

iRunFar: We need one more day to call it a stage race?

Wardian: Yeah, I think so. Probably.

iRunFar: How are you doing?

Wardian: Great. Yeah, awesome.

iRunFar: Yeah?

Wardian: Yeah, I couldn’t be better.

iRunFar: Do you need another 30 miles tomorrow?

Wardian: I would love that. Do you have something in mind?

iRunFar: Well, let’s see… where shall we send you?

Wardian: Yeah, no, yeah, I’m really excited. It worked out really well. I felt a lot more comfortable today than I did yesterday and ran, I feel like, a little bit better. That bodes well as I’ve got a big race in UTMB coming up.

iRunFar: You’ve got something coming up in a couple weeks, don’t you?

Wardian: Yes. So, I’ve got to go run it, but I don’t get to go home and sleep and eat. I guess I can sleep, but they don’t stop the clock.

iRunFar: You don’t want to sleep. You want to try not to sleep.

Wardian: No, I do not want to sleep.

iRunFar: If there’s sleeping occurring, it’s like a Hal Koerner march or something.

Wardian: Yeah. I just want to make it around.

iRunFar: Let’s talk about this race first. You just ran 80-some-odd miles on the trails around Squamish.

Wardian: 81, yeah.

iRunFar: 81.

Wardian: Point something.

iRunFar: I’m sure you know exactly down to the decimal.

Wardian: No, I’m not that dialed.

iRunFar: You said at the finish line that you were really stoked on this trail system here. Talk about your experiences here.

Wardian: It’s fantastic. It’s some of the most incredible trails. It’s a really big mountain-bike area, I guess here. They have some crazy steep jumps and stuff in there.

iRunFar: Did you drop any?

Wardian: Well, you can’t help it but go off on some. You’re elevated and then it’s just this bridge of split logs, but then they just put these jumps in the middle. Yesterday, I was like, That looks weird.

iRunFar: That looks weird.

Wardian: You come up to it and you’re like, I don’t know… what do I do? And then you get to the top and you’re like, Okay, it probably just levels out and goes down. No. It just goes like that. So it’s like this [makes steep mountain shape with arms]. So today I kind of knew what to expect. Then it also has kind of like some edges so that you can kind of flow pretty well. So, yeah, it was nice to be able to get that. Then the trees are just massive. It’s really steep in sections, so it was nice to know what I was getting myself into.

iRunFar: Yeah, for viewers at home, just to be clear, the 50k course today ran on basically (with a couple changes) the last 30 miles of yesterday’s course.

Wardian: Yes.

iRunFar: So it was pretty much the same terrain with maybe a couple of changes.

Wardian: Yeah. It was rad today because you’re fresh-ish.

iRunFar: “Fresh-ish.”

Wardian: Yeah, so I felt pretty fresh. So all the parts that seemed really hard yesterday were like, That’s not so hard! So I’m just really happy about that. I was able to run basically everything today and descended a lot better, so it worked out to be really cool. It’s all really runnable which means that it’s all really runnable so there’s no excuse to walk. But it’s long climbs. So yeah, I was really happy with how it went. Just really great.

iRunFar: Yesterday you said you were a little bowled out by the terrain. I think you finished eighth yesterday, is that right?

Wardian: I think it was eighth or ninth. I feel like it might have been ninth.

iRunFar: Eighth or ninth and you said there was a little bit of crab walking on a couple of the downhills because you took things a little tentative.

Wardian: Crab walking, ginger stepping, and… every time there was a sign that said ‘Caution’ I was waiting and looking around.

iRunFar: What’s going to happen?!

Wardian: Is there going to be a booby trap or something?

iRunFar: ‘Caution! You’re about to die!’

Wardian: Yeah. Today, I knew that not all of those required extreme prejudice.

iRunFar: As much caution as you used yesterday?

Wardian: Yes. And I just knew… some of the things, too, you run up to it and it looks like you can just keep running, but it’s actually a five-foot drop. So I knew what those looked like, so I was like, Okay, there’s a five-foot drop, so I’ve got to look and see. Can I jump on the edges?

iRunFar: Bank on the sides.

Wardian: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I was watching guys yesterday. You saw on that one climb I moved all the way up into fifth or sixth?

iRunFar: Way up on the climb.

Wardian: Yeah, me and this other guy just powered up, but then as soon as it descended, those guys were like…

iRunFar: Bye-bye.

Wardian: Yeah. It was not even close. Today I did a lot better.

iRunFar: Today when I saw you out there, you just looked like you had more of a sort of aggressive persona. You were just in a different zone than yesterday. Did you feel that way, too?

Wardian: Yeah. I did. I really wanted to win the 50/50, and I knew I had some work to do. I really thought I was going to be the first guy. I don’t know why. I was just, Oh, I’m totally winning this, and there were two guys ahead of me. So I was like, I’m going to bring the pain today. So I tried to run as hard as I could and it worked out. I think maybe the guy had a five-minute lead on me and I put some time in him.

iRunFar: Yeah, five-and-a-half minutes.

Wardian: Yeah, which I was surprised about. That was pretty good. Then Mike had a couple minutes or maybe a minute-and-a-half or something.

iRunFar: Mike Versteeg?

Wardian: Yeah. So good runners. I was just like, I’m going to make them really work today. I was really determined to try to win that. I just treated it like I was doing the 50k. I wanted to be in the top 10 in that. I was able to keep moving up through the course of the day. I think I might have ended up third man and then fourth overall.

iRunFar: You were third man and fourth overall.

Wardian: First guy chicked!

iRunFar: First dude chicked.

Wardian: Yeah.

iRunFar: Yeah, but if you’re going to get chicked by somebody, Ellie Greenwood is the person that I wouldn’t mind being chicked by.

Wardian: She is good. She is good.

iRunFar: But here’s the real question. If you didn’t have 50 miles on your legs…

Wardian: Would she still have chicked me? Dude, she might have, man, especially if I hadn’t run the trails. She definitely, I think, would have chicked me.

iRunFar: Got it.

Wardian: But since I had run the trails yesterday, I don’t know, I think I would have done maybe a little bit better, but who knows? Maybe not, though, because maybe I wouldn’t have been in my head like you could run all that. So, yeah, I don’t know.

iRunFar: I want to ask you about the way you recover because you’re one of the most prolific racers in our sport—all distances, all speeds, all terrain, anytime, day, night, ocean, mountain, road… I don’t know… you’ve done a Spartan race… like, everything.

Wardian: Open-water swim, man. Three miles.

iRunFar: Yeah. Open-water swim.

Wardian: And I ran a 5k in the morning and won and then I ran a five mile the next day and got second.

iRunFar: Of course you did. So, is it over time you’ve just gained the ability to recover so quickly? Is it a natural tendency that your body has and you can bounce back? Or what are the specific steps you do to recover at the end of a day like yesterday?

Wardian: I try to get in quite a bit of calories, whatever my body is craving. I’m going to plug some sponsors, but I use some Vitargo which is nice calories coming back in. Then 110% Compression…

iRunFar: Did you use that yesterday—you put on the compression and the ice?

Wardian: I didn’t do the ice, but I just did the compression. Sometimes it’s hard to travel with the ice especially into Canada, man. They’re hard core at the border.

iRunFar: Ice is not allowed here?

Wardian: Yeah. So I did just the compression, and it works great. Then I got some tasty food and just kind of loaded up on stuff at the farmers market. I know everyone is annoyed, but I keep eating a bunch of blackberries as antioxidants. Then I just try to keep moving. Yesterday I was moving around quite a bit. Yeah, I just kind of treat each race as its own thing and I try to not let because I did something the day before affect what I’m going to do the next day. I think a lot of people when things start going maybe not as well as they want, they start saying, “Oh, well I did…”

iRunFar: “…Such and such yesterday.”

Wardian: Yeah.

[Unsuspecting passers-by photo/video/audio bomb]

iRunFar: My last question for you is, you are headed to the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc which is in two week’s time. It will be over in two week’s time hopefully.

Wardian: Yeah, hopefully for me. If it’s not over by then, come get me. Please.

iRunFar: Please come pick me up.

Wardian: Please come get me and bring cheese.

iRunFar: Bring cheese. This is sort of a bucket-list race for a lot of Americans to go and run around Mont Blanc. What are you looking forward to about this race?

Wardian: Everything.

iRunFar: Everything but the salami and the prosciutto and the meat products at the aid stations?

Wardian: I’m looking forward to that just to see it. I’m not going to eat it. I’m looking forward to all of it. Everybody that I’ve ever known that’s gone just gushes about it. I want to see what it’s all about. It’s one of these races that is… it has a legendary status right now, just a cult status. I also just want to share the trails with 3,000 like-minded people. I’m a little worried that I’m going to be just standing on the side watching people bomb right by me. I just want to make it around the mountain. I’m hoping for good weather. I want to see the little old man with the trays in the middle of the night, the cowbells, and see you guys out there.

iRunFar: The local village people out there with their genepi, partying while the scene goes by. People drinking their wine and offering you wine.

Wardian: Yes. Yes. I want all that.

iRunFar: You want a cow blocking the trail.

Wardian: Yes. I want those views where you’re on the ridge and it’s just mountain all around. Yeah, and I want to suffer like everybody else at points and want to quit and hopefully be able to rally and…

iRunFar: Rally and bring it in?

Wardian: Yeah. I want the whole experience and not just that but I want the part before with the kids’ race and…

iRunFar: Your whole family is coming out?

Wardian: No, I wish. No.

iRunFar: But you’re going to watch the kids’ race?

Wardian: Oh of course, yeah! Yeah, it’s the week before school, so Jennifer doesn’t want to come. The boys are gung ho, but she’s not excited about it. I think maybe I’ll go and get a lay of the land and then hopefully maybe next year we can do it if it works out.

iRunFar: Awesome.

Wardian: Yeah, it’s a scene. I want to see what it’s all about. I’ve heard about it for years. I’ve been signed up for it a couple times to go and never made it. So I want to do it.

iRunFar: This is your year.

Wardian: Yeah.

iRunFar: Injury-free. Support from sponsors.

Wardian: Yeah. I’ve got great support and I’m healthy and motivated. Yeah, I think it will be great.

iRunFar: Well, we look forward to seeing you make that loop around the mountain in two week’s time. In the meantime, congrats on your 50/50 here at the Squamish Trail Festival.

Wardian: Yes. Thank you very much. It was really cool, and it’s cool to get third male today.

iRunFar: Yeah, super sweet. Third male in the 50k. Fourth overall. Chicked by Ellie Greenwood. No big deal. NBD.

Wardian: No, she showed me how it’s done.

iRunFar: She showed you how it’s done.

Wardian: I should have run faster.

iRunFar: I think the next time I’ll be seeing you is probably rolling around in fondue in Chamonix in just a couple weeks.

Wardian: If that’s what’s done there. I heard they do not do takeout coffee.

iRunFar: You must sit and have your espresso.

Wardian: I guess so. I might even have espresso. I don’t even drink espresso.

iRunFar: Don’t ever ask for a big cup of coffee.

Wardian: Is it frowned on? What other things should I know?

iRunFar: Sit and drink your espresso. If you want a lot of volume, you have to ask for an Americano. In Italy, I don’t know all the rules, but there are rules about what time of day you can drink different kinds of coffee.

Wardian: So you can’t order cappuccino…

iRunFar: Yeah, it’s night time, I think.

Wardian: Or you can’t order it before 3 p.m, or something like that.

iRunFar: Something like that. So no cappuccinos for breakfast.

Wardian: Yeah, it’s going to be great. I want to know all that stuff. Yeah. I’m looking forward to the little old French lady whooping my butt on some of those climbs.

iRunFar: She might.

Wardian: Yeah, and I think I might even play with some poles and stuff.

iRunFar: Awesome. Look forward to it. Congrats again.

Wardian: Yeah, thank you very much. This is one of those races that if the people out there are thinking of trying to make a bucket-list race, this is another one that they should consider. It’s pretty epic up here.

iRunFar: Yeah, Squamish is a pretty special place—not just about the trails either. It’s about the whole scene.

Wardian: Yeah. You’ve got the bay and the mountains. It’s the adventure capital of Canada.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor, the author of ‘Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,’ and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world’s wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

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