2014 IAU 100k World Championships Training Interviews With Jonas Buud, Steve Way, Giorgio Calcaterra, Max King, And Zach Miller

There are enough men with a sub-6:50 100k PRs on the entrants list for the 2014 IAU 100k World Championships to fill an auditorium. This world-championship race has not been run for over two-and-a-half years, due to changes and cancellations, but that hasn’t stopped many of the worlds best male road ultramarathoners from continuing to record blazing-fast times on the pavement. The 5k loop course in Doha, Qatar’s Aspire Zone sport complex, and the hot and humid weather in the region, does not promise to produce any world-record times this year, but these men will surely come prepared to run each of the 20 5k loops hard.

How did these competitors train for this 62-mile road race held in less-than-ideal conditions? Did they train exclusively on the road, pump out consecutive high-mileage weeks, race more often than usual, or simulate the race conditions in their training? Among the insanely huge talent pool that is the entrants list, we heard from five men who, though training in different places and coming from different backgrounds and specialties, are arguably top podium threats.

Read on to hear about training methods and details from the likes of multi-time IAU 100k European champion and Swedish 100k record holder, Jonas Buud; British 100k record holder, Steve Way; two-time defending IAU 100k world champion, Italian Giorgio Calcaterra; Ice Age Trail 50 Mile and JFK 50 Mile course-record holder who boasts a marathon PR of 2:14:36, American Max King; and U.S. Mountain Running Team member and Lake Sonoma 50 Mile course-record holder, Zach Miller.

Be sure to check out our preview of the entire men’s field.

Jonas Buud

iRunFar: You have previously won the IAU 100k European Championships. How will that experience help you at the world 100k this year?

Jonas Buud: I have run all 100k world championships [since] 2008; many of them were combined with the 100k European championships. Each race brings new lessons and experiences but I think I’ve found a strategy that works for me. I have tried some different race strategies but have found that focusing on my plan and sticking to it—more or less regardless of what else is happening in the race—yields the best result for me in the end. In many of my best races, I have been some way back in the beginning but been able to keep my pace and moved up during the latter parts of the race. So, I think that experience will help me not [get] too stressed, and [not deviate] from my race plan, if there is a pack running away in the beginning.

iRunFar: What has your year been long prior to the 100k world championships? How long has this race been a central focus in your training?

Buud: 2014 has been a long season. My first race goal of the year was Comrades Marathon in South Africa in early June. I have run it several times before and have had some good results there. They switch the direction of the route every year usually, and this year was a ‘down year.’ I suffered quite badly at my previous attempt at a ‘down year’ as I hadn’t recovered properly from the world 100k and, as such, did not perform as I had wanted to. So, Comrades was definitely my main focus in the early season. This meant a lot of road running and I did the Paris Marathon in April. [Author’s Note: Buud ran a 2:28:20, good for 24th place] Thankfully, the training paid off and I was able to secure a gold medal (given to the top 10) [at Comrades] once again. [Author’s Note: Buud finished seventh place in 5:38:17.]

After Comrades, it was time to switch the focus to the trails as I had Outrun the Sun later in June, Swiss Alpine Marathon in July, and UltraVasan (a 90k trail race) in August coming up. [Author’s note: Buud won the 79k Swiss Alpine Marathon for the eighth consecutive time, and won UltraVasan in a stellar time of 6:02:03.] I had run trails before, as well—I didn’t exclusively run on the road—but now it became the focus. From September, after UltraVasan, the training has been slightly more geared toward the world 100k but as I had Les Templiers—a tough trail race in France with quite a lot of elevation gain and, at times, gnarly terrain—to run in the end of October, I continued with mostly running trails. [Author’s Note: Buud finished 10th in 7:04:06.]

Jonas Buud - Outrun the Sun

Jonas Buud during the Outrun the Sun event. Photo: ASICS

After Les Templiers, the focus has been 100% on the world 100k, so I’ve been hitting the roads again with 50k being the longest distance run.

iRunFar: Did you run any races specifically for training purposes in preparation for the world 100k?

Buud: This year I haven’t done it. It usually depends a bit on when the world 100k is in the year and when it is announced.

But I ran well at UltraVasan at the end of August—finishing in just over six hours—so I felt then that I do have the necessary speed within me. This gave me confidence in my training even though I haven’t focused that much on road running in the latter part of the year.

iRunFar: Talk about your training in the second half of this year. What were some of your workouts like in preparation for worlds?

Buud: My training is quite simple; I don’t follow any training plan as such and the training looks more or less the same over the year. I basically only run distance sessions, mostly between 20k and 35k. If I have a race with a lot of elevation gain coming up, I also do hill sessions in a small ski slope (about 250 meters of elevation gain) nearby. I never do interval sessions (unless you count the hill sessions) or shorter tempo runs.

So, the sessions always look more or less the same but I vary between road and trails based on my focus race. Up until October and Les Templiers, I was almost exclusively running trails and since almost exclusively road. The pace of the distance sessions depends on the terrain: on the trails I run 4:20 to 4:50 minutes per kilometer while on the road the pace is between 4:00 and 4:30 minutes per kilometer.

iRunFar: What about the last month or two before this race—did you run any key workouts to sharpen your speed and endurance?

Buud: Not really. I have done some longer runs (about 50 kilometers) but otherwise haven’t really changed anything besides switching to the road from the trails. I don’t really have any key workouts; my focus is more to get a long, consistent period of good training. And I’ve found that my way of training works well for me.

iRunFar: What was your peak mileage in a week’s time in preparation for this race?

Buud: The last few weeks I have run about 160k (about 100 miles). I train about 100 miles per week quite often. When I’m in training camp or during the winter when I run more on the road and less in the terrain it becomes more miles, then it can be up to 150 miles per week. I think my training is quite good enough. I work six hours per day and have two kids—a four-year-old and a six-year-old—and a wife. The kids have their activities and my wife also likes to train. There is not much more time for training.

iRunFar: What are your goals on race day? How would your ideal race play out in terms of splits, finishing time, etc.?

Buud: As said earlier, having done quite a few 100k races, I have tried different race strategies and now found one that seems to yield the best result for me. The races where I have done best have always been the ones where I keep a relatively even pace throughout the race so that is what I’ll be aiming for this year as well. I’ll aim to start at 4:00 minutes/k pace (or slightly below it) and thus end up with a finishing time a bit less than 6 hours and 40 minutes. What that would mean in terms of placement remains to be seen, but it is a plan I feel comfortable with. But a lot can happen during a 100k race so we’ll see. I am looking forward to the race and can hopefully end my 2014 season on a high note.

Steve Way

iRunFar: You ran 6:19:19 for the 100k distance in the U.K. this year—super impressive! How did that race unfold, in terms of splits, how you felt, etc.?

Steve Way: The race itself for me turned into a time trial as from around 10k onwards I was running on my own. It was a 2k lap with around 50 feet of ascent each lap in the form of one small hill and one long drag of about 500 meters in length. I got into a good rhythm, though, and had my sights set on the British road 100k record from the start. [Author’s Note: The previous British 100k record was set by Simon Pride in 1999 at 6:24:05.] For the first 45 miles, I averaged a very even 6:00 per mile pace and then I started to slow a little. Once I passed the second marathon things got very tough and the last 10 miles were a real grind! I think my slowest mile was my last one, which was about 6:50. This brought my average pace for the whole run down to 6:06 but that was still good enough for the British record so I was absolutely ecstatic!

Steve Way - 100k British national record performance

Steve Way runs to a new 100k British national record. Photo: Chris Pitman

iRunFar: What has your year been like leading up to the world 100k? How long has this race been a central focus in your training?

Way: Originally my plan was to race the Seville Marathon in February of this year for a PR attempt and then put a three-month specific training plan in for the U.K. 100k champs. I decided not to do Seville in the end, as I didn’t think I was quite in PR shape and so after a week or two of lighter training, I got straight on with the U.K. 100k champs build up. I did a few shorter races along the way including a half and full marathon, a 50k, and some cross country, but they were all just training runs with no targets or taper.

One of my planned ‘training races’ was meant to be the London Marathon which was four weeks before the [British] 100k in April but around a week before London I realized that I was in marathon PR shape even though I had been focusing on 100k training so I made a last-minute decision to race London and did a one week taper for it. This went really well as I set a personal best with a Commonwealth Games qualifying time of 2:16:27.

Once I was done with the U.K. 100k champs in May, I then put together a 10-week training block specifically for the Commonwealth Games marathon where I managed another personal best time of 2:15:16, which was a new British masters marathon record (I turned 40 just two weeks before!), quickly followed a few weeks later with a second-place finish behind Jonas Buud in the UltraVasan 90k Swedish trail race. [Author’s Note: Way completed the 90k course in a strong time of 6:12:28.]

That was followed by two weeks downtime before heading into a 10-week block of training specifically for the world 100k.

iRunFar: Did you run any races specifically for training purposes in preparation for the world 100k?

Way: I’ve actually just been made redundant from my office job so while I’m taking a short career break I have taken advantage of having time during the week by doing all my long-run training on Wednesday and Thursday. This has given me the opportunity to race almost every weekend as my speedwork. I have run three half marathons, a 10-mile race, and some more cross country all as hard training runs. [Author’s Note: Way posted times of 1:09:43, 1:08:27, and 1:10:19 in the half marathons and ran 51:48 in a 10-mile race.]

iRunFar: Talk about your training in the second half of this year. Did you run any key workouts in training to prepare for this race?

Way: As mentioned above, almost all of my speedwork has been done as part of races. All of the half marathons ranged from 68 to 70 minutes… depending on how tired my legs were that week!

I have done a couple of back-to-back long runs with a marathon on the first day and then a 35-mile run on the second which have gone quite well. My two longest runs planned were a 40 and 50 miler. Unfortunately the 50 miler never happened as I was having a bad week but I have recently had a good 40-mile run in training finishing strong at the end at sub-six minute pace, which was a good confidence boost. You can see every little bit of detail relating to my build up on my blog. I’m very transparent with my training!

iRunFar: What about the last month or two before this race—did you run any key workouts to sharpen your speed and endurance?

Way: My last two races before the 100k were a 10-mile race and a six-mile cross country, so they are useful for getting the speed back into my legs. In the last few weeks before the race I have also been introducing some indoor heat training on a treadmill. A friend has a gym and was willing to turn the air conditioning off so I put my winter layers on and did some serious sweating, something I think I will be doing quite a lot of in Doha!

iRunFar: What was your peak mileage in a week’s time in preparation for this race?

Way: 137 miles. I hoped to have quite a few weeks at this sort of level but didn’t have as many as I’d hoped as I had to back off a couple of times in this build-up due to heavy fatigue levels. It’s been a tough year!

iRunFar: What are your goals on race day? How would your ideal race play out in terms of splits, finishing time, etc.?

Way: I have no time goals at all. Due to the conditions it is unlikely to be a fast race, so not much chance of a PR. I’m just looking forward to racing some of the best 100k runners in the world rather than being on a time trial which has been my previous experiences with the distance.

If my body is in the shape I want to be on race day and I’m feeling good, then I will be looking to be competing for the win. I know there will be quite a few others there with the same goal but I think I should have just as good as chance as anyone if it’s my day. This will mean reacting to the pace of others and just making some decisions on the day making sure I don’t go off at a pace that I know is suicidal!

Giorgio Calcaterra

iRunFar: What is your mindset as the defending 100k world champion, given that it’s been more than two-and-a-half years since the last world-championship race? Do you believe a victory is again possible?

Giorgio Calcaterra: I try to concentrate on running well. I’m aware that you are not able to win all the time, and I’m already satisfied to have won the last two editions of the [100k world championships]. I’m not sure if there will be more victories, but I know it will not be easy to get them, in any case.

Giorgio Calcaterra 2012 IAU 100k World Championships

Giorgio Calcaterra winning the 2012 IAU 100k World Championships. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

iRunFar: Tell me about your year leading up the 100k world championships. How long has the world 100k been a central focus in your training? Do you continue to race while you train for a big race like the world championships?

Calcaterra: I’ve been training carefully for the 100k distance since 2006. [Author’s Note: Calcaterra has finished the 100k world championship four previous times–in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012–having won three of those, in 2008, 2011, and 2012.] My preparation takes about three months and I continue to race during that three-month training window.

iRunFar: Did you run any races specifically for training purposes in preparation for the world 100k?

Calcaterra: Yes, I raced many times [this year]. [Author’s Note: For example, Calcaterra ran the Lucca Marathon in Italy on October 26th, finishing in 2:29:28, although that is well below his marathon PR of 2:13:14 set in 2000.]

iRunFar: How has your training changed, if at all, in the three months leading up to this race as compared to the rest of your year?

Calcaterra: I’ve tried to increase the miles per week since September, however often I was not able to [maintain as fast of a pace per mile during my runs once I began to run more mileage per week]. I haven’t run longer than four-and-a-half hours in preparing for this race.

iRunFar: Have you run any key, or important, workouts for final preparation in the last month leading up to the world 100k?

Calcaterra: Only the last long run of about four hours and a half.

iRunFar: What was your peak distance run, in kilometers, in a week’s time in preparation for this race? How many kilometers do you typically run in a week during training?

Calcaterra: My peak distance in training [for the world 100k] in a week was 220k, while during the year I often run 90 to 100k per week.

iRunFar: What are your goals on race day? What would your ideal race look like in terms of finishing time, splits, place?

Calcaterra: My goal is to run well. It will be hot, and I won’t run my ideal race in hot weather and I do not think that [I can] say a time but I’d like to stay under seven hours. However, I hope to be able to give my contribution to the Italian national team.

[Author’s Note: Considerable thanks to Jessica Birolini for her assistance with English-Italian translation, which made this interview possible.]

Max King

iRunFar: You have been racing distances from three miles to 100 miles this year, including obstacle races. Do you feel that variety in training and racing will prove helpful in Doha?

Max King: Ha, yes and no. I do think the different training and racing helps with strength late in a long race although nothing will replace some good ol’ fashioned road running. Some of the training I was doing for Western [States] helped me see the benefit of getting out for faster tempo long runs on the road so I’ve been incorporating some of those at race pace for the 100k. [Author’s Note: At Western States, King finished fourth, in his 100-mile debut, in 15:44:45, a finishing time just outside of the top-10, all-time fastest finishes since the race’s inception in 1974.]

Max King - Western States 100

Max King was fourth at the 2014 Western States 100. Photo: Matt Trappe

iRunFar: Did you run any races this year specifically to prepare for the world 100k? Or did you race less and focus on longer training blocks? How long has this race been a central focus in your training?

King: I’ve run fewer races this year than in past years because of Western. It took a lot of focus in the spring and I didn’t do much racing. After that it was tough to get my legs back under me and so didn’t race much the rest of the summer either. Since then I’ve been trying to get my legs back, get some good training in, and start racing again. I’ve had several races this fall but nothing too serious. This 100k has been the primary focus this fall with some other test races like the Hasetsune Cup. [Author’s Note: King finished eighth place in a time of seven hours and 55 minutes on this rugged 44-mile course with roughly 15,000 feet of climbing.] I also knew I wanted to do some obstacle racing this fall so I added some to the calendar. [Author’s Note: King dominated all 5k and 12 obstacles encompassing the Warrior Dash World Championship in October en route to victory.]

iRunFar: Did you run any races specifically for training purposes in preparation for the world 100k?

King: Nothing that would really prepare me for the 100k. Hasetsune was a 44 miler but almost the opposite end of the spectrum from a road 100k. It’s been mostly in training that I’ve done my specific road training and no specific races leading into this.

iRunFar: Talk about your training in the second half of this year. What sort of workouts did you run in training to prepare for this race?

King: My legs haven’t responded as well as I would have liked after the 100 miler and so I’ve been focusing on getting in good training and spacing workouts so that I can be a little more rested when I do the workouts. I was working on getting some of my speed back with faster intervals and tempo runs early this fall. I’ve continued to keep that in and added in long road runs at race pace to pound the legs and make sure they can take 60 miles of road during the race.

iRunFar: What about the last month or two before this race—did you run any key workouts to sharpen your speed and endurance?

King: I think the key workouts will be the long road runs at race pace. Two days ago I did a good sandwich workout that is one of my key workouts leading up to marathons: three by mile, six-mile tempo, three by mile. The mile repeats were on grass at 4:55 to 4:58 [per mile] pace, the six-mile tempo was on pavement at about 5:10 to 5:16 [per mile pace]. It was pretty windy but the temperature was good. We’ll see if things translate to a good 100k.

iRunFar: What was your peak mileage in a week’s time in preparation for this race?

King: Last week, I think I had about 110 miles. I’m usually at 90 to 100 miles per week. I can hit a number of weeks at 110 to 120 but if I’m working hard with a lot of intensity, it’s hard to sustain.

iRunFar: What are your goals on race day? How would your ideal race play out in terms of splits, finishing time, etc.?

King: Good question. I should do some research on that. Here’s what I know: I think the guys will go out pretty fast, faster than they should given their ultimate finishing time. But I think it will come down to who paces himself the best. It’s going to be warm but we’re on a 5k loop course so plenty of eating and hydration opportunities. Ideally, I hang with the lead pack for as long as possible and see what happens. There’s always an element of luck when it comes to winning an ultra so everything has to go exactly right and exactly my way if I want to win. We’ll see.

Zach Miller

iRunFar: You have run mountain races as short as seven miles and as long as 50 miles this year, but it’s mostly been mountainous. This will be your first crack at 62 miles and your first flat course for the year. With that said, how are you feeling about this race?

Zach Miller: Yeah, that’s all pretty accurate. But going into this race, I feel pretty good. I guess I’m not freaked out about the distance aspect—62 miles—I think the bigger factor will be the humidity, going 62 miles in those conditions. It will be good to take a crack [at the distance]. This race is a lot different from what I’ve done besides JFK [50 Mile], which is pretty flat in parts and repetitive, but [worlds] is also quite different with the weather and all that. I’m feeling, kind of like it’s a mystery, I’ve never done this, so I don’t know exactly how it will go. I was encouraged by how [Les Templiers] went in France. We went out at a fast pace and I felt comfortable doing that. [Author’s Note: Miller finished fifth and third scorer for the U.S. men’s team at this 73k race in 6:51:01.]

iRunFar: Tell me about your year leading up the 100k world championships. Did you run many races? Have extensive training blocks? How long has this race been a central focus in your training?

Zach Miller - bananas

Got bananas? Miller does. Photo: Amy Perez

Miller: I ran Lake Sonoma [50 Mile] and then two weeks of active rest after that before moving to Colorado and ramping training up again. [Author’s Note: Miller won the 2014 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile in a course-record time of 6:11:10.] As far as this being a focus, it really wasn’t. I knew it would be a possibility but I didn’t know I was selected until part way through the summer. So I was focusing on the Ultra Race of Champions for a while and then that got nixed because I made the U.S. Mountain Running Team and the races conflicted. I hadn’t been preparing solely for [worlds]. I stayed away from ultras over the summer and ran a bunch of mountain-ascent races from 12k to 15 miles—a lot of hard efforts and redlining. Then I did a bunch of mountain and hard training workouts with Joe Gray over the summer—one or two workouts a week of shorter, faster stuff.

iRunFar: Talk about your training in the second half of this year. What sort of workouts did you run in preparation for this race: times, distances, and so on?

Miller: Joe [Gray] just makes up workouts and I show up and do it, so I don’t know what it’s going to be [laughs]. Before [the] Mount Washington [Road Race], it was a bunch of uphill tempos, up to four miles, at altitude, kind of going all out. [Author’s Note: With a 1:02:56 finishing time, Miller finished fourth on this iconic 7.6-mile climb and thereby qualified for the U.S. Mountain Running Team.] Then run back down three miles, turn around, and run three miles hard up hill. Then more cross-country stuff, on trails that climb a couple hundred feet and we’ll run 10 by 1,000 meters on that; it’s never super fast because it’s hard to run fast on the technical stuff at altitude, but the effort level and heart rate is really high.

iRunFar: What about the last month or two before this race—did you run any key workouts to sharpen your speed and endurance or a workout where you thought, Okay, now I know I’m ready?

Miller: Sort of. I might still do one more workout between now and worlds, but after France, last week, I went out to a rolling, dirt, loop trail and did a ladder workout. I did a 36-minute easy warm-up and then an hour workout. I run hard for a loop, then half a loop recovery, two loops hard, half a loop recovery, three loops hard, half a loop recovery, and then back down to two loops hard, half a loop recovery, one loop hard, half a loop recovery. It was about an hour of hard running and two-and-a-half hours of total running. And then I ran an hour in the evening, shaking the legs out, not hard. A couple days later I did an 8.2-mile loop twice with Joe Gray. We ripped the second loop after an easy-progression first loop, and that mimicked paces we’ll see at worlds, except we ran those paces on trails at altitude.

iRunFar: What was your peak mileage in a week’s time in preparation for this race?

Miller: I don’t run with a GPS watch or track it online so I don’t know mileage—I don’t even write it down [laughs]. But peak weeks—I progressed over the summer—but peak weeks were around 21 to 25 hours of running, so about three to three-and-a-half hours a day. There might have been some weeks where I averaged higher, like four hours a day, but I’m not really sure. It was really taxing at first but I got to a point where I was comfortable with three hours a day. Sometimes it’s two runs a day and sometimes it’s one.

iRunFar: What are your goals on race day? How would your ideal race play out in terms of splits, finishing time?

Miller: I’ve never done this kind of race, so I’m not sure. And there is the humidity and temperature factor. I would definitely like to be among the top three for the American team and be a scorer. But we have a very good team so you could have a very good day and be fourth—that’s how good the team is this year. I would like to definitely be up there, somewhere in the top-10 overall. Like I said, though, I’ve never run this distance and I haven’t raced many of these guys, except Jonas Buud in France, but Les Templiers was a much different course. I would like to think I can crank out 6:20 or 6:30 miles for a really long time, but with the heat and humidity, I don’t know if we’ll see those types of paces. It might be closer to the kind of pace I ran at JFK, which would be okay with me—at least I know I’ve been there before. I want to run as fast as I possibly can and whatever that is, hopefully it’s high up among the Americans and high up overall.

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