Andrew Miller, 2016 Western States 100 Champ, Finish-Line Interview Transcript
Tim Twietmeyer: Everyone’s going to hear about you really soon. What a change! You didn’t have a ticket to this race until March when you won the Georgia Death Race, is that right?
Andrew Miller: That’s right.
Twietmeyer: That isn’t exactly the prescribed training deal to get into the race two months before Western States. How did you make that transition from winning the Georgia Death Race to being the Western States champion?
Miller: The first thing I did was to take almost a whole week off just to rest up. The next four or five weeks, I just took my time easing back into it. I didn’t want to push it too hard too early. I was more focused on recovery than just trying to run a lot of stuff. After that, I started to build up my miles a little bit and just did some harder runs. Then I rested up the last couple weeks, and that was that.
Twietmeyer: [crowd noise] This wasn’t an interview we prepped for, but you’re really an early protégé. You ran your first ultra at 14, is that correct?
Miller: That’s correct.
Twietmeyer: Fourteen years old. He’s won the Georgia Death Race twice, and then you set the course record at Bighorn last year. Today, it looked like you ran a steady race. You were 10th at Lyons Ridge. You were sixth at Last Chance, third at Foresthill, and you took the lead at Highway 49. Was that your plan—go out steady and wear people down?
Miller: Yeah, for the most part. I just kind of wanted to see how the race unfolded. A lot of guys went out pretty hard, so I thought that was probably too fast for me. So I held back a little bit. I didn’t feel great for a little stretch in there, like 30 to 35 miles in or something, but then I ran really strong in the canyons. Those were definitely my strength—the climbs and descents. After that, I just tried to keep moving the best I could. I struggled a little bit especially between Cal 1 and Cal 2. Getting from ALT to Brown’s Bar, that was a struggle, too. But outside of that, I really had good energy all day. I felt pretty strong all day. Downhills were rough by the end, but I still had the legs to keep moving fast.
Jim King: You sound like a cagey veteran. Your wisdom sounds great. How intense is your training? Did you feel prepared for today?
Miller: Yeah, I felt prepared for today. This year, a bit more so than the past, I focused on a little bit more quality than strictly quantity. I think that helped for sure keeping the leg speed for the last 40. That’s still not my strength, but I think if I hadn’t done some faster running, I wouldn’t be able to hold it together.
Twietmeyer: So tell me what happened at Highway 49. You were in second place for quite awhile and about an hour off the pace of the leader. You rolled into Highway 49 and now all of the sudden, you’re in the lead. Did that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up or was it, No big deal, I’m in the lead.
Miller: Yeah, that was definitely a big boost of energy there. Yeah, at that point I didn’t actually know how far back what I thought was third place, so I was just focused on maintaining second place. But then when you have the chance to win the race, I mean, it gets pretty exciting.
Twietmeyer: You jumped to my next question which was, you were the guy chasing for what was probably four or five hours, and now you’ve become the guy that is being chased. Tell me how you mentally made the shift to adjusting to Now I’m running a different race than I was for the first 14 hours.
Miller: I tried not to think about it. My main goal was just to keep moving as fast as I could. I think it worked really well to chase people all day—really since after Duncan Canyon. That’s where I tried to start running people down. So that mindset really worked well for me all day. When someone is in the lad at Highway 49, I figure you should just run fast and hope for the best.
King: That’s great strategy. You’re a young man, and you’ve done an incredible accomplishment. Is there any more like you coming up? People have told you you’re too young and you should wait. You’ve had that kind of advice, and how does that work for you?
Miller: The advice about being too young—I haven’t ever really heard that. I’m from Corvallis, and we have an incredibly supportive running community there. All of my friends encourage me, and I think that’s the reason I’ve stuck with it. Yeah, I owe a lot to those people. That’s how I got into running. They always made a great experience for me. Yeah, that’s why I’m a runner.
Twietmeyer: I’ve got one more. It’s pretty unusual for somebody at the age of 14 to want to run ultras. Most runners seem to run cross country in high school and college and move into ultras when they lose a little leg speed maybe. Then they find the long distance races fit them better. Yet, you jumped into the ultra scene at what would be considered a very young age. Did you do any other running competitions before this, or were you always an ultra guy?
Miller: It’s always been ultras for me. My mom ran ultras, so initially my brother and I would join her just biking along her runs in the forests and stuff. Eventually I wanted to try and run with mom. Eventually I was running more and more with mom and my parents were like, “Hey, you should sign up for the McKenzie River 50k.” So, I did. That’s how it happened. [crowd noise]
Twietmeyer: [crowd noise]
King: You mentioned you’re a climber and that you ran really strong in the canyons. I identify with you. Do you have any aspirations for other mountain races or is there anything that plays to your strengths that you have an eye on?
Miller: Yeah, definitely the more mountainous races are probably my strength. Also, longer distances have always been better for me. The rest of this year, I don’t really have other plans. We’ll just see how things go.
Twietmeyer: So becoming a Western States Champ, what other plans do you have for the rest of the year?
Miller: I really don’t know. I’d like to run another race, but I’ll just see how I feel. It would be cool to do something in September or at the end of August, but I might just hold off until maybe October or November. We’ll see. I’ll see how I recover. I was definitely pushing pretty hard for the last 10 miles—I was pushing pretty hard there. My legs are pretty wrecked from that, so I may not be able to move well for awhile.
Twietmeyer: Just one of the great traditions we’ve had here at Western States from Dr. Bob Lind–he was our traditional starter with the shotgun, and his family has continued the tradition—as a souvenir for you, it says Western States 100, June 25-26 2016, the shotgun shell that started the race. Congratulations, Andrew Miller, the Western States Champion 2016.