Catching Up With Andrew Miller

“I feel really good right now, really good about this year,” soft-spoken Andrew Miller says with surprising energy. “I’m most worried that the races won’t happen.” He’s registered for July’s Beaverhead 100k in Idaho and September’s Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile in Colorado.

Miller won the 2016 Western States 100, and says that his fitness is quickly returning after a years-long struggle with injuries and the pressures of winning one of the sport’s top races. He’s still just 24 years old, but the last few years have felt like a lifetime.

Andrew Miller on his way to winning the 2016 Western States 100. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Back in 2016 he was just off a gap year and then a freshman studying Exercise Science at Northern Arizona University (NAU). Miller is a heavy sleeper, nine to 10 hours a night is great, he says. “Everything is better with more sleep. I get that extra hour or two back in better productivity,” explaining that he doesn’t just run better, but benefits with better focus at school too. Lots of sleep coupled with ultrarunning isn’t the typical college lifestyle and things fizzled during his third semester at NAU.

Miller transferred to Oregon State University in his hometown, Corvallis, Oregon, and changed his major, first to Chemical Engineering and later to Mechanical Engineering. He guesses that he has another year before graduating.

Andrew on the Oregon coast. All photos courtesy of Andrew Miller unless otherwise noted.

“Training was just all right. That was the theme for 2017 and 2018. It was okay, some small injuries but never too bad.” He was stuck in a two-months-on, two-months-off cycle. Miller’s 2017 year was limited to a pair of 50k finishes, and 2018 had just a single ultramarathon finish. Pressed on the injuries, Miller recounts, “Oh, a hip-flexor strain a couple of times, most frequently issues with my calves, tendinitis, shin splints, nothing really bad, just overuse.”

The year 2018 included his third Georgia Death Race win though. He first went southeast on a friend’s tip, and was able to couple the trip with a visit to his grandparents in Florida. “It’s just really cool, the first 25 miles are along a ridge top,” he said of the 68-mile course, and described the unfamiliar but interesting early spring conditions. “There’s deciduous trees, it’s barren, like a dead forest.” That was March of 2018, and it was Miller’s go-to race for a Western States Golden Ticket. “I wanted to go back [to Western States], but I was injured after the [Georgia] Death Race.”

He was back in Georgia in May of 2019 for the Cruel Jewel 100 Mile. He finished fifth, and explained the motivation. “To be honest, I wasn’t in very good shape. I wanted to run UTMB and they said they’d let me in late if I got six more points. I didn’t have the legs for 50k, so of course I didn’t have the legs for 100 miles. I was walking the downhills at the end, it was frustrating.”

Andrew (left) and his brother Jacob Miller at the 2019 Cruel Jewel 100 Mile.

He finished Cruel Jewel though and got to UTMB in August of 2019, still not in great shape and planning to start conservatively. “Andrew Miller is also moving through the field – at Refuge Bonatti (92k) he’s in fifth, + 62 mins. No poles,” read the iRunFar tweet, during the race coverage. I read it aloud to Miller and he answers. “Yeah, I guess I got up to fourth at one point? I had no idea. I didn’t know I was in the top 10 until Courmayeur, 80 kilometers in, and they gave me an extra [GPS] tracker. I was in seventh or eighth then.”

Miller did not finish at UTMB though. “It was an interesting experience. I got there a week before the race and never felt very good. The travel, time change, I don’t like traveling very much, and the 6:00 p.m. Friday start was weird. I didn’t know what to eat that day, what to do that day, or even the day before. There were so many different factors, and I just wasn’t excited at all.” A side stitch that wouldn’t pass eventually wrecked Miller’s downhills and after walking for a few hours, he dropped at Champex-Lac, 123k (76 miles) into the race.

“I didn’t have the wind to run. It was a combination of all of the factors.” He’d avoided a lot of the pre-race hype up to race day by staying in nearby Vallorcine, 10 miles from the race start in Chamonix. “I’m more of a quiet guy, and I wasn’t ready to embrace it,” he said of the UTMB experience and excitement.

Andrew at the 2019 UTMB.

Timeline cleared, Miller turns reflective on the ups and downs of the last few years.

“This January I was just like, What am I doing? It felt like a job.” He keeps going. “After Western States [in 2016,] I realized how fast I could be,” and he started feeling the “expectation to run that fast, and that took the fun out of it. I felt like I had to do this run. It got into my head a little bit. I took the fun out of it for myself being too serious. Short distance, I’m not very fast at, so I focused more on improving speed, improving my weakness. I was having too much structure.”

While not just impacting him mentally, this change in training likely contributed to the injury cycle too. Eventually, Miller came to realize better. “I’m successful when I just go run a lot. All stress adds up the same way, and running is a stress. It was counterproductive,” he said of his former training program.

None of that’s the case now. “I feel really good, I’m excited, patient, I’ve been making steady progress. It’s been so long since I’ve had a good race. It takes time, I’ve just got to do what’s fun. Since January I’ve been feeling good,” while running 15 to 20 hours per week and mountain biking on top of that. Though turned more carefree, Miller insists that his competitive fire is still there. “I’m more excited to race than before, actually.”

“If people thought I disappeared, that’s not the case. It’s just been a few injuries, but this year feels different,” he pushes at the end of our chat.

This year definitely feels different for a lot of us, and I really hope that Miller gets to race in 2020 too.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

Do you have any catch-up stories about racing, running, adventuring, or mountain biking with Andrew Miller? Leave a comment to share!

Andrew and his mom Anne Miller backpacking in Oregon.

Justin Mock

is a family man, finance man, and former competitive runner. He gave his 20s to running, and ran as fast as 2:29 for the marathon and finished as high as fourth at the Pikes Peak Marathon. His running is now most happy with his two dogs on the trails and peaks near his home west of Denver.

There are 11 comments

  1. Tom Craven

    Just getting to UTMB is incredible. The only person I personally know who finished was over twice your age. You have lots of time.

  2. Dave Taylor

    I agree with Andrew- just run for the fun and adventure of the trails. Breath the fresh air and absorb the calming energy
    of the forrest! Less injury and more fun to slowly get in shape that way.

  3. Rok Bratina

    Yeah, of course I remember Andrew. We both participated at Salomon Running Academy which took place in Limone sul Garda. We ran together with other young athletes that were chosen to come and see how things in Salomon are working.

    That was in 2015. It is more then 5 years I didn’t see him, but I follow Andrew and wish him all the best. He is a nice calm guy you know. Even if I didn’t speak a lot with him in Limone also because my English was not on the level and I was pretty shy,I follow him and wish him all the best. I hope his return on the starting line will bring him happiness and lot of success.

    Hope to see you again Andrew. I am aware of that we are racing in different places, living on different continents and disciplines, but never say never. I was never in US on a race and really want to experience that and explore those mountains and trails around there.

    Rok

    1. Andrew Miller

      Rok, thanks for the kind words.

      It was sure nice getting to know you a little bit in Limone sul Garda at the Salomon Running Academy. I don’t follow the euro trail running scene as much, but I’ve seen your name pop up on iRunFar a few times over the last few years, so hopefully you are doing well. It would sure be great to see you again some day. I know we have an ocean between us, but maybe you’ll have the chance to race in the US someday. I hope to go back to UTMB at some point too, so maybe I’ll see you there. Regardless, keep enjoying running and the mountains. I really hope everything is going well for you!

  4. JacobsA

    He may have had a tough race at Cruel Jewel (hey, most of us do), but damn if it wasn’t impressive seeing him charge up really high-grade hills over halfway through in the middle of the night.

    1. Andrew Miller

      Thanks. I was lucky enough to be feeling really good from about mile 55-75 at Cruel Jewel which is probably where you saw me. That’s I saw most people as the course is roughly an out and back. After that, things weren’t looking as pretty, but I got it done.

  5. Steffen

    A friend and I bumped into Andrew on the McKenzie River trail about two years ago. We were Mountain Biking, he was running with his mom and brother. We chatted for a while until it finally dawned on me “Hey, I think, this is Andrew Miller” so I asked his name to be sure. It was great to shake hands with him (remember, we used to do that back in the day…). Our chat went on just like before – he’s such a down to earth guy, completely unpretentious. We exchanged e-mails so my friend could send him an invite to his yearly 10k run with friends and family. It didn’t work out that year (Mivok 100 and an injury prevented him from joining). Maybe next time…

    1. Andrew Miller

      Yeah, I still remember meeting you guys along the McKenzie River. I’ve been meaning to get to your 10k some day, but it ends up being the same weekend as Waldo 100K which my family does an aid station at. Hopefully you are doing well!

  6. AT

    Andrew, I was running with a local running group a few weeks after 2016 WS. The owner of the store, and life long runner himself brought up during our run, “for the life of me, I can’t wrap my head around a 20 year old having so much patience and understanding of self to run and nonetheless win Western States, just amazing..” we all shook our heads and marveled at the thought. All the best to ya.

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