We caught up with Team USA’s Michael Wardian and Meghan Arbogast the day prior to the 2012 IAU 100k World Championships. At the 2011 championships, Wardian led the US men to team gold with his second place performance. Literally every year Wardian improves his place and time at this race, so he’ll be gunning for a PR … and individual gold on Sunday. Last year, Arbogast placed fifth to lead the American women to a team silver. In the same race she set the 100k world record for women 50 and over. In the following interview they talk about their season, what they’re looking forward to, what racing the 100k World Championships is like, and many more topics.
Mike Wardian and Meghan Arbogast Pre-2012 IAU 100k World Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: I’m here with Meghan Arbogast and Michael Wardian of Team USA. [Hi! Hi. Hi! Awkward hellos.] We’re here in Seregno, Italy, it is 4 pm and these guys are working off a little jet lag and Italian pasta getting ready for tomorrow’s IAU 100k World Championship race. Let me ask you, are you ready to race tomorrow?
Meghan Arbogast: I think I’m ready. My training has gone really well. I have a new coach who backed my mileage down but ramped my intensity up. I’ve been feeling really… vibrant! I’m so vibrant when I run! I’ve had some good races. I ran a 50 mile loop race as practice and I ran a 6:19. Then I did a 32 mile in 3:41. I feel really good when I’m running. I don’t feel tired. So I’m hoping that will carry over for the whole race.
iRF: So when I’m cheering for you out there I will say, “You’re looking so vibrant!”
Arbogast: And I will smile.
iRF: How about you, Mike, how are you feeling?
Michael Wardian: I’m feeling alright. Usually I feel a little more confident going into this race. It’s early in the year and I had a little setback last weekend when I was trying to set a world record on the treadmill. I had to stop early for overheating. That kind of shook my confidence a little bit. But I got to run 10 less miles, I guess, so… [iRF: A little more taper?] Yes, a little more taper so that was good, I guess?
You know, I’m excited. This is one of those rare opportunities where you get to compete against the best in the world and see where you stack up. I like to take these opportunities when I have them, so you just have to go out there and mix it up. It’s a long race and a lot of things can go right and a lot more things can go wrong. As Meghan and I were talking about earlier, this is the type of race where it’s just on from the gun and you have to be ready for that tomorrow. It’s a painful race and it’s long enough where you get to experience a lot of ups and downs. You just try to make sure those downs aren’t as long as the ups and then try to make it across the line in front of everyone else. That’s what I’m hoping to be in the mix and be competitive and hold up for the whole distance and run as well as I can.
iRF: Both of you have been coming to this race for years on end at this point. Meghan, when you come into this race are you thinking of your own strategy, “this is what I’m going to do,” or do you put targets on certain people’s backs or do you put targets on certain time goals? What’s it like for you?
Arbogast: For me, it’s about a time goal. I can’t know, especially in an international field at this distance, how well any of the international athletes are feeling. We can look at their best times, but because we don’t run 100k every two months, it might be a best time from two years ago. There’s no way to know how fit they are or how they even run a race. There’s just not a lot of data. So I try hard to just run my own race.
One of the challenges of this race is figuring it out. I’ve had a couple that went pretty close to kind of great. And a lot of them really stink after 50k. It’s like from 50k to 90K it just bites. And that’s the part I’m dreading the most is when is the bite going to come and can I put it off for another 10k, can I make it to 70k without wondering, “Oh my, what am I doing? So trying to have a realistic attitude towards my start when I’m going so that you convince yourself, “I feel pretty.” And that might happen all day! We have technology, heart rate; I’ve got to keep it down to where I think I can maintain it. Keeping the calories in, I get behind on that. So the big goal tomorrow is if I can consume 250-300 calories per hour. If I can do that, that will be an accomplishment in and of itself so whether that means a faster time or not at least maybe I won’t have that 40k of ehhh.
iRF: So you’re spending most of tomorrow working on your own time goals, working on your own plan. How about you, Mike? When we were chatting earlier, you said that last year’s champion went from the gun hard. What’s your plan? Are you going to play chase or are you going to stick to your plan? What will we see from you tomorrow?
Wardian: Usually I run a little more conservatively. I don’t always, but usually I do in this race and then I pick it up. Usually that’s worked pretty well for me. But if I want to be in the race and he goes out that hard… last year I only came within 3 minutes of him and then he dropped the hammer again and ended up beating me pretty good. If you want to win you kind of have to stick your nose in it. So at some point I might have to change my strategy, but I’m also well aware I could run over my head and end up having what Meghan said. That bite really hurts in this race. I’ve felt it every year and I’ve learned to manage it a little bit better each year. It’s just one of those things where if you can manage your exposure after it happens then you can do pretty well. So I’m just going to see how it goes and then keep it pretty free-flowing. I’ll try to flow when I feel good, and if I have to hold back and wait then I’ll do that, too.
The nice thing is that it’s a long enough race you can employ a couple different tactics and if something’s not working right, the hard part is to recognize it’s not working before there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes I’m not that smart. Hopefully, I can manage.
And like Meghan said, it’s important to stay up on things like salt and your calories, and to be cognizant of that because it’s easy, especially when you’re running hard, and the pace is hard for this race, you’re running really hard. You don’t really want to eat, you just want to keep running and you keep putting it off. You have to make yourself be aware. You’ve got to eat if you want to keep going.
iRF: This is one of those races that if you don’t eat it’s going to kill you.
Arbogast and Wardian: Yes.
Wardian: It’s really going to pay you back fiercely.
iRF: If we see you lying on the side of the road that means you didn’t eat anything.
Wardian: Yes! “Bebe comida” as I’ve heard at Marathon des Sables.” Bebe comida and you can do a lot of wonderful things, but if you don’t do that, then…
iRF: So I’m taking notes if I’m going to be cheering for you: vibrancy and “when was the last time you ate?” [Arbogast and Wardian: Exactly!]
iRF: Last question for you. Both of you are here with a pretty stacked team, the women’s and men’s Team USA. In addition to this being an individual competition, it’s also a team competition. Talk for a minute about that team aspect and what it’s going to be like to be out on the course with 12 people who you know, familiar faces in a strange land, and then talk for a moment about what it’s going to be like competing for a team medal. Meghan?
Arbogast: I think we have the fastest women’s team so far since I’ve been on the team. I’d have to look back to know five years before. I think every one of us who haven’t run under 8 hours have the potential to do that. And if we have three women under 8 hours, that’s a silver medal at least. The Russians have a couple women who will be maybe in the 7:30s and even if they have a woman around 8 hours that can be hard to beat. If we have three women under 8 hours, the further down we can get, I think we have a good shot at gold. Japan also brings good competition. If Italy brings a full team, their number one gal has placed second a couple of times at this race. (Monica Carlin)
I don’t really know amongst the team how we’ll run together or if we’ll run together. Amy Sproston and I will probably run together. I’m not sure if Annette will run with us or Pam. Amy and I have trained together probably more than anyone else in the group, so I know we’re pretty comfortable. So I think we’ll go out together and try not to let each other get too crazy. I could see Annette and Pam right there. Carolyn, I haven’t run with her for a long time but she went under 8 hours at Gibraltar two years ago. She typically starts a little more conservative. So we’ll see. I think we have a shot.
Wardian: The men’s team is awesome. It’s really a pleasure. We have so many guys that are stacked. I mean, any of our guys could be… we could sweep first, second, third if everything went really, really well. I think of all the teams we have the quickest team with six guys who are all solid. I could be the last one. And that would be great! We could just kill it! It’s nice not having all the pressure on one person or two people. Yeah, I think everyone better be scared of our team. We’re really good.
Arbogast: The other female, I forgot, is Cassie Scallon. It’s her first year on the team and she’s quick, she could be the first American. I think any one of the six of us could be the first American. It’s a cool place to be.
Wardian: It’s awesome where both the men’s and women’s team have a legitimate chance to get gold. That would be the first time ever, right?
Arbogast: Right, you got the gold last year and the women have only had it twice.
Wardian: It’s pretty exciting to be a part of it. It doesn’t really matter what we all say now, though. It’s like, “Sweet! We’ve already won!” Like it all matters what happens tomorrow, that’s the important thing. On paper right now, everyone seems pretty fit coming in, especially on the men’s side; no one’s really banged up too bad. I probably have the most races out of everyone and usually that’s not a terrible thing for me. But everyone seems to be really fresh and really fired up about it. Both on the men’s and on the women’s side, I think we both have a shot at doing really, really well.
iRF: Thanks for taking the time and for standing on this hard stone ground. Good luck tomorrow, Mike, and to the rest of the men’s team! And good luck to you and the women’s team, too, Meghan. It’s so weird to be standing next to people you consider friends and shaking hands and … Hi fives! Fist bump!