Ryan Miller wants another crack at racing the Western States 100, and so he’s running the 2022 Canyons by UTMB 100k for one of those coveted Golden Tickets. In our first interview with Ryan, he talks about his background with collegiate and post-collegiate running, the slippery slope into trail running, and how he’s specifically prepared for Canyons 100k race day.
Ryan Miller Pre-2022 Canyons by UTMB 100k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Ryan Miller. It’s the day before the 2022 Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB 100k. You’re going to race tomorrow, Ryan.
Ryan Miller: Oh, I’m so excited. I’m just amped with energy. I went and ran along … I ran across No Hands Bridge this morning and just could feel the energy starting to build.
iRunFar: Well, this is my first time meeting you, and iRunFar’s first interview with you. I’d love to know a little bit about you. You’re Texan?
Miller: Mm-hmm, yeah. I live in San Antonio, Texas. So, South Texas. Not mountainous whatsoever, and probably very few trail runners, at least on the elite side that come from Texas. But I’m proud to represent. I ran collegially at Texas A&M University and ran on the roads for a few years after graduating in 2015. I’ve qualified Olympic Marathon Trials twice. The last two years, just wanted to seek out a different challenge, something that was unique and I never experienced before. That brought me to ultra-trail running.
iRunFar: How did you find the trails? Do you have a specific story of meeting somebody or trying something, or what was it like?
Miller: It really started with the Bandera 100k. I ran in 2021, but before that I live … San Antonio is like an hour away. Most people probably fly into San Antonio for it. I knew the history of it, that it was a Golden Ticket race. In my mind, I kind of wanted to make that my first one.
After the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, I reached out to my now-coach David Roche, and told him like, “Hey, in nine months’ time, my goal is to run the Bandera 100k. I want to make that my first ultra, and do really well there.” So, I set my sight on that for nine months. Had a baby halfway through that, my first son.
Miller: In July.
iRunFar: Oh, wow.
Miller: Yeah. That was really … It was really just training for that, and that was when the pandemic was going on. So, I raced the Moab Trail Marathon as my first trail race ever. Before that, had a terrible time.
iRunFar: Was that 2020?
iRunFar: Well, you picked like a really difficult trail race to start with.
Miller: It was so tough. I was getting lost, because I was not prepared for the Slickrock, all the arrows pointing you were to go. I’d stop and have to look around.
iRunFar: Look for the flower arrows. Yeah.
Miller: Yeah. I think Adam Peterman beat me by about 30 minutes that day. In the marathon, that’s a lot of time.
iRunFar: That is a really … I live for part of the year in Moab, and that is difficult as a trail race goes, in my opinion.
Miller: Yeah. Yeah. Especially your first one.
Miller: That’s for sure.
iRunFar: You did that as training for Bandera 2021 then?
Miller: I did. I did. Yeah, just to get my feet wet. It was the USATF Championship, which I’d been on that circuit on the roads for the years prior. So, thought that’d be a good one to try. Maybe some people should have warned me, like you, before I jumped into that. But it definitely whetted my appetite for what the trails could bring. That was why I signed up.
I didn’t sign up because I thought I’d win [the] Western States  my first time out or something. I signed up because I knew it would be a challenge, and something that would push me beyond what I’d experienced on the roads before. It certainly pushed me that way.
iRunFar: Now, do you feel like you’re a full trail convert now, or are you crossing back and forth and doing … I mean, obviously you have to train a lot in roads for where you live, but are you racing on the road still?
Miller: No. No. I do want to qualify for the Olympic Trials in 2024. So, I’d probably run another road marathon the next two years to get there, but I think my sights are set on getting more experiences on the trails.
iRunFar: Got it.
Miller: There’s so much diversity out there, which is what I love. You could run the London Marathon or the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, it’s a pretty similar experience. Different amounts of people, but you’re on the road, it’s relatively flat. Here, UTMB, Canyons, Western States, Bandera, I’m just naming a few of probably thousands of experiences you can get out there. That’s what I want, like have some fun adventures with it.
iRunFar: You ran Bandera 2021, got a Western States Golden Ticket, came here last year.
iRunFar: I don’t know your story. What happened here last year?
Miller: Well, I made it to mile 55. I wanted a DNF at Robinson Flat. The story is …
Miller: I told you I have a young son.
Miller: He was born in July 2020, so he was about 11 months old when we got to Western States the next year. He goes to daycare, so they’re around other kids who are sick all the time. I woke up the morning of Western States and my eyes were crusted shut …
iRunFar: Oh, no.
Miller: … with eye boogers.
iRunFar: Oh, no.
Miller: I could barely breathe out my nose, and just felt terrible, but …
iRunFar: You got a kid disease.
Miller: I did. Who knows what … It wasn’t COVID. I made sure I tested negative before the race, because I don’t want to give that to anybody else. But just bad luck with that. I gave it … I mean, I was here.
So, it was, “Go out there and do the best you can.” It was a really tough day. Honestly, embarrassing in a way. I wanted to put a better foot forward. But at the same time, you’re sick like that like … I ran 50 … or walked and ran 55 miles when I could barely see out my eyes the morning of.
Miller: I was proud of that effort. But I want to be back. That’s why I’m here at Canyons, because I want to be back on that starting line.
iRunFar: You want a Golden Ticket tomorrow?
Miller: That’s it. Yeah. I mean, first and foremost finish, have a fun day. But yeah, I don’t think I’d be at Canyons if it wasn’t a Golden Ticket race.
iRunFar: We talked off-camera that you did the Western States Training Camp ahead of Western States last year. You came out for your own sort of mini-training camp before Canyons this year. So, you’ve seen things going in both directions. How have you wrapped your head around tomorrow’s race?
Miller: It’s a lot of climbing, that’s for sure.
iRunFar: There’s a lot of climbing.
Miller: The first day of my training camp, I did the Foresthill to China Wall segment.
iRunFar: Oh, wow.
Miller: The hardest segment of the course. It whetted my appetite for what’s to come. I think I was taking it easy, so I had more in the tank, but I averaged like 11 minutes a mile on that. I was like, “Well, this is going to be …” That was coming in fresh.
iRunFar: “This is a thing.”
Miller: Yeah. I ran faster the last day of the camp on the same route, which I was really happy with.
Miller: But I know what to expect. I want to get to Foresthill feeling like I have a lot in the tank left. I won’t be surprised if I’m a decent ways off the lead at that point, because Golden Ticket race, everybody’s … men and women are burning hot at the start.
iRunFar: People are going to go out real hot, especially because it’s so runnable so early.
Miller: Yeah. Yeah. It really is. I mean, whether I find myself up there in the top three, top five, top 10, I know the race is going to happen in the second half. That’s where I want to …
Miller: Be. Yeah.
iRunFar: Yeah. We have been getting reports coming down out of the hills today that there are some conditions up there after the storm of the last couple of days. You’re Texan, where it maybe snows once or twice in a lifetime.
Miller: I mean, last year we had snowpocalypse for a week. I think that prepared me for the next decade of snow.
Miller: But I’ve never shoveled snow in my life.
iRunFar: Yeah, that’s right. You had … and everybody’s pipes froze and power was out. Yeah, you did have snowpocalypse.
Miller: Oh, yeah. They can’t clear the roads. We had no electricity for like a week. We were like, “How are we going to keep our baby warm? This is scary.”
Miller: But when I did the training camp, there were patches of snow up there. So, I kind of understood, if there’s snow on this trail or it’s wet, how’s it going to feel. I think I know what to expect. But I mean, unless somebody drives up there today, I don’t think any of us running the race tomorrow know exactly what it’s going to look like.
iRunFar: Yeah. Yeah.
iRunFar: All right. Well, best of luck to you in your uphill run. I hope you earn the Golden Ticket to then have the downhill run.
Miller: Thanks, Meghan. I appreciate it.
iRunFar: Good luck.