Zach Miller is really excited for the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k in Innsbruck-Stubai, Austria. In the following interview, Zach talks about how hard this year’s course will be, how he’s back to his old self after a couple years when he had to worry about injury, how he’s added Nordic skiing, split boarding, and cycling into his training, and how he’s modified his peaking and tapering in this year’s training.
Zach Miller Pre-2023 Trail World Championships 80k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Sarah Brady of iRunFar here at the 2023 Trail World Championships. And I’m here with Zach Miller of Team USA. Zach, how are you doing?
Zach Miller: I’m doing good. How are you?
iRunFar: Good, good. So, you’ve been here for a while. How long have you been here checking out the course?
Miller: Yeah. Got here on the 30th of May. And so yeah, I guess about a week or so now. Well, maybe a little more.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And what do you think of this route? How do you think it compares to other world championships events you’ve been at?
Miller: Yeah, I’m pretty excited about this route. It’s very top notch. Really, really awesome. Proper mountain course. Just one of those routes that you’re excited for race day because the course itself is so cool. It’s probably the hardest course of a world championships that I’ve seen so far. I think it’ll be right up there with one of the hardest courses that I’ve ever raced. Just judging on what I’ve seen in recon.
iRunFar: Okay, interesting. And everyone is speculating because it’s a new course. But how long do you think it’s going to take the top runners to complete this course?
Miller: Oh, yeah. In recon, I gauge that it’s roughly like a five-mile-per-hour course. So, I’m thinking like, early on, I said like 10 to 12 hours, in my estimation. But I think it’s 12 hours plus or minus a bit. So like, maybe like 10 to 13 hours. It’s kind of hard to say. But yeah, it’ll be a long one.
iRunFar: Okay, great. And then so this is your third world championships for Team USA, is it?
Miller: For ultra distance? It’s, I think for ultra trail it’s my second and I think for ultra in general, because I did a road one, it’s my third.
iRunFar: Okay. And does that feel much different than doing something like UTMB where you’re just representing yourself?
Miller: Yeah, I mean, it’s the same but it’s different. It’s different in that you have a team aspect to it, and that you have kind of like a few more logistical rules to follow in terms of crewing and like, just like making sure you follow all the regulations that come with the world championships. But also, the same in that it’s just another big race.
iRunFar: Yeah. Okay. Great. And then just in terms of your own running, so we know you had a difficult time for a while with injury, but you kind of made a comeback, I suppose with Trail Andorra [by UTMB 105k] last year, and then obviously UTMB and you had Tarawera [100 Mile] earlier this year. So, do you feel like you’re fully back now to where you were before injury?
Miller: Yeah, I think I’m, I mean, “fully back” is sort of an interesting term, I guess. Because you’re always changing and evolving. But yeah, I feel like I’m the closest, like fully back or the closest I’ve been. I feel good. Feel like I’m pretty much back to my old self where I can kind of just like, think up stuff and go do it rather than before it was always kind of like, Oh, can the body handle that? And now I’m kind of like back into, Okay. What do I want to race? What adventure do I want to do? What big workout do I want to do? Kind of having a lot more free reign now, which is super nice, because I really missed that. I hated having to be like, Oh, I think I have to ride the bike today. Or, I think that workout might be too much. And now I’m kind of just back to like, plugging away like I used to.
Miller: And for this race then specifically, have you changed up your training habits at all? Is there anything different you’ve done in this block?
Miller: Yeah, I did toy with some different things. I mean, it’s kind of fun just to mix it up over the years and experiment. See what works and what doesn’t. I think the big thing is now through the winter, I do a lot of training on skis. So, like Nordic skiing, specifically skate skiing. And then also, I’m a split boarder. So doing a lot of split boarding, starting to learn. Max King has kind of been helping me learn a little bit of ski-mountaineering stuff, which is basically like Max gives me a pair of skinny skis and then just throws me to the wolves and it’s like, okay, you know, Go try.
But anyways, yeah, so I worked that in more but also still keeping the running up. And then in the summer like mixing in some gravel cycling, as well. I think that, but maybe the biggest thing I did a little differently this year was rather than peaking mileage right up until taper, I kind of peaked a few weeks earlier. And then I kind of stepped it down the last two weeks. And in those last two weeks, I stepped down the mileage. I maybe added in some gravel biking, not a ton. And then I made my hard days really hard and my easy — and the days in between — like a lot more chill. So I got a lot of my mileage and a lot of my vert in like two days of the week. And then the rest of the days were more mellow. So yeah, I just kind of like experimented with that. Like basically you’re getting close to a race, you’re trying to get more race specific. So, I made the hard days harder and more race specific. And the days in between I let them be a bit more chill. So that was a big change this time.
iRunFar: Okay, that sounds good. It sounds like you’re mixing it up and keeping it fun as well.
Miller: Yeah, yeah, it’s always fun.
iRunFar: And then obviously, Team USA is the one you want to put on top. But that aside, who do you predict is going to be in the top teams and also the top individuals in the men’s race? Like who do you expect to see up front?
Miller: Yeah, I mean, I really haven’t studied it that much. I mean, I think typically, just like France and Spain are basically always up there. So, I would expect strong showings from them. And then individually, I mean, to be honest, I kind of don’t even know what to tell you because I’ve just kind of been doing my thing. And I try not to get too into like who’s here and who the competition is. So I haven’t read any previews. I haven’t looked at any start lists.
Miller: So, I’m a little blind.
iRunFar: Yeah, I think we all are. There’s an awful lot of unknowns with this race, so yeah. Well, thanks so much anyway, and enjoy the rest of your preparation and have a great race.
Miller: Okay, thank you.