GO HARD or GO HOME – Zach Miller In-Depth Interview


Zach Miller has inspired from the day he burst on the ultra-running scene way back in 2013 when he relegated the then untouchable Rob Krar at JFK50 (who did not finish) and Matt Flaherty placed 2nd.  What has followed is a full-on, Go Hard or Go Home approach to ultra-running that at times has produced awe inspiring results and equally has left fans and Zach, holding their heads in their hands wondering, ‘what might have been?’ Win or not, Zach is one of the most exciting runners to follow. Earlier in 2016, he did a ‘Zach’ at UTMB and for much of the race it looked as though he may well pull of the biggest win of his life… he blew but still managed a top-10 placing. Cut to December 2016, $10.000 prize money and one of ‘the’ most stacked fields ever assembled at TNF50 in San Francisco and the stage was set, once again, for Zach to lay it all on the line…

“I must give it the best. I like to give it my best and I don’t know maybe I could run faster, with a different strategy but I just like to get out there and get it going and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes well and I end up running times or getting performances that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I think just being willing to take that risk is thrilling and I just like to see what’s on the other side. Because sometimes it’s great!”

I caught up with Zach from La Palma, the home of Transvulcania, a place Zach knows well after racing here as part of the Skyrunner World Series.

Zach: How is La Palma?

Ian: La Palma is as good as La Palma always is as you know.

Zach: Yes, it’s hard to have a bad time there.

Ian: I came here last December because I was finishing off my book, Running Beyond, I needed a little bit of isolation and a little bit of space and an opportunity to get on some nice trails and just to do a little bit of running. It was just so nice because the weather here in December is fantastic, the trails are great. It’s just a nice place to be and I thought, “You know what, it has been another long year. I’m going to go and do it again.” It is just so good. It’s a little bit difficult getting around the islands to get to different places of trail because there’s not a lot of connection. But I’m staying in Tazacorte Port. I have a 2500-meter climb on my doorstep.

Zach: Yes, Okay. There you go, what more do you need?

Ian: The final descent of the race just drops straight to my apartment door.

Zach: Okay, you have no shortage of climbing then?

Ian: No shortage of climbing and no shortage of descending.


Ian: The only thing is it takes me as long to come down as it does to go up.


Zach: Yes, work on your down a little bit [laughs].

Ian: That downhill is just brutal, isn’t it?

Zach: Yes, it is.

Ian: 18k, 2500m of descent. It’s just exhausting. I’d rather go up anytime.

Zach: Yes, that one’s a tough one!

Ian: Yes, well you know all about it, don’t you?

Zach: Yes, I’ve done it once.

Ian: I remember you coming past me in the race after El Pilar, climbing towards Roques de los Muchachos.

Zach: Okay.

Ian: …at that point you were just in the lead with Luis Alberto Hernando, jumping on your heels.

Zach: Yes.

Ian: At that point, it was a classic Zach Miller day, wasn’t it?

Zach: Yes.

Ian: In that you lead the race from the front and then in the latter stages, it all goes a little bit wary… you had that fantastic finish with Dakota.

Zach: Yes, I did. I remember that. That was quite a day. Maybe one day I’ll maybe get back to take another crack at it.

Ian: It’s a great course, a great race. But talking of Zach Miller days, you do have a reputation for going out hard and giving it everything. La Palma, was one of those days. It’s a Zach Miller trademark. Tell me about the Zach Miller trademark of go out and go out and give it everything.

Zach: For one, it’s probably worked for me more times than it hasn’t [laughs]. And even when it doesn’t, it usually ends up exciting. It’s a combination of just liking to be aggressive and make sure that the race gets out and I give a good honest effort that we don’t dilly dally too much.


Ian: No, that’s true [laughs].

Zach: I just kind of set the tone, to give all, I must give it the best. I like to give it my best and I don’t know maybe I could run faster, with a different strategy but I just like to get out there and get it going and see where it goes. Sometimes it goes well and I end up running times or getting performances that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I think just being willing to take that risk is thrilling and I just like to see what’s on the other side. Because sometimes it’s great. Like San Francisco!

Ian: Yes.

Zach: I didn’t really know that I could do that. On paper, I’d have thought I couldn’t maybe run somewhere around that time, but I didn’t know I could run it in that fashion. But I just like to give it a shot and see what happens. There’s plenty of races and if I mess up, there’s another one in few months…

Ian: You say that if you messed one up…  but sometimes going out as hard as you do for the distances you do, that could take some recovery. People like myself when we’re talking about a race that’s coming up or we’re writing a preview for a race, whenever we come to seeing Zach Miller’s name on the start list, we always say the same thing. That, you going to go out hard and you’re either going to have the most incredible day, set a course record and take victory maybe? Or you are going to blow up in [laughs] super fashion and it’s going to turn into carnage and you are probably not going to finish the race or you going to move down the field. You seem quite happy living with that strategy and certainly spectators all around the world love your racing strategy. Do you ever think to yourself that maybe one day, you might try something a little bit different?

Zach: [laughs].

Ian: – or are you happy with the fact that give it all or die trying?

Zach: Yes, I do every now and then I get curious and I wonder, I think like, ” Oh, I wonder what I could run.” And it’s like, “Just run smart.” It’s like if I were strategic, could I run 10 or 20 minutes faster. Would it be more… would it be less painful at the end.


Zach: Would I feel a lot better at mile 40 and be able to run really, really fast instead of just hanging on? Yes, I have this thought sometimes but I like the way that I race and I think it’s exciting and I know people like it. I feel stuck with it because I feel like if I do anything different…

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: …people will be disappointed.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: Although, I think some would like to see or would be entertained by seeing me taking a different strategy and seeing what I would have left in like the last– the second half of the race. Let’s say I ran with the guy with Alex Nichols through the first half of the race and then try to move. But I don’t know, it’s just my style. I’m pretty happy with it. I’m not going to lie when it doesn’t work, I’m hyped!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: The only time– the main time where it didn’t work and I wasn’t that hyped was at Templiers in France.

Ian: Aaargh, okay.

Zach: Just because it was so… you know I came so close. I was just very proud of the effort and people got excited about it. And then, I also saw how close I came to winning. I just concluded that it was a nutritional error. I didn’t know for sure but that was how I saw it. That one was like, it wasn’t a training error, it wasn’t even necessarily a pacing error. It was basically like, “I didn’t eat enough [laughs] or drink enough.” Then it was like, “Well, I can fix this.” And that was easier to deal with.

Ian: Okay, I’m going to come on San Francisco because obviously, that’s the most recent result. It’s the one where you had the amazing showdown. Your two-minute video or should I say Jamil’s two-minute video of you running into the finish of San Fran is quite spectacular and it’s certainly gained a lot of hits. But before we talk about that, I want to go back because we first did an interview when you burst on the scene and at the time you were working on cruise ship and training on the treadmill. You’ve come a long way since then, haven’t you?

Zach: Yes, I have. That’s one thing I say and I’ll always says that it’s amazing to see how far I have come in three years and the things is, it’s amazing to see how much my life has changed. My lifestyle. I’m anything but living on a cruise ship anymore [laughs].

Ian: No.


Zach: Now I live in the middle of the mountain in a cabin [laughs]. But yes, it’s been a wild ride. A lot of things have happened. A lot of races have occurred but I think I’ve also developed a lot as an athlete. I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I could just do things now that I couldn’t have done three years ago.

Ian: What do you consider being the changing point for you, where life took on a different roll and you realized that there was an opportunity for you to change tack and almost make running your life?

Zach: Mainly, once I won JFK and then started getting some interest from sponsors, I just saw the potential of that. I was at that elite level and I was desirable to sponsors. When I realized, I could start making an income off it and that I could be good at it, I kind of saw maybe it was time to transition off the ship and get back on land. I moved to Colorado, so that was a big step and it was a great place to move to, to train and everything. Just seeing the success of JFK gave me the confidence to give it a go.

Ian: You got sponsorship from Nike, how instrumental has that sponsorship been? And how much do they help you to live the life that you now want to live?

Zach: Nike has been very helpful over the past three years. I was very new to the sponsored world. Basically, they came in and they gave me a lot of very good product support, travel support, an opportunity to make some money, too. It just opened doors to be able to travel, to races like Transvulcania or UTMB. To have the sponsors to do that because plane tickets and everything are very expensive and I wasn’t at the point in my career yet where races were paying to bring me over. I needed sponsor help to get me to those races so that I could make a name for myself. Basically, they just gave me an opportunity. They provided a way for me to get out there and make a name for myself. That’s been very, very helpful. Over time, I got a few more sponsors and things. But, yes, they were the first one to jump in and support me and it worked well.

Ian: When did the move happen for Barr Camp, and tell me a little bit about Barr Camp and the story behind that?

Zach: I would have moved to Colorado in May– around May, shortly after Lake Sonoma in 2014. I lived in Manitou Springs, at the base of Pikes Peak for about a year– working and training. I was on Pikes Peak a lot training on the Bar trail and just in that general area. I got to know the caretakers who were working at Barr Camp which is an off the grid cabin, halfway up the mountain. It’s like the huts that you would have in Europe except not as fancy. There isn’t a road. There’s a little electricity that comes from solar. Our water comes from the creek. The bathrooms are outside so it’s not as fancy as a lot of the European huts. It’s very remote and it’s pretty rustic. But anyways, I got to know them and then I found out that they were leaving and they were looking for new people to take the job so I got the information and then I pitched the idea to my sister because I wanted somebody to apply with me. My sister liked it and so we applied together and then we ended up getting the job. Now, it’s me and my sister and her husband– we all work up there. We’ve shifted rolls a bit. My sister and her husband take the full-time roles and then I actually work in a part-time – more of an assistant, part-time role. I live at the cabin year around but I have the freedom to go do my racing and my sponsorship obligations. And basically, when I’m here, I’m working but I get a lot more freedom to be able to like go Europe and go to California and do all the things I need for my running career. It’s really just a good mix.


Ian: There’s a lot of people going to be reading this and they’re going to be thinking – particularly if they’re involved in trail and mountain running, “Wow, that sounds just awesome.” Is it as awesome as it sounds?

Zach: It is awesome but it’s not for everybody. It is also tough. The winters are very awesome because the camp is open year round but our traffic drops a lot in the winter. In the winter, we have a lot of time to ourselves. It is still labour intensive. You’ve got to haul the wood in so the fires lit to keep the cabin warm and you’ve got to carry the water in from the creek in five gallon buckets. You got to shovel off the solar panels and clear all the snow and everything. In terms of like day-to-day seeing people, we don’t see as many. It’s much more relaxed to have a lot of time to go out snowshoe, or ski or hike or run. It’s much more laid back. But the summers are incredibly busy. We’ll feed and house up to 45 people. If you come to our camp it’s not very big, so that can get hectic. We’ll feed like 45 people out of this little tiny walled kitchen. There’s just a lot of work in the summer, between cooking and cleaning and doing camp maintenance and doing search and rescues, and talking to hikers and selling things. In the summers, you pretty much go non-stop from 6:00 Am till 9:00 PM. And then maybe you read a book for like 30 minutes and then you pass out and go to bed [laughs]. I’m basically either working or training or working. It gets pretty busy.

Ian: Tell me a little bit about the training, because obviously, I don’t know what height Barr Camp is at, but it must be around about 10,000 feet. You’re sleeping altitude for sure, do you then drop down and train at lower altitudes or do you find that you’re training above 10,000– below 10,000 and that works really, well?

Zach: Yes, I just stay around 10,000. The camp is at 10,200 feet.

Ian: That was a good guess, yes?

Zach: Yes, it was. It’s 3,000m, I’m looking at my cabin right now because we have it up on the wall. It’s 3,109 meters for everyone in Europe. It’s very high. When I’m here I do a lot of my training. Sometimes if I make it all the way down to town, that’s like 6,400 feet. But then I must come back up. Basically, the low point of my training is around 6,400 but then I have days where I go all the way to the summit which is 14,110 feet. My training is anywhere from 6,000 to 14,000 feet. It always starts and ends at 10,000. I probably spend a lot of time between 13,000 and 8,000 feet, it is probably where a lot of my training is done. I don’t necessarily intentionally go low to train; I just train where I am. I don’t drop down to do like speed work or anything. Not usually.

Zach: What’s interesting about that is we started this conversation with me being in La Palma and the Transvulcania course starts at sea level and almost finishes at the sea level. But that middle third of the course, once you go through El Pilar you’re then above 2,000 meters and you stay at 2,000 meters or above. One of the things that I’ve found running on the course and being on the course is that going up to altitude and dropping back down is completely different than staying at altitude and having to run at altitude for a prolonged period. And of course, that’s one of the things that happens at Transvulcania is that once you get into that middle and latter third section, you’re running at 2,000 to 2,500 meters for quite a chunk of time. Living where you do, this is perfect preparation for this type of race. Do you really feel the benefits of that when you travel and go to different races?

Zach: Yes, the benefits are there. It’s hard to always feel like Superman per say but the one thing is like when I run a race like Transvulcania or I race at UTMB, when we get up to the high points of 8,000 feet I don’t necessarily feel much different. For me, it’s not like I get up there and I feel I’m way out of my element. It’s just like that’s where I train every day. Up there I just feel like I do in Colorado. You don’t necessarily feel like superman per say although, I do usually feel pretty sure on climbs. Like when you get the high altitude and we go up the climb, that is where I notice it.

I do remember running at Transvulcania two or three years ago and being up on the volcano with Luis Alberto. He’s incredibly strong but I remember listening to his breathing and feeling like he was breathing very hard and he obviously ran very hard and he ran great that day. He beat me by a long shot but I don’t know what altitude he charged at? But I just remember noticing that we were up there and probably once he got down he was very, very strong. I remember him seeming a bit laboured up there but he still went right away from me. It was very, very impressive or maybe he’s just a heavy breather [laughs].

Ian: He does breathe heavily and Luis is a little bit like yourself in that he commits himself but he knows how to bide his time. Particularly at Transvulcania he would have known that you and maybe Sage Canaday and a couple of others were going to go off hard and he would be thinking about pacing himself. But when he makes his decision to go then he commits.

Zach: For sure I’ve seen that.

Ian: That was probably the phase that you were hearing him. When he made the commitment and it was a case of, “Now I’m going for it. I’m going for it.” Would you say that Transvulcania was maybe the race that started your switch to move to the longer ultras?

Zach: I wouldn’t necessarily say so because it’s still in that 70 to 80-kilometre range. I’m trying to remember if it was our first big European race or not?

Ian: It was, wasn’t it?

Zach: It was probably my first like real big more technical European race because Templiers in France is a hybrid. Transvulcania isn’t that technical in the beginning but that descent is what defines that and that is much more technical. I just think I was walking up in terms of racing in the European style at Transvulcania.

Ian: If Transvulcania wasn’t the real catalyst then surely something like Madeira Ultra Trail which at the time you said was one of the hardest races you’d ever done?

Zach: Yes, it’s still one of the hardest races I’ve ever done. That was the one that was a jump for me. I had been doing racing and it took around six to seven hours and then Madeira was my first race that ever took longer than like eight or nine hours. It was much longer than that. It was just under fourteen hours. That was a long time for me. That was new territory for me. But I did that and then people were like, “Well, if you can do this, you can do UTMB.” It scared me and also gave me some confidence for UTMB at the same time.

Ian: Tell me a little bit about Madeira Island Ultra Trial because I’ve been to Madeira Island several times now for races and there’s only two directions on the island and that’s up and down. It’s a brutal environment. I remember seeing a photograph of you lying on the ground looking as though you had a medical team making sure you were still alive.

Zach: Your description is good, there’s only two directions up or down. There are points in Madeira where you actually do run rolling almost flat but yes, it’s a very roller coaster course. You’re basically doing a big climb or big descend or a short little bit of runnable in between and the climbs are very steep and the descents are very steep. What defines Madeira are the stairs. So many of their trails just have stairs in them. They’re not uniform, some are concrete some are like dirt and wood planks. Some are small, some big, some are wide. Your footwork at Madeira must be very good and you must be able to change it at a moment’s notice. It makes the end that last 20 kilometres, so it was just brutal.

Ian: Do you still consider it, without considering San Francisco which you obviously have just won, was MIUT one of those defining races where you put it all on the line and it had come good?

Zach: Yes, it was because I was going thoroughly hard from the gun. We started at midnight and by the time the sun came up I had a good lead but I had already bonked… That’s why there’s that aid station video of me eating so much food because I had just bonked right before that aid station and I knew I needed to eat. Yes, I had worked very hard. I had run myself into a bonk and then came out of it. Then just had to fight really, really hard and it was very painful for the last like 20 miles but I was somehow able to keep going even though my body wanted to stop. It was also a day where it was like, “Wow, it’s impressive that my body could hurt that bad and keep going like it did.” It was a very telling day.

Ian: I’m interested in a couple of things that you’ve said there. You bonked in the race? You blew up, managed to eat and then carry on and not lose the lead but then also in the final stages– and quite long final stages where you’re really hurting and you’re in pain, you still manage to continue to push. Is that something that is just within you or is it something that you think you’ve worked on to enable yourself to do that?


Zach: It’s both. It’s within me and it’s also something that I practice almost every day. Even as a kid I was a very very competitive person and I am very hard worker. If there was something in my mind that I considered to be successful, whether it was getting an A on my test at school or running a certain time in cross country. If there was something that I gained success I always wanted to attain it. I’m just naturally very, very driven and very hard working.

My parents were not so much athletes but very, very hardworking people, so I always kind of grew up with that example in front of me. And kind of not quitting until the job is done. Then the other part is I go out and I train and I just take those things and I practice them. I won’t let myself hike up a climb, I just stubbornly run it or I’ll bonk out there on the run and I won’t let myself walk it in. I’ll somehow manage to slowly run back to the cabin, and it gets cold in the winter and I train all winter long and it could be negative 15 degrees’ winter and freezing cold and snowing and I still go out and do it. I just kind of discipline myself on a day-to-day basis and then when I get in the races, I’m well practiced at suffering and just sticking with that and that’s how I get myself to push all the way to the end.

Ian: Okay. Well, that’s obviously one of the reasons why you’re successful because most people can’t do that. CCC, where did that fit into the big picture? I’m assuming that it was a case of going to Chamonix, understanding the environment, understanding the landscape for a serious attempt at UTMB?

Zach: Yes, sort of, it was probably less about scoping out the landscape for UTMB as it was just running CCC. I wasn’t at the point in my career where I wanted to do 100 miles yet, so I wasn’t going to do UTMB. But I still liked racing in Europe and that one looked good and Nike had gone over the scopes and they recommended it, Nike said it would be great. And yes, a bunch of my team mates were doing it. And it was like, “Well, this looks like fun and this looks like good one.” So, I jumped in and did it. It wasn’t so much like just a scouting mission for UTMB, it was more just to run that race. And it ended up being greater. It was kind of a turning point in my career and I was thankful that I did it.

Ian: Winning CCC is one of those funny things, if it was a stand-alone race, on its own weekend, it would be huge, but it always gets completely overshadowed by the UTMB. And I’ve spoken to and I’ve interviewed countless people who’ve been on the podium at CCC, Ellie Greenwood is a classic example and she said, “You really feel as though you’ve just won a smaller race in a big weekend.” Did you feel that?

Zach: That was my fear when I went to do it but when I did it, I didn’t really feel that. My fear was kind of like– in fact towards the end I wanted to run UTMB instead because I was thinking CCC is the side show, UTMB is the A race and CCC is the B race, and all the eyes and all the media and all the attention is on UTMB. And I was a bit reluctant to be in CCC to be honest. Probably even standing on the start line thinking all the big names are not in this race but then I ran it and the crowds were fantastic. My family was following along from home and the coverage was good. And when I came in… it finishes at the perfect time because it finishes around nine o’clock at night when everybody is having dinner. And so, the finish line at CCC is just phenomenal. When I came in and I won, it didn’t feel like I just won this side show, it actually felt like a very big deal. A lot people got very excited about that win. It got me a lot of attention in Europe and in the States, as well, so no, I was afraid that it would feel like that, but once I did it, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like its own show almost.

Ian: I wonder Zach, whether it’s because of your racing style and your race strategy and your, give it everything, and of course you did milk that finish line, didn’t you with the jump in the air… there was the elation, there was everything in there and of course an American winning a French race is a great story.

Zach: Yes, maybe it was partly because of that but yes, whatever it was, it was a great experience for me. And that’s the interesting thing about running and about sponsorship, most of the time the sponsors want the win, they want the podium finish. They want you on the top. But I’ve also come to realize that through racing, people are attracted to elements more than just winning. I probably had races where I haven’t won and I ended up with more interviews and articles and attention than the guy who did. Just because people were so entertained by the dynamic of it and the style of it and that’s just been very interesting. And it’s just funny how that is, it’s like sometimes you don’t even need to win, I want to win but there can be a lot of value just in the way in which you run the race regardless of exactly where you finish in the standings.

Ian: No, absolutely. And there’s a couple of classic examples of that and this year’s Western States with Jim Walmsley as a classic example of that, he’s had far more media coverage than Andrew Miller who won the race and almost to the point that if you ask people who won Western State this year, sometimes they don’t even know, because there was so much attention on Jim Walmsley.

Zach: Yes, exactly.

Ian: Particularly for you with UTMB, the fact that you took it on and you gave it everything, and you did blow up. But you didn’t blow up in spectacular fashion as myself and maybe a couple of other journalists thought you would – you somehow you managed to hold on and still get a very, very respectable place. Tell me about UTMB, and what made you think that you could go and run that big loop through three countries from the front and maybe hold on to the finish line?


Zach: Honestly I didn’t know. That’s the thing with how I race. I said to friends or whatever, “I don’t go into races saying that I’m going to win, I don’t even go in with full confidence that I will. The only thing is that I’m just willing to try, and I’m willing to try to do something that I’m not sure I can do.” I think I can run around Mont Blanc, but I’m not sure I can run around it at the pace that I’m going to set off at. I’m just willing to try and find out and then if it works, it will be great, and if it doesn’t, I will learn something and then come back and probably try and fix it. Yes, I didn’t know if I could hold that all day. I did feel good and strong for a very long time. I had a little bad patch out of Courmayeur but then recovered and ran strong. It seemed all was going well up until just after Champex Lac, this is where it all started to unravel.

Ian: That’s what’s so great about it. I think to myself, if I was on the start line of a race like that and I had those insecurities-, those doubts or if I could or couldn’t, I’d play safe as most people would. And I’d maybe ease myself into the race, see how things go, and if I got to around about 70 or 80 miles and I’ve got something left, then I might give it a little bit more of a push. But you almost do it the opposite way around, you sort of go, ” I’m really fresh, let’s go as hard as I possibly can, for as long as I possibly can and maybe I’ll hold on.” When it all goes belly up and you get that major blow up and the major bonk, what goes through your mind at that point? Because you see the other runners coming up to you, you’ve got all those question marks in your mind about, “How I’m I going to get on here with? How am I going to continue? I’ve spent so long in this race at the front I don’t want to give it up now.” How’d you carry on?

Zach: It is very hard. Usually, there’s a fair amount of fight left. When I got Champex Lac I was getting chased but somehow I fought my way in there in the lead. Then by the time I left right on the heels of I think Julien and then just in front of the guy in third at that point in the race whose name is escaping me. Right then, I was in a bad spot – I wasn’t good mentally but I wasn’t going to give up. I was very determined to try and salvage it. I did actually get past Julien and I climbed away from him very, very, well. It wasn’t until the next day in the race that I found out that those two who had caught me at Champex Lac never beat me. I held them off.

Ian: No, they didn’t catch you!

Zach: Which I didn’t know because when Ludovic caught me I thought it was Julien, they’re both Hoka, I don’t know them very well by face. I know them much better now. I was confused when I was out there. I thought I was getting caught by Julien Chorier again and it was Ludovic. They’d comes from very far back. First, there was a lot of fight and then the body was just getting to a stand-still. It was just like the heart and the mind battle, the heart wanted it so badly to stay at the front and the body just wasn’t able to. It was very, very difficult for me. But I was still going to try to get to the finished and finish respectively. I just pushed to the finish — not very fast but I just did what I could and I got there. It was very tough mentally once I start getting passed.

Ian: It was still an incredible result for you to be one of the highest ever finishing Americans at the UTMB. History with UTMB and America is not something that the Americans have looked on until these last few years as being too great. What do you think has changed with people like David Laney, Jason Schlarb, yourself and so many others, that are now, making or enabling the American male runners – because the females have always done well at UTMB – but it’s significant the male runners that are now performing, what is it do you think that’s happened that’s now giving you good results at that race?

Zach: I’m not entirely sure I think maybe we’re a little more focused. Americans had a stage and we’re still maybe going through it where people just raced everything. They were not being very selective they just trying to see how much they can do but it’s quantity instead of quality. And as it’s gotten more competitive in America the elite runners have started to realize that, “I can’t just go out and win everything all year all along, I actually have to plan this. I need to be strategic and I need to target races.” I think maybe we’re targeting a little more and so we’re coming in with bodies that are not so beat up– that are ready to go.

And then we’re getting this faster generation that’s fresher and has this fast running background. On a runnable course– on a pretty runnable course like UTMB they’re able to– we’re able to go crank for a while. But then we’re also pulling young guys who have that background but also live live in the mountains of California at high altitude. I live in Colorado, Jason Schlarb lives in Colorado. David Laney bases out of Oregon but he’s always out the big mountains. Runners are finding themselves with these faster running backgrounds and good talents then coupling them with good training grounds and a little bit of focus and it’s paying off.


Ian: Yes, you’re exactly right. It’s a learning curve and I also think that more Americans are racing in Europe and they’re beginning to understand the European style of racing and the courses that are available out here. Because in general, our courses are more technical– and I’m not saying that UTMB is a technical race but I’m just saying that it’s all a process and it’s all a learning curve. Your UTMB, and this is my last question on UTMB. We’ll talk about San Francisco in a minute. A lot of people have compared your run to Ludovic Pommeret who won the race. Ludovic, while you were leading the race, was probably back in 50th place and he slowly but surely moved his way through the field as many of the elite runners fell by the wayside and dropped out of the race. He moved up and eventually won the race.

Have you, in the weeks and the months after UTMB sat down and looked at your race and looked at his race and thought, “I can learn something from his win?”

Zach: You could learn something. His win is also interesting because, if I understand correctly, he and I were actually pretty much together in the very early stages of the race. He did go out aggressively. He had a stomach issue partway through that put him into a walk for a while or hike and put him way back in 50th and then he made that miraculous comeback. His body forced him into a more conservative or strategic approach even though it wasn’t necessarily what he was trying to do. It is very interesting; it shows that you can and guys like David Laney too, show that you can be slower and be much more strategic and then just sweep up all the carnage along the way.

Ian: Yes.

Zach: There is something to be learned there. For me, when I came out of it the big areas where I saw to improve and learn lessons was more from a training standpoint – conditioning my legs a bit better for the downhill running towards the end. Then just in general and then a nutritional standpoint. Because when I look at UTMB in my own head and I don’t know if I’ve ever actually said this to anyone but in my own head as I progressed through my career– as I’ve raced since then and as I looked backed at UTMB and I looked back at other races I’ve done I feel that maybe– and I must go back and try UTMB again to test my theory. But it feels maybe it’s a bit like Templiers where I learned a big lesson in nutrition and there was a lot of potential there in my body physically but there was a lot that needed to be learned nutritionally to support that kind of an effort. Now, I’m just trying to figure out how do I fuel my body to support that kind of a physical effort. I don’t know. Yes, maybe I need to make some adjustments in tactics, in pacing, in technique and how much I hike and when I run and how aggressively I go out. It’s all very, very, interesting and I have a lot to think on through the winter.

Ian: The Ultra running audience are quite happy with the way you run Zach and they’ll happily accept every now and again that you are maybe going to blow up or you’re not going to win a race because the way you’re racing is so exciting. How was the recovery process post UTMB? Had UTMB depleted you physically and mentally?

Zach: It took its toll physically and mentally in the short term. Physically, I was less sore but from a deep-set fatigue stand point I would say I was much more beat up. UTMB took about a month. It was much, much longer, about twice as long than 50 mile recovery. And then mentally, it was tough too. When I came back from UTMB, I was in a rough spot mentally. I just had trouble. Although, I acknowledge a lot of positive things that came of it, lessons learned and good experiences and things, it was just really hard. It was so very heart-breaking for me; it was hard to deal with for a while but then eventually the body came around. I got back to training hard and I could focus my energies on something and I had a goal in mind– getting ready for North Face, and eventually I found my way, but it was initially very hard.

In the long term, the fear of the hundred was kind of like, “Oh, you will lose your speed.” People were like, “Take your time getting to the hundred, you’ll lose your speed.” Maybe I lost a bit of very low end speed but after North Face 50 I don’t feel like I’ve made myself a worse 50 mile runner.


Zach: I’m very happy about that because I felt at North Face, and maybe you will ask about this, but I felt when I was out running North Face, maybe at North Face is where my UTMB training that I had done all summer was paying dividends and showing up. That maybe I wasn’t quite present at UTMB but after resting after UTMB and then going back, like shifting training a bit. But at North Face, the work that I had done all summer long was now finally paying off.

Ian: You have hit the nail on the head for me and that was going to be my segway into North Face in San Francisco. What you achieved or maybe what some people would say you didn’t achieve at UTMB is what gave you a course record and that incredible run at San Francisco. That suddenly 50 miles was not that long in comparison to what you did at UTMB, but also it gave you all that inner strength and there was definitely a part of me that, it was a case of you were on the start line not only to race everybody else but you were there really to race yourself and to see what you could get out of your body and if that meant victory then all well and good, but if it meant that you came third or fifth or tenth but having given it everything then you would have been happy?

Zach: Yes, that’s always kind of the idea. Sometimes I do come third or fifth and I’m not so happy because I am competitive. But yes, that kind of is the idea and with the talent that was in that race it was basically shaping up to be pretty much exactly what it was or what it turned out to be, just an absolute hammer fest all day long. And you know that’s an exciting thing. It’s like, “Well, here’s a chance to really find out what I’m made of.” Because I see snippets in training. But you never go out there and race a full 50 miles in training. It’s just like, “Well, here is a really good opportunity to put myself to the test and see exactly what’s possible.”

Ian: I’m going to compress 50 miles into five or ten minutes but I’ve seen a lot of races, a lot of ultras and I’ve seen some fantastic performances, but the one thing with an ultra is when you see the guy or the girl come down the finishing chute they never look spent. They never look as though they’ve given it everything (from a a pace perspective) and it looks as though at San Francisco that you gave everything right from the beginning and finished it off giving every last ounce that you had. Your finish is just the most captivating two minutes of a 50-mile race. You are giving it everything. You’re breathing out of every orifice that and you’re worried about whether Hayden is chasing you down because you were only separated by minutes. It’s just so compulsive. Do you feel as though that is the way that the racing is going to go now?

Zach: It is heading that direction. We’re getting to the point now where we’re really starting to race. Hayden’s performance that day was absolutely incredible. I basically told him after the race, I’ve never had anyone hang with me like that. I’ve had people like Luis Alberto beat me. I’ve had people catch me. I’ve had other experiences but I’ve never had anyone go out with me and challenge me like that and then stay right on my heels all day long. And sometimes it was me on his heels because we flipped back and forth. That’s how close it was. It was a race. It was like I was running a road marathon where we came down to the final couple of miles and somebody makes a kick and pulls away and wins. That’s pretty much what it was. It was an actual race all day long where I could never be comfortable and I could basically never let off on the gas.

Yes, as we get competitive fields and these young hungry guys in the sport we are maybe going that way. The 100 mile distances are a very interesting distance for that to happen to, just because there’s so many factors. But in this 50-mile distance where, especially in America where the courses are being run in five and a half– six and a half hours, and guys are starting to get very strong and trained very well and be tapered well for the races. Yes, we could see more of it. I don’t think we’ll see it necessarily at every race but I think a couple of the big ones during the year where you get the right combination of guys on the line and we’ll have a few more shows in the next couple years.

Ian: Zach, how much do you think $10,000 prize money influences it being a race.

Zach: It influences it in the sense that it draws a lot of very good competition to the start line. A lot of the elites, they want to run it because that’s the big pay day if they can get it. When I’m out there running… I forget where I heard it but it was somewhere I think after college somebody said they had received some advice or something that you should never run for money. Money should never be the reason that you’re running. When I’m out there running 50-mile race, money is not the motivating factor. I like to think that there’s other things that are more of a motivating factor but I won’t lie when I was running the race I was thinking about the $10,000 prize!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: That’s a pretty significant amount of money. It does a lot for me. Yes, it does push you. When I had 5k to go and I was in the lead by about a minute, it was kind of like, “Well, I can hurt an awful lot for $10,000.”


Zach: I would love to say that the money never crossed my mind, that I’m just such a purist of giving it my all and just the spirit of the sport, that that was the only thing motivating me but I’m too human. It was a mix. It was my competitiveness, it was my desire to just be first and attain that measure of success, and it was also $10,000. I probably needed just about every bit of of grit to get me to push that hard.

Ian: There is absolutely nothing wrong and my question was a loaded question because I wanted to get your viewpoint on the influence and the impact that money has in the sport, because I think we are going to see more of it and races like Run Rabbit Run where there is even more money available has an influence. This race was a race, prize money or not. And when Hayden and yourself are running shoulder to shoulder and he’s in the lead and you’re in the lead, what was the point where in your mind you thought to yourself, “Now is the point that I go and give it everything.”?

Zach: It was pretty much with about nine miles to go coming out of Muir beach the second time.

Ian: Okay.

Zach: There was a time shortly before that where I thought like maybe I was breaking away but I think mostly I had gotten a few seconds but the trail was just so twisty and turny that I couldn’t see him, so it felt like I was farther ahead than I was. And by the time we got to Muir Beach he was right behind me. He was like 15 seconds behind me. And there we were at around mile I don’t know 40, 42 and nobody had blown, we were in the exact same spot we had been basically at the start. But that was the point where I knew we had basically two more climbs and we had two descents and I didn’t want to lose it on a descent at the end and so I was just kind of like, “Well I just– I have to– I’ve been doing well.” After about 30 miles I had been doing well on the climbs– very well on them so I just had like, “Well, I’m just going to kind of push really hard here and see if I can get away and do a little caution for the couple of descends that were left.”

Ian: You got the course record and the race will be remembered for years and years to come. It’s one of those classic jewels and of course the advantage these days is that there’s so much social media that that story get shared worldwide. It’s certainly become one of the highlights of 2016 for several reasons – I think the time that you ran, that final two-minute video shows the amount of commitment and pain that you’re putting yourself through. But equally the finish line and the sharing of the story and the emotion with Hayden that very much humanized the event, that there was a victory there was prize money but ultimately it’s one of the things that I love about this sport, it was the interaction between you two and the mutual respect.

Zach: Yes, that was one of the greatest parts of the day. Was that I was competing against an incredible athlete who at the end of the day was willing to turn around and shake my hand and give me a hug and chat about the race and how incredibly hard it was. There was a good camaraderie there, it wasn’t this like ugly rivalry of like, “Oh, I hate you and you hate me and we can’t talk to each other.” No, it was almost like we were more friendly with each other after the race than we were friendly with each other before the race but I think each person kind of maybe has their guard up a little bit, you know?

Ian: Yes.

Zach: And then after the race it was good to be able to share those moments with Hayden and especially him being so new to the sport.

Ian: All right.

Zach: That was me at JFK with Rob Krar. And I remember how kind Rob Krar was after the race in talking to me and I respected that. And that is a good testament of the great sports we have.

Ian: 2016 is coming to an end, you’ve had incredible results at San Francisco, you’ve got that course record and now is an opportunity for you to look back at the year and recover and plan for 2017. I’m looking forward to next year, you have an entry for Hardrock 100.

Zach: [laughs] Yes, just to add it’s not a guarantee yet, I’m in if I want it. It was a funny situation, I had a ticket and I’d paid for the Hardrock and I’ve kind of wanted to do Hardrock and Bill Dupery wanted me to do it and I had this ticket and I said well, they say it takes like eight years to get in so I might as well put it in.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: And I said I will put it and I will hope that it doesn’t come out because I want to go UTMB.

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: I got in!

Ian: [laughs]

Zach: Now I have this decision, I must decide whether I run Hardrock or run UTMB and at first I would say I was leaning towards just going to UTMB and then I kind of started talking with Bill Dupery and [laughs] friends in Colorado and I started leaning back more towards Hardrock. And now I’m not sure what to do but I’m considering both. I won’t do both but I will pick one and I’m considering both I just must decide which one to pick. I’m very honoured to have made it into the race and it is a very cool race and I think it suits kind of my current living and training style, I am well-suited for it, so I kind of feel I should probably take a crack at it while I have the chance. Because I know this chances are precious. I’d say there’s a decent shot I’ll be on that start line but I still must kind of think through a few things.

Ian: Well, I’m not going to pressurize that decision.

Zach: [laughs]

Ian: Should you choose to do Hardrock or UTMB it’s going to be a very, very exciting day. I must think that you’re run at Hardrock would really, interest me because [laughs] if you use the strategy that you always use that could be a very, very interesting day at Hardrock and particularly with Kilian and Jason Schlarb going back – that’s one hell of a line-up.

Zach: And I’ll say this, I feel like there are two things that people would love to see at Hardrock, they would love to see me race like I normally do…

Ian: Yes [laughs].

Zach: …because, as insane as they think it is, it’s extra insane at Hardrock because of the nature of the course and they want to see Kilian go as fast as he possibly can. And if we could get both of those things in one day it would be very exciting.

Ian: It would be more than exciting Zach!

Zach: Maybe Kilian’s already gotten his best performance there but the man is very, very talented and I felt like having Hayden at North Face just pushed me to a different level. I’m not saying that I’m good enough to push Kilian to that level but if we could ever have somebody push him to that level that could be very fun to watch.

Ian: It would be definitely fun to watch. And on that note, it’s a perfect place to finish with the anticipation and excitement of what might happen. Either at UTMB or Hardrock in 2017. Zach look, thank you so much for giving me your time, it’s been a fascinating interview and thank you for inspiring so many runners in 2016.

Zach: You’re welcome, it was my pleasure.


All images ©zachmiller

Pete Kostelnick – Run Across USA full and In-Depth Interview

Pete Kostelnick broke the longstanding record for running across the U.S. on October 24th 2016.

Pete linked the City Halls ofSan Francisco and New York in a stunning time of 42-days, 6-hours. The previous record of 46-days, 8-hours was set by Frank Giannino, Jr. in 1980. Kostelnick knocked out 70+ miles day-after-day and only took one complete rest day.

I caught up with Pete to hear all about this incredible journey.

The Interview:

Ian: Okay, you’ve got to be living under a stone not to realize that Peter Kostelnick just smashed the 3100 mile journey of running across America and he’s joining me now, Peter, many congratulations.
Pete Kostelnick: Thank you Ian, it’s great to be here.
Ian: It’s great to have you here, and I’m almost intimidated about talking about somebody who’s just run 3100 miles, it’s such an epic, epic journey. I have got a little bit of history, your Hoka One One team mate called Karl Metzer is a co-host of mine, so I interviewed him recently about his Appalachian Trail. Way back- many years ago, I interviewed Marshall Ulrich about his book, and of course, running across America was involved in that. Before I get down to this incredible journey, I want to just find out a little bit about you and who you are and what brought you on this crazy journey? When did you start to run long distances?
Pete: I really didn’t get into marathons until well I guess I got into marathon’s about exactly eight years ago when I was 21. I did the Marine Corps marathon, really it’s just a test to myself, to get in shape, and drop a few pounds, there was really no competitive aspect to it for me, but that was where it all began. I tell people if I was naturally skinny I probably wouldn’t even be in this sport.

Ian: There’s so many people who’ve got a very very similar story, and I’m one of them. Can you still hear me?
Pete: Yes, yes, and and it’s been quite a journey. The reasons why I run have changed so much over the years, but I just love it, it’s really just been building, I still run so I can eat and drink whatever I want.

Ian: [laughs]

Pete: Then, there’s also a social aspect to it, I’ve met so many of my friends and closest friends now really, through running and it’s taking me to some really cool places along the way and that’s another thing I really enjoy about it. Also the competitive nature of it as well, you know, competing against yesterday competing against myself and then, competing against others. It just seems like every year I find another reason why I love Ultra Running.
Ian: Okay, I had a look on Ultra Signp and that goes back to sort of 2011, and you know there’s plenty of good top 10 results in those early days, but when was it for you it switched maybe from being something that burned calories and helped you lose weight, to something far more, something more competitive?
Pete: I think going into 2015 it really just less than two years ago is when I kind of flipped the switch and though that I felt like I had the framework to be a good ultra runner, but that was really when I kind of shifted into, “I want to be as competitive as possible” and I really made some changes. Like dropping 15 to 20 pounds, over the winter.

Ian: Yes.

Pete: Going into 2015, and also increasing my weekly mileage from; I was an 80 to 100 miles a week runner, during my peak training. I wasn’t really that extremely high for an ultra runner, so one thing I did during the 2015 is that I really ramped up my weekly mileage to many 150 plus mile weeks, and even a few 200 mile weeks.
Ian: Wow, wow, and how did your body handle that?
Pete: I think it’s been a progression over the years and luckily five years ago I would have never guessed that I would be running as many miles as I am today, but each year I kind of try to up the bar a little bit up the ante and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that for much longer. [laughs] My body handled it well, and I think that’s because, over these last five years since I got into Ultra Running, I’ve really very, very slowly progressed my mileage from 50 to 80 miles a week, then maybe 80 to 100 and then 100 to 150 and so on to this year where I just kind of went bananas with the training!
Ian: [laughs]

Pete: …and put in a lot of 200 plus mile weeks.

Ian: Wow.

Pete: My body has handled it very well but I would definitely caution anyone thinking about running 200 miles a week.

Ian: For sure.

Pete: It takes a very long time to build up to it.

Ian: Yes, I mean that sort of mileage is huge, and I’d like to put that mileage in perspective of your daily life. What is daily life like and what is weekly life like, that allows you to accumulate that level of mileage?

Pete: Yes, so I work a normal day job from eight to five, but what I would do this year in particular with the 200 mile training weeks was I’d really wake up at 5am, and be running out the door by usually 5:15. I’d put in about two hours of running before work, so I’d get usually about 14 to 16 miles in, nothing crazy paced. I don’t really do really much of any tempo training. Then after work I would go straight to the gym usually, and do two hours of treadmill running, usually about another 14 to 16 miles…

Ian: Okay.

Pete: ….basically every day of the week I would be getting around 30 miles a day, If I could get my two day’s in, and then on the weekend is where I do the longer continuous training where I’ll do a lot of times 30 to 50 miles training runs straight through.

Ian: Right, okay. It’s interesting that you do a treadmill run, is there a reason for that other than variety, or weather, or consistency? What is the reason behind the treadmill run?

Pete: I think there’s a few things that have led me in that direction, one I think it actually does save my legs a little bit. You have a little bit of more give on the treadmill, so I think that’s been one thing that’s helped me recover. Another is just from the pure schedule standpoint, so my wife, she actually– we had to live apart for a few months this year which was probably part of the reason why I got away with training so much. Actually what I- I would usually just use the evening run to really watch TV, and the news and…

Ian: [laughs]

Pete: …to keep up because literally, you know what I was doing was I was waking up at 5am and basically straight to run, and straight to work, and straight to run, and then I get home at 8 o’clock at night. There’s, maybe one or two hours that I have before I go to bed and do it all over again.
Ian: [laughs] Yes, yes okay, so I’m sort of imagining you running on the treadmill with a beer, a pizza [laughs], TV on…


Ian: …sort of doing everything at once and thinking, “Yes, this is a great way to save time” [laughs].
Pete: Yes, exactly [laughs].

Ian: In some ways, now that you’re saying this, your run across America is starting to fall into place, there’s a sort of logic that’s clicking, and I can see how it’s forming. The other thing that interests me is this schedule that you have of, 5am start, run, work, run, and particularly you know, two hours on a treadmill, most people call it the dreadmill. I guess it’s helping you focus your mind and work on mind skills, which are obviously integral to what you’ve achieved.
Pete: Yes, without a doubt. I’ve done some training runs on a treadmill, I think the longest I’ve ever done was oh gosh I think it was 80 miles.

Ian: Wow.

Pete: It’s been a while since I’ve gotten that extreme on a treadmill, but yes it definitely helps train the mind. I don’t know if I could do a treadmill run without a TV. Even watching TV for that long, you have to have a very solid mental state that allows you to… I don’t want to call it meditate, but really just kind of zone out and really push through miles and let your mind wander elsewhere from what you’re currently doing.
Ian: Yes. Is that something that you’ve worked on? That ability to zone out, and although the TV may be on, you’re actually maybe not really watching it, it’s just a distraction.

Pete: Yes, definitely, and once you know one thing I tell people a lot of times is I’m very much a rhythm runner. That might be part of my challenge on trail races is it’s hard to get into like a very consistent rhythm with stride and pace on a trail. On the roads, I think that’s one of my biggest strengths is I get into a rhythm and I can just zone out as long as the terrain is very even. Not to get ahead of myself but actually, that’s why Pennsylvania, the last state was probably the most frustrating for me, because it didn’t really lend itself to be much of a good rhythm-running state but we can get into that more later.

Ian: Yes, absolutely. What I want to do before we get into the Run Across America is firstly go back to 2014. From 2011, there was a consistency with your results and some real variables in there. No significance, but I’m just going to pick on Silver Rush 50 where you placed 70th but then you would go to Hawk Hundred 50-miler and place 4th. I guess in these days, was this all a little bit about learning the ropes and figuring out what you were doing?

Pete: Oh, yes, without a doubt. There is a variation too in some of the competitiveness but I think… that’s what I tell a lot of people that are getting into ultra running is a lot of it is really the experience of putting your body through it. Even if you’re not even ready for a race, heck, sign up and put your body through it as long as you’re not injured. I think stomach wise, that’s always been my battle. Nutrition has always plagued me until I started to figure it out and my body started getting used to the high mileage. I would say almost more than anything is my stomach just being able to adapt to turning itself over so many times.

Ian: Okay, so when you entered Badwater 135 in 2014, was that very much a case of throwing yourself in at the deep end and basically just seeing what happens?
Pete: Yes, yes, definitely and there were a lot of nutrition mistakes that I made in that race. I was still testing out a lot of different nutrition methods. I think I was at the point too where my stomach was just — I don’t know. I couldn’t really keep any food down the entire last 40 miles and I kept refusing it, which is definitely a major no, no, in a ultra that long.

Ian: Yes and so how and what made you change within one year to finish 10th or 14th overall at Badwater in 30:38 to then go and win it in 23:27? It’s a phenomenal change and the thing is, is if we look at your results and the buildup to Badwater, there’s a whole string of consistency. You won a 24-hour, you did Cape Fear 50-miler and you were 3rd, you did the Brew to Brew 40-miler, which you won, you did the Flint Hills 40-mile, which you won and then win and 23:27 at Badwater.

Pete: Yes, I think a lot of it is my  dropping 20 pounds I think was huge the winter after 2014 and 2015. Then I think also, the weekly mileage was a big shift, really adding about 50% onto what I was doing in previous years, getting up to 150 plus mile training weeks. Then also, as part of that, I had never worn Hokas before that and I switched to Hoka at the beginning of 2015. I think that was a big help not just from a race standpoint but mostly from a training standpoint because I was really not taking any off days and really pushing the mileage up overall.

Ian: Okay and you find that the additional cushioning that Hoka gives you is something that is reducing the impact on your legs and allowing you to run more?

Pete: Yes, yes and definitely, the recovery is huge as well. I feel like that’s been one of the main reasons. I don’t really take any days off each week.

Ian: When 2015 came to an end, you did Desert Solstice 24 and Desert solstice 100-miler, they’re the same race, aren’t they? Was it you got 100-mile time and then the 24 time?

Pete: Yes, yes, exactly.

Ian: Okay, so you won the 24 and you were 2nd in the 100-miler. You started new year really, really well. At that point, did you know what was coming up in 2016? I know that may sound like a silly question but did you know that you planning to Run Across America?

Pete: Yes, after I finished that all in 2015, that was when I started to get serious about doing a transcontinental run in 2016 but I didn’t really have the logistics sorted out until spring of this year.
Ian: Okay and what was the reason for jumping to such an extreme? Obviously, you are in your late 20s so age is on your side. You had the Badwater result, which I suppose is a good set up for something like Running Across America even though it’s only a fraction of the distance and you were racking up big weekly mileage but what was it that lured you to make such a huge decision?

Pete: I think it was just mainly one of those things where I felt like if I didn’t go for it in 2016, I may never get another chance to do it. Because I’d love to keep racing competitively for a number of years but as far as my wife and I’s situation, it seemed like 2016 was maybe the only year I’d have to go taking off that much time from work.
I would have loved to have more multiday experience, but from timing perspective, this was about the only year that might have seemed a fit.

Ian: Okay and I always say with these types of things, you can’t really train for them. It’s about just accumulated time of running. Relatively speaking, you still are quite a young runner. If we think back seven or eight years, to then run across America, which is 3,100 miles, you are still almost in primary school in terms of your running history. What gave you the confidence in thinking that you would have the ability both physically and mentally to take on such a huge challenge?

Pete: Yes, yes, a lot of people ask me that. Even though running 30 miles a day is not even half of where I’m 70 miles a day. I think just the way I was able to efficiently squeeze in 30-mile a day training days really just about every day for an extended period of time gave me confidence that I could jump to this 70-miles a day if nine to ten more hours of time available.

Ian: [laughs] Now the whole Talk Ultra audience are now listening and there’s a lot of people out there who’ve run a 50-miler or a 100K or a 100-miler and that experience was brutal for them and here you are saying doing that every day. They’re all shaking their heads and their earphones are falling off and they’re going, “This guy is nuts.
How can you possibly think that, yes, 30 miles a day, oh, yes, it’s not too bad to jump up to 70. Yes, that will be all right.” I mean it’s making my eyes water even thinking about it.
Now obviously, I understand your thinking, I understand your reasoning and you’ve proved it, you’ve proved that it can be done. I’d love to get into the mindset of what made you think it could be done? What gave you the confidence to think, “Yes, I can do this?”

Pete: I think a lot of it balances on my ability… when I was out there running with people, a lot of them would say, “My goodness, you never, ever, ever stop even when you’re having breakfast. The only time you ever stop is when you’re at lunch,” so I have a very… I call it stubbornness, some people call it something a little more glamorous but…

Ian: [laughs]

Pete: …I know that’s one of my best traits is when I’m focused on something, I’m going to try and find the most efficient route possible. I knew that even if I had to walk literally the other 40 miles a day on top of the 30 miles I was running and recovering well from a training perspective, I’m actually a pretty good speed walker so that was one thing. I thought, “well, of course I’m not going to walk 40 miles a day.” If there was a day where I had to do that, I think I could. I think that was one thing. It’s just, the stubbornness I have. Having a good crew that understands my needs and knows that I’m really not going to ever stop during the day, when I’m in motion. I always think through logically the most efficient way to get from point A to point B.

Ian: Okay. Let’s talk about how the build up came about. You ran Western States and you were returning to Badwater. Badwater, obviously, as a defending champion, Badwater directly relates to your run across America. It makes complete logical sense. Western States thrown in there, you’ve already said that you like consistency and although Western States trail is pretty groomed it’s still a trail and it has a lot more variables in it. What was that experience like?

Pete: Yes, it was very encouraging to me. Actually it’s been a lot of the spring overcoming some anemia. It didn’t really impact my training at all but I was very, very low energy especially going up any hills and especially on trail, going up a hill on a trail. That was the point where I felt I had to overcome my anemia. I was feeling pretty good for that reason.
Actually the only thing that bit me on that race was all the down hills. My quads were pretty shot and destroyed by halfway point. Other than that, it was a good experience and it was very encouraging. I’d actually announced that I was doing this tanscontinental run right before that race. I was still nervous, because it was the first race I’d done in all years of really any distance.

Ian: Okay. Now it’s interesting that you say that you announced the tanscontinental run. Obviously, over in Europe, we were interested in Rob Young. We’ll get your viewpoints on Rob Young in a minute about his tanscontinental run. It very much seemed as though your run was a little bit under the radar even Karl Meltzer who’s a Hoka One One teammate said, “It’s relatively under the radar, I didn’t really know too much about it.” Was that partially intentional or do you think that maybe the running media didn’t quite get hold of your intentions?

Pete: I think more of the latter, because I tried broadcasting it out as much as possible. Mostly in an effort to get runners to come out and run with me because that was what I found to be one of the most mentally relieving aspects of the run. I guess, maybe I wasn’t one the top Ultra runners on the list out there. I think maybe in some respects that it got looked over for various reasons.

Ian: You went to Badwater almost a month after Western States. I always say the sign of a true champion is when they go back to race and win it again. You did it in 21:56, which is just an incredible time. At that point, you must have felt really boosted and bolstered for your run across America. You must have felt that everything was starting to click into place.

Pete: Yes. Definitely. I was very excited about it because actually my recovery from Western States was not the best. I even told one of my crew member. We’ve talked about me going to try to repeat or even go for a cross record before Badwater. Then I remember texting him. Maybe two weeks before Badwater, telling him, “Okay, let’s not even talk about anything cross record or winning. Let’s just go finish this race and then get on the tanscontinental run in a couple of months.” It was actually Chuck who joined me for the tanscontinental run as well.

Ian: How did… I was going to say how did Badwater unfold. I mean it unfolded really, really well because you won it. You got an absolutely fantastic time. It would be interesting to maybe just get a little snippet of what that experience was like for you. I mean Badwater has a reputation of being just brutal. Do you find it brutal?

Pete: It really captures a lot of my strengths very well. I could see how it’s the toughest race for just about anyone that does it. It’s really up my alley as far as being on road, being very consistent with both in climbs and on the flat section. It really awards people who are efficient as possible. Going in this year, I knew that there are some times when I actually sat down for short breaks. The prior year I had to walk some… it definitely favors those that are patient, but are also thinking ahead and never wanting to take unnecessary breaks which is the way that I improved my time this year.

Ian: Badwater’s done and dusted it was the perfect scenario for you the perfect boost. Then almost, eight weeks later, September 12th, was the start date for your across America run. What goes on in that period in terms of planning, preparation, getting everything sorted out? You’ve got to run 100 miles a week in training. You’re also working. You don’t really have a great amount of spare time. Were you delegating the organization and the planning to other people?

Pete: Yes. It was great because I had the team of four that joined me in the entire run. They were very helpful in all the planning and logistics behind the run, and then as well as my sister who is really our route planning guru. She is a teacher so she actually had a little bit more time in the summer. She graciously helps with that. Because that was probably one of the biggest obstacles to overcome was the route. To making sure that all the roads that I was going to run on were okay to run on. Then also if there is any construction, be in contact with the local DRT.

Ian: Right. Okay. What did planning break down– I mean how complicated was the planning process? How much of it did you get involved? Or were you able to stand back and just trust people getting everything sorted out for you?

Pete: I like to say involved in it, but for the most part I was able to sit back and let the team take care of a lot it. One of my big things about any race I do, I’m very simple person. I don’t like to make things overly complicated but there were definitely things that were making it more complicated than I first realized, because it is a pretty serious undertaking. You never know how much stuff you need to get done until you actually do it. Yes, I would say for the most part, I was very lucky to have a team that took care of a lot of it for me.

Ian: When you’re planning and your training was going on for your attempt, were you, or were of Rob Young’s planning and attempt?

Pete: Yes. I was following it very closely [laughter]

Ian: Okay. I mean obviously that has turned out to be a real mess and a real fiasco. I don’t want to turn this conversation into the rights and wrongs of what Rob did. I’m assuming that you had enough advance warning to make sure that you didn’t make the mistakes that would prove that you were going to do your attempt and it could be ratified. How helpful was it seeing Rob’s attempt just crumble?

Pete: It was extremely helpful. That was the big thing. I was trying to turn a negative around, a situation like that into a positive for myself. Going in I didn’t really realize… I guess I realized it but I didn’t really think about the scrutiny involved with a run like this. That was definitely very helpful and planning out how are we going to make everything as transparent as possible. Then how we’re going to record and document this as best we can. There was definitely a lot of elements that I learned from by watching that. As well as other runners. I feel I’ve done it the right way over the course of the last few years.

Ian: When you stand in San Francisco on September the 12th, and you know that you have 46 days 8 hours and 36 minutes, or should I say 35 minutes and 59 seconds to break the record. Did you have an idea in your mind what would be your target goal?

Pete: Yes, I had broadcasted to really anyone that wanted to know before the run, that 44 days was the goal, which would be roughly 70 miles per day. Going out my goal was to always hit 70 miles a day, if possible, although I was kind of shooting in the dark the first week.

Ian: The first week was just flying along wasn’t it? I mean, I remember looking and thinking, “Wow, this guy is killing it.” And I thought, “He’s either going to kill it or it’s all going to crumble horrendously.” Then of course very, very early on you took that complete day off. People like myself and, I guess, people all around the world started to look in and go, “He started too fast, it’s all going to fall apart.” What was that like for you physically and mentally because I’ve read lots of things where basically, you said that your body was pretty tired and broken, after that first week?

Pete: I’ll admit I went out way over my head in terms of mileage and it was good because looking back on I’m glad I did that. Because it really taught me a lesson early and I really latched on to that lesson. That is, there’s a monumental exponential difference between 50 miles a day, 60 miles a day, 60 miles a day to 70 miles a day, 70 to 80 in particular for me. I did a couple of 80 miles a day and then I did a very very big elevation net elevation gain day on Thursday, where I still managed to do almost 74 miles. That’s really what started to break me and over the next three days after that, it just kept escalating worse and worse with tendinitis and general fatigue and my body was very weak. It was good to learn that early on, and I had a really good medical advice as well and actually on I think I remember on the fourth day when I started feeling some of that tendinitis. The team doctor, Chris Roman, actually recommended that I cut the day short and actually walk the entire next day and, of course, I didn’t listen to him at the time. By the time I got to day seven, just remembering his advice from a couple days earlier, made the decision pretty easy. To take the day off completely on day seven and regroup. I had a good sense that if, I did just be smart and really aim for 70 rather than 80 miles a day, that I could come back and make it work.

Ian: Now, I’m amazed and Karl sort of confirmed what you are saying, but I’m amazed that just taking one day after racking up 70 plus miles and then continuing to rack up 70 plus miles is enough. It just goes to show and it proves that the body is a remarkable thing, but one of the things Karl said and there’s a lot of precedent with other runners that have done these big multi days. Whether it was Scott Jurek or Jennifer Davis or even Karl, is it seems as though that the body will pay a price at some point. Whether it’s shin splints, or whether it’s sore knees or sore ankle but it happens. The remarkable thing is that there’s this ability to go through it, and although you took a day off you came back. You had just ease yourself back in, but it’s almost as though you’re training the body to absorb the pain, accept the pain, maybe even ignore the pain. What was that process like for you and can you relate to it?

Pete: Oh, yes, without a doubt. I think that was the big thing early on, was training the body to really get used to it and, yes, there was that point where I knew that I had to take a bow, mostly because two-fold. One was that the tendinitis needed a little time to subside because I wasn’t going to be doing any more big climbing for several days. That was one of the benefits of getting out of California, really, but then a lot of it is mental too. The body, a lot of the pain definitely, I was getting used to on a daily basis, and so my mind was much better place to deal with that for an extended amount of time, every day. It was like getting in, jumping in the ocean and you feel the shock of the cold water initially, but after that initial shock you kind of just used to it. From there you can really adapt and that was… it was almost more mental adaptation than anything else.

Ian: Now, what I find interesting is very, very early on in this interview, you explained what a day was like for you. Getting up at five o’clock in the morning, running at 5:15, doing a full day of work and then running for two hours. Your days effectively were 5.00 AM to 7 PM and that was running and working. What you effectively did in running across America was replicate that but you didn’t go to work, you went to work running. Was that part of the mental process that made you believe that 75 or 70 miles a day, was possible?
Pete: Oh, yes, without a doubt. That definitely really helped. Having those days where you… especially just having to be very efficient and always thinking about the clock and always thinking about, how can I get out of bed earlier? “How can I get out of bed quicker?” and started running two minutes quicker each day. That was one thing along the transcontinental run that we really got good at was. A lot of times it would take 30 to 40 minutes to get ready and then out of the door. Eventually we got that down to about 20 to 25 minutes, even with adding some stretching techniques in there. Just things like that are things that are just so monumental and run like this.

Ian: Now, you’ve said it in many interviews that a day would typically start around 4 AM. You’d run around about 40 miles. You’d then take a break for lunch and then you’d get back on the road and aim to finish around about 5.00 PM. Was that a typical day?

Pete: Yes, yes, definitely. Once I got into the the second week, that started to become the routine, and that was another thing that was very appealing to me. Because it was like my pre-run schedules, 5.00 AM run, go to work, then another run after work. That was what it became, on the run was I knew exactly what to expect. Okay, I’m going to run from 4:00 AM, so basically, 10:30 to 11:30 in the morning. I stopped for lunch and I’m then I’m going to run again. Then that took a lot of pressure off because it made me realize that if I can hold about a 10 minute pace all day, through the first 50 or 60 miles, I can start to do some walking later on. That was my personal reward for having a good day of running and really sticking to an efficient schedule was the fact that, I could do some walking later in the day, rather than running all 70 miles.

Ian: Now, you said earlier about it took you a while to learn how to get your nutrition sorted and certainly running for this amount of days and racking up this amounts of mileage, you really need to have your nutrition sorted. So what were you eating out and how did you manage to keep it down?

Pete: It’s funny because, honestly, I felt like I can eat just about anything, on the run. There was never a day or anything I ate, where I had any stomach issues, where I felt like I couldn’t keep it down. For the most part while I was out on the run, we were doing a ton of different protein bars. I was doing a lot of trail mix, lots of banana chips. I really liked those sugar coated pineapple slices, as well. I drink a lot of soda and I think that’s one thing that helps settle my stomach and really just about any type of food you can really think of, or any snack item and I was eating it while I was running.

Ian: Just doing a quick summary of what you’ve said there, you were actually putting in a lot of simple sugars a lot of carbohydrates?

Pete: Yes, yes.

Ian: There wasn’t… I mean obviously you mentioned the protein that tends to become a little bit more important after the run, but it seemed to work so well. How much real food were you throwing in there? I mean I know that it’s difficult to eat real food while you’re running but your lunch break I mean did you go for a more balanced meal? How did that look in comparison to what you were eating while you were on the go?

Pete: Yes, I would usually do about three and a half real meals a day. To start the morning before I start running I’d usually do oat meal with some bread and also a banana. Lunch I would usually do something higher in protein like with eggs and then also maybe some potatoes and maybe some meat as well. Then for dinner. I would usually do something very high in protein like eggs and steak, and also I like to eat a lot of ice cream [laughs] has a little bit of protein in it. Then the other sort of the half meal a lot of times would to be around the marathon point. That’s the only time really during the day where I’d eat something really of any real like meal substance. I’d usually have like a breakfast sandwich with egg and meat. Somewhere between 20 and 30 miles to help me stretch out to the 40 miles in the morning before I stopped get ready for lunch.

Ian: Right. Okay. Then obviously a key element of being able to get up and do what you’re doing every single day is the rest. I think this is what’s so good about your attempts. Is that you weren’t going into the night trying to squeeze miles into the detriments of rest and recovery. For the most time it seems as though you were finishing a good time, you were having a good meal, you were maybe having a massage and some relaxation before probably getting I’m guessing somewhere in the region of seven to eight hours sleep a night?

Pete: Yes, I think that was the key. Was getting to bed by 7 PM just about every night, and then I have until usually 3.30 A.M. to wake up. Like on the last day in particular was a day where I got to bed by seven but I woke up at 11.30 to try to get out the door by midnight to do the last really long stretch which was an abnormal day. Starting that day was the most fatigued I’d felt really the entire run because I didn’t get my rest. I just can’t imagine other runners that have done this whether that’s basically the norm or they’re only getting four or five hours to sleep. Because it was the nights where I had to get less sleep than the seven or eight hours those were the most difficult days.

Ian: Now, it’s obviously Groundhog Day. Repeat, repeat, repeat. How gruesome was it to have to get up each day and get on the road initially knowing that you had 3100 miles to go, and of course it gets less and less as you’re going on. Anything, if you’re doing it day in and day out, it becomes a chore it becomes just not pleasant. How bad was it for you at times?

Pete: It’s funny that you mention Groundhog day so that’s exactly what I was thinking every morning I woke up.

Pete: Especially going out into the dark. It’s like, “Okay, here I am running into the dark. It’s same thing is that yesterday morning just 70 miles further east.” That was very gruesome and there was always the worst part of the day was when I woke up and just thinking about getting started. I did find a way to flip it the other way in and look at it as, “Okay, if I can get through that first mile, the quicker I get up out of bed have breakfast and get to that first mile of the run the happier I’m going to be because that’s going to be the worst part of the day. The quicker I can squeeze that first mile in from when I get up, the better the day is going to be because I’m going just to be thinking about the rest of the miles.” It was very gruesome but gruesome in a good way I guess. It always got me out of bed pretty quickly in the morning to get my first foot out the door.

Ian: How did your body feel every morning? Stiffening up overnight, crawling out of bed feeling probably 56 not 28 [laughs] and easing your body into the first mile and then the second mile and then there comes a point where I guess things start to loosen up, and everything starts to feel a bit better, and then it’s about also pilot. What was it like and how hard was it on some days to get your body to do what you wanted it to do?

Pete: Yes, early on I would describe it as more of a stiff feeling in the morning. At the end of the day it was probably the worst. I could always sit down for about a half hour an hour to eat dinner and talk to the crew before I went to bed. When I got up from eating dinner it was like, “Okay, it’s going to take me about 20 seconds to hobble back to the bed in the back or the R.V.” There’s a lot of… and that’s kind of what made me nervous was the fact that, “Okay, I am going to wake up in eight hours and go run, is tomorrow going to be the day when my legs just finally don’t work?” Then I think as the run went on I was waking up too much less of a stiff feeling too more of just a tight feeling. That was very encouraging because earlier on the run, especially the higher altitudes and maybe the altitude had more to do with it than my body’s adaptation window. To start the first couple miles I was literally just boiling my legs into a shuffle early on in the run, but as the run went on it was less of a shuffle and more of just a warm-up I would call it. The first few miles.

Ian: Okay. The one thing that impressed me is that whenever I looked at photos of you, saw the odd video clip, read reports, got updates from your website, It looked as though you were just killing it. It looked as though the record was going to go. You looked incredible you were always smiling. I’m sure that you weren’t, but it looks as though you were always smiling, and I’m going to really insult you by saying you made it look easy. Was it was as complete as it appears from the outside?

Pete: Once I got to Nebraska especially a lot of it became more of a mental battle than anything. I would think about okay, each individual mile is not that hard to run but just thinking about the entire day and thinking about how many miles I still have left was really the battle each day. I’d also say that when I did have people to run with which is probably the case of a lot of photos and videos, that’s when I really was… actually it really was pretty easy, because when I would run with people that would come out and I get into a conversation with them, the whole mental part goes out the window. I really kind of forget that I’m even running because I’m just so used to it. I would say the biggest battle is just when I was running alone which was quite often, but just thinking, “Oh my gosh I have 52 more miles in the day.” I think that was really the biggest challenge because I really got into I think a good rhythm in my cadence, in my stride once I figured out over the course of the first couple weeks.

Ian: Okay. Now the other thing that impressed me was the route that you took. Because you actually… I think almost did exactly the same route of the original in 1980. Was that intentional?

Pete: Yes, yes. Definitely. I wanted to replicate as much… I didn’t really study his route from a town a town perspective, but I think if you’re going out to break a record you want to make it as comparable as possible to the person that owns the record. I thought that was the respectful thing to do, but also I mean it really worked out to my favor personally too because it allowed me to go through Nebraska and Iowa right when I needed it most, and see a lot of familiar sights and I lived in both of those two states most of my life.

Ian: Now I don’t need to tell you that the record is one of the oldest records in The Guinness Book of Records and there’s a reason for that, is that because it’s so bloody tough. Now that you’ve achieved it, and you’re probably a little bit blown away, now that with the amount of attention that you’ve got, with time to think about it and to look back, what does it feel like now we reflecting on a record breaking run?

Pete: I think it’s going to take a lot time to really sink in, but it’s funny because I’m not necessarily surprised or anything like that about what I did, because I thought that coming in, it was something that I could manage and do in about the time I did. I think the big thing is I just–and I think that’s what I want people to know the most is I did something that may seem superhuman to a lot of people, but at the end of day you look back on my running history and where I’ve come over the last few years. I’m not coached by anyone, a lot of people would probably look at my training and think, what’s the what’s the theme or what’s the what’s the point with some of the running that I do. I think that’s the beauty of all Ultra running is, really anyone can be very competitive ultra runner and there’s so much more of a mental aspect, than a physical one, because I think that’s where I’m much stronger is. I think it’s made me realize that I’m much more stronger mentally than I am physically and I think that’s one of the things that’s really, that I really am proud of.

Ian: Now when a record gets broken, we very often will say by minutes maybe an hour if somebody is very, very lucky. You basically broke this record to all intents and purposes by four days, which is absolutely huge, because we all know the significance that that makes on the daily mileage. Even somebody like Marshall Ulrich who needs no introduction to the Talk Ultra audience is completely blown away as is the whole Ultra running community by what you’ve achieved. What does that mean for you in terms of where you go from here and what you do in the future because as you’ve said taking this amount of time to take on such challenge is a big thing in anybody’s life. Maybe physically and emotionally and mentally, it’s not something that should be done time and time again, maybe it is a one off, where do you go from here?

Pete: That’s a good question. Honestly I’m still trying to search for the answer. I haven’t really done much running since I finished the run. Yes, I’ve been I’ve been thinking a lot lately and my legs have been feeling a lot better. I’ve started to look at races that I might want to do, but I’m really looking forward to what I decide to do next, but if I have an open book at this point.

Ian: Do you think this run will make you slower?

Pete: Yes, I tried to run a three mile as fast as I could literally a few days ago, I think I got I was mostly in eights. I have a lot of work to do and trying to get my speed back that’s for sure.

Ian: Well eights is not bad if you were doing tens running across America.
Many people have said I’ll refer back to Karl Meltzer Scott Jurek, Marshall Ulrich that it takes the body a long time to recover from such an effort. Are you aware of how your body really feels from the efforts that you’ve put in? I know that physically and it’s still relatively early you’re feeling pretty good but I guess it’s only when you try to run a little bit longer or you try to run a little bit faster that you will really know how much impact that this has had. Are you aware of this and if you are or if you aren’t, would you make sure that you have a big chunk of recovery time just to make sure that your’re safe?

Pete: Yes, I think that’s the beauty of the time of year that I did this run is that it gets me to — it really gets me to a point where I can do some downtime. I’ll do some training and I’ll run through the winter eventually, but I think if I need 2/3 months early to get back to my regular running again I’ll be okay. I don’t really have any big races at least planned until hopefully in the spring and summer of 2017. I think that was definitely something I thought about. If I had done this in the spring or even in the summer, I’d probably be just itching to get back out and race again in the fall, but it’s been good to have to really be going into the small months with the finish of this run.

Ian: Before you attempted this Run Across America your day consisted of a five am start, a couple of hours of running a full day at work, couple of hours of running, an hour’s chill time. Now you’ve got a lot of time on your hands is that a tougher battle than actually running across America?

Pete: It is interesting. Yes, it’s something I’m not used to at all, I’ve been I’ve been taking advantage of it and usually sleeping a bit longer. I’ve been doing a lot of 9/10 hour. And I sleep and an hour. I think really helped at the recovery as well but it is it is odd because it’s almost I feel like I actually have time to kill now which was unheard of in these last five or six months.

Ian: Well I’m sure your wife and family are happy to have you around, maybe seeing you chill and relax a little bit more?

Pete: Yes, we’ll find out.

Ian: I’m going to ask you one last question because I’ve taken up enough of your time, but in 42 days and a couple of hours and a few minutes, there must have been one or two really bad moments, what were they?

Pete: I think the biggest shocker, the hardest thing to take was definitely when one of our crew vehicles got demolished, literally just hit from behind and totalled. One of our crew members, Dean, being he was actually in the car at the time and that was something that was just all of the sudden very scary. He was but that was probably one of the hardest times because at that point we were approaching the three forest mark across the country.
It looked like as long as nothing bad happened like that, we would be on pace for the record and thankfully nothing bad did come about. I think that, taking the day off early on and just thinking, am I really, am I even going to make it to Utah? All the work I put into this run and is it only going to be a one week run. I was still confident, but I think that was one of the other big scares and then I think just the whole state of Pennsylvania…
…no offence on the people of Pennsylvania but that state was the most brutal by far, because you feel so close to…. you’re 90% of the way there but you still have three hundred miles to go and you’re just like, “Well, I’m not really that close. I still have a long way to go.” Just the weather was really bad and then also the terrain was just very frustrating for a rhythm runner like me, and so I think was the third really difficult part of the route.

Ian: You just give me another point there, because I guess once you’ve got “just” three hundred miles to go, I guess that’s when it can be the most fearful. That’s when you are really frightened of an injury coming along that you can’t plan for, or something that really stops you in your tracks because that’s when you could really lose it. Whereas, if it happens midway or in the early stages then it’s a different mindset, but in grasp, in touching distance, mentally that must have been very, very difficult.

Pete: Oh yes, I do a lot of calculations upon running, just about everyday I was saying okay I have this many miles left and this is how many miles I have to do. Yes, still if something were to happen or I twist an ankle really wasn’t until I got down to the last day or two that I decide, okay I could walk even I have to, but yes, that was just so mentally tough. Many people are already congratulating me.

Ian: Yes.

Pete: “Don’t congratulate me yet, I still have so much work to do.”

Ian: Was that the reason why you ran 87 miles in the last leg?

Pete: Yes, I wanted to just get it over and get it done. I thought if it was a hundred miles or less I was just going to knock it out in one day and make it happen.

Ian: Yes, well Karl Metzer says a hundred miles is not that far. I think he and you are now saying 3,100 miles is not that far. Needless to say, Peter, this record is absolutely stunning. I think it’s blown the whole ultra-running community apart. The old record stood for a long, long time way back to 1980. I’ve got a feeling that this one could stand for a lot longer. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think there’s anybody coming along in the future that could maybe take this record away?

Pete: I would definitely welcome it. Because one thing I learned from Frank was that he was so gracious to me when he literally handed the baton over to me in New York City. If someone goes, I would love to see people continue to go for it. I think there are people that are definitely qualified, I think the interesting thing about this type of run and the reason I did it now rather than a few years from now is that, it’s a huge undertaking personally and even professionally to get the time off to do it from work. Then if you have a family it can be very difficult. I think that’s one of the difficulties of and maybe part of the reason why a lot of really good ultra runners have not been able to do a run like this. I would definitely love to see someone try to break the record, and I’m sure there will be over the few years to come.

Ian: Awesome. Well thank you so much for your time. It’s been an absolute pleasure to hear a snippet of running for 42 days across America, and I wish you all the best to your recovery and I’m really looking forward to seeing what you got up to in 2017.
Pete: Great. Well thank you. Thank you so much for having me, it was a pleasure.

Getting your head in the right place!


Getting your head in the right place is something that we all need to do. I am in La Palma, the home of Transvulcania Ultramarathon. It’s a place that I have been coming back to since 2012. It holds a special place for me, especially at this time of year.

The days are a little longer, the weather is perfect and the island is beautiful.

I’m writing a book called, Running Beyond which will be published late in 2016. In real terms it is a photography book with words. However, after a year on the road I realised the only way I was going to get the words written was by getting myself, or should I say my head in the right place.

The plan is to get back to some regular time on the trails and split my days 50/ 50.

I’ve been here since Friday, so only 4-days but I can already feel it working.


The writing process is taking place and I seem to be slowly but surely making my way through the list of things I need to do. Plus Niandi and myself have had some time to relax, taking in sights at local towns and we have been on the trails; hiking, jogging and at times, running!


On day 1 we went to Los Llanos, the finish of the Transvulcania race. Its a beautiful place of cobbled streets and pastel coloured buildings. In the late afternoon we went up and down the VK route from Tazacorte Port; always a favourite. We timed it just right as the sun was setting as we made the final descent.


The following day, Sunday,  we visited a local market at Argual. It is a place I have visited many times before but the people and some of the sights are always interesting. We followed this with a run from El Pilar, taking in an out-and-back route through the Volcano route. It was a little cloudy and windy along the tops but it is always stunning. Back at our car we had the best Tuna Bocadillo ever; the simple things huh?


Monday I did a 90-minute run alone. It was the end of a long day of writing and I needed an outlet and a release. Run? it was actually a hike up and a run down. Nothing special but it helps get my head in the right place. I even took a selfie!


Last night, (this morning) – I walked the streets of Santa Cruz from 3am with Niandi and Divino San Francisco, a group of singers who move from house-to-house and sing traditional Christmas songs. My good friend Angel, is one of the singers and it was he who told me about this. For 9-days (not always at 3am I must add) in the lead up to Christmas they sing every night to represent the 9-months of pregnancy.


It was something quite special! Quiet lonely streets with just string instruments and stunning voices to welcome in a new day. It was so special; it made me realise why I was here, to get my head in the right place.

Despite a night of no sleep, today I can feel the positive vibes from a stunning night. It’s a night that Niandi and myself won’t forget. Families opened their doors to us in the early hours, they welcomed a large group of musicians in and then proceeded to feed them and provide drinks, it made me realise what this time of year is about.

We all need to get our heads in the right place. Make sure you make it a priority to find your place, I guarantee 2016 will be better because of it.


ROB KRAR – 2014 Western States Interview

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar broke onto the ultra running scene in 2013 and set the trails alight with impressive fast running. He popped on many a runner’s radar with his incredible FKT in the Grand Canyon and then with no 100-mile experience placed 2nd behind Timmy Olson at Western States. Later in the year Rob came from behind at UROC and beat Dakota Jones to the line for an impressive win. Crowned Ultra Runner of the Year, Rob was and is quite rightly the ‘one-to-watch’ at any race. In 2014, Rob prepared meticulously for Western States and although nothing is predictable in ultra running, for many, he was the obvious ‘hot-favourite.’ Rob didn’t disappoint with a consummate run and the 2nd fastest time in history. I caught up with Rob, in-between night shifts and training.

IC: Rob how are you doing?

RK: Really good.

IC: How’s the rollercoaster been post WSER?

RK: It’s not been too bad, my schedule with work made it difficult. I had to be back at work at 2100 on Monday. So with a 12-hour drive post WSER made that difficult. It’s been a challenge physically and mentally.

IC: Amazing when you say that, it does put your achievement in perspective. You’re running at the highest level, working long hours and keeping a family together.

RK: Yes it’s tiring. It’s getting increasingly difficult… it’s a long story. I’m Canadian so my Visa required me to have a job working in Flagstaff on the night shift. When I got married I got a green card, so, now I don’t need to be a pharmacist but opportunities never arose. Now this running craziness has started I now have a realistic chance of leaving my job. Work is difficult. It’s s such a contrast, I run a 100-miles and then 48-hours later I am under fluo lights working the night shift. It’s getting harder so I hope to maybe make a change and change my focus.

IC: Does work have an appreciation of what you achieve?

RK: Because I do nights, I don’t real cross paths with my colleagues. They have an understanding and they are supportive but I don’t have long chats.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

IC: Lets go back, you have been on the show several times in the last 16-18 months. I think back to last year, we spoke after the Grand Canyon FKT and it was about 1-month before WSER. You were intimidated by the race, the distance the history… I guess you went into the 2013 WSER race with open eyes. You had an amazing race placing 2nd behind Timmy Olson, did you think, ok, I want to win this race in ’14.’

RK: For sure, it’s in my nature. Sitting beside Tim doing an interview with the board of directors post WSER, I didn’t think ‘I want to win!’ I think it was more of a decision days later. You can’t dedicate a year to a race but it did give me focus. I had no doubts after WSER that it would be my goal for ’14.’ I decided to put everything into it.

IC: It’s impressive; you pick your races. You don’t race a great deal but when you do race you make an impact. 2013 was incredible, many would wish for an element of that… FKT, WSER, UROC, Ultra Runner of the Year… did you pinch yourself and ask, is this real?

RK: Funny when I hear it. It is incredible. I am so blessed. I missed an element that allowed me to break through as a runner. I wouldn’t say I was surmised but it’s certainly more than I could have ever expected. I have embraced it in 2014. In 2013 I was learning and it was all happening so quickly. This year I had the thought that I belong here. I am happy in the ultra community. I entered 14 with a new outlook especially in training and racing.

IC: The North Face sponsored you and you had great results, did you feel pressured with a new year ahead.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

RK: No, not really! I have a responsibility and that does bring certain additional aspects but I want to perform. I wan to perform for my sponsors and myself. I put pressure in the back of my mind. I must control those pressures and let my running do the talking. I set a goal and I do my best. It’s a simple equation.

IC: Starting 2014 and kicking off the season did you feel in good shape?

RK: After TNF50 in December, I had a partial tear to my achilles and calf. It was the first significant injury I had. It took time to recover but I have been in the mountains doing Skimo and Skinning. It’s my winter plan so it was good. Mentally it can be tough, especially with an injury but I just had to get through December and then refocus. I had a great Ski season. I came out super fit and I was going to run Tarawera, however, it wasn’t meant to be… I clipped my toe on a run, damaged my ribs in a fall and I couldn’t run for 10-days.

IC: How frustrating was that?

RK: Tough. A trip to New Zealand missed but I had the larger goal of WSER and I had time. I put it behind me and moved on. I trained up to Lake Sonoma; I wasn’t in the best shape as sore ribs really do impact on training. The Sonoma course was tougher than expected, I did the best I could and that was it. I soon was back in shape and things started to click for WSER. I got the miles in, did the speed, ate healthy and to be honest my training blog into Western was magical. 

IC: I’m interested in your specific prep for WSER. Last year you hadn’t adjusted training, as you had never run a 100 before. You were doing 50-mile training. So, working on your 2013 run did you stick with your ‘13’ plan or did you make big changes?

RK: A world of difference! Last year I didn’t do a single workout before WSER. I would ‘just’ run. It worked last year but after WSER I planned UROC and I knew I had to step up my game. I wanted to run well. So, last summer I started workouts. That’s the biggest change I made. I have similar cycles for each specific ultra now. Overall I am harder, physically and mentally. I can hit higher mileage, I can add workouts and my sessions are more intense and quicker plus I am injury free. I work hard but I haven’t been beat up. I made sure I get in the mountains. From home, everything is up and I live at 7000 feet. I have a couple of staple workouts – fartlek/ threshold workout that may be 1-4 mile repeats on short rest. Then I also do 8 x 3-minutes on 90sec rest on a decent grade. They are my ‘go-to’ sessions.

IC: They are classic sessions! They show your road and track background. So, do you think that gives you an edge over your peers? For so long, ultra runners have ‘just’ run. Do you think times are changing and this structure will be required to achieve the next level?

RK: Yes, certainly. I don’t follow other runners training. I do think that my training philosophy is less common in the ultra community. If you pick a race like UROC… Dakota and I are at the top of a mountain with 5-miles to go. It’s smooth and runnable. When you can run low ‘5’s that gives me a huge advantage…

IC: I remember Dakota saying what a mad man you were at the end of that race!

RK: I couldn’t have done that without my specific training. It feels good to work hard, run fast. I don’t do 400’s but my long sessions work for ultra.

IC: I know the Grand Canyon holds a strong place in your heart. Do you use it as a benchmark for specific sessions?

RK: Yes, it’s an important place. I have learnt to temper my efforts in the ‘Canyon.’ You need to give it respect. I did two 30-mile out and back sessions pre WSER to condition my quads. The track really does bruise up the quads. The first session I did made me real sore. It surprised me. I hadn’t planned a 2nd session but I decided to return 2-weeks later and I had a great run. My legs felt so much better. I knew I was getting ready! The Canyon provide me with 2-great runs, it was a surprise so I don’t think I’ll be back this year… I feel as though I have already taken too much and I know being greedy in the Canyon can be detrimental.

IC: Let’s talk about the race. The build up you used you said was unique, however, I think Max King probably had a similar structure to your training. How much were you intimidated by Max taking it on from the gun? I know it was his 1st 100-miles but you respect him?

RK: For sure, Max is an incredible runner. Look at his range! I don’t think many can match him. I expected him to be at the front but I wanted to run my own race to Forest Hill (62-mile). I felt comfortable. The last 20-miles are the key. I kept a track but I didn’t worry what Max was up to. From Forest Hill he only had 3-4 min gap. On Cal Street I ran strong in 2013 and I planned to make that a defining moment in 2014. I caught Max and we almost turned it into a track race. I watched his body language, listened to his voice and I made a choice. I think if we had stayed together the final 20-miles would have been a head-to-head to the line. So, I went for a gap and I put in a strong move. It was a move that was all out. I didn’t hold back. I had a moment when I looked back and we made eye contact. I thought oh no, we have locked eyes. It was a distinct moment. I thought I had lost a physiological advantage but I pushed on and opened the gap.

IC: That’s mile 80 yes?

RK: Yes. 

IC: I suppose you didn’t really get any feedback till Highway 49 with 10k to go?

RK: That’s correct. Last year I hit the river about 4-mins behind Tim. He commented that he could hear the crowd when I arrived. So this year I did the same… I listened out for loud cheers, as that would signify Max arriving. The cheers never came. At one point I stopped and listened. I couldn’t hear anything and that gave me confidence. I thought I had at least 5-mins. Later I was given some bad information, I was told the gap was just 1-min. I had a ‘thoughtful’ following 5-miles but it all proved to be okay. A gap of 6-minutes actually became 30-minutes, so, with 10k to go I felt safe but I kept the pressure on to No Hands Bridge. From here I felt confident but I never became complacent. A tear or cramp could ruin my race.

IC: At what point did you relax and embrace the moment?

RK: Just with 1-mile to go at Roby Point. I was in the town of Auburn on a quiet street. People were out and I saw a child on a bike. I had a distinct moment on the final climb; a girl waited for me and she started to ride next to me. That last mile gave me so many memories and thoughts. At that moment I had a strong feeling of childhood. I could feel my inner sense. It was such a contrast. I was finishing 15-hours of physical and mental focus and the child gave it balance; this little girl didn’t have a care in the world. The smile came and I soaked it up.

IC: You ran 14:53:24 did you have any aspirations for Timmy’s record?

RK: The win was the priority. A course record would have been a bonus but the win was the most important.

IC: If you look back, start to finish, you planned a strategy, you thought about the race, did it go to plan?

RK: It went very closely to plan. I wanted to feel good at Forest Hill and I did. I was holding myself back and I felt great over that opening two-thirds. I tried not to plan too much as anything can happen. I thought Max or Mike Aish may have been up front so when I hit Cal Street I made a decision to go. I had planned to be at the river in the lead or with the leaders; so it went close to plan! Nothing unexpected happened.

IC: Amazing, running 100-miles almost to a script! Were you surprised that maybe some of the pressure didn’t come from Ryan Sandes? He’s had a great season and a great WSER. Maybe his ‘14’ has been too good which impacted on WSER. One thing that can happen, you may think pre race that Ryan may be the one to watch and you can loose a race by watching the wrong runner.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

RK: I was surprised that Ryan wasn’t in the lead pack but he runs smart. He really does know how to run but for me, I wanted to run ‘my’ race and that was what was important. I was very focused on my mind-set and me.

IC: So what’s next Rob after some quality RnR? I assume you will have another big target for the year?

RK: Yes, I ‘ve had a great recovery. Every ultra I have done and the fatigue that comes with it, the recovery gets shorter. I didn’t run a step for 10-days. I escaped to Colorado, played in the mountains, went fishing and took a mental and physical break. In the next week or two I will get back into it. TNF50 in December is my 2nd focus. I may do Leadville even thought it’s a short time frame. UROC, Run Rabbit Run may figure, I am not sure yet> I want more experience of 100-miles and I want to focus on UTMB for ’15.’ I’ve raced in the night so Run Rabbit Run may well be a good opportunity as it has an afternoon start.

IC: Can we expect you in Europe pre UTMB in 2015? It’s very different terrain to what you have in the USA. Your TNF teammates will provide you with info I am sure.

RK: It’s possible. I am not sure yet. I haven’t looked that far ahead. I love Transrockies and I may use that race as preparation? I don’t know yet. I may have a recce trip to gain some experience; we will have to see?

IC: One last question; we mentioned the life/ work balance. If you gave up your job do you feel that maybe you would over train or over race because of the extra time… has the work/life/ training balance kept you balanced?

RK: It’s a great point. I think about this a great deal. We have seen examples of runners who have left work, become pure runners and it has been a negative, however, the nature of my job is not healthy, mentally and physically. I have been doing it for 12-years. But it does provide focus and routine. I can’t help but dream of what I can do with a ‘normal’ life. For example just a regular sleep routine. The graveyard shift is a killer! I think I know myself now and I also know my running very well. I hope not to fall into any traps.

IC: Awesome, thanks so much for your time Rob and many many congratulations.

RK: Thanks so much Ian, great to speak.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

TNF50 San Francisco Results #TNF50

San Francisco 50 TNFEC50What a weekend and what a race! Rob Krar and Michele Yates once again proved that they are the people to beat in 2013.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar has had quite a year, he really made people look twice with his Rim-to-Rim Grand Canyon FKT earlier this year. However it was victories at Moab Red Hot 50 and Leona Divide that set Rob up for 2nd on the podium at Western States in his first 100-mile race. A win at UROC against a flying Dakota Jones and now an outstanding run at San Francisco 50 surely must elevate him to a potential Ultra Runner of the Year!

Rob Krar - iancorless.com ©bradclayton

Rob Krar – iancorless.com ©bradclayton

Michele Yates UROC ©iancorless.com

Michele Yates UROC ©iancorless.com

Michele Yates grasped the bull by the horns at San Francisco and lead from the front in a strong and gutsy run. Add to this her 3rd place at UROC and her win at Run Rabbit Run 100-mile and is Michele currently topping the ‘earning’ ranks for ultra running in 2013. It has been a great year for Michele, her wins at Bandera 100km, Nueces 50 and Indiana Trail 100-mile confirm this.

Michele Yates - iancorless.com ©bradclayton

Michele Yates – iancorless.com ©bradclayton


Full results HERE


  1. Rob Krar 6:21:10
  2. Cameron Clayton 6:31:17
  3. Chris Vargo 6:33:33
  4. Daniel Kraft 6:35:56
  5. Dylan Bowman 6:37:14


  1. Michele Yates 7:21:51
  2. Magdalena Boulet 7:31:12
  3. Emelie Forsberg 7:46:24
  4. Aliza Lapierre 7:46:58
  5. Cassie Scallon 7:50:42

Notable mentions:

Cameron Clayton has had a great 2013 and certainly in the latter third has progressed to another level. 2014 looks very exciting for Cameron.

Cameron Clayton -  iancorless.com ©bradclayton

Cameron Clayton – iancorless.com ©bradclayton

Daniel Kraft is pretty much unknown to me, so a name to watch for the future.

Magdalena Boulet was my hot-tip as a dark horse for TNF50 and it’s great to see a new name to watch who lived up to the surprise billing.

Emelie Forsberg finished a stunning 2013 with a 3rd place on pretty much no running for the last 6-8 weeks. What does the future hold for this lady?

Finally, great to see Anna ‘Frosty’ Frost back in a race and Anna sums up her thoughts far better than I could:

“Today I won a race. A race against myself. Physically I suffered…the cold wind freezing my pelvis filling each step with shocks of pain. Mentally I could have come last and would have been as happy as if I won. I crossed the line with tears of joy. My friends there to congratulate and welcome me back to the running world. It has been a hard but amazing journey that so many of the people that were there today have helped me through. Thank you for sharing this joy.”

The North Face Endurance Challenge, San Francisco, 50-mile Championships Preview (Ladies)

San Francisco 50 TNFEC50

The North Face Endurance Challenge continues to cause a lack of sleep and the red eye continues with a look at the ladies field. Without doubt, just like the men’s field, we have a line up here to create enough excitement to continue on through the Christmas period and into the New Year.

Emelie Forsberg Ice-Trail Tarentaise ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg Ice-Trail Tarentaise ©iancorless.com

Emelie Forsberg returns and after the year she has had and in addition to being defending champion, how could we possibly not think that Emelie would not win this race! Emelie oozes talent and she’s one of the nicest people I know to boot. This makes the perfect trail running package. 2012 was a great year for Emelie; she burst onto the scene at Zegama-Aizkorri and then continued through ‘12’ going head-to-head with Anna Frost and Nuria Picas. To be honest, you could have no better peers to learn from and learn Emelie did. By the end of the year she had progressed to longer distance racing at Cavalls del Vent and then followed that up with a sublime performance at San Fran for not only the win but also the big bucks prize money! 2013 saw the progression continue and Emelie is now regarded as arguably one of the best ultra/ mountain runners in the world. Transvulcania La Palma, Zegama-Aizkorri, Trans D’Havet, UROC and most recently a 2nd place in her first 100-miler at the super tough Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale des Fous). However, Emelie has not had it her own way in 2013. Twice she has been relegated by another star of the future, Stevie Kremer. Emelie post ‘Reunion’ was tired and quite rightly she removed her Salomon shoes and had a rest. Unfortunately she also picked up some illness which ultimately meant 20-days of no exercise. She recently got back on skis and other than the odd 30-minute run has done arguably no run training for the last 6-8 weeks. However, you can’t rule Emelie out in any race she enters, in addition, it looks like Emelie will have no other than Kilian Jornet on ‘pacing’ duty in this race. At least that is what she said last week… of course Kilian would need to agree and then decide if he can keep up with her!

Stephanie Howe UROC ©iancorless.com

Stephanie Howe UROC ©iancorless.com

Steph Howe placed 2nd behind Emelie at UROC and placed 2nd behind Emelie at San Fran last year, without doubt, Stephanie would have been my hot tip for potential victory this year. However, this is all academic, word is on the TNF grapevine that Stephanie will not run. I have emailed Stephanie for a confirmation on this. From Stephanie: “Hi Ian, I’m not racing I’m taking a break to prepare for the 2014 season. I raced a lot this year and battled a lot of injuries. I want to give myself a break so I can kick butt next year.”

Cassie Scallon will push Emelie and everyone else in this race. Without doubt, Cassie is probably one of the best 50-mile female racers in the US at the moment. Anyone who can put 20+ minutes into Rory Bosio needs to be highly respected and elevated to ‘hot favourite’ status. Cassie hasn’t really excelled beyond 50-miles and I therefore wonder that even if Emelie is not her ‘best’ shape, she may well be able to pull on the power and experiences gained in some of her longer races and find that ‘extra’ that may just give her the win.

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Rory Bosio may well have pulled off female performance of the year after her incredible performance at TNFUTMB. Rory obliterated the ladies field and pretty much obliterated the men’s field. Her 7th place overall is really quite ridiculous and therefore one has to assume that if Rory is in good shape a place on the podium is secure. However, Rory can run hot and cold. She told me in Chamonix that she is not competitive, that she just loves to run… I am not sure about that, I saw plenty of competitive grit in and around Mont-Blanc but I also witnessed someone having a blast! The 100-mile distance may well suit Rory more and of course, with such a great UTMB done and dusted, Rory may well be happy to represent her TNF sponsor and have a fun day on the trails.

Michele Yates UROC ©iancorless.com

Michele Yates UROC ©iancorless.com

If Michele Yates pulls off a win at TNFEC50 not only will she have had an incredible final 3-months of 2013 but she will also have topped the podium on prize money. Her win at Run Rabbit Run, 3rd place at UROC and then of course possible win in San Fran could arguably provide $20K+ in rewards. That is serious money and just goes to show how the sport is moving. Ultimately though, Michele must be feeling a little tired and jaded. But hey, so are Emelie, Rory, Cassie and the rest… Michelle can win this race, no doubt.

Anna Frost La Palma ©iancorless.com

Anna Frost La Palma ©iancorless.com

Anna Frost has had a tough year. The 2011 champion of San Francisco 50 when in form is unstoppable. However, 2013 has been a tough year for Frosty, she has been plagued by health issues and ultimately if Frosty makes the start line here and has a trouble free and unpressured run, that is a bonus. Recently she has spent 6-8 weeks in Morocco and Nepal with Lizzy Hawker. Although participating in races, she has had no pressure and the priority has been to enjoy the trails and find inner piece and health. I think she has found it. All emphasis and priority at San Francisco must be about preparation for 2014. Run well Frosty, we all want to see you back in 2014 with the strength, dominance and force of your 2012 Transvulcania La Palma performance.

My wild card is Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. Who you may ask? Well, Magdalena gained my attention earlier this year when she raced in Poland at the WMRA championships. She placed 11th at that race but I don’t think that performance shows her potential. Magdalena is a 2:26 marathon runner and as far as I know, I don’t think any other lady in the San Fran field has a marathon time even close to this? In addition, Magdalena is a 2x Bronze medalist at the IAAF World Cross Country Champs (team comp). San Francisco may well provide the platform and the terrain to allow this Polish lady to let rip and cause some devastation.  In a side note, Magdalena won the San Francisco Marathon in 2002. Watch this space!

Joelle Vaught has had a great 2013 season with a string of wins; Foothills 50k, McCall Trailrunning Classic 40m, Pocatello 50, Silver Plate 50 and Wilson Creek 50. A recent 2nd place at Waldo 100k continues and confirms Joelle’s ability over the 50-60 mile distance. Joelle placed 13th at San Francisco last year which arguably is a below par performance that may well be attributed to just a ‘bad day’ or the conditions did not suit her. I am pretty sure that based on recent form she will be looking to come back and improve on her previous best of 2nd in 2009.

Aliza Lapierre with 3rd and 6th place at Western States in recent years has to be a contender for the crown in San Francisco. Aliza recently raced Vermont 50 and beat her old course record with a time of 7:01 so her form is good. Looking at her records, Aliza also has wins and CR’s at Bull Run 50, Stone Cat 50, Pineland Farms 50 and Bandera 100k in the last 3-years so the combination of distance and speed is going to suit her.

Finally, Ashley Arnold is the 2013 Leadville Champion and therefore gets a nod here. However, her 2013 results are sparse and on ultrasignup her only other result for this year is a win at White River 50m in 8:28. Your guess is as good as mine?

In a similar vein to the men’s field, although the top-3 is likely to come from one the ladies above, it is quite possible that one of the ladies below will pull something out of the bag and create a surprise

Keri Bruxvoort – 5th at UROC and arguably she should be in the list above considering she won Run Rabbit Run 50m too.

Melanie Bos – second at Hurt 100 in 2013

Megan Kimmel – more a short distance runner with 2 victories in 2013

Catrin Jones – notable result in 2013 was 2nd behind Steph Howe at Gorge waterfalls and a win at Squamish 50

So there you have it… if you missed the men’s preview, you can read it HERE 

  • Who are your picks for the ladies and men’s race?
  • Who will surprise us?
  • Who will under perform?

The North Face Endurance Challenge, San Francisco, 50-mile Championships Preview (Men)

San Francisco 50 TNFEC50

My head hurts… it’s December, what happened to the ‘off-season’. Not only do we no longer have an off-season but The North Face have arguably assembled one of the most competitive fields in the 2013 season. Way back in April I was writing about the ‘race of the year’. Of course, it was Transvulcania La Palma. This was followed by another ‘race of the year’, Western States. I then followed this with another race of the year, Zegama and so on… you get the picture! Ultra running and mountain running is booming and as such, we are all seeing the benefits, not only from a watching and a following perspective but also from a racer perspective. It is now possible to have several peaks in one year and TNF may very well have hit on a winning formula with such a competitive race in December.  It’s late enough in the season to have recovered from recent previous efforts, such as UROC or Run Rabbit Run and equally far enough away from ‘key’ races in 2014 to allow for adequate RnR.

Okay, deep breath… here we go.

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras TNFUTMB 2013 ©iancorless.com

Miguel Heras returns after winning the race in 2012. His time of 5:33 in lousy conditions confirmed his ability if any was needed. Having said that, Miguel is used to rough-n-tough weather and as such, may very well have excelled in the conditions over his US contemporaries. Also the 2012 race did have issues over course marking which did lead to several runners going astray. I take nothing away from Miguel, he is a class act and although 2013 has been a difficult season for him, his second place at TNFUTMB proves that he is back. He followed this with a quality performance at Cavalls del Vent so without doubt he is a contender for the win. However, this field is stacked.

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones UROC 2013 ©iancorless.com

Dakota Jones is back racing and embracing the trails after a quiet start to 2013 and some escape in the mountains. In addition, Dakota became an ‘RD’ in 2013 which primarily caused him to miss TNFUTMB and refocus on UROC. That refocus nearly worked and certainly with 5-miles to go at UROC he looked as though he had the race in the bag. However, Rob Krar pulled something out of the bag and relegated Dakota to second that day. In fine form, Dakota departed for Japan to repeat his 2012 win at Hasetsune Cup, however, disaster struck and he had a tough day and a dnf. Without doubt, Dakota will be recovered and focused on winning at San Francisco. He will be looking for a repeat performance similar to San Juan Solstice 50m when he broke Matt Carpentar’s record.

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday UROC ©iancorless.com

Sage Canaday will bring his speed to this race and along with Cameron Clayton and maybe, Max King. They will be out at the front pushing the pace. Sage has had a mixed 2013 in the sense that he has occasionally pushed and failed below his own demanding standards. His great runs at Tarawera, Transvulcania La Palma and Lake Sonoma may well fall into insignificance in Sage’s own mind as I feel he may well dwell on his performances at Sierre-Zinal and UROC. Don’t get me wrong; I am a big Sage fan. He has all the ability to go out and win San Fran but I just wonder what effect recent performances will have on his confidence. In real terms, caution may well prove a huge bonus allowing him to hold back early on and keep his powder dry for the final 30% were he can use all that natural speed and ability. Unfortunately Sage has Flu – will not start

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton Transvulcania ©iancorless.com

Cameron Clayton will be feeling somewhat inspired and motivated coming into San Fran after his 3rd place at UROC behind Rob Krar and Dakota Jones. Cameron was 3rd at this race last year and although he has had a full season, you can’t rule him out from pulling something special out of the bag for that $10,000 prize. His 2013 season has been fulfilled with top placing’s at Transvulcania and Lake Sonoma, however, he has had a few below par performances which I think ultimately were more due to a niggling foot and other health issues. All looks good now though.

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar UROC ©iancorless.com

Rob Krar, wow, what can we say about Rob that hasn’t already been said. Arguably, one of ‘THE’ ultra runners of the year after his rim-to-rim exploits, Western States run (his first 100) and then his incredible win at UROC. He raced just the other weekend at JFK50 and dropped leaving question marks in his own mind. However, the ‘drop’ may very well have just saved his legs and without doubt, don’t be surprised if he is on top of the podium at the end of the weekends festivities.

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson TNFUTMB ©iancorless.com

Timmy Olson repeated his victory at Western States, always the sign of a true champion when you can go back to a race and do it again…! He raced at Tarawera and made the podium, he just missed the podium at Transvulcania and dug real deep at TNFUTMB. Surprisingly after such a tough TNFUTMB he then raced Run Rabbit Run on what must have been a tired body. He certainly has an autopilot but I can’t help but think this race will be all about fulfilling sponsorship requirements and showing face. Having said that, showing face will probably still result in a top-10 and should he get his race face on, don’t be surprised if Timmy gets a podium place.

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes Gran Canaria ©iancorless.com

Ryan Sandes has had ‘one of those years’ that he will be keen to get over! I was with Ryan in Gran Canaria in March, he was all fired up for an exciting season ahead and then injury hit forcing him to miss Western States. Healed, Ryan returned to Leadville in the hope of repeating his 2011 victory, however, injury reappeared. He has tackled some personal projects in South Africa and recently raced in Patagonia. Ryan will be looking to finish 2013 on a high and may just well go under the radar after a quiet year.

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King La Palma ©iancorless.com

Max King has not had a repeat of his 2012 season. Winner of the 2012 JFK and UROC, Max was an unstoppable rollercoaster and along with sage Canaday was just on fire. In 2013 he had planned to mix things up and race at different distances and represent the USA in multiple disciplines, it didn’t go to plan and he has been plagued with an ankle problem. If he is recovered and inform, Max will be up at the helm with Cameron and Sage dropping fast minute miles an looking to be the last man standing at the end.

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols Chamonix ©iancorless.com

Alex Nichols placed 5th last year and will come to this race confident after a great 2013 season racing in the Skyrunning calendar. In particular, he has plenty of speed uphill and has improved his down hill speed. 2013 may well just be the year that he moves a couple of places higher on the podium.

Francois D'Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene UTMB ©iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene was last years 2nd place, approximately 13-mins behind his Salomon teammate, Miguel Heras. Francois has raced less in 2013 due to the pressures of owning a vineyard, however, when he has raced, he has been in top form. His was 2nd at Ice-Trail Tarentaise behind Kilian Jornet, he was joint winner at Mont-Blanc Marathon 80k Ultra with Michel Lanne and his recent dominance at the super tough Raid de la Reunion (Diagonale de Fous) means that his presence at San Fran surely means he is a podium contender. *Update “Finally my season ends sooner than expected …since my fall in Death Valley tuesday with a shock in the ribs I hope but I have finally abdicate … So I would support the team tomorrow.”

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne Trofeo Kima ©iancorless.com

Michel Lanne is another consistent performer who may well do very well at this race. He had a great run with teammate Francois D’Haene at Mont-Blanc but then picked up an injury. In addition, he has also become a dad! December may well prove to be a great time of year; his life will have settled a little, he will be over his injury and without doubt he will be excited to race in the US.

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

Dylan Bowman UROC ©iancorless.com

My final hot tip for a podium place goes to Dylan Bowman. Dylan had a great Western States and turned up at TNFUTMB in the form of his life but had a freak training accident, which caused him to miss the race. He has a new coach and he is going to be looking to release some of that UTMB frustration.

So who else… it seems crazy that I am not writing about the names below in more depth. But I have previewed above who I think may well take out the top-3 slots

  • Mike Wolfe – was 11th last year and set an incredible FKT this year with Hal he could win this race!.
  • Adam Campbell – 4th last year and I may regret not adding him above?
  • Mike Foote – great 2013 UTMB but been quiet recently.
  • Hal Koerner – Think he will be on TNF duty.
  • Karl Meltzer – Karl says he has no chance in such a fast and ‘short’ field. If it were a 100-miles he would be listed above.
  • Matt Flaherty – another who should maybe be above but he was 2nd at JFK just a week ago, maybe a little tired?.
  • Mike Wardian – anything can happen…. Mike is an unpredictable phenomenon.
  • David Riddle – may or may not race with injury?
  • Gary Gellin – 9th last year.
  • Ryan Ghelfi – 5th at UROC and I may regret not adding him above too.
  • Rickey Gates – mixed 2013 but always a contender.
  • Jorge Maravilla – top 20 in 2012.
  • Martin Gaffuri  – great season on the Skyrunning calendar.
  • And finally, Greg Vollet who continues to amaze and surprise every time he races.

So, there you have it. A super stacked crazy race to end the year, the top-3 are any bodies guess. I have tried to provide a little insight but just don’t be surprised if we see a completely unexpected performance and a surprise win.

Ladies preview HERE.

TNF 50 Miler San Francisco

Just when you thought it was the end of the season and then low and behold a 50 miler rears its head on the calendar with a stacked field, yes, The North Face Endurance 50 mile Challenge presented by Gore-Tex. The race takes place in the Marin Headlands, north of San Francisco.

*update 27/11/12 Looks like the weather is going to play a major factor this weekend with a weather front coming in. This always shakes things up and you can expect this to influence the overall results considerably.

The Men

Mike Foote – UTMB 2012

Talk Ultra interviewee Mike Wolfe is returning to the race he won last year. Mike has had a mixed 2012 so he is going to be looking for a good performance here. He told me that training had gone well and that he is in good shape. Great to hear.

Good friend of Wolfepaw is Mike Foote. Footey placed 9th last year but after a great performance at UTMB (3rd), Bighorn 100 and the recent TNF EC in Chile I am sure he will be fired up for this race.

The last time I spoke to Tony Krupicka he told me he was running the race and that he was running to win. This was on the back of his 2nd place at Cavalls del Vent. I am well aware that Tony has been training well but I am not sure if he will be present on the start? I will update as soon as I know. *update 27/11/12 Tony has stated on his blog that he will not be racing.

Sage Canaday is without doubt a potential winner for the race and I originally missed him as he was not on my start list, He set a course record at White River 50 (incredible run) and ran very strong at UROC to finish behind Max King. We also can’t rule out Dave Mackey. Dave performs consistently well at 100k and was 4th at Western States. He races a little less than others so you can be sure if he toes the line it is to run hard.

Timothy Olson would have been mentioned here but has decided not to race and run with his wife. He is keeping his powder dry for 2013. Jez Bragg is off to New Zealand and Dakota Jones is resting, so that therfeore leaves the door open…

Fast man Ian Sharman will enjoy tho terrain but just the other weekend raced well at JFK so this may spoil his chances of a top 3, however, Adam Campbell will becoming into this race relatively fresh after injury issues mid year.

Dylan Bowman has raced super hard all year with some great results. His 2nd place at Run Rabbit Run behind Speedgoat Karl and 7th at Western States should mean he will be contending at the front but will he have that turn of speed to contend with Wolfe, Foote, Sharman and Campbell?

Hal Koerner has had a stacked 2012 and performed consistently well. I see him being in the top 10 here but not at the front of the race contending for the podium.

Rickey Gates comes to this race after some super strong performances in 2012 and may very well be a dark horse. Equally Chris Kollar (he had a disappointing Western States) comes to San Fran after some really solid results at Grand Teton 50k, Ice Age 50 and the The Bear.

Francois d’Haene is coming from Europe along with his Salomon team mate, Miguel Heras and Team Manager, Greg Vollet. Francois has had a great year and just recently won the ‘Trailwalker’ with his Salomon France team mates. He has the ability but I can’t help but think it is late in the year for him… Miguel Heras is finishing off his year well after early disappointments and he will be running hard here. Greg Vollet may very well be another dark horse to move up the field and take a few runners by surprise.

The mens field is stacked and by no means have I covered everybody here but I think we will see the podium come from the above names. One other mention, Martin Cox from the UK. Look out for him.

The Ladies

Emelie Forsberg – Trofeo Kima 2012

Firstly, Frosty and Ellie Greenwood are not on the start line. Frosty needs to recover and Ellie need to rest. So that does open things up a little… if we thought the mens race was stacked, the ladies is super stacked.

Emelie Forsberg is coming over from Europe after an incredible 2012 season. Emelie would have been my top tip but I wonder if this is either one race too many or a race too late in the year? She has all the potential to win this race but I see her top 3 and not on top of the podium.

*update 27/11/12 I just had confirmation that Silvia Serafini from Salomon Carnifast will be racing. This will add some additional spice to the race. Like Emelie, Silvia is moving up distances this year and 50 miles may just be a little of her radar at the moment. But she is a fast runner and really dedicated. A star for the future for sure. She has won Skyrunnning races, won the Royal Parks Ultra in the UK and recently placed just behind Forsberg, Hawker and Picas at Templiers. She has just come back from trekking in Nepal so it will be interesting to see how she performs in this top quality field.

Lizzy Hawker will be arriving from Nepal and has arguably had a golden few months with a 5th win at UTMB, a win at Run Rabbit Run and then a win, 3rd place overall and a new CR at the iconic Spartathlon. I witnessed her run first hand at Templiers when she finished a disappointed 3rd behind Nuria Picas and loosing the sprint for 2nd to Forsberg. She will be fired up for this race and is my hot tip!

Ashley Arnold may pull something out of the bag. She has a great ultra resume with 3rd at Leadville 100 this year but has raced shorter and faster too. She may well have the  speed and endurance required that will carry her to a win.

Megan Kimmel has raced the best in Europe and will come to the race keen to perform but this is a longer race than she is used too… this also apples for Brandy Erholtz. They both have potential to shake things up.

Joelle Vaught was 2nd in 2009, 3rd last year and 4th in 2010. This year she has won Waldo 100k and Lake Sanoma 50. She knows how to run in San Fran and will be keeping a close eye of Forsberg and Hawker.

Kami Semick hasn’t raced in the US in 2012. She pulled out of Comrades and Western States but recently race Trailwalker in Hong Kong. It’s difficult to say what her form is like but I know from previous conversations with her that she only races when she can win!

Finally, Meghan Arbogast. She has the endurance and the pace!
Like the men’s race, I could go on and to be fair I could list another 10 men and women and still be completely unsure of how the race will unfold.
The San Fran 50 is a great way to start December and finish a really competitive and inspiring 2012. Roll on 2013.
Race website HERE