Ultrarunner and Team Injinji member Mike Wardian recently had a chance to talk to Greg McMillan, Founder of McMillan Running Company, about his training for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.


↳ How has your day to day training changed as you prepare for the Western States 100 mile run?

I have kept a lot of my training the same as it normally is but as Western States has gotten closer, within the last month, I have increased the amount of Hill training I have been doing and done a lot of very, very hot and humid runs and runs that are incredible uncomfortable to simulate the conditions I expect to encounter at Western States.  I have also upped the amount of miles that I am doing on gnarly technical trails as I feel like that will help me battle the rocks and roots on the trail especially when I am tired.  The final tweak I have made is that I normally am a morning and mid-day runner but I know that I will be running a lot of hours at Western States so I have done a lot more later in the day runs and last week I did a 50K starting at 9:00pm so that I would be ready to run into the dead of night.

↳ Have you performed any special workouts that you feel will help you in the race?

I think that a lot of my special workouts for the race have been done to prepare my body and mind for the tough parts of the course.  I have done many 1 hour-2 hour climbs on a treadmill at 15%, hiking and running.  I have practiced switching from hiking to running and back and I think that will help as there will be parts where I need to hike but when I can run I should run.  I have also practiced running on a stomach with more food than I normally take so that my gut is prepared to accept calories especially in hot conditions.

(Photo credit: Scott Mason Photography) (Photo credit: Scott Mason Photography)

↳ What are the key training strategies you feel runners must have to make the jump to ultras?

I don't think there are any key training strategies that are unique to ultras.  I think what people should try to do with their running is stay consistent and healthy and do as much as their bodies will allow.  I think that the more we can run, the better we get as runners but if we get hurt or sidelined then we have to start over.

↳ What are common errors you see non-pro ultra runners make (or even made yourself early in your career)?

I think the biggest thing that I see derail people is that they think more is better and that if you can run X miles a week you should run that far.  I was of that opinion too and it usually works really well for a time so makes complete sense.   The thinking goes something like this...if I ran super well on 60 miles a week then I can run X amount better on 90 miles a week and when you do,  you think if I just make triple digits (over 100 miles per week) then I will be even faster and again, it works for some people but most people will find a law of diminishing return and eventually they will overstep and get hurt or something will happen...but that is what it is all about and what I love about the experiment of running is that we all have to find that point and you can elongate it but it takes years and most of us want it to happen right away and that is a recipe for set back and heartbreak as I have learned.

↳ If you could go back a few years to a younger Mike Wardian, what would you change about your approach to running?

I don't think I would change anything about the younger Mike Wardian, he loved what he was doing and I still do.  I think I have been super lucky to have found a sport that accepts me for who I am and I appreciate all the different characters in our sport and I hope we continue to see new people get involved and even more people find themselves doing these incredible events.

↳ Many of us struggle to compete well on varying surfaces and in varying distances, you have an amazing ability to perform well on the roads and trails and at varying distances. What’s your secret?

I think that some people just prefer to do what they are good at and that limits their ability to adapt to the different courses, terrains, distances, climates, etc...I find that it is my mindset that allows me to push myself regardless of the distance, terrain, etc...I really believe that I have the ability to do well, if I execute and run to the best of my abilities.  If I had to claim any secret it is to stay small and be relentless and most of the time that works out super well for me.

↳ You also race very frequently. How do you manage the incredible recovery you have between long, hard efforts?

I do love to race and I am super passionate about taking every opportunity and trying to show people that we are all capable of doing a little more than we thinking we can and I think that thinking allows my body to be ready for the next adventure whether that be an upcoming race, coaching our kids baseball teams, or helping around the house.  I also try to do a few things a quickly as I can after an event.  I try to replenish my body with natural, organic, healthy food and fuel (I like Bearded Brothers Bars, Vitargo, Big Spoon Roaster Nut Butters fruits, veggies, and whatever my body was screaming for during the race) and I like to keep moving, which sounds completely foreign to most people but staying active after an event really keeps the body from freezing up and I think allows faster recovery.  I also like to jump into some compression and I have some great companies that I work with that have incredible products for that.  Injinji comes to mind as they make some nice compression socks. I am usually quickly heading to an airport or doing some travel after an event so staying hydrated in super important and I rely on Nathan Products for my hydration needs.  Besides that I try to get back to training as quick as I can as I usually have something coming up and want to be fit and ready for it.  I like to do the kid test by having our boys, Pierce-8 years and Grant-6 years jump on my back and if my legs don't want to buckle I know I can start increasing the intensity after a hard effort.

↳ Obviously, you train a lot but are their other non-running things you do to stay injury-free and boost performance?

I do love to train as much as I race but there are some non-running things I do to try and stay injury free.  I cycle a lot more than 10 hours per week and think that really helps to shake my legs out and just use different muscles but still give me some cardio work.  I like to do body weight push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and think that helps for some strength.  I enjoy hiking and walking, which I think are a terrific compliment to running and still can be a nice workout.

↳ At Western States, what’s your general nutrition plan?

My Western States nutritional plan is to try and keep down as much food as possible without causing any stomach issues.  I have been having incredible success with S-Caps, Water, and Vitargo and then taking from the aid station, Euro-Style.  I also tend to use some gels and have great success with that and I love to eat fruit so will have fruit on hand.  Wish I could have Relay Foods out on the course with their tasty goodies.   I am also planning on have some Big Spoon Roaster Almond butter sandwiches as I might want some real food and that is as real and delicious as it gets.

↳ How long did it take you to find your best nutritional routine and what advice do you have for new ultra runners on creating their first nutrition plan?

It has taken me years to get a nutritional routine but what it comes down to me for me is to avoid puking...that means you are going to slow down and having a lot of options but knowing if all else fails that X will work.  Whatever X is for you...but you need to know that no matter what you can always fall back on your "X food"....for some guys that is Jelly donuts for others gels for others bacon...but having that in your back pocket is always a nice thing and as a Spain friend once said to me at Marathon des Sables as I was puking my guts out and not sure I was going to finish, "bebe and comdia" (drink and eat) and if you can do that you will finish the race, it might not be pretty and you might go to some dark places but you will get across that line...I can't wait to hear how it went for you and wish you luck.

↳ Do you plan for equipment changes in 100 mile races and if so, what’s your plan/thinking on when/what to change?

I am not planning to change much on my body if I can avoid it during the race and I really want to limit my time in the aid stations.  I might switch out my Nathan hydration vest at various points but will plan to carry what I need and use drop bags as often as I can.  I will also have crew and pacers so that will be a nice luxury and I plan to take advantage of it.  I am working on my crew plan this week so don't have it completely dialed in yet.

↳ Discomfort is a commonality among all racers. How do you deal with the ever-increasing fatigue (mental and physical) in long races?

I think that many of us are looking for the discomfort and fatigue that is ever present in these races.  Our lives for the most part are pretty easy and I think a lot of us are not content unless we are pushing ourselves outside the bounds of what is reasonable.  I know that I am on a quest to see just how far I can go and how fast I can get there but also to see when things get tough and they will at points during event if I have the will, determination, grit and relentlessly to keep moving forward and overcome whatever it is.