Monthly Archives - December 2016

Michael Wardian – The Running Man (aka Forest Gump)

He keeps running and running. Michael Wardian just never stops. Many runners have been given the tag, ‘Forest Gump’ and in 2016 we certainly witnessed a couple of real-life ‘Gump’s’ in Pete Kostelnick and Karl Speedgoat Meltzer who respectively set two new records: Running Across the USA and setting an FKT on the Appalachian Trail. Kostelnick and Speedgoat produced two remarkable performances, but Michael Wardian raced 47 events in 2016, he raced 1,254-miles in total and in the process, he set 2 World records, had 8-victories, 22-podiums, 31-top ten placings, and 26 ‘master’s’ victories. Wardian is a man on a mission and 2016 is not an unusual year… this committed husband and father of two races like this, year-in and year-out.

Ask any runner, mention Michael Wardian and they will usually provide one of two answers:

“That dude is crazy, he races all the time, I don’t know how he does it?”

Or an alternate answer may be, “Jeez, he’s so inspiring, he races week-in and week-out, often racing 2-3 times in any 7-day period and he doesn’t ‘just’ complete but he competes and often wins!”

Whichever way you look at it, Wardian inspires! As 2016 ends we are already aware that he has entries for 2017 in two iconic races, Hardrock 100 and The Barkley. I’ve spent many hours with him on the trails, in 2014 I saw him in action at Costa Rica’s ‘The Coastal Challenge’ when he took each day as an individual day and he had a solid victory against some strong competition in a course record time.

But what makes him tick?

Michael Wardian

“I have a full-time job as an International Ship Broker and I fit all that I do in with the support of my family, work, sponsors and I work remotely a great deal if I have internet I can do my job anywhere on the planet.  I should say, that without the support of my boss, Keith Powell and my colleague and sister, Mariele Wardian, it wouldn’t be possible…”

That is some challenge, not only on a personal level but a work level. Mixing work, family and running to this level is a huge commitment and I am continually amazed at Wardian’s success at races. I wondered, how do work colleagues take it?

“They are big fans and supporters and help to cover for me, I also need to thank my clients as they definitely are a part of my team and always are asking where I am racing and if I won?” 

Family plays a key part in the success of Wardian and I am also amazed that on occasion, family joins on some of the more exotic trips – I guess it’s a way to find some balance and equilibrium. I asked about family and the role they play in the success of this unstoppable runner.

“I do have a family consisting of two boys Pierce (10 years) and Grant (8 years) and Rosie our 3-year-old Vizsla and my wife Jennifer.  I think finding a balance is key, Jennifer and I switch off days of the week to workout, she goes Monday, Wednesday, Friday and I go on Tuesday and Thursday in the AM. Then I normally race or do something on the weekend.  It works great.  As far as finding balance, Jennifer and I have been together for about 20-years so we have come to divide up the work really.”

You’d think racing as often as he does that Wardian would have no time or need to train, that is not the case. One thing you realize after talking for just minutes is that Wardian loves to run… training or racing, he just wants to run.

“I always try and keep my training as ‘invisible’ as possible so that I am back from a run when the boys are getting up or I run during work. At weekends, I go early if I am not racing and if I am racing and the family wants to go I try. I bring them as much as possible and I love having them there.”

Warden’s commitment amazes me, I’m left wondering what training is, it can’t be much I think to myself, I find the temptation and desire for knowledge too great and before I realize it, I ask, “I can’t believe you have time to train, what does a week look like?”

“I usually train 3-4 times a day during the week and race or run longer on the weekend. Training is straightforward; I like to do marathon type training and some workouts thrown in. This year I was racing a ton so a lot of weeks I was just doing pretty steady runs to get my legs back to do another long race the following weekend.”

That’s a crazy amount of running I think to myself. Does he sleep?

Michael Wardian

“Right now, I am running to work which is 6-8 miles, running at lunch (1 hour mostly on the treadmill at “big” incline from 8-12%, that is as high as treadmill goes at work), then I run home. I run 16-20 miles per day which is great!”

The thought exhausts me!

Is this what it takes to run at this level and so often? I don’t have the answers and in all honesty, I don’t think Wardian does. Running is an extension of his life, it’s like an arm or a leg, it’s connected to him and just what he does. He just happens to do it well. For many, this many hours or miles per week with racing intensity thrown in would be way too much… it would break them. A couple of years back it nearly broke Wardian, he had multiple stress fractures and hernia’s – his body was giving in to the punishment. Throughout this ‘downtime’ Wardian remained positive, never giving in, never doubting that he would return. I questioned if a return was possible and if possible, surely Wardian would run less?

He did for a while, he eased himself back but he was soon racing weekly and running back-to-back races at incredible speed with amazing recovery. 2016 has proven that Wardian is a phenomenon, a wonderful phenomenon in the amazing world of ultra-running. As one year closes, another year begins. It’s a dangerous question to ask Wardian, ‘what’s next?’ With most runner’s it would be a one or two-word answer, at best a sentence. With Wardian, no! A little laughter and then he reads out a list… you are going to see Wardian a great deal in 2017.

January 18-30, 2017: 7 Marathons, 7 Continents, 7 Days-Worldwide: www.worldmarathonchallenge.com

February 5-20, 2017: Tarawera 100K-New Zealand: http://www.taraweraultra.co.nz/

April 1, 2017: Barkley Marathon

April 2, 2017: Cherry Blossom 10 Miler: Credit Union Cherry Blossom

April 17, 2017: Boston Marathon: www.bostonmarathon.com

April 30, 2017: Big Sur Marathon: www.bsim.org

May 10-14, 2017: Kosovo…maybe for a trip for State Department

May 18-21, 2017: Ultra-Trail Australia: http://www.ultratrailaustralia.com.au/

May 28, 2017: Calgary 50K or 150K: http://www.calgarymarathon.com/races.html

June 24-25, 2017: Western States 100 Miler: Western States Endurance Run

July 14, 2017: Hardrock 100 Miler: http://hardrock100.com/

August 28, 2017: UTMB: UTMB®

Of course, this is ‘just’ the list, for now, I expect many races to be added in true Wardian fashion…

Some of Wardian’s 2016 statistics are HERE

Credit ©iancorless.com

Jim Walmsley

Jim Walmsley's Record Breaking Year of 2016

By: Ian Corless

As years go, 2016 has been a cracker in the world of ultra-running. Pete Kostelnick ran Across the USA in a record time. Karl ‘Speedgoat’ Meltzer set a new ‘FKT’ on the Appalachian Trail, Zach Miller broke the TNF 50-course record with a trailblazing run and Jim Walmsley has turned heads with a display of hard and fast running that has left many wondering, what does 2017 hold for this sport?

Walmsley, 26-years old, was an unknown before 2016. He had a history in running but it was in ’16’ when the breakthrough came… Living just below 7000ft in Flagstaff, Arizona certainly brings advantages as he can train high or low. Kicking off a running year is always a difficult thing, for the experienced runner, the first race can often be key. Bandera 100k has always been a popular season opener and when Walmsley ran 7:46, he lowered the previous course record by some 16-minutes. Heads turned!

Lake Sonoma followed two lower-key victories at Moab and Mesquite and this 50-mile race was arguably when the ultra-running community started to take note, Walmsley ran just under 6:01 to lower the course record by 9-minutes!

A hard-earned place a Western States Endurance Run (WSER) was a just reward and Walmsley stepped up his mileage and prepared specifically for the big dance in Squaw Valley. Now, the 2016 ‘WSER’ had arguably one of the best line-ups ever at this iconic 100-mile, so, when Walmsley went on record pre-race saying that he was going to win and possibly set a new course record, the community wasn’t quite sure what to think. Everyone loves confidence but was Walmsley verging on arrogance?

As the race unfolded, Walmsley glided along the trails, at times almost levitating. He floated above the terrain running at a pace that few thought possible. Timothy Olson’s 2012 best of 14:46:44 was under threat! With each mile, this tall lean runner wearing an old-school crop top that harked back to the days of Scott Jurek (who won the race 7-times) was looking set to smash the record to a whole new level. At one point, he was over 30-minutes under the 2012 mark. At mile 92/93, disaster struck when Walmsley went of course. Dejected, broken, confused, Walmsley finally back-tracked onto the race route but the damage was done. He had lost momentum, enthusiasm and he walked in to finish 20th 4-hours slower than Olson’s record. Andrew Miller won the day, the youngest ever runner to win the Western States, but all the talk was about Walmsley and ‘what might have been?’

It was a tough experience for Walmsley but one that he embraced, he showed no bitterness or remorse, he accepted the roll of the dice and moved on! The ultra-world now knew all about Jim Walmsley and a sponsorship deal followed with Hoka One One. Coached by James Bennett, Walmsley is now only just finding out what is possible. In October, the Grand Canyon offered an opportunity for Western States redemption. Although not a race, the Rim-to-Rim, and Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim has somewhat become a Holy Grail of ultra-running ever since Rob Krar ran 6:21:47 (2013) for the 42-mile journey with over 10.000 feet of vertical gain. Walmsley lowered the record to an incredible 5:55:20 and in the process, lowered the shorter R2R record too.

Walmsley had gone on record, post-Western States that he would aim for victory in two iconic 50-mile races that close out the year, JFK 50 and TNF 50 which are just 2-weeks apart. Walmsley’s Grand Canyon run was just a stepping stone to these targets as were three victories at the Bridger Ridge Run, Franklin Mountains Trail Run and Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 55k. Clocking 100+ mile weeks in training, Walmsley arrived in Maryland on November 19th to take on the first challenge. The release of the starting pistol once again saw Walmsley scorch the trails and not only win, but he lowered the benchmark time of Max King’s 5:34:59 to 5:21:28.

Wisely, Walmsley missed the start of TNF50 just 2-weeks later, he realized that he is human after all and December is also a perfect time to rest, recover and set sights on 2017 when the ultra-running world will have all eyes on him to see what he can achieve.

For many, Jim Walmsley is ‘the’ male ultra-runner of the year. I agree. His race results are there for all to see. 2017 is going to be an exciting year especially with the rise of Zach Miller and Hayden Hawks. Looks like ultra’s in the new year will be all about racing and racing fast!

Jim Walmsley’s results 2016

Bandera 100k 1st 7:46:37 

Moab Red Hot 50+ 1st 3:49:20

Mesquite Canyon 50k 1st 4:11:09

Lake Sonoma 50 1st 6:00:52

Don’t Fence Me In Trail Run 30k 1st 2:08:19

Western States 100 20th 18:45:36

Bridger Ridge Run 20m 1st 3:14:03

Franklin Mountains Trail Run 50k 1st 4:34:07

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon 55k 1st 3:30:44

JFK50 1st 5:21:28

Plus, the ‘FKT’s’ in the Grand Canyon

Credit ©iancorless.com 

Pete Kostelnick

Pete Kostelnick – Running Across the USA

Pete Kostelnick
As records go, the 36-year old record of 46-days, 8-hours and 36-minutes of Running Across America by Frank Giannini Jr is a classic. It’s the stuff of legends and it is actually one of the oldest records in the Guinness Book of Records. Well, it was one of the oldest records until Pete Kostelnick came along earlier this year and put the record at a whole new level.
As records go, this one started with little fan fair but Pete came to the challenge with a solid resume, he was the two-time winner of the Badwater 135. His last victory coming just months before his Run Across America.
Ironically, Pete says that had he been a skinny kid he may have not even become a runner, “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.”
Running over 70-miles a day for 42-days takes some mental and physical focus. In a recent interview, Pete said one of his secrets was running twice a day in training and accumulating weekly training mileages of 200+ miles. “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 5 am, 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… 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.”
Running 70+ miles a day is a phenomenal physical and mental challenge, it’s difficult to comprehend that it is possible, but Pete has proven how remarkable the human body is. At 29-years old maybe Pete is in that prime age target where fitness and the body’s ability to recovery is optimum?
Hoka One teammate, ‘Speedgoat’ Karl Meltzer, who just recently set a new FKT on the Appalachian Trail confirmed that Pete was on a whole new level. “He’s done it the right way,” said Karl. “He started under the radar and he picked up momentum as the journey progressed. He will have been in pain for sure but he maintained those big days!”
In the first week, everything looked a little fragile as Pete pushed too hard, too soon covering 450-miles. He paid the price for the high mileage and on day 7 he took one full day off.
In retrospect, that day’s rest may have proven to be one of the most crucial days on this long 3100-mile journey. Tendonitis, aches, pains, tight muscles, sore hamstrings, swollen knee, tight hips, and so many more niggles were potentially going to break Pete. “I’ll admit I went out way over my head in terms of mileage,” Pete said. “It was good because looking back, I’m glad I did that, it really taught me a lesson early and I really latched on to that lesson that I had to be sensible.”
“It happens,” says Karl. “But the body is a remarkable thing, one day you feel lousy and then the next day you feel great. The pain travels and moves around and let’s be clear, when you run this type of mileage day-after-day you just become numb.”
Running Across America
Tracie Phan (Team Manager) commented that Pete got stronger as the days passed and it’s something Pete also confirmed, “It’s all about getting into a rhythm and routine. I love the terrain to be constant and smooth and if I have runners along to talk too, the miles can fly past. Ironically, the latter miles were some of the toughest in Pennsylvania, not because of fatigue but because of the terrain.”
A typical day started around 0400 and Pete covered in the region of 40-miles before taking a break to eat. Back out on the road, more miles would pass with an ideal daily target of 70-miles with an aim to finish around 5pm. “This is crucial for a successful attempt,” Karl confirmed. “Finishing early evening allows for quality rest, recovery, massage and it also means that eating and drinking is not compromised, you need to get those calories in!”
Peter linked the City Halls of San Francisco and New York in a stunning time of 42-days and 6-hours and the previous record holder was there to welcome him, Frank Giannini Jr. I wonder, could anyone break this new record?
“I would definitely welcome it,” said Peter. “Because one thing I learned from Frank was that he was so gracious to me when he handed the baton over in New York City. If someone goes for the record, I would love to see it. I think there are people that are definitely qualified, 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.”
The record books have a new chapter and Pete Kostelnick will be remembered for a long time to come. I personally see this record lasting for a long time just as Frank’s record stood for 36-years. The big question now is what is next for Pete, many people in the ultra-running community are interested to see?
“I’ll do some training and I’ll run through the winter, but I if I need 2/3 months early to get back to my regular running again I’ll be okay with that. I don’t really have any big races planned until hopefully in the spring and summer of 2017.”
Credit ©iancorless.com
Photo Credits: © Zandy Mangold & © Larry N Marsh