Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Runner's Spotlight: Meet Michael Wardian

Michael with his boys, Grant and Pierce
I'm excited to introduce my next featured runner, ultrarunning phenom, Michael Wardian. I've been following Michael's running career ever since I moved out to the Washington, DC area. This year, I got to know Michael on a personal level when he came with me to donate finisher medals to children at Georgetown University Hospital. Michael is probably one of the most down to earth runners you'll ever meet and his accomplishments are nothing short of amazing and inspirational.    

A little background on Michael....he was named the USATF's Ultra Runner of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. He has competed in the last 3 US Olympic Marathon Trials. He holds many running records, like the fastest half marathon on a treadmill, the fastest indoor 50K and fastest marathon while running in a superhero costume (Spiderman). He has participated in some of the world's toughest ultramarathons, such as Badwater (a 135 mile race through Death Valley) and The Western States 100 and has won so many marathon and ultramarathon events, I can't even keep track! 

Runners, meet Michael Wardian!

Doug Cassaro (DC): When did you start running and why?
Michael Wardian (MW): I started running to stay in shape after I finished playing Division I lacrosse at Michigan State University, that was in 1995 and I just loved being in motion and working out and wanted to keep fit.

DC: What are your current running goals?
MW: My current running goals are to keep improving and stay healthy while pushing what is possible each and everyday.

DC: What was your most memorable race?
MW: My most memorable race was probably my first Boston Marathon in 1997, it was the reason that I started training (I think that is different than just running as it is more focused). I figured I would just run Boston once and that would be it but I got hooked and haven't looked back since.

DC: What is your weirdest/funniest running moment? 
MW: I think one of the weirdest/funniest running moments was during Marathon Des Sables, a 150 mile stage race in the Sahara desert. I was having stomach issues (running to the bathroom every 5 mins) and I had taken something to stop it from happening. The race director is discussing the route in acute details for 25 mins and I am just thinking I need to start running because this medicine only last 4 hours and the stage is going to be that long and if we don't start now I am never going to make it. I finished before 4 hours and it was not an issue, but I remember just wishing as hard as I could that he would let the stage begin.

Another fun one was while attempting to set the Guinness World Record pushing a pram (stroller). About 11 miles into the event my brother calls my cell phone (only there for emergency) and asks how everything is going. He didn't remember I was racing and was just going to shoot the breeze and then wouldn't let me hang up. Eventually, I had to cut him off and it woke up Pierce but he was cool and didn't fuss and we got the record.

DC: I tell people all the time how awesome it is to run in DC. What is your favorite part about running around our Nation's Capital?
MW: I love the DC area for all kinds of activities, especially running. The only thing we are missing are serious mountains, but we have great trails, [running] routes and some of the most impressive scenery around. I have to pinch myself everyday as I can't believe how lucky I am to get the privilege of living here.

My favorite part about running in DC is the ability to be in one of the biggest cities in the world and be running on trails, serious trails with rocks and ruts and water crossings and then pop out and see the Washington Monument or The White House, that is amazing to me and I never take it for granted.

DC: Who is the biggest motivator in your life? 
MW: I am going to say first my wife, Jennifer and then our children, Pierce and Grant followed closely by my family, Mom, Dad, brother-Matt, and Sister-Mariele. They are my support system and I can't do it without them.

DC: If you could only give one piece of running advice to a newbie runner, what would it be?
MW: I think being consistent is the best thing I could recommend.

DC: To add on to my last question, any tips you'd like to share with runners new to trail running?
MW: I think getting on trails is key and working on keeping aware at all times, but that is also the beauty of it.

DC: What races will we be seeing you at this fall?
MW: I have my schedule at www.mikewardian.com, but some highlights are going to be:

The Health Focus Salem Distance Race
The Kauai Marathon
The Bays Mountain Park 15 Miler
The Ultra Race of Champions (UROC)
The IAU 100K World Championships for Team USA in Cape Town, South Africa
The North Face Endurance Challenge-San Francisco

DC: Any chance we'll see Spidey at another marathon?
MW: I am not sure, might try as a different superhero or famous figure

DC: Anything else we should know about you?
MW: Definitely, I am 39 years old, with a wife, Jennifer, to boys-Pierce (7 years) and Grant (4 years), work as an International Ship Broker in Washington, DC for Potomac Maritime, LLC.

I am sponsored by: MarathonGuide.com, The North Face, PowerBar, Sweetgreen, Suunto, Julbo, Petzl, The High Cloud Foundation, Injinji, Udo's Oil, and Succeed.

Connect with Michael on Twitter! @mikewardian

Thursday, July 25, 2013

15 Reasons Why You Should Run The North Face Endurance Challenge - Georgia

Photo Credit: TNF ECS Georgia

When The North Face Endurance Challenge Series (ECS) asked me if I would like to be part of their blog team for their Georgia event, I replied with an enthusiastic "YES!" To say I love this event would be an understatement. The ECS is awesome and loads of fun! The past three years, I've participated in the race they host in the Washington, DC area. I can't wait to travel down to Georgia in September and participate in another ECS race in a different region. Throughout the year, The North Face and their dedicated ECS staff stage races in 5 different locations across the US: New York, Washington, DC, Wisconsin, Georgia, and San Francisco (which I'm hoping I can attend as well).

I decided the best way I can convince you to run in The North Face ECS is to share 15 reason why this event rocks!

1) Trail running is way more fun than running on the roads.
2) You get to meet Dean Karnazes!
3) Lots of race distance options, from a 5K all the way up to the 50 miler as well as the Karno Kids Race (1K) for the little ones!
4) Awesome pre-race panel discussion on the eve of the race weekend featuring The North Face athletes and Race Director, Nick Moore.
5) The North Face ECS staff pours their hearts and souls into providing the best race experience for you. If you're a trail running newbie, this event is for you!
6) Great race swag!
7) Your chance to explore the beautiful F.D. Roosevelt State Park.
8) Meet and socialize with fellow trail runners.
9) Great way to challenge your limits and endurance!
10) Good excuse for getting a little dirty.
11) Well-marked race course. No fears of getting lost at this race.
12) Well-stocked aid stations run by supportive and enthusiastic race volunteers!
13) The sense of achievement and self-satisfaction when you cross the finish line!
14) Great post race runners village loaded with vendors/organizations such as: The North Face, GORE-TEX, Yurbuds, Leave No Trace, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
15) Save 15% on your race entry fee! Just enter following discount code, DCASS13 (case-sensitive), and receive 15% off your registration for any distance at the ECS Georgia or ECS Wisconsin event!

In the unlikely event that you need more reasons on why you should sign up, tweet me (@DougCassaro) or The North Face ECS (@thenorthfaceECS) and we'll be happy to answer any questions. You can follow all ECS chatter on Twitter by searching for #ECSGeorgia. Also, show your love for the ECS and like them on Facebook!

If you're already signed up for one of the ECS events, I hope your training is going well! Please let me know if you're running ECS Georgia. I'd love to meet you! Until then, happy running!


Me and The North Face Athlete Dean Karnazes

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bike, Run, Bike

For the past couple years, my bike had been collecting dust. This spring, I decided it was time to get back out on my bike. As soon as I hopped onto my saddle and started cranking, I remembered how much I enjoyed riding...the speed, the wind whipping in my face and the sense of freedom I experience. I usually run fewer miles in the summer months because heat and long runs don't mix well for me. As a result, I've been riding quite a bit.

My friend, Janine, asked me a couple months back if I wanted to join her for a 5K in Bethesda, Maryland over the Memorial Day weekend. To add an extra element, she suggested that we ride our bikes to it. I loved the idea and thanks to the awesome trail network in the DC metro area, we would be able to get to the race start with relative ease.

After nice 7 mile ride to Bethesda, we ran our 5K, which was held on the Capital Crescent trail. After we crushed the competition (not really), we grabbed some coffee and then rode back into DC. Then, this past Sunday, Janine and I rode our bikes and ran in another race (a 4 miler). This race was held in the evening, which was a nice change from the early morning races.

The bike, run, bike has been a lot of fun. It's a nice feeling to get to and from a race solely on your own power. I hope to do it more in the future! How about you? Have you ever biked to a race?
Start line for the 4 miler
My babies. Road bike on the bottom. Custom single speed on the top.