TrailsRoc is extremely excited to be able to bring you another big name runner spotlight. This spotlight features The North Face Endurance Athlete, Mike Wolfe. Mike is known as one the worlds elite ultra runners and we were excited to have a chance to sit down and talk with him in person! His wife Stephanie is from right here in Pittsford, NY so it was a natural fit for Mike to come here and help open the new The North Face store in Victor.
Mike Wolfe grew up in Bozeman Montana enjoying “Big Sky country and all of the outdoors sports that come with living in wide open spaces. He talks fondly of his time spent outdoors as he grew up, recounting how his time spent in the mountains of Montana likely fueled his desire for adventure as he grew up.
Like many of the other top runners today, Mike did not grow up as a runner, he was an avid fan of the outdoors yet his athletic accomplishments were found on a soccer field not a mountain trail run!
On a whim, and almost by chance Mike became involved in long distance running. At 18, a bunch of his friends were running the Bridger Ridge Run in Montana, a 20 mile mountain race. He loved it, decided to train for a 50k later that year as an experiment to test himself and thus an Ultra star was born.
Check below for a quick conversation with Mike! You will gain some insight, get some humor, and maybe learn a thing or two about why Mike loves running as much as many of us.
How did you get your start in ultra running –
– I ran a 20 mile trail run race with some friends when I was 18. I loved the feeling of climbing and descending those mountains and decided this is something I wanted to try out. I signed up for a 50k, then a 50 miler and went from there. I kind of played around with it, loved what I was doing, did well with it, and it kind of took off from there, ya know?
You have had some great success with running – 2nd overall in the Western States 100. 2nd overall in the Tour De France of trail running the Ultra Tail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) You have broken course records and won national championships – So what is your future in the sport?
Wow, good question… Well, hopefully good things! I have had a lot of success trying out many different distances 50k, 50 miler, 100 milers etc. I think I want to focus on specific races. Specific distances. I really love mountain courses – I am attracted to the sky running in Europe. The more the elevation gain, the more technical, the better. I love the races in Europe it’s like a different sport over there. I also really want to run Hardrock (the hardrock 100).
I was a lawyer working full time. I worked as a Federal Prosecutor with the U.S. District Attorneys office. We decided to give it a go as a full time runner. It was hard to “get away” when you had to be at work, you can’t exactly just go to Europe for 3 weeks and run a race if you have a job. So a few months ago we made the transition.
In order to race and run a distance like 100 miles, you really have to train. What is the biggest challenge for you?
Knowing when to rest. Like literally rest. You have to know when to back off, it’s hard to rest because you feel like you should be out there running, you feel like you gotta get those miles in, but you have to rest. If you race year round, well, it breaks you down. I have learned that I want to peak for specific races and that means resting sometimes.
What about racing a 100 miler?
It really comes down to absolute focus. When you run that hard, that far, and then even harder for those final 20 miles its 95% mental to me. You have to find the edge, and not lose it. Find the zone and pin it. Don’t think about it.
That kind of focus is challenging, have you ever been out on a run and asked yourself “Why, What’s the point”?
Oh I totally have those moments, where I feel “beaten down” Sometimes it feels selfish to be out running, away from friends, family, work, social groups. I always get this feeling during a 100 mile race, I literally say “this is so stupid, why do I keep doing this, who runs 100 miles?? But the adventure, the mountains, it is liberating. I love it. I crave the feeling of pushing my limits, I want to find out what I can do and that’s a cool feeling.
It seems like an odd question given where most of your races are, but, Trails or Roads? You know what we prefer!
Trails. The scenery, the change. It’s easier on the body, it’s good for the mind. it just seems so much better to be out on the trails. I think that is the reason for the extra competitiveness and the growth in trail running, people enjoy trails more.
We are here for the Grand Opening of The North Face in Victor, NY – So let’s talk about your partnership. Why The North Face?
Well just like my start into running in general it just sort of happened and I got lucky. I am friends with Conrad Anker who is sort of like our team captain. I am also friends with Nikki Kimball, speaking of did you see the new trailer for the movie about her Long Trail adventure coming out?(we have- you all should check it out.There is also a website here to check out). These guys hooked me in. It’s amazing I have been here for over 5 years with The North Face. It’s a huge company but it really feels like a family to me. I feel like I know everyone, it’s a close supportive group!
What about nutrition Mike? What do you eat on these long runs?
I can stick with the gels and blocks up to about 50 miles, anything past that and I need real food not just “sugar” ya know? My stomach starts to go sour with all that sugar. I eat real food, potatoes, bananas, PB&J sandwhiches, the normal ultra food choices.
So we have covered gear, food, motivation, your start, your successes, how about some advice for some of our readers who may be new trail runners or are thinking about running an ultra? What have you got for them?
Surround yourself with successful and supportive people. You need to be motivated. Find a community like this one you are building with TrailsRoc. It is hard to start out running that kind of milage alone on the trails. Find people who enjoy what you enjoy and run with them. Befriend them!
Most of all though, just enjoy your time on the trails. Have fun!
So there it is. We suggest you check out The North Face in Victor, and follow Mike on twitter @mwolfepaw. Then, as usual, join us on the trails!
Special thanks to Mike Wolfe and The North Face Victor for setting up this interview for us!