Ian Torrence Interview Transcript
Early last year we interviewed ultra coach and runner Ian Torrence and he schooled us on training, racing, diet, injury prevention, and just about everything needed to be successful in this sport of ours…including, ahem, predicting Tim Olson’s win at WS. You can listen to the podcast here.
If you’re interested in reading the interview, please check out the transcript below. We’re trying out a few new things and are interested in finding out if you’d like to have select interviews in both formats in the future.
Let us know either way! We’d incur a cost in providing the transcript and would only do so if there’s interest from our listeners and readers. Thanks.
Transcription services provided by Rev.com. It’d take Scotty and I a month to do this, and they had it done in one day!
Now on with the show!
Ian: Hi, this is Ian Torrence, and I would rather shit the bed than listen to UltraRunnerPodcast.
Scotty: Welcome to ultrarunnerpodcast.com. I’m your co-host, Scotty Sandow, joined in the studio with Eric Schranz. Welcome to a new episode. This week on my trail run I learned that I can run a 615 split with one shoe untied running down to No Hands Bridge, no joke.
Eric: Our next guest is somebody we’ve wanted to talk to for a while. Ian Torrence is one of those runners who really set the bar for what ultra runners could do. His incredible resume includes over 150 ultras, 49 victories and dozens of marathons. In 1999 alone he finished 16 ultras and won 12 of them. Jump to 2002 where Ian started the year by winning the HURT 100 miler.
He then ran eight more ultras that year, including Western State 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100 and Wasatch Front 100, all top 10 finishes. It’s a Grand Slam, folks. Those four 100s were completed in one summer. The rest of his resume is replete with every race you’ve ever heard of and dozens you haven’t, ranging from weird little events to 100 mile slogs.
Until recently Ian worked with Hal Koerner at Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland, Oregon, but has since moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to coach with McMillan Running where he uses his experience to introduce athletes to what’s beyond 26.2 and to fine-tune the future of American distance running. Ian also writes for Trail Running, UltraRunning and Running Times Magazine, and is sponsored by Ultraspire, Adidas and Pearl Izumi. We’re excited to speak with Ian about what we can learn from marathon training, what they can learn from us and what’s on his agenda for the future. Ian, thanks for joining us.
Ian: Hey, guys, how’s it going?
Eric: Going great. You?
Ian: Good, doing well.
Eric: Olympic trials are over. Moab is over. What’s your new target?
Ian: What’s my new target? Well I wasn’t running in the trials.
Eric: Right, I understand that, but you played a role?
Ian: Yeah. What is next? This summer I’m looking forward to Leadville on the running front. That’s been kind of the running goal for the year. Then work wise we’re putting on the second annual Adidas-McMillanElite high school running camp this summer here in Flagstaff.
Eric: Ooh, fun.
Ian: We’re into that too.
Eric: You’re running Leadville this summer?
Eric: I didn’t realize that. When was the last time you ran that?
Ian: It was, like you said in your intro, 2002.
Scotty: Ten years.
Eric: Wow! Let’s get to that in a sec, but let’s back up a bit and let everybody know your history. You’re a Maryland boy; dad ran ultras back in the day, you ran in high school and college. Walk us up to the present day.
Ian: Yeah, you guys really did your research. Really good. Yeah. I ran in college, Allegheny College, small D3 school in Pennsylvania, middle-of-the-pack runner. Steadily saw improvement through those years and … but was a little burnt out after four years of intense cross country indoor/outdoor track seasons, pretty intense summer seasons, just kind of … even though it’s a D3 School you’re still trying hard.
Yeah, after graduating I decided I needed a small break. I got on the Appalachian Trail and started in West Virginia and backpacked my way to Mount Katahdin in Maine. I think you had … it’s kind of a similar story, you had a guy on a couple of weeks ago that almost did the exact same thing. I can’t remember his name, but.
Eric: Ryan. Ryan Triffitt.
Ian: Yeah. After that … well, during that adventure I was really fit, coming off of four years in college and running and stuff. It was easy for me to click off the miles, even with a backpack on. It got to the point where I was covering between 25 and 30 miles a day. I got the name the trail name “Slow But Sure,” but it was just kind of a moniker that I think it was the opposite of what it meant.
I met people on the way and actually, they suggested that I do these crazy ultra races. My dad had done a couple, so I was kind of familiar with them, but I never went to an event with him. I never really experienced what it was all about. The running thing, when he was doing that I didn’t want to do that. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I wanted to watch TV and play videogames.
Eric: Sure, he’s your dad.
Scotty: What did your dad say when you told him you wanted to do an ultra?
Ian: He was very supportive. This ties in. After I finished the AT, I decided to go back to running. JFK was close to where I was living at the time. I moved back home to Maryland, and JFK is right there. I started training for that event. My dad came and crewed me that year, and he actually crewed me for quite a few of my first ultras, really supportive. He biked alongside of me on the towpath during my first JFK. It was quite the thing.
Eric: Were you using a schedule or a program? Were you just listening to your dad? Were you just going out and running? What was your training for this?
Ian: I didn’t even know UltraRunning magazine existed back then. I didn’t … and this was even before I had an email account, before I had a computer, before I knew—Ultra List didn’t exist, the magazine didn’t exist in my mind, there was no books on those subjects. I just went out and basically ran. I used local 5 and 10K races for fun. In the middle of the week when I could, in between jobs, I don’t think I ran further than two hours at one time.
Eric: For 50-mile training, for JFK?
Ian: Yeah. Going into JFK, my furthest race distance up to that point was a half marathon.
Eric: How did that first JFK go?
Ian: Great. I’m trying to remember. I think I was twelfth or something like that. I was twelfth … I’m actually looking at it here now. I was twelfth and I just … I was sub seven hours.
Eric: You know what, you’re the second guy in a row we’ve talked to who went straight from a half marathon to a full marathon. We talked to Russ last week, the guy who lost all the weight, and that’s what he did as well. Pretty weird.
Ian: It was just good. I like being on the trails. I learned that growing up with my dad and backpacking in the woods, and then on the Appalachian Trail, and then cross-country in college. That’s where we did our easy days, was on the trails up in the Pennsylvania woods. That’s where I felt most comfortable and that’s where I just ran, so it was a good fit. Yeah, I really didn’t know what I was doing going into JFK, and I did well. It was kind of one of those things.
Eric: Yeah, you did fine. So 1999 really went nuts for you. How did that get to be … how did you get to that level? Were you still working out on your own, or were you working with a group? What were you doing?
Ian: I was still on my own. At that time I was working for the National Park Service and I was living in a trailer on the shores of Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas, pretty brutal. During the winter … wintertime in Vegas was great, summertime not so good. Down by the lake it can get up to 130 degrees easy. I lived in this little baked potato, so it was petty brutal.
It was just one of those things where the work … if you worked four days, you worked four 10-hour days and then you’ve got these long weekends. When you’re at Vegas you’ve got access really close to a lot of stuff: Arizona, Southern California, really close by to get in your car and drive, and that’s what I did.
You have success and you want more success, and so it’s just one win lead to another. I think some luck was involved in a lot of those races, where there were really close finishes and it just came down to just being in the right place at the right time. During those years, honestly, I think that was kind of a lull in ultra running. I think it was lull in general for running in general, even in the marathon world. There wasn’t as much emphasis on running like we do see today.
Eric: You still finished the Grand Slam. It doesn’t … if you’re doing it alone, you still finished it.
Eric: Obviously by this point you had some kind of plan going, right?
Ian: Yeah, I was … I worked for Mount Trail for a year. In between Park Service jobs, I went to Seattle. When Montrail was a real small company, still [inaudible 00:10:24], when they only had a dozen employees I was working there. I was working with sponsorships and promotions for them. That got me tied in even more to the sport. I met all these race directors, traveled all over the country to all these races, slinging products but also getting to run these races. It’s just again, it was this other way of just running like a mad man.
Eric: Right, that’s so cool. “I just beat your ass in these shoes, want to buy them?” You’re doing this, and then what brought you back up to Ashland?
Ian: It’s a long story, but to give you the short version, just some frustration with job stuff. I needed a change. The Park Service job I had, and I also in between the park service in Ashland, I worked here in Flagstaff before … I used to live here before, and the job I had then it was … they were very physical demanding jobs. With the Park Service I was a resource manger. My main job focus was non-native plant control.
The plant that we had to control is called tamarisk. I don’t know if you guys know that, but it’s like a non-native plant. It’s a salt eater. It’s a pretty big, kind of like pine tree. You have to use chainsaws and herbicides to cut it out. It doesn’t grow along the roadsides, it grows in remote springs. There’s a lot of hiking involved and back-breaking labor to do this work. What’s that?
Eric: Geez, that sounds like a lot of work.
Ian: Yeah. It was hard to keep up the running schedule. I tried. I left the Park Service to … I wanted to further my running. I still was having fun with it and I was enjoying it, and I wanted more success. It was just hard to train and it was really killing me. I moved to Flagstaff, worked for a year with a local non-profit organization doing trail work in the Grand Canyon, which was again an awesome experience but again, back-breaking labor.
You’re moving rocks all day. If you guys have ever been down those trails, they’re pretty sweet trails but they take a lot of maintenance. It’s a lot of work. So frustration with that and I just couldn’t run anymore. I mean I was done. After a day of doing that, after doing that for eight days, I couldn’t even move. I called Hal and asked him if he could use help at the store, and like a good friend he said yes.
Eric: Awesome. You did that for … how long were you in Ashland?
Ian: I think like two and a half years-ish, yeah.
Eric: You helped put on one of our favorite races, Lithia Loop.
Ian: Yeah, you guys talk about it all the time.
Eric: I love that event.
Scotty: Yeah, that’s great. You were at the start line the year I did it, in 2009?
Ian: Yeah, that would be about right.
Scotty: What was that experience like up there? Because “Born to Run” had just come out, so Jenn Shelton is highlighted in the book and … it’s a really cool vibe going on there. Skaggs, he’s mentioned in the book, he’s up there running with those guys, and Hal and you’re there. What was that time trade like for you?
Ian: Yeah, it was great. You had Eric, you had Jenn, but Tony was there for a little bit and so was Kyle. It was when they were all doing their thing, when Kyle was killing it at Hardrock and stuff. You put out the word, “We’re going to do a trail run this morning, meet at the plaza,” and who’s who in ultra running shows up.
Scotty: What’s that like? What are those runs like?
Ian: It’s a lot of bullshitting. You have to have a really good sense of humor I think to… everyone likes to pick on everyone else. You just have to take it with the punches. Everyone is trying to out do the other one, on all levels. It’s a good time.
Scotty: Yeah, you know that sounds…
Ian: Then we involved the rest of the community, the whole Rogue Valley there, and it was quite a scene.
Scotty: You know have a really good core group of running friends when you can say anything and take anything and not get offended.
Ian: That’s right.
Scotty: Are you guys able to, at that time and probably like in Boulder nowadays, are you able to go and just go, “We’re going to go easy today, guys, 10 miles easy.” Does that happen or is it just too darn competitive?
Ian: Yeah. During those runs it was … you couldn’t. No, it wouldn’t happen. It was a Hammerfest every time. It was a Hammerfest every time and you just had to be ready for that. If we’re like, “Oh, we’re planning on doing a weekend run together, I’d paper.”
Eric: Wow! Okay, so you’re doing that for a while. Now had you been coaching at this point or did you jump into coaching when you went down to work with Greg?
Ian: I started coaching when I got to Flagstaff. I had no experience coaching except for the occasional, “This is what you guys…” When you work at a retail store and people start picking your brain, you end up answering a lot of coaching questions; what to do and, “I’ve never done this before,” and, “Oh, I’m injured,” and, “How do you do this?” There was kind of that informal coaching going on, but never got … never was an official paid coach until I moved here and started working for Greg.
Eric: Now you’re role with Greg is…? Describe it to us.
Ian: McMillan Running is … just to explain, a lot of people get it confused, but Greg has got two things going on. He’s got McMillan Elite, which is those folks like Brett Gotcher and Nick Arciniaga, Stephanie Rothstein, Emily Harrison, Jordan Horn, Danny Mercado, those guys and gals that went to the Olympic trials last month.
Ian: It’s the post-collegiate training team. His other deal is McMillan Running. They don’t have anything really to do with one another. They’re separate; one is for profit, one is non-profit. I work for Greg and for McMillan Running. I help out occasionally when they need it on the McMillan Elite side, whether to help with a temple run, to help run water or do the split times or whatever. My main focus and my job with him is with McMillan Running. As of this March, next month we bring on our sixth employee including himself. When I got here in December of ‘09, I was the third employee. Now we’re up to six. Things are growing, it’s really good and yeah, it’s solid.
Eric: You are the only ultra coach?
Ian: I am the only ultra coach, yes.
Eric: Help me understand. You’re taking people who are already accomplished marathoners, or are going from a 10K to a 50-mile, or who is your target?
Ian: Anyone who wants to run ultra. I actually, I work with … right now my client base is split 50-50. I’ve got about half of my clients are ultra-runners and half are marathoners and below.
Eric: Okay, I know we just talked to Meghan last week and Meghan said that she was working with you now.
Eric: Meghan Arbogast. Some are going to be that elite level, and then others are people who want the expert help to get into ultras.
Eric: Got you.
Ian: Yeah. I have newbies and I have folks like Megan.
Eric: It seems like our listener base is I think split about 50-50 between those two groups, so we’re real happy to be talking to you.
Scotty: What’s your starting point with someone who comes to you and says, “I’m a marathoner, I want to take it to the next level and be like those awesome people who do ultras, a 50K.”
Ian: If you want the training advice, we don’t change much from what they’re doing with marathoning. I think the big difference is the specificity. We try to get them out on trails to experience the change in pace, the change in terrain, and what that does to the body and the mind. They aren’t able to move as fast as they’re used to. You start running by time rather than by mileage for the most part. We work on race day nutrition. In essence, the training doesn’t change that much. The volume they do will be really similar. I like the keep the quality workouts fairly similar as well.
Eric: I’ve heard you say that people getting into ultras, people who are talking about it, assume that a 50K is just a marathon with some extra mileage put on. You’re very quick to say that’s a big mistake to think that way. Why is that a mistake?
Ian: Wait. Say that again?
Eric: I’ve read that people who … I’ve heard and read that you say that people who think a 50K is just a long marathon shouldn’t think that way. It’s actually a different event. Did I interpret that right?
Ian: I’m not sure. I think the training that you’re doing for a marathon is going to be really similar to what you do for a 50K.
Eric: Okay. How does that differ for somebody going from a marathon, but they want to do a 50-miler? They want to double that basically?
Ian: Right. This is where we get into things like the back-to-back weekends, which I think are really important. Running for four or five hours on Saturday, and then coming back and trying to replicate that or a shorter version of that on Sunday for example. I like using the 50K as a stepping stone to a 50-miler. Basically, you’d use the 50K earlier in the program. Hopefully they get to me far and above that, we’ll be able to do a full training cycle for a 50 miler, which 16 weeks is good especially for a first timer. When you get more experience and you’ve done a lot of 50Ks, I think the switch to a 50-miler isn’t that far.
Eric: Going back to back-to-backs, you recommend that for beginner as well as say Megan?
Ian: Including that…
Eric: There are similar distances when training for a 50-miler four to five hours each day?
Ian: No. Again, depending on the experience. I like the back-to-backs, but we’ll shorten the … if they’ve never done a 50-miler or they’ve never done a back-to-back, we’ll definitely downgrade the amount of time of those back-to-backs. Say someone like Meghan is doing a 50-miler, we can I think work with kind of a four or five-hour Saturday run and come back with something a little bit more challenging on Sunday, say like a three-hour fast finish run where maybe that last hour or six miles of that run is marathon race effort.
Then when you’re looking at a newbie going into a 50-miler, an example of a back to back weekend would be … start early in the program with something like a three-hour run and then come back with say a trial run on Sunday. It’s important to see how they react to that, because some people can do that really easily, believe it or not, and other people that trashes them.
Eric: Is the first guy, is his name Mike Wardian?
Ian: Mike Wardian? He can just keep doing that stuff. He doesn’t need a break.
Eric: Probably just races. I want to get to diet and everything like that, but we’re also talking to a massage therapist tonight. How do you incorporate massage? Do you weights, yoga? Do you do anything else with your athletes?
Ian: Core is really important. I really suggest, and I know Meghan talked about this and has been starting to do that when she started working with me, but working on the core. Not only the abs, but basically from the chest to the knees. It’s important. It doesn’t have to be with weights. You can do everything you need to do with your own body weight. You can find … well, I’m sending guys those DVDs to do as you see fit, the McMillan core DVDs.
Eric: Yeah, I can’t wait.
Ian: All that stuff is all body weight. We have to remember that we are runners. Our number one athletic goal is to be a runner. You’re not a weight room junkie. Core is just firing and teaching your muscles to remember how to work properly. It’s not to get the fired six-packs, and to be buff and that kind of thing. People are afraid of the weight room because they think it’s going to make you big. The kind of work a runner needs to do, it has … that’s not going to happen.
Scotty: Does the runner put themselves at greater risk for injury if they don’t incorporate core workouts into the regimen?
Eric: Okay. For injury, not just they’re going to lack that benefit, but they can get injured?
Ian: Yeah. If you don’t do core … Core work, I can solve probably 90% of the running injuries that happen out there.
Scotty: No kidding. Wow! What are some of the more common injuries you can get from not doing core work?
Ian: All the knee issues, planter fasciitis, IT band syndrome, it just goes on and on. Once the wheels start coming off, running doesn’t really make you stronger believe it or not. It just works muscles. The body is a great adaptive tool. It’s the best thing out there for … it can adapt to anything. The body can adapt.
Ian: You start not using certain muscles, other muscles will adapt to take on that role when they’re not supposed to. That’s when you start getting overuse injuries. What core does is it teaches the body to remember that these muscles are here and you should be using them.
Eric: I was just complaining to Scott before we went on about … I’ve got … my hips are crazy screwing me up right now. I was saying I can’t wait to get these videos from Ian, because I need hip work. I’m in shape, I’ve got my cardio there, my legs are there, but as we’re saying, my hips are out a whack and it screws up … it doesn’t matter how much I’ve been working out and how much speed work I’ve been doing, my hips are screwed up.
Eric: So, huh, 90%.
Ian: Yeah, there is a lot of reasons for that. We could spend an hour talking about it and trying to figure it out over the phone. Essentially it comes down to core work and the strength that … Once your hips start getting weak, you start using other things. You’re body just tweaks to do that.
Eric: This sounds like something that probably the elite marathoners and the elite 5Ks and 10K guys and gals do constantly, and that the ultra people just go, “Eh, I’m going to run for seven hours in the woods and drink some beer.”
Ian: Yeah, exactly. It’s hard to go out and run that long, and come back and be like, “I’m going to do core work,” when you’re done.
Scotty: Eric, let’s bare knuckle box after the interview, okay, and start getting this core work done.
Eric: Yeah. What other stuff can we learn from marathoners and then second part, what else can they learn, what can marathoners learn from … I guess shorter distance people, what can they learn from us and vice versa?
Scotty: Okay. What can we learn from marathoners? I think again, the discipline of doing all of the … hitting all the gears in your training program. It’s not all about the long runs. I think it’s important that we do speed work. Brian Kyle talked about his book and the little insert I have there against [inaudible 00:28:55], we banter back and forth about speed work, the need or the not-need for it. I really think it’s important. It’s important to work all the gears. To keep that turnover is important. You stop using it and you get slow.
Eric: Ian, we ask that question a lot to our guests. All the elite guys, I guess except for Rose, say that. They say, “I do speed work. I do tempo, I do fartlek, I do sustained training runs,” and I’m willing to bet 90% of the people who hear it just don’t do it. They still go, “Eh, I’m just going to go out and run six hours again.”
Ian: Yeah. It’s hard to look at 50 miles and think … I ran a lot this weekend and I ran … I mean the average pace for my race was 906 [inaudible 00:29:48] mile pace, It’s like, “Well, I can … there’s no need to do speed work to run that slow.”.
Eric: What is 200 meter repeats going to do to help me in a 50-miler?
Ian: It’s going to help with efficiency. It’s one thing to run nine-minute pace efficiently and it’s one thing to run nine-minute pace inefficiently. I’ve experienced both of those, and I’m kind of struggling with the latter right now. It’s tough. When your body is not functionally working with you, it’s very frustrating.
Ian: Speed work teaches your body to work efficiently just not even … I’m not just talking about how the muscles work, but just the whole cardiovascular system.
Eric: To give an example here, I’m going to use Scott as an example. He has got States at the end of June. Is that … it’s in four months from now.
Scotty: Holy crap! I got to get running!
Eric: He’s out of here. He just left. Scott, what’s your mileage? Your mileage is 60 a week, 54?
Scotty: I’m about 50 miles a week right now.
Eric: On the trails you’re probably averaging 9 or 10-minute miles, on real trails with hills. What’s a good example of a basic track workout Scott should be doing?
Ian: He doesn’t have to go to the track.
Eric: Okay, speed work?
Ian: Just one day a week. I think one day a week is all you need and just throwing in a fartlek session. Yes, if you want to…
Eric: What’s your favorite beer?
Ian: What’s that?
Eric: Nothing, sorry, silly questions.
Ian: You can do it on the track, you can do it on the trail, just some sort of session where you’re working … you put in between two and three miles total of, quote-unquote, speed work. That would be anything between 5K, 8K, 10K pace; I think that kind of turnover is really good.
Eric: Now is that sustained for the two to three miles, or is that intermittent fartlek?
Ian: Right. I was going to explain. About two or three miles of broken like fartlek, broken like 800 meters repeat or three-minute repeats with some rest in between. The other option is kind of a tempo run, where you sustain three miles but again it will be like half marathon or 30K pace. That kind of work is really important.
You can also use hills to your advantage as well, since Western has a lot of hills. You can charge hills one day a week on one of your runs. Pick a hilly route and attack the hills on each of them, and use the downhill and the flats in between as recovery. You can disguise speed work so it’s more fun for you if you don’t like the track or you don’t like that idea of that kind of intensity.
Scotty: Right, I could incorporate my fartlek into my hill work and not feel like I have to do both during the week, or keeping separate where I’m doing fartlek on a flat trail versus and then doing more speed work on an uphill.
Ian: Right, correct.
Scotty: That’s great information to have, because I’ve been looking to do something that is realistic for someone that is a dad, works all time, has all my obligation to try and fit in all these different sorts of workouts, it’s difficult and then try to get the miles in too.
Ian: Yeah, the other thing that I find that people struggle with is if they do do it on a marked course or on a track, they start to race themselves through the season. Each time they go to the track and try to run faster than the last time they were there, and that’s simply not possible. You can’t sustain that for a long period of time. You’ll just burn yourself out.
Going out on a trail and saying, “Okay, I’m going to do six, five, three minutes at my 10K effort,” and you pick a different trail each time and do that run, whether it be hilly, flat, rolling, whatever, you change the location and you change the course. You’re not going to beat yourself up, you’re not going to be depressed if you run slower than you did the last time. Does that make sense?
Eric: Right. Yeah, getting into your comfort zone a lot. Let’s jump to nutrition. Do you have any dietary secrets during training or race day?
Ian: Let’s see. I think simple is the best. It’s important to train with those things … well, you’ve got to test the things you’re going to use on race day in your training. That’s the important thing. I defer a lot of my nutritional … I can give the basics, what works for me, but because so many people are different and there are so many issues out there I … if I come to heads with the … not come to heads, but if I can’t figure out what’s going on with one of my clients, I’ll refer them to … I refer a lot of my clients to Meredith Terranova.
She’s a nutritionist, and she can set out a training program that I know. She’ll do that as a nutrition plan for your race. What you need to do almost basically by the minute while you’re out there on a 50-miler or a 100-miler. That’s her background. She went to school for that, I didn’t, and I’m always more than happy to defer if I don’t know.
Eric: You don’t advocate a high protein or a high carb or some other kind of diet? You say do what works?
Ian: I say do what works. I think because everyone is so individual and everyone is … nowadays it seems like everyone has got a food allergy to something. [Inaudible 00:36:24]
Ian: It’s hard to nail it. I think if you’re having nutritional issues that a specialist could see you and see.
Eric: When Meghan Arbogast, when she was on, she mentioned to me that I should try and eat while going fast. I did that on this weekend’s Western States Trail, and it worked for me. I didn’t kill myself on the rocky trail. It’s good.
Ian: Yeah. I’ve seen people who just cannot do it for the life of them; they have really hard time eating when they’re running hard. One of the best examples of someone eating while they’re running hard is Scott Jurek. That guy can put down a bean burrito while he is running a 6-minute pace.
Eric: Wow! You probably meant that literally, don’t you?
Ian: What’s that?
Eric: You mean that literally?
Ian: Yes. That guy is amazing.
Scotty: Scott has a new book coming out.
Eric: Yeah, he does. That’s right. On diet, I think, again.
Scotty: Yeah. Yeah.
Ian: I’m really looking forward to it.
Eric: Yeah, that should be … Speaking of diet and runners from the not too distant past, you wrote a great thing on old Frank Bozanich last year that I loved, and that triggered us to seek out Frank and to talk to him. Did you learn anything from Frank and from the old school guys?
Ian: I started running when those … a lot of those old school guys were still doing it, I think. Frank still runs today, but he was a little faster almost 18 years ago. I ran [inaudible 00:38:18] and it just goes on and on. Kevin Setnes was running when I was doing it. Andy Jones, the other Andy Jones…
Eric: Canadian Andy Jones, right?
Ian: What’s that?
Eric: The Canadian Andy Jones?
Ian: Yeah. Things have changed. I’d say it was … I’m kind of stuck in the transition between old school and new school, and I don’t know what to do.
Eric: What do you think of some of the running trends nowadays, minimalist shoes and maximalist shoes and all this other stuff going on?
Ian: I think it’s great. I think change is good. I think the new developments are good. I’ve got my share of minimal shoes that wear occasionally to play with and do things with. I think it comes down to what works for the individual and where success is. If you have success doing something, I think you should stick with it. I don’t advocate changing things.
Eric: What’s working for you right now?
Ian: In terms of minimalism?
Ian: I’m sponsored by Pearl Izumi, and I run in their Peak II often. I ran in their Fuel Trail this weekend at Moab. It has a little bit more cushioning. There’s a lot of slick rock in Moab, and that course can really beat you up. On proper trails and shorter runs I use the Peak II, which is their trail racing flat shoe. I really like it.
Eric: The other…
Ian: I’m also back and forth. It depends. If it’s a recovery run and I’m feeling tired, I’ll put a bigger shoe on. If I want to run fast, if I’m doing a speed workout, I’ll put on the flat.
Eric: Outside of shoes, are there other pieces of gear that you’re really going to more often than not?
Ian: I’m pretty minimalistic when it comes to what I’m wearing and what I’m using. I like to go … I ran TransRockies this year with Tim Olsen, and they were calling us the naked boys because we weren’t running with any shirts.
Ian: Yeah. A handheld is all I need. If I can refill that every once in a while that’s great. That’s how I prefer to run, is … I’d rather run with nothing than with a lot of stuff. Packs, unless I’m doing a double crossing and I know the water is off on the north side, I don’t run with a pack.
Scotty: Do you think too many runners are running with too much fluid?
Ian: Again, I think that comes down to…
Scotty: Personnel preference?
Eric: What works for you.
Ian: And the weather, if it’s really hot or humid. I don’t know. I’m thinking about what I used in Moab. The temperatures were like 50 degrees. It’s a 33-mile race. During that span of that race, I filled my water bottle three times. I was just carrying one of the new Ultraspire bottles. I think it’s a 20-ounce bottle and I filled it three times. I took seven gels during the race. I didn’t carry much and felt great. It was actually a really good run for me.
Eric: Before we get on to fartlek questions, I’ve got … I’d really miss if I didn’t I ask you one question I’m fascinated with this. I’ve read that you are a … maybe I’m wrong about this one too, a believer in stetting tiered goals for events. Because I think I definitely fall into that. If somebody asks, “What’s your goal?” I’ve got one goal. I say sub five or sub six, whatever it’s going to be, and that’s it. It’s make or break it. What’s a tiered goal program you’re talking about?
Ian: Tiered goals, I think that’s really important. When you’re doing an ultra there’s a lot of chance for timing out or giving up. I think if you have a number of goals set that it just will help inhibit that giving up when you’re out there and things aren’t going well. The last time I ran Western States, the ultimate goal … for example, using a 100-miler, like Western States, the ultimate goal should be the finish. It should always be the finish.
You always have … a lot of people want to get under 24, they want the buckle, but you can put a bunch of goals in between there. You can also reach … say you want to try to finish every 20 hours, you just need to I think set up five goals before you going into an ultra, and work for the best one. If things aren’t happening and you can’t do that, you should be able to fall back to another goal to keep you inspired and keep you rolling.
Eric: That’s good advice.
Ian: Yeah, you just keep moving down the ladder. JFK, I finished it 17 times. One of my goals used to be to try to win, and I’ve never done that. I finished it 17 times. Now just being a part of the race and being submerged in that atmosphere is all I need, and just being out there to finish the event is … I call it a good day.
Scotty: What’s funny is that what we have in common is that your goal for JFK is my goal for Western States, which is to come in first because you know…
Scotty: Oh, boy. No, I kid. While we’re on that, we’re talking about goals, it’s my first 100-mile event. What sort of advice do you have for me going into running my first 100?
Ian: Yeah. You’ve been told this several times by a couple of [inaudible 00:44:51]. It’s to have fun and to enjoy the experience. It’s getting harder and harder to get in that race. I think to have a positive experience while you’re there is important. I also think it’s important to enjoy the experience leading up to it and the training that you’re doing. I’m sure you’re doing the Western States training camp or the training runs?
Ian: Yeah, that’s going to be huge. It’s going to be a fun time and you’re going to be running with people that are doing the same thing. Coming in to the track, it’s awesome. I really think that when you get to real point and you’re running down the road to the track, it’s pretty awesome. It’s an experience that you can really have a million times in your head. It’s just great.
Yeah, I mean the advice is to enjoy the trip and to remember when you are struggling … because you probably will at some time, at some point in that race at least once have a down moment, is to just look up and smile, and remember where you are and what you’re doing, and to keep moving forward.
Scotty: I’m going save this podcast on my playlist for when that moment comes and the darkness comes. I’m going to say, “Play the Ian Torrence interview.” That will be great.
Eric: Look up and smile and get your ass in gear, Scott.
Scotty: I plan on…
Ian: No matter what’s going on out there, there’s going to be other people experiencing the exact same thing. Whether you’re up, whether you’re down, whether you’re puking, whatever, someone else is doing it at the exact same time. Remember that you’re not alone.
Scotty: Including the guys at the front, right?
Ian: That’s right, yes.
Scotty: Awesome. Thanks for the advice. I really do appreciate it.
Ian: Yeah, you have a good time, man. Have fun.
Scotty: Thanks. It’s going to be great. I think we’ve got 10 fartlek questions for you. Ian, you ready?
Ian: I’m ready.
Scotty: All right. Who would you like to coach? Is there anybody out there?
Ian: I like the folks that haven’t done it before. They’re just like a sponge. It’s so great to … there is a lot to share, a lot of wisdom to share. I think I have a lot of good wisdom to share, and it’s fun to hear the reaction and to actually take those words and to put them into action and watch the success.
Eric: Number two, what’s been the silliest ultra trend you’ve seen?
Ian: What’s the silliest ultra trend? Karl is going to kill me, but it’s the Hoka, man.
Eric: Clown shoes.
Ian: I saw a lot of them this weekend; they were all over Moab.
Scotty: Have you tried them?
Ian: I put them on at an outdoor retail show a couple of years ago, and that was good enough.
Scotty: Aw, no fair! Booo! Number three. You’ve raced extensively on both coasts, in the north, south, everything. Take your pick. What’s your best place to race?
Ian: You want a region?
Scotty: Yeah. For us at least, Oregon vibe had a different vibe than a California race.
Ian: Absolutely. I’m partial to the race, I’ll always say JFK, but I will also say Pine to Palm 100. If anyone is looking for a really good 100, the vibe at Pine to Palm and what you learn through and what you’ve experienced there, it’s pretty sweet.
Eric: It looks like a [crosstalk 00:48:54] race, yeah.
Scotty: Cool buckle too.
Eric: Let’s see here. Who should we be watching this year? Anybody you know on your radar?
Ian: Who should we be watching this year?
Ian: Oh, my goodness. That’s a hard question. Besides the usual suspects?
Eric: Besides the usual suspects. Is this going to be Wardian’s crazy breakout year when he just wins everything, or are we going to see like a Max King pop up? I don’t know, because we always talk on the trails. There was Jurek, who was unbeatable and he was the best in the world. Then it was Anton, and then nobody could beat him. Then it was Rose and now it’s Killian. Who is going to beat Killian? Matt Carpenter?
Ian: That’s been a discussion among some of my friends is what’s going to happen at Pikes Peak this here.
Eric: Yeah, it should be awesome.
Ian: I hope it happens. Killian is running speed [inaudible 00:50:00] too.
Eric: Yeah, I saw. That should be awesome.
Ian: Anyway, to get back to the question, I think a guy that’s up and coming and he’s being really smart, he just took a month completely off from running after he won Bandera is Tim Olson. He’s a good friend of mine. He was my partner at TransRockies. I’d be running as hard as I could, and then he would run up with the lead people and he’d circle back and run backwards along the course, pick me up and then run with me back to the checkpoint. I think he did TransRockies times two.
Eric: Him coming through Foresthill last year, I remember, he just looked cool as a cucumber. He just looked great.
Ian: Yeah, he’s got a good attitude.
Eric: Yeah, he looks like it. Number five, a personal question, what did you eat for dinner tonight? What does your diet look like?
Ian: I haven’t eaten dinner yet. I have a … my diet needs a lot of improvement. I’ll be honest with that. I’m not a cook. I think I cook more for my dog than I do for myself. It will probably end up being a pizza from the refrigerator.
Eric: All right, you’re honest for once.
Eric: Let’s see here. What did it cost you to complete the Grand Slam, if I can ask? That looks like…
Ian: What did it cost me?
Eric: So expensive, because you’re buying everything at the last minute, right?
Ian: Yeah. I was living in Moab, Utah when I did the Slam. I was able to drive to Leadville, drive to Wasatch and I drove to Western as well. I only had to fly to Vermont. In that regard, it’s not like I was living in Maryland and had to fly west for three events. I was living close. Leadville, I was actually training with Hal Koerner. He had a setup, he had a house there, so I didn’t even have to pay for housing at that event. At Wasatch I believe I stayed with Karl. At Western I believe there was a Montrail house.
Eric: So you did it on the cheap.
Ian: Yeah. It just came together and I knew people. I think Vermont was the most challenging, because it was so far away and the airport is not close to the race. The actual lodging in Woodstock was like bare to none to find a place. I did it pretty cheap. It wasn’t that bad. I was lucky that my work was able, my boss at Parks was able to let me do those things.
Eric: Final question goes to Scott.
Scotty: What’s your current beer of choice?
Ian: Beer of choice would be the Blackbird Porter at Flagstaff Brewing Company.
Eric: Blackbird Porter?
Ian: Yeah. You can’t buy it in stores. You can only get it there.
Ian: Yeah, I know. If I was to select a beer that you could get at a store, it would be Four Peaks, Kilt Lifter. Have you ever heard that? It’s a Scottish ale.
Eric: This is ridiculous. Scott and I take more notes when we talk about beer than we do when we talk about running.
Scotty: We do. It’s a shame.
Ian: You guys come to Flagstaff, and I will take you to Flagstaff Brewing Company. You asked me the question about what I have for dinner. It’s like four days a week I’m eating there. It’s bad. It’s really bad.
Eric: I’ll tell you what, a bunch of us are going to be down to run Javelina this year. That’s probably the closest we’ll get to you. If you plan on showing up Javelina this year, we’ll be there. Be in touch.
Ian: Okay. Let’s stay in touch.
Eric: Will do. Hey listen, thank you so much for taking the time and coming on program.
Ian: You bet, guys.
Scotty: I learned a ton. Ian, thanks a lot.
Scott: How soon can we rebook him to come back on the show?
Eric: Once again, I feel like I went to school. I love talking to these guys. I love it. I love it, love it, love it.
Scotty: The fact that he’s so open and he is very honest, and if he is unwilling to answer a question or doesn’t know the answer he said, “Listen, I don’t got the answer. Talk to this guy.” This Meredith Terranova, the nutritionist, I’m…
Eric: Yep! Googling her and looking her up.
Scotty: Pretty much.
Eric: I think that what it attracts me to Ian is his coaching.
Scotty: His running topless.
Eric: Yes, but coaching and working with middle distance and long distance runners and ultra people, and really being able to use strategies from both. The guy is as accomplished as you can get. If he did it, I want to do it
Scotty: Right. I like that a lot of elite runners go to him to help make them better runners, but he is as just excited to help them as to get someone across the ultra for their first one. That takes the right mindset as a coach. That’s great. Again, he is with McMillan Running. We’ll link that on our website so you can learn more about that. It’s very easy to navigate that site, which I like. You can pick which package works best for you. It’s all right there for you, which is very handy.
Eric: Ian’s got a good blog as well. He always puts up some great pictures. His most recent post was from Moab, and just some great pictures of what looks like a really cool scene in the middle of the desert.
Scotty: Right, fantastic. Thanks again to Ian for coming on. Go ahead, go to UltraRunnerPodcast.com take a look at … we talked about beer earlier, see what beer people are really digging. A lot of great posts lately, so thanks to everyone who is doing that. New entries into the Black Toenail Hall of Fame, new trail running pictures. They’re brilliant pictures you guys have taken where you’re hitting the trail and sending this to us are in the gallery. We have all sorts of great podcasts for you to dig into.
Whether you’re checking this out on the website or even on iTunes go back and see if there is something you missed or you need just to brush up on, it’s all there. Check up your daily news feed and our contest and get on Facebook and like us there. We have all sorts of great conversations going on. Thanks for all who donated into the donation aid station. If you want your new UltraRunnerPodcast sticker, we have a new version coming out. Yeah, if you want a new sticker, learn how you can get on by going to UltraRunnerPodcast.com.
Thank you so much again to Ian Torrence. Thank you for listening to UltraRunnerPodcast.com. He’s Eric Schranz, I’m Scotty Sandow. Just [inaudible 00:57:30] UltraRunnerPodcast.com. You could know what’s coming next, right? Now go out and run.
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