Ken Michal


Age: 42
Running Stats:“No podium placements! I have finished HURT 100 (barely), a few other 100’s and have 2 Pigtails Challenge 200 finishes! (9th and 5th place: small fields! 😉 ) I am also the host/producer of the Running Stupid podcast!”

What is your favorite ultra that you have competed in, and why?
“HURT 100!!!  The Aloha is amazing!  The course is brutal, aid stations are the best I’ve ever seen, the HURT Ohana are some of the most wonderful people around and the field is incredible!  I also have the HUGE honor of being a member of the HURT Ohana as a mainlander!”

What is your educational background?
High School

You have an incredibly varied background. Which part of your resume’ translates best to the world of ultra?
“Having sleep apnea has really helped me with the mental game!!  I’m much more sleep aware!  After going through day to day life exhausted (I was so sleep deprived my vision changed when I started treatment!), a couple days on the trail seems easy!!”

Is there a race you always turn as inspiration when training?
“HURT 100 is always a great motivator!!  Usually, when I’m training you can find me mentally cruising around Mt. Tantalus (or the next key event)!!  I also think of friends races like Ellie Greenwood’s first year at WSER 100 or seeing Nathan Yanko glide up Hogsback (tough climb) in the middle of the night at HURT 2010!  Jorge Maravilla’s death march through the last miles of this year’s WSER was pretty awesome too!!”

Is there one portion of your training that you think universally translate to all runners?
“I think we’re all different!  The key is to run both as much as possible while running as little as you need!!  I’ve found it’s best to realize that training breaks you down and recovery builds you up!  I’ve been seeing a lot of folks recently, ignoring the recovery phase (it’s also the hardest discipline for me too!!)…  They could be so much stronger/better/faster!!  There’s an art to knowing when to stay on the couch!”

The Ultra scene is changing rapidly—more money, more sponsors—in your estimation is this improving or hurting the running scene?
“Definitely improving!!  This is a great way for amazing athletes to do more of what they love!!  I look at how much ultras have improved my life and honestly believe that the world would be an amazing place if EVERYONE ran a 100!!  Also, there are more events so the bar is raised!!  Here in the San Francisco Bay Area there is an ultra (or even a few) every weekend within a 5 hour drive!!  Races are getting bigger and better and there are also bigger and better challenges!!  The downside is that for the marquee events you have to plan well in advance…  I have 4 races I want to run next season that are all having lottery selections in December!  If I get picked for all four, that’s a pretty good chunk of change…”

Describe the moment your realized that ultrarunning was your true passion?
“Probably during my first 50 when I started to come to life towards the end!!  I’ve found that I really love the late stages of races!  Oddly enough, the last 50 miles in my 200 milers have been amazing and I’ve never felt more alive!!”

What aspects of your training do you have difficulty with? How do you overcome those mental obstacles?
“For me, the tough part is scheduling runs along with my day to day life and work!  Usually knowing that I have a really tough race on the books is enough to get me out the door!!  I also break up runs a lot and do triple, quadruple, whatever’s needed days!  My coaches even factor in my runs to/from work!!  My biggest challenge is diet…  Still haven’t mastered that one!!”

Are you technology driven or do you run by feel? Or a combination of both?
“I would love to say that I run by feel but I have to admit that I kept my Garmin charged for 67.5 hours at PT200 this year!!  Usually, I like to rock it out with my iPod and just run!”

There are so many amazing new products available in today’s ultra running world—how much do you explore all of these options? Are you a “keep it simple” person or do you like to see what the new technologies can deliver?
“I’ve found that I like to stick with what works until it stops working!  After that, I’ll look for new solutions!  I’m not really a gear oriented runner.  As a matter of fact, I try to limit gear as much as possible!!  I’ve found that too many gadgets require too much focus, focus I could be using on the trail!”

As an elite athlete do you think your training becomes as much a mental exercise as a physical one?
“Thanks for this question!!  Besides being really interesting, I’ve never been called an elite before!!!   Oddly enough, I see training as physical and racing as mental!!  Even though I push hard in training, it rarely goes anywhere near the level where the mental game starts!  In racing, it’s just not fun until the body is ready to quit!”

During a race—cuss words or words of encouragement—and how do you use these mental pokes to push it to the next level?
“Cuss words won’t get me very far!  Usually, I prefer to run with a smile!!  My mantra/slogan/war cry is “All Day!”  All Day! will always perk me up!!  It reflects who I am and what I LOVE to do!!!  The tougher the run the more All Day it is!”

 Getting lost out on the trail is no fun but in hindsight is there a time that it happened to you that can be considered humorous now?
Living in San Francisco, I’m fortunate to have the Marin Headlands in my backyard!!  One year, I got off course at the TNF Endurance Challenge 50 after spending months running the course!  There’s a “Lost” trail on the course… Now there is also a “Ken Lost” trail!!  I still get teased about it, a few years later.”

Is there a difference between sports becoming life and sports being part of and enhancing one’s life? In other words, how do your balance your life as an athlete with your life outside of athletics?
“Balance has never been a strong suit of mine!   Running is a HUGE part of my life but it does add a lot of meaning that I wouldn’t have otherwise!!  I do find that running ultras really helps with things like long term goal setting, dealing with setbacks and building confidence!!  The further I go, the more I realize that I can go even further (and enjoy it)!!  I have been getting a lot faster these days!  This really helps with my life balance because my full volume training weeks take up A LOT less time.”

What does the next 12 months hold for you? Do you work on a long arc or just take life as it comes?
“Definitely a long arc, I have 2 key events for 2014!  HURT 100 and Tahoe 200!!  Everything else on my calendar is there as training for these races!  I suffered a minor injury setback training for HURT but I’m back in the saddle and know that I can smoke my second to last place finishing time from this year!!  After HURT, the focus is 400% on Tahoe 200!!  I’ll be pulling out all the stops and I WILL win the race!!  You’ve heard it here first on Ultra Sports Live TV!!!  Mark these words.”

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