This is the World Record Ultra-running extraordinaire, Michael Wardian set last year in December of 2014. The pace per mile equates to roughly 5:59/6 minutes a mile. To run the time, a runner must split 45.0 seconds every 200 meters for the allotted 250 laps required for a 50k (31.1) miles while not using pacers or switching directions of the track.
I had heard about this record based on an article that was published all over the main ultra running media outlets about Michael Wardian running a World Record 50k on a treadmill while on a cruise ship where he later found out he just missed the record and 7 hours later attempted a second go at the record besting the time. An even more incredible accomplishment. I felt that with having my first ultra this year at Cayuga Trails 50 at the end of May, I was looking for an event that I could run without the risk of harming myself as I did almost a year ago at the Tom B Run 52k in Dryden, NY where I harmed a ligament that connects into my ankle and was not at full strength for 6 months.
In the beginning of March, I had the idea that I felt I was fit enough to attempt for Michael Wardian’s 3:06:03 50k time and so I prepared. I was able to secure the Ithaca College Indoor Track with the help of my boss of the Finger Lakes Running Company, Ian Golden, on Sunday April 19th yet had to start early at 6am due to a tennis group that uses the facility on Sunday Mornings around 9:30/10am. Most of my ultras begin around a time as such so it was nothing that I am not used to. The week leading up to the race went well. I was able to rest-up on sleep and eat a lot to get my fuel stores ready for the 6 minute pace.
We awoke at 4:30am and then headed out to the Ithaca Indoor Track Facility. I had all of my gear: Mammut running shorts and Zip shirt, my pairs of Fits Socks, Tailwind Nutrition, Ultimate Direction 10 oz bottles, my Karhu Flow Trainers, and my Mountain Peak Fitness / Red Newt Racing team shorts & shirt. We stopped at Dunkin Doughnuts, grabbed some glazed doughnuts and coffee and off we went. My fiancé and father and I all arrived at the Ithaca Events Center around 5:40am just as the lights were coming on. We took to the track. It was exciting to realize I would be attempting such a crazy idea of running 6 minutes a mile for 31.1 miles (250 laps) around an indoor track. Ashlee, my fiancé, and my father prepared ourselves with the lap counter and I went over specific instructions to make the attempt go as smooth as possible.
By 6:05am, I was off running. The sun had yet to come up and it was not too bad going through the first 10 miles as I went back in my head to the 10 mile indoor track workouts I was running at close to 5:31 per mile on one day and 5:45 per mile the next workout and felt that this should feel progressively easier. I went through my first lap in 38 seconds (too fast) but soon settled the pace into a consistent barrage of 43-44 seconds a lap. I felt strong yet knew this would be a hard record to get as running 6 minute-flat to sub-6 minute pace for 31 so odd miles surely would take the wind out of anyone’s sails. I was running hard but not red-lining it and felt this pace was something you find when the goal is to run as consistent as possible without blazing the tempo.
The first 10 miles felt smooth and controlled. I ran most laps in 44 seconds if not faster. I was on pace and building a cushion of time. I went through 10 miles near 58 minutes, as I will have to check the books for the exact split. I was feeling strong. I kept going joking how this was going to take a long time and about what was I thinking about getting myself involved with such a crazy record. I took a gel every 35 minutes and used a 10 oz bottle of Tailwind every 6 miles. I kept my splits consistent. It was a nice thing to have a whole track facility all to yourself, with your family there to give you the splits and support. I enjoyed the moment and was staying focused on keeping the pace hot so that I could relax after the marathon distance and work on my time cushion. That was my goal—survive through the marathon mark and then surge the last 2 miles.
I hit a low point near mile 18. But as friends started coming into the facility, my sugar levels improved and soon I was splitting 43 second laps from high 45’s/46’s. It was great to see all kinds of people checking out what I was doing. Some of the Ithaca College athletic trainers were up and at it giving me great words of encouragement. I continued to run around the track, hitting each lap split on pace and running strong though this was definitely much harder than I thought it would be.
The Race Part II
I was getting tired at this point (Mile 18-Finish) as the turns had made my arms clench and tighten up. I spent many laps massaging my arms to have them relax. I continued my solid pace with some laps at 45-46 seconds but for the most part I was hitting 44 seconds a lap. In 27 miles of running, I hit over 44 seconds in the 45+ range 12 times. I went through the marathon near 2:36 and under perhaps closer to 2:34 but I still need to calculate my exact time, but a PR for me. I was hanging tough taking in my gels and Tailwind. Soon I felt like I was overheating a little as my face felt flushed and my throat felt parched. I motioned to my Father to grab me a bottle.
On the next lap, I received a bottle of Gatorade, which I was hoping for the Tailwind as that was working incredibly well but I figured I could use some of the sweet sugar found in Gatorade. Boy was I wrong! After consuming 5 out of the 10 ounces of the Gatorade, I felt the drink too strong and handed it back. I asked for more Tailwind. This would be the pivotal mistake. My lap time now became a string of 45 + to 50’s. My body was feeling tired and worst of all; my stomach started feeling like it was expanding like a blimp. It was BAD! With each passing lap, I began to feel worse and worse. I still had a chance to beat the time of 3:06:03 but my early lead was almost out of time. It was with 9 laps to go, I felt so weak, my stomach forced me to throw up. It was embarrassing. I tried to walk some more but then I threw up again. And….AGAIN. My race attempt was over. I would finish to run a PR for myself and as I came so close but always tough to manage 30 miles to only fail on the last one.
- I finished my final lap with a 47 second split.
- My overall time: 3:16:43!
- It was a personal best for the distance and my first time running an ultramarathon on a track.
Michael Wardian’s record for the indoor track 50k is no joke. The pace of 5:59/6 minutes a mile is RELENTLESS. It is a pace that on an indoor track you can keep it going but those last few miles are beyond a struggle. I found this out the hard way. I learned so much from this run. I feel that with another attempt in the future that the time of 3:06:03 is within my limits. I came so close this time and I think that running this event during the winter, in the afternoon or evening may help my body in terms of being sharp for the relentless lap times of 44 seconds a lap. I was very pleased with how though I did not feel fantastic throughout the run, I was able to run so consistently and even throughout the attempt that I am impressed with how I was able to run under the record pace yet could hold my own.
I am so pleased I had the opportunity to run the event. It was such a wild and crazy experience but it was interesting how running on that track for so long really exposes your weaknesses as an athlete. For myself, it is remaining poised the last few miles of a race. I think that if I were to remain relaxed, perhaps I could have held onto my pace and stomach from exploding on me. I will let this run sit with me for awhile. I still have more work to go and would like to focus on the race for a December attempt next winter. I think by that point, I will be a little wiser and stronger and eager to go for this record. Who knows though. Maybe Michael Wardian wakes up one day and runs a new record for the indoor track 50k in 2:52. If so, I will be ready to give it my best shot!
Thank you to my amazing friends, family, sponsors: Redfeather Snowshoes, Karhu North America, Craft North America, Boom Nutrition, Fits Socks, Confluence Running/Finger Lakes Running, and of course Mammut and the Mountain Peak Fitness Red Newt Racing Team for the incredible support for this attempt. Now, I prepare for Cayuga Trails, a 50 mile event that is one of the most scenic and fun-filled 50 milers I have ever run. Thanks again!