Thursday, June 17, 2010

WS100 Interview: Christian Griffith

Name: Christian Griffith
Age: 39
Hometown: Myrtle Beach, SC (now living in Atlanta)
Occupation: Internet Janitor
Years Running Ultras: 3.5
100 Mile Finishes (& Names): Superior Sawtooth 100, Pinhoti 100, Cascade Crest 100
Ultra-Achievements: My favorite ultra achievement (and most difficult) would have to be the Fuego Y Agua 100K in Nicaragua

SJ: Christian, thanks for taking the time to talk me about your upcoming run at the 2010 Western States 100. I'm certain you're excited about the event so we're excited to talk to you.
CG: Waz up Sherp?! - Of course I'm excited for Western States. To me, the WS100 is the Super Bowl of ultrarunning.

SJ: You've had a very interesting ultra-running career thus far Christian, can you tell us a little bit about how you even got into ultra running?
CG: I was 240-250 lbs (depending on the scale and the day) and living an unhealthy life as an unhappy workaholic. I think it was July 12, 2006, and I was on my way to the airport, headed on a business trip to Las Vegas. I stopped at Borders Books next to my office to find something to read on the plane. I picked up "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes and read the back of it. I was intrigued, and bought the book for the long flight from Atlanta to Vegas. Dean's early prose in the book regarding how he had also become a workaholic and dissatisfied with what he had become really spoke to me. I read that entire book in 4.5 hours. All the stories of changing his life and focusing on the fun things and things that made him feel "real" again were very powerful for me. By the time I checked into the Venetian Hotel, I had made a personal commitment to start running ...and start training to become an ultrarunner. By November of that same year, I ran my first marathon (painfully slow), and completed my first ultra, the Black Warrior 50K, in February 2007.

SJ: Of all the races you've run so far, which was your favorite and why?
CG: I would have to say that Fuego Y Agua 100K on the Isle de Ometepe in Nicaragua was my all-time favorite thus far. Running in a foreign, third world country like that was just incredible. The terrain was the most challenging I've ever experienced and the course was just this crazy, technical, incredible tropical tour of the island. Scorpians, tarantulas, monkeys, volcanoes, cool people, chill locals, ...pigs, chickens, stray dogs just running around --- it was all very crazy, but very cool. Many of the runners particpated in helping the RD put on a local 5K for the kids the day after the race. This part of the race experience was something I will never, ever forget. If you want a race experience like no other, jump into the 2011 Fuego - I'll be there.

SJ: You've run a variety of events to date, how do you think your experiences at these events are going to help, or hamper, your efforts at Western States?
CG: I guess most importantly, I know and understand the drama and trauma that comes along with attempting 100-milers. I know I will hurt. I know I will suffer. I know I will want to quit over and over and over again - so, it's nice to at least know these things are coming. One area of concern for me is my feet, so its important I get a handle on this for Western States since its well-known for chewing up the kicks and eating runners for lunch.

SJ: Now you went to Tennessee this past spring and ran in a little event known as The Barkley, completing one loop there. Tell us a little bit about that experience, what it meant to you and how you think that has helped you prepare for Western States?
CG: The majority of The Barkley, as you know, is run "off-trail" and at incline/decline grades that are incredibly steep and technical. While Western States is actually run on a discernible trail, it also goes up-n-down pretty much the whole race, so having this Barkley experience was certainly helpful. I still believe that the best training I've participated in for Western States would be the many trail runs along the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
SJ: So what about Western States are you most looking forward to?
CG: One might think "the finish", but not really. When I sit back and picture it in my head, I can't wait to be running through the Sierra's and thinking to myself, "wow man, I'm running Western States!"

SJ: What are your strengths heading into this event and what are your weaknesses?
CG: Strengths - I'm very strong and healthy right now (let's hope it stays this way). I had a bad day at the Keys 100 a month ago, May 15, and I have been spending time healing my body, swimming, and strength-training. It really would be almost impossible for me to gain much more running fitness in the six weeks between the Keys and Western States, so I've been focused on running fitness management coupled with improvement in overall recovery and mind/body strength. Weaknesses - I expect to show up to Western States at least 10 lbs heavier than I raced during the 2009 winter and 2010 spring. Also, it's most likely that I will be running solo, without any crew or handlers.

SJ: Western States is considered by many as the Boston Marathon of Ultra-Running.. do you agree with this sentiment and what are your thoughts on future entry procedures and the growth of the race?
CG: This is the first time I've ever tried to get in, so I'm ok with the how they handle entry into race; but even if I didn't get in, I wouldn't pass judgement on whether the RD (and other decision-makers) are handling entry correctly or not. Ultimately, it's their race and they can dictate the rules and entry procedures as they see fit. I'm just happy to get a shot this time around.

SJ: Are you bringing a crew or pacer to the event this year and if so.. who are they?
CG: I was hoping for my crew chief from Cascade Crest, Victor Zamudio, but he has some work obligations which may prevent his arrival to Squaw in time. I will have a great local runner, George McAllister who has agreed to pace me from Forest Hill, and for that I am grateful.

SJ: What are your goals/time goals for the race?
CG: Dream goal is a sub-24, but that will have to happen on its own. As a Western States first-timer, I'm simply pushing for a finish and to have and hold that sweet buckle. Silver or bronze doesn't matter to me.

SJ: As a first time runner at Western States, what is your race mantra going to be heading into the event?
CG: I'm not going to have a mantra. Mantras cause me stress. I'm coming to Western States with a goal to meet as many people as I can, shake hands, give and get hugs, and submerge myself 100% into the event. I believe that generating as much positive energy as I can will only make obtaining the ultimate goal that much easier.

SJ: Christian, you did a hell of a job redesigning the Hardrock 100 Website. Are you running that race this year?
CG: Technically, I am #10 on the waiting list, but I decided it would be in my best interest to focus on Western States and try to get into Hardrock again next year. Only 11 days separate the two races and that's simply not enough time to recover.

SJ: What other races or runs are on your horizon after Western States?
CG: After Western States I plan to run one of my favorite races of all time, the Laurel Valley Whitewater Run, a 35-ish (nobody knows for sure) self-supported trail race in South Carolina right smack dab in the August heat. It's truly a tough, tough race that makes 35 run like 50, but it carries a vibe with it that is unmatched in the ultrarunning world for me.

SJ: Christian, thanks so much for talking to us about your upcoming run at the Western States 100. We wish you the very best of luck at the event and we'll see you in Auburn at the finish line. I want to let folks know that they can follow your progress during the race LIVE at http://www.ws100.com Your bib # is 218. Good Luck!