Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Mike Pierce Training for an Antarctica 100k...In a Freezer!

Mike Pierce has a unique way to train for the Antarctic 100k - he runs in a commercial freezer twice a week, doing 44 out-and-backs for each mile. But Mike has already done the Antarctica Marathon (7 hours, 10 minutes), so he knows one must prepare for the extreme temperature (-10 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit) and 20+ mph winds. This year he is training hard for his first ultra - the Antarctic 100k.

(Mike Pierce trains in a commerical freezer)

I asked Mike a few questions over e-mail to see how his training was going:

For God’s sake, why run your first ultra in Antarctica?

First and foremost, I am a big fan of antarctic history. As a (motivational) speaker, I use the historical exploration stories from the antarctic to illustrate principles of success, goal setting, dealing w/obstacles beyond your control, sudden and unexpected change, marketing yourself to stand out from competitors and other business related issues in my speaking engagements. A marathon last January and an ultramarathon this December for me are my way of sharing in the same struggles physically, emotionally and mentally that the early Antarctic pioneers faced. I then can help engage people better in the stories and experiences, thus they learn far more. That is why I am doing this.

Have you run ultramarathons before?

No, never an ultra.

What sort of endurance training have you done to date?

Runs, cycling and swimming ranging from 1-2 hours all the way to running full length marathons in training runs and a 24 hour spin cycle event in the freezer.

Can you describe the conditions you are expecting? What is your target water/food intake?

Conditions will be windy and dry. Water and food intake will be continuous, about every 20 min I will eat something. I will have gels, powerbars, protein/carbo powder that I chase w/water, and almonds for fat content. The footing is like running in thick sand, as the snow is very dry, cold and granular. Course is for the most part flat and very, very monotonous.

What has it been like training in a commercial freezer? Claustrophobic at all?

I love the freezer. I have been going there for the last 1.5 years, multiple times per week. I go there w/no training partner, no ipod, no nothing. Just me and the crates of chickens, pizzas and who knows what. Not claustrophobic, just monotonous but I know that if I can run circles around the same crates of food for hours, the real race is much easier, and that was the case in Jan when I did the two marathons in the Antarctic.

Will you have to use special shoes/equipment, or does your existing stuff stand up to the challenge?

Just trail shoes lined in gore-tex w/2 good wool sox. I wear Duofold base layer, fleece mid layer and a 3-ply gore-tex XCR on the outer, neoprene face guards and goggles. That is it.

Ever thought about doing the other extreme, like the Badwater Ultra?

No hot weather stuff or any main stream racing interests me. My next event I want to do, after a huge needed rest for a few months, will be a mountain run in Colorado at a very high altitude in a snow storm, possibly along the cat tracks of the ski area A-Basin, the highest ski area in North America. I want to do a full length marathon there, probably by myself. I also want to race in the Arctic, either at the North Pole or along the Arctic Sea somewhere.

Thanks for the interview, Mike, and good luck with your race next month!

- SD


  1. Great blog, Scott!

    Interesting that Mike refers to Badwater as "main stream racing"!

  2. At first I felt a wee bit annoyed: using the Antarctic for commercial purposes just seems wrong. I mean, isn't the big lesson of the Antarctic that unchained capitalism is ripping a hole in the ozone layer and killing the planet? But then I had to laugh. If someone can find motivation on the chilly continent downunder--other than the motivation to, um, not die--then more power to 'em. It's not as if Pierce is gonna start a trend.

  3. The beauty of can do it pretty much anywhere...apart from the obvious places...over mountains, in a car park (to simulate hills), up and down stairs
    in a high-rise building, in a shopping mall, in a swimming pool, underground in an unused mine, ...and apparently in a freezer too!

    Mick (UK)

  4. Scott, thanks for the blog.

    Indeed, running is free and flexible. It's a minimalist exercise.

    During 11-13 hr flights between USA and Taiwan, I usually walk to the rear end of the aisle. Most passengers either focus on movie or fall asleep. It is full of consistent engine noise, so few notice me doing treadmill-like running there. It's my running experience in the air :-)


  5. i cannot fathom the dullness of training inside a commercial freezer and doing FORTY-FOUR out-and-backs for each mile. crazy! but a novel idea, i must admit. the analogous to sauna training for badwater, i guess. (mainstream race?)


I LIVE for comments! Please add your thoughts, let me know you stopped by, etc., and be thoughtful of others. Always best if you sign your name, of course.