|Ian Sharman: ultrarunner and Julbo USA athlete|
Since 2005, Ian Sharman has run over 170 ultras and marathons in over 30 countries. Needless to say, the 32-year-old Northampton, U.K. native loves running, whether it’s multi-day races, road marathons or trail ultras. This summer he’s going for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, started in 1986 to combine four of the oldest 100-milers in the country: the Western States, Vermont, Leadville and Wasatch Front ultras.
Also an ultra running coach, Sharman helps clients get further along the steep learning curve of the longer races. He does have hobbies outside of running, believe it or not: “I love traveling, so that fits in perfectly with racing in exotic locations,” says Ian. “I’ve raced in over 30 countries so far, and my list of places I want to see only seems to get longer.
“I also love most of the traditional sports back in the U.K. – soccer, cricket, rugby etc. I enjoy watching these even though I get less of a chance to play them anymore. I’m also partial to the odd beer or two, loving Belgian-style ales the most.”
Cheers to Ian’s Grand Slam attempt! Julbo USA wishes you the best of luck.
Julbo: What prompted you to do the Grand Slam of ultras?
Ian Sharman: There’s a long history of people taking on this challenge, usually with the main goal of finishing rather than caring too much about the time. Western States is incredibly hard to get into with a lottery that has very low odds. There are a few ways to qualify automatically, which I’ve been able to do for the past three years [Ian’s finished in the Top 10 the last three years], but I can’t guarantee I’ll keep getting a place, so I wanted to give the Grand Slam a shot now that I’ve become more familiar with Western States and have been doing 100-milers for a few years.
How many people have completed the Grand Slam?
IS: There are 266 finishers of the Grand Slam before the 2013 season, with around 30 people attempting it each year. However, the real appeal for me is to chase the record for the combined time, held by Neal Gorman from 2010: 74:54:16. That’s a tough target and means that all four races need to go well – with even one bad day, the record is off.
Which race do you think will be the most challenging and why?
IS: The last – Wasatch Front. It’s the toughest course with the most climbing and descending (around 26,000 feet each), plus I’ll already have run three 100-mile races in the previous two months so there could be injuries, tight muscles or fatigue at the least, which will make it even tougher. I’m trying not to think too much about that yet and take it one at a time because the entire summer put together is fairly overwhelming.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the upcoming Western States?
IS: I love the competitive atmosphere each year because this is the main event of the season for most people and we all want to bring our A games. There’s a real buzz about the event, both before and after, and many of us spend months anticipating race day.
My least favorite things are probably the final couple of downhills because by that point the quads, calves and almost every single leg muscle feels like it can’t take anymore. Last year I was grunting with the impact of each step because it hurt so much.
How do you prepare for these races?
IS: It’s important to get a lot of variety in my training so I can deal with all types of terrains and conditions. The key thing is to replicate race conditions in a lot of the training runs. For example, before Western States I’ll be summiting Mt Diablo as much as I can. It’s got a 4,000-foot climb in about eight miles with some extreme temperatures, so it’s great preparation for the canyons and heat of the trail to Auburn.
IS: 99% of the time I use the blue Dust shades as I love the way they look, and I find the Zebra lenses work well on trails by switching the amount of light it lets in immediately when I run from sun to shade.
Tell us something else we don’t know about you.
IS: I moved to the U.S. to get married to my American wife, Amy, back in 2009 and now can’t imagine living anywhere other than the West Coast of the U.S. Both Oregon and California are very close to my heart.