Chased by Bees, Surprised by a Whiteout, and Startled by Cars: Mike Wardian Leaves California and Nevada, Heads to Utah | Newest Mike Wardian Run Update
On May 1, ultra runner Mike Wardian headed out of San Francisco on a run across the continent, as one does. Exactly two weeks later, he entered Utah, excited to run through a new state and in a new timezone. Surprised by a white-out, chased by a swarm of bees, or chastised by a lady for lack of warm clothing; for Wardian, these two weeks were nothing if not eventful. How did California and Nevada treat the runner who’s not only doing the unimaginable but raising money for World Vision at the same time?
“I got stung in California,” Wardian said, and in Nevada, “one lady chastised me for not having [long] pants on.”
Wardian’s Misadventures: Bees and Snow
Wardian, besides liking to run really far, is also a passionate bee-keeper. One of his wishes for this run was to try local honey from places he runs through. He didn’t get to do that just yet; “but I got stung in California,” he said.
As he ran along the road, he noticed some 15 beehives and wanted to take a closer look, “really excited to go check them out.”
“And then a swarm of bees jumped on me,” he said.
One of them got him; Wardian walked away from the encounter with a bee sting under his eye.
The Golden State had bees; The Silver State couldn’t stay behind. Going through Nevada, Wardian was waylaid by a snowstorm. What started as a few snowflakes turned into heavy snowfall and, eventually, into a full-blown white-out.
“I was surprised,” Wardian said. However, even though he didn’t expect the snowstorm, he was prepared for it and “had all the right clothes.”
The weather also brought out only the best in the people who were passing him by.
“I had four people stop to offer us rides. And one lady chastised me for not having [long] pants on,” Wardian said. Like a caring grandma, “she lectured me for a while.”
It’s The People
Misadventures like these are an integral part of any journey, especially one that’s 3,500 miles long. Having just the right people around can make these situations bearable, if not enjoyable—and Wardian loves to run with people.
“I think my favorite part of running with people is hearing their stories, how they got into running, what kind of events they like to do, what their favorite shoes are,… it’s just like when you meet somebody for a run. Just talk about life,” Wardian said.
This sentiment is a two-way street. Race director, trail runner, and bike rider Kristal Romans and her dog Archie joined Wardian for a bit between Ely and Baker. The shared miles were casual as Wardian passed the marathon distance and, like every other day, headed into the ultra-marathon territory.
“It was neat to just go run with him. Just go run, no big deal,” said Romans.
She has done her fair share of running, including a 50-mile race; a distance that often poses challenges that can be resolved only with a ‘mind over matter’ approach.
“We had that in common, that mental game,” she said. “We talked about the little devil and the angel on your shoulder. The angel [says], ‘you can do it,’ and the little devil is, like, ‘no, my legs are done, no my mind’s done,…’ We were laughing, it was our little joke.”
Romans enjoyed discussing the shared experience, especially all the mental challenges that one encounters during endurance runs and races. When sharing the trials and tribulations of adventures like that, “It’s kinda cool to have someone like him say, ‘yes, exactly, I understand!’”
Romans’s favorite part of her run with Wardian was hearing about a couple of lesser-known races he did. Listening to the stories first-hand proved to be completely a different experience than reading about them online.
“Some of those bigger racers,… even if they share it on their social media, it’s still hard to really pin down exactly what they’ve done,” Romans said. “What I liked hearing was just the stories of his running, his journey, and those particular races.”
Besides talking about running, Wardian also really likes when people teach him a bit about the places they run through.
“I learned from one of the ladies in Ely that there’s a book that Stephen King wrote about Route 50 and this bad cop that captures people and takes them to a prison in a place called Desperation,” Wardian said. He immediately started to read the book.
The lady also told him about the history of the mine, the town, and what kind of races they do.
“That stuff is really cool to me,” Wardian said.
(If you want to join him for a run, email Phil Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the most-recent plans and details and set up a meeting point.)
Middle Gate Bar & Nevada’s Bests
From good food to good people to good views, the last few days in Nevada spelled a great time for Wardian. For three or four days, he had to run alone on The Loneliest Road. Then the runners of Ely came out to join him, prove the highway’s nickname wrong, and turn a lonely run into one shared with “some really cool people.”
“It was snowing as we came into town, and it was just this really old beautiful mining town, and the locals came out to hang out. And at the end of the day when we finished, they hung out in the RV and just shared some stories. [It was] probably one of my favorite things,” said Wardian.
A couple of the newly-found friends joined him the next day, too, running with Wardian out of Ely and giving him a warm goodbye.
Before the people of Ely, however, there was Middlegate Station. Wardian described it as a “really cool bar in the middle of nowhere” with live music and “really good food.”
“I was expecting it to have nothing… [but it] was probably one of my favorite places,” he said.
During his run, Wardian has to eat 5,000 to 10,000 calories a day. That’s a lot of food, and his crew takes care of providing most of it. Eric Belz, a skilled crew chief and a man of many talents, has been doing most of the cooking. Avocado-filled sandwiches or hummus wraps, he’s been successfully fueling Wardian’s run. For one night, Middlegate Station and Patsy, “the best waitress ever,” took over that responsibility.
“In Middlegate, I tried their veggie burger and they also had a veggie chicken [dish]. Those were amazing,” Wardian said.
Besides Patsy and food, Middlegate Station also has a bar decorated with signed dollar bills. After Wardian and his crew passed through, the top of the bar gained a few bills with new names; his, his father Richard Wardian’s, Belz’s, and his wife Jennifer’s.
“It was Mother’s Day so I did one for my wife,” Wardian said.
From friendly people to tasty food to gorgeous views, Nevada served it all on a silver platter.
“The people of Ely and the Middlegate Bar [were] probably my favorite things. And then the landscape today was probably my favorite,” Wardian said. (Editor’s note: the interview was conducted on Thursday, May 12.)
Right past Middlegate Station, he encountered The Shoe Tree. It’s exactly what it sounds like; a tree with old pairs of shoes hanging off its branches like fruit. After that, the road just rolled on and on over low passes and through wide, flat, dry plains of the Great Basin. The long stretches when the road goes simply straight for miles on end might sound arduous but Wardian countered the challenge with humor.
“I was joking, I call it an outdoor treadmill,” he said.
Then, past Ely, Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in Great Basin National Park, dominated the views for nearly the whole day.
“You could see it but then it was like 15 miles to get through the saddle,” Wardian said. “I spent the whole afternoon going around it.”
Lake Tahoe vs The People; It’s a Tie
Nevada seemed to treat Wardian well, but what was his favorite part of running through California, the state where he started his journey? “Going into Lake Tahoe,” was his first answer.
“The views are amazing. Just a beautiful blue lake surrounded by mountains. It’s spectacular,” he said.
However, he quickly changed his mind.
“Okay, that’s not true,” he said. “I’d say San Francisco was really cool… Going across the Golden Gate Bridge and all the people that came out to support me, that was really nice.”
Besides San Francisco, he also “had a similar group of people in Sacramento.”
“I had a lot of company in California and I loved that,” Wardian said.
California, however, also brought a few challenges for him. What were the difficulties?
“The climbing in California. And then just how tight the road is,” Wardian said. “Cars are whizzing right by you… It’s scary.”
Lake Tahoe might be beautiful but the curvy roads that led Wardian there were a different story. With no wide shoulder to run on, safety proved to be a bit of a challenge.
“That’s been something that I had to get used to,” he said.
He runs in a yellow reflective vest whenever the visibility is low or the road conditions just aren’t conducive to safe running. Still, there were a few times he had to dive off the road or hop into the ditch to stay safe.
“I noticed truck drivers are really friendly and most people in Nevada are very courteous but yeah, I’ve definitely had to jump off,” he said.
The Body & The Mind
So far, Wardian’s body is holding up well. His stomach isn’t giving him any significant trouble and there are a few hot spots on his feet “that are starting to want to become blisters” but Wardian has been doing a good job mending them.
As for the mind, he said that there’s a low point every day, “[but] at the end of each day I usually feel strong.” So far, he’s been hitting his daily objective and settling into the routine of the road.
“My crew is doing a really good job keeping me moving,” he said.
Wardian has been consistent with his timing, running about 12 to 13 hours every day.
“I’m really happy with how it’s going so far,” he said.
Now well into his run across Utah, Wardian is excited for two things in particular; his friends and family.
“I have some friends come and join me in Utah and then my wife and kids are coming into Colorado. So I’m really looking forward to seeing them,” he said.
When he started his run, Wardian wasn’t sure if his family would be able to come out and meet him along the way. Knowing he’ll see them in about two weeks helps put extra spring into his step. Which is something he needs, with some 2,500 miles still left to go!
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- Check the route as it’s planned out in Strava.
- See Wardian’s planned stops.
- Learn about Wardian’s why, the crew, and much more in our previous article.