11 May 2017

Michael John Milton
Born: 1973, Canberra
Lives: Canberra, Australia  

Michael Milton is a one of Australia’s most decorated Paralympians and without a doubt, one of Australia’s toughest athletes. He has competed at the winter and summer paralympics in skiing and cycling along with setting World and Australian records. This being said, Michael will now take on UTA50, which has been his primary physical challenge for the past few months. In his own words, it will be a ‘Suffer fest’. Here we get some insight into Michael’s journey so far.

When did you start logging your training km’s for UTA50? What did a typical training week look like?
I started thinking about doing some more running last winter. I think we confirmed my entry in November and have been working towards the event from then. My training includes at least a long run and a hill session each week. I do a lot of work on my bike as I like it and my body will break down with too much running. I am trying to get at least 3 sessions a week on the bike but I have also recently had a couple of longer bike tours, including: a lap of Kosciouszko National Park with the Jindabyne cycling club last week and a charity tour from Dubbo to Bourke.

How do you frame and label an event like UTA in your mind?
This event will be a suffer fest for me. Particularly after a tough weekend training I am not too sure about making the finish line. I am confident that I will push hard but my ability to make the full 50km is a big question mark.

What will a successful day at UTA look like to you?
Cross the finish line and not do any permanent damage to wrists and hands.

Do you incorporate any of your previous training regimes into your preparations for UTA or is it a completely different event to what you have done before?
Previous programs, previous injuries shape what I do. I lead a busy life with 2 young kids, work and lots going on. I also have some long term fatigue problems post Oesaphageal cancer 10 years ago so I need to manage my recovery time and it is pretty normal for me to miss sessions on a regular basis due to this. I usually program the best possible scenario and then not feel guilty if I have to skip or modify some sessions due to my fatigue levels.

How do you navigate around potential issues you may face on race day? Do you try to identify them all and have a plan prior to the race or just take them as they come on the day?
With the confidence in my own history and ability to be mentally tough comes an ability to adapt to conditions or problems. Of course preparation is important but so is the ability to adapt when things change.

What is your race day strategy?
Starting at the back of the pack will mean that there may be some issues with bottlenecks on the giant stairs etc… I plan to go out at a good pace for the first 7km and then back the pace off through the single track areas up to the 24km mark. I hope then to be in a condition to pick it up again on the fire trails to the 40km mark. From there it will just be about survival to the finish. Running with crutches is a real whole body workout, arms, leg, abs and back all work. The science says that you burn over double the energy per km than running on 2 legs. This increases on hilly terrain and on narrow trails where the crutches have to be manoeuvred through grass or around obstacles.

An athlete of your caliber surely has offers to run on the moon, so what was the driving motivation behind wanting to participate in UTA?
I talked to Tom (UTA Race Director) about it and did some research and liked the idea of the event and the experience it could offer.

You’re capable of descending downhill at incredible speeds, can you translate your snow skills to the trails?
Yes I am pretty good at downhills. My training buddy James is way stronger than I am but I can drop him on a technical downhill.

What are you most looking forward to about the event and race day?
Finishing. The sense of accomplishment.

Ultra running is often described as a long picnic with some running in between, so what’s in your picnic basket for race day fuel?
I like to have real food. Peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches. Maybe dive into a gel or two for the last couple of hours.

In order to get the best on course support from the running community on race day, what can the crowd shout out to you, for encouragement and motivation?
Grow a leg you moron.

Is there a message you want to convey through doing a challenge such as UTA?
Challenges and choosing to do something tough is good for you.

During your preparations for UTA, what has been an unexpected benefit you have experienced/ gained from the process?
Seeing the Blue Mountains on the weekend with raging water, waterfalls and learning to love running in these conditions.

What would you say to someone on race day to help spur them on if they were struggling and contemplating stopping.
I am a cyclist so it would have to be rule number 5.

Have you got a mantra or a motivational thought you call upon during tough sections of an events such as the Furber steps at UTA?
On a recent training run we ran out of time to look at Furber steps. Lots of changes in the plan as we came to impassable creeks, headed up Giant instead. I think the mantra for the whole run will be ‘Left, right, left, right’.

In the past you have set out to achieve goals, which had never been accomplished previously, how do you approach challenges like that?
I believe it is about doing the research, organising yourself and being confident that it is possible.

If everything goes to plan, can we bank this as a successful training run in the lead up to the UTA 100km in 2018?
At this stage I think the 100 would be asking for some longer term problems with hands and wrists etc… I wouldn’t rule it out though.