We're excited to introduce you to Ryan Miller who recently joined the Spring Elite Team! Ryan is fairly new to the trail and ultra scene. His first ultra was the Bandera 100K in 2021 which he ended up winning! And in March he won the technical and highly competitive Gorge Waterfalls 50K.
We wanted to get to know Ryan more; his history with running (he has run a 2:14 marathon!), his approach to training, coaching, and racing, and how he balances his personal life.
To start off, can you tell us about yourself, where you grew up, your background in running, where you live now, and how you got to the stage of running you’re at now?
I grew up in the small hill country town of Boerne, Texas where my love for distance running started. I played every sport under the sun growing up, although my favorites were basketball and soccer. My junior year at Boerne Samuel V. Champion High School was where I would say I really found my love of the sport. While playing on my high school and club soccer teams at the same time, I helped lead my cross country team to the state championships in 2008. This was far more rewarding than anything I had experienced in any other sport and I was hooked. The next week I walked into my coach's office and informed him that I would be leaving soccer behind to focus full time on running for the remainder of my high school athletic career. The next year only reinforced my desire to grow as a runner as I led the team to another state championship as well as a win at the prestigious 2009 Nike Cross National Championship. Despite this, I was lightly recruited out of high school with PR’s of 4:20 in the 1600 and 9:40 in the 3200, eventually accepting a preferred walk-on spot on the Texas A&M University cross country and track & field teams. While at Texas A&M, I grew from a walk on athlete to all Southeastern Conference runner at 5000m and 10000m and top runner on the team as a senior. Immediately after graduating from Texas A&M, I knew I wanted to continue my love of distance running. I focused on the marathon and qualified for the 2016 and 2020 United States Olympic Marathon Trials over the next few years. I'm now living in San Antonio, Texas with my wife Lacie and our one year old Maverick.
Do you hold down a job separate from running or are you fully supported as a pro runner? If you do work apart from running, what do you do?After graduating college, I worked in procurement and project management in oil & gas and then banking. While I could stand that line of work, it didn't light my heart on fire like the sport of running does. In 2019 I started my own run coaching business and eventually grew it from passionate side hustle to full time pursuit. In April 2021 I left the corporate world to lead the Maverick Running Community on a full time basis!
You’ve run a 2:14 marathon…wow! When was this and how did you pull it off?! What was that experience like?I ran 2:14:27 at the 2018 USATF Marathon Championship hosted by the California International Marathon. It was a mind opening experience of what I was capable of at a nationally competitive event like that and put me in the conversation of being competitive at the next Olympic Marathon Trials. It's just about everyone's dream who makes it to that level in the United States to take a shot at making the Olympic Team. I certainly gave that a shot at the 2020 United States Olympic Marathon Trials, and although I came up short I was proud of myself for giving myself the opportunity to run with the leaders as long as I could.
How has your transition to doing more trail stuff been? Was that a new, recent thing or had you been running trails all along?The transition to the trails has been incredible! After the 2020 United States Olympic Marathon Trials, I wanted to take a break from the roads to challenge my body and mind in different ways. That started with the Bandera 100k in January 2021, which I was fortunate enough to win along with a Golden Ticket to Western States. This was certainly a much quicker transition to the REALLY long trail ultras than I anticipated, but one I was excited to take on. I had never run a trail race until late 2020 and had avoided any technical trail running in my track and road racing career up to that point. There has been a lot to learn and I've been enjoying the journey the last couple years.
What do you enjoy most about road running? What do you enjoy most about trail running?I love finding the "groove" with road running. The consistent grind and speed, it can be intoxicating when you are really dialed in. With the trails, I love that it is nearly the exact opposite to road running. Leave the time behind, it's you, the trail, and your competition should you be in a race. The tactics in trail racing, especially the ultra side of it, are really fun to experiment with too.
When did you first push past a marathon distance? If you look back to your younger days, could you have ever imagined you would be pushing beyond a marathon… 50k…100k…100-mile?The first time I ever went beyond the marathon distance was actually my first trail ultra at the Bandera 100k in 2021. It was exciting and intimidating all at the same time. I mean, I wasn't even halfway done with the race at that point! In high school I was an avid reader of running books. Born to Run planted the seed in my mind that someday I would run an ultramarathon. I didn't imagine running them competitively or for an extended period of time, but now that I've had a taste I'm hooked and see myself mixing it in consistently with marathons over the next decade.
When you’re racing, what are some mantras you have? How do you prepare mentally?I have a different mantra for each race I do, and it usually stems from music that I am listening to. For example, one of my recent mantras was "Let your dark horse run" based on the song Dark Horse by Aaron Watson. Mentally approaching a race I like to chat with my coach David Roche to set the scene. He always has great perspective and sets my mind right for the challenge ahead.
Have you discovered a fueling strategy that works for you? How much trial and error did that take to get right or do you have an iron stomach?It took a while to work up the confidence to take in more than one gel per hour when I first started working towards ultra trail races. Iron stomach is probably the right way to describe my gut, as I have never had any stomach issues with fueling during training or races. My current fueling strategy is to take two Awesome Sauce gels per hour along with one other product, mixing in Canaberry, Hill Aid, or Electroride.
What do you like about Spring products? What is currently your favorite go-to?I have fallen head over heels for Spring products ever since picking up a sampler pack a month before the 2021 Western States Endurance Run! What I like most is that the taste of the products are out of this world. At Western States I suffered from palate fatigue by the 30 mile mark using a couple other brands. Since then, I've used Spring in all my races and have never had an issue with palate fatigue. My go to has been the Awesome Sauce gel primarily due to the higher calorie content and minimal fat content, as well as the Pina Colada drink mix in my soft flasks for hydration. I'm excited to work with my nutritionist Wilfredo at On Pace Wellness to incorporate higher fat content gels in my race strategy later this year!
What can we expect to see from you in the coming months? What races are you looking forward to? What adventures do you have planned and are excited about?
On the running front, I'm looking to race the USATF 50k Trail Championships in Oregon in July for a shot at representing the United States at the World Trail Championships in November. After that, I'll be back on the Golden Ticket Series to earn my spot on the Western States starting line in 2023. They haven't released the races for the 2023 series yet, but the Bandera 100k or Black Canyon 100k are the most likely targets. On the personal front, my wife Lacie and I are welcoming our second son Maxson in late August!
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! We're stoked to be fueling your endeavors, and we're excited to follow you on your running journey!
You can find and follow Ryan on Instagram: @ryanmiller34
All photos by the talented Guy Rubio: @guyrubio