So as many of you know Mike Daigeaun is not only a Trail WhippAss member, and an officer, but he is also a fucking really Bad Ass dude that I am very proud to have be part of this club. After his amazing win at Umstead 100 and his interview with Ultra Runner Podcast I thought... I want to know more about Mike and I bet everybody else does too. So Sally & I teamed up and combined our questions to create a special edition combination Meet A WhippAss & Ultra Runners Are People.
We sent the questions over to Mike with one additional instruction. "If you want to make any questions up, do it"
Without further blabbing by me, meet Officer, Teammate, and badass runner Mike!
- Since we are conducting this interview through email and other written communication, we are going to offer you this crazy opportunity….If you want to make up questions for yourself DO IT! Nobody will ever know. Well nobody who doesn’t visit our site.
I just might do that. Now the question for the readers would be to guess what questions are the ones, I made up, if any.
- Ok, lets start with a little bit of background. How old are you? Where do you live? And what do you do for a living?
I’m 35 and live in Philadelphia. As for the last question, I could tell you but then I would have to kill you. But since you have chosen death by boredom, I am a documentation specialist for a financial company. Some of what I do involves writing code to generate documents on the front end and some of what I do is process executed documents on the back end in an IBPM system.
- Is Philadelphia where you grew up?
Oh no. I grew up the next state over in New Jersey. I was born in New Brunswick, started life really in North Brunswick and eventually wound up in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick.
- That is a lot of Brunswicks.
It is. However, I missed one of them playing a substantial role in my life. Sorry, East Brunswick but you didn’t really step up to the plate there now did you?
- At what age did you start running?
If you go by when I did my first official race, 14. It was a local 5k. The year prior to that I did run in a mile race in front of my whole middle school but I don’t think that counts. And I most certainly do not count having to run the mile as part of the Presidential Fitness Challenge. That was not fun at all.
- Why did you start running?
Two words: Peer pressure. Not just any peer pressure, gym teacher peer pressure. Both of my middle school gym teachers were the middle school and high school cross country coaches. Eventually, I succumbed and when one of them posted about the 5K race, I tried it and was decent enough to keep doing it.
- Peer pressure is an interesting answer as to why would start running. Then again, peer pressure can be a bitch during our formative years. So, what were you like as a kid?
A dorky nerd. I wore hand-me-down clothes for the most part with sneakers from K-mart-esque stores. If you lived on the East Coast in the 80’s and 90’s you may remember Caldors and Bradlees, I got a lot of stuff from there if it was not old clothes given to my folks. I usually burned through the sneakers every six months. Having growing feet did play a part in that. My eyeglasses were cheap plastic frames that I seemed to break every few months. Thankfully, those frames had a 6 month replacement guarantee for each pair. By high school that visual images started to change some. I actually had real running shoes. You could say the shoes got better in 6th grade. But stylistically, pre-high school, I was awful. I was a complete math nerd that for a while listened to country music (because that makes you really popular) before transitioning to more of a heavy metal sound. I got picked on a lot in elementary school. Eventually, I learned to fight back. I toughened up quite a bit. You could say, I was rounding out.
- Country music? Really? Wow. So you mentioned switching musical tastes, what music are you listening to right now?
Lately, it has been a mix of Blutengel, Powerwolf and Night Demon. Now aside from those people who know me, I think you might want to do a poll to see how many people have heard of those bands prior to this interview. Primarily, I’m still heavy on the metal but have an almost equal dose of darkwave and 80’s new wave in there.
- What is the last book you read, and tell me about it in 2-3 sentences?
The Next America - It is a statistical analysis of societal trends between generations. I’m a sucker for non-fictional work. I’m still very much a nerd if you could not have guessed by my choice of book. At the office, we joke about how I read a book about the Hoover Dam for fun.
- So as a self-professed nerd, do you speak any other languages?
Not anymore. WAY WAY BACK, I did speak a bit of Turkish. I was four at the time and I learned it while living in Turkey for a bit during my developmental years. Eventually, I lost the ability to speak it. School during the 80’s did not exactly encourage second languages. In fact, I repeated kindergarten because I would interchangeably use English and Turkish. Years later, I took high school Spanish, to which I remember very little. I did take a year of Latin too but that’s not really so much a spoken language.
- Since this is Trail WhippAss, we should get back to the running thing. Why and when did you start running trails?
Sorry to all my years of cross-country years but you don’t count for this question. I’d go with 2012. That was the year I ran my first ultra at Viaduct and my first serious trail race, Rock N The Knob. In terms of training, you could say 2008, my first year in Philadelphia when I started training in the Wissahickon Valley. However, my transition would not really be without Peg helping me develop a love of nature.
- Have you ever had embarrassing wipe outs on the trail?
You could say my tripping on the way into the Black Canyon City aid station during the Black Canyon 100K. I had just passed a hiker family, took my eyes off the prize of the path for a moment and wound up doing a little tuck and roll. On the road, that is a different story.
- Since you bring it up, what was the embarrassing road wipe out?
Granted no one else was around to see this but last year in 2014, I was on a long training run and as I was making a turn on a downhill, I slid on a little patch of ice hard. I scraped up my backside to the point, I managed to get some asphalt in my skin. That wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was I completely ruined my little Sansa Clip MP3 player.
- Damn, that sucks. At least it wasn’t an iPhone or anything like that.
True, it could have been worse and thankfully, I don’t use a smartphone. Still it cost me some cash to replace the unit.
- Any funny or crazy animal encounter on the trail?
Well, Canada Geese and I do not seem to get along. Back, when I lived in NJ, I would go running on what is known as the Delaware & Raritan Canal Towpath. During a good stretch of it, there is water on both sides. Come nesting/mating season for the geese, the geese tend to get very territorial. On a few occasions, I’ve come across some bold geese than waddle out into the path, hiss aggressively and start coming my way. Lets just say, I turn and burn. Thankfully, the ones in Philadelphia are a little nicer than their suburban counterparts. Eventually, during the nesting/mating time of year, I avoiding running that path alone.
- Ha! Back to a more serious note, what are some life experiences that helped shape you into the ultra runner and person you are today?
Did you not just hear what I said earlier about being a kid? Being poor and having to feel like you clawed for everything you had toughens one up. But I was lucky that running eventually became an escape from an environment that was less than ideal. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say a tough childhood does not wear one out at some point. When I finished university, I was fried and burnt-out. That is not to say my childhood was bad. It was just tough. Thankfully, I had my stepfather. A lot of the person I am today from a character perspective I owe to him. He knew we did not have the best but allowed me to have the opportunities I did get. Without him, I would have never gotten permission to be on the cross country team my freshman year. Maybe my childhood experience just meant I was destined to be an ultrarunner.
- Is there any race that told you, “Yep, you should be an ultra or trail runner.”
There certainly was a race indeed. It was the 2012 Steamtown Marathon. For months, I had been signed up for it and was a contender. However, the Friday night before the Sunday morning race, I went to the ER extremely ill and ended up not being able to race it. I was really heartbroken about it and immediately set about finding a race to run. Originally, I had considered the Atlantic City Marathon but I did not think I could run the time I was aiming for there. So instead of setting myself up for further disappointment, I tried a true trail race at Rock N The Knob. That way I was utilizing my fitness without the same expectation shackles. I did well there and a month later did my first 50K at Rosaryville. I managed a course record there and really thought I could do that ultra thing.
- What does a typical training week look like for you? Do you follow a strict plan or are you more loose with your training?
Parsed out over the course of the year, typically I average 70 mile weeks. I may take 20 days off during that period but I am more or less a run every day type of person. Back when the marathon was a prime focus for me, I would put in 100 mile weeks. My body did not like those too often. Now, my basic structure is to do at least one long run a week around 20 miles. Ideally, I get it in on a Sunday which is the first day in my training week. I like to follow a Sun-Sat model since I typically like to race on Saturdays if possible. Saturday races are one way I work in longer speedwork I wouldn’t probably want to do otherwise. I’m pretty flexible with myself in the sense I adapt my sessions to how I am feeling. If I am a little tired one morning, instead of forcing myself out of the house early, I will run my commute into the office. After 20 years of running, I have a good sense of what works for me and what doesn’t.
- Do you do any runs at elevation or hill training? What's the highest elevation you've ever run?
I’m a lightweight here when it comes to elevation and would say 5000ft when I made it out to the presidential traverse in New Hampshire. I didn’t make it to Mt Washington due to windy conditions. I’m sure if you put me out in the Rockies, my lungs would explode. Being in a relatively low lying portion of the country, I do not do any training at elevation but I do seem to get hills in quite a bit. The Northwest portion of Philadelphia where I live has a fair amount of hills, so I am on those daily. I don’t do specific hill repeats simply because I am always doing hills one way or the other.
- In your URP interview, you mentioned this past winter having been hard and running on the treadmill more. What's the longest distance you've ever run on a treadmill?
13 miles this past Sunday, April 5th. Typically, if I have to do a long run on a treadmill, it maxes out at 10 miles. I’d rather be outside. As you’ve heard me say I’ve run more on the treadmill these past few months because the winter in Philadelphia sucked this year. Mentally, it was really hard to train through.
- Speaking of mental toughness, do you have any mantras you repeat in your mind during tough moments? How do you dig yourself out of low points out on the trail?
You mean aside from ‘This sucks.” That is a personal go-to for me. I really cannot say I have a mantra that I repeat to myself that helps me dig out of low points. While I tell myself to keep going and tough it out, I certainly struggle mightily once I hit that dark place.
- Do you have a running philosophy? If so, what is it?
It’s simple. Enjoy it.
- Earlier you talked about running with an MP3 player. For a lot of people that is something they cannot run without. What is it that up cannot run without?
Clothes. I like clothes and have been known to wear them while running. Shoes would be a close second but periodically, I let me tootsies fly free. So, yeah, clothes. Periodically, if I am having a tough day getting out for the run, I will use the MP3 player. When that run is on the treadmill, I almost always have my Sansa Clip.
- What are some of your bucket list races or goals in running?
In terms of goals, I’d like to break 2:30 one more time for the marathon. I almost did it last year when I ran a 2:30:03 at Steamtown. Once I do that, I’d consider myself retired from the distance. Not to say, I will not run more road marathons but maybe enjoy them a little more than be aiming for a goal time. Either way, I would like to do CIM in 2016. Right now, I have a lot of time based goals thanks to finishing a 100 mile checked off. I’d like to set some PA state records in the 50K and 100 mile. Those things aside, I don’t have any bucket races. And that I think simply is a by-product of finances.
- Ok, since you do not have any bucket races, where is the best place that you've run? Or where was the most interesting place you've ever run?
I’d say on Pleasant Mountain in Maine. We typically vacation in Denmark, Maine every year and less than a mile from the house we stay at, there is a small mountain. It has all sorts of trails on it that can be really technical at spots, so I get a nice array of running in without a lot of work. Granted it is a 9 hour drive to get there. I just love it there.
- If you could run anywhere in the world with anybody who would you run with and where?
I’d say the Camino de Santigo with Killian Jornet. He has a wonderful outlook on life and I think sharing such an experience would be epically amazing. And if you have never heard of the Carmino de Santigo, I suggest you look it up.
- Sounds like a pricey endeavor. On the topic of prices, what is the most you've paid for a race?
Straight up race only, it would be the 180 I paid to run the Umstead 100. Now if you factor in travel, it would be the 650, I paid for airfare and lodging to go DNF at Black Canyon. And I only made it the 50 miles in because I really didn’t want to DNF after having paid all that expense. I paid more for my trip to Vegas where I did a 5K but that was actually a vacation.
- So you do get around. Where is the farthest you've travelled for a race?
Portland, Oregon. However, that was way back in December of 1998 for Junior Olympic Cross Country Nationals. Since then, it would be a tie between Vegas and Phoenix since the flight time for each was about the same. To be honest, I really do not get around. I’ve only been off the East Coast two other times in my life.
- Junior Olympic Nationals? You must have been a great runner in high school and since then, what is your proudest moment so far in life running related?
While making two Junior Olympic Nationals and a High School National race, believe me when I say, I was just a mediocre runner back then. In some regards I’m not that special now. But I do think I’m tapping into my potential in the ultra world. But that is beside the question. In terms of my proudest running moment, I’d say finishing the Umstead 100, primarily because I got to share that moment with my spouse, Peg, along with good friends in Maggie and Ken Tom. It just meant a lot on a deep emotional level. Words cannot really do it any justice how that finish means so much to me.
- If anyone in the world could congratulate you at the end of a race who would it be and why?
My friend Deb. She has been one of my closest friends in addition to being my biggest supporter of me as a runner and life in general. We don’t live so close anymore so she has not gotten to share in the experiences of my ultrarunning career.
- Word on the street is that you have an interesting diet. Care to share with us what it is?
If by diet, you mean, no diet, I have one. Aside from being vegetarian, I do not do anything fancy. To give you an idea, I’ve been known over the years to enjoy Code Red Mountain Dew and Little Debbie’s snack cakes. Don’t get the idea that all I eat is junk food. It is far from the truth. I guess, I just try not to restrict myself in this realm.
- What is your favorite pre-race meal?
You mean the one I don’t eat? Actually, I do not have a pre-race meal. Back in high school, I would eat bagels with cream cheese for lunch. That was the closest you could say I have ever had to doing a pre-race meal. Come race day, I don’t have anything that is a go to. You could say subconsciously my nerves suppress my appetite.
- What's your favorite food choice during ultras?
As some people may tell you, I should eat more during my ultras than I do. However, if I go with solid foods as opposed to sucking down gels, I do like to rely on a good ol PB&J Sandwich. Yet, based on using Matzo Balls at Umstead, I might have to say they are now my favorite food.
- Matzo Balls sounds bonkers. In keeping with the same food realm, are you going to work knishes in there at some point?
I don’t see potato knishes being a part of my ultra food selection. However, I most certainly love a good potato knish. One of the things I have a tough time with in Philadelphia is finding potato knishes when I want them. Back in NJ, it was no problem.
- Do you have a favorite post race meal?
Something delicious that I don’t have to cook and that my stomach agrees that I can consume. I may not be picky but immediately after an ultra, my stomach most certainly is. For example, if you offer me a veggie burger, I may just look at you funny because I don’t want to expend the energy to chew or digest. After my first 50 miler, I remember Peg wanting to go to Arby’s for a Jamocha shake since they are a treat for us (I totally love them) and replying to her as I lay in the backseat hurting, “Screw the Jamocha Shake”.
- We’ve asked you about your proudest running moment, what would you say is your proudest moment non-running related so far in your life?
Graduating from Rutgers debt-free. It took a lot of hard work and sacrifice to make that happen but to wind up with a college degree paying my own way like I did is something. But to pay my own way and not owe anything, to me is special.
- If somebody were to make a movie or write a book about your life, what would it be called and why?
Unless somebody wanted a total flop on their hands, nobody should do either a book or movie about my life. Believe me, the world will be a better place this way.
- Do you have a running idol? If so, who is he/she and why are they your idol?
If I want to go with the legendary deceased superstar, Prefontaine. If I want to go with the biggest inspiration, my Uncle George. Growing up, in his house, there was (and still is) a photo of him finishing the New York City Marathon back in the early 80’s. Without the inspiration of that photograph, I do not think I would have ever moved up to the marathon. A lot of my running career is owed to my uncle.
- Who do you look up to (Not just in running… but in life)?
This is an easy one, my Uncle George and my stepdad, Ed. Both of them shaped who I am. Nobody else comes anywhere close.
- What is the best advice you have ever been given and who gave it to you?
You can do better. My stepdad, through the wonderful use of negative reinforcement. He always joked about it because he always knew I would have a chip on my shoulder. Now aside from running, I don’t really practice it. It sort of clashes with my personality type that does not like risk.
- If you could hop in a time machine and talk to 10 year old Mike for 30 seconds, what would you tell him knowing what you know now.
Get away from Central NJ before you turn 24. Don’t take the job at the art gallery in NY after graduation. I think for a series of years, I languished more than I should have. While, I have a lot of good memories of that time, I would have been better served speeding up a bit in life. However, I don’t know if I would end up where I am in running if I responded to the new information.
- On the flip side of the last question, if you could hop in a time machine and and talk to Mike 50 years from now for 30 seconds, what would you ask him? Also 50 years from now where do you see yourself?
I don’t think I would hop in the time machine to go into the future. If I knew what the future was, I would always be chasing it or letting it be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And what if it was a bad future? I don’t think I would want to know.
- Ok, so you don’t want to go to the future. To keep with the theme of crazy possibilities, if you could have any superhero power what would it be?
At first, I was going to decline having any but after giving it some thought, I’d like the ability to fly. One of the problems with traveling is airfare so why not take having to pay it out of the equation.
- Way to be selfish! Ha. I’m afraid to think what you may answer this next question with…If you found out that the world was going to end in 24 hours, what would you spend the next 24 hours doing?
Most certainly, not by running. I’d try to get together with all my friends nearby. If I’m going to go, I’d want to be those near and dear to my heart. But I admit, I would rather the world just end than give me a time frame. I’d likely be thinking about the coming doom than the present moment.
- Would you consider sleeping with someone on the first date?
What kind of cheap date, do you think I am? You’re working to get in these shorts.
- How open are you to trying new things in bed?
Well I have been known to rock the McDonald’s Pillow Cover. I’ll just let that speak for itself as the answer.
- Do you want your partner to be kinkier than you?
How about, I give you the odds of my answer. Hint, flip a quarter and guess heads or tails. That chances of getting that right are the odds of you guessing my answer correctly.
- What was the most badass thing you've ever done?
I’d go with running the OSS/CIA Nighttime 50 Mile. I looked like hell after that race since I fell numerous times. And then after napping for 30 minutes, I drove the 3 ½ hours home.
- Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. We just have one final one for you. What is the Trail WhippAss logo to you?
If Papa Smurf and The Abominable Snow Monster of the North (from Rudolph) had a love child, you would have the Trail WhippAss mascot.
And so I leave you with a photo of our beloved Mike wearing a Trail WhippAss singlet winning a race running through the snow being badass as always. If you have any more questions for Mike just ask him. I'm sure he would love to answer them. He might even make up some answers of his own!