Name: Michele “Mickey” Graglia
Location: Los Angeles, California
Q. Where did you grow up? What was it like growing up in that area and specifically how did it influence your running?
A. I was born and raised in a small town of 5,000 people, called Taggia, in the Italian Riviera. Of course the sport everyone plays there was soccer so there wasn’t inspiration to explore much of anything else at the time really. I was spending all afternoons after school chasing a ball and running around with my friends in the field close by my house, so I guess that was our way to be active and have fun outside.
Q. Does anyone else in your family run?
A. My father is an avid bicycle rider and alpine skier, although very much into sports no one in my family ever ran. My passion for long distance running is something I pretty much grew on my own.
Q. Did you play any sports in high school?
A. I ran my first race in my first year of Secondary School (age 12). The PE teacher expected us all to compete in the local cross country meet. I had no training but ended up winning that race out of gut literally. Right after that a local track & field coach asked me if I was interested in training and racing. So, I guess that’s how my “relationship” with running started. At age 13 I had a 3:09 PR on the 1Km and 4:54 on the 1 mile. The following season I transitioned to 100m and 300m hurdles and got 3rd at the Indoor National Games 60m hurdles in Naples. I ended up quitting track when I was 15/16 to play soccer for a couple of year and eventually stopped playing altogether when I was 19, when I went to the University.
Q. You’re a former supermodel. What was it like being a model?
A. I have worked internationally with most of the high fashion brands and magazines out there, and I was certainly working my way to the top but I can’t say I was a supermodel. I lived in Milan, Miami and ultimately NYC to better pursue my career. As you can imagine, it was a very exciting and fun career, great money, plenty perks and the lifestyle that goes with it makes you feel like you’re in a movie sometimes. Although the pay was excellent and the jobs very entertaining I wasn’t very much happy with neither what I was doing nor the person I was becoming. Don’t mean to sound so deep but it’s really how I felt. At that point Running became an escape, and couldn’t have come back into my life at a better time!
Q. What made you decide to take up ultra running and leave your modeling career behind? Is it true your first running race ever was a 100-mile race?
A. I ran couple of triathlons in 2010 for fun but it was only at the end of that year that I discovered Ultra Running. I wanted in right away and I wanted to start big. Having lived in Miami couple of years prior, I came across the Keys100 and thought it would have been the perfect event! It’s all road, flat… easy, I thought. So, I signed up and in May 2011, after 5 months of training I toed the line in Key Largo. The heat and humidity beat me down to my knees and 84 miles later I collapsed to the hard asphalt completely dehydrated. I was not too aware of the importance of electrolytes back then… My inexperience played a big role and it surely was a hard lesson, but I learned it on my skin and for some reason I was proud of that. No matter how bad it got… I was hooked.
Q. Did your modeling career bring you to the United States and why did you select to live in Los Angeles?
A. I moved to Miami in September 2007 to improve my English and increase the clientele of my Family Company in the Floral Export business. Initially my goal was to stay a few months… a week later I got scouted by the director of a very successful Modeling Agency in South Beach, my life took a whole new direction and, well, I’m still here!
In 2009 I moved to NYC where I met my now fiance’, soon to be wife, Lauren. We decided to move to LA in 2012 so she could better pursue her acting career while my focus completely shifted away from modeling and had the chance to pursue ultra running the way I wanted.
Q. Is there anything from your Italian background that prepared you specifically for ultra running?
A. When I was a kid I was very fortunate to spend several summer vacations with my Family in a small town called Canazei, in Trentino, right by the Dolomites. We would go on long hikes on the Alps every day and that’s when I started to discover and enjoy that feel of awareness and most importantly appreciation for nature and the outdoors. I guess that doesn’t directly translate into loving ultra running but I think it brings me back to that enjoyment for exploration in the rawest and most simple way: on your own two legs.
Q. Do you have a coach or follow some training program?
A. I know now the importance of a Coach. I could have leaned in 1 year what I painfully learned in 4! I’m stubborn like that though and wanted to start completely on my own, without guidance and learning things on my skin through many trials and errors. At the beginning I always aimed to pile miles over miles training mostly to feel comfortable after many hours on my feet, without caring too much about any specific work. In early 2014, while training for the UltraMilano-Sanremo I averaged 180 to 200 miles a week and found that it wasn’t really worthwhile an detrimental after a bit. Nevertheless it got me ready for that race but I would not recommend this approach to anyone really. Over last summer I deepened my research and studied for the USATF Coaching Certification, while training for the Angeles Crest and the Grand2Grand. Since then I have trained and followed a very structured plan with more specific work and although it’s early in the season, I can already notice the difference. I’m looking forward a very exciting 2015!
Q. What about competitive ultra running do you love?
A. Beside the deep connection between yourself and nature, what I truly love about Ultra Running is the sense of accomplishment that we all share on race day, from the first to the very last runner. The magnitude of the experience often transcend the competitiveness of these events and the infinite support and sense of comradery really make all the difference. You meet a very unique breed of people and it’s an exceptional Community that I’m very proud to be part of.
Q. What are your personal bests (PBs) at various distances and also please list top race performances with place?
A. I don’t really have a fast 50 mile pr because the very first one was in the Everglades through swamps and the last one I ran last year was at high altitude with significant elevation gain. I have a 15:33 100 mile pr (which is a split on my way to 175 miles) at the UltraMilanoSanremo in March, 2014.
Here are some of my racing results:
- Angeles Crest 100 (California, 2014): 2nd place overall (20:25)
- UltraMilano-Sanremo (Italy, 2014): 1st place overall and course record; 175 miles in an astonishing 31:49
- Grand to Grand Ultra (Arizona/Utah, 2014): 1st place overall and course record; 167 miles in 31:25 total running time (stage race)
- Kodiak 50 (California 2014): 1st place overall (9:32)
- Leadville 100 (Colorado, 2013): Top 30-finish (22:10)
- Virgil Crest 100 (New York, 2012): 2nd overall (21:53)
- Palm 100k (Florida, 2012): 1st place overall and male course record holder (9:23)
- Everglades 50 (Florida, 2012): 1st place overall (8:18)
Q. What person(s) in running inspire(s) you?
Q. Looking back over your short running career thus far, what was your best or favorite race and why?
A. It’s really hard to tell. I would say it’s a tie between the Grand2Grand and UltraMilanoSanremo. G2G was by far the most beautiful and satisfying event/experience of my life. Although UMS cannot compete with the breathtaking views of the high sand dunes and the rugged red rocks of the high Utah desert of G2G, the meaning that event holds to me goes beyond anything else.
Q. Is there any event or adventure that you would like to do one day?
A. Badwater is certainly on my list and it’s a maybe in my 2015 racing schedule.
My dream is to cross the 4 biggest deserts and climb the 7 summits.
There’s a world of opportunities out there…
Q. What is a typical week of training in your life right now?
A. As mentioned before I recently shifted to a more structured plan where I include some speed work, strength and long runs. The San Gabriel Mountains are close by and are the perfect playground for weekend fun runs! I just got back into training after a couple of months off season so my mileage is not too crazy, perhaps 80 to 90 this week.
Q. At what distance do you take water/hydration with you on a run?
A. Usually on runs over 10 miles in the winter and 6 miles in the summer.
Q. What was your reaction to the Simple Hydration Bottle when you first saw it?
A. It got my curiosity right away. Thought the smaller bottle is a very smart solution and the shape of it makes it extremely comfortable to wear and super easy to carry!
Q. What was your reaction to the Simple Hydration Bottle after using it?
A. It just confirmed my thoughts! I started using them in my morning runs and couldn’t go without!
Q. How do you use the bottle in your training?
A. On shorter runs I usually just throw one behind my shorts and let it hang. On the other hand, on longer runs I find them very useful in the front pockets of my pack.
Q. What races do you have planned for 2015?
A. – Sean O’Brien 50 mile February 7th. (Update: Mickey placed 2nd overall in the 50 Mile race)
- TransGranCanaria 77 mile March 6th.
- Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), August 26th.
- La Diagonale de Fous in La Reunion Island in October.
Q. Anything else you would like to add about yourself?
A. I recently launched a Coaching Program with a ultra runner friend of mine: Dave Krupski. Our website is: www.zwittyultra.com.
Q. Who are your other sponsors?
You can follow Mickey on his blog: Keep on going.