New Challenges – New Perspectives

Onward I goAbout three weeks ago, a fear most athletes have came true when I had my first major injury.  My training had been going very well and I had just started incorporating some mountain training.  I was hoping that it was just a slight strain–something that would go away with some rest or reduced training.  Yet deep inside I knew it was probably something worse.  Over the five years I have been running regularly, only once had an injury occurred and it was just something the set me back for a week or so–nothing serious.  When this injury happened, the pain and severity was quite different than anything I ever experienced.  Immediately I went to several medical/athletic websites to try to figure out what the injury may be.  The symptoms lead me to believe it was a type 2 (maybe a type 1) tear of my left medial gastrocnemius aka the upper inside part of my left calf.  On the recommendation of a physiotherapist I got an ultrasound that confirmed that it was indeed a type 2 tear.  That meant 4-6 weeks of recovery–right in the middle of my training for my 100 mile race in late October.  Not what I was hoping…

The good news is that prior to this injury, I had been focusing on many ways to improve my life, attitude, performance, etc.  Several books I read had large sections focusing on the power of a positive mental attitude–no matter the situation.  When the news hit that I had to stop running for over a month, my positive perspective was that this would make me stronger and with a little luck and a lot of elbow grease, I would gain some new skills that will ultimately make me a better runner.

The doctors and physiotherapists all agreed that I could continue to walk.  With that, I set out to become an efficient power walker.  Using many websites, photos, and videos, I learned some tips to improve my pace as a walker which is immensely useful in ultramarathons.  During the Keys 100, I think one of my assets was my ability to walk at a faster clip than most, allowing me to make up a lot of ground in the second half of the race.

Over the past 3 weeks, my walking has improved by leaps and bounds.  It reminds me of when I first started to learn how to run regularly.  I am pretty sure that my form is not legal for the competitive speed walkers but I am definitely not running.  Any motion that is close to running still bothers my calf.  When I walk, my feet land on the heels and roll to the front.  Plus, I am much less fatigued even after walking for 60-90 minutes compared to running.

My adjusted view is this:  I know that I will not be able to match or beat my Keys 100 time at the Javelina Jundred (20:28) but the whole purpose of this race is for the experience and to run a qualifier for entry to the Western States 100.  The only requirement is that I finish under 30 hours.  I am confident that I can walk 100 miles in under 30 hours.  While my running fitness will not be where I want it going into the race, my hope is to have enough in the tank to give it a 50/50 or even a 75/25 run/walk ratio.

Beyond this new power walking ability I am honing, I have been focusing on increased flexibility especially in areas that have been neglected during my years of running.  Also, I have (finally) started to learn how to practice mindful meditation.  It has been a goal of mine for numerous years but I never made the time to learn or try.  In addition, I am working on increasing strength in the supporting areas of the body for running–better balance, posture, and range of motion.

The funny thing out of all of this is that I am not worried or scared.  I have a feeling of peacefulness that tells me I am learning and improving myself.  This is exactly where I should be despite it not being my chosen path.  In a zen-like approach, I am not focusing on what might happen and wishing I could change the past.  Right here is where I want to be.

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Living Vice Not Dying

grug-eep-the-croods-34956736-940-473Today as I drove around Mexico City doing family errands, my girls were watching a movie — The Croods.  I overheard some dialog that resonated with me:

  • Eep: Dad, you have to stop worrying about us.
  • Grug: But it’s my job to worry!  It’s my job to follow the rules.
  • Eep: The rules don’t work out here.
  • Grug: They kept us alive.
  • Eep: That wasn’t LIVING! That was just… “Not Dying”! There’s a difference.

That last line repeated in my mind all day.  It’s quite profound on many levels.  Too often I find in today’s hustle and bustle we are conforming to this set of norms and that set of rules–continuously trying to stay within the lines.  How should I be raising my daughters?  What food should they eat?  What should I not do at work?  How should I comport myself in this or that social situation.

In my athletic world, how much should I be training?  How hard should I train?  What should I eat?  Is this the right form?  Did I recover enough?  Am I “fueling and hydrating” properly? And on and on and on…

Rules and regulations permeate practically every facet of my life.  I actually revel in the rules and get a weird sense of accomplishment when I feel as if I have checked all the imaginary boxes on self imposed checklists of things I should and should not do.

While I definitely am not proposing anarchy and mayhem in a ruleless society, this quote was a reminder that I should be more mindful of my actions and decisions.  I don’t have a meaningful takeaway to share with the world but what I do know is the next time I go out and run, it will be with a youthful exuberance and push the limits of fun.  The next time I interact with my daughters, I will be mindful to not stress the rules but instead promote what they can do–ask them what they think.

Let us choose to live rather than simply not die.

A Renewal of Sorts

MD_Route_42Today I celebrate another year completed on this rotating globe named Earth.  I have never been one much for parties and hoopla but for some odd reason this year it feels like I should recognize and celebrate the occasion.  Over the past couple months, I have found myself becoming more introspective as well as having the desire to learn and challenge myself increasing.  I’m not sure where it originates but sometimes when you feel life pulling you in a positive direction, you need to go with it.

I started the year training very well but things derailed in April causing my level of fitness to fall apart and added many kilos back that I worked off.  Rather than dwell in the setback, I looked forward and wanted to figure out what do I need to do to get things going again.

First, I need to run a qualifying race by the end of October 2017 to be eligible to enter in the WSER 2018 drawing.  Since I didn’t get picked in 2017, I will have two names in the hat, provided I qualify.  I was going to run the UTMX 100 km in October–which would be convenient since it’s only hours away from where I live.  The problem was that when I went to sign up (at the same time I did last year) it was already sold out.  I guess the stars were trying to tell me that wasn’t my race this year.  I searched for other races in October and sitting right there was the Javelina Jundred.  I have heard lots of great things about the race but, and that’s a big but, it’s 100 miles not 100 km.  I have only run one 100 miler and that was two years ago.  Instead of worrying, I have put myself in “figure it out” mode.  I have around 16-17 weeks to prepare.  I believe it will be enough but I don’t think I’ll be as prepared as I was for the Keys 100.  That said, I simply need to finish the race in 30 hours.  I am sure I can do that as long as any unexpected injuries or incidents pop up during the race.

Going forward, I have decided to challenge myself in many different ways in this next year of my life:

  • Complete the Javelina Jundred
  • Write in this blog quite regularly (hopefully daily)
  • Focus on my training like never before–getting good sleep, no alcohol, clean eating, etc.
  • Renew my commitment to a whole food-plant based diet–I went vegan all of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 but then reverted to vegetarian/pescatarian.
  • Be more mindful and intentional of my actions and decisions.
  • Explore meditation–finally! (I have been learning and thinking about it for at least 20 years)

That is just a portion of what has been rattling around my mind but I think with writing, more will flow naturally.

To reward myself today, I ran 43 km to mark the first day of the 43rd year of my life.  I will post a separate article about the fun run around “La Ciudad de México”.

43k

 

Noticeable Difference

While it is readily apparent to almost everyone, it still amazes me what hard work, consistency, and determination can do.  I have continued my efforts in 2017 literally putting one foot in front of the other on a daily basis.  This past Saturday, I decided it was time to follow up my 50 km effort in February with a 60 km fun run around Mexico City.  I prepared during the week by not running twice on any day and keeping all but one day below 16 km.  Throughout the week I visualized the run over and over; imagining how much fun I will have during the approximate 6 hours on my feet.  The actual run went very well and I had plenty of fun.  Here are a few things I noticed:

  • My stamina has reached the point where I can run at least 50 km without really feeling any substantial fatigue.  This is a huge increase considering only three months ago I felt fatigue after 20 km.
  • I was able to run headphone free and didn’t suffer from boredom or go crazy from too many things going through my mind.  I spent much of the time thinking of what good food I’ll eat when I get home, how grateful I am for the family I have, how lucky I felt to be able to do what I was doing, and other random observations of the environment around me.  There was plenty of time where I just blanked out and just went along for the ride–a sort of active meditation.
  • After the run, I wasn’t really sore.  The next day I was able to get out and do an easy run and two days later I still hadn’t experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle syndrome).  It seems to me, that my body is in the best condition it has ever been in my adult life.  In the past after marathon distances or further I would definitely feel some pain.  Considering this 60 km run had nearly 1100 meters in elevation gain, I was quite surprised but also happy.
  • My nutrition methods worked fairly well.  I used Tailwind in the water in my hydration pack, brought several Huma chia gels, and one Larabar.  I think I consumed around 1100 calories throughout the nearly 6 hours.  Maybe some of my fatigue around the 5:20 mark was due to the fact I needed a little bit more.  I weighed myself before and after the run and I was down about 2 kg afterwards which means I needed to drink a bit more water.
  • Prior to the run, I memorized the entire path I planed and I broke it into three distinct parts.  That way I wasn’t messing around with my phone to look at a map or looking at my GPS watch to see how much further I needed to go.  Instead I just looked for landmarks to help judge where I was on my course.  My main focus was to complete each third of the course and once a third was complete, I would reset my focus to start the next third.
  • My ego got going a little bit during my run when I entered a major park.  Since it was early Saturday morning, it seemed like the whole city was at the park running.  The reason I mentioned my ego is because in my mind I started contemplating ways other people could know how far I had run so far that day.  Some people I was running near would huff and puff trying to pass me and I just wanted to say “Yes, that’s nice, I’ve run over 50km today…and you?”  The thought process was completely silly and I know that no one could care less but I guess I was just proud of how hard I had worked that morning before the rest of the city had even started their days.

Going forward I think I’m going to try to do one of these longer efforts at least once per month.  I also believe that I need to find an ultramarathon or two to enter this year.  It’s been 14 months since my last one.  I also need to complete a qualifier for Western States so I can keep my consecutive entries going.

My parting thought today is I am not sure what to do about my current run streak.  I have run 71 straight days which is the longest streak of my life.  Most coaches do not recommend streaks to maximize performance but I have found that the daily focus has benefited me tremendously.  What I have made sure to do is rarely push myself too hard.  Every now and then I’ll feel extra energy and have some pep in my step but for the most part, I just run nice and easy.  After 2-3 months using this method, I’m running faster with a lower heart rate.  For the time being, I’m going to keep the streak going unless some sort of injury pops up.  I feel good and am happy with the results so let’s see what a longer streak will bring.

 

 

The Art of Sharing

This past weekend I had the honor of running with a good friend of mine when he attempted his first ultra-distance — a 60km run (36 miles).  My buddy had run several marathons in the past but since we met around a year ago, I’ve been planting the seed for ultramarathons with him.  A little less than two months ago, after he finished a marathon, I challenged him to do this run with me.  I encouraged him and said that he would definitely succeed and would enjoy the experience.  He said let’s do it!

Fast forward to last Friday.  After work, I prepared my house as our aid station to pass by every 20km.  I had plenty of Hüma Chia Gels, Hammer Gels, Justin’s Nut Butters, Tailwind, Succeed Amino, Succeed S! Caps, hummus, and other snacks as well as a ton of water.  I had a blister kit, Trail Toes cream, and other aid station staples.  I mapped out three 20km loops around the city of Merida, Mexico.  I told him to bring extra shoes, socks, shirts, and anything else he might want to change during the run.

Getting ready to start.

Getting ready to start.

Around 6pm he showed up and by 6:30pm we were off and running.  My goal for the first 20km was to slow him down and keep us at a reasonable pace.  I use a heart rate monitor so I used that to judge our effort.  Luckily for us the weather cooled a bit–but don’t misunderstand me–it was still around 86-88°F/30-31°C with substantial humidity.  It was just cooler for us because of how hot Merida normally is.  Things were pretty easy going and as we passed by a little village, we actually found a dog that had run with us for around 5-6km a week earlier.  The dog recognized us and even paused to consider running again but thought better of it.  I think we wore him out the last time.  At around the 40 minute mark, I got my friend started on his eating regiment.  It was one of my goals to show him how important calorie intake will be during this adventure.  He had experienced problems around the 35-38km mark in past runs where he completely ran out of energy.  We made it back to the house a little over 2 hours later and started our refueling.

20km in the books, 40km to go.

20km in the books, 40km to go.

When we set out for lap 2, it was dark.  I knew this is where things will start to get a little rougher.  We plowed through the first 10km without problems but I noticed that oddly enough the temperature in the city was rising and the air was getting more stagnant.  This added to the challenge.  I was trying to keep tabs on my friend’s rhythm, pace, and breathing to notice any changes or struggling.  Right around the time we passed the halfway mark, I could tell things were getting tougher for the both of us.  At 35km, I had gone through my water bottle and my other bottle that had tailwind mixed with water.  I was sweating profusely and my legs had definitely lost their spring.  When I had to jump up and down on curbs and sidewalks, it was definitely more of a challenge.  Shortly thereafter, my friend let me know his knees were starting to really bother him so I suggested us do some intervals of 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking.  We used this change of pace to stop by a store and get some more water.  Funny enough, when we walked out of the store, we encountered another runner I had met a few weeks earlier who was also out for a long run that night.  It is a very cool bond runners have.

Merida runners unite.

Merida runners unite.

After chatting with the runners for a couple minutes, we headed off for our remaining 5km to the house.  This was definitely the challenging moment of the night for my buddy.  He was experiencing that low feeling that one encounters multiple times during an ultra.  I decided my goal was to try to motivate him, cheer him up, and see him through the woods so to speak.  I assumed the role of the pacer to the racer in an ultramarathon.  We continued our 5/1 intervals and about 1.5km from the house we gutted it out to finish loop 2.

40km done but we still have 20km to go.

40km done but we still have 20km to go.

Upon reaching our aid station aka my house, my buddy dropped to the floor.  He was definitely suffering but was also trying to recuperate.  I found a Hüma Chia gel with double caffeine to boost him out of his hole.  I made him drink more water and take an S!Cap to help with electrolyte loss.  While he was laying on the ground, he asked if we could alter our final 20km and do two 10km loops.  Great idea, I thought.  This way it was mentally more paletable and he could pass by our aid station once more.   I could definitely see where going out for a 10km run is a lot easier to think about than going out for a 20km.  He eats 10km for breakfast.  After 40km and nearly 5 hours on his feet, another 10km shouldn’t be too bad.  After about 15 minutes or so, we headed out for our next loop.

Sometimes you just need to lie down.

Sometimes you just need to lie down.

Something amazing happened during our run between the 40-50km mark, my friend started to rebound.  He no longer needed intervals and was running with a rejuvenated spirit.  It was exactly what I was hoping would happen.  This is quite customary during ultra distances.  If you can just get past the dark moments, you will experience comebacks that you thought were impossible.  We ended up running about 8km and then walked for about a half of a km and then ran the remainder.  That loop was much easier than the last one.  We refueled, stretched a bit, and headed out for the last loop.

Limbering up for the final part of the run.

Limbering up for the final part of the run.

The last loop is where I started to feel some of the fatigue setting in but I wanted to stay strong for my friend.  As we wound our way though a nearby neighborhood our conversation picked up quite a bit more and I shared some of my experiences of similar runs.  We did one more walk break of about 5 minutes at the 55km mark and then pushed the effort to get home.  I started experiencing some gastrointestinal issues, I guess because of some of the experimenting with different food combinations.  Like the experts say, training runs are the time to experiment and not the race.  It was nip and tuck to see if I could make it home with out having to find an “emergency” bathroom but around 7 hours after setting out on our adventure, we made it!

We did it!  60km in the books.

We did it! 60km in the books.

The aftermath of the run was a moment of joy I had not experienced before and the reason I’m writing this post.  To hear the sense of accomplishment in my friend’s voice brought a huge smile to my face.  He kept repeating over and over, “60 kilometers, 60 kilometers”.  My best guess is that he was happy, amazed, proud, and exhausted all at the same time.  This moment was the reason why I challenged him to this run–I knew he would love it and knew he could do it.  I wanted to provide for him what I didn’t have when I first got into ultrarunning:  a person to share it with and a person to learn from.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the path I have followed to arrive to this point but it would have been a lot easier to do some of my first ultra-distance runs with an experienced person to help push me through.  That night adds to the many reasons why I love to run.

This is where we ran.

This is where we ran.

Officially Masters

40

I have been mulling over what my next topic should be for many days now.  The funny thing is that I have ended up procrastinating by being indecisive — paralysis by analysis.  My goal, which I missed by a bit, is to get at least one post up every week.  Topics I have considered:  how to choose a coach, keeping a training program diverse, how to measure your progress, importance of family support, how to stay motivated when your race is so far away, and the concept of a milestone birthday.  I think all of the topics are worthy of blog posts but typical to my personality, I am going to go with the easiest topic first and move on from there:  milestone birthday.

This week I turned 40.  It has been surreal, exciting, motivating, a time for reflection, and, at times, no big deal at all.  For the better part of the year, when I was 39, I was already considering myself 40.  I am not sure why.  Maybe I was excited to be 40, maybe I just wanted to get it over, who knows?

The first part of turning 40 is everyone asking how do you feel or what do you think about turning 40?  Honestly, I am very happy to be 40.  For me, it is some sort of validation that I have done pretty well so far in life.  I have been happily married for ten years, I have two lovely daughters with a third on the way, I have an amazing family and some very important and wonderful friends in my life.  I feel more grounded and confident at this point in my life than any other point in my life.  My youth and early adulthood was filled with worries–worries for the future, worries about the unknown, worries about my past, worries about what decision to make, worries on what will happen in terms of love.  You get the idea.  The incredible power of the love, in which my wife has showered me, has almost completely erased that pervasive feeling of worry that plagued me for so long.  Imagine this:  have you ever been in an office, public building, restaurant, or home where there was a very loud a/c running or some sort of white noise that was in the background but not loud enough to be an acute sound and then that sound is removed.  Do you remember that feeling of relief you felt once that agitating white noise was gone?  That is what I feel in my life now.  The love from my marriage has removed all that unwanted white noise from life.  I have clarity and a defined direction.  Do I know what is to come in the future?  No, but I do have the feeling of calm because I know that whatever comes will be great and will work out.  Plainly said, I have faith in what is to come.

Wow, I think I digressed quite a bit there.

finish start

The title of this post ties into the fact that age 40 I am now officially in the masters category for racing.  Does it matter to me?  Maybe.  Why do I run?  I run because I love to run however, I do have a desire to compete and to test my limits in and out of competition.  It might be a nice goal to try to win the masters title in a race.  It will take a ton of work since many strong ultrarunners are 40+ but I think it is highly important to set lofty goals.  Without them, we are limiting our potential.

Another thought I have had regarding turning 40 is that I wish I would have discovered my passion for running at an earlier age–like in my twenties.  At age 40, I am aware that biologically I am past my peak muscular development point in my life.  I also understand that in order to perform at your absolute maximum in various sports, you need to put many years of dedicated training.  Multiple experts claim that it takes around seven years to reach your pinnacle of performance.  I have only been a dedicated runner for three years.  In terms of ultrarunning, my weekly/monthly training at that level just started in midway through 2014.  This means that I still have a long way to go in my development.  The part that frustrates me is that I may be in my mid to late forties before I reach full potential.  At the same time, I do have concern that time/age is burning the candle at the other end.  Had I discovered running at age 25, for example, I would be in my early thirties at the predicted time to reach full potential.  Biologically, that would match perfectly.  What I finally realized is that it is a waste of time to spend energy thinking about the “only if” or “what if” scenarios.  What use is it?!  I am not going back in time.  I need to focus all my energy on what I can control.  I do realize that many of the runners I respect and admire have been running since high school and have 20+ years under their belts.  I cannot do anything about that.  On the flip side, I have much less wear and tear on my body.  Maybe that could work to my advantage.  And again, does any of it really matter?  It only matters if I make winning or placing in the top 10 the end all be all.

Tranquility

Where am I going with this post?  I am not exactly sure but the point I want to make is that I am very happy to be 40.  My life experiences, both successes and failures, have taught me many lessons and give me the direction and drive to pursue my passions to the fullest.  I relish the opportunity to discover what adventures are to come and I am putting as much energy as I can into who I am as a runner today.  That, in and of itself, is as much as I can do to push myself beyond the imaginary boundaries of my capabilities now.  I do want to succeed yet success is an artificial construct.  It may not necessarily be in winning a race but more so in the path that I am following to find out what my potential truly is.  The truth of the matter is that success is only in my mind and if I find peace and fulfillment in my journey, then I have already won.  Bring on my forties because I have been waiting for you all my life.

Childhood Idols as an Adult

WSERTomorrow at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time, the Western States Endurance Run commences.  In my estimation and in the opinions of many others, it is the Super Bowl, World Series, or World Cup Finals of ultrarunning.  This race is 100 miles through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.  While it isn’t the toughest 100 mile ultramarathon in the world, it is a race that’s been around since the mid 70s when there were barely any 100 mile races and it attracts the best athletes from around the globe.  For me, as well as many other aspiring ultrarunners, it is the first ultramarathon we read or hear about.  It reminds me of my youth when I would hear legendary stories about World Series games with stars like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson.

Mr. October himself.

Mr. October himself.

As race day approaches, I have found myself glued to interviews, podcasts, blogs, and magazine articles related to this year’s event.  The enthusiasm in which I find myself made me look at the connection between my passion for ultrarunning compared to baseball.

Look at the profile of this race!

Look at the profile of this race!

Back in 1987-88, I had somewhat of a breakthrough athletically.  Prior to that, I wasn’t uncoordinated per se.  I was fast and strong but didn’t really stand out in any particular sport.  I was decent in basketball as a guard, I was good at soccer as a fullback, but in baseball I was relegated to the dreaded right field position.  For those that are unfamiliar with little league baseball, right field is where you would stick your worst players because the frequency of balls going out there was very little.  Yet in 1987, my parents had a great idea to send me to a baseball camp in Cocoa Beach, Florida–The Clint Hurdle Baseball Camp.  Those 5 days of working with professional baseball players changed my life.  By having people work with me and teach me drills, the technique of proper practice, and the repetition necessary to improve, I suddenly gained a level of confidence I never had before.

Eric Davis Cincinnati Reds  May 25, 1987 X 34717 credit:  John Hanlon - assign

credit: John Hanlon

When the next season started for baseball, I went from being a bench warmer to one of the top players in the league.  My love for baseball grew exponentially.  I watched and listened to as many games as possible (no internet or cable television in those days).  I collected baseball cards.  I played baseball video games on the Nintendo and my computer.  My friends and I played pickup baseball games all year long.  When we would play these games, one thing we would do was pretend to be players in the Major Leagues.  We would try to emulate their mannerisms, batting stances, and styles.  The player I always picked was Eric Davis.  He was a center fielder for my beloved Cincinnati Reds.

Quick side note–while I lived in the Washington, D.C. area for most of my life, I did spend 3 years in the suburbs of Cincinnati in a town called Loveland.  Because Washington did not have a baseball team during my childhood, I adopted the Reds as my team because I was not from Baltimore.  I followed the Baltimore Orioles but I loved the Reds.

Eric_DarrylAs a boy it was common to pick an athlete to idolize and I knew everything about Eric “The Red” Davis.  I knew what high school he attended, that one of his friends growing up was Darryl Strawberry, what minor league teams he played for, his birthday…well you get the picture.  What I particularly liked about him was that he played the game all out.  He gave EVERYTHING he had every single game.  He was fast, he could hit homeruns, he made amazing plays as a fielder, and seemed to be an all around good guy.  He was never mixed up with drugs, arrests, and other off field shenanigans.  I truly idolized him and tried to craft my game after him.  Since those times, I have always been known by my teammates as someone who would play at 100%, organize my own practices-even when the teams weren’t practicing, and would sacrifice my body to make a play or win the game.  I had coaches tell my father at various times that I should try to relax a little more during practice because of my intensity.

Looking back on those times and comparing it to today, I wondered do I idolize any runners?  Is it possible for me, a grown man, to idolize anymore?  Do I know enough about the sport of ultrarunning to really speak on the subject?  To answer the question about idolizing–I don’t think as a grown man I would idolize anyone.  I am content with who I am as an individual and my path in life.  However, I do know that finding a few people that represent some of the things I hold important and who have immense experience to share is important if you want to grow.  Think of the sensei-student relationship.  As for knowing enough to speak about ultrarunning, who knows…I have only been studying the sport for a couple years, have only been running ultra distances since 2013, and only completed my first race 6 weeks ago.

To get straight to the point, I would say that there are some people that I find represent many of the qualities in which I aspire.  I don’t know whether it was serendipitous, coincidence, or just plain old dumb luck but the very first two books I bought related to ultrarunning were Finding Ultra by Rich Roll and Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.  These two gentlemen seem to embody many of the things that are important to me at this juncture in my life.

Rich Roll

Rich Roll’s story is one of a school athlete who lost his way in college and by the time he was in his 30s was overweight, abusing alcohol and drugs, and unhappy with his life.  He had a moment of clarity one night climbing the stairs, finding himself out of breath and realizing that if he continues down this road, he may not see much of his children’s life unfold.  By way of reaching out for help, changing his diet, and dedicating his energy to improve his life he turned himself into an incredible ultra athlete who completed the Epic 5–an annual event consisting of 5 Iron Distance Triathlons, on 5 Hawaiian Islands, in 5 Days.  He wrote an amazing book chronically his journey, hosts a widely popular podcast “The Rich Roll Podcast” (which I am a dedicated listener), and now has a fabulous cookbook “The Plantpower Way“.  Reading his books and listening to him talk to such a diverse array of guests on his podcast has really given me an idea of what the guy represents.  His insights, personal successes and failures, and the information that is presented in his podcasts has had such a profound impact on my life.

Scott Jurek

After I read Rich Roll’s first book, I was thirsty for more.  The next recommended book by Amazon after Finding Ultra was Eat and Run.  This book by Scott Jurek tells his story starting as a young boy from Minnesota who worked his way up to being one the best, if not the best, ultrarunner in the world for a long stretch of time in the 2000s.  Starting in 1999, he went on to win 7 consecutive Western States Endurance Runs, a feat that has never been matched.  His story chronicled personal and family struggles as well as his journey to become a fully plant based athlete.  Besides his success at the Western States, he went on to set numerous other records during his career.

  • United States record for 24 hour distance on all surfaces (165.7 miles/266.01 kilometers).
  • Won the Spartathlon 153-mile (246 km) race from Athens to Sparta, Greece three consecutive times (2006–2008).
  • Won the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run (2007), and held the record time for one year until Kyle Skaggs set a new record in 2008.
  • Won the Western States Endurance Run seven consecutive times (1999–2005), and held the record time (15:36:27 in 2004) until 2010
  • Won the Badwater Ultramarathon twice (2005, 2006), and held the course record for two years (2005).
  • Finished first three times (2002–2004) and second three times (2001, 2005, 2006) in the Miwok 100K Trail Race.
  • Won the Leona Divide 50 Mile Run four times (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004).
  • Won the Diez Vista 50K Trail Run twice (2000, 2003).
  • Won the Montrail Ultra Cup series twice (2002, 2003).
  • Selected as UltraRunning Magazine’s North American Male Ultrarunner of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2007.

Dean Karnazes

I would also say that I am impressed with Dean Karnazes.  He is a polarizing figure in the ultra community but for me he is a genuine person who has done very well for himself by sharing and marketing his experience.  While many athletes are annoyed at the amount of attention he receives stating he was never the best runner in the sport, he has won many prestigious races and has some amazing accomplishments.  After reading his books and watching/listening to interviews, he passes my test in terms of guy who is the real deal.  Here are some of Dean’s feats:

  • Ran 350 miles (560 km) in 80 hours and 44 minutes without sleep in 2005
  • Single-handedly completed “The Relay”, a 199-mile (320 km) run from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, eleven times
  • Ran a marathon to the South Pole in −13 °F (−25 °C) temperatures without snowshoes in 2002
  • Ran a marathon in each of the 50 states in 50 consecutive days in 2006
  • Winner, Badwater Ultramarathon (135 miles (217 km) across Death Valley in 120 °F (49 °C) temperatures), 2004 (with five other top-10 finishes from 2000-2008)
  • Winner, Vermont Trail 100 Mile Endurance Run, 2006
  • Overall Winner, 4 Deserts Race Series, 2008
  • American Ultrarunning Team, World Championships, 2005, 2008
  • 148 miles (238 km) in 24 hours on a treadmill, 2004
  • Eleven-time 100-Mile/1 Day Silver Buckleholder at the Western States Endurance Run (i.e., better than ten twenty-four-hour finishes), 1995–2006
  • Ran 3,000 miles (4,800 km) across the United States from Disneyland to New York City in 75 days, running 40 to 50 miles (65 to 80 km) per day, 2011

What I particularly like about Scott and Rich as well as Dean is they come across as humble yet driven men.  They don’t seem cocky or have self-inflated egos.  From all accounts, they are down to earth and enjoy sharing their experiences and helping others–qualities that I strive for in my life.  While I may not attain such lofty accomplishments as these gentlemen, I draw inspiration and energy from what they have done and represent.   What is important to me is that I continue to strive for that which seems beyond my reach, to challenge myself to be better at my life, and to be a father and husband to be proud of.  I want my wife and daughters to see me in the light that I saw my idols as a kid and to truly be that person through and through.  That is what drives me in life.