Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dean Karnazes is OK

I've had mixed feelings about Dean Karnazes (the "ultramarathon man") over the last several years. He is a good runner and he gets more than his fair share of media attention. I guess I've been a bit jealous of him. He's a hell of a better runner than I am, but he's not the best runner ever (or even currently). The press would have you believe otherwise. Scott Jurek and Yiannis Kouros are two better ultra runners. From the past, Ted Corbitt was clearly better. I suppose the fact that Dean gets all the attention isn't his fault. He dreams up some pretty cool challenges, gets sponsorship support, and attracts big media attention. That's not wrong. It's smart marketing. And it probably is good for the sport of running. And ultra running. It certainly is a good message to get out to the general can achieve all sorts of extreme physical challenges if you work hard. Running can help you lose weight, get in shape, and contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle. That's all good. But I still had this "thing" against Karno. Not as much pent up emotions as those on the national ULTRA listserv, but still some lingering negative thoughts. Until just a few days ago...

I've been reading his book about running 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states ("50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days"). My wife got it for me a year ago, but I've kept pushing it aside for other running books. Well, it's not too bad. He chronicles each of his 50 marathons and throws in bits of running advice to go along with each story. It's a nice read (Matt Fitzgerald assisted with the book and likely deserves some credit for the readability and style). It's pretty darn impressive that Dean accomplished this feat--along with all the media hoopla--in fine form. BTW, Sam Thompson did this SAME FEAT without big sponsorship before Karnazes (too bad that isn't mentioned in Deano's book). Anyway, Karnazes generated a ton of good publicity for running and the "Endurance 50" surely motivated others to try endurance-related challenges. Via his book, it motivated me too. For a couple years I've told myself that I have "a fast marathon and ultra lurking inside me." I figured I could run 3:20 or so for the marathon. I think I could break 24:00 for a 100-mile trail ultramarathon. I had other thoughts for fast times at shorter distances too. Unfortunately, they were just thoughts and not actions. The struggles and achievements Dean chronicles in his book motivated me to commit to some serious training in hopes of a fast marathon in 2010. Maybe a fast ultra too. And a quick 5K for some variety! The book, along with talking with my running partner Jeff (see "The Running Pact" blog post before this one), got me to start doing instead of just talking.

One passage in Dean's book really caught my attention. On page 68, he has a spotlight section that answers one of his most frequently asked questions: How can you run 50 marathons in 50 days? He and his coach (Chris Carmichael) answer that question...

"We theorized that the best way to recover from one marathon was not to put myself too far in debt during the previous day's marathon. We did two things to meet this objective: First, we set a baseline fitness goal of being able to run a four-hour marathon with an average heart rate of 110. We got there prior to the start of the first Endurance 50 marathon. Second, I participated in numerous ultra-marathons that were much longer than 26.2 miles. The thinking here was that if I could run a hundred miles comfortably, I could click off a marathon without undue strain."

This makes sense. It's also pretty awesome to be able to run a marathon with an average HR of 110. I want to be that fit! Well, at least much fitter than I am now. My main fitness goal over the next 6 months will be to develop my aerobic base. I want long runs to eventually feel easy--maybe not with an average HR of 110, but under 140 would be cool. I'll be tracking my heart rate over the next few months and reporting on my Friday morning benchmark runs. Before my goal marathon in 2010, I'll run several ultra marathons to get in those "over distance" workouts that should make the marathon distance seem easy. Of course, I'll need more than just great aerobic fitness and long runs to race a fast marathon. Details of my training plan and goal race coming up soon.

For now, I just want to send a virtual "thank you" out to Dean Karnazes. He isn't too bad. In fact, he's an alright dude. I feel like I'm rising out of my old shell and emerging into a true runner thanks to his inspirational runs and writing. The Awakening has begun! Thanks Dean.


Roger said...


Thanks for sending the thumbs-up Dean's way! I met Dean at St. Charles, MO., for his 1st marathon of the E50 (I ran the 1/2)and also ran 17-18 miles with him when he came back through Illinois as he ran back to St. Charles from NY. From my experiences, he is a very down-to-earth, positive, personable, accommodating guy. The nut didn't fall far from the tree as his dad is equally as enjoyable.

I've only been running 4 1/2 years but I noticed the Clinton 30-miler early-on and it is definitely on my to-do list. It will not happen next year as I'm planning on putting everything into the Illinois Marathon for a BQ, but it will happen.

Two hours South in Vandalia,

Chris Ⓥ said...

I met Dean in 2007 at the Badwater Ultramarathon. He and his crew were a bit aloof at first, but warmed up to us eventually (our runner was close to him for a few miles in the middle of the race). I suppose if you're in the middle of a super-long and HOT race, you can be excused for being focused on your actual run rather than fans. In this book, he comes across as rather down-to-earth and jovial.

Do Clinton Lake ultra one of these years--it's a great trail course and a fun race. I too am focused on a BQ time in 2010 (not at the Illinois Marathon, but one in the fall).