Monday, August 14, 2006

Ultramarathon Man; Dean Karnazes

I just finished the above title, for the second time in less than a week. I had to read it twice. It's a wonderful read. I can see why this book became a National Bestseller. It's fabulous.

Dean takes so much heat on the big ultra list. Oh my gosh, so many hate him. Hate his fame and fortune, I guess. I don't quite understand. Hate that he brought ultrarunning into the limelight for a few months..I'm not sure why the response to him is so negative. Same thing with Pam Reed, the big ultra list has nothing nice to say about these two and they don't know them any more than I do: not at all.

I think they are both incredible human beings, going farther than anyone says they can, digging deeper than they thought they could. How can a person not respect and honor that? Who cares if they make money off of the publicity they receive? More power to you!

Dean begins his book by talking of his childhood, brought up in CA as a surfer boy. He surfs, bikes, camps, hikes and runs. He ran Cross Country in High School and did well. He broke records and respected his coach. His coach taught him to 'run with his heart' and he did. Cross Country season ended and he tried out for track. He told the track coach he 'ran with his heart' his coach laughed at him out loud and mimicked him. Dean walked off the track and didn't run for 15 years.

He became very successful in business, climbing the corporate ladder, making tons of money, but felt empty. On this 30th Bday he and his wife went out and he became drunk. Upon arriving home for some reason he took out his gardening sneakers, took off his pants and ran in his boxers. For 30 miles. He called his wife in the morning and asked her to pick him up!! He was very sore but found what he had been missing. His love for running.

Shortly after this episode he was running in the CA hills and came across two other runners doing hill repeats. They told him they were training for Western States. He did a search and found out all about WS. He had never run longer than the 30 mile drunk stint but was intrigued. He decided he was going to run WS and needed to qualify by running a 50 mile race. 6 months later he did. He ran his first 50 in 8:47 and then went comatose in his car before leaving the lot. He recovered and trained hard. He quit eating sugar except during long long runs, gave up processed carbs and bad fats. He became a lean mean running machine.

Western States: He didn't know if he could dig deep enough, but knew he wanted it badly enough. He hung in to the finish. 21:01. 15th place. Yeah.

He was listening to his heart, finding his place in the world. He yearned to test the limits of human endurance and stretch the limits of himself. He needed to know if he could run over 100 m iles. If it could be done, he wanted to do it. He needed to know how far he could go.

He lined up at Badwater the following year but didn't finish. He passed out at mile 72 and the party was over. He trained for Badwater for over a year but didn't have what it took to finish.

The following year he trained harder and ran smarter and he finished Badwater.

He works full time, is a Dad to two, a husband and still trains by his heart. He has begun to run races that raise money for underprivileged children and children ill of health. He ran a relay of 200 miles solo, raising money for a heart transplant for a little girl. He was successful, Libby received the transplant and lives today.

It was an awesome book. Inspiring, motivational, just all around a good read.

I'm now reading The Perfect Mile and enjoying that very much, too!

6 comments:

olga said...

Hey, you pretty much told the whole book! How about those who still hasn't read it? :)
It was an easy read. I don't know if I'd read it more than once - I passed my book further through friends - but once was worth it. It's a good book for starters. He does have a great body too to draw people into sports:)

Ben, aka BadBen said...

DK is our good-looking poster boy for ultrarunning.

I have no beef with DK, like so many on the ultra listserv do. I think his main fault is that he is so excited about ultrarunning, that he makes mistakes, doesn't realize or just plain omits the accomplishments of others when talking about his "records." This is what other ultrarunners can't forgive him for.

That said, I think he is a much more well-rounded and "healthy" example of what an accomplished UR should be. Many URs are unhealthy or do detriment to their health with their ultrarunning adventures. Many are not mentally healthy, either. That's part of the reason that the non-ultrarunning world thinks we're a bunch of eccentric kooks. IMHO, Pam Reed and a few others fit into this category to a lesser or greater extent.

Dean helps swing the Ultrarunning pendulum back into the "cool" zone.

Debbie said...

Julie, have you read "Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race" by Dick Beardsley? It's a very inspiring story. I was fortunate enough to meet Dick this spring when he was guest speaker at the pre-race pasta dinner at the "Forest City Road Races" in London, Ontario. He is a true hero, and he's from your neck of the woods!

Jack said...

I've also read the book twice and find Dean's accomplishments to be pretty amazing. I also agree with Ben comments, both the positive and negative. Ben raises a very good point that many URs are not in peak shape, physically or mentally. I know I sure don't look the part. Dean is definitely a poster figure of maybe what we should all strive for.

Susan said...

I need to get all of those books. They sound great. Dean has been in the news a lot lately.

Travis said...

Lots of good comments here. I heard him on NPR back in March 2005 and then bought his book. I was inspired and ran my first ultra in April of 2006 and do triathlons now too. For me seeing what limits other were pushing themselves to was a kick in the butt for me to get off the couch. He is more media friendly then some, but lets be honest, who makes the covers of the magazines, normal average built guy/girl or someone with a good physical build. Ben said it best with the "cool zone" comment and that may be the issue. Die-hard ultra runners dont want a cool sport that everyone wants to do. The more media attention the sport gets the more it becomes an everyman sport. Even though I doubt most are ever going to put in the time or effort to complete a 50K or above just for the heck of it. :)