Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pre- Badwater Interview with NewRo Runners

I was recently interviewed by the NewRo Runners, a great local running organization here in Westchester County which I am a part of. I thought I would share it with you.

NewRo Runners ("NROR") sat down with our own Eric Gelber ("EG") on the eve of his next ultra-challenge, perhaps the THE most difficult running race in the world - The Badwater Ultramarathon - The Challenge of the Champions. Recognized globally as "the world's toughest foot race," this legendary event pits 98 of the world's toughest athletes-runners, triathletes, adventure racers, and mountaineers-against one another and the elements. Covering 135 miles (217km) non-stop from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA in temperatures up to 130F (55c), it is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. The 35th anniversary edition will be held July 16-18, 2012.


NROR: When did you start running and what got you motivated?
EG: I ran my first marathon, NYC in 2001 after a late night drunken challenge from a friend. I would not run another until 2007. Following a 2006 interview I saw with Dean Karnazes during his 50 in 50 I decided to get off my lazy ass and start running. "If this guy can run a marathon a day, I can certainly run 5 miles a day" is what I told myself. I did not decide to run 2007 until I saw our friend Anita go through a stem cell transplant for her multiple myeloma (blood cancer). When I saw how she suffered I knew I had to do something. Running seemed to be a way I could help by using it to raise money.

NROR: When did you realize that you had the DNA to be an Ultra runner?
EG: I guess it was in 2009 when I ran past 26.2 for the first time. Not sure when else it would have been because who would be dumb enough to ever think about running more than a marathon let alone actually do it.

NROR: What was your first ultra and what got you interested in doing an ultra?
EG: I ran the Bear Mountain 50k in May of 2009. My first ultra just like my first marathon was on a dare. The only difference was I was sober when I agreed this time.

NROR: Do you think people either have the Ultra DNA or not? Can any runner become an ultra runner?
EG: I think any runner can complete an ultra (hell if you have done a marathon just run one more mile). My buddy who ran the Grand Canyon with me this year had never run more than a ½ prior to training for the GC. In my opinion, marathons are such huge money makers now and promoted so heavily, most people simply don't think about ultras because it's not the main stream. Our running society is dominated by the marathon being the ultimate test. I am not suggesting they are not difficult because they are, they are just different.

NROR: You have a blog. How did it get started and why and how did you choose the name?
EG: Nothing too creative here. One of my ultra buddies told me that "all ultra runners blog". He lied, but once I go into it I really enjoyed it, although as you know with all you do for NewRo it can be time consuming. The name Just A Mile To Go http://www.justamiletogo.com/ was something my wife came up with and it seemed fitting to me on so many levels.

NROR: So why Badwater? http://www.badwater.com
EG: Well this requires several answers. First, I decided I wanted to shoot for the moon back in 2009 after I completed my first 50 miler and Badwater seemed to me, to be the Holy Grail of ultras. Promoted as the World's Toughest Footrace, it is remote and self supported, it is VERY long at 135 miles with elevation and altitude, and most of all it is BRUTALLY HOT (up to 130F). Not to mention because they only accept 90-100 applicants each year I wanted in. If few have done it, I want it simple as that. Second, after I crewed for a friend in 2009 and 2010 I wanted it even more. Too see how even the most elite athletes in the field can be gliding along effortlessly one minute and flat on their backs the next trying to figure out a way to continue....WOW. It is hard to explain but one of the things that really drives me to want to do these types of events are how difficult they are. Not just physically, but mentally. Things will get bad there is no doubt. There will be moments when I will think it impossible to continue. Hopefully my crew and I will figure out a way to keep going when this happens, over and over again for hours upon hours. Anyone can keep going when things are going well, but you will learn so much about yourself if you keep pushing when you think you can't take another step. Lastly, I figured out a couple of years ago that the farther I run and crazier people view these actions, the more they realize how much the cause (Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation) for which I run means and the more awareness and money we raise. We have just about hit $20,000 this year and have surpassed $100,000 all time since I began this journey. My wife and I are very proud of this.

NROR: What are the entrance requirements?
EG: Basically you must have completed 3 official 100 mile events within the required cut off time with at least 1 of those being in the past year. These races must be continuous as stage races do not count. At that point you are able to apply. I believe there are many other factors that go into the selection process but they are not defined. Crewing or volunteering is not required (although I think it should be) but is looked upon favorably.

NROR: How have you been training? Weekly miles? Daily calorie intake?
EG: My typical week consists of 2 cross training days and 4 run days. My cross training consists of cardio and circuits with lots of core work. Run days are usually 2 shorter runs of say 6-12 miles during the week and long runs on Saturdays and Sundays with runs in the 20 to 50 miles range. I don't focus too much on weekly mileage or daily calorie intake (I am not a 100 mile a week guy. A big week is probably 70-80). I am more concerned with the quality of my runs and nutrition training on the long ones. I have been focused on lots of hill work leading into Badwater and of course heat training which I am in the midst of. This involves simply sitting in a sauna at 160-200 degrees for 30-60 minutes per day every day for 4 weeks straight. This will help me acclimatize to the heat and get my body used to processing fluids in the heat which is often an issue at BW.

NROR: There is a rumor that you are required to sign a disclaimer form which includes something about renal failure? What is the full text of that clause?
EG: If there was such a rumor it would go something like this. "I understand that the extreme conditions in this race, including but not limited to temperatures in excess of 130F, wind, dust, high altitude, and radiant surface temperatures in excess of 180F, make the risk of dehydration, altitude sickness, significant skin damage, blistering, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, traffic accident, renal shutdown, brain damage and death are possible."

NROR: How did you find NewRo Runners, and what keeps you connected to our club whose running distance goals equal your warm up run?
EG: Mark Medin works with a friend of mine and he somehow learned about the 155 mile non-stop run I completed last year and I guess he wanted to learn more about that. She introduced us and it has been true love ever since. (NROR is not sure if the true love is with Mark or NewRo Runners. You believe what you like, but we believe Eric is in love with NewRo Runners). I love to run, meet new people and hear all of the incredible stories. Everyone has a story to tell and I just get so energized watching people push themselves beyond perceived limits. I also love" the all are welcome" community spirit of NewRo. You guys rock that's all.

NROR: Who is your running hero or inspiration?
EG: Running hero has to go to Dean Karnazes. He put himself out there for the world to see and has inspired many including me. Not to mention I am jealous because he actually makes a living doing it. Inspiration, is my family, no contest. My wife and children remind me every day that we can be passionate in our goals yet remain caring and giving in our lives.

NROR: How supportive is your family?
EG: 100% I could not and would not do it without them. They encourage me in my training, come to all of my races and they have never once told me not to do it. Although one time when watching an Everest documentary my wife (Tani) saw my eyes glaze over and gave me a little reality check.

NROR: What is your next challenge after Badwater?
EG: Walking!

NewRo Runners wishes Eric all the best and G-d speed for Badwater. He certainly has inspired many of us, not only with his super-human running abilities, but also with his gift of writing. Check out his blog if you have not already done so. http://www.justamiletogo.com/

Peace and Have A Great Day!

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