Take Your Body for a Ride like Dean K.

There’s a good article in this month’s Wired Magazine about Dean Karnazes who is the most hard-core runner i have ever read about. He wasn’t a serious running until his 30th birthday when, after taking down a few too many tequila shots, he stripped down to his underwear and like Forest Gump – just started running. That was 1992. Since then, he’s been a frickin’ machine.He recently ran 50 marathons in 50 days (age 44). He ran 350 miles without sleeping (over 3 days). He ran the only marathon to the South Pole. The list goes on and on. The guy is awesome.

One of the great quotes of the article is this:

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!! What a ride!

Good to remember as i get my ass back in shape now that i’ve finished my holiday ass-expansion program.

More of the article after the jump….

Here are his 12 steps for success, taken directly from Wired:

Finding the right challenge is the first challenge. “Any goal worth achieving involves an element of risk,” Karnazes says in his autobiography, Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner. Risk, yes, and creativity too. For instance, looking for the ultimate endurance running challenge, in 1995 Karnazes entered a 199-mile relay race – by himself. He competed against eight teams of 12 and finished eighth.

One of the biggest annoyances in long-distance running is lace management. After banging out 50 miles, it can be hard to squat or even bend over long enough to tie your shoes. The North Face recently responded to Karnazes’ complaints and came out with the $130 M Endurus XCR Boa. Its laceless upper is enmeshed in thin steel cables that connect to a tension dial at the back. A simple turn cinches the shoe onto the foot. No more slowing down to fiddle with laces.

In 1995, Karnazes ran his first Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile trek that starts in Death Valley, California, in the middle of summer and finishes at the Mt. Whitney Portals, 8,360 feet above sea level. After running 72 miles in 120-degree heat, Karnazes collapsed on the side of the road suffering from hallucinations, diarrhea, and nausea. He had pushed himself to the point of death to find out whether he was strong enough to survive. He was. Though he didn’t finish the race that year, Karnazes came back the next and placed 10th. He won it on his fifth attempt, in 2004. “Somewhere along the line, we seem to have confused comfort with happiness,” he says.

You wouldn’t believe the stuff Karnazes consumes on a run. He carries a cell phone and regularly orders an extra-large Hawaiian pizza. The delivery car waits for him at an intersection, and when he gets there he grabs the pie and rams the whole thing down his gullet on the go. The trick: Roll it up for easy scarfing. He’ll chase the pizza with cheesecake, cinnamon buns, chocolate éclairs, and all-natural cookies. The high-fat pig-out fuels Karnazes’ long jaunts, which can burn more than 9,000 calories a day. What he needs is massive amounts of energy, and fat contains roughly twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates. Hence, pizza and éclairs. When he’s not in the midst of some record-breaking exploit, Karnazes maintains a monkish diet, eating grilled salmon five nights a week. He strictly avoids processed sugars and fried foods – no cookies or doughnuts. He even tries to steer clear of too much fruit because it contains a lot of sugar. He believes this approach – which nutritionists call a slow-carb diet – has reshaped him, lowering his body fat and building lean muscle. It also makes him look forward to running a race, because he can eat whatever he wants.

Karnazes has a wife and two kids, and he worked a 9-to-5 job for the first eight years of his quest to transcend his own limits. Finding four hours for a 30-mile run during the day was next to impossible. The solution: sleep less. “Forgoing sleep is the only way I’ve figured out how to fit it all in,” he says, noting that running in the dark can be soothing. Plus, there’s less traffic to contend with. He now gets about four hours of shut-eye a night. Before he started running, however, he was just a regular guy who got a regular eight. As he started to run more, he found that he could sleep less. The National Sleep Foundation reports that exercise does lead to more restful sleep, and Karnazes takes this idea to the extreme. “The human body,” he says, “is capable of extraordinary feats.”

“The human body has limitations,” Karnazes says. “The human spirit is boundless.” Your mind, in other words, is your most important muscle. As a running buddy told him: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!! What a ride!”

Karnazes wears a souped-up Timex that monitors his speed, distance, calories burned, and elevation, all of which is critical for deciding when to order the next pizza while in the midst of a 200-mile trek. Besides letting him order a pie on the run, his cell phone uses specialized GPS software to broadcast his location to the Internet for all to see. It’s fun to follow his icon rolling across the digital landscape, but it’s also useful when Karnazes disappears into the night. If he ever pushes himself too hard and collapses, his people can locate him. And fans would know something was wrong if his signal landed on top of a hospital icon.

If something goes wrong – and it inevitably will – it’s usually with Karnazes’ feet. In races and on training runs, he has battled giant, foot-devouring blisters. A surprisingly effective treatment: Krazy Glue. Pop the blister, slather the wound with the super-adhesive, and voilà – your foot is ready to take a beating again. The glue acts as a kind of indestructible second skin and has helped Karnazes finish competitions he wouldn’t have otherwise. (Officially, Krazy Glue recommends avoiding all contact with skin.)

If you’re going to explore the boundaries of human endurance, you’ll have to learn to adapt to more and more pain. To prepare for the searing heat of the Badwater race, Karnazes went on 30-mile jogs wearing a ski parka over a wool sweater. He trained himself to urinate while running. He got so he could go out and run a marathon on any given day – no mileage buildup or tapering required. This training made the extreme seem ordinary and made the impossible seem the next logical step. Eventually, when he grew accustomed to the pain, it stopped hurting. “There is magic in misery,” he says.

Before he became Superman, Karnazes was the Clark Kent of the PR world: a humdrum marketing executive at a pharmaceutical company. But in the past three years, he’s published a memoir, nabbed a sponsorship from the North Face, appeared on Late Show With David Letterman, and gotten himself on the cover of a handful of magazines. The book and the North Face contract generate enough money to support his family, and the high profile translates into maximum motivation: Failure is scarier when the family income is on the line.

Fifty-six miles into his first Western States Endurance Run – one of the oldest 100-mile races in the country – Karnazes found himself alone entering a canyon at twilight. It was tough going – the trek boasts a total elevation change of 38,000 feet. With 44 miles to go, his spirit was flagging, but he found a way to make it seem conquerable: He remembered the next checkpoint would leave only a marathon and two 10Ks left to go. He knew he could run each leg, and that helped him achieve the whole.

Forget tequila. Karnazes has given up hard drinking. His big vice these days: chocolate-covered espresso beans.

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