First, thanks for the opportunity to gain some insight into possibly the greatest endurance athlete ever. Marshall Ulrich (Marsh) is an accomplished Endurance Athlete, Trainer, Guide, Author, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist. Considered the “Endurance King” by Outside magazine, Ulrich’s specialty is competing in extreme conditions. He has climbed Mount Everest, completed the Seven Summits all on first attempts, finished more than 126 ultra-marathons averaging over 125 miles each, became the first person, along with firefighter Dave Heckman to circumnavigate the entire Death Valley National click here Park and is one of only three people in the world to have competed in all nine Eco-Challenge adventure races.
Times have changed, as I am sure you are aware, and fitness technology has become an epidemic in America from the latest iPhone app to the next sports watch. These technologies are monitoring your exercise levels, calories, sleep, blood sugar, heart rate, altitude, global position with more applications being developed daily.
From learning a little more about your mental mentality when training and racing and your philosophy of less is best, I hoped you could answer a few questions about the next generation of endurance athletes.
Q. I’m sure when you first started your career it was shorts, shirt (maybe), socks and shoes and you were ready to run, now it’s what music you workout to, heart rate monitoring, calories burned, GPS and mileage tracking all in one device. My question, have you succumbed to modern advances in your training and races and begun utilizing fitness gadgets or technology per say?
A. Right! When I first started in my late twenties, Sony hadn’t introduced the Walkman in the United States yet, and I didn’t even wear running shoes, just an old pair of low-top Converse I’d had since I was a kid. Back then, we had no gadgetry at all, and in many ways that was a good thing: no distractions except what your mind could conjure up. It definitely made you tune into your own body in a way that can be hindered by constantly staring at readouts and futzing with settings and whatnot. But I do appreciate having music now, especially when distraction will help me get through a tough spot, let me “zone out.” Recently, Dave Heckman and I used GPS during our trek around the Death Valley National Park, as we’d recorded coordinates for food/supply caches we’d buried along our route. We also carried a satellite phone to call for help if we needed it.
But I think it’s important not to rely too much on these things. We’d also taken photographs of the surroundings where we’d buried caches. We always knew where we were on a map (using a compass), as sometimes the GPS couldn’t tell us what we needed to know when traversing around tricky terrain. It was the most effective if we used our senses in conjunction with the GPS to maximize efficiency of movement. And we’d prepared ourselves to be as self-reliant as possible – we never did have to use the sat phone for an emergency. You’re not doing yourself any favors if you can’t run without music blaring in your ears, or if you think that technology will get you out of a serious jam. This stuff can get in the way of real adventure, of being present to your surroundings and your own experience of running.
Q. If not yourself, do you have your students track and/or monitor their progression with any advanced fitness technologies?
A. No, I pretty much leave that up to them. If they feel more comfortable using monitors for heart, pace, and distance, that’s okay-but what I advise is that you listen to your body, as it will tell you things that gadgets won’t, such as when and what to eat (follow your cravings), whether you’re hydrated (if your urine’s darker than it should be, then drink), or if your electrolytes are balanced (if there is salt caked around your temples, for example, then it’s likely you need more salt).