Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 108 - Alyssa Clark - FINDING EQUILIBRIUM

I was in a good spot. Physically, I was just kind of going. I wasn’t injured. I figured out my equilibrium. It’s amazing that the body finds an equilibrium on this, but it did it. That’s what it became. 
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 108 - Alyssa Clark - FINDING EQUILIBRIUM

ALYSSA: [00:00:00] I was in a good spot. Physically, I was just kind of going. I wasn’t injured. I figured out my equilibrium. It’s amazing that the body finds an equilibrium on this, but it did it. That’s what it became. It’s like, ah, do you want to run a marathon today. Okay. And so I felt that I would be leaving something unfinished if I didn’t try to go for 100 and in back of my head, I was like, yeah, it’s probably going to stop at 95 which…

[Intro Music]

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JESSE: [00:00:54] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is an ultrarunner. Recently, she set the American record for running 95 marathons in 95 days. She is a running coach. So, welcome to the show, Alyssa Clark.

ALYSSA: [00:01:10] Glad to be on. Thanks for having me.

JESSE: [00:01:13] I should also say you’re a teacher, which is important to note, as we were talking about before we got going. My family is both teachers. So, I think it’s important to acknowledge teachers for the job that they do in trying to educate the children of our culture and make them into adults — adults that know things.

ALYSSA: [00:01:32] We try our best. Yeah, you always think there’s no pressure — Well, I always think of teaching as kind of failing a little bit every day because if you don’t set the bar extremely high, I don’t think you’re doing enough. So, every day, I feel like I’m failing a little bit, but I think that that’s a good thing. And I also always think back to my high school teachers, and I’m like, oh, yeah, I remember the ones that crushed my dreams about being good at this subject. And I remember the ones that made me feel like I was really good at it. So, I want to be one of the teachers that makes sure I build my students up. So, that’s kind of my teaching philosophy 101, I guess.

JESSE: [00:02:16] Yeah, I guess there is, like two different ways to go at it. Where it’s like I — come from your perspective, where it’s like let’s build them up and fill them with knowledge and make them know that they can know this. Or you go, I’m going to crush you under my heel. And if you decide that you still want to do this, then you are worthy.

ALYSSA: [00:02:33] Fair, fair. I just remember I had a couple of teachers — I wanted to be a vet for a long time when I was younger, and I had a biology class and it crushed my soul. And I was like, I’m terrible at biology. I can never do this. And I had an English teacher who I loved more than anything and now I’m an English teacher. So, I think our teachers really do influence us a lot more than maybe we think we do — they do. It’s just nerve racking at times.

JESSE: [00:03:06] You’ve got a lot of impact. Yeah, though, I understand that. And I think some people come to certain subjects with a greater or worse disposition or ability to grasp that subject. But sometimes I wonder if it’s not the teaching style too that plays a factor in that comprehension, just because like, I think back to — So, math came more naturally to me than it did many other students. And I somehow wound up being a math major in college, even though after high school, I was like, I’m done — kinda long story. But it basically was like a, maybe just one more. And I think you have a little bit of attitude with that with the marathon’s. Maybe just one more.

ALYSSA: [00:03:54] That’s a whole story.

JESSE: [00:03:55] So, we’ll get there in a minute, because I want to know about that. So, I understood what the teacher was doing. The other kids would be like, I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about right now. But then like, I would explain it to them and they’ll go, okay. It’s just like the way she was communicating it, they didn’t understand. And if I could reword it, then they would get like — This isn’t to be braggadocious on my part, but it is accurate.

I was voted new teacher of the class two years in a row. It was the same teacher for different classes, geometry and then algebra two, just because I had some ability to translate what she was saying and make it more relatable to the kids who were having a hard time. So, and that it feels like just luck of the draw, right? Like, you don’t go — in high school, you’re not like, I want Mrs. Clark. Like, she has a really great English class. Like, I don’t know that you get to choose that most of the time, right?

ALYSSA: [00:04:55] No. No, not normally. But I do think there’s some people and you must be one of them then that have — So, I feel like — I was joking that boiling teaching down is essentially, say that again, but better this time. So, it’s just like explaining yourself five different ways so that you can make sure that each student connects to that in some way.

So, it sounds like with your case, the way that you were introducing the information, it wasn’t that it was new, but you just had a way that landed with people that your other teacher didn’t. So, that’s really fascinating. It actually makes total sense that you’re from a family of teachers, because I’m sure, your dad probably had — he knew how to explain things to you in a multitude of ways. And you probably picked up on that. So, that’s kind of — that’s pretty cool.

JESSE: [00:05:45] Maybe. I don’t know, but yeah, he taught — He was a world history and geography teacher, and then he dabbled in teaching freshmen algebra. He did that for almost 30 years. And so I’m sure some of that, but — I have an older father, so I’m 32. And I think how old he is — 78. So, he had basically was retiring while I was in elementary school. So, I didn’t get a lot of the teaching years, like my older, older siblings did. So, maybe some of that rubbed off. I think some of it too, is like — I was involved in martial arts from a young age. And I was the assistant teacher from a relatively young, probably middle school onwards.

So, like, I was directly involved in trying to teach concepts to younger kids on a weekly basis, too. So, some of it may have been inherited. Some of it may have been just experience. I don’t know. Everything gets fuzzy when you look back farther and farther, and you try to put the pieces together. And you’re like, I don’t know anymore. Yeah. But that — So, I want to get to the marathons and the question that I wanted to ask is — so I listened to this podcast, I think you were only like 66 marathons in at the time — [crosstalk]

ALYSSA: [00:07:12] Was it Science of Ultra?

JESSE: [00:07:15] Yeah.

ALYSSA: [00:07:15] Yeah. That’s my coach, Shawn.

JESSE: [00:07:17] Okay. Okay. So, then — Well, and the way — That’s interesting to know because the way he was talking to you, I was just like, I feel like you’re pretty — you’re imposing your thoughts on her pretty strongly. Like, I don’t know that I would be that presumptuous with a guest on my podcast. So, that makes a little more sense. But at that time, you were like, it was like 75 was the number. But clearly, that’s not where it stopped. So, how did you get to that just one more — Was it just one more? Were you like, no, not 75, 85, 85, 100? Like, what happened between there and the finish?

ALYSSA: [00:07:59] That’s a really good question. Also, it’s hilarious. My friend is actually here right now. She heard that podcast and was screaming liar at the podcast, because it came out far after I continued. I was like, yeah, you’re right. I think — So, after I hit — it was going to be 65, I think. And after I hit 65, I thought 75. And you know, there’s a lot of factors that went into it. I had [inaudible 00:08:32] 100 when I was around 50. And I was like, why don’t you go run 100 marathons? Like, that sounds like fun for you. Because I was — It was really hard. But I think I was trying to figure out where I would be satisfied.

And I felt when I got to 75 that I just wasn’t satisfied with it ending there. And I was in a good spot physically. I was just kind of going. I wasn’t injured. I figured out my equilibrium. It’s amazing that the body finds an equilibrium on this, but it did it. That’s what it became is like, ah, do you want to run a marathon today. Okay. And so I felt that I would be leaving something unfinished if I didn’t try to go for 100 and in the back of my head, I was like, yeah, it’s probably going to stop at 95 which… that’s a whole other story. But it was that and also, there were a lot of factors.

So, we’d just moved from Italy, we were moving to a new place. I didn’t know anyone. I had to give up my job, which is just part of the military. And the marathons were a friend. I mean, they were the thing that was mine. And they were the thing that I kept with me through an international move through losing friends, losing my job, the thing that, you know, became my purpose during COVID. And I think that I was really scared to let that go as well. And in many ways, it was much easier to continue to run the marathons than it was to stop.

And so that’s funny to say, because most rational people would be like, what? Running marathons is easier? And it was. It was the thing that gave me purpose every day, it gave me focus. It was something that, in a small way, I felt like I was bringing some positivity into the world when the world was kind of crashing around all of us. And so I think I was actually really afraid to stop, because I didn’t know what the other side looked like. So, I think that there were a lot of factors that came into it, as well.

JESSE: [00:10:49] Well, I mean, it seems like you mentioned people kind of balking at the idea and going how is that easier? It’s like, well, at that point, like I’m already 75 marathons in. Like, the physicality of it, like you learn to deal with the physicality of it, but then as you mentioned, it being that kind of like, lifeline or dependence or that the rock in your life, aside from your husband, I imagine.

There is something to — I think the balking is more about people just being like, how do you run a marathon and not understanding that it’s like, maybe to them, it’s like, well, you’re going to go out and walk five miles or something every day. Like, that’s your commitment, this is my commitment. And then to have done it so many days in a row and then to give that up to the unknown, like there is a trepidation or anxiety or anxiousness there because it’s — we like what’s familiar.

ALYSSA: [00:12:02] And when everything else in your world is in flux and in chaos as what happens when you’re a military spouse, running is the only thing that can’t be taken away from me. No matter where I go, I can always run. I always have that, it’s always my rock. And of course, my husband is, absolutely, but he’s not always — He’s working, he’s gone, he’s not always there, and running is the thing I’ve taken with me and kept in my pocket, whether we lived in Hawaii, Italy, Florida, and now here. And it’s also something that’s really respected, it’s respected in the military to have physical prowess. And so I think I carry that as well. Because there is, it’s not an even male-female split of power.

But I mean, the male almost always is the one in the military, and the female is the one that’s kind of following him around. And I think that I gain a lot of respect as a spouse because of my physical abilities. And so I think that’s something I hold very dearly. And I also recognize that there is a certain unfairness to that, that I’m respected more because of that. But I also think that I use that as something as a mark of pride of like, this is what I’m capable of, this is something that’s recognized as being worthy. And so that is another factor of it. I think I was keeping the marathons going because it was something that was respected. So, yeah.

JESSE: [00:13:42] Well, I mean, that’s a tribe mentality, right? It’s like, these are the things we value as a tribe when we talk about the military. I’m not in the military. So, I can only speak from an outsider’s perspective. So, I’m sure I’m going to butcher things. But it’s like you respect physical prowess, like technical ability, and certain — maybe it’s being a rifleman, or you know, whatever technical job that you have. Like, there are niches within the military for different jobs and obviously, ranks. Like, there’s things that are recognized as valuable as individuals. And then that’s your tribe.

So, it’s like, I can understand you coming at it from that standpoint because then it’s like, all these people, like it’s meeting them at their level with the things that they value instead of being like, well, no let me tell you about why teachers are valuable or trying to convince them of something else. It’s like, no, let’s wedge in exactly right where you are. And then from here, maybe you have the possibility to say, also, these other things are valuable, too. I just hadn’t thought about them before.

ALYSSA: [00:14:56] Exactly. In the military, which I mean, I think is a good thing, they respect mental fortitude, and it did take a fair amount of mental fortitude to run that many in a row. There were certainly days where it was really, really hard. And the interesting thing about it was that it wasn’t one of those things where, oh, if you have a bad day, or you mess up. tomorrow’s a new day. It was if I don’t finish this, then it’s done. So, there wasn’t a DNF, there wasn’t a moment where you could say today, I don’t feel like doing that, or today isn’t my day. Because if today isn’t your day, then tomorrow doesn’t happen. So, that was a really interesting aspect of it as well.

JESSE: [00:15:52] Well, it’s funny, you had started that sentence, it did take and then my brain, like, auto-finished it and it was waiting for you to say it did take 65 days for anybody in the military to recognize it was.

ALYSSA: [00:16:06] No, no. So, in Italy, we couldn’t run outside so — Well, we could only run on the military base because it’s like weird kind of American laws in there. And then we could run — I could run on a treadmill, which luckily, we had one. And so I’d be running around base and running around base, and oh my gosh, so many people would cheer me on, would come up to me, like run some with me. There is so much support.

And it started getting attention in the military quite early. And I actually — this was kind of cool is that the commanding officer of the Navy, like the guy who sits with the president sent a message out, like congratulating me about the marathon. So, the Navy was definitely full support behind it for sure. Yeah. And also it’s good PR. I mean, they always want to see — the kids and the spouses sacrifice a lot of work stability and advancement in careers. And so they kind of like when there’s a feel good story about look and she can still do it.

JESSE: [00:17:20] Yeah. No, it’s just, you know, like me, you know, like my brain all completing that sentence, it was just like, that’s — and not even my own biases. It’s just like trying to find the hook or the story in there it’s like — it’s that — maybe that’s my own, like PR brain being like, [inaudible 00:17:43] determined to like be recognized. But it’s like, okay, well, that wasn’t the actual story. That’s just your brain making up a story instead of listening. But because it happened, I wanted to share it with you. It’s just insights into my own brain that I find amusing, going, why did that happen? Let’s share it with you.

ALYSSA: [00:18:04] Well, it’s funny, because I mean, the whole thing, I honestly — I started out thinking I would run 14. I just wanted to run one until we could go run outside, legally, like not on a military base where I ran two mile loops or on a treadmill. And then I just kept escalating and escalating and escalating. And I never, ever did it expecting anything to come out of it. I posted on my Instagram every day just because I — again, I was hoping that maybe I could inspire someone who was really struggling to just put one step in front of the other, whatever that means; metaphorically or getting out and running to relieve some stress or anxiety during COVID. And it started picking up attention, I would say around 50 or 60. Like, right in the 50s-60s was when it kind of blew up.

And it was so overwhelming because, well first of all, my brain was exhausted. I mean, imagine having runner’s brain for like months. But it was so overwhelming because I never set out for it to be a PR thing or to get anything out of it. It was merely just this thing that grew into something much more than I ever expected or anticipated. In many ways, it was just something to keep doing every day. And then it became something that started to mean something to other people.

Which that was kind of the part that I loved the most about it. But in terms of the PR stuff, I was pretty shocked about how much it did escalate. And there were moments where I wished it would all go away because there’s a lot more pressure when you do a lot of people watching you and a lot of — you know, people always have mean things to say. And that– [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:20:06] Some people certainly do.

ALYSSA: [00:20:08] Yeah. And so I just stopped reading comments sections on Runner’s World or [inaudible 00:20:12] I was like yeah, I just don’t — I don’t need that in my life. And that, yeah, that was really hard because it felt like I was getting attacked. Personally, I was like, I don’t even want this attention. I just like running. Yeah. But it’s — I don’t think there’s an athlete out there who’s done anything noteworthy that doesn’t get slammed by someone or something for some reason. So, it just comes with the territory. But yeah, it was just this — it’s crazy because I’m getting all these Facebook memories of it, because it was just a year ago it’s all happening. And I — Gosh, it’s just — it’s crazy that it’s been a year.

And it was such an interesting time in my life, because in one way, you’re so mana focused on the singular moment, because you can’t look ahead because it’s extremely overwhelming if you think about how many you have left, that you just have to think about what’s right in front of you. But also, I just — like, it was life-changing in so many ways. And it’s just funny to think of something where like an accidental start to a journey where you just go to your husband and you’re like, I’m really bored. What do you think if I run a marathon every day for like, a week, and then it blows up into that. It’s just — it’s nuts. Yeah.

JESSE: [00:21:41] This is the burning question I have to ask you and that is, is it possible to count how many people called you Forrest Gump along your journey?

ALYSSA: [00:21:56] Probably not. But probably even just from my friend, she called me a lot. She’s like, okay, you cannot run past three or I will kill you. Like you need to stop. But yeah, I do get that a lot. She’d always be like I just felt like running. That’s kind of the truth, though, is I really just like, I really like running. This is great. I love — Running is the best part of my day, almost every day. I love it every day. And I think when you find something like that, you hold on to it.

JESSE: [00:22:33] Yeah. Well, there’s — So, I think anybody that runs has been yelled — somebody’s yelled forest at them at some point in time, if not multiple times. But I just think about yours in particular, because it was such this long journey. And then — How many miles total were — you ran? [crosstalk]

ALYSSA: [00:22:52] Yeah. It was almost 2,500.

JESSE: Okay.

ALYSSA: Yeah. So, I think if you could have — [crosstalk]

JESSE: Could have gone coast to coast.

ALYSSA: Yeah. And I know — [crosstalk]

JESSE: I think it’s about — It’s something like 25-27 or something. I’ve looked at it before.

ALYSSA: [00:23:08] Yeah, I think it was the same. And part of me — I’ve been asked if I would ever do it again, and my response is like, absolutely not because I would much rather put that amount of mileage into running across the country or doing something else where I was having a lot of different experiences along the way and seeing a lot of things. I mean, I’m grateful that I chose to start it. But it’s not something — First of all, I’m not a roadrunner, I don’t like flat road running, which is what mostly I did because hills kill me. I don’t even really like marathons that much. I love ultra marathons. So, it really doesn’t fit — It doesn’t fit like any box in what I enjoy or what I’m good at as an athlete. I’m like the longer mountainous, ridiculously hard ultra, I can find I want to do it.

So, the marathons were fun, and they were something that was like a very unique thing is I think all of us during the COVID time were like, what can we do so we don’t lose our minds? So, that was the thing that I found. But yeah, I would never — I hope someone goes and breaks it. That would be awesome. It’s like records are meant to be broken.

JESSE: [00:24:32] Yeah. Well, I just — I hadn’t thought about it until just now, like, at one point, I had won a bet with one of the guys I ran with in college and so he’ll never — well and I have to decide to want to do it too. But he’ll never own up to doing this, but he owes me a run across America. And I hadn’t thought about this again — quite some time. [inaudible 00:24:54] I was thinking about it. I was like oh, that’s — I was like I think if you did 95 days because I know, I had planned it out.

I was like, well, if you did 20 mile days or something like that, it’d take like almost four months or something like that. Taking one day off a week, I think running six days a week, taking Sundays off or something. And then I was also thinking about — I can’t remember whether he completed or not, but there was a guy trying to break the Trans American record and do it in like 60 days or something. And that was, I want to say 2009-ish. I think he was like making a documentary of it so it’s probably out there somewhere. But that seemed bonkers to me because I was going to be like an ultra every day for 60 — you know.

ALYSSA: [00:25:40] The dude who set it, I think is like over 50 miles a day.

JESSE: Yeah.

ALYSSA: And he set it back in I think like the 80s or the 90s and it’s been untouchable for a really long time. It’s just nuts. Yeah. That’s a lot. You know, it’s funny, because I’m the one saying like, that’s a lot.

JESSE: That’s a lot.

ALYSSA: It is a lot. It’s — I mean, like 26 miles is a lot, but then adding in the travel component, adding in terrain variation, and all those factors, that’s a lot. Heat differences — Yeah.

JESSE: [00:26:16] Heat differences, you got to have or do you have a support vehicle, do you like doing the stroller method? Like —

ALYSSA: [00:26:25] Have you watched Rickey Gates Transamericana, I think it’s what’s called? If you’re interested in the whole Trans American thing, that is an awesome, awesome documentary. It’s out on YouTube, I think.

JESSE: [00:26:38] Okay. I’ll have to look at that later.

ALYSSA: [00:26:41] Yeah, he’s super cool. And he also goes into, and that’s kind of why I would want to run across America because I spent a few years outside of the US. And I haven’t lived in the continental US, I had not for five years. And then I came back and it was, we — Like I ran a marathon and then we were in Charleston and then the BLM protests were happening that night and it was chaos, and I completely — It was a reverse culture shock to come back to the US, and then going to Florida, which I’m from New England originally. So, there was so much of the US that I feel like I don’t understand.

And then I want to know, and I want to realize, and hopefully, talk to people along the way, and see — and just understand my country better. Because I feel more connected now. But for a long time, I felt like an alien in a place that I grew up in, which is odd. And so I think running across America is something I personally would want to do for — similar to what Rickey Gates did, which was these people — Like, I think of people as different than I am, but they’re not. We all are fundamentally the same and want the same things. Your screen went odd.

JESSE: [00:28:17] Okay. So, we lost me. It’s storming outside, the power went off in my house, Alyssa is humoring me by staying with me. And she’s like, where the hell did he go? Like, I said to her before, we got re-recording here, 107 episodes in, I’ve never had the power just shut off at my house for no reason in the middle of a podcast before. So, a first today, but we’ll get back to — You were talking about Rickey Gates and your appreciation for him or what he was doing, I think, if I recall where we were when we lost me.

ALYSSA: [00:28:55] Yeah. No, it’s all good. I like being first on things so this is very fitting. Yeah, I was just saying that I think that there is so much to see in America and I think there’s so much that we have to explore. And so I guess my feeling is that we have such polarizing viewpoints in this country right now.

But fundamentally, we all want the same thing. And I think that sometimes it takes putting yourself in a more vulnerable position to actually get to see that. And I think, running — I mean, I always say that I think running can save the world and I kind of stand by that. It’s a bit silly, but I think that at the core, it’s just putting yourself in vulnerable positions and hoping that you can inspire people and that you can also help people — well, that they — you allow yourself to be helped in many ways, if that makes sense.

JESSE: [00:29:57] Yeah. You know, there’s a — And sorry for the creaking. I have an old house so I’m trying to walk as the UPS guy is delivering things and sounds and it’s an interesting time here in my house right now. I always like, I don’t know. You probably feel this way, I hope, that like many people that really run or run a lot. It’s, I’ll say, almost like a religious experience. Like, there’s a connection to it that’s so much deeper than just like, hey, I’m going to go run some miles today for fitness.

Like, there’s something about identity and personality and like some kind of spiritual connection. And I think that’s maybe, and I’m assuming obviously, but — so feel free to correct me. But that’s where the idea is like running could save the world. It’s like, if everybody could feel that connection or that, that’s something like that, then we’d be able to relate to each other a little bit differently than we do now.

ALYSSA: [00:31:03] Yeah. Nope, that’s spot on. And you know, I feel this way about running but I also — I have so many people all the time be like, oh, I wish I could be a runner. I want to be a runner, but it just doesn’t click with me. And first of all, my first response is, give it more than two weeks because it sucked for everyone. If I have to take time off, the first two weeks are rough coming back in, it doesn’t feel good. It’s like, oh, this is why everyone hates running, because it’s really hard. But give yourself at least two weeks to start working through it.

And then I think the other thing is like you don’t have to be a runner. Like, running is not the pen-ultimum sport. It’s why there’s a bajillion — I mean, my friend tried every sport, she was trying to do every sport and then realized there’s 8,000 different sports. So, just find the thing that lights your soul on fire. And that’s what you should do. And whether it’s — to me, it’s running. It wasn’t running when I was younger, but it is now. It sounds like it’s been that way for you since you were 12.

JESSE: Yeah.

ALYSSA: For my husband, it’s doing scary things in the mountains that makes him excited — when there’s snow and ice and things that could kill you; he really likes that.

JESSE: [00:32:23] Well, for me, like when I was younger, there was something that I liked about doing the thing that everybody else hated to do. I said, do you hate it? I’m going to love it and I’m going to do it really well. I don’t know why I mentioned this in my most recent like Runner’s High video, which is a show I do on YouTube,

But that was kind of where it came from for me. And it grew because I’ve found those other aspects where it’s like, challenge yourself to be faster, so there’s a physical aspect. And then like dealing with being mentally uncomfortable and setting new goals and seeing how far you can go. Like, there’s all the aspects to it that have fed me over the years where it’s not just like I want to lose five pounds, or I want to gain muscle or — It’s not a fitness journey like that for me. It’s so ingrained to what I do now.

ALYSSA: [00:33:23] Oh, yeah, I can relate everything to running. I always joke about that. Like, I can make this a metaphor about running. But yeah, I mean, yeah. No, I mean, recently, I’m training for the Tour de Zhong, which is a big race in Italy, which is 90 plus thousand feet of climbing, and 230-ish miles. So, it’s days of hard — and you’re either going up or going down and you’re doing it for days on end. And it’s really hard. It’s really hard. I DNFed in 2019 from it at about 150 miles.

And my coach and I have been working on how everything with running, especially I think when you’re getting into longer distance stuff, is that you’re going to have highs and lows, and you can’t control when they happen.

But you also can’t get so attached to them that you live or breathe off of whether or not you’re high or low. You have to kind of have this outside experience watching yourself go through that and know that what — Like, you can’t get attached to it. You have to let it go. Whether it’s that high knowing that that will leave and not just going, I’m going to rule the world. I’m so happy right now. And then that low coming in and going I am so low I’m going to drop out and nothing’s ever going to be good again.

So, it’s just taking that step back and it applies to real life where he always says to me like, notice how you react in the real world if someone cuts you off in traffic or something doesn’t go the way that you think. Look at it from that perspective of like this too shall pass in so many ways. And use that mental fortitude that you’re building here through running, and apply that to your life.

And I’ve noticed in many ways that there’s a certain — sometimes when something is so big, and you realize all of the things that are going to come, you can either get frantic about it, or you can get more calm about it, and just know it will be, and it will be whatever that is. And if you get too attached to one up or one down or one outcome, then you can’t enjoy the process of it.

JESSE: [00:35:48] I had kind of similar thoughts come from an entrepreneur, friend/couple of mine. It’s a husband and wife team that run this company. Because I have a bad tendency to like, be a little reactionary to like just things going wrong. And I tried to be more mindful about dealing with things as they come like a power outage in the middle of an interview —

ALYSSA: [00:36:13] Yeah, I mean — [crosstalk]

JESSE: — [-00:36:14] where you’re like, what’s going to happen? And it’s like, well I wasn’t concerned when the power went out. I wasn’t concerned so much that it was like, oh, the episode’s ruined, at least from my standpoint, as like, the only thing I was concerned about was that one, you’re like, “Where the heck did he go,” and you’re just left wondering. And then two, like, you had wasted your time. I felt bad about that. I was like, this is going to like irritate me. But regardless of how I felt, like it didn’t matter.

You just go, what can I do? Can I do anything? And then you either do that, or you don’t because you can’t do anything. And the whole emotional roller coaster of like, I feel great, or I feel bad about this situation, neither really affects what you can or can’t do, you just do it.

And when you — I find if I get too negatively attached to something, say like, over this last year, I had several product launches with my other business, and they didn’t go so well. And so it was like a whole year, I felt like down the drain. But if you get too attached to that, then you’re stuck in this negative place where you can’t move forward.

And that’s what I imagined from the various ultrarunners I’ve had on the show, talk about the highs and lows of any individual ultra where it’s like you know there’s going to be that roller coaster. You know it’s going to come and you just keep plodding forward like, that’s your only choice. You can’t — If you feel like crap, aside from if you’re low on fuel, or you need to drink some water or something, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You’re going to feel bad for a while, and then you keep moving forward.

ALYSSA: [00:38:09] Yeah, absolutely. One step in front of the other. As my dad always tells me for every race, “Alyssa, my best advice is left, right, repeat a lot.” I’m like, “Cool. Thanks, Dad. Got it.”

JESSE: [00:38:22] Got it. It’s going to get me there. And I do wonder, and this is a more practical and less like, mental metaphysical side; so for the marathons, for when you’re going out Tour de Zhong, any kind of ultra, do you have foods you stick to in particular that you’re like, this is the thing? I think about this from time to time because I know everybody does something a little bit different. I was talking to — last week’s show, I was talking to Ian Fraser, and in a different conversation I had heard him have, he was a pro triathlete in the early to late 90s, and this is before gels were around.

So, he was talking about they used to take chocolate pudding and baby food and put it into packets and just eat that and that was their fuel. Because there’s a whole industry now that does sports nutrition and like, I mean, I’m working on taking this company into that industry, too so I’m keenly aware of it; but also know that it’s very individualized and no one thing works for everybody. So, I’m curious, if I can shut up, what your go-to things are, are there go-to things or are you just like whatever, I can get down?

ALYSSA: [00:39:42] Yeah. And you know, I think that that is actually kind of the epitome of ultras is what you just said is, oh, these are my go to things. But really, at the end of the day, it’s what can I get down because those things often shift where you’re like, nailed it. This is going to be it. I’m going to bring 10,000 of these and then you get a quarter of the way through the race and you’re like, I never want to see that again and if you put it in my face, I will slap you. So, it’s just — it’s weird. Some of my — So, I have kind of a weird digestive system. I have ulcerative colitis and so I’m gluten free. And then my husband I are vegetarian for environmental reasons and so that kind of narrows the field a little bit.

But some of my go-tos, I do use a lot of Honey Stinger — I’ve worked with them for a while. And then I just started using — it’s called Glukos with a K, it’s associated with Nathan. And that, I’ve actually started really liking it. It’s like a very liquidy, like super liquidy gel. It’s more on the electrolyte side of things, than tons of calories. It’s only like 70 calories, but it’s really easy to get down. But my, I would say my go-tos — it depends a bit on the race.

So, I just did a 50K which to me is like I have to run hard the entire time. That, I tend to rely more on gels like Honey Stinger gels and gummies. But when I’m doing Tour, it’s like you’re going through meals, like you’re missing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So, I really like Trail Mix, peanut butter filled like gluten free pretzels are some of my favorites because the salt really comes into a factor.

What are some — Gosh, I’m trying to think of some of the things like mashed potatoes, like roasted or baked potatoes with salt on it is super good. Regular gluten free pretzels, potato chips. Potato chips are awesome. Lots of salt. But I would say probably my weird go-to if all else fails is Coke, like straight up Coca Cola because it’s sugar, it’s carbs. The carbonation helps your stomach a bit. It’s something that I always know I can drink and get some calories in when everything else is going to hell. So, I’ve run my first 100-miler. I ran the last 20 miles essentially on like, a few gummies and bottle, like I had a bottle of Coca Cola with me for most of it.

But that doesn’t work for everyone. I have recommended it to other people. And I had one girl be like, I thought I was going to puke as soon as I put it in my mouth. So, with my coaching clients too, they’ll be like, this didn’t work that didn’t work. And I’m like, we just got to keep trying. It may not work today but it might work tomorrow. And so that’s something that is so specific and it’s specific to you, but could be different tomorrow.

So, I think just practicing with a lot of different things is always good. And making sure that — I mean, I always think of ultra running and I think it’s why ultrarunners are better when they get older is just the ability to adapt and improvise.

Like, the funny motto my friends and I have is adapt, improvise, and overcome. I can’t remember what movie it’s from, but that’s exactly it, where it’s like, okay, this isn’t working. So, what can we do to fix the situation? And I think that, unfortunately and fortunately, is nutrition and ultras.

JESSE: [00:43:44] Yeah. Well, it’s like, that’s maybe why your friend… like, well, I’ve noticed is that — So, I used to half Ironmans, which is for me, it was like 4:15, four and a half hours, so like one of your marathons, basically. So, I’m not out there all day, like you’re — [crosstalk]

ALYSSA: [00:44:03] But you need some — like you can’t do the whole thing without food.

JESSE: [00:44:06] Right, right. You have to have fuel. But I would notice that like, depending on the day, like you’ve got a plan of like, this is what I’m taking in such and such time. But then sometimes you’re like, I just — it doesn’t taste good, right? I want something else or I don’t need this. And like, I feel like sugar was always an up and down thing. Sometimes it’s like — [crosstalk]

ALYSSA: [00:44:27] sugar’s a tricky one.

JESSE: [00:44:2] Right. Because it’s like — I was like when you’re going longer, you need the carbs. But then sometimes it’s like, oh, it’s too sweet. Like, this thing’s too sweet, but then this other thing tastes fine. And there’s no — there’s almost no planning.

So, it’s like, I feel like I go into it with a rough plan of this is my intention of this is how many calories I need to take in an hour but also like, I’m going to have a literal gut check and say, how do I feel? Do I feel like taking in this many calories or am I going to vomit if I take in this many calories because I’m working too hard or whatever. But, so I was just, I’m always curious a little bit about that.

ALYSSA: [00:45:11] You know, honestly, it was probably one of the questions — nutrition was one of the questions, I got a ton. I also get shoe questions all the time. And I’m like, I wish that I could wave a magic wand and give you the perfect answer. But the truth is, is that everyone is individual and you just have to figure out what works for you. I can give you, I like this. I think this is great. I think you might like it. But I’ve been wrong many times with people where I’m like, this is my go-to shoe. And they’re like, great, I tried it and I hate it. I’m like okay, then why don’t you try this one? I hate it so you might love it, you know? It’s so individual.

JESSE: [00:45:53] Yeah. Well, I fit shoes for people for three years full-time, and you can kind of guide people but it really is, you got to put the shoe on their foot. And in some ways I have like, disdain is a little strong of a word, but something like disdain for running shoe review blogs just because like one individual — it’s not going to be good for all of those shoes. Like it’s not pertinent. Like the shoes are made for different people and different people are going to feel them differently.

So, even if I go, man, this shoe is terrible. It’s probably not the right shoe for me. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad shoe. So, I get a little up in arms about that because it’s one of the few things it’s like it’s running equipment, we don’t have much equipment, we don’t need much besides shoes. So, Alyssa, before I run out of battery, I want to ask you — I’m asking everybody a question this year — I ask a singular question for an entire season. So, this is this season’s question, and I want to ask you, how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

ALYSSA: [00:46:59] Oh, that’s a fantastic question. Because I like to call 2019 my year of failure. I DNFed. I decided to take on two really hard races, the Dragon’s Back multi-day race in Wales and then Tour de Zhong in the same year, and I DNFed both. And I felt — I was just embarrassed about the entire year. And it could have been a breakthrough year and it wasn’t. But my motivation is that I always — So, I like to think of it as like, I feel as though I have not reached my potential.

I have not completely tapped into what I know I’m capable of doing. And I know that a lot of that, and I think that’s what’s so exciting about ultras is that often that doesn’t come until you are — you have gained a lot of maturity, and made a lot of mistakes. And so I like to — I don’t think I would have done the marathons if I hadn’t failed those two huge events. And I’m really grateful for those moments because they’ve made me what I am right now.

And I think that there’s a huge sting to it when it happens, but I think you have to turn it into what lessons can I take from this and what can I recognize earlier on so that I can prevent at least this type of failure from happening again. You know, you can’t prevent — I had another DNF. I was taking on a long trail, it was like 350 miles and Alabama and Georgia. And I thought I had everything perfectly set. I was like I’m going to do this. I feel so good. I’ve learned so much. And it was 85 degrees, it was abnormally hot. I was doing it self-supported. There was a, like 16-mile chunk without water early on, like a 12-mile and a 16-mile. And I dehydrated myself so much that I actually ended up getting rhabdo and I was peeing blood for 24 hours and like you just can’t — You can’t do that.

You can’t keep going if you pee blood for 24 hours. And I was really sad because I was like I felt so prepared to be so smart. Like, I’ve gained so much but it didn’t work. And you know, sometimes you just feel like the weather gods were working against me that day.

And you know, sometimes you’re just meant not to succeed in that. And I think you know what you learn in endurance sports is that if you have one perfect — and I don’t even like say perfect. If you have one spectacular race or moment in the year, you’re doing really well. Like if you are greedy and you want five of them, that’s probably not going to happen. So, you have to be really grateful for having maybe just that one. So, that was a long-winded answer, but —

JESSE: [00:50:15] That’s my favorite kind of answer so that’s perfectly fine. Alyssa, if people want to see what you’re doing, see if you start another journey, find you, get in touch with you, any of that kind of stuff, where can they do that?

ALYSSA: [00:50:27] Yeah. So, I am probably most active on Instagram, which is Theory, like T-H-E-O-R-Y underscore in underscore Motion. That’s where I respond to all the messages and you can kind of see what I’m doing. And then my website is Or you can find me on Facebook.

JESSE: [00:50:53] Awesome. Thanks for hanging out with me today.

ALYSSA: [00:50:55] Thanks for having me.

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