Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 31 - John Kelly - FAILURE IS FEEDBACK - Part 2 of 3

Yeah. It kinda reminds me of this book still sitting on my desk, Life is a Marathon by Matt Fitzgerald. I don't know if you're familiar with Matt, but I spoke to him several episodes ago. And his book touches on a lot of the like life difficulties he's gone through, and how running in a way has prepared him by helping make him tougher.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 31 - John Kelly - FAILURE IS FEEDBACK - Part 2 of 3

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JESSE: Yeah. It kinda reminds me of this book still sitting on my desk, Life is a Marathon by Matt Fitzgerald. I don't know if you're familiar with Matt, but I spoke to him several episodes ago. And his book touches on a lot of the like life difficulties he's gone through, and how running in a way has prepared him by helping make him tougher. So, I kind of think, I guess, when I talk about running, it's always nice to find somebody else that thinks about it, not just in terms of how fast can I go. Because you can only go so fast for so long and then you get older and you can't go that fast anymore. But then it's this kind of journey of personal discovery or strengthening your mind more than it is solely a physical endeavor. JOHN: Yeah, and strengthening the mind is definitely a big piece of it as far as-- There have been a number of things that I've kind of said to myself, okay, you did Barkley, you can do this. And having that experience to draw from, to know that you are capable of things that you wouldn't have otherwise thought you could do, that's huge. And also helps you appreciate the successes a bit more as well. But then there are also individual things, just how you respond to situations, certain situations that you pay attention to them. It's quite applicable to other areas. One of the biggest ones for me, that I've noticed through ultras is I tend to let problems kind of just hang around until they become a full blown emergency before I do anything about it. I'll be out and I'll get a little bit cold or it'll start raining and I'll say I'm okay for now. I can make it to the next aid station or wait a while before I get some more gear out, I'll be okay. And next thing I know, like I’m curled up in the fetal position shivering. So, those types of things, again, just situational, how you respond to different obstacles is a big part for me that that requires still a bit more kind of active learning than just kind of passively getting mental toughness. JESSE: Well I mean, it sounds like you're relying on that like you said mental toughness where you're like, if it's getting colder or it's raining, which often means you're getting colder. It's like well, I can tough it out. But then you have to almost turn that off. To me, it's like that skill taking you, you know 90% of the way. You need that mental toughness to get through especially an ultra, but then you almost have to like turn it off to do the smart thing to get you the last 10% because it can get you into a hole as you're just talking about. JOHN: Yeah, for sure. JESSE: So, do you feel like have you made adjustments now after you've been through those situations, do you feel like you race smarter now? JOHN: Yeah, definitely. And that's incredibly important in doing ultras and being able to not make a mistake that's that's going to grow and cost you over the length of a 60 hour race or even a 10 hour race, anything of that nature. Strategies is incredibly impressed. And to be honest, I think that's why I do fairly well at it, grow it to you know in high school when we were racing 5K I was good I was never great where that's more just a pure physical test where you're for the most part going all out. And the interesting thing to me is that some of my best races have actually come under the worst conditions, conditions where I was really forced to rely on my mind more than my body. Chattanooga a couple of years ago, I won a 50 miler after being just completely knocked out about most of the night before with a stomach bug wondering if I was even going to start the race. And once I did start I had to race smart because because my body was not there and I had to fully rely on good strategy and really thinking things through. And I went out easy and took the lead of like ?? 5:14> 35 or so. So, it was definitely critical to be able to take previous lessons and run a smart race there. JESSE: I don't have any personal experience with ultras. I've kind of reached up to half Ironmans and historic-- well the last decade basically focused on triathlon. How much is ultra racing a war of attrition both with competitors and your own body versus physical ability? Because like you're saying, when you're racing 5K, if you're doing it right, you are exhausted at the end and you've hammered pretty much the whole way. And it really is very pure physical test. So, I mean versus that, how much is an ultra, like I said, just this battle attrition with your mind and other competitors versus your body? JOHN: Yeah, that's something that is a factor more than some people realize how even when they do know it's a factor. I've had some pretty incredible experiences where my body physically reflects my mental state, essentially. So, a couple years ago, I went out to do a fastest known time on a section of trail and I was about 15 hours into it, a few hours from the end and I realized that the original goal was simply not possible at that point. And as soon as I realized that my body just shut down. It just said, okay, no more like it's not worth it. We're done. And so it's really kind of just trotting along for like 10 minutes and I got to thinking that there was actually this different record that I could kind of alter my plans and still aim for it, and possibly get it. And the minute I realized that, my body just it rebooted. It was kind of like I said oh, okay. We can buy that will give that ago and just back from the dead and went out and got that second record. So, it's crazy how much the body responds to your mental state. JESSE: Yeah, well, I mean, I think it's an easy way to kind of encompass the whole idea of mind over matter. I think growing up at least me, often you hear, well I would hear like mind over matter kind of ethos in prescribed for almost an impossible task. Like mind over matter, you can do anything. Like I have a printer here like if I think hard enough, the printer will lift off the ground. Well no, that's not going to happen. But your mind does have that you know kind of, I want to say eliminator which you can kind of take off and get your body to do some things that you wouldn't normally think was possible. Which you know, after you relax in your case having that negative thought or finishing, then your body's like all right, we're done and is gone, like you couldn't you couldn't go again if you wanted to. JOHN: Yeah. And you see that a lot of times at the end of races, where if a race is advertised as being, say 100K, and it's actually a bit farther than that, I could take ?? 19:18> race, which they have - miles that he says 100K it’s probably more like 67. So, when you get to where you think the finish is going to be and you're not there that makes a pretty challenging last few miles. But I think it's also an important distinction you made as far as kind of this mindset of you know, it's a nice sentiment of you can do anything you set your mind to. And yes, that definitely has meaning for some things, but it's not a matter of simply if you try hard enough, you can do all these things. It doesn't matter how hard I would have tried, how much I would have practice basketball, I never would have been LeBron James. So, it's definitely a combination still of these mental and physical attributes. And I think that the truly exciting part again is being able to really discover where your limit is and pushing that farther, wherever it may be and whatever sort of that that limiter might be. Whether it's physical capability or mental strength or any of the various other variables that go into ultra running. JESSE: Well, I'm glad I'm talking to you and that you made sure to remind me that you’re a father. This is something I think about from time to time, I love to ask parents. I'm not a parent at the moment at least. There's this idea that you kind of tell kids, you can do anything or you can be anything you want to be. And like you mentioned, you wouldn't be LeBron James no matter how much play basketball, right? JOHN: Yeah. JESSE: So, I mean, how do you approach that with your kids, if you don't mind me asking, I guess, in trying to encourage them to be the best people they can be, but also keeping that kind of realistic idea in mind that if, you know, you and I build I think it's probably pretty similar, relatively lean, were not probably not ever going to be destined to be defensive lineman, like a 300 pound defensive lineman and football. So, how do you how do you keep that in mind trying to encourage your kids to reach their potential but also not steer them down a path that's going to lead to like a hard dead end soon? JOHN: Yeah. So, I think it's important for them to discover what they enjoy. And if what they enjoy the most is not necessarily what they're best at, that's perfectly fine. And so I think that the excitement and the learning and the satisfaction comes from improving yourself in whatever it is that that you have chosen to pursue. And through doing that, again, you can learn things that apply more to actual life scenarios. And if they want to do something that maybe isn't what they're most naturally gifted at, as long as they're challenging themselves and attempting to improve themselves and learning lessons from that, I think that's great. And in the end, that's really what I think that the goal should always be is kind of how far have you come rather than where are you? And so competitive things are are great to kind of get a benchmark for how far you have come. It's a measuring stick, essentially. But in the end, most of what I do, they’re personal goals and personal challenges. JESSE: I read about from your blog, I read, I think it was your coach encourage you at one point to run a marathon just thinking about running with joy. Can you tell me a little bit about kind of discovering that, where you were before that, and kind of the reason that he made a recommendation, assuming I'm correct in that statement? JOHN: Yeah. So, I was just coming off the Tour de Xian this year, which is a 200 mile race through the Alps in Northern Italy. And so the marathon was two weeks after that. I wasn't in the best spot, physically or mentally in terms of recovery from that. So, it was really just going about, going out there and enjoying the experience and kind of reconnecting with why I had chosen this. I mentioned earlier with my kids, as long as they choose something that they enjoy and pursue that with passion and aim to improve themselves through that, that's great. So, the aim is to kind of go out there and remind myself why this was the particular thing that I choose when you know there's so many other hobbies and activities and other things that I could have chosen, why did I choose running? And in the end, it's because I enjoy it. So, every now and then it's extremely useful to just step back and reconnect with that aside from just kind of the constant pursuit of challenges and goals. JESSE: So, that kind of leads me to your race in Boston when you're dressed up as Link. How did that get spawn? I mean, I have friends who have done costume races, which just seems like a dreaded affair for me because unless it's cold, it's just seems like you're going to overheat. So, how did that kind of come about and why even-- Did you do it like trying to set a world record or did you happen to do that while you were dressed as Link? JOHN: No, you definitely don't happen to do that. Getting that thing verified and approved by Guinness was one of the biggest pains of anything I've done. I'm pretty sure it's more difficult than a real world record to get it ratified. I had to send them my GPS track, I had to send them geotagged selfies taken at every mile along the course, I had to get signed statements from like half a dozen witnesses that saw me at various points along the course and at the finish. It was quite the ordeal. But before I knew all that, when I originally came up with the idea and decided to do it, it was again, the race was two weeks after this time, the Barkley marathons. So, my 2016 attempt, my second attempt at Barkley Boston was two weeks after that. So, I knew I wasn't going to go out and set any sort of real personal bests at the race so I kind of just thought what can I do that would be fun, but still kind of give me some challenge to aim for. And so I found the Guinness records which they've got tons of records for dressing as very oddly specific things for the marathon. And so I would highly recommend if anyone wants to do it do it at either I think Toronto, London and Berlin. Guinness actually shows up and like ratifies things in person so you don't have to go through the whole ordeal that I did. But yeah, it was fun and pretty cool to run through the streets of Boston and have people cheering for me like that. It was though, like you say, a costume was was not the best thing for running. It was a headwind here in Boston and Link’s tunic, I mean, it was like wearing a parachute. It was a bit of a challenge. JESSE: Do you feel like you got more like cheers because you're in the costume versus just your normal running gear? JOHN: Oh, for sure. It was a matter of the people that cheered for me, I think most people said go Zelda, another good ?? 18:49> said go elf. This was back after Lord of the Rings had come out so I got a whole lot of go ?? 18:57>. And a small percentage got go Link right, but it was all good. JESSE: I feel like Zelda is like they get the gist but they never played the game so they don't actually know that they're wrong. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 3

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