Training For Ultra's Training Diaries - Issue #5

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Guest: Robbie Balenger

(Photo Credit: Rob Steger)

Episode Title: Robbie Balenger - Finishing the Colorado Crush

Podcast Link - Click Here 

Sponsors: NuCalm Performance and Ten Thousand Gear

Bio: Robbie Balenger is a professional ultrarunner, vegan, and climate change activist based in Colorado. Robbie was always sporty as a kid, but it was not until later in life when he met his fiance, an avid runner, that he really got into the sport. Robbie’s first run was two miles, but he approached running with the same attitude that he now uses to inspire others to live healthier lives and fight climate change: small continuous change in a positive direction builds on itself! Only one year after that first two mile run he ran his first ultramarathon. After reading Scott Jurek’s book, “Eat and Run,” Robbie was inspired to try a vegan diet and was amazed at how it improved the quality of both his running and his life. In 2017, while helping with the relief effort for Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Robbie’s eyes were opened to the severity of climate change and he realized that the most impactful thing he could do to fight climate change was to continue his vegan lifestyle and use his athletic prowess to inspire others to adopt this earth and body friendly lifestyle. In 2019, Robbie ran from Los Angeles to New York City in just 75 days on an entirely vegan diet. Robbie says his diet was what made this feat possible and hopes this accomplishment inspires others to live a healthier more plant-based lifestyle and to realize that plant-based diets are empowering not limiting. Prior to his run across America, Robbie was mainly focused on 50 mile races, but this run gave him the confidence that he really can do anything he sets his mind to. A few of his most recent accomplishments include breaking the world record for number of loops run around Central Park, completing the Colorado Trail in eleven days, summiting all 58 14’ers, and to end this crazy summer off with a bang he ran the Leadville 100! Robbie’s favorite places to run are on the beautiful trails in the Colorado mountains. Every single one of his amazing accomplishments shows what is possible when you are well-fuelled and driven by a cause greater than yourself. His only hope is that everyone tries to do a little better than they did yesterday. 

Quotes from podcast episode:

“What I learned this summer, one of the big things for me, is understanding what this is I am doing, why am I out here pushing myself in the way I do. I think it is an obsession with this idea of sustainable motion through space and time. Perpetual motion is not achievable, but the pursuit of it is very interesting to me.” 13:16

“I essentially ate my weight in Bobo’s.” - 16:32

“It was just one of those moments where, I had a lot of these this summer, where I was overtaken by gratitude. Gratitude that I had the opportunity to do this thing, like it is just so magnificent to be amongst the mountains in Colorado for two months straight.”- 20:15

“For the rest of the summer... it was either really smoky or we were dodging mudslides... You can't escape what is going on environmentally right now and it was something I thought a lot about this summer… There is a big impact you can have there by choosing plant-based options, whether it is completely or just more often.” - 23:32

“Better is better to me… I just want to change the script a little bit so that people will understand, not all food choices are equal when it comes to our health or the environment.” - 24:44

“Why don't we just try to do the best we can and with more information the best we can becomes better.” - 25:33

“Then it was just on: everyday get up, do a fourteener drive to the next trailhead do another fourteener.” - 26:36

“It’s terrifying at times, but then you get through it and you feel so accomplished and just so… sure of yourself and your ability to navigate that.” - 28:43

“I froze up there for like 15 minutes as John and my fiance, Shelley, she was there that day, talked me through coming down. Definitely the most terrified I have been in my life. That was the moment for sure. Overcame it! Got through it! That is the great thing about that you overcome something like that and you feel stronger and more confident in yourself for it, but in the minute it was terrifying.”- 30:38

“You are moving as fast as you can, but as fast as you can is not as fast as you want it to be at that time.” - 33:40

“A mountain goat was with me the whole day and actually made it to the peak.” - 36:47

“There is a level of competition, but it is usually internal. It is about ourselves and how far we can push ourselves and then you want to see everybody else succeed at that.” - 46:02

“I try to keep doubt out of my mind… There are moments of failure that is where character is built…. You strive for it, you strive for it, and then there is that moment where you have to be honest with yourself: it’s not gonna happen. That is character, being able to overcome that and look yourself in the mirror, in the eye, and be okay with it.” - 46:35

“I don't really entertain failure… I just don't give it oxygen” - 47:14

“Just because you don't achieve that goal doesn't mean you've failed. You've put yourself out there and that is probably the most important thing, having the guts to go and try the thing. I commend everybody that has toed the line at that race. It is not about who finished and who didn't, you were willing to give it a go.” - 47:43

“If you can separate from that part of your brain that says, “pain means I should stop,” and you start to embrace it, it is kind of a beautiful thing to explore. It is when you feel the most alive. Everytime something hurt, I knew I was on this earth.” - 48:30

“I find pain to be a tool for growth” - 49:16

“If you push through, that is where breakthroughs happen, that is where adaptation happens… That is where the fight comes in and that is what separates the people that are willing to do it from those that are not.” - 50:04

“That is something I chase through these efforts: getting to that place of like this primal essence of humans. I think we are meant to run.” - 53:09

“We all are capable of just about anything. The mindset to take is just dont get overwhelmed with the larger task at hand, break things down into smaller pieces and then anything is overcomable.” - 55:20

“Day after day you take on what is in front of you, get the best rest you can, and do it again the next day. Just keep things in perspective, just keep chipping away, and eventually you can hit larger goals.” - 55:45


Episode Timeline:

0:40 Summer 2021: The Colorado Crush

2:37 Mindset going into a multi month effort

5:40 Logistics of the Colorado Crush

8:40 Lowest moment on the Colorado Trail

9:50 Highest moment on the Colorado Trail

10:45 Crazy wildlife on the Colorado Trail

11:15 Recovery from Colorado Trail in preparation for Silver Rush

14:23 Einstein, endurance, and the Tarahumara

15:30 Nutrition from a whole foods plant-based perspective

17:04 Overcoming Trench Foot

17:38 Irregular sleep due to storm avoidance

19:15 The secret highlight of the Colorado Trail

21:09 Silver Rush 50 five days after the Colorado Trail versus Silver Rush 50 after the Trans Continental Run

22:56 Dealing with wildfire smoke

24:30 Easing into the plant-based lifestyle and setting yourself up for success

26:00 Fitting all 58 Fourteeners

27:39 Unique Fourteeners

29:03 The technical and mental challenge of Capitol Peak

31:10 Newfound interest in high Alpine efforts such as the Andes and the Himalayas

32:00 Challenges of unpredictable mountain weather

38:15 Being the subject of a documentary film during an endurance event

 39:00 Mindset at the finale of the Colorado Crush: Leadville 100

41:00 Accepting and committing to physical suffering during a race

44:30 Teamwork and the amazing ultrarunning community

46:15 Coping with doubt

48:00 What is pain?

51:20 Seeing the finish line! 

52:09 Running across United States versus completing the Colorado Crush

55:03 Insight from the Colorado Crush experience

57:32 What would you have done differently?

58:00 Future plans

59:45 Favorite plant-based foods

Social Media:

Instagram: Website: On Down the Road I Go – Robbie Balenger's Official Website



Big thank you to the podcast supporters!

John Wayne Cancer Foundation - Run the GRIT Series

Tanri Outdoors - All Natural Sun Protection for Runners (use “ULTRA10” for 10% off)

XoSkin (use “T4U20” for 15% off)

Thank you Patreon supporters!