Training For Ultra's Training Diaries - Issue #18

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Guest: Helgi Olafson

Episode Title: Movement as Medicine - Helgi Olafson’s Trans Triple Crown Adventures

Bio: Helgi Olafson is inspiration personified. He is a professional yacht chef by day and an accomplished endurance athlete by night! Helgi’s inspiring endurance journey began when he was just 19 years old and diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is a reasonably common but rarely spoken about type of spinal arthritis, leading to severe chronic pain and stiffness in your spine, ribs, hips, and lower back. This is why Helgi runs and runs a lot. This year's Moab 240 was his 4th time completing the race, and he has run ten official and unofficial 200 mile races! He runs for those who cannot and as an example and inspiration for those struggling with chronic pain. This powerful why helped Helgi complete the 2021 Trans Triple Crown of 200s and raised over 20,000 dollars for the Spondylitis Association of America. The money will go to supporting families and individuals with spondylitis and research for a cure. Helgi believes movement is medicine, and his movement and physical and mental resilience continue to inspire many worldwide with all different levels of fitness. 

Great article by a friend of the show, Adam Scully-Power on Helgi. Give it a read when you have some time!

Quotes from podcast episode:

“It is really important to me to not let the disease win, and it really has become a manageable condition when I look at it in that regard. I feel for a lot of others who have my disease, mostly people who are not active and lead a sedentary lifestyle because the disease will notice that the human is not battling and it will take over and make it so that that human can’t battle, and that’s the Catch-22 of this thing. You really got to take it by the horns. - 4:14 Helgi Olafson

“I made a goal that I was going to do a marathon and an ironman within a year and I met both of those goals and that was from off of the couch. It goes to show that really it depends on how dedicated you and you can really accomplish anything.” - 15:26 Helgi Olafson

“I ended up getting out to Moab and doing my first 100-mile, 120-mile, and 240-mile in the same race.” - 22:45 Helgi Olafson

“I feel like it is pretty much black and white. If I am not running, I am hurting. I just need to keep moving. The more I am moving, the better it feels. It is really that simple with my condition. Not everybody is going to be the same.” - 23:24 Helgi Olafson

“As long as you are strong mentally, you can push through anything. The fatigue does not stand a chance against the mental fortitude of knowing that you need to get to the next point and get forward and get that buckle.” - 24:19 Helgi Olafson

“For 200s, there is an entirely different element which is the mental side of it. My best training that I have done has been things that are very hard and very dangerous and really scare the shit out of you because those things are what is going to set you apart. If you do overnight stuff in bear country and you make it through that, then you can just go do a dirt nap in a bed of scorpions.” - 31:26 Helgi Olafson

“I just relied on my experience. I knew that I would get through it as long as I kept going, and it was a very hard-fought battle. I am not sure how this happens with every 200 that I run but every single one gets harder and Bigfoot was no slouch.” - 44:53 Helgi Olafson

“I felt really accomplished and proud of myself for doing something that has so much probability to fail, but I was able to make it through this thing by adapting to what was in front of me and believing in myself.” - 1:19:05 Helgi Olafson

“I fine-tuned what was already there, and I made it more believable to myself that I could actually do these things, and it just makes me want to figure out other opportunities and ways to do bigger things.” -  1:20:50 Helgi Olafson

 “It is not about me. It is about the impact that we have as essentially a trail running society to make it so that we can continue to do the things that we love and enjoy the trails that we love.  Taking a step back and looking at the big picture and what effects we have on the trails and the environment and what can we do to make those trails always be there for everybody to enjoy.” - 1:21:15 Helgi Olafson

“It is time for trail runners to do their part as environmental stewards.” - 1:21:55 Helgi Olafson

Episode Timeline:

3:00 Helgi’s “why”

6:20 Getting diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis

11:50 Helgi’s running origins

18:45 Portland, trails, and unsanctioned ultras

23:10 Increasing running distance and fatigue with ankylosing spondylitis

27:00 Running 200 miles solo versus with a crew and pacers

29:25 How Helgi trains for 200-mile races

35:20 What Helgi has learned working and living with the 1% - is easier easier?

38:34 Why this Trans Triple Crown is special and logistics

41:00 Running 2021 Bigfoot 120 with a broken foot

44:20 2021 Bigfoot 120 race takeaways 

48:00 Biking to Tahoe

50:00 Idaho and doubling the IMTUF 100 miler

55:30 2021 Moab 240 (when getting there is half the battle)

57:30 2021 Moab 240 race prep and start line impressions

1:00:40 Running through the pain and the mud

1:03:00 Inside secrets of the Moab 240 runner’s manual 

1:06:30 Halfway point - 2021 Moab 240

1:09:00 Getting through a brutal and snowy final night

1:11:00 Four years of Moab 240 hallucinations 

1:16:40 Smelling the finish line and walking backward 

1:18:30 Finish line thoughts

1:20:15 What did these 61 days teach you?

Social Media:

Instagram: Helgi Olafson (@helgiolafson) • Instagram photos and videos Twitter: Helgi Olafson (@HelgiOlafson) / Twitter YouTube: Helgi Olafson - YouTube Link Tree:@helgiolafson | Linktree Website: Helgi Olafson's Triple Crown of 200s - SAA (

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