Sunday, November 14, 2010

RunnerDude Chats with Ultra-Endurance Athlete Toby Guillette

I've run marathons for years, but one distance that has eluded me to this point is the ultra-endurance run. I envy runners that endure such long distances and often in very challenging locations. One such athlete that I've been following on Twitter and Facebook is Toby Guillette. Based in San Diego, Toby is an ultra-endurance athlete, outdoor-adventure blogger and social media specialist for the Active Network.  

What I like about Toby is that even though he's an ultra-endurance athlete he's also an expert on running for the beginner audience. His syndicated blog appeals to everyone.  He has written product, book and race reviews for the Active Network, where he is currently employed as a social media specialist. He has been featured in interviews on, the Triathlon Club of San Diego monthly newsletter and is establishing himself as a sponsored ultra-endurance athlete. Toby didn't start running until the age of 23. In the short time since his entry in to the world of running has raced at nearly every competitive distance and completed eight ultra marathons, including two 100-mile ultra marathons and a full iron-distance triathlon. Most recently he just completed the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run which is about a 50-mile double crossing of the Grand Canyon from the South Rim in Arizona to the North Rim in Colorado and back, in about 15 hours.

Read on to learn more about this amazing young man....

RD: I believe you were born in my neck of the woods (Durham, NC), but shortly after, your family moved to Massachusetts. I see you’re now based in San Diego. I ran the Rock-n-Roll Marathon in San Diego several years ago. It’s a beautiful city. What brought you to the west coast?
TOBY: You got it! I relocated to San Diego after earning a degree in Sociology from George Washington University in D.C. My plan was to work at REI until my PeaceCorp application processed, but I fell in love with the west and have since both found and created myself here.

RD: You’re an Ultra-endurance athlete, outdoor-adventure blogger and social media expert. That’s quite a diverse load on your plate. Share a little about each and how you manage to wrap it all into (I must admit) an envious career.
TOBY: I’ve always been an athlete and I share my adventures with all my family and friends via the web. Since my brain is completely wired for social networking, an Internet-based career has been the natural path. Now I work at the Active Network where I have been able to fuse all of my passions into an exciting career in social media marketing.

RD: You must be unbelievably busy. When you do have free time, how do you spend it?
TOBY: I keep a full schedule with work, training and social life. It takes a lot of planning to fit it all in, but I’m at my best when challenged to balance it all. In my free time I coach endurance athletes, take lots of photos, enjoy craft beer, watch movies and plan fun adventures with my friends.

RD: You started running at age 23. What got into it?
TOBY: My brother encouraged me to train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon with him. I’ve always been inspired by him so I dove right into training and ramped up too soon. I ended up with really bad Achilles Tendonitis from training and couldn’t run the race with him. I could barely walk. So I became fascinated with figuring out what I did wrong and ended up cracking the code on my potential as an endurance runner. One year later I ran the San Diego 100 Mile Endurance Run, during which my brother paced me for over 15 miles through the night.

RD: Had you been a sports oriented kid? Did you grow up in a sports oriented family?
TOBY: It seems like my brother and I played every sport, but it all started with competitive swimming and then baseball. Our parents have always been supportive. We even had our own batting cage in our backyard. We both played a lot of soccer too and had a record-setting high school soccer season my senior year of prep school. I learned the value of hard work early on and have leveraged it to really take my running to a new level.

RD: What do you enjoy most about running? Is it the mental? Physical? Both?
TOBY: I enjoy the daily and annual structure of training, the goal setting process, the health benefits and the amazing people and places I’ve discovered along the way. Most of all, it’s helped me become a more positive and productive member of society.

RD: Do you ever get burned out with training? If so, share some of your strategies for pulling yourself out of a training funk.
TOBY: I’ve learned to set my year up to peak with a couple key events. Plus, I try and have a break in the summer and the winter for rest, too. But most of all, cross training helps me keep things interesting. Any given week I may run five times but I’ll also fit in a session or two of rock climbing, mountain biking, swimming, yoga and functional strength training. This typically helps me avoid injury and burn out.

RD:  Do you have a favorite training food? What other favorite foods do you include in your training? Do you ever concoct your own training recipes?
TOBY: My body does best on a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, meat and as gluten-free as possible. But if I could fuel on only burritos and craft beer I definitely would!

RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each?
TOBY: It depends where in the season I am and how many runs per week I’m doing but I try to be as social as possible with my training. Last month I ran with over 30 different people. Sometimes it’s just more efficient to knock out the weekday stuff solo to get it done if I have something else on my schedule.

RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run?
TOBY: I was on a night run in a canyon when I saw two sets of big glowing eyes in the bushes staring back at me. Needless to say I had a near record-setting pace that night! Wasn’t too funny when it was happening but I can’t help but laugh about it now.

RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why?
TOBY: My most memorable running experience was the 2009 Vermont 100 Mile Endurance Run where I ran to a sub-22 hour finish with my family as my race crew. That was a very proud day for all of us.

RD: Do you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why?
TOBY: I run in Brooks Glycerin with Superfeet insoles and GreenLaces from Yankz with Injinji toe-socks. I may have lost a few toenails in longer races, but I’ve never had blisters wearing this combination.

RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year?
TOBY: I’ve raced nearly every competitive distance in both running and triathlon and have yet to discover my favorite distance. I do really enjoy 50K ultras because there are plenty of events to choose from, they are typically in beautiful off-road locations on very challenging terrain and there is still the rest of the day left after the race.

RD: What’s the craziest event you’ve done that after you started, you thought, “What the hell was I thinking?”
TOBY: My first 50-mile run was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured. I’ve never been more destroyed. Not even running 100’s. It didn’t hit me until the half-way mark when I started to cramp up and it all went downhill. It revealed a side of me I had never met before. I learned so much that day.

RD: You’ve got some pretty awesome runs coming up in the near future—the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim run in November and the Coastal Challenge Rain forest Expedition Run in January 2011. I am ENVIOUS!!!! The Green-Eyed Monster is sitting on my shoulder right now. Share a little about each race.
TOBY: I’m heading out to run the Grand Canyon this weekend so by the time you read this I’ll have attempted the rim-to-rim-to-rim run which is a 46-mile double crossing of the canyon. It’s a classic adventure run that three of my buddies and I have been planning for the past few months. Check out my site for the recap! (Toby and his team finished the run in about 15 hrs. Congrats, Toby!)

I’ve recently chosen not to run the Coastal Challenge in January because I’ll be on the east coast for half of December in family and holiday mode. There are just so many rad events that sometimes it’s tough to prioritize. But I have a couple epics in the mix for the 2011 season so stay tuned!

RD: One of the most appealing things about your blog is that even though you travel all over running these amazing and exotic races, you write to inspire the everyday and/or new runner. I’ve always felt that running is an inclusive sport and you definitely help support my theory. Why do you feel it’s important to stay connected to the everyday runner?
TOBY: Running is my vehicle of choice for interacting with the world around me and most people respect running, even if they love it or hate it. I choose to share my adventures with others in hopes of inspiring anyone I can because I recognize that people need inspiration. I’m no different – I need it too. So if what I do inspires someone to push through that final mile of their training run or go out and give running a try then I am stoked!

RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say?
TOBY: I’d encourage them to choose an event that feels like it’s just beyond what they are capable of and follow a training plan to accomplish it. It’s a transformational process that needs to be experienced because the lessons learned apply to all walks of life.
RD: What tips would you give someone contemplating their first ultra run?
TOBY: Simulate race conditions as closely as possible through the training process. Become your race.

RD: Is there anything you else you'd like to share?
TOBY: Thanks so much to the RunnerDude for this opportunity to share my story with your audience! I really appreciate how you are helping so many people get active and enjoy it. 
RD: Thanks, Toby! Same to you man and good luck with your upcoming 2011 epics! Looking forward to finding out what you'll be up to.

Be sure to check out Toby's blog as well as his Facebook and Twitter pages. 

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