Lucja Leonard loves running, but hasn't always! A Dutch-born, Aussie raised, British woman living in the USA with her husband & fellow ultra runner, Dion Leonard, and their 2 fur-kids Gobi & Lara life is anything but straight forward. Overweight, unfit and unhappy Lucja turned her well-being and overall happiness around when she took up running in 2004 to try and lose some weight off her 216 pound, and growing, body. Never much for sports growing up she was surprised to discover that she enjoyed the thrill of running and after running her first marathon in 2010 she started to wonder what more her body was capable of. In 2013 she ran her first ultra marathon as part of the Kalahari Extreme Marathon, a 250km race over 6 stages/7days through the Kalahari desert in South Africa where you have to carry all your kit and food to survive the entire week! From here she was unstoppable having run a multitude of ultras around the world, the tougher and higher the DNF rate the more excited she gets about giving it a go. Lucja's experience now includes epic races such as Leadville 100, Ultra Trail Mont Blanc 106 miles, Oman by UTMB, Marathon Des Sables and Transgrancanaria 125km to name just a few. This year she takes on her biggest challenge to date by attempting to run the Triple Crown of 200 milers, Bigfoot 200, Tahoe 200 & Moab 240 over only a 9 week period in total! Ultra running has not just shaped Lucja's mind and body but it has changed both her and Dion's lives. Dion was running a 250k/155mile multi stage race across the Gobi desert in China in 2016 when a stray dog started following him. She would run nearly 80 miles with him and Dion and Lucja turned their lives upside down in the process of adopting her from China to the UK where they were living at the time. You can read more about their true & inspiring story in the NY Times bestselling book 'Finding Gobi' which is also being made into a Hollywood film.
Lucja lives her life fearless! The bigger the challenge the better. She went from overweight and unhappy to fit and having incredible adventures. On this podcast Lucja talks about her very first epic ultra and subsequent struggles. She also opens up about insecurities and how she has overcome them through positive self-talk. Lucja tells us about her biggest challenge to date, the Triple Crown of 200 milers and raising money for the Pink Ribbon Foundation that supports breast cancer patients, which is a charity close to her heart. We know you will walk away from this one as inspired as we were. “Believe in yourself as others believe in you”.
You can find out more about Lucja and follow her journey @runningdutchie on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Breast Cancer Fundraiser
'Finding Gobi' available at www.findinggobi.com or your favorite spots to buy books, and this amazing book is being made into a Hollywood film.
Amanda Follmar was one of the lucky runners to be featured during Season 8.5 of the Becoming Ultra Project, the group who ended their season with the November 2020 epic snowstorm 50K in Scott’s backyard. She has since completed one more 50K at the Smith Rock Ascent, in May 2021. Amanda was born and raised in a small rural community in Oklahoma. She started running her freshman year of high school in 1998 and has continued to lace up her running shoes through all stages of her life. Currently, you will find her in the role of the Chief Everything Officer for the Follmar family party of 8 (this includes two lovable labradors). Amanda and her husband Keith have four super cool kids, who range in age from 13 - twins who are 6. She is also an overtired elementary school volunteer. Amanda and her family live in the South Bay Area town of Saratoga, California.
We had a great time catching up with our friend Amanda Follmar. Amanda is a rock star on the trails and off. Mother of 4, wife and volunteer but that doesn’t stop her from running and training for 50k’s. Amanda has mastered balance and getting things done. In this episode Amanda talks about her experience with Becoming Ultra season 8.5 and that backyard snowy Ultra as well as her recent awesome finish at the Smith Rock Ascent. She also gives some great tips on managing time for yourself when you are being pulled in many other directions. We love Amanda’s can-do attitude and mental strength; she is always very humble and kind. We are excited to see what Amanda takes on next.
Kate Coward is a 41-year-old wife, mother, athlete, coach, and business owner. Kate is known for her mental positivity and ability to preserver through the most extreme conditions. She retired from her career as a CFO and is the founder of Full Potential Coaching, a tailored coaching business for endurance level athletes. Kate’s athletic accomplishments include the Arrowhead 135 at 8 weeks pregnant; as well as the Arrowhead 135 skiing and bike ultra races; Antarctica Marathon; 7 Continents Club, ran a marathon on each of the 7 continents; Day across MN, 240-mile gravel bike race; and probably the most extreme the Iditarod Trail Invitational 350 Bike race where she took 1st place female.
Kate has some awesome adventures to share. They all seem to take place in extreme weather and sometimes with moose encounters. She is a multi-sport athlete who loves adventure and seeing how far she can push herself. In this podcast Kate shares some mental tricks she uses to push through the pain and get it done. Kate also shares what it was like leaving the corporate world and starting her own business. We were inspired by Kate’s physical and mental strength.
Zac’s passion for endurance sports and helping people started with his own fitness transformation. After struggling with obesity, he went on a quest to feel better and get healthier. What began as a means to lose weight had quickly morphed into an aspiration he pursued vigorously for the last decade. After barely being able to complete one mile, he now competes in ultra-marathons all over the world. During this transformation Zac fell in love with the potential of the human body so much that he left his corporate career to pursue a Doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. Now, as an educator and advocate for healthy living, he is a top trainer with iFit’s interactive home fitness, mentors at a statewide addiction recovery program, coaches online and gives training advice via his social media.
Zac has a heart of gold and it really comes through in our talk with him. We discuss his true first ultra experience, the good, bad and the ugly. Zac also discusses his struggle with food addiction and how he has learned to cope. Zac shares a very special ultra memory that includes his father. We were truly moved during this podcast. In September Zac will be running the UTHC 125k race in honor of his late brother. We will be following along and cheering him on. He will be joining us again to discuss the journey. Zac works closely with Addicts II Athletes and has a passion for helping people who struggle with addiction. If you would like to reach out to Zac his information is below.
Lucy Bartholomew is an ultrarunner from Australia. She started ultrarunning at only 15 years old and isn’t afraid to pave her own path. Now 25, she's one of the top racers in the world with wins and top performances at some of the sport's most important events. In 2018 Lucy placed 1st for women and created a new course record at Ultra Trail Australia, placed 3rd for women at Western States, and completed many many other races throughout the year. Recently, Lucy set an FKT on the Larapinta Trail - a 138 mile trail in central Australia. Her race accomplishments are incredible, but Lucy is trailblazing off the race scene too! She hosts training camps and has a plant-based cookbook called “Sustain Your Ability”! Lucy has the following quote on her website and I love it: “At the end of this time in my life I don't believe I will remember the wins and the loses but more the people I have met, the messages I have received that say "you have inspired me", "you're a great role model". For me, if sharing my journey and staying true to myself gets one person out of bed in the morning and challenges themselves then every step has been worth it.”
We didn’t think it was possible to like Lucy Bartholomew more! After spending some time chatting with her, we realized how very special she is. On this episode Lucy shares with us what life is like on lockdown in Australia and how she is spending her time. We discuss her first ultra marathon at 15 years old, setting the FKT on the Larapinta Trail (comical hallucinations), her cookbook, Sustain Your Ability, Trail Camp, positive body image and so much more. We could have talked for hours! We walked away from this one feeling happy and inspired in many ways. Hopefully, you will too! Here is a wise quote from Lucy. “Comparison is the thief of all joy”.
To learn more about Lucy, visit the following:
Marge is a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native raised in the Penn Hills. She went from a shy, chubby young woman to being the champion of four major 100-mile races and broke course records across the country, including the Leadville Trail 100, Mohican Trail, Kettle Moraine and Umstead Trail 100. As well as many other races and athletic accomplishments over the last forty-one years. Marge is also a fourteen-time finisher of the Leadville 100, four-time big buckle achiever, holds the record for most finishes by a woman and was women’s champion in 1985. This year Marge will be the oldest female to complete the Leadville 100. Marge is also the co-author of Leadville Trail 100: History of the Leadville Trail 100 Mile Running Race.
What a treat this was for us, Marge is full of spunk, positivity, and fun. She is truly living her best life! On this episode Marge takes us back to her first ultra marathon, how things have changed in ultra running and much more. We discuss what training is like as she prepares for the Leadville Trail 100 in August (she will be the oldest woman at 71 to complete it) as well as all her current running adventures. Marge also discusses her book and why it was so important for her to write it. We are in awe of Marge and her energy. This interview left us feeling so happy and incredibly inspired. I see a running adventure with Marge in our future.
To purchase a copy of Marge’s book, Leadville Trail 100: History of the Leadville Trail 100 mile Running Race go to Amazon.com.
Here is the thing about ultra running. There are so many people out there doing things you never hear about. Karen is one of those people. She literally just finished the Desert Rats Kokopelli 150-mile race from Grand Junction, CO to Moab, Utah. This was her third time doing it. Karen has been running for over 30 years. What started as short runs eventually turned into triathlons, then ironman and eventually to Ultras. Ultra running is where Karen found her passion. She has conquered many ultras including the Leadville 100. Karen currently resides in the mountains of NM with her husband, 3 dogs and 9 chickens.
Karen is one of those positive people you gravitate towards, she never stopped smiling through our entire conversation. On this episode Karen talks about the struggles of her very first ultra and her need to keep pushing herself. Karen also gets us up to speed on her latest adventures, which are pretty cool. Karen is a true inspiration and we think you will love this conversation. Check out Karen’s race report from her first 100 miler and a picture from her latest adventure, the Desert Rats Kokopelli 150-mile race.
A journal entry from Karen:
31 hours 25 seconds. Hello Friends! I promised to send a race report. It was an adventure! Andy and I arrived in Ohio Friday afternoon. We checked in at our hotel and drove to the start/finish line to pick up race info and drop off bags which included extra shoes, socks, etc... We went back to our room, with two of our dogs, (Frost and Newton) made dinner and climbed into bed early. 3:45am Saturday my alarm goes off. I eat, get dressed, grab my backpack and head to the start line. 5am race starts. I turn on my headlamp, kiss Andy and start into the woods. About 45 minutes into the race, the sun comes up and it's going to be a beautiful HOT day. Mile 8 is here. There is a beautiful waterfall and a hand over hand climb to arrive at a steep hill and back on trails. I see Andy at mile 12. I feel great. I have met a nice young experienced ultra runner. He gives me some great tips on this race. We continue running. A few water crossings and a lot more hill climbing and I am already at mile 31. I get to see Andy again. I realize I am WAY AHEAD of schedule, but still feel great. Keep on trucking... Next time I see Andy will be at mile 51. I get there in 12 hours 13 minutes. I know this is too fast. Rookie mistake. It is now pushing 90 degrees. I have already ate 4 peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, 3 granola bars, 2 clif bars, shot blox, pretzels and drank lots of Heed. Approx. 9:30pm. Mile 65 is here. The sun is setting and Andy joins me for the last 35 miles. I was starting to feel a little nauseated, but I got a boost from having Andy with me. My feet are starting to hurt as we shuffle through the dark woods. We arrive at mile 73. We see a few local runners from Indy. I stopped to check out my foot issues. I take off my shoes and my feet are totally covered in blisters. OUCH!!! I change socks, apply Vaseline, and stick lambswool between my toes. I am grateful to be feeling better than the guy sitting next to me. He has started shaking and hallucinating. This is common in an event like this. I later hear he had to DNF. (Did not Finish). We continue. When we arrive at mile 80, it is 4:09am. I am moving VERY SLOW. I probably won't make it to the next checkpoint in time. My feet feel like I am running on sandpaper. I have puked, cried, and felt awful for dragging Andy into this crazy event. I sit for a few minutes, drink some soup and decide to continue. Mile 85 is here. Only 15 more miles. OH NO.... 15 more??? Mile 88.5. I am shot! We barely made the cut off. I seriously think I can't go any further. The aid station volunteer encourages me to go to the next aid station. It is only 2.7 miles downhill. OK. I start moving. Andy changes his shoes. She told him not to let me quit. I think he is motivated to get me to the finish. Two more checkpoints. I call my parents for encouragement. I can't remember exactly what they said. It was encouraging! We make it to mile 91 and press forward. Mile 96.29 is the last checkpoint. We are late. They told us they would give us a free ride or we could unofficially continue. The race is actually 101.9 miles. We have about 5.7 miles to the finish line. Andy won't let me think twice. "We are going". It is a long 5.7 miles. He is pushing me uphills and dragging me downhills. I keep moving forward in a state of pure exhaustion. I just keep moving. 5 miles, 4,3,2...1 mile to go. It's getting super hot again. We climb out of the woods. I still can't see the finish. Andy grabs my hand. I follow him around the road. People are starting to realize we are finishing. They can't believe anybody would still be out there. I hear some cheers. There are no officials at the finish line. It is an hour past the the 30 hour limit. We walk hand and hand (maybe he is dragging me) to the finish. We hugged, I cried, people clapped. I went the distance. I learned a lot and I'll be back! Only 38% of people who started this race, finished. Official or not, We made it! Thanks Andy!!!
Bill Beitler was one of the featured runners on Season 9 of Becoming Ultra. An endlessly curious child of the ‘60s, Bill took a 40-year break from his endurance athletics career to raise an amazing family and pursue a community banking career that lead to two successful stints as CEO at small midwestern banks. A competitive swimmer in his youth who specialized in the 200 individual medley before retiring at age 15, Bill took up running in a committed way at age 55 and successfully finished the Smith Rock Ascent 50k, his first ultramarathon at age 57 as a part of Becoming Ultra. Bill and his wife Terry are the “people” for two fantastic dogs, Toby and Josie, and currently call Cumberland, RI home.
We had a lot of fun interviewing one of our favorite people, who we are fortunate to call our friend. Bill is one of the most positive and supportive people to ever be a part of Becoming Ultra. In this episode Bill breaks down his first ultra experience as part of Becoming Ultra Season 9. We get into the benefits of a supportive community and friendships that form along the way. We also talk about trail camp and the impact it can have on you. We think you will love Bill as much as we do. Included is a piece Bill wrote about trail camp. Enjoy!
Desert Highlights Trail Camp – 2021
I was fortunate enough to take part in the first-ever Desert Highlights Trail Camp. This was, hands down, one of the most epic experiences of my life! Right from the start, as we stood at the base of Garfield Mountain and looked at the peak we were about to summit, I knew I was in for an adventure. Over the next three days, that adventure unfolded in ways that far exceeded my expectations and took me places I never would have thought possible. Scott and Lauren used their exceptional knowledge of the Western Slope to pick out challenging and breathtaking trails, and our runs (and scrambles and climbs and hikes) took me over 38 miles of the most stunning country I’ve ever experienced. Oh, and I conquered 7,500+ feet of vertical gain in the process! These were legitimate efforts, pushing me in ways that brought real growth, both physical and mental, and Scott and Lauren were there every step of the way, teaching us great warmup techniques, trekking pole usage, trail mastery and more. Better still, they were supportive coaches, pushing us to excel and believing in us through every single mile.
And Trail Camp was so very much more! Great accommodations, the awesome Western towns of Palisade and Fruita, amazing meals and spectacular vineyards and wine were all made better by my fellow campers. I’ve seldom been around such a positive, motivated and down-to-earth group of people, and we formed an unbelievable bond over these three short days! I will never forget our bike tour of the vineyards with a cool local distillery thrown in for good measure and our final night’s dinner and hot-tub session. We all agreed we couldn’t ever remember laughing so well and so long!
As you can see, Trail Camp was many things, but at its heart it was about wonderful people taking the time to enjoy each other and the magnificent natural world around us. It was about living life to the fullest!
Bryan has been a runner most of his life but has suffered some major setbacks that would sideline most of us for good. He has not given up on his love of running and has accomplished some epic things, Tahoe200, Air force marathon, Marine corp. marathon. Chicago marathon 3 x’s, Big Foot 200, Moab 240, Deliriouswest 200 just to name a few. Bryan is also a husband and father, retired from the military with 30 years of service and currently the owner and CEO of Polaris Laboratories.
What a great conversation we had with Bryan. Bryan has a passion for inspiring others and it really comes through. In this podcast Bryan shares his struggles with some substantial injuries and how he overcame them. He takes us on some of his great trail running adventures and gives some solid advice on how to manage the family, work, life balance. We left this one feeling like there are some big adventures ahead of us and we can tackle them. We hope you feel the same! Here is a quote from Bryan I think we can all relate to.
“I never feel I really know a place until I experience it on foot”
Ian has been racing around the world in all styles of event since 2005 and coaching since 2010, having run over 200 ultras and marathons (PR: 2:21) in every type of weather and on all terrains. He's won over 50 multi-day races/road marathons/trail ultras or adventure races with experience of running in many mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies and European Alps. He also holds the fastest time in a trail 100-mile race by a Brit (12h44m), the record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (69h49m), has won the USATF 100-mile trail championship twice and is a four-time Leadville Trail 100 Champion. Ultra-Running Magazine has voted him as high as 2nd in its annual Ultra Runner of the Year rankings and 4th= in Ultra Runner of the Decade.
What a treat it was for us to be able to interview our running coach. Ian shares stories about his many adventures including coming to the US (hello, visa process) and more importantly his first ultra. He is truly one of the most optimistic and positive people we have ever met. If you need a little push to do something epic this is the episode for you. We really enjoyed this chat with Ian and hope you do as well.
To learn more about Ian, visit the following:
Matt Fitzgerald is an endurance sports author, coach, and nutritionist. His many books include The Comeback Quotient, 80/20 Running, and The Endurance Diet and How Bad Do You Want It. Matt’s writings have also appeared in numerous magazines, including Outside and Runner’s World, and on popular websites such as podiumrunner.com and nbcnews.com. He is a cofounder of 80/20 Endurance and the creator of the Diet Quality Score smartphone app. A lifelong endurance athlete, he speaks frequently at events throughout the United States and internationally.
We are excited to have Matt share is first humbling ultra-experience with us. In this podcast Matt gets real on the challenges of being a lifelong road runner and switching to trails. Matt also opens up about his struggles since getting COVID-19 and what running is like for him now. We loved learning more about Matt and left this one more optimistic and inspired.
To learn more about Matt, visit the following:
Twitter: @ mattfitwriter
Websites: mattfitzgerald.org, 8020endurance.com
Jeffrey James Binney is a Salt Lake City based ultra-runner, motivational speaker, actor, singer, and comedian. Jeffrey grew up on a farm in Laredo, MO before moving to Brooklyn, NY & later Los Angeles after receiving his B.F.A. in Musical Theatre Performance from Missouri State University. Jeffrey has been seen on Late Night with David Letterman, in the 1st National Tour and Chicago Company of the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and at comedy clubs and festivals across the country. Jeffrey’s award-winning film, Once Is Enough, chronicles his journey after losing his mom to obesity-caused heart disease.
We all love a good first ultra-story and Jeffrey has a fantastic one. If you thought his documentary, Once Is Enough, told the entire story just wait because there is more. Jeffrey will keep you entertained as we discuss his journey to Becoming Ultra. We could not think of a better guest for our first My First Ultra podcast. We hope you enjoy this one as much as we did.
To learn more about Jeffrey, visit the following:
JJB.life | LinkedIn
(@JeffreyBinney) | Twitter
Jeffrey James Binney – Home | Facebook
Local to Steph Dannenberg, Anthony came out for a group Becoming Ultra run where they met for the first time. Anthony came in with an ambitious goal of completing his first ultra, the Dances with Dirt Devil's Lake 50 miler...in the middle of July! Not everything went according to plan as we listen to his story. But not everything has to go right for you to have an epic adventure! This is also not the end of the trail for Anthony as he has his sights in Tunnel Hill 100 in the fall! Hope you enjoy another edition of My First Ultra here on the podcast.
Today we interview Kevin from Team BU about his first Ultra, the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty 50k out in Colorado. This is special because this will be one of our mini featured races this year in 2019 and we get an inside view and sneak peek on what's to come. Hope you enjoy the show and thanks for listening.
Paula was going to run the American River 50 last year but tragedy hit her family and she couldn't use her training for the event. So, she refocused her efforts to a 50 miler in the Alaskan wilderness. Listen to the experience on today's show which features the first ultra of runners all over the world!
David wanted to pick somewhere really cool for his first ultra so he ran in Ireland. Well, things didn't go as well as expected so listen to how he recalibrated and went back. My First Ultra is all about runners' experiences with their first Ultra! Enjoy the show!
We really wanted to share one of our favorite My First Ultra episodes from the past year. Niki has some great stories!
Niki Hurst is from Squamish and after this interview, most of you will probably say the same in about a year. The trail and mountain lifestyle and the friends that pulled her along the way to eventually experience her first ultra. The big mistake she made on that first 50. Why you should try something so epic!
Angie was an absolute joy to have on the show. Her passion for life and her lifestyle is matched by the wisdom she has picked up along the way. Know someone who think they are too "old" to do these things? Share this show.
This episode is sponsored by Health IQ, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special life insurance rates. Go to healthiq
Thanks for listening!
Our guest really hasn't been running for that long but he has come a long way for sure. A doctors visit, lifestyle change, and move across the country has totally changed his life. Listen to get excited and inspired to run!
Thanks for listening.
Wesley Trimble. This dude had me wanting to go on and on forever. His adventures are more epic than 99.9% of us, elite or otherwise. If this account of a first ultra doesn't inspire you, we give up;)
Another great story of perseverance and running long distance!
From our guest:
"I'm an American expat now based in Scotland. I completed my first ultra last week, a 50k along the Great Trossachs Path in Scotland's first national park. I actually missed the race that I was due to compete in -- the Great Tartan Skidaddle -- because on race day, I was in hospital on a drip after being rushed in by ambulance because of a blood infection due to pneumonia (ait was approaching sepsis and apparently quite dangerous). I was gutted to miss the race. I recovered well and decided to run the race route as a solo affair with a friend from my trail running crew (the Carron Valley Trail Runners) and my wife. I even spoke to the race director after I completed the route. So I did complete my first ultra, just a week later than planned."
Enjoy the show.
Alice had wanted to run an ultra for some time. When she saw the chance for some serious training, she jumped at the opportunity. A fun and real look at everyday runners going for epic goals!
Ginger Gutting is a runner from Fredericksburg, VA. A co-worker got her interested enough to train for and run her first ultra, the JFK50. It was a heck of a day. Listen to how it went, how she trained and who she got to agree to run it with her again this year!
My First Ultra tells the stories of runners' first ultra. Our guest is from Lafayette, Indiana and works as a Director of Communication. Find out how long he gave himself from sign up until race day. What was his training like? What did he do for nutrition? The more we can share normal runners' stories from their ultra's the more everyone will learn before their first!
On this episode our guest lost his dad at a fairly young age and had his first child around the same time. It was time for a lifestyle change, big time. Hear his story about how he did it and what his first ultra was like.
Thanks for listening!