Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Endurance Addiction

I've been training and competing in ultra-endurance sports for about 5 years now. Looking back, I find it difficult to remember exactly when I became so passionate about these sports. When did it become the focus of my personal energy...when did it become the one thing I think about every night as I lay down to sleep? Why does it feel like a drug sometimes? A drug that is legal, addictive, and makes you better the more you use? Perhaps, if I share some of my thoughts with you, I will remind myself just what makes endurance sports so special to me and you might find some inspiration too...

As a child, growing up in San Diego, I played sports on a daily basis. Everything my brother Mike and I did was active. We played baseball and football...we rode bikes and went hiking. We slept outside the entire summer on the deck my dad built off of our bedrooms. Imagination was key in our world. We created adventures and carried them out. Basically, our adventures were limitless, exept for the fact that some require money and most times, we had to back by sundown.

In my teenage years, I was a wrestler and musician. I had boundless energy and never quit anything I started. Anything considered "legal fun" was good in my book. I felt, as long as I followed the rules, I could do whatever I wanted. I also reflected on many of my family members who's lives were clouded with alcohol, drugs, or other forms of addiction. And at a very young age, I acknowledged the fact that I too was probably hard-wired for some sort of addiction. But, I was also the rarity in that I actually learned from the mistakes of others. In doing so, I knew where to turn and what pitfalls to avoid. I also credit my parents with their guidance and careful selection of role models with which they influenced me.

And so, my adult life brought me great success at an early age and relative achievement compared to those of my own age. I bought a house and married my high school sweetheart. I chose a career as a police officer and started training "new cops" before I was 25 years old. Life was easy....maybe too easy. And, by the time I was the ripe old age of 26, I found myself with an abundance of time and money (Never a good thing).

At this point, felt drawn to spend my time and money doing something....but what?! Video games are fun...I played them for a few months. And, if my predictions and introspective self-thought were correct, it should be no surprise that I could play those video games for 8-10 hours at a time. I actually lost weight playing video games! Oh, I could also happily play a video poker machine for 6 hours at a pop too. You see, whatever I did, I did it hard and for a long long time. I realized that wherever I put my focus, I could create passion and energy. One day on a lunch date with my wife Jen, she urged me to focus my time and energy on something positive. She had concerns about the future due to my boundless energy, time, money, and lack of goals outside of work. And because I love her...I listened.

So, it probably took me a couple hours to come up with my plan. The plan was? Ironman triathlon of course! Afterall, I had the background... I could barely swim across the pool without suffocating, I didn't own a bicycle, and I ran 3 miles at a time in the Marine Corps. Plus, I ran those 3 miles pretty fast. Hindsight 20/20.....I didn't have the physical background at all. What I did have was the right mindset.

I threw myself into training and started making mistakes, which I quickly learned from. I bought a bike and all the equipment. The new challenge was exciting and intimidating. I walked into a bike shop one day having never been in one....and walked out with a new road bike and $2,000 worth of equipment. I bought 10 books on triathlon training and a membership to the local gym. And I started training.....hard.

Within 7 weeks, I was finishing my first sprint triathlon. I was feeling awesome and proud. I was enjoying everything I was doing. I hadn't played a video game in months. There was no time! And, I also discovered one of the secrets of passion and time management...that is, the more you have to do, the less time you have, BUT, the more time you will find to do it. AND, the more passionate you are about something, the more energy you will create and find from within.

Fast forward a couple years...I spent that time training consistently and doing various races. I found myself doing longer distance triathlons like half-Ironman and half marathons. I also used all my new found energy to finish my masters degree with a 3.8 gpa. Life was good baby!

Next, I signed up for Ironman. Ironman is the ultimate experience of life right? I saw it on television when I was 16. That's what they said...they said that Ironman triathlon was the ultimate human endurance test. So, I needed to get there....NOW!

Oh yeah, 3 weeks after I registered for that Ironman...Jen told me she was pregnant! Happy Happy Happy! But wait....when would that baby be due? How about 3 weeks, 3 days before Ironman? Is that possible?

Yes sir. It's possible:

Crossing the finish line of my first Ironman was supposed to be the achievement of a life time. And, AT THE TIME, it was. It was the happiest moment of my life. My son was born happy and healthy having survived a high-risk pregnancy. But, I also felt like I had opened a new door into world previously invisible...the world of Ultra-Endurance. Little did I know it would become my life. Ultra-endurance sports.

The best drug ever.

5 years later, I am 100% ultra-endurance athlete. It has provided a framework from which I make decisions about how I spend my time and money. It also lead me to a vegan diet for health, longevity, recovery, and happiness. The most rewarding aspect of my training and life has been the impact I have had on others. I constantly meet people who find inspiration in what we do as ultra-endurance athletes. And, I realize that my story is unique.

Today, I find myself working on a new project. I am working with close friends and family to bring a great adventure to life. "Run The Coast" is a 500 mile run from San Francisco to San Diego. Along the way, runners and walkers will join me and my running partner, Jason, as we make our way down the coast. Each step we take will generate donations for our chosen charity, The Iron Andy Foundation.

Please come run or walk with us in November, 2010 as we make our way down the California Coast. RunTheCoast

Your friend,


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Team Iron Andy @ Western States 100!

The Western States 100mi Endurance Run (WS100) is the mother of all ultras. The race is so popular and rich with history, athletes from all over the world compete yearly in a "lottery", which determines who will get the opportunity to run the course. After 5 years, Jerry was finally accepted through the lottery system and accepted entry into the 2010 race!

The WS100 is held in the last week of June. In preparation for Run the Coast, Jerry will be training and competing at Western States. He will be "paced" by Jason Chilson for the final 38 miles in their quest to score a sub-24hr silver belt buckle for Team Iron Andy.

From now until June 2010, physical training will be focused on a series of shorter ultramarathons, which will prepare Jerry for Western States 100. At this point, logistics and preparation for Run the Coast continue and will be strengthened by the intermediate goal of running a successful race at the 2010 Western States 100. Following the WS100, they will be driving the route from San Francisco to San Diego, mapping out the exact course for Run the Coast! Go Team Iron Andy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Team Iron Andy Takes 1st Place!

Team Iron Andy (Jason and I) competed in the 24hrs of Boulder race this past weekend. We worked as a two-man team in the 12hr division. Being an ultrarunner, I thought this would be easy for us...especially considering the rest breaks! Well it wasn't.

The race started at 9am and ended at 9pm. That provided 12 hours for which to accumulate as much mileage as possible. Each lap was about 7.1 miles. We decided to run laps, one after another. Each lap, we estimated, would take just under an hour. That would give us an hour of 'recovery' before having to run again. Well, having never done that before, we ran at a much higher pace from the beginning of the event. Averaging 7:30/mi becomes increasingly difficult when you pretend that your 'recovered' and attempt to do it over and over again. Gradually, our pace slipped. The running became just as painful as any ultramarathon.

Fortunately, no other relay teams were within
reach of our accumulated mileage. We were able to run more miles than every other 2-man team and also a few 5-man relay teams as well. Team Iron Andy takes 1st place!

Ken Forest, a close friend, provided crew support throughout the day. Ken was awesome and became more of a crutch as the hours and miles began taking their toll on our bodies. We spent much of the day trying to recruit him for full-time crew support at Run the Coast. When the clock ran out, we had run 78.5 miles as a team.

It was our first chance to compete publicly as 'Team Iron Andy'. Everything we do, including races such as this, are meant to prepare us for Run the Coast next year. We proudly wore our new Team Iron Andy uniforms. We hope you will become involved or support our efforts. It is with great pride that we share our adventures. We are proud to be supporting those with diabetes by asking for donations, on our behalf, to the Iron Andy Foundation.

See you on the trail!


For more information, visit Iron Andy Foundation

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Run the Coast: 500 miles for Juvenile Diabetes

Run the Coast?
So what's this all about Jerry?
Well...let me explain in a little more detail.
I became interested in an urban point to point run when a Facebook friend, Christrian Griffith, starting loosely organizing "Run Across Georgia". Upon his announcement to host such an event in April 2010, I immediately joined the FB group and told him I was interested. Then I became jaded by the idea due to the Colorado winter and significant difficulty in preparing for such an event through the Colorado snow. And, even though I started to give up on running across Georgia, I remained interested in such an event.
Next, I met Andy Holder "Iron Andy" at Ironman Louisville. "Iron Andy", as he's known, started the "Iron Andy Foundation" after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in his late 30s. Diabetes had always been my target for charity work....and Andy's foundation seemed to be the perfect fit for my efforts. At the time, I had no specific charity for which to support. My personal connection to diabetes is, of course, my wife Jenifer (a type 1 diabetic) and several of my family members who also have diabetes. Just this past summer, my older brother Jeff was also diagnosed with diabetes.
Andy I and I spoke briefly about ultramarathon and my interest in helping his foundation. We then spoke again several weeks after Ironman Louisville. This time, I had an idea for supporting the Iron Andy Foundation. How about a 500 mile run?
The idea of a 500 mile run came from a disussion I had with my training partner, Jason Chilson. Jason was new to ultrarunning at the time and I had been working with him on developing his endurance skills. So, I threw the idea to Andy and he showed interest in the idea. It seemed that the run provided some framework for which to promote the Iron Andy Foundation, raise money for juvenile diabetes, and inspire people to live a healthy lifestyle. Within a week, Jason and I had come up with "Run the Coast".
With over 12 months left to prepare and train for Run The Coast, we are moving forward with enthusiasm and high hopes. This basic idea is this:
Jason and I will start our run from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We will run/walk 40-50 miles per day, moving down the coastline of California.
Along our route, we will allow fellow distance runners to join us. We anticipate a few die-hard runners, that will put in longer mileage......100-200 miles. For the most part, however, I expect fellow runners to spend the day or half a day running 25-50 miles. And, I also would enjoy having people join us for just a few miles as well. For us, it does not matter whether someone wants to run all day or not.....just that we have other runners out there with us, having run, and supporting the Iron Andy Foundation. And for what it's worth...our running pace will likely be much slower than those that are joining us!
Non-runners can also help us. I anticipate needing about 12 volunteer coordinators, who can assist with communication and organizing aid stations. I will keep the coordination close to my friends and family......and ask those closest to me for assistance. Having said that, I would greatly appreciate anyone's interest in helping us....whether it be for a day, week, or two weeks. This run is about having fun and helping support kids with diabetes. This run WILL do great I believe it is a worthy cause for which to spend your time and/or money. Please send me a direct email if you wish to be an area coordinator, volunteer, crew member, etc... And thank you in advance for offering your time.
Over the next 6 months or so, we will be working on finding corporate sponsors and developing communication infrastructure for Run the Coast. The exact route, dates, and stop-off locations are yet to be determined. Unfortunately, this is not an event which can be off-the-cuff. We have to plan and organize.....and it will take AT LEAST the full year to do so. For now, we will be sending out most information through our Facebook Group "Run The Coast".
We hope you can join us next year for Run The Coast!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

24hr Kida Relay-Solo

I returned from Utah last week after competing in the inaugural "24hr Kida Relay" as a solo athlete. One other entrant, Matt Ward from Utah, competed for the entire 24hrs...although we weren't really 'competing' as much as supporting one another.

The field was primarily teams of 4, both male and female teams, as well as mixed. The race was well organized and held in an incredible location. First-time RD 'Heath Thurston' of Utah designed the race as a fund raiser for 'Kids in Motion', which is a nonprofit group that supports families of children with cerebral palsy. "Kida" is Heath's daughter's name and she has a mild form of cerebral palsy. Treatment and care for these children can be very expensive for families, so this organization provides an invaluable service to the community. (donations can be made through the race website: )

The race started on Friday, May 14th at 8am. For the following 12hrs, we did repeat loops of 25 miles around 'West Mountain.' It provided a scenic route with few cars.

(view southeast from race headquarters)

(a sunset photo taken from the run course)

Matt and I took the liberty of using a crew vehicle and/or bike pacer for some of the ride. The relay teams were strong cyclists, ironman competitors, and short-course triathletes. They maintained a strong competitive pace throughout the day. Race headquarters kept stats and posted the competition results throughout the day.

At 8pm, we all switched to running repeat 6 mile laps on an out-and-back course along a lonely stretch of roadway that paralleled Utah Lake. At dawn, wildlife was everywhere and the stillness was awesome.

Matt Ward beat me in the solo division, putting up 175 miles in the roadbike course and 42 miles in the run. I was satisfied with my 2nd place 150 miles roadbike, 36 miles run.

Relay teams remained competitive throughout the night and everyone was exhausted at the 8am award ceremony.

I put edited a short video about my race and I am creating a second video, which will highlight Kida and the other athletes. Here is the video I created, showing some of the beauty the course had to offer:

Video of 24hr Kida Relay Solo-
Jerry Armstrong, Team E.R.F.

If you're looking for a unique and difficult ultra challenge.......check out and sign up for next year's event. And if you are more interested in keeping it fast and having fun with friends, sign up as a team. Remember, there's a $500 prize purse for winning teams! Stay strong.......have fun.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Latest Training Technology-iPhone RunKeeper

Fellow endurance athletes listen up! A simple application on the iPhone called "Run Keeper Pro" will make the iPhone worth purchasing by itself.

I bought my iPhone last week and quickly learned that is was much more than just a phone. It's a personal assistant, computer, entertainment device, and much more. But wait......what's this Run Keeper program? Holy way!

I downloaded Run Keeper Pro for a one-time fee of $9.99. The download/install took less than a minute. Later that day, I was preparing to head out on a short run to test out my new toy. I started the Run Keeper application and............

I began receiving audible information from a female voice through my headphones. The voice provided information including pace, average speed, distance, and duration. I was simultaneously listening to mp3 music on the same device, but the voice clearly told me the info I needed. There was no need to look at the device, which was awesome.

The Run Keeper Pro application uses the phone's internal GPS to calculate information. Of course, like all GPS, it needs an outdoor signal. But, I found the accuracy to be as good or better than the Garmin series watches we all use.

I was excited to discover this toy within a toy..........and I think you will to.

I share this mainly for those of you that carry a standard cell phone and, like me, had no idea that iPhones came with this capability. As an endurance athlete, I found this one application to make the phone almost worth the price by itself.

Using Run Keeper Pro on iPhone will work great for shorter runs, less than 3 hours. Like other portable devices, it has battery limitations. The Garmin 201/301 watches will track the same information, but last as long as 8 or 10 hours. (Also, if you're a trail runner, you must be weary of the expensive computer in your pocket so you don't drop it in the river.)

Other than batter life or fragility in adverse weather, I find no drawbacks to using the Run Keeper application on all runs.

Another sweet feature for runners is the added microphone in the headphones. If someone calls you while you're running and listening to simply press the 'answer' button and talk hands-free. When the phone call is done, you end the call and the music comes back on automatically.
Run Keeper information can also be uploaded and maniupated to provide mapping and analysis. Until now, this was something that only Garmin was doing with relative ease.

If you want to learn more, google iPhone Run Keeper. I found most of the user reviews to be positive. You should also know that the application can be adjusted for hiking and cycling as well.

I don't mean this to be an all-inclusive review of the Run Keeper Pro application. I merely wanted to share my excitement over this application for those of you that didn't know it I was just last week.

Run long, stay strong.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


So I've been experimenting with yoga...

I think yoga can be extremely beneficial to endurance athletes and that's why I thought I'd share...

About a year ago, my good friend Lorraine talked me into some 'Bikram yoga' classes. At the time, I was purely motivated by the idea of heat training in preparation of crew support at Badwater. I also thought it would help my flexibility. Looking back, I enjoyed the classes and wish I had continued training in yoga techniques.

I went to about 4 Bikram yoga sessions. They were extremely intense and difficult. The room was heated to about 120 degrees and extremely humid. I always took fluids and the instructor had a problem with that. Each pose was difficult, primarily because of the intensity of heat and humidity. Of course, I'm attracted to challenges and I left each session planning to improve on my next visit. (I also didn't mind the motivation provided by the many spandex-wearing ladies around me.) At Badwater, I enjoyed the air conditioning of the car as a crew support member and shut the proverbial book on my yoga experience...until now.

Flexibility has always been a challenge for me. I was blessed with a stiff and inflexible body. It never prevented me from athletics and even may have helped in wrestling. Although, when I started endurance sports....I think my inflexibility became something of an obstacle. I've suffered from many over training injuries and in recovery from each, I came to learn that stretching and flexibility may have helped prevent my diagnosis. Swimming, cycling, and running require muscles to break down, rebuild, and therefore....become less flexible. If you want to see a tight quadricep, take a look at an ultrarunner. This was pointed out to me by my last physical therapist when she was trying to fix my IT band. Our legs are stiff, strong, and inflexible....and if we don't work at lengthening those muscle fibers, we might as well prepare for injury...because something has to give.

So, in an effort to improve and avoid repeating mistakes...I recently started doing yoga training at home. I've been recording a television program called, "Namaste Yoga". I'm not sure if the show is available outside of Colorado but I do think it has been produced well. I don't think it's necessary to attend yoga classes if you have access to a quality yoga video and the interior space to do the movements and poses.

To those that refuse to include yoga in their training, I urge you to reconsider. Yoga is thousands of years old. It has deep, rich history. I believe that 'attempting' to do the poses and breathe as instructed, can help your flexibility and mental focus. I have begun realizing the positive effects of yoga in my training. In just a few weeks of doing yoga at home, my flexibility has improved in my shoulders and lower back. Because the poses are often similar, I recognize my improvement in holding poses that were impossible when I first started.

Endurance sports are special because they often require athletes to tap into something deeper than the surface-level physical exertion. Incorporating mental strength and meditation techniques allow the average athlete to go further than they thought possible. And ultra endurance athletes have already already proven, by way of their chosen sport, that they choose challenge and discomfort as a means to learn about inner strength. If you really think about why we do these will probably conclude that it is about realizing individual potential and self-improvement. Besides the must consider the intangible power of the mind.

When we run for 5, 10, or 20+ hours...we are using meditation. Our physical accomplishments are completed by the power of the mind...not the body. Because of this, the benefits of yoga are obvious, in my opinion. Yiannis Kouros, the hands-down, best ultrarunner of all time said in an interview that if his records were ever broken, it would not be an American. His reasoning? American athletes do not engage the meditative, spiritual, and mental potential of their potential. Kouros predicts that only a runner from Asia would be capable of beating him because culturally, they use the power of the mind to overcome physical limitations. Kouros believes he is capable of extreme ultra endurance feats, because of his mind power.....not his body.

Speaking from a beginner point-of-view....I can say that practicing yoga does not immediately provide obvious benefits. It is with continued, and repeated effort that you will begin to realize how beneficial it is to your health and performance. I look forward to using yoga as a part of my training from now on. I am only disappointed in myself for not making this decision earlier.

Coach Jerry