One Ultrarunner's Journey to Measure the Human Spirit @scott_dunlap
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One Ultrarunner's Journey to Measure the Human Spirit @scott_dunlap



Scott Dunlap @scott_dunlap is an entrepreneur and ultra runner who is determined to measure passion and the human spirit by tracking body physiology during his favorite activity, ultra running. He ...

Scott Dunlap @scott_dunlap is an entrepreneur and ultra runner who is determined to measure passion and the human spirit by tracking body physiology during his favorite activity, ultra running. He shares data he tracked while running marathons, 50k, and 100-mile runs, and what is happening while he is in moments of euphoric bliss. He also compares these patterns to the challenges of entrepreneurs and start-ups, and draws conclusions about best practices. This presentation was originally presented at Le Web Paris in Dec, 2012.

If you download this presentation, or use terminology, please give proper credit to Scott when presenting and encourage them to visit his award winning blog, A Trail Runner's Blog (



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  • You can see it here -, or get the transcript here - . Thanks for the kind note!
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  • Scott: Awesome presentation. But what about lesson 5: turn around at No Hands Bridge :-)
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  • The quote on slide 28 is amazing. Great pics, too.

    Would've loved to have seen you present this.
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  • Excellent
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  • Awesome presentation, Scott. Very inspiring especially the life lesson. Keep following your passion.
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  • Thank you for having me. Like many of you, I am an entrepreneur. I have five start-ups under my belt, and am currently at 10D Labs where we help start-ups and luxury brands develop organic growth strategies. But as you heard from my intro, I like to run. A LOT.[Photo courtesy of Marc Soller]
  • Like Forrest Gump a lot. This guy is my hero.[photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures]
  • Yet the more I run, the more energy, optimism, and enthusiasm I have for everything in my life. Start-ups, family, friends, music, screenplays.Why is that? Shouldn’t I be more tired the more I run?Where is that energy coming from? What is the source of that power? And with the Internet of Things, maybe it can be measured and understood?This is the journey I would like to share with you today, and hope to leave you with a few thoughts on how to tap into that.[photo courtesy of Chris Spread]
  • Is the destiny of the Internet of Things to make us lazy? You may recognize this picture from the movie WALL-E, where technology enables mankind to never leave their lounge chair and drink cupcake in a cup. Which now that I think about it, sounds absolutely delicious.Joking aside, we all know that convenience is king. It is natural to take the path of least resistance. Is this our destiny?[Photo courtesy of Pixar]
  • Why build a rover that can land on Mars?Why try and solve the African Water crisis when you can sip Crystal and flash your Rolex all night?Why strap yourself to a parachute and surf waves backwards, drinking gallons of seawater in the process?Loic and Geraldine – why not just do a webinar? That technology exists, you know.
  • Not a hobby or an interest, but a true passion. Something that demands a life pursuit, giving all your mind, body, and spirit can conjure, and you give it willingly. You’ll take 1,000 brush strokes to get the sunset just right in a painting. Then do it all again.You’ll break 1,000 eggs to make the crème brulee perfect.You will spend 15 hours/day making your start-up the best that it can be, so deep in the code that your dreams look like the Matrix, and never question the devotion it takes.Tireless discipline. Courage and persistence. Anything to make that ambition a reality. But those who know will tell you it feels nearly effortless.
  • Passion has overcome every obstacle, every no, every impossibility. It gives the human race our greatest breakthroughs and our heroes. Our Olympic champions, our Tour d-Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe, Cezanne’s and Da Vinci’s, our Steve Jobs, our Bill and Melinda Gates.
  • It never stops.It knows no bounds. And passionate people can’t contain it in just one hobby – it leaks into every part of their lives, injecting it with energy and optimism. Passion is amplified when it is shared. In the heat of competition, on a heat of a crowded start up garage office, in the heat of the data center for sites like Pinterest, You can feel it when you enter a start-up. It’s palpable. And in rooms like this one, where we all share and encourage each other.
  • Passion is the core of the human spirit. Passion is the greatest energy source I know, and can lead to euphoric moments. It’s that perpetual euphoria that I want to know more about.
  • Can passion be measured? There’s only one way to find out. And that’s to dive head first into your passion and measure everything you can.
  • My passion is ultrarunning. These are long distance running events of 30-100 miles, usually over difficult mountain terrain. This is a picture of Anton Krupicka, one of the hero’s of our sport, wearing all the necessary items, which is basically nothing. It is exhilarating, it is incredibly challenging. It is the purest test of the body, mind, and spirit I have found, and like Forrest Gump, I just can’t get enough of it.
  • Technology has enabled a number of new ways to measure what is happening in an ultramarathon. The “Internet of Me” can track your movement, sleep cycles, and more thanks to companies like Fitbit, Jawbone, Nike, and Striiv. Advancement in the area has been amazing. Just last week, Basis Science announced the Health Tracker which includes a galvanic skin sensor captures perspiration, skin temperature, and emites an LED light into your veins to measure heart rate. Simply amazing.
  • You can also now track the world around you. Fluid monitors can track your water input, and watches from Polar and Garmin can give GPS, alititude, temperature, and more.One often overlooked technology is the instrumentation of the race itself. Here is a disposable D-Tag which when strapped to your shoe, will post to Facebook to let your friends know every checkpoint. I’ve had fun hacking this to send to to send me back a text and let me know where my competition is.
  • The trick of course is to not go “full Borg” (Star Trek reference) and lose track of the essence of running.But it can tell you a lot about what is happening during an event, and give some insight into those moments of euphoria I seek out.
  • To give us a starting point, here is an altitude chart of the Boston Marathon, one of the oldest and best known in the world. At mile 21 is the infamous Heartbreak Hill, feared by runners and is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hill repeat workouts.At the last Boston Marathon, I burned 2412 calories, about as much as a regular person burns in a day. I took 27,488 steps, about 4x the average, and consumed 50 oz of water, not nearly enough but there you go.
  • If you compare the Boston Marathon to a typical ultramarathon like the Woodside 50k in California, you can see right away it’s a different beast. While only five miles longer, the terrain is much more dramatic which requires far more calories, steps, and water. What you take in (calories, water, electrolytes) now becomes a big part of the race.But this still does not compare to the granddaddy of ultrarunning, the 100-mile run.
  • Here is the Boston Marathon and Woodside 50k compared to the Wasatch 100-mile run in the Wasatch mountains of Utah. Note that you start at 5,000 feet and do more climbing in the first 15 miles than most people do in a lifetime. Then you only have 85 miles to go!The numbers start to tell more the effort required. Over 15,000 calories means you are burning almost 5 pounds of fat in a single day. 130,000 steps is nearly 2x the weekly average for a your day-to-day life, and the goal is to finish in less than 24 hours if you can.
  • Wasatch is a tough race, but not nearly the toughest. The Hardrock 100 in Colorado puts the whole race above 10,000 feet (3000 meters), and the Leadville 100 never goes below 10,000 feet.Last month I did the Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc, a circumnavigation of Mont Blanc in France, Switzerland, and Italy, and saw these kinds of numbers. Although it’s nice to lose 5 lbs in one day, this isn’t why we do ultras.
  • This is why.
  • And this is why.
  • When you’re out in Mother Nature, the proportions are staggering. See if you can find the runner in this picture!Each mountain seems impossible, but you break it down, and you do it. And there are glorious moments of euphoria.
  • One thing I’ve noticed is that each of these races has a similar path to euphoria. Here’s a perceived exertion scale, where you feel good to euphoric, or bad from rough patch to “please kill me now”.
  • As you go through an event, a similar oscillating cycle appears. The farther you go, the higher the amplitude, and the more condensed the cycle time.
  • I refer to the down parts as the Wall, the Pit, and the Abyss.You’ve heard about “the wall” – when your body says no.Then there’s “the pit”, which is when your mind gives up. Every complaint.When the body is tamed and the mind is silenced, you hit the abyss where you are forced to dig deep. Why am I here, what is my purpose. If you want to get out, you have to shed yourself of any emotional drag.If your brain and heart are cluttered at the start, you don’t make it. You DNF. You quickly learn to start lean with your emotional baggage.In a start-up, the Wall is that first product, the Pit is when you finally have a few dozen customers, and the abyss is when you have a self-sustaining business based on something completely new. You gotta start lean, or you will never make it.
  • And then you reach the point of euphoria that I’ve been so trying to measure. And it’s fascinating to see what the data says about this moment, typically 70-85 miles into the race.
  • One of the most fascinating things about this state is that your heart rate actually lowers 10-15% WHILE your speed increases 10%. Your body reaches an optimal state of moving forward.When I share this data with elite athletes, theologians, monks, and PhD’s, they all recognize it. And the more I experience, the more accessible it becomes. After reaching this point 4-5 times, I can now get to it with a 30 minute run in the forest.Athletes call it “Flow” or “The Zone”Meditation is “Moment of Calm”Buddhist Monks told me it was “enlightenment”Fasting creates a similar resultPhysiologists told me it could be the anandamide receptor.
  • Professors at UC Irvine are investigating the effects of a chemical called anandamide which triggers the same chemical receptors as marijuana. Shout out to the stoners! Discovered in 1992 at Hebrew University, anandamide, combined with a healthy dose of dopamine and endorphins, may explain how the body creates that ideal euphoric state with endless energy.
  • The biggest question I get from others is “what does it feel like”. The best way to explain it is through a quick story. In 100 mile races, we often have a friend who “crews”, meeting up with us every 5-15 miles to make sure we’re doing well. At mile 85 at the 2010 Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, my brother-in-law Brian asked me how I was doing. I don’t remember saying this, but this is what I told him.When it was repeated back to me, I said I don’t remember saying it, but I remember feeling it. Being a part of every living thing around me.
  • Aside from concluding that Scott is seriously off the deep end, can we derive any conclusions?This journey has just begun, but since it is a passion, it will certainly continue. But in the process of shedding emotional baggage for these races, I do have four lessons to share with you.
  • Encourage passion in those around you. If you have a passion, or if you have children, this may seem obvious. I’ve found two easy ways to do this. First, just ASK them. Take a co-worker out to lunch, ask them about their passions, and keep an open mind.Second, if you are a CEO or Manager in particular, ask them when their next vacation is. If they don’t have one, hound them until they do. Give them time to pursue their passions if you have to, but don’t let them get eddied in the mundane. One day off will produce man-weeks of results.
  • I’m not a fan of the term “work/life balance” because it creates opposing forces. You can be passionate about your work, and allow passion to boost it. Think only in terms of life balance, and how one source of passion can invite adventure into every part of your life.
  • I’m sure you have all heard the phrase “this isn’t a sprint, this is a marathon”. Well for some of us, a marathon is a sprint. And when that’s the case, you gotta pack lean. In life, this means letting your passions ask the hard questions. Don’t wait for a cancer diagnosis to find out what drives you, just find out. Shed the worthless negative emotions of guilt, envy, hate, and regret. Be ready for the challenge.In start-ups, this means taking the time to ask the hard questions early. Not what you are going to do, but what you’re not going to do. Wicked focus.
  • When you identify the known pain points (wall, pit, abyss) in advance, they don’t seem as bad. Celebrate them. Euphoria could be just over the next hill.When everyone around you is gritting their teeth, and you’re the one saying “yes! We’re in the PIT”….then you’re all going to make it.
  • Then keep going, because like Forrest Gump knew, it will feel effortless.We all live ordinary lives until a passion comes along and turns it into a fairly tale. Live your life to have good stories, my friends.
  • You can find more about all of this at my blog, A Trail Runner’s Blog. If so, please leave a comment and let me know. I’ll be tracking 100-milers, Ironman races, and more for 2013 and we’ll see what we can conclude about this journey next year.Otherwise, I hope to see you on the trails.Thank you!

One Ultrarunner's Journey to Measure the Human Spirit @scott_dunlap One Ultrarunner's Journey to Measure the Human Spirit @scott_dunlap Presentation Transcript

  • Mother Nature’s Data Feed:One Ultrarunner’s Journey To Measure The Human Spirit Scott Dunlap @ Le Web Paris Dec 4th, 2012
  • Scott’s Hero
  • Ah, The Internet of Things
  • Why Do Anything Hard?
  • “…because it’s my PASSION.”
  • PASSION isthe core of the human spirit
  • Can PASSION be measured?
  • Internet of Me
  • Internet of Now
  • …Just Try Not To Overdo It
  • Boston Marathon 500 Heartbreak Hill 450 400Altitude 350 (feet) 300 250 200 150 Boston Marathon 100 50 0 0 5m 10m 15m 20m 26.2m 2,412 calories 27,488 steps 50 oz water
  • Boston Mrthn vs Woodside 50k 3000 2500 2000Altitude 1500 (feet) Boston Marathon 1000 Woodside 50k 500 0 0 5m 10m 15m 20m 26.2m 31m 3,880 calories 40,176 steps 85 oz water
  • Boston Mrthn vs Wasatch 100m 12000 10000 8000Altitude 6000 (feet) Boston Marathon 4000 Woodside 50k Wasatch 100m 2000 0 15,221 calories 130,106 steps 440 oz water
  • Boston vs. Hardrock 100 14000 12000 10000 8000Altitude Boston Marathon (feet) 6000 Woodside 50k Wasatch 100m 4000 Hardrock 100m 2000 0 0 5m 26.… 10m 15m 20m 31m 35m 40m 45m 50m 55m 60m 65m 70m 75m 80m 85m 90m 95m 100m 18,770 calories* 151,090 steps Heartbreak Hill 522 oz water * Data from Ultra Tour de Mont Blanc, not Hardrock.
  • Perceived Exertion/Euphoria Euphoric Awesome Great Good Rough Patch Struggling SeriousPls Kill Me Now
  • Perceived Exertion/Euphoria Euphoric Awesome Great Good Rough Patch Struggling SeriousPls Kill Me Now
  • Perceived Exertion/Euphoria Euphoric Awesome Great Good Rough Patch Struggling SeriousPls Kill Me Now “The Wall” “The Pit” “The Abyss”
  • Perceived Exertion/Euphoria Euphoric Awesome Great Good Rough Patch Struggling SeriousPls Kill Me Now “The Wall” “The Pit” “The Abyss”
  • Achieving “Flow” Heart Rate Speed “Flow” “The Zone” Enlightenment Mushin (無心) Transcendence Zen Runner’s High
  • Anandamide
  • What Euphoria Feels/Sounds Like “When You Stare Into The Abyss See It For What It Truly Is An Infinite Pool of Will and Courage See The Reflection of Your Soul To Some, This Is The Face of God Stare Into Her Eyes It Is Full of Stars My God, It Is Full of Stars” - Scott, Mile 85, 2010 Western States 100
  • Conclusions (?)• My Journey Has Just Begun• Four Lessons To Share
  • Lesson #1Encourage passion in those around you.
  • Lesson #2There is no such thing as work/life balance. There is only life balance.
  • Lesson #3The marathon is a sprint, so pack lean.
  • Lesson #4 Predict and celebrate the pain.Passion will pull you through to euphoria.
  • There is no greater feeling than life success through the rigors of passion. Don’t stop until you find it.Then keep going…because it will feel effortless.
  • Thank You! See You On The Trails… @scott_dunlap