A few years ago, Kindle was the hot thing. Maybe the Kindle still is, but mine fell out of favor a while ago. Recently, I rediscovered my Kindle and charged it back up. And, there “sitting” on my bookshelf was Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. I am not positive, but I believe it is one of those books that I downloaded during a beach vacation and may (or may not of) ever finished — right along with some new age spy novel.
I’m glad I found Finding Ultra and read it critically this time through.
Finding Ultra is the biography of Rich Roll — and, in particular, his transformation in mid-life from an out- of-shape recovering alcoholic to one of the best ultrarunners and ultraracers of his day. There is a huge emphasis in the book on the role of a plant-based diet in that transition. But, there is a lot more to this book than just eating better.
Overall, Finding Ultra is an easy flowing read — much like its laid back author. (I have never met Rich, but that’s impression from watching his YouTube Channel and listening to his podcasts). Unlike similar books, it is not full of machoism or ego. It is carefree and meanders more like a soft stream through the mountains that so often serve as the book’s setting. It is a great nightstand or beach vacation book (just make sure you read it!)
Inside the chapters are captivating stories of extreme endurance adventures, many of which have not been publicized outside the niche world of ultrarunning. One of my favorites is about the EPIC 5 —- Rich and his buddy’s quest to complete 5 Ironman Distance Triathlon on the 5 Hawaiian Islands in 5 consecutive days. The preparation for and completion of this event could easily muster enough material for a book. Fortunately for the reader, EPIC 5 is only one of many great stories in this book.
The book is also very human and personable. As I approach my forties, I found myself relating to Rich’s own struggles with mid-life, which were precipitated by the choices throughout his twenties and thirties.
I did not grow-up in a family of healthy eaters. We ate and some members of my family ate a lot. But, I was active, so excess weight or health concerns were never issue in my teens. In my twenties, I ate horribly in college and at work causing me to balloon to 30 pounds heavier than my current weight. In my thirties, I found running and have returned to my early twenties weight.
Like Rich, I see the next frontier for me as nutrition. I certainly eat better now than I did a well ago. And, it’s mainly from awareness of how to eat. Lacking great role models growing up, I have had to slowly piece together a better meal plan and supplementation routine. (Indeed, this experimentation led me to design the PEREGRUNE line of Runner Nutrition — wwww.peregrune.com). Odds are Rich has it right. The plant based lifestyle makes a lot of sense and it has gotten results. And, as I have added more fruits and vegetables (especially vegetables) to my diet, my performance, mood, and health have gotten better. But, I still like and find value in meat.
In summary, Rich’s transcendental view on life makes this book very readable. Its words are humble, inspiring, and relaxed. There’s calmness to the book’s stories despite their extreme settings.
Calm under stress — that’s probably why Rich is such a great athlete.