Posted by on Jul 30, 2013

Member Spotlight

This week we feature one of Fitocracy’s finest ultrarunners, czess. He’s gone from being an unhealthy smoker to completing 50 mile runs with sub 11 hour times. He also organizes Fitocracy Virtual Races. If you have a member you’d like to nominate for a Member Spotlight, email

Username and level
czess level 40

How did you get started in fitness and training? 

Through high school and the first part of college I wasn’t very active and actually began smoking a few packs a week. Eventually I just got tired of being out of shape and began playing pickup soccer games and running a few times a week. I kept up the running once I started teaching and eventually took the running path that many amateur runners go through; progressing from 5K to marathon without any knowledge of proper race training, nutrition, weight training, or natural running form. I was pretty injury prone and spent a lot of time with IT band issues. Around the same time I joined Fitocracy I started running with a local trail running group. My knowledge and training be increased quite a bit and I shifted from the idea of running a few miles on the road and hoping for the best to actively training my entire body system. I had to accept that spending my first 20 years being inactive left me weak and that I wouldn’t be able to fix it by just running. I started training seriously and set a goal of running a 50 miles race by the end of the year and worked hard to achieve it. I dropped almost 20 pounds with the training and became more fit in the process. Since then I’ve completed a trail marathon, 50K, 60K, 42 mile, and two 50 mile races including a 10:42 finish at Nueces 50.


How did you find the site?
I actually found the site through xkcd in August 2011!

How has it changed your workouts? 
Early on it pushed me to try to add variety to my workouts and try different things. I’m pretty self driven and the points system helped me figure out what routines and exercises were actually effective and which are a waste of my time. The community was also influential in helping me improve my knowledge base.

Do you have any long term goals or direction you plan to take your training? 
Right now the only races I have lined up are my first 100 mile ultra at Rocky Raccoon next February and the Pike’s Peak Marathon in August 2014. I would also like to finish a 50 miler in less than 10 hours but I don’t have any specific race in mind yet. I’m planning on using a simply 100 mile training plan that concentrates on lengthening back to back weekend runs instead of just having high weekly mileage.

What are things you’ve learned through trial and error? What areas do you hope to learn more about? 
My first attempt at a 100K earlier this year was unsuccessful, I DNF’ed at mile 42, but it helped me refine my training and race nutrition. I will likely have another 100K attempt later this year and that should help in planning my race nutition for RR100.

A year ago I began working on improving my running form and began running in more minimalist, low drop shoes. While my injuries went away, the lighter shoes left something to be desired on the rugged terrain in Texas. I started running in zero drop Altra Lone Peaks around a year ago and my first pair held up for over 800 trail miles. Pretty happy overall with the shoe and plan to stick with it.

Currently, where would you say your weakness lies? Where do you excel? 
My weakness is my swimming. I would love to attempt a ironman or half ironman one day but I swim like a rock. Where I excel is in keeping a mostly consistent pace late into a race. I find myself gaining ground on others during the last quarter of a race. By no means am I running in the front pack, but its always nice to gain a few places late into a race. I’ve also gotten quite a bit faster in 5Ks from the base training and plan on breaking 19 minutes sometime soon.

What motivates you? 
During an ultra, motivation is everything. Without a reason to complete the race and the motivation to do so it is hard to push through the pain. When I’m in a tough spot I think about family and friends who have suffered through tougher situations, such as cancer, but persisted and never gave up their fight. It makes the pain late in a race feel insignificant and makes finishing the race the only option. When the race is over my suffering is over and I can relax, whereas others who are suffering with real issues may not have a “finish line” where they can relax. Their suffering may be a permanent life fixture.

Are you using any supplements or special dietary changes to achieve your goals? 
I’m a firm believer in eating according to your training needs. As an aerobic running pace is more reliant on fat, I’ve shifted my diet towards a higher fat low carbohydrate diet with plenty of cheese, olive and coconut oil, avacado, and butter balanced with protein and vegetables. I try to minimize the amount of carbohydrates and red meat in my diet. Almost all my dinners are vegetarian and home cooked since my wife is vegetarian. It seems to be working well for me and I believe my body has adapted to burn fat first; my last blood lipid test had my levels at too low for the test to read. I’ve also shifted away from using as many gels and sports drinks during races and eating more natural foods.

If you could give advice to someone starting off, what would you tell them? 
Take the time to work on your running form and address and muscle imbalances you might have. Put in some time in the weight room in your training plan to address any needed imbalances. Most people can’t do very well swimming if they never work on form or strength train; I believe that running is the same way. I believe that ignoring running form and strength training leads to the majority of injuries that runners suffer from. Also take the time to improve your diet and eat plenty of whole, unprocessed foods.

What’s your ‘secret weapon’, the thing that pushes you or you feel gives you an edge? 
I have a highly addictive personality. If I am not training or running then I feel like I’m missing out.

What has the overall impact of Fitocracy been in your life? 
Its a great, supportive community and has been very positive. Its a great way to challenge your own fitness beliefs or find a source of inspiration or knowledge if needed. I also enjoy using my knowledge to help out others who have any running questions.

One thing I want people to take away from my story is… 
You don’t have to accept how things are, you can change them. Just because you are at one point in your fitness now doesn’t mean you are stuck there. Pick and goal and work towards achieving the goal.

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