Monday, November 28, 2011

Interview: Jim Lampman

I've continued to scour the run-o-sphere in search of runners and athletes to interview that not only exemplify Human Potential, but continue to be the voice of ultra-running. Today's interview is just one of those athletes. I met Jim Lampman during the 2006 Damn Wakely Dam Ultra in Piseco, NY. Just 4 miles into the 32.6 mile race.. and we were lost together (Jim was leading). I instantly loved the kid, him eating grape gummy fish (my favorite), a quick wit and a mouth that just doesn't stop. It's easy to get lost with Jim, and tick off the Miles. Without further adieu, Jim Lampman..

Name: James Lampman
Age: 28
Hometown/Location: Cato, NY
Years Running Ultras: 7, almost 8 years (Spring 2004)
100-Mile Finishes: 17 official finishes since 2007 (plus three other 100-155-mile runs: pacing and DNFs of races >100mi.) Vermont 100 (5), Massanutten 100 (2), Virgil Crest 100 (3), Beast of Burden Winter 100, Umstead 100, Beast of Burden Summer 100 (2), NJ 100, Philadelphia 100, Burning River 100.

Ultra Achievements:
2006 Western New York Ultra Series – 15th out of 83 in Men’s Open
2007 – 5th out of 75 in Men’s Open
2008 – 3rd out of 77 in Men’s Open
2009 – 2nd out of 93 in Men’s Open
2010 – 15th out of 131 in Men’s Open
2011 – 8th out of 122 in Men’s Open

Sherpa John: Jim, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your Ultra-Journey and a little bit about your upcoming journey within our sport. You've been a part of this sport about as long as I have now and I'm sure our readers will find your story inspiring and helpful within their own journeys.

Jim Lampman: John, thank you for having me and as I said, I have been a long time fan of the blog, so it is an honor to be interviewed. John, remember way back when in 2006, when I got you and a couple other veterans lost in my 2nd ultra ever at the Damn Wakely Dam Run? Apparently, I looked like I knew what I was doing and that is still one of the favorite stories to tell on the trails during races, and since a lot of people know you the story gets even better.

SJ: So Jim, tell us about how you became an ultra runner. What inspired you to join this sport? How did you get here?

JL: Well, the trouble is I wish I had been informed earlier, why didn’t anyone tell me I did not have to kill myself running 5Ks in high school, I could have been having fun running much further and not gotten yelled at for talking during cross-country races – I talk a lot, it’s a curse. The whole trouble began when I went to a college that did not in fact have any running sport (XC, track) and I just started running on my own in Rochester and the surrounding areas most days of the week and really keeping mileage, but just going out and exploring. I hook up with the Run Club on campus and they were going to a 5K/Half-marathon in Syracuse; everyone in the club was doing the 5K and someone said “Man, you would have to be nuts to do 13.1-miles.” (Isn’t perspective interesting?) The club was paying the entry fee, so I thought what the hell why not, which got some weird looks from the others. Finished that fine and someone at the finish said if I doubled that time it would be a good marathon time. So, I ran a dozen or so marathons over the next three years and managed to get myself into Boston twice while I was at it, but I had also really enjoyed a few 30-mile local trail runs (Highland Forest 1-2-3 Run) that I had also done during that time. So, first 5Ks, then half marathons and full marathons, but while those were fun and I got to meet some great people doing them, those races were just not my scene. It bugged me that everyone was very “me” oriented, very serious for the most part with everyone trying meet their own goals, and there’s was not a lot of camaraderie, which was very weird for a kid that likes to talk and joke. On the other hand, at those 30-mile trail runs I had gotten a taste of what trail running and ultra-running was all about. Races were no longer about competition, but about a community of friends (old and one you haven’t met yet) coming together to help each finish, because unlike the marathons, with their 95% finishing rates, it was not a given that you would finish an ultra. One thing that I loved about the ultra community was the stark difference in how runners treat each other in a race; a favorite example, if a runner in marathon stops to tie a shoe literally hundreds of people could go be without a word, but in an ultra every single person would ask if that person was okay, if they needed anything, if they wanted them to wait for them, want to walk for a bit, etc, because others are not seen as competition, but friends and I like that a lot.

SJ: In all the years you've been running ultras, what was your one toughest race and what do you think got you to the finish line?

JL: That would have to be the first Beast of Burden Winter 100-Mile in Lockport, NY (Buffalo) in February 2010. Thirty hearty souls in the 100-mile and the same number in the 24-hour run took off from the start line at 10am that Saturday the end of February with a foot of snow on the Erie Canal path, which served as the 12.5-mile out and back course for the 100 that we would do a total of four times. The first half of the race went great, people moved in groups and I got the first 50-miles done in a very respectable 12-hours flat, which I was very happy about and even the next 25-mile loop went fairly well as well, but by the time I was heading out for my final loop the number had thinned out considerably and I was happy to have a pacer whose runner had dropped go out with me. The first 6.25-miles went alright with us keeping an okay walking pace but we (and by “we” I mean “I”) were definitely going slower and slower with each mile and by the time we hit that 6.25 half point I would have been moving faster if I had been crawl on all fours, or so it seemed. I the next 6-miles I barely even looked up and just watched my pacers feet and plotted forward – this would be the only time in any race I have ever been in where I was not ambitious enough to talk, but I was moving and I took some pride and smiled at the fact that I knew I was one of three people still out on the course. It took me 2 hours and 40 minutes to cover 6-miles, this was not looking good. Me being out on the course for that amount of time with my crew seeing me did not sit well with my crew, my friend Mary Holmes (who would crew for me at the next two Beast of Burden 100s). When we got to the 12.5-mile turn-around the volunteers said I had only had the turn-around cut-off by minutes and after hearing how long the last leg had taken us from my pacer said at my current pace would not be able to make it back to the finish under the 30-hour cut-off, but if I wanted I could turn around and go to the 94-mile and my crew and everyone could meet me there and I could get a few more miles in, which sounded good. My pacer unfortunately had to leave, but I was willing to trudge in the miles by myself, but one of the pacers said her husband could go out with me, I turned to see a man in short and a yellow fleece smiling at me. They asked if I need anything, but I did not feel like anything (this is also the ONLY time I have ever refused food in a race or in life in general) So, Allan VanBuren and I start walking. When he got maybe a quarter of a mile, Allan, behind me at the time said, "Can you run? "I said, I don’t know. I tried to jog, which worked. Allan asked, do you think you can go faster? I tried and apparently I could, because now we were running at a decent clip, which we kept up for maybe a 1/3 of a mile until the next bridge and we just kept doing that; running as hard as I could then power walking until I decided to run again…we covered that 6.25 leg that had taken me 2 hours and 40 minutes only just a little while ago in about an hour and 10 minutes – we were talking up a storm during the power walks and I was once again smiling like I did not have a care in the world. So, there’s the race director Sam Pasceri, my crew, Mary and a bunch of volunteer waiting for us at the halfway point ready to tell me good job on get that far and drive me back to the start. Instead they see Allan and I barreling down the canal path in the distance as full tilt. Sam sees us, looks again to make sure and screams “You son of a bitch! I knew it!” As he got closer I tried to start talking to Mary, Sam and everyone, but Sam said, "No No No, kept moving1 we will get you whatever later!" So, we kept up our power walking and running and eventually we passed a guy that I had not seen in like 10 hours, he would eventually get in and make the cut-off by 10 minutes, which is awesome. Allan and I ran in it always trying to keep a half hour buffer zone, which we kept and finished in 29 hours 30 minutes, which was just fine by me, 7th of 8 finishers. So, technically I got 7th in a 100-mile run…people do not need to know out of how many finisher or starters. (smiles)

What got me to the finish line? Well, it certainly wasn’t me, if I had been at that race on my own I never would have finished, or probably even gone beyond mile 75. Luckily I wasn’t alone; I had my friend Mary that came to look after me in place of my Dad while he got the weekend of from race duty. She calls me “Superman”, kind of like my Dad, but a little different, kind of hard not to get jacked up when someone thinks you can do anything. So, she would talk with everyone at the aid stations about me so when I got to them I felt like everyone already knew me. She was there for whatever I needed, well and it is hard to failed when someone looks at you like you could do anything. I had gotten her through her first marathon that previous fall, so she was kind of paying me back by crewing for me. I had Sam, the RD and my friend, his wife and all of the volunteers out n the course. I also had my mystery pacer to thank, which it kills me that I do not remember his name; I never would have made it out of the warm aid station and back out into the snow at mile 75 without him by my side. Finally, Allan Vanburen…that man was my savior, he could have just let me walk it into mile 94, hell he could have not gone out on the course with me in the first place, he wasn’t dressed for the weather and it was his wife that volunteered, if I remember right, so yes, he was awesome to get me to run again when I had run since hours earlier. That is why I love ultras, everyone is there for everyone; I have seen people in the state I was in and I know how it felt, so I am willing to do anything for someone else in the position, walk with them for a while or whatever needs to happen for them to continue and bring it home, because there is nothing like brining in a race, no matter how many times you have done it.

SJ: If you could give one piece of advice to a newcomer ultra-runner, what would you say?

JL: Go out slow, if you think are going too fast, you are, if you think you are going too slow, you aren’t; go steady; eat and hydrate early and often; smile, talk people and be merry – you’ll get there, just keep moving – if you are moving you are banking time, no matter how slow, if you are stopped you are losing time; and be kind to your crew and volunteers – they are there just for you, but no not take them for granted. Oh, and proper wiping, it saves races – myself, I like to pamper myself with baby wipes. Finally, be happy, you get to go running.

SJ: Jim, you're one of the happiest people in our sport. And so, your new blog is titled Jim Runs Happy. Can you tell us a little more about why you've always remained happy even during your darkest moments out on the courses?

JL: True, people at aid stations always tell me “You look great, did you start at Mile 50?” and that I look happy in races: I am smiling at the start, 30-miles in, 80-miles in during the night being poured on by rain (or hail? MMT anyone?), then more than a day later still smiling at the finish. I always tell people that running should be fun and that if they ever see me running and I do not look happy, tell me and I will stop running. I guess; I do not HAVE to run, when I go for a run or to a race it is not something I am forced to, but something I GET to do, I GET to go running. The way I see it, I am able-bodied and can do something I love, why wouldn’t I be smiling like an idiot?

SJ: Those who know you Jim, know that your Dad (Don, “Big Don”) is at every one of your races. What kind of support has he given you over the years and what does that mean to you from a crewing perspective?

JL: My Dad is at most of races that he can be and I give him just as much credit as myself at a race, because for the most part he stays up the whole race besides some cat napping, is at every aid station he can be and even runs an aid station one on of my fall races and has for the past six years (Canandaigua 50). The man is two scores older than I am, is tough as nails (still sleeps in the truck or van the night before a race with me; we like to keep race cheap, so we park at the start line) and is always still smiling and joking at an aid station in the wee hours of the night. Races are definitely not the same without him and everyone always asks about him if he in not here. He is a great asset in a race, because he does not baby me, tells me what I need to know (cut-offs, pace, etc.) and always has my trusty duffel bag that has anything I could ever want in it.

SJ: You've completed a number of races over the years and it looks like 2012 is going to be an incredibly full season for you. How do you avoid getting burnt out and staying motivated from race to race? Or do you find yourself burning out near the end of seasons?

JL: Burnt out? Quite the opposite really, ever since my last race of this year last month I have been madly looking forward to my first race of next year in January. I race as much as possible, because if I go any more than 2-3-4 weeks without a race I get fidgety and I miss my friends I see at races. I just wish I had the funds to race even more; I told my buddy that I would gladly race a 100-mile or other race every 2-3 weeks of the whole year if I could afford to do so. I suppose athletes get burnout because things get to feel like a job and aren’t fun any more, well running most certainly is not a job for me and I will make sure it never is, no matter what happens. I mean I don’t race for prize money or anything like that; I race for the camaraderie, the sights, the food and a good old sense of adventure. Plus, you can’t keep a good man down, right?

SJ: You've done a bit of work trying to tackle that ever-deep question, "Why?" You wrote a brief psychology paper on the topic and it was actually a pretty interesting read; what did you conclude in your writings about how you feel about ultras and perhaps why you run them?

JL: “Why?’ I say, Why not? As I said, I race for the camaraderie with other runner, the sights of the courses and place I visit for races, the food during the race, before the race and after the race, and a good old sense of adventure of seeing if I can do it again. I never want to win a race, I honestly don’t, and I would much rather enjoy my time on the trails with my friends and the volunteers.

SJ: How do you find the time to train when you're trying to balance a work and school in the equation? Is it as difficult as some folks think? Do you find that one of those items takes a back seat to the others from on a regular basis?

JL: It really is not that bad or difficult, almost everyone has the time and it is just a matter of seeing the opportunities to get everything done. I find that my running or some other physical activity has always helped my studies and schoolwork more than hindering it. Running and working out keeps me stress free, a lot of times even if I have a lot of work to do for school and am crunched for time I will go for a run and come back to my work refreshed and clearheaded and ready to get some work done.

SJ: What is your ultimate Ultra-Goal? Your dream race? Your dream accomplishment?

JL: Well, I was once running a marathon with a friend, that friend that crew for me, Mary, a few falls ago with her as her first marathon to company her through to the finish and she spotted someone that had a 100 Marathon Club shirt on and said, “That doesn’t sound that hard.” I looked at her with a weird face. She said, “Well, you have probably done that with your races divided out.” I concede, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” She said, “Well, you should have a 100 100-Mile Club, now that would be nuts.” What can I say I liked the idea, and I have 17 official 100-mile finishes in the last five years towards that goal and am looking to up the number completed in each year.

SJ: If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently whether that be in the process you've taken over the years or something in a particular race?

JL: I really don’t think I would change anything, I am very superstitious like that, that I think things definitely happen for a reason, plus if you mess up on a race, that’s what revenge runs are for – that’s what the year is after you DNF a race, the Revenge Run of that race. Sure, I wish that a few races that I had not given up and that someone had told me to just take a minute and realize I have lots of time on the clock still and finishing is still possible, but I really don’t regret the races I did not finish, good things still came from those races; I learned good lessons of preparation, I met new friend, saw old friends and gained some really good stories to share at the next race and races since.

SJ: What does "Human Potential" mean to you?

JL: Human potential means that a person should always be striving to see what they are capable of and that can only be done by "Getting the lead out!"

SJ: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Jim and we wish you well in your 2012 season. Of course, our readers can follow your progress on your blog at We'll certainly be following and rooting for you and wish you all the best.

JL: Thanks for having me; I am really excited and honored because you have interviewed some great local and national scene runners, as well as trail running superstars like Karl Meltzer and other usual suspects, so I am humbled to be questioned along side such ultra running greats. Thank you again and I will see what I can do about see you out on the trails in the near future or as soon as possible. Maybe I can hitchhike out to a race in Colorado. As far as 2012, it’s going to be a hell of an adventure and I look forward to see everyone out there and feel free to say “Hi” if I don’t first.