Q&A with Dean Karnazes
BY STEVE BORN
Steve Born: I know that you’re a Hammer Nutrition guy, Dean, so I would imagine that you’re as excited as we are in partnering with the North Face Endurance Challenge Series races. What are your thoughts about Hammer Nutrition’s involvement in these great events?
Dean Karnazes: I’ve been using Hammer Nutrition for years and believe in the Hammer Nutrition principles regarding nutrition, hydration and recovery. Hammer Nutrition was founded in San Francisco, and so was The North Face. The partnership seems natural. From what I have seen thus far, the Endurance Challenge participants are loving Hammer Nutrition products and are learning a lot about sports nutrition and some of the myths surrounding proper hydration and fueling. It’s been educational, and that’s benefited all.
SB: Of the five races featured this year in the United States— Washington, D.C.; New York; Massachusetts; Wisconsin; and California—is there one in particular that you’re especially fond of? If so, what is it about this specific race that makes it so special to you?
DK: They say it’s always best in your own backyard, and since I live in the San Francisco Bay area I’m partial to our California race. All of our races are unique and nuanced; each provides a different experience. As someone who’s run all of them, I can say that the one constant is that there’s nothing easy about finishing an Endurance Challenge race. That medal must be earned through hard work, dedication and grit. After all, it’s not called The North Face Cake Walk. It’s the Endurance Challenge!
SB: In the two races that I’ve attended, I have been most impressed by the impeccable organization and attention to detail. The race organizers, staff, and volunteers really make sure to “leave no stone unturned” when it comes to all aspects of the race, especially the aid stations and course markings. Having competed in a ton of races over the years, would you agree that attention to detail is one of the hallmarks of the NFECS races?
DK: We really pride ourselves on catering to the needs of the athlete. We’re an organization built by athletes, for athletes. Running a great distance is tough enough, you don’t want to deal with poorly marked trails and a lack of support and enthusiasm along the way. Our greatest form of marketing is word-of-mouth. People rave about this race series, and it’s on account of our attention to detail and our passion and devotion to the athletes we serve.
SB: I have enjoyed witnessing the interaction between you and so many of the participants at the races that I’ve attended so far. You never seem to get tired of signing autographs, having your photo taken with others, and just sharing one-on-one conversations with the athletes… it seems to be 100% genuine fun for you… true?
DK: It’s Hammer Nutrition that keeps me going! Seriously, I can run all day, but standing around taking pictures and signing autographs can get exhausting. It’s funny to say that I make sure to properly fuel for public appearances, but otherwise I run myself ragged. I really enjoy interacting with other runners and hearing their stories, and I want to make sure that I’m fresh and present. So I take special measures to make sure I’m well hydrated and adequately fueled. Sometimes I duck behind a tent and scarf down a Hammer Bar and some HEED. That’s my real secret!
SB: Is there a question or two that you field most frequently when engaging in conversations with the race participants? Anything in particular about fueling/Hammer Nutrition products that you get asked?
DK: Without a doubt, the most frequent questions I’m asked have to do with hydration and nutrition. People want to know what I eat before a race. Sometimes what I tell them is shocking, not much. I don’t take in a lot of calories prerace, and this alarms some people. Honestly, I think many people tend to overconsume the morning of a race and it hurts their performance. I encourage them to try taking in less and focus on quality versus quantity. Having Hammer Nutrition as a partner has really helped educate people in this regard, and it’s been great. After nutrition, the other question I get asked all the time, “Can we take a selfie?” Such is the modern world we live in!