Interview with Nick from Illness to Ultra

No comments

Since we’re just returning from Thanksgiving Festivities, I’ll continue my series on how I reduced spending on food in the next couple weeks. For now, here’s the first interview I’ve conducted with Nick from Illness to Ultra. I was kind of inspired by Mr. 1500’s 10 questions. I met Nick (virtually) at FinconX this year. It was supposed to be my first fincon. In any case, there are some folks, like myself, believe there are similarities between personal finance and personal fitness. So I thought this would be fun.

So what’s the scoop? Tell us how you got started with Illness to Ultra?

Nearly 4 years ago I came down with an illness that floored me. I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed, never mind go about my daily life. When it happened I was on a road trip around the US, and sadly I was forced to be repatriated back to my home country of the UK. I’m very lucky that my brother took me in at that time, and slowly over the period of 3-4 months I was able to get out of bed and move around. Now, 4 years on I still have bad days, but most of them are behind me. I’m determined to be as healthy as I can be, and I want to prove that nothing can stop you. That’s where the second part of the name comes. “Ultra”.

I’ve always been passionate about running, growing up in a family that runs, and competing throughout my life, I knew that I wanted to do something special with running. And after living in NZ for a year I’d been introduced to the Ultra scene. An Ultra is a run that is anything longer than a marathon.

Knowing what I know now about health and fitness, I want to inspire others to live the healthiest life possible. You never know what could happen to you, and you should do the work upfront so your body doesn’t break down as mine did.

To this day, I still have no diagnosis, and I have been 95% responsible for the health gains I have achieved.

Since we met via FinconX, how’d you find out about it?  Was it what you expected?

I’ve always been good with money, but it’s only been the last 3-4 years where I’ve really dug deep into the FI community. From there I consumed as much information on financials and minimalism as possible and started to build my view on money and retiring early.

Through podcasts like ChooseFI and blogs like the Mad Fientist, I started to make the connection between providing useful information and that’s when I heard about Fincon. I didn’t really care that it was a conference for content creators, I was more interested in connecting with passionate FIers. And even though it was virtual this year I had some great chats and met some great people.

My expectation wasn’t too high because I didn’t know how the virtual aspect would fly, but it certainly exceeded anything I imagined I was really surprised how professional it was, and the community made a great thing out of a difficult situation.

So, to kinda bridge finance and nutrition – do you have a monthly food budget?  do you have a budget for grocery and dining out/take out?  If so, how has that changed over the past year?

I don’t have a monthly food budget, and mainly because I believe that food is the best medicine. Sadly, healthy food, at least in the US, costs more.

We also don’t tend to eat out for two reasons. For one, there is absolutely no way of knowing what ingredients are being used in the food you receive. Even “health” branded restaurants and cafes use questionable ingredients. It’s not all their fault, because it’s just what the western palate has become accustomed to. The second reason is the cost. If you’re eating well, then it’s so much cheaper to cook your own food than eat out. If your friends want to eat out, suggest that you cook for them instead. It’ll save you money and it’ll create an amazing experience, or not, either way, it’ll be a memory. 🙂

Because we didn’t tend to eat out our eating habits haven’t all that much. But we can see the changes in our friends. It’s great to see them pickling, making sauerkraut, and even sprouting food! Healthy food choices can be fun!

Obviously, a lot of big running events got cancelled this year.  Did you have a big even that you were really looking forward to this year?

I was lucky not to have any events canceled this year, but that’s because I didn’t have any planned. 🙂

As I’m sometimes battling with “bad” illness days it’s hard to say when I’ll be fit to run. Because of that, I don’t tend to compete all that much. But as the years go by I’m becoming more confident, and I’m able to perform better, so they’ll be an event on the horizon soon. Outside of competing, I did manage the Boulder Skyline traverse. A run spanning the 4 peaks towering above Boulder which took me 5 hours! And this week I’m planning a marathon attempt. So fingers crossed!

What’s your training like this year?  How has it changed?

I’ve recently become more interested in slow, long training. I’ve developed a few tricks to stop me from pushing too hard which would normally lead to injuries or illness for me.

Slowing down has been a revelation for me. Being a competitive person, I always want a faster time. But I now understand that to perform better, 80% of the time has to be slower.

I’ve also come to understand that the time outside of running is just as important as the run itself. As a Software Developer, I’m tied to a computer most of the day. A situation I’m sure many are familiar with right now. Being sat in front of a screen all day was doing my muscle and joints no good. So that why I now try and work in any position possible! From a floor desk to a treadmill desk. I’m always trying to change things up.

Any tips for new runners?

From my training, you’ll probably understand what the answer is going to be here.

Start slow, finish slow, and stay active.

I remember hearing of a study that showed that professional athletes only trained hard for less than 10% of their workouts, the other 90% was slow and steady. If you see the runners on the street the same doesn’t ring true.

So if running is too hard and you having to stop all the time. Don’t worry, just go for a long walk. You’ll gradually build a stronger base and your pace will start to increase.

My best tip is “always breath through your nose”. There’s a ton of benefits to nose breathing, but those aside, it’s a natural pace limiter. This will make sure you don’t go too hard and injure yourself.

I’m not a new runner.  I’ve got a few marathons under my belt.  Do you have any tips for folks getting back into running?

Find a way to enjoy running.

I spoke to a friend recently and he told me the 1 reason he loves to run is his barefoot shoes. He gets to feel the ground and the momentum his body generates. Previously he felt like running was a chore but now he feels like it’s a meditative process which he can’t wait to do each week.

So if it’s trails or road, sprinting or long runs, or even something so obtuse as barefoot running. Find the thing that makes you tick and (pardon the pun) run with it.

Do you have some high profile/popular runs on your bucket list?

So many!

Being from Britain I have to say the “Bob Graham Round”. It’s not a race, but a challenge to scale 42 hills in the Lake District within 24 hours. From a young age we’ve been vacationing in the area, and we used to make the journey over there many years to watch my parents compete in the Keswick half marathon. So it’s a special place in my heart.

As far as race nutrition goes, did you learn any lessons the hard way and are you willing to share (a funny or embarrassing) story?

Oh, so many! Even recently!

While researching a recent blog post around race nutrition I went out on a run to try a homemade sports drink. I’d seen that sucrose, salt, and water is the key but had an aversion to sugar, so I thought I’d try honey instead (by the way, honey is fructose). Well safe to say, there’s a reason why we can eat too much fructose. Let’s say, it’s lucky I was running in the woods.

Now I just advise sugar. 🙂 Or even better potatoes! They’re a great fuel I’ve come to love on long runs.

Thanks for your time Nick! Be sure to check out

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.