Friday, March 7, 2014

Talking with Eric Ellis, Obstacle Course Extraordinaire

Ellis (right) enjoying the Beast.

Meet Eric Ellis. His middle name is Xtreme, with an “X.” Eric Ellis once fought Superman. The loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants. He ran last year’s Barber Beast in three seconds, and that’s only because he tripped at the starting line.

OK, so none of these facts are true. But the North East native has the attitude and experience that can help you as you’re training for the Beast. Ellis has seen many different courses, and he has the insight and know-how to help. He has also been instrumental in helping make the Beast better and badder, which is why I took the time out of my busy beastly schedule to talk with him.

Beast: What's your background in races similar to the Barber Beast on the Bay? How many have you participated in, finished, etc.?

Ellis: I have been racing since 2000. I saw a 5k race registration driving through Girard one day and I just decided to stop and sign up and I’ve been hooked ever since.  I’ve always been an athlete and I do a lot of CrossFit, so racing and doing these kinds of events just seemed natural to me.  I’ve done Tough Mudder, Three Mile Isle, 5ks, half marathons, marathons and triathlons. 

Beast: What kind of preparation do you personally put into each one? In terms of hours spent, diet changes, changes in exercise, etc.?

Ellis: Depends on the event. For the Beast I’ll get my body ready for different kinds of terrain, so I’ll run at Frontier Park and Asbury Woods, I’ll hit the beach and run in the sand, and I’ll go to 3 Ring Box to use their obstacles so my body is prepared for the different aspects of the course.  I try and live a certain lifestyle incorporating healthy eating and exercise into my life every day, so I really just have to step it up a bit to prepare for a specific event. 
 I’ll also think about what I want to have on the course in terms of nutrition.  Whatever you are going to eat on the course, train with it so your body is used to it.  Otherwise I’ve seen friends get sick while doing a race because their bodies couldn’t handle something new.

Beast: Could you tell me about your best experience on a course and your worst experience on one?

Ellis: Best Experience: I completed half Iron Man in less than 6 1/2 hours. It was something I really wanted to accomplish.  I set a goal and just worked for it.  I also set a personal record at the 2013 Presque Isle Marathon.  That was a big deal too.
Worst Experience: 5k race. I was in the best shape of my life, really conditioned for it and I wanted to complete in 20 minutes or less. I ran it in 20:04.  That was devastating.

Beast: Let's talk last year's Barber Beast on the Bay. What were your thoughts on it, both good and bad?

Ellis: I loved it. It was competitive.  To run in the sand that long, you need to be really strong-willed to accomplish that.  I wish the obstacles were a little more challenging, but I liked the running, I loved the challenge of doing all the obstacles, running the distance, tackling the hill at the end.  I think we all gave some pretty good feedback on the survey, so I hope we will see some more challenging obstacles this year.

Beast: What are your thoughts on this year's Barber Beast on the Bay from what you know so far? If you were trying to convince someone who was on the fence about it, what would you personally say to them?

Ellis: A great team of people has been assembled to take the survey results and our experiences from doing these kinds of events can help transform this into an even better event.  Hopefully you will see better obstacles, less sand.   It’s going to be switched up…our own Erie Tough Mudder without the mud in most cases.  It’s in our backyard, supporting a great local organization, so try it.  Then you can expand your horizons by doing other events, but this will be well worth the price of admission to come do the Beast. 

Beast: For those first timers out there who have decided to take on the Beast -- what tips do you have? What are the essential things to do and what shouldn't they do as they get ready to prepare?

Ellis: Start training now by running on different terrains, and do sit ups and pushups getting your body used to the movements you will use on the course.  Challenge yourself to get better each time you train.  Don’t go crazy lifting heavy weights because you won’t be doing that. You will be climbing, crawling and running, so be ready for that.  Stay injury free by stretching and building gradually on your training -- gradually increasing distance and endurance.

Beast: Do you have any exercise/diet/apparel/fitness tips?

Ellis: Eat clean. No junk food. Give your body time to get healthy.  Proteins, clean carbs, clean sugars.
80% of feeling good is diet; the other 20% is exercise.  You will perform better if you are putting good things in your body. 

Beast: You put all that hard work into getting ready for something, and then you participate in it. For you and for everyone else, what is it going to feel like crossing that finish line come September 6?

Ellis: A sense of accomplishment. You get out what you put in. The harder you train, the better you feel about what you’ve done.  But no matter what, just the fact that you tried, you have succeeded so you can’t be discouraged by your time or if you didn’t do an obstacle.  You did something for yourself.  

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