Creating your own birthday party during Covid-19.
The view from Highway 1 can excite even the most seasoned traveler. The beauty of the Pacific ocean disguises the danger lurking beneath. Shimmering slick rocks and seaweed glimmer below. Endless waves crash up against their sides, spraying foam through the air while fog rolls in through the coves, misting up and over the pine-covered hillsides.
Imagine happily preparing yourself for the opportunity to celebrate your 60th birthday right there, at the Big Sur in California, traveling across the country to run a Marathon along the beautiful oceanside.
You would be spending time during training runs thinking about the views, the spectacular winding road, the refreshing salty ocean air, picturing yourself running, and drinking in the clouds like cotton candy. The relaxing meal with sweat celebration treats and celebratory crispy cold drinks afterward making the hilly marathon well worth the effort.
Unfortunately, April hit you just the same as for many others. Local shut-dows, canceled trips, Netflix bingeing, canceled-everythings, and all plans dusting in the corner together with loads of laundry. Luckily for our featured rider today, there was a solution – if he couldn’t go to the party, he was going to bring the party to him.
Meet David Whiteside
This year I was set to run the Big Sur marathon for my 60th birthday, but as that, and all other races, were canceled it left me wondering what to do.
I decided to run 60 miles on my birthday of bridge repeats, crossing the bridge 80 times with a total of 6,000 feet elevation gain to raise money for feeding families in need. I don’t think any of us in our lifetime have experienced anything like this and I hope we never do again. I’m lucky, I’ve been able to keep working and getting paid, but I know many haven’t. They are worried about paying bills, and more importantly where their next meal is coming from.
Choosing a local charity, Feeding Tampa Bay, I raised $12,000 with this event. Each dollar that I raised provides up to 10 meals for a family in need. Finding a bigger cause made my 60th birthday feel really special…it completely took away the disappointment of missing Big Sur. I trained harder for that run than I have for any race, averaging over 80 miles/week, hitting 100 miles one week.
… “After 40 bridges, my legs aching, I was dreading the usual slow down that occurs in the second part of the race.
The sun had come out and the temperature was hot with no shade at all. Having people running with me for almost all of the run, strangers wishing me happy birthday, friends, runners, and neighbors cheering me on, it made the effort easier than expected.
At the end, my friends were there to cheer me in as I crossed the finish line. Yes, it was hard, but I enjoyed every one of the 107,436 steps and the 6,004 feet of elevation gain. Don’t expect me to run 61 miles of bridge repeats next year, but as people that know me, it may not be the end of what I put my body through.”
During this spring, life in the confines of our houses became the new normal. Who would have thought this would have been our spring and summer 2020 reality? David Whiteside turned his canceled marathon birthday party plans into an opportunity to raise money for his local community. ElliptiGO was inspired by his energy and wanted to share his background with you.
Get to know David
I grew up near Manchester, England and didn’t play any sports at school. In college, I started playing for a local soccer team and loved the sport – continuing playing it until my early 40’s.
It was a great way to find friends as we moved to Reading, England when I was about 23, and then to Berkeley Heights, NJ in the USA when I was 30. In 2006, we moved to where we live now, Indian Rocks Beach near Clearwater, Florida.
Diagnosed bone on bone and requiring a hip replacement at the age of 40, I decided it was time to hang my boots up. For the next 4 years, I didn’t do anything as my hip deteriorated. By the time I was 50, walking half a mile to the beach to go fishing would be very painful – I decided to have my left hip replaced.
I had put on some weight and decided to start running after my surgery, waiting 3 months for the bone to fuse before starting jogging on the beach a couple of miles one or two times a week. About a year after my replacement a local store started a run club – I started running a weekly beach group run with them.
The Clever Training group snowballed into more running, and eventually to meet a coach. Coach Ray took me under his wing and taught me so much about running that really improved my fitness and times. I had found a new sport that I loved and was hooked.
Soon I started training for a half marathon. Thinking if I can run a half surely I can run a full, I also signed up for a full marathon. At the end of the marathon, I lay on the grass unable to move. My hip screaming at me, I vowed never to run another race in my life.
3 weeks later I ran another half. 6 days later a 5K. Then winning my first race a couple of months later, a beach 5K in 19:53. 5K racing continued every 2 to 3 weeks until I had to stop two and a half miles into a race, my hip hurting so bad I couldn’t run anymore.
I had struggled with pretty much every run since the marathon but didn’t listen to my body. Just continued to push through it and run, a “no pain, no gain” mentality.
Taking a week off, 2 weeks off, a month, nothing would get past it. Every time I tried to run my hip would get bad about a mile in. I didn’t run another race for 18 months.
The hip replacement was still fine on a revisit with the surgeon, so that wasn’t the issue. I tried acupuncture, had an MRI, went to one of the top physical therapists in the area, nothing was helping.
Finding the ElliptiGO
One day during a physical therapy visit, my PT said – “ Why don’t you try the ElliptiGO, I have one on a trainer in the back.”
After riding it for about 15 minutes I was exhausted, wow what a workout. Researching it I found that Meb and other professional runners were using it as part of their training. Rather than running doubles, they would substitute their second run with the ElliptiGO.
At this time I really didn’t know if I would ever be able to run again. But loving the ElliptiGO sensation and workout, it was clear this would be a great supplement to running.
I purchased the 8C in November 2013 and have never looked back since – it was the only thing that stopped me going crazy during the 18 months I couldn’t run.
Just before purchasing my ElliptiGO, I had started an impromptu triathlon group with our run group – I swam while they ran on the beach. We have had weekly triathlons ever since the summer of 2013 and I use my ElliptiGO for these.
I still continue to support and push the members of our run, and now triathlon, group. Supporting their Ironman training, I organized our first 100 Mile training ride, with me on the ElliptiGO. Since then we have held an annual triathlon – with me doing the 56-mile ride on the ElliptiGO.
Even though I’m very competitive I haven’t switched to a road or tri bike to keep up with the others as I love the feeling of riding tall and the run-like sensation. I still get people every week watching me as I ride by and people taking pictures of it. If I only have an hour to spare, the ElliptiGO is perfect for a quick hard workout leaving you rewarded and refreshed at the end of it.
Becoming an ultrarunner, with the ElliptiGO
I hated being injured, unable to race, and missed my friends so I started running easy. About 6 months into it I managed to better my 5K PR to 18:47, running 5 days/week, cross-training on my ElliptiGO a couple of days per week.
At this time Chris McDougall’s ‘Born to Run’ and Scott Jurek’s ‘Eat and Run’ ignited something inside me that made me wonder if I could challenge my body and mind with this extreme sport [Ultra running] I hadn’t even known existed.
I had to find out, signed up for a 6-hour race, preparing with running, doubling back with ElliptiGO workouts on Saturdays, and triathlon training on Sundays. Tuning up strong and healthy, I was still nervous at the start, unsure how my hip would hold up. Well, I did great, finished second, and entered a 46-mile race 3 weeks later. My hip was good, and I was good at this long-distance running.
Racing continued – with an eventual Half Marathon 1:27:44 PR, a 39:32 10K PR and wins in the 50K and a 6-hour race. Frequent racing caused my hip to start bothering me again but I continued to push and train hard. I didn’t have the experience or wisdom to back off my training and should have switched out more runs to the ElliptiGO while recovering.
Once again, I was injured and away from running for another 10 months. This time I continued to train on the ElliptiGO, run in the pool to keep up fitness, and I switched to a Keto diet, hoping the anti-inflammatory foods would help. Within a month I was able to run more than 2 miles and started training for the Portland marathon just 9 weeks away. Only my second official marathon, I finished in 3:30:02; clearly the training on my ElliptiGO had kept my fitness level high.
I also changed running style, increasing cadence to 180 steps/minute, followed MAF; running by heart rate, and incorporated strength training and stretching into my weekly routine with the ElliptiGO. I was also wiser, knowing that consistency is important to my goals.
Now if my hip area starts to hurt I back off my running and ride my ElliptiGO more. I also do more slow running as part of my training, while rarely running 5K’s. The fast pace there and striking the ground sets off my hip and I limp more after a 5K than I do running for 7 hours or longer.
Current focus – ultra racing
I have won the “DURTY B-EE-RR-UN”, a 6-hour race, for the last 2 years, owning the 3 top mileage records for that course. The young kids try and catch me every year but somehow I manage to hold them off. I returned to Orlando this year for a win, had another 3:18:28PR in the marathon the year before, and set a new course record a month later, winning the Save the Daylight 12-hour race.
So far I have taken on the 100-mile race challenge twice, this year finishing 9th with a time of 19:52:38. I also won another 6-hour race, again setting a course record and won my first cross country race of 30K even with running a mile long as I missed a turn.
Living and riding in Florida
I’m somewhat spoiled living in Florida – we don’t have too many bad weather days, but I guess it’s dependent on your definition of bad.
Many runners here get up at 5 am to get their run in before the sun comes up, with temperature in the 90’s and high humidity.
Not one of those I often wait until 8:30 before starting my runs and can be out for 4 hours in the heat. With no hills where we live, I often hit the bridge over the intercoastal to get my hard runs in. I don’t mind it, it’s a good physical and mental challenge, helping me during the ultras.
Looking towards 2021.
In my mind if I follow my Keto lifestyle, MAF training, listening to my body and cross-train by swimming and riding my ElliptiGO there’s no reason I can’t stay healthy and competitive.
A big goal would be to run the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. It’s a 90K, 56-mile race and I think it would be a fantastic experience. In 2021 it’s on a downhill course so I will be on the bridges training for the next 12 months, and yes, on my ElliptiGO bike as well.
Contributed by Elinor Yee – A rider considering herself lucky for each day on her ElliptiGO, drawing inspiration from fellow riders conquering obstacles big & small.
Want to inspire Elinor? Contact ElliptiGO with nominations to Rider of the Month, or share your own story. It may just be the next feature!