“Ultra” on the Radio

On the off-chance you weren’t up at 7:30 last Sunday morning, and missed my CBC Radio interview, in which I discussed falling asleep while running, running into trees, and running into hallucinations that look a LOT like giant teapots, you can catch it here…  (Follow the link below, then click on “listen”):

http://www.cbc.ca/freshair/episodes/2013/09/29/sunday-september-29/

fresh-air-

Who told Tyler Heggie about my book?

Truth is stranger than fiction. Younger too.

Recently I wrote a novel about a 13 year-old who runs a 100-mile ultra-marathon. I know what you’re thinking: No WAY could a kid do that!

Wrong! An 11 year-old just ran 273 km – all the way across Prince Edward island!

Tyler Heggie

Tyler Heggie

Prince Edward Islander, Tyler Heggie, spent seven days running the island from tip to tip.  He covered the equivalent of a marathon each day, running with family and friends along the Confederation Trail.

Heggie did it to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis research (his Mom was diagnosed with M.S. two years ago).

Heggie finishing his run with friends

Heggie finishing his run with friends

Heggie has run long distances before. At age 9, he successfully competed in the Charlottetown marathon. Later this fall, he’s scheduled to run the marathon in Toronto – where roughly 20,000 fans (including me!) will be lined up to meet him.

This Girl is Six!

People tell me that running 100 miles is crazy. “It’s impossible!” they say.

Yes it is – almost.

But somewhere along the way, I must’ve decided that I wanted to accomplish the impossible, so I went out and tackled that suckah to the ground.

You can do the same thing. Not run 100 miles necessarily. But each one of us is capable of something extraordinary. The trick is to figure out what it is, and then go after it.

Like this girl, Terry, the flyest 6 year-old dancer around. She’s a b-girl prodigy:

Do the world a favour and watch the whole three minutes. If you don’t have time, be sure to check out the handstands at 1:35 and the head spins at 2:28. And remember: this girl is six!

 

Real Life Superheroes, Part 3

Heroes are everywhere – in comic books, movies, and of course my novel.  But real-life superheroes pop up in some pretty surprising places.  Like the running track, or even the basketball court.

Check out this video that’s been making the rounds:

So often these days, sports stories have to do with money, or winning-at-all-costs, or banned substances (yeah, I’m looking at you, Lance Armstrong).

But that’s not the whole story.   Here’s an entire football team of real-life superheroes:

It doesn’t take much to be heroic.  You don’t need X-ray vision, or six-pack abs.  All you need is a little kindness.

“We Can Always Do Anything”

It’s time for another INSPIRATIONAL THURSDAY!

And I’ll start it off with a question.  Is it really possible for a 13 year-old to run a 100-mile race?

Ultra coverI get that question all the time, since that’s what my book is about: a kid who runs the longest of ultra-marathons in an attempt to outrun a tragic family secret.

Is such a thing actually possible?

HECK YEAH!

Of course, I don’t actually know any 13 year-olds who have successfully completed a 100-mile race.   But it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they had.  Kids are capable of ANYTHING.  There are kids out there who’ve run multiple marathons, and kids who have swum across great lakes.

And then there’s Conner and Cayden Long, who take the word inspiration to a whole new level:

“We can always do anything.”  Love that.

My First Book Interview

My novel is going to the printer TODAY.  Synchronize your watches – it’ll be hitting the bookstores in ten weeks.  

Ultra cover

I had my first book interview today.  Strange experience.  I work for the media, so for years, I’ve been the one asking the questions, not answering them.  Role reversal!

Still, it was fun to talk about these characters who’ve been making a racket inside my head for the last three years.

Here are the first five questions I was asked as an author:

Q: What is the best part of being an author?

I love that the gear is so cheap!  If I wanted to be a professional snowboarder, I’d have to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment.  The board, the boots, the bindings, the jacket…  Pricey!  But all an author needs is a pen and some paper.  What does that cost – maybe $5?

Also, I never get hurt, writing books.  That’s a definite plus for me.  If I was a hockey player in the NHL, I’d probably get hit a lot.  I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to getting hit, so that wouldn’t be much fun.  As an author, the worst thing that can happen is I get a paper cut.

The best thing about being an author, however, is that the job is dead easy.  The alphabet only has 26 letters.  So all I have to do is arrange those letters in such a way that they tell a good story.  How hard could that be?

Q: What inspired you to write Ultra?

Five years ago, I did an insane thing.  I entered a hundred-mile footrace.  For 24 hours – all day and all night – I ran through a forest.  Some runners saw bears along the route, and all through the night I heard wolves howling in the distance.  It was a terrifying and exhausting experience.  But when I crossed the finish line, my life had changed.  I’d always thought it was impossible to run 100 miles in a day, but now that I’d done it, the whole world seemed different.  I’d changed the goalposts of what I believed was possible.  So I decided to try something else that I’d always thought was impossible – writing and publishing a novel.  And voila!

Q: What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Deciding whether or not the main character, Quinn, should win the race.  For the longest time, I had him crossing the finish line first.  But then I decided that he shouldn’t win; that something else – something dramatic – should happen instead.  So I rewrote the ending.  But then I gave the book to family members to read, and they complained about the ending.  So I rewrote it again, and then again.

I went back and forth, rewriting that ending for a year.  I can’t even remember anymore whether Quinn wins or loses the race.  But I will say this.  Most 100-mile races don’t give prizes to the winners.  Usually the winner just gets a pat on the back, a warm blanket, and a bowl of vegetable soup.  Almost nobody runs a 100-mile race in order to win.  They do it for other, much stranger reasons.

Q: In what ways are you like Quinn, the protagonist in your book?

I share Quinn’s determination.  Once I get an idea into my head, I’ll stick with it, no matter how much it hurts.  That’s why I can run 100 miles in one go.  Also, I love being outside, and I’m okay with being alone sometimes.  I’m a bit of an introvert, and I think Quinn is too.

And finally, like Quinn, I have a really solid friend.  And an amazing family that supports me – even when I do crazy things.

Q: What was your favourite book growing up?

“Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome.  It’s about a group of kids who climb mountains and race sailboats and survive shipwrecks and explore the high English moors.  Their parents are nowhere in sight, and the kids are always outdoors, facing the elements.  My dad read that book aloud for my whole family when I was a kid.  He’d read one chapter each night before bedtime, and the next morning me and my brother would race for the book so we could read on ahead.

“Swallows and Amazons” was the first in a long series, and Dad read us every single one over the course of a long, magical summer.  And that’s saying something, since there are twelve books in the series, and each one is 350 pages long.  Looking back, I think that experience cemented my love of reading.  Dad reading those books out loud.

Amazing Human Tricks

Admit it – you can do a weird trick with your body. Maybe you can wiggle your ears, or crack your knuckles. Maybe you can change your eye colour at will.

We all have weird party tricks we can do with our bodies. A couple of years back, when I was producing a live comedy show, I met a guy who could fit his whole body through a tennis racquet:

The question arises – what good could it possibly do to squeeze your body through a tennis racquet while simultaneously juggling rubber balls?

Answer: it does you no good whatsoever. But hey, it’s fun! And you get to appear on live comedy shows.

My own personal trick is rather peculiar. I can talk backwards. Listen:

https://ultranovel.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/dave-talks-backwards-2.mp3

Actually, they never did invite me back.

But listen – in that radio show appearance, I only flipped the words in each sentence around, and repeated them back in the opposite order. Since then, I’ve learned that some people can actually speak backwards phonetically. That is to say, they can flip all the individual letters in each word around, and then pronounce them back-to-front.

Kind of like this girl:

The Man Who Forgot He Wrote a Book

Crazy story – about my talented friend Tim. A warning, though: Tim is successful at, like, everything. He’s an award-winning journalist. Plays violin like Nigel Kennedy. Bakes the most mouth-catering cakes.

Cars_Cake

These days, Tim spends most of his time writing children’s books.  But it’s a career that almost never happened.

childrens books

Here’s how it came about. A few years ago, Tim’s niece came up for a visit from Colorado. During her stay, she reminded Tim of a poem that he’d written many years before.

“What poem?” said Tim.

She reminded her Uncle of the poem he’d written for her as a gift, back when she was a little girl. A poem about a frog who is appalled to learn that that not all animals share his love of spiders and bugs.

Tim’s niece took the poem to school. Her elementary teacher loved it and read it aloud for the class.

The class, predictably, LOVED the poem. And so, for years, that teacher went on performing it.  An entire generation of Colorado kids grew up on Tim’s poem about the frog – and Tim didn’t even know!

Not long after the niece went back home to Colorado, Tim was telling a group of us about this story. We were at a friend’s book launch, and a literary editor happened to be standing nearby.  It’s a good thing Tim has a loud speaking voice because the editor overheard the story, and asked to see the poem. And presto! That poem got turned into a book.

The book sold a lot of copies. So Tim was asked to write a sequel. That one sold well too, so a third book was requested. It’s coming out in November, with a fourth book already in production.

And it all began from a poem that Tim forgot that he’d written!

What writer doesn’t have dreams like this? That at some point in our scribbly past, we wrote a brilliant poem, or short story, or novel, and forgot all about it? Lord knows we’ve got enough journals and floppy discs and thumb drives full of forgotten writing lying around… Surely, somewhere among all those literary droppings there’s gotta be something  worth publishing, right?

Quite possibly.

As this wonderful story also attests.

Real-Life Superheroes, Part 5

7 year-old Jack Hoffman has had some bad luck lately.

Two years ago, he  suffered a seizure, and nearly died of respiratory failure.  Then he was diagnosed with cancer.   And then he had two brain tumor surgeries.

But Jack has had some good luck too.  Between operations, he met his hero Rex Burkhead – a running back for the University of Nebraska football team, the Cornhuskers.

Recently, during a break in his treatment, Rex invited Jack to the team’s annual spring scrimmage.  As you’ll see, the team had a surprise planned:

Jack took to the field in full gear, and ran a heroic 69 yards for the game’s final touchdown.  The crowd of 60,000 went nuts.

Jack is currently on a break from his 60-week chemotherapy treatment.  His tumor has shrunk substantially in the past year, and his father, Andy, says he’s “doing great.”

More on Jack’s heroism here.

Yeah, but is it safe?

That’s Kaytlynn Welsch, age 12, center, and her little sister Heather, who is 10, just before they ran a half marathon in Utah last year.

Some people wonder how safe it is for kids to run that kind of distance.

Sometimes I even wonder if it’s safe for me!

Haliburton10-8308

A couple of years ago, while running a 100-mile race, I asked the following question of an on-site medic: “Is it healthy, running 100 miles at a stretch?”

It was 3 a.m. and the Doctor had been patching up battered runners for the better part of 24 hours.  “On the whole, I would have to say NO,” she said, looking at me over the waxy light of a Coleman lantern.

It had been a tough race.  The thermometer had risen to thirty degrees, and a bunch of runners had been evacuated to the local hospital with heat-related illness.  I’d been lucky.  I had some blisters, a nasty cut on my knee from a fall, and a strange rash I never really figured out (lyme disease?).  But that was all.

“Seriously?” I said.  “You think running long distances is unsafe?”

“For some people,” said the Doctor. “Absolutely.”

* * *

Distance running is not risk-free.  But the same can be said of virtually any activity worth doing. Playing hockey can be risky.  Same thing with riding a bicycle.  And as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, strapping fiberglass boards to our feet and launching ourselves down icy mountain slopes may not be the safest thing in the world.

And yet we still do it.  Because it’s FUN.

The trick is to use our common sense.  Check out what the Dad in this story says about the importance of getting checked out by a doctor.

As long as you’ve trained properly, and understand the importance of proper nutrition and hydration, and have the approval of your family doctor, and the support of friends and family members, and most important, if you really want to be out there, then why not run?  After all, there’s not much difference between running a marathon in 5 hours, and spending an afternoon playing soccer or Capture The Flag with your friends.