Todd Vogel, 55, of Bishop, has spent nearly his whole life outdoors.
He grew up skiing and rock climbing and once he graduated high school in Michigan, decided to head west and hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
He then went to college in Santa Cruz and has been a Sierra fixture ever since.
Rock climbing is his passion as he has been a mountaineering guide since the 1990s after moving to Bishop in 1988.
He has been a co-owner of Eastside Sports, inc. in Bishop since 2012.
Vogel recently ran the Tahoe 200 (as in miles) and finished in eighth place with a time of 63 hours and six minutes.
Two days and 15 hours.
On how much sleep he got during the 200, Vogel said, “I got about 26 minutes, two ten minute naps and about half a dozen one minute naps.” He called them naps and described these so-called “naps” as “almost like hallucinations, but they were completely lucid and I controlled everything about them. They were wild.”
He explained that the race is not really a competition but rather a bunch of people on the same team because finishing one of these races is an accomplishment regardless of time.
Ultramarathons are defined as a subset of long distance running that is longer than a marathon. Sometimes done as a multi-day event, sleep becomes an afterthought, only to be indulged if necessary. There are world records for events as long as 1,000 miles (ten days, ten hours and 30 minutes for those interested.) And if you have ever seen “the Barkley Marathon: the race that eats its young” you have a real understanding of the type of crazy this is. The Barkley Marathon is known as the hardest race in the world. It is a 100 mile race in the hilly backcountry of Tennessee with only 60 hours allotted to the runners; most years no one finishes. Vogel said he would embrace the Barkley Marathon, “If I could ever get into it (the race), I would do it.” They only accept forty people a year.
The Tahoe 200 is not as treacherous as the Barkley Marathon but the philosophy of pushing your body to its limits remains at the core of both events.
Vogel described ultramarathons as a play-it-by-ear kind of event, “You never know what is going to happen out there, you could get a blister and you would have to deal with it because something like that could take you out of the race.”
He compared these endurance runs to his mountaineering career. “It is a lot like going up a mountain. You never know what kind of weather you will get so sometimes you have to do an approach in the middle of the night.”
Running all day and all night may sound tedious, but Vogel said it doesn’t bother him, “I don’t really think about it. I don’t wear headphones because I like being aware of my surroundings. And from there I try to get into a ‘flow state’ where I don’t think about anything but what I am doing, like breathing and pace of steps,” he said.
For 63 hours, he ran with nothing but his thoughts and like any man that has to go through something like that, all Vogel wanted was a drink, “I got to the finish line and was still wired from running so I really wanted bourbon. I went and grabbed the bottle I had and started asking people if they wanted any. They looked at me and asked ‘how are you doing that?’”
He was a modest man who described his impressive accomplishments like they were as simple as buying groceries. This is likely due to the people Vogel has seen while racing, “Doing this kind of racing is extremely humbling because you see people who are more impressive than you all the time. At the Tahoe 200 there was a guy who finished who was 69 years old.”
To prepare for a race like this, Vogel runs 60-80 miles a week and if he is about to do a race that number goes to 100-120 miles a week. “I would say if you have a base of being able to run 50 miles it would probably take someone six months to train for a 200. If your base was a marathon then it could take up to 18 months.”
For anyone seriously considering ultra-marathons Vogel said the rule of thumb for training is to take it gradually and don’t increase your weekly mileage more than 10%.