Chronicles of a Dustball - Page 3
Olson, Jurek and Jenny Uehisa, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo by Justin Bastien.
Dusty the Runner
Olson’s foray into ultras was the product of his appetite for training volume and his anemic finances.
“The summer after high school, I was riding my bike a lot, sometimes up from the Twin Cities,” he says. “I would do 40 hours of training a week. I was used to riding three to five hours at a time, three to five hundred miles a week.”
But working for minimum wage at the Ski Hut shop in Duluth did little to support his cycling habit. “Then, I started running, and would spend the same amount of time running as I spent on the bike, going on three-, four-, five-hour runs,” he says. “I was going like 180, 200 miles a week, like [Anton] Krupicka mileage. So sooner or later it was like, ‘Heck, this Voyageur [50 Mile] isn’t much different than the training runs I’ve been doing.’”
A month later, he was on the starting line.
“I started out really slow, going out with some ultrarunning veterans from the area,” he says. “Then at the turnaround, going up Spirit Mountain [ski area], I noticed people weren’t keeping up with me. So I put my head down and clocked an 18-minute 5K split at the top of the hill, and ended up winning the thing.”
Olson also put his training to use on the roads, running Grandma’s Marathon 12 consecutive years, going as fast as 2:36. One of his encounters with Grandma’s lives in local legend, though not because of the time he ran.
“In 1994, the year I was doing crazy mileage, I was [partying with my friends] at the Anchor Bar and ... it was three or four in the morning before I finally got home. I figured I’ve got three hours to sleep before the bus takes us to the start line [Grandma’s is a point- to-point course that finishes in Duluth]. I’m figuring I can’t take a nap or I might miss it.”
So Olson ran the entire course backwards and slept at the start line. “I slept in a nice drafty spot for an hour and a half before the race started, then ran back.”