Name: John Boyle Vulgarian
Occupation: Orthopedic Surgeon
Number of Years Running: 26
Number of Marathons: 58
50k-42 miles-Grand Canyon Double Traverse 1987, 13:10 (solo, unaided)
50mi-Mtn. Masochist 50 1988 Lynchburg, VA 9:59 Vermont 50 1998 10:11 56th place
100km-84 KM Midnight Sun Ultra Marathon 1989 Nanisivik, Baffin Island (Northwest Territories) 8:45 5th place
100mi-Leadville Race Across The Sky 1991 Leadville, CO 29:13 Western States 100 1999, Squaw Valley, CA 28:19, 152nd place
Previous Badwater Racing:
Previous Badwater Crewing:
Previous Badwater Clinic
Best Ultra Run Experience:
1991 Leadville Race Across The Sky 100 Miles
In 1990, my friend Rick and I went to Leadville to do our first 100 miler. Living at sea level we underestimated the course, got our butts kicked, and dropped out at 70 miles. This humbling experience forced us to re-evaluate and come up with a whole new game plan. We spent many evenings in local bars working on a new approach and decided to come back as the Vulgarian Brothers (the Vulgarians were a group of antiestablishment climbers that banded against more traditional mountaineering groups at the time that were trying to make rules and codify climbing-the Vulgarians felt that the mountains should be free.) Once we adopted the Vulgarian mindset, that was the focal point we needed. We were going to do this race at all costs. This time we got a jump on the altitude and went to Colorado two weeks before the race. We camped in Rocky Mtn. Nat.Park and hiked Longs Peak and a bunch of 12,000-footers. We also stayed mentally sharp by doing alot of rock climbing. By race day Rcik and I were ready. Sporting full beards and wearing all black we had made the complete transformation. Our goal with the race was to stay totally focused yet enjoy the entire experience. At each bid station we had props in our drop bag to fit the occasion. Coming out of Fish Hatchery we donned fish hats, at Hope Pass skull caps with horns and for most of the race we wore our Vulgarian Brothers tee shirts with our own logo "Beware of the Chair." We had come into town a couple of days before the race looking nasty, not unlike two gun slingers. Now people on the course knew who we were and were shouting our name. We were inspired, focused and prepared. This time at 70 miles, where the year before race officials had cut off our wrist bands during that lowest-of-all-lows moment, we blew through the aid station and never looked back. With plenty of time to spare we enjoyed the final miles of this unbelievable foot race and crossed the finish line in downtown Leadville as the announcer declared "The Vulgarian Brothers have come home!" At the awards ceremony we showed up clean shaven and in tuxedos. Many didn't recognize us. But when Marilee called out our name, everyone started chanting "Vulgarian Brothers! Vulgarian Brothers!" It was a moment that neither Rick nor I will ever forget.
Midnight Sun Ultra Marathon
This was my first "official" ultramarathon experience. My friend Patrick and I flew on a charter out of Montreal to the Great White North. After setting down on this airstrip in the middle of nowhere(500 miles north of the Artic Circle) we were all driven to the mining town of Nanisivile and put up in the homes of local mining families who look forward to the event every year as a diversion from the hard life. The group was very international with runners from England, Germany, Austrailia, Canada and the USA. I had decided to do the double marathon which ran across barren tundra to the small Inuit town of Arctic Bay and back. The course crossed numerous small ravines and passed Terry Fox Pass Memorial, but mostly it was just opened and exposed (no trees here!). On race day the temperature was around 40 degrees and we had a tail wind all the way to Artic Bay. By the turn around I was a little bonked as this was my first true ultra and I didn't know that you should eat in addition to drink. Starting back everything changed. The strong tailwind now became a stronger headwind. The temperature dropped and it started snowing-sideways. To make any headway, you had to lean forward about 40 degrees or risk being blown backwards. To make matters worse any attempt to look ahead would be met with tiny ice particles stinging your face and eye balls. Sky and ground appears as one-everything was totally white. The woman who gave me her hat saved me from hypothermia (mine had blown off my head at such a speed that there was no way to catch up with it.) By 35 miles the total white out conditions and inability to sense position in space, coupled with lack of glucose and altered cerebral function had produced a totally surreal experience that to this day is difficult to describe. Approaching the 40 mile mark and totally "zoned." I encountered this Inuit man pissing into the wind with the help of his lady friend who had a hold of his thing. Both were roaring with laughter. When I turned back to confirm what I had seen, both had disappeared into the swirling whiteout. Somehow despite the final precipitous drop down to sea level and brutal climb back into town-called the "Crunch"-I managed to finish in one piece in a setting that looks like no other place I've been to on the planet since.
1999 Western States 100
To make a long story short, this run was a chance to redeem myself after an ill fated attempt to do WS in 1992. Rick and I had just come of a successful Leadville race and were chosen in the lottery to run.
Unfortunately I went under the knife for a herniated lumbar disc in February and didn't have a smooth recovery (second back surgery). By the time I could actually train it was late April and there was just not enough time to prepare. Rick was well trained as usual. Like a total idiot I went anyway. The canyons took their toll and I physically came apart and had to drop out on California Street at 70 miles. It was a very dificult moment, as Rick and I have always stuck together in everything we've ever done. Rick went on to finish and I went home with a DNF.
For the next several years we turned away from ultrarunning events and got more interested in climbing. As our skills improved we coupled climbing with our ability to move quickly in the mountains. During that period we climbed extensively in North America, and also in europe, South America, and Africa. Unfortunately in 1997 I underwent another back operation and my Boston-based surgeon advised me to stop doing the physically demanding stuff and settle for a more low key lifestyle. After two years of moderation things actually felt really good. My back was the best it had been in years, we were climbing harder and harder routes and the memory of Western States was gnawing away at me. With marginal training I completed the Vermont 50 and used it as a qualifier for WS 1999. Rick and I got accepted on our first try. We decided it was time to bring the Vulgarian Brothers back. We started training in January after doing the annual New Years swim off Crane's Beach. Everything was going well until late March when I broke my ankle glissading down the side of Mt. Washington. At that point the Vulgarian mindset kicked in. Despite having to wear a cast I almost immediately resumed training on a stairmaster. At four weeks the cast was of and the racee against time was on. Because of my background I knew exactly what would or would not be tolerated. People thought it was crazy but somehow the training progressed so that by race day I was mentally and physically ready to go.The race itself went off uneventfully. The canyonswere hot just as I remembered, but this time I came out of them feeling strong and alive. The 70 mile mark along California Street was particularly memorable as this was moment of truth seven years prior. We pressed on to the water crossing which now I was seeing for the first time. It was a ball! The last twenty were a struggle but honestly not nearly as tough as training with a broken ankle. Rick and I entered the track for the final leg wearing our Vulgarian Brothers shirts. We did not use any props or gimmicks to finish this time. Rather, we drew on the Vulgarian Brotherhood and the knowledge that we had successfully gotten through these types of things before.
Suffering is the origin of consciousness.
When I first started running beyond the traditional marathon distance in the mid 1980's, no one around here was doing that sort of thing. I remember coming back from running the Canyon in '87 and people thought it was insane. For whatever reason it seemed perfectly logical to me. My original intention was to run for adventure. All the early "ultra runs" were done on mountain trails, many over several days. John Anerino was my hero. Since those early days every meaningful hike, climb or run that we've done has had that key element of adventure. In choosing events to participate in, I always go through the same mental check list. Always at the top of the list is adventure.
I first became aware of the Badwater race in the late 1980's. My first impression was that it was totally, totally insane but it had all of the ingredients to be one hell of an adventure. We would read the articles in Ultra Running and the wheels would start turning, wondering if it could possibly be done. My friend Rick and I have been doing these things together for almost 15 years now. We've been through thick and thin, and faced all sorts of adversity. We feel that we're ready now. We know that this race will be the toughest thing that we've ever done. We have never run that far and have never endured that kind of heat. We've climbed lots of mountians but never after running 135 miles across desert. We have discussed this for months over many beers. We know there will be great suffering and great challenge. But with it there will come great adventure-and this brings me full circle with why I started doing all of this to begin with.
Cycho 24 Hour Bike Tace 1988
Hut Traverse-White Mountains (56 miles, 26 plus hours)
Mountaineering-Rock and Ice, Alpine ascents in Canadian Rockies, Cascades, Europe, South America and Africa
Metrosport magazine (Boston based)
Organ donor awareness. Rick's wife is a liver transplant recipient and so is our friend Lenny.
Crew English: yes