Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Happy 65th Ultra Kraut

Orange County Register    
Thursday,  January 26, 2006  
Huntington Beach retiree lives to  run

A lifelong fitness buff and  endurance athlete runs 65 miles to celebrate his 65th birthday. Age has  slowed him a bit, but he sets a goal and finishes it.

The  Orange  County  Register      
FOUNTAIN  VALLEY - The big  run was at 5 o'clock sharp. In the morning.
Sixty-five  miles. On foot. Sixteen-plus  laps around Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley, give or take a few slabs  of concrete.
Sixty-five  miles, as a 65th birthday present to himself.
For  one of his last meals before his run Saturday, Jurgen Ankenbrand sat down  for an early lunch at McDonald's. He had two apple pies and a Dr Pepper  with no ice. Before the  run, he drank a steaming cup of instant coffee with cream and  sugar. No  water. No stretching.
No  iPod. No expensive running shoes.

"I  do everything unconventional," Ankenbrand says.
Umm,  yes.
On  mile 36, his shirt off and the balls of his feet aching (he already had  taped them twice), Ankenbrand - deeply tanned from years of running and  hanging out at the beach - slowed to a brisk walk, looking for a  bathroom. "I  don't know whose crazy idea this was," he says, "but whoever it is, that  person should be shot.

The man who  calls himself "Ultra Kraut" loves to talk as much as he loves to run. And  he loves to run.
A  native of Nuremberg, he has completed more  than 125 ultra-marathons
(typically, 32- to 50-mile races) on seven  continents, including a trek through the Sahara desert. He  has run marathons (26.2 miles) around the base camp of Mount Everest and  on a glacier in Antarctica.
At  5-feet-6, with the stocky body of an aging rugby player, Ankenbrand is  animated. He speaks with a German accent, his voice slightly  raised. He  bounces from topic to topic as if he were on a permanent endorphin  high. Riffing on  his failed 18-year marriage - which ended about 18 years ago - Ankenbrand  says: "After one kid, I told her, 'That's all you're going to get from  me!' And I went out and got a vasectomy."

On  his 30-year-old daughter, Monica, who lives in New York and works  for ACNielsen, he says: "She makes double the money I ever made in my best  job." On  how fit America's youth are: "They need  to get off their asses and stop watching TV all  day."
Ankenbrand  sees himself as a fitness ambassador, but he's not some gung-ho crusader  trying to convert the slovenly.
He  runs for himself. His  hobby became a lifestyle - one that didn't start until he was 47. He first  laced up his running shoes after living more than two decades in the  United  States.
Running has  taken Ankenbrand all over the world. Freelance photography and writing  help him cover the costs. Because he  has no emotional attachments, he can come and go as he likes. He hasn't  had a steady girlfriend in eight years.
"I'm  living the life I want to live," says Ankenbrand, who lives mainly on  $1,150 monthly Social Security checks and as a part-time mystery shopper.  "I don't have to prove anything to me or anyone else. I don't need other  people to affirm what I'm doing.
"I  can do without the trappings of everyday life. I don't envy people who  have material things. The experience of running and traveling more than  compensates for the material things I don't have."
Ankenbrand  lives month to month, with no savings. He rents a room in a
townhouse in  Huntington  Beach. He  drives a purple '95 Ford Probe with 200,000 miles on it that is decorated with 39 stickers from some of the roughly 75 countries he's  visited. Practically  his entire life - running clothes and beach supplies - is packed
into the  trunk of his car.

Ankenbrand  grew up in an upper-middle-class family. His father was in the insurance  business.
He  didn't really know what he wanted to do after high school. His father  suggested a career as a chef. "I  thought, 'What the hell. Why not?'" Ankenbrand says. He  served as an apprentice for three years then went to Cologne, then Sweden.
He  came to the United  States in 1962 to work as a cook at a hotel in  
Houston, then took a 40-hour bus ride to  Los  Angeles. He  checked into a YMCA and got hired at a German  restaurant. Except for  four years when he lived in Hawaii, he  has worked in the Southern California food industry ever since -  mostly in management.
He  once owned his own bistro, and once declared bankruptcy after being  
unemployed for 14 months. One  day in 1987, while working at Cal State Long Beach, a student dared him to  enter the Long Beach Marathon.
Students knew  him as a tennis fanatic. He played five sets of singles every  Sunday. "I  thought, 'What the hell. Why not?'" Ankenbrand says.
He  finished the marathon in 4 hours and 5 minutes - very impressive,  
especially for someone who didn't train. About a month  later, Ankenbrand heard about a 50-mile race at Mile Square
Park. He entered and finished the  50-miler in 9 1/2 hours.
To  train for the marathon in Antarctica, he ran in snow shoes on the sands of  Huntington  Beach while wearing a 25-pound  backpack.
"People  thought I was nuts," he says. Thought?
Ankenbrand  runs barefoot about every other day for 4 miles at the beach, then goes  for an ocean swim - never in a wetsuit.
In  March 2003, he took early retirement as a purchasing agent for a  
food-service company at UC Irvine. He left to write about and photograph a  66-day run from Lisbon to Moscow.
Race  times always have been irrelevant to Ankenbrand. He runs to  finish. Age  has slowed him a bit. Now, he frequently walks.
But  he always tries to finish.

Ankenbrand  figured his 65-mile run would take about 15 hours.
He  normally doesn't run on concrete, preferring dirt trails. "After about  halfway through, I did much more walking than running, but all I wanted to  do was finish." Ankenbrand says. "There was absolutely no way I would not  finish this run, so I had to ration my energy."
He  ate peanut butter sandwiches and other snacks and candies, and drank juice  that he kept in his unlocked car.
After every  lap, he marked the time on a handmade poster.
He  finished in 16 1/2 hours, wearing gloves, a jacket and a long-sleeve shirt  and pants - similar to what he was wearing when he started in the chilly  morning air.
"It  certainly was a very tough and long day at the office," he says. "But I  have proven many times that I have what it takes to survive. Willpower and  motivation is what gets you through."
Ankenbrand  now is helping a friend plan a run from the northern tip of
Europe to  Cape Town,  South  Africa. He  plans to run some of the legs himself. "My  motto is, 'Do the most, with the least effort,'" Ankenbrand says. "Once  that stops working, maybe I'll go back to tennis."


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