When Jeff Dallmann traded running for partying back in his college days, he thought he was done with the sport for good. Little did he know that a near-fatal accident would help him find a renewed love for running.
These days, he takes nothing for granted. Read on to hear about his most recent ultrarunning adventures and goals for the upcoming year.
Years running: Two years concurrently now! I had some success in high school CC & track followed by 18 years of heavy smoking.
Favorite workout: The long run of course. And it’s gotta be on trails … beautiful purification of the mind and soul through nature’s seasons of change.
Favorite distance to race: 50k. With that being said though, more miles = more fun!
Favorite song to get pumped up pre-race: Since I don’t run with music at all, I have to look back to the days of being in the high school weight room blasting Metallica on our strength training days. Yeah, that puts a smile on my face. As do Hanz & Franz who are going to PUMP YOU UP!
Favorite post-race treat: That is so easy … BEER. Cold, multiple, & domestic, I always say.
Must-have gear: For a heel striker like me it’s gotta be the shoes. Then, how can you run without fluids, so need a hand held; moving up to a waist carrying contraption; and graduating to the backpack reservoir. And a headlamp for those night “fun runs & hikes” is a must. I carry all these things in my vehicle at most times, wherever I go.
How did you get started with running? What’s kept you running all these years?
Ah, now here’s where it starts to get interesting. I started running when my mother threw down a list of sports my high school offered the summer prior to my sophomore year and said pick one – you don’t have a choice. My father ran for his high school so it seemed logical that was where I should be. After three years I found myself running for UW-Stout until I broke my foot skateboarding. By the time it was indoor track season I cared less about running than I did about partying and quit for 18 years.
Do you have a quote or philosophy that inspires your running?
Absolutely. “The only good race pace is a suicide pace and today looks like a good day to die.” – Steve Prefontaine. “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an action but a habit.” – Aristotle. And, most important, the legendary Sioux phrase yelled out going into battle by Crazy Horse … “HOKA HEY”.
You were in a terrible accident a few years ago. Can you tell us a bit about what happened? How did you get back to running after the accident?
Yeah, 27 1/2 months ago, I was engulfed by a giant fireball gasoline vapor explosion while lighting a bonfire that had gas on it. Every part of my body that was not covered and facing the explosion was burned to the 2nd or 3rd degree. I spent three weeks in St Mary’s Burn ICU on my back flirting with upwards of 105 degree fevers, infection, insomnia, hallucinations and intense pain. Finally the days came where wheelchair turned walker turned hallway grab bars turned free-walking steps without aid. Eventually, I was released to recoup and rehab at home. I pushed myself hard to recover and as part of it, when I could walk comfortably, my physical therapist asked me to try jogging to build up much needed leg strength. My love and passion for running that I had lost blew up out of me like a geyser, and I consumed everything running related I could get my hands on.
Do you view running differently after going through the accident?
Back then I was on a mission … to get better, stronger and back to work. Quite quickly came my feelings for a new lease on life. I – all of us – have these amazing, resilient bodies. We underutilize our physical capabilities daily. I had smoked and drank excessively for too many years, and this was my chance to correct the wrong I did to my own body. I was running for me – for peace, tranquility and serenity. I feel at ease after a run, and I started to see it for what it is – my personal meditation.
How did you get into trail and ultra running?
I have spent most of my life outdoors, in play as a child and in work as an adult. I grew up in the country and have always felt at home in the woods and in nature with the sights, smells and sounds you can’t find anywhere else. I naturally gravitated to trails and there were always many close by. With my renewed passion for running and my want of pushing the body to new limits, I was reading quite a bit about these ultra races. In due time, I had planned out running one in a few years when I was talked into signing up for John Dick 50k consisting of five 10k loops in the Southern Kettles. I was told it’s fun and you can drop out after a lap or two and meet some new people. OKAY. I ended up finishing the damn thing. That singular day changed everything for me; the people I met and shared the trails with were amazing! Then it happened … after I fully recovered from the run my lower limbs had changed. It had now been more than seven months since my accident and for the first time my body was back to 100 percent and I was able to return to work at 100 percent capacity. The lingering effects were over, and I felt stronger than I did pre-accident.
What’s a typical training week like for you as you build up for a longer distance race?
Umm, you probably don’t want to know what works for me. During the week I fit in runs as I can around my physically demanding job and schedule. My work is my cross training so my week day running mileage is quite low whereas my time on my feet walking/stairs/ladders/etc. is quite high. I get in a long run every week and increase its distance, generally for three weeks then cut it in half for a week. I mix in quite a few long races as long tempo runs through my season as I build up for my long goal races.
You recently did the BLS 24 hour run at the Germantown High School track – can you tell us a bit about that experience?
I read a book by Tom Osler in which he talks about his experience spending 24 hours on a track. His running methods sang to me, and I put this race on my bucket list soon after I started running. It was the hardest run of my life. I started with almost ripping off my big toe nail five days before the event which caused compensation problems that started to manifest in blisters on one pinky toe five hours in then the other one before dark. It wasn’t an overly hot day, but the track just radiated heat and we were in the direct sun all day long, which took its toll on us all. By nightfall, nobody was really running well anymore but we all moved forward – or around, if you will, changing direction every three hours for some new scenery. Everyone had their own personal struggles through the night and mine was most decisively the big red clock. Yes, I wasn’t moving well at times but could still run better than I walked so I ran as much as I could muster. But with each passing lap, the clock just didn’t seem to change much. 15:30, 15:33, 15:36, 15:39 – you get the idea. It was like watching paint dry. It was so bright, I couldn’t escape its sight and it got in my head. Game over, I went and laid in the back of my truck for the next 7 1/2 hours not really sleeping, just destroyed mentally and physically. I got back out there for the last 45 minutes and really learned what it takes to muster an endurance run like that from those still moving. I felt like I had let them all down but they demanded I get back out on the track because 24 hours was not over yet. I walked or ran laps with many of them and heard their stories of the night and felt honored and amazed to be sharing a track and endurance event with such highly motivated runners who could barely keep moving but are always able and willing to help motivate each other to do so.
What are your favorite Milwaukee races and what do you like about them?
One has to be the Icebreaker Marathon Relay. Running inside on rubber over concrete is not my cup of tea, but the energy levels and people make this event a blast. It’s definitely a social event. The BLS races are also great. It’s always fun to see the familiar faces at high quality run events (plus free beer – it is after all Milwaukee).
What are your running goals for the upcoming year?
Ha, I’m still trying to get through this year! Running uninjured is always on top of my goals. But I do have one goal – 100 miles. My first attempt, which was at the 24 hour race on the track, fell short. I have the T-Bunk 100 Mile Endurance Challenge coming up Nov. 2nd. And then next year my main race hopes are at the doorstep of the Kettle 100.
Thanks for chatting with us, Jeff! If you’d like to learn more about Jeff, you can connect here:
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