I’ve been called a lot of names over the years but “mutant” is a new one. I’m not exactly sure it’s a compliment, but I think I’m ok with it.
Back in February, I got a small taste of what it must be like to be a model when I flew to Los Angeles for less than 24 hours for a photo shoot. It was a surreal experience that involved art directors, a photographer with multiple assistants, wardrobe experts, prop guys, a make-up artist and a location scout. And to top it off, a bunch of young, good-looking NFL hopefuls were training at the gym where we were doing the shoot.
Everything started about a month before when my great friend Elinor Fish mentioned casually on a training run that she had nominated me for an annual story in Outside profiling America’s “fittest real athletes.” I didn’t think much of it at the time and filed it in the back of my brain behind family, training and work. A few weeks later I got a call from a writer at Outside fact checking to see if I truly didn’t make a salary racing. (I wish!) It wasn’t until the folks at Outside booked my flight to LA that I finally realized I was actually going to be in the magazine, one of my all-time favorite reads.
I have no idea how many people were nominated, but I was selected along with four guys as ‘The Mutants Next Door’ – real people with families and jobs racing at the elite level and (trying to) make it all work – Neal Gorman, Alex Grant, Matt Liebsch and Kevin Taddonio. Neal is an ultrarunner who holds the record for the Grand Slam (Western States, Vermont 100, Leadville 100 and the Wasatch Front). Alex is a mountain biker who placed second at La Ruta de Conquistadors and held his own against the top pros at the Leadville 100. Matt is a Nordic skier who has won the American Birkebeiner. Lastly, Kevin is a triathlete who was the top American amateur at Kona. They were all really nice guys.
The photo shoot took place at training facility called Velocity where a bunch of huge guys were running with weighted sleds behind them preparing for the NFL Scouting Combine. They thought it was pretty funny watching five skinny outdoor athletes jump on trampolines, stand on balance balls and hang from the rings in fancy clothes while wardrobe assistants constantly fussed over us and the photographer snapped away. Over the course of about eight hours, they had me put on at least 10 different outfits including some really nice dresses I unfortunately didn’t get to keep.
All in all, it was pretty wild experience, but everyone was incredibly nice and I’m truly honored to be included in this group of amazing “real” athletes. And, while I might be a bit biased, this is a great issue of Outside. There’s a cool story on the Army’s high tech human performance lab, a wild account of three alpinists surviving a massive avalanche while climbing Gasherbrum V, and of course, Colbert’s essay is hysterical. Make sure to grab a copy!