Name: Harrison Tucker
Hometown: New York City
IONIC FLUX: We know you race every distance from sprint upwards, but you chose to crack out 324 kilometres (201 miles) during the 24-hour Dutch Summer Solstice Ultraskate in The Netherlands this year. What was it like?
HARRISON TUCKER: The Dutch Ultraskate is a long story, but I’ll try to tell it quickly. The day before the race, I had to take an important statewide Regents Exam at my high school in New York City. Immediately after completing the exam, I went to the airport and hopped on the flight to Amsterdam. I couldn’t sleep on the plane because I was so excited and nervous, and it was only 6:30 PM (NY time) when I boarded the plane. I landed at about 7:20 AM in Amsterdam and, with only carryon luggage, I was able to take a taxi to the race track and get there 20 minutes before the race started. However, I was ready to race. I started out skating with my good friend and Don’t Trip teammate Andrew Andras. I knew that, due to the conditions, I wasn’t going to do very well. But I figured at the very least I could give him someone to talk to and help pace him, in addition to giving him some moral support. After all, Andy was “the guy” to beat! At the end of the 24 hours, I had completed 201 miles, which is far from my best of 232 miles in my last Florida Ultra, but respectable for being up for at least 48 hours straight. I was certainly happy with it. I skated 99% of my race with Andy. Just taking laps off here and there which I would normally never do in an ultra if I had properly slept before the race and wasn’t also subject to jet lag. It got to the point where I was thinking about his race more than mine. I even had to stop for a while to fix Andy’s board after a malfunction. But hey, that’s what teammates are for!
So distance skating is taking you round the globe. What’s the worldwide distance scene like? Where are the best places to skate ultras?
The distance scene is getting increasingly more popular and more competitive. I’m going to say the 188 mile, three-day Chief Ladiga Silver Comet Skate Challenge (from Smyrna, Georgia to Anniston, Alabama and back) is the best place to skate, but damn you’ll take a beating in that race.
How about in the US? Is it popular in New York? Where do you ride there?
I would say that it’s bigger in the US than in other countries, but that could just be ethnocentrism. The distance scene in NY is definitely small. But pushing for basic transportation around New York City is HUGE. I usually train in Central Park, which is four blocks from my apartment. It has a nice six-mile loop. Or I train on the West Side Highway bike path along the Hudson River, which is 30 windy miles along the water with great views.
How do you prepare for a 24-hour race?
Tough question. Long story short, but it basically requires many, many hours of what’s called Zone 2, an easy pace, and what is known as the fat-burning zone. It requires that you go at about 65% of your maximum heart rate. I train about 150 miles a week on my board in primarily Zone 2 to properly train for an ultraskate.
Do you get blisters on your feet? At the Dutch Summer Solstice Ultraskate, we saw some pretty awesome photos of riders wearing right through their shoes over the 24 hours. Has this happened to you? Have you ever passed out while riding?
I use Body Glide to prevent blisters. I always show up to an ultra with new shoes to ensure that I don’t wear through them. I wear through shoes in training, but never in a race. I’ve passed out twice while riding. Once, at the Dutch Ultraskate, when I put my hands on my knees and started coasting, then went off into the grass and fell over. However, I don’t think anyone saw me! The second time was when I was doing hill repeats in Central Park on an empty stomach and fell unconscious near the top of the hill. I woke up a few seconds later, sat down for a few minutes, and then skated home.
Thomas Slager looks like he’s set on driving the distance scene in Europe forward and grabbing a bunch of World Records at the same time. Did you meet him when you were in The Netherlands?
We talked briefly. It looks like we are headed in pretty different directions. I think he really wants to pursue the marathon distance while I want to pursue the ultraskate and multiday races. But the guy is fast, no questioning that.
Harrison Tucker with Thomas Slager
The distance scene feels like it is growing all over the world. What’s your take on it?
It’s definitely growing. I love it and all I can say is bring on the competition!
Where’s your dream place to ride?
I love the Chief Ladiga Silver Comet trail from Georgia to Alabama, which runs through all sorts of interesting scenery and countryside. But there is still something meditative and relaxing to me about going in circles on a small course, like Central Park in NYC or during an ultra.
Your Instagram feed is packed with some pretty tasty looking photos of vegan food. Is eating right – for your sport and your principles – important to you? How long have you been vegan?
I initially became a vegan for athletic reasons. Many of the world’s best endurance athletes have found success in plant-based diets. Even the Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis was a vegan. However, I don’t want to be that guy who says that I’m superior because of what I eat. A lot of vegans do that. But if you are interested in being healthier and being able to recover faster, I would look at the research and start incorporating more fruits, vegetables, legumes, starches and nuts into your diet. I’ve been 100% vegan for about a year. I was doing research on it and slowly transitioning towards it for about six months before that. Although my initial interest in veganism was for athletic performance, I also have discovered loads of other reasons why it’s positive. I no longer have the severe hay fever allergies I used to have each year, and I haven’t had a cold in a year. Coincidence? I don’t think so. If you are interested in what I eat and what I’m up to, definitely check out my Instagram.
You can also find Harrison on Facebook.