Meet a Trail WhippAss: May Edition!!

Happy spring, trail folks and friends! Sorry for slacking, but things got a little hectic in March and April and I just realized it’s May and I haven’t posted a Meet A Trail Whippass in a while! 

This month’s featured TWA member is quite possibly the nicest guy I’ve had the pleasure sharing trails. I met Rudy at last year’s NJ Trails’ Ultrafest while he sported the classic ultrarunner full beard. 

Rudy is pictured here on the left sporting the "Is he an ultra runner or is he homeless" beard. On the right is none other than Jedi Master and TWA Officer, Jürgen.

Rudy is pictured here on the left sporting the "Is he an ultra runner or is he homeless" beard. On the right is none other than Jedi Master and TWA Officer, Jürgen.

Since then, Rudy has chosen the clean shaven route and as his badassery has quadrupled! I’m not sure if there is any scientific evidence backing this up, but I think it has to do with the fact that he’s always sporting a TWA attire and representing the best trailrunning group in the country! 

If this picture looks familiar to you it's because it was made famous by The NorthFace EDC Bear Mountain emails!

If this picture looks familiar to you it's because it was made famous by The NorthFace EDC Bear Mountain emails!

Sit back, grab a cup of java or tea and get to know Rudy Shepherd!

Do you have any mantras you repeat in your mind during tough moments?  How do you dig yourself out of low points out on the trail?

When I was training for my first marathon and run longer and longer and really struggling I kept telling myself "I am strong, getting stronger."  I guess I may need to go back to that as I prepare for my first hundred miler.

My current race mantra is a Dean Karnazes quote "Run if you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to."

Is this where he told you that, Rudy?? This is Rudy after TNF DC where he crushed the 50 miler!

Is this where he told you that, Rudy?? This is Rudy after TNF DC where he crushed the 50 miler!

When I'm really struggling and just want to give up, which I never really consider as an option, I just tell myself the faster I move the sooner the damn thing will be over. 

If you found out that the world was going to end in 24 hours, what would you spend the next 24 hours doing?

Yikes!  Probably hang out with my family, my kids, my wife, my parents if I could.  As I am getting older I am realizing they are the most important thing. 

If you could hop in a time machine and talk to 10 year old Rudy for 30 seconds, what would you tell him knowing what you know now?

Just work hard and have faith in yourself and it is all going to work out, I am in a weird position right now of feeling like it has all worked out and that I am finally the person I've always wanted to be.

If you could hop in a time machine and talk to Rudy 50 years from now for 30 seconds, what would you ask him?  Also 50 years from now where do you see yourself?

Boy in 50 years I'll be 90 and hopefully happy to still be alive.  What would I ask my 90 year old self?  What do you regret not doing more of?  

At age 90 I see myself finally living in the country somewhere with a pet pig, playing the banjo like a pro, gardening maybe and hanging out with my grandkids and taking walks in the woods everyday.

What are some of your bucket list races or goals?  in running?

This summer I am running Vermont 100, next summer I would love to run Western States or another west coast mountain ultra race, the following summer UTMB!
Badwater has me curious along with Marathon de Sable, though the heat frightens me.  I'd also love to do the Mt. Fuji 100 some day. 

What is your proudest moment so far in life running related? 

Ultra related, running a 10:05 at the Tussey Mountainback 50 miler this fall, though I would love to go back there and break 10 hrs.
Pre-ultra, winning races in high school running the 110 high hurdles, 300 meter hurdles and the 4x400 relay.  I had a blast running track in high school and really miss it sometimes. 

Even The Clash knew that Rudy can't fail. They just spelled his name wrong

What is your proudest moment non-running related so far in your life?

Hmm, probably finally putting up a public sculpture in New York City, on the corner of Houston and 2nd Avenue or having my first solo exhibition at a gallery in New York City or seeing my artwork in the New York Times for the first time.

What were you like as a kid? 

I was wild, I used to love leaving my parents house in the morning on my bike and running all though the neighborhood and the woods with my friends until the sun went down and then I had to go home reluctantly for dinner.  I also used to like to get lost, I would just walk or bike in one direction until I didn't know where I was anymore and then try to find my way home.  I probably scared the hell out of my folks.  But not to dissimilar to what we do now as ultrarunners, right? 

This little angels was wild?? 

This little angels was wild?? 

What are some life experiences that helped shape you into the ultra runner and person you are today?

After three years as a pre-Med student at Wake Forest University I decided to become an artist and have spent the last 20 years pursuing that goal, from studying art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to moving to New York City to pursue my dream.  It has been a long challenging, sometimes discouraging journey, but with the faith in myself and a dream in my heart I have succeeded in becoming the professional artist I have always wanted to be and teaching now at a major university.  The vision, persistence, tenacity and lunacy it took to do this is something I can see in the people that inspire me in the ultrarunning community.  I mean the audacity it takes to think you can run 100 miles in one day is somewhat ludicrous if you think about it, yet people are doing it every weekend this time of year.

What music are you listening to right now? 

I bought myself a banjo for my 40th birthday, and so I have been listening to alot of bluegrass, but then I will mixed this with some ridiculous rap like Drake's new album or black metal like Deafheaven, I'm all over the place.

What is your funniest or craziest animal encounter on the trail? 

Wild turkey on the Long Path, Its a narrow single track and the turkey was with like 8 of it's chicks, I was a little scared, but luckily the chicks ran into the brush and the turkey did too eventually.  Another time, the turkey was in front of me and I was running toward it and it just kept running a couple of feet and stopping and running a couple of feet and stopping and not realizing that I was coming it's way, this went on for a while and I was not sure how it would end. 

Rudy and the wild turkey on the Long Path ;)

Rudy and the wild turkey on the Long Path ;)

Whats the most embarrassing wipe out you have ever had on the trail? 

I haven't had any particularly amusing wipe outs, but I did once crap my pants on a long run in Yonkers (damn roads).  I learned that day that there is a limit to how long you can hold in a crap.

What does a typical training week look like for you?  Do you follow a strict plan or are you more loose with your training?

I have no idea what I'm doing, so I like to follow premade training plans.  For the North Face DC 50 miler I used the training plan in the back of Hal Koerner's book (Hal Koerner's Field Guide to Ultrarunning), and I am now to train for the Vermont 100 I am going to use the 100 mile training plan in that same book.  I felt really strong at this last race so it gives me faith that Hal knows what he's doing.  The plans average around 60-70 miles a week which seems to work well for me, any more than that and I would probably get injured or piss off my wife.

What is the last book you read, and tell me about it in 2-3 sentences?

The last book I read was Gene Baur's Farm Sanctuary a book about the deplorable state of farm system here in the US and the courage work he and his organization has done to combat this over the last 30 years.  It was a very inspiring and informative book that really made me want to figure out what I can do to help other people, the planet and the animals we share it with.  

What is the best advice you have ever been given and who gave it to you?  

Fred Tomaselli, a famous artist I worked with at art residency in 2000 said to me once "You can have it all."  He is a famous artist with a happy marriage, kids and a life, he did not have to sacrifice it all to make it to his goal and as a result has a happy full life where he can do what he loves and be successful.

If somebody were to make a movie or write a book about your life, what would it be called and why?

Well it can't be called Rudy because there is already a movie with that name (which I refused to see on principle). 

OK, noted.


What is the Trail WhippAss logo to you?

The Trail Whippass logo is the wild beast that lives inside of us and leads us to want to get out in the woods and explore for days on end. 

This cute guy?

This cute guy?

What do you do for a living? 

I am an artist and an art professor at Penn State University. 

Do you speak any other languages? 

A little Spanish and a little Italian and a hybrid of the two that is not an official language.

What age did you start running?

I started running when I was a sophomore in high school, so maybe 15. 

Why did you start running? 

The track coach saw me running lines in basketball practice and recruited me to be on the track team. 

Why and when did you start running trails? 

After running my first marathon in 2012 I started reading about ultramarathons and was both excited and fearful of the idea, but a few months later I was signing up for my first trail ultramarathon (Mountain Madness 50K) and figuring out where I could find trails near my house. 

Here's Rudy after he crushed the NJ Trails' Mountain Madness 50K!

Here's Rudy after he crushed the NJ Trails' Mountain Madness 50K!

Do you have a running idol? If so, who is he/she and why are they your idol? 

Timmy Oleson is my current running idol I just love the energy that he exudes.  I can definitely relate to the things he has been through in his life, from his troubled youth to a flourishing grounded adulthood. 

Where is the best place that you've run? or where was the most interesting place you've ever run? 

Hmm, I have yet to run out west on the real mountains, but I am headed to Gressoney Saint-Jean, Italy about 2 hours from Chamonix, France this summer for a wedding and I am very excited to run in the Italian Alps. 

So, I've run in Smoky Mountain National Park that was pretty cool, Bear Mountain, NY is pretty rad and last year I did the Vegan Power Ultramarathon in the Berkshires and that was beautiful as well.

What's the most you've paid for a race? 

$250 for the Vermont 100, totally worth it.  For that kind of torture you gotta pay a lot of money, right? 

Have you heard how much Dylan paid to run the NYC Marathon? Trust me $250 for a 100 miler is a bargain compared to that!

What is your favorite pre-race meal?

Pre-race it's a bagel with nothing on it, preferably cinnamon raisin, a banana and a cup of coffee. 

What's your favorite food choice during ultras? 

The red potatoes you dip in the salt bowl, if a race has that I am in heaven. (I'm a cheap date.)

What's your favorite post race meal? 

If there is a sweet potato involved I am happy. 

What can you not run without? 

My new nutrition revelation is Tailwind Nutrition I highly recommend it to everybody, for the long races and even just for long runs it is the best. 

If anyone in the world could congratulate you at the end of a race who would it be and why? 

My kids, when I crossed the finish line at Bear Mountain with my kids for my first 50 miler it was the best feeling ever.  It was so awesome to share that with them.

Here's Rudy finishing the TNF Bear Mountain 50 miler all smiles with his kids!! You can't ask for a better finisher's photo! Congrats, Rudy!