Saturday, March 2, 2013

Exploring new terrain via human power

‘Exploring new terrain via human power’ Print
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Written by Deborah Stone   

Andrew Fast
Andrew Fast
Andrew Fast claims there are no big secrets to being an endurance athlete. The local man, an elite trail runner and triathlete with an oh, so apropos last name, says it’s basically about showing up and putting in the work.
Most importantly, he adds, “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh often.”

Fast, who was born and bred in Woodinville, recently set the speed record on Haleakala, Maui’s highest peak and dormant volcano.
He ran the 18-mile trail that goes from sea level to 10,000 feet in 3 hours and 37 minutes. 

To give you an idea of how impressive this record is, previous attempts by others took double that amount of time.
Fast’s achievement and recount of the run is featured in the February issue of “Trail Runner Magazine.”

The local man’s interest in endurance sports was first ignited when he was a student at Seattle University.

Accustomed to waking early to train from his days of playing soccer, Fast headed to the rec center, where he met a group of lively older people waiting outside for the pool to open.

He learned they were triathletes and among them were some local legends, including Ironman Ed Wong.

“My background had been in surfing and rock climbing; two sports with a lot of ego,” explains Fast. “I was blown away by how welcoming the endurance community was, and before I knew it I was getting invited on bike rides, open water swims and trail runs.”

The Woodinville man took to trail running in a big way after he moved to Leavenworth, following a year where he lived and worked in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border.

During his time in Southeast Asia, he dealt with his thoughts by riding a bicycle from the camps across the southern tier of Asia, pedaling into remote villages of Laos where tourists are never seen. When he returned to Washington, Fast decided that Leavenworth would be a good place to reside while he dealt with his culture shock. The small community and access to the outdoors was ideal for his pursuits.
“I could get to trails from my door, float the river, ski and get solitude within five minutes,” he says. “I stayed there for two years to train and write and earn money for my next trip and races.”

One of those adventures was in Chile, where Fast cycle-toured from Santiago down the length of Patagonia.
Now back in Woodinville, the local man is continuing to train and race, getting support from such companies as Powerbar, Orca, Nuun and Woodinville Bicycle.

He comments that his success is motivated by endorphins, discipline and community.
“To wake early and get fresh air in your lungs, endorphins flowing and new blood in your brain is a very good quality of life,” he comments. He adds, “Someone once told me ‘endurance is a blue-color sport, hard work pays off’ and I suppose that stuck with me because the discipline required to enjoy endurance sports creates a disciplined lifestyle. The determination, drive and engaging characteristics transfer well to anything you take on in life.”

As for community, Fast spends much time with others involved in the sport and is appreciative of the many mentors he has had over the years who shared their knowledge and served as an inspiration to him. With a number of wins under his belt and a skill-set that is well-honed, Fast feels he is in a position to give back to the community. Together with Woodinville Bicycle, he has started a triathlon team to provide an opportunity for local triathletes to learn from one another and train together.
Additionally, he serves as an announcer and volunteer at various events, as well as a mentor to others.
Fast strives to continue to improve his performance, averaging about 25 hours of training a week, which includes swimming, biking and running.

He enjoys competing, but emphasizes that the sport is more about fun and exploration for him.
“It’s exploring new terrain via human power,” he explains. “The element of exploration really set me up well for harder racing; control what you can control — don’t stress about things you can’t control — it’s inefficient.”
Bitten by the travel bug as a teen, courtesy of his parents, Fast doesn’t see borders, language barriers or political unrest when he looks at a map.

He simply sees terrain, and if the land is new and the culture is foreign, then it presents the ideal situation for him, combining two of his passions — human power and travel. In running Haleakala, he notes that Maui is one of the few places in the world where a person can go from the tropical waters of the Pacific, through the jungle and up to high country ranch land, into one of the most unique alpine environments in existence. In describing the volcano, he comments, “The belly of the crater is lifeless and moon-like in a beautiful way.”
Fast’s love of sport and pushing physical boundaries has created a deep sense of empathy for all ability levels, which drives his interest in the field of physical therapy. 

He says, “From someone with a disability to an Olympic caliber athlete, as a therapist you have to be able to connect with them in order to problem solve. The problem solving element of being a PT is very exciting to me.”
The local man strongly feels that his story can serve as inspiration to others.
He notes that people tend to be creatures of habit, but he emphasizes that there’s a big, beautiful world out there, ripe for exploration, adding, “An expensive bike and brand new pair of shoes is not a prerequisite. All a person needs to do is get out the door and run or walk around a corner they haven’t gone around. The endorphins will start to flow and a sense of adventure will reawaken.”