Thoughts Before My Ultramarathon Debut

This run will be the hardest physical exertion I have ever demanded of my body.

To date, the most I’ve ever run in a day is ~27 miles. A marathon + warm up. Tomorrow I will attempt to cover 93 miles on foot. 3x+ my lifetime max. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even run 93 miles in a single week.

Traditional wisdom says you should progress up to a ~100 mile effort. Go from racing a marathon (26.2 miles) to a 50k (~30 mile), then a 50 mile, followed by a 100k (~60 mile) before finally attempting ~100 miles. I’m not much for traditional wisdom.

I am doing this run; self supported, solo, overnight, on trails, covering ~25k ft of elevation and in remote wilderness with no cell service. Any one of those things might make an effort like this crazy. Doing all of that for my first ultra – is maybe crazy enough for even me.

But just to add a bit more to all of that. I’m not in shape. I’ve run 277 miles so far this year. Averaging 5 miles on 55 runs. I think I’ve only done three double-digit runs. For comparison, the year of my fast marathon I had run 1,227 miles by this point. 4x+ as much.

So here I am attempting a run 3.x my max on 4x less training. I’m the most worried I have ever been that I won’t be able to finish something that I started.

I’ve long been fascinated with the idea of going until failure. I would gaze out at the horizon and wonder how far I could run before I just collapsed. Tomorrow I get to find out. That is unless by some feat I finish it – in that case I guess I would be forced to find something more intense for next year.

Gear

I’ve been massaging my gear list for a week. In spreadsheet form and in person. With a run like this every ounce counts. Factoring in my steps per minute, the number of miles and the impact multiplier of downhill running, every oz on my back will add something like 10k lbs of force onto my muscles across the course of the run. In total I have ~15 lbs of gear I’m debating, but I’d like to run with less than 10 on my back.

Which is more worth the oz – a fresh pair of socks, 100 calories or sunscreen? Tough choices.

I learned from my run in with hypothermia at the Boston Marathon that it doesn’t take long for things to go bad when it gets cold, even if you’re running 6:30 miles. So I’m not keen to skimp on warm clothing – I’ve got more than I’ll need, which should hopefully be just enough.

Goals

  1. Do not die
  2. Complete the 93 mile Wonderland Trail on my own two feet
  3. Keep my heart rate under 120 bpm average for the first 45 miles
  4. Do not spike over 140 bpm at all for the first 45 miles
  5. Finish in under 48 hours without sleeping
  6. Finish in under 36 hours
  7. Finish with a final 10 mile average over 110 bpm
  8. Be doing something that looks like a run for >10% of the final ~10 miles
  9. Finish in under 30 hours
  10. Finish in under 24 hours – a single day

Ride Report: RAMROD 2019

On Thursday July 25th, 2019 completed the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day). This is the ride report.

Goals

I was just there to finish the ride.

This was something that was on my bucket list and I jumped on the opportunity to join a few coworkers who wanted to do it together. I also used this as a training ride and litmus test for this year’s real bucket list item, a 93 mile run around the same mountain.

  1. Finish – ACCOMPLISHED
  2. Finish before the time cutoff – ACCOMPLISHED
  3. Finish strong – SORT OF ACCOMPLISHED

Successes

What am I proud of from ride day?

  • Longest bike ride I have ever done
  • Longest duration I have ever done a physical activity for
  • Completed a fairly challenging ride on 5 training rides of 100 miles total

Failures

What areas could I improve for future rides?

  • Should have eaten more breakfast while commuting down
  • Had a section around miles 60-70 where I didn’t eat much & bonked a bit
  • Post ride beer was a bad idea – my stomach wasn’t ready for that

Thankfuls

What that was out of my control am I thankful for?

  • People to ride with
  • No flat tires or bike trouble for me
  • Support crews that were always there
  • Sock ice!

Frustrations

What that was out of my control do I wish had happened differently?

  • I really couldn’t have asked for anything better

Ride Recap

Strava here

This ride was a big test for me. I wanted to see what my body was capable of with little, to no training. I was able to finish the ride in 13 hours 37 minutes, 23 minutes before the time cutoff of 8pm. That meant I was one of the last finishers, not something I’m used to, but a finisher nonetheless.

Pre Ride Day

Going into the race I had done five training rides of a total of 100 miles. The longest was a 55 mile ride in April, three months before the ride. In the 12 weeks leading up tot he ride, I had done a total of two rides totaling 15 miles. I had run a bit more, averaging ~2 runs and 8-10 miles per week. Essentially I was riding off the couch.

The Morning of

I woke up at 3:30 so I could meet the guys I was riding with at 4am at a park & ride, so we could get to the start around 5 and actually get riding around 6. We had to park a mile or so away from the school where it started so, we got some extra miles in, just to make sure the day was hard. That was a long morning.

I had signed up for the pre-race breakfast. In retrospect I should have eaten something on the ride down and probably should have eaten more there. It was good to get some solid calories in though.

Since this wasn’t a race, the start wasn’t an all-at-once thing. Riders were able to start as they pleased anytime between 5am and 7am. We started towards the middle of that range, which put us towards the back of the pack. Most riders seemed either eager to finish early before it was too hot or nervous that they wouldn’t finish, and thus eager to start earlier.

Start

We started the ride by nearly immediately making a wrong turn. We were supposed to take a right turn on SE 424th st towards the top of the image below and then turn left onto 244th but ended up following some riders that seemed to know where they were going and went into the heart of Enumclaw before someone realized we were off course.

Thankfully our trusty navigator found a shortcut back to the main course on Griffin Ave, that avoided us having to backtrack 1.5 miles to the start. In the end I think we rode a tiny bit more than we should have, but not enough to materially impact the 152 mile ride.

The first 55 miles

The first section of the ride, from Enumclaw into the park was relatively flat and on country roads. The biggest issue I had was getting used to riding in a paceline again – something I hadn’t ever done much of as pacelines are illegal in triathlons. The road was fairly rough, generally bumpy asphalt, shoulders that sometimes disappeared, potholes, branches reaching into the road, etc. That meant it was important to pay attention to the people in front of you and to signal to those behind you, especially when you were in the front. I messed that up a few times which resulted in someone taking a branch to the side or a pretty decent bump.

Our group of 4 riders took turns in the lead spot and periodically we grouped up with other riders. We were going intentionally slow.

There are two rest stops in this stretch, one at 36 miles and another at 55. We took both opportunities to get out of the saddle for ~20 minutes. We ate, stretched, used the bathroom, put on sunscreen and took slefies. Generally we set the tone that we were going at a relaxing pace.

I averaged 106 bpm through this part, which is essentially the effort level of a brisk walk.

The Park & First Climb

After the mile 55 rest stop we started climbing. The next ~23 miles would take us from 1,500ft to 4,800ft, a climb of 3,300 ft. The nice part about this section was the pavement was like butter the second we entered the national park. The shoulder wasn’t huge but for the most part traffic was light and the fact that we were off regular-use roads meant that most riders were not in a hurry.

The park is essentially three climbs. A big one, followed by a partial decent, a small one, followed by some more decent and then the last big one – the one that breaks people.

Our group split up on the first climb and found our own pace, agreeing to meet at the top.

We ended up stopping for two unplanned rests on the climb though.

The first was a 20 minute break at 2,400 ft for our group’s one mechanical failure of the day, a flat tire. Thankfully ride support was nearby within minutes and sold Phil a new tire, as the one he was using had a hole in it and would likely result in another flat tube.

The second was a quick 5 minute stop to refill water and regroup less than 2 miles from the top. At that point most of us were out of water and we weren’t positive how far the next stop was, so we used the chance to refill. In the end we would have been fine pushing through it. I did forget to eat for a good bit of the climb though, and it had been three hours since our last aid station, so eating something at that point ended up helping me feel a good bit better.

We took another 5 minutes at the very top to refill water bottles and get a group picture in front of the mountain.

I generally tried to stay in the 130s for the climb, only popping up into the 140s briefly. I averaged 131 through this section, including rests.

The Descent & Minor Climb

From mile 78 to 86 was a beautiful descent past reflection lakes. The nice thing about cycling is downhills are restful and not high impact like running downhill. I averaged 28 mph and 97 bpm through this section, so basically I was resting. What I did notice is I was much slower on the downhills than the others in the group. I suspect that had a lot to do with me not spending any time riding this year, I hadn’t built up much confidence in my downhill abilities so I was riding the brakes.

We took a 20 minute stop at box canyon where I must have eaten five chocolate croissants. They really hit the spot. That was also a chance to reapply sunscreen and chammy creme before the killer climb.

The minor climb was mostly uneventful climb from 2,800 ft to 3,400 ft. I required 140 bpm through this section to keep 7.7 mph up though, so things were getting a bit tougher. I know from experience that 140 bpm is about my 10 hour limit, so I was nervous to get into the 140s much for fear of having a major bonk later.

We eased through the final part of that descent and stopped at mile 97 to refill bottles before the killer climb. There was a sign that said ‘Sock Ice’ to which I was immediately curious. The volunteer informed me you could fill a tube sock with ice and put it around your neck and then as you rode up the hill with the sun on your back it would melt and cool you. I was sold.

I decided to ride the rest of the ride without socks (which was my original intent anyhow) took off my socks and filled one with ice. I offered my other one to the other guys I was riding with but for some reason none of them felt like putting a sock I’d just ridden 100 miles in around their neck. Beats me.

Cayuse Pass

This is the climb that gets you. Cayuse pass is a name that will live in infamy for any rider who has done RAMROD. When I first looked at the course map I wondered why there was a rest stop at mile 4 of an 8 mile climb – that seemed excessive. On the day of the ride I ended up wishing there was an additional rest stop at mile 6.

It is 8 miles at a constant 6% grade rising from 2,400 to about 4,700 ft. Most riders get there at the hottest part of the day and the sun is beating down on your back as there is hardly any shade as you climb along the black asphalt reflecting the heat back at you. By this time you get to the start of the climb, just about 100 miles an 8k fi into your day, your legs are spent, your glycogen stores are depleted, the sunburn has kicked in and your sit bones are sore from, in my case, 9 hours in the saddle. Then you start climbing a hill that, even fresh, would be a solid effort.

This is the final test. Once you reach the top it just an easy 44 mile ride net downhill to the finish. All you have to do is make it up and the finish line is within reach.

Our group split into our own paces to grind it out. I kept slow and steady, averaging 6mph and 140 bpm for the first 4 miles and then pulled over at the rest stop I had previously (naively) thought excessive. By four miles in my sock ice was nearly melted and my bottles were now lukewarm so I refilled both with fresh ice & cool water before. This felt like a quick stop but was nearly 10 minutes. Our group hadn’t all caught up but the first two of us decided to keep going lest our legs lock up before we made it.

Just four miles left to go but each one was a grind. About three miles in I looked ahead and saw cars driving on a road way higher than I was. I started to dread that maybe my math was off and I had another few miles and thousand feet to go. I got to the point where I was just ready for the climb to be over – looking around each corner hoping to see a tent. Sure enough a tent appeared and I thought I was done. But unfortunately this was just a communication tent. Nonetheless I pulled over in a small patch of shade near it to cool off – mentally needing a rest before finishing the last mile or so.

The final mile was more digging deep, doing whatever I could to find 130 bpm until finally I reached the top. Seventeen minutes later I was down the other side of the hill that had taken me nearly two hours to climb. It’s funny how gravity works like that.

Deli Stop

The final rest stop had a lot of food to refuel everyone for the last miles. I was there for about 50 minutes as we waited for our group to catch up and then gave everyone some time to rest. I ate like a post race feast. Turkey sandwich, three or four croissants, chips, pickles, orange juice, cookies – I must have put away over 1k calories right there.

The finish is ~37 miles with ~2k net downhill but unfortunately there is a solid headwind. By the time we left the deli stop it was 6pm and the course closed at 8pm so we figured we had to average ~18-20 mph in order to finish on time – which seemed impossible given we had mostly been chugging away at 6mph for the past few hours on the climb.

It turns out we were able to form a pretty good draft line. We averaged ~22mph for the first hour taking turns in the wind. I found that I needed to put out 140-150 bpm to take lead where as being in the back of the draft line I could keep the same pace with only 120 or so. It is pretty amazing how much of a difference that makes. We ended up passing a few groups and periodically some of them would join our line, but none of them took the lead. Phil from our group ended up doing the lion’s share of the work out front.

As much of a physical rest as being in the back of the line is, mentally it is super challenging. I hadn’t spent much time (any time) riding in packs this year so I just wasn’t in tune for that, which makes it especially hard when you’re on your last leg.

Finish

The last miles drag on a bit as mentally the race was finished hours ago but a few miles of flats remain. We spun it in and got to the finish a solid 23 minutes before the cutoff.

Our one crash of the day happened at the finish line. A volunteer stepped in front of Matt to hand him his award patch and he slammed on his brakes, forgetting to unclip his feet. He tipped over in slow motion (as seen in grainy picture below) and I slammed on my breaks but hit him in slow motion right as I was stopping. If you’re going to wreck, do it at the end and at ultra slow speeds.

We ate ice cream, picked up our packets, noticing most of the 800 others had already been taken.

We then hopped back on our bikes to go to our car. 152 miles of riding + a mile or so before and after the race makes for the longest day I’ve ever spent riding.

We went out for burgers and beers afterwards and had varying levels of success getting food down. After 3 oz of beer I had the hiccups for a few hours.

Data Breakdown

It wouldn’t be a Greg post without a few charts. Here are a few of the interesting bits from this ride.

First, straight out of Strava, is the elevation chart and my speed + effort throughout. You can see that generally I chugged along at an even pace, minus the few big climbs and descents.

What is kind of interesting is that if you adjust the elevation profile by time you can see that I spent much more of the day going uphill. In total I spent 5 hours climbing of ~11.5 moving. This is because the downhills go so quick they take proportionately less of the day.

Nelson Mandela – Exemplar Review

This year I picked Nelson Mandela as my exemplar. Today would be Mandela’s 101st birthday (he passed away in 2013) and is internationally recognized as Nelson Mandela day, so I decided it would be an appropriate day to publish my exemplar review. Each year I follow a review template to help me get the most out of the process of having an exemplar. Below is my entry for Nelson Mandela.

What did Nelson Mandela achieve?

Nelson Mandela was a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the first black president of South Africa and a leader in the movement to transition that country to a true democracy where all people had a vote, regardless of race. He was a lawyer, a revolutionary, the leader of a terrorist organization and a political prisoner for nearly 30 years. His life was just about singularly devoted to ensuring people of all races had equal freedoms in South Africa.

Why did he care about that?

As a black African, Mandela had first hand experience and was witness to the injustice that non-whites forced upon those of other races in South Africa. He believed this was unjust and wanted a day when he, his family, his neighbors and his people would be treated as equals in their own land.

In his biography he wrote, “There was no particular day on which I said, From henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”

How did he think about the world differently than his contemporaries?

I will break this into two categories – his differences from those in power before him and his differences from other freedom fighters of his era.

Mandela saw the world differently than the people in power in most of the world during his life. The world was largely under the control of a white minority of European decent after centuries of colonization, bloodshed & enslavement. While black Africans were not bonded in slavery during Mandela’s life, their standing was nowhere near equal, largely as a result of having no influence in the governing process. Mandela was a proponent of one vote per person and of not treating people differently because of the color of their skin.

That final point is particularly important. While there were many freedom fighters in the 20th century (Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Mugabe, Mengistu Haile Mariam, etc.), for some they eventually become the oppressors they once fought. Mandela had a long history of seeking to work with other races in South Africa and was adamant that the white minority shouldn’t be mistreated if and when the black majority gained power. This is a view that seems somewhat unique on the continent of Africa but Mandela and the ANC defended it .

What are a few of Mandela’s behaviors that helped him?

Three things that stood out to me were his willingness to dive into messy debates and stay in them as long as they took. On one occasion in his autobiography he described disagreeing with a friend and staying up all night debating until they agreed. He seemed to have a knack for recognizing when debate could prevail and would push until the other party was exhausted and conceded. On some occasions though he writes about giving into a group consensus, so it appears he either failed to mention the long debate or he somewhat quickly read that debate would not win. This habit of long debate proved beneficial when he would later negotiate the terms of the first free election with the sitting government, a process that took about seven years.

Another behavior that stands out to me about Mandela is the way he always functioned as part of a group. From his college age he made decisions with others. Perhaps this is a cultural difference between my 21st century American individualism and a 20th century African way of doing things, but I appreciated seeing how it played out. It seemed that every year or two he was forming a committee or chapter or group of some form. Even in prison he organized an election for leaders to speak for the cell block. In his autobiography I was impressed with how many names he mentioned (as a side note, apparently his ‘autobiography’ was written by a ghostwriter with the help of a committee of his colleagues, so perhaps that is why so many names were included) They say if you want to go far you need to go with others and Mandela’s life proves that.

Finally, I was impressed by his dedication to physical and mental health. As a lawyer he attended a boxing gym to get some physical exertion in, in prison he would run in place and do pushups, later he would play tennis and garden. Despite being quite busy, he found time to take care of his body.

What are some of the decisions he made that contributed to his success?

One of the first decisions Mandela made that had a huge impact on his life was to move from his homeland in the country to the city of Johannesburg, where he became a lawyer. It is hard to imagine he would have had the connections and influence he did in a remote village. The time he spent working in law ended up being extremely beneficial as he spent the majority of his life involved in legal action against the country. His autobiography gives little glimpses of how his confidence and knowledge of the law went a long way to set him apart as a leader. He had the courage to stand up to workers at the prison and to protest all the way to the government – while he wasn’t fully effective, it is clear his repeated efforts had more impact than doing nothing would have.

The group of people he chose to associate himself with ended up being an influential and eventually powerful group. It is hard to say whether Mandela sought them out, whether they ended up powerful because they stayed close to him or whether like just attracts like. Folks like Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Desmond Tutu, Chief Albert Lutuli who were leaders in the fight against Apartheid.

What isn’t apparent to me, from reading Mandela’s biography, is how Mandela went from being a man to a saint. It seems that this was by design and that the pivotal point was when he chose to live underground and start the militia. As a result of that perhaps, and his way with words, he became elevated as a figurehead for the political movement. This gave him a platform to speak on that few others had. Any ways in which he nurtured this image of himself certainly helped. It gave him a chance to share messages with his people & the world, the former it energized, the latter it motivated to put economic pressure on South Africa to resolve the conflict.

What was one thing about the Nelson Mandela’s life journey that is encouraging to me?

The reason I originally picked Nelson Mandela as an exemplar this year is his ~30 years in imprisonment and rise to power after that. At the time I thought of those as 30 wasted years, but I have learned that they were anything but.

During those years two very important things happened. First, he became a living martyr. Second, he became a well connected leader in the revolutionary movement because all of the other leaders were also getting imprisoned. That second point hadn’t occurred to me at first but Mandela talked about it frequently in his book. Even early in his activist days, when a group would get thrown in jail for a single night, he described how that was the best time to spend time with the other revolutionaries because no one had anything else to do.

What I instead found encouraging was the amount of impact he was able to have in his life despite few lucky breaks and plenty of unlucky ones. This isn’t a case of a man buying a lottery ticket and becoming a millionaire by chance. This is a case of a man working hard at one thing for nearly all of his 95 years slowly but surely making progress. Each step seemed to feed into the next and in the end the impact was due to each of them.

What is one thing about Mandela’s life that makes me feel like I should do more with mine?

There are plenty of rags to riches stories, especially in America, of someone starting out with little and accomplishing much. Mandela’s story is one of not only having little, but of also not really having the chance to have anything. It is one thing to live in a place that lets you own a business and then to make money off of that business. It seems an entirely different thing to live in a place where your rights are severely limited and the system is setup to prevent your economic mobility. To then accomplish anything in amazing.

This stands in stark contrast to my current lot in life. While Mandela was digging out of a hole, I’m standing on one of the greatest platforms the world has ever known. That is worth consideration of what that means for what I can accomplish.

What did Mandela believe about the world that I have already reflected on?

Mandela’s belief that all people deserve to be treated the same regardless of the color of their skin is one I reflected on as I read his biography.

The thought chain I had was about a trend I’ve noticed in the evolution of racism and civil rights. My thinking on this is immature and the topic deserves volumes but a pattern I’ve noticed is what appears to be progress in dramatic steps.

Slavery was abolished in South Africa and the United States in the 1800’s but into the mid 1900s racism and segregation were rampant. While black people were no longer slaves, they were free people, they really weren’t economically free. They couldn’t vote or have much influence on their position and that left them with worse educations, living situations, etc.

In the United States where black people made up between 10-20% of the population at various points, it seems possible to imagine that some of that inequality stems from that group not being the majority. Perhaps things would be the other way if the numbers were reversed. Learning about South Africa where the black population made up 70-80% of the population and a white minority of ~10% controlled all of the power disproves that thought experiment. It is hard for me to even imagine what that is like to live in a place where recent immigrants of such few numbers are in power in that way.

The next step in the evolution of equality for black people seemed to be the story of the 1900’s for many countries. The civil rights movement in the United States, the liberation of many African nations, and eventually, a bit later, South Africa in the 1990’s.

We now seem to be in a third wave. Black people are not slaves in South Africa or the United States. They can vote. Both countries have had black presidents. But we have not yet reached a place where people are judged without concern for the color of their skin.

The thing I have a hard time with is understanding what the next concrete step towards progress is. Ending slavery was a very clear big step in the right direction – deciding that humans are not property. Giving people the right to vote is another huge step as voting gives people the power to be represented by the power structure. But what is the next step?

Which of his motivations have I reflected most on?

The thing that stands out to me the most is how singular his motivation was throughout his life. With most of the other exemplars I’ve studied, they have had threads that were consistent, but their life presented chapters that were fairly different.

Perhaps part of the reason for Mandela’s singular focus was the scope of it and fact that it took his whole life to accomplish it. In an alternate reality where black people were able to vote in South Africa in the 1960’s, perhaps he would have had a second chapter where another topic became his focus.

What is one of his behaviors that I would like to try out this year?

Mandela’s willingness to debate to, it appears, no end, is really interesting to me. I have the propensity to do that but have more or less been trained not to do it by years of poor results. Perhaps the context of his time and country are different enough from mine that this behavior isn’t transferrable, but perhaps some of it is.

I’ve lately learned that often winning a debate is best accomplished by spending less time debating and more time waiting. I’ve started to see instances where setting up the context and then resurfacing the convo periodically will eventually produce the desired result. My current employer contacted me every six months for over three years offering me a job before I finally took one. Spending those dozen hours trying to debate me on the first day wouldn’t have produced the same results but spreading them out ended up working.

In the same way, Mandela spent years talking to the government before an agreement was finally made. At most points during that, things looked less than hopeful. He describes it as two steps forward, one step back. But eventually enough steps were taken.

This is a practice I would like to try this year. To remain engaged in the debate but to be patient and let time have its effect. I am not naturally very patient but I’ve found the bigger the impact of a decision and the more people involved, the longer it takes. So learning this behavior will prove necessary if I want to continue increasing the scope of my impact.

What decision making heuristics can I adopt from Mandela’s experience?

From what I can tell, Mandela did not operate by a long term roadmap. He had a north star, one person one vote in South Africa. Everything from there seems to be a matter of continually pushing as hard as he could for the next closest goal in that direction.

At one point in his life it would be fair to say that the majority of his energy went into figuring out how to get access to long pants. In prison the black prisoners were only allowed to wear shorts. While this certainly doesn’t seem like the most important next step towards building a democracy, there is a certain beauty to it. Moving towards a democracy really wasn’t achievable right then – getting pants actually was. It was actionable and it was something to fight for. Once he had that he asked for permission to study books, then to write letters, then to have visitors, and then before you know it he was asking to negotiate with the president.

Not all people are fortunate enough to find their north star as early as Mandela was. But the idea of continually fighting and making sure you are fighting for things that are the next hardest achievable goal seems really transferable.

What are some of his failures I can avoid repeating?

In his autobiography Mandela writes,  “had I made the right choice in putting the people’s welfare even before that of my own family?” and later “when your life is the struggle, as mine was, there is little room left for family.”

While it is hard to blame a man imprisoned against his will for being an absent father, it seems fairly obvious that was the norm even before that happened. He willingly chose to go underground and start the work to organize the ANC, coordinate strikes and eventually acts of sabotage. Even before then, as a lawyer and young father, he went from work to political meetings to late night events. It is clear his heart wasn’t at home and that caused a lot of pain for those closest to him.

One other failure it is worth reflecting on is Mandela’s run of violence before he ultimately became known for being a messenger of peace. In some ways the story of that conversion plays out nicely – but there is a lingering question of whether that was a mistake or a necessary action at the time. Was Mandela only able to be peaceful later because others were violent? Would he have had the chance to negotiate if it weren’t for the violence he helped start? It is interesting to contrast Mandela’s story to that of other revolutionaries, some of whom were always peaceful and others who were always violent.

What other cool facts did I learn about Nelson Mandela?

One thing that confused me until I did some research was Mandela’s references to “coloureds”. He often described how the white minority was mistreating black Africans, Indians and Coloureds. In the United States where I grew up, the term colored person is an antiquated term used to describe black people, often associated with the Jim Crow era of segregation in the South. To read Mandela write that confused me greatly until I found out more about the use in South Africa to describe those of mixed races (more info in this Wikipedia article). I get the impression that coloured people were often treated negatively by the black and white communities. A different ANC leader might have steered the country to a place where they were mistreated even after a black president was in power. That is really the heart of the greatness of Mandela’s legacy, he is rightfully loved by those from all races for working to end a cycle of oppression that still continues in many places.