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Ultra Something & Building A Career In Outdoor Media with Brendan Leonard

Today on THE ROCK FIGHT (an outdoor podcast that aims for the head) Colin & Justin welcome Brendan Leonard back to the show.

Brendan was the fourth guest ever on THE ROCK FIGHT and today he joins the boys to talk about the state of outdoor media, how his son has impacted his outdoor adventure lifestyle and of course his new book Ultra Something, which is available for purchase over at

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Episode Transcript

Colin (00:00):

Welcome to the Rock Fight where we speak our truth, slay sacred cows, and sometimes agree to disagree. This is an outdoor podcast that aims for the head. I'm Colin True, and today Brendan Leonard is hopping on the rock fight for a conversation with Justin Hausman and myself. Why are we having Brendan on the show? Well, because it's Brendan Leonard. But before we get to that, a few housekeeping items. Please follow and rate the rock fight wherever you're listening on any podcast app and leave us that five star rating. And if you're an Apple Podcast listener, please leave us a written review. In addition to that five star rating, if you are one of the ones who sent in your review to my rock, the stickers are starting to ship. You'll get yours soon. Thank you for doing so. If you haven't done it yet, send us your email, my rock with your written review. Also don't forget, gear and beer now has its own podcast feed. Go follow and rate gear and beer wherever you're listening to the rock fight. And all right, let's start the show.

Chris DeMakes (00:55):

Welcome to you in the Rock Fight Fight.

Colin (01:00):

Brendan Leonard was the fourth ever guest on the rock fight and probably a name you are familiar with. If you are listening to the show, Brendan is one of our community's most important voices. There is no doubt that you've either laughed or shared one of the illustrations or charts that Brendan has created to poke fun at our community with one of your friends, or perhaps read one of his many outdoor themed books. Now, we don't typically have guests on the show without a specific subject or a topic to tackle, but when the opportunity came up to have Brendan back on the rock fight, we threw that rule right out the window and happily booked him for the conversation you're about to hear. During our chat, Brendan talks about the state of outdoor media, how kids actually impact outdoor adventure, and of course he tells Justin and I all about his new book Ultra something, which you can buy by heading over to semi Welcome back to the Rock Flight. We're today, we're just hanging out with Brendan Leonard. Alright, well, one of the founding tenets of the rock fight is no guess for the sake of just having a guess. Like anyone who

Justin (01:59):

Is that? Wait, we have a tenant that's no guess.

Colin (02:01):

Well, it was before you were around. I came up with this. This was one of my

Brendan (02:03):

Foundings. You didn't even get through a sentence before you get into rock. It's not, wow.

Colin (02:08):

Were you like anyone who joins us to provide some insight on a particular topic? We're a topic and subject driven show, right, but today we're breaking that rule because as you heard, Brendan Leonard is here. His work at Semi Rad is ubiquitous in our community and his new book Ultra something is available for you to buy as I just minimized my windows. There we go. And he's also now a repeat guest here on the Rock fight. Second appearance here, Brendan, thanks for coming on the show.

Brendan (02:31):

Oh yeah, thanks for having me. I don't even remember the first time. When was that? I'm just joking. It was fun.

Justin (02:37):

Was it the first time,

Colin (02:39):

I believe your question more than your ending statement

Brendan (02:41):

Episode one? No,

Colin (02:43):

It kind of was

Justin (02:44):

The what does adventure mean to you.

Colin (02:46):

That was, I recorded an interview with you, Patty Fitz. Oh, and Steve Casimiro for the Polar Tech podcast, and then they canceled that pod and I'm sitting there with this new podcast, I'm like, well, I have four people that interviews four people that people really know. So it was total lesson in editing. I had to figure out a way. We had an hour and a half long conversation about something that I had to figure out an episode through it. So technically you've been on the pod before

Justin (03:12):

I listened to that one. I don't remember what you said, but I did listen to that. I listened to the first handful when Colin started trying to get me on the show and so I liked it. It was So

Colin (03:21):

You're here because of Brendan. That's basically what you're said right there.

Justin (03:23):

Well, not specifically. Not specifically. Although maybe you know what The world's a strange place. Who could say really after watching Dark Matter and outer range, the two weird sci-Fi shows about time jumping and multiple universes the last few months. Who knows what causes what to happen, guys

Brendan (03:42):

Say if any of us are really here.

Justin (03:44):

Well, I wasn't sure Colin was until we went camping together for the first time. I actually built this elaborate fantasy up in my head.

Brendan (03:51):

You touched his face,

Justin (03:52):

We hugged and that was part of it. I thought maybe he was some fancy AI software just so you could have a podcast. He

Colin (04:00):

Was pranking you the whole time. Like, alright, this idiot, we'll get him on. He will believe

Justin (04:04):

It. I was a little disappointed that he was real. I loved the idea of developing a pretty deep friendship with an ai and then I'd have to wrestle with whether or not I cared that he was real or not. That was a fun moment.

Brendan (04:18):

Sort of like Blade Runner basically.

Justin (04:19):

Exactly. Yeah. Although, I don't know, had he showed up and he was just like a computer, I don't know how that would've worked, just like a floating,

Colin (04:25):

It would've been like Max Head laptop. So wheeled out a tv.

Brendan (04:28):

Wow. We are really showing our age

Justin (04:30):

Here. Wow, max. I've never thought about it that way. Is his name a play on Max Headroom having more headroom in an airplane? I

Colin (04:37):

Never thought of that either, but absolutely.

Justin (04:39):

Right. Interesting. Well, Brendan, one of the things that we wanted to talk about, we occasionally dive into the world of outdoor media and what works and what doesn't and

Brendan (04:51):

Oh, tell me.

Justin (04:52):

Well, most of it, right? Well shit mostly, well, yeah, we can get to that later, but you're obviously an interesting figure in this world. I live in a tiny, I'm getting to a point. I live in a very small town. There's like 7,000 people in this town. Is that in

Colin (05:08):

Marin? Is it in Marin? Shut the fuck.

Justin (05:09):

Shut up Colin. Okay. Sometimes there's new listeners, I'm not bragging me. Believe me, you should see how much food costs here anyway, like a little town, like 7,000 people, and we have a variety store, like an old fashioned, independently owned variety store where you can buy a slide whistle and napkins, flags, candy. It's amazing. But the woman owns it does these really elaborate window displays and the summertime window display is camping and sure enough, your book is there. There's always a book or two from you there. Really? Yeah, always. The first time I walked by, I don't remember which one it was, maybe one of the book you write a book that was something about how to survive in the woods or something, some play on that.

Brendan (05:51):

Surviving the Great Outdoors is Thank you. They retitled it.

Justin (05:54):

Yeah, and I think it was that one I stopped in and said, Hey, I know this guy. We chatted for a while, but anyway, she's always got books from you out there. How cool is that?

Brendan (06:02):

That's interesting.

Justin (06:03):

Yeah. So you have a little fan here, but anyway, it seems like the way that you've grown semi rad and your work as a writer, it seems non-traditional, at least in the sense that it seems like you kind navigated your way to this point rather than set out to do it. I could be wrong, but we were wondering if the outdoor space in your experience has given you the space to chart a non-traditional career path or do you think you would've done this anyway? Had you worked at a Best Buy or something? Would you be writing books,

Colin (06:36):

Managing the appliance department

Justin (06:37):

At Target about refrigerators or something? But I mean, do you think there's something unique about the outdoor world where someone who's opinionated or at least has a unique take on it, cans chart a career path in just kind of being a voice really?

Brendan (06:52):

I don't know. I don't like opinionated as

Justin (06:55):

Something. Well, yeah, I guess that's not really,

Brendan (06:56):

I always think that's something really annoying people say, I'm like, no shit. I have a fucking opinion too. I'm just

Colin (07:03):

Mostly because a human being.

Brendan (07:05):

Wow, amazing. Yeah. Can you breathe there too?

Justin (07:10):

Yeah. Right. Have you heard of water?

Brendan (07:12):

No. I think, I wouldn't say it's a complete accident, but I got a master's degree in journalism a few blocks away from my house here 150 years ago. So I've made a lot of progress now planned here back here. But at the time one of the most formative classes for me was basically how to do freelance pitching magazines and write for magazines, which were, you guys are old enough to remember these, but they were these collections of paper that they were stories and photos in 'em and you would pay boring a company and that they would

Colin (07:52):

Show up. You get it on your phone, what do you do with it?

Justin (07:53):


Brendan (07:54):

Surely. Okay, so you can now, at the time though, you couldn't look at anything on your phone. You could just look at, I believe there was text messaging then maybe, I don't know. But anyway, it was like I had to write a story and get it published in order to graduate or in order to pass the class and I was like, oh my God, how am I going to get Rolling Stone to publish my thoughts on whatever hip hop I

Colin (08:21):

Have written the definitive article on Grudge now

Brendan (08:25):

That's a big assignment. And a friend was like, hi, you should just write something for Idaho Magazine. They take anything. And I was like, cool. And I pitched the editor there a story about just a little three day road trip, two day road trip my buddy and I took and they said, yeah, sure, we'll take it. It's like $40 and it takes a lot of $40 articles to make a living.

Justin (08:49):

That's amazing.

Brendan (08:50):

It was just this idea that I basically looking at my education, it was like, okay, you need to go work for a newspaper and then go sit through city council meetings and watch the police blotter scanner or whatever and write stories about whatever is news. And it was kind of like this light bulb where it was like, oh, I would go do this stuff anyway, if I can tell stories about it in some way, maybe I can do this for a living. And it only took eight years of banging my head against the wall and I finally got enough income going where I could do it full time. But it's tough and I think now, so at first I started working a full-time job and freelancing, trying to freelance on the side after work, and that made a little bit of income. Then eventually I was able to do enough freelance work that I could do it, which was a lot and really busy. And now I sort of got away from working for other publications because it was so hard to get paid by them at the time. It was just like, is that

Colin (10:01):

An outdoor thing or is that just a thing? Do we know? I don't, do you

Justin (10:05):

Guys know? I've never written for anything other than the outdoor space. I've never really been a freelancer other than just here and there, but I've heard but really bad things about it.

Brendan (10:14):

It was like, okay, I got these ideas that nobody wants to publish. So I made my own website in 2011, just started writing what I thought was funny stuff and some of it took, some didn't, which is how I met our friend Steven Karo found my stuff and asked if he could start publishing on an adventure journal. So that was the beginning of that relationship, but eventually it went from magazines won't publish my stuff to a few magazines. Editors would say, oh, just write it. You've read it for your blog. And I thought, oh, really interesting that that's where we are now. But it was still the whole process of I'm going to pitch you an article. We're going to go back and forth about what the article is going to be and how long it needs to be, and then we'll do the edits back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and at the end of it, I'll ask you for the money and then you won't pay me for three months, six months, sometimes a year.


I had to threat in one magazine. They were like, Hey, is your column done for this month? I was like, I'm not writing a fucking column for you. You guys owe me $5,000 from the last year and the payment showed up a week later. I'm like, yeah, okay. But then I had experiences where I'd go back and forth with somebody, there's like a 500 word piece for a magazine and I think it was a junior editor very excited about doing their job and we got to version 10 of this piece and I was like, I literally was like, look, I can't, cannot put any more time into this. I know you're paying, it's like $500. So it was a combination of these experiences where it's just this frustration of they have a vision for what their magazine is, and a lot of times sometimes it was we're going to pound every writer's writing into the same flavor of hamburger that we put in every page, which works for them, whatever.


That's fine, but that's not what I want to do. So I ended up trying to engineer a way where I was just writing directly for the people who read it, which is basically Patreon is how I make most, not most of my money, but it's a baseline income that allows me to do everything else. So I'm kind of just writing directly for readers now, which is great. It's a smaller audience obviously, but actually I didn't know if it is to be honest with you. Yeah, good point. I don't know what the traffic is on some of the websites that I would've written for, but I don't know that I got 15,000 people subscribed to my newsletter and it has a 70% open rate and it's one story that's really high. Well, it makes sense if they're subscribed to it. Yeah, there's no bullshit in there. I'm not sending you ads and marketing crap. It's like literally, here's what I wrote this week if

Colin (12:57):

You want. Yeah, here's my stuff.

Brendan (12:58):

Yeah, so it's kind of cool. I think you can get in your own echo chamber that way too, but I don't know. It's been interesting. I don't think I've had any sort of vision of just like, I don't want to do that anymore, so I'm going to try to do this instead, you kind of arrive at whatever,

Colin (13:16):

Because now if you were going to start today, because the thing about the Patreon thing's interesting, but you still have to build that audience in order for that to work for you. So if you were starting over today, I imagine the same professor wouldn't be like, well go get published in Idaho Magazine. It would probably be more like, show me your substack that you started, or something like that, right? I mean there seems like there's more opportunities to grow that audience if you want to and put the work in that can reach a broader audience maybe more quickly, but it still, and it's very different than it was when you started, but maybe could end up ultimately getting you in the same place. I mean, is that fair? How would you go about it today? I guess if you were going to start over now,

Brendan (13:51):

That's funny. I don't even think I'm that in touch with what is the best way to do things anymore If I had to teach a college's

Colin (14:00):

Radical, is it changing? Right? There's a huge blowback on Instagram now. They changed everything for their creators. I mean, it's constantly in flux.

Brendan (14:07):

Yeah, it's kind awful. Every week I'm like, maybe I should just quit, but if I was teaching a college class, I don't know what I'd be like, Hey, well FYI, I'm a dinosaur. You guys are 20. You probably know better ways to do it than I do, but it's just you have to, I guess the idea is just where's the audience and what do you want for your audience and how do you reach them as opposed to, I need to write for publication X and then I will be successful according to That's how I thought. That's how I thought, which I think that's still big for a lot of people. They're like, oh, would I like to have a New York Times bestselling book? Sure, do I want to change the book and jump through the hoops and share the revenue with an agent and a publishing company that has to pay a hundred people's health insurance. It's just like, or do I just want to make a book and if publishers have to sell, they want to sell 50,000 copies of your book, I can sell 5,000 and be extremely happy.

Colin (15:15):

Both you guys. It's funny what you both said that about, hey, that kind of perception of I got to work there and then it's going to work out. I think that's almost, I came up on the brand side of stuff of the industry and I carried a similar mindset of like, oh, I just need to get to a brand like that and that's where it's going to work out for me, and that's where I'll have the opportunities to

Justin (15:33):

Achieve. But because you were director of sales of North America for

Colin (15:37):

Tech, but it was not as simple as when I started at retail to that as 20 years and it kind of a lot of missteps along the way, but I remember holding that same sort of opinion of like, oh, I just got to get there. And so I wonder if that's almost a human nature point of view of like, oh, you know what? That's where I need to go. You kind of build it up in your head regardless of maybe what you're seeing around you that's telling you something different. You know what I mean? Probably.

Justin (16:00):

But I would imagine that now kids would, kids, people younger than me would probably just say, I need to get viral somehow. I don't know that you would say, I need to write for X Magazine. I mean, when I got my job at Surfer Magazine, this was all an accident for me. It was never something I set out to do. I don't have a master's in journalism or anything like that.

Brendan (16:17):

You thought you were applying at seven 11 and it was like, oh no. Surfer magazine shit,

Justin (16:22):

I thought was, thought it was a subscription card.

Colin (16:24):

Where's the machine? A job

Justin (16:26):

Application. Shit,

Brendan (16:27):

That's fine.

Justin (16:28):

I mean, they reached out to me and so Well, that

Brendan (16:33):

Always happens,

Justin (16:35):


Brendan (16:36):

They just see you walking by and we're like, he's handsome. Look at that

Colin (16:39):

Guy. I guess that guy can surf and write about

Justin (16:42):

It. Let's get one. Well, that is actually, it's funny, I've had the experience where your college professors want you to come back and be like, oh, well, you're on the masthead at a well-known, relatively speaking magazine. Come tell us how you did it. I'm like, dude, I emailed a guy once and he said, sure, you can write. I love, I don't, don't know what to tell you. There's not a obstacle course you have to get through first

Colin (17:02):

Origin stories, which Justin Haman's like three seconds long. I just emailed a guy and it worked out.

Justin (17:09):

I mean, kind of, but I don't know what you would do now. I don't even know what, surely it's not writing for outside. I don't know. What would be your big break? Somebody like somebody like Kyle Frost or whatever who had their own newsletter, who is now it's on Mountain Gazette maybe, but even then Mountain Gazettes audience isn't big enough to where you're going to be shooting Stratospherically based on that. So I don't know what you would do. I have no idea. Now it's like I read the New Yorker and I used to recognize all the names. Now, every article, I've never seen this person before. It just seems like everyone's trying different avenues. I don't know. Yeah.

Colin (17:44):

Well, we talked about at the beginning, we're all dads. Your son's coming up turning two this year, is that right?

Brendan (17:50):

Yeah, next week actually.

Colin (17:52):

Dang man. How's that going? You doing all right?

Brendan (17:54):

Yeah. I could see having kids at like 33 instead of 43. A little tired sometimes and it's exhausting.

Justin (18:05):

You'd be tired then too. You'd be tired then too,

Brendan (18:06):

I'm sure. Yeah, but I think it wouldn't hurt as much. Maybe, I dunno, who knows. I was a dipshit at 33, so I'm glad we waited. But are

Colin (18:14):

You saying you're not now, you're no longer a dipshit. Yeah.

Brendan (18:18):


Colin (18:18):

Correction. You're announcing that here on the

Brendan (18:19):

Podcast. I was much more of a dipshit.

Justin (18:21):

He was a dipshit with a lot more energy to be more dip shit, a lot more options for dip. I mean, I'm

Colin (18:27):

Asking for myself. I'm like, I continue to be a dipshit into my old age, so that's why I want to

Justin (18:31):


Brendan (18:32):

Yeah, maybe that'll be on my tombstone. He was a dipshit

Colin (18:36):

Actually. I'm going to demand that. That's on my tombstone. He's just

Brendan (18:39):

A dead dipshit. No.

Colin (18:41):

Imagine the comedy for centuries as people come to see. I

Justin (18:43):

Do. What's going on with that idea? I do love that idea. I'm sure there are funny tombstones out

Colin (18:50):

There. Here lies, Colin. True. What

Justin (18:53):

A dipshit. What a fucking asshole. You can chisel whatever you want to other people's tombstones. I'm sure that's a huge crime, but what's going to happen?

Brendan (18:59):

Yeah, it's a loud crime to do too. It's not easy.

Justin (19:04):

Last time I saw a cemetery with tombstones in it, I guess they exist, but that's not

Brendan (19:08):

People aren't you?

Colin (19:09):

Maybe. But I still want the dip shit tombstone set up on my behalf. But I dunno, man. Are you getting ready to write the outdoor publication about how you still get after it even though you have kids? It seems like it's a requirement.

Brendan (19:21):

No, I feel like I would love to be good at making time for big adventures and stuff, but I don't really care if I'm good at that anymore. I'm like, I just want to be good at being a dad and my kid's going to be two for a year and if I'm away for a week, that's almost 5% of that. Is that right? Is that math right? No, we don't know.

Justin (19:44):

It's not. We

Colin (19:45):

Have dad brains. It's fine. Yeah,

Brendan (19:48):

It's a chunk of his life. A week goes by and it's a different person. It's like, okay, and we're only having one.

Colin (19:53):

Well, especially at that age. Yeah,

Brendan (19:54):

Yeah, we're having one kid, so it's like this is it and I don't know. Yeah. I struggle more with like, God, am I actually going to stay relevant through this guy's childhood? People are like, adventures change. And I'm like, yeah, sure. But I just don't, I don't know.

Justin (20:12):

Well, you're doing the Western States this weekend, aren't you?

Brendan (20:14):

Oh yeah.

Justin (20:15):

You're running in that, right? Yeah. You look like it's

Colin (20:16):

Part of your treadmill in his study right there. Yeah,

Brendan (20:18):


Justin (20:19):

Actually talking to us while running the Western states.

Brendan (20:23):

I'm actually super happy to just go run down the end of our block and up this mountain and come back, do that two, three times a week. I'm psyched and I feel like God, I should try to do other things and find material for stories, but it's literally, that's my treadmill. I run two miles, I go up 2000 feet to the forest, I come back down and I'm good. But yeah, it's not great for material as far as you, thank God I'm not trying to pitch stories to magazines about things I do.

Justin (20:58):

How did you get into, I'm curious, Brendan, how did you get into big time running? Is that because the reason I ask is because the idea of just going out and running is so easy compared to anything else, and now based on hearing you say that you kind of don't do a lot of other things. I'm wondering if that was it, was it you were just like, whatever else you'd like to do seemed too hard or too complicated, but you could always just run. Is that kind of part of it?

Brendan (21:23):

It It's funny you should ask this in this book that I wrote that just came out,

Colin (21:29):

Is that about running?

Justin (21:31):

Well, it's about something.

Brendan (21:32):

It's partly about running, but yeah, there's a lot of stuff in there. Yeah, I was just curious. I think there's a number of things that led me to be like, oh, I'll just give this a try. And I did, and I kind of got hooked on it about the same age as every single white dude who

Justin (21:54):

Runs it did seem like a thing. It seems like a thing.

Brendan (21:58):

And now it's just like it really works for everything. I don't need a partner. I can go at any time of the day. I want it burns more calories per minute than any other form of outdoor exercise that I have access to. It's very easy to just go out and do it. I also use the time to, A lot of people listen to podcasts or music when they run, and I just don't, I need the time to think because the rest of my life is just bombarded with media or inbound communication or a toddler, and it's like I just go and some days I think up with the next what I think is a brilliant idea for something, and some days I just don't think about anything. And that's what I use it for more than anything at this point. So if I run 30 miles a week, I'm really, really very happy with that, which is not much if you're an ultra runner, but I don't know. I still think I'm just like a dude from the Midwest who could have just stayed and been a normal guy. And so 30 miles a week is in ultra marathons is absolutely huge for me.

Justin (23:12):

Totally. I forgot you're from the Midwest. Where are you from again?

Brendan (23:16):

Iowa. Iowa. And neither of you guys have been there. That's fine. I get it. I've been to

Colin (23:21):

Iowa. Yeah, actually I actually,

Brendan (23:25):

Colin, I want to make sure you're not thinking of Ohio or Idaho.

Colin (23:29):


Justin (23:30):

Been to Ohio, a pure vowel state. No,

Colin (23:34):

We was 14 years ago. Today we are moving from Massachusetts. We are in the middle of moving from Massachusetts to Utah, and I saw a photo on my Facebook page today of having lunch in Davenport on our way through. So I have been through Iowa.

Justin (23:48):

I do plan to go to Iowa at some point because oddly enough, this Australian guy I know who works in the wine business is a fly fisherman and I like to fly fish and he will not shut up about how rad the fly fishing is in Iowa. Really? I don't know. Little streams, small streams, big fish, and there's not much pressure and it's really cool. And I didn't believe him and looked into it and sure enough, yeah, there's a ton of,

Colin (24:13):

He's going to be like, Hey man, is this town, it's called Boise and what it is.

Justin (24:18):

Oh, could

Brendan (24:20):

Be. I mean, there's fishing there, but you don't want to get in the rivers generally.

Justin (24:24):

No, these are little creeks. He showed me pictures and very leafy and I don't know much about Iowa other than field of Dreams field, which Colin and I are planning on going to at some point. Well, and I want

Colin (24:33):

To do Ragbrai. I definitely would like to do that. I want to have that experience at some point. It looks super fun.

Brendan (24:37):

Absolutely recommend that a thousand percent as the best bicycle event you will ever take part in your entire

Colin (24:45):

Life. That's hardy endorsement. When is that?

Brendan (24:47):

It's incredible.

Justin (24:48):

Has it already happened this year? Last

Brendan (24:49):

Full week of July?

Justin (24:51):

Yeah. Can't make that happen.

Brendan (24:52):

Whatever the hottest week is. Yeah,

Justin (24:53):

Whatever the worst possible timing

Brendan (24:54):

Is, is when it is. What's

Colin (24:56):

The play as sort of a middle aged man? Do we just book the hotels or do just you suck it up and you sleep in the humidity? What's the way to do

Justin (25:02):

Other people do like camping.

Colin (25:04):


Justin (25:05):

Try. You're assuming that everybody hates camping like you do.

Colin (25:07):

There's plenty. Well, it's like 90% humidity and 90 degrees. I don't think it's ever pleasant to be camping

Brendan (25:12):

If you're from there or you can find a group, guess a group of people. My dad has done it. My mom has done it, I've done it. My dad's done it, I think three times. I've done it three times. My mom did it. She just knew a friend who actually knew this group of state troopers who were doing it. And so they just, out of a group of whatever, eight or 10 people, one of them knew someone fairly close to the route every night, so they just stayed at this person's house or sleep on couches, whatever. So that's what a lot of people do, but the camping is not bad. They sit up, they convert. So it's, it's 10,000 people riding in this mass across the state, but it's more like 20,000 because people show up and ride for the day or people just kind of bandit it unofficially. So it's huge mass people. So they'll shower at the high school in the locker rooms or they'll convert car washes into showers and

Justin (26:13):

That's awesome. That sounds great. That's a good call actually.

Brendan (26:16):

Yeah, and it's high

Justin (26:17):

School showering would be bad.

Colin (26:18):

They put you in

Justin (26:19):

A conveyor belt, don't want the car

Colin (26:20):


Brendan (26:21):

The infrastructure is kind of incredible. It's sort of like a roaming music festival almost. So food trucks and vendors will just kind of follow the route and the route's different every year. Do they have

Justin (26:32):


Brendan (26:34):

I'm sure they do now. I haven't done it for 20 years.

Justin (26:36):

Pie is the big thing,

Brendan (26:37):

But you can probably eat the same sandwich all seven days because the vendor will be somewhere along every keeps route every day. Yeah, because smart, they're like, we're here. We might as well.

Justin (26:49):

That sounds great, Colin. Let's do that next

Colin (26:51):

Year. You want to do it next year? Let's

Justin (26:52):

Do it. Yeah.

Brendan (26:53):

It's amazing. It's probably more fun if you register and essentially have a wristband and stuff like that, but we never did.

Colin (27:02):

Oh, you just jumped in, abandoned.

Brendan (27:05):

We were dickhead college kids and we just had our buddy drive a van with all our stuff in it, and he would just meet us at every single town. We just, we'd be at the, we'd camp on the grounds of the post office or he would leave a note where we were going to be camping and yeah, it was great. He would just,

Justin (27:20):

Oh, that sounds like fun,

Brendan (27:23):

Dude. It's absolutely amazing. It's like this incredible cultural thing that no one's ever really managed to capture in a film, in a video.

Justin (27:32):

So tell us about the book. We haven't read it for full disclosure people out there. Colin doesn't ever read and I just haven't read it yet. But yeah, how

Colin (27:42):

About I read it before you, I'm going to predict right now that I read. I'm going to read it tomorrow afternoon. There's no

Brendan (27:47):

Chance of that. So you guys are probably familiar with movies, so books. I've heard of them. Yeah, so there's nonfiction movies called documentaries, and there's narrative movies that are fiction. So books are kind of like that. But you read words and the story exists more in your head. Is there a

Colin (28:04):

Speaker for the score or is it

Brendan (28:07):

There's typically not music sometimes.

Justin (28:09):

How do the explosions happen? Does the book get hot?

Brendan (28:13):

Sometimes it's audio books.

Colin (28:15):

It says it's in the rain. Are you?

Brendan (28:17):

Yeah. No, yeah, it's not immersive like that. It's not 3D here calling

Justin (28:20):

You thinking of the holodeck on the

Colin (28:22):

Enterprise. You love to have the holodeck.

Justin (28:24):

Yeah, no, that'd be terrible

Brendan (28:26):

For me. So anyway, this is a book that explores human endurance through many, many, many angles. It's sort of about me, my journey into finding ultra running and doing these long distance things, but it explores all these other things like factory work, psychology, all these psychological studies about benign masochism.

Justin (28:57):

Wait, what is that? I've never heard that.

Colin (28:59):

I curious as well.

Brendan (29:00):

It's things that your brain and body first perceive as being uncomfortable or bad, but you then learn to them. Eating spicy food is pretty much the most common one that

Justin (29:11):

I've never heard that term. That's a cool term.

Brendan (29:14):

So it explains, but I wanted to dive into why we shouldn't be surprised. People run a hundred miles for fun, expose other things it What's

Colin (29:25):

Third running Facebook though, right? It's your third wa, right? I hate running.

Justin (29:30):

Don't put 'em on the spot, man. I've

Colin (29:32):

Read those two. That's why I want to let you know. I don't think Justin has, but what is it about the topic you keep returning to me? Obviously it's integrated in your daily life,

Justin (29:40):

But what is it about it that you're just like, do you have another running book in there somewhere?

Brendan (29:46):

It is not what the people want.

Justin (29:48):


Brendan (29:49):

Not how I approach things. Also, I'd be more successful if I actually focused on what the people wanted. No, I wonder

Justin (29:54):

That's porn. I wonder that's actually what the people want. I mean, obviously guys, we have cameras. We can make it happen right now. We can make a whole lot of money right now.

Brendan (30:03):


Justin (30:03):

Wouldn't we make a lot of money? I don't think you would probably inflated self. I don't know what the word is. I'm looking over here anyway.

Brendan (30:13):

No, it's what I'm doing right now. And I read, there's a couple of books I read probably it's like four years ago, maybe three or four years ago, that the structure was extremely interesting as far as what you could do with a book. And one was called Arbitrary Stupid Goal, and the other one is, which is

Justin (30:32):

That sounds like something you would write. That's great.

Brendan (30:34):

Well, it's actually about a restaurant in the village in New York in the seventies. Great. It's a fantastic book. I bought 12 copies of it for $3 a piece a few months ago just to give to friends whenever it comes up.

Justin (30:48):

That's great. That's

Brendan (30:49):

A great idea. But I kind of stole the formatting of the book from that and was like, I'm going to do this too, where every chunk of text is no longer than 500 words. So there's a ton of white space in the book, which has made a few people angry or confused.

Justin (31:04):

They paid for those words,

Brendan (31:06):

Which I'm like, Nope, we're doing this. That's cool. And just the short bits. There's another book called So Many Olympic Exertions, which is sort of about sports and history and psychology of sports, but it's fictionalized, but I believe it's sort of a memoir, but it was also that same thing where it's just these little bits. I'm like, man, this is such an addicting format. Like, oh, I got time for, I can read this much more. So I wanted to try to make a big weird book about endurance, which is something I'm interested in. And so that's kind of what happened. And it was three months of sitting at my kitchen table and writing and illustrating and then also reading tons of books and studies about different things and bringing those stories in and not presenting the dots to people, but not connecting them necessarily. I didn't want to say, well, this is relevant to ultra running because it's this. It's like, no, this other person did this other thing and isn't that interesting? Maybe you'll have space for that in your brain. One of the earliest examples in the book is, I think it's like page nine or 10 is the couple that visited all 645 Cracker Barrel restaurants in America


Over the span of, I think it took him like 30 years.

Justin (32:33):

How did you find that? I knew about it, man. He did it. Oh shit, Hillary. Of course. That's why I waited so long to have kids.

Brendan (32:43):

It was in the news, what, four or five years ago. And I was like, man, what about those people? And I had to include that. And then the guy, the wife died a few years ago, but the guy is still living in Indiana and somehow his brother's son, so his nephew, someone related to his nephew, came to one of my book signings and was like, my husband's brother is that is related to that guy. You mentioned it, you read that wild page loud. And I was like, oh, that's great. And ended up sending someone a book that was supposed to be delivered to this guy, and I'm sure he's just as confused as

Justin (33:24):

Anyone could be

Brendan (33:26):

About what the hell's going on here. But my name's on page nine, so Amazing. That's

Justin (33:30):


Brendan (33:31):


Justin (33:33):

This episode is brought to you by Switchback Spring, the new outdoor industry gathering for education, networking, and business. Coming to Nashville June, 2025. Connect with peers and players in gear footwear, apparel, hiking, camping, trail running, and more for three days of learning discovery and celebration. Switchback spring is the new go-to meetup for specialty retailers, brands, media and outdoor organizations. Mark your calendars for June 16, 18, 20 25. Visit switchback for all the details and start planning your new outdoor industry adventure.

Colin (34:10):

A big part of semi rad and just a lot of your work is the humor and a lot of the illustrations that you do. What were your influences from a cartooning or just a humor point of view? Obviously it's a lot of your own voice, and I'm sure you've been asked this a million times, but what were growing up, what were the things that really resonated with you to you feel like come out when you're doing some of those things?

Brendan (34:33):

I was really into, I was on our school's math team, went to the state competition when I was in eighth grade. Yeah, eighth grade, and it was like four of us doing math. I couldn't even tell you what we actually did for the competition. I imagine we just worked things out on paper. So I think there's always been a strong math and science angle to So the charts somewhere. Yeah, the charts

Justin (35:01):

Makes sense.

Brendan (35:03):

Somebody had sent me, this is probably 15 or more years ago, a friend of mine sent me the XKCD drawing. It's called Fuck Grapefruit. And it's an XY chart of how good fruit tastes versus how hard it is to access the actual fruit.

Justin (35:26):

I want to be this person,

Brendan (35:28):

XKCD is just a, what's the word I'm looking for? I mean, Randall Rhodes guy's just a legend and just amazing. Oh,

Justin (35:36):

I know that name.

Brendan (35:37):

Yeah. He has several books and the website has always been very interesting. He does sort of really basic comics, but also these charts that are pretty fantastic. And that chart was probably more instrumental in me doing anything

Colin (35:51):

That's like ground zero for you. Got

Brendan (35:53):

It. Yeah. It was like here's information, but it's not necessarily objective at all. It's like, I don't like grapefruits,

Colin (36:02):

But it's still pretty accurate.

Justin (36:04):

But I was just going to say, I bet most people would be like, totally. Yeah.

Colin (36:06):

What happened? Grapefruits, I remember in the eighties were a huge thing, right? The people would have them, they'd sprinkle sugar on, have they been like market corrected by some other piece of fruit? Are they still

Justin (36:15):

A thing? No. No, you just don't. We eat a shitload of grapefruit.

Colin (36:19):

You're the one. I never seen them out. Really

Justin (36:22):

With cottage cheese. Remember you have a grapefruit with cottage cheese on it. Yeah. Or something. Yeah, no, eat grapefruit.

Brendan (36:27):

I actually don't eat grapefruit, so I'm kind Monroe. But pineapple,

Colin (36:32):

It's pineapple

Brendan (36:33):

Pineapple's the best tasting thing. That's the hardest to get into because it's so spiky and everything

Colin (36:36):

Worth the effort. Yeah,

Justin (36:38):

I would disagree with that. I would say is coconut a fruit? Coconut's got to be the worst.

Brendan (36:44):

Yeah. Coconut's way out there.

Colin (36:45):

That's true. And so much less inside than probably many other fruits.

Justin (36:50):

What you what we had yesterday call and we had a pineapple. Coconut beer. We did delicious. The beer.

Brendan (36:56):

Just Google, fuck grapefruit. You'll find it. And maybe you agree with it.

Justin (36:59):

Maybe not. I feel like that's a dangerous search. Feel

Colin (37:01):

Like somebody's going to be fucking a grapefruit. If you Google that

Justin (37:04):

Probably. I mean, that's okay.

Brendan (37:06):

Google XK, CD, fuck grapefruit. That should be pretty safe.

Justin (37:11):

So this question is now burning a hole in my brain. I have to ask it. What grade level could you win a math contest at today? Oh

Colin (37:20):

No, just I abstain from answering

Justin (37:22):

This question. Second

Colin (37:24):

Grade maybe, if I'm lucky. Third grade. Are we talking just basic? I feel

Justin (37:28):

Like I think I do fine until sixth

Colin (37:32):

Grade. Yeah, wait till your middle schoolers are bringing home math homework. And it's just like, thank God my wife used to be a teacher and loves math. Otherwise they'd all be failing math if they were relying on me. It's horrible.

Brendan (37:42):

I had to reteach myself trigonometry for the GRE and that I was only 2221.

Justin (37:49):

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. You had to do a trig part of the gre? Yeah, I guess, yeah. No, I mean there's math in the gre, but if you were going to journalism school, why the hell did you care about your mask score? They still wanted you to have a high mask

Brendan (38:02):

Score. My GPA was so bad because I was a full-blown alcoholic. So my trajectory was take the GRE, get arrested for the last time, go to rehab, do a week in jail, and then go to grad school. So that was where

Justin (38:20):

I was

Brendan (38:20):

That. So I had to get a good GRE score to make up for my 2.79 GTA.

Justin (38:25):

That sounds more like a creative writing workshop plan. Well,

Brendan (38:28):

I take a creative writing workshop and there you go. That really helped. But yeah, so no, I did have to do a little trigonometry last two years ago when I was remodeling a shed for my wife's office. Cool. Yeah, it was way too much math. It was bullshit.

Justin (38:47):

I guess I was just sort of curious what you think. I mean, you've been involved in outdoor media for a long time. If there's bright spots, if there's things that you think are working or whatever, it's changed a lot, right? I mean, since you got into it, even since I've gotten into it, and I dunno, I'm always just curious, Colin and I talk quite a bit about how strange it is without a tent pole site or a tent pole magazine or anything like that where everybody kind of knows what's going on. They all read it now it's we're all in our own little tubes, but worrying

Colin (39:16):

What you think, it's weird, right? I mean, for the longest time we decided it was very basic about what the titles were and what they did and everything. And now for better or for worse, there is a bit of what I call the outside sized hole as left as they've migrated. And for better or for worse, to be more of a tech company than a media company. I think that's fair to say. They're still doing things, but you see where the priorities are. It's kind of opened up a lot of blank space. Where's it all going to go?

Brendan (39:45):

I don't know. I don't know what's going on. I don't, don't know what they're doing. I dunno what their strategy is. I just know they send me a check every month and that's all good with that.

Justin (39:54):

Better than it used to be. I'm

Colin (39:55):

Sorry, I don't want to,

Brendan (39:57):

I'm not backing on

Colin (39:58):

Your employer.

Brendan (39:58):

They literally take what I write from my newsletter and it appears on their website sometimes two weeks later, sometimes four months later. But I get that's great. That's been the arrangement since 2017, which is great. But I'm kind of, as an outside observer, I'm like, I'm not sure what the whole strategy is here. And I don't know that when I think of what am I interested in the outdoors, I'm kind of interested in individual people like Malik Martin, the photographer is a voice that I'm like, I was just thinking yesterday, I'm like, this guy is literally a bright spot every time I see his stuff and other people like that, but I'm not going, what company should I follow? I think there's some fun stuff being created. There was a satisfy running video a few weeks ago, maybe it was a couple months ago now, that was very, it's just this song called Red Eyes by the War on Drugs, which also probably shows my age, but it's just a guy running through LA and it wasn't a heavy amount of editing, it was just like, this is absolutely amazing. I don't know. I was like, this looks super lame. I'm like, how could they just be this lazy? And I started watching, I'm like, this is amazing.


But it's more individual pieces of content and I feel like companies come in and out of that. There was a while where Merrill made five or six really good videos in a row, but I feel like they're doing that anymore. And so I don't know. Everything changes. And I don't know. I mean the number of people who started around the time I did or who grew up wanting to write for National Geographic because they got the yellow magazines in the mail or whatever is amazing. But that magazine, it's not even going to exist anymore. You ask kids who are doing outdoor stuff, do they read it? What is that? I mean,

Justin (42:03):

I don't even read. I do have a subscription to the digital, but that's just so I can mine it for content. I don't really read it

Brendan (42:08):

Right. So I don't know. Yeah, there's this old, old most deaf song that I feel like it's just called hip hop, but he's actually just talking over a beat at the beginning of it. And he's like, people always want to ask what's hip hop doing? Hip hop is some giant that lives in the hillside coming down to visit the village people. And he goes on to say, we are hip hop. What we do is hip hop. And I'm like, yeah, that's what media is. People are the media this the media that I'm like, look, everybody's got a goddamn phone nowadays. You're the media. That's true. I mean, sure we're not doing journalism and fact checking things, but literally the media is a completely different organism than it was 20 years ago and we're all in it as opposed to being like, somebody should do a story on this. And you're like, well, somebody probably did. It's probably on TikTok. Yeah,

Justin (43:05):

Totally. You don't necessarily, I'm sort of on the fence about whether or not I think the current landscape of everybody being a creator or there not being a central place to get your information or whatever that is. I don't know if that's good or bad. It doesn't have to be either. But I also think that there is, it's just something I'm always trying to tease out. I do think that there is something to be said for sort of vetted things, like someone who knows what they're talking about actually has the chops and actually has worked with a group of people who can polish it and make it better, that that's a good thing to have. But it also was great that anybody can make anything and the experience of being outdoors is so different for so many people. So I'm kind of not sure where I feel like, I

Colin (43:51):

Think the content and the quality of the content always wins. I mean, you think of the, not

Justin (43:56):


Colin (43:57):

But, well, I mean look, there are examples where something rises above, but I think even Worldport podcasts are rendering up. There's a million podcasts, but the ones that aren't very good, I'm sure maybe they get a few people listening to them, but they go down to the bottom. I look at someone like Patty, right? I guy,

Justin (44:12):

His podcast is tanked, just gone off the face of

Colin (44:15):

They canceled. Where

Justin (44:16):

Did he even go?

Colin (44:18):

No, but I mean he's probably doing what I think is probably maybe the most interesting thing going on at outside right now. His show is fantastic and good on them to see that talent and invest in him and give him that platform. And I think to Brendan's point, if it's an interesting voice and they're creating interesting, something that's interesting, people are going to find it. And there's more opportunities now to get your stuff in front of people. That's the glass half full approach probably to this world that we're living in, right? It's like, well, you relied on the Idaho magazine in your class to kick your career off. Well now, yeah, you would have way more opportunities to get whatever you wrote for that magazine for other people to see it in addition to that magazine if you started today. So I think the next few years from a positive point of view could be really interesting, especially as people find more ways and more interesting ways to tell outdoor stories.

Brendan (45:11):

Yeah, yeah. No, I teach a writing workshop every year and we spend a half a day on getting published and I'm like, every year the content is more like, yeah, you just self publish it really?


Because we have a friend come in, I have a friend dropping in for that afternoon this year and he was an editor at Trail Runner and Outside Run and then Orion before that. And I'm like, yeah, we'll just talk about your experience or whatever. But honestly, I'm like, I feel like these people should just start like what's your goal? What do you actually want? Do you want to be heard? Do you need the validation of having written for a big magazine? Okay, that's the thing. Do you want to get paid? Well, sure, writing for publications is a way to get a check, but in the long run, is it actually better for you to just build your own channel and charge people for your content? Might be at this point for most of us. Totally. I think it probably is. Do you even care about money if you're in my writing workshop or do you just want to learn how to tell a few stories? So,

Colin (46:20):

Well, that's the thing too, right? I mean, part of me getting the podcasting was fulfilling a 25-year-old dream of being a radio dj. And then the 1990s there was a million of us who wanted to do it in 10 jobs. So I was like, well, I guess I'm not doing that right. And I gave up, probably shouldn't have, but I did. And now I was like, whether you make money doing this or not, you can now do this. So it's interesting.

Brendan (46:41):

Yeah, we talk a lot in our house because wife's a writer and editor too and talk about the point of all these things and I'm like, we have different friends who have started a substack or whatever and they're like, okay, I need to make money off this after three months of it. And I was like, I think maybe the better place to start is what's fun for me to do. Because at first this is probably not going to be a big income, if any. So if I have fun doing it, then I'm going to want to do it and it's going to be better for everyone involved. Who readers don't really want you to be like, oh God, I got to write another fucking substack this week. They want you to have fun because they'll have fun. And then if you keep doing that over and over, it becomes this fun thing and then maybe people will pay you for it. But it all that's, I'm lucky to be able to say I can just do shit like that and be like, I'll try this and see what happens. And if it makes money, cool. If not, that's cool too.

Colin (47:39):

Well, for anyone out there listening, help Brendan make money and go buy his book, go to, buy ultra something just like Justin and I going to do as soon as we hang up. We're bad hosts who didn't read the book before our guest came.

Brendan (47:50):

I can send you guys copies, but also you could just come to my house with a briefcase full of money too. That'd be easy.

Colin (47:56):

Yeah. Alright, we'll start driving to Montana. We, you there Justin? A case QR

Brendan (47:59):


Colin (48:01):

Hey man, thanks for coming on. Really, really appreciate having you on. Let's not wait so long to do it again.

Brendan (48:06):

Okay. I'm not busy next week, so whenever you guys, I'm just joking.

Colin (48:10):

No, our new cohost Brenda Leonard's here.

Brendan (48:13):

We don't even have daycare next week. I can't do it. No.

Colin (48:16):

Oh my.

Brendan (48:16):

That's great. Yeah. Thanks for having me though.

Colin (48:19):

Thanks buddy. Alright, that's the show for today. Big thanks to Brendan Leonard for making some time to come and hang out with Justin and myself. The Rock Fight is a production of Rock Fight LLC. Our producer today is David Kasad, art Direction by Sarah Genser. And for Justin Hausman, I'm Colin True. Thanks for listening. And here to take us out is the voice of rock fight Mr. Krista makes with the Rock Fight Fight song. We'll see you next time. Rock fighters. Rock

Chris DeMakes (48:44):

Fight, rock fight, rock fight, rock fight, rock fight, rock fight. We go into the rock fight where we speak our truth, stay sacred cows and sometimes agree to disagree. We talk about human power and outdoor activities and pick bikes about topics that we find interesting. Black, my culture, music, the latest movie reviews, ideas in for the head. This is where we speak our truth. This is where we speak our truth to the welcome to the.


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