It’s silly, but I guess I was surprised when Eric Schranz answered the phone and sounded just like he does on Ultrarunnerpodcast. I’d watched Hubie Halloween on Netflix a day earlier, and the Shaquille O’Neal scene had tipped me to alternate radio voices. Schranz keeps the audio natural though, and he’s been behind the mic at Ultrarunnerpodcast for a decade, just less often lately. “I like races, it’s how I find new people, and [my content is] always kind of competition-based,” Schranz explained of the pause.
“I guess my passion to interview people has waned a little bit. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to do this for a decade and I just don’t want to force it. It’s just a slight break,” he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking too. I’ve kind of been on the inside of stories in the past, but now think of myself from the outside. I’m feeling on the outside looking in more.”
“And with kids at home and distance learning, it’s just more work. It’s a tremendous amount of work to keep them focused and going the right direction,” Schranz called. “We’re living like there’s nothing on, trying to give these kids a normal life. Sure we wear masks when we’re at stores, but at run club, or outdoors, we’re not. We’re staying away from our [older] parents, too.” Remote learning is certainly a challenge for elementary-aged kids, and Schranz has two. “We raised our kids to stay away from screens, so transitioning to that is tough. I’ll find my eight-year-old wandering through the house during the day looking for Goldfish and it’s like, ‘You’re supposed to be doing this lesson.'”
Schranz is in hard-hit California, Sacramento specifically, and his crew has been outside of school since the pandemic took hold early last spring. “No, not a bit,” he answered of the extent of their remote learning. “Well, they’re learning computers. I’m thankful for that because Chromebooks, good Lord, I can’t figure that out.”
It’s not all bad though and he’s been able to keep some bright spots shining. A few years earlier, Schranz partnered with an innovative principal to launch a kid’s running club tied to the school. He peps up, “We can’t put together a real team, but we’ve got a renegade team at the park. The kids go run, mark their times, run trails, it’s awesome. It’s an introduction to the sport for kids, some use it as a supplement for baseball or soccer and others just want to run. We’ve got this weird track where five-and-a-half laps is a mile and this kids just can’t run more than a lap, but you get them on trails and a mile is easy,” and Schranz is audibly excited about the program. He’s thankful to be at home with his kids, and still able to influence their fitness. “We were really expanding trail running for kids, and for girls, and I am soooo anxious to get back to that,” he says with some restlessness.
Schranz’s personal running is going okay too, in part thanks to an eye condition stabilizing. “It’s not getting worse,” he simplified, and then explained that optic nerve drusen is a collection of calcium on the optic nerve. “I would just always be looking for something and just not see it, like keys right in front of you. And on the trails I’d be tripping. It was like there just one giant blind spot, and it was affecting my running.” For now, Schranz just has to be more careful, but he needs some races too. “It’s very, very hard for me to get into a groove. I need something on my calendar. I’ve been spending a ton of time paddleboarding though.”
“It’s great to pick up a new sport. I paddle a lot on the [American River], two, two-and-a-half hours, three times a week. It’s a good workout, gets my heart pumping, works the lower body and the upper body. I’ve never worked out my upper body and I’m 45 now and fighting a dad bod.” Aren’t we all, I think and nod. “It’s really peaceful out there, all alone, it’s fantastic.” It’s turned into a family activity too. Both kids have kayaks, and his wife has a paddleboard too.
Once a craft-beer aficionado, Schranz has changed course on that too, and kept up the positive direction during the pandemic. He corrects me that he still drinks beer, but that it’s non-alcoholic beer. “The non-alcoholic beer scene is what the craft beer scene was 10 years ago, to me,” he said of the shift. “You need to know where to go. There are all styles out there, all breweries all over the world are doing it. I just drink non-alcoholic beer now, and it makes me a better person.” The ease of buying non-alcoholic beer online has expanded his range, and he loves the diversity out there. “There’s hop-infused water too. It’s just fizzy water, and it’s delicious.”
It’s election season and in his past life Schranz worked on political campaigns. He quickly says which side he was on. “I love it, when they call with a poll I always say, ‘Yes.’ I like hearing the questions, the verbiage.” Schranz may like it, but I’m against the surprising number of campaign-related texts I’ve gotten this year. Despite everything, Halloween’s happening too, and Schranz’s kids are ready to dress as Lady Gaga and Garth Algar. Schranz himself will costume as Wayne Campbell, from Wayne’s World.
The year 2020’s been bumpy all around, and Schranz has certainly been active, even if slightly less so on podcasting. Party on, Wayne, and party on, Ultrarunnerpodcast.
Call for Comments
Use the comments section to share your story about Eric Schranz and Ultrarunnerpodcast!