Welcome to the first installment of the Shoeless Joe Interview! I say “installment” assuming this will a) not be discovered and deleted by higher-ranking board members and b) I’m allowed to make this a recurring feature here.
For my first interview I wanted to go big, and when it comes to Seattle running, you can’t go much bigger than Uli Steidl! He and his wife Trisha Steidl form a sort of royal union in the local running scene, with countless wins and accomplishments between them at a wide variety of distances. Both also extend their expertise to coaching collegiate running talent at Seattle University, where Trisha is the head coach and Uli is an assistant coach.
After his great performance at the 2012 Boston Marathon (1st Masters, 5th American, 15th overall), and his excellent first pitch at a recent Mariners game, I had to sit down and get to know more about the man(ly) Seattle legend. With an awesome view of Lake Washington in front of us, we had a great time. Enjoy!
Shoeless Joe: First off Uli, thanks for taking the time to speak with me! I don’t know if you know me, but my name is Joe Creighton and I’m on the Seattle Running Club board. So you could say we’re like teammates.
Uli Steidl: Joe, of course I know you. I’ve been to several board meetings. And you text with my wife Trisha all the time, and meet her for track workouts every Thursday afternoon. At least that’s what she says.
SJ: Oh cool! I didn’t know Trisha was your wife. That actually clears up some confusion I had. And explains why you live in her house.
Before we get too deep into this interview, let me say congratulations! It’s not every day someone gets invited to throw out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game. Was that one of the biggest thrills of your life?
US: Oh, definitely! Growing up in Germany, almost every boy dreams to someday play in the Major League. Baseball is our national sport, almost a religion.
Speaking of thrills, the biggest thrill in my athletic career was running in the 2007 IAAF Marathon World Championships in Osaka, Japan. And more recently the 112th Boston Marathon, where I finished 15th overall, 5th American and 1st masters.
SJ: Wow! That was actually my next question, if Boston was your first marathon. But it sounds like you’ve run two total. Any racing plans for the rest of 2012? Perhaps a third marathon? Ever thought about trying out one of those “ultra” marathons?
US: Joe, you have to qualify for Boston, so it can’t be your first one. You call yourself a runner and you don’t know this? I’m not sure how many marathons I’ve run. Thirty five to forty. Fifteen of them under 2:20. I am planning on running another marathon this year. Twin Cities, in the fall.
And yes, I have done a few ultras.
SJ: Wow, thirty five to forty…I was a little off! LOL! If we can move back to your beginnings in Germany, what initially got you interested in running? For me it was a woman. Was it a woman for you? If your wife will get mad at you, just make something up.
US: My initial interest in running was there because there was a race that started half a mile from my home. I was 17 at the time, did a lot of biking–about 20 miles a day–but NO running. Entered the race and won.
No, women (or a woman) had nothing to do with me deciding to start running. But running has since strongly influenced my interest in women. I have never dated–or even kissed–a woman who wasn’t a runner. It would be hard for me to imagine being with someone who doesn’t share this part of my life.
SJ: I think I know what you mean. Women can make good things even better…like how Facebook does with life. Speaking of, I saw on Facebook that you went to college in Portland. What was the transition to living in the states like, compared to life in Germany? Food, music, bros, etc?
US: I’m not so sure I would put “women” and “Facebook” in the same category. You can’t hug or kiss Facebook. On the other hand, you can ignore Facebook for a month without serious consequences.
US: Moving to the US was not that dramatic of a change. Lots of changes that American freshmen also experience, like moving out of your parents’ home and living with a roommate in the dorms; cafeteria food, new coach, new routines. I spoke English fairly well before I got here; good enough to get a 4.0 my first semester at University of Portland. But then again, I took familiar subjects such as chemistry, physics and calculus. I did, however, have to learn some fine nuances of the English language, such as “Uli, you don’t HAVE a shit. You TAKE a shit!”
SJ: LMAO! Can we say “shit”? Oh well. And that’s true about Facebook, but you can “like” Facebook on Facebook’s Facebook profile. Just like a woman!
Speaking of, on Facebook, as well as Myspace and Friendster and LinkedIn and this pro-wrestling message board I post at, I asked people to suggest any questions they think I should ask. Are you ready for the Fast-Acting Lightning Speed Round, which I should mention is sponsored by our fast friends at Fleet Feet Seattle? I will ask a question fastly, and you reply fastly. Like, lightning fast. Oh, also…you wear this eye mask to make sure you’re focused. Ready?
US: Sure. Shoot.
SJ: …can you put the eye mask on, please?
US: [puts the mask on]
SJ: OK, buckle your seatbelt, here we go! And remember, if you think any of these questions are dumb, it’s because it probably came from one of my MySpace friends.
US: Just start, please.
SJ: Ok. How much ya bench?
US: I did 115 once in college. Pounds, not kilograms. Bench press max is irrelevant for distance running.
SJ: What’s something any American tourist should eat at least once while in Germany? And please don’t say Head Cheese.
US: Schweinshaxen und Sauerkraut.
SJ: Favorite flavor of Vitamin Water?
US: I don’t drink Vitamin Water. I try to avoid bottled water in general. Tap water costs 2 cents per liter in Seattle. Fruit juice, milk, chocolate milk, water, tea. And once in a while a beer.
SJ: I know he’s not German, but close enough — best Arnold Schwarzenegger movie: “Kindergarten Cop”, “Pumping Iron”, “No Really, That Guy Was the Governor of California?!”, or “Twins”?
US: Arnold is Austrian. Not German. Not even close! What’s next, you call a Canadian “almost American”?
SJ: (laughing) Touché! I was curious, what newspapers and magazines do you regularly read — to stay informed and to understand the world?
US: Seattle Times. I used to read the PI, but they went out of print. As far as magazines, Northwest Runner, Running Times, Ultrarunning. Oh yes and Fox News.
SJ: Is the Boston Marathon like the Olympics for marathoners?
US: (sigh) Not exactly. It’s the oldest continuously run marathon in the world. And the fact that you have to qualify for it makes it intriguing for many people. You actually have to be a decent runner to qualify. But the Olympics is a whole different level. You have to be world-class to make it to the Olympic marathon, and even that is not enough in many cases as only three athletes per country can run in the Olympics.
SJ: Oh, whoops. I suppose then that the Olympics are the Olympics for marathoners. What pair of shoes did you wear for the Boston Marathon?
US: A new racing flat from New Balance. It’s not available in stores until June 1st, and I only got my hands, or feet, on a size 10.5 when I really need a 10 or even 9.5. But it felt better on my feet than anything else I tried out. I did most of my training for Boston in the Scott eRide Trainer, though.
SJ: Do you think you could beat Ichiro in a marathon?
SJ: What if it was just a half-marathon?
US: I think I can take him.
SJ: C’mon…a 5K?
US: Yep. I’d bet some money on me. Now, in the 400m, it might be a close race.
SJ: What’s your favorite spot to run in the general area, not including Cal Anderson Park, of course?
US: General area?! I like running along Lake Washington Boulevard to Seward Park. But really it’s not so much the place you run at, it’s the company you run with.
SJ: What would you do with all your free time if your legs fell off tomorrow and you could never run again?
US: What free time? I’d have to get a real job.
SJ: Is it true that Dirty Dancing is your favorite movie of all time?
US: Who told you that?! It doesn’t even come close to Pretty Woman! But I thought this was an interview for a running website, not ET.
SJ: Wow, great job Uli with the first-ever Fast-Acting Lightning Speed Round! Especially as our guinea pig. And yes I too am furious with my friends’ non-running questions. Although I already have a myriad of Pretty Woman questions I now want to ask…but I’ll wait for a 2nd interview.
Moving on, I wanted to expand a bit on something. You mentioned the New Balance and Scott shoes you wore leading up to and during that marathon in Boston. As you can see I’m wearing Vibrams. The cool white ones. Bikila. How long do you think it’ll be before the top marathoners such as yourself are racing in Vibrams and/or have you already raced in Vibrams? And before you answer, yes Vibrams paid me to ask this question.
US: I hope they paid you a lot of money! It tells you something when African runners who often grow up running barefoot all run in regular running shoes and racing flats. Personally, I will run in Vibrams when Christmas falls on the 4th of July.
SJ: (nervous laughter) Hmm. Well. This is awkward. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I think these have helped make me a much better runner. Maybe not faster. Maybe not less injury-prone. But better.
US: If not faster and not less injury prone, in what way are you a better runner now?
SJ: Umm. Let’s switch gears, huh? The five-part Cougar Mountain Series trail races are starting up soon, in just a couple weeks. I remember one of my first-ever trail races, a number of years back, was the Cougar 10 miler…you won and I came in 2nd. It was real close; you out-kicked me. I don’t know where you went, but you weren’t at the awards ceremony afterward, so the 1st place prize of free shoes fell into my lap. And to this day that’s the best prize I’ve ever gotten.
US: You’re welcome. But what is your question?
SJ: Umm. I guess I didn’t have one. Heh. Hmm.
[rifles through papers]
Have you ever done any other Cougar races besides that one 10 miler?
US: Yes, I have done quite a few of them. In the first 2 years there was a guy who was opposed to those races and he would come out and change the course markings, directing runners onto the wrong trail. So sometimes I would run the course ahead of the runners, starting 10 minutes early and running with a can of spray paint and a roll of tape. But I also did a few of them officially, starting with everyone else.
SJ: If I see that guy at the 5 miler, I will give him a piece of my mind. I find the 13 miler to be the hardest, but the 5 miler to be the most frightening. Any thoughts on the progression of races? Do you have any advice for anyone who’s signing up for this year’s races?
US: Why is the 5 miler the most frightening? Do you have a lot of endurance but a lack of speed?
SJ: More or less.
US: The progression in distance of those races is ideal for beginning trail runners. Jumping from a road half marathon to a trail half marathon can be quite a surprise in terms of difficulty and the time it takes to complete the course. Starting with a 5 miler and working your way up gives you a good idea of what to expect. None of the Cougar Mountain trails are very technical by trail-running standards, but they are also not simple gravel paths either, so they are ideal for beginning trail runners.
SJ: That’s great advice, I agree! Maybe we’ll see you out there this year…and I can avenge my loss to you from that 10 miler!
US: I will for sure miss the 5 miler as I will be in Houston with the SU track team. So it’s your lucky day, as nothing stands in your way to win. Don’t know yet if or how the other races will fit into my racing schedule, but I will likely be at a few of them.
SJ: Awesome! I agree you will be out there!
SJ: Well, my girlfriend is going to kill me if I’m not home soon, so I think we should wrap this up…did you have any questions you wanted to ask me?
US: Sounds like your girlfriend is wearing the pants in your relationship! How do you feel about that?
SJ: (laughing) Well, it’s either she wear the pants, or I live alone in a dirty apartment, eating Chef Boyardee. I mean, Chef Boyardee is ok….but I’ll take the curfew if it means a few more dining options and a cool roommate.
US: I was also going to ask you if you know of a good way to stop hair loss, but it looks like whatever you’re doing isn’t working either.
SJ: (frowning) I dunno, wear trucker hats? No, I don’t know a good way, but I know a good silver lining. Me and you, we’ve got way more testosterone than other guys. That’s why our scalp betrayed us. Physically we may be repulsive, but in actuality, we are manlier.
US: I don’t know…you should get Trisha’s and your cool roommate’s opinion on that one! Or just solicit feedback from the readers of this interview.
SJ: Ok, I will! But what do women know about being manlier? I’m sure we’re manlier. And I think that’s a good way to end this. Thanks Uli, you’ve been very generous with your time! Congratulations again for Boston, for the amazing thrill of the Mariners first pitch, and good luck in all of your manly pursuits!
I want to thank Uli again for letting me into his house even though I was wearing Vibrams, and being the inaugural subject for what I hope will be a recurring installment here at the Seattle Running Club website. Both he and his wife Trisha are running ambassadors for our city. I was a little nervous interviewing such a talented and decorated runner, but I think I did a pretty superb job.
Call for Comments (from Joe)
- Is Uli manly? (show your work!)
- Are you bald?
- Dirty Dancing or Pretty Woman?
Call for Comments (from Uli)
- Is Joe manly?
Call for Support (from Joe)
- Did you enjoy this? Are you already a club member, like Uli? If not, consider becoming a member, like me, and help support us! Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to do a second interview!
- Did you not enjoy this? :(
All photos of Uli & Joe: Terry Creighton