Nick Symmonds on Climbing, Marathons and His Dream Job

As a two-time Olympian, world championship silver medalist and 6-time national champion, Nick Symmonds is a true High Lifer. We’re proud to have him on our team, and to help fuel his ambitions as a mountaineer, transition from track to marathons and build his own company as an entrepreneur.

In the first installment of "Uncut Moments," our new series of interviews with Momentous High Lifers, Nick gave us his thoughts on running, nutrition, starting a company and his final meal.

Momentous team runner nick symmonds

Outside of my parents, the biggest influence on my life has been my coach, Sam Lapray. He taught me about team building, hard work and the importance of family. Sam ushered me into adulthood.

If I hadn’t been a runner and entrepreneur, I would have liked to be a pilot. One of the best experiences in the world is travel and one of the worst experiences is flying commercial. If I had my pilot’s license and access to a plane, I’d have the freedom to go anywhere, anytime I wanted.

Every mountain holds a new set of challenges. The top of Carstensz Pyramid (highest peak in Australasia) isn’t at super-high altitude but it’s a very technical climb. I’ve put every peak in order so it builds a skill that’s a pre-requisite for the next mountain. It’s about learning from the journey, not reaching a single summit. 

Something I wish I’d known 10 years ago is that I can’t do everything, but if I can get good help, I can do pretty much anything. As an entrepreneur it’s not enough to just work hard – you have to work smart, too. For me that means surrounding myself with the best people and empowering them to excel.

nick symmonds in yosemite

My favorite Olympic memory was sitting on the track at the 2012 Games watching the last semi final of the 800. Yes, I was waiting to see if my time was fast enough to get me into the final, but I was also immersed in all the emotions crammed into that 1 minute and 44 seconds as a true running fan.

My mantra is, “Don’t lose the opportunity.” In track you put in years of work and it’s do or die in one short race. It’s easy to let yourself off the hook or lose focus. But if you’re a gamer, you live for that moment and make the most of it. It’s the same in business and life.

It’s hard for me to get enough protein to recover adequately from diet alone. That’s why in addition to taking iron and a multivitamin, I use Momentous in the smoothies I drink during and after training – ArcFire on strength training days and RedShift on endurance-focused ones. The supplement industry is rife with frauds and tricksters, but as Momentous does the same kind of small batch testing we use at Run Gum and is certified clean, I feel confident in making it part of my daily nutrition approach.

For my last race at the US championships, I put a temporary Run Gum tattoo on my biceps. It was my way of marking the transition from pro athlete to entrepreneur. Afterwards I went out with friends and family and enjoyed the first guilt-free beer of my life. Then I climbed, fished and drank a few more beers that summer.

Before I ran the Honolulu marathon, some people questioned whether I’d even finish. I thought to myself, “I climbed Mount Rainier in 24 hours – I guarantee I can keep running for three!”

My final meal would be a rib-eye steak, a Tanqueray martini and my mom’s twice-baked potatoes. I never found a restaurant that could cook a rib-eye the way I wanted it, so I learned to do it myself. In my 20s cooking seemed like such a chore but now making a meal is the most relaxing part of my day. I’m also a big fan of washing up after dinner. My mind is in overdrive all day long and doing the dishes gives me the chance to perform a task without having to think.

I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to finish my pro career knowing that my legs had given every lap they were capable of. If someone offered me $10 million to come back for one more season I’d have to turn them down because I just don’t have it in me anymore.  

I never found the closing sprint of an 800 meters painful because you’re going on pure adrenaline. The last mile of a marathon hurts a lot more because you’ve used up all your adrenaline and fuel. The only thing getting you to the finish line is sheer determination.

Nick Symmonds mountaineering

One of the biggest surprises for me the past few years has been how easy it is to build a successful business. Many people talk themselves out of it because it seems daunting but if you have high standards, ask for help and grow the grassroots way, you can make it.

For a long time I thought that I needed to wait to finish my running career before starting a business. But reading Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Work Week inspired me to get started right away. When you have a good idea, you need to act on it.

Patience is an ongoing lesson that mountaineering is teaching me. At Carstensz Pyramid there was a weather delay that prevented us from even getting to the mountain for a week. At age 24 I would’ve been going crazy. But now that I’m 34, I just took it in as part of the experience.

Life as a pro runner is very disciplined and Spartan. Every decision you make, you consider whether it’s going to hurt or help your performance and when you’re winning, the sacrifice seems worth it. But as the successes diminish later in your career, you start to reevaluate that. I walked away from the track knowing I’d done all I could and eager to get on with the next challenge.

By: Nick Symmonds
Interview by: Phil White

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