Sometimes the race isn’t about you, but in those times it can be the most rewarding.
A year ago I spent the third weekend in May working the finish line of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100-mile run. I spent it with friends I had made in the pervious six months, watching runners complete a hard and difficult race.
That Sunday, I can clearly remember standing in the field by the finish, staring at the mountains, listening to the crowd cheering runners to the end, and crossing a mental finish line of my own.
It was the moment I knew I was alright with my marriage ending.
This year, I returned to crew and pace a good friend who badly needed a win of his own.
Once or twice a week I am going to post an update that covers both my training and how it is affecting my life. Similar to a television or comic book series, the entire thing will culminate with a confrontation with the “Big Bad” that is lurking in the background throughout the entire series.
I am a huge believer in momentum, and the Georgia Death Race was supposed to be my positive kickoff to 2016.
The Death Race is a tough event in the Georgia mountains that has more than 40,000 feet of elevation change between its start at Vogel State Park and the finish at Amicalola State Park.
I registered for the race for multiple reasons: It is a qualifier for the Western States 100; it provided me training motivation through the winter; and I’d get to spend time with a large group of local running friends who were going to be running the event.
There is positive momentum and negative momentum. Positive momentum can lead you to amazing summits in both running and life. Negative momentum can lead you to some dark and low places. I believe that we can chose which direction we are going — up or down. External factors do come into play, but the events of our lives do not control our lives, rather our reactions to those events control our lives.
At some point in the last few years I swore off road marathons. They are just not my style and I hate feeling like I have to sprint 26.2 miles. But last week, I registered for the Run Crazy Horse Marathon in South Dakota. The only reason I signed up is for a picture.
When I was nine years old I moved from Alabama to California to live with my dad, who I call Oldman. It was during that transition that the Oldman first introduced me to running. At first he was teaching me good health habits and then he was encouraging me through track and cross country. He has always told me to run with heart and would often just point to his chest as I ran by.
When I was 14 years old, we were in a car accident that broke two of his ribs, punctured his lung, and put a metal rod in his leg. The following year he ran his first and only marathon. It was a display of the heart he always told me to run with.
Western States week is always special. The coverage is amazing through sites like irunfar.com and I cannot seem to pull myself away from the hype. I don’t many ultrarunners who do not want to run the Western States 100 someday. And without a doubt this includes me. So this year when the gun went off for Western States, I was on trail getting in a nice long run. While in the near term I am training for the Grindstone 100, yesterday I was training for an eventual start at the Western States.
I will never run Boston. And honestly, I don’t really have any desire to run a road marathon again unless its with family. But I plan to qualify and enter the lottery for Western States every year until I get in. This year I will be entering if I can complete Grindstone. I have a few other friends that are also planning to enter the lottery if they finish Grindstone. So hopefully I get a taste of States next year as either an entrant or as crew. Either way, I will eventually cross that damned river and make it to that track.
Now on to this week’s training…
The Grindstone 100 has 23,000 feet of gain and unfortunately I live where it is very flat. So in preparation for Grindstone, I built a tire pull. I went out on Wednesday with the tire for the first time. It was 93 degrees and humid and pulling the tire was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I know that a gravel or dirt road would be easier, but I went out on pavement. I made it about two miles in total with an average pace of around 10:30 seconds per mile. The looks I got from people passing me in cars were interesting, the looks that I got from a couple of other runners were priceless. My plan is to build up from 2 miles with the tire to about 2 hours with the tire. If anything that should give me some mental confidence.
Yesterday I woke up and took my dog, Penny, for a four mile run. Then I headed out to the trail and got in 4 hours of trail time. All in all it was about 24 miles. I was reminded how important fueling is. I was lazy and only brought a couple packets of almond butter and some water. I was starting to bonk towards the end of the run. In the future I need to be better about having some cream cheese, bacon, and extra Ucan in the car or in my pack.
Today was going to be another 4 plus hour run, but I am listening to my legs and taking an extra off day. I tweaked my knee late in trail run and wanted to give it a day to rest. Next week I am traveling to see my son, so there will not be another long run for a couple weeks. This should give me time to heal up and have an awesome July. I am really looking forward to the Rosaryville 50k in a couple of weeks.
Next week I am going to post about a race that has my attention lately. Something about 135 miles, on the snow, in negative 20 degree temperatures, pulling a sled….drooling.
Training this week:
Tuesday: 7 miles in the morning
Wednesday: 5 miles in the morning and 5 miles at night (2 with the tire)
Thursday: 7 in the morning
Saturday: 24 miles total (20 on trail)
This week: 48 miles
28 day Starva total: 208 miles
This year: 1,116 miles
According to Word Press my last post was October 8, 2012, almost one year ago. By that date you’d think that consistency has not been my thing. But it’s has. My last post was about getting rhythm. And I have found my rhythm. The first time I began a run streak I made it about 216 days before a stress fracture in my foot sent me to the pool for 8 weeks. This was incredibly frustrating. I had just finished my first 50 miler and felt like superman. Going from running 50 miles in one day to not being able to run and starting back from scratch was a mental letdown. So on September 18, 2012, I restarted my streak and dedicated myself to having an amazing year of running in 2013.
Today marks my 365th consecutive day of running at least one mile a day. Every day for the last year, I have made a point of putting on running shorts and shoes and getting out for at least one mile be it in rain, shine, hangover, morning, night, on a cruise, at my bachelor’s party, the day of my wedding, on my honeymoon, or at Jamboree in the Hills. My friends and family have given me odd looks and the drunks at the Jamboree in the Hills gave me even stranger looks, but I did it.
I know that I have a problem with consistency. If I take a day off it will quickly turn into 5 or more (or if I don’t make a blog post one week, it turns into a year). Over this last year I have taken running and turned it into brushing my teeth. I wake up and don’t have to ask “if” I will run today. Instead I ask “how far will I run today?” Changing that mental question actually makes maintaining the run streak pretty easy. Actually, running has become such a normal part of my routine that I have to remind myself how allowing ten minutes a day on my feet really means to me.
Running is my freedom. It’s my form of expression. There is stress at work, at home, planning a wedding, getting a new dog and I find relief in taking at least ten minutes day for myself. Run it fast or run it slow, it’s time for me. And while that may seem selfish it’s really isn’t. Taking that little bit of alone time each day puts me a in a better mood. I can better manage stressful situations and quite honestly I like people more after I run. And on my bad days, my wife likes me more after I run.
I have also put in over 1500 miles this year and completed in more races that ever. I have ran in the Seneca 50k, Terrapin Mountain 50k, Leatherwood Mountains 50 miler, 30 plus mile long runs have become the normal, and next month I will attempt my first 100 miler at the Grindstone 100. Over the course of training I have dropped over 20 pounds and feel like I am in the best shape of my life (30 year old me can beat the hell out of 20 year old me). I have also met some great people who share the same obsession with running.
Running helps me be who I am. It allows me to be more comfortable in my own skin. The run streak will not stop at day 365. I will continue to take the time to run at least a mile a day and give myself that time. Hopefully, after Grindstone I will still be able to hobble out a mile.
As far as this blog goes, there should be a little more consistency in the future.
The first time I attempted to train for a 50 mile ultra marathon was back in 2008. That year the Washington, DC North Face Endurance Challenge was scheduled for September and I had decided early in spring that instead of running a second marathon, I would make the huge jump and give it a shot. I have to credit Dean Karnazes for much of my motivation. I had read his first novel, “The Ultramarathon Man,” and instantly had the bug.
My training predictably put me in a bad place. A month out from the race I could have probably PR’d for a marathon but I knew that I was in no way ready to attempt a trail 50 miler. I also had started to suffer from an IT band issue. I had never had the joy of ITBS and it wrecked my running. However, all the way up to a couple days before the race, I was dumb enough to think I could have run the full 50 miles. It didn’t help that my friend Kat had also signed up. To say that she was in beast mode during college would be an understatement. She was one of the few people I knew at the time that could show up on any given Sunday and a run sub 4 hour marathon. Committing to running the race and knowing that she could, definitely added some pressure.
I lucked out. A horrible storm rolled through and canceled the race that year. North Face stepped up and impressed me by having a banquet dinner for the runners. They gave out free North Face swag. Mr. Dean Karnazes signed books, stood around and talked with fans, and took pictures with all the runners in attendance. The race organizers for the Endurance Challenge went out of their way to try to provide the obviously let down runners with a quality experience.
Fast forward to November 2011. I had the privilege of cheering on my good friend Melissa during the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon. A race I had signed up for and failed to train for. She was awesome and I had a blast cheering her and the other runners on. I also was dying to get out there with them. I signed up for the DC Rock and Roll Marathon before we left Savannah. When I got home, I bought a new pair running shoes.
Inspired by multiple people on twitter I began a running/beer streak. Every day I ran at least a mile and drink at least one beer. The theory being: how horrible can a day be if I was able to enjoy two things I love? Also, even though I had not been running much in 2011, I began researching races for after I finished the DC R&R. I noticed that the DC North Face Endurance Challenge had moved to the first weekend in June. I felt like it was an unfinished opportunity. It was a good month after I registered before I told anyone.
Training through winter may have been the best thing for me. I have always hated running in the cold, but there was something relaxing about going out in the cold dark evenings and pushing myself. It was also awesome that I was the only one running through my neighborhood. When I was able to hit the local train, an awesome 7 mile loop around a large man made lake, the only sounds that kept me company were crunching leaves. By the time that it started to warm up, I felt like the returning runners where invading my privacy.
I used the 10% rule (slowly increasing my mileage by 10% per week to prevent injury) until I was regularly putting in over 50 miles per week. I celebrated the first time that I ran over 50 miles in one week. I did not focus on the speed as much as focused on the miles. Sara and I also bought a treadmill. I had intended on using the treadmill to work on speed walking. While I had never walked much during marathons, I had read many times that it was imperative to walk the inclines to conserve energy. I had to admit that I did not use the treadmill nearly enough.
In March, the DC Rock & Roll was a strong performance. I managed to PR by 4 minutes running a 3:52 minute marathon. I also stopped around mile 6 and drank a beer with some friendly local Hashers (On-On). I did not taper for the marathon. I ran a total of 67 mils that week, ending with the personal best.
By the time late May came around, I was in the best running shape of my life. Additionally, I have never been more happy in my personal life. I felt like running was able to center me and allowed me to put everything into balance. Knowing that I was going to run at least a mile and normally an hour or more everyday forced me to prioritize everything. I made time for Sara, time for myself, was more patient at work, and felt awesome.
The North Face allows any 50 mile runner to have a pacer. I had never run with a pacer before, but then again I had never run 50 miles before. While I believed that I could finish the race unassisted, I reached out to an old running friend, Josh, for a little help. I have run more miles with Josh than anyone else. We were on the cross country team together and meet regularly to put in a few miles. He is one of those people that not only knows me as a runner, but will put up with me at my worst.
Sara and I would be stayed at her parents house, which was significantly closer to Algonkian State Park, which would be the start and the finish line. The night before the race I had a good beer, ate some pasta, and felt really relaxed. I can remember goofing off with Sara and being really relaxed. More relaxed than I had been for any other race. I was ready to attempt my first 50 mile ultramarathon. My first ultramarathon.
This week I was able to return to running again. It had been 6 weeks since the running streak had ended. Six weeks ago I was able to go out my front door and run 30 miles. Monday afternoon I went out my front door and walked for 10 minutes, ran for 5 minutes, and then repeated. Yesterday I was able to walk for 3 minutes, then run for 7 minutes, and repeated until 30 minutes were done. I was able to complete just over 3 miles. It’s a humbling experience, but it also just feels really good to get a few miles in.
The conservative approach I am taking to my training program seems to be justifiable. After my first run on Monday, the tendons in my right foot were tight and sore. I can really tell there was a significant amount of atrophy from wearing that damned boot. My recovery plan calls for 6 more weeks of easing back into things. After I complete the program I can really start to rebuild my base mileage. This week I’ll be allowed to run every other day and I have hopes of starting a new running streak in two weeks.
Being back outside running has been awesome. It’s like having a best friend back after a long summer of having no one to play with. While I was only able to run three times this week, just knowing I could go out in a couple of days and that I am making forward progress again is insanely motivating.
I have to admit that I have taken the last 6 weeks a little too soft. I have drank quite a few beers, been a little too relaxed on my diet, and enjoyed just a few too many hours on the couch. Starting this week I plan to end that. The reality of it is that I cannot go out and run for a couple of hours like I could back in June. This creates an opportunity for me to work in some new cross training habits and improve my overall fitness.
In my house we have copies of P90X1, P90X2, and Insanity. My fiancé is a workout machine and has kicked through many 90 day programs and seen awesome results. I on the other hand started P90X1 once back in 2009 and made it to month two. When I stopped mid program, I had starting seeing results. I had the lowest body fat percentage of my adult life and my run times were improving. Starting sometime this week (I have to get it back from a coworker) I will being day one of P90X2. I am not going to start with P90X1 again because I would like to focus on my core strength, which is more of a focus in P90X2. I realize that I will need to ease into the program and allow my body to adapt to the new work out routine.
Perhaps I have an obsession with the number 100, but starting today I am also going to start a push-up program. I have had an app on my iPhone for most of this year called “100 pushups.” The app gives a program much like many running programs in which daily workouts are done building up the endurance to complete 100 pushups. I have started this program and failed to make it past week 3 multiple times.
I enjoy running. Running is not working out to me, it’s more like meditation. I have no issues sticking with a running program because I enjoy training. However, with push ups and my failed attempts at 90 day programs, I fail because I genuinely do not enjoy them. However, next year my running goals will be greatly aided by my devoting myself to getting in better overall physical fitness.
So I am putting myself on report. In early December I will complete P90X2. I will follow this push-up program and eventually complete 100 push-ups. By December I should also be able to complete long runs of over 10 miles again and start working on speed work. If you follow me on twitter (@RevInkedByrd), see me out running, if you’re at my house on football Saturday, if you see me at all ask me what I have done today. One of my hopes for this blog is to make me more accountable. If I get asked what I have done today and I say nothing then maybe the embarrassment will encourage me to keep going past week 3.
I would like to encourage a few comments this go around. Last week I had a ton of views and would like to hear back from you. What current goals are you working towards? What are you going to accomplish between now and the first of the year? Only 119 more days.
Look out next week for a long overdue race report from my first 50 miler, the Washington DC North Face Endurance Challenge.
I am going to have an ongoing series of posts here on what inspires me. There are days when either it feels like there is no time or just no joy in the thought of going out for a 10 mile run. On those days it helps to think of a reason to run and I would like to share a few of mine. I’ll start with Chad Madden.
The first time I met Chad Madden was at a Fat Tuesday party. It was made very clear to me during our first conversation that he was living a full and adventurous life. Chad’s favorite pastimes include skydiving, base jumping, and numerous other things I personally do not have the guts to do.
Since that initial meeting Chad and I bumped into each other at work, parties, and even had the pleasure of running the Warrior Dash with him in 2010. Chad ran the entire race with a little bottle of Gatorade. He had emptied the bottle and filled it with bourbon. I will never forget watching his failed attempt at flipping over the top of the cargo net that I was afraid to climb. I had been hesitant to put my first leg over the top, he apparently placed his hands on the opposite side of the net and tried to flip his body over the top. Chad and I are not extremely close friends, but I see a lot of myself in him and I admire a lot of the things he has accomplished.
March 9th of this year, Chad was in a sky diving accident. Skydiving is to Chad what running is to me. He is an experienced skydiver and was working with a coach in California the day of the accident. He broke his C2 vertebrae and has been left a quadriplegic.
During Chad’s rehabilitation, his family joined him at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. He was then transferred to the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Hospital in Richmond, VA where he is currently continuing his rehabilitation. Unfortunately in June, his parents home in Idaho was torched in a wildfire. The link below is an article by Emily Smith of CNN discussing both events:
The human spirit is an amazing thing. Chad’s family has gone through two traumatic life changing events this year. Yet through it all they continue to be positive and to rally around each other. Chad has requested consistently to be challenged and pushed by his doctors so that he can progress. His sense of humor and positive attitude while dealing with his situation has amazed everyone.
In addition to just being in awe of Chad’s resilience, I am damned proud of how the community has helped him and his family. Co-workers have donated leave hours and hotel points to help offset expenses. A scooter is being raffled off with all proceeds going to help the family. A local yoga studio, that Chad attended, held a fundraiser in which they invited everyone to wear a ski cap to a hot yoga session (something Chad loved to do). And the skydiving community, which reminds me of the running community, has come together to raise over $8000. The amount of support that friends and total strangers have given him just makes me smile.
Last week I had the privilege of meeting one of Chad’s brothers at a local pub. I heard again how positive Chad remains. What I also heard though is that Chad plans on returning to his favorite hobby. Chad cannot wait until he skydives again. His brother, also a highly experienced skydiver, plans on jumping tandem with Chad when he is out of rehabilitation.
There are days when I do not feel like running. On those days, I sometimes think about Chad. To him skydiving is my running. If Chad could today he would be in Orange, VA prepping for a jump so, I need to put my damned shoes on and smile through my run. Also, life throws curve balls. I have been fortunate that my life and my health have allowed me to become an ultra runner. I cannot take that for granted.
Here are a couple of links for Chad if you are interested in learning more of his story:
Next week I will finally be back to running. Should be lacing up the shoes on Monday and restarting my running streak. So stay tuned to actually hear about how my running is going. Also, thank you everyone who visited my blog in its first week. I received some great positive feedback and I just want everyone to know I am extremely appreciative.