Running With Friends – Marathon Training – Ultra Marathon

Running with friends, while training for marathons and ultra marathons.

The moments before my alarm clock goes off offers up some of the best periods of sleep I have ever experienced.  At other instantaneous these final minutes find me awake staring at the ceiling wondering about the adventures of the day.

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The sleep from a long nights rest scratches the tender skin around my eyes as I attempt to clear the slumber for the beginning of my day.  Slowly the morning comes into focus as my eyes catch the dim morning light allowing the familiar landscape of my room to come into focus.  My ears collect the repetitive sounds of rain beating on the window panes.  My skin feels the coolness of a chilly spring morning.  Once again I find myself starting to come awake before the man-made alarm goes off.

In the stillness of a new day, stuck somewhere between beginning fully awake or savoring a few more moments of restless sleep.  Trapped between my desires to get my day underway, and wanting to be still I wonder if I really need to be part of the day’s motions.  Living between the two different worlds although inviting will not aid me in getting ready for my morning run.  Ensnared in no man’s land the inaction of stillness will not transport me closer to my mileage goals and will only erode away any commitment to arriving on time to join my friends for today’s run.  Now more awake than slumbering it takes a few moments to remember what the morning has in store.  Stretched out before me awaits a day on trails laden with dirt, rocks and mud after the night’s rain.  The day will be inclined with hills, scrambling over rocks and roots and a day full of long miles shared with a few of my like minded friends.

Gathering my full wits, I remember how hard it had been to find a reliable group of friends I could run with.  Within the group, there were members I could count on and others who would find reasons not to run other than under the best conditions.  Today was one of those days.  Within my group was one pair of friends who matched my commitment, my resolve and my dedication to run no matter the adversaries.  This pair of kindred souls would run no matter the weather, the conditions of the trails and without regard to the length of our outing.  This particular twosome knows me better than I know myself.  They know my weakness, the limitations of my failed stride and the uncertainties of my questionable mental strength yet these running comrades always obtained my best performance.

Then almost unexpectedly, although almost by second nature I knew it was coming, the sound of my alarm clock rockets me into action.  I reach for the horizontal bar that will silence the blaring sound that tears at my slumbering soul.  My feet hit the cold wood floors and instantly with the first movement of the day, my body reminds me of the battle wounds that 17 years of running have left on me.  My bones creep and my back hurts from a night on an ill fitting mattress.  Once standing erect my knees call attention to the 20,000 miles I have run over my running career.  Moving slowly across the floor my ankles sing a painful song of remembrance the results of the hill workout just days before.  With all the aches and pains thoughts of rolling back into bed tempts me but knowing my friends will be waiting, wondering where I am and why I did not show up for our agreed upon run keeps me focused on my commitment to them and the miles in my training plan.  The aches and pains of years of running come up short on diverting me from today’s run.

The commitment of our run motivates me to splash some ice cold water on my face, brush my teeth and get my personal business in order.  Surprisingly the sensation of the tap water contacting my skin brings me back to life and more committed to the actions of the day.  Staring into the mirror I no longer see the face of a gruesome zombie awaken from a long season of slumber now in the reflection I see the runner, the amateur athlete who has a full race season in front of them.

Glancing at my watch I notice the time is drawing near to join up with my friends.  As I pull on a wrinkled shirt and my favorite socks from my top dresser drawer and grab an old pair of weathered black shorts from the clean clothes basket I begin to feel more like myself.  It takes only moments to finish dressing and grab a few bites to eat in between filling water bottles and stashing fuel gels into my running vest.  Slowly with fresh calories and liquids in my veins my faithfulness to the run now has a solid hold over me.  The long run is a different experience without seasoned friends to share the adventure with.  A running friend can make the miles go by faster, friends can distract you from the solitude of the lonely trails and a group can make the miles more comfortable.  A good friend can change the complexion of any morning.

As the moments tick away I’m ever more aware of the agreed upon meeting time, and the location when we will join up and begin our day together.  Surviving the call of the warm and inviting bed I am more determined to be on time and not on the side of the conversation that ends with “I’m not going to be able to make it today.”  I have felt that sting many times but today am comfortable that my friends will be there waiting to run.

Breaking the silence, my cell phone vibrates on the granite counter top next to my keys, a random water bottle, my GPS watch and a half empty cup of coffee.  Alerted to an incoming message my hand reaches for the high tech plastic communicator that keeps me in touch with the world.  For a moment I wonder is this an alert to world news, an email notice or the unthinkable at this early morning hour?  In the dimly lit room, it takes my eyes a few seconds to collect enough light to be able to see the message and focus on the words appearing on the screen.  The world will continue to spin but the message is simple and to the point.

“I’m sorry…something came up I won’t be able to run with you this morning.”

Placing the phone back on the counter I sit down slightly dejected, unmotivated, somber and unfocused.  For a second I wonder what my next move should be.  Staring at the cold floor in front of me I’m having a hard time coming up with plan B, the days run seems in jeopardy.  Out of the stillness, the approaching early morning rays of sunshine breaks through the partially opened curtains.  The morning light reminds me of the new day and all it’s potential.  The welcomed beam of light enters my room illuminating a path which returns me to my original course of action.  Falling gracefully the morning light ends its journey across my room resting on a pair of well seasoned running shoes sitting quietly under a bench, next to an old rug, and adjacent to the front door.

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This simple message reminds me that my true friends, the friends that are always ready, always willing, and always available are waiting for me.

Three HOT Summer Races – Running and Racing in the Heat

At the end of the day my shirt laid heavy on my chest, my shorts clinged to my thighs and my shoes which were soaked through had been making a sloshing sound over the last few miles of the race.  As much as I hated running in the cold.  As often as I complained about being outside in the non-summer temperatures from November until late April, this day had my number.  At the end of this race, on a day when the temperatures soared and dew point made the trails of North Carolina feel like the swamps of the Bayou I would have welcomed a below 30 degree day.

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The heat and humidity of the south can be stifling.  The heavy woven blanket of high humidity and relentless heat can suck the very life out of you.  It’s hard just walking to your car at the end of a long work day.  It’s doubly hard to want to do anything outside.  As much as I enjoy running, at times, the summer conditions make me want to hide under a comforting blanket of air conditioning.  During the dog days of summer my running lacks any spunk.  Distances feel overwhelming, a five miler wears on my body like 10, 15 or 20.  My long runs have me feeling weak, slow, and wondering if I am truly an ultra-runner at all.  The reported “feel” like heat index cause my training days to suffer.  Normally I tend to scale back my racing and I fall into survival mode awaiting the return of fall.  But this year I decided to try a different tactic I decided to embrace the summer heat and run three monster races.

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JUNE:  Eastern Divide 50k, what can I say about a race that starts off with a 2,000 foot climb in the first five miles.  Looking back, I can say, “I was not ready.” During the opening salvo, I took body blows to the lungs and legs.  The jabs left me staggering, I was lost for words and oxygen.  As I reached the summit my heaving chest and clouded mind would only allow me to formulate a few words, “that sure was a butt kicker.”  My legs were spent, my shirt was soaked and I had 26 more miles to go.  The ED50k was a well organized race…one that will truly test your vigor from the very beginning to the wild end.  This race is a “Butt Kicker”.

I run 90% of my miles on flat to mild rolling hills.  Honestly I hate to call them hills at all, more like slight changes along the road.  I wasn’t really ready for what the ED50k had to offer, even though I thought I was.  What elevation I do get to run over is limited to 1,000 feet spread over 12.5 miles.  The near straight up climb to open this race got my attention in a hurry and set the tone of the day.  I enjoyed the challenge even though my quads were exploding as my heart raced to feed my muscles.  After the initial climb, the course is a collection of elevation changes on mountain trails among some picture-perfect backdrops of green forests and never-ending fire roads without much flat terrain.

2017 Eastern Divide 50k map and elevation(Course map of ED50k)

Although the 30 miles still had us squarely in Virginia the final mile off the day felt more like a run through a Amazon jungle.  This dash to the finish is best described as a narrow trail navigated over exposed roots, under low hanging branches perfectly positioned to impact your head, between boulders that restricted the path, and around moss covered trees.  Breaking into a clearing the inflatable finish line on the grounds of the country club made famous by Baby of Dirty Dancing fame never looked more inviting.  I was spent after finishing the ED50k and felt like I earned every second of my 6:55 minute finishing time, a good amount over previous 50k times run over more welcoming terrain. Check out the Eastern Divide 50k website.

JULY:  Grandfather Mountain Marathon,  It was a cool summer day in comparison to the feels like temperatures of 110+ just days prior.  Standing on the track surrounding the Appalachian State football field I could feel a drop of sweat run down my back as the race director welcomed everyone.

2017 Grandfather Mountain marathon Map(Course map of Grandfather Mountain Marathon)

The asphalt course runs 26.2 miles from the Appalachian State University on the track at the Kidd Brewer Stadium in the center of Boone, NC to the top of Grandfather Mountain.  What feels like a downhill start quickly turned into a hair raising roller coaster ride with steep climbs and rapid decents while gaining elevation with every combination.  Some of the downhill sections are so steep that a miss placed step I felt would leave me a tumbling heap of road rash and broken bones.  The final challenge, a 2+ mile climb to reach the summit begins around the 24th mile marker and seemingly goes on forever.  Highlighted by a number of false summits the endless black ribbon stretches out in front of you seemingly going on forever as bagpipes can be heard off in the distance.  A final right turn appears out of now where delivering you to a gravel path leading to the make shift stadium and the large collection of Scottish Clans and the opening of the Highland Games.

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Without being over dramatic for two reasons this was the most emotional finish of the 100+ races I have run.  Circling the track during the final quarter mile of the race I crossed the finish line just as the National Anthem of the United States began to play.  With a finishers medal around my neck, with a 4:39:49 finishing time to my credit, out of breath and on aching legs I stood proud with my right hand over my chest and wondered if this is what it felt like to win a Gold Medal in the Olympics.  Second when I signed up for the race the date of the event did not register as anything of significant.  The 28th of July, this day appeared as any ordinary day, that is until race morning.  This race was held on my mother’s birthday, she passed the previous December 27th. As I ran up a mountain, I felt closer to her, as I stood listening to our National Anthem tears collected in my eyes and ran down my cheeks. Check out the Grandfather Mountain Marathon website.

AUG:  MEDOC Mountain Meltdown 50k+,  A run in the park with a bunch of friends, it’s as simple as that.  Now add in roots, rocks, stairs cases, steep climbs, and the stifling heat and humidity of early August in North Carolina and you have the makings of a meltdown.

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Four laps around MEDOC Mountain State Park, in Hollister, NC with 8.6 miles per lap and you have a 50k+ race that kicks my tail year after year.  I first ran this race in 2013 as an opportunity to hang out with some “new” ultra-running friends.  That first year, I slogged my way around the trails and finished all four laps earning my one of a kind “MEDOC” rock.  I enjoyed my time on the trails and met a bunch of running pals I still call friends to this day.  In 2016, I returned to MEDOC once again to earn another rock and to better my time from my first race.  That plan did not go well.  After three laps and while tied for first place, the scorching sun beat me down to the point that I could not answer the bell for the fourth lap.  Returning to the meltdown again, 2017, I was determined to make things right.

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I’m not really sure what makes the meltdown so hard (on me), is it the climbs?  The technical trails?  The heat index? The rocks, roots, horseflies, or is it MEDOC himself?  MEDOC is a legendary monster the lives in the park, some say a crazy doctor others a kin to Bigfoot himself.  I have no idea but the meltdown delivers a punch to the gut with each lap that eventually wears you down.  This year I felt good completing my third lap.  Making the turn, I refueled, signed in for the fourth lap, and headed out across the field where we would turn on to the trails and into the forest.  As I made my way into the woods the bottom fell out of my running mojo.  I felt at a loss for power, and motivation.  Every step was a struggle to survive with my finish in question.  With each step a DNF seemed more likely.  As I was dragging my feet along the trail I remember a saying that I had told so many other people before.  “When times get tough just keep moving forward, it will get better.”  And so with footstep after footstep a death crawl turned into a jog, a jog turned into a run, and a run transformed into a finishing time of 7:52 and my second MEDOC Mountain Meltdown 50k+ rock. Check out the MEDOC Mountain Meltdown 50k plus Facebook page.

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What will I do next summer when the heat and humidity return to south of the Mason-Dixon line?

What will I do when my shirts again weight heavy, my shorts cling, and my shoes make the familiar sloshing sound of summer?

Will I return to run these races again?  Each race is great in its own unique way.  Each race is far from the cookie cutter corporate marathon.  They test your make up, your fitness and your desire.  They offer wonderful setting, and challenging courses.  Should everyone run them once, I highly recommend them.

Will I run them again?

Can we do it in November?

Race Pacers – A Different View of the Race

During the course of a race, half-marathon, marathon or longer…there are a number of unsung heroes.  We owe many thanks to the volunteers, the race director, our families and last but not least the race pacers.  I would like to introduce my followers to Kayla.  I first met Kayla while shopping at my favorite running store in Wake Forest, NC Run-N-Tri Out Fitters, she was very helpful and well versed in our sport.  When I found out she was a race pacer, it just made sense.

Race pacers see the race from a different perspective.

Kayla thanks for sharing some time with us, first tell us a little about your running resume.

spartanracekayla(Kayla has a big smile and she is fast)

I have been running since seventh grade, while I didn’t think it was my thing, it definitely has become a great source of joy. Throughout high school I raced the 5k in cross country, the two mile, one mile, and 4×800 in track. My 5k pb was 17:57, and my best two mile was 10:53 and my best mile was 5:14.  I ran my first half marathon in 8th grade. Since then I have ran roughly 10 half marathons, current pb is 1:23:00. I have ran 2 marathons thus far, with my first marathon being the Raleigh Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon and my second being the Boston Marathon. I have slowly been venturing into the trail race world and this past year ran the Uwharrie 20 miler.

Why or how did you get into pacing?

I first got into pacing during sophomore year of high school, my coach noticed that in practice I was very consistent with my training paces, he was hopeful that I could help stabilize a couple individuals on our team who started out too fast.

How many races have you paced in?

During my high school career, I paced roughly 15-20 5k’s (considering races and tune-ups) and two half marathons. All of my high school pacing was done on an individual basis, so I was able to adjust the speed depending on how the person I was pacing seemed to be faring. The half marathons were especially exciting to pace because the individuals often far undershot their capabilities, so by the end of the race the outcome was typically much faster than expected. Outside of high school I have paced one race with Marathon Pacing Company at Kiawah Island, and I am set up to pace that race again this December.

What is your favorite race?

My favorite race is the Raleigh Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon mainly because the course is highly challenging with many turns and hills. Additionally, the Raleigh Rock ’n’ Roll half has a very large spectator presence that can be very beneficial in the final miles of the race. My favorite race I have paced is the City of Oaks, and I personally love that race because it provides a challenge with pacing due to its wide array of fairly difficult hills.

I’ve run with a race provided pacer with both success and failure. In some cases, the pacers were spot on and got me to the end of the race with a fighting shot at my race goals. Another ran too fast and lost nearly everyone before the 20-mile mark.

Can you tell my readers your strategies while pacing?

I utilize the “pancake” approach, which is basically setting the goal pace early and merely holding on to that pace for the entire race. I developed this strategy during my high school years because I realized that often times people fail to perform to their fullest potential due to starting out too fast. From a scientific point of view, this makes sense because once the body enters into oxygen debt it is very difficult to recover and the body will begin to fatigue quickly. Through a bit of trial and error, I have found that I get the best pacing results by starting at a pace that will feel slow (its actually not, but to most people in a race their goal pace will feel quite slow during the early miles) and maintaining that pace throughout the race. From my experience, most of the individuals I am pacing will begin to think that we have actually increased our pace throughout, but that is just a side effect of the body feeling fatigued and largely why I start so “slowly”. If it doesn’t feel slow at the beginning, then in many cases it will turn into an impossible pace by the end.

How do you prepare physically and mentally for your role as a pacer?

First, I address the physical side. I determine exactly what pace I need to run for the race counting in any stops or possible crowd challenges at the start. Once I have determined the pace required, I will run pretty much all of my runs at that pace for the 2-3 months leading up to the race, though I will still include a speed-work day or two each week. By a month out I will start to run without my watch and with someone who has a watch so that I can determine if I am able to “feel” the pace in the case my watches were to break. Around this time I will also run a long run that is around 15-16 miles for a half marathon pacing event so that I can be assured I am capable of easily maintaining the desired pace for longer than the race. Finally, to complete the physical side of things I make sure that my training is performed in areas that reflect the terrain I will be encountering on race day. Moving on the mental aspect of training the largest worry with pacing for me is always making sure that I am capable of easily holding the pace required for the full length of the race so that I can focus on the people I am pacing and not on my body being pushed to the point of exhaustion. In addition to that, I also try to make sure that on race day morning I follow the same routine as I have every long run so that I do not have to worry about stomach issues during the race.

You mentioned you pace for a pacing company, can you tell us a little about the company and the services they offer?

I currently am working with Marathon Pacing, which is a company focused on providing individuals with a cheerful, dependable pacer to aid them in accomplishing their race goals. The company offers pacing for a multitude of races throughout the year all across the US.

Why should others consider being a pacer?

Anyone who enjoys running and sharing the racing experience should definitely consider being a pacer. Not only is pacing a fantastic way to travel to races you may have not considered, but more importantly it is a way to share the joys of running with others and to help others accomplish their running goals. For me, I have found that I prefer the pacing to racing myself just because I am a very social person so being able to chat with others and learn their stories is a great deal of fun for me.

I’m sure there are many gratifying moments in pacing, what is the greatest sense of accomplishment you’ve felt as a pacer?

The greatest sense of accomplishment I have felt as a pacer would definitely have to be when I helped a young man achieve a time in his half marathon that he had never dreamed of doing. I was individually pacing him at the time, and he had a goal of 1:40 for the half. Around a third of the way through the race I noticed that he definitely could push a lot harder, so at that point I suggested we pick up the pace. We ended up finishing the half in 1:29:30, and the sheer excitement on his face at achieving such a time made my week. It’s moments like that when you can see the joy on a person’s face after accomplishing a huge goal that makes pacing such a great experience.

As a pacer, I’m sure the race looks different from a different point of view. Could you share some of the biggest mistakes runners make while trying to run for a goal time?

The biggest mistake I have noticed individuals making while trying for a goal time is going out at a pace that feels uncomfortable from the start. As a general rule for me, I have always found that the best races come from starts that feel borderline “too slow”. It is definitely very easy to get caught up in the adrenaline at the beginning of the race, but unfortunately that adrenaline does not last more than a few miles and once it runs out many people find their pace slows dramatically. Another large mistake I have seen individuals make is not realizing that the race should feel harder as you go along if you are running at a pace that is pushing the limits of your running. The pace that felt so easy at the beginning should start to become more difficult, and you have to put more effort in as time goes on to ensure that you maintain your original pace.

How can the runner, help the pacer help them?

We are there to help so never feel like a question is too silly to ask. The biggest thing a runner can tell a pacer is how they are feeling and if they have any issues the pacer should watch out for (i.e. health concerns). While we are not paramedics and thus cannot provide much care, it can help us monitor how everyone is doing and determine if an individual should back off for their own safety. Additionally, I have found that in every race I have paced individuals who will begin to question the pace right around 2/3 into the race. While this is not a large issue and if I am obviously way off pace I would like to be informed, I would say that trusting your pacers is paramount for allowing them to help you. In the company I work for, there are very high standards held for being able to pace and everyone is very skilled at running their designated pace.

As I’ve mentioned I’ve run with pacers at a few races, and while in the pack, I’ve heard many inspiring stories.

IMG_20160313_074245(4 hour pacer at 2016 Tobacco Road Marathon)

What is the most inspiring story or moment you have experienced as a pacer?

The most inspiring moment I have experienced as a pacer would definitely have to be when I was granted the privilege of pacing a much older man who had been a multi-time Boston Marathon finisher. He stuck with my 1:45 pace group the entire race, and his presence was so inspiring especially after I heard about his stories of racing and dealing with all sorts of injuries. Also, it was a huge honor to be able to receive a multitude of tips from him about the Boston Marathon since he heard I was going to be racing it in April of 2017.

Thank you so much Kayla for sharing your pacer story…

Ultra Runner – Ten Thoughts On What It Takes To Be Great

Ten Thoughts on What it Takes to be a Good if not GREAT Ultra Runner.

10.  The desire, you might be able to run a marathon on talent alone, but you have got to want to be out there to run 30, 50 miles, 24 hours, or 100+ miles.

9.  The ability to block out pain, it’s going to hurt.  The pain is going to come…you have got to be able to set aside discomfort in order to run an ultra.

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 (a lap with a slice of pizza and a Slurpee)

8.  A strong stomach, sure you can run a ultra while watching what you eat, but it helps if you can eat when and what you want to.

7.  A good sense of humor, things will go wrong, and get downright ugly.  You have to enjoy the humor of it all.

6.  Stay focused for long periods of time.  You can lose time quickly if you get lost in the moment and not stay focused on your overall goals.

5.  Be able to stay flexible…goals may change, tactics may need to be adjusted, and your pace could slow during the course of an event.

4.  Have the resolve to keep moving.  Victory comes with each forward step.  You must continue to move forward when all you want to do is be still and sit down.

3.  Stay positive, with yourself and others around you.

2.  The ability to be in the moment (the next step) and not lose focus on the whole.

And lastly

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(at the finish of my 2nd Umstead 100 with an 1hr 15m PR)

1.  Believe in yourself no matter what, no matter the conditions, no matter your pace, and no matter your feelings in the moment.  Having an unshakable belief in yourself will make you a GREAT Ultra Runner.

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 (at one point I never believed I would run one 100 mile race…I’ve run three)

What do you believe it takes to be a Great Ultra Runner?

Running with Smokey and the Bandit

What a great movie Smokey and the Bandit was.  I’m sure the Bandit (Burt Reynolds) nor Frog (Sally Fields) were not runners, although I could see Sally Fields running a marathon, Burt Reynolds not so much.

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Who does not love a good old car chase movie, and that black and gold Trans Am.

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But running Bandit, is not cool.

banditNotice anything funny here…both runners are wearing big smiles, enjoying the race and something else.

The great folks at Marathon Investigation found out just why this couple was all smiles at the Modesto Marathon, click here to find out all the details.

Ten Reasons Why Running Bandit is not cool…

10. You did not pay for your entry

9.  Course support (water, finishers swag etc.) is set up to handle X number of runners…the extra load of bandit runners is unpredictable and can take any from the paying customers.  And don’t take an extra medal either.

8.  If you can’t afford to run the race, simply run the miles alone.  It’s not life or death.

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(Do you really want this guy tracking you do?)

7.  Same as stealing, you can and should be charged.

6.  What if you did BQ on a bandit entry and got caught….there goes your BQ.

5.  The Ban…if Boston is your goal race is it worth the risk?

4.  Someone knows and will rat you out if they get caught too.

3.  That awkward race photo of Sally Smith with her ultra-runner beard.

2.  Like Waldo that photo will haunt you forever.

and just like the remake.

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1.  It’s wrong.

Have you witnessed anyone running bandit?  

 

 

Running, Training and Racing in the summer, How to do it without combustioning

Running, Training, and Racing how to avoid the summer slump.  6 months out of the year it is cold, gloomy and I long for summer.

July and August show up and I feel like the heat and humidity will suck the life out of me.

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After an afternoon run where the giant ball of flames in the sky got the best of me I was feeling down and depressed about the of affairs of my running.  So what better way to get some advice then to ask Facebook.

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The number of replies may make this my most popular post ever…  The answers were wide and varied, but I thought I would share a few.

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Running in the morning, before the sun rises seemed to be a common theme.  Also running a bit slower to ease the stress on the body appeared as a good practice.

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Running a bit slower helps and so does breaking your run into smaller segments.  Running more than once can help you get in the miles when you may feel better going to Dairy Queen.

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Running earlier, slower, and breaking your runs into segments are all tactics to help you get thru the Dawg-days of summer, but they may not prepare you for the race that looms on your calendar.

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Yet we have to realize avoiding the heat does not get us ready for a race that may fall on a hotter than normal day.  If we train hard and continue when it’s ugly outside…we will be better prepared to run and race in tough conditions.

Another post on Summer Running and how to Avoid the Heat.

Then there was my personal favorite.

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Whatever method you choose to keep running when it’s hot outside, be safe, drink plenty of liquids, rest when you need too, keep cool and enjoy the adventure.

Running – The 10 Dumbest Things I’ve Done While Running

Not every run is perfect.  Some runs go as planned some go off the running rails as to say.  The 10 dumbest things I’ve done while running.

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1.  I ran the wrong direction at the start of a 5k race.

2.  Wore a lined running suit…it got mega hot and very chaffed.

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3.  Forgot to take off my reading glasses before running the Cleveland Marathon.

4.  Ignored natures call (#2) before a long run….ran 21 miles with the “clamp” on.

5.  During my 2nd run at the JFK 50 mile, I noticed a girl off the trail taking care of “business”  not sure why I did it but for some reason I said “Hi.”

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6.  Went for a run after having spicy chicken wings for dinner….got it done but it hurt.

7.  Completely jumped out of my skin, a number of times, for a snake that turned out to be a stick.

8.  Hit the wrong button on my GPS watch then tried to pace off the bike MPH data.

9.  Failed at learning the skill of a successful a snot rocket….I gave up.

and

The totally dumbest thing I’ve done while running.  Waited until I was 30+ to get serious about my running.  I got a late start but the time was right for me.

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 (My two Umstead 100 mile buckles)

The best thing I ever done while running was get serious about my running.

Western States – Walmsley – Ultra Marathon – Running – Racing and Failing

Jim Walmsley failed in his attempt at writing history at Western States 100, that is all on him.  No one else is to blame…yet he succeed in my eyes.

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“Sometimes when you’re not careful trying to set off fireworks you light yourself on fire.” @walmsley172

Compare Jim’s failure to that of other sports.

It’s 4th and goal, the clock runs out as the running back dives into the line with a collision of power, speed, sweat and blood.  Once the dust settles everyone learns he has come up short of the goal line. The result is his team loses the game and a spot in the playoffs.  The bases are loaded, it’s a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning.  With deadly focus, the batter can see the spin of the ball as it comes off the fingertip of the opposing team’s ace pitcher. Recoiling with the force of a twisted steel spring the batter gives it everything he has to make contact and send the ball rocketing toward the fence.  At the last second, the ball dives with a sharp hook as his bat misses its mark.  The perfectly rolled putt on the 1st play-off hole at the US Open comes up inches short as it takes an unexpected turn.  In these examples of sports failures, the athletes can walk away from the situation and blame teammates for not blocking better, reason that the pitcher had some wicked stuff or that the lie of the green miss-read the line of the putt.

In endurance sports, there are no convenient scapegoats. Falling short in a race, missing a cutoff time or blowing up at mile 78 of a 100-mile race only means one thing. Your body gave out on you.

As a veteran long-distance runner, I have a ton of confidence in my legs, my lungs and my ability to endure. When something goes wrong, when I can’t finish a race, when I can’t run at my ability and when my tank is empty  and have nothing left to give it can be earth shattering. Unlike other main stream sports, failure in can be blamed on many contributing factors. For the runner, you must only look in the mirror.

Losing confidence in yourself or your body can be a very frightening and disheartening experience. It’s happened to me twice.

I was coming off a Personal Record in my favorite ultra-event, the Virginia 24 Hour Run Against Cancer. I had put up 75 miles, I was beginning to gain some local recognition as a decent ultra-runner and I was looking forward to a big summer. A few days removed from the race, at the end of a ten-mile run my right knee had a bit of a tingle. A few more runs and the tingle turned into pain. A trip to the doctor confirmed my worst fears, I was injured. My body had failed me. I lost more than miles over those six weeks I lost confidence in the very thing I had the most trust in, my ability to run. It wasn’t a missed blocking assignment or a pitcher with great control on his fast ball that had done me in, it was a very own body.  Although it would take a few years it happened again. This time it was mental.

boogie2016(2016, My first DNF at Boogie 50, I just did not want to be there…)

All of my friends were running the race. I was in decent shape. 50 miles was well within my ability.  I had just come off an epic bucket list run crossing the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim. I knew I could finish this race, that was a given I had run it the year before. The outcome was never a question, until it was.  I just did not want to be there.  Just over one lap into the race, 12 miles down, I no longer wanted to run. It wasn’t that I was tied, and it wasn’t that I was out of gas. It wasn’t that the slope of the green that mislead my eyes. I broke, I did not want to suffer. My mental toughness let me down. Mentally I simply did not want to be there. I wanted to be back home hanging out with my wife, and my doggies.

In the days and weeks after both events I had to face the fact that I failed. I lost confidence in my legs and in my mental toughness. My body gave out on me in both occasion there was no other excuse. The humbling truth to the ultra-endurance world is that at some point your body will fail you, we have to condition ourselves to accept it, learn from the experience and harness it to come back even stronger. It’s you against the miles, no blockers to help, no pitchers release to read and no lie of the grass to get in the way.

Jim Walmsley should have confidence in that he was attempting to rewrite history, sure his body failed but he gave it his all.

539997_10212672620318758_3861652004417893958_n(2017, Scored my second Umstead 100 buckle and set a PR by 1hr 15min)

Be strong, if you come up short, learn, and train harder BUT always have confidence in you.

Runner Interview With Melinda Howard – Ultra Marathoner

I’ve made a ton of great running friends on Social Media.  The running community is a great place to gain information about up coming races, make connections with other runners and find inspiration.  I enjoy using my little page in the community to introduce other runners to the great people I’ve made connections with.  Each person is much more than a Facebook post, a Tweet and/or a picture on Instagram…they are my running family.

Today I would like to introduce you to Melinda Howard.  Her posts make me laugh, have inspired my running, introduced me to a dog named Paxton and a little boy named Aiden.

Hello, Melinda.

I don’t remember just where we started following each other, but I have to say I love your sense of humor, impressed with your running and your dog Paxton.
MH: Well, I do!  It was on Twitter.  I started reading your blog and commenting on your posts.  At that time, I was so very intimidated by you.  Seriously!!!  You are a very accomplished Ultra runner and I’m just a middle aged house wife out in the country of Mississippi.  Sure, I love running but I’m definitely not an elite or gifted in any way, shape or form.  So, I’d read your stuff and think, “WOW!” 

mh(Melinda and her Most Favorite Husband)

Thank you for the compliment…When I see your posts on my timeline it feels like I’m seeing an old friend that has been part of my life forever. I’m glad we met..

Tell us a little about where you came about your sense of humor.
MH:I think my love of a silly joke or maybe the need to laugh so I wouldn’t cry, stemmed from some from some unpleasant experiences. Maybe the jokes and kidding were a reaction on my part to stem off unhappiness and/or bitterness?  I knew enough to realize that I had a choice.  I could choose happiness or choose to be a bitter, angry woman.  If I chose the latter, if would eat me alive and that didn’t sound like much fun.  I elected to be a happy person!

paxton(Paxton, I’ve never met Paxton but I can tell we will be BFFs)

I love the silly pun style jokes the most, tell us about Paxton.
MH:Now, Paxton~That dog is a hoot!  He’s the first Boxer I’ve owned.  I was looking for a dog that had a lot of personality and boy, did I get one! Holy Cow!!!  Paxton was a live wire as a puppy and as cute as they come.  He grew. And grew. And grew.  I think he’s still growing!  Maybe not in height but definitely in width.  LOL!!!  One of the things we discovered about Paxton is he is vain.  He loves to wear neckties!

And Paxton wears neckties?
MH:  As a matter of fact, he throws an absolute fit if you take his necktie off.  Goofy dog!!!  Instead of trying to explain how the necktie thing got started, I’ll post the link to a blog I wrote in 2015.  The blog was a reply to somebody who had asked me why my dog wore neckties: Paxton on GQ

Awesome!!!!!

How did your running career start?
MH:  I took my first steps in the C25K program on Labor Day 2011, 4 months before I turned 50 years old.  My sister asked me to do the program with her.  She wanted to do it but didn’t want to do it by herself.  At that time, I had been working on dropping a few pounds.  I was a *tad* overweight.  I’m 4’11″ and had been tipping the scales at 275lbs.  Bear in mind, at the time we started C25K, I had dropped 65-70 lbs already but I was still 100lbs over where I needed to be.  Before C25K, I had been doing water aerobics and some weight training.  I thought I was in pretty good shape and figured C25K would be a cake walk.  WRONG!!!

What has been your great accomplishment since getting on this running adventure?
MH:  Wow, I could think back to races I’ve run.  I could tell you about the wonderful and amazing runners I’ve been blessed to meet around the world!  I could tell you about getting off 13 medications. I think though, my favorite accomplishment has been the, “Congratulations Sweetie! I’m proud of you!” *accompanied by a hug and kiss* I received from MFH after the Coke 10K this past May.  The Coke 10K is, in my opinion, the best 10K in the state of Mississippi.  I very dearly love this race!!!

mhcoke(Melinda and her Coke 10k award)

The Coke 10k looked like a great race….and you picked up some hardware?
MH:  This year was my fourth year.  I had run 3 years consecutively but missed it last year (2016).  #1 Son was graduating from MSU the same day as race day.  That being said, I toed the line this year!  Such a fun race!!!  Each year the Coke 10K selects three local runners and presents them with the “Gold Standard Bearer Award.”  The criteria for this award, as the race states it: “Runners who have made significant contributions to physical fitness, either by action or example….ordinary runners who have done extraordinary things.”  Somebody, and I still don’t know who, nominated me for that award this year.  Holy Cow!!! they selected me to be one of the three people to whom they presented the award!

You run for a young fellow named Aiden, could you tell us about him?

aidenrunfor

About 3 years ago, I heard about a program called IRun4Michael.  IRun4Michael matches runners with people who physically are unable to run.  For whatever reason, they simply cannot get out there and experience the joy of running.  

You fill out a little questionnaire and then go on a waiting list and wait to be matched with your “buddy”.  It’s an incredible program!!!

Each buddy has his/her own unique set of medical challenges.  When I was matched with Aiden, I had to spend some time on Dr. Google to learn about a few things.  Bless his heart but he is a fighter!!!

I waited around 8 months to be matched with Aiden.  Once I was matched, it was love at first sight.  Aiden is the bomb!  His parents are awesome, too!!!  Aiden and I, we’re the best-est running buddies ever…just ask us!!!  We were matched April 9, 2015 and just celebrated our 2 year Matchaversary!  A year ago, after Grandma’s Marathon, MFH and I were able to pop by Aiden’s house and meet him and his family.  What a great time!!!

Aiden needs a buckle from a 100 Miler and I’m determined to get one for him!

Here’s that link:  Who Do YOU Run For? | I Run 4 Michael (IR4)

I notice you travel a good bit for your races, and I believe you’re going after the 6 marathon majors, how far along are you?
MH:The 6 Abbott World Marathon Majors, have given me a terrific opportunity to do just that.  Thinking back to those first tentative steps in the C25K program, never in my wildest dreams would I (or MFH, for that matter) think that in just a few short years we’d be traveling to Berlin, Germany, or London, England, so I could run a marathon!  Kind of wild, isn’t it?  Currently, I am half way through the WMM races.  I’ve run Chicago, that was my first one, in 2014.  When I ran Chicago, I had a concussion so I ran the race staring at the ground.  If I looked up, everything would spin and I would tip over.  I highly recommend Chicago.  I don’t recommend running it with a concussion.   In 2015 and 2016, I ran the Berlin Marathon.  I loved that race so much, it deserved a repeat!  This past April, 2017, I ran the London Marathon.  What an amazing race!!!  Just WOW!  To complete the WMM races, I still have NYC, Boston and Tokyo.  I’ll try again (5th try) for NYC through the lottery.  Boston?  I don’t have a prayer of getting a BQ so that will have to be on a charity bib and probably the same for Tokyo.  These are fabulous events and I dearly love running them!

mhlondon(At London, 8th from left wearing blue hat)

Any other running goals out in front of you, seven continents, 50 states?
MH:  As much as I love marathons, speed is not my friend and I’m not getting any younger.  I’ve been shifting my focus towards ultra running.  I ran my first 50K in July 2014 and fell in love with ultras!  The trails were so much nicer to my body and I love the solitude.  That, and people don’t give you a big frowny face if/when you walk! LOL!!!

I’m planning on taking a second stab at the 100 Mile distance this December.  I’ll be returning to Brazos Bend!  TROT (Trail Racing Over Texas) puts on some terrific events and I love heading over a few times a year for one of their races.  Last December, I ran the 50 Mile event.  I decided that it would be a great race to get me a buckle!  Aiden needs a buckle and I’m determined to get one for him!  #IRun4Aiden

There’s lots of terrific challenges out there, the seven continents, 50 states…I just want to see how far I can run. 100 Miles seems like a good place to start.  I’ll be 2 months shy of 56 years old when I run that 100 in December.  I get a kick out of knowing I’m one of the oldest women on the trail.  Weird, I know, but I love it!

What has been your best race and for comparison sake your worst?  What went right and wrong in each?
MH:I’d have to say my best race was my second 50K.  Things were perfect that day!  My training and nutrition were spot on.  The weather was ideal and I set my 50K PR that day.  What an amazing race!!!  My worst would have to be my first attempt at the 100Mile distance this past February.  The weather was great but that was the only thing that went right.  Pretty much everything that could go wrong that day, did.  You know how some training runs are horrible?  It’s the pits when that happens on race day.  Holy Cow, that was an awful race! 

Do you have a favorite marathon tip?
MH:  Start slow and then go slower.  The race day adrenaline will get you when the gun goes off.  Pace yourself!  Don’t start out too fast.  If you’re patient, in a few miles you’ll be passing the people who zoomed out when the gun went off.

The other marathon tip I’d give is to already be registered for another race!  Lots of people get the post marathon blues.  Your pour your heart and soul into training for a marathon. You’re on cloud nine on race day and for a few days afterwards but then reality comes back. It’s time to go for a run and you don’t know what to do!  Your training program for that race is done!  You’ve followed if for 16 weeks or so…a piece of paper telling you what to do and now, NADA.  I’m always registered for a minimum of two races.  As soon as I finish one, I’m all ready to set my sights towards my next exciting running adventure! 

If Hollywood made a move about your running life….who would play the starting role?
MH:  The first thing I thought of, what women actors in Hollywood are 4’11″?  Hahaha!!!

And lastly what words of advice do you have for someone who is thinking about taking up running/walking or a new fitness routine?
MH:If a person is thinking about starting running /walking or trying to be more active, instead of thinking about it~Do. It!  When I started I was still 100lbs overweight!  That’s a LOT of extra weight to be carrying and yes, it DID hurt, but I did it!  After a total of 3.5 years, I had lost a total of 170lbs.  I’m here to tell you, if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it!  Maybe just a walk down your driveway and back to the house.  Maybe a walk around the block! After a while, toss in 20-30 seconds of running!  Guess what, pretty soon, the running will start getting easier and you’ll do it a little bit longer….before you know it, you’ll have run your first mile and you’ll be doing the Happy Dance!!!  You CAN do this!  I have faith in you!!!

Thank you so much, for taking time out of your busy running adventures to allow us a peak behind the humor, the nutty bars and Paxton lovable face.

Please tell my followers where they can keep up with you on the social media outlets.
Facebook: 
Twitter:  
Instagram:  
Blog:

Melinda is a great member of the running community, a outstanding friend and an even better person!  I highly recommend following her running adventures….and Paxton to.

Thank you,

Brian

Running – What Scares You? – Ultra Marathon

They live under the bed.  They hide in the closets and in the darkest corners of our minds.

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What scares you?  Clowns.  Monsters.  Jason or is it the undiscovered creature that roams the Northwest, AKA Bigfoot?

I’m often asked how do you stay motivated, how do you add some spark to your running routine?

It’s simple I run the races and race distances that scare me.

Medoc Stairs

 (Medoc Mountain Trail Marathon)

Let’s say for the sake of this example that you comfortably and routinely run the half-marathon as your favorite, most frequently ran race distance.  To stay motivated, to add a little excitement to your training and race calendar, sign up for a Marathon.  Are those half-marathons ran predominately on road courses?  Then seek out and find a trail half marathon to add some spice to your calendar.  Or conversely, do you run the majority of your half’s on the trails…sign up for a road race.  By switching up the surface and terrain you’ll find a new outlook on your training and race preparation.

Tired of the Marathon, jump up to an ultra marathon race.  There are a number of race distances above the 26.2 mile benchmark to challenge and inspire you.

If you do not want to change up the length of your races seek out locations, elevations and terrain challenges that are a bit scary.  This unknown portion of the race will help you focus your training, varying your expectations and exercise some running disciplines that you may have overlooked or forgotten about.

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(JFK 50 miler)

What race, scares me?   It’s a great race, but the JFK 50 Miler scares the crap out of me.  It might be the 15+ miles leading to and including the Appalachian Trail section.  Or maybe it’s the rapid decent at the Weaverton Cliffs…or the marathon distance on the tow path.  No matter what it is this race I love and hide under the blankets at the same time.

What race scares you?

My first run at the JFK50

My second run at the JFK50 with friends

My third run at the JFK50