Running and No Longer Living In The Fat Suit

Some stories make you think, some make you move…some will change your life.  Melissa’s story will do all three, Running and No Longer Living In A Fat Suit, a guest post.

Imagine living your whole life feeling intimidated by a simple staircase or being the fattest kid in gym class only to grow up to become the fattest mom in the PTA.

Living obese is like wearing a fat suit, only it’s not a suit—it’s your skin and you can’t take it off. The most backwards part is that you wear it because you want to feel invisible.

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Living fat is humiliating, degrading, and downright sad for many people.

I knew it well because, in a nutshell, until about five years ago, that was me. That’s when I made a series of lifestyle changes that placed me on a whole new trajectory toward health and happiness. It’s not easy, but I can tell you, it’s worth it: You’re worth it.

Maybe you’re not obese, but struggling with a few extra pounds. Or you’re 150 pounds overweight and looking for answers—the soul-searching, gut-wrenching truth—as to WHY, what GOT you there, and HOW on God’s green earth could you shed the fat suit once and for all.

My own weight struggles have roots in my childhood when I endured sexual and emotional abuse by family members. Home is supposed to be safe and nurturing, this wasn’t the case for me. I grew up numbing myself to my emotions, and food became my best friend. If I was sad, food gave me a quick shot of energy. If I was bored, it kept me company. If I was angry, it created a barrier from the pain. Feeling full numbed me to the emotional void I was experiencing.

Everyone hits a limit: the moment when you say ENOUGH. I hit mine after dropping my kids at school. I was mulling over some comments made by my husband the day before. It wasn’t anything new; it was a sentiment he expressed often, he was worried about my health. He reminded me I might die of a heart attack, given my family history of cardiac disease.

For one reason or another, that day the comment sunk in. I had already lost 40 pounds from my highest weight, but stalled out and felt hopeless. I was in a perfect storm of shame, frustration, and exhaustion. Instead of heading home to soothe my woes with a bag of Doritos I drove straight to a Jenny Craig center. I had no appointment. I just walked in, sat down, and whimpered, “Help, please.” I finally asked for help.

The staff matched me with their toughest consultant who had a reputation for pointing out a person’s blind spots and taking no bull. It was a match made in heifer heaven. We became fast friends, and I hung on her every word, including her suggestion to start exercising: Her support helped me lose over 70 pounds— a total weight loss of 110 pounds that year.

Turned out, slimming down was only the first step. I wanted to get fit. A friend of mine challenged me to run a half marathon. I laughed, saying: “The only way I’m running is if someone is chasing me!” I thought about it but I couldn’t think of enough reasons to say “no.” I accepted the challenge.

I had no idea what to expect during training but figured: How hard could it be? I downloaded the popular app, Couch-to-5K, and gulped. The question changed to: How dumb could I be? On my first run, I wore three sports bras (endowed ladies, you can relate!) and couldn’t make it more than 20 seconds before screaming for an ambulance and scanning my surroundings for the nearest AED. It took every fiber of my being to not quit that day.

I managed to graduate from the C25K program and started prepping for the half marathon.

Thankfully, I found a running partner who lived nearby (my friend who challenged me lived in another state). My partner kept me company but our commitment to training outstripped our intelligence. We neglected to find a proper plan and mistakenly upped our mileage. We would run 8 miles every training day for a week and 9 miles the next. This was a bad idea. There are training programs for a reason. As a result, my knees took a turn for the worse.

Fast forward to race day. The energy was electric, and I was excited to share the excitement with the friend who originally issued the challenge. We successfully completed the half marathon, with yours truly limping across the finish line at just past the 3-hour mark. My body was wrecked; my knees were creaking and crackling. I loved every minute of it. I caught the running bug.

I decided to sign up for another race, but I knew I needed a dose of fun to my training regimen. I found a new running group, and discovered I was right: Running CAN be fun. Soon, I was addicted. That’s all it took: an understanding group of runners who were in it for the joy of just being out there. The whole world opened up to me at that point.

Cue the “I WANT TO RUN ALL THE RACES!” meme. I signed up for every race I could find, from 5k to 10k and more half marathons. I’ve been running for over 4 years. I’ve learned about proper running shoes. I’ve learned that some days are better than others. I’ve learned that every run isn’t going to be more amazing than the last, and that’s ok. It’s like life: some days are great, other days not so much. But you don’t give up. You just keep running, one foot in front of the other, and you get it done. I learned that runners are some of the most amazingly kind people in the world.

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Mostly I’ve learned that I no longer have to wear the fat suit.

Running has become my sanity, clearing my head on bad days, and my salvation, invigorating me on the good ones. The best part: it’s introduced me to a whole new world. The running community is an entire subculture, it turns out. I never met a stranger in a runner; when you share the love for running with someone, there’s an unstated bond that lasts a lifetime— at least as long as you’ve got the spirit and two legs to keep going.

There’s no better feeling than knowing that the best is yet to come.

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Melissa Kahn is a Jenny Craig brand ambassador and proud founder of Run, Heifer, Run! —a fun-loving community of fitness enthusiasts dedicated to commonsense solutions for weight loss and healthy living. Melissa competes in triathlons now, having lost over 100 pounds, or the equivalent of 45 kilos of fear. She has maintained her healthy weight for more than five years—another accomplishment considering she’s yet to meet a cookie she doesn’t like. Melissa lives in Phoenix with her husband Dave (a pilot), four foul-smelling teenagers and two spazzy dogs.

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Follow Melissa on TwitterInstagram, Facebook and Pinterest 

 

Cleveland Marathon – Training Tips

Thankful to be running the 40th Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon this year, I have a little score to settle. Super thankful to be an RACM Ambassador this year, and as Spiderman said, “with that comes the awesome responsibility to help others.”  Or it was something close to that…

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So how can I help you run a better marathon?  Easy learn from my mistakes, my lessons learned, my success (where I’ve had some), and some helpful training tips.

To start you off on your best RACM here is tip number one.

1.  Test drive your gear and test drive your gear together.  On a recent training run for an upcoming 100-miler, I ran a 50-mile long run.  The morning of the run, I selected a pair of high-quality socks.  This pair of socks I’ve run long distances in before, I had confidence in them.  Later I selected a pair of shoes, again a pair I’ve run in a lot and likewise had tons of confidence in them.

About two miles into the day I noticed a weird feeling related to the combination of my shoes, socks, and feet.  Honestly, it felt like my socks were falling down.  Now I wear low rise socks, to begin with, so this was kind of strange.  I ran another half mile and I thought for sure my left heel was now naked in my shoe.  With 48 miles left to my day, I had to fix this situation.  I pulled over on the trail.  I sat down by a nice tree and removed my shoe.  Sure enough, my sock had been pushed down and nearly off my foot.

It dawned on me, I was not so sure I ever wore THAT pair of socks with THAT pair of shoes.  I struggled with sock issues all day and received a nice blister on the back of my left heel as my reward.

Check back for my next Cleveland Marathon training tip.

 

Marathon News – Returning to Cleveland

I’ve never lived in Cleveland.  I’ve have no real ties to the city.  I was born and raised in Erie, Pa.

In 1971 I wrote and received back a fan letter from the Cleveland Browns.  I’ve had an fascination with Cleveland ever since.

Fast forward to 2013, I moved away from Erie, I’ve traveled the world with the US Air Force, years into my running career, and I was ready to score my first sub four hour marathon.  Cleveland was the place I wanted to do it.

cleveland9(Cleveland Marathon 2013, when things were good)

In the marathon the winds of fate are not always kind, a fast start, rising temperatures, and the next thing I knew I was simply happy to finish.

BUT IN 2017 I’m back…..

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I’ll once again run the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and this time, a sub four is coming home with me. AND the best news for you….I have a free race entry to give away.  I’ll be giving away one free entry into the race the week of 1 May.

Check back often for training tips and the spin up for my return to Cleveland.

 

 

 

Run – Start 2017 Off Right – 17 Running Ways

With each NEW YEAR we all start with good intentions, get fit, get faster, lose a few pounds, and set racing records.  For the majority of people who plan to do good in the new year, the wheels come off the bus before they get to succeed.  So how can you ensure you have a fighting chance at success in 2017?

17 ways you can stay motivated and succeed in 2017

1.  Keep a race on the calendar.

2.  Help pace someone.

3.  Read a running blog every day.

4.  Keep a running diary/running log.

5.  Buy yourself some new shoes.

6.  Reward yourself with milestone rewards “50% of goal gift” etc.

7.  Post your goals on line (Facebook, Twitter etc.)…..and talk about them all the time.  Works for me

8.  Help someone else reach their goals.

9.  Use a fitness app like Map my run, Strava or My Fitness Pal.

10.  Watch some running/fitness videos on line.

11.  Follow some elite runners on Facebook and Twitter.

12.  Find a running group in your area, nothing like peer pressure to keep you moving.

13.  Race a distance you have never run before.

14.  Visit a running store.

15.  Read a good running book, may I suggest Running to Leadville

16.  Even of the days you don’t feel like it, log one simple mile…you might find it changes your opinion of the day.

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17.   Think about all the people would give anything to be able to run, we don’t “have” to read we “get” to run.

What keeps you heading out the door when you do not feel like it?

Running – Racing – Blogging and Setting New Records

A year like 2016 only comes around once in a great while.  In the national headlines, the year saw a monumental shift in the political tide while a number of hollywood and music legends passed from this earth.  For me personally 2016 saw numerous personal records fall and a  headline item get crossed off my bucket list.

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January:  The third edition of Brian’s Crazy New Year’s Long Run was a huge success.  For the first time in the three history of this event we ran at Umstead State Park in North Carolina.  I started this training run in 2014 while preparing for my first 100 mile race.  In 2016 a small group of old and new friends hit the trails of Umstead.  Andrea a friend of mine from VA was set to take on her first 100 mile race.  We used this run as a tune up and tour of the 100 mile course.  Andrea became the first runner to complete all 50 miles.

12938266_10154166274836495_2452012471952398266_n(Andrea, myself and our friend Wendy during the 100 mile race)

Ending the month I planned to run the Miami marathon the day before departing on a cruise out of the port of Miami.  Four days before the marathon, two days before we were scheduled to fly out of Richmond, mother nature decided to shut down the east coast with a massive snow storm.  With flights cancelled we headed down I-95 South from Richmond, Va to Miami, Fla arriving just as the marathon signs were coming down.  January came to an end with 185 miles in the log book.

February:  As the hit song proclaimed “February made me shiver…” I decided to step down the racing milage,  Michele and I ran the Heart and Sole Half Marathon in Goldsboro, Nc.  Going into this race I had no real expectations, and had no real intentions of racing hard.  That last thru the national Anthem and on a cold and crisp morning I let it all hang out from the opening bell.  13 miles later a sub 1:40 half marathon was nearly in hand.

heartnsolehalf2015(Michele and I)

Amongst some crazy weather that included snow, high winds, and tornados I logged 182 miles.

March: Even with all the training, all the miles and all the race day goals expectations are sometimes still met with defeat.  I had targeted the Tobacco Road Marathon in Cary, Nc as a gold setting race since early in the fall.  I trained hard, I got mentally focused, and Wham.  I woke up Saturday morning, 24 hours before race day with a monster headache and my sinuses blocked up like the Hoover Dam.  I did whatever every ultra-runner would do….I avoided all reasonable advice and planned to run the race anyway.  With enough sudafed to dry up the swamps of Louisiana I set off on my quest for a sub-four marathon.

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(Emmy Lou didn’t put in the hard work,
but she did claim the bling)

Closed the books on March with 160 miles.

April: A big part about ultra-running is the community.  We inspire, challenge, and support each other.  When Andrea asked if I would help her during her 100 mile race, it took me two seconds to tell her I would be there.  I ran the last 50 miles with Andrea as she battled through the night, the pain, and the ugly hours of ultra-running.  Andrea claimed her 100 mile buckle.  So proud of her…

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 (Wendy, Andrea, Hank and I…100 miles later!)

Three other races in April including the Mountain to Sea 50k, Tar Heel 10 miler and my 7th running of the Virginia 24 Hour Run Against Cancer.   Finished the month with 232 miles.

May: A dream two years in the making…with the US Military Sports Endurance Team, four others and I ran the Grand Canyon from the South Rim (South Kaibab trail) to the North Rim (North Kaibab trail) and back to the South Rim (Bright Angel Trail).

13233049_10209186949580397_5226673524752590985_n(Team USMES, Lori, myself, Joshua, Jamie and Eric)

May was all about the Grand Canyon, with tapering leading up to the run, travel, and recovery afterwards I logged 124 miles in May.

June:  I decided to sign up for The Bethel Moonlight Boogie 50 Miler late.  After mailing off the entry forms and personal check I talked myself into running it.  As I drove 3 hours away from home I thought I wanted to.  Within the first 15 miles of a 50 mile race, at the hottest part of the day, in the middle of the humidity of a June night in North Carolina…I called it quits.  This was going to be my 100th race finish, but it turned out to be my first Did Not Finish (DNF).

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 (A DNF….not happy)

No other races, but a colonoscopy (I passed)…finished with 171 miles.

July: Took a little break from racing.  During a trip with our grandson to the Baltimore Aquarium I snuck out early on a Saturday morning to run a few miles around the Inner Harbor.

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(Selfie in front of the US Coast Guard Ship Taney)

Not my favorite city for football reasons but the inner Harbor is a nice place to run, I logged 6.7 miles that morning and 200 for the month.

August:  A return trip to the Medoc Mountain Meltdown 50K plus.  On a hot and humid Saturday afternoon, the melt did what it’s name is famous for…it melted me down.  I ran three laps of a four lap event.  At the time I was in the lead pack of two runners when the heat just got to be too much.  Rolling into the aid station I called it a day.

13921101_1298344093510077_856199800322259064_n(Three laps of heat and humidity can take it out of you)

On the heels of the melt down, I banked 224 miles for a strong month.

Sept: 24 hour races have had my number.  I’ve met a few goals along the way but I always seem to come out of those events beat up, injured in some cases, and short of running all 24 hours.  The 2015 Hinson Lake 24 Hour Race left me disappointed and confused on my running career.  With the collapse at Boogie and Medoc I went into the 2016 Hinson Lake race with a lot of questions.

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(The wee hours at Hinson Lake)

Ended the month with 213 miles and the white whale is dead.

October: My 2nd running of the Medoc Mountain Trail Marathon.  A local favorite, this race has all the charm and character that big city marathons lack.  Last year I tripped and fell all over the place this year I ran a course/event PR.

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(Medoc, 2016)

Hurricane Matthew rolled into town, with high winds and steady rain the power lines came down and our little lake flooded its shores but I still managed to get in 205 miles.

November:  After my first running of the JFK 50 in 2014 I said I would never run this race again. In 2015 I returned with friends.  After a disappointing finish, I was beaten and defeated, I vowed never to return.  I had had enough of the AT with its rocks and hills.  2016 I found myself again facing the JFK and my desire for a sub 10 hour finish.

image1(Running with Team USMES.org a lot of PR fell that day)

November was a month they shall write stories about.  I scored three PRs in 18 days and logged 178 miles.

November also saw me complete a project I have been working on for two years.  I completed my first novel, Running to Leadville.  Why did I write this book?  I’ve long wanted to read a running book that would entertain, inspire, and share the ultra running community with the world at large.  I found that story hard to find so I wrote it myself.  Inspired by the Leadville Trail 100 this story is not simply a running story, it’s a story about life, love, loss, and overcoming the challenges of this world. Set on the stage of a 100 mile foot race in the extreme Colorado Rockies this story will be sure to grab your attention.

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For more information on Running to Leadville click here.

December: Another month without a race, life just got to busy.  Although no racing success I did successfully pull off my third Christmas day reindeer run.

15697526_1446092585401893_3295072648369693733_n(Sometime you have to stop and take the selfie)

The end of December saw 238 miles get added to my total.

PRs for the year:

Yearly Miles  2316.7
Yearly Running Days  247
Monthly Running Days  27
Racing PRs: 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, 50 Mile, 24 Hour Race
Bucket List:  Grand Canyon R2R2R

With an opportunity to look back and reflect on 2016 it’s hard to fathom how great a year it was.  I ran a lot of miles, I met a lot of people, I made great friends and I gave back to the running community.  Entering 2017 I’m healthy, I’m running well, and I’m looking forward to this year and beyond.

My goal races for 2017 are Myrtle Beach (another sub 4), Umstead 100 (100 mile PR), Cleveland Marathon and the Yeti 100.

Check out my 2017 goals and race calendar here

 

Runners First Impressions

Whether you’re invited to a monthly run club meeting, out for a long run or to a local race with new friends.  To ensure you get off on the right foot try to avoid some common “Runner Faux Pas.”  Like it or not your first impression counts.  To help you I’ve gathered inputs from my contacts in the social media running world, analyzed data from the far reaches of the internet and took into account my own experiences.  I’ve identified the eight things others runners notice about you and how they could make or break your first impression. img_20160608_171419 1.  Your shoes better fit the bill.  Show up to a long run or on race day in new kicks, Air Jordans, or Converse All-Stars…and you risk being judged a newb, noob, novice, newcomer, or somebody inexperienced aka “the rookie.”

2.  It’s okay if your socks make an impression.   Flashy socks are all the rave, but show up in a pair of ankle high white tubes from your days in 6th grade PE class and you risk being the last picked for dodge ball or running alone.

12654542_1159344444076710_8588626411061257837_n(Don’t be jealous, this was high-tech, “in the day.”)

3.  The era in which your GPS watch was made speaks volumes.  If you need two squirrels and a chipmunk to power your hubcapped sized GPS.  You’re either a holdover from the days of tube TVs, boom boxes, the Sony walkman, or you are just plain cheap (I fit into the latter, my Garmin 201 is from 2005).

4.  The length of your shorts.  There is a fine line between to long and “I see London, I see France”…to short.

5. Are you a resume dropper?  Being the new guy or gal is always awkward, unless your on the cover of Runners World.  I know I struggle with things to say or how to enter a conversation. Resist trying to fit in by dropping your running resume trying to buy some street credit… It’s never okay to offer up “I’ve run Boston, Western States, Leadville and Badwater” when someone simply asks your name.

6.  No Need to burn out the group in the first mile.  No matter if you’re Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis there is no need to show your stuff in the first mile of a welcome to the community run.

7.  Drop the fanny pack.  It’s okay to run with a ultra vest, camel pack, adventure pack, waist hydration belt or handheld.  Show up with a 1980s fanny pack and you might find yourself alone on an out-and-back. and

2016teamrun4life(The Run4Life team has won the VA 24 Hour Race 2 out of last 3 years and set a course mileage record, but first, we are a group of friends who run together.)

8.  Be polite.  The goal of running with a group of potential friends is to build relationships not to form competitive rivalries.  Those will develop over time if an equal running mate is within the group.

For a long time, I was that “lone wolf runner.”  I ran alone for no real reason other than I really did not know a lot of other runners.  Once I opened myself up to run with a group I made a ton of friends.  This group allowed me to enjoy racing and running long distances even more.  These days, I look forward to running with my groups and with new people I’ve just met.  Nowadays it’s hard for me to show up for a race where I don’t know someone.  And I like that…

Running – Myrtle Beach Marathon – Training With Consistency

Myrtle Beach Marathon is a flat, and fast course ideally suited for a Boston marathon qualification attempt or more personal for me, my third sub-four hour marathon.

Whether you’re aiming to qualify for the Boston Marathon on a flat and fast course in perfect race weather, or you’re looking for a fun destination race for your family or friends, sign up today to #RunMBM in 2017!  Use DISCOUNT code MBMBB to get a discount.

What’s key to a Boston qualifying time, a sub-four marathon or just a fun weekend at the races…consistency.  The time is now to put in the miles and get the speed or endurance you need to be successful in March.

See you in March…

Running – JFK 50 Mile Endurance Race 2016

2016 JFK 50 – Blow up of BUST.

Whether it’s a strength or a curse, when a difficult challenge is getting the better of me, I tend to kick into survival mode.  This self-preservation method ensures completing a race instead of blowing up and not being able to finish.

15156830_1394851613859324_5594573770146707554_o(Would lucky #7 times 3 pay off?)

Going into this year’s pre-race dinner I hadn’t come to grips on a goal.  From the time I first ran the JFK in 2014, I wanted to break the 10-hour barrier but like finding the elusive Yeti I have not uncovered this goal.  During dinner I was asked by a member of US Military Endurance Sports team what my goal was, I replied: “Running a sub-10 hour JFK or blowing up in the process.”  It was either the hype of the race, the flowing testosterone at the table or I had overdosed on spaghetti but I vowed to blow up or finish with my coveted sub 10-hour run.

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 (Team USMES at the gym prior to the start)

“The start of a race will not win the prize or ensure your record time, but it will surely lose it for you.”  This adage rang out in my head as the 54th annual JFK 50 gun went off and we started our run out of Boonsboro, Md.

Start to Weverton Cliffs: Mile 1 10:39 / Mile 2 11:10 / Mile 310:45 / Mile 4 10:02 / Mile 5 13:48 / Mile 6 14:33 / Mile 7 12:37 / Mile 8 12:37 / Mile 9 13:28 / Mile 10 11:40 / Mile 11 11:51 / Mile 12 13:58 / Mile 13 12:25 / Mile 14 12:24 / Mile 15 15:54

From the climb out of town to the rocky trails of the Appalachian Trail (AT) the start of this race must be treated with respect.  Burn out your legs by going out too fast and you’ll have to live with that damage for more than a marathon.  The altitudes gains within the first miles must be managed in a method that conserves your energy for the 35 miles that wait after the AT.  The trails and footing of the AT must also be treated with reverence to ensure survival.  Running the AT can only be described as a test in foot placement, balance and lightening quick reflexes.  Shortly after the race, I asked one of our rookie runners how he would describe the AT section, his reply nailed it. “Rocks, roots, more rocks, some more roots and an abundance of jagged rocks that could snap your ankles and maybe worse.”  I thought he nailed it.

The rocks of the AT are violent, razor-sharp projections protruding from the ground at angles and distances that constantly have you on guard.  These random formations of tilted edges, slanted flats, and domed surfaces have no rhyme or rhythm to their flow.  These toe catchers stick out of the ground at varying heights waiting for an unexpected collision to throw you off balance and a near certain and devastating  meeting with the ground.  Take your eyes off the trail for an instant, lose your focus, daydream to some happier place and surely you’ll have an unexpected meeting.

Looking back at my lap times I’m surprised I was able to take 12 minutes off my best AT time.  Clock time alone does not give an accurate picture of how fast it felt like I ran this section.  My mind was glued on the trails. My eyes fixed on the next landing spot.  I moved fast landing quickly and lightly.  With my mind on a PR time this early in the race I ran as fast as I could over this the most technical part of the course.  One of the reasons this part of the race can be deceiving may be that your foot action is much faster than the pace you may be running.  Where your normal race pace maybe made up of long strides here your pace is a collection of numerous short, compact, jerky strides searching for the ideal place to land and push off without subjecting your feet and ankles to a violent off balance position.

At times it felt like I was making a good time and at others, I felt like I would be on this trail forever.  The mental work of maintaining your pace while your attention is glued on the course can be exhausting.  The AT offers the runner no time to zone out and disappear in the run.  For 15 miles you have to be on your game whether you’re battling the climbs or the rocks.  Lose focus here and your race will be upset.

I was about to lose the mental war when I heard cowbells and asked a runner in front of me if we had reached Weverton? His reply was music to my ears, “Yes.”  Hot Dawg, now all I had to do was make it down the rapid and razor sharp switchbacks of the infamous Weaverton Cliffs.  Although a sight for the runners eyes, miss-handled a step here and you could end your race on a stretcher.  I was off the AT 15.5 miles into this race at 3 hours 06 minutes.

jfkphotosoncourse12(Running the rocks of JFK,
Josh is 1st in this picture and I’m third)

Weverton Cliffs to Dam #4 aka the towpath: Mile 16 12:13 / Mile 17 9:14 / Mile 18 9:37 / Mile 19 10:29 / Mile 20 10:28 / Mile 21 9:49 / Mile 22 9:58 / Mile 23 13:57 Mile 24 10:13 / Mile 25 11:59 / Mile 26 10:17 / Mile 27 10:36 / Mile 28 12:34 / Mile 29 10:35 / Mile 30 11:56 / Mile 31 11:48 / Mile 32 11:15 / Mile 33 11:53 / Mile 34 11:08 / Mile 35 1:258 / Mile 36 11:05 / Mile 37 11:24 / Mile 38 10:35 / Mile 39 12:02 / Mile 40 10:42 Mile 41 11:46 / Mile 42 12:36

Whereas the AT requires your ever present attention the C & O canal towpath allows you to mentally turn off and simply run.  This can be a double edge sword.  After coming off the AT like years past my legs were dead.  The rapid pace, shifting running style, and the climbs had taken their toll.  Now I was faced with 26 miles, 26 miles lay out in front of me and 26 miles would be challenging me to keep up the required pace.  These 26 miles would provide an opportunity to gain ground on your goal or to lose it.

This edition of the JFK would be different.  In 2014, my 1st JFK I took on the JFK alone, in 2015 6 friends ran the race but our pace and goals did not align.  This year rookie runner Josh would be my running partner for the day.  Josh is a good friend, a bit faster, and younger than me.  We developed a tow path plan of running for 9 minutes, walking for 1, and repeating this for as long as we could.  I had chased Josh all through the AT, and I was not going to lose him now.

15107297_10154779818711204_5157080906988454632_n(The seaming endless C & O Canal Path)

I’ll condense this section with a simple catch phrase, rinse and repeat.  We held up the 9/1 plan for over half of the towpath, then resorted to 8/2, and finally 7/3 until we hit Dam #4 and the asphalt that would lead us to Williamsport.

My foot hit the first stretch of surface road with 7:56:06 on the clock….with little over 2 hours to run 8 miles I knew a sub 10-hour finish was a possibility.  I also knew I was holding Josh back.  In the last few miles of the towpath, I told him to run his race once we hit the roads.  We ran as a well-oiled machine thru the AT, the tow path, and now he had to run his race.

Towpath to the Finish:  Mile 43 10:04 / Mile 44 10:48 / Mile 45 11:21 / Mile 46 10:08 / Mile 47 11:12 / Mile 48 10:21 / Mile 49 11:05 / FINISH 9:27

It was so nice to get my feet on solid level ground even if that meant facing a 900-yard climb right off the bat.  The 8 miles of roads taking you to Williamsport are rolling country roads which on a normal day would offer little challenge.  At the end of the JFK with 42 miles on your legs, they can be tough.  In prior years I’ll “Ultra walked” even the slightest hill and ran the downhill’s and flats.  After the monster climb at mile 42, I vowed to run everything I could.  Seeing familiar markers of my walk breaks in the past this year I coaxed myself to run to the next hill or the one after that in an effort to keep up my sub 10-hour finish on the table.  In the meantime, Josh punched out and was out of sight.

In years past my JFK run had been blessed with wonderful weather, temps cool in the morning and warm during the day.  For 75% of this year’s race, the pattern followed suit.  Then the weather turned ugly adding an additional challenge.  The weather shift started with a simple drop in temperatures and high winds along the last miles of the towpath.  On the roads to the finish, the skies cast freezing rain down upon us.

At mile 42 the road markers appeared on the side of the road counting us down 8…7…6…5…4

With 4 miles to go, I was all in…I ran everything I had.  The aid stations every 2 miles were my only breaks as I ran for my coveted time.  During the closing miles of any endurance event if you have managed your body, not burned out, and are able to maintain a running pace you can pass a lot of fellow runners on the way to the finish.  At mile 4 it became a near constant game and motivational tool for me to knock off the next runner in front of me.  Although I’m never racing the other runners it’s still uplifting to pass people after a long day on your feet.

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When the marker signifying 2 miles remained appeared along the side of the road I did something I never do during a race…I pulled out my phone.  In the gusting winds, with frozen rain drops bouncing off my shirt, and with numb fingers I dialed a familiar number.  “Hello.” my wife answered on the other end of our digital connection.

Between heavy breaths, I tried to communicate, “Honey, 46 minutes, with 46 minutes…I have 2 miles to go.  2 miles for a sub 10-hour finish.”  Something in hearing her voice and those words it got to me, my voice cracked.  I don’t know what it is about the extreme physical events but I break down watching people reach their goals and now knowing that I was capable of reaching mine it got to me.

Michele on the other end simply said: “That’s great, now get back to work….”

That jolt of energy was enough to get me refocused.  I gave it all I had on the final push home.  My legs were red, my face covered in sweat and frozen rain I ran as fast as I could to close out this edition of the JFK 50.  Cresting the final hill and seeing the finish line with the race clock still illuminating the number 9 was a great sight.  Along the side of the road was a girl maybe waiting on her boyfriend, or husband and she was also cheering me on.  “You’re almost there…”

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I’m almost there, I thought to myself.  I almost have my goal, I’m almost done with my third JFK and I can almost get out of this cold wet gear. I smiled back at her and pushed harder still until I crossed the finish line in front of Williamsport High school. I crossed the same finish line the JFK has had for 54 years, the same finish line where hours before Jim Walmsey broke the course record and the same finish line that one year before left me dejected and defeated.  Today I crossed this finish line at 9:36:27 with a 30 minute Personal Record to claim my third JFK 50 finish.

For videos and to read my race report from 2014 click here

To view videos from my friend Eric’s 1st run at JFK in 2015 click here

Running – What’s in a Number Anyway

Turning 52 years old, I figured the days of logging  Personal Records were a thing of the past.  Running faster seemed like a dream from days gone bye.  BUT then…over a three week span from November 6th to the 24th #BOOM #BOOM #foundthefountainofyouth #bottlethisstuff

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Nov 6 – City of Oaks Marathon = Logged my second sub-4 hour marathon with a new PR of 3:56:07 / finished 141 out of 509 and 8 out of 36 in my age group. To read the race report click here.

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Nov 19 – JFK 50 = Smashed my goal of a sub-10 hour run, setting a new PR of 9:36:27 / finishing 234 out of 1042 and 22 in my age group of 119. To read the race report click here.

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Nov 24 – Erie Runners Club Turkey Trot 10k = Without a real plan I winged it to a new PR of 45:04 / finished 56/534 at 45:05 and 2nd out of 21 in my age group.

Age is just a number we use to let the rest of the world know how long we have been on this planet.  Do not let it define you, limit you or keep you from following your dreams!