Monthly Archives: November 2015

JFK 50 2015 – Eric’s First Run

JFK 50 2015 – Eric’s First Run

12286092_10153838119756495_1632626479_n(David, Me, Eric and Andrea, right before the walk to the start)

Although I have completed a number of marathons over the past few years, 2015 brought a new challenge; ultra-marathons. Early in the year, I completed two 50k’s (North Face Endurance Challenge in DC, and the Singletrack Maniac in Virginia) with hopes to move on to greater distances by the fall. With high expectations, I went ahead and registered for the JFK50. Why the JFK50? Although it may not be as popular as some of the races out west, just about every ultra-runner I know is familiar with the JFK50, so I figured it would be a great starting point for the 50 mile distance. Plus, as an Active Duty Air Force member, I have a connection to the race history.

I feel my JFK50 training was a bit unorthodox as it was really designed for the marathons I ran in September (Air Force Marathon) and October (Marine Corps Marathon). I didn’t have a single run over 26.2 miles, but with a 3:15 marathon time, I figured I could scale it back and survive the 50 miles. With the Marine Corps Marathon on the 25th of October, and the JFK50 on the 21st of Nov, I had less than four weeks to transition from marathon running to ultra-marathon running. To make things even more difficult, I scheduled corrective eye surgery in between the two races, which kept me from running for about a week and a half. After all was said and done, I was able to log about two and a half weeks of transition running, to include my taper. During this transition, I focused on slow trail running while wearing the gear I planned to utilize during the JFK. My goal was to keep my heart rate in the high 130s, which meant a much slower pace than my usual marathon tempo running.

Before I knew it, it was time to pack for the big day. The weather forecast called for sunny skies with lows in the low 30’s and highs in the low 50s. My plan was to dress for the 50’s, not the 30’s. Starting from the top down, here was my gear for the day: Pearl Izumi thermal beanie (swapped at mile 16 for a Nike Dri-Fit hat), Pearl Izumi custom tech-t (US Military Endurance Sports,, Cannondale thermal arm warmers with Head running gloves (both ditched at mile 16), RecoFit arm coolers (worn under the arm warmers), Sugoi Pace 5 shorts (my favorite running shorts in the entire world), CEP calf sleeves, Outdoor Research gaiters, Injinji trail socks, and Pearl Izumi Trail M2 V2’s. However, the true star of the show was my Ultimate Direction SJ 2.0 ultra-vest.

hi jfk2015(Our race HQ for the weekend)

The morning of the race arrived, and we were fortunate enough to have a hot breakfast prepared for us at the Holiday Inn Express in Hagerstown, MD. You don’t find many hotels that will start serving breakfast at 4am, even if they are the “race hotel”. Once we filled our stomachs, we made the short drive to the Boonsboro High School where we gathered in the gymnasium for the standard ultra-marathon safety briefing. The race director recognized our military veterans and those who have completed the JFK50 multiple times. It was kept short and sweet because we still had to make the trek from the school to the starting line in downtown Boonsboro (about a 7-10 minute walk).

As we exited the school, the cool air was crisp enough to make you shiver; the anticipation factor didn’t help things either. After losing massive amounts of energy from shivering for an hour at the 2014 Bataan Death March in New Mexico, I knew I had to stop shivering to conserve energy… a few deep breaths did the trick. I chatted with friends on the way to the start and watched runners relieve themselves in every hiding spot they could find. I couldn’t help but imagine being arrested for indecent exposure only minutes before the start of the big race. Although I too needed to go, I knew we were a few minutes behind and the race was going to be starting soon. We arrived at the start as the national anthem was being performed, and then it happened…… BANG! We were off and running; literally.

I think we were about mid-crowd; it took us probably 30-45 seconds from the gun start to actually cross the starting line (which is really just an intersection). I hit the start button on my Garmin 920XT, gave myself a few silent words of encouragement, took a couple deep breaths, and slowly picked up the pace with the rest of the crowd. The energy amongst the runners was awesome… but that wouldn’t last long. Although the road is paved, it ascends about 500 feet in the first two miles. It wasn’t long before my bladder reminded me that I made a horrible decision to start without making a pit stop. So, like 50 or so of the other runners, I opted to find the nearest hiding spot to recycle the morning’s coffee. For the record, I don’t condone urinating in public… but I also don’t condone running an ultra-marathon with a full bladder. Once the bladder was empty, it was time to do work.

My friend, Brian, who had completed the JFK50 in 2014, was at my side. Brian has quite the ultra-running resume, and having him keep me under control at the start was one of many keys to my overall success. About 1.5 miles into our 50 mile journey, we took our first walking break as we ascended a steep climb. I’m not always the brightest crayon in the box when it comes to “starting smart”, but I knew I couldn’t make stupid mistakes during this race if I wanted to survive. Brian did his part to make sure we didn’t push too hard, yet still moved with a purpose. We continued to walk the steep inclines, and take advantage of the flats and declines. After about 2.5 miles of paved climbing, we reached the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Having never run on the AT before, I really wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I had heard about the “bounding from rock to rock”, but you never really know what to believe since some running stories sound like most fishing stories. It only took seconds to realize two things; the stories were true, and I had a long 13 miles of AT ahead of me. The jagged rocks were plentiful, yet almost invisible thanks to the thick layer of freshly fallen leaves. Having to run with more “agility” in your stride can be foreign to those who aren’t used to the unstable terrain. This foreign movement can eventually cause early muscle fatigue, something I would experience before I left the AT.

course profile(Never a boring moment)

Just when you get used to the uneven footing, the first section of the AT ends and you find yourself back on pavement for about a mile or so. Usually I would be happy with a little pavement and use it to my advantage to bank some time. Unfortunately, this one mile segment just happens to be the steepest incline of the entire journey. From about mile 4 to mile 5, you find yourself gaining another 500 feet while winding through the trees on a paved road that seems to go nowhere. As we did leaving Boonsboro, Brian and I walked the steep sections and ran where we felt we weren’t wasting energy. Finally, as we crested the top of the hill, we were directed back onto the AT.

The first segment of the AT had me a little concerned. I don’t get to run on many rocky trails back home, so I don’t have very strong ankles. Little did I know, the first section was just a mild preview of the ankle carnage to come. There is only one way to describe it; a mine field. The single track trail had been beaten down by a few hundred people ahead of me, so some of the leaves had been cleared or crushed, making the rocky terrain a little more visible. However, in order to pass a person, you had to venture into the unknown, which made you think twice or even three times about passing. With Brian still on my heels, we continued to walk the difficult stuff, and run when it made sense. It was on the AT that we caught up with another friend and fellow US Military Endurance Sports teammate, Gayle. Gayle and I have similar marathon finish times, and I knew we would make a great duo once we hit the C&O Canal tow path. The three of us pressed on, one foot in front of the other.

I usually don’t trust the weatherman, but this guy nailed it! Clear skies and crisp air; you really couldn’t ask for better ultra-marathon weather. I had made the perfect choices when selecting my gear, and I couldn’t help but think about how miserable I would have been if I had worn a jacket. I did encounter one issue along the AT; the sun. Laser eye surgery performed three weeks prior to the race had left my eyes extremely sensitive to light. I had my sunglasses on, but the sun blasting through the leafless trees as we continued down the AT was like a cross between a strobe light and a welder’s arc. I used my hand to block it when I could, but that hand was also needed for balance on the rocky trail. I sure was glad to exchange my thermal beanie for my dri-fit cap at the first crew support area!

Continuing down the AT, I could hear the shouts and cowbells. Either there were some very happy cattle farmers in the vicinity, or we were approaching our first aid station. I had heard the aid stations would be well stocked, and the stories were true. Gatorade, water, chips, cookies, pretzels, candy, PB&J sandwiches, and soup were the norm at most, if not all, of the aid stations throughout the entire 50 mile course. With “real food” as an option at each stop, I finished the race with most of the Honey Stinger gels I started with.

eric jfk2015(Early in the day and on the AT, with Gayle)

Brian, Gayle, and I remained together, or within shouting distance, for the remainder of the AT. I knew we were approaching the end of the trail when a volunteer had informed us about the Weaverton Cliffs ahead. Most of the JFK50 veterans I had spoken to about the AT had told me how dangerous the decent is, but I don’t think it was too bad. We had hit one last bottleneck as we started the decent, and everyone was going so slow, so it didn’t feel very treacherous. We continued single file down the switchbacks, carefully placing our feet to avoid “the fastest way down”. The last two miles of the AT include about 1,000 feet of decent; something my quads won’t soon forget. Right around mile 16, we reached the end of the AT, and I couldn’t wait to get onto the C&O to stretch my stride and make up some lost time.

Joshua, aka “Dewey”, had originally signed up to run the JFK50 with me, but had to cancel due to health issues. Being the good friend that he is, he offered to come provide crew support. He was there waiting at mile 16ish with my bag of stuff and a huge smile on his face. It was nice to see a familiar face, and knowing he would be supporting me along the way took so much weight off of my shoulders. With temps in the mid-40s by this point, I opted to ditch the beanie, gloves, and arm warmers. I gave him a high five and moved on to the nearby aid station to get another dose of chips, pretzels, cookies, M&Ms, and a small cup of chicken broth.

Brian had moved a couple minutes ahead of us since he opted not to stop at the support crew area, but Gayle and I eventually reunited with him. The three of us had made it to the tow path and it was time to discuss a game plan. I had a few personal goals for the C&O section; don’t waste time at the aid stations, keep the heart rate low, move with a purpose, and stay hydrated. I informed Gayle and Brian about my 9 minute run / 1 minute walk plan, and they said it sounded good. Although Brian has the endurance of a Himalayan Sherpa, our pace was a little too quick for his liking, so he eventually began to fall back. Gayle and I continued our 9/1 routine, holding a 9:20 pace when running, and a “brisk” pace when walking. It seemed to work out perfect; the 9 minutes wore us out, but the one minute allowed for a quick recovery. Gayle and I wouldn’t see Brian again until after the race.

The C&O tow path is a fairly flat dirt/gravel road that follows the Potomac River. We would follow it for approximately 26.3 miles, just over a standard marathon distance. Many of the veterans I talked to told me how mind numbing the tow path can be, but I found it beautiful. Although the terrain didn’t change much for those 26 miles, the views did. Plus, after not being able to look anywhere other than three feet in front of you for 16 miles, it was nice to look around and take in the amazing fall colors of Maryland.

With the exception of the occasional “potty break”, we continued our forward progress down the tow path, keeping our eye on the prize. During early discussions, I had mentioned wanting to finish in under 10 hours. Having never run 50 miles at once, the goal sounded nice, but I wasn’t sure how achievable it really was. Regardless, we decided sub 10 hour is what we were shooting for. Gayle and I calculated the required pace the best we could (brains don’t work so well after a few hours of running), and constantly monitored our progress. It’s amazing how breaking up the race into 10 minute segments can help pass the time/miles.

themarch50ksurvivor2(We asked this guy to help with our pace, but he kept saying something about
“your our only hope”

Gayle turned out to be my secret weapon. As we leapfrogged the same silent, exhausted groups over and over, she and I chatted about life, dogs, military service, politics, and the usual “bodily functions” that only runners seem enjoy discussing. We also kept each other accountable when it came to staying on pace. If we walked through an aid station, that counted as our one minute walk for that time period. This turned out to be a very important strategy and helped us bank the time we needed. I have said it before, and I will say it again, I could not have run the same race without her. (Thanks, Gayle!)

eric jfk2015c(Mid race family reunion, for 60 seconds)

Dewey met up with us a few times along the tow path, and although I didn’t need much of anything from him throughout the entire day, having him there was so awesome (Thanks, Dewey!). My father-in-law had also made the trip down from Pennsylvania to see me on the course. As a joke, he brought along a reflective vest for me, but I politely declined (more to come on the vest). Knowing he would only see me for about 60 seconds, he still made the trip, which made seeing him on the course that much more special. (Thanks, Buddy!)

Now, about the vest… During the safety briefing at the school gymnasium, they provided us with the cutoff times, and the times you would have to achieve in order to avoid what is commonly known as the “vest of shame”. Don’t get me wrong, I realize nobody should feel any shame in completing an event like this, but we somehow find joy in poking fun at it. Gayle and I did some math and realized if we continued to push hard, we would make it to the 41.8 mile aid station just before the 3pm cutoff, and not have to don the vest of shame! So that is exactly what we did. As the miles ticked away, we realized it was going to come down to a matter of minutes… maybe even seconds. As we arrived at mile 41.8 just before 3pm(according to my Garmin), we realized the aid station was nowhere in sight. As it turns out, the GPS used for the race runs a bit long, and we didn’t make it to the aid station until 3:06pm. With our heads hung low and frustration in our minds, we reluctantly strapped on the vests. It only took a matter of minutes before we realized the vest avoidance wasn’t our real goal for the race, and we still had work to do to finish in under 10 hours. So we pressed on.

eric jfk2015b(Vast of “Courage”)

The donning of the vest of shame did have a silver lining; we were officially off the C&O tow path and on the paved country roads! The paved roads followed the rolling hills, through pastures and fields of different crops. Since we had to deal with more climbing, Gayle and I ditched our 9/1 plan that we followed for the last 4-5 hours and moved to a new plan. If it looked like a hill, felt like a hill, or smelled like a hill, we would power walk it. Other than that, we would try to continue our 9:20/mile pace across the flats and decents.

After over 43 miles of running, I hadn’t really done a quality self-assessment of my condition. Of course I was sore and exhausted, but my stomach felt fantastic (my stomach is usually my limiting factor). My legs were weak, but I knew they could continue with our run/walk plan. My head was still in the game, which is what originally worried me the most. Coming into my first 50 miler, I wasn’t sure if I had the mental power to push through the pain and solitude of the JFK50… but then again, I didn’t know I would have my secret weapon! This is when it really set in…. I really am going to finish in under 10 hours!!!!!

Gayle and I had small celebrations with each countdown mile marker we passed. 3 miles to go…. 2 miles to go…. 1 mile to go! As we rounded the very last corner of the 50.2 mile route, we saw the finish line in the distance. Never have I felt so relieved, excited, and emotional all at the same time. I could tell Gayle felt the same way as we ran the last half mile towards the finish without saying much of anything to each other. As we got close enough to actually read the numbers on the clock, it was official; we had completed our goal. Gayle and I crossed the JFK50 finish line side by side with an official time of 9:44:46. As I shook the hand of the race director, and had the shiny medal placed around my neck, I was flooded with emotion. Coming into the JFK50, the real goals were to survive and finish… done and done.

eric jfk2015a(Done and DONE…)

Will I come back? Not sure. There are so many other ultra-marathons in the area that I would love to run. But, the more I think about it, the more excited I get about doing it again.

JFK 50 – First Impressions – Ultra Marathon – Running The Grandfather or Ultra Running

Running JFK 50, for the first time

In 2014 I ran my first JFK 50. Although I thought I had learned all I could about this legendary event nothing could prepare me for race day. The AT was harder, the C&O tow path was longer and the final 8 miles of rolling roads were more challenging than I was expecting. After crossing the finish line in front of Springfield Middle School 10 hours later the highlights of the course were forever burnt in my mind. It was a great race and a awesome experience. Driving home, I could not wait to share my experience with all of my friends. JFK 2014 was great but it was also lonely. I ran alone, I had no support crew and I had no one to share the “finisher glow” with.

(Hank, David, Andrea, Me, Eric, Kim, Ed, Gayle)

Fast forward nearly 365 days to JFK 50 2015. This year I would not be alone. On a crisp Saturday morning along with seven of my friends I was making my way to the starting line in the middle of downtown Boonsboro, MD once again.  Leading up to the race and continuing at our pre-race dinner they had asked my thoughts about the race and the course. I tried to not over sale the challenge, I tried to represent the task and tried to help prepare them. Finding my place at the start, I wanted to run well, I had my goals but I also wanted my friends to have a memorable first JFK.

In their words here is impressions of JFK for the first time.

(Gayle and Eric)

Gayle H. — Gayle was new to our group, she was a friend of Eric’s but instantly she fit right in. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support. I loved the AT section .. And can’t believe I didn’t say once ” I am ready for this to be done “

Andrea and David)

David G. — This race goes down as one of the best. It lived up to the hype. The atmosphere from the time we stepped into Boonsboro High School, traveled along the course, and finished at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport. was electric.  It’s a bucket list race that is a must do for any ultrarunner. It’s a day I’ll never forget. I’m so glad I got to spend it with my friends so we can sit back, laugh, and tell stories for probably years to come.”


Eric H. — “Run the JFK50” they said. “You will have fun” they said. Well, they were right! Who knew someone could have such a blast running through a mine field of sharp rocks, trudging down an endless dirt road for hours on end, and feeling the pounding of each step on the asphalt of the rural roads of Maryland?! So what made it so awesome? It wasn’t the race. It wasn’t the people. It wasn’t the support. It wasn’t the post race beer and pizza. It wasn’t the bubble baths. It was a combination of everything that came together to make an experience that only can be described as magical… with bubbles. So glad I had the opportunity to share the experience with such an amazing group of runners. Never again… …… until next year.”

David, I wasn’t going to mention the bubble bath….but Eric did.

Kimberly R. — It was a magical race from beginning to end. I was more timid than I thought I’d be on the AT, so A LOT of folks passed me. Yet I kept calm and focused on staying in my comfort zone. I did enjoy the challenge and the trail section seemed to go by quickly. I feel like I never looked up, but I listened to some amazing stories and great advice along the way. I have to say, after passing the guy on a body board being loaded onto the ATV with a broken leg, I was relieved to get off the trail with no major injury. There is nothing like that terrain. My relief, once off the trail, had me feeling like I could fly on the canal. I was never bored. I loved the mix of quiet solitude and loud cheering support. The crowds were amazing and so encouraging. I ate some along the way, but wasn’t even interested in the red velvet cake at mile 38. I could smell the end and wanted to get there. Every runner I passed, or who passed me, gave a smile, nod, or word of encouragement. I never felt alone. The final miles on the road were definitely rolling hills, but I got more energy as I approached the last mile. I couldn’t help but choke up as I rounded that last corner, heard the announcer, and saw the finish line. In my mind, I sprinted up the hill to the end. Then, to hear my name called as a finisher of the JFK 50 was icing in the cake. Will I do it again? I’m not sure. But, every ultra runner should do this race at least once.” Ed, Kim’s husband was there supporting her but she was moving so fast I never saw him…


Andrea M.“David and I had a blast. I took my time on the AT and was very cautious because I was so worked up and terrified of it. We didn’t have too many people pass and we only had to pass a few people so we were never really stuck in traffic. David was a few minutes ahead of me but I caught him in the first half mile of the C&O. We stuck together the rest of the day and shared a lot of laughs. I can honestly say that I had the same experience as Kim. I found lots of inspiration out on the course and really enjoyed the gorgeous weather, the great views, the crowd support and chatting with the other runners. I loved the finish line excitement and hearing my name called at the end brought tears to my eyes. I am on cloud nine from the most amazing experience. So thankful for all my run pals, y’all made for an amazing weekend!

Our Support Crews: The unsung heros. As runners, we only had to run 50 miles, these guys had to get from check point to check point, have our gear set up and then sit. Sit in the cold, sit in the wind and sit for long hours as we ran past or stopped for a few vital seconds. They saw the race from a different side of life.

Joshua D. — Note: Joshua originally planned to run the event with Eric, but came up injured just prior to the race. Although he could not reach his individual goals, his support for us on the course and leading up to the race was OUTSTANDING. I must say I had fun even though it was my first race on the sidelines looking in. I was so inspired to see runners of all ages pass me and I loved cheering them on. You guys rocked this race! Next year, I plan to be a wingman and not a road princess.

Hank S.Well. I wasn’t going to say anything cause I wasn’t on the course and my view point was limited. I think everyone did awesome. I will say one thing tho. At mile 38 check point. I told Andrea I think you need to pick up the pace some try to run faster if you can. Her response was “Right now I feel like I’m running as fast as I can” I said ok stay consistent. The look on her face should be on the cover of this blog.”

As Andrea shared with the group — “Our crews, I felt like they were our boxing coach taking me aside in the corner of the ring and telling me how awesome I was doing and how strong I looked. I even believed them for awhile! LoL

And so JFK 2015 is in the books. My race results were not what I had wanted, I thought I ran harder, I thought I ran smarter and longer, but the clock did not agree. I’m okay with that, I had more laughs, more smiles, and more fun running the race with friends. I thought about each one of these great friends along the way. I hoped they survived the AT. I had hoped they made the cut-offs along the C & O. I was proud to hear they ALL reached their goals crossing the finish line. It was the 53rd running of the JFK 50, my second and thier first AND it was GREAT race,

Running, Marathon, Ultra-Marathon Christmas Holiday Gift Guide 2015

The holidays are right around the corner… there is a chill in the air, lights are going up everywhere, and Christmas music playing in each store you enter. Speaking of stores…the Black Friday rampage is right around the corner. As you are going through your list of people in your life who deserve a little extra something special, there is always that Runner you want to get the perfect gift for! Do you need a little help? Fear not, here is a little guide to get that special Runner the perfect holiday gift!

For a chance to win one of these great gifts, enter below. Drawings will be held Christmas eve.

gift guide

1. Apera BagApera bags are pure sport bags. Not only are the functional, stylish and great to haul your Race Kit around, All Apera bags are protected by groundbreaking antimicrobial product protection that resists the formation of bacterial odor on both the inside and outside. Apera bags’ ventilated compartments wipe able linings and washable inserts, ensure your bag stays clean, odor-free and most importantly healthy.

2. Desert Runners MovieSome adventures just blow your mind. Imagine you’ve been dropped off in the middle of one of the largest, driest deserts in the World. Over the next six days you will have to run, jog, walk or crawl 155 miles through the incessant heat (up to 120 degrees), across soft sand and hard-packed gravel, over sand dunes multiple stories high and down razor-sharp rocky cliffs. You must do this carrying everything you need to survive — clothes, food, sunscreen, emergency medical supplies, sleeping bag — in a 20-pound pack on your back. Now imagine doing this not just once, but four times in one calendar year, through the four most treacherous deserts in the world: the Atacama Desert in Chile, the Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara in Egypt… and then, the final stage, a 150-mile footrace across the single most inhospitable landscape in the world: Antarctica.

3. Fenix Headlamp – For that hardcore runner in your life, here is the perfect run companion for those long runs. Fenix-Store exploded onto the flashlight scene over 8 years ago to become the preferred source of affordable high-end lighting for flashlight lovers everywhere. Our goal: to provide the best lights for the best value, without compromising quality. Fenix headlamps offer the latest LEDs, circuitry, and features in a high power headlamp. And always at an affordable price.

4. The High Making The Toughest race On Earth – We can’t all run races all over the world. Few of us get to run over the great mountains. In 2010, a group of extreme runners brought together by an adventure-obsessed race director mutually volunteer in a running experiment over the two highest passes in the world. But with this great race documentary you can live this one of kind race as it plays out right in front of you.

5. Tiux Compression Socks – NOT you’re run of the mill compression socks. Tiux Graduated compression socks have a higher compression at the ankle and gradually decreases towards the calf. Graduated compression will enhance circulation and increase the level of oxygenated blood to your legs, while pumping deoxygenated blood back to your heart. Stimulating blood flow helps athletes improve performance, reduce muscle fatigue and recover faster.

6. Running Buddy Have you ever been on a run or out at the park and forgot where you put your keys, phone or money? No Belt, Band or Bounce! These running pouches are replacing armbands and running belts for runners, walkers and all outdoor enthusiasts. As seen on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

7. Swiftwick SocksWith all the attention on the newest shoes, you can forget that a good pair of socks can make or break any run. Thankfully Swiftwick socks has not forgotten. Swiftwick has been engineered and developed with you in mind. At Swiftwick, we aim to fuel your adventures with the best socks designed by athletes for athletes. We fuse our personal experience with the most advanced fibers to create socks proven to propel your performance, so you can do what moves you. Managed Compression™, Chemical-free wicking ,  blister-free, and Odor free and just some of the feature designed into their socks.

8. 1Hundred Film, The Leadville 100 –  This race is one of my bucket list races and one that truly inspires me. It takes a strong person to attempt a 100 mile run in the Colorado Rockies. This film follows four novice ultra-runners who will show you how much it takes to tackle a 100 mile footrace through the rugged Colorado Rockies in less than 30 hours. With an average of less than half of the participants completing the Leadville Trail 100, the runners will have to battle the mountains, the weather, the clock and themselves.

9. Knuckle Lights – When your running at night, you want to know where your going. Knuckle light give you that sense of security and allows you to direct a bright beam of light right where you want it. Knuckle Lights are the first and only lights designed to be worn on your hands, in the perfect position to light your path and be seen on your next run or walk in the dark. Knuckle Lights are worn on your hands, in the perfect position to light your path and be seen.

10. RaceDots® Is your favorite runner tired of tearing up their favorite race shirts? RaceDots® are the simple, colorful and non-destructive alternative to safety pins. Each RaceDot is a patented assembly of two very strong magnets that lock together to hold your race number in place, but they never hurt your clothing. 20 stock colors plus custom. RaceDots® are sleek and powerful, fabric-friendly and safe and easy to use. Pick up a pack of RaceDots® and never destroy a race shirt again.

11. Out There, A Story of Ultra Recovery by David Clark I only have one word, MOTIVATING…David Clark went from the rock bottom of bankruptcy, addiction and obesity to becoming an accomplished athlete. In this compelling story of his life, he not only shares his journey with complete honesty, but he also lays out a blueprint for change that anyone can use to redefine what is possible.

12. Western States Movie, Unbreakable Maybe the best race ever, In 2010, four of the greatest undefeated mountain runners on earth toed the starting line at the Western States 100-mile endurance run, the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile foot race in the world. Unbreakable, follows the four lead men on this amazing journey. Hal Koerner, two time defending Western States champion, and running store entrepreneur from Ashland, Oregon. Geoff Roes, undefeated at the 100-mile distance, an organic chef from Juneau, Alaska. Anton Krupicka, undefeated in every ultramarathon he has ever started, a graduate student living in Boulder, Colorado. Kilian Jornet, the young mountain runner and two time Ultra-trail du Mont-Blanc champion, from Spain

13. The Art Of Running by Matthew Crehan – Some stories are best told and heard a number of different ways. During his brief 24-year lifespan, Steve Prefontaine grew from hometown hero, to record-setting college phenomenon, to internationally acclaimed Olympic track star. In a similar span of years since his death in 1975, Pre has become the stuff of enduring legend.

And last not not least by any stretch…a GREAT training book by a good friend, Bruce Van Horn

14. You Can Go The Distance, by Bruce Van Horn Life is a marathon so let’s train for it…and if you have ever wanted to run a marathon, Bruce can show you the way. You CAN Go the Distance! is much more than just a marathon training guide.Inside every chapter, Bruce Van Horn, coaches you with training techniques from years of experience and infuses them with his own brand of motivation and inspiration which, literally, hundreds of thousands of people have come to love him for. Most people never even attempt a marathon because they are convinced they cannot possibly run 26.2 miles. What they forget is that every world-class runner started at the same place. Perhaps the hardest part about running a marathon is making the decision to actually try it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Half Marathon – Battleship Half Marathon

2015 Battleship Half Marathon, Wilmington, North Carolina

After two full marathons, MEDOC Mountain and City of Oaks, in the weeks prior to this half, I promised myself I would not RACE this event. I planned to simply run the Battleship Half Marathon for fun and to experience a one of kind half marathon. That plan lasted all of 8 miles…

shoesand medals

Wilmington, is a nice little river front town with a very active college scene and home to the WWII Battleship U.S.S North Carolina. Station right across the river is the Active Duty Coast Guard Cutter Diligence. Our son Anthony is a crew member on the Diligence, when he sent me a notice about this race I just had to add it to my fall calendar. I could not pass up an opportunity to visit him, see the Diligence, and notch up another half marathon. My wife, Michele and Anthony would run the 5k.

Saturday morning Michele and I with our two fur kids Carly and Emmy Lu headed south for Wilmington.

travel puppies

Race central was at the Hilton Hotel centrally located downtown along the river front. This location was perfect as there are plenty of family friendly (even the four legged kind) taverns, and restaurants to grab a quick bite to eat while picking up your race goodies. The Expo was small and low key, for a field of approx. 1300 for the half marathon and 300 or so for the 5k. I thought packet pick up was well organized and very friendly.  After picking up our race gear we headed to a local tavern to sit relax and to “people watch” for a spell.

Race morning, with very limited parking at the starting line adjacent to the U.S.S North Carolina, the race organizers offered water-taxi rides from downtown to the start.   This pre-race movement went off without a hitch.  Although Saturday afternoon was near perfect weather with clear skies, warm temps and near zero wind, race morning found the opposite. This morning it was very windy and cold. Somehow I missed the memo and under dressed. Go figure. As great planning would have it the water-taxis ran nearly every ten minutes and we were able to walk right on board to begin our voyage to the start. Once on the other side of the river, we noticed the area next to the starting line offered very few places to get out of the elements.  We quickly found away around that. In case you were unable to pick up your race packet the day before, this race offered race day packet pick up. Although already having our stuff, the indoors packet pick up area made the perfect place to get out of the cold.  Although a general announcement was made to have everyone leave packet pick up area, no one really forced us (a good size like minded crowd) to go outside. The hovering and warm crowd much to its credit was well behaved to not make an issue with the organizers.  I’m very thankful for that. With 15 minutes to go Anthony and I moved to the starting line.

2015 Battleship Half Anthony and I

As we stood a stones throw from the great battleship, I wondered what the old girl would say if she could talk to us on that blistery morning.  During World War II, the NORTH CAROLINA participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific area of operations and earned 15 battle stars. In the Battle of the Eastern Solomon’s in August of 1942, the Battleship’s anti-aircraft barrage helped save the carrier ENTERPRISE, thereby establishing the primary role of the fast battleship as protector of aircraft carriers. To learn more about the North Carolina visit her web site here.

The half marathon was scheduled to go off first. I’m normally in my starting place early, but today choose to arrive just in time. Many must have had the same idea as I and the corral filled up rather fast. After some brief but appropriate opening words and the national anthem, the race was off.Vowing to not race this event, I parked myself on the shoulder of the two hour pacer and went along for the ride.

2015 Battleship Half Map

The race course offered ever changing scenery as you make your way from “battleship row,” over two bridges, and thru downtown. Wilmington’s tavern district featured tons of fan support, the heavy smell of breakfast and running over some cobblestone roadways headed out of town and thru a lake district housing. The ever changing scenery along this route made the opening miles click off without much thought as I stuck to my “keep it in check plan.”  One of the nicest aspects of this race for the runners and spectators is that it offers multiple viewing location within easy distance for family and friends. I had seen some fans enough that over the course of the day that we built a relationship that by race end they were cheering me on.  This made the middle miles of the run very entertaining.

And then something went wrong with my plan…I was feeling very, very, good at the half way point.

6 miles in 52:56

Somehow I managed to hold myself back for another mile. “Brian,” I reasoned, “you have the JFK 50 in two weeks you can’t afford to blow something up and in the past 20 days you’ve run two FULL MARATHONS, just sit back and run easy.”

My plea fell on deft ears at mile 8.

Mile 8    7:59

Mile 9    7:57
Mile 10  7:35
Mile 11  7:34
Mile 12  7:42
Mile 13  7:39

2015 Battleship Half8

13.1 miles in 1:50:55 not my fastest half by a long shot but after such a pedestrian start and mailing it in for 8 miles I’m pretty happy with my finish. The fact that my legs felt so alive during the closing stages of the race gave me a big boost of confidence for the 50 miler to come.

Perhaps the best part of the day was receiving my finishers medal from an Active Duty Marine aka just like the Marine Corp Marathon except here they were in full dress blues. This is always a touching way to end a race, even for this 20 year military vet.

2015 Battleship Half7

The after race experience would have been awesome if not for the rain, wind and cold…I snagged myself a slice of pizza and headed for the water taxi and my warm car.

BEST news of all, I did not blow up anything and should toe the line at JFK with a strong resolve, fresh legs…and some confidence.

Are you all hands on deck for 2016?

Marathon Running At Tobacco Road Marathon

It is with great pride that I announce my partnership with the Tobacco Road Marathon and Half-Marathon, in Cary, North Carolina.


Not only will I be running the marathon and shooting for my second sub four hour finish, but I’ll also be blogging about my training, preparations and offering training advice for anyone wanting to run Tobacco Road with me.


AND for all of my followers, the Race Director has offered up a discount for signing up, enter burkblog in the discount code section and you’ll recieve a specail discount.

Check out Tobacco Road Marathon and Half Marathon on the Web, follow them on Twitter, LIKE their Facebook page and continue following my training right here. You can also follow my posts under the hashtag #RunTobaccoRd and #RunNC

Come let’s go run Tobacco Road…



Running Questions – Marathon, Ultra-Marathon 50k or 100 Miles

Running Questions – What are you thinking about?

Running a Marathon, a 50k, or 100 miles…each race starts with that very first step.  The first physical act of running is usually followed closely by the first mental challenge. “Wow I’ve got a long way to go.” I’ve raced at the marathon distance or greater 35 times…and yet each time I cross the starting line I’m challenged by the same thought. “Wow, I’ve got a long way to run.”

10273311_531222730322099_744271991583894757_o(At the turn around point during a 24 hour race)

My blog is approaching four years old. When I started I thought for sure no one would ever read it or want my opinions, seek out my advice or ask me questions about running. After all I’m just a middle of the pack runner. BUT in these fours year I’ve been surprised at just how many people connect with me via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog seeking advice.

One of the most commonly asked questions is, What do you think about during a long race?

My quick off the cuff answer to this question is, “I think about nothing and everything all at the same time.” During the middle miles of a race or when I’m not so focused on the number of miles to go I tend to zero in on things other than the race. I go fishing, mentally. I day dream or get lost in solving a problem, working on a project or reviewing in my mind how I plan to tackle something. For the times when I’m trapped within the race, I think about two things: Staying in the moment and Seeing the finish.

When my mind won’t allow me to go into my zone, when I’m stuck “within” the race I manage the mental challenge by:

STAYING IN THE MOMENT:  I don’t care how you slice it a marathon, a 50k or 100 miles is a very long way to run. Saying that, each mile is still just that, only a mile. It’s the same 5280 feet you ran when you began running and it’s the same mile you ran during your last training run. To get to the end of a very long race you must run each mile and stay in the moment. It might sound crazy, but I’m not sure I can run 100 miles. BUT I have finished two 100 mile races running just 1 mile 100 times.


SEEING THE FINISH:  When stuck within the confines of the race when I need to think about something other than the next step or the mile that I’m running I focus on the finish. I visualize the finish over and over in my mind. I see myself crossing the finish line and accepting the medal or 100 mile buckle. I live this finishing scene over and over in my mind; I believe this allows me to believe I will make it to the end. This also allows me to see my goal come to pass and reaffirms that I can accomplish what I set out to do.

How-to-Eat-an-Elephant(Well done, pls)

I once heard a very prophetic statement: “How do you eat an elephant? The answer is simple, one bite at a time.” I truly believe that in life and likewise in long distance running that statement is 100% true. Any major task or long race can be overcome and finished if you do not get lost in the scale of the challenge and tackle the task one bite or one mile at a time.

What do you think about during your long runs, and or races? Tell us about it.

The “6” Duathlon – Run and Fish

Sometime it’s the right day for a duathlon.

Duathlon is an athletic event that consists of a cycling fishing leg, and followed by a running leg (Mmmmmmm maybe a fin leg?).

Before I tell you about the first half of the athletic event, let me tell you about my afternoon run.  After a long morning/afternoon of chasing errands. I still had the MoJo to get out and run 3 miles out to the dam and back for a total of 6.2 miles. After a hard run at the City of Oaks Marathon on Sunday, this Friday afternoon run was for fun. Fall has hit, the leaves have changed colors, and the birds and squirrels are playing. It was nice to get out and enjoy a easy relaxing run.


BUT before all the errands, before the run I caught my 6 POUND bass.  This big lady made me extend my stride, shift into another gear and had my heart rate way above my target zone.

big big fishSometimes it’s just a good day.


Running A Marathon – Five Stages Of Excitement

The Five Stages of Marathon Running

Stage #1 Preregistration – I can do this! Maybe you have been running for years or you have just started and somehow you notice this race called the marathon and you begin to get curious. At some point you notice that a family member, a friend or maybe a co-worker ran a marathon. At that point you begin to wonder if, Tom, Sally or Bernie can do it, Can I? Then the talk shows or nightly news channels highlighted a story of some random “A-list” celebrity who ran NYC, Boston or Chicago. This fact pushed you over the edge, “If Oprah, Pamela Anderson and Will Ferrell can run a marathon, so can I.” You have entered the “I can do this stage” of Marathon Running.


Stage #2 After the click – Can I do this? From scanning the depths of the internet to scanning the glossy full page adds in the running publication you finally select the perfect marathon venue for you. All your running friends had opinions, “it should be a flat course” while others encouraged you to find one “with a lot of crowd support.” But in the end you decide on the marathon that spoke to you. With your mouse pointer hovering over the submit button, about ready to commit nearly 100 hard earned dollars your mind pauses. Can I? With all the gusto you can measure, right before chickening out you click away. With that simple action, you have entered the “Can I Do This” Stage of Marathon Running.

Stage #3 Training for the race – Wow it’s really hard to do this. The money is committed. That you plan to run a marathon has been expertly crafted into all your conversations. Everyone in your social circle is well aware that you have signed up. Your training log is beginning to fill up with expanding weekly mileages. The routine miles have stretched from 6 to 10 and 10 to 15 and finally the “Daddy” of long runs is staring you in the face. Pushing off for your first 20 mile run your steely resolve shows it’s first crack. With a hint of self-doubt you have arrived at the “Wow, it’s really hard to do this” stage of marathon running.

Stage #4 26.2 miles is a long way, I’ve got to do this. Now as you stare down at your feet which are covered in the bright fabric of your favorite running shoes it hits you. “I’ve got to run 26.2 miles.” Before you ever take that first step you wonder if it’s possible, did all those other people have something special in them. The miles are done. The money has been spent. Gone are the early morning wake ups. Your family and some special friends got up early and ventured out to support you on your day. The talking is over and the 20 milers are a thing of the past. Today you simply have to run…26.2 miles. Today you are at home in the “I’ve GOT to do this” stage of Marathon Running.


Stage #5 Success – Once you have completed your first marathon, there’s nothing that can take that accomplishment away from you. You’re a “Marathoner.” Your lungs may burn for a few hours. The soreness in your back may linger into the night. The pain in your legs may last a few days. The pride in your heart will carry you until the pain fades and you begin to think about running another. With great pride and beaming confidence you have arrived at the “SUCCESS – when my next marathon” stage of Marathon Running. Then the cycle starts all over again!

On Our Way To The City Of Oaks Marathon

On our way to the marathon, It all makes sense now.



I did not notice my wife doing her hair.

I did not notice my wife putting on some make up.

And her recent upgrade of her wedding ring did not pause me to think, after all our 25th anniversary was coming up.

We were on our way to run a race. My wife Michele, our son Anthony and GREAT friends Kendra and Jeff were going to run the 10k and I was going to run the Marathon. It was going to be a great day; I had dreams of a sub 4 on a rather hilly course.

Arriving at the starting corral, early as usual, I was surprised when my wife wanted to get up to the near empty starting line right away. I figured she wanted to get some pictures with the inflatable arch as a back drop. The five of us made our way to the starting line just as the race pacers broke up their team meeting. Michele slowly worked us into the center of the arch way and then she gripped my hand.

“Brian, I wanted to recommit our wedding vows with you today…are you willing?” I was stunned….and the only thing I could say was ABSOLUTELY!


With our friends as witnesses and the City of Oaks Marathon starting line as our back drop our son Anthony read our recommitment vows. He asked if I would recommit to love, honor and cherish his mother, my wife of 25 years. Anthony also asked the same of his mother. Michele said she would….all I could get out was ABSOLUTELY! As he finished he asked us to express our own recommitment to each other. I’m not normally one to be lost for words, but I was so overwhelmed that Michele had arranged such a special moment, that I stumbled over my tongue as I attempted to tell her how much I love her.

IMG_7581(Our new wedding rings…25 more years)

We then had a ring exchange ceremony where Michele gave me my new wedding ring to match her upgraded set. At the end of our recommitment ceremony, Jeff announced “you may now kiss your bride.”

A marathon race can start in no better fashion… I LOVE you Michele, more.