Is running that familiar marathon distance getting routine?
Have you raced too many half-marathons?
Does the 10k simply lack the appeal it once had?
When you get tired of the traditional races try one these unique distance/format races to spice up your running and racing relationship.
(On my bucket list for sure)
Stage Races: Whether it’s the Last Annual Vol State 500k or the TransRockies 120-mile run in the Rockies…a stage race just might be what you need to re-light your endurance flame. Set over multiple days the race distance is broken into manageable but challenging segments to test your endurance moxie. What these multiple day races offer, is a chance to test yourself over increased distances, running on successive days, and an opportunity to bond with fellow runners over a large period of time. It’s one thing to show up to a race, run, finish, and cheer on a few friends. The time you will spend with your fellow races over multiples days will create lifelong bonds.
Personal Experience: I have not run a stage race, but it is something I am interested in doing in the future.
Timed Events: A marathon has a definitive finish line, you either run 26.2 miles or you don’t. To mix things up try a timed event such as a 6, 8, 12 or 24-hour event where you log as many miles as you can in a given amount of time. The winner isn’t the one who crosses the finish line first, it’s the runner who can manage their body, their emotions, and the race conditions while keeping their will to keep moving intact for the entire period of the timed race.
Personal Experience: I’ve run 13 timed races, 12 x 24-hour and 1 x 12-hour. I cut my teeth and learned a lot about ultrarunning and myself running 24-hour races. My best outing is 96.725 miles.
(Results from 2018, check out the distance covered)
Last Person Standing Race: There are various formats of varying distances and time but here is the idea. This distance and format I borrowed from Jimbo’s East Coast Summer C.R.A.P. Fest: A timed loop race over a 1.6-mile trail loop. For your first-time round, you get 37 minutes to complete the loop. After 37 minutes, you start lap 2 – this time you get 36 minutes. The third loop you get 35 minutes, then 34 minutes, and so on. If you miss the start of the next loop, then your race is over. The last person running “Standing” is the winner. A version of this race format lasted 67 hours at the Big Backyard Ultra.
Personal Experience: I have not run one of these events, but this format intrigues me. It appears like a balancing act between pacing and endurance.
(2012, my first relay race…tons of fun)
Relay Races: Tired of running alone? Try a 200ish-mile relay race with a bunch of your family, friends, and or co-workers. In this concept, teams are comprised of between 12 and the minimum number (normally 4) of runners your Race Director allows. Teams cover the race distance with each team member running their “share” of the 200-mile race. The non-stage running members pile in a van and meet up at the next exchange point to launch off the next runner as they take on their stage. This routine is played out over 30+ hours. The team with the lowest accumulative time wins. Teams also compete in some unofficial team heckling, van decorating, and other mischiefs along the way.
Personal Experience: I’ve run 1 relay race. The Colonial 200 in 2012. I ran the event with 5 of my friends. This race ranks as one of my all-time favorite running experiences. We ran, we laughed, we ran some more, and we laughed until we lost our turkey Subway sandwich.
It happens to the best of us. One day you’ll get bored, your eyes and your heart may wander. It’s okay, the Stage Race, Timed Events, Last Person Standing, and Relay Races are wonderful avenues to test your endurance, have some fun, meet new people, and scratch the running and racing itch.
My Marathon Motivation – Days prior to the race a young child, a friend of ours, lost his battle with cancer. He would be buried on Sunday, race day. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a young child. Linton’s favorite color was red and it was with a heavy heart that I dedicated this race to remember Linton James #LJstrong.
EXPO – Small in size but provided everything needed prior to race morning. I’ve been to the monster size expos and after a while, you realize that you have seen it all before. This expo was intimate and ideally located. I found it easy talk to other runners and the race staff without fighting through a crowd. The race staff provided daily race briefings, highlighting details of the course, answering questions while they kept the atmosphere entertaining. The location of the expo provided plenty of parking and on-site places to eat.
RACE DAY LOGISTICS – The start and finish were held on the Boardwalk behind Bally’s casino. There was plenty of covered parking areas available within walking distance. I had no trouble finding a place to park, fast in and fast out after the race. Prior to most races you often have to huddle out in the cold, here, there was plenty of indoor space for almost the entire field to keep warm (on a cold and windy morning), stretch, use the restroom, and get mentally ready to run. I walked to the corral within 5 minutes of the starting time.
RACE COURSE – 26.2 miles is a long way…no matter how you look at it. The Atlantic City course offered diversity. We ran along the Boardwalk, around the casinos, among some wonderful homes, and we ran within a small-town setting. The course was always interesting and kept me focused on getting to the next mile marker. Expertly marked and marshaled, I never wondered “which way do I go.” I enjoyed the sites and the support from the local volunteers. Finishing on the Boardwalk with the ocean on one side and the glitter and gold of Atlantic City on the other was awesome!
RACE BLING – I really liked the 60th-Anniversary edition of the finishers medal.
NOTE: In all transparency, I was provided free entry into the Atlantic City Marathon as a race ambassador. But my feelings and thoughts about the race have not and will not be influenced.
RACE REPORT: I did not go into this race with a lofty goal. After a summer of ultramarathon training for Leadville, I did not believe I had much speed in my legs. I hoped I could run another sub-four-hour marathon to keep my streak of three sub-fours in a row alive.
I started the race on the heels of the four-hour pace group where I planned to hang out all day. As we made our way off the Boardwalk and down Martian Luther King Blvd, the pace was perfect. The day was cold and windy, I was happy to be tucked into the pack getting some relief from the conditions. At mile two the race course featured a run through a tunnel towards the first of two lollipop loops on each end of the Boardwalk (upper and Lower) that make up the 26.2-mile course. You haven’t lived until you have run through a tunnel surrounded by the echoing cheers of the marathon crowd. The next aid station would be near the exit of the tunnel. As I made my way out of the tunnel I was happy my race day tactics were going “as planned.”
Did I mention you should always have a backup plan?
At the second aid station, I somehow lost track of the pacer. In the hustle and bustle of the water exchanges, I got separated from the pack. To recover, I thought if I ran a steady pace, 9-minutes per mile, that eventually we would link back up and continue on to a sub-four hour finishing time. Well, that never worked out. Looking back I ran a bit too fast. By mile-3 I realized I was on my own.
5k Split Time: 28:33/9:12
The upper lollipop section as I’ll call it featured a number of turns and easy to run sections which in hindsight helped me run a bit faster than sub-four hour pace. The route weaved between Brigantine Blvd, Huron Ave, Renaissance Point Blvd, Harrah’s Blvd, Maryland Ave, Melrose Ave, New Hampshire Ave. and back onto the Boardwalk at mile 8. This run along the northern section of the course offered wonderful views of the ocean and Atlantic City. Accepting that I was on my own I told myself to keep my pace no slower than 9-minutes per mile. As I made my way out of this section I glanced at my watch to ensure I was on target.
Running on a Boardwalk surface is unlike running on streets or trails. The wooden surface offers a unique feel and the setting along the waterfront offered plenty of distractions. For 5-miles we ran south on the Atlantic City Boardwalk with casinos, shopping, and monuments on one side and the wide-open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean on the other. I thought I would be bored while running 5-miles due south, but the setting here kept me entertained the entire way. If I wasn’t admiring the buildings, I was people watching taking in the collection of welcoming spectators who were braving the cold as they cheered us on. At the halfway point of the Boardwalk, the lead pack of the half marathon crowd came racing past me. It was fun watching them run for the win.
10k Split Time: 56:34/9:07
At mile 13 we took a right-hand turn off the Boardwalk onto Washington Ave. and then a left onto Atlantic Ave. where we would run 3-miles out to the end of Atlantic to a 180-degree turnaround point. After the turn, we started back along Atlantic Ave. for roughly 2-miles (miles 16 and 17), it was at this point that I caught a glimpse of the four-hour pacer making his way to the turnaround point. I estimated that I had pulled away by a mile and a half. Convinced I had no worse than a sub-four finish in the bag, as long as I kept up my end of the bargain, I continued to motor on. After turns on Monroe Ave, Amherst Ave, Jerome Ave, Huntington Ave, back on to Amherst, Atlantic and the Boardwalk the unthinkable happened. Along this stretch, making my way through the south loop, I caught and passed the 3:55 group.
Where once I was happy with a four-hour finish, where once I wanted to stay in contact with the four-hour group now I wanted to keep the 3:55 pacer behind me and if I could to pull away. Passing the 3:55 pace group I now wondered if I could keep up a 7-mile “up-tempo” run to the finish.
Mile 17 – 8:28, Mile 18 – 8:33, Mile – 19 8:39
19 Mile Split Time: 2:49:58/8:56
The wall 8:46, Mile 21 – 8:42, Mile – 22 8:45,
My plan had always been that if I had anything left, if I had any gas left in the tank that I wanted to put the hammer down on the Boardwalk. The final miles on the Boardwalk seemed like the perfect opportunity to make up some time. On the comforting surface once again I found that my legs were getting very tired, they were happy to run slower but I could not get them into an upper gear. The run up the Boardwalk began to feel like a yo-yo of endurance running. My leg turnover would slow down, I’d glance at my watch and will my legs into a faster pace. This faster pace would hold on for a while and I would taper off, another glance at my watch and another round of mind over tied quads. This back and forth attack went on for two miles. I was happy to click off mile splits between 8:37 and 9:03 .
The last mile got tough, I could see the top of the Bally’s casino and hotel but as hard as I ran it seemed to get closer. I believed in my heart I had a good finishing time in front of me but I had not looked at the overall elapsed time function of my watch to see where I actually stood.
As my legs drew stiff, and my lungs began to burn I thought for a second it would be okay to cruise to a decent finish. Countering this point was one important thought. Little Linton James fought so hard, his family was in so much pain, I could not give in, I had no right to give into temporary discomfort. I know in the big picture a PR at a marathon means nothing, but if I could finish strong, if I could finish this race #LJstrong maybe I could honor him and his life.
The run to a PR was on.
Finish Time: 3:52:28
The first person I called was my wife. Hearing her voice on the other end of our cell phone connection I told her I had finished, I told her I had scored a PR and I told her through waining breaths that I had thought about LJ all day. I started to cry. I hope I carried his name in an honorable way, I hope I inspired just one person to look at life differently and maybe one person will fight just a little harder in life’s battles because of Linton James and because I ran #LJstrong for 26.2 miles.
I’ll be returning to North East Ohio to run the Cleveland Marathon series in 2019 and I can’t wait. To help you reach your goals I’ll be posting training tips to help you run your best Cleveland!
Tip#4 Have a race day plan and a backup plan. It’s very seldom that race goes off just the way you imagined. It’s best to have a plan and a backup plan just in case something goes wrong.
Tip#3 Find a tribe. Many runners find it easier to train for a big race in the company of others. A training tribe/family helps to keep you accountable to your training plan and to your running friends. It’s hard to be a “no-show” when you know others are waiting for you, looking for you and will give you a hard time the next time you do make the training time.
Tip #2 Identify your race shoes early. Going into a goal race you don’t want to run in new shoes or shoes you don’t feel comfortable running in. I pick out my race days shoes for my goal race months in advance. I use the months prior to break them in and get them to feel comfortable for race day.
#1 To have a successful run at Cleveland, build your base now. A successful marathon begins at least six months before race day. You need a solid base of fitness to maximize your efforts on race morning.
Want to run your best Marathon or any race for that matter? Click here to learn the tips and tactics I’ve learned over 18 years of marathon racing.
To help you save money, I’ll have a special discount code for my blog followers to save a few bucks on your entry fee. Stay tuned for more exciting news….
Five marathons or ultra-marathons races/runs that changed have my life.
When I first started on my fitness journey, it was never on my scope to run a marathon or an ultra-marathon. 18 years later I can hardly believe the number of miles I have covered or the lessons that have I learned.
1. My First Marathon - I began my fitness journey to simply get back into shape. At that time, I was a mid-30 something young man who was beginning to feel the mid-life riff. Stepping on the treadmill that faithful day I had dreams of regaining some form of fitness and one day running a 10k where my heart didn’t explode. Maybe in my wildest dreams I could envision a “better” version of me running a half-marathon. A full marathon, that is what “other” people did.
On April 24th 2005, in just over four hours, I ran the Shakespeare Marathon. My life would never be the same. I learned much about myself during the nine months of training. I found my spirit during the time it took me to cover the 26.2-miles. After finishing the race, I believed I could do anything I set my mind and my will to accomplish. I became aware that I was capable of being that “other” person, the ones who achieved their goals and dreams. I learned that any task, challenge or ambition could be met if you tackled it one step, one day at a time.
Nothing seemed impossible after this race.
2. My First 24-Hour race - I didn’t see it coming. A simple black and white flyer picked up at a local running store enticed me into signing up for a 24-hour race. What was I doing, I asked myself? How hard could it be to run for 24-hours? I reasoned it’s only one day.
I started that race alone, one runner among a group of people each testing themselves against the clock. I learned a lot about myself as I struggled in the latter stages of the race. I completed 52.5 miles in just over 16 hours. More importantly I was introduced to the ultra-running community. I learned that your competitors can and will become your best friends and your greatest supporters. I discovered that runners are a community who live, laugh, love and toil together. I learned that each of us while trying to do our best can lift up others around us. I learned that although running is a solo sport it is also a community of friends who understand the challenge of pushing our bodies beyond what we believe are our limits.
Running has never felt the same since that day.
3. My First 100-Mile race – When asked by friends if I would consider running a 100-mile race, not this guy…had been my standard reply. “I’m not that crazy.”
Running the final half mile of the Umstead 100-mile endurance race, knowing I had covered 99.5 miles in under 24 hours, I could barely contain myself. Approaching the finish line, I looked for my wife who had provided crew support all day. In between emotion filled eyes I spotted her and yelled “Michele, get to the finish line.” I’ll never forget her reply “You’re done? Your early!”
I continued to run for the finish line as she made her way to greet me. At this point my body was in such pain, and my mind was using every trick in the book to compel me to keep moving forward. With my goal, just a few strides in front of me I couldn’t believe I was going to complete a 100-mile race.
As I crossed the timing stripe for the 8th time the volunteer sitting behind the timing table called out my number, looked down at the scoring sheet and said “congratulations.” I remember seeing my wife standing front and center behind a string of yellow tape. I noticed her eyes were full of tears and my running mentor George stood just feet away looking proud of me. I can still recall in great detail when Blake Norwood handed me a Umstead 100-mile sub 24-hour finishers buckle and I remember straining to hold it all together. Blake next presented a girl standing next to me with her buckle, she began to cry and I lost all control. I was a 100-mile finisher and I could no longer keep my emotions inside. I moved slowly but as fast as I could, towards my wife. She hugged me and took me into the cabin to sit down. I was happy to be still. I was so proud I had completed my goal, so thankful to everyone who invested and supported me on my journey to run further than I ever imagined possible. I knew that somehow, 100-miles later, I had become a different person.
100-miles changed my outlook on life.
4. Running the Grand Canyon – It’s sometimes hard to imagine a race or a run being bigger than the total distance. Running the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim was so much more.
The beauty, the friendships, the distance and the struggle to finish left an impression on my soul. It’s hard to capture in words the overwhelming beauty of the Grand Canyon. The colors, shapes, and textures flood your senses. For a brief period, I was not simply a visitor to the canyon I along with four friends were part of the Grand Canyon. We gathered as friends along the south rim, wide eyed, open minded and unsure of what we had gotten ourselves into. I believe each one of us knew we would never be the same. Over the course of the day, over the 44-miles from the south rim to the north and back we shared our excitement, we shared our journey, our experiences, our struggles and we created a bound we will share forever. It’s funny whenever I see a post from anyone of this group on Facebook I instantly remember our run at the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is more than a place to run it’s a life shaping experience on so many levels.
5. Shamrock Marathon 2013 – Susan was told she had breast cancer. She was told that one day she would not be able to walk because of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Susan asked if I would run with her while she trained for a half marathon. (spoiler alert, she didn’t stop there)
Nearly a year later Susan and I ran along the Virginia Beach boardwalk with the finish line celebrations just out of site. “Susan.” I called out in between deep breaths as I tried to keep my composure together. “Susan, you’re going to do it…you’re going to finish the Shamrock Marathon.” I had spent over four hours glued to Susan’s shoulder. I was so proud of her. Susan was a fighter, she overcame some of the scariest health concerns. She was determined, never giving up day in or day out. Susan was the first person I ran with consistently. We ran in the rain, the heat, the cold, through thunderstorms, and in races. Together we ran easy miles and we ran the long hard miles. Susan overcame so much and I learned to open myself up to others.
Running was no longer about finish lines…running became about the journey, the adventure, the experience and most importantly about the relationships.
In life and in running it’s important (so I’ve learned) to not take your successes or your failures to serious.
It takes a lot of courage to sign up for a race. It takes a lot of dedication to train and prepare for the big day. Likewise it requires a major commitment both personally and financially to show up on race day. If you run and race long enough it is bound to happen…Did Not Finish.
“Defeat should never be a source of discouragement but rather a fresh stimulus.” Robert South
So how do you survive a DNF?
1. Accept it. It is what it is…on that day and time you were unable to finish that one race. Plain and simple theirs nothing you can do to change that fact. Like many of life’s challenges the first step in getting over it is to accept it.
2. Remember a DNF does not define you as a person. I get it running is a big part of our lives. It consumes much of what we do, think and plan for. BUT…running is only one part of who you are. You are so much more than the results of a race gone wrong. One event won’t define your life…one race does not make your running career.
3. Give yourself time to grieve. That may sound foolish, but its true. Like anything in life, if it means enough to you…when you lose it it hurts. Allow yourself to mourn the loss of the goal. Acknowledge the pain your feeling. Set aside time to grieve…but limit that time to a productive period.
4. Learn from it. There are lessons to be learned in everything we do. Once you can look back at your race subjectively, rid of the emotions, look at the race to learn where things went right and where things went wrong.
5. Get back on the horse. The best way to move on from the past is to focus on the future.
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Spoiler Alert: My Leadville Trail 100 did not go as planned.
Monday morning quarterbacking is easy when your resting heart rate is below 50. Everything looks much cleaner when viewed from behind a desk. The struggle is real when on the trail, light headed and sucking what limited oxygen there is through what feels like a straw. The fight beats you down physically and emotionally in the middle of a four mile long climb to the sky. In that environment, in that setting I did my best and made the best decisions I could. It was not enough.
(Eric, Josh, Andrea, Marilee, Myself and race founder Ken Chlouber)
I love the Leadville Trail 100. I’m drawn to the running community that this race attracts. I embrace the rough edges, the unique vide of the runners who quest to conquer the highest elevation 100-mile race in the country. I wanted to conquer the roughest and the toughest of Colorado mountains. I vowed to dig deep just like Ken Chlouber asked me to do.
You can live the drama of this race in Running to Leadville, by Brian Burk. Available on Amazon and this blog.
60% of the field failed that day…..it doesn’t make it any easier.
(Race Morning, Jeff, Josh Eric, Me and Michele)
Start to May Queen, 13.5 Miles, 2:32:13 - I stood on the starting line under the Leadville Trail 100 banner very calm and collected. My wife, friends, and race pacers walked me to the corral, wished me well, and sent me off on my journey. I thought I would be a ball of nerves, but surprisingly it was all business as the star spangled banner was sung and the famous shot gun went off releasing a rampart of gray smoke into the night sky.
I ran the entire way from 6th and Harrison to the Turquoise Lake trail head. Once on the trail I fell in line and followed the conga line of other runners around the lake. I ran the “runable” sections and hiked the hills or parts of the trail that may have been hazardous on footing. I passed other runners where it made sense and held back when the risk seemed too great. Coming into the aid station I believed I had run a smart and effective opening segment of the race. I was 45 minutes ahead of the cut offs and I was feeling awesome.
May Queen to Outward Bound, 24.5 Miles, 5:05:06 – Leaving May Queen and hitting the trails toward Sugarloaf pass I knew there would be some climbing in front of me. My legs felt great, I was tired but nothing out of the ordinary. I settled into my run/walk plan running when I could and power hiking when it made sense. The climb topped out at just over 11,000 feet. The effort was long but manageable. The views…spectacular.
The down hill was rapid and wicked. Once off the descent I was happy to be running on black top roads and fairly level ground was we ran past the Leadville Fish Hatchery. I rolled into Outward bound again making up time on the cutoffs and feeling GREAT. The day was going as planned and the race I believed was coming to me. My crew was awesome. Josh and Andrea cleaned the rocks out of my shoes and got me in and out in amazing speed. Kendra and Jeff fed me and provided encouragement. Michele walked with me as I went back out to battle the clock.
Outward Bound to Twin Lakes, 39.7 Miles, 8:32:00 – The run to Twin Lakes was a mixture of black top, fire roads, and jeep trails with two aide stations, Half Pipe and Mount Elbert as we topped out at 10,500 ft. On the backside we again were faced with a steep and fast downhill making our way to Twin Lakes. My legs felt good climbing but here I noticed that my knees where quiet painful from all the braking action on the descents. As I ran down the short but step down hill into Twin Lakes I was happy to have two of the six climbs out of the way. My plan was to arrive in Twin Lakes between 8 and 9 hours from the starting gun. I arrived 1.5 hours to the good on the cutoff times. Although I was feeling confident, I knew Hope Pass loomed in the distance.
(video thanks to friend and pacer Eric)
In my plan for the race I gave myself the same 4 hours that the race provided in their recommended pacing/cut off sheets. I figured this was a conservative time to make my way up and over Hope Pass.
(Hope Pass, Outbound)
Twin lakes to Hope Pass, 45 Miles, 11:27:42 - There is a field section from the Twin Lakes crew zone leading up to the water crossing and the beginning of the trails up Hope Pass. As my good friend Jeff walked me into the field after my crew stop I told him “This shit is hard.” I had no way of knowing how true that statement would be.
Mistake #1 I fast walked the field section deciding to conserve my legs for the climb to come. Looking back I should have ran this rather flat section. Once across the river and on the trails I began the 3,400 foot climb. Within a mile on the trails towards Hope Pass my legs just would not move faster than a slow walk. My breathing got messed up and it seemed my heart rate was way to high. At a snails pace I had four slow, agonizing, and defeating miles to go. It felt like forever. I don’t want to be over dramatic here but the majority of the climb up Hope Pass is without switchbacks with an angle of attack well above a 20% grade.
Rob Karr passed me on his way to winning the race. A brush with greatness…
Hope Pass to Winfield, 50 Miles, 13:23:23 - Crossing over Hope Pass I felt my life renewed. The down hills were awesome although I got caught up in the line of runners going down hill and although I made “Okay” time I was not able to capitalize on gravity the way I would have liked. Mistake #2 I did not push passing people when I could have or when I should have. I believe fatigue caused me to run to conservative again. Reaching Winfield I lost 45 minutes of my cutoff buffer.
Arriving in Winfield and looking at my watch this was the first time I believed my finish was in jeopardy. Making my way through the aid station tent and back to my crew, I told Eric I thought it would be hard for me to make it back over Hope Pass in time as I was moving so slow. I also told him I was not giving up and would give it everything I had but my legs were toast on the climb. My wife kissed me, told me she was proud of me and sent me down the road in good spirits.
I had 4.5 hours to do what had just taken me 5 hours….get back up Hope Pass and into Twin Lakes.
Winfield to Hope Pass Inbound, 55 Miles, 16:23:48 - Mistake #3 I fast hiked much of the road leading out of Winfield to the trails on the back side of Hope Pass. At the time I was trying to mount a rebound, I thought with fresh food in my stomach that maybe I would be able to climb up Hope for the second time a bit faster than the first. That did not work. The climb on the back side is much stepper than the front side. As I struggled and made my way up Hope, Eric and I talked about whether it was worth the risk of selling out to make the cut off or running a steady race and hoping to make it in time. The fear was if we went for broke that I might make the cut off but not have anything left to continue.
(Back Side of Hope Pass)
I stuck with a steady climb up hope.
Hope Pass Inbound to Twin Lakes, 60.5 miles, 18:15:?? - We arrived at Hope Less aide station, approx .7-miles on the other side of Hope Pass, moving pretty well. I was running the down hills at a pretty good pace in an effort to make up time where I could. My legs seemed to rebound with the help of gravity and for much of the run I felt like we had a frighting chance. At Hope Less I had a cup of noodles and some water as volunteers refueled my water bottles. At one point a volunteer told us we had 1 hour and 20 minutes to make the cut off. I thought it a slim chance but Eric and I headed down the trail. In the dark even with head lamps it was hard to run full out. I would run the sections I felt comfortable with footing and fast walk those that felt dangerous.
We made the water crossing and I estimate half way through the field section when Eric noticed that we were one minute past the 18 hour cutoff at Twin Lakes. We decided to keep pushing on like we had a chance. It was also at this time we could hear some cheering off in the distance. Unsure why the crowd was cheering we continued our fast hike through the field. Resigned that I missed the cutoff Eric and I talked about life, running and over coming this set back. I gave those final distances all I had. I noticed on my watch I was hiking/running between a 13:00 and 12:00 mile pace. I wasn’t going to quit.
As we neared the parking lot across the road leading to the Twin Lakes General Store people in the dark began talking and yelling about a “soft cut” that the gate was still open and I had maybe minutes to clock in. Eric instantly un-clipped my hiking poles. I dropped my vest and in my best impersonation of Carl Lewis I got up on my toes and ran as fast as I could. Reaching the edge of the parking lot I could hear our friend Kendra, and my wife yelling “RUN BRIAN, RUN RUN.” And I did.
(The mad dash for home….)
I gave it everything I had. I ran in an all out sprint. I made my way into the parking lot opposite the general store in a mad dash, we crossed the street with people cheering us on and a red flashing strobe light blocking traffic. My legs began to get heavy as we ran the short section of road to the final left hand turn and the run for the timer. With everything I had I put on a final sprint down Lang road sure I had made it in time. Everyone was cheering, the inflatable arch was still illuminated and the trail to Mount Elbert was right in front of me.
A voice out of a crowd gathered in the middle of the road called out. “You are too late, I’m sorry.” What? I couldn’t give up, I couldn’t stop running I ran into the pile of bodies in front of me at full speed. I nearly knocked the cutoff lady over and did in fact knock another runner to the ground. I then fell on my backside as my legs or it might have been my spirit finally gave out. As my arms covered my face I felt a cold hand touch my left wrist and a voice spoke up out of the darkness. “We have to get his timing chip. ” My soul lay crushed on the dirt road of Twin Lakes. Everything I dreamed about for three years was over in a few seconds at the beckoning of a soft and final voice.
“I’m so sorry” she said. I was beyond upset, I wanted to lash out. I wanted to yell out…”I would have made it if I knew about a soft cutoff.” I knew she had a hard job, I believe it hurt her as much as it crushed me. I thanked her for doing a job no one wanted to do. I told I respected her and understood.
I was angry that I did not know I still had time.
Inside I died. The runner I built myself up to be lay ruined in the street. I let down all those who supported me with their time and money. My confidence gone, the belief in myself gone…the person I wanted to be in shambles. I gave so much to have it end this way. I felt so bad that people had come this far to see me fail. I wanted to hide. My crew lifted me up, they hugged me and told me they were proud, that they knew I gave my all and that it would be okay. My wife told me she was proud of me.
In the days since my body and soul have recovered. Although it still stings, I’ve realize that one race would not define me. I made mistakes but I gave this race all I had. I dug deep, I was committed, I did not quit, I just failed to realize the toll the preceding 40 miles would take on my legs when I faced Hope Pass.
I will come back stronger, faster, better prepared and by all means smarter!
The Leadville Trail 100 has captured my attention for a good part of three years. Prior to discovering this race running was mostly about getting to the finish line as fast as I could. To run faster I avoided races with hilly terrain. At that stage of my running career there was little adventure in my runs. I was simply logging miles…some very flat miles. Then I watched a movie call 1hundred and was captivated that people sought out and ran up mountains. I also discovered the story of this sleepy little mining town high up in the Rockies. I was hooked…
If I was going to seek out a mountain, if I was going to run up a mountain I wanted it to be a big one. Leadville may not offer the highest crest but with the majority of the race over 10,000 ft I felt this was the mountain race I needed to run.
“I will run and I will complete the Leadville Trail 100.” Became my calling card.
Fast forward to Aug, 2018. The miles are done, the hay is in the barn….only final touches are left in my preparation. Come along with me as I spend a little over a week in Leadville getting ready to run the biggest race of my life.
Aug 9, Day 1 / 8 days till race day: I drove out to the site of the May Queen aide station. This site would serve as the first and last stops on my way to the Leadville belt buckle.
In this video diary I talk about why Leadville, how I’ve amp’d up my training for this race and my race goals.
Aug 10, Day 2 / 7 days till race day: Facebook is great. During my day 1 dinner (Pizza) I received an instant message from a FB friend asking if I wanted to run/hike Hope Pass with him. At first I second guessed myself when I accepted. Did I really want to go up Hope? Did I really want to hang out with someone I had never met in person? WOW….so glad I went.
In no other sport/community do you meet as strangers (FB friends) and in the span of 3 hours and 3,000 feet you feel like lost souls. On this run we laughed, I learned, we told stories and shed a few tears.
In my day 2 diary I talk about why 100-miles, and what I do for nutrition on race day.
Aug 11, Day 3 / 6 days till race day: I spent my third day in Leadville volunteering for the 100-mile Mountain Bike Race. Instead of a video I have a few pictures from my adventure. My first assignment of the day was to work the starting corral (4 a.m. until 6 a.m.) in the gold corral…with all the elite level bike riders. Being this up close and personal with such talent was humbling. The start of the race was impressive and inspiring.
After the 6 a.m. start I got reassigned with two friends, Stacy and Sho to help with traffic management on the north side of Twin Lakes Dam, aka “parking duty.” All my experience marshaling aircraft in the USAF came in handy. Not one signal parking indecent, but I’m here to tell you parallel parking is a lost art.
After the parking rush was over I was able to get out on the course to watch as a few of the riders made their return trip back to Leadville, mile 60.
Once done with parking Stacy drove us around to each of the locations for the run aid stations. An experienced Leadville crew member she pointed out helpful race day hints/tips for crewing. I’ll post this information in my upcoming videos. After our site survey of the run course we headed back to Start/Finish line.
Back at the finish line we were able to watch a few of the riders come home. This time at the finish line really inspired Sho and I for our adventure, running the Leadville Trail 100.
Aug 12, Day 4 / 5 days till race day: I could not be in town and not run the Leadville Trail 10k…it would be un-American, right? But I wasn’t here to race the 10k. I simply wanted to get a feel for my race day intervals and/or work on my race day plan for the first leg of the 100-mile race, Leadville to May Queen. I completed the race in 1:00:53, good for 169/435 overall. Best of all I felt strong the entire 6.2 miles…
In this installment I talk about the Leadville 10k, how I plan to handle the two rivers crossings during the race and the use of hiking poles.
Aug 13, Day 5 / 4 days till race day: Today I linked up with three friends and toured the locations for the aid stations along the Leadville race course. I also asked Mike and Jim “Why 100-miles and why Leadville.”
Check back for my next installment of my Leadville Diaries.
For the beginner any new hobby, lifestyle or line of work can be intimidating. Running can be one of the most “scary” things a person can do to regain their fitness. After all the actual task of running is a solo activity. Running tends to expose your weakness and provides very little cover to hide behind. Running can be humbling, your either in shape or you’re not and after a few feet, yards or miles your level of fitness will be exposure. Finally running is the easiest form of exercise to get wrong…and end up injured.
So how does someone who desires to get fit begin on a running routine. This is one of the most popular questions from friends, co-workers and anyone looking to run.
10-Tips to Start You on The Right Running Path.
#10 Visit your doctor/health care provider. Ensure they give you the green light to begin any fitness routine.
#9 Invest in a good pair of shoes, AND get fitted by a running professional. We all love the flash of a colorful pair of shoes. We would all like to strut around in the latest Air Jordan’s…but your running shoes must fit your needs. A trained professional at your local running store has the knowledge, training and experience to help you find the right pair for your feet.
(Topo Athletic are my shoe of choice,
but the best shoe for you is the best shoe for you)
Some running stores that I have personal experience with:
A good pair of shoes can make or break your running experience.
#8 Walk don’t run. As bad as you would like to start running, you wouldn’t take your Ferrari straight from the show room or out of storage and race it up to 100-miles per hour on the first outing. The same warm up approach needs to be applied to your body. I recommend starting your running career by walking first. This will allow your body to get used to the motion, regain some up-front fitness and settled into a more active life style.
The best way to start running is to walk first.
#7 Find a community. Running is a solo activity, face it no one can run the miles for you but you can run them with friends and like minded people. Your local running store or running club can find you a good group to link up with. I have found that runners are a great bunch of people, we love to share our experiences and enjoy lifting up others.
(It takes a community to do what we do…join one)
Reach out on the Social media side. Sure there is a lot wrong with the internet, be careful online, but I have met a lot of great people, and forged some long term relationships within the online running community.
There is power in numbers…a good group helps to motivate, inspire, hold accountable and make your run more enjoyable. Find your community.
#6 Set some goals and rewards. In running it’s okay to bride yourself. I set short term and long-term goals. If I complete my long run I get ice cream, if I do well in a race an extra day off…if I hit my monthly goals I get a new shirt, shorts or some piece of running gear I’ve had my eye on.
(Bling makes my heart sing and my legs move….)
Provide a target to measure your success…how will you know how awesome you are without a measuring stick.
#5 Run for someone else. I have a friend who dedicates all her miles to a little boy named Aiden. I don’t know Aiden well, but I would guess he would give anything to be able to run…Once you run for someone else it enables you to view your ability as a gift, one that should not be wasted.
At Seven bridges marathon I ran for a little boy named Isaiah…changed my day.
(It’s about more….)
Run for those who wish they could.
#4 Take rest days. Once bitten by the running bug it’s easy to overdo it. Your body needs rest to recover and grow stronger. View rest days as an important part of the training plan.
Running and resting go hand in hand…take advantage of it.
#3 Seek out inspiration. Read race reports, visit blogs, subscribe to running magazines and read a book on the gene of running you enjoy most. There is inspiration in the victories of others. There is lessons to be learned in the struggles of others. There are goals to be set in the inspiration of others. In most sports, you can only sit on the couch or on the sidelines watching your favorite team or player. Running offers you the opportunity to retrace their literal footsteps as you venture over the very terrain they did.
#2 Follow a plan. You can either hire a professional coach or follow your own plan, but either way learn from the experiences of others. There are many highly trained running coaches out there who would love to help you. You can locate a coach either thru your local running store, gym, or on-line. Most coaches have years of experience, have passed accreditation tests and have a desire to help you succeed. An outside perspective can help you reach your fitness goals.
If a coach is beyond your budget, or if you simply like blazing your own trail, download a proven plan as a baseline and adjust your training to your lifestyle and fitness goals.
Plan for your success and follow it, tweak it, BUT enjoy it.
#1 Enjoy the run. For some running is about racing, conquering difficult terrain, breaking new barriers and for others running is about the experience.
(Really experience the run)
Smell the roses, witness the deer in the forest, enjoy the first rays of sunlight on the water front, feel the warmth of your soul on your skin, be scared to push your body, cry for the victory of others and live in the run!
Running can be a lifetime activity. Be sure you get off on the right foot.
Do you have tip to help the new runner? Drop it in the comments section below, Thank you!
A popular question at ultra-marathon seminars that I give centers around Intervals. Or more specifically…how do you run a successful 50-mile, 24-hour or 100-mile race?
(Notice little device that looks like a pager,
interval timer keeping me on track 2018 Leadville Run Camp)
Running to Leadville : A story about a life finally revealed and a terrible twist of fate that turned everything inside out. Also the story of a small mining town and a 100-mile foot race that changes you. Available on Amazon and signed copies here.
At my level of fitness/competition, I do not “run” the entire race. I’ve completed four 100-mile races with a personal record (PR) of 21 hours 36 minutes, and twelve 24-hour races with a PR mileage of 96.75-miles using a run/hike interval approach. An interval approach could be defined as a period of time broken down into a run segment where you run for a given amount of time and a hiking segment where you hike for a given amount of time.
8-minute run/2-minute hike
How does an interval approach work in ultra-marathons?
Going into a race I establish goals…#1 to finish, #2 a successful time goal and #3 a PR time goal. I have what I consider two interval approaches to a successful ultra-marathon. The Pace Per Mile method and the Terrain method. By no means do I believe I’ve invented either of these methods or have I cornered the market…simply outlining how I’ve used them in my running and racing.
This method starts with my time related race goals. From those goals, I use a pace calculator, available on-line, to figure out an overall pace per mile. From this overall pace, I figure out a “run pace” and a “hike pace.” It’s not super scientific, I simply take the overall pace and adjust my run pace to run slightly faster than the overall pace to cover the slower hiking periods.
24-hour 100-mile finish = 14:24 overall pace.
I can hike a solid 15:30 mile pace for most of the day and can hike faster for shorter distances. I like to use this solid pace as my planning factor.
At this hiking pace, I figure I need my run pace to be between 11:30 and 12:30 per mile. During the day, I’ll check the overall pace mode on my GPS watch and adjust my pace(s) to keep on target or slightly better. I’ll run a little faster when needed or slow down if I get to far out in front of my goal or my finish is in jeopardy. If I fall behind I’ll speed up some. Now saying that I will also use the downhills as bonus time. The downhill sections I run as my body allows, cautious to not “over speed” my legs burning them out for the long haul. I take advantage of the down hills to run a little faster to make up time or to stay even with the time I lost on the climbs/time off pace all together (aid stops).
I also have pacing plans for the first half of the race and for the second half to account for body fatigue. For races like the JFK50 where the course covers three varying conditions, I’ve had different pacing plans for each section.
This method centers around my time related race goals and what terrain the race course offers up. i.e. take what the course gives you. For my first 100 the rule of the day was to hike anything that looked like a hill, smelled like a hill or felt like a hill. I ran all the down hills and flats at a conservative 12 minutes per mile pace. This was a pace from my 24-hour race experience I knew I could keep up. This approach allows you to use the race course to your advantage, make up time where you can to cover time lost on the hills or pit stops.
Whatever method you chose, or a combination of methods you decide to run for your race the key is to stay flexible, listen to your body, take what the day gives you and keep moving.
(Yeti Success, Andrea helped me stay on pace and bring home a 50-mile PR)
I’ve run intervals of 25/5, 9/1, 8/2 and 4/2. I’ve also fallen back to whatever interval I’ve needed to keep me in the race. A 2/1 interval in the closing miles of Yeti 50-miler kept me mentally in the game and running faster than the previous 4/2 had. I finished that race with a 50-mile PR.
To be honest, I also wing it a lot, as former heavy weight champion Mike Tyson said, “any plan is only good until you get punched in the face.”