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 #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.”
10 Things I learned at the Leadville Trail 100 Race Series Training Camp.
Sports camps should not be just for kids. I never got to go to a sports camp as a kid. Until signing up for the Leadville Trail 100 Race and Run Camp I thought my days of attending a sports camp were like water under the bridge…gone. We work hard for our money; every adult should follow their passion and attend a sports camp of their choosing.
(My first crossing of Hope Pass, 12,600ft above Sea-level)
Going from sea level to 10,200 feet in less than 10 hours hurts! I first felt the headache when I arrived in Denver, by the time I got to Leadville I was concerned. That first night trying to get some sleep…I thought I might die! Now I’m no doctor, I have not attended medical school, and although I was once an extra in a movie (the Box) it was not in the medical profession. Alarmed, I Googled “Altitude sickness” and followed the self-treatment advice of hydration and over the counter aspirin.
The town of Leadville is unlike none other. Whether it be in the tattered remains of the old west, or remnants of the glory days of the gold and silver rush the proud history and culture of Leadville is still alive and well.
People are Great. I met a lot of very supportive people at Run Camp. Whether it was other runners, race management or the residents, the Leadville Trail 100 is a major undertaking and I got the sense the whole town supports the race series.
They treated us like professionals. Everything needed to run 61-miles over three days at 10,000 ft was ready and waiting.
(The trail into the snow)
The course preview was invaluable. Prior to run camp and over the 2-years it took me to write a fictional story about this 100-mile race I spent a lot of hours researching the town, history and the course. I felt like I understood the challenge. NOTHING replaces shoes in the dirt.
(The climbs were taxing, but wonderful)
My lungs did not explode! Honestly, I was scared to death that I would be totally gassed in the first 50-yards of the very first run. I had many sleepless hours wondering what I was going to do if I could not complete the three scheduled runs. I’m not saying it was easy…but I ran strong, smart and not out of breath. I finished each of the three runs in the upper half of the pack.
The views were breath taking. Our world is made up of so many wonder sites. Sometimes I think while we live in the concrete jungle we forget how much natural beauty there is. Run Camp reminded me that we need to get out into the country, to climb a mountain, play on the beaches, hike a forest trail and simply be outside more!
(Day 1 = Red, Day 2 = Blue and Day 3 = Orange)
The long-sustained climbs are no joke. Coming from the relatively flatland of Richmond, Va nothing could have gotten me ready for the climbs. Whether it be Sugar loaf, Power line or the double crossing of Hope Pass my legs took a beating. The view was defiantly worth the effort, it was breath taking standing on top looking back from where I came from.
(If you why is big, your how is easy)
The Leadville Race Series is family. I’ve been to events where I felt welcomed, but here I truly felt from the people who worked in the retail store to Quinn, Paul, including Ken and Merilee that everyone wanted me to succeed. Now I will say…they will not give you a second on the clock…but if you keep fighting, if you keep moving, if you DIG DEEP…they will do everything to help you reach that finish line and get your buckle.
(Race Founders Ken and Merilee love my book Running to Leadville)
The Leadville Race and the town of Leadville have a pull on me that I can’t explain. I first stumbled across this race while watching the film titled 1hundred where something called me. I enjoyed following the story of four runners as they took on the 100-mile challenge. At the same time, I had this story to tell, I had a character in my mind much like myself who needed to overcome some past hardships and he needed to find himself. I knew there would be no better stage to tell this story then on the stage of the highest 100-mile race in the country, Running to Leadville was born. A story that could only be told by a runner, but it is so much more.
Leadville, Co. home of the Leadville Trail 100 – I can’t explain it…I fell in love with a town, a vibe, a community and I felt challenged by a race that captured my imagination.
This week, begins my Summer of Leadville. I’ll be attending the Leadville Trail 100 Training Camp. What is “Training Camp?”
Paraphrasing from their web site, Training Camp is a informative look at the country’s most scenic and perhaps most challenging ultra-marathon course. Three days of training runs, which provide an opportunity to see all sections of the #LT100 race course, and attend sessions with race veterans designed to help Leadville hopefuls get the most out of their race experience.
21 June – My adventure begins, west bound to the land of thin air and high mountain peaks.
22 June – Friday – 6 pm Packet Pick Up
23 June – Saturday – Run #1 Starting at 8:00, we will run from May Queen Campground to Twin Lakes Fire House (Red line on the map below, 26 miles). After the run there will be a post race dinner and panel discussion “What it takes to finish the Leadville Trail 100″ with elite runners, and race management.
24 June – Sunday – Run #2 Starting at 8:00, We will run from Twin Lakes – Willis Gulch, over Hope Pass to Winfield and return (Blue line, 20 miles). A cookout will follow at Twin Lakes.
25 June – Monday – Run #3 begins after a 2 pm panel discussion with past finishers, we will run from May Queen to the race day finish at 316 Harrison Ave (Orange line, 15 Miles).
26 June – I’ll fly home for my lung transplant (some sea level runner humor here…).
That’s 61 miles and 8500+ feet of elevation gain over three days and an experience of a lifetime.
Why run Leadville? Along with testing my endurance limits, I enjoy writing and telling a story. As I discovered the small mining town and fell in love with its culture and the ultra-vibe…a story came to me that could only be told on the Leadville stage. Running to Leadville - A captivating account about a lost soul, a small Colorado mining town and a 100-mile trail race that changes lives. A tale that will take you to the top of Hope Pass and beyond. “A story that could only be told by a runner.”
(Thank you American Greeting cards for this great Expo gift)
I’ve run the Cleveland Marathon three times. After finishing some races, I’m okay with checking the box and moving on. Cleveland is a favorite city of mine, I’m a die-hard Browns fan, enjoy what the city has to offer and something keeps calling me back. At mile 22 of this year’s marathon it hit me.
Ten Reasons Why You Should Run the Cleveland Marathon
1. It’s a big city race but not so big that you get lost in the crowd
2. There is plenty to do before and after the race
- Rock-N-Roll Hall of fame
- Science museum
- West Side Market
- Local taverns and restaurants
- Tower City
- Lake front views and the water front
- Indians games
I could go on and on…
3. The race provides a very cool medal
4. The starting line provides the perfect photo op with the Quicken Arena (home of the Cavs), and Progressive Field (home of the Indians) and the Lebron James billboard as backdrop
5. The Expo is awesome
6. Volunteers are helpful and very positive
7. The race is well organized
8. Parking is NOT an issue…city parking within a block of the finish-line was available and the city did not jack up its prices on race day
9. Breath taking views in the closing miles, i.e. the city sky line set behind the Lake Erie shore line
10. The course offers a little bit of everything. Over the 26.2-mile course your going to see all parts of the city. As the miles clicked off, and time passed my mind like my body was engaged the entire time. From towering buildings, massive stadiums, turn of the century lake side homes, congested city living, neighborhood provided beer stations, puppies on parade, bands playing, cheerleaders cheering, neighbors and friends giving high fives this race is anything but boring.
I ran the Challenge series as a race ambassador, running the 8k on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday, my wife fast walked the 5k on Saturday and the 10K on Sunday. It was a busy weekend for us but we enjoyed it 1000%
If you haven’t run Cleveland you should. The Cleveland Marathon is one of kind, it’s not Boston, It’s not NYC and it’s not Chicago. It’s CLEVELAND and it rocks!