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Ultra Marathon Dreams – Why 100-Miles

Why 100-miles?  From the outside, it must seem crazy, daunting, impossible and downright torturous.  From the inside, within the cult of runners who test themselves by running 100-miles, it is crazy, daunting, and indeed torturous.  So why do we do it?  Why does the 100-mile distance, some call it the new marathon, have such a compelling draw on us?  Why does 100-miles capture our spirit?

In its simplest term, it might be the very distance itself.  100-miles.  Nearly a perfect and formidable number.  100 of anything is a lot by any standard of measurements.  100-miles from one place to another, no matter the mode of transportation is a long way.

I was drawn to the distance as a natural progression.  At the time, I had run a number of marathons, had completed 52 miles during a 24-hour race and the 100-mile distance simply called me.  There was something about 100-miles.  Starting at one point and being in a continual state of movement until I was 100-miles down the road or 100-miles around a looped course.  Whatever it was the 100-mile benchmark seem to capture my imagination and I knew it would test the very fiber of my being.

(My first 100-mile buckle at the Umstead 100)

I’ve asked a few of my running friends the ultimate question.  Some have completed a 100-mile race (or a number of them) and others are chasing the dream.

Why 100-miles?

Jill Becker – “100 miles….I’ve never dug deeper, pushed my limits, found a new calm among the mountains and overcame such a challenge in life.  No matter what race you choose be willing to sacrifice habits, things, and situations standing in your way of success (and ‘the buckle’).  One of the best parts of 100 miles is you find out who you are and how tough you are.  My team of pacers and crew remind me of my “goal” and that ‘forward is the pace’.  My circle of people are pretty amazing. Just like in life, 100 milers prepare you for the rollercoaster ride and vice versa!” So maybe I do 100 miles to prepare me for life’s challenges or to embrace the pain of what could come or maybe it’s to show the world be tougher than your excuses, take the hard ‘route’ and keep moving forward because YOU WILL GET THERE!”

A 5-time finisher of 100-mile races, AND 2 x time finisher of the Leadville Trail 100, Jill is one tough cookie.  As a survivor of Achilles Tendon surgery, Jill understands how to rebuild fitness after injuries to get back to doing what you love. She rebuilt her own fitness to become even stronger, with multiple podium finishes at distances from 40 to 100 miles!  She is a run coach with Lifetime Fitness  http://lifetimerun.com/Sub_Home/jill-becker

Running to Leadville – An captivating account about a lost soul, a small mining town and a 100-mile trail race that changes lives. Amazon reviewer “immediately hooked from beginning to end.”  Get your copy here.

Tim Adkins – First though, had I told you that I drowned when I was 7?  I’ve survived three strokes and an induced coma.  My left lung collapsed because of the strokes (well let’s blame the stroke).  From this near-death event, I live with some serious mental issues from my memories and a lot of other things like crazy mood swings, I constantly hear voices, I’m subjected to night terrors (flashbacks).  I chose the 100-mile distance more to escape my own demons is my main reason I guess.  I also find it crazy how much it inspires other people.  I want to show people that if I can chase my dreams with all I have going on, then surely they can follow theirs.

TIM aka Timmer ran 96-miles during a 24 Hour Event at his first 100-Mile attempt and closed the deal at the Canal Corridor 100 last year.  When not chasing his personal 100-mile dreams, Timmer can be found with a great group of runners in Cleveland, Ohio that call themselves the Trail Tribe.  Meeting up on Saturday morning at one of the many great trails around North-east Ohio, this group is very welcoming.

Melinda Howard – That’s a great question!  Chasing the 100-miler, because it’s there?  Because it’s a huge goal?  Because I’m a glutton for punishment?  I believe deep in my heart I can do it!!!  100-miles is a nice round number.  It’s the carrot on the stick, the ultimate bucket list for this runner.  It’s the goal that might soon slip out of reach because I’m leaning pretty hard on 60 years old, not that age matters but it’s definitely not as easy running the super long stuff the older you get.  Mostly because I love to run!  Tippy top reason:  Aiden NEEDS a buckle! #IRun4Aiden

The 100-mile distance and personal endurance have not been the only challenges between Melinda and her goal.  During her two attempts at the distance, Melinda has faced an issue with her eyesight as she has reached the big miles.  Melinda is determined and runs for a little boy who has physical challenges of his own.  If you follow her running adventures you’ll see she dedicates all her miles, all her race finishes and her bold and beautiful smile to Aiden.  You can learn more about Melinda here.

Wendy Coulson Murray – Why do I run 100-miles…..well I can honestly say because it’s my happy place.  It is where I can zone out.  The 6 mile runs on the training schedule can honestly cause me stress.  The long, cleansing runs bring out my soul.  I love to see day turn into night because that is really when the race starts.  I love even more seeing the night turn back into day because it brings new life.  I love the problem solving.  I love the high that comes (when it happens) when you think you have nothing left and have given it your all and then a high five, a hug at the aid station, the glimpse of a blinking light and you realize you have more.  100s are hard.  They are never given.  You have to find it inside, you have to dig deep.  I love the conversations late in the night.  I love when the tears come when I know I’m going to make it.  I love to stand at the finish line watching others accomplish something they never believed possible.  It is very mental and you have to believe.  It’s a big elephant to slay but baby steps and keeping the finish line as the goal…..and then there is the reward at the end, my feet in a pair of fluffy socks and flip flops.

A veteran of SIX 100-miles races and numerous multi-day events such as the Vol State 500k, Tar Heel Ultra and OBX 200.  Wendy is one determined runner.  I was one of those blinking lights Wendy ran down at the Graveyard 100 in 2015.  I was near beat when she ran up behind me and passed me towards the end.  I had no fight to counter her, but now she was my blinking light driving me towards my goal.  I love the friendships…before that race we were strangers, Wendy is now one of my running family.  Wendy will be taking on “The World’s Toughest Foot Race” covering 135-miles from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, CA, the Badwater® 135 is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet.  I’m sure she will be chasing blinky lights and dreaming of fluffy socks!

Victoria Griffin-KendraWhy 100-miles?  Is that really a thing?  Are you crazy?  How many days does it take you?  I get this all the time from my friends, family, coworkers and strangers.  The “why” chase the 100-mile race distance has been evolving over the last few years.  I ran my first trail marathon in March of 2016, one month after losing my Dad to lung cancer.  I was poorly untrained, lacked experience and the knowledge of proper gear.  It wasn’t a good or strong marathon finish but I did it.  However, during the race, I had already decided never to do this again.  In typical runner fashion, after the physical and mental pain wore off I was left wondering what’s next, is there anything after 26.2?  Well, I quickly found out, Oh yeah there is a lot more, there are 50k’s, 100k’s and 100-milers.  Wow, I thought, people run a 100-miles?  My curiosity was spiked and this journey that would develop over the next two years.  Running 100-miles is a long way, lots of hours, pain, fear, emotional ups and downs and facing the unknown.  So Why shouldn’t I?  This desire was internal and I wanted to prove to myself that I had the physical and mental ability to run 100-miles.  Chasing the 100-mile distance has allowed me to deal with difficult situations and problem solve on the fly in circumstances that are beyond my control.  I learned how to be uncomfortable for hours at a time, I learned to be alone, to stay positive and even to fall into dark places that only I had the strength to come back from.  The highs and the lows will come and go during this journey but finding the strength to continued will prevail.  There is no wrong answer for why you chase the 100-miler as it is ever changing and it’s not static.  Whatever your why is, continue to believe in it and chase the thing you love.

Victoria was successful at her first 100-mile race, and has the Georgia Death Race on her 2019 calendar.  The Georgia Death Race is a point-to-point ultra-marathon in the mountains of North Georgia.  The race is 70ish miles long, with close to 28,000 feet of elevation change.  It’s a monster but my money is on Tori!

There it is from all walks of life and for all different reason, we chase the 100-mile dream.  One thing that all of these great folks shared with me was that if they could do it….so CAN you.

Running – Fitness and Habit Forming

We have all been there, whether it’s another New Year’s Resolution, a bad performance report at work or a new number on the scale…we have all declared at one time or another that we wanted to change something about ourselves.  We wanted to engrain a new habit.

BUT we have all at some point or another failed at making that change.

So how can you increase the odds of making that new habit, lifestyle, of fitness routine stick?

Start small by taking a small step every day.  When you start with small, easy tasks, adding another small task will seem fairly easy until you’ve paved your way to your end game.  For example, say you have a goal of running 3 miles.  If you start by trying to tackle 3 miles off the bat when you’re not used to running at all, you’re destined to fail because it will be too challenging.  But if you start with a walking routine, you can easily do that for a week or so until you’re ready to introduce a small amount of running.  Then, increase the length of your run over your walk until your running more than walking.  In small bites, you will be running the 3-miles you originally had as a goal.

 (My first marathon finish in 2005 came after I couldn’t run 2-miles on a treadmill)

Make it easy.  Set yourself for the win.  If you want to eat healthily, have cut-up fruits and veggies on hand for easy access. If they are not prepped, it’s so much easier to grab something else that’s quicker (and often less healthy).  Or if you want to go for a walk in the morning, get out all of the things you’ll need for your walk the night before.

Reward yourself with something you really want.  You have to want the reward.  Really want it.  When trying to replace an old habit with a new habit, it can be hard to visualize why that new reward is so important.  Focus on why it’s important to you.

Be ready for failure.  It seems counterproductive to plan to fail but when it comes to forming habits, there are bound to be unforeseen setbacks and things that come up that are beyond your control.  Have a “plan B” in your pocket, not as an easy way out but as a backup plan when the world tosses you a curve ball.

[Tweet “Want to change your life? Start by building a new habit into your daily walk…”]

Don’t settle for just a “New Year’s resolution,” habit building should be a continuous part of improving your life and these tips will help you learn how to build habits once and for all.

My Ultra Marathon Year in Review – 2018

2018, was a year about stepping up to the next level in running.  Big goals come with big risks, big rewards and the results can be the lowest of lows.  Yet in the end, I look back and marvel at where my legs have taken me.  I ran along the beaches of the Atlantic coastline and the heights of the Colorado Rockies.  I scored unexpected personal records and left part of my soul broken and battered in the dirt of a small mountain town.  I made friendships that will last forever and I cried tears of failure and success all alone.

In one word, this was an “outstanding” year.

2018 GOALS/RESULTS:
Yearly Mileage: 2500/2506.7 Done
Avg. Monthly Mileage: 200+/208.9 Done 208
Avg. Weekly Mileage: 50+/Short 48.7
Set Monthly PR 250+/Done 258 July
Set Week PR 62+/Done 77
Complete the Leadville Trail 100/DNF at 60.5

Other assorted PR/Milestones
Set # of running days per year PR / 251, 2018
Most elevation in a month // 21,484 feet gained, Dec 2018
Most elevation in a year // 178,844 feet gained, 2018
# Sub-four hour marathons // 3
Set a marathon PR // 3:52:28 Atlantic City

JANUARY: With the temperatures hovering around 9 degrees a group of brave and crazy souls ran the 6th edition of my Ultra Crazy New Years 50-mile Run at William B. Umstead state park, in Cary, NC.  What has become an annual training run and tour of the Umstead 100 course was born out of training for my very first 100-mile race back in 2014.  In 2018 we had five finishers…

2018 Finishers
Darryl Benton
Jillian Breitwieser
Elisa Cellan Schasse
Andrea McHugh
Amy Clark

Leaderboard
Brian Burk (x5, 250-miles)
Andrea McHugh (x3, 150-miles)
Elisa Cellan Schasse (x2, 100-miles)
Joshua Deuermeyer
Eric Haselby
Randall Woody Woods
Darryl Benton
Jillian Breitwieser
Amy Clark

By the end of the month, I was running under the sunny skies and warm temperatures of Clearwater, Florida at the Clearwater Distance Classic scoring my 5th sub-four hour marathon.

FEBRUARY:  I had plans to travel to Phonix, Arizona, to meet some online friends and run a marathon.  That all changed with a visit to the Vets and the sudden passing of our miniature schnauzer Emmy Lu.  From the lows of loss to the highs of sharing miles with a friend, I was able to run 42-miles with Karl M. during his birthday run.  And there would be cake.

Happy Birthday, Karl…

MARCH:   I was able to return to the Myrtle Beach Marathon Expo for a book signing.  I so enjoy meeting and talking with runners at these events.  Its great to hear their stories of overcoming, challenging themselves and finding the value of that next mile in their personal running journey.  Thank you for sharing your stories with me.

Badwater Cape Fear Ultra-Marathon – How long could a group of new and old friends run together…51.4-miles.  This race had it all, sand, surf, wind, darkness, laughs, joys, new friends and old.  At the end of the day and the end of the beach, we finished together.

APRIL:   It’s hard enough to run a 100-mile race…now add in the worst weather conditions you could imagine; rain, snow, ice, wind, and bone-chilling cold.  I considered dropping out at the end of every 12.5-mile loop.  AND I was only pacing my friend Andrea for 50-miles…she had been out in that mess for four laps when I joined her for the conclusion of an EPIC 100-mile race.  Andrea got it done and I was so proud to witness the grit and determination that she displayed to finish that race.

One thing you can count on in April is the Virginia 24-hour Ultra Run Against Cancer and team “Run For Life” bringing their A-game.  Under the new leadership of Andrea, our team of running friends once again captured the overall team title with a combined 904-miles.  Our team of ultra crazies took the team award for the 5th time in 6 years.  Personally, this would be my 10th Virginia 24-hour Ultra Run Against Cancer and for the first time, I was able to keep going the entire race finishing with a total of 95-miles.

MAY:  Becoming an annual trip, Michele and I headed north and took on The Cleveland Marathon Challenge Series.  Michele walked the 5k and 10k races while I ran the 8k and the marathon.  With no real goals in mind, I set off on Saturday to enjoy the ride and see what Sunday would bring.  After a rained filled morning and easy flowing early miles it was around mile 16 when I decided a sub-four finish was within reach.

We will be back in Cleveland in 2019 to once again run the Challenge series.  COME RUN with me and get $10.00 off when you use my special discount code BB2019

JUNE:  I traveled back to the Virginia creeper trail, the little mountain town of Damascus, Virginia and the Yeti Trail Runners race called the Dam Yeti 50.  A shorter version of the Yeti 100  the 50-miles between Whitetop mountain and the finish line did not lack for fun.  9 hours and 33 minutes of trails, snakes, cows, humidity, jokes and stories, bridges, waterfalls and an ever ending bond brought home an awesome weekend among friends.

For all the “camps” I missed as a kid, attending the Leadville Race Series Run Camp made up for it all.  One of the ultimate experiences of my life, I spent, three days exploring the Leadville Trail 100 Mile race course while making friends and taking in the beauty of the Rockie Mountains.  There really is nothing like reaching Hope pass for the first time.

JULY:   The summer heat moved into North Carolina and I hit the trails of Umstead focusing on long runs.  With the challenge of Leadville on the horizon and not living at altitude I banked on the effects of heat training to help face the challenge of running above 10,000 feet.

You can pick up the book that started my calling to the mountains, Running to Leadville a story that will capture your heart, uncover the drama of a 100-mile race and a life that help you believe in Love.

AUGUST:  The month was all about Leadville and I wish I could post a picture of my shiny buckle.  BUT sometimes life does not play out as planned.  All in all the Leadville Trail 100 experience was everything I could ask for and more…I simply came up short.

SEPTEMBER:   Michele and I along with friends Jeff and Kendra headed to Charlotte, NC for a half marathon weekend.  Normally the race is the highlight of the weekend but after the 13.1-miles was covered the real fun and time on my feet began. With shiny finishers medal around our necks we eat, we drank a little, we painted pictures, we rode in a horse-drawn buggy and we walked the nightlife filled streets of downtown Charlotte.

OCTOBER:   Traveling to Atlantic City I got to spend two days hanging out at the expo, with my newest book26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter).  Marathon Expos are always a great place full of excitement and fun.

On Sunday I ran the Atlantic City Marathon with a heavy, yet inspired heart.  Days before the race a friend of ours lost her young son.  In the big picture of life running a marathon truly means little…but it was in a small fashion that I could honor LJ and run #LJStrong.

NOVEMBER:  With 18-years of running behind me you wouldn’t think there would be too many firsts still in front of me.  But there was one…I ran the City of Oaks Marathon as a pacer.  I’ve paced races for friends in the past but I had never been an official race pacer before.  This opportunity came with a lot of excitement and pressure.

What a great experience.  I finished the race slightly faster than the assigned pace goal, which told me I have much to learn about pacing vs. racing.  I hope to make this an annual gig.

For Turkey day we headed out to run the Skinny Turkey Half marathon in Wake Forest.  For 13 miles I got to hang out with my run pal Lyndsey while we worked up the hunger of our Thanksgiving meal.  I am thankful for great running friends.

DECEMBER:   I’ve had good luck with my racing and weather, but 2018 might be known as the wettest running year ever!  Running in bad weather is tough enough for a marathon, 50k…50-miles but when the weather turns ugly during a 100-mile race it can be soul crushing.  The Devil Dog 100 would be hard enough on a good day…throw in a solid day of rain.  It was defeating.

To cap off a record-breaking year I was finally able to get out to Uwharrie National Forest and run a loop of the infamous Uwharrie 100-mile course.  20-miles with 3,680 feet of elevation….and rocks, rocks, rocks, and more rocks.  My tour guide Tori estimated at least 10 water crossings, I believe it was more like 812.

WOW…..unrelenting is a correct description of that place.

I hope you had a great 2018 and wish you an outstanding 2019 and beyond.

What did you learn about yourself while running in 2018?

Ultra Marathon – My Running of the Devil Dog 100

Ultra Marathon, Devil Dog 100 was a well-organized race.

It was an outstandingly supported race.

It was a challenging race.

I’m not saying I’m an elite level 100-mile runner.  I’ve started five 100-mile races finishing four in under 24-hours.  My only DNF was at the Leadville Trail 100.  I signed up for this race as a way to reconcile my disappointment in my performance at Leadville.  I knew this race was going to be harder than my previous 100-mile finishes.  Finishing was never a question.

Devil Dog 100, the course is primarily single-track trails, with occasional roots, rocks, and brief technical sections. There are also spurts of fire road and rolling hills but no substantial climbs. Run in Prince William Forest Park is a short hop off I-95 in Triangle, Virginia.  The 100.75-mile distance runs over 5-loops, the first being 22.75 miles with the remaining four laps measuring in at 19.5-miles with 10,250 feet of gain.  The field has 32-hours to complete the race.

SONY DSC

On a good day, this course would be challenging.  I ran a 12-hour race there a few years ago and at 9-hours I had had my fill.  Although there are some runnable sections the majority of the course is bounding over rocks, boulders, tree stumps, and exposed roots.  The climbs although short were steep and grew to be extremely challenging on tired legs as you climb up a substantial grade on nothing but exposed tree roots, rocks, and entrenched boulders.  The course ran close to a small stream where ill-placed footing could leave you soaked in the chilly winter waters.

I felt well prepared and mentally strong going into this race.  The biggest question of the day was centered on the weather.  The forecast was for rain and cold.  The extent of the rain depended on which local or national weather forecast you decided to believe.  The forecasts varied from rain on all day or nearly not at all.  In the end, we got something in between and that was enough to make this race a devil of a challenge.  I would eventually fall victim to the conditions of the trails.

At the start of the race, the trail was wet, covered with leaves and showing the effects of the unseasonable damp conditions prior to race day.  As the day wore on when the rain began to fall early and stick around for the majority of the race the condition of the trails deteriorated quickly.  The unimproved trails became saturated and the field of runners pounded them into a mud-soaked mess.  Where the trails remained runnable they became soft and slippery.  Over the majority of the course, the trails converted into pits of shoe eating mud traps. The tree roots and ragged-edged rocks became very slippy and threatening.  Parts of the trails were unpassable without cross-country navigation or mid-calf levels of mud.

Mile-23/100:  5hr 28m

I felt great all day, my pacing was on target, refueling was on point and my spirits were high.  My only issues were that I kept slipping while on the trails.  I nearly fell about 100 times but my quick reactions and cat-like instinct kept me on my feet.  But it was taking a toll I wouldn’t realize until late into my fourth lap when my lower back began to get tight and sore.

Mile-50:  12hr 49m

Mile 60.7 16hr 07m (Garmin battery went dead)

I was still able to run the runnable sections of the course and power hiked the majority of the rest.  By my calculations, I would finish 81 miles with approx ten-hours to cover the final 20-miles.

My day went as planned until it didn’t.   As I was nearing the final miles of the forth loop I lost my footing on a swamped trail section and fell to the ground.  In the mud and yuck, I knew that incident would cost me.  I was able to get back on my feet partially mud-soaked and got moving again.  Within ten yards I lost my footing again and went to the ground once more.  I was done.

The 2-mile slow walk of the defeated seemed to take forever.  My back was stiff, my spirit was broken and every little discomfort that had remained at bay for nearly 24-hours became painfully magnified.

Mile-81.25:  24hr 41m

I suffered my second 100-mile DNF.  When all was said and done, I’m proud of my effort, I’m proud of the distance I covered and I’m proud that it took a devil of a course, deplorable weather conditions and swamped trails to defeat me.

Only 40% of the field completed the race and those people earned it.  My hat goes off to those who finished 100.75 miles…job well done!

Running – 10 Golden Rules For Not DNFing a Race- Marathon – Ultra Marathon

Running – 10 Golden Rules for not DNFing a race – Ultra Marathon – Marathon
(or any race for that matter.)

We hate it when it happens, but it happens to the best of us sooner or later.  After 18 years of running and racing varying distances from 5k to 100-miles, I’ve compiled a list of rules to limit the times I’ve ended a race early.  These Golden Rules have helped me stay in the game.

(in the wee hours of a 24-hour race….I just wanted to go home.
I finished with 95-miles in 24-hours)

10 Golden Rules for not DNFing.

10.  Run to the next one.  When the urge to drop out of a race hits, I hold myself accountable to make the next checkpoint, aid station, lap or timing mat.  It’s as simple as doing “just one more”…and one more, and one more after that.  When my son was little I tricked him into finishing his happy meal by eating just one more bite, and one more bite.  It works in a long race gone bad as well.

 (slice of pizza and a Slurpee saved the day)

9.  Get something to eat.  I will not drop from a race on an empty belly.  When you run out of fuel things look a lot different.  If the desire to quit is about to overcome your desire to finish keep running until you can fill up your tank.  With a full fuel supply, you just may find out your motor may have a few more miles in you.

8.  Realize no one died from a blister.  They suck, are uncomfortable and just plain hurt, but you can run with a blister.  Don’t give in to that little or big bubble of liquid.

[Tweet “Brian, @cledawgs uncovers the Ten Golden Rules For Not DNFing Your, Marathon, Ultramarathon, or Any Race For That Matter.”]

7.  We’re friends but.  I can’t allow the misfortune of another compromise my finish.  It’s hard to run a complete race with a friend.  No matter the intentions a race unfolds differently for each person.  Our running group understands, we all have to run our race.  Finish your race and be friends later.

6.  Brush your teeth.  I have not tried this, but I believe it.  This may apply more to longer races than a 5k.  Experienced ultra running friends tell me they feel 100% better after they brush their teeth or wash their face.  Fresh breath and a clean face might just give you the kick in the butt you need to bring home the bling.

Do you want to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter)?  CLICK HERE

5.  Beg for a pacer.  Again more aimed for the longer races that allow the use of pacers, do not drop from a race without begging someone to run a loop, a lap, or a few miles with you.  A little companionship at a low point in the race can save the day and propel you to a finish instead of a drop.

(I’ve had friends drag me around for a few laps)

4.  Find another runner and be the caboose.  If the race is falling away from you and the urge to give in is becoming overwhelming, seek out the security, and energy of a group of runners.  I’ve found that I’m the weakest when I’m alone…if I feel the dreaded DNF may be catching up with me I focus on catching up with the group in front of me or link up with a group at an aid station.  The energy of the pack can very well keep you in the game.

3.  Run when you can, hike if you got to, walk if you must, and crawl if its all you got.  I vow to continue moving forward at all cost.  No matter how slow, forward motion will eventually get you to the finish line.

2.  Do not feed the trolls.  It’s easy to begin to develop your exit plan when beaten up, tired, and on the far side of the course.  Do not feed the troll of self-doubt.  Use positive words, use positive imagery, and embrace victory before you write your own eulogy.

Now all of these tips are based on the fact that you, your crew or a good friend has determined that you are NOT doing real damage to yourself by running and/or continuing to finish the race.

 (My first buckle, Umstead 100 – 2014)

1.  You Can Do It.  I will never give up on me.  Never give up on you.

Even with all these rules and good intentions…you might find yourself wearing the uncomfortable badge of not finishing a race and that’s okay.  A DNF will not define you, it’s a snapshot in time, a single race that did not go as planned.  Nothing more and nothing less.

You got yourself to the starting line….you are awesome!

Running the TransRockies and it’s a small world we live in

It’s a small world we live in and surprisingly the running world (ultramarathon community especially) is even smaller.  Run a race or two, post about it on social media and sooner or later a new friendship will take root.

Once such friend took on the TransRockies 2018 adventure run and I wanted to know more.

Thank you, Joe, for agreeing to take part in my blog interview.

Let’s start off by providing my readers a small look at your running career.

I wasn’t a runner in high school or college.  Actually, my school was K-12 and only had about 600 students total, so we were too small for organized running sports.  When I joined the Air Force shortly after graduation, I ran just enough to meet my annual fitness standards.  I got serious about running late in life when I was about 48.  That may seem hard to believe, but that was when I finally had the time (and money) to get really serious about running.  Since that time, I’ve completed 32 marathons and 39 half marathons, including the 2015 and 2018 Boston Marathons and 2015 and 2017 TCS NYC Marathons.  With respect to ultra distances, I’ve completed the TransRockies Run, 120-mile, 6-day stage race four times, one 50-miler and four 50K races.

We connected somewhere along the Information Superhighway as I remember…Facebook, Twitter etc. and discovered we had something in common besides running, service to our country.  Could you tell us a little about your military career, and THANK YOU for your service.

(Joe and Margaret)

Thank you, Brian, and thank you for your service as well.  Honestly, I don’t recall exactly how I first connected with you.  I know we have mutual Air Force friends, so it’s likely that one of your posts caught my eye through one of them.  As you well know, through military service, we all become one huge family, so from the first time I met you, I felt as if we’d known each other all our lives.

I joined the Air Force right out of high school.  My wife and I were already married and I was still too young to get a decent job that would support a family.  The Air Force seemed like a logical choice.  For the next 20 years, we traveled the world stationed in some great locations, including more than 7 years overseas in Japan and England.  My Air Force career ended in 2000 while stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.  We’ve lived in Missouri ever since.

We crossed paths in the real world in of all places in Leadville, Co.  If I remember right it was at the packet pickup for the 10k race the Sunday before the 100-Miler.  Why were you in Leadville? 

(Leadville Trail 10k)

Yes, that’s correct.  You had posted on one of your blogs that you would be a packet pick-up, so I intentionally looked for you there. 

My wife and I were in Leadville for the week prior to the Leadville Trail 100 getting acclimated for the TransRockies Run (TRR) which kicked off in Buena Vista just south of Leadville on August 14.  I ran the Leadville 10K just for fun on that Sunday before TRR. 

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The Transrockies Run is one of those running adventures that I watch from afar.  It has been on my “list” for a while.  The whole concept sounds challenging and entertaining.  The TransRockies Run is a trail running stage race also known as “Summer Camp for Big Kids!”  A six-day stage race traversing the continental divide between Buena Vista and Beaver Creek, the route covers 120 miles through the spectacular Colorado Rockies with stunning fourteener views all along the route.  At the end of each stage, runners gather in camp to recover, socialize and celebrate.  Fully supported with tents, luggage service, mobile shower truck, catered meals, and massage.  TransRockies Run sounds like a running vacation where you will make memories and friendships that last a lifetime. 

Why did you decide to run this race?

(Not sure I’ve seen a better running picture)

I first ran TRR in 2014.  I registered shortly after completing my first (and only) 50-miler, the Bison 50, which ran from Topeka to Lawrence, Kansas, on a combination of paved and unpaved surfaces.  I had done a number of road races by then and was looking for something a little different.  I saw an advertisement for TRR and it looked like something I could handle since it was staged over six days.

What was your favorite part of the TransRockies run?

Having done the race four times now, both solo and as a team with my son in 2014, my favorite part of the race without a doubt is the people you meet during the week-long event.  We’ve got friends we met at TRR in 2014 who still return year after year.  TRR is like family.  It’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually been there.  TRR is a race, and there are stage winners, age-group winners, and overall winners, but at TRR, no one gets left behind.  Whether you’re the first one in for the day, or the last, your victory is celebrated by everyone.  I recall one year in particular at the end of Stage 3 from Leadville to Nova Guides at Camp Hale.  One couple was still out on the course and everyone else was finished, showered, and already eating dinner.  We got a heads up that the last couple was on their way in to the finish line and the entire catering tent emptied out.  Everyone lined both sides of the finish chute, arms raised high, and made a tunnel to welcome them in.  The cheering was so loud.  The entire experience was very emotional.  That’s what makes TransRockies special.

What stage did you find the hardest?

That’s a tough one.  There are two stages that I find harder than others.  Stage 1 runs from Buena Vista to Railroad Bridge and is just under 21 miles with 2,500 feet of elevation gain.  This stage is always hot with a lot of exposure to the sun.  Additionally, much of the trail is sandy with the final four miles on a false flat, gravel road.  Additionally, since it’s the first stage of the race, if you’re not properly acclimated, it can be rough.  Personally, I also find Stage 6 to be a little challenging.  This final stage from Vail to Beaver Creek runs about 22.4 miles with approximately 5,250 feet of elevation gain.  Although you know the celebration awaits you at the finish line, this stage is also typically warmer than other stages and includes a combination of some pretty significant climbs and descents as well as a good amount of paved road and trail.  Some might think that Stage 2 which takes you from Vicksburg to Twin Lakes up over Hope Pass at 12,500 feet would be the hardest, but it’s actually one of the easier (and shorter) days at just over 13 miles.  Additionally, the shorter day allows you to spend some time in the historical town of Leadville prior to the start of Stage 3 the following morning.

The good thing about this race though, is that it’s a race most everyone can handle, regardless of their trail running experience.  Don’t get me wrong, parts of the course are definitely challenging, but the time cutoffs are very generous and the stages are broken down where everyone can successfully finish the race.

As an outsider looking in, I’ve always believed the non-running gathering of the TransRockies event may be as entertaining as the run.  Can you give us a look into the experience at the camps?

There’s no doubt that the time spent with other runners at the end of each stage is what allows you to forge lifelong friendships.  The TRR staff and volunteer crew do everything they can to make it an unforgettable experience.  As you may know, the event is fully supported starting at the end of Stage 1.  When runners arrive at camp each day, tents are already set up and ready to go.  After a hot shower in the mobile shower truck, most people relax in “Chillville” with snacks and drinks until dinner time.  Meals, both breakfast and dinner, are fully catered and provide a great variety of options for almost every diet.  After dinner, runners get a quick course briefing for the following day, some photo highlights of that day’s stage, and then they’re off to get some rest.  Medical services are always available in camp and massages are available for a small fee.

Are there any negatives to running 120-miles over six days with a bunch of people you just met?

Absolutely not.  TRR runners come from all over the world.  Nearly every state and more than 20 foreign countries are typically represented.  Everyone is there for the same reason—to run some good trails through the mountains and have a good time.  There really are no strangers, just new friends you haven’t met yet.

Do you plan to run the event in the future?

There’s no doubt I’ll run TRR again, it’s just a matter of when.  There are a couple of races I’m looking at next summer, so we’ll see how the schedule works out.  I may very well be back in 2019!

To someone who is interested but may be sitting on the fence deciding to run TransRockies, what would say to them?

I’d say get signed up, start training, and stay healthy.  No one should ever think they can’t do it.  It’s just a matter of making the commitment and getting started.  TransRockies is like no other race I know.  Every runner should experience it at least once in their life.  If it’s a matter of cost that’s got you on the fence, TRR has recently announced a payment plan for the 2019 race.  To my knowledge, that’s the first time this has been offered.  It’ll definitely make it easier for those on a budget.

Thank you so much for taking time and sharing your experiences with my readers.

Brian

(photo credits to Sportograf)

Running and Thinking about a Spring Marathon

Marathon running when I’m thinking about spring.

As much as I may complain about the heat of summer…I prefer running in the warmth of the sun vs. the cold nights of winter.  When old man winter comes to town I start thinking about spring marathons.

The Wrightsville Beach Marathon, race weekend has it all, (Marathon, Half-marathon, 5k and mile races) a fast course, scenic location, waterfront views, and multiple bridge crossings.  Start your racing year off right and come run with me as I open up my spring running season at the Wrightsville Beach Marathon.

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Looking for some running inspiration?  I’ll be at the expo with copies of my books Running to Leadville and 26.2 Tips to run your best marathon (or any race for that matter)

Running to Leadville is a story that only a runner could tell.  A story as much about life as it is about a 100-mile trail race known as the race across the sky.  A tale about a boy, a girl and a tragic twist of faith.  The story comes together as a young man finds himself and a new outlook on life at 12,600 ft on the mountain pass known as Hope Pass.

26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON is a collection of lessons learned from my racing career where I’ve run fast and not so fast.  This book is perfect for the first time marathon runner or the veteran who is looking to improve their finishing times.  26.2 Tips bridges the gap between training and racing.

Running, Racing and Spicing Up Your Life

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.

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.

Atlantic City Marathon – Running Strong — Running #LJSTRONG

Atlantic City Marathon

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.

The Atlantic City Marathon ranks as one of my all-time favorite races.

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.

[Tweet “Check out @cledawgs motivation and race report on the Atlantic City Marathon”]

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?

One of the 26.2 Tips I offer to run your best MARATHON (or any race for the matter.)

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.