Category Archives: Uncategorized

Running – How to start running


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.

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 (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:

In Wake Forest, NC see Run-N-Tri-Outfitters

In Richmond, VA see Lucky Road Running Store

In Newport News, VA see Point 2 Running Company

In Virginia Beach, VA see Running ETC.

AND In Las Vegas, NV see Red Rock Running Company

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.

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(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.

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 (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.

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 (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.

Shameless plug for my books here.

Be inspired by others and then go follow them.

#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.

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 (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!


Ultra Marathon – Running Intervals – Racing Success


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?

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 (Notice little device that looks like a pager,
interval timer keeping me on track 2018 Leadville Run Camp)

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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.

PACE PER MILE:

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.

Example:

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.

TERRAIN:

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.

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 (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.”


Leadville Trail 100 – Run Camp – Ultra marathon


10 Things I learned at the Leadville Trail 100 Race Series Training Camp.

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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.

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(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.

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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.
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 (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.

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(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!

LT100RunCamp2018 (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.

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 (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.

IMG_20180623_183057522_LL (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.

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Now, I’m Running to Leadville.


Ultramarathon Leadville Trail 100 – My Summer of Leadville


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?”

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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…).

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That’s 61 miles and 8500+ feet of elevation gain over three days and an experience of a lifetime.

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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.”

 


Cleveland Marathon – why you should run it


Why You Should Run Cleveland.

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 (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
– Shopping
– 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

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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

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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.

Do you want to run your best MARATHON (or any race for that matter)?  Pick up a copy of my book 26.2 Tips to run your best MARATHON and your nearly guaranteed to score a PR.

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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%

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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!


The Crucible – Running – Hiking – Ultramarathon for Veterans


The hiking version of the Barkley Marathon?

I attended the Pittsburgh Marathon as a guest of Cocoa Elite and the Veterans Leadership Programs of Western Pennsylvania (VLP).  Arriving at their booth a first notice a larger red and white sign and the headline; The Crucible, 3 days, 77 miles and the figures of four hikers.  My wrapped Ultrarunners brain quickly switched into high gear.  Mmmmmm. 31517557_10105826859339113_6032969599517982720_nI met Daniel Blevins the program manager and booth mate for the weekend and asked.  Could I run that?  His replied floored me. With a slight smile and a evil sounding chuckle he replied, “I doubt it.”

This 3-day extreme journey through some of Pennsylvania’s most spectacular scenery is not for the feint of heart, but your life won’t be the same after you’ve participated in The Crucible. It’s a journey of passion, determination and personal triumph.

The 70-mile hiking trail stretches along the picturesque Laurel Mountains from the Conemaugh Gorge near Johnstown, PA where you can hike along a rocky footpath and dirt road through mountain laurel to the edge of a 1,000-foot gorge at 2,400 feet to the Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle – located at the southern reaches of the Laurel Ridge, encompassing rugged natural beauty providing some of the best whitewater in the eastern United States, as well as spectacular scenery.

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(I may have Dan hooked on Running to Leadville)

Dan told me the challenge is not the distance, it’s the extreme rocky trails, the near constant change in elevation and the heat and humidity of Central Pennsylvania that makes the Crucible so tough.  In the 4 years that this event has be held the finishing rate, those that complete all 70-miles is around 40%.

As an ultrarunner looking for the next big challenge, could it be the Crucible? The best part of all events hosted by the VLP is that near 90% of all proceeds go back to helping the Homeless Veterans in and around the Pittsburgh area.  Their events offer more than a race, as much as it’s an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of local veterans who need housing and employment services.

Looking for your next challenge?  Consider the Crucible hike or the 335 Mile for Veterans Bike Ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

Check out the VLP and see how you can help or join one of their events.


Running a 24-Hour Race, Ten Reflections


The 24-hour event is a different kind of beast.  A race without a defined finish line, one that will take you on a roller-coaster of emotions, one that allows you to recover and one that if you can overcome the demons of defeat will lift you up in the arms of victory.

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Ten Reflections

  1. No matter how many 24-hour races I’ve run, standing on the starting line is still daunting.
  2. The early miles are often the hardest mentally, in the first hours the brain has a tough time dealing with the fact you still have 23, 22 or 21 hours to go.
  3. A smile can be a real motivator.
  4. Fix a problem early to prevent a disaster later.
  5. Start slow and slow down.
  6. You can always take one more step.
  7. No one has ever died from a blister.
  8. I’ve never felt so alone as the farthest and darkest part of the trail, while running by myself late at night.
  9. The will to succeed is infinity more powerful than defeat, if you believe in you.
  10. The final mile is worth everything.

I ran my first Virginia 24 Hour Run for Cancer in 2009.  I ran 52.5 miles that day. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve run ten 24-hour races…of the races I intended to run the full 24-hours (three) I’ve only completed one. During the Hinson Lake 24-Hour Race I ran the full 24-hours…I covered 96.7 miles on a hot and blistering day. I have a grand total of 702.5 miles in 24-hour races.   24hoursacrosstheyears When I look back it’s not about the miles.  It’s not about the hours…it is about the adventure, the friends, the experiences, the smiles, the victory, the defeat, the lonely times and the times with company.

A 24-hour race is your life in a day.


America’s First Ultramarathoner – Daniel Boone


America’s first Ultramarathoner?

You can’t be a marathon runner long before you read something about the legend of Pheidippideas.  According to Greek history, the first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. According to legend, Pheidippides ran the approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians to some anxious Athenians and later died.

True or not it is universally accepted that Pheidippideas was the first marathon runner.

But who was the first ultramarathoner?

Could it have been Daniel Boone?

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I have just recently watched a History channel series on “the Men Who Built America – Frontiersmen which highlighted the lives of men like Lewis and Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Crocket, Andrew Jackson and perhaps the first ultramarathoner…Daniel Boone.

The show is very informative, entertaining and highlights a period when our country went through great growing pains. I can’t capture all of Boones highlight here but venture to say he played a significant role in exploring and settling what is modern day Kentucky and lands west of the Appalachian/Blue Ridge Mountains.  One event from his life stood out to me as a ultramarathoner.  January 1778, Boone led a party of 30 men to the salt springs on the Licking River.  While Daniel was hunting meat for the expedition, he was surprised and captured by warriors led by Chef Blackfish.

Eventually Boone and his men were taken to Blackfish’s town of Chillicothe, where they were made to run the Gauntlet.  As was their custom, the Shawnees adopted some of the prisoners into the tribe to replace fallen warriors; the remainder were taken to Hamilton in Detroit.  Boone was adopted into a Shawnee family at Chillicothe, perhaps into the family of Chief Blackfish himself, and given the name Sheltowee (Big Turtle).

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On June 16, 1778, when he learned Blackfish was about to return to Boonesborough with a large force, Boone eluded his captors and raced home, covering the 150 miles in five days.  The History channel portrays this run for freedom and Boonesborough to be on foot. If true, and I have no reason to doubt the research that went into this project.  Boone would have had to travel 30+ miles a day to reach the settlement.

What I find fascinating is that he did this without proper running shoes, without proper food/water, dressed in mostly heavy animal skins as clothing, while trying to evade capture and without chip timing or race photos.

Can’t get enough of Daniel Boone the Ultramarathon, I found this race which as it sound may run along parts of the trails Boone himself used during his 150 run.  Check out the Yamacraw 50k. 

My coonskin hat off to Daniel Boone, if not the first, certainly one of the first ultramarathoner in US history.


Umstead 100 an ultramarathon or the battle of a lifetime


Some races leave an impression on your soul.

Some people accomplish things that you’ll remember the rest of your life.

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 (Eric H)

The 2018 running of the Umstead 100 provided the perfect backdrop for epic memories.

A few of my best running friends were running the 2018 Umstead 100 and I volunteered to run the last 50-miles with one of them.  The final half of a 100 mile race can be some of the most challenging miles a runner will ever face.

A week out from race day the weather forecast looked great, mild temps and sunshine.  As the big day approached that all changed.  A cold front would be moving across the east coast from the north and would deliver rain with dropping temperatures beginning nearly as the race would start.  Standing in the lodge before the race, we all joked about how hard this day could be.  I stood among my group of friends, some veterans to the 100-mile distance, some rookies and a hand full of crew and pacers.  We all made light of the forecast, trying to discount the challenge that laid out in front of them.

As the race director announced the start of the race would be in a few minutes we moved to the door and out to the starting line.  Seemingly as we exited the building the clouds opened and the rain began to fall.  Next we heard the call, 3…2..1 Go!  A pack of nearly 250 runners were off, us non-runners retreated quickly back into the dry race headquarters and got breakfast.

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The pacers and crew planned to meet our runners at the end of every 12.5-mile loop, to help them refuel, rehydrate and to lift our runners’ spirits.  We would do that eight times.  After the first lap, as our runners began to return to the start/finish line you could not but notice hidden among the early mile smiles and hopefulness some early signs of despair.  Yes, everyone was doing well, everyone was putting up a fight…everyone was overcoming the deteriorating conditions, but the conditions were taking their toll.

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 (Jason K. and Eric H)

As I looked into their eyes with each successive lap, like dog years the 12.5-mile loop was taking more of a toll.  It simply was the worst weather conditions this race had ever been held under.  When my runner made her fourth loop it would be my turn to join the party.

A 100-mile race is a battle against your will.  I tried to capture this drama in my book 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.

Running 50-miles compared to everyone who braved the elements all day is nothing.  If anything, it provided a ring side seat to the battle of the century.  While I paced my runner for 50-miles…

I got to see determination stare me in the face.

I foresaw a relentless drive to reach a goal.

I saw someone overcome their body as it resisted the desire to run.

I was witness to someone not letting an injury defeat them.

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(Elisa and Jill)

I witnessed the near defeated bounce back from the edge.

I felt the hurt of failure.

I had the opportunity to run with some of the toughest people on the planet.

I observed the human spirit survive.

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 (Myself, Andrea – finisher, David G. Hank S.)

I stood next to victory and triumph.

I got to see the human spirit WIN.

AND I was personally reaffirmed to the notion that you don’t know what you are capable of until you set out to do it…


Running the Badwater Capefear Ultramarathon


51.4-Miles of fear and family.

In the ultrarunning world the name Badwater carries weight and respect.  The Badwater 135 maybe the most widely known race in the world.  Aside from the Barkley Marathon which eats you alive the original Badwater maybe the toughest to finish.  Starting in Death Valley, in mid-July, runners travel along some of the hottest conditions on the planet to finish 135-miles later running up Mt. Whitney.  Badwater is a series of races and it is also “a family.”  Each Badwater race is unique, each have a distinct personality and frankly each are challenging in their own right.

Badwatercollection

Badwater Capefear offers a 50k and 51.4-mile option depending on the amount of suffering you would like to endure.  I choose the 51.4-mile option because I wanted to experience some suffering to help prepare for my run at Leadville latter in the year.  By the end I had, had enough of Baldhead Island.

Going into this race I didn’t fear the distance or any weather conditions that cropped up and I didn’t fear being active for the time required to complete this race.  I did have some fear of the sand.  The only time I’ve run on sand was in 2012, I ran 8-miles with “the Raven” on Miami’s south beach.  That run left my legs tired and my lower back very sore.  I would have to run nearly five-times that distance.

Baldhead Island is a wonderful place to visit, experience nature, explore the coast line of North Carolina and it is a tough place to run 50 plus miles.  The race started at the foot of Baldly Lighthouse and rambled in and round the resort homes for 11-miles then two-miles of trails with low hanging branches and roots waiting to grab an unsuspecting runner.  Once off the trail a short-paved section delivered our group to 39.2-miles of beach running.  This is where the Badwater race begins…

Running on the sand turned out to be no big deal, if you stayed on the hard-packed sections.  If you ran off into the loose, fluffy sand you were dead meat.  Arriving on the beach just as the tide was going out was a reward for running a conservative opening 13.2-miles.  Low tide provided a wide running path for most of the beach legs of which we would run “out and back” two times for a total of 39.2-miles.  Notice I said we had a wide running path for the “majority” of the day.

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Running on the beach was awesome, the ocean on one side, mounds of sand and vacationers on the other.  The day was filled with sights and sounds you don’t normally get to experience.  The early miles clicked off rather fast as I was on sensory overload.

Running on the sand was also a pain in the hips, ankles and knees.  In advance of the race I feared the potential energy sucking soft sand.  I didn’t give much thought to the cambered surface.  It did not take long for this un-level surface to rear its ugly head.  Mid-way to our 1st turn around I noticed some dull discomfort developing in my right ankle.  At no point was it race threatening or a hindrance it was just another ultramarathon thing that pops up that you must overcome and manage.  After a great pitstop thanks to the volunteers it was time to push on for Fort Fisher and our turn around point.

Going into the race our group (Wendy, Catie, Jeff, Scott, and Lyndsey (she jumped from the 50k to 51.4-mile option midway in the race…Rock Star)) decided to stick together, no PRs, no golden tickets just a day of experiencing Badwater.  We stayed on pace all day as Catie paced us with a 4/2 interval.  Many I’m sure looked at us in the initial stages and wondered why we were walking so early in the race.  It was at the turn around on the first leg that I noticed we were catching up to the “faster runners.”  An ultramarathon is an all-day battle not often won by the early swift.  Our running group was awesome, supportive, welcoming, fun, and encouraging as we became the talk of the race.  We arrived at the Fort Fisher turn with a few new members, a lot of laughs, and a few stories told along the way.

Running south on the beach provided the relief my ankle needed yet also introduced something ominous for latter in the day “the wind.”  With 22-miles down the thought of finishing my first Badwater race came into view.  It’s funny what motivates you during a long race.  A buckle, a medal or simply being a finisher is sometimes all you need to keep focused on your goals.  As vain as it may sound, the Badwater Capefear belt buckle was something I wanted, something I wanted to earn and as the miles grew long something that kept me focused.  Our group made good time working our way back to the turn at the conservatory and the future finishing line of the race.

An ultramarathon, no matter the distance can be filled with highs and many lows.  I tried to capture the drama of a 100-mile race in my book Running to Leadville.

Heading back out on the beach I kept in mind a tried-and-true battle plan, “keep moving forward and focus on the small victories.”  The thought of running the entire 9.8-miles to Fort Fisher seemed daunting as the sun began to set, the wind kicked up and the tide moved closer to shore.  Viewed in its entirety it is easy to see why ultramarathoning and tackling life’s bigger issue can be defeating.  With steady progress and my mind’s eye focused on my first little victory, making the mid-point aide station, the final leg seemed more manageable.

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Departing the midpoint aide station my focus was getting to the turn around and the final leg of our adventure.  Passing runners coming back from Fort Fisher made it clear the toughest part of the race was still in front of us.

The 4.8 miles to Fort Fisher were uneventful.  We ran, we talked, and we laughed.  At times, we commented on how hard it appeared the runners moving in the opposite direction were working.  At Fort Fisher, I took time to visit “the real bathroom” as we began to call it to take care of business and as an afterthought before walking out I took time to wash my face.  The cold water felt so refreshing.  I want to say it supercharged my legs and the final miles went by in record time but that would be a cause and effect story only believed on the silver screen.  In fact, having a clean face put a slight bounce in my step and allowed me to face the finishing leg in positive spirits.

The wind was wicked and cold on the return trip.  Our group battled together, Catie kept a steady pace with each of us taking turns ensuring no one got dropped.  We had been together all day and although it had never been said I believe we had an unspoken bound that we were going to finish together.

2018 Badwater Strava

The toughest part of the day for me was the final mile on the beach, not because of the wind, not because of the sand and not because of our pace.  The last mile kicked me in the head because when I saw the signs for the right hand turn on the course that marked the elbow in the beach, I thought those were the signs for the end of the beach section.  Once I figured out my mistake I was a bit crushed.  I had a mile plus still to go.  My first thought after collecting my emotions was that this must be what the false summits of Leadville feel like.  I put my head down and was determined to finish strong.

29064030_10213487306549392_949718844186847818_o(Photo credit Robert Lee)

When the final turn came upon our group we were a bit spread out as running in the soft sand that led onto the beach section caused us to get drawn out.  Our group of six joined up and ran the last .5 miles on the road back to the Baldhead Island Conservatory together.  We finished proud, smiling and with our arms raised in victory.  Victory came not only for finishing, but for the bounds we shared hanging out together during the Badwater Capefear 51.4-mile race.

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We became family.

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We became BADWATER.