Sunday, September 4, 2011


61 miles, 24 hours, one hell of a story!

September 3rd, 2011 was such a crazy day, I almost don't even know where to begin.  I guess it all started as a challenge. Not a personal challenge. Not a dare. Just "a challenge". While logging my miles on DailyMile one day, I was cruising through some of my "friends" entries and there it was. Staring at me. The Do Epic Shit 24 Hour Non Jog challenge, posted my fellow DM'er, the Una Runner (aka, Logan). I was intrigued. A friendly challenge set up to see how many miles one could log in a 24 hour period. Set up because he was missing out on an actual 24 hour trail race, this was more of challenge for Logan, and a way to inspire others along the way (at least that's my interpretation, cause that's what eventually happened with me, but I'm getting to that). "This guy is nuts"I thought, although this wasn't surprising in the least because Logan has been doing some pretty insane/epic things since I started following his training. I continued to log my miles and that was the end of that. Or not.

The next day, there it was again. Another post promoting his "Do Epic Shit 24 Hour Non Jog" challenge. This time I clicked the link and read the description. Why I did it, I'm still not sure. Maybe I just finished a good run and was feeling daring. Maybe my sub-conscience was looking for excuses to do the extraordinary, but I clicked join. What the hell, right? I had no goals of winning the thing (and not the point of the challenge), and in the least I could see what I was made of. Besides, I could stop at any time.

The weeks went by and the day of the challenge arrived. I had it all previously worked out to run multiple shorter runs with brief to extended breaks throughout the day, with a goal of 50 miles in mind. Unlike Logan, I would not be running for long periods of time. He was training for an upcoming ultra; I was not running an ultra until next year. I decided I would run between midnight and midnight. At least that was the plan. I finally hit the road for the first of my runs at 1:30 am. Five miles later, I was back in bed and getting some sleep before my son woke. I was voluntarily losing a large chunk of my day. I wasn't taking this too seriously, remember (lay on the heavy foreshadowing here)?

The first half of the day is really a boring story. I woke up early, snuck in a treadmill run, then got my son ready and brought him to his grandma's. Then I ran. Then I ran again. And again. Five miles here, 10 miles there, and so on. By 4:00 pm, I was 16 hours in to my day and had 40 miles behind me. Up until this point, I was feeling good and actually having a good time! But somewhere out there, something happened. Somewhere in those runs, I decided that I actually wanted to do this thing! 

The plan for the whole day was to keep the runs short in hopes that, although it would make getting in the miles more difficult, it would make the miles I did run a little easier. But now I had new goals creeping in my head. 60 was not out of the realm of possibility, and should I dare even think of the idea of more? Blinded by these elusions of grandeur, I decided mid run to make a 10 miler into a 15 miler (ended up at 13). If I was going to do this, I needed to get moving. These are the moments when I need to tell myself that I am an idiot. A week of mental preparation and planning thrown out the window mid run? Yep. I am an idiot. I survived the run, but by the time I got back, it was over. Hell, the run put me at 53 on the day. A number I could have been proud of. Shit, it even surpassed my goal. I had four hours left on my day and my body was ready to call it a success. Unfortunately, my body is connected to my brain, and after 53 miles, it wasn't working too properly! 

I went home and regrouped. A couple hours on the couch, a few slices of pizza, and the best Newcastle I have ever had in my life later, and I was feeling refreshed (as refreshed as someone who just ran 53 miles can be anyway). Although motivated for one final push, I had no willpower to head back in to the darkness to finish this right, so I sally'd up (apologies to any Sally's out there) and hit the treadmill for one final push.  I kept it slow, I cranked the tunes, and I hit the start button. With every mile closer to 60, I could feel myself getting stronger, more excited. Every mile closer I was hitting the speed button and speeding up just a bit (I also just wanted it to be over). 60 came and went and I ended the day running the same pace I started with a grand total of 61 (it just seemed cooler than 60)! 

The story could, and for all purposes, does end here. But this day, these runs, could not have been possible without the support of those enduring (and following) the pain along with me. To all my fellow DM'ers who cheered myself and others on as we attempted the "Epic", I thank you. My motivation lies with you (and a little internal competition). I am truly grateful. 

Friday, August 19, 2011


Apparently, unbeknownst to me, I do NOT have superhuman strength.  My body has limitations, and last week, I had to acknowledge them.
2010 was my comeback year. The first year back from a 7 year hiatus from running. I build a small, but solid base of miles and topped off a successful year with a 36 minute marathon PR.
2011 was going to be my building year, and for the most part it started out as just that. I started running right away, January 1st. I acquired a treadmill and I hit the rubber running. A couple months later my VFF's arrived and I began working on building my foot and leg strength. I even started doing some light workouts in the gym at my work during my breaks.
But somewhere along the lines things changed. I started getting good again.  May brought upon me my second marathon since the comeback, and fourth overall. Since I wasn't running this marathon for a goal time and instead running with a friend who would be running his first, I went in to this race relaxed and confident. The pace was slow and there were plenty of walk breaks, but five hours after the start we crossed the finish line. I was not tired. At all. Sure, the legs had there tender areas, but for the most part, I felt like I could have kept going for hours. This was, to say the least, a confidence booster. I was in better shape than I thought. And what does one do when they realize that things are going great? They change them.
With my new found swagger, I went home and started searching new training plans. Since my ultimate goal is to run an ultra in 2012, I thought what better opportunity than to start now! Not to get cocky, I convinced myself that this was an experiment of sorts; this was a good time to start testing out various ultra plans. I would alter where it needed altering, and cut back when necessary. That was the plan anyway.
I jumped right in to my new plan, and for two solid months, it was going great. My body was reacting nicely, and I felt great.  It wasn't until the last week in July that I noticed that my runs were getting harder and my legs weren't recovering like they used to. Just two weeks earlier I had run 24 miles and would have gone more if time allowed, but now I was struggling with 10-12. It didn't take much to tell me that something needed to change, and that change had to come from my training.
I made the decision to take (nearly) a week off from running. Not just to rest my body, but to rest my mind. The plan was that I would finish my long runs for that weekend, and then rest until my next long run the following weekend. This would give me 5 full days of recovery, but allow me to only miss 23 miles on the week (I was still having the ego problem and thought this was a good compromise).  The week went off without a hitch and after five days the fatigue was subdued and my mind refreshed. Friday rolled around and I headed out the door to run what I had hoped to be a 20+ mile run. My schedule had me at 4 hours, but I figured if I could hit 20, I would be satisfied considering the week off. When I strolled up the driveway at mile 14 for my gear change and refueling, I decided that I had run enough.
Sure, I was tired, but no more than I normally am at 14 miles. It took a few hours, but later that day I realized what was happening. During that last week of running prior to my break, I felt myself giving up earlier and earlier in my runs. My mind was weak. This was partly the reason I had decided to take the break in the first place. It had seemed that this metal funk I was in hadn't completely gone away. I found myself making excuses. Excuses as to why I should sleep in. Excuses as to why sleeping in has left me short on time to run long. Excuses as to why making it up tomorrow will be alright.
Currently, I am still battling these excuses, but am coming closer to a resolve with them. With my final marathon of the season looming, I have found peace in a new running schedule. This super-hero's krytonite is and has always been his mind. With every obstacle I run in to I find a new way to overcome it. I have no doubts that by race time, I will have hurdled this obstacle too. Come this October, I may not be running for a marathon PR in a cape, but I do have a fancy new pair of tights!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My Annual Beat Down

It happened again. About the same time every year I run into some sort of snag in my training. Whether it be weather, illness, injury, or motivation, somehow my training always gets derailed. Any one of these things can really put the breaks on an otherwise successful summer.  This year I have ran in to four.

After a miserable winter/spring, I was ready for some warmer weather. I did not however, mean like this. Temps of mid to upper 80's have dominated most of the summer, which actually came late this year. I really don't recall much of a spring and vaguely remember the last run that the weather was pleasant. Handling the heat is one thing, which for those of you who really know me, I do not do well.  What makes this summer especially awful is the humidity. Humidity levels in the 80-100% (yes, 100%) have all but done me in. Throw in the Minnesota Summer storms and scheduling runs around this weather is near impossible.

Obstacle #2 this year was illness. I rarely get sick, and when I do it's usually one of those 24 hour deals, but this year I was hit by the flu hard. Four days of actual sickness, a 102F temperature, and a week to recover stalled my new training plan before it could even get started. I am just now getting over it.

Next up is support, or lack there of. This one is new to me. In years past, I've always had teammates supporting me. Even my parents and sister, although they think I'm crazy, have given me support. This year is different. I now have a family of my own, and with it a newly selfish partner.  To give her some credit, she did bear my child, and for that I am ever grateful. And pre child, our lives were quite different. We each had our things and gave each other the space when needed. Now however, to make scheduling around work and child even more difficult, those few times I do find to get my runs in, she makes me feel guilty for leaving, thus forcing me to find even odder times of the day to run. Late night runs or very early morning runs seem to be the only time I get, which is difficult due to my 2nd shift job. And I am OK with this. Years of working as a bartender (which I thankfully no longer do) have taught me the patience of a saint. What gets me is her unwillingness to change. Apparently she doesn't need to make sacrifices from her old life, and often ends up staying after work (she's still a bartender) and having "a couple".  Like I said, I am OK with this...for now. It's been 15 months since our son was born and the time is coming where no longer can we live those lives.  I made the decision to stop. It's not that hard. Now it's her turn.

All these lead up to the final hurdle. Motivation. I am tired, hot, abused and broken. Each week that goes by; each long run missed makes it harder the next week to get out and do it again. I have taught myself tricks. I have learned to lie to myself and keep going. One of these days I'm going to catch on, and I can only hope that I do not break.

I have found some great support in friends, both those I know and those whom I have never met. Thanks to those runners who have "taken me in" and kept me motivated. Thanks to those total strangers who daily congratulate others on their accomplishments, great or small.  You have taught me more than you know, but that's a whole other blog.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beginnings...Part Three

And now, the not so epic conclusion.

I had six months to get myself from couch to marathon shape. Needless to say I has skeptical. I hopped on the internet, found a decent enough training plan that I figured with a little tweaking I could handle, and started running the next day.
Two months went by and I had barely built myself up to more than three miles every other day. Things were not looking good. Slowly the miles started building and the runs were getting easier. Could I dare say that I was beginning to have fun? Things were going good, but I had yet to tackle that final hurdle in my training. The 20+ mile long run. The week came when I was finally going go get my chance. I was all primed to go, and then I got injured. Nothing serious, but enough to prevent a 20. A couple weeks later and it was time for another shot. Scheduling conflicts. Had to cut the run short. I was starting to get nervous. There were only a few weeks left before I needed to start cutting back and I still hadn't gone longer than 16.  Finally, with four weeks before the marathon, I managed to hit the trails and get in 20 miles. Relief. I actually got one more 21 miler the next weekend and was feeling pretty good about things.
Race day finally came, and with conservative expectations, I started out to end my journey I had started six months earlier. With PERFECT weather and my family cheering me on, I crossed the finish line well under my goal. In fact, the race had gone so well that I destroyed my previous PR that I had set right out of college!

*Disclosure: I am about to admit to being a HUGE softy, so don't make too much fun of me!*

Now I'm not sure if it was due to the emotional drain of the afternoon, the elation I had at crushing my goal, or just the fact that I was glad to be done, but shortly after crossing the finish I broke tears. It must have been pretty obvious too, because one of the finish officials noticed and asked me if I had PR'd, which I proudly said that I did. I quickly regained some composure and wrapped up my finish line activities.  After a quick phone call to the family, it was decided that due to traffic it would be easier to take the bus back to the Metrodome and walk back to the apartment where I was staying from there (it was about a mile). As I sat on the bus waiting to depart, I finally had time to reflect a little on what had just happened. Again I was flooded with emotions, however this time I was able to hold back the tears. It had been a good day.
As I think back about that day, I realize that moment on the bus was the moment that I became a runner. It was the moment that the sport I loved so much back in high school and college had seeped back into my blood. From that moment, there was (and still is) no turning back.
It is now 2011, I have already ran a marathon since and I am signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon again. I am currently following an ultra marathon training plan and expect to attempt my first in 2012. As the miles start increasing and the training gets tougher, I find myself more eager to head out the door than ever. Not all runs are great and sometimes I really struggle to find the motivation, but at no time does it feel like work. Running no longer feels like a chore. Unlike high school and college, every step I take is one that I have decided to take, not for a coach or for a team. Those were all great experiences, but now I am running for me, and I can not think of a better reason to run.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Beginnings...Part Two

I met Justen through a mutual friend.  Our friendship was one that grew slowly, as we would generally hang out in social situations as common friends got together from time to time. His interest in hiking and trail running and mine in running was our common interest and usually our main topic of conversations. His background was vague and one that he can get into with greater detail, but his passion of all things Seattle and trails peaked my interest.
An unknown amount of time had passed and our friendship progressed accordingly until one day he told me of his plans to run the North Face Challenge 10K in Madison, WI (we would later discover the race was actually in Eagle, some 60 miles east of Madison). At first chance, I hopped on my computer and looked it up, and what I found made me smile. An entire weekend devoted to trails and running! Later I would look back on this moment and think maybe I overstepped our friendship, but I called him up and asked if he wanted some company on this trip (basically I invited myself along). He said definitely and I signed up that day.
As the weeks went by and the race drew closer, I made a few feeble attempts to start actually training for this race. What was I thinking signing up for a 10K after 7 years of no running!  Race day drew near and anticipation levels were reaching exciting levels. Then I got the news. Justen has been suffering Crohn's Disease most of his life, and he was having another flare up. He would not be running. I was pretty down but more concerned that he was doing alright. I figured that the trip would obviously be off, but he said even though he wouldn't be running, he was still going to make the drive to Wisconsin.
The trip went well and we had a good time over the 2 days. I ran an alright race for not having any serious training since 2002, and being a part of the race weekend was definitely worth it (although I would later tell him that I felt really guilty for running when he couldn't, and still to this day do). The race being in September, I kept up my running for several more weeks, not keeping a strict schedule but still getting in some light miles. Winter got closer and schedules got busier and I eventually found myself a non-runner once again.
Fast forward to April 2010. With the birth of my first son weeks away, needless to say things were getting a bit hectic. The events of last fall still running (pun intended) through my mind, I made a decision. Without giving it a second thought, I signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon.

To be concluded...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beginnings...Part One

Where to begin? When writing of one's life, or of one's running life, where does one start? Too much information and the reader gets bored. Not enough information the reader gets frustrated. The real story begins last year, however, a brief history of how I got here couldn't hurt.
I was a moderately successful high school runner. I ran socially throughout the years leading up to my junior year, where I made the realization that I could be good at this. We had some success both in Cross Country and Track and at the end of four years it was time to move on.
The college years brought more of the same, minus the success. After choosing a small DIII school, I again ran Cross Country and Track and had an immediate impact. This was a small team at a small school in a small conference. A very young group of guys made up the majority, with the upperclassmen there as more of a leadership/comic relief role. Our shining moment came in a 4th of 8 place finish at our conference meet. I always took my running and my training seriously, but with lack of success came a lack of ambition, which quickly took over my academic life. So, after 5 years (yeah, I did the whole "semester off" routine) I left school with no degree and pretty low self esteem. I had failed for the first time in my life.
With no degree and no money, moving back to my home town seemed like the only real choice I had. The plan being to get a job and save up some money and then move out west (go west young man!) This was 2003.
Fast forward to 2009. Still living in my home town I had established quite a successful career as a bartender at the local shit hole. I still hadn't pick up a pair of running shoes since I moved home and I was developing a large tolerance for Jagermeister. Things were going great (insert sarcastic tone here). Then I got fired. Although far from rock bottom, I had hit an all time low. That is until I met Justen.

To be continued...