July 18, 2016

One for the Books

Dear Katie Keier,

Thank you.

I've seen way more than my share of ultrarunning magic – and your 200-plus miles on The Wild Oak Trail this long weekend was all that and more.

I was in the same arena in New Jersey when Phil McCarthy collected 257 miles in 48 hours, shattering the previous American record by more than 20 miles in abysmal weather conditions.

And I was doing Umstead 100-Miler the year that Mike Morton clocked a 13:11. Yeah, a 13:11. For the whole thing.

Another time in New Jersey, I was in the race when Sandy Powell and Liz Bauer went toe-to-toe for 48 hours, with Liz nailing an AR 203 miles and Sandy battling valiantly to 195 miles.

And I've been in the mix when Morton has done 164 miles at Hinson Lake 24-Hour, a virtual solo time trial performance.

And I was running that year that Glen Redpath blitzed 139 miles at Crooked Road 24-Hour, another mind-bendingly hard effort that outdistanced his closest competitors by more than a marathon.

Yep, I've seen some of the best of the best magicians ply their craft in this crazy running thing that we do. I saw another one working her magic this past weekend. You.

You did it. The inaugural run of 200-plus TWOT miles. And I knew you were going to, especially because I saw the way you were moving during that brief two-hour stretch we shared around Miles 112-116 Saturday morning.

I doubt you remember much of our exchange during that stretch, but I sure do. Through that ever-present Katie Keier smile of yours, you recounted to me how Loop 2 was a dark patch for you, but then some food and a nap revived you. I told you that I was glad you worked through it, and that's when you turned back to me, looked me right in the eye and said, "That was really, really hard. I'm glad that part is over," and then you proceeded to run the next 100 yards or so down the fairly technical downhill section of trail.

That look you gave me – that I-trained-my-ass-off-for-this-and-it's-supposed-to-be-hard-but-I-got-this look – told me all I needed to know about whether you'd see 200 miles on this trip.

When the torrential rains blew in the next day and our local news reported that the Stokesville area got 4-5 INCHES of rain in several hours, my first instinct was, "Oh no. Katie and her bunch have to be out there on the loop somewhere” – but then I remembered that glint in your eye, and I just smiled to myself. I knew you'd do it.

And do it you did.

Proud member of two different 1,000-mile finisher clubs and proud owner of double-digit finishes at two other ultra races, I have a special, special place in my heart for tenacity. That said, what you did at TWOT went way, way beyond tenacity.

So, thank you. Thank you for letting me come play for a couple hours. Thank you for being such a happy, vibrant ambassador of trail running. Thank you for letting so many different people share in this remarkable journey.

And thank you for providing me with an image of perseverance, grit and calmness under fire that I will draw from for many, many years.

So proud of you, Katie. You dared to dream. You dared to do the work. You dared to take the chance. And then you went out and kicked the livin' shit out of it.

April 22, 2016

Running is ...

Running puts me with my people. Running gets me out of my head and completely in my head at the same time. Running is the thing I do better than all the other things.

Running allows me to eat whatever I want. Running keeps me awake at night. Running gets me out of bed in the morning. Running makes the nap a necessity, and a distinct pleasure.

Running is my reason for so many other activities like yoga and strength work that complement it. Running betters my days. Running gives me concentrated time to help shape my perspective.

Running is who I am. Running is who I want to be. Running makes me whole.

Running shapes my words. Running fuels my self-discovery. Running hones my grit.

Running helps me choose which dreams to chase. Running makes me vulnerable. Running heals me.

Running is simple. Running is profound.

Running is my canvas.

March 23, 2016

Feel the Air

Dear Joe,

What a gift, dude.

So I was missing you fiercely this morning. After my short run, I found myself reminiscing about random times we shared when I remembered you teaching me basic Tai Chi.

On a whim — or so I thought —I jumped online, and the very first video I found was the exact opening 10 poses that you taught me in the summer of 1980 in Knoxville.

After watching it over coffee, I hit rewind and managed to stumble and bumble through the whole series of movements. The final two poses in the sequence are relatively complicated. Feeling like a bit fawn-like, the thought occurred to me that maybe I should just shelve this Tai Chi thing for another time. Plenty of causes on my plate for now.

That's when I remembered fussing about those final poses out there in the grass near the UT Aquatics Center, and you telling me, "Before long, you'll feel the air around you and you'll know how to move."

I never really got there. Stayed with it the rest of that summer, but glided away from it by the time I returned to college that fall. Don't recall giving Tai Chi another even semi-serious thought until this morning. Almost 35 years ago. You know how long it takes your little brother to learn some stuff.

Fast-forward to lunchtime today. After having watched the vid a couple more times  throughout the morning, I tried the sequence again in the bathroom here at work. Nice wide mirror in there. Anyway, guess what? I totally felt the air. Pushed it away. Drew it back to me. Squeezed around it. Released it.

Gonna keep at the Tai Chi this time. Much better focus today, interestingly. It's been a lot better lately cuz of meditation, but it was razor-sharp today.

Thanks, Joe. Gift unwrapped. And yeah, I'm one step closer to that #builtgentrytough ink, too, btw. I know you're always with me, but I still miss the hell outta your laugh and your loud and your smile.

Love you, big bro.

Bill

P.S. Feel the air, indeed.

December 30, 2015

Dear 2016 ...

Subtitle: Putting It Out There.

Some of what I have in store for you, 2016. Let's get after it.

• Way more eating.

• 230 72-hour miles.

• Call more walks.

• More Goblet Squats.

• Hit more driver.

• Own Crow Pose.

• Up meditation practice.

• Use more nightcrawler.

• More Dancer Pose.

• 23:45 Umstead 100.

• Play more harmonica.

• Increase burpee pull-ups.

• Write more words.

• More dark chocolate.

• Read more words.

• 202-pound bench press.

• Remember reading glasses.

• Speak fewer words.

• More TRX sessions.

• Help someone finish.

• One 5-minute plank.

• Send handwritten letters.

• More tempo runs.

• Keep chasing dreams.

• Spread more love.

November 2, 2015

This Day

The boy remembers.

The date was Nov. 2, 1975. The boy was 14 and a high school freshman.

Waiting on him at home after school was a package from his much older brother. Inside the box was a pair of adidas SL-72s. Blue with white stripes. His first pair of real running shoes.

Inside the box was a note. It said, "Start running. Love, Joe." He signed it with a backwards J, a family joke because that's the way the boy had written his brother's name on one of his brother's senior football schedule when the boy was 4 years old.

The boy held the SL-72s as if they were treasures. He turned them over. He unlaced them and re-laced them so that the laces were perfectly even at the tops. He slipped them on. The size 10.5s fit perfectly.

The boy wore them outside. He walked around in the yard. He almost walked into one of the End Zone Trees (a different story for a different day) because he couldn't take his eyes off the shoes. Running shoes. Real running shoes.

JV football season was over. JV basketball season hadn't started yet. The boy had dreams of being a star athlete like his older brother, who owned football, basketball and track during his days in their small town. The boy was always dreaming.

The boy went back inside and dug around until he unearthed a pair of shorts. He slipped them on over the SL-72s, walked down the driveway and started running.

Down Chestnut, right on F down to the bottom of the hill, across North, across Jackson and up to U.S. 340. Left on 340, the boy ran, reveling in the thwack-thwack-thwack sound of the shoes scuffing along the pavement. Left on Spotswood Trail, left on Lee, right on another cross street, then left on Jackson and eventually back to F and what seemed like a Mount Everest-sized hill that led him back to his house.

The boy was out of breath. The boy had finished his first real run. In his very own adidas SL-72s. The boy was enthralled. Even at age 14, the boy somehow knew that he had found something. Or that something had found him.

The boy appeared devoid of running talent at first, but hung in there because the act of running gave him a feeling that none of the other sports provided him. Running, the boy came to realize, was special because it was all his. His losses. His wins. His journey.

Much has happened to the boy since that day. Many successes. Many failures. Many, many happy times. And through it all, Running has continued — over and over and over again — to find the boy and fill his cup to overflowing.

It's been 40 years now. And the boy still remembers.

October 7, 2015

Blessings

Blessings, blessings, everywhere
Which ones will you choose?
Calm your mind, expand your heart,
What have you to lose?

Blessings, blessings, everywhere,
Strength and joy and peace,
All of this and so much more
Deserve your heart's release.

Blessings, blessings, everywhere,
Come along with me,
A climb atop a mountain range,
A walk along the sea.

Blessings, blessings, everywhere,
Focus on the Now,
Take the time to really see
Each and every Wow.

Blessings, blessings, everywhere
Which ones warm your heart?
Take a moment, inhale joy,
Find a place and start.

September 13, 2015

Reboot?

Sometimes, I can be such a pompous ass.

I just had to do this lifting exercise called a split jerk. And I just had to use 20-pound dumbbells because, well, my 5-pounders the only other dumbbells would be way too easy. Also never mind that it's the first time I had done the exercise. Main result: Tweaked my right IT Band.

And — because I'm scared witless about my upcoming attempt of the oft-attempted-yet-rarely-completed Wild Oak Trail 100-Miler — I just had to do a 6-hour runwalk the next day. The low-back stiffness dissipated after 4 hours, so I thought it was fine. I didn't really even notice the IT band. I mean, it only hurt every time my right foot hit the ground. (Pompous. Ass.)

So, of course it's only natural that I would go out the next day for 2:30:00 with my buddy Bob. I mean, the IT band wasn't too bad at all. And we did the whole thing on soft ground. And I always go Sundays with Bob. (See the pattern here?)

Then I just had to go short on Monday because it was Day 140 of my current run streak. And I'm sure that the dull thud in the hip was more because I hadn't done yoga yet that morning than because I'm a pompous ass. (Impressive, huh?)

Same same with Tuesday's 2 hours, Wednesday's 20 minutes. And Thursday's 3:15:00.

Pretty sure that Thursday's effort gets me the nod as undisputed president of the Pompous Ass Club.

Silver lining: I haven't run a step since Thursday. It's Sunday evening and the stiffness is gone. I'm waiting at least until Tuesday to try it out. Might extend the break until Thursday. Dear Body, thank you for this wake-up call. Received and acknowledged. Good will come from this little blip.

More silver lining: Thanks to sage advice from someone who knows much — "You have the physical strength. Start to focus on mental strength." — I'm changing a lot about this time's Wild Oak approach.

I've used much of this thumb-twiddling time the past several days to focus on how this Wild Oak should go. And that's when it hit me — dramatic flame-outs in my two previous attempts are all on me. I've tried to bull my way through them. Little attention to planning. Less attention to execution. Just train myself up, roll out there, be all bad-ass and take it by storm. So far, that's gotten me to 37 miles once and 54 miles the other time.

The game-day Wild Oak approach this time? Take what it gives. Soak it all in. Look forward to the hard parts and laugh with them. Easy breezy. Think. small.

I'm running with buddies. And getting help from other buddies. And pledging to use good sense on all things physical this next month-plus. And working on getting my mind really, really right.

If things break well, Sunday, Oct. 25, may find the Pompous Ass Club president's post up for grabs again.