December 31, 2013

Laughingly Hopeful

More running.

More rest.

More than 200 miles at Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour.

More laughter.

More push-ups.

More pull-ups.

More clarity.

More living room yoga.

More great craft beer.

More embracing the fun on the way to what could be -- knock on wood -- my 13th Umstead 100-Miler finish line.

More good food.

More mountain sunrises.

More writing.

More pushing the pace.

More runs with buddies.

More reaching.

More laughing.

More Wild Oak Trail loops.

More trips up and down Reddish Knob on pavement.

More joy.

November 18, 2013

Find the Fun

Well, lookit here. Crooked Road 24-Hour is this coming Saturday (and Sunday).

Let’s see: First year – 82 miles. Last year – 85 miles. Haven’t been very tough once the lights go out either year on this slightly-less-than-1-mile layout.

No clue what the final outcome will be this go-round, yet I’m optimistic.

This time around, I’m trying a different approach. Think Small.

Mostly my own aid.

No watch, which means running and walking as the terrain dictates. Walk the inclines, especially that fairly short but fairly steep hill that I think running up much of the day and night has contributed to my super pathetic nights the past two years.

Bringing the serious winter tights.

Enjoying little feet-up mini-breaks every 2 hours or so.

Think small. Handle what’s in front of you. Ignore the rest of it. And if things get bleak — as they inevitably do at times — fix what’s fixable and find the Fun in the grind.

Plan: Find joy, latch onto it and never, ever let it be wrestled from my paws.

More miles this time? Dunno about that, but what I do know is that there is much fun to be had this weekend, and I’m gonna do my best to make sure that I am present for every single moment of it.

October 11, 2013

A Metaphor for Life

Think small.

I think that may be the trick to this ultrarunning thing.

Control what you can control. Ignore the rest of it.

No need to count the miles left. Or hours left. Or distance to the next aid station. Not helpful.

Think small. Look inward and find the rhythm the same way you do when you start out on a normal morning run. Or when you begin to crank it up on a particular fast track interval. Find your breath. Relax your shoulders. Relax your face. Find the line through the rocky trail maze.

Think small. No value in "Holy cow, I can't do this for (fill in the blank with time or distance)." No point in "There's no way I can last another XX hours in this heat." And zero hope in "I cannot climb that climb one more time. No way." Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Yes, you can.

Think small. Find whatever scale you are comfy with and set about wrapping your head around that scale. For me at Hinson Lake 24-Hour several weeks ago, it was each of two or three run segments on the 1.52-mile loop. Not covering the entire loop in a set amount of time.

And it was also making sure that I drank some chocolate milk every hour. And that I plopped in my chair every two hours for a quick 2- to 3-minute break, making sure I propped my feet up on my cooler to take a bit of pressure off them.

Think small. Once it got dark at HL, I shifted focus to the promise to begin running again at the first wooden bridge after the left turn off the dam. Find the bridge. Start running. Find second gear. Keep running until crossing the 300-foot-long bridge, then walk the entirety of the kitty-litter-like footing and small hill comically dubbed Mount Hinson. (Thanks for that bit of magic, Charles West!!!)

Think small. Be mindful of whatever the task immediately at hand, be it finishing that Zip-Lock baggie of Frito's Corn Chips, polishing off the last of the green tea-Red Bull combo mix, finding just the right groove in the trail over there on the Hinson Front Nine's longish straightaway.

Think small. Know when to say "No" -- such as "The pizza is fresh. Who wants some pizza?! -- and then push your mind onward to the next order of business. Same goes, most of the time, for getting caught up in visiting with somebody out there on the course, especially if that somebody is going at a different speed than your speed.

Think small. No need to get greedy and change what's working just because the idea of, say, running for the next hour or even running the whole next climb happens to flash across your mind. Be patient. Remember your training. Trust your plan.

And if things happen to start to go a little sideways, then I know a really great strategy to bring things back to even ... think. small.

Think small. When negativity starts its inevitable ultrarun creep, intake some calories and beat the neg back with the happiest thought you can muster.

Fresh off a 5-mile PR for 24 hours and a 10-mile course best in my sixth try at that same place, I'm thinking I may have bumbled across the answer I've been chasing all of these 20-something ultrarunning years.

Think. small.

August 25, 2013


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August 7, 2013

Finding my Peace

I am having such a great time lately.

Training numbers are up way up. I’ve been killing it volume-wise since licking my emotional wounds from mid-May’s sub-standard, mind-bending Three Days at the Fair showing. Dude, after skyward performances of 183 miles and 189 miles, this year’s 167 miles was a serious lesson, a spectacular ass-kicking and a mighty fine wake-up call all wrapped up in one compact package.

The message screamed at me is pretty simple …

Slow down. Have fun. Be at peace.

Leave the serious number-chasing jazz to others. Splits and pacing schedules and charts and graphs and training schedules and speed work and the like. Glad that works for soooooo many runners. Absolutely glad for them. All that stuff is not for me. Once was. Now, not so much.

So how have I bounced back since 3 Days 72? Dramatically. June featured a steady diet of 19 long runwalks for a total of almost 41 hours. July saw me throw down with 20 long runwalks and a total of 57 hours. Rock solid for me. So far in August, I’ve gone 2 hours five out of seven days. And there are a buncha weekly 5-hour possibilities on the August and September horizons.

Seven weeks and counting until Hinson Lake 24-Hour. I’ve kinda laid a whole basket of eggs there across the past five years, always shooting for a number way over my head and then coming away feeling empty. I’m betting this year, I come away full. Keep reading.

This most recent two-month block looks a lot like the one back in 2005 when I fired off a super-duper-strong-for-me showing at The Fellowship of the Ring. Plus, I’m a whale of a lot more physically fit these days than then. So, the table is being set. The work is being done.

Such an interesting turn of events this year.

Went into Holiday Lake 50K with the primary goal of focusing on The Push and not giving a rat’s ass about the final number. Results: 5:21 and a seriously giddy me.

Entered last minute my beloved Shamrock Marathon – Shamrock No. 28 for me – with a focus on doing a 9-minute run/1-minute walk routine through 24 miles, running in from there and taking what the day had to give. Went through the half in 2:00:00 and came back in a for-me-beastly 1:50:10 by focusing on Steady, Relaxed and Move Up To That Next Group. Results: 3:50:10 and then 3x10 pull-ups on the 20-minute jog back to my brother’s place.

Rolled up to Three Days 72 all tapered and rested and loaded for bear … and locked down on punching out 210 MILES OR BUST. I had my No. 2 pencil all sharpened up and I was ready for 80 miles Day 1, 60 miles Day 2 and 70 miles Day 3 or else. Yeah. Right. Problem with that set-up for me is that, well, I was kidding myself. Why? Because deep down at the very core of my being, I don’t care about how many miles I do. So that makes the whole charts and graphs and pacing plan and all that pretty worthless for me. And remarkably counter-productive. It turns those numbers into a tailor-made recipe for surrender for me. Yeah. Weird. And really, really unusual. Yet, absolutely the way it has been for me for a lot of years recently. Results: Day totals of 70, 45 and 52. See Bill overheat Day 1, miss all opportunities to hit big number and then go ka-boom …

 … and yet a really cool thing happened at the end. I super-duper rallied for those final 10 hours and managed to crank out the final 3 miles in 7:22, 7:03 and 6:49, respectively.

Why? Two reasons. I always try to rip the final 3 miles in honor of my dear friend Sabrina Little, who ran some fast laps with me two years ago and who also, by the way, is the current American women’s record-holder for 24 hours with 152-plus miles. (Yay Sabrina! You are amazing!) And also because I got my head screwed back on right for those final 10 hours. Because I woke up from a nice long nap at 10:54 p.m. Saturday night and had found my peace. Renewed – especially in that mostly empty cavern that exists between my ears – I smiled and laughed and hiked and eventually blasted my way through that final 10 hours.

So, what’s my goal for the 2013 Hinson?

Slow down. Have fun. Be at peace.

May 9, 2013

Some Things I Know

Some things I know because I am an ultrarunner ...

• There is a lifetime of difference between waking up for a weekday long run at 0300 and 0400. There are two lifetimes of difference same scenario but make the wake-up times 0300 and 0500.

• It doesn’t always get worse.

• It’s easy to remember each real solution to an everyday problem that you come up with when you’re out for a long run. If it’s a real solution, you remember it. And if it’s not, no sweat. And good riddance.

• Patience on a run is oft-times hard-earned. For me, at least.

• Anyone who says a 50K isn’t an ultra has never raced Promise Land 50K. Or Rattlesnake 50K. Or Snowflake 50K on a bitter cold day. Or Catherine’s Big Butt on a late-July scorcher.

• No matter what the weather, cold post-run beer is really, really hard to beat.

• Some of life’s best steps are those first tentative strides that you take once you beat back the overwhelming desire to give up.

• Some friends you make in ultras – if you are lucky – touch your heart forever.

• If you let it, crossing a 100-miler finish line can make you awfully cocky.

• I may not be able to run this next mile, but I can damn sure run to that next tree.

• Sometimes, the way to the silver lining is the most direct path through the pain.

• A couple decent 72-hour race mileage totals change everything.

• The best aspect about an outstanding performance is that you surprise yourself.

• For 23 years I’ve been running ultras, and I still don’t know much about how to run ultras.

April 14, 2013

Some of the Why

Why do I run, you ask?

Some reasons …

Because the gentle movement of a long, long effort feeds my soul.

Because sleep is a crutch.

Because of the thunderous quietude.

Because of the laughter of friends old and new.

Because if I go long enough, my place in the world always seems satisfying.

Because I get to take myself to places in my mind that I likely never would have gone otherwise.

Because I can.

Because I eat and drink whatever I want, and I weigh just 2 pounds more than I did when I graduated from college 30 years ago.

Because of the special experience that is generated by the sounds of a waking day.

Because of that silky sweet feeling at run’s end.

Because trail miles make special people even more special.

Because some days, moments on the run are the best ones of the day.

Because I've been doing this for 37 years, and it is still my favorite art form.

Because sometimes – to steal a favorite line from my eloquent pal Fred Dummar – I love kicking my own ass.

And because there have been times – a star-lit sky, a stunning sunrise, that moment just after I poke a hole in the attic of The Pain Cave – when I’m pretty sure that I see the face of God.

April 8, 2013

Flacko and Spading

So me and Jack are nearing the end of our 2-hour runwalk Friday morning when – lo and behold – I find a penny on the sidewalk. On heads. Jack always ALWAYS finds the money first, so of course I squeal and give him the business over this. We have a great laugh about it.

When I get into the office, the first email I click on is “Fwd. Sad, sad news” and I learn that Steve Flack and James Buracker were killed the night before in a car wreck.

Both of them were many things, including basketball refs. Both of them started with our ref association on the “two-man court” that I oversee at our summertime ref camp, which gives me an extra special tie to each. Both were salt-of-the-earth guys. Both leave huge voids.

So around 4 a.m. Saturday before crossing the mountain on my way to a much-needed long run on single-track trails, I go with a last-second switch and decide to stop for some coffee. That stop and pursuant restart puts me in exactly the right spot to see the most magnificent shooting star ever.

A penny on heads. And a shooting star.

I hear you, boys. I hear you.



March 15, 2013

Morning Eyes

(From an observation during this morning's 2-hour runwalk. These come all the time during runs. And thanks to my buddy Rinn for suggesting that I post some of 'em here. :-)

Morning Eyes

Blue, white, orange, red, blue

Far as morning eyes can see

Blue Ridge Mountains March.