December 31, 2014

Lost and Found

Oh 2014, you have been something.

Some mostly running-related tidbits at the front of my weird brain ...

I found amazing joy.

I found my 13th Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run finish line in April, and I did so almost stride for stride with my dear friend and training buddy Jack Broaddus, who found his first 100-mile finish line after several previous attempts. We had our lows. We had our highs — especially that 7th loop when the incomparable Amy Surrette was kind enough to pace us — and we crossed the line together in 28:23. Jack was heroic out there. I know I'll remember this one forever. 

I found my way beyond the 200-mile mark at Three Days at the Fair 72-hour in May.

After other years of 183 miles, 189 miles and 167 miles, I  looked at this Sisyphean task in a new way. Thanks to a suggestion from my buddy Bob Ring, I marked each 400-meter chunk of the 1.00-mile loop and then walked one, ran one, walked one and ran one. The plan was 8 miles every 2 hours, then take a 15-minute, feet-propped-up break, repeat ad nauseam and take a continuous 4-hour sleep break each night. Bob said this would get me 72 miles each day. That  Day 1 15-minute break almost broke my brain. Until the end of the first day when I got 72 miles and about 100 extra yards. Oh. wow. Day 2 I totaled 60 miles because I needed 6 hours thanks to abysmal rain-soaked misery and a significant loss of desire. For Day 3, I tweaked the plan to take only 10-minute sit breaks. And I also stopped trying to do the math, opting to Think Small — doing what was right in front of me and ignoring all else — and damned if I didn't manage to knock out 73 miles for the final 24 hours. 205 miles. A dream come true.

I lost my brother.

Joe Gentry breathed his final breath in late-November. He had cancer for 11 years and, thankfully, that was only a small part of his amazing story. He was a remarkable teacher and coach who — as is always the case — had a unique way of caring and focusing on solutions. He touched so many. His reach lives on in all of us who were fortunate enough to feel his magic. My brother lived this secret: You can move mountains and achieve unprecedented results when you focus on The Now.

I found a finish line before everybody else.

In mid-May, I won the ColorBlast 5K in 19:42. A bit of a cherry-pick in that there weren't but 30-some runners in the competitive division of the 200-person field, but I still got to the end before everybody else did. The last W I recall came when in a 5-miler when I was 29 years old. Note: a W at age 53 is far sweeter now than I ever remember when they came more often.

I lost my will.

Epic fail during my August try at four loops and 104 miles of the famed Wild Oak Trail. I had my boys Jack Broaddus, Dave Frazier and Quatro Hubbard lined up as pacers. I had my boy Vince Bowman out there crewing for me. I had some pretty peachy early-August weather. I was in some of the best physical condition I've been in. I had a sweet set-up. And then  I made a huge tactical mistake — leaf garbage bags do not critter-proof containers make!! — that resulted in doing a tough 11-mile, mid-day stretch sans fluid. The ultimate result: I dehydrated so badly that my lower back locked up and it took me 4 hours to "hike” the final 6 miles. Thank God for Dave's patience with me and for being my dear friend as I did what seemed like 5 million repeats of walk-100-rocky-ass-yards, sit-down, cry, stand up." Also, thank God for Vince, who stayed out all night driving around and crewing for us, cooking amazing soup, making us hot drinks and being a fresh, happy face that gave me profound hope and joy. Also for Jack, who paced me that first loop and who pushed himself well, well beyond the brink after my drop-bag blunder cost both of us. My friends, man.

I found my gold.

Yes, gold. As in way more significant than a distance or a time or an amount. Way, way more. Several times — a handful at various races and a whole buncha times in training sessions — I came face to face with that daunting specter I think of as The Big Quit. And at least for these times that I'm thinking of here …

• In the dark and pouring rain after 40 hours into 3 Days 72;
• multiple times doing the TRX 40-40 Challenge;
• the final 200 meters of a recent 1.5-mile time trial that I pushed myself so hard through that I puked afterward;
• going back out twice during the frigid night at Crooked Road 24-Hour when it woulda been so easy to just drive away …

… I stared The Big Quit right in the eyes, took a deep, deep breath and then kicked its ass.

I grew.

I shrank.

I laughed.

I cried.

I won.

I lost.

I found. And found. And found.

October 30, 2014

A Thousand Times Over

Sometimes, you just know.

When it came to Blake Norwood, I knew from that first March 1996 handshake that I had a friend for life.

His quick smile, big personality, booming voice and comfortable manner set my fairly overwhelmed-at-the-100-mile-distance self at ease from our first conversation. The friendship that ensued grew over the coming years, bringing me back for a total of 17 Umsteads -- a stretch that includes 13 finishes at 100 miles and another four of at least 50 miles.

Umstead was Blake's brainchild, a gentle 100-miler created to give everybody with enough want-to in them a legit chance to finish. The original 10-loop course and its later and current 12.5-mile sister both turned out to be the perfect catalysts for me to erase my earlier hundo woes. The confidence I scored at Blake's annual party slowly, surely changed my life.

When I learned earlier this week of his sudden and unexpected death, my mind when blank. No. Please no. Not long after, however, the memories refilled it. So many laughs. So many times we flipped each other off at first sight (boys WILL be boys!!). So many encouraging words from him shot my way during some low point late in one of his races that kept me going.

Two stories rushed back to me almost immediately.

1998. Blake, multiple toilet paper rolls in hand,  tried to pace me, D.J. Reyes and Ben Clark as we headed out for our 10th and final loop because he needed to refill some porta-johns. Yes, we dropped him. And yes, I made sure to give him shit about it for years after.

The hurricane year. Blake at the halfway point screamed at me to put more clothes on. I, being totally my stuboorn-ass self, told him that I'd be fine in my polypro hat, cotton gloves and trash bag ... only to have the temps drop 38 degrees in the next hour, the rain blow sideways and me drop out 4.5 miles later.

So many, many stories. And Blake is somewhere near the center of almost every one.

Late last year, current Umstead 100 RD Rhonda Hampton put the call out that she and friends wanted submissions for a tribute book they planned to turn over to Blake at this year's race -- his pre-planned U100 swan song. I jumped at the chance and kicked her what appears below ... I am so glad that he got this and that he appreciated all our submissions.


Dear Blake,

How do you thank someone for giving you the opportunity to prove yourself to yourself?

That's what you have done for me with your Umstead 100-Mile Endurance Run.

I remember the 1996 Umstead like it was yesterday. My first 100-mile finish. 24:44. Moving through the night with the late, great Aaron Goldman, who was also chasing his first successful 100-mile finish after a decade of trying. Getting passed with one mile to go by my friends Andy and Shelley Wunsch as Shelley was about to become the female champ. Them asking me if I wanted to share the finish line. Me asking Aaron if it was be OK. Aaron saying sure. Me running five steps with Shelley after having walked for 10 miles straight and realizing that -- you know what -- sometimes you really can't run even one more step. But you can almost always walk one more. Ah, the first of many, many lifetime lessons U100 would dole out to this remarkably slow learner.

I have been fortunate enough to cross a total of 12 Umstead 100-Mile finish lines so far. Some a lot faster than that first one. Some a lot slower. Each journey has been worth every single step. I've made so many friends, had so many laughs, taken so many sleep breaks (hah!), eaten so many of your Myra's coveted finisher omelets and created so, so many lifetime memories.

My life is a much more rich existence because of Umstead 100. I owe you more than I will ever be capable of repaying.

Thank you a thousand times over, brother.


October 22, 2014


So many reasons.


Blessed stillness.

Precious focus.

Overwhelming peace.

The fire of inspiration.

The other-worldly calm that comes about in those self-directed moments of supreme effort.


The promise of power that unfailingly manifests itself on the other side of every single low spot.

The resounding sense of wonder.

The smile that lasts the rest of the day ... week ... month.

The gentle, easy joy of exertion. 

Why do I run, you ask?

To go up. And over. And through. And on. Again and again.

Why do I run?


To chase — and some day, hopefully, catch — my very best me.

October 12, 2014

You Are Here

I hear you.

I hear you in the rustling of the leaves on a breezy climb up Little Bald. I hear you in my labored breathing whenever I'm pushing really, really hard on that nasty uphill near the top of Hankey Mountain. I hear you in the non-rhythmic click clack of loose rocks on a steep technical trail – especially after dark. And I hear your silky voice nearly every night just as I drift off to sleep.

I feel you.

I feel you in a calming quiet of an early morning run. I feel you with each footfall on a dirt trail. I feel you in the strain of those first several steps on the way to going really, really fast. And I feel you in the wash of joy that happens the glorious moment a finish line first pops into view.

I taste you.

I taste you in that metallic tingle that invades my mouth almost every time when I'm really jamming the accelerator to the red-line edge on a run. And I taste you with that first ice-cold post-run IPA.

I see you.

I see you in every on-the-run sunrise and sunset. I see you in every fog-covered on-the-run sky. I see you in each on-the-run fall trail. And I see you in nearly every dream.

Oh how I hear you.

You are that peaceful melody that urges me to go one more mile, one more race, five more pushups, two more planks. And sometimes as much as two more hours, even when I truly don't feel like it at the time.

With all my senses, I know that you are here with me. That you are my whisper of forever. And you never, ever disappoint.

Sweet, sweet Satisfaction.

August 25, 2014


Man, did I have this one wrong.

And man oh man did I pay the price for it.

I went into my Wild Oak Trail 100-Mile solo supported adventure thinking that it was me vs. the mountains. That if I trained right, tapered well and drew myself up to my most full bad-ass stature at the start,  there would be no option other than the full four loops. My psyche was "Damn the details and full steam ahead!!"

That approach got me just two loops, with the final four hours washing away in the worst suffer-fest of all my running.

Some observations, a mix of erroneous and otherwise ...

• I'm not THAT bad-ass. It would have been bad enough if the critter who destroyed my FS96 drop point aid had just eaten the Fritos, but that critter also punctured the gallon of water I had there. So Pacer No. 1 and dear buddy Jack Broaddus and I did Miles 16-26 in the steamy mid-day temps on half a bottle of water. Oopsie. Didn't seem all that bad at the time. Didn't seem all that bad largely because I have a remarkable ability to ignore any signs my body is sending me (such as that slight burning sensation in my lower back) that things will be getting really, really hard in the not too distant future thanks to this boo-boo. Interestingly, the critter left my Ensure untouched. No need to dwell on the ramifications of that. Next time: A more critter-challenged container sans critter-attractive food. Plenty of room in my pack to carry bars and salty snacks and such.

• I'm not THAT bad-ass, either. Having the option to take the old-school portion of the trail that crosses North River or take the newer Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition spur trail that adds about a mile to each loop but that keeps one's feet completely dry, I chose old school. An extra four miles might be an extra 1 hour plus across the entire four loops, right? Wow. An extra hour. I mean, that could mean the difference between 38 hours and 39 hours. Never mind that my feet would be completely dry the whole time and not as susceptible to blisters and ... (if you want to stop now and look up "stupid," I bet you find my mug nearby. Hopefully it's a flattering shot ... ). Next time: Take the bike spur. Keep the feet dry.

• It's just night running. Whatever. My Petzl Tikka 2 is A-OK for Umstead 100 and Crooked Road 24-Hour and Hinson Lake 24-Hour. It's not even close to OK for Wild Oak. Loop 2 pacer Dave Frazier (aka one of my dear buddies and also the Cold TWOT course record-holder) fired up his Princeton Tec head lamp and -- BAM -- now that's a head lamp. That thing emits more light than one of my Honda Element headlights. Maybe it's just me, but I'm thinking that I wouldn't have put myself in such a fix with my back if I had been able to see better and hadn't slipped 423 times during that foggy stretch after midnight. Next time: Use a real light system. And go practice with it.

• Back spasms suck, but not as badly as a 100-percent pain beat-down all the way across the lower back. I think I've only cramped up twice on runs in my life before this weekend. The third time back on top of Big Bald when I pulled up short after realizing that I was going off trail. ARRRGH SCREAM LIKE A GRADE-SCHOOL KID CALF CRAMP. No problem. Sat down. Stretched the toes. All is well. No way that's gonna happen again on this run ... until the final four hours, when my back essentially decided that it was gonna play a little game with me and see how many times it would make me throw up and sit down, in no particular order. Good news: I only threw up once. Almost within sight of the finish. Other news: I sat down a bagillion times. It never really helped, unless you consider that it made Frazier and I go so slowly that the sun actually came up as we were finishing the second loop. Next time: See above for critter-proof fluid placement.

• Four hours to go 6 miles in the dark and fog is a special kind of beat-down. I once ran an entire Wild Oak loop in less than 6 hours. I regularly ran one in 6:15. Thanks to the dehydration and the sleep factor and the remarkable Left Lean (yes, it does deserve initial capital letters!!), I took me 4 hours to go the final 6 miles. (Did I mention that Dave Frazier is a saint for staying with me? He is. And then some!)

• Hellbenders and Orb Weavers are amazing creatures. Thanks to my night out on Wild Oak with Dave, I can now identify both Hellbenders and Orb Weavers. I apologized to both Orb Weavers on the climb up Hankey for taking out their hard-earned work, although I was still pulling those sticky webs from parts of my hydration vest some five hours later.

What the hell is THAT over there? Fog-covered Lookout Mountain area. 2:15 a.m. Dave sees these eyes peering out from the left side of the trail. None other than a bobcat. Lying down. Watching us watch him. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

• All I have to do is taper for Wild Oak, and I'll be fine. Haha! HAHAHAH! AHAHAHAHA!! I am at times a remarkably obtuse ultra runner. There is so much more to one of these back country ultra runs -- even with fabulous support crew Vince Bowman and pacers Jack and Dave -- than showing up to the starting line in tip-top shape. Details matter. Next time: Put out extra water. Lots of it. In thick containers. Without food in them. Get a real head lamp. Buy some hiking poles and practice with them.

• It sure is special out there in those mountains. While I am still stinging from the indignity of falling so miserably short of my goal, there were so, so many hours of pure, unfettered one-foot-in-front-of-the-other joy being out there. I'll be forever grateful to Jack, Dave and Vince for helping me chase this dream of mine. This time, I came up massively shy. Yet oh, the stuff I learned. Next time: Plan some better. Be less aggressive. Take what the mountains give. Respect the place a bit more.

Will I dance with The Wild Oak Trail again? Yes. Yes I will.

And next time, I'll keep all the Fritos in my pack.

August 8, 2014

An Open Letter to The Wild Oak Trail

I see you.

Big and hairy and painfully steep and sometimes just a little more technical than I’m completely comfy cruising.

I see you.

Beautiful and at times breathtakingly peaceful, yet at other times incredibly demanding and just plain down raw.

I see you.

When I’m sleeping, you come to me in a whisper, your raspy tone that sounds like a tree groaning through the darkness, and you say, “Are you really sure you have what it takes?”

I see you.

We both know I’ve put in a lot of time out there with you across the past 20-some years and, although I’m not the regular that I was back in the day, I am familiar enough with you to be sure that four loops around your layout is destined to take pretty much everything I have to give.

I see you.

I’ve fallen on you often, thrown up on you, was nearly struck by lightning with you and came pretty close to getting washed down the North River once because I got cocky on you.

I see you.

Your white blazes and reflective trail markers and overgrown vegetation and sometimes slippery surfaces will ask much of me.

I see you.

You are in my head, and on my heart and – starting sometime around daybreak on Friday, Aug. 22 – you will be in my legs. All 32,000 feet of your up and down, provided I’m able to click off the entire 100-and-a-few miles of you.

I see you.

I’ve studied the minutiae and believe that if everything breaks right, I can finish four loops of you in somewhere around 38 hours. If everything breaks right. But just in case, I’ve cordoned off enough time to be able to hike and hike and hike some more to get four loops of you finished whenever it happens.

I see you.

Thanks to you, I’ve been running more hills, have had some monster training weeks, am paying more attention to recovery and am pushing a little harder on the strength work, yoga and core.

I see you.

My respect for you is so massive that I’ve rallied several of my closest running buddies to help me out. Their respect for you is so vast that they jumped at the chance to help me see this dream of mine come to fruition.

“Are you really sure you have what it takes?” you ask.

I think so. But I’m not sure.

That’s what we’re both about to see.

July 5, 2014

Beyond Grateful


Freedom that comes my way thanks to the magnificence that is movement. Freedom that happens when I get to experience a day jam-packed with mountain views. Freedom that’s borne of good, old physicality that sometimes leaves my legs sore and nearly always leaves my mind spinning. 


Need to jog the endorphins around 10 to 16 hours a week at a frequency that allows my brain to fully engage. Need to feel the fatigue in my quads on the steep ups and downs, and in my hamstrings and calves after the short, fast runs. Need to play with the push-ups and weights and pull-up bar and TRX trainer so as to take my upper-body muscles to failure and my cardiovascular system to its favorite panting place.


Hope that my next big creative idea for work is out there somewhere waiting for me to run into it. Hope that I will make my way to another friend or two along the way. Hope that my 14-year-old will see the old dude out there getting it done over and over and over — and loving it more and more as time marches on — and maybe just maybe find his own calling in running or some other thing physical.


Joy that floods my being on every long run. Joy that allows me to share my gifts of gab and endurance and mental weirdness with my regular running buddies and anybody else who happens to grace me with their on-the-run presence. Joy of reaching for a little longer, a little faster, a little more patience, a little brighter day. Joy of putting up a performance that surprises me. Joy of landing on a crazy new goal, then quietly striving in pursuit of it.

So beyond grateful that running found me.

May 21, 2014

Get Lost

Get lost.

Get lost in the effort. Three hours of runwalk before the workday begins. And 200 early-morning push-ups. And slow-motion pull-ups. And the bent-over breathlessness of all-out fast runs. And dragging yourself out of bed in the dark. And putting yourself to bed when normal people are just cranking up their evenings in the front of the TV.

Get lost in the joy. Experiencing the scenery and the rawness and the expansiveness of a solo run through the nearby forest. And the tick-tick-tick of your shoes brushing over the rocks as you climb and climb and climb your favorite single-track. And the breath-taking crash of the far-off waterfall that you know you'll be standing beside and feeling its mist on your face within the hour.

Get lost in your senses. Revel in watching your frigid early-morning winter breath rise up through your head lamp. And the sun peeking out. And the glorious full moon casting its knowing visage on all the world. Drink in the sounds of the birds awakening. And the rhythm of your gentle cadence as you shuffle down a crooked country road.

Get lost in your mind. Enter that second -- and third and sometimes even eighth or 14th -- hour of steady motion, that exquisite time when you peel back the veil, release your inner philosopher and become immersed in a magical place that is solely yours.

Get lost.

The most pure way I know of to really, truly get found.

April 30, 2014

Dream Chasing


Reasonable question.


The challenge. The opportunity to write a novel in 72 hours with your legs. And your drive. And with the will to keep going over and over and over.


The possibility that it will be fun the whole time. The hope that maybe just maybe I'll keep my goofy smile burning the whole time. And that perhaps I'll even be able to help some people reach out and touch their own dreams as I propel myself toward mine.


Because some weird stuff happens to you thanks to the fatigue that sets in when you are on the same loop for so long, riding the waves that come with feeling good and feeling bad. And hopefully good again.


For that sweet, sweet moment when you recognize that you're not really sure what day it is, yet you're completely sure that this pursuit is, for a time, the most important journey you can take.


That sensation somewhere during the evening of Day 2 — as your mind starts to drift away — that this is harder than you recall, and yet entwined in this realization is the assurance that the Fun Factor is about to take a significant, prolonged dip unless you shove some food in your mouth RIGHT NOW.


Because these people are your people. Your bonds are strong. They understand you in ways few others do. They have seen you staring at your demons, and they have held your hand anyway. They know when to cheer you up. They have seen you rubbed raw, and they still care about you. They remind you to eat. And re-apply sunscreen. And lie to you about how great you look.


Because these people are your people. They laugh at your stories. They make you the brunt of their jokes. They walk with you throughout the nights because they know that you can talk for hours about basketball refereeing or the book you're writing or how awesome your son is or what a fabulous college James Madison University is — all of which give them welcome breaks from their iPod play lists.


It's a great time to put Think Small to another test and then to see what comes of it. Will I really be able to chop this gargantuan task up into smaller segments and then fall into a rhythm of regular stop breaks? Will I really sleep only four hours a night for three consecutive nights? Will I keep up with calorie intake in such a way that my energy stays high enough to keep moving. And moving. And moving. Will I really be able to stay right here right now, especially when the going gets truly difficult?


Because this 1-mile, mostly asphalt stage speaks to me in a voice like no other, a persistent whisper that tells me that I have more in me than perhaps I realize.

Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour is May 15-18. This is my fifth go-round — having done the 48-hour the first year and then the 72-hour each of its three years.


Because I still feel the searing need to add another chapter to this ongoing saga.

And I want to see if, yet again, I still have what it takes to chase down another dream.

April 21, 2014

The Feeling

You know the feeling.

Some people call it work. Others call it torture. Still others call it crazy.

You know better.

You know the feeling.

Sailing along a peaceful country road with only the sounds of your footfalls and a sweet, light springtime breeze.

Blasting around a compact oval in powerful mid-stride with the entire world reduced to the concentrated in and out of your diaphragm and your completely relaxed lower lip.

That resounding sense of worth from beating your 0345 alarm out of bed on a frost-covered December Tuesday workday morn because you promised yourself that you would.

The utter joy of tooling along at 4 or 5 mph and being completely awash in your own mind for hours and hours.

The unfailing beauty of the ever-changing pre-dawn light, especially when you're running along a mountain trail with the soft crunch of leaves underfoot.

The peaceful uneven softness of semi-packed ocean sand as the rising sun dots the skyline and early-morning waves give you relentless chase.

The purity that comes about from looking around and having it come home to roost that, yes, you are the only one up here on the top of this mountain. And that you got here by the power of your legs. And your will.

You know the feeling.


April 15, 2014

Favorite Moments from U100 circa 2014

We did it.

My buddy Jack Broaddus and I kicked, clawed, scratched and meandered our way through Umstead 100-Miler April 5-6. It was 64-years-young Jack's first 100-mile finish. I have a bunch more, but this 28 hours, 25 minutes and 53 seconds belongs absolutely, completely to my dear friend Jack.

Some of my favorite moments from the 8-lap trek ...

• Me nearly halfway through Lap 7, so some ridiculous time early Sunday morning when a bit of hallucination action kicked in: "Oh wow. That just looked like a guillotine back there. Damn. I think I need some food. Bad."

• Getting trail time with friends old and new, a list that is so long that I have absolutely no shot at naming them all. Each of you know who you are, and I hope you also know what a true delight each of you is to my very soul (yes, even you Tom Green!!).

• All the kind, kind volunteers who pitched in and helped us out across the hours and days. Your smiles, your laughs and your occasional kicks in the behind kept us buoyed and happy and ever-mindful of the idea that one can stay focused on the ultimate goal and still have a helluva great time.

• Me dropping back and falling sound asleep later on Lap 7.  While hiking. And eating a mouthful of animal crackers. Then me saying to Jack, "Dude, I just fell asleep hiking." And Jack coming back with, "Well, what in the hell did you do that for? Now, get back up here!"

• Every single step and all the laughs with the adorable Amy Surrette, who guided us around the course for the about 4 hours that were Lap 6. Amy is a dear friend, has one of the most shining personalities ever and is also among the toughest humans I have shared a race course with in all my days. So incredibly grateful for your help, Amy.

• Me and Jack trudging our way along on the final lap and just after passing the 11-mile mark on the 12.5-mile loop, we look up to see none other than our guardian angel Amy coming back out to meet us. She had gone home, grabbed a quick nap and daggone if she didn't come back out to check on us yet another time. Such joy in her smile that we were closing in on the final line that Jack and I even managed to break into a couple run segments as Amy joined in all the way home.

• Somewhere near the middle of Lap 8, Jack and I had the following exchange ...

Me: "Jack, you're leaning pretty far to right there, dude."

Jack (as he almost tumbles off the edge of the trail): "I am?"

• That blessed final section where you come back to the start-finish, me crowing to all who were within earshot at 10:25ish a.m. Sunday "This is Jack's first 100 finish!!" Him trying to get me to quiet down. Him realizing how remarkably pointless it was to protest.

• Jack breaking into a run as we made it halfway down that final downhill, and then holding it all the way up the final short uphill and across the finish line.

• The amazing sleepy, proud, radiant smile on Jack's face when RD Blake Norwood presented him with his finisher's belt buckle. Blake and I have been friends for 18 years now, and I'm not quite sure that I've ever seen Blake smile as widely as he did when he gave Jack that buckle.

This one was a good one. Really, really good. We went there with the goal that Jack was going to finish. Although it's so unlikely when this actually happens, I held out a glimmer of hope that we could do the whole enchilada together. Check. And check.

Moments that will last me a lifetime.

April 3, 2014

'Twas two sleeps before Umstead ...

'Twas two sleeps before Umstead
and all through his brain
ponderous musings were flowing
like a runaway train.

Will he tackle success at Goal No. 1
Helping dear pal Jack make the grade?
or will they both be too pumped
rip away too fast and fade?

And what of his own ride to the stars,
where Finish No. 13 lingers and jeers,
will he manage his energy at all costs
beat sleep and hear blessed Sunday morn cheers?

Has he packed all his goods?
Does he have all he'll need?
When the going gets rugged
Which call will he heed?

He knows how to do this,
He's been here before,
And raced o'er these grounds
Through times rich and poor.

The path is a wide one
Well-marked and hard pack,
The party doesn't start
Till the light scales back.

A gentle early pace
Should help Jack steer clear
Of U100's challenging nature
Despite its sweet veneer.

Laughs will be had,
Stories will unfold,
Kudos will be earned,
As dreams foretold.

'Twas two sleeps before Umstead
and now through his eyes
rests the easy breezy feel
that Finish 13's his prize.

February 10, 2014

Not Quite Two Loops, But Still ...

Although Saturday didn't go as I had planned that it would, I still managed to kill it out at The Wild Oak Trail.

Each 27-mile loop has about 8,000 feet of up and down. Translation: This one is hard. Real hard.

I was shooting for two loops this time.

Here's how it actually went down for me ...

One counter-clockwise loop with my dear pal/training buddy Jack Broaddus in 8:50, then off on my own for a second counter-clockwise loop with a promise to myself that if i didn't come across anybody going in my direction before I had to take on the really tricky snow-covered section on Big Bald solo in the dark, I'd bag it and run the road back. That's what I did. Final 9 miles on road with 3 outta every 4 iPod songs at marathon pace. 47 challenging miles total in 14:30:00.

Things I learned ...

• Ice isn't so scary bad if you have screws in your trail shoes.

• Ate a lot more than usual and drank a lot fewer calories than usual. Think I'm gonna continue that behavior if I'm going as slowly as we were (see Umstead 100, Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour, Hot TWOT).

• It's a lot easier on your legs if you stay mindful of how much you are running even on the seemingly "easy" trail sections of this loop. Nothing at all wrong with walking stuff that you would normally run if, say, you were only gonna do one loop. (Thank you, Jack, for taking the point for the final 2 hours of our shared loop and saving me from my sometimes greedy self.)

• Solved a bunch of problems throughout the day, and stayed positive and happy the whole time. A bonk-free 14h30m is something pretty sweet with all that 10,000-plus-feet of up and down.

• I know in my heart now that I have 4 continuous loops in me this October, and that it makes sense for me to line up pacers for Loops 2 and 4.

• It was pretty damn awesome to do 38 miles on those trails, then hammer the final 9 miles on the road. Very pleased with the training effect. (And when coupled with runwalks of 3 hours Tuesday, 3 hours Thursday and 2 hours Friday, this day pushed my weekly tally to 22h30m. Rough estimate of 85 miles. In only four days.)

• Saturday's 250-rep push-up review: 1x30 and 1x20 at the Big Bald lake. 1x50 at the fake Hankey summit. 1x30 and 1x20 at real Hankey summit. 1x50 at start of "new" Lookout Mountain trail. 1x50 on bridge crossing river before heading back to start/finish.

Overcame my fear of ice. Completely trashed my quads. Started in the dark. Finished in a different dark. Had a silly smile plastered across my face the whole time.

Loved. Every. Step.

January 31, 2014

Dear January

Dear January,

You have really been something. We’ve had quite the battle this year. You’ve bitten and kicked and wrangled with me almost every day. You’ve dragged me around and caused me to re-assess my running. And my supplemental exercise routine. And my diet. You’ve posed a lot of deep, piercing questions. Not sure I have all the answers, but I am working on that.

Now that you’re mere hours away from packing it in for another year, oh worthy opponent, how about we run a little scorecard and see where we stack up against one another?

Let us review these past 31 days, January …

• 60 hours of runwalk. That’s compared to 44 last year. (Score one for Me)

• 22 runs of at least 2 hours. That’s compared to 17 last year. (Me)

• Long-run breakdowns of a 6:09 (Red Eye 50K New Year’s Day), a 5:00, a 4:00, seven 3:00s and 12 2:00s (Seriously me)

• Living Room Yoga sessions: 3 (Draw)

• TRX training sessions: 7 (Me)

• Basketball ref action: 26 total games – 16 high school and 10 youth league (Draw)

• Days I did not run: 8 (January)

• Days I skipped running because the projected wind chill was more than -10F: 3 (Seriously January)

• Days I ran that were single-digit days: 4 (Me!!!)

• Days I ran less than 2 hours: 1. Although that day included a 20-minute tempo block at half-marathon pace … (still … January)

• Fast days: In addition to chunks of the Red Eye run and the aforementioned 20-minute tempo, I also churned out 5 times 7 minutes at 10K race pace, 10 times a 1-minute to 1-minute 45-second hill and another 20-minute tempo at HMP. (All me)

• Total number of push-ups this month: 6,200 (Draw, cuz I would have done fewer than this if the weather conditions hadn’t sucked so badly on several of your days).

So let’s see: Me 6. January 3. And 3 draws.

Truth: You kicked my ass, January. And even though I’m stronger and better and maybe even a little tougher now than I was before you showed up, I’m calling it even.

Thank you, January. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

January 21, 2014


Happy dog. New tricks.

I’ve run somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 lifetime miles, yet I’m only now just exploring rest days. Coming from the School of The Difference Between Ordinary and Extraordinary is Just a Little Extra, non-run days haven’t been regular for me since, um, 1979. Yeah. Starting with the last week of December, I’ve plugged in one or two rest days a week.

I am learning.

Non-run days are giving me extra juice so that I’m putting in more time on my feet than I was when I was hitting the roads every day. What? Yep. Bouncing between 12 and 14 runwalk hours each week. And I’m sleeping better.

I am learning.

Yoga can mean downloading a video and doing it for 30-45 minutes in my living room. And yoga can also mean doing eight or 12 moves on those rare winter evenings when I’m sitting around the house rather than out reffing high school basketball.

I am learning.

Push-ups have changed my exercise world. After doing 100 a day for a 100-day stretch that ended just before Christmas, I have bumped the daily tally to 200-plus. Running is better.

I am learning.

Merlot is growing on me.

I am learning.

Full-body TRX routines -- even the truncated four-move ones – really do kick your ass.

I am learning.

When those close to me say, “Read this,” I am taking immediate action to make this happen.

I am learning.

After consecutive years of 183 miles, 190 miles and 167 miles at Three Days at the Fair 72-Hour, this year I’m throwing down and calling it out. This year, the final total matters. This year, I’m laser-focused on cracking the 200-mile mark. And this year, I’ll taper. And get off my feet every couple hours throughout the event.

I am learning.

This year, I plan to reacquaint myself with The Wild Oak Trail that was my old friend for my first decade of ultrarunning (more than a decade ago now). My hope is two 27-mile loops in February. And two more than that in October.

Off days. Hard work. Big plans. Hopes. Dreams.

Using my head.

Listening to my heart.

Day by day, lesson by lesson – and sometimes, inch by inch – I am learning.