April 13, 2020

Dear Wild Oak

Dear Wild Oak,

It’s me again.

I know it’s only April and your invitation to come try your 112-mile, 30-some-thousand-feet-of-incline party isn’t for another 6-plus months yet, but I thought I’d check in anyway.

We’ve been dance partners on and off for almost 30 years now, you and me. You know how badly my record-keeping sucks so I’m totally spitballing here, yet I think it reasonable to postulate that I have covered at least, what, 3,000 miles out there. As you know, 97% of that has been 1 loop at a time. And most of it happened when I was a whole lot younger and faster than I am these days.

We’ve had our times, you and me. You’ve most definitely thrown me a bone or two across the decades. You’ve seen me at my best. And over and over again, you’ve made my whimper and come oh so close to breaking my spirit.

I’ve driven off from you after 1-loop training runs sure that I am invincible. And then, fall season after fall season, I’ve slunk away after 1 or 2 loops thinking that the mountains just aren’t my jam any more and that I’m just not tough enough any more to eat what you are cooking.

I have attacked you. I have communed with you. I have ignored you until the last minute, as if sneaking up on you might work. I have spent every other Saturday for about a decade with the soles of my shoes making contact with your hallowed turf.

Let us review: In my time with you on the 4-loop format, I am ... 0-for-14? 0-for-15?

I guess what I really mean is, when it's race time, you always lay my soul wide open and leave it on the ground in a heap.
Dude, I have learned some of the most lasting lessons of my four-plus-decades of running at your hands.

Perhaps the best lesson of all: It's only failure if you don't get your ass back out there and try again.

Almost 30 years. Somewhere around enough miles to cross this country. And to think—I haven’t even finished all of your 112 miles in the same race …




March 15, 2020

Be the good

Settle in, friends, for a story of small town, instinct, goodwill and a happy ending ...

Scruffy Man, fresh off an extra-long Friday at work, swings by the local grocery for a few necessities. Good fortune shining on him, he quickly happens on his Awesome Neighbors. Banter and shopping ensue, followed eventually by a solo check-out.

Dropping groceries in his vehicle, Scruffy Man turns to take his cart back into the store when he hears The Voice. Seriously? OK. OK. Over to the cart return Scruffy Man goes, as grumpiness sets in because Scruffy Man always takes his cart back in the store. And that’s when he sees it ... a brown wallet left in one of the unattended carts. Smiling now, Scruffy Man checks contents of said wallet and looks around for Wallet Guy (who Scruffy Man doesn’t know). No luck. Damn. OK. No worries. Back into the store Scruffy Man heads when The Voice stops him again. Yeah. True. This is a pile of cash. And yeah, why force others to confront those choices. OK. OK. Plan B, it is. Back to looking at the driver’s license when Scruffy Guy sees his Awesome Neighbors again. Situation explained, Awesome Neighbor Mom does her social media thing while Awesome Neighbor Daughter shoots back into the store for a quick canvass. No immediate luck on either front, so Scruffy Man decides to drop groceries at home and then drive out to the country address on the driver’s license.

Back at his house and groceries put away, Scruffy Man is just about to plug in what he hopes is Wallet Man’s actual address when Awesome Neighbor Mom calls to say her social media thing netted a score and Wallet Guy is at the grocery store waiting. Minutes later, a seriously happy ending.

(Be the good, y’all, especially with all the not-so-good that seems to be surrounding us right now. Be the good.)

September 25, 2019

Oh Sh#t!!

Demon 2: We have a problem.

Demon 1: Problem?

D2: Gentry.

D1: Gentry? That loser?

D2: He’s a problem.

D1: Seriously? He’s a non-entity.

D2: We’re losing our grip on him.

D1: LOL! Do tell.

D2: I think he may actually finish that Wild Oak thing this year.

D1 (cackling): Wild Oak?! The 100-plus-miler with the 29,000 feet of vert that he’s quit THIRTEEN times?

D2: Yes.

D1: Dude. Seriously. Stop.

D2: Look at that 10-day race he did in May.

D1: LOL! You mean the one where he missed his goal by 65 miles?!! Hahahah. There’s some badass for ya.

D2: We thought we had him knocked down and going home on Day 3. He. got. back. up.

D1: So?

D2: And then reworked his goal. And ended up beating that new goal by 15 miles. And had his best day of all on the last day.

D1: Big whoop. One race. Whatever.

D2: Yeah, but it changed him.

D1: Riiiiight.

D2: I’m telling you. He’s been running his ass off. Climbing. Lifting. Meditating.

D1: OK. Whatever. He’s still a wuss. You been in his dreams?

D2: Yeah. I have. He’s laughing at us.

D1: Doesn’t matter. He’ll quit. He always quits Wild Oak.

D2: Yeah but this time, he knows he can finish.

D1: Dude has a sweet resume, but Wild Oak is like 10 times harder than all the other stuff he's ever finished combined.

D2: I'm telling you. Different brain space now. 

D1: No amount of training can get you ready if ... 

 D2: Listen to me. He is in a different place now. He knows that he can finish.

D1: Wait. What?

D2: This time, he. knows. he. can. finish. And he’s all, “I don’t know if I *will* or not, but I know now that I *can.*

D1: Oh. shit.

July 8, 2019

What It’s About

The heart of my running isn’t really about finish lines or more awards. Those are wonderful, but not really at the heart of my running. 

For me, running is about ...



starting anew.

words that only come to me on the move.

perpetual youth.


the Now.

earned fearlessness.

lasting peace of mind.


Sent from my iPhone

May 3, 2019

A 10-day, you say? WHAAAA?!!

So, here we are.

Vision quest, here I come.

Six sleeps until my first 10-day race.

This is my 10th multi-day race, so it stands to reason that I should have some idea of what to expect. Truth: I do not. And that’s likely a good thing. It could be life-changing. Also, it could completely suck balls.

Even as slow to learn from mistakes as I am, multi-days have taught me a valuable lesson: Think small. Control what you can control. Ignore the rest. Don’t hang too much on a distance goal, but also don’t act like a 10-year-old and go so fast and so long on Day 1 that you take all the fun out of the other days.

Other lessons? Bring so much sunscreen. And all the hats. And socks. And more than one towel. And an overabundance of resolve. And a battery-powered lantern for your tent. And some new stories. And your sense of humor. And bring beer. And your favorite shoes. And your lucky gloves (you know, those two different ones that you found on the side of the road during training runs this year).

And at least a gallon of sweet tea. And a jar of peanut butter. And one of those kidergarten-classroom-sized boxes of Goldfish crackers.

And all your Buffs. And most definitely that ugly-ass pirate shirt (!!). And a clothes drying rack. And a bottle opener. And a pallet of chocolate-flavored Ensure.

And a pen or two for a bit of writing as the mood strikes. And your puffy. And that sleeping bag that doubles as a parka. And definitely your Bedrock Sandals.

And your reading glasses. And the confidence that you have positively trained your ass off for this—doing 25 percent more running than normal across the past six months, putting on 10 pounds of muscle and doing so much core work that moves you once dreamed of being able to do are now warm-up moves.

And, most importantly, bring your imagination.

May 7, 2018

A little race next week

Some of my recent and not-so-recent numbers banging around in my noggin as the packing begins for next week's 144-hour extravaganza at 3 Days at the Fair in New Jersey ...

280      straight days in the current run streak, starting Aug. 1, 2017

1:44:00 per day runwalk average during this stretch

47      percentage of days I have done only a 20-minute runwalk during this stretch

     races or training days that lasted somewhere between 8 hours and 27 hours during this timeframe

13    double-long-run Sundays during 2018

2     different training blocks of 10 2-hour runwalks in 10 consecutive days during this current build-up

150   calories an hour, my singular goal for every waking hour during next week's 6-day race

314   miles, my total at this race last year, my inaugural foray into the 6-day world

63    miles, my longest single-day mileage total last year, Day 6

40    miles, my shortest single-day total, Day 5

1,545  career miles on the upcoming 3 Days at the Fair course during this event (1 x 48 hours, 6 x 72 hours, 1 x 144 hours)

1  guarantee that there will be so much laughter to go along with the tired feet, aching legs and sleep-deprived ravings

April 20, 2017

This Time

This time is the same.

As I approach the starting line of my 200th race marathon or longer, I still have no clue what I am doing. And I'm still having so much fun doing whatever feels right when I'm out there on each run.

This time is the same.

I have 14 different pairs of shoes in the running rotation, and I never wear the same pair two days in a row. Yoga is one of my best friends. Meditation continues to grow on me.

This time is the same.

I think about this next race at least 30 times each day, dreaming of how it's going to feel when all systems are go and the miles are floating past. And how it's going to feel when all systems are no and I can't figure out how to unzip my tent from the inside. Or where the zipper is on my sleeping bag.

This time is different.

This time, I see the boundless beauty of the sunrise as I paint the canvas below it with miles on top of miles.

This time is different.

This time, I hear the birds as they chat back and forth. And the wind as it makes the trees creak. And a growing optimism that comes when you once again make friends with the hurt.

This time is different.

This time, I smell the honeysuckle as I'm in pre-dawn flight over rolling country roads. And the hint of rain on the air just before a downpour.

This time is different.

This time, I feel my mind forging steel it hasn't experienced in a very long time. And the burn in my quads when speed work gets real. And the sun on my cheeks during so many mid-morning long runs.

This time is different.

This time, all the work has been laser-focused on helping me find that sweet spot where I'm covering the ground with the least amount of wasted energy. Relaxed, rhythmic roll rules.

This time -- as I look down the barrel of my first 6-day race -- I am reminded of these two irrefutable truths:

Fear often bats first.

Hope always bats last.