Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Craziest Idea Yet!

The last thirty-six hours have been pretty dark.  Lots of bad thoughts have rattled around my brain and left me feeling rather shitty.  But as these things usually go, I eventually settle back, evaluate the situation and begin to isolate the reasons for the fog.  Sometimes there is no identifiable reason.  This time there is.

As part of training for Cactus Rose I was planning to participate in the Woods Ferry 24 hour trail run.  I have not run a timed event and really need to practice for running through sunrise since I flamed out at Lumberjack.  However, finances being what they aren't, I cannot make the trip to Chester, SC for Woods Ferry.  

When the realization hit that I could not make the trip I went into a spiral.  Did not understand why till this afternoon during my ten miler.  A twenty-four hour run is not a 5k nor a marathon.  An entirely different level of epic shit.

Like a bolt of lightning from the heavens, a flash of inspiration hit.  A dear friend willing to listen and commiserate suggested I do my own 24 hour run around town.  What the Hell?  Why the Hell not?  I think I shall!

The details have yet to be worked out.  I still have to obtain final approval from the Home Office.  On Saturday, September 3rd I hope to run a solo 24.  I'll do what I can, as my body and weather permit, taking breaks when necessary.  Click the link below for the challenge on Dailymile should anyone want to join me virtually.

Does this dance have a name?  Of course...

The Do Epic Shit 24 Hour Non Jog


The top male and female finishers, on foot and/or wheeled, will receive a Do Epic Shit tee.  Quantities are limited so winners will receive what I send them and like it!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Kicking Myself When I'm Down

My presentation with Google on running and social media was delivered to what I considered dismal results.  Time ran long and I could not cover everything I had prepared.  For an hour afterward I was a complete mess.  As I struggled to console myself in the bottom of a wine glass Monday night, some eight hours later, my friend Erin squatted down to get at eye level with me.  Seemed as good a time as any for a story.

In 2001 Erin completed her first marathon in Ireland and raised several thousand dollars for charity in the process.  However, the enormity of the achievement alluded her.  While crossing the Atlantic on her return to the states Erin was seated next to an Irish Catholic nun.  As they chitchatted about their respective reasons for being in Ireland the nun realized that Erin was downplaying her marathon experience and fundraising.  As Erin deflected any praise the elder woman said, rather than asked, "you're not impressed with yourself, are ya?"

It took Erin several more days to realize the gravity of her accomplishment, that she should acknowledge the greatness of her experience on the streets of Dublin.

Erin relayed this personal tale as a way of settling my nerves and quieting the negative voices screaming inside my mind.  I truly thought my presentation was a complete disaster.

I am my own worst critic.  I am my own arch enemy.  No one is able to crush my spirits quiet like I am.

The point of the nun's query and Erin's story is not to inflate the ego or condone braggadocio, rather to acknowledge that on occasion [we] are capable of some truly epic shit.  That [I] am capable of amazing things.  No qualifiers.  No delusions of inferiority.  No measuring down of myself.

The opportunity to speak before any group at a company such as Google is reserved for a select few.  Somehow I got through the door.

Maybe it is finally time to stop diminishing my successes and time to start being impressed with myself.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

2011 Chicago Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon

Let me start by saying that is the third mile of the Lumberjack Endurance Run I swore off road racing.  Pounding down paving lost its luster as I whipped through the forest and down muddy trails that weekend in April.  While I am not changing my plans and suddenly scheduling road marathons again, I am glad to have made the trek to Chicago for the 2011 Rock'n'Roll half marathon.  

This race went like most, through the streets of a great American city.  When not thinks about pace and breath rate I was marveling at the architecture and people.  Racers came in all shapes and size - one dude with a pink mohawk and short-shorts - as well as assorted homeless people.  At various points along the course the sidewalks were either deserted or packed with throngs of spectators.

As most of the racers experienced on Sunday morning, GPS devices were largely useless amid the skyscrapers and under heavy skies.  I resorted to using the clock function alone and running by feel.

My training has suffered of late due to my broken toe and the unbearable South Carolina humidity.  The week leading up this race was horrific.  My running form matched the weather.  Yet by the morning of the race temperatures were in the low sixties and rain threatened the entire time we were on the course.  Needless to say this fellow was nearly hypothermic post-race.

Any runners would be advised to watch their step in the downtown Chicago area.  The roadways are pockmarked and the bridges are mostly metal grating - Vibram runners must tread lightly to avoid getting "bitten".

My projected finishing time afforded me a starting position in the second corral, a mere twenty yards off the starting line.  The pre-race highlight was seeing former NFL running back and member of multiple Super Bowl winning teams as a San Franscisco 49er, Roger Craig.  

As the race got underway and the field spread thin I was able to pace myself off a few other runners and try to maintain view of a few in particular.  I recall one very short woman with a wildly flailing right arm.  The final three miles was a near dead straight run to the end with the finish line visible for over a half mile, if not longer.  At some point after the final turn into the last three miles I was nearly dead on my feet.  The pace was unrealistic for my recent training.  However I remembered the new wristband I was wearing for the weekend and decided doing "epic shit" did not include walking.  So on I ran.

I had not intention of picking off other runners as I approached the finish, but I used them to keep my pace up and slingshot myself across the timing pad.


The recorded splits per the tracking system were:
       5k - 20.52 or 6.43/mile
     10k - 42.13 or 6.48/mile
   10mi - 1.08.45 or 6.52/mile
13.1mi - 1.30.56 or 6.52/mile

My placement results were:
  235th of 15259 total runners
  190th of 5779 male runners
  30th of 901 males 35-39 AG

Needless to say, I am blown away by this effort.  I was never nervous.  I was never doubtful.  Maybe that is due to the fact I came into this race with absolutely no expectations.  "Epic shit" was done indeed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Evolution of My Running Via Social Media

This is the presentation as written for my visit with Google's Chicago offices on Monday, August 15th.  I was invited to dicuss running and the impact social media had on my goals, namely deciding to pursue ultramarathons.  My impressions of the day will be revealed at a later time.

Final warning - this post is longer than most blogs.  It is the complete version of the presentation, so if you don't like long reads you may either take breaks or not read it.  Good luck.

Did you see someone grossly under dressed at the supermarket last night?

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Have you related some horribly mundane aspect of your life yet today?

Does anyone even care?

     Once upon a time these questions are what I thought social media was all about.  I assumed social media was the nature preserve of the narcissistic, attention-starved and self-absorbed. The potential of sites such as Twitter eluded me.  Even Facebook seemed superficial and largely voyeuristic.  I cannot say that my experience is true for everyone.  I can say that my experience is beyond anything I could have ever hoped for in life.
     My story is about transformation. Though not in the obvious sense.  The physical changes are apparent, but I don't blog health and wellness in a direct sense.  Being healthy in mind and body is only a fraction of my tale. The way you see me may be influenced by outward appearances – a fit guy, a strong runner, maybe even a decent writer. This gives no indication of how I see myself.  My life had been a study in self-loathing.  I never felt that I measured up.  Hell, I never even tried.  When things got tough I usually gave up.
     I am guessing you are scoffing now, saying “what the Hell is so easy about running?”  You may have tried running – through a park or on a gym treadmill.  Isn't a marathon difficult?  Yes, running is difficult.  But it is also easy.  Running boils down to foot placement and transfer.  Just maintain forward progress.
Discovering the potential of social media and the relationships that it can bring about is what led to me becoming an ultramarathoner.  I am sure you are now asking how in the hell that happens; but to understand this, you must first understand my background.

Back story...
     I lived a sedentary childhood – television & junk food.  No “active” role models and my parents did not push me.  One year of Little League Baseball marred by bad eyes and worse coordination.  I love baseball but I did not enjoy playing due to my lack of any physical skills.  The worst of it was that I was just not body-aware.  Once I was hit by a pitch squarely in the back.  The umpire tried to help me out and said to raise my arms up and down to work the soreness out of my shoulder blades. He then  ordered me to take first base.  The scene that followed was etched in my mind like an out-of-body experience.  I can still see myself trotting down the first base line with my arms flapping as if some great bird were struggling to take flight.  Laughter erupted in the stands.

     In high school I hatched a plan to get girls.  Football players get girls and I figured I could make the team and see what would happen.  Thinking my plan all the way through would have been a good idea.  I went to the first morning of summer practice but the heat and running scared me to death.  We ran wind sprints and laps in full pads.  We performed various drills and never really stopped moving.  The air was dead and water breaks infrequent.  One day of practice cured me of any illusions I may have had about being a football star and dating the head cheerleader.  I survived the first morning of two-a-days.  But as the hours and minutes ticked off the clock till the afternoon session I knew I could not go through that hell again.  I rode my bike over to the head coach's house to return my gear, rather than quit at practice.  I could not bring myself to face my peers.  Tears streamed down my face as I handed the equipment to the coach.  The sense of failing myself and others stung for a long time.
     In college, club rugby and drinking were my only physical activities until my PE credit in spring of senior year.  Long Distance Running was three mornings a week at eight o'clock.  Who the hell does that?  The course was pass/fail with a final exam consisting of running six miles in under one hour.  I did it to graduate.  Running for enjoyment was not a course requirement.
     I did try to make running a part of my life as I transitioned out of college.  There were valiant efforts, separated by long pauses and stretches of rather sedentary existence.  I ran occasionally during the years following graduation.  Working late, drinking and traveling from North Carolina to see my girlfriend in Myrtle Beach gave me plentiful excuses to not run.  Then as my girlfriend and I were married and started a family running often took a backseat.  Running was never fun.  Breaking through that mental barrier seemed impossible.  The physical hurdles were difficult enough.  Around the birth of my second daughter, in 2002, I was diagnosed with degenerative cartilage in my knees and advised not to run.  I would lay awake at night from the pain.  As I recall, the doctor did not have to tell me twice.  Running was a means to an end, a way to lose excess weight.  Because of the physical and mental difficulties it never occurred to me that running should be fun.

A story has no beginning or end, arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.
Graham Greene, opening line from The End of the Affair (1951)

     The demarcation line between the old me and the new me as a runner came in November 2008. I had been reading a blog focused on self-improvement and lifestyle changes.  The writer posted extensively on fitness, diet, scheduling and accountability.  During this time an old goal list resurfaced where I had once written that I'd like to run a marathon.  Run a marathon.  That was it.  No expected finishing time. No age I'd like to complete the run by.  Just run a marathon.  I was not happy with my physical condition at the time and was frustrated with previous attempts at weight loss.  It was time to make a concerted effort and be bold.
     The book Marathon Training For Non-Runners was my guide.  After the sixteen week program I ran a close approximation of twenty six point two miles through my neighborhood.  No starting line with party music, bull horns or starter's pistol.  No road barricades or police redirecting traffic.  No water stations manned by cheerful volunteers, just me running laps through my neighborhood and tossing empty water bottles in the yard and picking up full replacements as I shuffled past my house.  My wife did manage to ride a bike alongside me for the final eight miles.  To say that either one of us enjoyed the day would be an overstatement.  Four and a half hours after I started I collapsed in my front yard.  The only certainties were a) I was done b) I was not dead... yet, and c) I would have to be an idiot to ever try that again. Every part of my body hurt.

     An interesting thing occurred over the course of the next several days.  The aches and pains subsided.  I longed for the emotional peace that came with sustained physical effort.  I missed the comfort I found on the road.  Gradually I recanted my previous declaration against repeating such a feat and began in earnest to mold myself into a runner.  I longed to call myself a marathoner.

Social Media...
     By the summer of 2010 my marathon record was two entries with no finishes.  One DNF, or Did Not Finish, due to injury at Chickamauga [in 2009] and one DNS, or Did Not Start, due to inclement weather in Myrtle Beach the following February.  Little did I know my running experience was about to be altered dramatically.
     The facts are a little fuzzy now but I either initiated or responded to a message board post looking for a running partner in my little community of Murrells Inlet, approximately fifteen miles south of Myrtle Beach.  The message post turned out to be from a 24-year-old woman whose boyfriend ran occasionally but not for the distances that Julie was hoping to reach.  The result was an early morning meet up one summer Saturday.  Needless to say, my wife was not comfortable with that situation.  Meeting a stranger of the opposite sex for a dawn run would seem like a hook up to most people.  I only wanted a running partner; I never entertained the thought of replacing my wife.  However, if you repeat this story as my mother might, leaving out the pertinent facts such as looking for a running partner, it would be easy to get the wrong idea.  For me running with a partner was an awakening.  I was gradually beginning to enjoy the act of running.  Slowly I had chipped away at the physical and emotional obstacles to going long.  Whereas running for thirty minutes seemed like torture then, now running for an hour is merely a warm up.  But that morning run with Julie introduced me to the joy of running with a group.  I still run mostly solo, and sometimes prefer it, but running as a group affords a different dynamic.
     The North Myrtle Beach Running Group deserves credit for christening me as The UnaRunner.  I was still new to the group and during this time began growing my winter running beard [in August I believe, but why delay] and with my longish, uncombed hair and scraggly beard there was a vague physical resemblance to the mugshot of Ted Kacynski of UNABomber infamy.  

The nickname was based soley on my outward appearance, though it does harken to a feeling of separation from the world at times.  I had yet to define my personality.  My voice was as yet unrealized. Interestingly technology opened that partition between the loner and a greater community of people and personalities.  That opening – or awakening rather – allowed me be find a place in the world and dear friends to share it.  I can meet new people or catch up with old friends; learn about others' experiences and expectations.  I learned some things about myself in the process – I am a stronger runner that I thought and not bound by self-imposed limitations with regards to my running.  A mantra I began to develop during this time was any distance, anytime, anywhere.
     The chance meeting with Julie, my young running friend, also led me to a fairly new website for social athletes. Dailymile is often reluctantly described as the Facebook of athletic training.  Members may log various workouts with all sorts of detail, post notes, photos or video, and create relationships through friend connections similar to Facebook.  One difference is that dailymile is an open community. Anyone may view any other members’ complete profiles. While the developers have recently built in a layer of security features, the original intent was to foster an environment of sharing and nurturing.  One fun effect of dailymile is meet-ups in various cities hosting races, including marathons.  A dailymile meet up is akin to a mini college reunion.  

As I ran through the streets of Myrtle Beach, in both the October half marathon and February full marathon, I often heard my name, whether it was Logan or The UnaRunner, called from the crowd by unfamiliar voices.  I also saw the signs cheering on “dailymile” runners.  An unexpected consequence of joining dailymile was the realization of how much it would add to my enjoyment of running.

     Reluctantly I waded into the Twitter pond, unsure of how it worked.  The whole thing seemed complicated and intimidating.  As I built my friends list on dailymile I began to follow many of them on Twitter as well.  That sparked short conversations and enhanced connections.  My wife realized the power of Twitter when I decided to have my oldest daughter tweet my pace times during the Myrtle Beach Marathon.  I passed my family at two separate points on the course as well as the finish line.  While I focused on running my race, through a set of hand gestures Lochlyn was able to update my feed.  My goal was to use this race to qualify for either the New York City Marathon or Boston.  Boston qualifying had been a much talked about quest among many of my online buddies so I knew they would be waiting to hear the results.  Having the capability for my daughter to upload my pace status in real time brought a whole new element to racing.  It helped provide that push I needed to achieve one of my goals.  Later, after the race, as I was reading the phenomenal number of responses on dailymile, Facebook and Twitter, I was blown away by this show of support from people I only knew in the virtual world.
     These new connections led me to create Why Logan Runs – The UnaRunner's Manifesto about my experiences not only in running, but in life.  It was about finding my voice.  Being honest.  Being exposed and revealing my inner self.  Aside from writing expanded race reports to link on dailymile and Facebook, I chose to write about deeply personal issues.  I evolved to more abstract concepts.  I had an opportunity to flesh out ideas and find answers.  The realization came that I could speak from my heart and mind, and that people would respond favorably.
     For me blogging has not been about hit counts but personal connections.  Real relationships.  Talking about things some folks cannot or will not understand.  Presenting various facets of my life reminded some readers of themselves.  Recently a friend named Melissa, who will be hosting me at my next ultra in October, said “what you have is a gift, you share gifts, you don't lock them in a room and covet them and brag about them to the world.”  Her words reminded me that people are looking for reasons to fail.  Through my experience they can find hope to succeed.  Rather than boast of what my talents are, I illuminate the aspects of my personality and life that people can associate with regardless of their own innate physical abilities.  People want to know that in some basic way we are not much different.  On some level we all share the struggle.

     When people ask the age old question - What is the meaning of life? - it is usually a query as to one's place or purpose in the world.  Human beings in general want to leave this world knowing they made an impact, that they mattered, that they made a difference, that they will be remembered fondly. Rare is the culture that eschews legacy beyond existence in this plane.  The Tarahumara Indians of Mexico are one such example.  They believed one's spirit did not proceed to the afterlife till all traces of their existence were erased from this world.
     I believe that to discuss my own impact in cyberspace would smack of conceit, pride and foolish arrogance.  Rather than blow my own horn my preference is for other people to spread the word.  Not that I want to hear myself eulogized or need my ego stroked.  Rather I feel that how people talk about you when you are not around is a true measure of self.  The most telling statements on your character are those which you never hear.
     Impact is a curious idea.  Impact may refer to any number of experiences great or small.  Think globally, act locally speaks to improving the world through direct action.  We may not always have that option, or know where to even begin.  It is possible though that by focusing on self we can improve our relationship with others and create a more positive experience in the world.  Rather than pontificate or suppose how I have made an impact on the world of social media or on people in general, I would prefer to relate how my interactions on sites such as dailymile and twitter have enriched my life, presenting new opportunities that I considered improbable as recently as eight months ago.  It was these connections, the support, and encouragement that the various social media outlets provided that enabled me to elevate my running to an entirely different level.
     The transition beyond my ordinary came with the decision to forgo marathoning in favor of an ulramarathon.  Without that I would be just another dude jogging around town.  An occasional racer.  One of the guys, so to speak.  Like many people who take running somewhat seriously and enjoy a good yarn, I read Born To Run by Chris MacDougall.  Okay, I read it three times.  The last time I read it was during a camping trip last summer [2010] in the Smoky Mountains, in the midst of running and hiking thirty-five miles over three days.  Some of that time was spent hiking with my wife and my two daughters.  I also retreated into the woods alone, scrambling across and around the granite dome of Stone Mountain, NC.  I was hooked on the idea of trail running.  It was a totally invigorating experience.

     As I read the story of prehistoric and professional ultrarunners racing through the Copper Canyons of Mexico, the idea of running further than twenty-six point two miles intrigued me, even if it seemed a distant possibility at best.  At this point I had not yet earned my first official marathon medal, though I had run a marathon distance twice previously.  No doubt stumbling into ultra territory was intimidating yet alluring all the same; however, the story of the Tarahumara Indians and their legacy of ultrarunning inspired me to reach for higher goals.
     To train for and participate in an ultramarathon you have to draw on many sources of strength and motivation.  It may not be entirely within you.  At least not from the beginning.  I suppose no one is born an ultrarunner.  I still would not be an ultrarunner, nor consider making successive forays into such events without the impact of other people on my life.  My running led me to social media and an understanding of how strangers with unrelated backgrounds or interests can find a thread of common interest to spark true friendship.
     Many of the people on my various friends lists are little more than acquaintances.  Then there are the friends that merit frequent look-ins, but do not develop any sort of relationship beyond the superficial.  We may share a sense of humor or common purpose, but even then a separation exists.  Finally, there is that small group of people, without whom the course of one's life would be remarkably different.  These are the stream diverters, the course changers.  These individuals are people I would not know without running, and most certainly would not be tackling the physical and emotional hurdles in my life in the manner to which I am today.

     We can spend time reading and watching, studying and learning, but until we test ourselves it is all a waste of time.  In spite of reading books and magazine articles about ultra events, the act of running farther than a marathon was still abstract.  It was a distant objective, something I'd dream about but assumed I would never realize.  Through dailymile I met Farra, a multiple marathon finisher and, at the time of our encounter, a recent finisher of a 100 mile trail race near her home in Michigan.  Chatting with Farra, learning of how she decided to participate in such an event, and how it affected her physically and emotionally, led me to consider entering an ultra of my own.  Discovering real people do these things was incredibly moving.  She was the first person I ever spoke with that had completed such an achievement.  We have tons of marathoners and triathletes in Myrtle Beach, but deciding to extend my distance goal certainly made me something of an oddity in my running group.

     Running an ultramarathon is about testing one's limits of physical endurance.  There is also the mental endurance, the ability to see a situation clearly and rationally and make decisions that will allow one to either finish the race safely, or to get out before serious injury occurs.  Through her own set of personal circumstances Farra and I talked about clarity; removing the veil and seeing a situation or oneself as it really is.  No delusion.  For her it meant sobriety from alcohol.  At the time I needed clarity in my life as well. Following her example awakened me to consider how my decisions impacted my self, my family and my life in total.  While I may not be in complete control I am more aware.

     If you spend any time running you may have experienced the endorphin rush associated with long bouts of physical exertion.  The feel-good hormones can be fleeting, seemingly never quite within reach, but the allure of another fix is a powerful and compelling reason to hit the street or trail.  Run long enough and what you find is more than the way home.  Running long distances has afforded me the opportunity to think, to reflect, to reason and to rebuild myself in a manner not possible through any sedentary means.
     For me long distance running has served to replace chemical dependency.  Six years ago I was diagnosed with some sort of chemical imbalance.  I suspect a mild form of bipolar-ism, but I do recall the physician being reluctant to pinpoint my particular brand of crazy.  I followed up a rather untidy public emotional fracture with a round of Lexapro and several months of therapy.  But I never broke through.
     Running, sans iPod, has afforded me the time to think.  I have been accused of over-thinking and believe that listening to the voices in my head is part of my manic/depressive nature.  This is one reason why I turned to blogging, to get the thoughts out.  I needed to pour out the negative and sift through the positive.  One benefit to blogging about my struggle with mental illness is connecting with people in similar situations.  My friend Jessica has not only been through similar battles; she makes and sells the tee shirts.  

Jessica suffers from diagnosed bipolar-ism, has insane family issues, but is fortunate to be comfortable in her own skin and buffered by a wonderful husband and beautiful children.  She has been very open about her situation and has offered sage advice on dealing with all that mental illness brings to the table.  Also, she is a believer in the healing power of running.  When the weather is awful or the distance just too much to bear on a given day, that is the time to reflect on why I run.  Not some weight control regimen or circled race date on the calendar.  The greater benefit of ultratraining has been my metamorphosis into a clearer mind and cleaner body.  This effect was not something I was able to achieve till I made the conscious decision to go farther.

      The manner in which I arrived at my first ultra is something that may not be altogether unusual, but was certainly curious in how it unfolded.  Debbie, a runner from Portland, Oregon was preparing for her first one hundred miler eight weeks after my second marathon in Myrtle Beach.  She knew from my posts on dailymile that I was considering an ultra.  So she did what any married mother of three would do in a similar situation – extend an invitation to host a total stranger from across the country on a trip through 400 acres of forest land in Washington state, just west of Seattle.

     Russ McGarry, the host of the Three Non Joggers podcast, put it best when describing my visit to his home while I was in Portland that weekend – saying I am an ultra marathoner is like the secret handshake.  He could have assumed I was some deranged stalker or worse, yet knowing I was crazy enough to actually run an ultra calmed any fears of what personal danger I may pose.  The ultra running community is so small in relation to the millions that participate in distances from 5k to marathon every year, that earning the label ultrarunner made me family.  In that way Debbie felt safe when letting a relative stranger into her van outside a public transit station on a cold rainy day in April.

     Without Debbie’s invitation I would still be in the what if stage.  Debbie offered me an opportunity without to become an ultramarathoner reservation.

     People run for various reasons.  Whether it is weight loss or general health, self-esteem or self-fulfillment, or just to cross an item off a bucket list, all the possible reasons to run [or exercise] boil down to one thing – being better today than I was yesterday.  Being stronger this year than I was last year.  The spark to your better self is hardly planned.  However there are days when my own personal goals do not matter.  When the heat or cold or damp creeps in, the last thing I want to do is run.  If my stomach is out of sorts or I'm achy from previous workouts the last thing I care to do is train.  Even when I have a date on the calendar and a schedule to maintain I often lack for motivation to make the effort.  Therefore it becomes imperative to find other sources of inspiration outside myself.  I try to follow the efforts of great ultrarunners.  The likes of Scott Jurek, Anton Krupicka, Geoff Roes, and others are legendary and I love to relive their exploits through race reports and articles in running publications.  

However, an elite ultrarunner I am not.  Following the elites is like perusing the Sears Wish Book as a kid.  I coveted all the toys I saw inside yet knew I would never get to play with them.  I may never be that guy to charge hard over the peaks and passes of Western States, Hardrock or Leadville.  Where I do find inspiration is in the stories of the little people, the unknowns, the people for whom exercise is an avenue to a better life.   Sara and her niece Caylee are two such people.

     In less than four years Sara has refashioned herself in mind and body.  I cannot retell her story and do justice to the struggles she has endured.  While in the midst of a last minute two hundred mile bicycle ride Sara sent a text saying I was an inspiration to her.  I have not ridden a total of two hundred miles on a bicycle in the span of my life.
     As for Caylee, this beautiful little girl is suffering a fatal illness.  Her life will not be long or boundless.  The dreams of her parents may not be realized in the life of this child.  As a father of two daughters myself, thinking about the troubles Caylee has experienced and still faces in the future is overwhelming.  This little girl is never far from my thoughts because she has the desire but not the ability.  She demands that all that she can from life and is fighting everyday to be a child.  In February I ran a local 10k with her name written on my chest.  I finished in second place by a mere seven seconds and set my personal record for the distance.  Some days are easy, other days are when you need to run for something greater than yourself.  Tapping into that emotion can produce amazing results.

     When runners tackle an ultramarathon, at some point they will bring a pacer onto the course.  A pacer is a person responsible for holding the runner's hand through the late stages of a race.  Trees have a habit of jumping into one's way in the wee hours of the night, so the pacer keeps the runner on the course.  The pacer is charged with the inglorious tasks of keeping the runner moving, fed, hydrated, motivated and out of trouble.  Often the pacer performs all these tasks without any recognition outside of the gratitude of their own runner.  But for many runners there is no chance of reaching the finish line without the selfless unheralded efforts of the pacer.
     Throughout the process of preparing for this talk I have experienced numerous ups and downs. I often questioned why I should be here, what I have to offer, and why anyone would care.  Before I knew this opportunity would present itself I unwittingly acquired a pacer.  Andrea was a cheerleader when my drive failed me.  She was an amateur therapist when my sense of self-worth took a nose dive.  She applauded my good days and consoled me on the tough days when I did not care to run or write or even move from the couch.  It was not till I began my preparations for this presentation that I realized the importance, or true value, of this friend.  It was only a few weeks ago that I even acknowledged to myself her role as a pacer.  She kept me going when I did not want to, because while I did want this opportunity I let the voices in my head try to convince me otherwise.  She performed this task for no other reason than she believed it was the right thing to do.

     What can I say that you may not already know or understand?  Even for the strongest and most fit people running may not be easy, or fun.  You have to choose to make it an enjoyable activity.  As it is with the tools you create and implement here at Google or elsewhere in cyberspace, there is no value without the human element.  If the content or applied use does not add to the quality of my life I shall not give it a second glance.  I began my blog not with hopes of one day speaking before an audience as I am today, but with the desire to pour out my emotions in some meaningful way.  It is a fortunate circumstance that I found an audience.  
     On occasion members of my family and friends have sought to remind me that this online family I have developed is not real in a flesh and blood sense.  I may share stories and pictures via the web, we may commiserate via text or Facebook chat, but I defy anyone to disprove the reality of today.  As I stand here I see the faces of a few of the people responsible for the day – Andrea, Sara, Erin – I recall the conversations that cemented our friendships.  
     Social media fosters a vulnerability when hiding behind the avatar or screen name.  Most runners or amateur athletes strive for self-improvement and self-discovery.  Becoming better than they are, or better than they thought possible.  Building up ourselves and others.  Therefore I reveal my faults, my weaknesses, my shortcomings, my fears.  With that vulnerability comes a certain amount of empathy from peers and the general public.

Social media opens all those normally closed doors. Part of the allure of your blog is how wide open the doors are.
Nathan Moore, local runner

     Just write and something will happen.  Put it out there and let people find it.  Be honest, genuine, truthful.  I am not compelled to reveal every secret plumbed from the depths, but the readers have to know they are getting something real.  This shit is not fiction.  
     Before I wandered into the blogosphere I rarely if ever wrote.  Most of my deep thoughts floated around in the quiet swirls or angst-filled torrents of my mind.  Then they were gone, like a flash flood through a parched desert.  Now I am able to capture those thoughts, let them coalesce and mesh into something coherent.  The product is a salve that moves me closer to healing.  Posting my essays to the world allows others the same opportunity.
     I have had people share with me their experiences in addiction, loss, mental illness and self-discovery. Funny how the progression of sharing flows.  Run – Learn - Write – Share – Receive  When I initially shared my story of depression and mental illness I received a tweet from a friend on dailymile about Mentalpod.  Paul Gilmartin, a stand-up comic, created this podcast as an outlet to discuss the various aspects of mental illness and how people deal with their particular demons.  His usual guests are other comics, writers and entertainers.  At the time it was a relatively new podcast.  I wasted little time catching up on old episodes.  One I remember in particular was an interview with stand-up comic Marc Maron, who hosts his own podcast WTF.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I listened to Maron's interview with Paul Reiser – Diner, My Two Dads, Mad About You, etc. They mused about the time a young Maron approached Reiser after a stand-up set.  Maron was a college freshman and yet to embark on his own comedy career and wanted to ask Reiser how to get started in the business.  You've got to just do it was the response.  That sentiment may be applied to other aspects of life – just run, just love, just live, just be.
     I choose to run.  I choose to write.  I choose to allow people to enter my life and welcome the impression upon me from these chance encounters.  Life comes down to a series of decisions and interactions.  At every turn there is an impression left or impact felt.  Each of us has the power to write our own story, whatever that may be.  No matter how you choose to write it, make your story worthwhile.  Be epic.

Interview with The UnaRunner

Ray of Geeks in Running Shoes dropped by the hotel room while I was in Chicago for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon on August 14th.  We talked training, racing and social media as it relates to breaking down barriers.

We had a blast.  I hope you enjoy the podcast as well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


When I first thought of running an ultramarathon I suffered delusions that it would be awesome.  These delusions were grounded in the sense that doing something kick ass such as running on foot for one hundred miles would quite possibly be the best thing ever.  Little that I could do alone would ever match such an achievement.  Reading about the likes of Jurek, Krupicka and Roes will do that to a person.  Then you go and do that thing and reality settles in.

That shit was hard.  Unfortunately I did not prepare myself mentally for whatever unforeseen incidents may happen.

Maybe I was enamored with the belt buckle.  Who doesn't love a little bling with a kick-ass back story?  Quite possibly I was overly impressed with myself and hoped everyone else would be as well.  Naively I assumed my trek to the one hundredth mile, though not easy, was well within my ability.  After all, you have to want it.

I read a post entry from another newbie ultrarunner this morning.  A couple of her bullets points reminded me of the real reason I wandered into the Port Gamble wilderness (even "gamble" seems ironic now).  Her reasoning also reminds me why I am charging ahead with another ultra in the fall.

During that cold spring evening when the clouds finally parted and I could see the twinkling stars I was already lost.  My knee was already shot and my voices were a chorus of doubters singing out why I was a failure and fool for even making the trip west.  How could I even consider running one hundred miles when walking 12 or 8 or 4 or even one more mile is so agonizing.  That night I was utterly alone.  I had not seen another soul except for the volunteers working the aid stations.  However, those kind souls could not offer the aid I needed.  So onward I crawled.  And with each step the stabbing sunk deeper into my knee.  It would be two months before I could run pain-free again.  And with each stab of pain the voices got louder.  I became more frantic.  The only approximation would be losing my children in a crowd.  Probably the reason I don't particularly enjoy Disney or crowds.

I sometimes wonder if I could have forged ahead had I not been alone.  If I could have stayed on my feet another two or three hours and seen the sun rise over the treetops I may have kept going.  I can only speculate.

What I am certain of is that while I remember the physical pain of that night, I have moved past the emotional distress.  Failure was the hat I wore that night, but with it a hard lesson was learned about motivation and reward.  I was motivated by a trophy and rewarded with knowing when to stop short.

Now my motivation is going farther.  To greet the sun while on my feet.  While still in the race.  My motivation is to survive the night and the terrors and laugh at any attempt to stall my progress.

This next ultra is not about earning the buckle or even surviving the night.  It will be about surviving myself.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Week in Preview

The next seven days will be a whirlwind of activity.  I am preparing for a trip to Chicago on Saturday.  There will be time to meet numerous dailymile members.  There is even the small matter of a half marathon on Sunday.  However, the real purpose of this trip takes place one week from today (Monday the 15th).  I will make a presentation in the Chicago offices of Google on running and social media, chiefly how running led me to social media and how that in turn affected my running life.  After I return home I'll serialize the text of my presentation for the blog and include a link to the video recording.

To say I'm nervous is an understatement.  I do not want to embarrass myself or the people that are responsible for this opportunity.  The approach to take may be that it is another race.  Nerves are to be expected, but only the pistol fires the beast will rise up and own the room.  lol

At any rate, good luck to all the dailymilers participating in the Rock 'N Roll Half Marathon.  Should be a blast.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

7 Links...

I had heard of the blogoshere and blogging for I began running.  But I honestly could not tell you what a blog looked like before last summer.  Once I joined dailymile I discovered how journaling my training and random brain farts would be empowering and theraputic.  Blogs are a way to share what works and what doesn't, whether the topic is training, nutrition or life in general.  Twitter buddy Rebecca K. nominated me for this project.
The project, 7 Links, is an attempt by Tripbase to unite bloggers from across the intrawebs in a joint endeavor to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.
The rules are as follows:
  1.  Blogger is nominated to take part
  2.  Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category
  3.  Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part.
  4.  These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers
  5.  And so it goes on!

For your consideration…
Most Beautiful - When Giving Up Is For The Best - In May 2011 I decided to stop drinking except for race weekends, so long as the race was at least 13.1 miles in length.  This post explains why I really had no other choice.
Most Popular - Running Out Of The Shadows - My guess is that the popularity of this post is due to the fact that three of the first four comments were horribly negative.  The avalanche of support from my followers and online community in general was most humbling.
Most ControversialYou Cannot Be Serious - I responded to what I perceived as an insult toward a community I hold very dear to me.  This piece led to another by request of the people I sought to defend.
Most HelpfulSurvival - I acknowledged my struggle with mental illness.  Not only did writing about the subject matter begin my own healing process, it opened the hearts and minds of others, either dealing with personal demons or family members in pain.
Success Surprised Me - "Falling Short" Was Such a Great Leap Forward - My second marathon finish also marked my first Boston Marathon Qualifier.  It was not easy, but reliving that run though this post allowed me to appreciate the achievement in spite of not meeting all my goals that day.
Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved - Naming My Demons - I am not a mind reader.  I find it difficult to know how my writing is received without some form of comment from the reader.  Even hit counts do not tell the entire story.  I would like to know that more people consider writing down their list of fears.
Most Proud Of - Thoughts and Reflections - This was the final chapter of four recapping my first ultramarathon.  I took a full week to write and post the series and after each post my readers begged for the next.  Each chapter has links to the other posts embedded at the bottom.

I follow these bloggers in particular because I enjoy what each writer has to say and how they deliver their message:
Dorthybitestoto's Blog - She is a close friend and took me along for my first ultramarathon.  Her writing is vivid and always sets me up for a surprise at the end.
Angry Runner - This writer is not for everyone.  She is course and crude and says all everything she feels in a manner that would cause most readers to recoil in shock.  That is exactly why I follow the Angry Runner.  She says what most only dare to think.
The Salinas Seven - Taryn is an absolute trip.  She writes with an honesty and clarity that I find endearing.
Run Luau Run - Not only an exceptional passionate runner, as a father Luau is a vocal advocate for autism awareness.  

Bloggers nominated so far