This is how it works-
I love to run but there are times when I would rather not. This is when the voices start. Chants, name calling, guilt and reverse psychology is how they get me up and out the door. I don't really mind the voices and have actually started looking forward to their daily calls. Together we have formed a running club that supports, encourages and competes with each other. I love these peeps. They are much more experienced, talented and tougher than I am. Pushing me out the door, through the hard miles and up the monster hills when I am feeling lazy or want to give up. Some people have "real" training partners, coaches and support crews. My team is ALWAYS with me and helps me to keep my eye on the prize and not veer off the track. Sounds crazy- Yeah, probably is.........

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hidden in Plain Sight

To be the champ- you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will-

I have relied on and believed in this quote throughout the last few years of my “running life”. While I will never be mistaken for an elite athlete, there is a certain truth to it as it relates to my personal abilities. I know that to reach my own potential there is a need to overlook the doubts and disbelief of others and look deep inside myself to push through a hard workout or distance competition. This has come relatively easy for me because I DO believe that hard work and mental toughness will carry the day when the time comes. And by believing in my abilities and accomplishing whatever goals I set- I will be the “champ”. While it is important to believe in oneself, I have learned that there are also times when self-doubt creeps in. It is in these times that others around can make the difference.

The response to the 50/50 run was amazing and overwhelming, not only because of the number of people that have been affected by cancer or the generous nature of people but also because SO MANY people did believe in me. Self-doubt really started to show up a few days before the race and I was starting to wonder if this was the time that I had finally jumped in too deep. With all the well wishes and encouragement coming in, I was really questioning my ability to go the distance. What if I failed? Honestly, I was scared that I would let everybody down and was kind of regretting telling so many people about the 50 mile race.

Things turned around on Friday afternoon as my wife relayed a conversation between her and my 7 year old son that took place that morning. They were discussing the upcoming 50 miler when he told her that, “He can do it. I know he can because my daddy doesn't quit.” This made me proud, obviously, but it also woke me up from my funk of self-doubt. Reflecting on his statement, I realized that he was not alone. Everyone involved in this journey had taken on the same attitude- I just hadn't realized it. I thought about all the messages received and understood that ALL of them were of the same tone. Not one even suggested or hinted a doubt or disbelief in my ability to complete the course. From friends, strangers and new friends made during the preceding week, the message was clear- you CAN do this. Talk about a motivation. This “duh” moment let me relax (somewhat) and brought things into focus. I had put in the hours and miles training- there was no way that I would not finish.

It is difficult and sometimes terrifying to “lay it all out there” and display your goals for others to see. For me, this makes it very difficult to dream up excuses not to follow through with an attempt. This accountability serves to push me in ways that are hard to explain. I will continue to rely on the notion that confidence and mental toughness are a necessary component of distance running- there is no doubt of the importance of these. But I will also carry with me the a “new” understanding. That when others believe in you and trust in your abilities- IT DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE and there is a reason they do. Sometimes I just need to look in the right place for that extra motivation and boost in confidence. Often it is hidden in plain sight.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crying? Theres NO Crying in Running

When I decided to sign up for the Ouachita 50 Miler, I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. With any long distance endurance event you learn a lot about yourself through the training hours and the actual race. This time the learning curve was beyond any of the usual self discoveries of the hard miles on the trail. From last Monday through the race, I discovered that sometimes one small change can make a HUGE difference. Adding the Honor Scroll to the mix brought a new level of emotion, motivation and inspiration to really push through the HARD parts.

When I approached my friend Karla about the idea she was very supportive and got involved immediately. From setting me up with the Relay For Life account to spending many hours getting the word out and the late nights making the Scroll, she threw herself into this effort with amazing dedication. I can't thank her enough for this. Once we got the ball rolling on Monday things really started happening. I had originally thought that 50 names and hoping to raise $100 was going to be a stretch. Boy, was I wrong.

The response to the 50/50 project was absolutely unbelievable. Within hours the dollar amount was surpassed and by the end of day 1, it was clear that 50 names was not enough. The emails and FB messages were pouring in with heart breaking stories and so many well wishes that it was difficult to keep up. It became apparent that this was no small task and became very time consuming trying to sort through all of it too make sure we had it right. By Friday, the list was 180 strong and the donations, from some very generous people, were up to $1600 and growing. Friday night, my wife worked until almost midnight to add all the last minute names to the Scroll. We wanted to make sure that nobody was left off. One more name was added on Saturday- but I had to carry that one in my head because it came in so late, but rest assured EVERY NAME requested made the journey.

My friend Charley and his wife made the trip to Little Rock with us. Charley is my good friend and training partner. There have been very few events that we have not run together in the last few years. Charley is a special person that works for the MSHP and is very supportive of the Special Olympics. Like me he got in the game late but did manage to raise $600 and growing for this cause since Tuesday. He ended up trading his technical running shirt for a cotton Subway shirt with several business cards from various sponsors safety pinned to his shirt. I KNOW this had to be uncomfortable to wear for 50 miles but like I said, he is a special guy.

After driving around for hours on Friday to find the 3 aid stations that our “crew” (our wives) could meet us with clothes, water, Gatorade, ibuprofen and blister kits it was time for the pre-race dinner. Ended up at Lone Star for streaks and beer – the perfect fuel for a 50 miler. After dinner, a last minute stop at the Sports Authority for a new hydration pack (the one I ordered came in the mail on Saturday, figures) and a few more energy gels. Finally by midnight we were able to lay down for a few hours of restless sleep in nervous anticipation.

4 a.m. Saturday morning came early but a quick breakfast of oatmeal and the usual last minute freak outs of race day and we were off to the start. It was still dark when the gun went off and of course- no flashlight. Luckily the first 2 miles were on a paved road and by the time we hit the trail the sun was coming up. The very first few steps on the trail and Charley took a spill after tripping on a rock, signaling that this might be a long day.

Around mile 5 with the lead pack way ahead, we were leading the middle pack up Mt. Pinnacle. This was a crazy steep ascent up to the top. There was no running here and really not any walking, it was more of a slow crawl, climb up some very slick rocks, no, more like huge boulders. ¾ of the way up, I looked behind me at the line of climber/runners following and said a silent prayer that I was still on the right trail- I didn't want to be responsible for leading everyone off the course. Finally after climbing for about 25 minutes we reached the top. A photographer was there to snap a picture and I wanted to give him a hug- because it signaled that not only was I on the trail but also the CLIMB was over. Checking to ensure the Honor Scroll was still in place we set off on the trail to begin the descent. This was almost as brutal but a very welcome challenge.

The next few miles were all about trying to get back on pace. We knew that to make the 50 in 10 hours it would take a 12 minute/mile pace and after the climb we were WAY off. At this point the garmin read about 13-14 min/mile so we had to step it up for a while. I asked Charley about 1,000 times if the Scroll was still riding in my pack. He was great in keeping an eye on it for me. Somewhere around mile 12 or so it was my turn to trip and fall. I went down hard, twisting, turning and flopping like a fish. No real harm done- a few scrapes and very little blood but the Scroll did shoot out like a missile down the trail. Charley grabbed the Scroll as I pried myself up from the dirt and brushed off – a few laughs and we were back to running.

The first check point was mile 16.6 and we made it well under the 4 hour 50 minute cut-off time. More than half the field actually missed this cut-off and had to call it a day. The next 10 miles were uneventful until about 2 miles before the turn around. This is where we started seeing the leaders on their return trip. The 1st place runner was zipping right along looking like he was on an easy training run. The guy was an unbelievable runner. About ½ mile behind were 2nd and 3rd and another mile 4th though 7th. This let us know where we were in the race- WAY BACK- is what I thought. Reaching the aid station where our crew was waiting we got refueled with PBJ's and I had a cup of coffee, changed my shirt and socks- then it was time to head back. We spent more time that we should have here but it was worth it.

We ran hard to the next crew stop, mile 36.6, where we could see at least one runner that was ahead of us. We didn't spend much time here- just enough to refill the water and grab a few boiled potatoes. Running hard up the trail we came to an unmanned aid station that had a few essentials. Water, Gatorade and YEE-HAW a cooler of beer. Charley passed on the beer but there was no way I was passing up an opportunity like that. It was GOOD too. Throwing some more hard miles in and constantly bugging Charley about the Scroll, we managed to catch and pass a few runners. Charley had a few more spills on this stretch and twisted his ankle a little making it difficult for him to keep up the pace. We talked and he told me to keep on trucking and do what I can. Reluctantly I did pick up my pace and went for a hard finish.

I passed a few more runners and found the mile 46 crew stop where I was informed that I was now in 3rd place. Wasting no time, I was quickly back on the trail with my wife yelling, “Run fast!” I was trying and did pick up the pace for the next few miles to put some distance between me and 4th place. Coming down the final 2 mile stretch I grabbed the Scroll and carried it in my hand. Thinking about all the positive energy the Scroll represented brought tears down my cheeks and goosebumps to my body. This lifted my spirits and allowed to pick it up a little more allowing me to run the FASTEST mile of the race – 7:20 pace on mile 50. My wife was cheering and taking pictures as I crossed the finish line in 8 hours 47 minutes for 3rd overall. Charley came in 8 minutes later for the 5th place finish. We both had a great race for sure- especially considering the neither one of us had ever ran more than 31 miles.

It really was the race of my life. I have never felt better in a long distance race than I did that day. Never bonked, hit the wall or felt like quitting. It could have been pure luck but I believe it had more to do with the power within the Scroll. Unrolling the Scroll at the finish line brought more tears and many positive remarks from the crowd. It still amazes me how a little idea that seemed far-fetched and a little crazy less than a week ago could snowball into something that brought so many of us together. Thanks to everybody involved- you are all a part of my “crew”. Without you, WE could not have made such a difference. The fight is not over and likely will not be for some time. I will continue to collect donations but will not beg anymore......for a while.

Ouachita 50 Miler and the Honor Scroll April 17, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wanted: 50 People for 50 Miles

Running for a purpose. I have never really ran with a purpose before. Just me and the road or trail getting all the self serving benefits. Reduced stress, mental sharpness, general fitness, weight loss and of course all the bling and goodies from various races. I have heard and read about other runners actually using their skills to make a difference and serve a noble cause but never thought much about how that could be me.

All that changed back in December when my dad was diagnosed with Cancer. It made me start thinking about what I could do to help make a difference. Running served me well during his hospital stay and the 5 miles I ran after his 7 hour surgery was the most therapeutic and mind clearing run I had ever had up to that point. Things went well and he came home, a few months passed and I had almost put the idea of finding a way to help out of my head. Almost.

In March, my mom was diagnosed with Cancer and the idea started surfacing again. The 8 miles I ran the day of her surgery brought a whole new clarity to what I needed to do. FIND A WAY to help. So it is with the personal knowledge of how Cancer attacks, viciously and without discrimination, that I am in search of way bring awareness and add a meaningful, more noble purpose to my running lifestyle.

This upcoming weekend on April 17th, I will be “attempting” to run 50 miles in the Ouatchita Trail Race. I am planning on carrying an “Honor Scroll” with the names and status of people that have had or been diagnosed with Cancer. If you have been or you know somebody that has been affected by this terrible disease then PLEASE allow me the honor of bringing them along on this challenge. If you will send me their name and status (survivor- fighter- deceased) I will add them to the Honor Scroll. I would love to have at least 50 names to carry on this unique adventure. This is my attempt to spread awareness about this horrible disease.

Of course, awareness only goes so far and I am also taking donations for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life project. The donations are secondary and are NOT mandatory, I will carry the names REGARDLESS. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DONATE in order for their name to be listed on the scroll. Please allow me this opportunity to help in my very small way (I don't have much else to offer but I CAN run). You can send the name by clicking the “contact me” button on my blog, message me on Facebook or email me at Donation buttons are also on the Voices blog and my Facebook profile. Checks can be made out to the American Cancer Society and mailed to my address:
David Murphy
HC 72 Box 324-8
Wasola, MO 65773

Please just take a minute to think about it. Remember- I will be honored to carry the names with me even if you do not make a donation. Help me to bring awareness and hopefully one day there will be a cure.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Mile is a Mile is a Mile is a Mile........

On a recent run with the Club, we were discussing various routes and distances to cover that day. Like most runners I have several “courses” that I use. We were talking about the possibility of a shorter 3-4 mile run instead of the usual 6-8 miler when Mr. Hotshot spoke up and started trashing the rest of the group. “3 miles? What? Why would you even bother to lace 'em up for that? 3 miles....pleeeeeze.” Mr. Hotshot is a “big-time” marathoner and ultra runner that can't be bothered with shorter, and in his opinion, less challenging runs. Truth be told, he is kind of an arrogant jerk but we put up with him because he is part of the Club.

This statement ruffled a few feathers and really pissed Tyler off. His response, “Okay Hotshot, lets race. 3 miles. Tough distance for me but obviously EASY for you, so lets go.” The race was on and we all ran with as much effort as we could muster. Tyler, a gutty and tough runner with a never-quit attitude, took the lead early and never let up. The rest of us, including Mr. “Ultra-runner” Hotshot, followed close behind. When it was all over, the entire group was humped over with hands on my-our- knees, breathing hard and ready to puke. Hotshot was JUST as tired as the rest of us despite this being a distance hardly worthy of his “lacing 'em up”.

So many times I have heard, “I ONLY ran a couple of miles- that's nothing for you. YOU run marathons.” I used to be like Mr. Hotshot and think that was an accurate statement until I thought about how STUPID it was to believe that. The distance can only be measured one way- 1 mile is 1mile no matter how you look at it. Pace and conditioning may differ but the distance does not. Yeah, I could probably creep along in an effortless jog without much trouble but if I put forth the same EFFORT as that person, it will not be an easy task.

YOU ONLY GET OUT WHAT YOU PUT IN........A 5 minute miler is no more or less tired than a 12 minute miler IF the effort is equal. I think it is just as big of an achievement to run a sub 20 or an over 40 minutes in a 5k as long as the EFFORT put forth is equal. Some runners only measure success by speed and place rather than the effort of their pace. It is silly to think that you are not a runner because Mr. Hotshot can go farther, longer or faster. Equal effort equals the same result....heavy breathing and sore muscles. It may take Mr. Hotshot less time to cover the miles or to recover and head to the beer garden but he still knows that the distance is HARD no matter how many times he has gone farther.

I really believe that anybody can run a marathon distance with a training plan, dedication and time commitment but to run it up to their potential takes EFFORT. I remember when I was feeling pretty good about getting 8-10 miles a week in and then talking to people that were running 50-60 miles per week. It was overwhelming and a little embarrassing at first. As time passed I noticed that these runners were struggling through the same miles as I was during 5 and 10k's. I came to understand the “reality of running” is not about how far or fast you can go but rather that you CAN go. Time on the road will increase endurance and the distances will grow from 1 to 5 miles and beyond. Pace and distance is irrelevant in the reality of running- it is the EFFORT that counts.

Mr. Hotshot no longer complains when we take it “easy” on him and cut the distance short, he understands that over equal distances and equal effort he is no more – or less- a runner than the rest of us.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Why Would I Need To Sign A Waiver?

Well it's done. I have officially signed up for the Ouachita 50 Mile Trail Race on April 17th. It looks like there are only 47 other people registered as of now but I'm sure that number will increase. After all, who wouldn't want to pay money for the opportunity to injure themselves or be killed. Overdramatic? Check out the first part of the race waiver on the registration form.

"I know that running an ultramarathon trail race is a potentially hazardous activity that could cause injury or death. I should not enter and run unless I am medically able and properly trained, and by my signature, I certify that I am medically able to perform this event, am in good health, and am properly trained. I agree to abide by any decision of a race official relative to any aspect of my participation in this event, including the right of any official to deny or suspend my participation for any reason whatsoever. I assume all risks associated with running in this event, including but not limited to: falls, contact with other participants, the effects of the weather, including high heat and/or humidity, traffic and the conditions of the road and trail, encounters with wild or domestic animals, all such risks being known and appreciated by me."

Hmmm......Maybe I should double check my life insurance policy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Next Step in the Journey

Everybody knows what they CAN do. The only way to discover what we can't do is to try. There are limitations, as much as I hate the thought, on how far I can go. I know that somewhere in this journey of new challenges I will fail. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It has been said that we can learn a lot about ourselves through triumphs and success but we will learn more through failure. I believe this is a true statement.

As I reflect on the triumphs of my past accomplishments it strikes me that after each one I have questioned if I would have been able to go any further. The answer has almost always been a resounding NO. But each time I have moved on and upped the ante a little. Starting with a 5k and then a 10k it seemed that was as far as I could go. But then came a half marathon, which was the hardest thing I had ever physically done, after which I KNEW that was it.

As time passed and my running improved and the miles began to add up it just made sense to at least attempt a full marathon. I vividly recall how horrible I felt during that 1st one. I had no doubt that nothing would ever match the misery I felt from miles 18 through 26. After crossing the finish line and stumbling around like a wounded drunk, I was 100% certain this was it, no more, never again. I had completed all of my goals, finished and pulled off a Boston Qualifying time, I was DONE.

Sitting in the beer garden 30 minutes later with Charley, my training partner and good friend, we were contemplating the idea of signing up for the Little Rock Marathon. 30 minutes is all it took to remove the pain and misery of the most gruelling test of endurance in my life. 30 minutes. We ran Little Rock and then another two that year. It soon became apparent that the marathon distance was one that I could do and the VOICES started asking, “How far can you go? You know this is not it. You CAN'T stop here. Don't you want to find out?”

This led to a last minute sign up for a 50k. By last minute I mean a split decision on a Friday afternoon for a Saturday morning 50k that I was in no way, shape or form ready for. My training was more appropriate for a half marathon but I decided to give it a shot anyway. The race was held on a “Rails to Trails” course which was fairly flat with long straight stretches and way too fast for a first timer. I struggled through the last 10 miles or so but DID manage to finish in 4 hours and 20 minutes. I remember thinking, “Okay, stupid, there you go. No more- this is far enough. Now you know.” Guess what? It took less than 30 minutes this time. I was ready for more.

A few back to back marathons and a few very tough and technical trail 50k's later the VOICES have started in again. The same old nagging questions......How far can you go and don't you want to find out? The only truthful answers I have are that I KNOW 31 miles is something I CAN do and hell yes I want to find out. In a couple of weeks I will attempt my first 50 MILE trail race in Little Rock, Arkansas. It looks tough and there are a few reservations but I really feel a NEED to give it a try. Knowing that my training is less than ideal, I am still optimistic because of my past experiences. I have been on top of the world at times and humbled by the difficulty of the trail at others but these only reinforce my belief that this is the right place and the right time.

I look forward to this new challenge and expect to be learn a lot about myself along the way. To me, it would be more of failure to not attempt this than to try and fall short on the course. So it looks like me and the VOICES Running Club are going to be lacing them up for the Ouatchita Trail 50 Miler on April 17th. Should be interesting.