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.........

Sunday, January 12, 2014


"What motivates you? What REALLY motivates you?" That's an easy one. What really motivates me is.... uhhh.... errr.... well.... Could you repeat the question?

This question was posed to me some time back and I have struggled with an answer. Doesn't seem that tough really. How hard can it be to give a solid, straight forward answer to such an easy question? Obviously there is some type of motivation behind running any distance and NOBODY is running 100 milers without a clear reason. Right? Yet I found myself really searching, digging deep, looking everywhere for an answer and coming up with blanks. It seems beyond crazy that such a simple question could have me so confused and perplexed. Maybe I was over-thinking the question, getting wrapped around the axle, trying to come up with a perfect answer. Maybe I didn't really know. Or maybe I just didn't like the answers I was coming up with....

Motivation is at the very core of everything we do. Motivation is that thing that sets us off on a path leading to whatever destination or outcome we are trying to achieve. Motivation isn't the rah-rah, gun-ho, cheer-leading stuff that we read in a book of inspirational quotes or the speeches made by the head coach in our favorite movies. It is the thing that propels us into action in the first place, the drive that pushes us towards the desired outcome. It's the REASON we do something. It is an ongoing process that starts with the desire to reach a goal and continues with a persistent effort despite the many obstacles that will pop up along the journey and ends with the reward or satisfaction of completion.

Running has been, for me, a very personal journey since that very first mile back in 2006. It hasn't always been easy or fun but it has been very satisfying. In the beginning, the motivation to run was to lose weight and change my physical appearance. I did not want to run but I did want to lose weight. The motivation was to lose weight. Running was the action that I chose to make it happen. I forced myself to run in those early days and stayed persistent in my efforts to drop a few pounds. It worked. 50 lbs in less than 6 months. I had reached the goal. The motivation to continue running should have stopped then..... but, of course, it didn't.

The motivation was not to become a runner. That is just something that happened as a by-product of repetition over time and the continuously changing motivation to reach different goals. As the pounds melted off my goals began to evolve and change. I started thinking about running a 5k. I had seen these events advertised and I thought it would be a great challenge to focus on. After 5 months of running I signed up and completed my first 5k. My finishing time of 21:07 wasn't going to qualify me for the Olympics but it was good enough for an Age Group award. That was all it took. The motivation had completely changed. I no longer cared about losing weight. Now I wanted to win medals, continue to improve my personal best times and, to be completely honest, feed my ego and prove that I was still an "athlete" at 33 years old.

Medals, personal improvement, feeding my ego... that is what the motivation had become. Running was the tool but those were the desired goals. I ran more training miles, read every book, magazine and online article I could about the subject. The motivation never changed but, then again, why would it? Nobody does anything without gaining something in return. Right? I mean, what point is there in putting in all the time training if there isn't a reward? Seemed ridiculous, and reasonable, that there would ever be a reason to run that wasn't all about me.

Over the period of 4 months in early 2010, life changed drastically by a few words. You have cancer. No, I was not told this. My Dad was told this. And then, a few weeks later, my Mom heard the same news. Really? BOTH of my parents? C'mon man....  The days spent at the hospital were usually broken up by an hour or two of mind clearing running. My motivation to run had changed. I was no longer looking for medals or personal bests. I was looking for answers and a way to preserve my own sanity. As I ran on those long, dark days I always felt just a bit guilty. I mean, what exactly was running going to do to help the situation? The short answer was nothing. Running was not helping. The long answer was that it could help. With the right focus and a persistent effort, running could help.

Fast forward through the 5k's, 10k's, half-marathons, marathons and 50k's to early 2010. I found myself climbing the rugged trail up Pinnacle Mountain during the Ouachita 50 miler. This was my first 50 mile race and the reasons for running this day were very clear. I was carrying an Honor Scroll with almost 200 names of people that had been touched by cancer. Among those listed were both of my parents. Sure I was still looking to run for a medal and a great finishing time, to say that I wasn't would be a lie, but I was also running for a cause much bigger than myself and that was huge moment in my life. I ran hard that day and came in 3rd overall. I will always credit the names of those on the Honor Scroll for carrying me through the toughest parts of the trail.

Since that first 50 miler, I have been on a mission to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society through my running. My motivation, like so many of you, is to see a world without cancer. One of the tools for me in achieving this goal is my ability to run long distances. Do not get me wrong. I like to run 50 and 100 milers. I love to earn a new medal, belt buckle or trophy. My ego loves knowing that I can push myself when it gets really tough and the trail becomes a dark place that sucks the energy from my soul. These are things that motivate me on a narrow and self-centered scale. To say otherwise would be dishonest. Those are absolutely a part of why I wake up at 2 a.m. in order to get a 15 or 20 mile run in before work or why I run 30 and 40 milers on the treadmill on a Saturday morning when the rest of the world is sound asleep. But an equally important part of why I do it is so that I can somehow make a difference in the fight against the beast that is cancer.

Eye On The Prize... How many times a week do I post that on facebook or twitter? How many times a day to I tell myself or those around me the same thing? Those four little words are a simple reminder of why I am always tired, why I am training when sleep sounds much better, why I am always sore, why I NEED to train. The prize is what motivates me. The prize is many different things. The only prize that really matters is a world where cancer is irrelevant. A world where my kids don't have to worry about this monster. A world where nobody has their world turned upside down by those three words, "You have cancer".

On February 1, 2014 I will be running the Rocky Raccoon 100 miler in Huntsville, Texas. This will be my 5th 100 miler and I hope to run a personal best. I know the trail will get tough. I know the day will be long and there will be many low points and even a few times that I will want to quit. I also know that it really pales in comparison to the battles fought on a daily basis by those affected by cancer. I have the option of quitting at any time without any real or meaningful repercussions. They do not have that luxury. As always they are the motivation pushing me toward the real prize. If I come up short on my personal time, If I struggle and fall short that will be okay. Those goals are secondary. I will keep my Eye On The Prize no matter what the day brings.

This is the part where I ask, again, for your help. Please consider donating $10, or merely one shiny dime per mile, to the American Cancer Society through my Relay for Life page. I really don't have anything to offer in return other than the promise to do my best during the race and to continue fighting, with all my heart and every fiber in my body, to secure a future where cancer is just a word and not a relevant disease. - See more at:
This is the part where I ask, again, for your help. Please consider donating $10, or merely one shiny dime per mile, to the American Cancer Society through my Relay for Life page. I really don't have anything to offer in return other than the promise to do my best during the race and to continue fighting, with all my heart and every fiber in my body, to secure a future where cancer is just a word and not a relevant disease. - See more at:
This is the part where I ask, again, for your help. Please consider donating $10, or merely one shiny dime per mile, to the American Cancer Society through my Relay for Life page. I really don't have anything to offer in return other than the promise to do my best during the race and to continue fighting, with all my heart and every fiber in my body, to secure a future where cancer is just a word and not a relevant disease. - See more at:
This is the part where I ask for your help. I'm asking for donations of one dime per mile, $10 total, to the American Cancer Society via the Relay for Life. Last year the Idiots Running Club raised over $8,800 to fight back. This year we hope to raise $10,000. If you have a local team, I highly encourage you to become involved. If you do not have a local team and would like to join ours - we would love to have your support. You can join the IRC Team here -----> JOIN NOW

Click HERE to donate to my Relay for Life Page

Or HERE to donate via paypal

Monday, January 6, 2014

So Simple....

I could hear the music and the occasional roar of the crowd. I was close. So close. Looking at my watch in disbelief it was evident that a PR was within my grasp. I crossed the finish line of the 2013 Rocky Raccoon in 19 hours and 37 minutes. Not blazing fast in the big scheme of things but still much faster than I had run it the previous two years. Simple changes had brought me to this goal. The biggest and simplest change was working with Jeff Kline, founder and head coach of PRS Fit, who was waiting for me at the finish line. He had transformed me from a "no plan having, run fast all the time, get injured, rest, repeat" type of runner that laughed at HR training and training plans into a "go slow, have a plan, heart rate training, don't get injured" believer that had just run the best, and easiest, 100 miler of my life. I quickly, and maybe got a little carried away, set the goal of running sub 19 at the 2014 Rocky Raccoon. But first... I was going to crush a 50 miler in a few short months.

Of course, as things tend to go with me, I failed to remember that the key to ultra running, or running in general, is rest. Sometimes I want to do it all and think that I am Superman's long lost cousin. By the time the Ouachita 50 miler rolled around in April, I was completely burnt out. Mentally, more than physically, this race that I loved so much and had pretty decent success in, was very hard. I struggled to carry the Honor Scroll across the rugged terrain and felt very lucky to finish. I was disappointed by the result but was also completely aware of why I had such a tough day. It's always simple for me to place the blame squarely on my own shoulders when I screw up because, in the end, I am responsible for my own decisions. That and  Coach Jeff had warned and advised me about the perils of over training but, as a friend, he knew just how important the Honor Scroll run was for me and didn't call me too many bad names.

Naturally, I thought I could handle back to back "A" races when, in fact, I really couldn't. The "crash" at Ouachita really got me thinking about things I done in the past. A few years ago, for example, I ran a very fast 50k followed by back to back sub 3 marathons. All were PR's and I thought I had it figured out. Really didn't buy into the idea that I was over racing. Of course, I came out injured but I had some shiny new PR's. Was it worth it? Maybe... still not sure. There is a lot of questions in my head about how much better I could have done if it had only been one race instead of three. I do know that it is relatively easy to run events every weekend but it is much tougher to run a race every weekend. Maybe I will revisit the marathon distance with a clear focus one day just to find out what I can do. Maybe.

It's amazing just how much about running comes down to trial and error, learning from mistakes and figuring out exactly what we want from this dumb little hobby. After the blow up at Ouachita I decided that what I really want from running at this point in the evolution is to run 100's. Not just run 100's but to run 100's up to my maximum potential. It was almost like the fog lifted and things became very clear. My training needed to be more focused and goal oriented. Veering from the path, chasing shiny objects, as I had done so many times in the past, had to be eliminated. Previous goals, thoughts and plans for the fall racing season would have to change.

Dogwood Canyon is a very difficult 50k. I love it more every year. It is also a really fun fundraising experience. Nothing better than running 31 miles over the steepest trails around in a pink tutu. My original plan was to shoot for the podium. Big stretch but I had some success in the past at this event so it wasn't completely a stupid goal. About a month before the race I had a thought.... What if I ran it completely by heart rate and didn't worry about pace? How much would the outcome change if I kept it under control and never left an easy training zone? Would I come in last place? Would I avoid the bonk that always comes on this ridiculous course? Would my recovery be any faster?

I had been training by HR for over a year but had never truly tested it during an event like this. I wanted to know if what I thought I understood was actually true and answer a few lingering questions. Was my endurance base big enough to run a 50k at 70-75% effort without bonking? How would my overall time compare to my past "all out" times on this same course? Would I struggle with keeping my heart rate low enough on the uphill portions? What about recovery? Seemed silly that, while I have read many articles and books on the subject, I had never actually put it to a strict test. So it was set. Run the 50k, with crazy steep hills, entirely in my "Zone 2" heart rate. No straying on the downhills, no "going for it" on the flats, walking the hills if it began to creep up and not looking at the overall pace until after the race. This was going to be as much a mental test as it was physical because, like most runners, I tend to be a little competitive....

The results of the Dogwood Canyon 50k were very pleasing and hard for me to comprehend. I kept the HR in check by running slower than I wanted, walking at times when I did not want to and by reminding myself repeatedly that I was NOT racing. In the end, I crossed the finish line with a time that was less than 20 minutes slower than I had originally set as my goal "race time" and felt much better than I ever had at the end of this brutal course. I didn't make the podium but it was a top 10 finish. Not horrible considering.....

I tested this again two weeks later at the Bass Pro Marathon and finished in 3 hours 20 minutes. Just over 20 minutes slower than my PR at this event. The course was slightly different for my PR so it's hard to completely compare results but I do know this... I felt like I could run the course again and I have never felt like that after a marathon. What now... Two weeks later I paced a friend at the White River Marathon. He was looking for a PR of around 3:30. Once again, I ran strictly by HR and kept it in my "Zone 1" for the entire distance. We finished in 3:31, he claimed a shiny new PR and I had answered all questions about whether HR training works. It does. I had always struggled in the late stages of any long distance event regardless of how hard or easy the effort. Recovery time was never fast, no matter what I claimed on twitter or facebook, and injuries generally followed. Not this time. No bonking. Recovery time? None. It was just "normal" training at this point.

I finished 2013 with 2,624 miles, one giant PR, zero injuries, a new understanding of what I want out of running and a map of how to get there. The Idiots Running Club has grown to ridiculous numbers and even managed to get a little ink in the December issue of Runner's World magazine. I love that dumb little club a little more each day. I was also fortunate enough to be selected as a new coach for the PRS Fit team. I was very honored that Coach Jeff extended this opportunity and it makes me proud that he believes in my ability to take on the job. Watching others achieve their goals has always been my favorite part of this dumb sport and I am very excited to have the opportunity to help become a part of the process. Team PRS Fit and the Idiots Running Club have brought some amazing changes to my life and the future is filled with unlimited potential for 2014.

So... What now?  Rocky Raccoon 100 is just a few weeks out and I still have dreams of cracking a sub 19 hour finish. It will be tough and may not happen but I feel like I am ready and the goal is completely realistic. Of course, 100 milers are tricky beasts and you can never really know what the day or course will bring. I do know that I am prepared. and there will be a bigger number of Idiots in Huntsville this year than ever before which is really cool.  The PRS Fit Team will have 4 of us (all card carrying members of the IRC) running and have been generously sponsored by GenUCan and Altra Shoes. In my estimation, Altra Shoes are the best shoes on the planet and GenUCan works as advertised. I have been experimenting, testing and looking for flaws with this product over the past few months and can find none. Aid stations can be a killer during 100's. It is easy to waste valuable time trying to get a cup of soup or deciding "sure I have time to wait while you cook a grilled cheese" - I hope to eliminate some of this by using UCan products.

Rocky Raccoon will also be a fund raiser for the American Cancer Society as it has been the past few years. I will post information on how to donate (a mere dime per mile) and how you can join the Idiots Running Club Relay for Life Team (and get one of those cool IRC Relay Ribbon T-Shirts) soon. Any help you can give is appreciated more than you know. The money we raise each year grows, last year we raised $8,800 total, and I am extremely proud to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. The idea that we can and do make a difference in the fight against the beast that is cancer remains the biggest motivation and driving force behind any of this silly running stuff. To one day live in a world without cancer is the EYE ON THE PRIZE.