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.........

Monday, May 30, 2016

Arkansas Tornados Part One

With less than 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter during the DCFL playoff game it was easy to sum up the first season in the history of the Arkansas Tornados football franchise with just  four simple words. Heart. Determination. Perseverance. Unity. The scoreboard showed we were going to lose by a wide margin yet the faces of the men on the field showed a resolve to fight until the final whistle. They could have taken it easy and coasted through the final minutes but, as expected from those who had watched them play all season, they chose to stand tall in a symbol of unity, brotherhood and family. As I watched from the sideline, beneath the lights and in front of the jubilant Tornado faithful, a line from the old baseball movie, Field of Dreams, came to mind. If you build It, they (he) will come. It was clear to me that even in defeat this team and this season was a resounding success. The hard work from the players in practice, the dedication of the ownership and more than a few late night hours of game planning from the coaches all combined to bring a final product to the field that the community could be proud of and would support.

Back in January or February of 2015 I received a call from Eddie Elliott. He explained that he and Bob Van Haaren were starting a semi-pro football team in Mountain Home, Arkansas and asked if I would be interested in coaching. My first inclination was to laugh because, really, there are much better football minded people in the area. We talked about some different options and settled on me coming aboard for strength and conditioning. This was an area that I felt fully confident in and knew that if I could train ultra runners to go distances from 31 miles up to 100 then getting players ready for four quarters of football would be within my capabilities.

I made it to my first practice with a preconceived notion that these guys would already be in shape and would simply need a little fine tuning. That was very naive of me and I was suddenly very thankful we had almost a full year before the season started. Unfortunately, we had a lot of work to do in recruiting players. For the next few months and into the summer the Tornados consisted of 10-15 players. They weren't always the exact same 10- 15 players either although there was a core group that showed up consistently for our once a week practices. There were times  when I truly wondered if I was on some local version of the show “Punked” but I was excited about the idea that this might all somehow work itself out and become the real deal.

I'm not sure when it happened but sometime towards the end of summer our offensive coordinator had to leave the team due to a job change. Over the next couple of practices I filled in and soon it became evident to me that I was the replacement.  At first, I wasn't sure that his was going to work or that I had any real interest in taking the helm of offensive coordinator on a first year (or any year for that matter) semi-pro team. My experience was limited to one year of high school ball and a few years of coaching little kids in the Ozark Football Association league. But with everybody looking at me for the plays I quickly adapted and became comfortable with the role. Over the course of the next few months I would experiment with different offensive schemes in an attempt to solve the riddle of which was best suited for the players and talent level we had. Our defensive coordinator, Jason Reiss, was a huge help during this process pointing out talents and strengths in several different players. Over the course of the past year we have spent many hours working together and I am proud to call him a friend.

Things came together fast over the last months of 2016 and we soon had enough players to truly commit to making the upcoming season a reality. Eddie and Bob, along with many of the players, worked hard to bring in sponsorship dollars to purchase equipment and jerseys. I can honestly say that I have never met a person like Eddie Elliott. He never showed a sign of stress or worry despite the grim outlook that we faced for many months. He said it would happen and it did. I have a ton of respect for his drive and follow through. I'll never forget how excited the players (and coaches) were to finally have a full contact practice. I remember it as a thing of beauty. The popping of pads and cracking of helmets on a crisp fall day that filled the empty stadium with the sounds of gladiators going to battle. Or some nostalgic nonsense like that. In reality it was kind of ugly with all the amped up testosterone that had been building but, thankfully, nobody was seriously hurt. The Tornados were ready to play. Almost.

As we came closer to our first preseason game I felt pretty confident. We were slated to be playing in the DCFL, a developmental football league of the CFL. This was for first year teams or teams that weren't ready to compete with more established teams of the CFL. I felt like we had a great opportunity to take advantage by playing in this league. Sure, the offensive line was inexperienced and undersized but we had some great talent in the backfield and I hoped that would overcome our inexperience on the offensive line. Of course, I just didn't want to admit what I already knew…. I always preach to the pee wee kids that everything starts up front and we cannot win without a solid offensive line. Football is like no other sport. Every single player has to execute in order for any given play to have success. Once in awhile, a great running back or quarterback will find a way to overcome errors and weaknesses that have been exposed but that is not the norm. The majority of the time it takes everybody working together in perfect synchronicity for a play to evolve and reach its full potential.

Our first preseason game against the DCFL Arkansas Raptors came and the stands were packed. People came from all over to check out this new team. The Arkansas Tornados were confident and ready to play. When it was all said and done we had 30 plus penalties, lost our starting running back in the first quarter and the scoreboard showed 13-0 favoring the Raptors. Defensively, Jason had the team firing on all cylinders. Offensively, we were a mess. Every time we moved the ball 3 yards forward we would have a penalty and take it back 5. Nothing was clicking. Guys were jumping before the snap, running the wrong routes, snaps were on the ground and the offensive line was destroyed. When Todd Bowman, our starting running back, took a shot to the knee in the first quarter and was knocked out for the season, I did not have a backup plan and didn't adjust. That was 100% on me. Our QB, Tommy Fellicia, did everything he could to keep us competitive but the play calling was limited as I tried to adapt and find a suitable replacement. After the game I felt like I had let the team and an entire community down.

Fortunately, I have a background that doesn't let a little failure bring me to my knees. I served in the U.S. Marines and to this day still live by the two mottos I learned.  Semper Fi is popular and well known to most. It is short for Semper Fidelis which means “always faithful” in Latin. The other motto is a little more obscure but has great meaning to those who have served. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. These three words let us know that things won't always go as planned but quitting is not an option. When things go bad, and they usually do, you find another plan of attack and accomplish the mission. I have carried this attitude with me through my adult life in running and it has helped me to accomplish many Boston qualifying marathon times, a Missouri Age Group State Record for the 50 mile distance and 5 sub 24 hour 100 mile trail race finishes. I know that quitting isn't an option and hard work will bring success - it's simply a matter of adjusting and putting in the time. Our players were dedicated and we would find a way to improve.

Game two. Our second preseason games was against another CFL powerhouse team, the Enid Enforcers. They destroyed us. Our offensive line played better but was still no match for these monsters. With Todd Bowman out, I went with Dakota Sutterfield in the backfield. One thing I learned about Dakota that night is that what he lacks in size he more than makes up for in heart and leadership. Our offensive line played much better and cut the penalty margin down significantly but was just outplayed by a solid Enforcer defensive front. We had an unfortunate incident where one of our best offensive lineman took some swings at an opposing player and was ejected from the game. This, coupled with another off the field incident, led to him being released from the team. Defensively, Coach Reiss had them playing well once again and they held solidly until a few big plays late in the game made the score board look very lopsided at 30-0. Offensively, we couldn't get the ball moving and, once again, I didn't adjust properly. Time to improvise, adapt and overcome before the first regular season game against another CFL powerhouse team, the NWA Battle. What could possibly go wrong here?

To be continued.........

Sunday, May 29, 2016

What is a Running Coach?

I am 100% sure that I will take some heat for this one but that's okay.... Just post in the comments and don't hide behind an "anonymous" tag.

What is a running coach? That seems to be an easy question on the surface but like many things these days it’s a little more complicated than it used to be. Gone are the days where only elite caliber athletes had a coach to help guide them to overall victories and championships. In the modern era of running it is not uncommon for mere mortals to hire a coach and seek personal goals or PR’s. A simple Google search on the interwebs for ‘running coach’ will yield 195,000,000 results in .68 seconds. (For real, try it) I am sure that within all of those results there can be found a fantastic definition of a Running Coach that will sound reasonable. Of course, everybody may not agree on which definition is best but there will probably be something for everybody.

Because running has become so widespread with athletes of all ability levels and backgrounds, I find it very difficult to slap a one size fits all definition on the term and can only describe how I coach. As with most topics in life, there will be some that fundamentally disagree with my attitude and approach. I can simply and humbly say that they may be correct as there is no true recipe or conclusive evidence that shows  any one style to be better than the next. I will do my best to explain my outlook on the subject.

I am the Ultra Running Head Coacih for PrsFit, an online based coaching program founded by my mentor and personal coach, Jeff Kline, that works with athletes in a one on one basis primarily through emails, phone calls, social media, video analysis and online logging.  I don’t have certifications from any of the major or minor programs available. This is something I do not attempt to hide or dance around when somebody approaches me for a potential coach/athlete relationship. Some people want certifications and I am always happy to point them in the right direction. The athletes I coach are looking to improve and believe that I can help them based on my own experiences and results.

Ultra running has grown substantially over the past few years. With the growth there have been many changes, some good and bad, along the way but that is a topic for another day. One thing that has not changed is the amount of work it takes to walk away from an ultra feeling like you hit all your goals. I have found that not all runners are wired the same. Not just physically but mentally. Every individual has their own goals and vision of what they want to do. It is not a coach’s job to tell them what they want - it is a coach’s job to listen and help them achieve the realistic dreams that are uniquely their own. Some people come to me with the goal of finishing a 100 miler under the cutoff. Others want to shoot for a sub 24, sub 20 or a sub 18 hour finish time. Each one of these athletes will require a different course of action and planning that is specific to their expectations. The world of ultra running has grown to encompass all levels of trails, terrain and we are seeing many more road or smooth surface races such as the Frisco Railroad Run.  A one size fits all approach or pre-written plan might work to some extent, as it does at any level or distance, but it won’t get the athlete the maximum results possible.

I am a believer in effort based training over paced based training. I do believe that pace based training has it’s benefits but overall I find that effort based training works better for the athletes I coach. Running the majority of training runs at 65-75% max effort yields great results and allows runners to log more miles and learn how to run on tired legs, body and mind.  Ultras are weird. For the majority of us they aren’t really a race in the traditional aspect - they are more about personal achievement and finding out what they can do. 50k’s can be run much like a marathon, training can be similar even when run on a trail, provided the course isn’t too technical. But when jumping to a 50 miler many things change. The race doesn’t really start until the back half and knowing that the body can continue to push when the mind is screaming to stop is huge.

My general approach to winning this battle is to train by time. Mileage based training runs tend to wreak havoc on the brain. “Oh man… I have to run 25 miles today. That’s going to take XXXX hours. I can leave at XXXX and be home in time for….” That’s great unless it doesn’t go as planned or the idea of TWENTY FIVE FREAKING MILES is intimidating. With a time based plan I can tell them to go run 5 hours or whatever amount I think it will take for them to cover the mileage I would like to see based off of their previous running logs. 5 hours is 5 hours no matter how you cut it. Leave at 6 am and get home at 11 am. There is no reason to freak out or wonder if they will be home before the in-laws show up for lunch at noon. In most cases the mileage matches what I had in mind or gets very close, give or take a few miles. But… everybody is different and some may need the set parameters of mileage. In those cases we adjust.

I like for ultra runners, from 50k to 100 miles, to run 5 days per week with strength, core work or yoga mixed in on the non-running days. Each workout sets up the next. Depending on goals, there may be a good mix of step up runs, intervals and hill repeats mixed in once the base period is over and the goal event gets closer. Some runners may never see any real ‘speed work’ as their experience and goals dictate. Jim Lane finished his first 100 last September after a couple of DNF’s. His goal was to finish. We didn’t mix in any speed other than the occasional short negative split run. He finished in spectacular fashion and has an awesome buckle to show for it. Others will have a lot of harder effort runs mixed in to reach realistic but lofty goals. Derek Glos is a recent example of training for a 100 miler with a healthy dose of ‘speed work’ mixed in. It paid off with  PR of almost 3 hours and a sub 18 hour finish in the 100 Mile National Trail Championship held at Rocky Raccoon in February.

There is a general misconception that effort based training for ultras make runners slow down. This isn’t exactly true. I have had many athletes PR 5k’s through marathons while training for longer races without specifically targeting the shorter distances. Last year I had one that shaved one minute off his 5k time and 43 minutes off his marathon PR while training for a 50 miler. Just a few weeks ago, Kris Bossert set a half marathon PR on her way to the upcoming Frisco 50k. Many athletes come out of a big ultra, take a short break to reset and then ramp up to a half or full marathon with amazing results.

Does everybody need a running coach? Nope. I really don’t believe a running coach is for everybody. Running is a journey. A very personal journey. The vast majority of us are weekend warriors that have embarked on a mission to change our lives for whatever reason. A BQ is awesome. A sub 24 buckle is a great feeling and really helps boost the self esteem level for a few days. But then it’s right back to real life. Job, kids, all the adult responsibilities that always get in the way of our hobbies. Hiring a running coach is just another option or a step in the process. Not everybody is there and some may never find a desire to change what they are doing. We learn by doing, experimenting and exploring. Ultra runners, for the most part, have a strong will (this means they are unusually stubborn and hard headed) and set in their ways. Many don’t want or need the structure of a plan or the accountability of a coach. Others, like I did myself several years ago, find themselves stuck in the crossroads and need a little direction in order to get over the hump and step up to the next level. Only those who are willing to be coached should actually look for a coach. There is no reason to hire a coach if you plan to continue doing it your own way.

When I talk to potential clients, we interview each other to make sure it’s going to be a good fit. My expectations are simple. I want somebody who will set a specific goal. The goal does not have to be a race on the calendar but it does have to be specific. They need to be committed and realistic. Their family needs to be on board because without the support and backing from the entire household it will be very difficult to find the time and make it work. They have to have the desire and motivation to see it through. I also coach youth football, youth soccer, little league baseball and an adult semi pro football team in my spare time. None of that has anything to do with running but it does help reinforce the notion that desire and motivation are internal things that can not be coached. I can provide support, accountability and a roadmap of how to get there but I can not be the only reason they are getting out the door on a daily basis. That has to come from inside and be set in stone. I also want them to know that it will be hard. They will be tired. They might want to quit. They will probably have to slow down. This almost always means they will have to deal with the embarrassment of trying to explain when they post on Strava, Garmin Connect or Facebook. That is something they will have to get past. Nobody really cares anyway but it’s tough on the ego. Basically, let your friends race on training runs and you can pass them on race day.

On the flip side of that they need to know what the general plan is, what equipment they need and what my fees are. They should expect that I will be available and willing to answer questions within a reasonable timeframe - meaning don’t text me at 2 a.m. and expect an immediate answer to a question about yesterday's run. Unless they are at mile 75 of a 100 miler - then I will probably be up and waiting for them to call or text. They should expect that I will look at their logs everyday, monitoring progress and will provide feedback as necessary. They should know that running is physically tough but injuries can be avoided by simply communicating. I will never tell them that they put too much information into a workout log or they should just gut it out when dealing with aches and pains. If we communicate on the little things and the plan is executed properly the risk of injury goes down to almost zero. They should expect that I will listen to complaints, or talk them off the ledge when life seems crazy because… well….the mental side of running is much tougher than the physical. While I can’t make it to every race, as the people I coach are scattered throughout the country, I do make an effort to go to as many as possible to crew, support and pace.

There are many different approaches, styles and definitions for running coaches. For me it comes down to this - There is absolutely nothing more rewarding than watching an athlete work hard, stay focused and surprise themselves with results beyond their own expectations. Coaching is much more than physical training. It is also about creating an atmosphere of confidence and pushing the self perceived limitations set by the runner. It involves the knowledge that with the right guidance, hard work and steady resolve by the athlete along with seeing the type of results along the way that remove the mental barriers - anything is possible.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

IRC Drop Bag Raffle

This amazing Handmade Idiots Running Club Drop Bag will be raffled for the Relay for Life. This is the same (minus the minor differences that come from custom made products) as the bag that was previously brought $1,000 in our online auction.

Raffle tickets are $11.27 each and can be purchased by making a direct donation to the Relay for Life via this link ---->

Tickets will be sold until 10 pm on June 10th and a winner will be chosen via a random number generator at that time. The drawing will be streamed live but nobody will watch so I will contact the winner that night.

After you make your donation I will send you your raffle ticket #. It may not be an immediate reply so please be patient.

Thanks to Springfield, MO firefighter and Idiot, Jim Lane, for his extraordinary craftsmanship, generosity and dedication in the fight against the evil that is cancer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

ElliptiGo Arc Relay for Life Raffle

****0 TICKETS REMANING**** updated at 10:50 CST 5/29/2016

Congrats to Norman Eubank from Pontiac, MO on winning the first ElliptiGo Arc Raffle. Stay tuned for another opportunity.

You know you NEED one of these.

Raffle tickets are $16.58 each with a limited quantity of 181 available. Retail value is $1299.

Why the weird numbers? Because.

All proceeds above my costs will benefit the ACS via the Idiots Running Club Relay for Life Team.

After you complete your purchase I will send you the potentially winning number. On June 10th (or before if the 181st ticket is sold prior to the 10th) a winner will be selected using a random number generator app and will be streamed live for all to witness. That's as fair as it gets.

Delivery will be approximately 10 days after a winner is chosen. Free Shipping included in the continental U.S. Only.

Use the paypal button to purchase ALL the tickets. Good luck.