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.........

Friday, October 20, 2017

Play Hard. Have Fun. Do Your Best.

Orange. Strawberry. Grape. Root Beer. The reward for playing a great game. Or maybe it was the reward for a not so great game. I really don't remember the actual game but I do remember the sweet nectar found in the coach's cooler. Cheap off brand soda that had us scrambling and working hard to get to the cooler first. The game itself may have been over, the score recorded into the history books, but the real competition always came after the game. Losing at this competition usually meant being stuck with a cream soda. That was bad. The game itself? Man, we just played. Everybody wanted to win but at the end of it all... we just played. No pressure from parents. The coaches didn't scream or throw a fit. The umpires were jovial and enjoyed the game. We were just kids. 7, 8, 9 and 10. Summertime meant baseball and baseball meant playing until past dark on fields without lights. It also meant cheap soda. And good times. 

We kept score. You had better believe we kept score. It mattered. It was the most important thing in the world for an hour or so. After that? The score was recorded into that famous history book where all little league scores are kept and quickly forgotten by the participants of both teams. We left the field, went home, watched TV, ate ice cream and carried on with life. Even when we lost. My dad never sat me down and told me about all the mistakes I had made in the game. He never told me that my coach sucked and didn't know what he was talking about. He never mentioned anything really. If he didn't make it to the game, because parents didn't come to every game or practice back then, he would ask how we did - not how I did but how WE did. There was a simple and subtle lesson in that one word. It was, and remains in my mind, a team sport. He would always ask if I had fun. Always. Seemed like a dumb question back then. Did I have fun? What? I was playing baseball dude. Of course it was fun. 

I remember winning a 2nd place ribbon for a bicycle race when I was in 5th grade. In fact, I still have it and it is one of my most cherished awards ever. Second place? The first loser? Yes. 2nd place. Why do I care about this dumb ribbon so much? Because it reminds me of a time when the competition was between kids - not the adults watching. It reminds me of a time when I dug deep and pushed myself out of the inner desire to win. Sure, I lost but it was a good day for me. I worked hard, had fun and did my absolute best. Was I disappointed about not winning? Sure I was. I lost to a ninth grader on a ten speed (remember those things) but that was not an excuse. In fact, my old Huffy dirt bike with the knobby off road tires beat several older kids on much better bikes. I lost because, despite trying as hard as possible, that other kid beat me. The world didn't end and, best of all, nobody pointed out my flaws. When I showed my dad the 2nd place ribbon he didn't ask who beat me, what kind of bike they had or even tell me that I would do better and "get them next time". He simply told me he was proud that I had worked hard and had fun. Simple words - big impact. 

Another great memory is from a weight lifting competition. I was 11 years old and weighed 90 lbs. How can I remember that I weighed 90 lbs? Because I bench pressed a whopping 120 lbs to win the top medal. I don't have the medal anymore but, honestly, it wasn't very important. I was more excited to discover that I could do much more than I thought. I was skinny and not the best athlete in town. I definitely wasn't the first kid picked for kickball, baseball, basketball or football. I was usually picked towards the end of the middle. But that day I felt the exhilaration of success and the genuine surprise in the words of congratulations from the adults in charge. A few words of praise from those in charge meant the world to me. I never even bothered to tell my dad about the medal- it was that insignificant at the time but the memories of the accomplishment remain solid. I could have came in dead last in the competition and still walked away feeling great about myself. 

In 3rd grade we played flag football. The league, for me, was a great place to learn the game. Only a few things really stand out from that season. My coach was not a jerk. He didn't yell or scream at us if we made a mistake. He was quick to use mistakes as an opportunity to learn while making us feel like we were superstars. I don't remember his name but I do remember the example he set. We played under the lights in the big game that year. I truly have no idea whether we won or lost but I know the other team's coach was a raving lunatic that scared the heck out of me. Us? We had cheap, off brand soda and a smiling coach on our sideline. My dad was at that game. I know because he came down to the field smiling when it was over. I was drinking that cheap, off brand soda and he told me how proud he was to watch me play. We probably lost because I don't remember a trophy but, in retrospect, we definitely won.

That was almost 40 years ago and society has changed in many ways. There is a much bigger emphasis on winning today than there was all those years ago. We are quick to look for the best teams for our kids to play on. We sometimes pay crazy fees for the privilege of participating. Coaches are selecting kids based on current talent in kindergarten and first grade in an effort to put together a winning team. Potential talent is overlooked, for the most part, because we want to win now. This feels like a mistake to me and doesn't appear to translate into championships at the High School level. 

Some young kids have "it" and are identified as early as kindergarten as athletes. They work hard. They put their head down and do the work. They have more coordination, drive and focus than other kids their age. To pretend like they will be the only ones that stand a chance of success later would be very narrow minded and naive. Many kids are overlooked at a young age because they are clumsy, lack focus, aren't aggressive or confident enough and are encouraged to find something else they have a talent for. Many of these kids grow, mature and find confidence later in life but have already been written off as not having talent. It has been reported that 7 out of 10 kids choose to quit sports all together by the age of 13. Some of this can be attributed to poor leadership, pressure from parents and burn out. Of course, some probably just realize they don't like whatever sports they are playing but my guess is those numbers are much lower. Talent selection based on current ability over potential future talent by coaches is a driving force in many cases. 

Does this mean that private coaching or competitive traveling teams are bad? Nope. Absolutely not. They are very much worthwhile if the expectation is to have fun, become better, learn the proper techniques of the game AND the kid wants to play. If the expectation is just to win or get a jump start on that college scholarship or the pros then it may be more harmful than good. Good examples of character, learning the fundamentals, teamwork and sportsmanship are great lessons to learn at a young age. An unrealistic expectation to always be the best or win every game isn't going to do the kids any favors. Should these teams include everybody just because they want to play? Probably not in most cases. That's up to the coach, the sponsor and the parents. It's an argument for the benefits of expanding the perspectives and looking long term instead of short term with these very young ages. 

I have heard it said many, many times over the past few years that if kids don't win they will lose confidence and eventually quit playing sports. I don't think that's all together true. Dodging the better teams to pad the stats and ensure victory is a great way to build short term confidence. It also sets up unrealistic expectations for the future and can ruin any chance of overall team success at the next level. Sure, at some point, losing every time will get old but there is a major tipping point before that happens. That tipping point has nothing to do with the kids, the game or the level of competition. It has everything to do with attitude. The attitude of the kids when they decide to weigh success or failure by a scoreboard is guided, for the most part, by the adults around them. Parents fighting with each other at a football game, yelling at the ump in a baseball game, coaching their kids from the sidelines and bleachers, pointing out every flaw on the ride home from the game, the look or sounds of pure disappointment on a bad play and a crazy obsession with winning are great ways to leave a kid with the impression that life is all about winning.  

It's okay for kids to have fun. It's okay for them to smile. That's why they play. Because it's fun. And a game. It's not a job and, most likely, never will be. They should never cry over a loss or a bad play. What's the point in that? Passion for the game? Really? That brings up an entire subject about how unhealthy it is to steer and direct little kids to find their passion. Maybe we could give them a few years and more experience before they have to make that tough choice. My feeling is that passion is a great cover up word for poor sport or feeling they let mom, dad or the coach down. Maybe not. Could be genuine passion. I feel less confident in that assessment than I do with this one ---> Coaches that "motivate" kids by yelling and threatening to bench them for making a mistake aren't doing much for confidence or future psychological happiness. It doesn't motivate the kids to do better. It humiliates, scares and makes them play worse. They know that even if the team wins the coach will still point out their mistakes in front of the team. 

It is a competitive world. That's something I hear a lot. There is truth in that statement. Learning how to compete and navigate through life is important.  Losing is a part of life. Most successful adults have lost, failed or come up short several times before it all works out. Why? Because they have learned that it's okay to take shots even when they don't have all the tools in place or the odds are stacked against them. They understand that winning is great but real experience and skill is learned in the losses. They can enjoy the journey without pressure because there is no expectation to always win. The risk is the reward. The lessons learned in the early years - play hard, have fun and do your best - carry over into adulthood. Trophies from grade school don't mean much if they can't cope with adversity later in life. When adults, coaches and parents lose the true focus of youth sports they are paving the road for disappointment and failure. 

Wins and losses are not always measured on a scoreboard. Am I perfect? Nope. Not by a long shot. I have had moments when I allowed myself to be sucked into acting like a fool on the sidelines, yelling directly at kids instead of coaching them and pretending a dumb game was the most important thing in life. I have used those experiences as lessons for what I do not want to become. They serve to remind that the words I choose to use with kids has an impact on them and will carry a lot of weight over the years. They may forget my name as the years go by but hopefully they will remember the lessons. The important stuff like. Mistakes are okay, even expected, because nobody is perfect. We practice to get better. We don't always win but we always play to win. Good sportsmanship is just as important during or after a win as it is in a loss. It's a game so smile and have fun. A championship trophy at this level will not change their lives. They will do the exact same thing after the game if they lose - go home, eat ice cream, watch TV and be a kid. 

All of this probably makes you think I am just not a competitive person. That my personality doesn't jive with the reality that it takes hard work and desire to succeed. That's not exactly true. I am the most competitive person I know. I despise losing. I don't want participation medals for everybody. I want to keep score. There should be winners and losers in every game. When I set a goal for myself there is no thought of failure. As a kid, I played to win. As a Marine, I competed to be the best. In college, I worked my butt off to graduate summa cum laude. As an adult, I have worked hard in my job to rise through the ranks. In recent years, I have raced everything from 5k's to 100 mile trail races with the intention of competing  for the podium. Nobody plans to lose but... it happens. When it does there is no crying, throwing a fit or a desire to quit and find something else I might be good at - just a note to myself to work harder if I want to win. Even when I have won there is a note to myself to work harder and do better. The trophies and medals still don't mean much. They are just things collected along the way. The friendships, laughs, highs and lows during the hard miles are what keeps it fun. And FUN is what keeps me going back. 

If this felt like a lecture to you - it probably was. Relax. It's just a game. 
If this felt like common sense to you - that's because it is.  Good for you. 

Play Hard. Have Fun. Do Your Best. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fat Elvis and Eye on the Prize

Three and a half years. I haven't "really" ran in three and a half years. Why? Because I haven't. Sure there are reasons, excuses and multitude of other blah, blah, blah's I could throw out there but the bottom line is simple. I got lazy, lost the desire and mental focus that it takes to compete. The thrill of the challenge and the drive to exceed self imposed expectations haven't been prevalent for a while. The VOICES have been eerily silent like an old friend who I've lost touch with. It's been kind of weird and awesome all at the same time. 

It's easy to live in the past. The glory days. The best of times. We all do it at some point. The ex-jock from high school that needs to talk about the 5 touchdowns in one game. The former high school track stud that set all the records. The genius in college who could make a bong out of play dough. The stud Marine that never got into trouble. I was none of the above but I did okay in a lot of races from 5k's through 100 milers back in the day. A couple of sub 3 hour marathons and a handful of sub 24 hour 100 milers made it easy to fall into this trap. As time goes by the way these stories are told change. 

Back "in the day" I never bothered to tell a story about a race or feel the need to proclaim my PR to somebody I just met. Nope. No need. I just showed up, ran the race, collected whatever award if warranted and went home. I was never what I considered as fast but it was good enough to win a few local downtown ladies auxiliary pie auction and 5k races. Over time this evolved into a reputation in the area as a "fast" runner. I never thought I was but one day, after a 10k, the runners who I considered as fast gathered for a picture with their medals and trophies. I was told to jump in but declined saying something about the fast runners. One of them said, "Dude, you just ran a 37 minute 10k, you ARE one of the fast runners." 

Okay. 37 minute 10k isn't fast by many standards. People will tear me apart for my "huge ego". I get it. But the fact is this- sometimes a 37 minute 10k IS fast. Sometimes a 17 minute 5k does win. Sometimes a 2:58 marathon, 4:20 50k, 7:31 50 miler and 19:37 100 miler is considered fast. The 7:31 50 miler set a state record in Missouri for the 35-39 year old age group in 2011. It still holds the record for 39 year olds. The other ages have fallen to faster times but they have been on flat, dedicated courses. Mine was on a hilly road course with heavy traffic, unmanned aid stations and 85-90 degree southern Missouri humidity temps. Not that it matters. 

Okay... this is the kind of nonsense I am talking about. Buying into your own legend. It's a joke but it happens. My first marathon was good for a Boston Qualifying time and I just assumed that was what was expected. I once ran a marathon with pneumonia and finished in 3rd place. My first 1/2 marathon was ran with the flu but I managed a 5th overall with a 1:30 time. I limped 50 miles with a knee that looked like a football and still came in top 10. My first 50 miler was a climb over Mt. Pinnacle on the Ouachita trail in Arkansas and netted a 3rd overall. I finished 4th overall at one of the oldest established 100 milers, the Arkansas Traveller, on a rainy, miserable day. My first 100 miler was on a trail in Texas during an an ice storm and I finished in under 21 hours. I have ran five 100 mile -true trail-  races in under 22 hours. 60 miles on an old, busted up asphalt track in a pink tutu. More that once.  Started a dumb little running club that turned out okay. I did some unique, at the time, fundraisers for the ACS and raised over $50,000. Blah, blah, blah..., 

3 years ago I fell. Not literally. I had fallen many times on trail runs before then. I fell. I had trained for a 100 miler with the goal of 18 hours. Race day weather took its toll on me and the humidity won. I finished in 21:30 and felt like a failure. Looking back it's stupid to consider a 21:30 finish a failure but whatever. A couple of months later I was smoking a 30 hour timed event in Oklahoma when I slipped in the snow covered clay mud and pulled a calf muscle. I knew I would win this event and the forced decision to stop messed with my head. Once I was able to run again, really run, the desire to compete was gone. The focus was gone. I lined up at the Leadville 100 later that year out of shape and with a big ego thinking it was only 100 miles and I could fake it. After a mere 40 miles I pulled the plug and recorded my first DNF. 

My daughter was born roughly two and a half years ago. She is what my wife and I call the" bonus baby".  Unplanned and unprepared for. You would think at 42 and 45 we would have known what could happen but....  Her birth changed my life. My two boys are amazing and I love them more than life itself but the new Princess?  Oh yes. She is a game changer for me. So things slowed down on the running side. There were months when my total mileage was less than 20. Considering I had averaged 250 mile months for almost 10 years this took its toll. Combined with crappy nutrition and a general dismissal of strength training, the overall result has not pretty. 

Did I mention that I coach baseball, basketball, soccer and football for my kids? Or that I am the head coach of a semi-pro football team? Or that I serve as president of a youth football league? Or that I coach runners from all over the country - and across a few borders? Or that....who cares? Excuses. Things that I choose do. I had always managed to find time to train in the past regardless of work or other obligations. I had simply lost my focus and the drive to compete. It was easy to claim that there weren't any challenges left and I had already proved that I could do anything I set out to do. My life was full of schedules and activities but it was also empty. 

Try being a "legend" on social media for a while. The things you did in the past are celebrated for a while. Then they are talked about some. Then they are unknown. Soon the only people that know are the people that used to look up to you but can now kick your ass in any distance. It kind of sucks to be honest. My ego is not fragile or huge like some may think but I do have one. We all do. And it kind of sucks when you think people don't care or respect what you have accomplished. It's silly but it's real. Especially when you know the only reason you have become "Fat Elvis" or "washed up" is because you no longer care. There is no physical impediment or injury holding you back. It's all about heart. It all comes back to Eye on the Prize. 

Eye on the Prize. Focus. Determination. Grit. It's all the same. Decide on a goal. Resolve to accomplish it. Do the work that sucks to make it real. Don't chase shiny objects. Make it happen. Seems so simple when I type it. Putting it into action is much more difficult. Thankfully, I have finally reached the point in my personal journey that I understand what it takes to crawl out of the funk and back onto the trail. I have remembered WHY I want to run. WHY I want to train. WHY I want to compete. Along with that I have found a renewed desire to "do the work-no excuses". 

Over the past few months, I have begun working with a purpose. I have Coach Jeff back on the job scheduling my training and keeping me in check. I have put in consistent base building mileage. I have found that old burning motivation to get up at 3 a.m. and run 1-2 hours before going to work. I have figured out ways to squeeze strength or yoga in after work and before my kid's practices. I have the focus to run 10 miles or more before coaching football all day. I have signed up for a few short-ish distance races with the goal of chasing buckles again soon. 

I don't expect to ever run "fast" but I do expect to prove to myself that I can run long and be proud of my accomplishments. Will I ever run a sub 3 hour marathon again? Or a sub 20 hour 100 miler? What about state records? Don't know- don't care. The goal is to do what I can while I can and not ever live in the past again. The glory days may be over but that doesn't mean I don't have some pretty decent days to look forward to. Eye on the Prize is still my favorite mantra. I have realized that Fat Elvis is still Elvis. Just go do what makes you happy and life is good. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Garmin 235 Raffle

Idiots Running Club Relay for Life Garmin 235 Raffle
New in box  Garmin 235
$8.97 per ticket
150 tickets will be sold
Winner will be selected using a random number generator app
Winning number will be drawn when all tickets are sold
Drawing will be recorded on video
If all tickets are not sold he winner will be chosen on June 10th 2017
Purchase tickets through PayPal and your number will be emailed

Monday, April 3, 2017

Win Or Don't Come Home

Win or don't come home. This is what I tell the athletes I coach. "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." Saunders, and later, Lombardi had it right in my opinion. At least to some degree. Winning is important and must be regarded as the ultimate goal in every race, contest or game. Why? Because even from a very early age, competitive people realize that losing sucks and winning makes us feel good. Of course, winning doesn't always mean the top of the podium or the most points on a scoreboard. 

Winning can be measured in many different ways but, for me, the only real unit of measurement is self satisfaction. When running a race myself or coaching athletes through a race or game the definition of winning is set early in the training cycle or practice. It's a simple formula. Look at the areas of strength that are already in place, identify the weaknesses and assess the realistic potential to improve in both areas. Have a basic idea of where you would be on that day if the race or game was scheduled and then look forward and set a lofty but realistic goal that you want to reach. 

Set a plan. Do the work. No excuses. Be ready to overcome obstacles that will get in the way and mentally lead you off track. Know that the motivation isn't going to come from a YouTube video or meme on Facebook. It must be a self motivation that lives in your heart. It can't be just words you say or something you pretend you want because it sounds cool. It must be real, true and non-negotiable. The days will be long, the hours and minutes you dedicate should make you question your sanity and your friends and family will claim you are obsessed. All of that is good. And necessary if you truly have your eye on the prize. 

Do all of that and you will win. When it's time to compete you will be prepared, confident and focused to chase the goal. But.... be smart. Don't try to do more than you should or more than you can. Know what you need to do for YOU to be successful and stick to the script as much as possible but adapt quickly to changes or setbacks. Attempting to overreach will always put you in a situation that rarely has a successful outcome. 

Does this mean you shouldn't put it all on the line and take chances? Absolutely not. It means that you should consistently put it all on the line but take calculated chances. Being brave and confident is much different than being brave, confident AND stupid. Success and winning are born out of pushing past the perceived limits we have set in our minds and expanding the knowledge of our abilities. If we stay comfortable being comfortable then we will never get better or understand the potential for greatness. 

Winning is defined by you. Any improvements gained from the first training session or practice will shine in the overall breakdown of performance when it's all over. They will be easy to see for most people looking but always difficult for the athlete to recognize. Even when ALL the goals are met and the podium, personal record or scoreboard dictate that you are a "winner" there may be a lot of self doubt and questions about what you could have done better. 

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, without it you will begin a slow decline into a losing mentality. Never settling for good enough and always wanting more is the only way to continue winning. Look at the good, learn from the bad and move on. Remember yesterday but focus on tomorrow. Growth comes from true self evaluation and honesty not from the number of likes you get on Facebook. Knowing that you have pulled off a win even when others don't immediately recognize the situation is enough to keep the train on the tracks and headed in the right direction. 

In the end, winning and losing isn't measured on a scoreboard, podium, trophy or any other outside judge. When done right- Winning is a mindset that begins with a goal and earned through the self motivation to become better. Being the best at anything is fun to dream about but is rarely a realistic outcome as there is always somebody, somewhere who is willing to work harder and longer than you. But you can easily and realistically continue to strive to become the best that you can be. Will you ever achieve the goal of becoming the best that you can be? I hope not. If you do then you have settled for good enough. Good enough will always mean - Could be better. Be better. Win or don't come home.