Thursday, October 6, 2016
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR FITNESS GOALS
By Eric Marionneaux, Rock Star Coach at FormWell
Why are so many people unsuccessful in maintaining their ideal health and fitness goals? Most of the time there are multiple reasons why. However, a lot of the time these “reasons” are really just excuses. We have all heard of the most common ones: not having enough time, enough motivation, or enough energy. If someone puts off exercising until the perfect time then it will never come or if it does then they will quit as soon as it becomes inconvenient again. In this post I would like to discuss they ways to make sure you are successful with your fitness goals and in all other areas of your life.
Step 1: Take Responsibility
The first step in being able to achieve your goals is taking responsibility. You are responsible for where you are in your health and fitness levels and if you are not where you would like to be then there is no one else to blame. Do not blame it on your job, your genetics, your upbringing, or that the dollar menu is the best way to save some money. Yes I know I do not understand what you have had to deal with in your life and circumstances surrounding it. But I do know there is always someone who has had it tougher and has been able to overcome it. For example, Joshua Sundquist who lost his leg from cancer when he was 9 years old.
Or Scott Belkner and his incredible story.
The point is if you put your mind to it then you can achieve it. From here on out start taking full responsibility for everything in your life. Once you are able to take responsibility you can start making changes towards everything in your life and health which you want to improve.
Step 2: Decide What It Is You Want To Achieve
As Will Smith says in his interview, “Just Decide!” Decide what it is you want to achieve with your health and fitness goals. Do you want to be as strong as you can be, as toned as you can be, as athletic as possible, or just look good enough in a bathing suit so that you don’t feel embarrassed going to the beach? Do you want to feel more energetic and healthy, or just look good? Make sure you understand WHY you want to achieve what it is you want, as this will help strengthen your commitment when things get tough. Do you want to look better so you will have more confidence in life and meeting other people? Do you want to be more healthy because diabetes runs in your family and you realize preventative care is the best course? Whatever it is, decide on it, realize your personal reasons for it, and set your mind towards achieving it.
Step 3: Set And Write Your Goals
Now that you have decided what it is you truly want to achieve it is time to set your goals. In my recent blog post I discussed setting SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed. Since you now know your general goal it is time to make it more SMART. Lets say you have decided you want to be as lean as possible while having a slightly above average amount of muscle. Great! Now make it SMART! Specify by saying “I weigh 175 lbs and have 10% or less bodyfat (if you’re a guy) on (certain date)”. This goal is specific with the pounds and bodyfat %, it is measurable since you can measure both of those, it is achievable provided you set an appropriate date, it is relevant as these measurements have to do with your fitness levels, and it is timed by setting a date. Notice that I also wrote the goal in present tense. This is an affirmation strategy to help reinforce your goals. Once you set a final goal, set smaller goals that will make it easier to reach that final goal. Narrow down to quarterly, monthly, and weekly. Your big goal may seem impossible at first, but setting your mind to it and breaking it down to to smaller goals makes it much more attainable!
Step 4: Do It For Yourself, Not By Yourself
Once you have written down all of your goals it is time to do work on them. You can try to do them by yourself, but it will be a much easier and quicker process with the help of others. Don’t be afraid to ask! Use the help of a personal trainer to design the correct program for your goals and train you if needed. Tell your family and friends your goals and have them keep you accountable. Educate yourself by reading and researching on information relevant to achieving your goals. A great way may to be finding someone who has already accomplished the path you are about to partake and reading about what they say helped them.
Step 5: Measure Your Progress And Share
Since you now have written goals and education on the best way to achieve them it is time to start measuring your progress! Make sure you record whether you hit your goal or if not how far away you were from achieving it. A great way to keep yourself motivated is to keep your friends and family updated on your progress when you achieve your smaller goals! Since they will be helping keep you accountable it will remind them to ask you about it from time to time as well. If you have notebook where goals are written then write down your accomplishing results next them. Take a picture of it and send to those holding you accountable so they can see your results and share the victory with you!
Step 6: Keep It Enjoyable
If you often have trouble pushing yourself and dread going to the gym then either you will eventually learn to enjoy it or you will quit. Personally, I feel that most people start to enjoy it once they start seeing results and learn how to do it properly. If you do not think you are wired that way then try out other physical activities to get in shape; then use exercise as a way to help you improve in these activities. Some good ones I enjoy doing are hiking, biking, kayaking, rock climbing, snowboarding, water skiing, and swimming. If it is tough for you to be outside because of where you live try indoor ones such as a martial art, basketball, indoor rock climbing, or racquetball. Once you have found one you enjoy then exercise will become much more efficient at relieving your stress!
Step 7: Help Others
The final step to you being successful is helping others be successful with their goals! Once you have accomplished your goals then you will become an inspiration for others attempting to reach similar goals. Helping others is a great way for you to stay committed to maintaining or improving from the goal you have met, as it will keep you remembering the hard work you put in and how much better you feel. That, plus it just feels great to help others!
Well now you know what you need to know to accomplish all of your health and fitness goals and hopefully any other goals in life you would like to set. Have fun and good luck!
Saturday, September 24, 2016
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The End of Suffering......for now.
You know a race has a significant impact on you when you have basically stopped writing, blogging, etc. for almost 2 years and you feel obligated to putting at least something down on paper on a Friday night about a week after completion (kind of).
To back track a bit, my racing year in 2016 was to be the "year of redemption". Injuries, time off to heal those injuries, burn out, working too hard, etc. made 2015 the "year of giving back", which was pretty cool. However, in 2016 (at least at the beginning) I felt the need to get back to some long, really tough efforts that brought me back to the raw place of suffering I sometimes crave, and need, in this sport.
As I have said many times before, we make plans, and God laughs.
Long story short, the year did not work out. I knew after completing Mountain Mist in January of 2016 that my plans of doing some really hard efforts, including a Western States qualifier, were not to be. My long standing Achilles injury, which I thought I "fixed" by doing a non-invasive treatment and taking 3 months off running in 2015 was back and with it, a lack of motivation to suffer in chronic pain anymore.
I dropped from the few long races I was signed up for, gave it to the Lord and moved on. Actually felt pretty good about it.
The one race I had signed up for that I did not immediately drop out of was the Barkley Fall Classic in September, 2016. I almost did, but I decided to wait to see what would happen as the year progressed and gave myself the option to drop out as the time got closer.
Long story short, I made a decision to completely revamp my diet and supplementation regime in an effort to reduce total body inflammation and chronic pain and, guess what?
So..... fast forward to about 8 weeks before BFC -- I put together a very, very aggressive plan that would get me to the starting line in the best shape possible (with only 8 weeks to train and my "long run" being 2 hours since January) for what I expected to be the hardest race of my career.
The training actually went pretty well, got in some really hard efforts and was feeling SO great in terms of pain -- which helped my mental state and motivation tremendously!
5 weeks out from the race I was planning on doing a 6 hour (minimum) effort at the Pine Mountain (Cartersville) trails. 1.5 hours into the run with OCD David I sprained my ankle very badly (again, and yes, the same ankle I have turned multiple times, the same foot of my injured Achilles and, best yet, the same ankle I turned about 5 weeks before I ran BFC for the first time in 2014 -- message here? You decide).
It was pretty bad. I was able to finish about 5 hours but I hobbled in the last hour. Good news it was a low ankle sprain (first one I have had) which I hear heal faster than high ankle sprains (wrong, btw, for me) but it was very swollen and black and blue almost immediately so I know I needed rehab for the week after.
I took good care of it -- one of the benefits of spraining your ankle numerous times, you become somewhat of an expert in rehab -- and was actually feeling much better within a week.
Of course, I only had 5 weeks till BFC so I headed to the mountains just one week after spraining it and did a really good and strong 5 hour Springer Mountain loop from the bottom of the stairs. Strangely. this was the BEST my ankle felt for the next 4 weeks.
Not sure why, perhaps I actually broke it not sprained it, but the ankle got progressively worse as I got closer to the race. I was only able to run a few hours (total) the 2 weeks leading up to BFC.
Fast forward to the race.
As always, the trip up and "boy time" with "OCD" David and "Underwear Boy" Christian (may explain this nickname, may just leave it to your imagination) was the highlight of the weekend. We drove up Friday night and all were feeling good, however with more than a little trepidation leading up to the race.....
Got a TERRIBLE night's sleep as OCD must have been stressing beyond belief due to the face he could not wear his GPS in the race. His snoring was, in a word, epic. At one point I had ear plugs in both ears and pillows wrapped around my head and still could not sleep. I would kick his bed to stop him and try my best to fall asleep before the snoring escalated to a decibel level equivalent to a jet. Didn't work.
Anyway, who cares, sleep is over rated the night before a race and it's not like this was going to be tough on my body, right?
Up at 5am and normal race prep, feeling actually very good and relaxed (after giving OCD a bunch of crap for keeping me up all night). Christian didn't hear a thing, guy could probably sleep through a hurricane.
So here is where the day changed for me. My ankle was feeling pretty good in the 2 weeks leading up to the race (due to very minimal running, lots of icing and rest). This race starts on the road and OCD went out way to fast for me - he starts faster and I normally catch him later, then he normally drops me a the end. Not today, he is in 100 mile shape, I am in 30k shape. I never saw him again. Anyway, I get into my grove and the race hits the trail, the first slight hill. I decide to run this just to see how my ankle is feeling.
And turn it again.
Not bad, but enough to make me realize it is no where near healed.
This will be a long day.
I really enjoy the beginning of this course, it was pretty dark, there was a nice breeze and it is switchback climbing for a while so I can get warmed up before we actually start running. My body felt good (except for some lower back tightness that a lot of people were feeling due to the pitch and length of the first climb) and I was enjoying the day. Another different thing about his day was I was not really into chatting with other runners (normally I have NO problem talking for hours on end in these races :-). Unfortunately for me, this race seem to attract the most chatty ultra runners on the planet! I was able to carve out some solo prayer time during this climb, said a Rosary, prayed from some good friends that are struggling and, as always, gave thanks to our Lord for all the blessings in my life.
The first aid station is at "7.6" miles (all mileage in quotes as Laz - the infamous race director -- does NOT report exact mileage) and the time cut off to make it to the 50k was 3 hours 15 minutes. This may sound ridiculous in terms of pacing but keep in mind it is probably closer to 10 miles, and mostly steep climbing. I got there at 2:45, ate a bit of food and was on my way.
The next section is kind of blurry, even just one week later, not sure why but I am pretty sure the "bee incident" occurred here?
This is crazy stuff. Came around a corner and bunch of people are just standing in the trail, never a good sign. Someone said they saw a bear, but then we realized there was a bee, yellow jacket, hornet, dinosaur sized wasps (depending on who you have talked to) ahead on the trail. We made the smart move to follow one guy WAY off trail to bypass the nest, a girl behind us either thought she could out run the bees, or did not hear us yelling at the top of our lungs "YELLOW JACKET NEST, GO AROUND!) and ran right through the swarm. If I didn't know the pain she was feeling (I have been stung many times in my life growing up in NY and on trails) it would have actually been pretty funny watching the trail sprint while screaming and flailing her arms.
It was NOT funny.
We caught up with her and the guy with me had to keep running as he was allergic, I am not so I did my best to help her get the remaining bees, dinosaur wasps, etc off her. I've heard some foul language in trail races but this was a new low. No judging, but it was pretty impressive coming out of her mouth. BTW, about 5 minutes later we pulled another dinosaur wasp out of her hair, and her ear! Crazy. But not as crazy as the next person to come through.
So we continue to yell as loud as we can to warn upcoming runners. Then we hear a woman obviously who did not hear our warnings run right through the nest.
Ok, here is the deal. I raced motocross for 15 years. I hung out with some pretty crazy people. I have seen a guy break his FEMUR (compound fracture, saw the bone). Saw a guy cut off all of the tips of his fingers in a motorcycle chain. I've personally crashed so hard I knocked out my teeth. I had a serrated footpeg rip my thigh open and get 40 stiches - a cut so deep I could see muscle. Saw a guy get his leg sucked between the knobby tire and swing arm (space was about 3 inches, broke the leg in multiple places), etc.
Their, and my, screams were NOTHING compared to what and how loud this woman was screaming. I cannot explain it. It still haunts me. Basically she stopped running (we think, we were too far away to see her but we could hear her clearly) when she started getting stung, the worst thing to do.
I AM DYING!
WHY WON'T ANYONE HELP ME?
OH MY GOD, GET THEM OFF ME!
OH MY GOD, THEY ARE IN MY EARS!
HELP ME, PLEASE SOMEONE HELP ME!
(** insert tons off expletives **)
It was gut wrenching. All we could do was yell to her to run as fast as she could.
This moment changed the race for me, I was already realizing, for the first time ever, I might not make time cut offs. The problem was about 25% my lack of fitness for the climbs and 75% the fact that I could not bomb the downhills like normal to make up time due to my ankle.
And I really, really did not care. Nothing to prove, finished the 50k in 2014 and would be super happy with the "marathon" (probably a 50k in distance anyway, but who knows and I really don't care). I didn't know at that point if you got a DNF if you dropped to the marathon (you didn't, I asked a few people who did it in 2015) but it wouldn't have mattered, with what was to come I would never make it.
Next up was a climb called "Testicle Spectacle", aptly named after how we as Catholics remember to do the sign of the cross: Testicle, spectacles, watch, wallet. There was "Meth Lab Hill" in there somewhere as well but I cannot tell you if we went up or down that and when it was.
Told you, its Blurry.
I do remember actually enjoying going down TS, it was fun (you had to slide a lot of it, and hold onto briars to slow your slide) except the fact that I was already cramping so when I squatted down to slide my calves and hamstrings would lock up. Fun. Saw Christian and David coming back up, they were WAY ahead of me and looking good.
Coming back up TS I started having thoughts of dropping out. I was NOT in shape for this and really did not have the mental drive to continue for 6-7 hours more (I think we were about 5 hours in when we started back up the climb). The mental part was really 90% of it. The good news is I came to the conclusion that in this season of my life I don't need all day suffer-fests anymore, and that is a good thing! 3-5 hours is more than enough for me now.
I actually think a big part (besides the ankle, the lack of fitness and the lack of drive) was nutritional. In addition to no GPS (no big deal for me as I don't own one, just use a simple watch, mostly to keep track of when to eat) Laz also does not allow gels in the race (due to littering) so I had minimal simple sugar during the day (some bananas at aid stations and some raisins I brought with me). This is fine and I am trained to run on low carbs and fat, but not at this level of exertion. I know in the past I have felt these low points, and thoughts of dropping out then I get a gel, or some coke or other form of simple sugar and rally within 5 minutes!
Anyway, it was what it was -- these nutritional deficiencies would just add to the suffering and this is what we signed up and came to expect from a Laz designed day.
After climbing TS, we did a really rocky, steep downhill to the prison. This is when I knew for sure I was either dropping out at the prison or taking 12+ hours to do the "marathon". I hated this section and I normally LOVE technical downhills. I walked (yep, walked downhill) almost all of it. The prison was "mile 17.6" and I was already 7 hours into this thing!
I was with a couple of guys and none of us could run, it was crazy. There were even downhill and flat road sections leading up to the prison and we were walking, hobbling really.
And we were not even 1/2 way.
Before the race, I was looking forward to seeing the prison and walking through it, now all I cared about was if there was anything cold to drink (no ice, or soda which I live on in hot races at aid stations, did I mention after the nice breezy morning it ended up being about 85 degrees for the bulk of the race, no real cloud cover, especially on tough climbs).
God answered my prayers.
There was an aid station leading into the prison with ICE! I filled my hydration pack with ice and water and noticed empty soda bottles! I asked (begged) the guys there if there was cold Coke anywhere and he went to get me one!
Nectar of the Gods -- I started to walk into the prison with it but he took it back, wouldn't let me have the whole thing! Oh well, the few sips I got were enough to make me forget about dropping out. Prison was very cool, the ladder over the wall where James Earl Ray escaped kind of freaked me out, I don't like heights and I was cramping even more at this point but I made it. Loved the tunnel under the prison, it was damp and cool and dark - a nice break before the HELL to come.
So, here we are about 7 hours into the race and we are starting up "Big Rat" and "Rat Jaw".
In 2014 this was my favorite part of the race, crawling up a 45% grade, took 70 minutes to go .8 miles, briars over my 6foot2inch head. Amazing, such a challenge and was with good friends and had a blast. Was way ahead of time cut offs and feeling strong.
2016, not so much.
All the factors, especially having done TS beforehand, added up to the, by far, hardest 2+ hours of any race I have ever been in. Just looking at the first section (basically hand over fist climbing in dry, dusty dirt with no handholds except a random briars) made me want to cry.
Ok, maybe I did cry a bit.
This year we not only did the full Rat Jaw, the briars were cut down. This sounds like it would be better, but it was not. It made the climb straight up the middle instead of all over the place with some traversing and also we were exposed to the hot sun almost the whole time. It was about 2pm at this point. I never thought I would say this but I missed those briars!
Unless you have done this course, or something like it (is there anything else like this?) I really cannot do it justice trying to explain how hard this is. Imagine something so steep you are completely bent over, or crawling on all fours. We would go 10 steps or so, then bend over on a log, or your hand, sit, or even lay down, and rest to let our heart rate and breathing come down.
Then do it again.
Met and bonded with some cool people on this climb. The funniest comment from the men was "our wives really are right, we are down right stupid. We paid for this, drove hours to be here."
My only consolation was that, at this point, I knew there was no chance I would make the 9.5 hour cut off to determine if you got a "marathon" finish or went on to attempt the "50k". In 2014 I felt great up until the last climb: Chimney Top, and I knew I wouldn't have to do it this year - I almost dropped with 3 miles to go that climb hurt me so badly. To give you an idea on the difference between this year and the first year we did it, I hit the time cut off at about 8.5 hours in 2014. This year I was at 10:40! And I felt like I was in better shape this year!
Anyway, somehow we made it to the top of this climb and I told myself I would just hike the remaining (mostly downhill) to the finish. I actually ended up feeling better once the sun went down so I ran a good bit and felt SO good to finish! Around 11 hours to do a "marathon".
You do the math on THAT pace per mile! Factor in the mile of Rat Jaw took about 100 minutes!
You do the math on THAT pace per mile! Factor in the mile of Rat Jaw took about 100 minutes!
I was SO hungry I ate a steak sandwich and drank 3 Mtn Dews in less than 2 minutes after the finish.
Both Underwear Boy (decided to let you all figure that one out) and OCD finished the "50k", hats off to them (only 37% of the starters finished the "50k"). Very proud of those guys.
Biggest take aways from this day.
1. Hardest endurance event in my 25 years of competing. Including Ironman, 100 miler, Georgia Death Race, etc. Nothing compares. You HAVE to experience it to understand.
2. Cannot imagine the people who attempt (and even more so the 14 that have finished the FULL Barkley): 5 loops of a harder course, no aid, no course markings, no support, only 40 people in the race. They. Are. NOT. Human.
3. Swore off Frozen Head State Park (for now). No desire to go back. One "50k" finish and one "marathon" experience are enough for me.
4. Laz is a cruel, cruel man.
2016 Barkley Fall Classic
324 brave souls started
132 marathon finishers
119 50k finishers
Thursday, January 29, 2015
If you like this blog, you might also enjoy my book......
On January 25th, 2015 I "competed" (quotes explained later) in the Mountain Mist 50k in Huntsville, Alabama. If you have read my first book, you might remember that this was the site of my first ever ultra marathon back in late January, 2009.
To say things have changed in the past 6 years would be an understatement. Let me break it down in categories for you......
Training / Preparation
2009: For this first race I designed a 12 week training program and had it tweaked and adjusted by a professional endurance sports coach. This coach also worked with me every week to make sure I was staying on plan and not under or over-training. I did multiple back to back long runs, averaged around 500 minutes (approx 40 trail miles) of training per week for months on end. I did more than one hard run over 4 hours, including one 5 hour run 3 weeks before. I did a very organized and perfect taper for 3 weeks before the race. My nutrition was spot on, including cutting out simple carbs, alcohol and all anti-inflammatory meds for weeks before the race. I was unbelievably focused and nervous the whole week leading up to the race.
2015: I signed up for this race specifically because Troy B and I DNF'ed it last year and we both wanted redemption. I had absolutely no organized training plan and, obviously, I was my own coach. Total training in the month leading up to the race was about 15-20 miles per week, mostly from just one long run per week. No back to back long efforts, no really tough efforts at all. Obviously no taper cause none was needed. Nutrition was actually similar, but not because of the race -- it just happened that I was doing my yearly "sugar detox" in the month before the race. The night before the race we had pizza and beer for our pre-race meal!
Pre-Race Friday/Saturday morning.
2009: I traveled to the race early Friday, by myself, and didn't know anyone at the race expo. I stayed at the expo for hours, eating the pre race meal, listening to the speaker they had, checking out all the clothing for sale, etc. I stayed in a hotel and prepped my stuff for hours to make sure it was right. I think I packed about 50 gels and enough food to fill 2 aid stations at a 100 miler! I had two water bottles, both filled with sugar-laden sports drinks. I wore way, way too much clothing. Again, I was super nervous and keyed up the whole night before, got very little sleep and ate a HUGE meal the morning of.
2015: Traveled late Friday with a good friend, both of us couldn't have been more relaxed or had more fun on the way over. I knew a ton of people doing the race and was still in and out of the expo in under 10 minutes. Took me about 3 minutes to prep my stuff for the next day. Packed one water bottle (with only water) and a few gels, nothing else. Wore shorts and a couple of shirts to strip off. I was so laid back -- I was asleep within 10 minutes of closing my eyes and slept 7 hours straight, up feeling relaxed and refreshed. Ate one Clif bar and peanut butter the morning of.
2009: Got to race way too early (did this again in 2015) and was, again, SO nervous! I knew no one at the start, just put my music on and said a quick prayer. Started out way too slow (bottle neck at back of the pack didn't help). Started eating gels and food 20 minutes into the race, ate everything I could at every aid station. Had stomach issues throughout the whole race. Felt pretty good up until mile 17 and then thought the hills were absolutely brutal. Went through incredible emotional ups and downs throughout the race. Pushed myself as hard as I could the whole time. Did math obsessively every 10 minutes to see if I could break 7 hours. Thought I was going to die on the last climb and the last 1.9 miles felt like they took me about an hour!
Finished in 6:39 and was basically mid pack. Obsessed over my overall and age group results for weeks.
2015: Got to race too early again, but sat and joked the whole time with good friend ("OCD David" - another change, I not only have a bunch of new friends in the sport, I am also giving all of them nicknames), took pictures, totally relaxed. Knew a TON of people at the start and joked and had fun with all of them, no music this time and my prayer time is now organized and during the race so I was looking forward to that. Had absolutely NO plan for pacing, hydrating or eating -- just going by feel. Started out way too fast. Decided 30 minutes in, instead of having a gel like I normally do, to see how long I could go on just water without eating anything -- just on a whim! Was super happy, relaxed and in the moment for the whole race. Had absolutely NO down moments! Felt great the whole time, decided (on a whim again) instead of doing my whole rosary when I got alone to do one decade each 10k of the run -- and dedicate each decade to a different person or group of people! Thought the hills were "fun" and challenging, but not really that tough at all. Never really pushed myself, just stayed within myself and had an absolutely amazing time. Actually had many, many moments that I didn't want the race to be over! Didn't even know when the race started on my watch, never set a stopwatch. The last climb was great and the last 1.9 miles were beautiful, just a bit tough and fun!
Finished in 7:09 and was basically mid pack. Looked at my result for 2 minutes just to see if I was in the top 1/2 of starters (I was). No idea nor do I care where I fell in my age group.
2009: So sore I could hardly walk for days. Feet covered with blisters and sore. Unbelievably tired and hungry. Took Monday off work cause I couldn’t move.
2015: Slightly sore the day after. Feet totally fine. A little tired on Tuesday, worked a full day Monday totally fine. Still pretty hungry!
So, 6 years after the start of my ultra-running career and I am starting to figure this stuff out. The less I stress and worry, the better it is. The less I eat the better my stomach feels. The less water I drink the better I feel and the less I cramp (to a point). The more I rely on God and the less I rely on myself the better it is. The more I stay in the moment and not worry about the next mile, or how far I have to go, or the upcoming climb.....the better it is! The more friends I make, the more this sport becomes about fellowship instead of performance and, you guessed it, the better it is.
Sort of like life, wouldn't you agree?
Thursday, November 13, 2014
If you like this Blog, you might like my book:
On November 1st and 2nd, 2014 I had the blessing and honor to be able to give back and help another first timer run his first 100 mile race, the Pinhoti 100 -- a point to point race that was the site of my first (and only) 100 mile finish in 2012 (see volume 2 of Quiet the Noise publish date early 2015.....).
It was a whirlwind and amazing experience.
But allow me step back a bit to give you yet another taste of how amazing and close knit the sport of off road ultra running is.
The person I helped (lets call him David "Y" because, well, that is his name) has only been a friend for a few months. I have run with him a few time at training runs and races, spent a fair amount of time with him getting lost at H9 this year but really don't know him that well at all. I do know much more about him than most men would know about each other spending the same amount of time together doing something "normal" like drinking beer, watching sports, playing golf, etc. as time spent ultra running tends to break down all the natural barriers that keep us from being authentic with each other. I have never done anything social with him, or met his family, or anything that "normal" people do when they get to know each other.
In fact, as of this writing I still don’t know how to pronounce his last name, and I guarantee he does not know how to pronounce mine!
So, lets step back and think about this for a minute. This man, who I have met just a few times, tells me he is signing up for Pinhoti for his first 100. I, of course, tell him how cool (I have a terrible memory) it is and "if there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to ask". Well, I am not one of those people that just says that and doesn't ever expect to help if it is actually needed.
I meant it.
And, guess what?
He took me up on it!
David put together a team of 3 guys (David W, Mark and me) to help crew and pace him through the race. Somehow I got picked for the finish, the last 15 miles…. Again, just like in 2013! I guess I have a reputation of being able to stay up and energized deep into the night/morning and I can motivate pretty well.
Maybe he just knew about my caffeine addiction and knew I wouldn't sleep through my shift!
It worked out well because we had a jam-packed Saturday so not having to be there till late Saturday night worked well. David worked out all the details, with a little input from us -- we actually did get together one time for coffee (I didn't recognize him at first cause he wasn't in running clothes) to discuss details, mostly I wanted to know his "why" and how badly he wanted this finish -- basically how hard can I push this man who I barely know to get to Sylacauga stadium in under 30 hours?
To be honest, I really didn't get a strong feeling either way from him. I could tell he wanted the buckle, but it didn’t seem “life or death” as it was for me! I figured I would use my 20 years of training clients to "play it by ear" as the day progressed, which ended up being a very good plan!
So, and this is how crazy long a 100 mile race is -- I have a full packed day of family activities, including me searching all over for a good thermos to bring hot soup (was worth every minute) and leave for Alabama right after my son's 5pm basketball game, and by the time I get there (2 hour drive but we gain an hour) he is still only 1/2 way done! The drive over was fantastic, did my Rosary and prayed for David and all the participants and gave HUGE thanks that I could do this crazy thing! The sunset was glorious and the temperature was dropping fast, a sign of things to come!
I met up with David W at mile 55 aid station (Mark had starting pacing him at mile 41 and would be with him till mile 65 when David would take over) and we got to know each other a bit. I Didn't know my other pacers much either, I had met David a few times (I didn’t know this till I saw him) and had never met Mark (I actually had them text me pictures of what they looked like so I would be able to find them at the aid station, crazy).
David Y showed up with Mark right on time (we had been tracking him all day on the live tracking site), around a 24 hour pace and looking great! He was having some knee problems but other than that he was doing WAY better than I was at that point in the race (at least nutritionally -- I fell apart at mile 27 and never really got my stomach back, he was totally fine)!
Funny side note here, being on the "other side" of an Ultra, I came to the conclusion it is SO similar to being a party where everyone else is drunk and you are totally sober. Seriously, participants are staggering, slurring (especially in this race when their lips are frozen), not making any sense, have to have people take care of them and have emotions all over the board. They also look (not all of them, but most) like the walking dead when they come into an aid station.
Makes me question wanting to do another on, but not too much.
I did notice something right away about our runner; he was taking a ton of time getting what he needed in the aid station. This was not a factor at all as he was way ahead of cutoffs, but I made a mental note to keep an eye on this if we got close later in the race.
We then drove to mile 65 to prep and wait for him to switch pacers. He slowed down a lot at this point but was still looking strong and way ahead of the cut offs at this point so no worries.
This was a cool aid station as it was right on train tracks (btw, either this aid station didn't exist in my race or I totally blacked out cause I don't remember it at all) so we got to see about 4 trains go past while waiting. We also helped a little guy who was totally hypothermic and had lost his crew -- he never was able to get warm again and didn't finish the race but it felt good to get him a blanket and try to warm him up a bit. It was getting progressively colder, ended up getting down to right at 30 degrees with wind up to 25mph, very tough race conditions.
David Y came in still feeling good and about 2 hours ahead of the cut offs, he had lost a bit of time but was still doing fantastic! He again took way too much time in the aid station again and picked up David W for his pacing duties.
I was now free until picking him up at mile 85. He left mile 65 at 12:50am so I figured at his current pace he would be at mile 85 around 6am.
I was wrong, of course, but more on this later.
Anyway, at this point I had to take Mark back to his car at mile 41 so he could go home, no problem and he smelled fantastic at this point so I really enjoyed being in a heated car with him for about an hour! Actually, he really didn't smell bad, that or my truck just perpetually smells like the sweat of trail running -- probably the latter. We got to know each other and guess what.....
He, and David W, were not long term close friends with David Y either!
So, back to the nature of trail running and ultra running / runners in general. Here we are, 3 guys who are barely acquainted with this gentleman and we are driving to Alabama on a Saturday night, to stay up all night, in the cold, to crew and pace him and help him to the finish.
And loving every minute of it! Giving back feels good!
So, I drop him off at mile 41 and, of course, my GPS on my phone is not working so I have no idea how I am going to find the mile 85 aid station (I have directions from aid station to aid station but that would be brutal and probably not the quickest way to get back).
Bam, first of many God moments -- Mark has already printed these directions for me! Between the 3 of us we had it all figured out. Well, the 4 of us with God.
So, I drive about an hour on deserted country roads, at 2am, very tired at this point and find the mile 85 station. So glad I rushed so I could....
Now a funny part about this race and the clock. Picture this.
1. It is 2:50am Alabama time.
2. Which is really 1:50am Alabama time cause the clocks changed this night.
3. Which is actually 2:50 "Pinhoti time" cause they don't change the clocks in the race till it is over.
4. All the clocks in my truck are still on Atlanta time which is an hour ahead of all this.
5. So, what the heck do I do when I set my alarm on my phone, which btw, has automatically adjusted for the time change at 2am!
This is tougher than the running part, for me at least.
So I finally figured it out, I calculated that he should be at this aid station at around 6am so I set my alarm for 5am to allow for changing time, hot soup, etc. and I planned on being there at 5:30am to be safe and allow for the impossible, which would mean he got faster at mile 65-85 in a 100 miler, at night, in the freezing cold.
So, I actually fell asleep in my truck (I brought a pillow and sleeping bag) for about 30-45 minutes and when my alarm went off...
I had no idea where I was and totally freaked out, the only clock I could see was the one in my truck which was Atlanta time -- I had overslept!!!
OK, took me about 2 minutes to come back to reality and I figured out I was OK, it was about 5:15am "Pinhoti Time".
And I was frozen.
I had turned off my truck cause it was so warm when I fell asleep. I started it and shivered for a bit before I started to get ready.
I won't lie, this is when the "so happy to help a guy I hardly know" started to not make much sense. Thought a lot about my family at home sleeping in their warm beds and the thought of getting out of my car and waiting freezing by a fire was not very appealing! Actually, if I knew I would just walk up and start running, it would not have been bad -- but based on my last experience pacing when I waited by the fire for hours for "Silent Bob" I had a feeling that would not be the case.
I then took some time to pray. And the first thing that came to mind were people in the military. They deal with situations SO much worse than this and sacrifice SO much for others, how could I even think of complaining or that this was not a great thing to do. I was helping another human achieve and impossible goal, and it was made even better that I really didn't know him!
I got dressed, had some hot soup (yep, the ridiculously expensive thermos from REI was working great and totally worth it) and headed to the aid station.
When I got out of my car I actually thought I might be over-dressed, it didn't feel too bad. Man, I am so glad I didn't take off a layer!
When I got to the aid station at about 5:30am, it was still pitch dark and SO cold (especially when the wind was whipping). Last year this was my favorite part of the night, it was a beautiful night and every one was talkative and in a great mood.
Not so much this year.
I have rarely been so cold sitting doing nothing. We were rotating our bodies like pigs on a rotisserie to keep every section warm! I couldn't imagine how the runners who had not prepared with a warm change of clothes were feeling! I prayed for them, and David, and waited.
Turned out this section took him 7.5 hours (my estimate was 5) so he showed up around 7:20am and we started "running" at about 7:35am (again, too much time in the aid station). The one upside of this was the sun had come up and it had warmed up a bit, in fact as soon as I started moving I was fine. At this point we had 5.5 hours to "run" 15 miles which sounds like a lot, however, at one point he was about 3 hours ahead of the cut offs, he had lost so much time in the last section he was now only 1 hour ahead. At this rate of decline he would not make the 30 hours and that would NOT happen on my watch!
I knew he didn't have the luxury of walking the final 15 miles like I did, I would need to make him run most of it, and not take a lot of time in the aid stations.
I was fine with this role and looked forward to it!
David was still doing really well -- he sat down by the fire and we got him food, whatever he needed but then he started to shiver and my "type A" driving personality made it's first showing, "lets get out of here"!
The first thing I noticed was that he was able to run (not fast, but definitely running) whenever I asked him to. This was in complete contrast to my experience in that I basically walked the final marathon of my race! He also argued with me much less than “Silent Bob”, who was not so silent when I asked him to run.
I was actually not sure how he could be so close to the cut offs. The first 1/2 of his race he ran at the 24 hour pace so he "banked" 3 hours, what was going on? He was still running, he had no blister issues, no hypothermia issues, no orthopedic issues (the knee pain had gone away), nutrition was good, really he was in amazing shape!
I figured it out in the next 15 miles, more on this later.
The next thing I noticed was that David is the polar opposite of "Silent Bob". With Bob, we can go for long, long stretches without saying a word (this is tough for me as I am more like "Chatty Bob" but once I get into it I actually like it, plus you can run faster when you don't talk). With David I quickly realized that keeping him talking would not be one of my jobs, in fact I couldn't get a word in most times!
This was another very good sign that he was running well within himself and we would not blow up or fall into a "death march" anytime soon.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the first section. He was running well, the weather was perfect, there was actually frost on the ground and the sun coming up glistening off of it was amazing. I kept trying to get him to be in the moment and take it all in. David is a spiritual guy so references to being thankful to the Lord for what he was able to do were touching him, I could tell!
Also, I won't lie, after 12 hours of crewing, driving, waiting and more waiting, it felt good to be actually running!
We made it to the first of our 2 aid stations (mile 89.6) very quickly (for this stage and based on his prior pacing) and gained 15 minutes on the cut off! It helped that the sun was up, the final 15 miles are the easiest of the race and that I was dead set on getting him there in under 29 hours (he doesn't know this till now) instead of 30 -- I wanted him to enjoy the end, not be freaking out about making the cut off!
I also was keeping a very, very cool secret!
I had been keeping his adult son up to date on his progress and he had told me he and his two daughters were planning on surprising him at the finish.
How freaking cool is that?
A great surprise and also an "ace in the hole" for me in case he ever tried to quit, I could leverage that little gem to get him to run on a broken femur!
Again, he tried to take his time at the aid station and I would not have any of it, in and out, we had to move!
The next 5-6 miles to the final aid station were un-eventful, I kept getting him to run as much as possible and kept a close eye on the clock.
He was doing great, I was getting confident he had this in the bag!
Another interesting observation occurred during this sections. Remember how I said people look, and act, like they are severely intoxicated in these things? Well, you know how a drunk person's personality tends to be an exaggeration of their "normal" personality?
The same thing happens in ultras. For example, I tend to be a bit (ok, a lot) of a Type A, Alpha Dog, controlling, all around jerk and during my 100 I am sure I was 10x my normal "jerkiness".
Well, David is a super nice, caring and type B personality and this was multiplied in the race. He was super nice to his team, all the volunteers, every other racer he meet, etc. He was also totally submissive to my orders! When I told him to run, 99% of the time he did! He did negotiate a bit on pace and distance, but for the most part he did whatever I told him.
Scary, I am very glad he picked someone who cared about his wellbeing!
There were even points where he would say "I really have to go to the bathroom, I am sorry, is that OK that I take a break".
Ask my pacers if that is what I did when I had to go! Or what I would say when my final pacer, Troy, asked me to run. Not so much.
What a great guy!
Of course, I said: "NO!". Lol.
We reached the final aid station and our time was about the same, about 1:15 ahead of the cut offs.
David wanted to sit down, see above, of course he asked me if that was OK. We then encountered the best, by far, aid station worker I have ever met. This woman had it all down perfectly -- giving him a list of options instead of asking him what he wanted, giving him hot fluids, checking on him but all the while keeping an eye on the clock (she didn't have to, I was doing that part the whole time) and making him feel well taken care of. He was getting a bit too comfortable so I said it's time to go!
5 miles to go to glory!
Now, he really thought he could walk it in from here and I could tell he was about to ask me if we could. I pre-empted this question by telling him we didn't have a lot of time and would need to run where ever we could.
Again, he probably could have walked the whole 5 miles and made it in 29:45 or so, but I didn't want that for him.
More importantly, I knew he was just tired -- he didn't have any major issues and was fully capable of running, at least the downhill’s and flats, so I was going to push the issue.
I could tell he heard me cause his whole demeanor changed and he started understanding what I was saying when I said "everything you do from here on in has to have a purpose and a feeling of purpose -- run with a purpose, eat with a purpose, walk with a purpose, drink with a purpose - gosh darn it, pee and poop with a purpose"!
As we got closer to the finish I started really pumping him up, getting him ready for his moment!
Once I knew the finish line was around the corner it was time to really get him moving.
He asked me, more than once, if I cried when I finished and I told him I did, when I saw my kids run up to me about a mile out. I think he was looking for permission to let it out as I could tell he was getting emotional.
So was I!
We could see the stadium and I hugged him and told him it was an honor to help him finish, he started to cry and so did I (I am tearing up writing this!). He could barely breath, not from running, but from the emotion -- and he hadn't even seen his family yet!
We turned the corner on the track and I said -- "Are you ready for the surprise?" (I had told him we had a surprise at the finish at about mile 99 but he didn't know what it was and was really mad at me at that point for making him run so he didn't really register what I was talking about). He said "what surprise"? I said, look at the finish line! He still didn't see them or get it so I said "How about those 3 people yelling DAD!" -- He got it and broke down!
What a cool moment!
He finished in 28 hours and 40 minutes (43% of the starters dropped out) -- he had made up 20 minutes of the time he had lost in the last 15 miles of a 100, what an accomplishment!
Praise, praise, praise God.
Without him, nothing is possible.
I was my pleasure and honor to be a small part of your day, David Y. Rest well!
Postscript: I was gone a total of 21 hours from Atlanta, probably driving 8-10 of those, running 4.5 hours and crewing and waiting the rest. Crazy but amazing.