Category Archives: Trail Banter

From my DNS to an American record all in a single day!

Robert Goyen, Race Director for Trail Racing Over Texas, announced over the loudspeakers “…cheering in the American Record for the 50 miler, great job Caroline”.

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Caroline Boller, 50-mile American Record Holder!   (PC: Anthony Stasulli)

This epic adventure began three-weeks prior at the Wild Hare 50 which was to be my last big training run prior to Brazos Bend 100mi.  While Wild Hare 50 was only to be a training run, the target was actually a top 5 finish.   31 miles into the race I began noticing some significant discomfort in my achilles and made the decision to end the race with a 50k PR rather than to risk injury that could potentially take me out of my BB100 race.   As expected, I kicked myself the entire way home knowing that I would have gotten a 4th place finish at Wild Hare and a new PR for both the 50k and 50mi (all while on a training run).

On November 29th I visited the doctor to check my achilles (at the direction of my coach) and there was significant concern by the doctor that I have a potential tear in my achilles that would block me from making it even half way through BB100 without serious injury.   So I left the doctor with an MRI appointment for December 16th and chalking up a future DNS at BB100.  The previous year of training was leading up to this single race and in an instant, it was taken away.  The announcement of me dropping from the race put a plan in motion that was going to introduce a silver lining that I could have never possibly imagined and looking back I am so thrilled that everything played out the way that it did.  On November 30th I was asked to crew Caroline Boller on her 50mi American record attempt!

Now for those that know me, I am probably borderline OCD when it comes to planning, data analysis, and tracking “stuff”.  I began working with Caroline right away to make sure that she had absolutely everything she needed to make her record attempt a success.  Together we worked through her nutrition plan, race goals, likes, dislikes, what has worked and what hasn’t, and every little bit of detail I could possible learn about her in just 9-days!   (Did I mention I am borderline OCD when it comes to planning?)  I even had a lengthy discussion with my coach Karen Kantor just to make sure there was nothing that I may be missing and to hear her thoughts and perspective on things!

So over the years I have crewed a lot of different runners and I have learned so much about crewing from watching Meredith Terranova crewing her husband Paul (and vice-versa).  They are so in-sync when it comes to crewing because they KNOW one another.  They know how to pull each-other through the lows, how to keep one another focused, and how to get one another through a race seamlessly.   In my eyes, this was the standard when it comes to crewing and I had to do the same! (OCD again…)

For the next 9-days leading up to the race I monitored the weather models and provided continues updates to Caroline on the condition of the trails, weather, and any and all course changes.   Once we were confident on the weather and course, Caroline put together her final race plan.  It is at this point that the OCD REALLY kicked in!  I began detailing out the race and the aid station transitions down to the minute to include determining the time that I had to transition between aid stations with the 10-20mph speed limits that are enforced within the park.   Once my planning and analysis was completed I printed out numerous “race cards” to put in the drop bags and in the vehicle (which my wonderful wife Elizabeth even laminated), so there was always a point of reference along the way.

These details are what made me realized that with Caroline’s planned pace I would not be able to make it between two aid stations (which was the start/finish) before her and the start/finish aid station was a major transition point.  My son, who was going to originally be pacing me at BB100, offered to assist!   In order to do this, it means that at 3 points during the race I had to run from one aid station to the next carrying her drop bags and get everything ready for her arrival before she made it there!

The last few days leading up to the race I mentally rehearsed the entire plan to make sure everything was accounted for.  If myself (or my son) were off in the slightest, it could have resulted in minutes being taken away from Caroline’s finish time and people that know me, know that wasn’t going to happen!    With 11 aid stations even just 5 seconds per aid station was going to be an extra minute!   My goal was 0 seconds per aid station (yes ZERO!).   Like I said, one of my goals was to exceed the standard!

Friday we made arrangements to meet at the packet pickup to do one final walkthrough of the race and make sure we both had everything we needed, hand-over drop bags, and make final coordination for race day.   This is when yet another silver-lining presented itself!   While I was at the registration table, Caroline told me to pick up a pacer’s bib to pace her on her final loop.   Really!?  Without a single sliver of hesitation, I gladly signed the waiver and picked up my bib.  Really, I was going to pace Caroline as she set an American Record!!  My plan was to only go out with her if things were looking bad and she NEEDED a pacer.  I knew how my achilles felt and I knew what distance I could cover at a sub-7 pace before pissing it off really bad.  I knew exactly what was on the line for Caroline and what her goals were going into this race.  I had determined at what point I was going to push that threshold and pace her.  My job was to get her across the line and set an American record and that is what I wanted to do!  While she never needed me to pace her and was WELL ahead of the goal, I do regret not taking her up on the opportunity to pace her on the historical event.  That’s ok though!  Next time I WILL pace her!  J

The 50mi race was going to begin at 7am but I had plans to be at the start line at 6am to see off the 100 mile runners.  As I had done the year prior (and will do for every year hereafter) was to come to the race as The Grinch and lead the runners across the start line!   Every race that I volunteer at for Trail Racing Over Texas, I come in a costume!  For me it is a way to motivate the runners and make everyone smile!

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The Grinch is ready!

Shortly before 7am Caroline arrived at the start line ready to go!  We synced up briefly just to make sure there were no changes in the plan and to see how she was feeling and if there was anything I needed to know about.  She was rock solid and ready to go!  The only thing left to do was hammer down the trail!   At 7am, like I had done with the 100mi runners, I took off down the trail with some amazing runners in tow; it was officially time to put the plan into motion!

Caroline was going to be running three 16.67 mile loops and the plan was to meet her at 3 aid stations per/loop (in addition to the start line).  Do that math; that meant that in order to make it around Brazos Bend State Park (with the 10-20 mph speed limit) and her planned pace, we were going to be moving!

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Transitioning through 40-Acre Aid Station  (PC:  Anthony Stasulli)

At each aid station I was ready with her planned replacement bottle and everything extra (in-hand) that she may need along the way.  Luckily all of the aid stations where positioned in such a way that we had about a 50-100′ warning before she arrived.   As planned, each aid station transition went off flawlessly!   Caroline was able to move through each aid station and grab her replacement bottle and update on her time without breaking pace once.  With each passing aid station, the gap between her current time and goal time grew.  2 minutes ahead, 4 minutes ahead, 7 minutes ahead, and by the final few aid stations she was 11 minutes ahead of her goal time.

Aid Station Transition Video

After my last aid station transition I “ran” back to the start line with Caroline’s drop bag and warm clothes to prepare everyone at the start for her arrival;  based on her pace I had estimated her arrival at the finish around 12:47.   As the last few minutes ticked down Robert announced that Caroline was on her way in and would be, in a few minutes, breaking a 20-year American record.  Everyone with a camera began crowding around the finish line to include the camera crew from Sierra films to capture this historic event.  Luckily Anthony arrived just a few minutes before Caroline finished so he was also able to witness and take part in her crossing the line and take pictures too!

I grabbed Caroline’s finisher medal and Robert Goyen and I stood in the middle of the trail waiting as Caroline made the turn towards the finish line.   Caroline crossed the finish line at 12:48 and set a new American women’s 50-mile trail record with a time of 5:47:01 and also set a new course record beating Ford Smith’s 2014 time by only 9 seconds!

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Awarding Caroline with her 50mi Finisher’s Medal (PC: Trail Racing Over Texas)

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From Left:  Me, Robert Goyen, Caroline Boller, and Anthony Stasulli (My son)  (PC:  Trail Racing Over Texas)

It was an absolute honor to be asked to crew Caroline and the raw emotion that existed as she crossed the finish line setting the new American record is something that words simply cannot explain.

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Team Caroline and the end to an extremely memorable race!  (PC:  Anthony Stasulli)

Ginger Runner Post-race Interview!

Caroline, thank you again for allowing me to take part in this wild adventure with you!  You can call me anytime to crew you and next time, without a doubt, I am going to take you up on that offer to pace you!  One of these years when the lottery likes me at Western States we can switch places (although there won’t be any record setting for me!  haha)

 

Stop and love the trails!

My running nearly always takes me to the trails.  Trails are always changing, take me away from the busy roads, and allow me to find a calm that I can’t find elsewhere while running.

This past weekend my wife and I hosted a “group run / product demo” at Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnett, TX.  My wife deserves so much more credit.  None of this would have been possible without her.   She did so much to make this a reality!  The plan for this event was to share those trails with others and give people a chance to try the products that I personally love and use.   For many, their exposure to different products comes at races and races are the last place you want to be trying something new.  This event provided a fun relaxed atmosphere where people could try many different products without worrying about any negative impact to their race.

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All of the samples and product demos for the run!

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A few of the prizes provided by the amazing sponsors!

A few of us arrived early on Friday to get the trails (course) marked for our group runs.   Tammy, Roel, and I set out around 2:30 to mark the 10k course while a nephew of the ranch owner set out on his mountain bike to mark the 9mi course.   I am so grateful that the ranch assisted us in marking!  We were actually going to start marking at 8am but there were some Airmen out on the ranch doing sniper training so we had to wait!   Had it now been for the ranch, we would not have gotten the courses marked!  It was during our course marking where a bit of realization it me. We have been running for years on such beautiful and miraculous trails;  we just never stopped (slowed down) to truly appreciate them.

The weekend started with a 5k night familiarization run followed by some time to relax around the campfire.  Unfortunately I didn’t make it out for this as I was assisting one of our runners get their camper situated.   The following morning we began the day with another 5k run followed by a door prize give away.  As soon as that finished, the group set out on a 9mi adventure around Reveille Peak Ranch.

As I logged miles Friday and Saturday on the trails of Reveille Peak Ranch something occurred to me;  I have never stopped to look at the ranch.   Much of my time at the ranch, prior to this, was during a race.  I have run a Captain Karls race on the ranch, which was during the night, as well s several other ultras on these trails.   Like many, my focus was on the trail in front of me.  Rarely did I get a chance to see what these trails offered to everyone.

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My typical view on the ranch; watching the trail.

 

This group run / product demo changed that!  I talked with another running in the group about this very thing.  It is amazing how much different these trails looked when you stopped to enjoy them.   The wild flowers and blue bonnets that riddled the ranch, the wildlife, the beautiful rock formations, and even the cactus.  When you stop to take it all in, it is like you are running someplace for the first time.  This is exactly how I wanted to spent my weekend;   Sharing that experience with friends.

So while this weekend was about giving others a chance to try out some amazing products on the trails it actually did so much more!   For me, this weekend was about finding something on the trails.  This weekend gave me a chance to really enjoy the trails, spend some time with some amazing people, and enjoy life.

Once I stopped to love the trails, this is what I really found…

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Our Saturday morning 5k to start the day!

 

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During the morning 5k I had to take a break to take in the view across the water from the rustic bridge!

 

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Another shot from the rustic bridge!

 

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T.R. discovered an amazing waterfall that we used as a backdrop for our group photo! Thanks T!

 

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When you cross a sign that says “Epic” it demands a group photo with an Epic Bar!

 

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Running up the granite on the way to Decision Point (The cross)!

 

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Some of the cacti out on the ranch looked absolutely amazing! Hearts and flowers… Simply had to take it! One of the runners made a comment. “This is a reminder that love can be prickly at times!” 😀

 

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This cactus actually made me laugh; I call it “Cyclops Mickey Mouse”

This was going to be my last big group outing until September when I make an appearance at Franklin Mountains 50k.   In a few weeks I will be headed across the pond for four months.  I will miss you all!

This turned out to be such a great event!  Next year it will be a “Product Fat Ass”

Here are the amazing sponsors that made this event possible.  Be sure to visit their site and show your support!

At the end of the weekend it all came down to friends, family, and the trail community!

Our group photo before our 9mi run! PC: T. Roen

Our group photo before our 9mi run! PC: T. Roen

Burning Hot Durty Spur 30k Race Report! ;)

Many of you know me rather well so I am going to preface this race report with something that will set the stage rather nicely…

I do some REALLY stupid things sometimes (ok… a lot) and had I listened to my amazing wife, this race report would have turned out significantly different.

I have put off writing this for several weeks because it isn’t really a race report as much as it is a lesson on pain, stupidity, and of course sunblock.

I came home from Afghanistan on leave to accomplish 3 things. Go on a cruise, do a race with my son, and sit around being lazy with my family. The good part, I did them all!

It all started on April 11th when we boarded the Carnival Triumph in Galveston, TX. Liz, my MIL, and I were going on a 5-day cruise to Mexico. This was the 2d time we had done this cruise and we couldn’t wait. Our first day at see (April 12th) I thought it would be a great idea to get some sun out on the deck for 30 min (yes…I laid on my back for ONLY 30 minutes) while Liz took a nap. After 30 min my alarm went off and I walked back down to the room to meet up with Liz to go galavanting around the ship before getting ready for the evening’s formal dinner. Looked in the mirror and realized that it didn’t look like I got any sun.

We went back to the room to shower and get ready for dinner and that is when things started going south. I got in the shower and felt the odd sensation of being burnt on my chest and stomach. What was odd was it wasn’t red… it just burnt.

All during dinner it started hurting more and more. So not to ruin my running streak, after dinner we went back to the room and I hit the treadmill for a short 2mi run. Not to keep it short, but because it hurt to run. I went back to the room, took a shower, and that is when I REALLY screwed up. Apparently blisters had formed while running and they broke open in the shower and peeled off in chunks… MASSIVE chunks. That night in bed was miserable. No matter how I moved it hurt. I couldn’t lay on my back because the sheets would touch me. If I laid on my side it pinched and hurt and laying on the stomach… that simply wasn’t happening at all. The blistered that had peeled off in the shower now exposed freshly burnt skin and began blistering.

The remainder of the cruise consisted in a lot of pain killers and finding the softest clothing I could wear that would allow me to move without being in a lot of pain. Oddly enough I found that sweating cooled me off and made it feel temporarily better. This was helpful in that it allowed the streak to continue! Come to find out that everything we had tried to do was only making it worse. We used solarcaine, neosporin, milk lotion ($74 lotion from the ship’s spa). Anything we could possibly find to relieve it we bought and used. The cruise was still amazing, but the painful part hadn’t gotten there yet.

Once we returned home I began living with my shirt off and wrapping myself in a wet towel. While this did absolutely nothing to help the “sun burn”, what it did do is make me feel relief for a little while. This is how we laid around during the day and how I slept at night. I even took a wet towel with us when we went somewhere so I could put it on in the car!

So where does this race come in? Well April 18th (1 week after getting burnt) Anthony and I had the Durty Spur 30k.

NOW we can get to the “race”!

Like all races, I prepared “Flat John” and made sure that I had everything I needed for the race. I kept asking myself how exactly i was going to do a 30k race report when it hurt to even move. Regardless…We were doing a race together and I was going to go toe the line!

Flat John!

The next morning we woke up and headed to the race.  The race was only about an hour away so the ride wasn’t too bad (with my wet towel).    We arrived, checked in, attached the bibs and timing chips, and patiently waited.

Arrived at Circle K Ranch!

Arrived at Circle K Ranch!

My plan when I registered for this race was to finish in 2:30.   Based on what I had been running in Afghanifunland I was confident that I could have accomplished that goal.   As we walked to the start line, I knew what the reality was.    I would be lucky to finish.  There were still blisters on my stomach, I was still bright red, and every time my shirt touched me it hurt.    I had my drop bag with Sarah (AJ’s girly friend) so I could come back and grab a fresh bottle of Tailwind after each loop and there were bottles of water and a towel so I could cool off the burn if needed.  This wasn’t going to be fun, but I was going to at least shoot for a finish!

(Have I mentioned yet that you should REALLY use sunblock out in the sun?)

There had been rain so the course was going to be muddy and wet.   I was actually hoping for it to rain on this race;  It may have made this a bit easier.

Before we knew it, we were off.   Each step off of the line hurt.  The vibrations up my body just happened to resonate perfectly with the blisters and the rubbing of my shirt.  I expected this to subside as we ran and I became sweatier but that never happened.  As a result, I held my shirt away from my body most of the time just to ease the pain a little bit.

My nutrition was spot on.  Like always I took a drink of Tailwind Nutrition every 10 min and other than the burn I felt awesome.   Several times on the first loop we somehow or another even started picking up the pace and logging 8:00 – 8:30 pace.   About a mile from the end of the loop I was starting to get excited… In just a few minutes I could get a cool wet towel and get some temporary relief while we did the entire thing again (total of 3 loops) and grab a fresh bottle of Tailwind.    One we approached the aid station that is when the run went from bearable to miserable.   The course was not setup to loop through the start/finish and I wasn’t going to get my wet towel OR a fresh bottle of Tailwind.   While we had only run 6mi so far… this was a pretty hard blow.   The start/finish line was only about .25mi away.  AJ ran off to get a refill but I could not.   At that point, if I went back to the start/finish… it would have been my finish.

I took off back down the trail, through the water crossing, and out into the field for my second loop.   I only had about 1/4 of my bottle of Tailwind left, had more blisters forming on my chest, legs, arms, and stomach… I just needed to keep moving.   About halfway through the loop AJ caught up with me.  I may have picked up the pace a bit when I got mad (ok…I did).

We looped back around at the end of the 2d loop and like before… I kept on running while AJ went back.  He did offer to grab me something but I was still just annoyed and didn’t care.

The third loop ended up being pretty crappy.   I had not had any Tailwind for the last 6 miles so I had to resort to the watered down gatorade that was at the AS.  The third loop ended up being a combination of walking and running.  It was getting warmer outside and the warmer it got, the more it burned.

Before long we rolled came to the end of the loop, back across the water, and crossed the finish line.   This was one of the shortest races I had done in awhile and was also the worst race that I had done.  Not that it was difficult physically, it was difficult mentally.   Every step I wondered what the fastest way back to the jeep was so I could get a cold towel to make the pain go away.  I was at a pretty low place.

Had it not been for Anthony, I never would have finished that race.   He stayed with me the entire race and we crossed the line together (although I beat him my 1/100th of a second! lol.   Running with him that day made me real proud and happy.  I could not have asked for a better day to spend with him.

The finish...

The finish…

Oddly enough, AJ and I both walked away with an AG award.   AJ finished 2d in his age group and I finished 3d with a time of 3:01.   Looking back would I do it again?   ABSOLUTELY!    I had the best time that day with my son…

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You are probably wondering what happened with the burn?   Well I was scheduled to fly  back to Afghanifunlan on April 27th.   April 21st (now 10 days after getting burnt) I finally broke down and went to the doctor.   I still had blisters all over my chest and stomach and if it didn’t go away, I was going to have the WORST 21 hours imaginable on an airplane….  When the doctor walked in we talked about Afghanifunland and the cruise and I told him I may have gotten a little sun on the ship if he could give me something to relieve the burn…  When I showed him my chest and stomach his said “Oh my god, you have got to be in some serious pain… We need to take care of you!”

I walked out of the doctor that day with 5 tubes of steroids to treat the open second degree burns…

For everyone… Don’t do a 30k road race with open second degree burns… It is not a wise decision and ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS listen to your wife!!!  Love you honey!!!

That was an awesome vacation! 😀

I made it…Running Asscrackistan!

Well it has been a little over a month since my last race report about Sugarloave’s Ultra Vista and thought it was about time that I share with everyone a little about where I will be sleeping (and training) until the end of the summer. My latest journey began on February 13th when I deployed out of Fort Bliss, TX headed for Asscrackistan.   This is the first time that I have deployed since 2010 (and honestly didn’t think I would be deploying again).  LIke everything else, things are never what you expect and always happen for a reason.   In the last 10 years I have been deployed 12 times  (If you do the math, that means I deployed 11 times in 5 years);  I deployed A LOT.   You can say that I am very familiar with both Iraq and Afghanistan.    This trip is actually being broken into 2 deployments.  I am actually turning around and coming home in April so that my wife and I can go on a cruise!!

"Home" for the next 7 months....

“Home” for the next 7 months….

Now that I have been on the ground here at Bagram Airfield a few weeks I can honestly say that things are pretty good here.  My day can be wrapped up into 4 things… Working, Eating, Sleeping, RUNNING.  The office conditions are really no different than they have always been.  Yes, the office is bigger, but it is still an office in Afghanistan.   What that means is sand, dirt, mud, and dust.. put easier.. It is Asscrackistan!  Looking around I can’t really put my finger on anything that I would change so that is a good thing!  Being that I spend about 14-15hrs in the office everyday, it better be good! I think the best part about this deployment is that I am working nights.   I work from 2000 – 0800 everyday.  In reality, that actually breaks down to about 1900 – 1000 since I have to be early and I can never seem to leave when I am supposed to.  Then again, what else am I going to do?  I never thought I would like nights but it really is PERFECT.   Working nights I can get far more work done since there isn’t as much moving around.  There are very few people in the office with me (one actually) and things like the PX are closed.   The other, and best part about working nights is I am pretty much synced up with the states.  What that means is I can talk to Liz all night long if I wanted.   On my previous deployments I was working days so she was always asleep when I was working and she was awake while I was sleeping.   This time it is AWESOME!  It also doesn’t hurt that we have commercial internet in the office!  😉    The other (much shorter part of my day) is spent in Infantry Village at my room.  This only equates to about 7hrs a day.  The ret of that time I am running or working, but when I am there things are really pretty good!

Nightstand next to my  bed!

Nightstand next to my bed!

My bed is "wrapped" in the blanket my daughter got me for Christmas :)

My bed is “wrapped” in the blanket my daughter got me for Christmas 🙂

While there is some snow... Porto-Potties are still crappy!

While there is some snow… Porto-Potties are still crappy!

View from near the office... MOUNTAINS!

View from near the office… MOUNTAINS!

Rocking the Victory Designs Trucker Hat!

Rocking the Victory Designs Trucker Hat!

My life with chicken boobs and rice!

My life with chicken boobs and rice!

Since arriving I have ventured out around the Airbase looking for loops and segments of varying distances that I can use to train on over the next 7 months. That is one of the great things about being here at Bagram. I can easily get in 8-10mi loops to do my long run training. My focus while I am here is going to be working and running (perhaps some sleep tossed in there as well). There are period races here (only 5k and 10k) but they still give me an opportunity to get out and stretch the legs. Aside from that, I have 7 months to prepare for Cactus Rose 100. While I won’t have the hills, I can work the hill training on the stair climber and treadmill. Unfortunately all of the running miles will be on the road (or shoulder of the road); no trail runs in my near future. This year has really kicked off great for me when it comes to training and running.

Running the perimeter wall on my 8.5mi loop

Running the perimeter wall on my 8.5mi loop

Rain...uggh!

Rain…uggh!

My loop was a tad flooded for a WEEK!

My loop was a tad flooded for a WEEK!

Ready to hit the road!

Ready to hit the road!

This year I am an ambassador for both Tailwind Nutrition and SKORA Running. I couldn’t ask for more! SKORA are my go to shoe for just about everything. I wear SKORA Forms as a daily shoe (even here in Afghanistan) and the majority of all of my training is done in either Fits or the new TEMPO! For Tailwind it is easy… It is like running without my watch…The run is just not the same if I don’t have my Tailwind. I won’t dare venture off to a hard or long run without it!! I can’t thank SKORA and Tailwind Nutrition enough and can’t wait to have them in my corner on this year’s (and many more) races! Until next time… 😉  http://www.skorarunning.com  and http://www.tailwindnutrition.com

#RunReal SKORA Ambassador!!

#RunReal SKORA Ambassador!!

2015 Tailwind Trailblazer!

2015 Tailwind Trailblazer!

Next up I will be running my Army Marathon Shadow run here at Bagram.  This isn’t an organized event but a way for me to show my support for our military as well as the Race Director, Ed Bandas.  This will be our 3d year doing the Army Marathon!  If you have not already done it, join us next year!    Registration will be opening in September!  😀 😀   Visit http://www.thearmymarathon.com for more information or get a hold of me!

Bibs are ready for The Army Marathon - Afghanistan!

Bibs are ready for The Army Marathon – Afghanistan!

Now you have an idea of my life for the next 7-8 months!   Get ready… There may be a “shoe review” coming soon 😉

Until next time, run your own run!

~J

Sugarloaves Ultra Vista Trail Race Report

When I found out I would be deploying to Asscrackistan out of Ft Bliss, TX the first thing I did was looked for some kind of race to do while I was out there.   For the longest time, all I found was a collection of 5ks to do in El Paso.   While it wasn’t my favorite thing to do, I was going to start registering just so I could get a race in before deploying. One day this all changed when I stumbled upon a small race that was located in Vado, NM which was only a 30min drive from El Paso!    Even better, the race was only $35!  Who can turn down a cheap ultra!!! For the next few weeks I tried finding out anything I could about the race.  I uncovered 2-3 race reports, very few photos and Mark Dorion’s (the Race Director) blog.    So what did I learn?  I learned that there was not a lot to find out about this race in the middle of the desert. After reading Mark Dorion’s blog there were things that jumped out at me:  “These trails are VERY challenging after dark, even for experienced runners.”  I don’t think I had even run a trail race that warned of the hazards of running at night.  Hell, I have run Joe’s races at night;  I honestly believe he purposely places additional rocks and roots on this trails!  😉 Regardless of what the other race reports say or the Mark’s mention of the course being VERY challenging, I was going to go have fun at this race like I always do!   This is also going to be my last race before I deploy to Asscrackistan… It was going to be a blast! 🙂 For the week leading up to the start I routinely checked the weather.  With 350 days of sunshine per year, the odds were in my favor… Right?   Needless to say the 2 days leading up tot he race and race day were 3 of the days this year that were not going to be sunny.  In fact, it was cloudy, overcast, raining, and WINDY! Race day arrived and the only thing that changed was the wind.  Luckily the 30mph winds broken and the race was going to have easy 5-10mph winds.  MUCH better!  Unfortunately the rain didn’t break… Many of my training partners know how much I hate getting out of my car and running when it is raining.   If it starts raining after I have started, that is fine… it is just that first step in the rain… UGGH   Driving down I-10 towards Vado, NM was in the rain.  The road was wet, my wipers were on, and even the mountains in the distance were obscured by the yucky weather.   I did everything I could to push the negativity out of my mind.  The last thing I wanted to do was start the race with a negative attitude;  that was just going to make the entire race bad.

Headed into New Mexico on the way to the race!

Headed into New Mexico on the way to the race!

Mark’s directions to the race were perfect!  There were road closures at Vado, NM (actually the only exist to Vado, NM was closed) so you had to take a different exist about 3mi up the road.   His directions were spot on and after driving down a winding road into the desert I finally arrived at my destination!   Everything was wet, the clouds where covering half of the mountains off in the distance that I would be running towards.   I was just hoping for a change in the weather.

Arrival at Sugarloaves Vista Trail

Arrival at Sierra Vista Trail

As always, I arrived at the race early.   I was planning to use my car at the Start/Finish line as an aid station.   With such a short race loop, there was no need to stop at the Aid Stations on the course.   Once I arrived I once again made sure that I had everything I needed and arranged the back of the car so everything was convenient for me when I came in. This race proved to be very different.  Usually I attend races from my house and know that I have everything I need.  This race was planned out of my dufflebag that I would be taking to Asscrackistan.    One thing that always follows me to my races is my bag from Victory Sport Design.  No matter the race, there is something in this bag that will help me.   Well for Asscrackistan I downsized A LOT so that I could squeeze it in my dufflebag.   My firstaid pouch was gone, hand warmers, eye drops.    That’s ok.  I had my Tailwind Nutrition, my UD handhelds, and my SKORAs.   If I couldn’t make it through this race with those 3 things, I probably shouldn’t have been there to begin with!   Due to the forecasted rain and the fact that it had been raining the last 2 days I also brought 3 pair of socks along to make sure I at least started each loop with dry piggies.

Start/Finish Aid Station

Start/Finish Aid Station

I already knew this race was going to have a small field.   After I setup my aid station and picked up my race packet it was obvious how small of a field this really was.     The small area that we parked in, even with precision parking, was not going to hold more than 60 vehicles.    By the time the race started there were probably about 45-50 vehicles there and I would estimate about the same number of runners.

Start/Finish line area

Start/Finish line area

At 8:24 it was finally time to toe the line and hit the desert.  The rain had taken a break but Accuweather was nice enough to let me know that it wasn’t going to stay that way.   I had about an hour before the rain was coming back and I was going to get as many miles in as possible before the rain came back! The start of the race was a short 1mi out and back along the power line in and out of arroyos and soft sand.   This wasn’t that bad and gave me a chance to warm up the legs a little before we hit the real race loop that I would spend the remainder of the day on. No matter how hard I try, I always end up starting faster than I know I should but I wanted to get some ground covered before the rain came.  After the first 2 mi warm up I stopped at my “Aid Station” dropped my light jacket (I carried my rain jacket with me) stripped down to a t-shirt, and was off down the trails!    The course was a 3.5mi out and back that had some interesting terrain.  Their were really 3 sections.   The first mile was in and out of sandy arroyos and through a group of rollers.  No BIG climbs, but enough that when combined with the sand, was going to make the legs work towards the end.   The second section was about 1.5mi and was a flat MUDDY grass field.   Personally, this is the part that actually sucked the most.    For people like T.T. and A.B. this is best compared to our mud run at Pairie Haines.    Footing sucked;  every time I put my foot down I was sliding somewhere and this was before the rain started.    The last mile was a gradual climb out to the turn around point.   This was actually my favorite part of the course.  This was a hard packed trail with absolutely no mud.  There were a few rollers in here as well but it was a smooth running trail!      Leaving the muddy field you cross under an old A-Frame powerline.   The first time running under it was a tad creepy.  The humm from the powerline was VERY loud.  As you approach it, it almost sounded like rain or a giant rattle snake somewhere!  🙂 Just as I was approaching the turn-around point, the rain finally came in.   Luckily I was able to start the race without any rain so I could have cared less at this point (so I thought).   I put on my brooks jacket, turned around, and headed back down the trail towards the MUD.   By the time I got back to the mud field the trail had already filled with water.  This is when the run began getting slower and slower.   The good part is my SKORA Tempo shed mud PERFECTLY!   While my socks were SOAKED, the mud never really stuck to my shoes.   The wide tread pattern on the shoes and the flexibility of the sole made the mud fall off pretty quickly!  I could not have been happier.  Not once did I have to stop and kick off the mud… I just kept on moving.   As I was leaving the muddy section on the way back I went around a turn and that is when things started going down hill. I planted my foot and my body went one way and the leg went the other.   My groin muscle didn’t like that at all.   I didn’t HURT, but it was enough that I knew it was there and it would get progressively more nagging as the day went on. Even ever the rain started, the arroyos didn’t get that bad.   Each arroyo had 2-3″ of soft wet sand that you had to run through but there was never any standing water.   Up and down the arroyes and through the rollers and before I knew it I made the turn onto the jeep trail headed back to the Start/Finish aid station.   All throughout the course there were aid stations about every 2 miles.  These aid stations reminded me more of a Fat Ass run rather than a race.   There were painted cinder blocks with a case of water, a few Clif bars or Bonk Bars and s small bucket for trash.   I think what I liked most about the aid stations were the animals.  There were ducks, rabbits, walruses, snakes, all spread out across the course.  Seeing all of these animals actually reminded me a lot of my trails at Dana Peak park and made me think of my friends that I wasn’t running with.   I really missed running with T.T., T.R., N.D, A.B., and Rasta!   These little animals gave me a bit of home!   🙂 I ran past the start/finish, yelled out my bib number to the volunteers, and headed straight to my car to change socks and rotate bottles.   My plan was to take it easy out there and stick with a 12min/mi pace.  The first loop actually ended up being about a 10:48min/mi pace.  Someone was running way to fast, especially in the mud!  I needed to slow down!

First loop complete! 10:48 min/mi avg

First loop complete! 10:48 min/mi avg

I wasn’t out there to RACE…My plan was just to get out on the trail and have some fun.   Aside from swapping bottles and socks I also did a quick blast on social media on the race, chatted with my wifey, and then headed back out. The second loop was much slower than the first.  The combination of mud and the pulled groin muscle greatly assisted it!    My goal for this race was to keep my pace around a 12:00 min/mi.  Clearly that hasn’t happened up to this point!  After hitting the turn-around point for the second time the rain finally died down and the clouds were breaking!  At this point it didn’t much matter as the ground was already soaked and the center of the course was a mud fest but clear skies always make for a better run.  Now the mountain was actually coming into view and you could see everything around you! 🙂 As I came into the aid station I followed the same routine as before.  Swapped out the soaked soaks, grabbed new bottles, and did my typical social media blast.     I have to admit, the new SKORA Tempo did an amazing job once again at shedding the mud.   Even after stomping through all of the mud, the shoes really didn’t look that bad and never did I have to stop to clean them off.

2d Loop and looking pretty good!

2d Loop and looking pretty good!

After my 15-20 min break at the start/finish aid station my average pace when I rolled back out was an 11:42 min/mi.  That just means that despite my slower pace, and about 30min total of sitting around at the Aid Stations my pace was still faster than what I was expecting.  That’s still ok though… I was having fun! The 3d & 4th loop were pretty much the same.  By the 4th loop I was definitely feeling the effect of the mud and sandy arroyos but nothing that really “hurt”.    I tried dialing back the pace on the 4th loop and talked with people out on the trail, stopped to play with the little stuffed animals that adorned the course, relocated the snake to keep people guessing (someone else moved him too though!  lol), and just had fun and enjoyed the trail. After the 3d loop my pace (with the stops and taking in the scenery) remained much the same as the 2d loop.    Once again, swapped socks (STILL soaked), grabbed another bottle of Tailwind, and I was off.  This time I only spent about 10min at the Aid Station before I headed back out again.   The SKORA Tempo are still running strong and have taken everything I threw at them!

Finish of Lap 3

Finish of Lap 3

My only goal this day was to get out on the trails and get one last race before I deployed and that is what I did.   The way back in on the 4th loop all I could think about was finishing up the race and going to have dinner with the family!    As I was approaching the finish I ran in to Mark Dorion who I ran the last 1/4mi with.   I crossed the finish line and felt really good;   other than the slightly pulled groin muscle I felt GREAT.   Never felt winded, no nagging pains… I was just looking forward to dinner! lol Once I crossed the line I spent about 30 min talking with Mark and one of the other volunteers and told them how great of a race I thought this was and that I would definitely be back if given the opportunity!   It was considerably smaller than the other races I have been a part of and to be honest, I was a little concerned that there was not big buffet lines setup at the aid stations (even though I usually don’t eat off of them anyway).   None of that mattered at the race.  It was literally PERFECT! While I was talking with Mark after the race he handed me an envelope for a “Race prize”.   I didn’t look at it, I simply folded it up and put in inside my pocket.    That night after dinner I finally opened it up.  Mark had given me a free pair of shoes from Up & Running in El Paso!   Mark is an awesome guy and honored to have participated in his race.   If given the opportunity, you should definitely head out to Vado, NM and join him for one of his races.    You can find more info on his races at https://markdorion.wordpress.com/. I finally headed back over to my “Aid Station”, packed everything away and got ready to head back to my sister-in-law’s house to take a shower before dinner.   On the way out I had to stop by the “Sierra Vista Trail” sign for one last photo!

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One final shot at the trail head with my medal!

Race Results: 2d Overall, 1st Age Group!!

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Once again SKORA and Tailwind Nutrition came through.  The new TEMPO shoes rocked the trails like no other!  This is going to be an awesome shoe on the trail for ANYONE!    As always, Tailwind pulled through with no stomach issues, great taste, and had me finishing strong! I would not have been able to do this race without my amazing wifey.   Even with just a short amount of time left, she supported me going out there to run and I had an amazing time!   I love you honey! The next trail race I toe the line of will be Cactus Rose 100 in October when I return from Asscrackistan with some great friends!! On that note… time to head out for a recovery run! Thanks for reading everyone!  😉

Thoughts about “Crewing”…

So…   This post will, like all of my others, demonstrate what exactly goes on in my mind while running and show just how scatterbrained I really am!

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This morning I stepped out on a 20.15mi trail run.   It was “supposed’ to be 25mi but after dealing with the mud, sleet, and freezing rain on the trails I went with symbolism over miles.

This year, as I mentioned before, is going to be my year of running and reaching new milestones.   So why go in easy right?   Here is what I have planned for the year…

1.  2,015mi running
2.  2015 Running Streak (run at least 1 mile every day this year;  clearly if I am going to accomplish the first goal I will need a lot more than 1mi per day though)
3.  Cactus Rose 100 (ok… has nothing to do with 20.15mi run this morning but still a 2015 goal!)

Everytime I get out on the trails, road, etc for a run my mind wanders… I have done work, wrote code, had pretend conversations…you get the idea… My mind wanters.  There is never any rhyme or reason…it just bounces around…  Well today was no different.  Instead of my normal thoughts (as normal as one would call them) I actually went back to my crewing and pacing for Brazos Bend 100.    You already know my experiences from crewing and pacing Lynn and Norma, but there was still something missing that I needed to look at.  What did I learn about crewing.

Throughout the entire 20.15 mi run today I went over all of the drop boxes, the aid stations, things that happened at each of the aid stations, things that I wish I had with me, things I wish would have been in the drop boxes, where did I put my extra pair of green socks, what I was having for lunch today… You know…  🙂

SO I broke this down into a few areas…

  • Drop Boxes
  • Pacing
  • Triage
  • The Crew
  • The Next 100

DROP BOXES:  The drop boxes they had were well thought out.   They had both anticipated what they would need throughout the entire race at each location.    Not only did they have everything they needed, everything was packed neatly in LABELED zip lock bags (like “Feed me”).   Like life though… regardless of your planning, you will come across what you didn’t plan for… Brazos Bend 100 was no different.   Several times there were things that we needed (like socks, gloves, jacket, drugs, etc) that were not at the drop box we were approaching.    Luckily I had extra gloves and socks and one of our crew had an extra jacket…Honestly, none of that really matters…  The important part is that regardless of your planning… you will need what was not planned for.   Ideally you could have the exact same thing in each and every drop box this way regardless of which Aid Station you hit, you know it has everything you “planned” for.     The one thing that I also had them include in each of their drop boxes was a small notebook and pen.  My “theory” was that at each Aid Station the crew would update the book with the details of our runners when they came into the Aid Station.  I was looking for specifics:  What they ate, what they drank, what they asked for, what they complained about, ups, downs, etc.   I wanted to be able to go back in after the race and do some post-race analysis to determine what went right and better plan for the next race.    Needless to say I pulled a notebook out of the box once and wrote in it…   Great idea in my head (like many of my ideas), it just didn’t work out.     One thing that I think is going to be important in the future is making sure the CREW knows what is packed in what box.   There were several times that the crew ran around digging through boxes looking for things that the girls needed.    Next time the Crew needs to be involved with the packing.  🙂

PACING : This being my first time pacing for a 100mi I will post a bit of what I learned, what I may do differently in the future, and what I believe the most important thing that I took away from the race….

First, after pacing for Lynn on her 100, I believe that everyone should be part of a crew or pace a runner on a 100mi before they run one.  I actually learned more from pacing Lynn than I did in any of the books that I have read.   This was such a valuable experience, just being a pacer for her increased my confidence level for Cactus Rose 100 in October!

We had a remarkable group of pacers out there supporting both Lynn and Norma.  While all of the pacers were friends, Lynn and Norma both had a good friend as a pacer as well as a “seasoned pro”.    This distinction is actually very important.    Norma had her good friend pace her from the 50-75 and had the “seasoned pro” pace her for her final lap and to the finish line.   I liked this approach a lot and the reason is the “seasoned pro” knows exactly what it takes to finish that 100, exactly how to push her to finish, and can push her through the downs much better (and easier) than the good friend.

Now that said… I paced Lynn on her final loop… CLEARLY I am not the seasoned pro.   While I believe I did everything I should have done for her, it was also very hard to be that “bad guy” and push her to the finish.     All that considered, if I had to do it all over again… I would still want to be her last pacer 😀

This is actually where I learned the most of what additional things need to be staged in all of the drop bags (covered in “The Next 100”).

Like I mentioned in my actual Race Report, it is worth mentioning again!  I was given very vital advice from Liza Howard.  “Make sure you rest and take care care of your own hydration, nutrition, etc.) ”   Well as you read before, my focus on the final loop was on my runner and ignored myself.   I never filled my handhelds (I carried two) and I finished with one full one.    I bottle for 25mi was not wise, especially when my training is one bottle (200-300 calories of Tailwind) per hour.    I will just chalk that one off as self inflicted stupidity!  🙂

TRIAGE :  There were some hiccups here.   Lynn finished her first 25mi loop with hotspots and after mass chaos and confusion we ended up taking to long to take care of her and get her out of her.   There were a few things that attributed to our confusion.  We knew she had hot spots but weren’t expecting it to be that bad.   We didn’t have the right blister prevention items in the boxes so we relied on the aid station.  They had Trail Toes and Trail Toes Tape, but nothing that Lynn used before (You know… don’t use it if you didn’t train with it).    Then again, this isn’t something that she had gone through in the past so it was all going to be new.

In the future, I think we all just need to be more prepared to triage the runners coming in, get smart on HOW to triage them, and make sure that the start/finish drop boxes include a first aid kit that we can do anything (short of amputation).

THE CREW :  There really isn’t anything to say about the crew other than they were AWESOME!   Everyone was on top of what they were supposed to be doing, wanted to be there, and provided amazing support to Lynn, Norma, and anyone else that needed it.

Get the crew nailed down early… make sure people are committed, and have FUN!

THE NEXT 100 :  For many of us, the next 100 will be Cactus Rose 100.  The only difference is I will not be pacing this one!  I will be toeing the line and joining in the fun (finally).   I have done the training runs with everyone else, I just never took the step to sign up…  Time for a change! 🙂

So… what does all of this have to do with the Next 100?  Simple…  There are a few things that I found need to be included in the drop bags based on this past experience and while I may do all of the extra anal planning, there is still going to be something that I miss or didn’t plan for!   So what is next?

  • Pain killers – Whether this be Motrin, Advil, Hydrocodone… There needs to be some in each and every drop box/bag as well as carried in the Jurek Essential.  While you may never need it, taking a single pill can provide enough of a “mental” boost to push you further.
  • Ice packs – When we came upon the final aid station, all I wanted was ice to try and make some tendons happy…   Unfortunately the aid station had none.    A single ice pack in each drop box/bag (you know..the kind that you crack open) could be a life saver.
  • Blister Kits – Enough said… Blister kit, needle & thread, superglue… Needs to be in every drop bag and carried in my Jurek Essential.
  • Extra socks, gloves, hat, etc.    These can take up little space but they need to be stuffed in each box/bag as well.

The short of all of this is that I learned a lot and this single experience has given me a tad bit of a mental advantage for Cactus Rose 100 in October!

My message to ALL of you…  If you have not already done so, go crew/pace someone on a 100mi race.  It is such an amazing experience!

 

Until next time!  Laters!

 

~J

 

2014…It’s a wrap!

I sat here the last few days trying to figure out what I could possibly say about the past year.    As I sat here listing out the pros and cons of this past year I realized something;  There have been far more GREAT things that happened over this past year than there were negative things.    This year was riddled with happiness and excitement for my family.  There was an engagement, a granddaughter, a high school graduation, lots of friends, a new college student, an amazing family, and AWESOME friends.   There is not enough negativity or bad things that can take any of that away.

While I am going to touch on the great things, I am going to devote a little bit to the unpleasantries that came with 2014.     Frustration is when you unselfishly do nice things for people who respond by stabbing you in the back & when you defend yourself, you’re the bad one.  


2014… where to start.   2014 was going to be a great year and for different reasons than what I planned, it WAS!   Our daughter got engaged to her girlfriend,  our granddaughter was born, our youngest son graduated from High School (and started college), our oldest son was accepted to the El Paso police department and attended the academy (graduates 25 Jan), and I finally found “friends”.

What didn’t really happen was any major running milestones.  I ran, but every one of my running goals this year were hampered due to some type of random medical problem.     E.coli took me out of a race, tendonitis took me out of a race, random hospital visits kept me out of a race,  “border-line” Rhabdo took me out of a race, and a business trip took me out of a race.   Regardless of the race….some external force decided that there were better things for me to do.

As I look at my bib board that I collect my race bibs on, I realize that I only toed the line of 4 races(runs) this year.   For some this may be a lot,  but in 2013 there were months that I did 3 races in one month!  Due to all of my mishaps during 2014, those races just never happened.    To hear a little about those races that did take place, check out my other posts:

As I look back on 2014, something jumped out at me that I hadn’t realized until I actually sat down to write this.   This me, this was the year of family and friends and building bonds that I never knew could exist.    I found some sisters on the trails, some friends on the softball fields, and the unhappiness that came about this year is actually what made my year better (in a strange twisted kind of way).

Join me as I walk through the year.  Touch the ups, the downs, and what I have learned as we step into 2015!

1016442_10202408199039221_1436385361_nJanuary 2014 – Our newest “puppy” Athena decided that she wanted to be homeless.   The escape artist husky in her thought it would be a good idea to visit the surrounding countryside!  Athena found (actually made) a hole through the fence so she could explore (because our 4 acre yard just wasn’t enough for her).   Liz and I spent HOURS that night driving around looking for her, shining flashlights on a Bandito bonfire, and returned home empty handed.    I didn’t sleep that night at all.  The next morning I tried running on the trails and had to even cut that short;  I couldn’t focus on running not knowing where she was.   When I pulled into the driveway at home I saw a white glimpse of a dog on the neighboring property and quickly drove around to investigate.   As you can see in the picture….  It was her!    To this day, the hole in the fence still exists!   Athena experienced homeless life once and apparently doesn’t want to go back to that! 🙂

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February 2014 – The highlight of February was a baby shower.  Not any baby shower, but the baby shower for our Granddaughter.    We went to El Paso (that seems to have happened a lot this year) and I was allowed to break into my balloon decorating skills and decorate for the baby shower!   Our family had a balloon store when I was shorter and I would decorate for weddings, birthdays, etc.   It was fun to do that again even though this was a much smaller scale!    Granddaughter…. I will talk about that soon!  No need to get into that just yet!  😉

March 2014 – March can be summed up with one thing…The Army Marathon!   Get the details at https://johnstasulli.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/the-longest-marathon/ .    In addition to the Army Marathon and my “make-up” run, I found a friend.     Thank you Ed for everything you have done!

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April 2014 – This was a very special month for me.   While a lot of things happened, I am going to focus on the most important.   In April my wife and I celebrated our 20 (yes TWENTY) year anniversary!   She is not only my wife but my best friend and look forward to every day we spend together.   She is my world and comes first about everything else.   So… in April we took our anniversary pictures.   Let me say that I can’t recall when we ever took great pictures.   That changed for our anniversary.  All I can assume is that Amber (http://www.ads-photography.com/) did some sort of magic behind the camera!    We took so many pictures that day, but I think this one is my favorite.   🙂10273880_10203094478755785_6584475047624612548_n

The other thing that happened in April was Endurance Outfitters (http://enduranceoutfitters.com/) and great friendship in Tiffany and Joey.    Joey was there with me the day that I did my Army Marathon make-up.  Him and his wife are both amazing people and only fitting that it was them that turned us on to Amber who took our amazing anniversary photos!   While I wish we could have done more to help Joey and Tiffany with the store, it was great to be able to help Joey build the store and get it opened!   In a strange sort of way we feel part of the store when we go in there!  😀   Thanks guys!  You two mean a lot to me!

Let’s not forget the second hospital visit!!  I REALLY wish I could get another Fall Risk bracelet!   If any of you can get me one, PLEASE send it my way!   I wore this until it finally fell off!  lol

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May 2014 – While several things happened in May, there is really only one thing worth mentioning… That is our granddaughter.    First, I also turned 40 in May  (feel like 20, but anyway) and in my mind it was very hard for me to grasp that I was a grandfather (Papa).   That just didn’t seem right to me.    It is amazing and extremely exciting that we have a granddaughter…I just wasn’t entirely convinced that I was mentally ready for that!     10155243_10203157848419987_8689224316467781916_n  So since we are talking about our granddaughter I am going to talk about me and kids for a moment.   I have never really been a fan of kids…. Not all kids by any means.  Just infants, toddlers, children, teens, adults… Hmmm  ok.  I get it.  It probably isn’t just kids.  I am just not a fan of people in general!      I have never been a really been overly fond of holding infants.   Not that I won’t, I would just prefer not to.   I will play with them if others are holding them…I just never really felt comfortable doing so.   Well on my birthday (May 18th) I did hold her!  🙂  So tiny, fragile, and beautiful..  I AM a grandfather and couldn’t be happier.
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Something else happened in May that is worth mentioning… I  became the new owner of a Big Green Egg for my Birthday!   I have wanted one of these for YEARS but it came at a cost (other than the obvious of course).     I traded my Big Green Egg for the Capt’n Karl 60k series that summer!   In hindsight, I wouldn’t have been able to run all of them anyway due to injuries and illness so it all worked out.   If I could do it again, we would still have the Egg!  We use it constantly and the food that comes off of it is AMAZING!   My wife is simply amazing!  Thank you again honey 😀10373850_10203220335182117_7432188012550670055_n1511451_10204401660154503_1689193584445046969_n10269098_10203267664445319_2436802301119323072_o

June 2014 – Anthony got a bit older!   Anthony graduated from High School!  That means we are almost empty nesters!  None of our kids will ever be gone from our home, but we no longer have to enjoy the “fun” of school every year!   All of our kids have grown up to be such amazing people!  We couldn’t be more proud of them!

It was awesome seeing AJ graduate!  I had been deployed for all of the others so this was the first time getting to sit in the stands and cheer him on!   I am really proud of everything that he does and know that he is going to turn into an amazing young man!

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July 2014 – It was summer… what can I say…  I ran, spent time on the Kayaks, and went to the lake with our amazing family!   Simple as that 😀

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September 2014 – A lot  happened in September and each one was a result of the previous event!  We started off September in Hamburg, Pennsylvania visiting my family.   We make this trip every year and it is always a great time.   I always run while up there but this time I ran a 15mi segment of the Appalachian Trail from my home and ran to Pulpit Rock.    While I call it a “run” over half of the trail was unrunable do to the rocks.  Regardless, it was an amazing time!  While I had been on the trail before growing up, this was the first time I actually ran it!   I can’t wait to do it again!  🙂

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While the trip to Pennsylvania was GREAT, I forgot to do something.  I forgot to take care of myself!   While in Pennsylvania I have a tendency to forget about water and drink Guers Iced Tea (TRUST ME!).   Well I had organized an event back in Killeen for 9-11.   I had organized a 9hr 11min run for Team RWB (which would unfortunately become my last event with the organization) around a 1 mile track.   Physically I felt great going into it.   The goal was to keep a single flag moving for the entire 9hr 11min and had a roster of people that were going to do just that.    The day actually turned out to be considerably hotter than expected.    From the moment we started the run I continued to put down Tailwind Nutrition to fight the impact of the heat.   I felt great until about 5hrs in.   Out of the blue I began feeling dizzy.  I stopped running and began walking.  The group that I was with began getting further and further in front of me and everything around my started spinning more.   The next thing I knew I was laying in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital.    A few injections (to control the shaking/seizures), some blood work, and an eventual urinalysis the doctor finally came in and gave me the word… the labs were not as good as they would have liked and they said I had borderline Rhabdo and my body simply shut down on me.     Needless to say, this grounded me for 6 weeks and was not allowed to run more than 5mi at a time!  😦

 

October 2014 – I can sum this month up in one word!  RAGNAR!    Oct 17-18 (which actually ended my 6-week limited-running punishment) I joined some amazing people for a Ragnar Trail Relay.  My wife joined me out there for 2 days and we had an amazing time!   While our entire team was amazing, 2 people on our team in particular are very special to me.    I could probably put together an entire blog just on this race alone (and I probably should have)… I will just have to do that next time!     I was honored to be included in the team.  Thank you Lynn for all of your hard work and everything that you did for us!  🙂10668882_10204284742511635_7094338343457202467_o 10414856_10204281489310307_8565139437282711605_n 10245346_10204285837339005_9046437236346172200_n 1398501_10204312835733948_7527260758140721381_o

December 2014 – What a month!   Just read about it!   https://johnstasulli.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/i-came-to-pace-and-found-heart/

In addition to pacing Brazos Bend 100 something else remarkable happened!   I become a part of SKORA Running and can’t wait to see what happens in 2015!

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SKORA-ambassador
Running Year : Okay… running this year was definitely not where I wanted it to be and didn’t accomplish any of my goals for the year, but I ran, grew, and am stronger than ever and ready for 2015!  🙂

# of Runs 180
Distance 1,287.2 mi
Time 246:21 (h:m)
Elevation Gain 104,373 ft
Avg Speed 5.0 mph
Avg Distance 7.02 mi

 

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What better way to end the year than with the very friends that I adore so much.  To end the year I organized a 20.14k run at Dana Peak Park.   It was a perfect end to the year spending it with a lot of people that I have the honor to now call friends.

2015 Goals :

2015 is going to be my year for running.  I have amazing sponsors behind me and amazing products that are going to take me to the next level!  This year I am visiting Bandera, TX to complete Cactus Rose 100!    So far my schedule for this year has 4 races (right now)!  :

  • Sugarloaves’ Ultra Vista 60k (31 January)
  • Army Marathon (March 2015)
  • Cactus Rose 100 (October 2015)
  • Brazos Bend 100 (December 2015)

In closing this year, with all of its challenges, was a year of growth and learning for me.   Many people know that I don’t really do that best friend thing or have ever really had anyone that I would call a great friend.   This year my wife and I welcomed people into our lives.   I can’t thank each of you enough.    I am not going to call each of you out because each of you know who you are!  😀   We are so happy to have each of you in our lives!    In February I will be deploying to Afghanistan.  I am going to miss everyone, but more important I am going to miss my amazing wife!  I love you honey!

Happy New Year everyone!  I can’t wait to see where 2015 takes us!

 

A special thanks to SKORA Running, X-1 Audio, and Tailwind Nutrition!   2015 is going to be GREAT!

I came to pace…and found heart

Before you begin, this is an unedited, published draft!  I wanted to get this out while it was still fresh in my head (sort of!)   Enjoy!

“It’s okay to cry” is all that I heard as our entire group walked back to our Crew HQ  from the finish line.  Norma knew how emotional of a finish that was for me and did not hesitate to let me know it was ok!  😉

This journey began six months ago when Lynn and Norma began their journey to finish their first 100mi race.  They both began training for and preparing to race Brazos Bend 100!    While I wasn’t racing, I joined them on a lot of their long runs.   As part of their preparation, they both asked me to take care of crewing for them and Lynn asked me to be her pacer for 25mi.   I was really excited.  I had never been asked to pace someone and I had wanted to ever since hearing stories about Alex’s race at Cactus Rose 100 with his brother.

This race took place at Brazos Bend State Park… The entire park is riddled with warnings related to the alligators.   For those of you that know me, a sign like this can only mean one thing!   This is like putting candy on a table and telling a kid not to touch it!   I was on a mission!  I was going to find an Agillator!  (yes, it is spelled wrong… long story back to Fort Stewart, GA)  😀   Unfortunately Lynn and Tammy forbid me from petting any alligators or pulling on their tails!  😦

Molesting Alligators?  This sign only exists for one reason!

Molesting Alligators? This sign only exists for one reason!


Lynn and Norma finished their first loop looking strong and actually came in ahead of their scheduled time!  After their first loop they had an idea of what they were going to need in their coming loop.   Tiger balm, Tailwind, Food, Chargers, etc.    Now that they finished their first loop, it was time for the crew to get busy and get them to their buckle!   At the end of the first loop, Lynn was developing a hot spot on her foot that had to be triaged and unfortunately she was not open to amputation yet!  We lathered her up with Trail Toes and trail toes tape before we sent them on their way!

Mike Adams taking care of that hot spot!

Mike Adams taking care of that hot spot!

Norma cruising in after her first loop!

Norma cruising in after her first loop!

We began gathering all of their requested items and Tammy and I set out to visit the 40-Acre Aid Station.   Goodies in hand we had everything they could have possible needed!   We arrived well ahead of time and spent some time scoping out the local lake… (You know what I was looking for!!! GATORS!)    Unfortunately even though we found one, Tammy was insistent that I not pet him or pull his tail like I wanted!    We still did get a picture of him before the girls came in!   I was destined to find one later when Tammy wasn’t there to stop me!  lol

Lookie what I found!

Lookie what I found!

Lynn and Norma both came into the first aid station (Mile 30) right on time.   We had everything ready for them that they had asked for.    With Lynn’s hot spot continuing to “grow” she was ready for a new pair of socks which she didn’t have in her drop box at this station!  Not to worry!  She had the BEST pair of socks available!  I gave her my lime green Swift Wick socks!  For those that know me, lime green is my FAVORITE color!   I wasn’t going to give my favorite socks to just anyone!

Tammy, Kathie, Mike, Doug, Kevin, Marc and I spent the remainder of the day making sure that the girls had everything they needed, made sure they stayed on top of their nutrition intake, liquids, batteries, and everything else they needed!    During all of the crewing we learned one very important thing.   Tammy and I (or whomever is leading up the crewing next time) needs to be the one that packs all of their crew boxes and supplies for them.   It is GREAT that Lynn and Norma did it for us, but when it is pitch black out side digging through tough boxes looking for a small white cable can be rather time consuming!  Next time they run and we will take care of their packing and organization!  😀

There goes the daylight between Loop 1 and Loop 2

There goes the daylight between Loop 1 and Loop 2

Before we knew it they were completing their second loop (50mi!).   This point was already a Personal Record (PR) for their longest run.  This was to be their longest stop along the way so they could change shirts, shoes, socks, and get some solid food in their system!   We had chairs out and ready, lights, food, everything that they had asked for was systematically lined up at their chair ready for them.   As they pulled into the Start/Finish line they were ushered over to their chairs to begin the pampering and triage!   Norma and Lynn both began taking in everything they has asked for… Tortillas, boiled potatoes, fresh bottles, batteries… The team was on top of it!  I couldn’t have asked for better people to be out there helping Lynn and Norma!    Unfortunately the hot spot on Lynn’s foot has grown into a BLISTER.   (She also texted this at me while she was coming in… “I have BLISTERS John”.)    They had already accomplished an amazing feet and were now set out on their final 2 laps.   Now they were not going at it alone;  They were both going to have Kevin (pacing Norma) and Mike (pacing Lynn) for the next 25mi.

Before the race I had an AMAZING conversation with Liza Howard and Jay Danek.   Having never been a crew chief or paced a 100-miler before I wanted to make sure that I have everything in place that Lynn and Norma were going to need.   Liza and Jay both provided some really great information that I took with me the entire time.   One think that Liza really stressed was that I needed to make sure I had rest and was watching my nutrition as well!   On that note… it was time to sleep (as much as I could).     I had finally retreated to the back of my car around 7pm to get a few hours of sleep.  By my estimates, Lynn and Norma would be coming in off of their 3d loop around 12:30 AM.    I set my alarm for midnight and “attempted” to fall asleep.  After it was all said and done I ended up getting about 3 hours of sleep.  Probably not what Liza had in mind, but it was still something!     Midnight came and I jumped up… tried finding the keys to the car that I had somehow lost in my sleep… lost one of my shoes (which had fallen outside and collected A LOT of dew), and finally managed to get dressed and stroll over to our Crew HQ tent.

Doug Long and I were the next two pacers going out.  Doug was going to bring Norma into the finish and I was going to replace Mike and pace Lynn.   About 45 min later, Kevin and Norma came in off of their 3d loop.   Norma was tired and wanted nothing more than to continue.  She was at the Start/Finish AS about 2 min total and pushed out onto her final loop with Doug.    Norma couldn’t have been in better hands with Doug.  If there was anything Norma needed, Doug could take care of it.  If not, Doug could have made it out of a nearby tree!

Around 2:12AM  (almost 2 hrs after I was expecting), Lynn came into the AS.  I could tell by her face that she was in a lot of pain.    She spent some time at the AS as the team helped her change her shoes, shorts, and shirt and get her some food.   While they were taking care of everything she needed I made sure her bottles where topped off and she had some extra nutrition.    She had spent the last 5miles walking from the pain and I knew this was going to be hard on both of us.   Now it wasn’t only the blisters, but her tendons were getting swollen as well.   Later, as I was watching her walk, I realized that the way she was walking to protect her blisters was most likely also the cause of her inflamed and sore tendons.  Before we left she began questioning the cut-off times and whether she had enough time to finish.   The ugly side of her mind was already beginning to poke at her.  Now it was time to push all of that out of her mind!   Little did I know what I had in store for me.   When Lynn asked me to pace her, she wanted me to pace her for the final loop because she said I am able to be both a friend and an a**.   I knew she wanted someone that would push her and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into.  Needless to say… that could not have been further from the truth!

As we set off, I could tell by her face and how she was walking that she was in a lot of pain.  I turned around and looked at the bright red clock that was lighting up the finish line.  We had a little over 9hrs and 45 minutes to finish the final 25mi loop and off into the darkness we went.   As we drifted away I remembered again what Liza told me… “Take care of your nutrition…”.  The next time I looked back, the start/finish line had faded away and all I saw was darkness…

Our first stop was going to be the 40-Acre Aid Station, which was about 5mi away.   For those that have spent any time with me on the trails you know that I can be a clown at times.   Now that I was out on the trails, my first order of business was to find my alligator!    To describe it the best, you would have to think of a little kid walking through a giant toy store!  My head was on a swivel bouncing back and forth from one side of the trail to the other shining my light across the water looking for those two little yellow eyes looking back.   If there was a gator there, I was going to find him!   In between of my gator searching searching antics Lynn and I talked about everything and anything.   We talked about the course, about times we spent running together, talked about my ride to Brazos with Mike, and anything else that came to mind.    Focus was to keep her focused on the conversation and not her feet that were a tad blistered!     As we got closer to the aid station we went over everything that she needed so that we could get in and out as quick as possible.   Once we came into the 40-Acre Aid Station (Mile 80) she scurried into the bathroom while I dug through her drop box getting all of her requested items out.    Of course while she was in the bathroom I noticed that the Aid Station volunteers were making cheese quesadillas and I simply had to partake in the yummy goodness!   Once Lynn came out (which seemed like forever) I brought her over to the buffet line so she too would eat!   I must say this is probably my most favorite thing about ultras!   FOOD!  Before we knew it, we were off again!

Our journey to the next aid station (Hale Aid Station) was much the same;  just the two of us talking about everything and anything that came to mind.    The entire way so far we had talked about gear.   It turned out to be a very clear night and free from a lot of cloud cover.  That just meant that the temps would begin dropping.  The combination of cold and the dew meant that Lynn started to get colder since we were not able to get into a steady run.    Luckily I had a pair of gloves to keep her warm until we got to the next aid station (which was now only a few miles away).   At the next aid station she would be able to get her jacket out of her drop bags.

The trees along this area were pretty cool looking!   The grandfather’s beard that was hanging from the trees cast really cool shadows and added a bit of spookiness to the trails!   With the added spookiness I continues to look for my alligator and still came up empty handed!

During the last 5 mi segment Lynn continued to put down crackers, her rice cake (sort of), and take in water/tailwind.     Once we pulled into Hale Aid Station (85 miles) we met up with Abi!    I am just going to say that Abi is awesome!  Not only did Abi volunteer to crew for Lynn and Norma during the night, but also volunteered all day long to work the finish line for the Brazos Bend 100.   She has always been willing to volunteer and go above and beyond and this day was no different!

I started digging through Lynn and Norma’s drop boxes (Norma had already gone through and wouldn’t need anything here anymore).  I was looking for Lynn’s jacket as well as any sign of tylenol, Advil, Aleve, “Apple Juice”…. We needed any type of pain killer that we could find to help her control the pain in not only her feet, but now her tendons.   Her ankle had now formed into a cankle from the swelling and the pain was getting worse.    There were no pain killers in any of the boxes and the aid station volunteers were empty handed as well.     What we also didn’t have was her jacket.   Once again Abi came through for us!  She quickly ran to her car and came back with a jacket!  This jacket was a lifesaver and helped get Lynn out into the darkness once again.   I topped off “her” water bottles and we were back on the trail!

As we once again stepped out into the darkness I was about to be faced with the hardest 15mi of my life.   About 1/4mi dow the trail I pulled off my pack to see if there is anything that I had that I could give her to help with the swelling and pain she was feeling.   Seeing her going through this pain was really starting to bother me and this was not going to get better.

In my pack, tucked into a little corner pocket was a tylenol heat pack.  We continued walking for a little bit trying to find something for her to sit on to make it more comfortable.   We came across a park sign and we were in business!  I broke open the pack, stuck it to her leg, and secured it with athletic tape loose enough to not cut off circulation but tight enough for it to stay in place the last 15 miles of her journey.     With that, I learned the value of buffs!  I also had an extra buff in my pack that I was able to use to dry off her leg and help the adhesive stick better! Turns out that it worked!  5 hours later it was still there!    Around the next turn we actually stumbled upon a park bench… go figure!

Unfortunately the heat pack didn’t provide any relief and we still weren’t able to find anyone with any pain killers.     Our next stretch we started seeing the first sign of light breaking the horizon as the sun was approaching.   I was looking to that sun light to give us a bit of momentum to begin pushing the pace and it did.  We went from an 18/19:00 min/per mile moving pace to about a 17:00/18:00 min/per mile pace.  While we increased our pace a little, it did nothing for the pain.    She really began favoring her leg at this point and I began reaching out to others to see what I could do to relieve some of the pain.     At 6:00 in the morning I reached out to the best person that came to mind for assistance!  I got a hold of Liza!  Liza had suggested ice and tylenol!  Lynn’s mind began wondering to dropping to the 50mi at this point due to the pain and I was trying to find the nicest way possible of telling her no!   Liza told me that it would be much better for her (mentally) to keep pushing and get pulled from the race than for her to quit.     At this point Lynn was set that she did not have enough time to finish based on how she was moving and couldn’t go on.     The only thing I could do was get her focused on short goals and that short goal was the Brazos Aid Station which was not much further.   After a few minutes we decided that I was going to run ahead and make sure the Aid Station was ready for her… Making sure we had ice and drugs ready when she came in.   We were going to ice her leg for 5 min, get some food in her and “evaluate” her condition from there.   While evaluate was what I told her, I had absolutely no intention to allow her to stop unless her leg fell of on the way!

I took of running down the trail (since she said it was only 1/4mi up the trail).  1 mile later I arrived at Brazos Aid Station.  I quickly moved into the Aid Station asking about ice and tylenol so I had everything ready for her.  That is when the crushing blow came.. “We don’t have ice or tylenol here”.      Given the aid station we were at (the furthest from civilization), there was no way to get ice out to her in time and once we left the Aid Station, we would not be reachable for 8 miles.

Now is when I am about to hurt Lynn more than I wanted to and why this last leg was emotional and hard for me.

As I waited for Lynn, 4 other runners came through the aid station speaking of a “female runner” that said she was going to drop at the next AS.   I was afraid that she had it set in her mind that she was going to quit.

She finally made the turn headed to the aid station and was prepared for the fight!  (I was not going to let her sit down or do anything else).    I walked up to her and told her “Ok…There is no ice or tylenol.   Our only option is to press.  We can beat the cut-off, but we need to really push.”    There were tears in her eyes and I could tell how much pain she was in.   Without questioning it she said “Let’s go”, turned around and walked back down the trail.     We now had 11mi until the finish line!

We were not only going into the longest stretch of the course without an aid station, but also the most challenging portion of the course.   Almost this entire stretch was tacky, muddy, and riddled with holes.  Under normal conditions it really wouldn’t be that bad.    Unfortunately with her issues with the tendon on top of the blisters, this final stretch was slow.    Through this portion of the trail were only moving at about a 21-22:00 min/mi.   I tried everything I could to push her faster.  Talked about the trees, feral hogs, Cactus Rose 100, anything I could to not think of the pain and push through it.  That plan worked great until she put her foot back down on the next piece of uneven ground.   Up to this point we walked together.     This last stretch I had to walk in front of her.   There were actually two reasons for this.  One was to push her pace.   From the years of running with her, I knew she would push herself harder if someone was in front of her.   The other piece was that I didn’t want to see how much pain she was in.   I needed to de-sensitize this final and push her pain out of my mind.   If I focused on her pain I would slow down and I couldn’t do that.   I maintained a 20:00 min/mi and kept looking back at her.  The loner we pushed, the further back she would fall.    I needed something else!

Throughout our journey I was texting Liz (my wife) giving her update on our progress and how Lynn was doing/feeling as well as sending her pictures.    After talking this one Lynn said “Had I know it was for Liz I would have at least waved!”   lol

Lynn and her amazing strength pushing through the mud!

Lynn and her amazing strength pushing through the mud!

Just like all of the other trails, we still managed to build a rock collection in our shoes!   Here, because of the swamp, mud, and muck, stopping was a pain in the butt!   Every time we stopped we were attacked by malaria carrying mosquitos!  (Not really, but that is what I called them).   There may or may  not have been a time when I held her up and joked about pushing her into the mud…   😉

Soon we were out (sort of) of the tacky, muddy mess of a trail and we actually came across other runners!  (I actually thought it was part of the loop and there were other people behind us!   I was actually excited about this as we were now on the final 6 miles back to the Start/Finish line!)    We cheered them on as we did each and every person that we came across.  As we passed them I turned to the final runner and said “Great job!  How many more miles do you have?”.     When he responded with 4 I looked down at my watch and realized what that meant.   We WERE the last people and that we still had 2 miles of muddy trails to go.

We began talking about our next goals and that next goal now was getting to that finish line and taking care of those piggies of hers.   There was nothing left to do on the trails and all we had left was to push through any and all pain that came up.   I began texting back and forth with Tammy to have things ready for Lynn.  One of those things was “pain killers”.   Lynn asked for them several times but was afraid to let her have them earlier because we were still 8mi out.   I told her that as we got closer someone would bring her some “pail killers”.

This area of the trails, was interesting… We were walking through the Duck Dynasty hunting grounds!  It was a wooded area with these magnificent trees with grandfather beard hanging from them and vines that had a diameter of close to 12″.   I said a couple times that I wish I had one of these trees at my house.   This is not the kind of tree that you put a cute treehouse in…. This is the kind of tree that would hold a tree-mansion!  The trunk on some of these trees had to be over 6′ in diameter!  They were MASSIVE to say the least!   So why Duck Dynasty?   Whoever lived on the property that skirted the state park was obviously a hunter.    About every 100′ there was a deer feeder and in between the deer feeders were deer blinds.  There were definitely hunters next to us!

We were now about 4mi out from the finish line and only had 1 1/2 hours to go until the course cut-off.      Every time we passed a new remaining miles point I would compare our distance to one of our local runs.    With 4 miles left I told her “Just 4 miles… We are doing an out and back on the fence line and you are home free!”  I wanted to relate our remaining distance to something she was comfortable with and to remind her of where she had come from.    2 years ago I started running with her on the trails and we would run 3-4mi and be done… Now look at us.  I am pacing her on her first 100mi!   She is doing more miles in a single run than she would do in 2-months when this all started!   Ooops.  I lost track!  SQUIRREL!

At our current pace, 4mi in 1 1/2 hours wasn’t going to be possible.   To finish, she needs to dig deep and go after what she has trained for.    I finally sent Tammy a text and told her to send the drugs that it was time.      While I waited for a response, our of the blue popped Jason!  Jason was on our team for the recent RAGNAR trail relay that we had done.    There was no plan for him to be there and him showing up was perfect!   We had not been with Jason for almost 2 months so there was a lot to talk about and being that Lynn was stuck putting up with me for the 7 hours on the trail, it was refreshing.

A few minutes after Jason arrived I received the text from Tammy!   Mike Adams and Doug Long had been dropped off and were RUNNING to use with drugs!   I knew what this meant.  Regardless of whether the drugs kicked in, mentally she would be stronger because the pain would soon go away!

Doug and Mike are the two fastest runners in our group (except for when I am dreaming) and they ran up to us before we knew it!   Lynn popped her pain killers and we began the push!   Doug jumped up front and began pushing the pace that she needed to maintain.  We were not out of the majority of the tacky mud so moving faster was going to be easier for her.   We needed to maintain a faster pace than she had done in the last 2 loops.  Pushing this pace was going to require her to dig deeper than she ever had.  It didn’t matter who was there with her…this was all her.

The push begins!

The push begins!

We were now moving at a 15:00 min/mi.   Ever few feet you could hear her grumble in pain and there were tears running down her face.    I have known Lynn for several years and she was one of the few people that I really considered a great friend… In fact, most of them were there at Brazos Bend with us!   Seeing her in this much pain not only hurt, but also felt amazing.  Amazing knowing how much she had put into this very day, how close she was to the finish, and how much heart she had.

During our final push, there were several times that she started running!  Not because we pushed her to do so, but because she found the strength inside of her to push through the pain.  Every time we came upon a hill I would grab a hold of “Mickey” and push her up the hill!  I told her “You worry about moving your legs and I will move you!”  I was not going to let her stop… not now!     At one point Mike commented on how she was the only runner to be escorted by 4 men!

Before long we reached the bridge that would take us to the final stretch.   We stayed on her to keep her arms swinging and to keep moving forward.  The more we pressed the more tears filled her eyes and the more you could hear her pain, but in just a few minutes it was going to be all over.

The final bridge before the final stretch!

The final bridge before the final stretch!

After we crossed bridge we only 1/2 mi until the finish.   This was a 101mi course.  After we crossed the bridge I asked her “How long was this race?”   When she responded, I reminded her that she had just run 100mi!   Before you knew it she began running again ON HER OWN.  This wasn’t a slow run, she started pumping her arms and begin pushing at a 10:00 min/mi.    After a few hundred yards we dropped back down to a fast walk again.   Throughout our entire Journey, Liz sent encouraging messages to me for Lynn.   Right before the finish I received the best one that made me laugh “Tell her she is raising my blood pressure and can’t wait for her to finish!”.     Of course I shared this with her, as I did all of the messages!

Something happened at this point that really stood out at me.  Doug turned around, more excited than I had ever saw him, and said “This is amazing… things like this just don’t happen!  People don’t usually finish like this”  He had a smile on from ear to ear and I started realizing what was going to happen.

We looked up and the finish line was now in site.  No-one had mentioned the time to her at all.   When we saw the finish, she only had 5min left util the course cut-off.   Marc Henn was there to great us and give us the time.     Lynn again began her push… She pumped her legs, pumped her arms, and began running again towards the finish.    She did this until she was about 100yds away and walked one last time…

Lynn began her final push for the finish line with less than 3 min left.  She ran faster than she had during any of her training.  Her last 100 yards after running 100 miles was at a 7:07 min/mile.

Lynn crossed the line at 29:59.58 with 1 minute left to spare.    She didn’t just cross the line and meet the Race Director Robert, she crossed the line to a horsehoe of every person that was left at the course yelling and cheering for her in addition to friends and her entire crew and her training partner Norma.

Lynn began giving all us hugs until I was finally able to get her to turn around and get her buckle from Robert.  Not only did she receive a greater finish line party than the actual winner, but she was also greeted by Victor Ballesteros that interviewed her for UltraSportLive.TV!

Our finisher!

Our finisher!

While all of this was taking pace and as I was texting Liz the great news I heard Norma…  Norma was standing next time saying “It’s ok John… You can cry!” and then reached out and gave me a hug.   I was doing everything in my power to hold back all of the emotions that I was feeling and obviously Norma noticed.    After we wrapped up the finish line activities and headed back to our “Crew HQ” I began the reflection.  Thinking back to the “pacing”.  All of the highs and lows.   All of our laughs (there were a lot of them), and how I felt knowing that I hurt her along the way by pushing her.

During the race, Lynn asked me if she was DFL  (Dead Flipping Last), which she was.    After the race I posted something on Facebook and gave her something to think about.

“The winner spent 15hrs on his feet.  You spent 30 hours are on your feet.   Now tell me which person has the greatest endurance.  You are the winner in my eyes.”

Now it is time for the personal reflection!    I was honored that I was asked by both Lynn and Norma to be their crew chief for their 100 mi adventure and even more honored that I was asked to pace Lynn on her final 25mi loop.   I never expected to have been touched so deeply as a result of this.   Looking back at it, there are so many things that I learned, so many things that I would do differently if I had the chance, and so much stronger my friendship with Lynn and Norma is.   I know that things will never be the same between us and that we will always share something very special.    Thinking back to the race from yesterday I still feel choked up and emotional when I think about what happened and what it felt like to watch her push through that finish line.

I don’t have “best friends”.   My wife and family has been the closest things in my life and all that I have ever needed.   After this weekend, There are some very special people that I consider to be my best friends and even better… you three are my (our) sisters.

To the crew:   I have to thank each and every one of you.  Kathie, Abi, Marc, Jason, Doug, Mike, & Kevin.   None of what happened could have been done without each and every one of you.   We were a well-oiled (and fed) pit crew!  If there was something that one of the girls needed, they had it.   While it wasn’t my race, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so supportive.  Simply put, without you… they never would have finished.

To my wife:  I love you honey.   I know was a hard weekend for me to be gone especially having to travel Monday morning (which was cancelled).   I want you to know how much I love you.   None of this would be possible without you!  You always take care of people and even though you weren’t able to join everyone in Brazos Bend, you still sent a little something of yourself with.  I love you.    The only thing missing from this weekend is you!  You do such an amazing job at things like this and would have loved to have you by my side helping us!  😀

And to my sisters…

To Tammy:   I could not have done this without you.   You stepped up and helped EVERYWHERE along the way… You cooked, took care of Lynn and Norma in ways that I couldn’t have.   Thank you.

To Norma:   You are amazing Norma.   From the day we met we have always talked.  You have been with us through some tough and interesting times and you have stood by our side.  I am so proud of what you have accomplished and honored that I was able to be a part of it.

To Lynn: You are very special and honored to have been a part of this amazing journey of yours.   I can’t imagine having this experience with anyone else.  We talked, you cursed at me, we joked, and we cried together (there was a reason I was walking ahead of you at times).   I felt all of your pain on my 25mi PR (hehe), and felt all of your joys as you crossed the line.   I had more joy and happiness with you crossing the line with you than I did with my very own races.   One last thing… Don’t ever ask me to hurt you like that again!  Next time, we will do it together!  (You know I am partially kidding… I would be honored to pace you again).  My only regret is that we didn’t take a picture together.  😦

And now to regress a bit?   Remember the conversation that I had with Liza and the importance of me sleeping and watching my nutrition?   Well now I understand why.   Throughout the 9hr and 47min journey my focus was Lynn.   I made sure her bottles were always full and made sure she was eating.   During our final 5mi stretch I began getting a headache and couldn’t figure out why.   Once Doug and Mike met up with us I took Lynn’s bottle so she could focus on swinging her arms without any interruption.     Holding her now empty bottle I realized something.   I never filled up my bottles on the last 20mi and only one of them was empty.  I had been so focused on her and making sure she was ok that I didn’t even think about myself.    Liza… You were right and I failed at this piece of advice!

While this wasn’t my race, I earned what I believe to be my most memorable bib and will always remember my 25mi PR with sister!

The greatest bib

The greatest bib

7 Ways To Secure A Good DNF

I just had to share this… Why do so many of these things remind me of myself… uggh

ASHRUNS100s

I have a 100 this weekend. I know I never wrote about the one I did in November. I have a story to share, but I’ll get around to it. Anyway, about this race, I am a little sketched out because it’s a full on pavement course. I’m confident I can handle it for the most part, but man I know it’s going to hurt. BAD. I hate pavement. But I wanted to challenge myself, so here I am. And I am determined not to make the same mistakes I’ve made over and over again in the past!

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2013…A running year in review…

What what does a year of not “training” look like?

# of Runs 170
Distance 1,095.88 mi
Time 221:09:74 (h:m:s)
Elevation Gain 90,999 ft
Avg Speed 5.0 mph
Calories 148,037 C
Avg Time per Run 1:18:03 (h:m:s)
Max Distance 35.89 (El Sendero 60k)
Avg Distance 6.45 mi

Lone running along back country roads of Central Texas during wee hours of the morning or the occasional tromp along a 3mi loop at Dana Peak Park in Harker Heights (boy has that changed).  I only ran about 2-3x per week at the beginning of the year and occupied another two days with spin class.   I ran because I wanted to.  The only race that was really on my radar was the Austin Half Marathon and Army Marathon, neither of which I was really “training” for.    If an opportunity came to run.. I would run.  Nothing more…nothing less.  The one thing that was true is that I enjoyed running.

The month leading up to the Austin Half Marathon, which was on February 17, was far from what anyone would call preparing.   The 4 weeks leading up to the Austin Half consisted of 10 runs and an average of 5.79mi (10.73 being the longest run).   Definitely not how you prepare for a race, but I did what I always do… I showed up… ran as hard as I could…and finished.   The odd part was, I actually set a PR on the Half this year (by 8 min) and averaged a 9:19 pace.   Perhaps I should not train more often or better yet.. maybe I SHOULD actually train… nah… I just wanted to have fun! 😀

AustinHalf

My training, or lack there-of, didn’t get any better in the following months.   From February 17th until April 21st (The Army Marathon), I bounced back and forth between a annoying knee injury and a rut in consistency.    In the 2 months that followed the Austin Half Marathon, I had run a total of 14 times, the longest of which was 13.59mi  (This was my LONGEST run to date) and with all of this training I was going to toe the line to the Army Marathon which was going to be my first marathon and my furthest distance run…EVER!    This was actually one of my favorite races of the year because my son Anthony ran it with me (sort of).   The joys of being 18… he ran even less than I did up to the Marathon and still finished 20min before me.    I finished the Army Marathon at 4:58 (had a 5hr goal).   While he was faster, he also didn’t walk for 2 weeks following the Marathon!   I was back to my normal non-training fun regime 2 days later!    After Anthony left me on the course, I spent the rest of my time running with one of my running partners.   Knowing that I wasn’t prepared for this Marathon in the least, I decided (that morning), that I was going to use the Galloway Method (run 3 min, walk 1 min) to get me through the race.  I know you shouldn’t try something at a race that you didn’t train with, but my logic was simple… I didn’t train so I was free to do what I wanted! 😀   Surprisingly, I think it really helped me get through the Marathon.   Despite my lack of training, as I made the final turn towards the climb to the finish line, I knew that I had accomplished yet another of my milestones!  The best part of the race was crossing the finish line and seeing my wife there waiting for me and cheering me on!  She means the world to me and love that she is always there to show her support when she can!  🙂

My son and I at the end of the Army Marathon

My son and I at the end of the Army Marathon

It was shortly after the Army Marathon that I was introduced to a realization…. Team RWB was looking to establish a Fort Hood Chapter!!  I had read about Team RWB and saw them running at several big races.   The camaraderie that they have and the support for veterans was unlike anything that I had ever saw in other organizations.   When I heard there was a Chapter coming to Fort Hood…I WAS THRILLED!!   I mean who wouldn’t be… I know I loved seeing them running with their flags… Now I too could be one of those runners!  😀  I discovered and welcomed Team RWB into my life… nothing was going to be the same again…

Welcome to Team RWB!

Welcome to Team RWB!

I joined the Team RWB Facebook, “Joined the Team”, got my shirt.. I was ready to go!   Team RWB Fort Hood here I come… but there was nothing…No camaraderie, no running with flags, no group runs.   There were some members, but nothing really happening locally.  Everyone was piggy-backing off of events from other areas.   I am not sure what drove me to it or why I did it at the time, but I wanted that to change.  I wanted to be a part of Team RWB and I was determined to make that a reality and to grow the Fort Hood community into something people WANTED to be a part of.   I had already begun talking to Georgina and expressed to her my interest in this from day one.  She probably thought I was insane (which may not be far from the truth).   One day I joined RWB and the next day I wanted to know how to make Ft Hood BIGGER!

Over the next few weeks I simply posted all of my weekly runs on their Facebook page trying to drum up support.  To this day, it was Team RWB that jump started my running and made me accountable again.  If I said I was going to run… I was going to run!    At this point, there were 3 of us ACTIVELY running.   Stef, Alex, Tammy, and I.   Stef and I would run regularly on the roads and Alex, Tammy and I would run on the trails (or at least I would try to run on the trails).   As I look back on it, I still to this day don’t know what jump started the Fort Hood community, but it has been gaining momentum ever since.   Our group runs, which at one time had 2 people, have no grown to 20+ people at times.   From not even having a foundation to grow on, there is now a leadership team, monthly socials, and almost 400 members.   I couldn’t be more proud and excited to be a part of this organization.   The rest of my adventures throughout the year are a result of that single day when I joined Team RWB.    I never expected to be involved with Team RWB to the extent that I am.  In fact, I don’t think I was ever “asked” to be an integral part of Team RWB.  I just pushed things along with the help of others and did what I always do… run.  The next thing I know, I was told I was the Chapter Captain.  I was honored and scared to death.  When in the world was I going to have the time for this too!  Somehow or another it all fell into place and I’ve loved the journey since!

1st Team RWB Ft Hood Social

1st Team RWB Ft Hood Social

Team RWB Ft Hood Softball Team

Team RWB Ft Hood Softball Team

Team RWB Ft Hood at Army 10miler Shadow Run

Team RWB Ft Hood at Army 10miler Shadow Run

Team RWB Ft Hood Monthly Social

Team RWB Ft Hood Monthly Social

Team RWB Ft Hood Holiday Fun Run with a unit on Fort Hood

Team RWB Ft Hood Holiday Fun Run with a unit on Fort Hood

Team RWB Ft Hood Christmas Run!

Team RWB Ft Hood Christmas Run!

What can I say… Team RWB Fort Hood has come a LONG way since May.  I can only imagine the things we will do and the places we will go in 2014!

From that first run with Team RWB until the end of the year, I accumulated 90% of my running and accomplishments.  While my year started off slow, the remainder of the year was made up by 151 runs (almost all of them with Team RWB).  I raced in 5ks, 10ks, my first 30k trail race, and eventually my first Ultra Marathon (60k).

It wasn’t simply RWB that gave me a push.   Once this all started, I read my first book on “Ultra running”.  It was the book “Got to Live” by Jay Danek.  This book was remarkable and so many of the stories and emotions that Jay wrote about in his book I could relate too.   The strangest thing happened while reading the book.  Jay described the pain and misery that he felt during some of his 100mi races and at that moment…I too wanted to experience that.  I wanted to feel the ups and downs of an ultra marathon and the accomplishment that follows upon completing it.  (What in the world was I getting myself into!)

Many people may look at Team RWB and think that it isn’t for them.  In face, when I joined, I joined simply to support veterans (and carry the flag on a run).   Never would I have imagined how Team RWB changed me as a person.  I feel closer to my wife, my family, and feel happier.   That is something that you cannot get anywhere else.  For that, I owe Team RWB a tremendous amount!

While I have grown personally this past year, I have also grown a significant amount physically.  I went from the feeling of death when running 5mi on the trail to completing an Ultra Marathon!  All in the 6 months that Team RWB Ft Hood has been “established”.   While I would love to say it was my training and dedication…it is far from that.   My training is where it is today because of Team RWB and more specifically Stef and Alex holding me accountable for my running and Alex pushing me on the trails!

The other REMARKABLE opportunity that took place this year, that cannot go by without mentioning, is the Team RWB Trail Running Camp.  This was 4 days of training and mentorship by some amazing professional athletes!  Not only that, but I finally had the opportunity to meet Jay Danek.  I learned a lot over those 4 days about myself, Team RWB, and trail running.    Just looking back at the professional athletes that I had the honor to run along side-of for 4 days was something that I will always remember.   These 4 days are also the only times in my life that I “could” run along side of them.  Any other time they would be nowhere near me while running!  In fact, one of the mentors at the camp ALSO did the El Sendero 60k.  We almost finished a loop at the same time!!   He was finishing his 3d loop as I was coming in from my 2d loop.   In the time that it took me to run 40k, he had run 60k.   For a moment during that loop…we ran together… Mind you… it was only a moment…a very very brief moment.

Team RWB Trail Running Camp

Team RWB Trail Running Camp

"Hoodlums" at the Team RWB Trail Running Camp

“Hoodlums” at the Team RWB Trail Running Camp

 

As the year comes to an end, one thing is certain… I am here today and going into my next year knowing that I have the most amazing woman by my side.   She has been through so much with me and I love her dearly… Not only is she my wife, but she is my best friend.

My wife and I...Love you Elizabeth!

My wife and I…Love you Elizabeth!

Watch out this next year!  I am coming in hard and strong… following a training plan… and I am going to take my running to the next level!

So what is next?   While I don’t have any “resolutions” for 2014… I do have some goals:

  • Run 2014 miles
  • Hells Hills 50mi
  • Cap’t Karl 60k Trail Series
  • Shave 1 1/2 hr off of my 60k time
  • Be a better me..

See you on the trails!

On top of the Appalachian Mountains in PA

On top of the Appalachian Mountains in PA