It’s Stupid To Be Safe

Note: This post was inspired by Maria Popova creator of BrainPickings.org. Fantastic site!

Everyone in this room is going to be gone pretty quickly – and we will have either made something or not made something. The artists that inspire me are the ones that I look at and go, ‘Oh my god – you didn’t have to go there. It would’ve been safer not to – but, for whatever reason, you did.’ And every time death happens, I’m reminded that it’s stupid to be safe… Usually, whatever that is – wherever you don’t want to go, whatever that risk is, wherever the unsafe place is – that really is the gift you have to give.

Amanda Palmer

Choose activities that allow you to go far. We can walk all day with no prior training. We can ride our bikes for hundreds of miles as long as our pacing and fueling is sufficient. We can run all day and into the next with a steady supply of water and a few calories.

If another human can do this, then you to have the potential to go way further than you’ve gone before. Much further. The effects of modern society, coupled with aging, have polluted our minds with endlessly questioning “why” other humans do so called “ultra” or “extreme” endurance events.

Having thought processes of merely entertainment, consumption, and leisure crush our innate desire to create, explore and take action. Now, more than ever, we need to create and inspire future generations to live lives filled clear direction and action. Driven by purpose and desire.

But however meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth, and who knows something, doesn’t let himself be fobbed off like that. He steps in and does something, and hangs on to that, in short, breaks, ‘violates’…

Vincent Van Gogh

I implore you to be conscious before speaking about another’s experience. Listen, process, and speak only if you desire to learn and employ whatever knowledge comes from your question. Wasted words to often appear in place of focused action.

Heartland 100 Race Report

Flint Hills, Cassoday, KS.

Warning: this will be pretty graphic.

  • Thursday, October 11, 2012.

My wife Jody and I arrived in El Dorado, KS at 6:15 PM. We got checked in and picked up some supplies from the local Walmart. It felt good to arrive and we were both relieved to be at our destination (base). We had a spinach salad for dinner and some greek yogurt for dessert.

  • Friday, October 12, 2012.

Man, I’m hungry. I awoke early and went down to sample the breakfast offerings, which seemed to be pretty good. Headed back to the room as Jody was waking up and we went down for breakfast together. I ate some more and then did my customary 2 mile day before race run. The weather was getting noticeably worse, rain was coming and wind was howling. We cleaned up and relaxed for a bit before going to lunch at a nice little place called Jacob’s Well. We both had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. It was excellent. We made one more trip to the store before heading back to the hotel to await the arrival of my Dad and Grandparents. I made a small spinach salad for myself at this point and kept hydrating as is customary. We relaxed a bit more before heading to Cassoday for the pre-race briefing. The weather was now pretty miserable, thunder crashing and rain pouring down. The weather was the main topic of the meeting as there was a lot of concern for being safe and cautious during the race. We left feeling excited and a bit nervous about the pending adventure. Arriving back in El Dorado we picked up the family and went to get dinner at a place called the “chop house”. It looked nice on the website, but they had recently changed there menu to be more of a truck stop, cheap food establishment. I was hungry and ate what I ordered. “Rocky Mountain Trout”. It was pretty rubbery but went down OK. Headed back to the hotel we fueled up and I began to organize all of the gear for the next day. It was difficult winding down but finally turned the lights off at 10:30 with the alarm set for 3:30 AM.

  • Saturday, October 13, 2012. Race Day.

Awoke early and showered. Consumed my smoothie, but noticed it was hard to get down. I was not hungry… hmm. Drank some coffee to get things moving and we were on the road by 5:05 or so, arriving in Cassoday at 5:30. I got checked in and waited around in the gusting winds for the race to start. The nerves were setting in, but so was the excitement to run.

We were finally released at 6:00 AM sharp. I eased to the front with another runner and settled into a 7:55 pace. It felt good, but my guts were not settled. I’ve had this feeling before and it usually is not a good omen. We cruised along for a mile or so before being passed by a runner holding 7:30 pace, steady. I let him go and let the other runner (Jerad Fetterolf) run about 50 meters ahead of me. Cruising into the aid station at mile 8.2 I was out quick with a fill of water and a couple of gels. This next section was to be the most challenging as it was very muddy, the rain was now coming steady, and fairly hilly. Up and down we ran into the coming daylight. At about mile 10.5 I had to stop relieve myself, luckily I had a bit of toilet paper and used that as I ducked into a tree just off the road. Unfortunately, it was not satisfying.

I resumed running and stayed on pace, consuming a gel every 25 minutes and hydrating. I cruised into the Lapland aid station at around mile 17 in third place, 2:17 or so was my time. This is a crew access station so I saw the family. Dropped my headlamp, grabbed another gel and filled my water bottles. I was out and off for Teterville mile 25. about 1.5 miles outside of the aid I had to stop again to relieve myself. Not good. My guts were churning. I took some time here, but it was pouring rain and the wind was crashing into my right side. Running on I consumed gels regularly, like I had practiced, but noticed that my stomach was not happy with the sugar. Nausea was setting in. I was still running well but knew my calorie into and hydration may be suffering from the gut issues. I rolled into Teterville in 3rd place still, around 3:35. I cleared some rocks from my shoes and removed my compression sleeves. The rain was really coming now. I grabbed a payday bar hoping it would go down easy and provide some fuel.

Heading out of Teterville I hoped to keep my pace at around 8:20 to 8:30. Again, the weather got crazy. Wind, rain, thunder lightening… crazy! It was intense. I was slowed again by my body weakening. Flu like symptoms. I pushed forward. I caught my mind thinking of the miserableness my body was putting it through and feeling sorry for myself. I stayed in this train of thought for the next hour or so. I ate the payday bar and kept shuffling forward. It didn’t sit. It came up. Shit. Ok, just keep going. Need to get to Ridgeline aid station. There was an aid station at mile 31 or so that I stopped into after getting passed by another runner who looked strong. I drank some coke and grabbed some water. Jogging along I just kept moving. I felt weak all over. Depleted and had no appetite, the typical flu-like symptom.

About a mile down the road another runner caught up to me, Scott Hill, last years winner from Wichita. Really nice guy. He chatted me up and my pace quickened while I ran with him. After about 3 miles we were gaining on the runner in 3rd when I ate another gel. Soon, I had to stop and relieve myself again. Things were now getting painful. I pushed ahead. Entered Ridgeline, mile 36.5 or so. Stopped for a bit. Consumed some Gen Ucan. Trotted out of the aid station not feeling confident at all. Preparing my mind to be out there for 20 plus hours. My pace slowed to 9:30-9:50 per mile. I had to stop again because of my guts. Raw. 6 miles later I entered matfield green aid in 4th place (the lead runner, 2010 winner, had dropped at Ridgeline). I took my time. Took another Gen Ucan. Grabbed some orange slices, a cheese sandwich, and some ibuprofen.

Leaving matfield green I was now in 5th place. I stopped about a mile out of the aid to clear rocks from my shoes again. I shuffled along, finishing eating my orange slices. The rain and wind were kicking. Battering into my right side again. Eventually, I ran the hills pretty well, things were turning around. I felt strong… the first time all day my body was coming along. Great. I held a steady 9:45 on the hills into the wind and passed the 4th place runner who was now walking. I cruised this 7.5 mile section pretty solidly. Hitting the halfway point in 8:10 or so. Not bad for the hell my guts had put me through. Coming back it was steady headwinds and more rain. Everything was soaked. My feet were surely looking like hell, but nothing could be done about that. I stayed warm and protected in my Light Flyer Jacket from Patagonia. Great piece of gear. Gortex. It was during this section that I caught a glimpse of the runner in 3rd, Scott Hill, and his pacer. About 1 mile before the aid I passed them feeling strong. Entering matfield I was confident and grabbed another cheese sandwich, and some EFS gel mixed with water. Leaving the aid, climbing the small hills to ridgeline I started to feel weak again. Depleted may be a better word. Looking ahead though I saw the 2nd place runner with his pacer, walking the hills. A couple miles later I passed them and began more push to Ridgeline. Climbing the final hill there I was dealing with some strong foot pain as the water logged footwear had caused some irritation. The rain had mostly let up now so we were mostly dealing with the crazy gusts of wind. I stopped at the aid. Changed footwear, socks, grabbed my handheld bottle, had a Gen Ucan, grabbed some orange slices. Taking my time here I was passed by two runners, leaving in 4th place.

I shuffled along and did the best I could to maintain a steady pace. Not having a pacer was interesting. You are literally in your own head the entire time. It was at this point that I knew I wouldn’t feel great the rest of the race. Leaving with the headlamp assured me of having to deal with the pending night fall.

I soon passed the 3rd place runner. He was done racing. Now settled to walking. His pace in the first 50 was way to fast and his apparel was way to minimal for the weather conditions. I’m sure he felt like hell.

I grabbed a PB and J sandwich at the aid station with 31 miles to go and ate it. Soon I had what was to be my final gut pit stop. It was laughable now. Running this race on an average of 100 calories per hour was just plain silly. I kept drinking water and taking my S-caps. A few miles later I entered Teterville, mile 75 just as the sun was setting and darkness rolled in quickly. I drank some coke, which sat well thankfully, and left with a PB gu gel. Next aid was Lapland 8.2 miles away. I rolled out and found a decent pace. The coke was sitting nicely. 45 minutes later I was still moving well when I turned a corner and ran smack into the headwind. Daunting. This literally forced me to 11:45 pace, tops. Fighting forward. I stopped at the unmanned aid station and filled my water. Grabbing a fig newton, I pushed forward. I now was focusing on hydration just pounding water and salt, knowing my calories were pathetically low and having zero tolerance for food or sugar.

A few miles later I climbed the hill to Lapland aid. It was here I began to see all of the 50 mile racers, which was nice to have some interaction with others in the night on the trail. Arriving at Lapland I had no appetite. Filled my bottles, and searched for something to eat. It was great seeing my family at these aid stations. They were always positive and excited to update me on who well I was doing compared to the others. My dad informed me that 2nd place was only about 10 minutes up on me. I drank some coke, two cups, and ate a half banana or so. Jogging away I was ready to finish. 17 miles to go. About 1/2 mile out of the aid it hit me, nausea, all the coke and banana came up. There goes that I thought… I jogged on and found my stride, drank water, took salt and kept moving. 4 miles later I came to another unmanned aid and filled my water, took 2 cookies, ate them. Moved on. I was now turning into a zombie in the night. Run/walk was the technique now. I would run all downhills and mellow grades, but walked the steep portions in the night. Rolling up and down. Finally my watch said 92.8. I was at Battlecreek aid. The final manned aid station. As I entered I saw Scott Hill sitting on a chair eating soup I think. I grabbed some mountain dew, filled my handheld with ice and water and was out. Second place was mine, but I still had to finish. I ran the next 3 miles well. Pushing about 9:50 pace steady. Then I ran out of gas. It was flat, but I had to run/walk. I’d run a minute, walk 30 seconds. Drinking water constantly, I pushed onward. With about a mile left I saw the finish in the distance. I stopped and organized my pack a bit and looked up at the stars. It was a clear night. Full of stars and distant lightening storms blitzed the sky. Pretty amazing. I turned off the gravel road and onto the pavement, jogging to the finish. Closer and closer I came and saw my family there, full of energy and happiness. It was great. I crossed in 18:13 in second place. What a day. Epic. My mind had willed this, pushing my depleted body to the finish. I sat down, ate some chili, and began to freeze. We loaded into the Land Cruiser, which had an epic day as well shuffling the family around to meet me at the 8 aid stations. We were all exhausted and crashed upon reaching the hotel.

Never Give Up.

Finish what you start.

The Mind is Primary.

In order to break barriers and improve you have to go through some hell. Knock the door down, bust through the wall, keep pushing. Do not succumb to negative thinking. Use it as fuel. Beat it back.

A lot was learned about myself at the Heartland 100. Satisfaction is a sweet feeling.

Onward.

Gear Used:

  • Footwear: Hoka One One, Bondi B
  • Socks: Drymax
  • Bottoms: Pearl Izumi Ultra 3/4 tights
  • Base Layer: Patagonia Cap 1, SS and LS
  • Jacket: Patagonia Light Flyer
  • Watch: Garmin
  • Pack: Mountain Hardwear Race Vest
  • Salt: Succeed S-Caps
  • Gels: Gu, EFS
  • Generation UCAN corn starch
  • Handhelds: Amphipod

2012: An Honest Assessment

The first ultra-experience, Jemez 50k 2010

The first ultra-experience, Jemez 50k 2010

January 2012 was a turning point.  It was time to all-in, or continuing in that middle-area, of “OK” at lots of things, but “good” at none.  I had just completed a 6-week strength training block in the studio, working up to a 40 pullup max, and 5×315 deadlift.  This was great, but in the end I didn’t feel accomplished.  I was now weighing a solid 165, but was that the goal?  Train in the gym to be better in the gym?  Was I another “crossfit guy”?  Did that motivate me?  The answer to that question was no.  The gym is a modality, a tool to make you better at Sport.  It is not Sport nor can it substitute for it.  Thus, my energy turned toward my real passion… endurance.  Specifically, competitive distance/ultra-running.

Endurance is a strong word.  It says a lot.  When a person has endurance, to me, they are tough, strong willed, dedicated individuals.  See, you can’t fake endurance.  Profound, lasting endurance is earned day in and day out.  An endurance athlete has the ability to recover quickly, relentless pursuing the next goal or event.  Training through fatigue, learning how to actively recover and envision a future of breaking through barriers.

It was at that point, when others had begun their new years “resolutions” that I decided to make 2012 the year I gave endurance my focus.  Being a fairly impatient person, enough time had passed without giving this effort 100%.

Let me summarize happenings thus far.  I’ve competed in 9 events with 2 more coming up soon, from trail and road 10k’s to 50 mile endurance races.  My season will culminate in the Flint Hills of Kansas at the Heartland 100.  I’ve begun the process of building an endurance “base”.  This will take years, but the ball is rolling.  In each event I am a competitor and am racing.  The goal is no longer to finish, but to push my limit, or to out what and where that limit exists.

To say that I’m excited about the process would not do my emotions justice.  I’m thrilled to be in this position athletically.  Having a goal is key.  The mind needs to experience the urgency of competition and deal with the limitations of time.  Each day is a day to improve, take charge, devote energy to, focus on, and make that deposit towards accomplishment. Confidence is gained when you feel satisfied with the sacrifices made the previous day or week.  A bit faster, longer, harder each week.

I have a long road ahead.  Sport specific fitness for ultra-running takes time.  The human body transforms slowly, but nonetheless steadily.

Ask yourself if you are ready to commit… to be all in.  Give it 6-weeks, address the goal, want, or need and devote a portion of each day to it.  It’s like flossing, if you can floss every day you can make progress in the gym.  Don’t have the time or discipline to floss?  Good luck changing your body or accomplishing a goal.  Be honest.  Give it 6-weeks.  Assess where you are at, what was hard, what went well.  Make changes and keep moving forward.

Embrace the suck.  It takes guts to change.