fear of the inevitability

It’s funny, sometimes the end has to occur in order to precipitate the beginning. Things have to fall so completely apart before you find out what actually matters. The extraneous possessions feel worthless, if not uninspired.
The mountains and trails have a way of showing you that time doesn’t matter. The earth and everything in it wasn’t in a rush to become the present we find, not the future we seek. It all plays out exactly how it should.

You meet the people in the order you’re supposed to. And maybe.. just maybe it feels unfair for the destruction of something you love to start the rebirth of the new.
But that’s how it’s always been. Death renews life. You learn to fully appreciate what once was and realize that it had to happen in order for the next phase to begin. Life gives back you what you really need, when you need it. People really do come into your life for a reason.
Respect that, and thank them for being a part of your journey.

I met her out with friends. I vaguely knew her from running, but her fondness for life echoed in every motion she made. She was real, everything she said and did intrigued me.
She wasn’t available, but we we kept in touch, and we half heartedly flirted from time to time.
Fast forward a bit. We finally got together, I fell in love with someone who changed me for the better. I hope I did the same for her. It wasn’t meant to be, but we needed each other. I’m surer of that then I’ve ever been. I’ll forever thank her for getting me to where I needed to be.
I was falling apart when got together you see. Work, running, social life.. out of whack. I’d much rather have stayed in. Alone. I got out, but.. I felt distant from others. She helped lure me back in from my fuzzy and fictitious reality. She reminded me how to live and brought me my life back.

Her last bit of advice, was to get out of my bubble. I liked doing the things I did, the places I went. But..I am predictable. We all are to an extent. We drive the same route, to the same job, eat/drink in our usual spots. We are so bored of life, that most of us use this routine to become drones. We forget the dreams we had. We forget how we wanted to change the world, or at least someone’s world. Instead, we fall in line and do what is expected.
School, job, marriage, kids, blah blah. It works for those that want that. I’m not knocking it if that’s all you ever wanted. I never really wanted that. I want to see what life has to offer. I don’t wanna “settle” for anything. But, I had. I was uncomfortable in life, but not willing to risk it. She reminded me of that. She said to me, before it all ended, that I needed to get my butt back to the mountains. She saw a rebirth in me, one that happens when I get out in nature. The trails have that power. I feel most alive when i am out there. She could see the way it changed me, made me happier.
Mountain/trail life is slower than you expect. The people around it learn to accept that there is no reason to rush. It’s all gonna happen, no matter how fast ya move. You learn to accept that the insignificant fears you had were meaningless. It puts life in perspective, removing the calloused, hardened soul that became who you were.

I witnessed the stillness that makes it all so great. Just sitting back, watching the wildlife living is the most magical that can happen. They have no hatred of anything. They only care about their loved ones. Protecting them, caring for them, and living their lives more freely than any human can understand. I had a semi-irrational fear of bears. Yes, they can kill me, but I was deathly afraid to go where they were. Until I saw the truth in them. Momma bear was stopped on the trail, waiting for her cubs. They were running around, playing, eating, and their childlike ways were fascinating. They wanted nothing more than to be there, present in that moment. Momma, wanted them to follow her. She saw the presence of humans as an annoyance. So, she ordered them up the mountain. She paused in the middle of the trail and looked at us. She looked at her babes, then returned to us. If she could talk, she’d say, “Just give them a moment. We are getting out of your way, but they just don’t listen. You know how kids are” She didn’t want to harm us, or anything for that matter. She wanted her family to be left in the solitude of the mountain, like we all did. We all would do the same for our family.

Why can’t we be like them. Why do we get so confined in the intricate details of our mundane lives that we forget who we are? What material possession is so worthwhile that as a species, we can’t survive without? We work So hard on becoming what others want us to become. We live up to some expectations that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things. But why?

Two things I saw on my journey. That made me smile. There will be more to come and I’ll write more about my journeys. But, for today, these two made me appreciate this craziness of it all.

Zeppelin was playing on the radio. The man, maybe in his 50s, was so far gone and out of his mind from whatever drugs he consumed. He reminded me of Johnny Depp from “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” He sat in his colorful beach chair, whiter than a vampire that hadn’t seen the sun in 200 years. He wanted his picture taken, near the Tinker Cliffs. He repositioned himself closer, to get a better shot. He got nervous how close he was, but, in the drug induced haze, he didn’t realize that he was still 10-15 feet from the edge. My buddy Shawn took the picture. He said, “there’s more Cliffs to get a better view around the corner”, as if he wanted us gone then. That’s when we noticed the two 20somethings sitting on the edge of the cliff. There was a drop down, maybe 8-10 inches wide and a foot or two down. They were smoking weed from their bowl, just shooting the shit. They never even cared that they could have one misstep and fall to their death. They were oblivious to us all. Like the other guy, just deep in the abyss of their imagination from the drugs. No worries at all.

We moved on, figuring this wasn’t the best option anyway. That’s when we saw a guy trying to be the “World’s Best Dad.” You see, he took his daughters for a hike to the top of the Cliffs. 3.5 miles of hiking with his lil ones, and their dog. The 55-60lb adorable, big headed and well behaved mutt. Oh, and he only had 3 legs. So, why you ask, did he try to win the award. Well, he carried the dog on his shoulders like a sandbag. The dog, who had obviously been in this position before, rested peacefully there. He never growled at anyone, didn’t bark when he got picked up, but knew he somehow got to experience something amazing. Thanks to his master. His lil girls were happier than they had the right to be being up there. It’s an arduous hike, even for the most skilled hiker. But, they knew they had each other, their dad, and their best friend up there that day.

Find the good in everything. I know I have her to thank for quite a few things. It may hurt a bit, but I’m in the best place I can be now. I could never have experienced things as I have without her push.

Ignore the voice inside – Burning River 100

Nearly in tears, I was shaking from being so cold and low on nutrition, I wanted to give up.  75 miles in, JP sat next to me, encouraging me to go on.  The chills had taken over.  That voice that nearly took me down once earlier, reared it’s ugly head again. I’m teary eyed from exhaustion, remorse, and low fuel. I’m broken, mentally and physically, and I want to go home. This time, I gave into it. I accepted I was finished when I asked JP, “Wanna grab that beer? We can be done now, go home, shower and drink”.  He reminded me that the only way back was to grind it out.  “There isn’t a bus back to the finish, we have to walk back there, might as well finish the race. Plus, the beer will taste so much better when we finish.  We have both come to far to stop now.”  I hated the idea, but in my heart, I knew he was right.  But.. I’ve got nothing left at this point.  He brought me some boiled potatoes with salt.  I hadn’t been eating, just mountain dew, some ginger ale, and some chips when I could at the aid stations. That along with some Tailwind in my bottle, that I rarely was drinking from now.  Honey stinger waffles and gels were my plan, but that went out the window 30 miles ago.   My stomach hit it’s second rough spot of the race during these last few hours, which as slow as we were moving, was only a handful of miles. Cramps were the norm for me, no matter how many salt tabs I took.  “wow, these are amazing!” Plain, boiled potatoes with salt were a delicacy to me at this point.  I felt like I was at a ritzy dining establishment and some gourmet chef cooked me up his special of the day.  JP asked if I needed more, which I did, so he brought me another cup. Just as fast as everything went bleak, somehow, these turned me around.

The path to quitting is an easy one.   We all hit a roadblock to a challenge in life where we throw in the towel.  But rare are the precious moments when the chips are down, when your mind screams “I can’t!” that you push on. That voice is a liar.  Those are the moments when you need to keep pushing to help define who you are.  When the voice whispers, “It’s ok, you can quit”, ignore it.  It’ll get louder for awhile, heck, it may start screaming at you.  Keep moving anyway, piss it off.  Happiness doesn’t reside in the complacency of life.  It lies in adventuring into unknown territory. It comes from a place where you have to push past the limits you imagined.  That’s all limits are anyway, imaginary boundaries we place around ourselves.

Lets go back to how we got here, how it all came about.

5 months ago I was at Whole Foods with some friends.  I had just finished my 100k, the one where I was leading for 43/4 miles or so.. then fell apart. Still got it done though and finished 3rd, an hour slower than I expected.  JP had just completed his World Marathon Challenge.  That is, 7 marathons, in 7 days, on 7 continents.  In his head, he wanted a 100 miler one day.  I wanted to get my qualifier for Western States.  We picked Never Summer 100k in Colorado, but we waited to long and there was a waiting list. Burning River 100 was on my radar last year, when my buddy Steve told me about it.  It just so happened he was here with us now as we were trying to find a race.  We looked it up, and next thing I know, JP was registered.  Shit.. I can’t make him do it alone.. so boom. We are in.  Well, over the next few months, JP ran some more crazy stuff, and his legs and body weren’t too pleased.   He was allowed to drop to the 50 miler, but the best news was he could do the backhalf 50 with me and pace. Hell, I can run 50 solo miles to start the race, no problem at all.

Or so I thought.  I signed up for the OSS/CIA 50 miler to use as a training run.  It was an overnight 50 miler, on some amazing trails.  No thoughts entered my head I couldn’t make it, especially knowing Steve and another buddy, Chuck, were also running it.  Everything was ok.. til a thunderstorm blew in.  It rained harder than I’ve ever raced in.  Lightning illuminated the sky, while the roar of thunder shook us.  Dry, fast trails became mud pits before turning to streams of water flowing downhill as we ran up.  The rain lasted hours.  It was relentless.  I had one DNF ever and that was because my ankle was swollen twice the size and I couldn’t put pressure on it. But that was 10 years ago. I haven’t quit since.  But.. I didn’t expect the worst here.  I hung with Steve for 20 miles, jogged in the last 5 to finish the first of two loops.  I walked to the race director, handed him my bib and quit. Mentally, the thought of another 25 miles, starting at midnight, in this weather wasn’t worth it.  I knew I’d fall over and over on the terrain of this course. I didn’t want to risk injury before my actual A race.  I tell myself these now about how smart it was, but the voice inside whispered quit once.. and I obliged. On training runs after, Steve and I chatted about how to use this to prepare for BR100.  We did some workouts that were brutal for us, that boosted our confidence after the fact.  I reminded myself to use those that I could come back stronger.

Burning River 100

Race day started at 130am.  The alarms going off were awful.. who gets up that early to run all day?  We stayed in Akron, not too far from the finish. There was a bus to the start from Akron, but JP volunteered to take me.  This allowed me to get things together a little longer and to prepare a bit more. We headed off around 215 for Squire’s Castle outside Cleveland.  And of course, I told him the wrong road.  Ominous sign to start the race, but at least it wasn’t too far off and we were there in less than 10 minutes.  Bathroom, gear check, pictures, and then it was time to line up for the start.  Everything seems to move a bit faster race morning, almost too fast. You’re never quite ready for the gun.  I’ve raced everything from one mile to 100.. the pit in your stomach always comes. Nerves for this though are overwhelming.  The secret for 100 miles is to not think about 100 miles, yea that’s easier said than done.  Aid station to aid station will get you there better though.  Five miles here, six miles there, etc.. those smaller chunks make is doable.

As the race starts, I find a comfortable pace.  I’m in a pack of ten runners after a mile or so that dwindles to just a couple.  Some take off like they are running at 10k.. others realizing the enormity of the day back off.  I happen, unknowingly, to be running with the 2nd place finisher for the day.  We chat, crack jokes and talk about races.  He was from this area originally, came back to run it and was  also 3.5 months off a stress fracture in his leg. Oh, and he was wearing Hoka’s that he had nearly zero miles in.. so the marshmellowey softness could ease the pounding.  He pulled away a couple miles later when I stopped to refill my bottle of Tailwind.  The first 11.x miles of the course are road. I had to force myself to take it easy, and so far it was working.  I was averaging 9 minute miles, right what i wanted.  As we headed onto bridle trails for the next bit, nothing much changed.  Except for two things.  One was horse shit, which was everywhere for the rest of the day.  The other, was stream crossings.  Nothing too deep, maybe just calf deep at the worst, but enough to get your socks and shoes wet over and over.

I brought my phone with me for the race because they were using Racejoy app during this race.  It’s a great idea, def a few bugs to get out.  It allowed people to see my progress in real time, mile by mile. It also allowed them to send cheers, either the pre-programmed ones they had, or personal messages.  If you were one of the people that sent cheers, I can’t thank you enough.  These messages kept me motivated all day.  Once or twice, someone somehow shot a messaged at the perfect time to get me through a tough spot.  Like when Heidi sent a snippet of the song, “I’ve got the power” as was I trying to run up a tough hill. The personal messages were amazing, loved having my friends talk to me on the course, letting me know they were thinking of JP and I.  Still waiting on my Yeti’s someone promised me and I hope the Ohio beers y’all were drinking came close to the ones JP and I drank later.  I will say, 41 miles isn’t halfway.. and that 65 miles doesn’t mean a 50k to go. You know who you are haha.

Back to the race. Everything was spot on those first 30 miles.  I honestly couldn’t have run it more perfectly to my plan than i did.  I was maybe a bit behind on water and a bit hungry, but being five hours in, who wouldn’t be?  When I got to the 30 mile aid station, i grabbed some watermelon, refilled my bottle and went on.  Less than a mile or two later, I was in trouble.  My stomach did not like watermelon in anyway, shape, or form.  I felt nauseous.  I wanted to stick my finger down my throat to get it out, and I probably should have.  The next 7-8 miles were rough.  I had been chatting with one guy in the beginning of this part, can’t remember his name, but he mentioned he was done and was going to drop.  He fell further behind me, and I was walking with an occasional jog. Ouch. Once I started regaining my composure a bit, just before mile 36, I met up with Chad.  He had run it several times and finished. About a mile into talking, he decided enough was enough and threw in the towel.  He didn’t wanna tough it out any longer, knowing the day was gonna be too long to deal with.  Great.. two guys I’ve talked to in a couple miles, who felt better than me, just quit.  Chad reminded me to at least get to my buddy at mile 50.  I couldn’t leave him hanging he said, and hell, who knows, it could turn around.  I hit the mile 37 aid station, took in a couple cups of ginger ale and a ginger chew, filled my bottle with Tailwind and took off quickly.

The oddest thing about feeling like you are on death’s door, is how fast you forget you ever were hurting when it turns around. Around mile 40, a couple miles after the aid station, I was good again. I couldn’t remember how I ever felt that bad.  I started running, until some serious hills came.  At this point in the race, I could power hike up the hills, jog or walk fast on the descents, and run the flats. The hills were steeper than anything I was used to.  I was in contact with JP and he saw me coming to the halfway point.  Before you get there, a huge wooden staircase goes up a giant hill.  As was the norm for the day, they were steep. A guy was stretching to the side, obviously in pain, as I was approaching.  Right as I got to them, he jumped in front of me and proceeded to take his sweet time up them.  Ugh.. i just wanted to go around, but they were barely wider than me..

Once up, we ran back on the roads to the 50 mile checkpoint.  I was at 10 hours.. about an 80 min slower than I hoped.  JP was there with my gear and nutrition. Grabbed some food, refilled my bottle, and off we went.  I already let him know I was moving slow.  He was ok with it.  We discussed the race, the course, who won the 50 miler, etc.  He updated me on the latest happenings and provided me with a spark.

We got into a walk, run mode for the next while.  He made me jog at times, which I needed.  Even if I didn’t wanna.  Around mile 62, a relay runner came upon us.  She told us good job, then talked about how she just hit the wall a bit ago… I wanted to throw something at her.  I mentioned I may have it the wall 8 or 9 times already..but hey.. whatever.  He started seeing some of these hills I was talking about.  Glad he thought they were tough too.  Can’t really remember much during this part, other than I was still under 22 hour pace, which meant, HiHo Brewery would be open for a beer for us at the finish.  The next aid station came, I ran to the bathroom, finally after hours on not using it, again.  The aid stations at BR100 were perfect. They had everything needed, well, except maybe veggie ramen noddles for people like me that are allergic to meat.  But that’s neither here nor there.  We approached mile 69 when we saw the guy who had his dog running the backhalf of the race with him.  Pretty cool stuff, as long as his dog was up for it.  There were two big hills to climb coming into the aid station at 72 and JP just ran up like a mountain goat.  He even got claps from one runner.  We filled up here, got ready to head out on the next part.

Just a quick 3 1/2 miles back we said.  Maybe an hour, since it had some of the tougher climbing of the day.  This section was the beginning of the end.. or was it the end of the beginning?  I thank god it got darker here, that headlamps were needed.  I couldn’t fathom seeing some of the hills.  Everytime you turn, it seemed to go straight up, then straight down.  My quads were locking up, my ankle started to as well from cramps.  The top of my left foot was in pain. My glutes gave out here and were throbbing.  My calf, the one that cramped and locked at Singletrack Maniac earlier in the year did it again. I went down hard. I took a tylenol, hoping to numb the pain.  It worked way back at mile 39 or so, and I prayed it would again.   I couldn’t run downhill, couldn’t walk downhill barely either. Uphills were slower than molasses.  25+ minute mile times almost. I had been taking 1-2 Endurolyte Extreme tabs every hour, or even a salt stick tab when i was out from the aid station.  I drank plenty of fluids. But. this was something else than regular cramping.  My lower half just didn’t work.  My inner demons came raging back. I convinced myself to quit when we got out of this at mile 75.  I had nothing left, I was physically and mentally checked out. I didn’t want the pain anymore. It was too bad.

Once JP got me back out from that mess (from the beginning of my story).. within a mile, I thanked him.  I felt ok again.  Running wasn’t gonna happen much, but I was ok.  I was probably in the aid station for 25 min or more, as that whole mile took 45 minutes.

We listened to music, we chatted, but most of all.. we kept moving.  I got passed, a lot.  We were now going to be lucky to break 24 hours, bye bye gold Sub-24 belt buckle.  We were moving again, and that’s all that really mattered. JP jokingly said, “I should have let you quit, we could be drinking beer now!” But I was determined.  Nothing was going to stop me now, except freezing to death.  60 degree temps over night sent chills through both of us.  I knew I had a pullover at 91.  Just had to make it there.  The next aid station was also an out and back, so we saw it twice.  Hills, more hills, and then we were back. Oh, and a ninja creeped up on us wearing only shoe lights. Seriously, it was pitch black, and she had only shoe lights to guide her through? Unreal.

The realization now, was that I was going to see the sun come up again.  That means, twice in one race, I’ll see it come up.  Shit, that’s long.  I got to mile 91, got my pullover on, my back up battery charger for my phone and saw they had pizza. HELL YES!! Pizza. If you’ve ever hung out with me, I can eat pizza. More than most people, def more than anyone reading this.  I grabbed three of the most delicious, thick slices I could and took off.  I regretted not grabbing more, as I was starving, but I couldn’t hold em.  Just past this aid station was a coal plant.. and it stunk. Thankfully my sense of smell wasn’t the best at this point, but, still nearly wanted to vomit.

We kept moving, hit the huge set of stairs that I knew signaled the end of trails and the end of the race.  It was a bit longer on the gravel path than i anticipated, but.. sure enough, there was the bridge around the corner where the road was.  JP was struggling to keep up with me I was walking so fast. It was just a hop, skip, and jump from the end. My emotions were getting the better of me at this point and tears did come on.  I wiped them away a few times, so no one could see them. I had set out to finish this thing no matter what.  I know I needed a little convincing,  but mission accomplished.

I can’t thank everyone that supported me enough. The messages before and during, the miles of training leading up to the race. JP for dealing with me for 17 hours, keeping me moving, and dealing with the worst stench from my body.  Being in the same clothes for 30 hours smells god-awful.  The best news is, the gear worked perfectly.  No issues at all. Thanks LA for letting me borrow your phone case charger, that thing was great too 🙂

Shoes – Hoka Challenger ATR 4 (no toenails lost!)
Socks – Drymax Hot weather socks (no blisters at all)
Shorts – Patagonia Strider Pro Shorts (best shorts around)
Shirt – North Face Better Than Naked SS (barely feels like you are wearing anything, and cools ya down too)
Hat – Patagonia Duckbill Trucker (kept sweat out, ice in, and folds nicely into a pocket)
Naked Running Belt – held all my goodies, including lamp, phone, food, soft flask
Squirrel’s Nut Butter – no chafing. ever.
Tailwind – lots and lots of it!

Another big thanks to Jake McCrowell at Direct Performance Physical Therapy for getting me to the start line healthy as always.

27 hours, 26 minutes, 50 seconds.

8 hours slower than I planned.

Also, huge shout out to Akronym Brewery. We went there the day before the race. We returned after eating, showering and napping after the race.  I wish I could remember her name, but she hooked us up with free beers. Awesome place, great vibe and delicious beer.

Learning

Well.. guess I got a bit lazy with my blog. I’ve been writing, more than ever in fact.  Some of it was way too personal to print.  Then again, maybe it’ll help someone one day, I’m sure some of it will see the light of day, just need to change a few names to protect the innocent…

It’s weird though, ya know, last year I had something written about not racing much, but never printed it, and then randomly, someone I didn’t know,  told me they heard I was taking time off from racing. I hadn’t told anyone.  Why did they know my personal secret, or how?

Rocky Raccoon took a lot out of me. Not physically, but psychologically. I paced my buddy JP in a marathon, then turned around and finished 3rd in a 50k.  I’d heard that 100 could do that to you mentally, you really experience “Life in a day“.  If you haven’t watched that yet, do it now. I thought I was ready to come back and race again, but I wasn’t mentally.  So, I took time to learn to love running again, and myself as well.   I spent most of June and July exploring Seashore (First Landing State Park) and found trails I never knew existed.  I’ve learned to love being alone just running, clearing my head, and being at one in nature.  If I could, I’d move to a small cabin in the mountains, run trails all day, and work a small job that afforded me the luxury of keeping my near hippie lifestyle.  I learned I don’t need as much as I thought I needed,  material goods aren’t the end all be all, and that I love being in the woods.  Money can’t buy happiness, but it can enter me in races.  So there’s that.

I was running well again in the fall,  then.. totaled my car.  Knowing that I could be dead or could have killed someone for a split second of not paying attention.. well. There went my mental state again.  Just as soon as I started getting back, I slipped running hill sprints, hurt myself, and got setback.  I tried a 12 hour race, but bowed out at 35 miles.  I ran Seashore 50k with a long run of 14/15 miles in the 2 months preceding (the 12 hour was quite a bit of walking). Then, magically, after that race, it all came back to me. Thank god for great running friends, who are really just great friends. They can pull ya back when it all goes wrong.

I entered the Western States and Leadville lotteries, hoping for a near miracle to get in.  I didn’t, but I am setting myself up to get there one day.  Those two, along with Massanutten 100, the Bear 100, and Wasatch 100 are races I’d like to do one day. Hardrock.. well. it would be a long walk high in the mountains, one that would probably break me.. but I wanna try that too.  I don’t know my limits, but I’d like to keep exploring them.

I also wanna try a fast 50 miler again.  I know I can break 7 hours.  I ran JFK with no speedwork, just lots of miles and went out wayyy to slow.

I debated Shamrock or One City this year.  I’ve been putting down a few speedy sessions reminiscent of my Marine Corps training 3 years ago.  How that race was that long ago.. I don’t know.  I almost miss the marathon.  Almost.

I entered a 100k, around a golf course next week.  I haven’t the slightest idea of how I will do, other than I’ll learn more about me.

Being a math coach is everything and nothing like I though it would be.  I miss the day to day with kids.  But I like trying to help teachers. I see that trying to make teachers clones of you, or clones of someone else, is a failure waiting to happen.  We have our own styles in life.  Those have to be respected, even if it isn’t what we’d do.  The true test of a coach is based on how do we make someone better than they were while still respecting their ideals. A coach can’t push their style or method on someone and expect them to become just like them, it never works. We have to finagle and work to mesh what they do, with something that can help their students.  It’s hard. Sometimes, I want my own class back and do what works for me.  I’m good at teaching, not bragging. I know that you have to have faith in each and every kid. That some kids don’t fit the “advanced” profile, but are smarter than me. I’ve learned shiny new toys, ones that glisten brightly.. lose their luster fast.  Especially when adversity hits. We have to welcome change, otherwise we don’t grow. There is no one right method and if you expect different.. failure is not only an option, it should be expected.

I’ll be updating more and more.  I like to ramble… but.. there’s a time and place for that.

 

 

 

Slurpees and Mountain Dew Saved My Life

And…. we’re off!

 

I ran a little race this past weekend.  A 12 hour, One Mile With a Smile in Oak Grove Park.

Honestly, I am a bit disappointed but thrilled at the same time.  If that’s possible.  I had a plan and a goal.  2-3 weeks ago, the temps here in Va Beach were sitting in the high 70s, low 80’s with not too much humidity.  I actually thought for a minute that would last.  I figured, if it stays like this, I could make my A++ goal of 70 miles. I had an A goal of 60.. and a B goal of getting my 2nd longest run ever, so anything over 50 would be good.

Race day came.. temps soared.  The day before the race, the heat index topped out at 112°. Crap. Well.. lets go have fun I said in my head.

I got there and met up with some friends.  Roy, Steve, Ally, Chuck, Bridgette, Shawn, Aaron, and well.. quite a few others.  I had a plan to stick with my buddy Steve for as long as possible and then go from there.  Oak Grove is a 1.5 mile loop around a lake in Chesapeake and is pancake flat. That worried me a bit.  I’m running healthier than I’ve run in years, but I know that is because most of miles have some elevation change in them.  Be it at the Jordan Bridge or First Landing State Park with all the side trails. I need some sort of change to keep my glutes and hammies happy and healthy.  Thanks to Jake and Dana at Direct Performance Physical Therapy, I’ve learned exercises that have strengthened and corrected my imbalances. I’m in the best shape running wise I’ve been thanks to them,  but I know flat surfaces are my kryptonite.

The first 18 miles went fast.  Steve, Chuck, I just chatted and ran together like any other weekend long run.  We laughed as the miles and laps built up.  

Andrew showed up and ran some miles with us too.

Steve and I pulled a bit ahead, going a bit faster than maybe intended, but nothing alarmingly so.  Everything was going great.. til it wasn’t.  As we got back on the loop to mile 18, I grabbed my Iced Cap and tried to get my body temp down.  I was boiling hot as the temps climbed.  I stuck with him for a bit, I think another loop at this point, and then decided to walk some until we got around to the checkpoint area.  I chatted with the race directors and all the people volunteering.  They were awesome, such a well organized race.  I walked the next loop as I drank lots of water, probably too much and refilled my Iced Cap with ice.  By the time  I got around the next loop, I felt normal again and switched out of the Iced Cap.

Iced Cap to cool me down!

The thing about ultras that most people don’t know.  You get a 2nd, 3rd, maybe 4th wind.  You get a good high and feel like you can run forever.. then the low hits, and trust me, it will come.  Well, about this time, I got out of my funk. I ran the next two laps and was feeling on top of the world until I wasn’t again.  I think it was more of a motivation thing than anything.  I wasn’t feeling it.  Didn’t seem like it was gonna be my day.  12 hours is a long damn time.  I was maybe 3.5-4 hours in at this point, so 8 hours or more to go and I was 22-23 miles in. I still had plenty of time to get to where I wanted, but motivation was lacking.

Thankfully, I saw Ally at this point.  I knew I could probably run more, but I was struggling mentally. Over the next 4 laps with her, in her words, we solved all the world’s problems. 🙂 I needed those laps more than she knows. I saw Steve plugging along, absolutely just killing, and Chuck as well.  I wanted to go with them a couple times, but I was having way too much fun chatting with Ally. So I walked with her (and eventually Roy came back) and got back to feeling good.  I grabbed some mountain dew and chugged it. wow.. talk about energy kick at the end of the loop.

I ran the next couple loops at a good, solid pace.  I did stop once to change my shoes, which at this point weighed 20 lbs and once to get something to eat.   But it felt good to run again.. until I saw some friends out there.  JP had shown up, as did my sister Heidi, and Andrew came back out.  I ran those loops on a mountain dew caffeine high.  After the comedown I stopped and chatted for a bit. I was going to change shoes again until I saw my feet which looked like I had been in the bath tub for days.  So.. I did what JP would do and put on my sandals and walked a lap with him.  I also chugged a slurpee that Andrew had brought us all.  Don’t think I remember them ever being this tasty, but man, I felt like a new man after that.

I got my big boy pants on, changed into some shoes and finished out my 50+ miles.  I had almost and hour and a quarter left.  I could have gone further.  Should have. But.. I was mentally drained.

I think timed races are a different beast.  One maybe I’m not sure of.  On one hand, being able to quit at anytime is nice.  But.. that’s the problem.  It’s too easy to quit.  I like getting somewhere. I don’t like feeling like a hamster spinning around and around in a cage.  I think I’ll be staying away from these for a bit.

It’s funny to look at my nutrition game plan vs what I actually ate.  Tailwind, honey stinger waffles with sunflower seed butter are my norms.  Those can power me through lots and lots of miles.  Instead, after 20 miles, my diet consisted of potato chips, mountain dew, slurpees and one waffle. I guess you never know what you’ll feel like eating come race day.  You practice with one thing in mind, and come race day, it almost disgusts you.  Odd that. But you do what you gotta do to get by.

I was also shocked at how good I’ve felt since.  I’m already back running, taking it easy cause that seems like the smart thing to do.  But, don’t feel like I just ran 51ish miles.  My next race is Nov 11th, another 50 mile race.  Being able to run this far in this heat is a huge confidence boost.  I’ll be doing some huge back to back long runs to prepare, but I am also hoping to get some speedwork in.  I need a little extra something to finish out.  I want to have a bit of a kick and be able to hold harder efforts again.

Congrats go out to Steve for winning the 12 hour and setting a personal best of 78 miles.  Yikes. Chuck ran 51 miles, and then crushed a 10 miler the next day, making me feel absolutely lazy.  Huge congrats to everyone else that ran and survived in that heat.  An amazing day to run and be surrounded by such an awesome running community.  Thanks again to Seko and everyone else that put this race together.  I hope it becomes a yearly thing.

 

 

Stepping out of the classroom (kinda)

Those that work with me know that last year I applied for a job and I didn’t get interviewed.  Nothing.  Talk about being humbled.  Here I was on top of the world, feeling great about myself, and got a dose of reality handed to me.

I don’t take setbacks as a sign to give up. To me, they are a stepping stone to get where you need to go.

There is always a reason for how things play out, sometimes, you just don’t know it at the time.

One of my favorite books I read last year, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, talks about overcoming challenges and using them to raise the bar in your work. It offered pragmatic advice from leaders on how they overcame the odds.  Now, I am not trying to save the whole world, but I want to change the life of one kid to help change his or her world.  That’s all I’ve ever set out to do.  I want to help my kids. Kids at my school aren’t given the same chances as kids are at other schools, between home life and poverty, they have it harder than most. I want them to have the same chance for success in life.

I had a tough group of kids this past year.  I looked in the mirror and knew I needed to change.  I knew that the reason a kid didn’t do well was not their fault, but mine.  The old cliche I’ve heard teachers say, “I taught it, I don’t know why they didn’t get it” was not cutting it.  If the kids aren’t getting it, you did not teach it, you just said it.  To teach is to inspire belief, to invoke a passion in a kid to want to do better.  Telling ourselves that we taught something and seeing the kids fail is failing as a teacher.  We have to get the kids to believe in us, to trust us, to be successful as teachers.  Plans that worked the year before, well…. they didn’t this past year.  I could have easily said, “Well, this group of kids isn’t as smart as the year before” when things didn’t work.  But honestly, I think they were smarter.  They pushed me to change how I taught. I couldn’t believe it when I was told there were less gifted kids. I actually recommended more kids for gifted this year than ever before.  I had kids that were bored and that got in trouble in other classes that performed amazingly for me.  Not saying I didn’t see some of the same behaviors, cause I did.  But I built a relationship with them and at times I got them to show why I thought so highly of them.  Yes, I had a few that never bought into me, never liked me, sadly not all kids do, but they still did well.  So that was a plus.

Seeing my sister, Heidi, take a leap of faith and become a Gifted Resource Teacher helped drive me. The past few years, I also got to work with a few people that inspired me. My good friend Erin has worked with me the past 3 years as my math specialist and has helped me grow immensely.  She’s shown me a better way to look at data to drive my teaching.  She’s taught me to stop doing worksheets (well, I’ve hated doing them for years), and to get the kids moving to keep them more engaged, to ask better questions, and to trust they can do more than I thought. Between my sister, Erin, and my Gifted Resource Teacher Angelyn, I’ve learned to develop plans to get the students thinking deeper and making more meaningful connections.  Lets face it, math can be extremely boring. Our old ways of doing math, the drill-and-kill, the countless amounts of formulas and procedures don’t help this.  Letting the kids learn conceptually on their own how to do it while making mistakes and struggling is better, at times.  If a kid forgets a procedure, they can’t do it. If a kid learns to do it on their own, even if it’s not the normal way a teacher wants them to do it, they will reach that deeper understanding we strive for.  It’s hard to watch a kid struggle and to not give in and just show them how to answer it.  I can’t thank those 3 enough to show me that.  I am not perfect, and still struggle at times, but I am a constant learner.  I want to be better than I was, not better than anyone else. The goal in life isn’t to be better than someone else, it’s to be the best version of yourself.  Be better than you were yesterday, it’s really that simple.  (Thanks also JP, Steve, Ally, and all my my running friends.  You’ve shown me that you have to take a leap, and can’t wait til you are “ready”.  I waited years to run a 100 miler, and you all made me believe anything was possible. Seeing I could do that, it also gave me the courage to apply again for this job, even if I didn’t know if I was ready. You know I had to bring running into this somehow 😉 haha)

So with that..

I am a now a math specialist.     

Luckily, I’ll still be at my school.  I’ll get to work with the teachers, instead of students, although I know i’ll be working with them too, but they won’t be mine.  I get to be a coach of sorts.

I went through a tough interview process, had to get called in twice.  I was asked the other day the standard, “where will you be in 5 years?” question.  I paused.  I looked at the head of math for the city and said I’d like to have your job (maybe that’ll be a few more than 5 years down the road), but I also said I could see myself back in the classroom.  I like being with the kids. I admitted my lack of leadership training in education is not helping me, but I am a willing learner. I know my weaknesses, and will work on them.  I am not sure everyone believes in me, but I know my admin does.  They’ve gone to bat for me, shown a level of trust that I’ve never had before.  I told my principal the other day that I’d do anything for her, and I would.  She inspires me and trusts me, it’s a huge and welcome change from where I was a few years back.  I am also a bit sad because another person that has taught me and inspired me is leaving.  He started as my math specialist, became our dean, and now he’s gone on to another school, guess that happens.

It’s a bit daunting, but time to take a leap of faith.

To challenge myself.

To take a risk.

 

Fear

I fear the pressure gets too much.

I fear that my kids have too much on their plate.

I fear we push them towards an end goal that is meaningless.

I fear that we are too worried about a test that doesn’t measure true knowledge.

I fear that a test driven society will never understand the value of digging deeper.

I fear that learning every detail about a subject isn’t allowed because standards get in the way.

I fear that I was part of that culture that didn’t allow it.

I fear that I worry too much about a test, I know that my students are worth more.

I fear that I can’t get them to understand that.

I fear that they just become a number at the end of a year, names become irrelevant.

I fear that we hype up a test so much, then are told we can’t give them their score, making the test even more meaningless.

I fear that true learning is getting harder and harder at times.

I fear that I have pushed too hard these last few weeks.

I fear that my anxiety has rubbed off on the kids.

I fear that our society looks for justification of the learning taking place in the wrong way.

I fear that they will never understand the true worth of education.

I fear the some kids will never know the true worth of education just because they aren’t test takers and are looked at as failures.

I fear that some kids that aren’t strong academically are pushed out of their true passions because of testing. We need artists, musicians, athletes, etc.

I fear that the truly great kids lose some of their abilities to shine because they aren’t pushed enough.

I fear that I can’t do enough some days to challenge my kids.

I fear that I let them down.

I fear that my words will never be heard.

I fear losing my passion of teaching.

 

 

Losing sight of the goal

Today was a tough pill to swallow.  I looked at my kids as a number.  As data, as a result of a test.

I can’t remember the last time I did that.  Usually I can distinguish between the two. Usually, I can look at the numbers and remember the faces behind them. Today, I saw the lowest point of the year for some of my kids.  I was frustrated, took it out on myself and them.

Today, after meeting number who knows how many, I forgot what made me the teacher I am.  I lost sight of my end goal.

Kids, they aren’t a number.

They aren’t the SOL score at the end of the year.

They aren’t the machines that can be driven into the ground.

They will mess up.

They will make mistakes.

They will break.

This time of the year, we want to drill, drill, drill.. quiz, quiz, quiz.

We have standards in which are kids need to hit.

We have standards on how we are judged.

But at the end of the day, they are kids, they are people.  They need compassion.  They need someone to believe in them.  They need to be appreciated. They need someone to care for them.  I’m glad I caught myself. I saw a picture a kid posted on instagram from the Tides game yesterday.  One of my best kids.  He’s burnt out, stressed beyond belief.  He doesn’t deserve that.

In being so wrapped up in trying to get them ready for a test, I nearly forgot that they just want to be kids.  And making them into tiny robots and robbing them of joy isn’t going to make them do better.  In fact, it will stress them out more, do more harm than good.

It’s just a test.

They have the rest of their life to get ready for, one test won’t change that.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back in and let them think a bit differently, help them ease their minds, as well as mine.  We all get a bit too stressed at this point of the year.  Sometimes, you have to take a few steps back to move forward.

 

I have a confession

I am a runner.

There, I said it.  I know it’s a shock to some.  🙄😏

But lately, it seems to be called into question.  I can’t tell how many times I’ve been told over the last year that I run too much, or I only hang out with my “running” friends.  I’ve been told that I can’t let running define me.  That it’s “only” running.

Well, over the past year, I’ve also gotten messages from people that I’ve inspired.  People that read my blog and told me my race reports/ posts helped them when the going got tough.  People that told me it was me that got them off the couch.  Or, that when they decided to be lazy and get a cheat meal at McDonalds, there I was running by and that I made them feel guilty and got them to put the burger down.

That’s why I do what I do.  I want to inspire.  I was given a gift.  I’m not the best runner, nor the best writer. But, I try to combine the two to tell a story, to make people realize who I am.  I want to help other’s be the best version of themselves.

To the people that say I don’t have enough of a social life, I bet runners know their friends better than most.  I’ve spent up to 19 hours straight running with some of my friends.  I know what drives my friends, their goals, all about their families, kids, jobs, etc.  It’s hard not to know to get close to people you run with.  It’s even harder when someone you’ve spend countless hours with, through highs and lows turns on ya.  But it’s life.  I’d rather spend 2-3 hours on the trails with them, then a night out at the bar with them.  We make our lives better by pushing ourselves to be the best version of us.  We don’t let up, nor do we let each other off easily.  I wouldn’t be half the man I am because of them.  I’ve learned you meet the right people at the right time to do that. Oh, and we drink a beer or two.  But, early enough in the day to get a 20 miler in the morning.

I had a relationship end recently half because i ran and worked too much.  Little did she know that a teacher’s day doesn’t end when the bell rings.  We as teacher’s can’t walk out and go home and shut down that part of us when the bell rings.  I am constantly meeting with other teachers, trying to figure out a new method to teach something, to better my practice.  So, if I leave school by 430-5pm, it’s a good day.  Well, a quick 8-10 miler means I get done at 6-630.  Not that late by any stretch of the imagination.  But, that was too late for her.  Even though she was a marathoner, she felt I was too into it.  She had to get up early (9am😳🙄) to teach a class and 7pm was to late to hang out.  Heck, if you look at my Strava data, you can see I tried to do most of my run for the day at 430am for a short period.. ugh. oh well. Hell, she would stay up to 11-12 and watch lifetime movies and drink wine some nights after she left my house. haha..

I wonder about the people that tell me I run too much and how much TV they watch.  They always talk about the new shows they saw the previous night.  I asked a couple, and some said they watch 1.5- 2 hours (or more)of tv a night.  I guess I’m confused. How is that ok, but a runner doing an hour or so workout not? They say it’s different.  They are right, I’m trying to do better for myself. A netflix marathon isn’t the same as a real one.  But good on them for seeing who cheated on whom in the show that might be cancelled and oh shit life is over if it is.

I saw a couple friends post recently that they finally understood what coaches/mentors meant when they say “don’t let running define you”.  I don’t get it.  Why can’t I let it?  Someone told me that on my grave when I die, it won’t say he was a runner.  Well dammit, why not?  I’d love it to. I’m never going to be an olympian, never going to win Western States/Boston, etc.. but, I owe a lot to running.  Even if I got hurt (knock on wood) and could never run again, it would still play a roll in my life.  I’d take up coaching full time.  It’s taught me so many life lessons, I can’t turn my back on it now.  Yes, I also want to be remembered for being a great teacher, brother, son, friend, mentor.  Maybe, if I am lucky, husband and dad too.  But all in due time.  Running has made me a better one of all of those, of that I’m positive.

When I tell my students ahead of time that I’m taking off, they ask me about the race I must be running.  Even if it’s just a sick day, or I have to go to a meeting.  They know me well enough to ask on Friday’s or Monday’s about what race I had.  Some of them ask me how fast I am.  They reason, if you can run a 100 miles, you must be the fastest in the world in the 100m.  It’s cute.  I wish that was the case.

I feel like I want to keep finding out how deep I can dig.  I want to know how far I can go til I break.  I want to see how far my friends can go til they do. I watch in amazement at a few that keep doing things I never thought possible.  Then, they push me and I find out that I’ve never approached my breaking point before.  I’m still not close.

Running is my therapy.  It’s my way to relax.  It’s my drug of choice.  It’s how I cope with the pressure. Better than smoking, drinking hard, meds, etc.

So, yea, I am a runner.

I don’t apologize for it.  It defines me.  I am who I am and I love it.

I can’t wait to see what preconceived limit I’ve set upon myself that I shatter next thanks to running.

 

Singletrack Maniac 50k

 

So there I was, at beer school on a Thursday night about 5-6 weeks ago, discussing the finer things in life.  Running, beer, recovery, did i say beer.. the usual.

Steve, JP and I were talking and discussing what was next for us.  JP had his back to back marathons of Rock’n’Roll DC and One City, Steve had Shamrock.  I was set to help pace JP at One City, basically just being support to provide comedic relief along the way.  More on that here.  I feel like I wanted to write about it more, but JP did a great job and I was honored to help out.  Steve briefly mentioned a small, somewhat local 50k about 3 weeks after One City.  I chuckled, as I knew I couldn’t get back and ready to run it that fast, could I?  He smiled and said something about only having 2 weeks to get ready after Shamrock, dammit.. Speirpressure in full effect.

You know that feeling you get after a big race is over, feeling empty, like a part of you died.  You aren’t sure what to do next.  Well, I haven’t had a chance to feel that way in quite sometime before Rocky.  I went from a 12 hour race, 10k, 50k training runs, 50 miler, 10k, 50k race, 5k at the end of a back to back 20 mile weekend, 35 mile training run,  to Rocky Raccoon 100.  There wasn’t much down time from September to February. (by the way, February needs to learn how to spell, took me 3 times to fix it correctly, it’s not phonetically correct, is it? I mean, why is there an “r” after the “b”.  Who says it that way)   So when that feeling arose, I felt lost.  Training was getting stale, just getting out to run was a bit of an effort.  I knew I needed something new.  I have envied top ultrarunners and their ability to bounce from one long effort to the next.  I guess I am slowly getting there, but… not quite yet.  I  figured, what the heck, lets give this a go and took the plunge.

A few days before the race, JP decided to ride up there with me and hang out, support and get a bit of a run in at a new place.  Little did I know this would be a blessing in disguise.

We arrived up there at 6am, Steve, Ally, Ally’s mom, and Aaron were already up there.  A few minutes later, Shawn arrived too.  We went and got our bibs, JP got the ok to start the race with us and we geared up.

I had my normal gear for an ultra.  My Honey Stinger trucker hat, Patagonia shorts, Direct Performance PT t-shirt, Hoka Speed Instincts, Injini socks, and my Ultimate Direction Vest.  I brought along 2 Chocolate Honey Stinger Waffles with Sunbutter, 1 Vanilla waffle and lots of extra Tailwind.  I had Tailwind in both bottles in my vest as well.

Once the gun went off, my strap to my vest popped.  Now, I’ve had issues with this vest before, even got Ultimate Direction to send me new straps.  But shit, one strap popped in the first 20 seconds of a race.  This couldn’t be good.  JP and Steve mentioned at least I had 1 strap left. Maybe a minute later, the 2nd strap to the vest popped and now my vest was useless.  I couldn’t hold it for 30.5 miles while running.  I am severely disappointed that this issue was not fixed by them the first time I told Ultimate Direction about it.  Now, it was going to ruin my race.  I hate to be a complainer, but for over $100, this thing should not pop off. I’ve had it less than a year and it has caused constant grief for me.  Here’s where having JP come saved me.  He asked me if I had a water bottle handheld in the car.  I did, I overpack, it’s what I do.  He turned around, ran back to the car, and sprinted back as fast as he could.  All the while I kept running with the lead pack trying to fix it.  Steve and Todd showed me the best place to drop my vest.  Out of nowhere, I heard the “tap, tap, tap, tap” of JP in his crazy Luna Sandals flying back.  Perfect timing.  For those that ran with me a few years ago when I wore my Merrells and you yelled at me for how loud my shoes were, I am sorry. Man, these sandals are just as loud!  We switched out bottles and now I was a few minutes back of the lead pack.  I knew i had time to spare to catch them, but nothing like giving me a disadvantage that early in a race.  All of this took maybe 5 minutes.

It took me about 2.5 miles to catch the lead pack after navigating through all the small packs behind.  I may have gone a bit faster than I should have to catch them, i prayed that it wasn’t going to cost me in the end. But hey, it’s a race, one that was mostly a training run to see what I could do on tired legs. Well, this would add to it I suppose.  Oh well, time to enjoy the ride and have some fun.  There were 4 of us together initially.  I had run this part of the trail years ago.  Somewhat technical, hilly, but not too bad.  We had to do 2 loops here, with each loop being about 5 miles.  We stayed together here as a pack of 4.

Once we finished this section, we got on the road for a quick out and back.  Steve and I kept chatting and slowly starting pulling away from the other two.

The next bit was the more challenging of it all.  I had never run here, but heard it was tough. That was an understatement.  Switchbacks going up hill, and once you think you reached the top, back up you went, questioning how you had room to go higher.   Looking at the Strava data here

 

For the first loop of D and E, we had a pretty solid lead.  We just kept it a hard effort, but knowing that we had something left in the tank if we needed more.  We both wanted to come away being able to keep training without taking time off.

This was a tough section. Felt like we were flying at times, but our watches said otherwise.  Oh well, everyone was suffering a bit here I’d suppose. But nothing like having one of my favorite training partners and good friend to enjoy a trail run and good conversation.   I had hoped to get outta my rut and have this race spur me on and get me feeling normal again (it did by the way).  We finished the D and E section of the trail, filled up our water bottles, thanked the volunteers and went back out for the 2nd and final loop.

As we were chatting we went past Ally and said hi and asked her how she was doing.  Something along the lines of these hills suck came out of her 🙂 I felt her pain.  Maybe 3-4 minutes later, one of the guys that was with us at the beginning shot by us like we weren’t moving.  Seriously, I have no clue how anyone could be running a minute or two faster per mile than us at this section.  And to have caught us… We kind of looked at each other and said let’s just keep running our race and see what happens.  In the back of my head, I knew this meant, let’s catch him.  This is also where I had my first.. 2nd, all the way to 6th fall of the day.  I had done so well the first 25 miles.  It’s a curse, but I can’t help but trip over roots.  Steve started to pull ahead a teeny bit, but I was maybe 5-6 steps behind only.

As we finished up the D section of the course, I was feeling pretty dehydrated. We only have about 4.7 miles to go, but I needed something to drink.  Steve grabbed his drinks and headed back fast.  Told me he’d see me in a bit and took off.  I topped off my water bottle, laughed and told JP I just wanted some new legs when he asked me what else I needed and headed back out there.  I thought I was running fast here.  I pushed hard.  I didn’t wanna get “Leeched” again.  My last 50k, my buddy Michael Leech beat me in the last 1/2 mile.  I fell twice on this section, once going uphill, so I walked a second to regain composure.  I wanted to walk more, but, i pushed on anyway, hoping I’d see Steve or the other guy ahead.  As I closed out this section and got back on the road towards the school to finish, I pushed to a full on sprint.  Well, it felt that way. I rounded the corner to the school and the finish.  Here was the only bad thing I can say about this amazingly well put on race.  There was no sign which way to go.  I saw all my friends, but there was no sign to turn, nobody standing out there, and I had no clue which way to go.  This close to the finish, maybe 200yds to go, and didn’t know if i was supposed to go straight or around.  I chose the wrong way of course.  If you look at my final time, you can subtract about 2-3 minutes for getting mixed up.  I”m ok with is since it didn’t cost me a spot overall, but this was the only drawback to the entire race.

As I finished, I saw the guy that passed us and asked him how he did.  When he told me my buddy has passed him and took the win, I smiled.  So happy to hear Steve came back and took the win. I can’t remember the last time my legs were that sore.  Standing was not an option, and sitting hurt just the same.

We grabbed a beer, and watched and waited for our other friends to finish.  Aaron was next, then Shawn, Bill, and then Ally.

Singletrack Maniac 50k was one of those small but fun races. I highly recommend it.  I’ll be back with hopes of going sub 430.  Def would love to get a crew there next year.

Thanks again to Honey Stinger, Direct Performance PT, Tailwind, Squirrel’s Nut Butter, Injinji and Hoka for helping me to a great race. Oh, and thanks again JP.  Race saved.

Looks like your getting fat Mr. Hodapp

Ok, I’ll be honest. If this wasn’t from one of my favorite kids, I’d be mad.  But she meant it in good humor, and of course she was right.  I did run a 100 miler 3 weeks ago, so I’ve been relaxing a good bit, getting my body the rest it deserved.  4 ultras in 6 months, plus quite a few 20-30+ mile training runs makes for one tired guy.  So, I decided to enjoy myself and sleep in and relax, eat what I wanted and maybe have a beer or two.  I needed the downtime to remember why I love running.  To finally appreciate all that I accomplished.

This break came at the right time for me.  I’ve taken up some new challenges at school with my kiddies.  Last summer, I was accepted into a Design Fellows Committee for Personalized Learning.  I admit, it worried me a bit to wonder what I was getting myself into.  What more could I seriously put on my plate and not drive myself insane?  But, if it helps my students become better learners and to think a bit more critically, then I’d be willing to try.  I am pretty much an open book to trying new ideas out on my students.  I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing specialists, and be related to one as well.  🙂 We decided to have the students create their own projects to prove mastery of the day’s lesson.  So each day, some kids add to their foldable, make a poster, a powerpoint, graphic organizer, or whatever it is they want.  All they have to do is prove to me they understood the lesson. My lesson may take only 5 minutes.  I’ll give them the basics, and let them figure out the rest.  They were a bit nervous, and still are on how to do this and what I expect.  We have hit some huge roadblocks. I had 31 students in for lunch detention today because they didn’t complete one or more of their parts. I had one student tell me he wanted to go back to how it was before.  He liked the exit tickets or quick checks we’ve always done.  He was comfortable with how it was going before.  He didn’t like change.

I think we all can relate to that.

The fear of change cripples us all.

(Especially change like loose coins or a coin roll someone throws it at your head, ouch, that could definitely cripple you)

We are all a bit to comfortable in our day to day lives. Our routines are hardwired into our brains and we can pretty much tell someone else exactly what we will be doing next Tuesday at 7pm without thought.  We grow stale and become static.

Why is change so hard?  I think it is because we are too afraid to fail.  Instead of pushing ourselves to venture out and try something new, we let the routines of our mundane lives hold us back.

Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.

I want to live my life with no regrets whatsoever. To live without the fear of failing holding me back.  Heck, I’m pretty good at failing.  I mean, I am almost 40 and single.. not for lack of trying. haha.  I am amazing at failing at relationships with women.  But it hasn’t stopped me from pursuing more. I have failed at hitting my goals in the marathon numerous times, but I always came back again.  I failed at getting all my students to pass the SOL’s in some years.

But it’s always led me to a welcome change.

I’ve experienced the crippling fear of expanding my horizons numerous times.  I seldom regretted it after the fact.

Sometimes maybe we need to rethink the path we are on.  I missed hitting my marathon target, so I moved back into Ultras.  A nice change of scenery for a bit might be what I need to get ready for the marathon again.   If I can run 50 or 100 miles, maybe some my trepidations could be alleviated before the next 26.2.  Doubtful, but it does make 26.2 look rather minuscule, so who knows? I miss the breakneck paces of tempo runs, the hurts so good but I hate em interval workouts. But nothing beats spending hours just hanging out with friends running on trails enjoying nature.  You can’t beat quality times spent in the woods surrounded by all the wildlife.  (until a momma bear pulls a Revenant on you because you got too close to her cubs that is)

Letting go of your fears and accepting change is what life is about. Stop being stagnant in life. I just read a good article on how the best companies, those that have survived for decades, are the ones that accept change and do what is needed.  This article talked about how Instagram was quickly replaced by Snapchat and a few other apps for social media dominance.  They saw where the market was headed, asked themselves what their core values were and made the necessary changes that got them back on track.  I think we all could benefit from a bit of reinvention, be it our daily lives, our hobbies, our goals, or whatever else it is you can dream up.

Oh, and I’ve accepted I need to change my diet too.  Before my pants don’t fit me. 😀