We All Run Boston

As a runner, the bombings at the Boston Marathon last year touched me in a more personal way than other terrorist attacks. The emotion I felt wasn’t as overwhelming as that caused by 9/11, but, although Boston was 1800 miles away from Laramie, Wyoming, it felt that the bombs had struck at my family.

You see, I should have been there. I’d qualified, through a deferral allowed because of the previous year’s devastating heat. Because of financial uncertainty, I’d not used my deferral when entries were opened the previous September for the 2013 race. When Patriot’s Day arrived, I was feeling bummed that I wasn’t there. Not only that, I had a feeling in my gut that I might never make it back to Boston. My running hadn’t been going well for quite a while. In fact, prior to that awful day, I had not logged a single mile in the previous three months. I was 56 and I was sure my best running days were behind me.

Then word reached me … bombs at the finish line of Boston. I logged on to find a flood of social media and news about the frightening event … and the brave, heroic response of race officials, bystanders, and runners. Almost immediately, anger and determination began building inside me. After a short time of watching the coverage, I just had to lace up my running shoes and get out. Running was the only thing I could do at that moment to show solidarity with my comrades in Boston. And it was then that I decided that, no matter what, I would be in that race in 2014.

I started training for the American Discovery Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs which would be on Labor Day just over four months away. It was one of the last opportunities to get a qualifying time.

Naturally, life put a few obstacles in my way; stuff that all runner’s deal with from time to time … a  crazy work situation, nagging injuries, the occasional doubts about whether it was really possible. I got to September 2, the day of the race, fueled by hope that I could pull it off. Hope that the mostly downhill course would help me overcome my training deficiencies. Hope, not confidence.

Hope wasn’t enough. I missed a BQ time by 4:26.

I was crushed. Those last painful miles, when I realized that my goal of reaching Boston had slipped away, are now among my darkest running memories.

Four days later, I was on the East Coast for an extended job assignment, counting on work to make me forget my failure. I’m not sure what drove me to check for marathons in the Washington, DC area, but I did. And found one. It was after Boston entries had opened for those beating their qualifying time by five minutes or more, but it was the day before entries were opened to those who had “only” met the standards. Although Boston was filling fast, the race had not yet closed entries. If I could get a BQ, there was still a chance I could get in.

Only twelve days after my ADT disaster, I ran the Abebe Bikila International Peace Marathon; a race run on  the C&O Canal Towpath. It was an almost dead flat out and back course on dirt. It may have been the fact that I love running the C&O; it had felt like my home course before I’d moved to Wyoming. It may have been the drop down to sea level, or maybe this second chance stirred me to a stronger effort. Whatever it was, my race that day was charmed. With a strong kick over the last half mile,  I not only got my BQ, I beat the standard by 5:13. I was able to enter that night and not wait for Monday. I was in.

This song and video helped motivate me as Boston got closer.

Being in Hopkinton this year will be an emotional high unlike any other. For me, coming down Boylston Street toward the finish line will be like slapping every terrorist in the world and yelling in his face “You can’t beat us, we don’t quit. We are Boston Strong.” The bombings united the running community; it connected us all in a way that I don’t think has happened before. I feel like the multitude of runners at Boston this year are participating on behalf of all runners across our great country. Runners who know what it is like to overcome adversity and just keep running. I know that everyone of you who can’t be on that starting line in person, will be with us in spirit.

Yesterday, I saw a picture of a woman who’d been badly injured in the bombings, but has recovered. She wore her scars like a badge of honor. Across her stomach she’d written “You can SCAR me, but you can’t STOP me.” Along with 35,000 others, she will be running the Boston Marathon on May 21 …Patriot’s Day. You can’t get more inspiring than that.

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When does the comeback begin?

Sitting at my keyboard and making words appear on the screen has been a rare event for me during recent months. Almost as exceptional have been the times I’ve laced up my running shoes and got out the door. If writer’s block or injury were behind this awkward, embarrassing separation from two activities that I purport to love … stop—I have to be honest with myself—love doesn’t cover it. Writing and running are two things that I have tried to use to define my existence. During these last few months without them, I have felt as though I am slowly losing substance—losing my place in the world.

Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t been wallowing in a pit of despair while I waited for my own Fezzik and Inigo to rescue me. Hikes with my wife, visits with family, and caring for my grandson helped me maintain a framework as I struggled with the direction my life was taking and the cumulative effect of the dramatic changes it has undergone over the past three years.

I’ve made a few stabs at getting back on my feet, both writing-wise and running-wise. In the latter, attempts have been half-hearted and riddled with missteps. In the former, every renewed writing effort has died aborning.

After several unproductive bouts with my keyboard I have come to realize that I have been avoiding a deeper problem. This problem is both a dilemma and an obstacle that may be causing the dawdling uncertainty that plagues me.

Although Harvest of the Heart has been positively reviewed by everyone who has read it, it isn’t the novel I first envisioned. In the editing process, I followed the advice of others—which was, from one point of view, excellent advice—to make changes and cut elements that both shortened the book and simplified the plot. I fooled myself into believing they were the right moves.

At the time, I thought I saw a way forward for my main character, but that path just isn’t one I want to follow. This is a problem because  the clear path I desperately want to take will require, to some degree, trashing an already published novel and doing a major rewrite. That means no sequel this fall; the way things are, that wasn’t going to happen anyway. Following this path also means retracing my steps … a lot of work to get to where I had hoped to be almost a year ago.

So… when does the comeback begin?

I ran today. I wrote these words today. I made a decision today. Although the proof will come only with results, today seems as good as any for starting a comeback.


Filed under Personal, Running, Symbiotic, Writing

Will it go round in circles?

“There’s Dad, going in circles again.” It was easy to picture my four children—one at each turn of the track at the Louis Madrid Sports Complex—yelling that familiar refrain as I made my way round and round and round and round during the 24 hour Run Josh Run event on April 28-29.

Before we moved west, my wife and I owned a house at the intersection of  Long Corner Road and Frederick Road in Mount Airy, Maryland. What I will probably remember most about the house is that it was near the highest point in Howard County and all runs finished up hill. My kids’ top memory might be of  me circling the driveway. The property had access from each of the two roads and I would rarely … occasionally … okay, okay … often head out one driveway, belatedly remember something important, and pull back in the other driveway. I did this driving; I did this biking; I did this running. The neighbors probably thought I was the most scatterbrained guy in the county. And my kids loved to tease me about it, even when I was sometimes remembering an item that they had left behind. One vacation trip I think we circled three times before hitting the road for good. It got so I heard “There’s Dad, going in circles again” anytime I turned around for any reason, anywhere.

To me, running 100 miles around a track doesn’t seem a  completely irrational proposition. And so, from Saturday 10 a.m. to Sunday 8 a.m., I did 404 circuits of a 400 meter track. 100.413 miles. My previous post—Hoping for Heaven, Preparing for Hell—talked about my preparations for the event. This is my post-race assessment of the overall experience and a breakdown of what went right, and what went wrong during my second 100 mile ultra.

Will it fly high?

The simple answer … no.

The more complete answer … yes … a little … eventually.

With the Leadville 100 mile Race Across the Sky as my only experience at this distance, I went in expecting some of the same highs, lows, and obstacles I encountered in that life-altering race, but it was hard to approach Run Josh Run with the same sense of awe and challenge that the majestic terrain of the Rockies presented in Leadville. Now I know that running ultra distances on a track is a different beast; perhaps slightly less intimidating, but still with teeth.

The first major, obvious difference is that there is no change in elevation. No hills might seem a positive at first, but I discovered it isn’t. You can’t coast down a long, gradual downhill; you don’t get that variation in stride going uphill that relieves some muscles while taxing others; the distraction of a changing landscape is absent. What you see is the same, lap after lap.

I didn’t plan my re-fueling as carefully as I did for Leadville. After all, the “aid-station” is available every freaking lap! If I got hungry, I could eat, if I got thirsty, I could drink … right? That theory sort of worked out as far as hydration, but it failed completely in terms of getting enough fuel in the tank. Without a dedicated crew to ride herd on me, I found that I wasn’t interested in thinking about my carb intake. When I thought about it and felt like it, I ate; otherwise, I let it slide. It slid way too much.

In a race like Leadville, you have distinct, fixed points that work as magnets, drawing you forward. As you reach one aid station, you revel in that accomplishment and start thinking about what lies ahead. Your crew makes you do what you need to do.  There were many highs for me in my first 100 mile race, and almost as many lows. My emotions were not as strongly engaged for this 24-hour run.

I’m gonna let the music move me around

We arrived at the track a little before 9 a.m. It was windy and it took longer to get the tarp set up, using the car as part of our “tent.” What I hadn’t thought about was that the exhaust pipe would be inside the tent and that made running the engine problematic. That put a crimp on my plans to use the car as a power source for my computer and post updates during the race.

It turned out I don’t think I would have committed the time to post even if the computer had been available. When the race director surprised everyone by yelling “go” without a pre-race meeting, or any warning, I rushed to get my Garmin started and headed around for the first lap. Once I settled into what I thought was an easy pace, I had trouble thinking about anything except continuing. Although it was very windy, it seemed as though I was only running into it for a very short section on one turn. The stands provided a wind-break on one side and I still got pushed along on the other. This went on for several hours and it wasn’t long before I was way ahead of my planned splits.

A vivid memory of the run will be the huge American flag about a mile away at the Holiday Inn on Grand Avenue. Its stars and stripes were visible through a tree-framed gap as I came into the first turn and the wind was stiff enough to keep Old Glory flying straight all through the day and into the night. One of the reasons I didn’t mind the wind was that, without it, the flag would have hung unseen.

My wife, Kathleen, was also taking part in the event, with a goal of 50 miles. She was running strong, on a pace that would give 50 miles before the halfway point. Her longest training run had been 10 miles and she ran 12 before she began taking walking breaks and helping me by getting protein shakes, water bottles, and other items ready.

As the wind weakened, it shifted direction and began to give as much resistance as it did aid. By then, I felt committed to maintaining the pace and I let the music playing on the PA system move me around the track. Any time I my energy was flagging, the right song blasted out and kept me moving. A song I hadn’t heard before really pumped me up. As it finished, I circled my finger in the air to get them to play it again. The song, I discovered, was “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)” and it provided numerous boosts well into the evening. Even after I was alternating walking and running, that song was enough to make me pick up the pace. Caity, another of the volunteers who was very friendly and helpful during the race, would try to give me a little energy by dancing on the track as I ran  past the staging tent. I finally told the race director, “If they keep playing that song, I’ll run myself to death!”

My friend and  off-the-deep-end runner, Alec Muthig, came by a couple times on Saturday and ran with me. He told about some adventure runs he did in Utah’s Canyonlands which took me away from the monotony of the track for a while. The conversation made maintaining a decent pace almost effortless.

I brought six extra pairs of socks and planned to change every four hours. I made the first sock change at 3.5 hours and more often after that, running out of socks and re-using through the first few pairs. Although it didn’t prevent me from getting blisters, the cool powder and fresh cushioning did make my feet feel better for a while after each change. I switched shoes for a couple of hours in the middle of the race and used a pair of Adidas Response for a couple of hours. They bothered the top of my foot some, so I switched back to the Inov8 Roclites for the rest of the way.

For the first ten hours, the laps ticked by with a steady, monotonous rhythm. My Garmin provided a constant, and often irritating reminder of exactly where I was in relation to my goals. The habitual glance at my watch every few minutes was impossible to break; at times it brought a sense of accomplishment, often it made me push just a little harder.

During that time, I had three Gu Roctane gels, a slice of pizza, a couple of protein shakes, a few M&M’s, most of a banana-butterscotch muffin, a cup of delicious chicken noodle soup, and some Combos. Along with the calories from 32 ounces of Powerade, I was still short of what would be considered a minimum for maintaining a good energy supply. But the mild temperatures, steady early pace,  music, and conversation had given me a 50-mile PR (8:40) and had me on pace to break the 24-hour world record for my age group. I knew that wouldn’t last, but I do like playing the “What if?” game.

I spent many laps bemoaning the fact that I’d put in so little training for this event. My longest run of 24 miles had come the previous Sunday and I’d only topped 60 miles in a week once. I pulled out of Boston on April 16, in part because I was concerned about my training. Instead I decide to do a 24-hour run, 12 days later. Sometimes I wonder what is going on inside my head. But you know what? I’m already thinking that, if I can get the right training in … maybe I can get the record next year. 🙂

One rational thought I had around this time was that I wouldn’t push too hard and hurt myself. I’d let myself play mental games and keep calculating pace and miles, but I would not risk injury for what was mostly just an add-on race. While that meant that I would, in the end, “settle” for 100 miles, I think it was one of the smarter thoughts I had during the run.

I came close to disaster twice during the race, both within hours of each other early Sunday morning. The first came as I was trying to grab a water bottle and, at the same time, tell my wife where to find the flashlight. I tripped on the leg of the barrier where my water bottle was setting and almost face-planted in the grass beside the track. Arresting the fall made my hamstring twinge and it brought back bad memories of an almost identical near-fall at Leadville. I dodged a bullet there, for sure.

Disaster #2 was slow in developing. The temperature continued dropping as the 12-hour mark approached. It headed into the mid-20s and at first felt refreshing. They were dishing out a delicious, hot chicken noodle soup with fat noodles, big chunks of meat, and lots of vegetables; I had several cups as the midnight hour slipped by. Then the soup ran out and they switched to Ramen noodles—not nearly as appetizing. The cold stopped feeling refreshing after a couple of hours and I realized that it had seeped deep inside. Each lap seemed to get harder. Two o’clock saw a change in shifts and the new crew was untested, and largely uninstructed. Later, and without much enthusiasm, I called for another cup of Ramen noodles; the new crew didn’t know what I was talking about. There was no hot water and they didn’t even know how to get it going. After struggling around another lap, I went into the staging tent and sat in front of the heater, shivering uncontrollably. Waves of heat hit me, but wouldn’t penetrate or stop the shaking. The new guys realized how vital it was that they get their act together and made a credible effort of learning on the job.

In the end, I got my noodles, got my internal temp up, but lost 40 minutes and a lot of physical and emotional energy. When I stepped around the table and back on the track, all thoughts of goals and mileage were gone. Surviving the night became my only focus. During this time, one of the engineering students named Sam was running laps. He was wearing a white sweatshirt, and every time he came by me, I would start running and hang with him for a straightaway, maybe even half-a-lap.

Sometime around this period, I remember pushing hard for part of a lap and feeling a sudden tightness in my chest. I didn’t pay much attention to it then, but, from that point, I could only run for short periods before getting pretty winded. Later, I would look back and realize my lungs were paying a tiny toll every time I breathed that cold air. The cumulative effect would only show itself once I stopped.

As dawn broke, I was pleased that I had soldiered on without another prolonged stop. Corey, one of the volunteers, ran/walked with me for a time and made the time pass by quickly. I had managed to maintain a pace that made getting 100 miles a foregone conclusion and started to think about whether I could make 106, or maybe 110. My legs ached and the bottom of my feet felt like open wounds, but I was moving forward without any thought of stopping.

Although I forced myself to eat a little, the only thing that went down easy was a protein shake. I think I had six or seven of them during the race. I would have had more in those wee hours, but I kept falling into a daze where I didn’t think about much besides moving around the track.

With the sun up and the end in sight, I felt more alert and aware than I had during the later stages of Leadville. Physically, it seemed as though blisters and general soreness would be the only price I’d pay. Then, with 99 miles down, I felt the first serious pain that seemed more injury than soreness. That pain, in the muscles on the outside of my left shin (which I’m certain must have been hurting for a while) flared and it took a lot of concentration to maintain a relatively smooth stride.

The race director had joined me for the last mile or so, and then all the volunteers and most of the other runners accompanied on the lap that brought me to 100 miles. That gave me even more energy, so even though it hurt, I managed a meager kick over the last 200 meters.

I was happy and relieved to finish, but it was surprising how muted my emotions were compared to Leadville. This just didn’t feel like that big of an accomplishment. Although I had intended to continue walking easy laps for the last two hours, after I reached 100 miles, my body had other ideas. This was my condition after 100 miles:

  1. Overall, bone-deep fatigue from no sleep and constant movement.
  2. Blisters on the bottoms of my feet.
  3. Breathing getting harder.
  4. Left leg was throbbing with every step.
  5. Left eye blurry—I couldn’t see the lap lines if I closed my right eye.
  6. Both ankles aching.

Four laps after my official 100-mile finish, I stopped, made my apologies and headed home. After a painful, unsteady shower, I tried to lie down and prop my legs up. When my body was horizontal, my lungs felt like they were filled with concrete. It was bad enough that my wife took me into the ER, even though sleep is what we desperately wanted. We dosed off and on in the waiting room for two hours before they gave me a room, drew blood, stuck an IV in my arm, put me on a breathing treatment, took chest x-rays, gave me an antibiotic, and eventually sent me home with a diagnosis of acute bronchitis. I could tell that everyone in the ER thought I was a lunatic for running 100 miles.

As I write this three days after the event, I feel almost fully recovered, except for the left shin issue and some lingering chest tightness and congestion. Looking back, I’m amazed that I was able to pull this off. At Leadville, a soul-shattering effort and an incredible crew were required to reach the finish. This 100 miles was completed with only a fraction of that effort and commitment. My training certainly doesn’t explain how I was able to keep such a pace for so long. I believe Run Josh Run has provided additional evidence that I have a screw loose. That loose screw allows my brain to slip into a gear that forces my body beyond the normal parameters. I’d like to find out what I could achieve if I can ever get my body in the kind of shape that would allow my mind to keep pushing.


Filed under Running

Leadville 2010

I just completed my second 100-mile ultra. In trying to write a post about Run Josh Run, I found myself referencing Leadville often. Because it happened long before I started this blog, I decided to post my Dailymile race report here, so that readers can understand the differences between the Leadville experience and my latest insanity. It is presented unedited, with flaws, typos, and super-charged emotions intact.

My LT 100 experience Part 1

If I could have worn a hat with little high-tech sensors that could tap into my brain and convey to you everything I was experiencing, thinking and feeling (I’m pretty sure there is a movie with a similar theme) then you would be closer to understanding what running the Leadville Trail 100 is like, but only if the “feeling” was real, because the main element during the race is pain and the main element at the beginning and end is euphoria.  The words that follow cannot do the soul-shattering experience justice.

I signed up for the 28th running of this mystical race more than seven months ago.  If not for the allure of a Leadville buckle (and the $250 entry fee) I would definitely have skipped the race because of the last few months of spotty training.  My training level for the last four weeks was about where I should have been two months ago.  I ran because I believed that my mind and body aren’t special in any way except the ability to endure.  I believed that, despite my lack of proper conditioning, I would finish.  I was wrong.  “I” would not have finished the LT100.  Even now tears are welling as I think of what my crew did for me.  They deserve the credit for this finish.  Yes, I suffered the pain and it was my aching body that broke the finish line tape, but my wife Kathleen, daughter Carrie and now dear friends Josh, Nate and Cassie poured an intense energy into bringing me successfully to the end.

It was a few minutes before 4 am and I was standing among almost 700 people and many were saying, just like me… “What was I thinking!”  The weather conditions for the race were good.  It was cool at the start and during the night and it was warm but not hot during mid-day.  We counted down the last ten seconds to the start and were on our way down 6th Street, me passing people smarter than me and being passed by people, well…not smarter.  May Queen (the first aid station) was reached after 13.5 relatively flat miles on a wide variety of surfaces.  My crew did an awesome job, it was like they had been working together for years.  In just over three minutes, my belt was re-stocked with gels and FRS chews, my Salt Stick reloaded, socks changed, feet powdered and I was headed back out.  It was like a bizarre Indy 500.

Much of the first half was mostly uneventful.  The crew probably had more adventures than I did as they moved from one aid station to the next.  I was pretty close to my planned pace all the way to Twin Lakes at 39.5 miles and had not had any serious issues, but I made a poor decision at Twin Lakes that dramatically affected me later on.  I opted to carry just three amphipod water bottles on my belt, since there was an aid station (un-crewed) near Hope Pass just 5 miles away.  The climb to Hope Pass was 3400’ of an often grueling climb, but first there is the river crossing.  Somehow this major element was missed during my research into the race.  I first learned about it as I was talking to another runner as we were crossing a muddy, marshy expanse outside of Twin Lakes.  Finally, we came to a channel that was about 30’ across and about knee deep.  Although my fresh shoes and socks were now soaked, I figured that wasn’t too bad.  A few minutes later, there was another channel even wider.  Then another… and another.  None of these was the river crossing!  Finally we hit the river.  A cable was strung across the river to keep the runners from falling and being washed away.  This crossing was about 100’ wide and didn’t quite reach my waist at the deepest part.  Moments later I began the toughest climb of the race with thoroughly soaked footgear.

Although it was tough, I felt I reached Hope Pass in good shape, having filled my water bottles at what is sometimes called the “Hopeless” Aid station. Now it was just after high noon and the sun felt so close.  A cool breeze through the pass helped disguise the fact that moisture was leeching from my body at an alarming rate.  I was ecstatic as I rolled down the switchbacks above tree line, occasionally letting out a loud yell of delight.  It was often answered, sometimes from below, but usually from some newly energized runner just clearing the pass.  As first the scrub, then the forest canopy closed in on the path, I knew I had expended too much energy on what should have been the easiest part.  Now I was thirsty and drinking a lot and the path was getting rockier and more technical.  I had picked up a Black Diamond hiking stick especially for traversing Hope Pass.  After hundreds of times of using the stick to slow my momentum down the mountain, I found my right elbow starting to ache.  My knees, quads, ankles were all tired and aching more every minute.   About three-fourths of the way down I realized I might run out of water before reaching the Winfield turn-around and began conserving. I came out onto a car-clogged dusty dirt road, with Winfield just 2.7 miles away.  I had one good swallow of water in two of my bottles and a small drink of Powerade in the other.  After polishing off the Powerade, I figured a drink of water per mile for the last two would get me into Winfield thirsty but unscarred.  Just then, a runner I had just passed asked if I had any water to spare.  He had forgotten to refill at the pass and had been dry for some time.  At the pre-race meeting, Ken had stressed that we were all in this together.  Now I was down to one swallow of water for 2.5 hot dusty miles.  I resisted that drink as long as I could.

I straggled into the aid station dehydrated and exhausted.  And only half-way finished.

But my crew was there waiting with an ice bath for my feet, a chilled wet wash cloth for my face, a tall cold Cherry Amp and my first pacer, Josh, eager to get in his miles.  In minutes, I started getting some energy back and, sooner than I thought possible, I was headed back down that long dusty road.

My LT100 experience – Part 2

Hope Pass was once again calling my name.  The rugged trail that had pounded my legs coming down, was now challenging my lungs and my will as I headed ever upwards toward my second crossing.

After walking out of Winfield, Josh Fuller (a UWYO grad student and ultrarunner) had successfully coaxed me back into some semblance of running, at least on the flat and downhill portions.  Even now, as the narrow path felt mostly vertical to my weary body, he’d call out “this part’s not too bad, you can run this.”  And I’d pull one more drop out of the ever-shrinking energy well and achieve something (slightly) faster than a power hike.  Thank God for all the runners still coming down the mountain toward Winfield.  Poor souls that they were, they allowed me a precious excuse for stepping aside and getting one or two deep breaths before digging my hiking pole into the trail and dragging myself onward.

It is a hard truth that sometimes the worst mistakes are small ones whose effects are amplified over time.  A foregone water bottle to save weight led to dehydration, to extreme thirst, to guzzling a 16 oz Amp, to caffeine intoxication.  Earlier I had noticed that I had lost enthusiasm for my favorite Powergel Tangerine.  The slight sourness in my stomach didn’t seem reason enough.  At Winfield, I had Carrie use other flavors to refill my belt.  Now I found that I really had to force even those gels down.  My FRS chews, which had always helped me stay energized and focused, were suddenly distasteful.  As I crested Hope Pass for the last time with Josh at my side, I began to suspect that there was something wrong.  “How am I going to get through the last half if I can’t eat?” I whined to Josh.

The “Hopeless” station is manned by some hardy souls who, using a large herd of Llamas, pack in all the supplies for the aid-station.  The unusual but attractive animals, their coats a medley of blacks, browns, greys and whites, are tethered to stakes all around the station and provide a humorous distraction to tired runners.  As we went through Hopeless again, I grabbed a couple of cookies and a glass of very watered Powerade and continued on, leaving Josh behind to refill my water bottles and rejoin me down the trail.

Except for a continuing inability to ingest any substantial amount of carbs, the pain of non-stop pounding on muscles and joints and a bone-deep fatigue, I came off the Hope Pass trail in relatively good condition and spirits.  I looked forward to the brisk water of the river crossings to bring some relief to my body.  The slumberous sun rolled lazily behind the mountains, leaving the rest of us to continue our labor and consider the many dark miles ahead.

In just another in a string of minor miracles, Josh had cajoled, threatened or embarrassed me into running the final mile of my return to Twin Lakes.  Whether because of the energy spent or the chill of the river crossing, I collapsed into the chair just as a raw, shivery finger of doubt began caressing me, body and soul.  In moments it was a huge icy claw.  Looking back, I’m shocked and mortified at how quickly and easily that doubt literally froze me to the chair.  As my crew was striving heroically to prepare me for the next leg of my quest, my mind had become one feeble, useless crystal.  The simplest questions bounced off with only a haunted “I don’t know” as an answer.  For a fleeting moment, even breathing seemed to have become too much work for me to endure.  With no help from me, this marvelous crew changed my shirt, reattached my number and draped a towel over me to keep me warm.  I remember a golf ball-sized blister on my left heel being doctored.  Once complete, they got my socks and shoes on and I think I revived enough to tie my own shoes.  I’m pretty sure there was a conversation that went basically:

Voice 1 – “Do you want (insert food item)”

Me – “I can’t eat” or “I don’t know”

Voice 2 – “How about (insert food item)”

Me- (see previous reply)

All of this with my head between my knees in abject surrender.

Minutes ticked away as my crew wondered “What now?”  Josh may have been the one who said we needed to get moving.   I’m pretty sure I said, “I can’t get up.”  The next thing I know, Nate has picked me straight up out of my chair and set me on my feet.  As he did, it was almost like being freed from a spell.  I put one foot in front of the other and moved toward the aid station exit—only 39.5 miles to go.

From Twin Lakes, runners climb up and over several high ridges and then head down a reasonable grade to the un-crewed Halfmoon aid station.  From there the next stop is Pipeline, an unofficial crewing area where my next pacer, Nate, would assume duties.  Between Twin Lakes and Pipeline were a critical 11.5 miles that would carry me passed the 70 mile mark.  The early part of this section is hazily-remembered torture, righteously (gleefully?) administered by the Marquis de Josh.  Sporadically this resulted in a few minutes of running.  I was beyond tired and could see no end to this endless night.

Then an amazing thing happened.  It started with a comment about runner’s high, moved into Contemporary Christian rock music, morphed into a spiritual discussion of how we (the universal “we”) connect with our deities and from there into the power of prayer and miracles.  Some of the discussion would be considered sacrilegious by most main stream Christians.  I’ll maintain hope that God will forgive us since it was during a 100 mile run.  But during that conversation I ran…and ran… and ran.  Headlights would appear in the dark ahead, grow into tired runners plodding through the dark… and then disappear behind us.  We powered into Halfmoon high on something that you can’t get in a pill or shoot into your veins.  Runners were collapsed into chairs all around us, that icy claw holding them like it had held me at Twin Lakes.

A couple of orange slices, an attempt on a cookie and maybe something else and we were on our way.  I doubt we were there even two minutes.  And every second I just wanted to get back out on that trail.  In the end, Josh thought we ran for about an hour during that stretch, passing as many as 12-15 pairs of runners & pacers.

Of course, I still wasn’t consuming many carbs, my fat stores had been depleted hours before and I started feeling that my body was beginning to break down the protein in my muscles to produce energy. I knew it wouldn’t be long before the bill for my “surge” would come due.   My hamstrings, mostly the right, had been tightening up for a long time, and momentary stops to stretch had become important.

As we approached Pipeline, I told Josh that I didn’t want to stop, in part because I was worried about my hamstrings tightening up, but mostly in fear of a repeat of Twin Lakes.  When headlights could be seen carving a welcoming arc of brightness in the gloom, Josh went ahead to warn the crew and my next pacer, Nate, of my plans.  The moon was bright enough to cast deceiving shadows across the dirt road, creating potholes that didn’t exist and hiding ones that did.  I was by myself for a short while, with no conversation to divert me, so my thoughts turned inward.  An end was approaching and it didn’t feel like the finish line on 6th Street in Leadville.  The gold 25 hour buckle that was such a certainty as I yodeled my way toward Winfield was now just a Pipeline dream.  Weaving my way around potholes, real and imagined, I made my way toward my waiting crew hoping to show a stiff upper lip.  Nate was there ready and eager to assume his pacing duties.  The entire crew moved like squires preparing a knight for battle, checking, adjusting, making sure everything was in place.  More orange slices, a pretzel Combo and I continued my quest, this time with silver in my confident sights.

A return to Fish Hatchery was next on the agenda.  After rolling downhill on occasionally rough dirt roads, we reached hated asphalt and began a long flat relentless trek.  Thankfully, the hard surface felt no worse to my aching feet than it had the first time around.  Still, I was grateful when the lights of the aid station stopped teasing and finally grew noticeably closer.  Nate had kept a steady and interesting conversation going and hauled me into Fish Hatchery exhausted, sleepy, but ready to move on.  A mandatory weigh-in and a few bites of Ramen noodles later and I was bound for where my crew waited a little over a mile down the road.

It was now after midnight and I had been running more than 20 hours, with 23+ miles to go.  The temperature had dropped noticeably and I found my teeth chattering.  On top of my other challenges, I did not need hypothermia.  I sent Nate ahead to fetch my fleece pull-over.  With no runners visible in either direction, I forced myself to maintain what little speed I could, if only to generate some warmth.   When he got back with the fleece, I warmed a little and arrived at my crew with no thoughts of quitting.  I remember people rubbing my back and shoulders to warm me up and eating a little.  I remember a pacer coming along and asking my crew “My runner is dropping out, where should we go?”  Most of all I remember what felt like a weight hanging over my head.  Maybe it was just fatigue or lack of sleep.  I think it was the taunting countenance of Sugarloaf Mountain looming over me in the darkness.

Nate had been leading me up for hours, dancing from one side to the other, lighting my way and shepherding me toward the smoothest possible ascent.  Time after time after time I was sure we had reached the top, only to have the road turn upward once more.  Nate had been methodical in his effort to get carbs in me, including forcing me to try one of his chocolate Hammer gels. I finished about half of that first one—there would be others.  But I felt dead in the water, an emotion I wasn’t shy about expressing often.  Nate remained positive, even if he did feel like shoving me in the next stream … at least then I’d be half right.  I did hope that, once cresting Sugarloaf, I’d still have a chance at the silver buckle.  False summit after false summit began stealing that hope away.

Nate had been leading me down for hours, dancing from one side to the other, lighting my way and shepherding me toward the smoothest possible descent.  Time after time… if it seems like you’ve seen this before, you can imagine how it felt to me.  The bottom of this rocky crevasse masquerading as a road seemed like it would never come.  When we did finally reach the smooth, runnable surface that I remembered from the outbound trip, I found that my energy well was dry.  My entire right side was just dead meat being dragged along by a tired, but game left side.  Nate coaxed brief spurts from me by shining his flashlight on some vague object up ahead and saying, “Let’s just run to that rock.”  Sometimes I would surprise him and myself by hanging on for a few seconds beyond.  While every step got me closer to May Queen, it also seemed that it took me deeper into a morose train of thought.  In my mind, every tick of the clock had begun to make the 30 hour goal as ludicrously unattainable as the others had been.  Doing the math over and over in my befuddled head, I kept coming up with the same undeniable result: (Fish Hatchery to May Queen = 10 miles in 5 hours and counting) + (May Queen to finish = 13.5 miles with less than 5 hours to go) = impossible.  But Nate would have none of it. “Just keep moving forward and stop worrying about the clock” is an amalgam of the various ways he found to say “Shut up and run”.

Eventually I did shut up and began trying to come up with the right words to tell my crew that I was sorry, but it made no sense at all to continue beyond May Queen.

The last aid station loomed.  Despite that fact that the bottom of my feet felt like hamburger and with each step I was sure one leg or the other would fall off, for once I did not approach my crew with joy and relief.  I still had not come up with the words for breaking the bad news: my race was over.

“We’re not even talking about it” was the basic response whenever a negative word tried to pass my lips.  My crew had set to work with a flurry, while I had plunked by butt down with the intention of never getting up again.  They had learned from Twin Lakes and were not going to watch me turn comatose again.  I wouldn’t beg.  My last hope was to look in my wife’s eyes and let her see the hopelessness I felt, to mutely plead “Don’t make me do this!”  I know she felt my pain as acutely as I, yet she gritted her teeth and said “Get up, you’re finishing this race.”

I dropped my eyes and said “OK, I’ll try.” They wouldn’t even cut me that break.  I think I heard “Oh, you are going to finish” which sounded half promise, half threat.

Once again Nate lifted me to my feet and we were on our way.  My wobbly steps gradually stabilized as I moved away from my crew toward the aid station tent, through which we must pass to continue.  Nate and I entered the tent and the bracing night air gave way to warm, heavy, seductive warmth that whispered, “Come, come. Close your eyes and rest.”  The tent was littered with Greek mariners seduced by the siren’s song.  The challenge stiffened my resolve and I told Nate I was going on through.  I stuffed some cookies in my fleece and headed out.  My loyal pacer stayed behind to grab me a cup of noodles.

The night air slapped me awake as I broke out of the tent and then a concrete Gollum of fact stomped loudly into my brain.  There would be no quitting.  My crew just wouldn’t allow it.

Thanks to my crew, I had survived and was getting the chance to run into my second dawn.  And as the new day gained strength, by some miracle, so did my legs.  Although my stiff hamstring still ached and pain tingled upward from my feet through my hips with every step, I was running.  Not only running, but getting faster.  Nate’s perseverance had paid off.  Through the early morning hours he had gradually gotten enough carbs in me that now I had more than inefficient protein to fuel the engine.

Several miles had clicked by and I was nearing 90 miles.  Three miles ahead, my daughter Carrie was waiting her turn to get her Daddy to the finish.  Hope bordering on confidence had been miraculously resurrected. Only another mile or so of rocky shoreline trail before we would hit some nice patches of pine-needle covered bliss.

Didn’t see it, but the rock that did me in probably wasn’t even two inches off the ground.  I caught my left toe and my body began heading toward a stony horizontal bed.  My right leg shot forward to catch the fall and pain rocketed through my hamstring, like lightening caught in a jar.  We were headed downhill and I couldn’t even stop to deal with my pulverized leg.  For a few moments I felt like a human pinball being bounced from rock bumper to rock bumper.

An hour earlier my crew had to force me to continue my run.  Now a “You Can’t Stop” Gollum stood sentry in the deepest part of my being and he was unmoved by the condition of my leg.  With encouragement from Nate at every step I kept moving forward, occasionally stopping to grab a tree as I directed him to drive his thumbs into the pressure points in my hamstrings, hoping to force apart the knots I knew were forming.  At times I jabbed my hiking stick viciously into the ground with every step, using anger to propel me forward.  And, in fits and spurts, we worked our way around the lake toward Boat Dock.

The crew would be meeting us there, with Carrie ready to assume her pacing duties.  This time, though, everything would have to be done on the run.  Even standing still for more than a few moments would give my aching hamstring a chance to tighten up and I wouldn’t let that happen.  Without much warning, we were moving through the official crewing area as Kathleen, Nate and Carrie scrambled to replenish supplies.  Knowing that I was about to forego my last chance to drop out was a relief I think to everyone.  Carrie and I wound our way through the widely spaced pines.  Full daylight glittered on the water and made Turquoise Lake true to its name.  A favorable path to the finish beckoned us on.  Less than seven miles to go!

Leaving the lake brought us more and more out into the direct sunlight, which pointed up two minor goofs that running through the Boat Dock caused.  I didn’t have time to get sunscreen on or reclaim my hat, which I had stopped wearing during the night.  Carrie learned how to jam her thumbs in my hamstring, although now my calf needed the painful attention just as much.  I had somehow found an awkward stride that minimized the stress on my hamstring, but added it to my calf.  My daughter turned out to be just as stern a taskmaster as Josh and Nate.  As the miles between me and the finish slowly melted away under that high Colorado mountain sun, my crew had brought me to this:  I would make it; I just had to keep moving forward.

Back on the Boulevard and I was taking it hard.  97+ miles on my feet and 30+ hours with no sleep.  I still knew I would make it to the finish, even if I had to crawl.  Right then crawling was starting to look pretty darn attractive.  But Carrie had a final, magical, technical trick up her book.  She had brought her phone with her and had been sending updates during the race to Facebook.  Earlier, she recognized the trouble I was in and, while she was running next to me, had posted; “He’s hurting, send some words of encouragement and I will pass on.”  I didn’t know she had it with her until she started reading some of them to me as I struggled toward 6th Street.  There would be no crawling for Carrie’s Dad.

Nate and Josh met us as we were about to end our time on the Boulevard.  Only a mile to go!  One moderate climb of less than half mile, followed by a brief downhill, then less a quarter mile to the red carpet waiting at the finish.  The heat had been getting to me a little, but an occasional dowsing by my pacers kept me moving uphill.  We were nearing the crest and my first view of the finish.  A landslide of emotions: gratitude, relief, joy and perhaps dozens of others had been building for some time.  They had been forged on a mountain anvil with only feet to do the pounding.  Nonetheless, I had kept them in check.  Now I crested the hill and saw the finish in the distance and my wife approaching across the top of the hill.  The emotions I was trying desperately to control were rolling out of her like a tidal wave.  “Oh, sweetie!  You’re going to make it!” she cried.  I was washed away.

The ice-water soaked hat that they set on my head did triple duty.  It cooled my overheated body, blocked the sun from my reddened brow and helped hide the tears now flowing copiously down my face.  For stride after stride, I couldn’t lift my chin from my chest as I tried to catch my breath and my emotions.  I had promised I would run this last bit of downhill, then power-walk across the line.  I couldn’t do it if I was more crippled by emotion than I was by my aching legs.

We reached the slope and I leaned forward willing my legs to show some pride and make me look like a runner.  With my crew at my side we rolled by a couple of other groups before reaching the bottom of the hill and coasting back to a walk.  Well up ahead were more groups.  As I walked up the hill, I could feel the tension in my young pacers and, without a word said, I could feel them urging me on, the adrenaline of youth wanting just a little bit more.  “Ok, fine!” I exclaimed gruffly and tossed my walking stick to Nate.  “All right!” they exclaimed as I forced myself into what would really be my last surge.  Driving my arms hard to pull my resisting legs along, I gained speed.  We caught a couple of groups before my fervent crew was forced to pull off at the cordoned-off final straightaway.  The finish line was just ahead pulling me on like a magnet.  While no one watching would have called it a sprint to the finish, something inside was saying, “You still have a little more and you are using it all up before you reach that line.”  With every part of my body screaming in protest, I hit that red carpet running faster than in any of the previous 100 miles.  In an earnest parody of Eric Liddell, I broke the tape and staggered into the arms of the first person on the other side of the tape.

Much like my run, this “race report” ended up taking WAY longer than it should have.  I even feel like I’ve staggered across the finish of this story.  I’ve left out a lot that happened before during and after the race.  Getting personally dissed by Ken Chlouber will definitely be in the long version.  But I think I bared my soul enough to get across the point that Leadville shattered me in a way that has never happened before.  When I finally reassemble the pieces, I know the whole will be stronger than ever.

*(Post-race analysis and research lead me to believe that I ingested somewhere between 600 – 800 mg of caffeine in the first 12 hours of the race.  Caffeine intoxication can occur with as little as 250 mg. in a 24 hour period.  Two of the indications are confusion and stomach distress.  I think my weakened state then made me more susceptible to a minor altitude sickness, which can cause a lack of appetite.)


Filed under Personal, Running

Hope for Heaven, Prepare for Hell

This will probably sound ludicrous to any non-running readers, but, for ultrarunners, covering ungodly distances on foot is often a very spiritual and uplifting undertaking; heavenly some might say. On the other hand, most (all?) ultrarunners  can easily summon memories of the hell they experienced during an ultra, maybe even the same ultra in which they experienced heaven. I go into every ultra adventure hoping for heaven, but preparing for hell.

Besides helping me get ready for Run Josh RunI thought this post would be a useful source of information for anyone preparing for a 24-hour ultra run on a fixed, repeated course. Not the training-type of preparing, but the logistical preparation for the day of the race. If you have any suggestions for information that should be included, please use the comment box at the bottom of the post.

Tomorrow at 10:00 am I will step on the track at the Louis S. Madrid Sports Complex and start to run. Twenty-four hours later I will shuffle to a stop; if I can stick to my plan, I will have completed 118 miles. This isn’t a particularly phenomenal distance in the world of ultra-running; according to Wikipedia, top runners regularly go more than 130 miles—the world record is held by Yiannis Kouros from Greece who ran a mind-blowing 188.59 miles in 1997. I can’t even fall back on the excuse that I am an old guy since the record for my 55-59 age group is 141.667 miles.

But, for me, 118 miles is a formidable goal and I have to be prepared to have any hope of reaching it. The first step is being aware of the potential weather conditions. Temperature, wind-speed, precipitation, and humidity can all impact the decisions I make in regard to clothing, footwear, food (and food storage), hydration, and other gear. The forecast for this race is calling for a very windy, partly cloudy 43° at the start. The finish is also supposed to be 43°, but mostly sunny with only a slight breeze. After the start, the temps will climb close to 50° as the winds slowly ease. Those winds will continue to lighten as the temperature drops below freezing Saturday night and stays in the mid-upper 20s for almost 10 hours straight.

The thing is … I won’t really know what the conditions will be until I’m actually in the race. So, if I haven’t prepared for every likely eventuality, then I’m tempting Mother to demonstrate her capricious Nature.

The clothing is probably the easiest for me to deal with. I have a pair of tights that I wear when it is in the 40s or below and a selection of long and short sleeve shirts that will suit the predicted temperatures, and an Under Armour top that will go on top if it gets colder. I’ll pack a pair of shorts in case it gets warmer than expected. I have two different weight gloves that I’ll use tomorrow, since my hands hurt the most when I get cold. I’ll also bring several pieces of head-gear so I can adjust depending on how hard I am working and how cold it is. I’m packing six pairs of socks so that I can swap ’em every four hours and still have an extra pair in case it rains. All the clothing I’ll use has been “Wyoming wind-tested,” so I know it will hold up to the expected high winds early in the event.

Although I’m bringing extra pairs of shoes, I found out at Leadville a couple of years ago that my feet didn’t care for switching up during an event like this. So I’m hoping my Inov8 Roclites last another 100+ miles.

Personal items that are in my “kit” include: chapstick, foot powder, lotion & eye drops (hours & hours of 25 mph winds can be tough on the eyes and skin), a pair of sunglasses (so I won’t need the eye drops), bodyglide, wash cloths, towels, deodorant, and  toothpaste & toothbrush. (Brushing my teeth in the middle of the night will refresh me and the deodorant will make it more likely that the people crewing the race won’t want to run away when I take a break.) I don’t blister as bad as most ultrarunners, but it does happen, so I’ll have a blister-care kit just in case.

For the times I change socks, I’ll have a firm chair that isn’t too comfortable. Believe me, you don’t want to sit in a comfy chair after 18 hours on your feet … you might not be able to get up. I’ll also have a piece of rug for in front of the chair (so my socks stay clean) and a small cooler to prop my foot on to tie the laces. (It doesn’t take long for my back muscles to get tight, so I don’t want to bend too far.) A blanket will be draped over the chair so, if it is windy and cold, I won’t get chilled when I stop.

For this particular event, instead of a tent, I’m planning on using a large tarp spread over the back of my Subaru Outback wagon and firmly staked down. I’m hoping this will make it easier to get in and out, and the back of the car will be warmer and more wind-resistant than any tent. It will also allow me to use the car’s cigarette lighter to power my computer, the chargers for my Garmin & phone, my iPod and speakers, and any other gizmo that I might bring along. The standard emergency stuff like duct tape, flashlight, utility knife, ibuprofen, first-aid kit, etc. will also be in the car.

Probably the toughest part of preparing for a run like this is the food. You’ll find a range of recommendations on the internet for calorie intake going from 200 – 300 calories per hour. For me, it isn’t quite so hard, because I feel as though my stomach can take just about anything. Anything EXCEPT too much caffeine. A caffeine overdose is what sabotaged my Leadville experience. Lesson learned.

So the food items that I plan on having? The important stuff like M&Ms, Cheddar Combos, pizza, Lay’s potato chips are a given. I’ll also have orange slices, grapes, my wife’s homemade banana-butterscotch muffins, rice w/gravy, pretzels, Gu Roctane (pomegranate-blueberry), FRS chews (also pomegranate-blueberry), and a vanilla-flavored protein powder for making shakes. The organizers will have soup and a variety of other foods, of which I will avail myself as needed. Last year, they had homemade Belgian waffles. On a gastronomic scale, I plan on really enjoying this run.

The fluids I plan on using are water, Propel (raspberry-lemonade), and Powerade (fruit punch). I’ll have coolers so that my food & liquids don’t freeze during the long stretch of sub-freezing temps. Because it won’t be getting very warm, I’m not really worried about keeping anything cold.

That’s about it. Running an ultra event is a very individual experience. What works for one person may not work for another. And it is smart to try out all the different gear and food that you might use during a training run. Everything you can do to be prepared in terms of equipment and logistics will go a long way toward getting you to the finish line.

In the end, though, you will still run up against the unexpected when you tackle an ultra. It is the iron determination to overcome every obstacle and get to the finish that is the strongest asset.

Oh, I almost forgot! I am running this event to raise money for a great charity—Engineers Without Borders—and I would love to have your help reaching my fundraising goal. If you’d like to contribute, click here –> Active Giving


Filed under Running

Dining room dancing to Kat Parsons

This is a semi-regular guest post from my five month old grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion; how he manages those tiny little fingers at the keyboard is unbelievable. The “C” is just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents to use these infant ramblings against him. :-)


Despite what Granddad thinks, I am a mostly normal five-month-old; I’m pretty close to the fiftieth percentile in weight, height … almost everything. I do think I talk a lot more than most infants, but Granddad doesn’t know many of my words. So I’ve had to revert to caveman coughs and grunts to get my point across some of the time. I’ve taught him that, when I start in with the loud barking coughs, I’m getting bored or frustrated and on the verge of a scream or two. I don’t have to do that too often, because he does pay pretty close attention to me. He better, after all, it’s his job.

Mommy works upstairs, which is cool, since that means I get to see her a few times a day, mostly at feeding time. But sometimes she’s on an important call or has an online presentation to do. When that happens, Granddad has to find ways to distract me from the fact that the dining room is temporarily closed.

His latest trick  is dining room dancing. We’ve only done it a few times, but it is pretty fun. Granddad is a klutz when it comes to dancing, but he’s managed not to drop me yet. He spins and dips and slides, and I’m pretty sure he thinks he looks suave. I heard him saying something about some Fred guy named after a stair, but Granddad can’t hold a candle to the kitchen dancing that Grandmom and Mommy do … still, I love him for trying.

Yesterday, he pulled up his iTunes and downloaded the new Counting Crows album.  The Counting Crows are his favorite group (proof he’s an old guy) and I’m not sure what he was expecting, but it put me right to sleep. Then today he loaded a new EP album called Talk to Me from an Indie artist named Kat Parsons. It was awesome! Seriously, it was way better than all my favorite nursery songs … put together! I think Granddad was worried it wouldn’t be as good as her first album, No Will Power, which he thought was fantastic, but I could tell he loved this one, too.

We danced around and around, and I was rocking! When we finished dancing through all the songs, we sat in front of the computer and listened to them again. They’re all amazing, but I think Fall For It” was the best of all. I couldn’t help but jabber away at the screen telling Kat how fantabulous she is. Granddad, of course, didn’t understand, but I bet Kat did.

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Filed under Granddad Nanny, Humor, Reviews

Take that, Peyton Manning!

Palmer and Peyton Manning 10/29/2006

Peyton Manning is bringing his star power and charitable works to the Rocky Mountains. Hey, Peyton, how about a challenge run for Engineers Without Borders? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have to admit to being a bit upset by all the fuss being made over Peyton Manning’s move to Denver. When I moved west almost two years ago, there wasn’t near as much ruckus raised … and I came from Maryland, which is a heck of a lot farther than Indiana. It took us three trips to drive all our junk out here and there weren’t any TV cameras waiting for us at the end of any of them.

The thing I don’t get is why football players are put on such high pedestals. Yeah, they get a lot of money to play a game, but I don’t see why they are considered to be such great athletes. Oh, right … it’s because most of them could probably break my skinny 5′ 8″, 150 lb body in half.

But you know what? I’m 55 years old and I’m already nearing the average life expectancy of an NFL player (58). I’m also imitating Joe Namath (one of the guys who has beaten the life expectancy odds) while I GUARANTEE that I could run any one those great athletes currently on an NFL roster INTO THE GROUND! I’m not saying that I could’ve done it when I was in my prime. (Ha! As if I ever had a prime!) I’m saying that, even with arthritic ankles, Achilles tendonitis and two decades more under my belt than most of them, that I could do it today.

This is a short pause for a serious question or two. Why do we glorify a sport that pretty much assures that those who participate are cutting decades off their lives? Are they paid so much because we know what they’re doing is going to result in an earlier death?

Okay, back to it. On April 28, I’m doing the Run Josh Run event in Laramie, Wyoming—24 hours of running. My game plan is to make it 118 miles in that span of time, but I’ll be more than happy with an even 100. It is the off season for NFL players and I’m challenging them to join me for a few hundred laps around the track. I know they are all scared stiff of a 55-year-old leaving them broken and moaning on the infield, but it’s for charity!

Come on, Peyton! Since you are a newbie to the rarefied air of the Rocky Mountains, I’ll even give you a 20-mile handicap.

If you can’t make it, how about chipping in a few thou for a great cause? Engineers Without Borders helps poor communities around the world develop clean sources of drinking water, improve sanitation and many other critical engineering-related needs. These projects are vital for stabilizing the social and economic frameworks of the countries involved. The global economy benefits when third-world communities become self-sufficient. Put some of those NFL big bucks to good use.

Even if you aren’t an NFL star, you can make a big difference. Please click here to lend a hand!

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Filed under Humor, Running

The Morning Stretch #14 – Kaleidoscope writing

Different pictures formed from the same jumble of crystals in a kaleidoscope. Some writers manage the same with words. (Pic courtesy of Wikipedia)

There are some writers—Neal Stephenson comes to mind—who treat words as if they were various colored crystals in the lens of a kaleidoscope; they throw them together, jumble them up, and bizarre, often beautiful, patterns emerge. You have to wonder—applying that word’s double meaning of  awe and confusion—whether the message you have divined from the mystical pattern is one the author intended. Sometimes you doubt any true meaning is contained in the ornamental arrangement on the page, even as you stand in awe of the artistry.

While I believe a writer, in most cases, should use the simplest combination of words to achieve his desired outcome, I can’t deny the pleasure I sometimes derive from complexity. But if a sentence is constructed to maximize its lyricism, as opposed to its meaning, the writer risks confusing and losing the reader. If that’s the goal, you should write poetry. (No offense to poets intended :-).)

So, why take the risk? For one, I’d consider being called an artist whose canvas rests between the covers of a book as high praise indeed.

Today’s exercise … craft a lyrical sentence whose meaning is secondary to its beauty.


Plowed free by the tip of a pen, rough stones write the history of my run on the moldy carpet; hard testaments of a conquered trail soon swept out the cabin door and returned to the mountain from whence they came.


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Filed under The Morning Stretch, Writing

A Cupcake Day

This is a semi-regular guest post from the point of view of my grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion. It’s just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents using these infant ramblings against him. 🙂

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Dream Cakes cupcakes ... Wow!

We (Mommy, Grandmom, Granddad and me) are in Santa Fe. Mommy had important work stuff to do and Granddad’s along since he’s my nanny and Mommy doesn’t think I’m old enough to watch out for myself in the hotel room all day. And she couldn’t leave me at home because she didn’t want to be away from me for five whole days, especially since I’m nursing still. I put up with formula on occasion, but there’s nothing like Momma’s milk … it’s the best! Five whole days without it and I think we’d both be getting cranky.

So, here we are in this historic old hotel in Santa Fe. You know what I found out? Historic means “itsy bitsy little rooms.” Geez, my nursery’s bigger than the room the four of us are packed into! But they do have a lot of neat old stuff, and pictures, and a big front porch with real tall windows so I can watch all the people sitting and talking or walking by on the sidewalk.

I like watching people a lot. Now that I’ve figured out how to tell Mommy and Daddy and Grandmom and Granddad from everybody else, it’s not scary at all. Anyway, Santa Fe has been an adventure, that’s for sure. Our first day here, it was sunny and warm and the next it was snowing! Granddad’s been walking (or running) me around in the jog stroller a lot and we’ve seen some cool things; the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, the Santa Fe plaza, a couple of parks, an art gallery with colorful pictures and bronze statues and other stuff … and even a cool toy store where he bought me a goofy orange aardvark or anteater, or, I don’t know weird animal with a long nose.

My granddad has to be one of the craziest nanny’s in the world. All those awesome things we’ve seen and you know how many pictures he’s taken? One! And guess what it was … cupcakes! They were pretty and all, but come on … cupcakes? All that running must be making his brain tired or something.

I’ve been doing a good job keeping him in shape but I guess he didn’t think it’s enough. This morning he got up real early and went for a long run. He was gone over two hours! A little later he took me out for a walk. We were gone an hour and I could tell he was starting to drag, so I’ve been taking it pretty easy on him all day.

Guess what! I’m officially five months old! And what do I get for being such a sweet little baby on my five-month birthday? They bought the most scrumptious looking cupcakes in the world to celebrate and didn’t let me have a single bite!

Better watch your back tomorrow, Granddad!

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The Monitor Game

This is a semi-regular guest post from the point of view of my grandson,  C, for whom I am now the full-time nanny. The initial is not an indication that C is average—he’s far from average in this humble grandpa’s opinion. It’s just a way to grant him a little anonymity. When he runs for President in forty years, I don’t want his opponents using these infant ramblings against him. 🙂

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Just because I’m almost five months old doesn’t mean I have a lot of free time on my hands. There are four adults in the house and keeping them all wrapped around my little finger takes some effort! But there is a game I like to play with Granddad when I have a few moments to spare. It is called The Monitor Game.

Mommy bought a Safety First Crystal Clear baby monitor so that everyone can hear me when I wake up from my naps. Not that my lungs aren’t plenty strong when needed. Anyway, the monitor is what makes this game possible. The basic rules are: 1) It must be nap time. 2)  Granddad must be trying to write.

That’s all there is to it. He walks around with me on his shoulder, singing (OMG! I’ll have to post about his frog voice someday soon) until I fall asleep … or so he thinks. Once he puts me down in my crib and takes the receiver, I wait until he’s had enough time to grab a snack and head for his computer. Then I let out a few fussies and the fun begins. When he comes in to check on me, I pretend to be asleep. He goes back to his writing, I fuss, he comes back, I pretend to be asleep, he goes back … can’t you see what awesome fun that is? I get tired of the game after a bit, but I keep at it until I hear the magic words “Oh, you little rascal!” By then I’m ready to zonk out for … oh a good twenty minutes or so.

But I think I’m starting to get too old for this game! Lately I’ve been working on a new one. It is called The Half and Half Nap. Granddad seems uncertain about it right now; but, once I get it perfected, I’ll be sure to share it with the rest of you.

Now it’s time get Granddad up and hopping again. Catch ya later!

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