Monday, December 31, 2012

Feeling Like A Kid - New Adventures In 2013

A few days ago, Tani and I took our kids to the Big Apple Circus. It was a first for our daughter who is nearly 3 and the experience was a wonderful reminder for me. The expression of awe and sheer joy on her face reminded me once again how raw and special it can be to try something new. I know every year when I set a new goal the excitement of that endeavour keeps me motivated. When the moment is upon me like this past year and I am standing at over 6,000 feet on the edge of the Grand Canyon or 263 feet below sea level at the start of the Badwater Ultramarathon, I feel like a little kid again. It's a sensation that never grows old and I can't find a reason we should ever lose that. It's called living no?

On that note, I am looking forward to many new and exciting challenges this year. Some that I am aware of and hopefully some that will just come along and surprise me. While I will be running several races I have run before, because I love them, I have also decided to step way out of my comfort zone and push myself harder in 2013.

First, My goal is to complete an Ironman in 2014 and to that end, I will be competing in my first two triathlons this summer.  Beginning in July with an Olympic distance in NYC and then a Half Ironman in New Hampshire the following month. With no real swimming experience other than a few workouts way back in my sophomore year in high school and zero road bike experience this will be interesting.

On the running front, I will run several 50 milers in the spring and a new 100 miler up in Massachusetts in June. The "Big Dog" however will come in September. The longest continuous run I have completed is 155 miles and it took me 45.5 hours in August 2011 (The Catskill 155). I have decided with Tani's support of course, that I am going to run 48 hours straight in an attempt to cover 200 miles. Like the Catskill 155 this will be a solo effort and not a formal race. There will be more to come on this in the coming months as the planning takes shape. One thing I can say with great certainty, this challenge will push me beyond all limits I perceive and make me feel like a kid again. Or maybe it will just make me cry like a baby:)

As always, all of my runs (and triathlons) will be in support of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation raising money and awareness for much needed research to find new treatments and a cure for Multiple Myeloma.

I hope everyone finds a way to feel like a kid again this year. Let me know what you have planned. Peace and Have A Great Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2012 - Success, Pride, Tragedy and Hope!

I could not possibly cover all the events and people that have impacted my life this year. There is no question the year was incredible from a running standpoint for me. The most memorable of these moments would have to be the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim adventure with my friend Matt, and of course the Badwater Ultramarathon which I completed in July while raising more than $45,000 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Here are all the links for the numerous posts I wrote about each.

Badwater: Training, Letter From My Son, Thanks, Video, Sats, The Journey

The Grand Canyon, Rim2Rim2Rim

More importantly however, were the accomplishments of those closest to me, my wife and children. I love running and all the benefits it brings to my life. In fact as I have said many times, running has changed my entire family's life in immeasurable ways. But what I enjoy most is standing on the sidelines watching the ones I love accomplish their goals and make their dreams come true. Here are some of the highlights from 2012.

Jared is our 13 year old son and we have watched as he has grown into a caring, intelligent and committed young man. In March he became a Bar-Mitzvah, which in the Jewish religion is the time when young men ceremoniously and hopefully realistically become accountable, being morally and ethically responsible for their own decisions and actions. Don't worry, he won't be leaving home anytime soon but this was a very special day.

Nothing like a good Hora!
Kyle is our 11 year old son and he too is an amazing boy. As if I would say anything else about this sweet, bright and strong child of ours. This past May, Kyle decided he wanted to run his first 10k. Not just any 10k, but TNF Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain which is hands down one of the most demanding and technical trail race series you can run. The full story is posted here in a narrative about my inspirational boys. Below is one of my favorite pictures of Kyle with Tani by his side, giving it all in the home stretch with bloody knees and a 2nd place age group finish.
Even the dudes in the background are amazed!
My sweet sweet little girl Isla. Nearly three now, I have been pushing and carrying her across finish lines since she was born. This year she ran across her very first finish line by my side at the MMRF Race For Research. And if that wasn't enough, she started pre-school in the Fall and went potty all by herself. Wooohooo!
"Not only do I make on the potty, I am really freaking cute"
And you know I always have something to say about my amazing wife Tani. Over the years I have watched her gain confidence through yoga, boot camp and being a Mom. She has also methodically been ramping up her running, a sport she never felt comfortable with and in fact a number of years ago said she could never do because of bad knees from soccer. Well, once again proof that you should never give up on something if you have a dream. This year Tani completed her first half marathon at The North Face Endurance Challenge in DC. I know she was not thrilled with her time on a very muddy single track course. In my eyes, she won the whole damn thing as she picked up our daughter and sloshed her way to the finish line. You totally rock babe and I always knew you could do it.
That's right!!!

There are a few other events from the year that stand out and I know we will never forget. Many if not all of us were impacted/affected in one way or another by Super Storm Sandy and the murders in Newtown, CT. Despite the devastation and loss of life what I have seen in the aftermath has been nothing short of inspirational. I know it's not perfect, but I am truly moved as our communities have come together in the ultimate sign of strength to support each other and find ways to recover. It gives me hope and makes me want to do something to make our communities better! I think Ann Curry of NBC got it right. In support of the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ann proposed performing 26 acts of kindness. Think about the impact if we all do that. 26 acts which will benefit someone else without regard to what that can do for you. Our family is in and will commit to this during 2013!

We were so very fortunate to have Anita in our lives until her passing on May 30, 2012 after a long battle with Multiple Myeloma. Those who follow this blog know how amazing and strong she was. She always had a smile on her face and never had a bad word to say about anything or anyone. Anita was positive energy at its best and is of course one of the primary inspirations behind Just A Mile To Go. She enjoyed every day and believed that all days, even the tough ones, were great.

In that spirit, my family and I wish everyone years and years of Great Days.

Peace, Love and Happiness,
Tani, Eric, Jared, Kyle and Isla

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Get Ready....The Challenge - Tani vs Eric II

Some may recall, some may not and others might not give a shit. This past January Tani and I competed in our own little biggest loser competition, The Challenge: Tani vs Eric. Although a natural result of The Challenge, the intent wasn't to lose weight. The purpose was to cleanse, recoup and get back on track after a fun filled holiday season that lasted nearly 2 months. Basically, after a lapse in exercise diligence fueled by our pursuit of drinking endurance and eating indulgence it was time to have a different kind of fun. So we decided to use a loosely based diet program and our own exercise plans while engaging in a little friendly competition. Tani kicked my ass by the way and you can see the results of season 1 here!

With just a couple of weeks until 2013 we have decided to do it again. Beginning on January 2 we will once again step into the ring and do battle. Nothing better than a public display of Husband vs Wife in a winner take all competition. If, or rather when I win, I will be dubbed King of the World for 1 year. Tani is still thinking about what she wants to play for so please send suggestions (although it doesn't matter because this year belongs me). By the way right now Tani is rolling her eyes and calling me a dork.

The Competition
Our diet will again be based in part on the Diet Solutions Program. This is not a binge diet, although we kind of use it that way, but it is a way of life, promoting moderation, control, organic health and fitness (key components no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy and no wheat). We will also get back into our various work out routines.

Rules
There are none. Each combatant can make up his or her own as they go but we do encourage each other along the way to "stick to the plan".

Results
We will post what we eat and drink as well as our workouts each day. We will also describe how we are feeling (energized, tired, cranky, etc). When the competition begins we will take our vitals so to speak (weight, percentage body fat, inches from several places). At the end of each week we will again take our measurements and post the results for comparison. At the end of the month we will tally the final results and declare a winner (me:)

On a side note, and to be fair. I hate being fair. Tani has manged to maintain through the entire year and as of now is at exactly the same weight she was at the end of the first competition. I on the other hand have taken full advantage of my time off and anticipate ballooning to and beyond my weight from last year. That is, my weight before the competition:) Is that an unfair advantage in a competition with no rules? I think not.

Looking forward to sharing our experience with everyone again.

Peace and Have A Great Day!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Recharging My Batteries Sucks!

I have been thinking way too hard lately about what to write and have struggled to come up with anything I find relevant or entertaining. No races, big runs or great fundraising to talk about either. I have however been busy planning, plotting and purchasing for next year.  Once again I have decided to take the last 7 or 8 weeks of the year off. Not from being active, but training. As much as I despise this I feel it is necessary to recharge my brain and body for another great year.

If I feel like running, well then I run.

If I feel like eating, I heat up a brownie and put some vanilla ice cream on top of it.

If I feel like sleeping in, I hit snooze over and over again.

If I feel like swimming, I wear my Speedo (my wife loves when I wear my Speedo).

If I feel like drinking, I get drunk (my wife loves this too).

Point is, this is the time of year when I live my life with little regard for the specific challenges that lay ahead. Basically a free for all. If my brain says it, I do it without the usual self motivating pressure that keeps me pushing towards that next goal. It seems like it should be relaxing right? Enjoy the holiday season with not a care in the world. Just let it all happen and whatever will be will be. Should be easy! Well shit, if that's the case why am I so anxious, tense, frustrated and uneasy. I know I need this but I fucking hate it.

OK now that I got that off my chest I am going to go get a beer because I feel I like it:)

Tomorrow I am going to run, because I feel like that too.

Peace and Have A Great Day!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Me and Anita
I have been thinking about our friend Anita a lot lately. She passed away in May after a 10 year battle with Multiple Myeloma. Anita was grateful for every day she had. In fact, she always reminded everyone around her just how great each day was. Whenever I spoke with her and asked how she was, Anita's response, no matter how good she felt or how shitty was always, "Eric honey, every day is a great day".

I am forever thankful for her continuous reminder to be grateful for each day, no matter what it may bring. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone on this amazing day.

Peace and Have A Great Day!

The Gelber Family

Saturday, November 10, 2012

So You're Sayin There's A Chance!!!

"One in a million"
Today I entered the lottery for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, AGAIN! When I first started running ultras a few years back, one of the things that attracted me most aside from the trails was the simplicity. Sign up, show up and run. That was it. It would seem those days are gone. Now most of the races I want to run either have an application process, a lottery, or require you to sit at your computer at the stroke of midnight (or other time) and if you are not the fastest typist or most computer savvy person, tough shit.

Some lotteries are straight up, 1 ticket random draw. Others like Western States give additional tickets for each year you don't get in and you can even buy extra tickets ( I believe the money is donated). Others have categories for veterans and first timers. The application process for the races I love or want to run for the first time has added a whole new level of stress to what was previously a stress free sport for me.

Tomorrow I am going to simply put on my running shoes and head out for a run ( I think I will wear clothes too).

Peace and Have A Great Day

Friday, October 26, 2012

EricG's Running Tips #36 Get In Focus

Back in June of 2011, I wrote about focus, but it was very generic. After running the Chicago Marathon a few weeks ago, I thought I would talk a little more about this topic and the specific ways I have found to help me focus. Chicago was a hard fought run for me. With a focus on ultras the last few years I had not run at this pace for that long since I ran NYC back in 2008. I decided to run this race hard without too much marathon specific training. I am certain it was the last few years of running ultras where I learned how to channel my thoughts better that got me through it as strong as I did missing a PR by 57 seconds.

When I use the word focus in this instance, I am not referring to paying attention to what you are doing, form, breathing, blah blah blah. To the contrary. I am actually suggesting you completely ignore all that and take your mind somewhere else. Focusing for me is having the ability to either tune out what is happening, changing my thought process and even visualizing something other than what lies ahead. These personal methods have helped me to get through some of the toughest times in a race. The moments when I think I can't do this any more.

Tuning out:
If I stare at something I can completely space out. How does one do that when you are running down the road or trail at warp speed you ask? Similar to when you are driving and staring straight ahead at the car in front. Sometimes before you know it you have travelled several miles without realizing it. Find a runner who is running at the same pace, preferably one with a really nice butt and simply focus on them. Watch the rhythm of their stride or something that has a steady constant movement, or very little movement and focus on that. Stare! Don’t think about anything else “butt” that. Maybe not a great idea on technical terrain but trust me this works. I did this in Chicago when I began to doubt my ability to keep pace and I was able to zone out from mile 16 to 20.

Changing thought process:
I was running with Tom Holland last week, a fitness expert and multi time Ironman including Kona. We were discussing ways we do this. What it boils down to is embracing the moment and changing its meaning. When Tom starts thinking “this sucks” with 5 hours to go in an Ironman, he changes that to “this is great” and of course numerous variations of the theme. “ I can’t” to “I can or I will” and so on. You will be surprised at what you can talk yourself into by using positive messages to embrace your situation. One thing is for sure, it is going to hurt and it is going to suck. Remember! The pain is good and if it sucks that’s even better. It means you are giving it your all. The reward is worth it so keep reminding yourself you can.

Visualization:
This can take many forms and can even be quite entertaining. I have heard of people who visualize crossing the finish line. I prefer to visualize the beer I am going to drink when I am done, the big steak I am going to eat and the big smile on Tani’s face when I get my gigantic hug. These are great images, but how do we use visualization to get us there. For me, my runs are always dedicated to someone. What I like to do is imagine that person is there with me. This past June during a 50 miler in DC, my legs were beaten to a pulp after 40. All I wanted to do was walk or better yet sit down. I imagined my friend Anita picking me up by the back of my shirt, not carrying me completely but just enough so my legs stopped hurting so badly. Ten miles later I had run my best 50 to date by 20 minute breaking 9 hrs for the first time. In Chicago I was running for Quinn who is 7. He gave me a ride on his shoulders around mile 23 when I needed to pick up the pace. These visuals are short lived for me and maybe even kind of silly to some, but they remind me that I am not only out there for myself and there is so much power in that.

If all else fails, just keep telling yourself what a bad ass you are and nothing can stop you!

Peace and Have A Great Day

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago - Most Unexpected

Admittedly, I did not go into this trip with much expectation except that I hoped to enjoy the city with my wife and daughter while running a marathon for the first time in 3 years in support of the MMRF. Well what came out of this trip was indeed most unexpected.

The City
Chicago is such a great city to visit. So much to do, see and of course eat in this surprisingly clean and friendly urban environment. From the attraction of Lake Michigan to museums and aquarium and the landmark food establishments, our days were full. Did I mention the food? There is of course the famous deep dish or stuffed pizza and what I would say was our favorite, the Italian beef sandwich at Portillo's.


While we primarily walked everywhere there are numerous methods of transport including water taxis which also doubles as a ride for the kids. The history of the City from the architecture to its storied sports franchises is every where, and the locals pride is evident. I love a city with passion. I would go back any day.

I also got to see my old college friend Bob. Many good times back in the day at the Cuse. Good to see you my friend, even if you are wearing that ridiculous hat.

I suppose you can figure who is who
The Brothers Goad
I have met many many amazing people and families through my involvement with the MMRF and this trip was no different. I heard stories from all those there to run, saw tears and smiles and walked away feeling pretty damn good about what we are doing. I must be honest, I have had my doubts since our friend Anita died this past May. After having so much hope we were shattered by her passing and it really took a lot to keep pushing forward for a cure. This event really brought us back. Not that we ever left but I know I really needed this to get me fully motivated with purpose again.

I need to thank one family in particular because it is their unity and passion that really had a particular impact on me. The Brothers Goad! Jeff who is a myeloma survivor having been diagnosed 2 years ago and his brothers David and Brad were in Chicago to run the marathon together with their families all in tow. Jeff and David spoke to the team on Saturday night and I can't even begin to transcribe their words. Hope is what we need and that is what the Brothers Goad delivered. If you would like to read an excerpt from David's speech you can get it here. It is called "The power of yet".
Me and Jeff a few minutes before the start.

The entire Chicago Team raised nearly $90,000!!!
The Race
I had no expectations or real race plan other than to finish and to do it in under 4 hours. Not only was I not going to push it, this would be way off my slowest road marathon (not too exciting). I was looking forward to running the streets of Chicago and taking in the sites but I began to grow disappointed in my approach. My race strategy, or lack there of was completely foreign and against my usual give all you got attitude. Like most runners I suppose, my brain is typically on overload for weeks leading into a race. Many who witness it might even say it takes over all thought, rendering me useless in much of my daily life. Not this time. I felt lost.

I slowly made my way to the start at 5:30 am. There was a chill in the air and despite the other 40,000+ people congregating to Grant Park, I had no excitement building inside. After about an hour of sitting around in the tent I had access to, the start of wave 1 was near. I rose and began to head out to my corral and I saw none other than the Goad brothers. We exchanged pleasantries, snapped a picture or two and wished each other good luck. As I walked away David Goad yelled out, "Hey Eric! Run with purpose."

Quinn and Mia cheering from home
Run with purpose? It was as if David knew exactly what I was lacking. I had really lost sight of what I was doing and who I was doing it for. I guess you can say I was being a little selfish. I had dedicated this run to a young boy named Quinn who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia in October of 2012. I wrote about this in my last post, The "Mighty" Quinn prior to Chicago. Quinn has no choice but to give it his all, and with his inspiration and David's reminder I was about to give it my all too. Thanks to David's reminder of why I was there and "Mighty" Quinn's inspiration I decided at that moment to give it my all. What that would mean I had no clue, but I was going to leave my heart out there.

As I made my way to the start, I felt this incredible calmness and comfort in knowing that what lay ahead was going to hurt, just the way I like it. 3:29:12 seconds later I crossed the finish line, legs burning and lungs searing as I gasped for air. It was not my fastest but a near miss by 57 seconds and I can feel proud that I did my best. I actually ran a negative split by 3 minutes for the first time ever, in any race. The personal achievement certainly feels great, but "running with purpose", to help others takes the feelings to a level that is difficult to describe. If you ever have, you know what I mean.

(A little side note: Chicago is extremely well run and organized particularly for a race of this size. The crowds are amazing, fun and energetic, but not nearly as large as I was expecting. The loop course and location near so many hotels makes it extremely easy logistically.)

People ask me often how it is I get through the really tough times in a race. Granted most of my races are longer but when you run hard self doubt always creeps in. My answer is usually "focus", and I say it as I frame my face with both hands and motion forward as if to suggest tunnel vision. I think I will write a new running tip soon about focus but here is what I did when the wheels began to come off. First, I always try to zone out, almost putting myself in a trance like state and remind myself over and over again that I have been here before and I can do this. Second, as I was "running with purpose" I was not running alone. When I struggled to maintain the pace I had set out on, I actually imagined Quinn was right there with me. Not along side, but I imagined this young smiling boy actually carrying me on his shoulders through the final miles of Chicago's streets. Now if you really try to picture me on the shoulders of this little boy in the picture above, its actually quite entertaining. Anyway, it worked. Thanks for the ride Quinn, I could not have done it alone.
This sign may have helped a little too!
With that said, I did not do it alone. As always, my awesome wife Tani was there to cheer me on with our daughter and the MMRF Power Team was at mile 14 with hugs when the going was about to get tough.

And of course to those who provide me with my awesome gear, Drymax, Nathan and VitaCoco, thanks for your continued support.

To everyone else, get out there and do whatever you do, with purpose. Give it all you got!
Peace and Have A Great Day!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

From the Soul of My Shoe

From the Soul of My Shoe is a weekly writing in the NewRo Runners' newsletter. These are thoughtful and spirited musings usually with a message. NewRo's slogan is "Changing the shape of the community - One mile at a time." I have met many of this local club's members of which I am one, and I was impressed immediately. Not because of their passion for running, that's easy. It's their passion for people that makes me want to be around them. "Just Ask Nash" is the title of this week's narration written by Seven Stein. It captures the essence of so much I love about running including community, friendship, support and personal achievement. It also shows yet again that we are all capable of so much more than we ever thought possible. We just need to show up, and give it all we got!

"The crowd at the finishing line had vanished, and the organizers had begun the post-race awards presentation. Vendors were packing away their goodies and their tents. The time on the race clock kept on digitally ticking by. It read 2:40:52. Normally there would be a crowd of NewRo Runners huddled together at the awards ceremony ready to celebrate the victories of the day. Ready to cheer as our very own 2011 defending champion took 3rd place overall, and eagerly waiting to hear who placed in the top 3 of their respective age group.

But not on this day. The remaining dozen or so NewRo Runners, were waiting at the finishing line, waiting to cheer on and bring home the last NewRo Runner on the course. Today, coming together as a team and collectively celebrating the accomplishment of completing a first half marathon took priority over cheering on our award winners. We cannot take away the glory, the hard work and the talent of all the NewRo Runners who took home an award, and we celebrate with them in the "Running Feets" write-up below. But today, it was all about celebrating the core, the heart and soul, the camaraderie of NewRo Runners, as well as the sheers guts and determination of one runner - Nash Warfield.

Nash (left) NewRo family (right)
The clock was now ticking past 2:45, and our Motivator in Chief Mark Medin took off down the Bronx River Parkway in search of Nash to run him home. 5 minutes later, Mark was back, but without Nash. Where is he? Did he get picked up by a car? "No"; said his fiancé and mother eagerly and nervously waiting for him at the finish line. Then we saw him. Actually we saw his pink socks first. Not sure if his color choice of the day was for breast-cancer awareness month or if it was his colorful choice of the day. Next thing you know, 10 NewRo Runners run down the Parkway to meet Nash to run him home for the last 250 yards. The NewRo Banner was hoisted, the cameras came out and clicked away, and the remaining NewRo crowd on the side of the road cheered him in as he crossed the finishing line at 2:57 into the loving arms of his fiancé and mother. The announcer, who was still dishing out awards, heard the NewRo Runners cheers and shouts, and stopped mid sentence and congratulated the runner who just crossed the finish line for his sheer determination.
Sprint to the finish

Oh yes, you deserve it

Today was one of my proudest days as a NewRo Runner and as co-founder of the club. There were many accomplishments to celebrate on the road this day - approximately 40 NewRo Runners turning out, and many award winners and PB's. But I was most proud of what I witnessed unfold before my eyes. Today I got a glimpse of the heart and soul of what many of us call our running family. We stuck together and made sure every single accomplishment was celebrated as a group. Some runners waited close to 1.5 hours to ensure Nash crossed the line; just as we all celebrated the other 39 crossing the line. We celebrated a fairly new runner, one who joined us over the summer, one who had never run beyond 5 miles before joining NewRo Runners. He set his goal over the summer to run the Westchester half marathon - his first half ever. Some of us have run with Nash at the BOTP (back of the pack), but all of us have encouraged him, given him confidence, and advice, and supported him every week he showed up. If this is not encouragement enough for those who have read our weekly newsletter and asked themselves, "should I come out and run this weekend?" "Will I be able to run with them?" "Will they support me?" - Just ask Nash.

Today, NewRo Runners showed its heart and its soul, and I am proud to say, it is big, and it is healthy and it is a beautiful thing."

Congrats to Nash and all the NewRo runners! You make a difference.

Peace and Have A Great Day.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The "Mighty" Quinn!!!

"Mighty" Quinn
Anyone who knows me personally or reads this website understands how important the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and its cause is to me. You also know that it’s not only Multiple Myeloma that I want a cure for, but all cancers. Just as the MMRF shares its research and findings with others in order to help speed progress, Tani and I also support other causes.

This weekend I will be running the first of 3 marathons in a 4 week span in Chicago. This one will be, as all runs are for me and my family, to raise awareness and funds to help find a cure for cancer. This particular run however is for a very special youngster named Quinn. And yes, Quinn is “Mighty”. Quinn is a Mighty Smart, Mighty Handsome, Mighty Athletic, Mighty Strong and Mighty Inspirational 7 year old boy who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on October 21st 2011. His parents Sandy and Dennis knew immediately that something was wrong when he returned home from school and did not want to play baseball or football, something he does every day.

Quinn and lil' sis Mia at Tough Kids Tri
Quinn is now in the midst of a 2 ½ year maintenance stage of his chemotherapy and doing well. Quinn who loves school (science) and sports, even completed his own race recently at the West Point Tough Kids Triathlon and his father raised over $6,000 in support of the Children’s Cancer Fund by completing the Westchester Triathlon on September 23rd. Tani thought it would be a great idea to dedicate this race to Quinn and I agree. I will be giving it all I have for Quinn this coming Sunday and if you would like to give too please go to his Dad’s fundraising page here and donate to the Children’s Cancer Fund. Thanks as always to all those who have and continue to support us.

Peace and Have A Great Day!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'm Better Than You. Now What?

In recent days I have done quite a bit of thinking. My mind has been reeling actually because of a comment I received from a reader on one of my Grand Canyon Rim To Rim To Rim posts. Back in May my friend Matt and I successfully completed a double crossing of The Canyon, a most memorable experience for us. We travelled through one of the most glorious places I can imagine on earth. We laughed, joked, struggled, stood in awe quite often of this wonder and simply enjoyed our time there. We captured much of it on camera and were proud and excited to share the pictures and story with our families, friends, colleagues and friends of Just A Mile To Go.

This comment, which you can read here, came 4 months after our adventure, and I will admit when I first read it I was seething. My first reaction was Fuck You! How dare you step all over us like that with a self promoting comment. As you can see I did respond in a less aggressive manner and now that I have had time to properly digest, I realize I wasn’t really angry.

I am disappointed. My frustration lies in the fact that there are people not only in our sport, but our culture, who find joy somehow in calling out their accomplishments at the belittlement of others. Don’t get me wrong. I love sarcasm. I have been the butt of many jokes and have been known to throw around a disparaging remark or two. Who is to say however, that one success is any greater than another, especially in a sport of individual achievement. Is one person’s PR more difficult to achieve than another. Since we are all different, and every day is different I say no. Your best is all you’ve got and if you give it, you have hit your top level of achievement. I am not looking for a pity party here. I am not suggesting every team in little league should get a trophy just for participating either (that’s another topic). I am saying it would be a good thing if people could be happy for others in whatever they do and for once not put their accomplishments in front of another’s as a mechanism for self gratification. In other words “Get a life”. Ok, maybe I am a little angry.

Anyway, I meant it when I congratulated Cheryl on her accomplishment. Cheers to everyone out there and your accomplishments. I don’t care if you go faster, slower, shorter or longer. JUST GO and give it all you got!

Peace and Have A Great Day

Friday, September 21, 2012

Running Simply

One thing I have always loved about running is its simplicity. Just put on my shoes and out the door I go. Actually that’s not quite true because if all I did was put on my shoes I would be running around the neighborhood naked. Aside from being arrested we wouldn’t want my neighbors throwing up so I put on my shorts, shirt, socks and shoes and then out the door I go. At least that’s the way it was a long time ago. So long ago in fact I had forgotten what it was like to run so simply. When I trained for my first marathon I had 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of shorts, and I wore whatever cotton socks and t-shirts I had in my dresser (I did buy a technical shirt eventually due to the chafe monster). Other than the race entry fee, I spent about $100 on running stuff.

How is it that something so simple and beautiful has now turned into a laboratory and resulted in drawers, shelves, closets and storage bins full of gear. Not to mention the insane amount of decision making that goes into each run, as follows:
  • Select between at least a dozen different pairs of shorts, countless pairs of socks and buckets full of technical shirts (of course 95% of the time I wear one of my 15 or so orange MMRF shirts).
  • What is the weather like outside? Do I need sleeves or a jacket?
  • Am I running in trail shoes or road shoes today? Do I want to wear the TNFs, Brooks or Hokas? Do I want the red, green, orange, blue or black ones?
  • Do I need my handhelds or a hydration vest?
  • Am I wearing one of 3 different headlamps or carrying a handheld lamp this morning along with a reflective vest and LED lights if running on the road.
  • Am I using Hammer Gel, HEED or Perpetuem on my long runs? Should I bring S-caps?
  • Do I bring a phone, and don’t forget the epipen?
  • Should I bring an iPod or Garmin today?
  • Remember ID and don’t forget to lube up in all the right places!
Getting out the door has become a nuisance. It drives me crazy and I am sure all the crap around the house and my constant preparation for each morning drives Tani crazy too (although you would never know it).

What does all this mean? The obvious answer is I am obsessed. The real answer is I simply love to run, and as part of this journey have collected lots of stuff to help me run longer, faster, safer and more efficiently.
However, aside from all the incredible experiences that have come along with running, it is the pure freedom and simplicity of running I love most.
As my training and running goals have ramped up these past few years I really began to lose sight of this and I actually began to get (I cant believe I am actually saying this) a little bored and dare I say annoyed with running leading into Badwater this past July. I therefore made it a point over the past couple months since my return from Death Valley to run simple. I choose one or two of my shorter runs each week and don’t think about anything on my way out the door. I grab my favorite of everything and only mandatory items. No watch, no iPod, no packs, no bullshit. Just me, the road and my thoughts running simply as it was meant to be. It feels so good to be out in the early morning hours simply running free. Try it!

Peace and Have A Great Day

Monday, September 10, 2012

9/11

Eleven years ago I was training for my first marathon, NYC.  My oldest son was 2 1/2, my youngest just 6 weeks old. I had run 4 miles that morning, and a beautiful morning it was. I was sitting in my office, starting my day, listening to Howard Stern. I don't recall the exact words that made me look but they mentioned something about a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center buildings. When I turned around to look down Park Avenue, I was horrified to see the jet black smoke distinctly clouding the crisp blue sky. After watching coverage on TV with many co-workers the entire building was evacuated. As I made my way north, clueless, not really knowing what was going on or what I was doing, I stopped to look at more reports on a monitor in the window of a bank branch on Madison Avenue. The first tower fell. In shock, with many others we stood in horror. I left and continued north towards a friend's apartment who I hoped would be there when I arrived. On the way I came upon a news van on Park Avenue as commotion erupted. I stopped to see, and the second tower had fallen.

Later that day, early evening, the trains, packed with horrified people, many covered in soot, began to shuttle us home. It was silent, but for the clanking of the wheels and the subtle sobbing of many. I can still feel the hollowness in my stomach as I think about that day. I will never forget, but will never let the murderous actions prevent me or my family from living our lives.

If nothing else we owe it to those we lost to live, not recklessly, but freely in memory and honor of what was taken from them.

Tomorrow, I will still be with my beautiful wife, my sons will be 13 and 11 and my daughter will be 2 1/2. I am so very lucky to be here today and I will run for the nearly 3,000 people who were murdered that day and their families. Let's all remember and live in Peace!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

EricG's Running Tips #35 Getting Back On The Horse

It has been days, weeks, months or even years since you last ran, rode, swam, practiced or worked out in any fashion. I don't know what it is that makes it so tough to get back on that horse and we all know how hard it can be sometimes not to get thrown.  There are a number of things we can do to get over that initial mental hurdle and stick with it.
  1. Don't dwell on the past. What you did or rather did not do is over and there is nothing you can do about it so stop beating yourself up.
  2. Focus on what you are going to do tomorrow. Commit to it, do it and be positive about your effort no matter how tough it is getting through those first few work outs. 
  3. Set a long term goal with lots of smaller goals to get you there. If you want to run a 5k or even a marathon that's great but break it down into smaller short term goals to get you there. Yes a schedule.
  4. Setting challenging yet attainable short term goals with an eye on the bigger goal will give you something positive to look back on and feed off of going forward. 
  5. If you hit a bump in the road along the way forget it and move on. Shit happens
  6. Most importantly commit to yourself that you will do what you say you will do. Each time you come through for yourself it will make it that much easier the next time because you know you can do it. Success breeds success as the saying goes.
I am a firm believer in setting numerous short term goals with an eye on a bigger prize. I use this to get me through my training all the time. If I look too far ahead it can be overwhelming and feel like the mountain is way too big to climb.  I hope you find success in whatever methods you use to stay on that horse.

Peace and Have A Great Day!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Badwater Journey

As we pass the Lone Pine time station at mile 122 the brutally intense sun was beginning to set. We are just 13 miles shy of our goal to complete the "worlds toughest foot race". Now around 8pm on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 all that remained was a grueling ascent of the Mount Whitney Portal Road. With nearly 5,000 feet of elevation gain, beginning at 3,610 feet and culminating at 8,360 feet, this was surely going to be taxing on not only me, but my crew.  We had all given everything we had over the preceding day and a half and every biting step was now draining any remaining energy and hurting our bodies. As we made the left hand turn onto the Portal Road the climb began. For me this would define much of what this run is all about. As the raging fire under my feet intensified, the rigidity in my lower back solidified, the weight of my emotions continued to have me question my validity. There was no amount of physical strength that could carry me to the finish. My wife, Tani was there as always to remind me of the internal strength we have. I listened but struggled to believe. Then she began to read me a letter which was delivered days before, unopened, from my son Jared. As instructed I was to only read this letter if circumstances brought me so low, a greater power was needed.
Minutes before our 6am start, rocking MMRF BW Shirts
Just 38 hours earlier, Monday morning July 16, 2012 at 4am my crew and I rose to the sound of numerous alarms we had set with paranoia the night before. The next hour was spent making last minute preparations and loading the primary support van with all the gear, food and water we would need for the next two days to support the 5 of us on our desert journey. The drive to the start was fairly light hearted as we searched the radio for upbeat songs that would help us get psyched up. There was a dim glow radiating from behind the mountains as the sun began to rise, a slim reminder of what was to come. The heat is the one thing that always left me unsettled when I dreamt of this day. The sun as it always does in July, would slowly demonstrate its power over all those who run the white line through the Mojave every year.

When we arrive at the start with nerves in check, there are a couple of pre race rituals. First all runners must weigh in. This provides some what of a baseline to help determine the cause of a runners poor condition should problems arise later. It is often difficult to diagnose the distinction between Dehydration and a no less significant condition, low sodium levels known as Hyponitremia. Both can lead to serious problems and in the extreme, death.

Much less serious are the group pictures where the race veterans gather together laughing and joking while the rookies mill around the periphery like lost sheep. I am one of the lost sheep, you can barely see my head sticking up in the back. While all of these things are going on my crew, Tani, Mark, Greg and Donna were all making final preparations.

After the group photos are done, runners are quickly asked to get to the start line for few light hearted words from our Race Director, Chris Kostman, and of course our national anthem. This was admittedly quite a moment. We worked for nearly three years to get to the Badwater start line and now the time was here. I'd had the funny sense the past 24 hours that I was out of place. When the anthem began I suddenly felt a little more at home and then I looked up and saw my wife, we both smiled proudly, shed a tear and had a wonderful moment. Without a word spoken, we knew how long and hard we worked, the sacrifices we made and the $40,000 we helped raise to find a cure for cancer. Now it was time to move forward with our journey.

The countdown to start......3, 2, 1 and off we went. We were in the first of 3 start waves (6am). Despite the cooler than normal temperatures, I was committed to my race plan as I watched the majority of the field disappear, going out very fast. Tani (crew chief and wife) and I had spent quite a bit of time prior to our arrival discussing our race plan. Below is our pace chart and nutrition plan.


We broke the race down in to 7 sections with planned paces for each section which in the end would equal a 36.5 hour finish. We determined our pace for each section based on what we thought my overall condition would be at any given point in the race taking into account time of day, anticipated heat, course elevation, etc. Always nice to have a plan so it can blow up at any time. We put together our race nutrition plan using past race and crewing experience along with the advise of Dan Rose. Now it was time to see if we could make it all work.

As we made our way through the first 17 miles to Furnace Creek, temperatures remained cool by Badwater standards but as soon as the sun came over the mountains it quickly reached the mid 90's and I believe the measured temperature eventually topped out around 105. It is my understanding that temperature readings are taken in the shade, about 6 feet off the ground. If this is so, I know why it feels a lot hotter in the sun. Because it is!

Goofing around early on
However, during the first stretch of beautiful rolling highway, I felt comfortable in the crisp morning light. As we passed many of the landmarks along the way such as Devil's Golf Course and Mushroom Rock, I recall thinking how lucky I was to be there. I had seen it before as a crew member, yet it all felt and looked different this time. There was one instance when I was admiring the sharp contrast of the mountains to the west against the perfectly blue sky when Badwater veteran Cheryl Zarkowski ran by and simply said "It's a blessing isn't it!". Simply f'ing amazing was what I was thinking but Cheryl was right too. I spent some time with Cheryl, friend Meredith Murphy and adventure legend Marshall Ulrich, but mostly, I ran alone with my thoughts. Every 20 to 25 minutes I would reach my crew, they would take care of me as planned, we would have some laughs and then continue on. I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the peacefulness of this morning knowing that what lay ahead would have few similarities as the race would begin to take its toll on us all.

Our first stage and time station at Furnace Creek, now in the books. We were about 8 minutes behind plan but all was good. We had decided to change our cooling breaks from every 20 miles to every 10 and while it slowed us down, I think it was worth it. During these 5 minute scheduled breaks, I would arrive at the crew vehicle and a chair was already set up with a frozen towel spread out for me to lean back on. Two others were on ice, one for my chest and one for my head and shoulders. Each time I could feel my core temperature going down as my crew kept me shaded from the sun.
One of our many planned cooling breaks
A couple of other cooling techniques we used throughout the race were, wearing iced bandannas wrapped around my neck and wrist bands stuffed with ice. My crew also carried a spray bottle filled with ice water to spray down my head, face and upper body.
Typical quick stop
The next 28 miles went relatively well too. My crew was amazingly smooth and they rotated running shifts effortlessly. In my eyes this is one of the most important sections of the course. Respect is the first word that comes to mind as the heat and wind intensify. I also think there is a temptation to pick up the pace as the much faster runners from the later start waves begin to pass and that can be a mistake. It is hard to explain what it feels like to be in the open, sun blazing and the road nearly boiling under your feet during this 6.5 hour stretch. In races past as a crew member, I had seen runners succumb to the heat on the way to Stovepipe and shortly after during the long assent that follows. The heat is so very powerful and silently crippling. When it releases its fury, it is swift and cruel, with little warning and lasting effects that can easily end a runners dream.

Winds are kickin
Although slower than planned by 27 minutes, I was actually in much better shape than any of us expected thanks in part to a steady tail wind through about mile 35.  Primarily however, it was our diligent effort, sticking to our planned breaks that had me generally feeling well. The only concern as we made our final stop before Stovepipe near the beautiful Sand Dunes at mile 40 was my feet. They were ON FIRE, and I had several blisters on my toes and on the bottom of my feet. The balls of my feet worried me most because those blisters are often very difficult to get to because of the calluses I have. We decided to leave the bottoms alone for now, but the giant bubble on my left big toe needed lancing. In other words, I needed to pop it, drain it, clean it and cover it. It is much safer bet to handle blisters proactively than letting them pop on there own which can leave the skin completely open, subjecting the area to infection and even more irritation. It also gave me an excuse to sit longer:) I took this opportunity to dunk my feet in ice water and change my socks which were now full of sand and wet. Not a good combination. (side bar: "Ever take a hot pan off a stove and put it under cold water in the sink?" Imagine that with your feet)

Can you feel the wind?
Feeling somewhat refreshed and ready to go I shuffled the last couple miles into Stovepipe. There was quite a bit of activity here with a few people cheering on the roadside, many runners taking planned breaks at the hotel or cooling off in the pool and the third time station. We had a room at this hotel just in case but I knew I never wanted to leave the road for any reason. It's hard enough to get out of my chair, let alone leave a bed in a beautifully air conditioned room. My crew got together to resupply at this point. I continued on and prepared myself mentally for what was sure to be the first very significant challenge of the day. I was now staring at a 17 mile, 5,000 foot high, wall of scorching asphalt. The sun was directly in my face and the fierce headwind was causing me to stumble at times as its gusts were difficult to battle. I always new this section of the run would be challenging, but I never realized how utterly draining mentally it would be. So very frustrating it was as the wind continuously beat my mind to a pulp. I spent time on this climb, with Tani, Greg and Mark and I think even they were all taken back by the wind. I know in my frustration we even laughed, shaking our heads at how unrelenting it was.

Dean
I had trained hills very hard for months and actually believed that I was going to run portions of this climb. What a joke. I ran for a total of 30 seconds during the first 16 miles of ascent and that came when my running idol, Dean Karnazes passed me. He too made a sarcastic comment about how much fun this wind was and then continued on. I knew my crew van was just a ahead so I began to run to catch up with him to get a once in a lifetime picture running with him in Death Valley. I actually caught up to him and was walking behind him when he jumped into his van for a break. Oh well, all for naught but it was a fun moment.

The sun began to set, and we rose higher above the desert floor. The temperature mercifully relented although the wind did not. We continued our planned breaks but with the lower temperatures we would hold off on the ice breaks through the night. While the cooler temperatures were welcome, now about 16 miles into our climb I was depressed. It was around midnight and the climb had taken a lot out of me. Tired, sore and frustrated I needed something to get me pumped up for the pounding decent we were about to endure. Greg was with me at this point and we started to run. Not fast but run none the less. With each step I felt better and ran faster. I am not sure how fast I covered that mile. When I arrived at the top I was breathing hard but I felt rejuvenated. Then I turned around to see that I was alone. Apparently Greg's bum knee go to him here. No big deal, we were meeting up with the crew vehicle at the top, Townes Pass. One small problem! I was unable to find my crew. They were there but I could not identify the right vehicle in the dark and because I had separated from Greg they were not able to find us either. You begin to identify your crew and runners by the light patterns on every one's reflective gear. With the slew of other vehicles at the top and me alone, it did not happen.

I walked past the last vehicle at the top and decided to continue on rather than back track, knowing Greg would find them and they would catch up to me. Second small problem! Greg never saw them either and continued on behind me although at a distance where I did not see him until he caught up with me about 2 miles into our decent. I heard Greg yelling out to me from behind. I recall turning around and yelling back "WTF are you doing here. Where is the crew van?" We discussed it and agreed he needed to go back and find them. By the time Greg made his way nearly all the way back up, regrouped with the others and caught up to me again I was nearly 5 miles and over an hour past our last planned break. Fortunately I had received help from the crew of Claire Heid (now the youngest female finisher in BW history). They were kind enough to refill my bottle and hand me pb and j sandwiches a couple of times. Not to mention some moral support as I became dejected at my situation.

Together again
When we were finally together again, I was dead tired. I sat down for what was to be a quick 5 minute rest. Tani and crew were all concerned and apologetic. I was silent. I did not say a word, took what they gave me and when the break was over, before I could get out of my chair I fell asleep. My crew mercifully let me rest for a whole 10 minutes. When I awoke I was like a whole new man. I jumped out of my chair with renewed energy, grabbed my water bottle and began sprinting down the mountain. "Yeah Right!" I slowly rose, on my exhausted legs, my brain felt like jelly and my feet seemed like they had been stung by thousands of jelly fish. Donna spent some time on the road with me at this point, logging a couple of miles on her incredibly swollen and purple ankle. Donna had taken a major spill suffering a grade 3 sprain just 2 weeks earlier and refused to let me down. I in turn was not about to let her down and continued on. In fact, what's incredible is how the support of crew, family and friends can carry me at these difficult moments. I often thought about all those at home, and of course all my wife and crew had given up, helping me get here, and to be there themselves. They had all taken time off work giving up vacations for me. My wife painfully left our daughter at home for a week (the longest ever away from her). On top of it all, they had to tolerate my grumpy smelly ass. My sons had encouraged me to do this race which resulted in me missing camp visiting day/pick up. The power of all this kindness and sacrifice is quite strong.

It takes me a while to spring back from these short little naps, but they definitely help when I am so low and barely moving. Mark soon jumped in with me and I began to feel a little stronger as we approached the bottom of the Panamint Valley. The temperature had gone up again but still much cooler than the day. The site coming down to the valley is amazing as you see the flashing tail lights from other crew vehicles lining the entire valley floor all the way down across and back up. I used these lights as motivators and thought if I can just catch one vehicle it will help my confidence. I busted my ass to catch up, only to have every car move further down the road any time I began to get anywhere near it. I pushed and pushed running as much as I could trying desperately to catch just one car. There was constant hope followed by consistent disappointment. Before I knew it we were ascending again and I began to walk. Although successful, I was still moving after all, I was again drained of all energy as the feeling of failure was calling me. I had not caught a single vehicle/runner and was actually passed by a couple of runners.

I began to slide backwards, facing another long arduous climb which would easily carry us beyond sunrise. Arriving at the Panamint Springs time station some 2.5 hours later than plan, the last 20 hours and 72 miles had simply beaten the shit out of me and my focus was wavering. The only person who knew for certain this time would come besides me was Tani. She has been with me at this hour of the night and seen me in this frame of mind.  Tani had prepared the rest of the crew for this very thing. "Just keep him moving until the sun comes up!" Tani told them, with certainty. The early morning darkness is my kryptonite and she new I needed the sun on my face. The only question was how to get me there.

Nap #2
They fed me some soup, replenished my fluid and then encouraged me up the climb towards Father Crowley and eventually the Darwin Turnoff. Not before I begged for another nap. I promised Tani that I would not stop again that night but felt I needed this to revive. I am not sure if I really needed it but I was definitely having trouble keeping my emotions in check and resisting the temptation to rest. After discussing for several minutes....(well Tani was discussing I was whining) she agreed and let me crash in the van. I climbed right on top of coolers and gear and was out within seconds. As always after 10 minutes exactly the sleep miser told me to get my ass up and get moving. Tani stayed with me and talked me through the night.

Leaving DVNP mile 85
It took us 7 hours to make it to the Darwin Turnoff time station, 18 miles from the last. The sun was up by the time we reached Father Crowley around mile 80 and sure enough by the time we reached the boundary of the Death Valley National Park around 7:30 am my energy began to come back. At this point Ken Posner from the 8am start caught me. I had met Ken a couple of times before back in New York and at his first BW in 2010. Tani and I spent some time with Ken and his pacer and had a great time just bull shitting about whatever. After about an hour we wished each other luck and I went to my car for a quick break. I did not even sit down. I had so much energy all of a sudden. I asked for a Red Bull in my bottle and told Tani it was time to run:) Off I went, on a solid run walk program for the next 9 or 10 miles. When I approached the Darwin time station at 27 hours I picked up the pace and ran right through as my crew was there to check me in. This was the fastest pace I had carried the entire race as I was cheered on by those who were gathered on the road side. I am not sure who I was trying to convince I was OK by running so hard, me or everyone else.

Good news is, I was was actually fine. For now anyway. Mark jumped in a couple miles down the road and ran with me for a while.  The other runners (2) around us seemed energized with lots of back and forth passing, smiles and good cheer. The sun was our friend!!!! Oh silly you Eric. Now around 11:30am I believe, it was again getting hot and the wind was kicking up a bit. The sun, sending a not so friendly reminder of who's boss. I am also fairly certain I was about to pay the piper for my over zealous behavior the last 2 hours. I was feeling so positive and running so well I started telling myself I was going to keep this pace all the way to Lone Pine, 30 miles through the hottest part of the day. What a fucking joke.

By the time we hit the 100 mile mark, usually a celebratory moment at BW, I was whimpering like a lost puppy longing for his mommy. I took my first cool down break since late the prior afternoon and fell asleep.......AGAIN! And yes she made me get up again after 600 seconds. "I have one tough ass crew chief...Don't you think?" No freaking mercy. That would be the last time I would sleep.

I slumbered down the road and noticed something ahead, which even in my hazy state caught my attention. The color of the road was about to change suddenly from the old faded grayish/blacktop to a brand new jet blacktop. The road had been repaved and you could see the difference in the heat rising up in the distance. It was about to get really uncomfortable. My charred feet were already so incredibly sore and the 2nd day of heat had begun to squeeze me of all motivation.

"What the hell were you thinking?" I asked myself. "You new this was going to happen yet you did it anyway! Why Why Why???" A bunch of self pitying bullshit I know but I always go through this. It's just part of my struggle on these journeys. I don't know if I ever actually answered myself, but I began to think of so many people out there who fight the battle, the battle to continue everyday; Kathy, Dee, Wendy and so many others whose paths I have crossed. And then of course those we have lost, Anita, Ben and Mindy to name a few. I guess that answers that.

Oh shit, that is going to be hot (grey to black)
Mark
My crew and I would spend the next 22 miles slowly but rhythmically plodding our way to Lone Pine, at the base of Mount Whitney. I tried as best I could to run when I had energy, walk when I had little and remain awake when I had none. Tani, Donna, Mark and Greg operated like a finely tuned machine. They alternated between main and secondary vehicles smoothly, the primary vehicle was always fully stocked, pacing duties were shared regularly and most importantly, they kept me moving forward. If there was ever an issue, I was not aware of it. My crew was a selfless team, together with one goal in mind, finish! I was fed/hydrated, and hosed down every mile and took a few breaks to temporarily extinguish the inferno in my shoes and body.
Donna
Greg
During one 2 mile stretch we ran through a sand storm of sorts as the wind blew the fine desert sand across the road to about calf height. It was beautiful to see as the sand floated across the road like a smoke machine. When we ran through these tiny little razor blades, they would sneak into my shoes and form little sand dunes between my toes, having the effect of sand paper on my skin. Adding to the pleasure of this spa like environment the radiant heat now cooked my ankles to a nice medium rare. Even with the leg sleeves I wore to prevent burning, the road temperature would prove to be no match with a purple ring about 2 inches wide appearing around both ankles and what felt like hundreds of tiny blisters around the back half of each. The fire had spread, but we moved on.
Tani
We reached the end of Highway 136 as the sun was beginning to set. Night gear was on again for a second time, and we made the right hand turn to Lone Pine. Tani was with me and ran and walked the next couple miles to the Dow Villa and 122 mile time station. The crew had consolidated into the main vehicle for the final stretch together and we were all smiles. There were cheers from the people we passed on our way through town and at the time station there were high fives from race staff and volunteers. We enjoyed this moment thoroughly, while being fully aware of the looming silhouette of the mountain that now rose between us and the sun.
The turn into Lone Pine after a very long day

All smiles at the Dow Villa, mile 122 before a very long night
When we made the final turn to begin the menacing 5,000 foot 12 mile climb that would try to break me, I thought again of my children and how much they meant to me. How much they believed in me. My oldest son Jared (13) wrote me 2 letters before BW. The first letter I shared in an earlier post read as follows:

"Dad, I am so excited for you that a day that you've been waiting years for is less than a week away. I know you can do it. You have so much that is going to push you to the end, whether its for MMRF, thinking about your family, or all the training you've done leading up to this. During your race if you're struggling I want you to open your second envelope.
I love you all so much. Love, JARED"
Time for something extra!
Now here we were, the moment of truth. There were many times during the past 38 hours I wanted to read that second letter but held off. I was all too familiar with the course and knew things would only get worse. The final 12 miles are plain and simple......TOUGH! With an average grade I believe of over 8% this is so incredibly difficult under any circumstance. But after 122 miles in the desert? Are you fucking kidding me. I knew the words from my son would offer up the greatest encouragement a father could receive and I did not want to use this power pill too early. Even in the best of conditions, I planned on this ascent taking 4 hours. About 20 minutes into our climb as the road began to steepen, I found myself again sapped of all energy and drive. At this moment I was an emotional wreck. I could not imagine as low as I felt and as slow as I was now moving with great effort, how there was possibly any amount of mental fortitude left in me.

Tani asked me if I wanted to read the letter from Jared we had been saving. I nodded with exhausting acceptance. Returning from the car, letter in hand, she began to read:

"Dad, What you do inspires me to do anything I want. I'm so excited for you about running this race because I know it means so much to you. I just want you to try your hardest and not give up till you can't take another stride. Even if you do not finish, but I know you can do it, I will still love you and be super proud of you. I always knew you were going to do something amazing because you always taught me the values of never stop trying and to push your hardest. Go finish this race and kick Badwater's ass. Love, Jared"

I was now walking blindly as my eyes turned to oceans. These tears would put out the fire ravaging my body and ignite a fire in my heart. There was no way I was going to let my children or anyone else down, including myself for that matter. I wanted to take one last break to prepare myself mentally for what I now planned to be a long strong walk. When I leaned on the rear bumper I got extremely warm even with the cooler temperature. Actually I began sweating profusely and peeled of my arm sleeves and rolled down my leg sleeves. The break was quickly over as I figured this was a bad sign and stopping was not helping. As I walked to the other side of the road to begin climbing again, my body made an about face. I was suddenly freezing and shaking uncontrollably. I pulled up my sleeves and asked Mark to grab my jacket. I could see the look of concern on his face as he helped me. I was a little concerned too having never experienced this before.  All I could think of was to keep moving and warm up.

With the incredible words of my son, thoughts of my other children, wife, crew, family and friends I pushed on silently for what seemed an eternity. I thought I was moving well but at night, I was only able to see 20 feet in front of me so I never really knew what progress I was making (I had not worn my Garmin since mile 45). I kept hearing other runners near me shouting numbers like 3, 4 and 5. I turned to Greg, speaking my first words since I had my shivering attack. I said "I wish those people would keep there distance checks to themselves because it is depressing me." Greg responded "Why?" I replied "The thought of having another 8 or 9 miles to go is killing me. I thought I was focused and doing well and now I hear this bullshit!" Greg said,"Are you kidding me? You are killing this mountain and we have all been talking about it for the last 3 hours."

I was completely blown away. I had not said a word to anyone for nearly 3 hours except for the occasional thank your for a fresh bottle. Greg informed me we only had 3 maybe 4 miles left. I was immediately excited and continued my consistent pace and may have even stepped it up a bit. During the climb my entire crew had spent time with me and now as we passed the last time station Tani joined me for the final couple of miles. My thoughts suddenly became clear in the thin air at over 7,000 feet. Everything felt fresh as if my day had just begun. I will even say it almost felt as if I was walking on pillows among the infinite stars. The sky sparkled brightly as we laughed, cried and just shook our heads in disbelief at the journey we just went on. Now nearly 3 years from the day I asked Tani "What do you think about me doing Badwater?" and her responding "OK!" here we were. Even as I write this I am shaking my head in disbelief.

We did it!
Best hug ever!
Greg, Donna, Me, Tani, Mark (We did it together)
Peace and Have A Great Day!
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