So here we are again! After running 70 miles at Merrill’s Mile in less than 24 hours, I felt that scratched the 100 mile itch. Riding home day of race I wondered why I keep doing this. I actually feel it was my lactic acid filled quads talking. Wow did they hurt!
But by the afternoon I was deciding what the next race would be. After a lot of ciphering I decided on a 36 hour race. I feel I need a little more than 24 hours to get the 100 in. If I’m capable at all – let’s not stick our head in the sand on that possibility.
So I have entered a 48 hour endurance race because I couldn’t find a 36 hour race. Now I need a strategy… My original goal, that remains, is to do a point to point 100 miler verses the 100 in a 1 mile circular trail as is this race. The reason I have chosen the circular is to test my time as there are no cut off times like there will be in the point to point.
Now for my strategy quandary… Run this 100 miler to see how long it takes to reach 100 and call it a day but not be competitive in the 48 hour race. Run the 100 fast and you have nothing left for the total 48 hour race but you meet the 100 mile goal.
Remember, the last time I ran 100 miles was never! The last time I ran for 36-48 hours was never. So all the strategy talk may be for naught and I have to face that. But that’s what this has always been about. What is my body still capable of at 57 years old?
Now for those unfamiliar with endurance racing at this level, specifically this race:
This will be a 1 mile circular trail.
You will run, walk, hike throughout the race. But remember you’re racing. People seem to want to tear you down when you tell them, yes we walk some, but then I ask them if they’ve ever WALKED 100 miles – seems to calm them down and put it into perspective! (In the South this is known as Shut Up Juice)
You will sleep very little if any throughout the entire race.
Nutrition is key. Your GI tract is shaken for hours and upset stomachs are common. You can be in the best shape of your life and it means nothing if you’re on the side of the trail throwing up.
Blistering and chaffing are the enemy.
In this format camaraderie is common. You’re running with people for 2 days for crying out loud. We encourage one another. I’ll start at 9am on a Friday and end at 9am on Sunday.
When night falls, those early hours are hard, but the sunrise will bring new life.
Much of long distance running is mental. Seriously, your body is capable of incredible things when you test it. Most people just never test it.
Most of my nutrition early on will be liquid with food coming later in the race.
At these times and distances there usually aren’t many entrants. These aren’t distance that you just decide I think I’ll try to run 100 miles. That means those that show up are usually good runners and competitors.
So there you have it. I’ll give a full race report soon. We’ll see if I learned anything at my last 24 hour race.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at a church about How to Become a Spiritual Leader in the 21st Century, and why you should care…
So here’s the “why” followed by 12 things I believe 21st century leaders should be doing…
In a nutshell, because the Kingdom of God is at stake. According to churchleadership.org over 4,000 churches close each year while only 1,000 new churches are started. Every year 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. Then depending who you talk to, many believe that one our of every 4-6 Sundays a month is now considered regular church attendance.
12 “Should’s” that I believe could help us become better Spiritual Leaders in the 21st Century. Your mileage may vary.
Should be of good character.
Should be willing to adapt.
Should be a team player.
Should understand Matthew 18 as it relates to conflict resolution.
Should become a student of church growth.
Should be in tune with their community.
Should be moving toward tithing and beyond.
Should take their church partnership (membership) vows seriously.
Should make worship invitation part of their DNA.
Should be loyal to Christ and their church.
Should never talk business before worship to staff or pastor.
Should become Aarons to your pastor and staff.
Again, your mileage may vary. Add to my list or take away. Either way I believe it’s a great start to becoming better spiritual leaders in the 21st century.
So the first part of my 100 mile endurance quest is in the books – Merrill’s Mile 24 Hour Endurance Race!
I’ll provide a short, just the facts version, as well as a full race report for those less familiar with ultra endurance racing. So you get to choose because people like choices…
Short version – I chose the 24 hour option starting at 9am Friday until 9am. Saturday. Two incredible thunderstorms in between incredible sweltering heat – yes I paid to experience this! It’s a one mile paved loop. When all was said and done I covered 67 miles and some change and finished 3rd out of 20 in the 48 hour race and 2nd in my age group – winner was in my age group!
Full Race Report – This will answer a lot of your endurance racing questions!
Merrill’s Mile is held at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega Ga, an Army Ranger training camp. Today will be a family affair! My daughter Katelyn, and my two son in law’s, Seth and Sam, will be running the 6 hour option then cutting out leaving me running a true solo race.
Upon arrival we set up camp. This race is known as a timed event. This just means you try to cover the longest distance in a specified amount of time as possible. So yes, you can walk, sit, run, or whatever. So, many people set up a campsite with a canopy and chairs and if running the 48 hour version then some pretty elaborate campsites are set up on the infield of the loop. The advantage of timed events and running in circles is you get to go by your camp every loop. This means you can provide your own nutrition.
Nutrition plays a BIG factor in ultra racing. Food has a hard time digesting when your digestive system is shaking up and down for hours on end. Ultra race directors typically provide excellent food at aid stations. Excellent food if it rides well on your stomach that day! Otherwise you find yourself throwing up every so often, and do that enough and your day is finished as you must have the calories. Or worse, you may find yourself melting! You want to avoid a rumbly in the tumbly at all costs on race day. These calories can be gotten either through liquids like Tailwind, GU gels or real food – or any combination thereof. So it’s important that you practice your nutrition before race day as it has the biggest impact on performance. Be the best athlete in the world, in the best shape of your life but find yourself throwing up and having diarrhea every so often and even I’ll eventually pass ya! So nutrition is big!
So I decide to go the minimalist route with just a Rubbermaid tote and a cooler with water. I decided to use my cooler as a chair. In my tote are 3 changes of clothes, another pair of shoes, Tailwind Powder, Bread, Peanut Butter and Honey, Stax potato chips, a light jacket, a rain jacket, Saltines, Black Diamond headlamp and extra batteries, body lube,a buff for my head, and a few other essentials like band-aids, chap stick, handheld water bottle, etc… My decision with this setup will cost me dearly later.
I try to set several realistic goals for every ultra I enter. One that will stretch me a little and eventually one that stretches me a lot. For this race… To still be able to walk/run at 9am. Saturday. To race farther than I ever have, which meant anything over 50 miles. Then the one I really hoped to accomplish – to make it to 65 miles. Then the last was 75 miles.
We are called to the starting line. We’ve all been given a bib number that has an embedded chip on the backside so our laps will be electronically measured. For this race we also have ankle bracelets that also track our miles and I heard that live tracking was available for this race. That means you can log on and track a runners progress throughout the race – but I didn’t know that until after the race. This will also means you can see where you stand on a large flat screen monitor on each pass. Oh well. I need to take a break in the action to discuss Ultra racing strategy now that we’re about to start…
In ultra running strategy plays a key role. I’m going to be running a long time, at least for me – 24 hours. Every runner has to have a strategy, or I think they should have. Yes, you’ll need to build in some walking, but you need to walk with purpose – remember you’re racing. Get your walk/run/rest strategy out of wack and you lose. Then there is the heat and sleep deprivation. Do you want to take it easy during the hottest part of the day and then haul the mail at night? Possibly. Or would it be better to bank miles while it’s early and your legs are fresh? Will you have set timed rest breaks? How many? That’s why there is so much strategy involved in the Ultra world.
Back to the Race without Interruption
The funny part of an Ultra start is that when the starter yells go, some start running while others start walking – it’s back to strategy. I decide to start at a really slow running pace and just make myself stop and walk later. The biggest error made, in my opinion, in ultra running is starting too fast. So the saying goes, walk early and walk often and that’s what I did – I mean 24 hours after all.
And it was all going so well until it wasn’t. We start in sweltering heat so you are quickly drenched – no problem I heat train regularly by intentionally finding the hottest days I can to run. I also rain train, trying to run in pelting rain when possible. When you’re ultra trail running (over 32 miles) point to point, you must continue moving forward regardless of conditions.
But then, the rain came and came and came… Athens Alabama had not provided me the luxury of training in rain like I was experiencing and it was hitting me in the chest so hard it felt like piercing needles – and no I’m not being dramatic – it hurt! Normally you could see the entire mile loop from end to end but the rain had now blocked that type of visibility. 48 hour people could spare a little time and found cover in their camps with their canopies. I had no canopy and furthermore if I opened my tote to get any nutrition it would have filled up with rain water – lesson learned, I’ll have a canopy next time! I can’t afford the time to get out of the rain as I have no idea how long it will last. Then comes the lightening, where am I going to go? So I just keep racing. Then it lets up and what a relief not to have the rain pounding and pounding for I’m sure over an hour. I wait for the humid sun to return to bake me again and it does not disappoint! This means I will have time to change into dry clothes because I couldn’t be any wetter if I’d jumped into a pool. But by now my worst nightmare was transpiring…
My feet were soaked and so were my running shorts, then blisters on my feet, and chaffing of my inner thighs had begun. Don’t under estimate the pain of chaffing of your inner thighs. Oddly enough this is all part of the allure of Ultra running – whoever is willing to suffer the longest finishes the highest. You just have to deal with problems. Running in the North Georgia mountains as I did one year, and have a problem, there is no one there to help you when you get blisters or chaff or diarrhea or throwing up – you just have to deal with it. So I dealt with them by getting into new socks, shoes, shorts, etc… And so all was good again, and I was feeling fresh! Until…
Until the torrential rain hit again a few hours after the first monsoon. Now I’m in the same predicament again. I’m soaking wet, blistering and chaffing but I can’t change because it’s still raining cats and dogs – if I open my tote all my gear gets soaked – again note to self about bringing a canopy! Plus, I can’t forget I’m still racing and others are in the same boat. But if I can suffer longer then I might get ahead.
Nutrition at this point is stellar. I decide to drink Tailwind for my calories and use an S-Cap periodically for my sodium intake. I’ll later start eating some real food while drinking Tailwind. Worked like a charm the entire race and I must admit I had he best aid station food of any I’ve ever had – kudos to the RD. Food included watermelon, freshly cooked grilled cheese, humus burritos – really good and I’m not usually a humus fan, Ginger Ale (helps settle your stomach) etc…
The rain eventually quits and I get into my dry clothes once again. I’m feeling pretty good with my walk/run strategy and slowly clocking miles. But nightfall quickly approaches and the track is not lighted. So out come all the headlamps which looked really cool around the track. I haven’t stayed up all night on purpose since Jr. High and was wondering how long before this too goes south. I’ve decided not to sleep or stop during the race but keep moving forward no matter how slow it gets. I have also decided not to run using music just to make all aspects of the race mentally as hard as possible – ever tried running in a circle for 24 hours? Me either at this point. Surprisingly it goes pretty well, in fact better than expected as far as the night goes. My legs, not so much…
Somewhere during the night my quads get trashed. They have filled with lactic acid is my guess. So now I need to sit for the first time during the race. I know it’s going to be painful – little did I know how much. I get the the chair Katelyn has left me – that I didn’t think I needed – I was wrong and lesson learned. Problem is the chair sits really low and I’m tall. I can’t tell you how excruciating the quad pain was as I stretched them trying to sit down. Then I used my leg roller and tried to roll the pain away. They felt better after sitting about 10 minutes. But then…
Then something happened that I can’t explain, the chaffing started immediately as I started walking again. By the way, when the early morning hours came there was more walking than running, everything was so painful now. Oddly enough the chaffing quit after about 5 minutes of walking or at least I no longer felt the pain. But now whenever I thought about needing to rest, which I did 2 more times for about 10-15 minutes, it became a mental thing knowing the pain I’d feel while trying to get into the chair and the chaffing pain after getting back up. In total I sat down only about 3 times during the entire race.
Late into the race it became apparent that I would make my 65 mile goal. When that came and went by a couple of miles I was done! I was spent. To give you an idea, I like a 10 minute and 30 second mile. In ultra racing I like to start at about 11 minute pace and settle in on about 12 minute pace late in the race. On my last few miles I was clocking a few 30 minute miles and was personally impressed I could pull it off with all the quad pain, blisters and chaffing! I decided to leave an hour and a half on the table and take my 67 miles and take it to the house. I wrestled with just doing whatever I could for that hour and a half but felt I had made a good run at my goals and was satisfied, called Julie and Katelyn to come and pick me up and I said goodbye to Merrill’s Mile feeling this might just be the race that helps me retire from ultra running.
What I’d have done differently
Canopy, chair that sits high for my height, moleskin for my blisters, starting even slower than I did, walk more during the heat to run faster at night, long poncho so my shorts didn’t get as wet, take care of issues sooner than I did. Other than that I think for my first 24 hour event I got it close to dialed in.
At the end of the day
Was sore for the afternoon after the race, but was pretty good the next day as far as being able to walk. Blisters on feet are healing and all is good. The following day I was already thinking about my next race and how I’ll do it differently. Finished the Merrill’s Mile with 67 miles with a 3rd place finish out of 20 in the 24 hour race overall and 2nd in my age group. Shout out to the race directors for having the best aid station food I’ve ever experienced. Only wish this race was in the fall!
So I lost and entire week of training. More on that later…
So the dream or nightmare continues. My quest to attempt a 100 mile endurance race. Notice that it’s a race and not just a run, so yes, walking is part of the strategy.
Step one of my plan is to do a 24 hour timed event on a 1 mile closed course – a 1 mile track. Part of the challenge is to fight off the boredom of running in a one mile circle for 24 hours – with no sleep. Then, once I can determine my athletic condition I will determine my next step in the quest. Most likely that would be a flatter 100 miler somewhere in the US.
So back to me losing 1 week of training which also slows things down for the second week of subpar training… I joined Strava and a few virtual running clubs to gauge my training efforts against other local runners each week. I was logging great mileage for several weeks. I was somewhat competitive on Strava. Until…
Until I decided to be my usual self when it comes to extremes. I love to run on the hottest and coldest days I can find just to see if I can take it. It’s a mental thing as you never know what race conditions may be on any given race day. On this particular day I thought it might be a great idea to run in the heaviest monsoon rain I could find. For about 7 miles, puddles and all. Thought it would be great training as I have often run races in adverse conditions. Weather can change a lot in 24 hours. The run went well as it rained harder and harder.
Then it happened…A couple of days later I developed an intense sinus infection. Now I’m not saying that there is a cause and effect thing here but… I’m pretty sure running in the rain COULD have contributed to the infection. I got so sick, lost sleep, felt so tired that it shut down all training. It got so bad I even went to the doctor, I know, I know. I lost an entire week of training. I was logging some pretty good mileage – for me, until then. But if that wasn’t bad enough, now I need to slowly ease back into some high mileage days, and race day is quickly approaching.
In case you’re wondering what high mileage days look like for me… I subscribe to the one long run per week mentality. You run quality miles during the week but you real effort is put into the long run on weekends. My long run is 20 miles each week. Just in case you’re wondering. For a 225 pound guy that’s a lot of miles!
So I’m back on track. I’ve officially registered for the 24 hour race and now working on nutrition and strategy ideas. More about that in another post dedicated to just that.
If you’ve read my post on my Walter Mitty Life then you already know I go past what some believe is normal. I think that’s up for debate! I will say that there are times that I question myself as to some of the things I attempt to do. This could be one of those.
Wondering how anyone would even consider getting into ultra running – distances that typically start around 31 miles. You can read about how I started in my post Ultra Experiment.
Ultimately I feel that the shorter races are a young man’s game, it’s all about speed, which left me long ago. But as the distance increases to the ultra distances, strategy and nutrition slowly works their way into the equation. You see, it’s an endurance race, which means there is a combination of walking and running. You need the best combination of each dependent on the course to be successful. If that weren’t enough, then enters in your nutrition. You can be in great shape, have a great plan, but have your race nutrition go south on race day and your day is over. A lot of factors play into endurance racing. It’s a game of strategy.
My longest race to date was 50 miles. I often get asked if I walked any of it. Many seem disappointed when I say yes – it’s an endurance race, not an endurance run. Walk or run in the wrong ratio and you lose. Remember, it’s about strategy, how much do I walk to hang on for hours of being on my feet verses running. Then I ask if they’ve ever tried to just walk 50 miles. That seems to bring it back into perspective! You can see a light bulb go off…
So before I retired from running a couple of years ago, I had been obsessed with toeing the line for a 100 mile endurance race. Once again, some would say not normal. Again I’d say that’s up for debate. You see I believe the mind/body is capable of things that many never tap into. I think this could be one of those things.
So, my quest to run a 100 mile endurance race begins…
I thought I had it out of my system! I ran for several years and really enjoyed it. But I reached a point where I felt “I’d been there done that.” So I thought I’d retire from competitive running. As it turns out I guess I was only taking a break! Little did I know!
So, how did it happen? After all the years of trying to get my grown daughter into running she finally entered the arena – after I had already quit! Then she started pounding me to run a race with her. So I started playing a game by telling her that I might be entering a race she was in, with no intention of entering. She likes the shorter distance stuff which I think is for young people and not for those of us over 50 runners. Short distances seem to be just a “speed only” race which lends itself to youth – in my opinion. With longer distance races it seems to level the playing field when strategy enters the field. That distance for me begins after 30 plus miles which is known as an ultra distance.
Then I get a message on my phone… Hey dad I’m running the McKay Hollow Madness trail race on Monte Sano, you in? Then in a moment of weakness I found myself on ultrasignup giving them my money and the training began. Only problem is the short distance of 7 miles – I don’t stand a competitive chance. Oh well, it’s a start and we’ll be running our first race together which will be awesome. As an added bonus my two son in law’s are running it as well. It’s a family affair.
Due to the date of the race I was not able to train as much as I’d like and hey it’s only 7 miles. I’ve run as far as 50 – but I was in great running shape. Not the case this time. The McKay Hollow Madness, like other races on Monte Sano, was a legit trail race. That 7 miles felt like a 7 mile climb! When I finished I realized I don’t need to run if I’m not in great shape.
When all was said and done I finished 42 out of 96 with 19 that DNF’d overall, and 10 out of 18 in my age group with 3 that DNF’d. In my age group only 3 were older than me that beat me. So, overall it was a good first race back from my running retirement. Plus and the real “win” was I got to spend time with my family!
So, what’s next? Well let’s just say I’m into some serious training and I have a race lined up and entry fee paid… Could be the longest distance I’ve ever attempted… Stay tuned…
While reading and studying how we grow spiritually, I found an interesting correlation between resentment, gratitude and our spiritual growth. It was Henri Nouwen that brought this to light in his book Spiritual Formation – Following the Movements of the Spirit.
As with most things I read, I may not necessarily agree with everything an author says but I try to not throw the baby out with the bath water.
So I thought I might just highlight some of his thoughts and see if you agree that when we move from resentment to gratitude it allows us to be more receptive to Jesus. Maybe it’s something that you keep resenting that is keeping you away from all that Christ wants you to be. So here are some of Nouwen’s thoughts for you to decide.
Nouwen: When we swallow our angry feelings and do not make them known, resentment settles in.
Nouwen: When you cling to your complaints, your heart is full of resentment, and there is no room for God to enter and set you free.
Nouwen: Gratitude is the attitude that enables us to let go of anger, receive the hidden gifts of those we want to serve, and make these gifts visible to the community as a source of celebration.
Nouwen: Resentment blocks action; gratitude lets us move forward toward new possibilities.
Nouwen: Spiritual Formation is the way by which resentment can slowly be transformed into gratitude.
Nouwen: In real formation, God is allowed to carve into the rock of our soul and pull out any stones of resentment.
Nouwen: To be healed of resentment and move into gratitude requires me to dance – to believe again, even amid my pain, that God will orchestrate and guide my life.
I want to encourage you to practice gratitude and see what happens in your spiritual life – I bet it’s going to be a catalyst for spiritual growth!
I have fond memories of renting movies from Blockbuster. Then there were the times that the movie was already rented, what a drag – now what were we going to do on Friday night? That left me aimlessly wandering the isles with others looking for random titles thinking – I wonder if this would be any good. This usually ended as a hit or miss. But it was awesome to get to Blockbuster early Thursday and actually get the movie you wanted for Friday before other grubby hands snatched it up! How dare them take my VHS movie, and eventually my DVD.
Then the unthinkable happened. It was mind blowing! They started renting video games which I was a big fan and player – yes, even as an adult!
But then, almost overnight Blockbuster went the way of the Buffalo. They slowly phased out of Meridianville, Huntsville AL. and the outermost parts of the world!
So what happened to Blockbuster?
The short of it – Amazon and Netflix. But there’s more to the story…There are life lessons to be learned – attention to detail and that small things matter.
From the book Tools of the Titans page 295…Chris Anderson calls it the “Long Tail” effect, for the visually graphed shape of the sales distribution curve: a low almost interminable line of items selling only a few copies per year that form a long “tail” for the abrupt vertical beast of a few best sellers. But the area of the tail was as big as the head. With that insight, aggregators had had great incentive to encourage audiences to click on the obscure items.
Blockbuster only focused, as the name states, predominantly on the “Blockbusters” which were few when looking at the big picture.
Others realized that there were a lot of people interested in niche movies – which would have been the tail of the graph but the tail was really, really long. There were a lot more “B” list movies than blockbusters that were really good.
And now you know why Blockbuster went the way of the Buffalo. They failed to focus on the little things so to speak – attention to detail.
And now you also know why you spend more time searching through Prime Video and Netflix seeing thousands of movies you’ve never heard of, than blockbusters. But rest assured that others – the niche market, are true fans of the movies you’re passing over! And Prime Video and Netflix are smiling all the way to the bank!
Has your life become stagnant? Have your days become something you borrowed off the movie Groundhog Day?
Have you stayed in your comfort zone for too long? Need a jump start to get some creativity rolling in your day so that your days begin to have a little excitement?
When is the last time you learned something new? A new hobby, a new skill, a new language, etc… These and more can make a difference in your daily life.
I learned this lesson from a leadership viewpoint. My one time executive coach taught that leaders are learners and leaders are readers. I would commit to a minimum of 24 books a year. But then things started to all run together and then I realized that I could only remember about half of what I read.
So this year I decided to read a ton of Blog Posts in a way to continue to learn but in a speed learning fashion.
While discussing this phenomenon with someone that I have holding me accountable for this area of my life, he reminded me of an important fact. He too had hired the same executive coach years ago and he too became a prolific reader. He said he was having the same conversation with our coach – he couldn’t remember half of what he read. He said that our coach spun around in his chair and said (they were on Skype) look at all these books…. There were literally hundreds on his shelf… Imagine if I only remember half of all these, I’ve still learned a ton!
Get the point? If you only remember half of 5 books verses half of 100…
So I’m back to consuming a ton of books again. But this time in a new way. A way I’ve never tried before…I’m doing it through a paid subscription service called scribd.com which allows unlimited downloads a month for less than $9.00 a month. This includes book summaries, audio books etc….
I realize once again that I must practice a lifestyle of lifelong learning. Whether on the internet or a book service, etc… We live in an age that you can learn something daily. Your life can progress at a rate like no other time in history.
So if you believe you’re life is stagnant then become a lifelong learner and start today.