1,ooo Miles

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Loupe-2m13n4mz-3000

The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

I disagree.

I believe the thousand mile journey begins with a single thought; a determination that proceeds the first step.

Around the middle of January I decided to run 1,000 miles in 2015. Back in the marathon training years I had run 800-900 miles per year, but never eclipsed one thousand. Running this distance would be longer than anything I had done pre-accident/L5-S1 damage/foot drop.

While a thousand miles breaks down to a manageable 2.74 miles per day, I started behind. First, I had the deficit of not deciding to do this until a couple of weeks in to the year. Second, I sprained my ankle in March and didn’t run for another three weeks. By April, I had a 100 mile deficit that I didn’t catch up to until a few days ago.

1000

I don’t pretend to be the most intelligent or talented person around, but determination served me well. I ran through Columbus metro parks and across Cincinnati bridges, around Wisconsin lakes and through Nashville college campuses, alone across farmland and cheered by a homeless friend in downtown Houston. Running deepens my relationship with places. When running, I see and experience life more fully. My appreciation of creation grows every time my foot strikes the earth.

I see and experience myself more fully. In this thousand mile journey my ankle turned more times than I can count. My body continually reminded me that it is approaching 50. But I learned that I am more than frail bones and strained tendons. My will and perseverance are stronger than my limitations. In this, I am reminded that nothing is impossible. The only things we can’t do are the things we don’t believe.

We may not all be born with equal gifts or opportunities, but the desires of our hearts can carry us through thousand mile journeys that will never leave us the same.

Decemburrr Dash 5K PR

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“December is the cruelest month.” -The Waterboys, December 

On Wednesday it was 60 degrees. I ran in shorts and a short sleeve shirt on the Scioto Mile. The forecast for Christmas Eve is 60 degrees. However, the appropriately named Decemburrr Dash lived up to its name. At race time it was 25 degrees. But with a nearly 20 mile an hour wind the weather read “Feels like 17”. 

I wasn’t really prepared for this race. The ever turning ankle prevented me from doing speed work. Poor eating discipline has me heavier than I would like. Last night I took the boys to Five Guys before we saw the new Star Wars movie and I ate Junior Mints as Chewbacca kicked First Order booty. Couple all of this with the coldest day of the year and it would’ve been easier to stay home.

But I love a challenge. The bigger the obstacle, the greater the triumph.

“Shall I play for you?” -The Little Drummer Boy

The Decemeburrr Dash started with little warning as suddenly someone counted down from 10. Frozen runners hurriedly adjusted hats, watches, and music. We were going.

The race began on narrow footbridges through Audubon wetlands. People of varying speeds navigated for position in the first mile. In the second mile I ran from group to group, settling with a group of six that seemed to be averaging near an eight minute mile pace. The group dwindled from six to five to four as runners peeled off. At the end of mile two one person in the group turned it up and broke away, I followed her lead. I ran a 7:40 pace in the third mile and average a 7:00 minute flat pace in the last tenth of a mile crossing the finish line in 24:20, my fastest 5K ever. After many attempts I finally broke the 25 minute barrier that long alluded me.

“Got on a lucky one, Came in eighteen to one.” -The Pogues, Fairytale of New York

Despite continued drop foot and weak ankles the last eight months of running have been the best in many years. At the end of this run I have 36 miles to go to reach my 2015 goal of 1,000 miles.

Bring on the obstacles. At the end of them I’ll smile even larger. 

  

Turkey Trot Race Report

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Every race has an unexpected element. Often, this comes in external ways: an unexpected hill, design of the course, or energy of the crowd. Today’s unexpected element came in an internal drive.

Last week I signed up for a five mile turkey trot. Running on thanksgiving morning has become a bit of a personal tradition, but this year I didn’t specifically train for the run. I figured I would just use it as a training run for a December 5k. 

However, as the race began, I found an internal motivation I didn’t expect. Perhaps I was still hanging on to some lingering disappointment from the Air Force Half Marathon. Maybe I’ve crossed too many finish lines feeling like I left too much on the course. Either way, I felt a strong desire to run strong. I didn’t have my watch on so I didn’t worry about time. I just wanted to run a solid race all the way to the finish–and I did.

I planned to run 9 minute miles on the wet and gray Wisconsin morning, but actually ran negative splits starting with the first mile at an 8:38 pace and finishing the last mile at 8:10. 5.1 miles in 42:32 not only exceeded expectations, but the solid run left me thankful. 

Thankful for strength in body and spirit, thankful for time with my family, thankful for the gift of life.

Thankful. 

  

Race Report: Home Again in Dayton 

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Thomas Wolfe popularized the phrase “you can’t go home again” in the 1940 book of the same title. While I will never be the author that Wolfe was, throughout my life I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve returned to live in the same places, work in the same offices, and rekindle old friendships.

Today was one of the those moments when I returned home at many levels. For the first time since my bike accident, I spent the summer training for a half marathon and found myself home again, filled with the excitement and anxiety of the starting line.

  
This half marathon returned me to the familiar campus of the Air Force museum. As an Air Force historian I was once well versed in the staff and policies and life of the museum. The first plane I saw today was an F-15 from the 1st Fighter Wing I once served.  Home again.

  
Running the race, I returned home to the liminal space of aspiration and reality. I trained to run the half in under two hours. After six miles, I was on a perfect pace to accomplish this and my seventh mile was the fastest of the race. Starting at mile eight, my legs turned to cement. Perhaps the penance of Market to Market had to be paid. Cardio-wise I was good to go, but my legs turned heavy and didn’t have the energy to maintain the pace to break two hours. I finished in 2:07.50

  
But I returned home: home to training, home to racing, home to a time equivalent to what I would’ve run pre-bike accident. While I didn’t hit the time goal I wanted, I have returned home to a place of health and strength.  

Even after the race I found home in reuniting with a family of dear friends from New Mexico. The Sikora’s opened their home to my post race stink, fed me chili, and we shared the journeys of our lives.

There’s no place like home. 

Market to Market Race Report 

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I have often thought that the hardest part of racing was making it to the start line. Last night, as we journeyed from Columbus to the suburbs of Cincinnati, this maxim proved true as highways were stopped by accidents, hotel reservations lost, and needed exit ramps closed. However, the true journey of making it to the start line comes in the training, overcoming injuries, and perseverance.

Throughout the summer I averaged 100+ miles per month and ran strong. A week ago, a couple of random missteps brought pain to my knee and foot. In the week leading up to the Market to Market Relay, my weekly mileage dropped from 25 to 6. I came to race day much less confident than I would’ve a week earlier.

On a cooler spring day many months ago, Erin West stood in my office and filled my head with the vision of a running challenge I had yet to try–a running relay. Specifically, the Market to Market stretched across valleys and next to rivers for 76 miles from Cincinnati to Dayton. Over the following weeks, six more people joined the dream and our team was formed.

  “May the road rise with you” -public image limited 

The long journey to the start line brought us to the small downtown of Milford where the race started at 6:00 a.m. With well rested legs, I started out strong. However, after a night of storms, humidity hung heavy in the air. So much so, that mist filled the sky to the point it almost felt like it was raining. Despite the headlamp on my forehead, I could not see. My glasses fogged and I depended on the group of four runners I ran with to call out fallen limbs that littered the path. Starting the day, my ideal pace was to run 9:10 per mile (the pace I want to run in the Air Force half marathon in two weeks). However, I ran the first leg of 3.74 miles in 33:18 for a pace of 8:55. 

Our team running began flawlessly. We alternated people as we drove through rural, picturesque areas. At the third transition point, our vehicle was one of the first to arrive.

 “See young folk pass the baton” public enemy 

Quickly falling in to rhythm, it was soon my turn to run again–a relatively flat four miles. My legs again turned fast, clicking off sub nine minute miles. The crowds I ran with earlier had dispersed. In four miles I only saw about half a dozen other runners. 

Soon I found myself near the finish and confusion arrived. The runner in front of me went straight, while I was pointed right to a field of tall grasses. I tried to ask why from the guide, but I wasn’t understanding, so I followed the direction. While running through the grass I saw people coming back my way, but then I was pointed directly to the finish. Again I stopped to try and understand this, didn’t get it, and so out of frustration and time wasted trying to figure it out, I literally sprinted to the finish. Afterward, my foot felt a bit strained. This frustrated sprint through grass was not the wisest choice. However, I completed this portion with an 8:45 pace. 

By the time I finished this leg, temperatures had reached to 90 degrees. The heat, rolling hills, and looming storms slowed our team and simple math showed we weren’t going to make the cutoff time. We concocted multiple plans to adjust our course and ended up all running the last 3.6 mile leg at the same time.

  “I want to be more like the ocean, no talking, all action” Janes addiction 

Just as the day started in darkness. It finished in sunset. Individually I ran more than 11 miles across the day with an average pace around 9:20. As a team we supported each other, were creative, and persevered for 14 hours. That is what running is all about.