LBJ National Grasslands 50 mile trail run 3/21/09

We decided at the last minute to drive up to the Grasslands the day before the race for some good ol’ Texas camping. We found a spot right by the start/finish line, and there were horses EVERYWHERE! We very quickly befriended our neighbors on either side of us, who had 5 horses between the two of them. Justin was a very memorable young cowboy who repeated phrases like “I do apologize” and “much obliged” as often as I say “sorry” and “thanks”. He and his wife “went to town” for a short while and asked if we’d horse sit for him. I kinda laughed and told him I don’t mind keeping on eye on his site but if one of his horses got loose, I don’t know how to handle a horse! After showing me how to secure a horse to a pole with a slipknot, he was comfortable enough leaving his horses under our watch care! HA! Luckily, there were no major events. One horse did finally escape, but it was at the same moment Justin and his wife were returning from the big city of Decatur, TX.

I crawled in to my tent Friday night at a decent hour, but tossed and turned all night coughing from the sinus infection I had been fighting all week. The alarm finally went off, so I got up, got ready for the race, and walked to the starting line. I was anxious to see what the course was like. From what I had heard, it was a pretty sandy course, which didn’t sound too exciting. However, besides a short distance correction out and back, there were 4 “different” loops of varying distances, as opposed to running the same 12.5 mile loop 4 times like a lot of other 50 milers. This sounded good to me to break up the monotony of the course.

At 7am, the race director shouted “Go!” and about 60 runners took off. It was still dark, so most of us had our headlamps on to light the trail ahead of us. It was a single track trail, so there was a bit of walking until the line of runners spread out enough to run. This part of the trail wasn’t too bad – not too sandy or hard or rocky. We hit the turnaround point after 2.4 miles, and made our way back to the start. I had been hydrating pretty good Friday afternoon and evening, so I was pleased after about 3 miles when I had to step off the trail and “water a bush”. I came in to the start finish area in time to see the half-marathoners getting ready to take off (they had a later start time). I tossed my headlamp to Jenn, filled up on Succeed, grabbed a few potatoes, and took off on the first loop (blue).

It got lonely pretty quick. I tried to keep the runner in front of me in my eyesight at all times since the course was not always marked well, but there were plenty of times that I was all alone. I ran in to sand in several places, and that was very difficult to try and run through. Other parts of the trail was hard dirt with horse shoe tracks from when the dirt was muddy, and now was hard as a rock. Not too easy to run on. I was religiously going to follow my plan to drink a lot, eat a lot, and take two Endurolytes every hour. After about 10 miles, I could already feel the burn coming on in my legs and my hip flexors were complaining at me. This was not encouraging, but I kept moving, knowing that it sometimes just flares up and then passes. This first loop (after the 4.8mi initial out and back) was 13.5 miles, the longest loop of the course. After about 16 miles, I had to step off the trail again to water a bush and was again very encouraged by my hydration. As I was coming in to the start/finish area, completing the first loop, I saw Jeannette and she joined me for the final 200 yards or so. She said she had a good half marathon run. I approached the checkpoint and saw some of my family and my friend Kevyn, from Wichita Falls, who was going to run a loop with me. She had also just finished the half-marathon. I didn’t waste much time as I high-fived Kevyn, grabbed some more Succeed and food, waved at my peeps, at took off for loop #2. 18.3miles down, 32.1 to go. (The course was actually 50.4 miles).

As we started the yellow loop, I walked for a few minutes while I finished stuffing my face with potatoes and PB&J. This loop was 10.4 miles. I told Kevyn I’d be taking it easy because I was already starting to feel tired. About 20 miles in to the race I started feeling queasy. On top of that, the yellow loop had a lot more sand than the blue loop. I was not enjoying the terrain, and I remembered when I finished the Sunmart 50 miler in December, my friend Rene said I would be spoiled now because that was such a good course. I was quickly finding out what he meant, and boy was he right! Kevyn and I came up on a cow that had just crossed our path on the trail. Good thing it wasn’t in our way or we might have had to do some cow-tipping! A few miles down the trail, we came to an aid station, and one of the volunteers asked if I was feeling nauseous. Maybe she could see it on my face, I don’t know. So she handed me 3 pills and said they were papaya tablets and they’ll help with the nausea. I looked at her, a little unsure since it’s usually not a good idea to try something new on race day, and she assured me they were ok. She said sometimes she’ll take as many as 40 of them on a 100 mile race. So then I felt silly and just chewed them up. HA! I hadn’t been able to drink much or eat much for the past few miles, and I knew if this didn’t change soon, I was going to be in bad shape a few hours down the trail. I had started to walk a lot more, especially on the uphill sections, so my time was starting to slow down considerably. By the time we were nearing the end of this loop, I was feeling pretty beat up, dehydrated, and sick. I switched from Succeed to water a few miles back, but I was still having a hard time taking in fluids. As we neared the start/finish area, I saw the Wichita Falls group cheering me on (thanks Sandy, Kate, Don, and crew!) and then we turned up the final stretch and saw my family and a huge turnout from the Fort Worth group cheering me on (thanks Running Family!! You guys rock!!).

At this point, I was 28.7 miles in to the race. I had 3.5 hours to run the next loop (12.8 miles) to beat the 10 hour 41.5mile cutoff. My pace had slowed considerably to around 13min miles because of all the walk breaks, and based on how I was feeling, I knew my pace would slow down even more. As I came in to see the support crew, I told Jenn I wasn’t going to make it, and then I pulled Jeannette to the side and with a painful expression, fighting back tears, begged her to run this 3rd loop with me instead of the 4th as she had originally planned. Little did I know, she had already decided that was the better plan, seeing that my loop times were much slower than anticipated. As I went to the aid station to refuel, the race director told me I only had 3.5 hours to complete the 3rd loop, almost asking me if I was sure I wanted to even try. Without hesitation, I said “I know. It’s going to be close. I have a pacer.” And that was that. I thanked and hugged Kevyn for running the 2nd loop, and off we went for loop #3.

Someone had warned me earlier that the white loop was really sandy. But seeing how sandy the yellow loop was, I thought to myself – surely it couldn’t be worse than that. HA! How wrong was I! I remembered going to the beach last summer and how difficult it was to just walk through the sand, and here I was trying to run 50 miles on a trail that had a significant amount of sand. That totally sucked. Despite the crazy terrain, Jeannette was a great pacer – full of energy, trying to pull me along, optimistic, running slowly when I was trying to walk. I promised her I would let her know before I threw up. I felt bad though because I was not listening to her very well. I was sick, in a lot of pain, dehydrated, VERY thirsty and hungry, and couldn’t muster up much desire or ability to push myself any harder. I couldn’t drink anything except Sprite at the aid stations, but one small cup of Sprite every 3-4 miles was hardly enough to sustain me through this course. When I tried to eat, I just gagged. We suddenly reached a point in an open field where we felt like maybe we were lost, so we backtracked about a quarter of a mile and found two runners coming along the trail and said they thought this was right, so we turned back around and went back down the trail. It was a guy named Bob and a younger girl named Susan. She was struggling pretty bad. Bob seemed like a seasoned veteran who had decided to run with Susan the whole way. He did some math in his head and said if we could just do 15min miles we could beat the cutoff. If you’ve never been in this situation, then you can’t understand how difficult it is to run a 15min mile sometimes. We were probably 32 miles in to the race at this point. Anyway, we stayed with them for a few miles, running when we could and walking when we had to. We suddenly came to this point where I hear Bob up ahead say “Well I have good news and bad news. Good news is, there’s a sign for the trail. Bad news, we have to climb up this really steep hill.” Right as he was saying this, Jeannette turns around and holds her hands up with an “Oh crap” expression on her face, preparing to calm me down once I finally was able to see the hill ahead. HA! It was a really steep hill, possibly worse than any hill at Palo Duro Canyon. So, we slowly trudged our way up the rocky hill, not looking at the top, but instead just the next few steps along the way. After making our way down the other side, I was just beat. I had to walk to try and recover. Bob was up ahead a good ways, and all of a sudden, Susan comes screaming past me at what seemed like an all out sprint. That was the last time we saw them. At this point, I was on the verge of puking, and was in a lot of pain with every step. Now, I understand that I probably didn’t feel any worse than anyone else on the course, but I just couldn’t make myself push on any faster. We were probably at about 35 miles at this point, and I just couldn’t make myself run. My right quad was about to start cramping and I knew that any overexertion at all would make me blow chunks everywhere. So we walked. Jeannette tried one last time to push me along by saying if we made the cutoff she would also run the last 8.9mile loop with me! That would have been awesome, and it was more proof that she is mentally, and only one run away from being, an ultrarunner. However, it just wasn’t going to happen. I could not go any faster, no matter what carrot you dangled in front of me.

We were walking along, not sure where my mind was, when I heard Jeannette drop back and talk to someone. A moment later, here comes Rene passing by telling me to come on, after Jeannette told him to kick me in the butt and make me move along faster. He was on his final loop, where he went on to finish 13th overall! As much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t go any faster. The terrain had become even more ridiculous. It was rock hard dirt, with no flat trail to run on – just very uneven, dried up mud. Rene made it look so easy though! Not much further down the trail, Holly and Sonia came racing by looking very strong. They were screaming and hootin and hollerin having a good ol’ time, trying to push it fast enough to make the cutoff. They tried to push me along, but I just couldn’t. Finally, at the aid station about 37.5 miles in to the race, I saw that we had 4miles to go in 45 minutes or less. That was an 11:15/mile pace, including all walk breaks. I was feeling worse and knew that it was impossible for me to go that pace. So, as difficult as it was, I swallowed some pride and voluntarily DNF’d by asking for a ride back to the start/finish. I was so thirsty I wanted to guzzle something down, but I was having trouble just sipping coke or water. We sat in a chair and waited for our ride home.

It really sucked to DNF. I could come up with excuses like the sinus infection, the difficult terrain, being under-trained, whatever. But the fact is, when the race began, I took it very serious, gave it everything I had, and when the dust settled, the trail kicked my butt and I simply fell short. I honestly do not feel like there was anything else I could have done to have improved my performance, except trained harder. So that is what I will do now. I have the Memorial Run on May 2nd that you’ll hear about soon if you haven’t already heard about it. Then I’ll focus my training on the Palo Duro 50 miler in October. Right now (that may change),I honestly have no desire to ever run Grasslands again. I like the challenge of running 50 miles. You can add other challenges to this, like the hidden tree roots at Sunmart or the hills at Palo Duro, and I’m ok with that. But running 50 miles in the sand? That wasn’t a fun challenge.

Thanks again to the people at the start/finish area cheering me on – that was awesome! And thanks a million to my wife, Jenn, who was there anxiously waiting on me to cross through each checkpoint, from the start all the way until I DNF’d. And to Kevyn for running a loop right after her half marathon, and right after scarfing down a BBQ sandwich! And thanks to Jeannette for running that final loop, trying so hard to pace me along to the cutoff, despite my lack of cooperation. You guys are all awesome!!

By the way, Bob and Susan made the cutoff and went on to finish the race. They were the last two finishers. 43 people out of 60 finished, the other 17 DNF'd.


Lose Yourself In the Moment

I love the advertisements for Pearl Izumi shoes. “Run easy is an oxymoron. What is it about running that scares people so much? Why do people feel they have to put friendly modifiers next to running so everyone can feel good about it. Well, here’s the ugly truth. Everyone shouldn’t feel good about running. It’s hard. It hurts. Running requires sacrifice and heart and guts. Any attempt to water it down with feel-good adjectives is a slap in the face to those of us who still hold running sacred. In fact, if you’re running easy, odds are you’re not running at all. You’re jogging. So do us a favor, don’t run easy. Run hard. Run like an animal.

A couple of weeks ago, we (Jennifer, Karissa, Cara, and I) went to a fajita party for The Running Family, the group I run with on Saturday mornings. The kids had fun with new friends and Jenn was amused that all people talked about was running. I guess at most parties, you’re more likely to find social runners with a drinking problem…but at this party, you were much more likely to find social drinkers with a running problem. I was proud to introduce my wife and kids to my fellow running buddies who have suffered and celebrated with me on the trails for some time now, and I was proud to introduce them to my wife. I know it meant much more to me than Jennifer probably knows, and I completely understand that it wasn’t a big deal to her, in fact, maybe on the verge of torture. Thanks for going babe!

As the evening progressed on, an older man whom I did not know approached me and asked, “Are you Kirk?” “Yes sir,” I replied. “I’ve heard about you.” I always start running before the group starts, then I run with the group, and then I keep running after they finish. Most of those guys normally run around 14-16 miles while I’m running a marathon or more every other weekend, and 20-22 on my off weekends. So, I’ve gained a reputation of I guess sort of being the crazy one. Anyway, this man, Ed, tells me that he’s done the Palo Duro 50 mile ultra-marathon before. I was very excited to hear that, so we went on to spend a good 30-45 minutes talking about the course and strategies and training and hydration and nutrition on the run, etc. He tells me about a technical single-track trail in Sansom Park, which is only about 10-15 minutes away from my house. It sounds like a good trail, so I start trying to drum up some interest from some of my buddies. I found a few takers, so we set a date.

A few people backed out, and it ended up being just me and Jeannette, a buddy who I normally run with on Saturdays in a small pack amongst the rest of the group. She had never run an offroad trail like this before so she wasn’t sure what to expect. We met at 5:30am this past Saturday with our headlamps and supplies, and hit the trail. About one minute in to the trail, I kick a small tree stump and do a face plant in the dirt. Suffering only a slightly scraped hand, I pop up and keep running. A few minutes later, I hear Jeannette behind me say “I’m not so sure about this.” If you’ve never been on an offroad trail designed for trail running or mountain biking, they’re pretty rugged with an unlimited opportunity for wiping out. The dirt is uneven, and there’s always logs and rocks and tree stumps and roots and holes to contend with, so you constantly have to watch your footing and look ahead to anticipate your next few steps. And oh yeah, lots of elevation changes. Just as you think you’re starting to feel good, you find yourself powering up a steep 20-30 foot ascent, or trying to ease your way down a steep and winding descent without tumbling down to the bottom of the hill. About 20 minutes later, we’ve started to settle in to the run, and Jeannette says “I think I’m catching on to this.” I kept waiting for her to fall, which is usually what happens when you make a statement like that, but she didn’t…yet. About 3 miles in, the trail markers changed to red, so we knew we were entering the most difficult parts of the trail. I had heard from a few people about this one part where you turn a corner and all of a sudden the floor drops out from underneath you. Luckily, we were looking out for this, and managed to shift our way down the very steep and long descent with no falls. Then, about 50 feet ahead, we come across a deceptive little hill that doesn’t look steep or long, but about 3 steps into it, I find myself in an uncontrollable sprint down the hill. All of a sudden, I fall to the ground and land on my shoulder and roll 2-3 times, stopping 3 inches from a pretty good sized rock. Uninjured, I get up and look for Jeannette hoping she was not also tumbling down the hill. She managed to keep her balance. I walked away very dirty with a little blood and debris on my leg. Awesome! We went 13-14 miles and it was a lot of fun. Probably a little too risky to attempt the week before my 50 miler, but oh well. I guess I got lucky and remained injury free. However, Jenn and the kids and some friends met me up there after our run and we went hiking for 3 hours. We all had a lot of fun – the kids loved hiking along the trails. Now, here it is 3 days later, and I’m still sore. Hopefully I can fully recover before this Saturday.

I can’t believe the moment has finally arrived. We go to Palo Duro canyon this weekend to camp out and I’ll finally get to run my first 50 mile trail run! I’ve essentially been training for this for about 6-7 months. I am ready. My training has gone very well, and I feel like there’s not much more I could have reasonably done to be more prepared. My last 32 miler went exceptionally well, so I’m riding that confidence into the race. I’ll post a post-race report next week hopefully.

One of the things I’ve done recently to try to focus and get in the zone for my long training runs is listen to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem on the way to my run at 3:30am on Saturdays. I do not listen to rap music, mostly because I hate it. However, this song is one of the most powerful and emotional songs I have ever heard. It’s from the movie 8 Mile. I wouldn’t let my kids listen to it – and it’s not a perfect fit, but the driving beat and emotionally charged lyrics are very powerful. It starts out by saying “Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted-One moment Would you capture it or just let it slip?”

This part inspires me because my shot is coming up this Saturday…I will not let it slip. I will seize the moment, my opportunity, and capture it.

It goes on… “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy There's vomit on his sweater already”

Yeah, maybe a little graphic, but put yourself in his shoes. He’s been presented with one opportunity to change his and his family’s life forever…will he capture it or will he choke?

The chorus is “You better lose yourself in the music, the momentYou own it, you better never let it goYou only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blowThis opportunity comes once in a lifetime.”

This really gets me going. When I’m trying to get mentally prepared for 5-6 hours of running, and the pain associated with that, this helps me focus in on the moment. You have to lose yourself in your long run….your moment. You have to own it. Never give up, even if you feel like you’re going to die at mile 22.

Then, my favorite part is when he says “Success is my only option, failure’s not.” That is the determination and tenacity that you must have to finish a really long run. I vision myself on the trail at Palo Duro and what the success of crossing the finish line will feel like….failure, or not finishing, is not an option. I will not quit.

Anyway, it’s a very powerful song. It gets me pumped up and “in the zone” every time I listen to it. I have teared up quite a few times on my way to my long run listening to this, because it is so emotional, and I “lose myself in the moment” of what I’m doing. I am so fortunate to be able to run like this and I do not take it for granted.


Brett the Jet

So…what do you think about the Favre situation?

1) First of all, I hate how they make it sound like it was Brett’s decision to not play at Green Bay because of emotional scars. Green Bay moved on and did not show Brett any support in coming back, so it was just as much Green Bay’s decision as it was Brett’s. Media…Green Bay management…present the facts as they are, don't spin them.

2) Green Bay screwed up. I don’t care what has happened over the last 3 months, if your quarterback who resurrected your franchise, who took you to overtime of the NFC Championship game last year, who was the best quarterback in the NFC and runner up LEAGUE MVP, who IS the Green Bay Packers and the biggest sports icon in the history of sports, and who broke almost every passing record in the NFL…if he shows up at training camp and wants to play, you’re a freakin idiot if you don’t let him play. Green Bay just greatly reduced their chances of a Super Bowl this year, while it could have been a competitor with Favre. Green Bay is choosing a kid who has never even started a freakin NFL game before over the legendary Brett Favre. Sure he played well against Dallas, but that’s all we’ve seen! How tough is this kid? There’s so much uncertainty with him, so why in the heck would you choose uncertainty over Brett Favre when you’re riding a near Super Bowl season last year with a young team who is mostly returning this year making them very likely Super Bowl competitors again this year?! Freakin idiots.

3) If the Jets go 6-10, they win, because that’s a 50% improvement over last year. If the Packers do ANYTHING short of going to the Super Bowl, they screwed up and will come under HEAVY criticism for the poor judgment in letting Favre get away instead of supporting him and welcoming him this year.

4) I’m upset with the management of Green Bay, but I still love the Packers. They screwed up and it is very upsetting, but I will support my Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers and hope for the best outcome of the consequences management has created. I still love my Green Bay Packers. Hopefully they won’t screw up like this again, because that is the reason I don’t get excited about the Dallas Cowboys anymore…it’s hard to love an organization who makes decisions like Dallas does, but that’s not the point of this commentary.

5) It is very surreal to see Favre in a Jets hat and/or jersey. Very surreal. But, it is what it is, and you might as well accept it and move on. The thing I love the most about football is the game itself. So I’m very glad this drama is behind us and Favre is in a position to once again grace the field of play with his magic and greatness, making it even easier to love the game of football. In fact, as time passes on, I get more and more excited about seeing Favre play at his new home. The coolest thing I can think of is seeing a large frame with 2 jerseys mounted in them of 2 football greats from the same franchise….Brett Favre and Joe Namath. How cool would that be.

6) Go Packers. Go Jets. Go Brett Favre!!!

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."

Beautiful quote!! 50 MILES BABY!!!


The Running Family

With vacation last month, the increasing heat, and the loss of a running partner, I was starting to have some motivation issues with my running. So…a few weeks ago, as crazy and creepy as it sounds, I put an ad on craigs list for a running partner. I was concerned about some of the responses I might get, not wanting to attract weirdos with motivations not centered around running. Surprisingly, I got 2 responses, and they have actually been legitimate runners – no weirdos! One is a former Oklahoma University basketball player, who now works at a physical therapy office, who runs faster than I (not saying much) and really pushes me during our runs. We’ve actually only run twice, but I think that will pick up some. The other new running partner is a girl who just moved here from Colorado who is trying to adjust to the heat and train for her 2nd marathon. We’ve run 3 times, 2 of which has been with a big group of runners called The Running Family. She’s a little slower than I, but I’m willing to trade that off for the accountability so I’ll get my rear out the door and on the roads getting the miles in. My training now is focused on mileage, not speed, so it doesn’t bother me at all that I’ve been running at a slower pace. I’ve had some issues with my soleus’ anyway (lower calf muscles), so it’s been good to get the easy runs in.

The Running Family is awesome! I’ve never run with a group before. A few years ago, a guy who was a marathon coach for Luke’s Locker decided to branch off and start his program. But instead of charging everyone $200 or more like Luke’s Locker, it’s FREE! Every Saturday morning at 6am, they all meet near the Trinity River trail and run a different route each week. The person who creates the route also sets up an aid station along the course with water, Gatorade, M&Ms, pretzels, and ice cold towels. They run 3-4 miles to the aid station, and then do a few out and backs so you hit the aid station 2-3 times during the 12-13 mile run. There’s about 120 people on the “roster”, but typically about 30 show up each week.

Last week, I met quite a few really nice runners that I got to know on our 2 hour run. Then today, my new partner and I met at the trail at 5am to get 5-6 miles in before meeting up with the group at 6am for another 13 miles. Actually my partner ran 16 and I ended up doing 20 today. I saw most of my new running friends, and met probably 6-7 new runners. It was so much fun!! There’s just a certain camaraderie with runners that I’ve never experienced before. It also makes the miles go by faster and less painful when you’re having fun with other people. I actually feel better today than I have ever felt after a 20 miler. I even met 3 ultrarunners today! I’m hoping to soak up some knowledge from them since I’m training for my first ultramarathon (any distance over 26.2 miles).

One funny exchange happened with an older man I struck up conversation with after noticing his Palo Duro Trail Run hat. I told him I did the 20k last year and am planning on going back this year for the 50 miler. He said he did the 50 a few years ago and thought it was a beautiful course with top notch support. We talked about it for a few minutes and then I asked him about the “second wall” that ultrarunners get on a 50 miler that I read about…
“Yeah, it hits at about mile 26. Just stay ahead on your fluids.”
With a quizzical expression, I ask “Mile 26??” followed by another older man beside us who said “Didn’t you hear him say 50 MILES?!?!”
“You’re doing the 50 miler? You’re crazier than sh**!”
Me – “Well, I’m gonna give it a try”
“If you can do that, you’re a MONSTER. I only did the 50k!”

It was pretty funny. I need to hook up with the ultrarunners who won’t just think I’m a nutcase for wanting to go 50 miles. And I know I have a LOT I could learn from them. This weekend will be my second set of long run sandwiches, or back-to-backs. My 20 today will be followed by a 10 miler tomorrow. That strategy is supposed to get you ready for the long 50 miler, so we’ll see how my body holds up. I’ll increase my Saturday runs up to 32 miles about 3-4 weeks before the race. I think I have about 12 weeks now until race day. I’m starting to get excited, but these 50 and soon to be 60 mile weeks are starting to talk to me a little.

We have been foster parenting a beautiful Weimaraner for the past month, hoping she would get adopted pretty soon so we could 1)prevent her from being put to sleep, and 2)test drive an older dog that is past the puppy stage without committing long term. Well, for various reasons, she didn’t work out, so I took her back to the rescue center today. Before I even got home, they had called to let us know someone had adopted her – so that was great news!!

I don’t want to comment much on the Brett Favre drama. I’ll just say Ted Thompson is an idiot if he doesn’t have McCarthy start Favre…and if he doesn’t…I can’t see Favre playing anywhere else. That’s all I’m saying. It will be interesting to see what happens this weekend when Favre requests reinstatement from the NFL and reports to training camp.

I guess school starts back in about a month. I can’t believe we’ll have 3 in school! Kylie is ready to start Kindergarten, and Jenn is looking forward to only having Caleb at home during the day. Of course, he’s quite a handful so I don’t know how much of a break she’ll really get.

Some good friends of ours opened a snow cone stand, and we’ve been supporting them A LOT lately! We don’t always buy a snow cone – sometimes we’ll just go up there and hang out to try and make it look like a happenin place and attract more customers. They’re actually doing quite well with it. Makes me a little jealous! Wish we could do that and make thousands of dollars a month!!

Well, hopefully it won’t be 3 months before I post again, but I know you guys have come to expect that…so I’d hate to let you down. HA!


OKC Marathon

You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” –Frank Shorter

April 27, 2008 - 6:00am

Jennifer and I arrive at downtown Oklahoma City and make our way to a free parking garage where I finish my oatmeal and sports drink. As I’m standing outside the van rubbing Vaseline onto my nipples, a girl drives up and asks if the parking is free. I tell her it is and she pulls in several spaces down, not so much as flinching at my prerace ritual. To anyone else, I guess the humor might be in the fact that I am rubbing Vaseline on my nipples while having a brief conversation with a stranger. But to a runner, the humor lies in the universal acceptance and understanding of rubbing Vaseline on my nipples. You see, it is almost certain that the stranger with whom I was conversing has experienced the after effects of an 18 mile run when rubbing Vaseline on her critical chaffing areas was forgotten.

It’s 41 degrees, windy, and a light rain is falling - miserable conditions to a spectator, but ideal to a runner. We begin our long walk to the starting line and both agree that we should have brought trash bags to wear just as most everyone else had done to stay a little drier. We find a spot in the ever increasing crowd near the starting line where I begin to try and stretch. At 6:15am, a moment of silence was observed, lasting 168 seconds to pay respect to the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing 13 years ago. Soon after that was the national anthem, followed by the start of the wheelchair marathon. Jennifer wished me farewell and went to the sideline while I shoved my way toward the start, trying to inch my way through the sardines.

At 6:30am, the gun went off and the race was on. It was finally time to see how much all of my hard work would pay off. I had worked up to running about 45-47 miles per week, and my training was peaking at just the right time. My times had been consistently improving, and it had become much easier to run 16-20 miles at a time. It only took about 50 seconds to make my way to the official starting line. As I crossed the mat and heard the beep from my timing chip go off, I pushed start on my GPS watch and began my second marathon. Special attention had to be paid during the first mile as it was still raining slightly and people were shedding clothes, gloves and trash bags as their bodies started to warm up. The runners were still packed together pretty tightly, so with the slippery conditions and flying obstacles, the risk of tripping and falling was especially high at this point.

My strategy was to go out the first 6-7 miles at about a 9:00 per mile pace and then assess my body and decide whether to kick it up a gear, stay put, or ease off a little. During the week leading up to today, I had gone from hoping to finish in 4hours 10minutes down to 4hours 5 minutes, and finally thinking I had a long shot chance at a 4 hour marathon if everything went perfect. With regard to my 4:44 time just 4 ½ months prior, I knew my goals were ambitious, but I was feeling very strong. Trimming off 44 minutes would be huge, but it had become my goal.

I spent the first 2-3 miles trying to settle in to a good rhythm. At around 2.5 miles, the 4 hour pace group caught up to me, marked by an experienced runner with helium balloons attached to her that read “4:00”. I decided to run with them for awhile and see how it went. Somewhere in there, to my right I hear a “Hey Kirk!” It was my friend Daniel from Wichita Falls who I knew would be there. He’s faster than I, so we didn’t plan on running together. Knowing this, I wish him well as he passes by and tell him I’ll see him at the finish line. In a gentlemanly gesture, he replies “I bet you’ll pass me.” I shrug it off and feel comfortable with my 4:00 comrades. About 3-4 miles down the road, I’m still keeping up with the 4:00 pace group, feeding off their company and the coaching of their leader, when lo and behold, I hear a “Hey Kirk” to my right again. I look over and as Daniel passes me he says “Told ya you’d pass me.” Confused, I say “You must have stopped at the bathroom.” This was followed by a “Yep.” I proceeded to leave my 4:00 group and pace with Daniel for a bit. We chit chat for a few minutes about our goals and strategies, and after about a half mile of running at a 7:30/mile pace, I tell Daniel to go on ahead and have a good race as I drop back to an 8:30 pace. I have become so spoiled with my GPS watch because it constantly tells you what your current pace is, and that is key to having a good run. You have to know what your pace is. It was too nerve-racking trying to stay with the 4:00 pace group, so I was much happier being a few minutes ahead of them. I hated the pressure of knowing that if they passed me I would be playing catch up the whole time, or kissing my goal goodbye.

I studied the elevation map ahead of time and knew that there were 2 3-mile stretches of almost constant uphill. The first began at the 8 mile mark, so as it approached, I hunkered down and tried to get ready for it. The second one would come between miles 21-24, which I thought was very cruel. I had been pushing my pace pretty good the first 8 miles, so I was already starting to feel worked over a little bit. I sucked down an energy gel and felt the burn in my legs pick up as the hill came. My pace slowed a little over the next 3 miles, and when I finally topped the hill at mile 11, I felt pretty worn out. I was actually concerned at that point that maybe I had pushed it too hard and would end up gassing out in the 2nd half of the race. I decided not to worry too much and just kept running. The relief after the hill was surprisingly enough that I recovered pretty quickly and felt good again.

I have a Texas Longhorns visor that I wear when I run, and I didn’t even think about wearing that in OU country until the first Texas-hater told me I was brave for wearing that hat. HA! It was in fun, but that’s when I realized I may end up getting more attention than I care to have. Surprisingly though, I ended up getting way more comments from Texas fans than OU fans.

I was coming up on the half marathon mark, which I also knew was about the point in the race that would take us through about 3 ½ miles of trails. I was looking forward to that. Last week on a training run in Georgetown, I shattered my previous half-marathon time by over 5 minutes for a new PR, and I knew in this race I was on pace for another potential PR. I ended up missing my PR by 34 seconds. I did a quick assessment at the halfway mark and felt pretty good so far. My legs were definitely feeling like I was pushing them, but I had a lot of juice left in them. My cardio was fine, my overall body felt ok, and mentally I was doing great. I knew I was having a good run, and a 4:00 marathon was still a possibility, so that kept my spirits high. I was somewhat haunted by the fact that I knew I was only a couple of minutes ahead of the 4:00 pace group. I would not allow myself to turn around and see how far back they were as I knew that could be devastating mentally. Once we hit the trails, we were greeted by a nice view of Lake Hefner and a very nasty headwind that slowed everyone down. A half mile down the trail, the course turned a 180 and that headwind became a very nice tailwind that ended up pushing us most of the way back to the finish. It was beautiful.

At the 15 mile mark, I did the math and realized that “mathematically” I was on pace for a 3:50 marathon. In fact, I knew that as long as I averaged 10 minute miles or faster from this point forward, I would finish in 4:00 or less. I was so pumped, and I concentrated probably a little too much on my pace over the next few miles as the excitement carried me on. I knew my pace would slow down late in the race, but I thought I had enough of a buffer that I would be ok. We exited the trail and started the journey back through town after about 17 miles. I was still pushing it pretty good at this point and was surprised to still be kicking out some 8:30-45 miles. As I got closer to 18, I tried to mentally prepare myself for the 21-24 uphill stretch, which would time itself perfectly with the wall. Maybe that’s a bad choice of words – there’s nothing perfect about the wall. Anyway, I decide to start eating a little at each aid station, so I would grab a few pretzels and slices of banana from here on out. Hopefully this would lessen the blow of the wall, which I knew was unavoidable. I long for the day when my body becomes more accustomed to switching its fuel source from glycogen to fat, though I don’t think anyone ever completely avoids the pain of the wall.

I was on autopilot as I cruised through the 20 mile marker, feeling tired but still pushing it pretty strong. I glanced up and noticed my wife cheering me on, which was a nice surprise and a good mental boost. Of course, she didn’t offer me a ride back to the finish line – HA! That change of pace pulled me out of my spell and I started getting ready for the last 6 miles that I knew would get progressively harder. They say the first half of a marathon is the first 20 miles and the second half is the last 6.2 miles. There’s a lot of truth in that. Your body can carry you pretty easily through the first 20 miles, but it’s the last 6.2 that really tests your fortitude. How well will you be able to battle the pain and keep pushing on? I was about to find out.

I started taking energy gels at mile 8, and my plan was to take one every 3 miles. The course description said they would have energy gels at the aid stations, beginning with mile 16. I had my last one at mile 17 and was ready for another at 20, but what they failed to mention is that there would only be TWO aid stations with energy gels, and I hadn’t made it to the second one yet. I did not bring anymore with me. Hopefully that wouldn’t affect me too much, but I knew my body was used to that little shot of energy every 25-28 minutes. At mile 21, I had already started to slow down, but I didn’t feel like the wall had really hit yet. I had wanted to stop and walk since about mile 18, but I hadn’t felt the overwhelming desire yet. I ate some more banana, which helped wake me up a little, but it didn’t last long. I was drinking powerade at every aid station, which is a challenge while you’re running, but if you fold the paper cup in half and hold it to the side, you can usually get a decent drink without choking or sloshing the water up your nose. The powerade was starting to be too sweet, so I switched to water.

As I crossed through the mile 22 marker, I remembered that this was only the second time to be running beyond 22 miles, so it was still relatively unfamiliar territory. Looking at my watch I knew I had been slowing quite a bit and was getting nervous that a 4:00 time might be a little out of reach now. I expected the 4:00 pace group to catch up any moment, which made me want to pick it up a little, but I was giving it all I had. I still would not allow myself to turn around and look for them, but I finally reconciled that if they did pass me, I had to be ok with it because I’d had one heck of a run so far and I was giving it 100%.

I think around 23 is when I really slammed into the wall. Mentally, it became a major struggle to keep running. My body wanted to walk, but my mind wanted to run. I had to play little mind games and not think about how I still had 3 miles to go. I would pick a street sign 50 feet ahead and just tell myself all I had to do was run to that street sign. When I did, I would celebrate for half a second and then tell myself I only had to run to that tree 50 feet ahead. This cycle continued for the next few miles. At one point, the body almost won. For a split second, my mind realized that my body was stopping to walk, so my mind had to force the body to keep moving. It was a strange sensation, like I wasn’t in control of my own body. I knew it was going to be very difficult to make 4:00, but I just couldn’t find the energy to speed up. I was sucked dry of everything. All I had left was willpower, but luckily my tank was full in that department. I remembered from my first marathon that this was the point where you have to dig down deeper than you have ever had to in your entire life to win the battle against the marathon beast. However, I had an advantage this time…I knew I could.

Coming up on mile 24, I could hear the familiar voice of the 4:00 pace group coach coming, barking out her encouragement and words of advice. I instinctively picked up my pace, which was very painful, and I tried to keep pushing to stay ahead. I knew they were on my heels but I would still not turn around and look. Up ahead, I saw an aid station, which could help me out if they walked through it. I didn’t know if they would or not since time was quickly running out for a 4:00 finish. I snatched a cup of water as I ran through the aid station and moved back out to keep running. It sounded like I may have lost them for now, but I wasn’t sure. I just kept on moving one foot in front of the other with painful tenacity. About a half mile later, I heard them coming again and when I tried to pick up my pace, nothing happened. I was at top speed and couldn’t do anything about it. So, with 1.7 miles left in the race, I moved over and conceded my position to them as they slowly passed me by. The competitive side of me felt defeated, but I didn’t beat myself up. I knew I had run to the best of my ability and I gave everything I had. However, I couldn’t help think that their last minute strength could have come from conserving early on, and had I stayed back and ran 9:00 miles instead of 8:00 – 8:45 through the early to mid miles, maybe I’d be right there with them cruising to a 4 hour marathon. Or maybe not…

Normally 1.7 miles is about how long it takes to get a good rhythm, and it goes by quickly without even really noticing it. But when it’s the last leg of your second marathon, after pushing hard through 24.5 miles, time seems to stand still. I knew I was getting close to downtown and could feel the end coming near, but it just wouldn’t get here. I remember in my first marathon getting mad at this point, feeling like the finish line was afraid to show its ugly face to me. I didn’t feel that way this time. There was actually a part of me that felt like the finish line was encouraging me to finish strong and cheering for me to beat the 4:00 mark. I trudged along as hard as I could without causing myself to fall down or throw up or die, and I was still under 4:00 when I could finally see the finish line down the road. I knew it would take a miracle to make it happen, so I just hunkered down to see how close to 4:00 I could get. About 30 yards in front of the finish line my left foot cramped up. I felt a little twinge in my Achilles tendon and my big toe curled up under my foot and just locked in to place. I let out a groan and kinda limped along trying to release my toe, but it wasn’t happening. However, I didn’t make it this far to have a weak finish, so I picked it up and tried to run as fast as I could until I crossed the timing mats at the finish line. Luckily, when I stopped, the searing pain went away as my toe released and the cramp went away. Finish time: 4:01:10. I’m very happy with that. In 4 ½ months, I shaved 43 minutes off my marathon time. Who can complain about that!

I walked down the chute and someone put a foil blanket around me and someone else congratulated me and put a finisher’s medal around my neck. I thanked him and found my way to the refreshment tent where I began to guzzle a powerade down when I suddenly felt very faint. I expected this to happen since it happened at the last marathon. I walked over to the side and sat down. I knew I just needed to get some sugar in my blood. Two medics came by and tried to put me in a wheelchair and take me to the medic tent, but I convinced them I was ok, I just had low blood sugar, just like everyone else that just finished. I kept drinking, and after 2-3 minutes I started to feel better. So, I thanked them and they moved on to other finishers who needed help. I found Jennifer and then went and got my finisher’s shirt and a cheeseburger. I didn’t see my friend Daniel, so I called him and learned that he had an incredible run, finishing in 3:34:26. Not only was this a new PR, it was only 3 minutes and 27 seconds away from qualifying for Boston! That is heartbreaking, but he will do it in the fall at his next marathon. I, on the other hand, because of my age, have to finish a marathon in 3:10:00 to qualify for Boston. To put that in perspective, I finished this marathon at a 9:12/mile pace. To qualify for Boston, I would have to shave off an entire 2 minutes from every single mile to qualify. It requires a 7:15 pace. Unbelievable. Maybe one day I’ll be old enough to qualify for Boston since they increase the time as you get older. HA! I went to the massage tent, got a leg and shoulder massage, and we left.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I learned that I can push my body harder than I think for longer than I think. I will continue my training now and start working on my first ultra marathon in October. A 50 mile trail run in Palo Duro Canyon. Bring it!

"If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." - Emil Zatopek


Half a Century

Have you ever pushed yourself beyond your perceived physical and/or mental limitations and found out that you are capable of accomplishing much more than you ever imagined? There's a little place in your brain that tells you what your limits are, and understandably enough, you believe it. You think you can only go so far, whether it's related to athletics or stress or anything really, but it's only when you push the envelope past those limits that you realize how quickly the body adapts. An expansion of those "limitations" occurs and a whole world of new possibilities opens up to you. Sure, I'd call it a transformation.

Dean Karnazes, a well-known ultra-marathoner whom I strongly admire, in his book titled "Ultra Marathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner", quotes something that was an inspiration to him, that helped him realize that there's so much more to life than 12 hour days, a six-figure income, and the imprisonment of work pressures. Something that helped him realize there are people out there brave enough to push the body and mind past their perceived limitations and defy all expectations from the norm. Something that inspired him to break out of his mundane cycle, truly examine the void he felt in his life, and with incredible determination, explore the depths of his physical and mental capabilities. Here's the quote: "I read a story in the paper yesterday about the first mountain climber to scale Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. Nobody thought it was remotely possible to climb the highest mountain in the world without using bottled oxygen, but this guy went and did it anyway. A reporter asked him afterward why he had gone up there to die, and you know how he responded? 'I didn't go up there to die, I went up there to live.'"

Admittedly, my daily runs of 6-9 miles are not always enjoyable, but I love the feeling I get towards the end of the run and after the run. Running cleanses your body in places a shower can't reach. However, I can say with all honesty that I ALWAYS enjoy the long runs - anything from 14-20+ miles. I've always been motivated by distance, and I think it's because of the feeling of accomplishment that follows a long run, especially when I feel good after the run. Even though I've been able to run that far for some time now, I routinely catch myself saying "Wow! I can't believe I just ran 18 miles." The feeling of self-confidence and pride and knowing that I have again defied what was once well beyond my perceived physical limitation is intoxicating and very addictive. It's true what they say, running is a drug. Why else would you voluntarily wake up at 4-5am every Saturday morning to get a "long run" in.

About 10 months ago, when I was highly motivated to run farther every time I ran, I wondered what would happen when my mileage got high enough that continuously increasing my mileage wasn't feasible. Would I be happy stopping at the marathon distance (26.2mi) or would I just turn in to a complete nutcase and start wanting to do 50 and 100 mile ultramarathons? I remember deciding that MAYBE one day I might be interested in trying to run 50 miles, but I'd never consider 100. Well, last weekend, I finally embraced the challenge of the 50 miler. Next month, I'm running the Oklahoma City marathon, and then I'll begin a 6 month regimented training program that will culminate in a 50 mile ultramarathon trail run in Palo Duro Canyon in October. I've been on a running high ever since I fully accepted the challenge without any reservations. I have been so pumped all week, maybe somewhat obsessed. In fact, this week I ran 45 miles, the most I've ever run in one week. I even woke up at 4am on a Thursday to get in a good run before my new 6am men's fraternity group at church. Jennifer sort of laughed at me when she saw that I had printed a 16 page "guide" on how to run your first 50 miler, but there is so much planning and strategy that goes in to successfully running 50 miles, you can't just go out there and hope for the best! You have to learn when and how to continuously feed your body a source of energy (food or energy gels). You have to decide when to walk and for how long (a 5:1 run:walk ratio is recommended, but a lot of people walk the uphills and run the straights and downhills). You have to plan a bag drop and decide what to include in your bag for the 2nd half of the race. You have to eat/drink electrolytes to avoid drinking too much water and getting the deadly hyponatremia. I'm going to love this challenge! If only I can remain injury free! I guess I'm so excited because it's another opportunity to push the envelope on what I think are my physical limitations, and I'm confident I can exceed them.


Brett Favre Hangs Up His Cleats

Brett Favre. Heartbeat of Green Bay. Man's man. Favre Magic. Lambeau Field. Inspiring. Love of the game. Emotion. Toughness. Constant. Funny. Loving. Husband. Father. Hero. Champion. Legend.


My day started off with an email from Josh breaking the news of Brett Favre's retirement. A day I knew would eventually come...but not this year. After a 13-3 regular season and a playoff run that ended one game short of the Super Bowl, and almost all of the Packers expected to return next year, I didn't think Favre could walk away yet. Getting to the Super Bowl next year is such a huge possibility. But, it can't be as simple as that. Though I deeply mourn Favre's decision to retire, I have to support it and respect him. He's 38 years old. He's tired. He's never missed a game in 17 years. That statement deserves to be repeated. Brett Favre has played through sickness, injury, & tragedy and has never missed an NFL game in the 17 years he played. Dislocated finger? Big deal...walk to the sideline, have it yanked back in place and be back in the huddle without missing a play. Concussion? Big deal...convinced the coach to put him back in and immediately throws a TD. Tragedy in his family? Definitely a big deal, but those times were some of his best performances of his career. Having a 4-12 season? Big deal...keep your head up, believe in yourself and your team, and lead your team to the NFC Championship game. These are a few of the things that makes Brett Favre one of the most legendary quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. In fact, he should have been inducted in to the Hall of Fame today...forget about having to wait 5 years. I guess he could change his mind, but I don't expect that to happen. He's been mulling this over for a few years now. Just like Mike McCarthy and Steve Mariucci have both said - Favre won't come back unless he knows for certain he can commit himself 100%. And I'm sure that's what led Brett to this decision. He's physically and mentally tired. Now he can be with his family year round. Now he can take his youngest daughter to school in Mississippi instead of going to practice in Green Bay, only seeing her on the weekend. Now he can be at home for his oldest daughter in college when she returns for school breaks. Now he can hunt on his farm any day he wants. As much as I'd love to see him return to football, as a coach, analyst, or commentator...I don't think that will happen. Sure, he loves the game, and it's hard to imagine him walking away from it, but he also loves his family and his farm and has been looking forward to the day when he can be there every day. Sure, he didn't win the Super Bowl this year, but he had an incredible season and went out on top. He holds almost every NFL passing record. He leaves behind a team poised for another strong playoff run, and Aaron Rodgers at the reins. We saw this year against Dallas how capable he is. Brett Favre will live on, and so will the Green Bay Packers. While today is a very sad day in the NFL and Green Bay, we have to congratulate and thank Brett Favre and his family for the success he brought to Green Bay and the league, and we wish him the best of luck in his new life.