Friday, January 29, 2010

Praying for Rain!

The Rocky Raccoon 100-mile endurance run is a week away. Huntsville State park is due to have rain all week leading up to the race and during the 24-hours on the trail there will be off and on rain. Today’s inclement weather has given me a perfect opportunity to put myself outside in the elements and suffer a bit as opposed to being huddled-up by a fire with a glass of wine. That can come later. It is getting to be 3:00 in the afternoon on a Friday and the weather has been deteriorating all day. The worse the weather gets the more I get the itch to go commune with nature on my favorite local trail.

It has been raining for the better part of 2 days and the ground is already saturated. I love running this trail when it rains. There are a dozen or so stream crossings and most of the single-track turns into a running river itself. I tie-up all my loose ends on my desk after an amazing week at work. Feeling satisfied that I made the most of my time indoors this week, I feel the need to reward myself with some well deserved time in the great outdoors on a blustery winter’s day.

I certainly had a plan for the day when I woke-up this morning. I knew there was a chance of snow and I had packed all of my gear in the car this morning before heading to work. Most people watching the weather throughout the day would probably have described it as getting worse as the day progressed. From my vantage point it was only getting better!

I quickly change at the office and make some careful selections for layers. My primary concern is to not have too much clothing on. I walk outside to the car and feel the northerly winds whip across my face. I feel cold very quickly after standing there for less than a minute. From experience this tells me that I probably got the layers right. By the time I get my effort going on the trail I should have ample coverage from the elements, but still be able to toss-off excess body heat with soaking myself with sweat.

I reach the entrance to the park 20-minutes later. Not a soul in sight. Not that I ever expect to see anyone when I show up at times like this. Raining, 100+ degrees, or middle of the night. My favorite times on this 200-acre tract are the times when I have it entirely to myself. As I navigate to the trailhead I can see that I am not going to be disappointed today in any category. Every inch of trail is inches deep in water at the least or a swiftly running stream in many sections.

I tighten my shoes down extra tight before I put on my gloves. The last thing I want to do is lose a shoe in the suction of a mucky mire of mud. I squeeze down a Gu gel. My favorite flavor is “plain”. I am carrying no water today. I have been hydrating all day and I want to travel light. I plan on running pretty aggressively considering the conditions. 1 hour 30 minutes or less is my target. I have done the loop on this course under dry, fast conditions in about 65 minutes. With only a week to the race I will push it, but not take foolish chances and risk an injury.

My first steps on the trail are a bit sluggish. Immediately my feet are completely soaked to the bone. I give myself a chance to find my rhythm and after about 15 minutes I am smoothly flowing along the trail to the sound of my squishy steps. The creeks I am running along are roaring and swelling to fill their banks. The guttural groan of water amongst the fallen trees in the creek bottoms is all that can be heard.

I hit the first open section on the back of the park. The wind blasts me pretty hard and the sweat of my brow makes me feel cold all over for a moment. I was actually working up a pretty good sweat amongst the protection of the woods. It is refreshing to be in the wide open spaces. I stride it out across the native grasslands. I am trying to make up some time in these areas.

The trail dives back into the woods and plunges downhill. Water is rapidly rushing through this section and pieces of flotsam ride the current like flumes on a water ride. I pound my way right down the center of the trail where the water is the deepest. This part of the terrain is the hardest packed and offers the surest footing despite being covered by the most water. I throw caution to the wind and kick things into high gear. As usual I am living for the moment and soaking up everything this day, this moment, and this trail have to offer me. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

I hammer through a 2-mile section of twisty, technical trail with zero effort. All thoughts of the trials and tribulations that life throws a person’s way have been washed away. It is just me, the trail, and lots of water everywhere. The trail breaks into the open again at the right time that I need to get cooled off. Another great section to stride it out, focus on form, and make some time.

At one point, the trail dives down and makes a hard left around a stand of evergreen trees. As I splash around the corner I am almost on top of a young red fox. I do not know who is more startled at the moment. A flick of the tail and the fox disappears into some brush. It all happened so quickly it makes me wonder if I imagined it. I have spent hundreds of hours on this trail at all times of day and in all kinds of conditions and I have never seen a fox.

Back into the root covered, mucky part of the trails. I check my watch and see that I am right on time. The route traverses up and down a ridge along the northern side of the park. The next half-mile section of the trail is literally under half a foot of water. The frigid waters are invigorating my legs on every step.

This next section has several water crossings. Normally these can be cleared in-stride. Not today. One of the first is deep and wide. I plunge in clear to my knees and burst onto the bank on the other side and begin a slippery bear crawl up the steep bank. If I go backwards I will end-up wet from head-to-toe. With the help of a just-mature-enough sapling I haul myself to the top.

Next are a series of footbridges. The first 2 are completely under water. The trail marshals have just recently repaired these. I wonder if they will hold up to the pressure of the recent heavy rains. One last hill to navigate and my day is done. I give it all I have got running against the current rapidly flowing down the hill. I break out of the tree-line into the open amongst increasing snow flurries. I sprint the last 100-yards to my car. 1 hour 24 minutes.

I take a few minutes to peel off my sweaty layers and reflect on the day’s effort. I feel completely ready to tackle to 100 miles in Huntsville under whatever conditions the day offers. Over the last 3 months I have run in the worst the elements had to offer. I may be one of the few people to toe the line at this race next week that is actually praying for rain!

Monday, January 25, 2010

1,000 Miles From Nowhere

I am about a week late at getting this posted. I have been trying to get something up once a week. I have been writing quite a bit lately. I have a dear friend in England that I have been corresponding with and it has forced me to get into some additional writing sessions. I find the more I write the more it flows. I probably have 2 or 3 other posts worth of material, but they have not made it to finished form yet.

Last Sunday night I had a lot on my mind. The previous 3-5 days required a large commitment of mental agility and decision-making. I had to make some quick, critical decisions during this time and I could not afford to be wrong even one time. My runs last week kept me balanced and were a much needed outlet to organize my thoughts and at times completely clear my head of any thought.  I was calling on the run tonight to provide the same relief.

The order of this evening will be an easy jaunt to the gym for a quick but intense workout followed by an easy cruise home. I change clothes and head out the door to run to the gym. As I walk out the back door I notice that it is barely misting. The temp is still 70 degrees even though the sun is down. It is nice. Off comes the shirt. I love Texas winters.  It is the middle of January and I can run almost naked in the dark and work up a good sweat! I do not lose the shorts, although that could be stimulating. Let's just say the route to the gym is not conducive to streaking.

I let the music in my headphones push me down the road. "1000 Miles from Nowhere" by Dwight Yoakum is track one right out of the gate. It is a song I love to use to get moving and establish an easy rhythm. This song always reminds me to let things go and be fully present in the moment and enjoy every step of my run at that time. It is a gift of this moment that I do not take for granted. Some U2 and The Doors deliver me to the gym. 3 miles in 22 minutes and I feel bullet proof.

I did not plan on going that fast, but lately the running Gods have been smiling on me. I am lathered up in a full sweat from head to toe standing outside the gym. There is a regular stream of people trudging in and out of the gym entrance. They look like they should be coming out of a restaurant or a mall. None of them look like they did anything physical in the gym tonight. Most look like they have been frequenting the Chinese buffet on an all too regular basis. It is January. Most will give up on another year of their health before we get too deep into February.

I throw my shirt on and go inside. A quick pit stop to splash some cold water on my face and I hit the weights for an hour. Tonight is mostly core work. I am already warmed up so on my first set I am already sweating profusely. The sweat looks like rain dripping off the brim of my cap after a few minutes.

I have my trail shoes on of course. They tops are still all muddy from last night’s run. They are actually still muddy from a whole month of Saturday’s. You can barely tell what color they are. Halfway through my workout a guy starts in on the machine next to me wearing the exact same shoes I am. They are New Balance trail shoes. Grey with bright orange trim. His are brand new. At least they look like they are. I look at his shoes and then look at mine. I heard somewhere that you can tell a lot about someone by their shoes. I think about all the miles I have covered in this particular pair of shoes. 31 hours at Cactus Rose. (Picture of said shoes to the right of this column) Running all night to the start of the White Rock Marathon and completing the course. All the anonymous training miles I did under the cover of darkness in the cold and rain this winter while everyone else was snug in their beds. I smile and press on with my workout with AC/DC reverberating between my ears.

Three muscle heads are working out near me, if you call it working out! Most of the time they are standing around and talking and looking at themselves in the mirror. I do more sets than all three of them combined. They looked as bad to me as the people I saw walking out of the gym earlier who look more like underachieving mall walkers. These guys look worse actually. They look all bloated and puffy. Their skin is orange from all the fake tanning they obviously do. I am pretty sure they would be considered clinically obese by most standards.

My hour is up. It is time to pound the pavement home. I get to the front door and it is raining. Sweet! The running Gods are indeed continuing to smile on me. I get to experience the joy of a cleansing rain on the way home. One problem: My iPhone is about to get seriously wet. The case I wear in the gym is neoprene. It is raining hard enough that it would be soaked in a minute or less. Luckily there is a 7-11 on the other side of the parking lot. Off comes the shirt and I sprint across the pavement to the store. I walk in dripping wet and ask the clerk for 3-4 plastic bags. I look down and see one of those yellow cone signs that say "Caution. Wet Floor." I think to myself “Yep, your floor is very wet now that I brought in a puddle from outside with me." I secure my iPhone in several layers of plastic and blaze out the door.

The rain is coming straight down. Big, fat drops that soak me to the bone in less than 100 yards. The rain almost feels warm. I am invigorated and take off at a high pace towards home. Normally I use the run to the gym to take it very easy. These are usually recovery runs. Tonight I was called to a higher purpose. The rain is cleansing and purifying my soul. This run truly is a gift and I am grateful for every rain-drenched step. Halfway through the run The Door's "Rider's on the Storm" comes up in the rotation. I shit you not! The perfect song for the perfect moment during the night's perfect run. I have over 50 songs on this running playlist. What are the odds? It is not a fast-paced get-your-blood-pumping song, but it is the kind of song that lets you stride it out and really find your groove in a very relaxed way. I fly up a 1/2-mile hill like it is not even there.

As I crest the hill, my iPhone rolls over to "Exit" by U2. This is the first song I ever heard on a CD. One of my all-time favorite pieces by U2. It is great song when you are running in the dark in solitude in some faraway place miles from anywhere. If you are running down the side of a busy road, it will help take you to that faraway place. I am only 1/3-mile from home now, but in my mind it was 1,000 miles from nowhere and there was nowhere else I would rather be. Return trip home: 21 minutes 37 seconds of soul-cleansing rain.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What a Difference an Hour can Make

It is 8:00 at night and I am about to go to crawl into bed after having a stack of pancakes for dinner. I love breakfast for dinner. No one will blame me if I do. 3 hours sleep the night before, my mind is fried, and my emotions are all over the place. Plus, it is about 43 degrees and windy outside. Yep. I lace 'em up and head out the door. I have an 8-mile loop from the house that is a good cruise. I figure I will just lope along. Maybe even walk a bit if I feel like it. I walk outside and the wind and cool night air embrace me. An immediate smile glides across my face. Probably the first time I smiled today besides the really pretty girl I saw at Starbucks early this morning.

With my first step I have wings on my feet! I let my strides lengthen out smooth and easy, paying careful attention to stay relaxed, but keep really good form. I feel like a machine that is hitting on all cylinders. My engine is purring in the cool night air. Being a little on the chilly side, I am wearing a long sleeve shirt tonight. Immediately, I know I am going to be running hard and this shirt has to go. I slither it over my head and toss it into the bushes. I may or may not retrieve it. All I know is that I want nothing to hold me back tonight.

After about half a mile there is a pretty good downhill section. I mash the accelrator and let gravity do her thing. My stride feels so smooth and efficient like my legs are not even a part of my body. They are pistons on a machine designed for a single purpose. I am going to let it all hang out tonight. If I would have been out on a trail, there is a pretty good chance I would have ended-up butt-ass naked with nothing on but my shoes and a smile. (I have done that before, but that is for another time!)

This loop from my house has a nice gentle roll to it the first couple of miles followed by 2 long, gradual, uphill sections. I feel amazing running tonight. This is going to be epic at a time when I really need it and I am not going to let it slip through my fingers. I am amazed at how running always knows what I need to cure what is ailing me!

I tackle the first long rise like it is not even there. A light downhill gives me time to pick up the pace a little, recover, and focus on my form for a minute or two. Then I turn to the south heading for home. One long gradual uphill about a mile long. Wham! I turn right into a 20 mph headwind. No wonder I felt like I had a hand on my back when I was running north.

It is only a mile to finish the rise, get to a windbreak, and have a 3/4 mile downhill to stride it out and pick it up again. I work harder during that mile than any section of this run. Not only does my pace not fall off, I think it gets a little faster. In no time I am cruising the downhill in a smooth, relaxed fashion. I carry that relaxed state into the next 1.5 miles along the golf course, to a quick steep uphill, followed by a 1/2 mile flat to make it home. I do some micro calculations on the way to keep myself on target to finish this loop in under 1 hour. Along the golf course I grab 2 quick glass of water from a cooler. I walk maybe 5-6 strides to accomplish this and get right back up to speed.

I hammer up the steep, short hill like it is not even there and began to push my tempo up towards maximum. I dodge a few cars crossing a six-lane thoroughfare using some creative angles and turn on the home stretch. It is about 1/4-mile of straight pavement. I let my full kick loose and within 2-3 strides, I am sprinting all out. I know it is going to be close, but I also know if I waste energy or good form to look at the watch it will only slow me down. "Just run. Don't look dammit" I say outloud to no one in particular. A guy walking a dog gives me a funny look as he thought I am talkng to him. I am sure I am a sight for him to see. He is bundled up in a parka and here I am in just running shorts in a full sprint barking "Don't look!"

As I hit the imaginary tape at the stop sign where I started I push the button on my running watch. I can feel every cubic inch of my lungs swelling. My calves are hard as rocks. They feel like I have been running one, hour-long sprint. Hands on my knees, bent over, sucking the marrow out of life. I stand up right and let loose a FFFrrrreeeedddddooommm!!!!! cry from the bottom of my soul. I really let it rip. I did not care who is looking or what they mght think. I am alive and I was free!

P.S.- When I look at the watch it reads 60 minutes 3 seconds. I guess I should not have gotten that water!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Advanced Training Technique

Advanced Training Technique

As I am sitting down to write this installation I realize it has been over 2 weeks since my last writing. I guess I am kind of surprised I have not churned out some manifesto full of all sorts of New Year’s resolutions or other original thoughts never conjured by another living soul. In the back of my mind I have it in my head that I am due to write and that I need to get 2010 started. I want to write on a very regular basis, but I also do not want to press it. The last thing I will post here is something contrived or forced.

I have spent the last few weeks during and turning the corner on the holidays running a pretty tough and regimented mileage schedule. February 6th I will be running the Rocky Raccoon 100-mile trail race in Huntsville, Texas. The day is rapidly approaching and I just finished up my last high-mileage weekend and have now entered the dreaded “taper” phase of my preparations. I hate the taper. The taper is necessary and the taper works as intended. The taper to a runner is like giving a kid a brand new bike for Christmas and telling him he cannot ride it for almost a month. The bike looks fast, feels great when he climbs on the seat and he can picture himself flying down a hill somewhere with the wind in his face. My body is like that bike. It feels fast and ready to answer the call when I ask it to take me places I have never been before, only now I must wait. Taper, taper, taper!!! I overused the word taper so many times in this paragraph even you probably dislike it now too. TAPER! Now you know how I feel.

As I am planning my training schedule for this last weekend with my running crew I have to juggle some social commitments. Namely, my business partner’s brother’s 3oth birthday bash. Make sense? I have not hit the town hard in quite a while, so this one was widely anticipated. The fact that a limo/bus is going to drive us around made the date even more ominous. This could mean trouble. I am not going to go into details about this night, but I will say this. I drink about 327 beers over an 11 hour period of time and eventually pass out on my friend’s couch. I wake up the next morning at almost 11:00am with his 80 pound lab sleeping on top of me. I am due to meet my training partners at the trail in about an hour.

So why the hell would I agree to a 32-mile training run the morning after my first all-nighter in a long time? I like to call this an “advanced training technique. “ Folks, do not try this at home. I am a professional. I know I will be out all night and will drink waaaaay too much and I also know I need to get those miles in on Sunday. What a great and fortunate opportunity for me when the world of excessive drinking and excessive running collide! So the night before I pack all my stuff for a day of trail running knowing that where ever I end up I will have my gear with me and no excuses.

My head is in a massive fog bank when I wake up Sunday. I look at my watch and mumble a few expletives. The next thing I do is text one of my running friends that I am going to have to meet them a little later. I get a one word reply that is the catalyst and spark for the rest of this adventure: “LOSER!” I take one look at this and it is game-on. There is no way I am going to let that moniker get thrown onto me. It seems that I know my own tendencies pretty well. I put my stuff in the car so I cannot use that as an out. I also played another little trick on myself the day before. I told my 2 training partners the day before that I am going to party like a Rockstar on Satrurday AND still be able to run like a Madman on Sunday.

So out the door I go to the trail. I stumble on some pretty unsteady legs out to my car. The minute I step outside I knuw that I have made the right decision. After 2-weeks of being buried in an arctic deep-freeze for the better part of 2-weeks, Texas is thawing. Not a cloud in the sky and the temps are going to be a blazing 43 degrees later this day.

The next problem is food. My body is craving comfort food. I need something to soak up all the remnants of the night before sloshing around inside me. A quick stop at Sonic and I inhale 3 breakfast burritos, large tots, and a coke that is at least a liter of fluid. I do a quick check-in with my running friends and they are already at the trail ready to go. I tell them to start without me and run the first short section without me so they do not have to stand around waiting on their woozy friend.

The place we park to get on this trail is at the back of a neighborhood close to the lake. I know once I get there I will have 30 minutes to get my gear and myself together until they will come back around. I chang in the parking lot out of my smoke-infested clothes from the night before. I am standing there in the sun with my shirt off. It is 38 degrees, but the sun on my skin make me feel very warm. So warm that I lay on the hood of my car and meditate soaking up the vitamin D while listening to AC/DC on my iPhone. Within about 30 seconds I am asleep.

In what seems like 2 seconds, I awaken to the familiar, friendly chatter of my partners of pain. They give me some well-deserved good natured ribbing about my current condition and we get ready to hit the trail. I always enjoy the conversation and trading of barbs that we throw around at one another. I have not been with them for 2 minutes and I am not disappointed. The sun was shining, we have miles and miles to go, and we all are in great spirits.

I still have not really fully explained my “advanced training technique” that I am employing. I do not promise this will make any sense, but see if you can follow my thinking here. When you run 100 miles you face extreme fatigue. Not just physical, but also mental fatigue. You tap every resource you have again and again. When you think you have nothing left to give, you find some morsel of motivation or energy still unspent. It is late in a race such as this that you really find out what you are made of. The situation I create for myself today gives me the opportunity to step onto the trail and start mile one, but have my body and mind feel like it was mile 87. From the first moments I am in agony and there was nowhere else would have rather been at that moment.

Normally, I am the pace-setter in our little group. I always enjoy leading us out. There is a certain amount of pressure to keep the pace high, but not too taxing. When do we walk? Who needs to stop for a gel? Bathroom break anyone? These are all questions I am usually very in tune with amongst our group. Today I am in the fog. Today I very quietly fall in line at the back. I need to work myself into things a little bit slowly.

I should probably describe more about what it feels like to be 80+ miles into a 100 mile endurance race. Most of these races start before the sun comes up on a Saturday morning. You take off, the sun rises, you run all day until the sun sets, and you run on through the darkness. Unless you are really fast, you will still be running when the sun peeks over the horizon for the 2nd time on this run. You reach a point, several points actually; of increasing fatigue where you think there is no way you can be any more tired. The harsh reality of that fatigue and just how long you have been running really start to set in once you see the sun rise twice without stopping.

This is exactly how I felt as I take my first steps on the trail. At that moment I am grinning from ear-to-ear. I got to experience all the pain and woe of running for more than 24 hours without actually having to do it this time. I am already there! Now I can test myself and see how I will answer the bell this time. The smile does not last long as my stomach is churning and gurgling. As a man I have always lived by the mantra “The world is my toilet.” We can whip it out while standing behind something (or not) with this look on our face that says “What? No I am not peeing! I am just standing here!” Dealing with intense gastro issues are another story. All I can really do is adjust my pace and keep moving forward.

The miles start to clip by and the caffeine from the soda and my cocaine-laced gel get me going after awhile. I soon find myself leading us down the trail with all of us now in our usual places. All is right in the universe. The temps are perfect for running. Short sleeves with gloves are the perfect coverage. The trail is dry and soft and the conversation is light and easy as well. My head is still in a cloud, but I have high hopes the crisp clean air and the sweat off my brow will clear the cobwebs out. This does not happen exactly as I have planned.

As the hours clip by my gastro issues constantly ebb and flow. As we chat along the way the girls later tell me that much of what I am saying early on does not make much sense and that I am slurring my words. They think I am still drunk! While I am definitely very hung-over, I am sober. I am so mentally fatigued that I am having a hard time making my words match my thoughts. I know what I want to say, but the words I hear myself speaking are all over the map. This is exactly what it is like at the end of a long endurance race. You are tapped out.

My old friend Doubt starts to rear his ugly head again. As we approach the cars nearing mile 12, doubt whispers: “12 miles hung-over is better than lying on the couch all day. You can leave now and grab a pizza and a power nap.” My friend who sent me the “Loser!” text must be able to read my mind. After getting tired of listening to my complaining way too much, she informs me that I better not bail on them. Employing another self-motivation technique, I fake it and strongly proclaim: “There is no way I am going to bail on this run!” The funny thing is that at that moment I know it is true. Just like that, Doubt has been vanquished. This is going to be hard in my condition, but it is going to get done.

As we take off from reloading on fuel and gels yet again, we grab our headlamps as it is approaching 4:30 in the afternoon and it will be dark within the hour. There is something very cool about needing to use a headlamp to finish the last 3 hours of a run that starts at noon. I love to run in the dark on the trail and I can feel my energy levels rising as the sun set. The fog is rolling out!

I still have my gastro stew brewing and it takes constant adjustment of my effort to keep from having the cork pop off the champagne bottle if you catch my drift. Sometimes running makes it all better, other times walking does, and sometimes nothing does. I just kept moving forward. As long as you always keep yourself moving forward your fortune can always change. Examples: My knee was hurting pretty bad early in the day despite the proactive handfuls of ibuprofen I was tossing down. It is the kind of pain that caused me to fail gloriously at Cactus Rose in October. Sometimes it hurt when I ran and others it only hurt when I walked. So here I am with my knee telling me to zig when my stomach is screaming ZAG dammit! Most of the time my stomach won. Back to my point. There is a point I promise. I have a saying I now use to remind myself to keep going when it seems like things are deteriorating past a point of no return. “It does not always keep getting worse.” Meaning, at some point you will hit bottom and then you will come back from the running dead.

This is where I foundind myself after dark. Like a zombie shuffling my feet down the trail in the little halo of light my rapidly fading headlamp is emitting. At some point I notice that my knee is not hurting when I run OR walk. My stomach seems to be on the upswing as I quit eating quite a while back and have switched to pure water. All the sudden I feel pretty good so I go with it. Now I am gliding down the path with the wind blowing in my face. I have been resurrected. The only bad thing now is I only have 3-4 miles to go and it will all be over! At this juncture I could not have run another step and I will be completely satisfied with my effort for the day. Mission accomplished!

Now every step I take on the trail is a bonus. I know I can run all night until the sun comes up again if I have to. It is an unconventional “advanced training technique” but it worked. Now I can cruise into the trailhead and wait for my partners to finish-up and call it a day. On the last section of the trail the girls and I had become separated while I was in zombie-mode. It is very quiet and I have made sure to yell forth my usual Braveheart “Frrrreeeeddddoooommm!” battle cry from time to time. It serves 2 purposes tonight. It allows me to dig deep once again and get myself restarted and it will also let the girls know I am still OK and moving forward.

I get to the parking lot and start my car so it will warm up. When the sun went down, the temperature plummeted to around 33 degrees. I fully expect to see the girls come around the corner any minute. Ten minutes pass and then twenty. I walk back down to the trail head and call out for them. Nothing but black silence stares back at me. The dark and stillness cover the park like a heavy blanket. Maybe they felt good and extended the run beyond the turnaround? Maybe they are looking for me? What if they got lost? What if one of them is hurt? Now that I have stopped running the cold is really creeping in. I think about running back down the trail but thought better of it at this point. I do not want to make matters worse by getting myself turned around on the trail. Then all three of us will be out there chasing our tail. I decide to stay put and keep calling into the void of total darkness that envelops the trail.

To bring this lengthening account of this adventure to a close, I will let you know that a few minutes later I see the bobbing headlights of the girls turn the corner. They got a bit turned around and had done an extra 2.5 miles until they figured out they missed a turn. Us hard-core runners call these “bonus miles” . As it turns out we were not out of the woods yet. We had come in separate cars today. Usually we would have all ridden together, but my “advanced training technique” changed all that. The battery on their car is dead and can not be jumped. So you see, if I had not responded to the taunt of “Loser” they would have been stranded at the trailhead in the dark at 9 pm on a Sunday without a manly-man like me to protect them and ultimately save them!

The reality is that I owed them one. They may not know it or not, but over the last 6 months or so they have “saved” me many times. Accountability to make me get out of bed for an early training run on a cold morning. Slogging miles together in the mud and rain. And of course, the gentle and loving taunt of “loser” if you should ever not show as promised.

Saturday was a great time with great friends and Sunday was amazingly painful with great friends. All because I embrace the challenge of allowing extreme drinking and extreme running to collide head-on. I answered the call and sent Doubt packing again. It was definitely a confidence booster as I finish my preparations for Rocky Raccoon. I guess I felt like I had to trick-up my variation of a pain-fest training run one more time before the dreaded taper.

Remember: Do not try this “advanced training technique” at home. I am a professional.