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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Wellbarn Road Run 04-12-16

Today I took my friend Sunny out for a run along the San Joaquin River Trail.  I try to come out here once a week, twice if I have the time, to train and to just clear my head.  I love running out here and always jump at the chance to take people out here who have never been here before.  The trail is only a short 25 min drive from my house in Fresno, Ca.  I tend to do most of my training around a field by Fresno State and at Woodward Park, but I really enjoy coming out here to run the trail.  There's something nice about just hitting the trail and not having any type of workout planned.  Today wasn't about seeing how fast we could run the trail, we just wanted to go out there and have fun.

We were limited on time so we ran out for about 45 mins and then turned around and went back to the car.  
Next time we will hopefully have more time to explore the trail.  It was cool to see how much Sunny enjoyed the trail, and to hear how interested she was to find out how much further the trail went and where it went.

Most of my training is done solo, so it's always nice to have someone to run a few miles on the trail with me.  Since I don't have a 9:00am to 5:00pm work schedule I do a lot of my running while most people are working.  This makes it hard to find people to train with.  I honestly enjoy the solitude that running gives me.  I've always been big on having alone time.  I know that might sound selfish, but I'm very introverted, and sometimes it's hard for me to be around people, especially large groups, for extended periods of time.

As much as I enjoy my solo running, I really enjoy my random training runs with my friends.  I like having someone there to share the beauty of the trail with me.

Until next time...


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Same Song And Dance

This Saturday will be my 7th time running the American River 50 miler.  With all the ultra's I've ran in the last almost 7 years, you would think that I would finally have my shit together.

I still get nervous before every race that I run.  It would be one thing if I was just going out for a fun 50 mile day, but I have a goal that I would very much like to hit.  This year my goal is 8 hours and 30 mins, or better.  I've focused my training on this for the last 4 months. This is the part I don't like... the nervous feeling I get before I set out to run really far and really hard.  The self-doubt that begins to creep in... the constant "did I train too much, or enough, or did I..."

This seems like the norm for me.  I hate the anticipation before an event.  The constant questioning, wondering, the self-doubt...  I know that I will finish the event no matter what, but will I finish in the time and manner that I want to?

The 50 mile distance has always been the hardest one for me to mentally accomplish.  I would much prefer a 50k or 100 miler.  I don't know why I tend to mantally have a hard time with the 50 mile distance, but I do.  It's the one distance where I tend to mentally unravel while running, and I have mentally unraveled multiple times at this event.  My only hope is that I can run hard for 50 miles and keep my mind centered and calm.

I've been working more and more at staying focused lately.  I've added nightly meditation into my practice along with visualization exercises.  This seemed to work well for me when I ran the Woodside 50k last December.  With a little bit of luck, hopefully it will work at AR50 as well.

I'm not sure what life has planned for me this weekend, but I know that at 6:00am this Saturday I will be running as hard as I can and I'll leave everything I have out on the trail.  This race is not going to feel good or be fun... but that's what I've been preparing for.

Until next time...


Sunday, January 31, 2016

After My Run Today...

I've learned a lot from running, especially running trails and "ultra" distances.  One thing that I have learned is that most people on the trail are friendly and nice.  We all encourage each other and support each other.  Even if we're complete strangers most of us treat each other like family and will help one another out at the drop of a hat.  If  I come across a runner who has ran out of water and needs some, I share what I have without even thinking twice.  The same goes with food, or anything else imaginable.  We are all out there sharing the trail together, having our own experience, and doing what we love doing.

It's important to take these lessons from the trail and use them in our everyday life.  I know that if I ever ran into trouble on the trail that just about any trail runner would stop and give me a hand.

...but what about when we're not on the trail.  When we get back into "the real world" we tend to go on autopilot and get sucked back into our normal routine.  I was very guilty of this today.

On my way to work I was running a little late and didn't have time to make lunch.  I got to the shopping center where I work on the nicer north end of town and stopped to get something to eat really quick at Panda Express.  As I was walking up to the Panda Express a man started walking up to me and told me he was hungry and asked me if I could buy him something to eat.  I was in a hurry, and I could tell that he realized that, and before I could answer him he told me "never mind" and walked away.

The man looked cold and was soaked.  It had been raining all day, and just a few hours before this I was on the trail running in the rain and playing in the mud.  After my run I went home, jumped in a hot shower, and got ready for work.  This man wasn't playing outside, he wasn't about to go dry off and take a hot shower, and he looked like he honestly had nowhere to go and didn't know where to go.

I was inside Panda Express getting my order, thinking about what had just happened seconds ago, and when the lady asked me if I needed anything else I told her that I needed a $20.00 gift card.  I thought to myself, "if this was some random dude on the trail I would help him out, this is no different."  I saw that this guy was embarrassed to ask for help.  He wasn't the typical guy on the corner with his hand out and his cardboard sign.  He was walking with his head down, soaking wet, with nothing but a water bottle in his hand... no belongings... nothing...

I went outside and saw the man standing by the Starbucks trying to stay dry.  He noticed that I was walking over to him and he started walking over to meet me halfway.  I asked him how long he had been "out here" and he said for a few months, and that it was a long story.  I handed him the gift card and told him that there was $20.00 on it and that he should go get something to eat.  His eyes started to tear up and he tried to shake my hand, but I declined his handshake and I gave him a hug instead, because I felt that he really needed it.

I apologized to Kenny for the way I acted earlier and told him that life shouldn't be so busy that we ignore people when they ask for help.   I wish him well and headed to work.

If you see that someone needs help, you should always stop to help them.  I wish a had something more profound and elegant to say to end this blog post, but I don't.

Until nest time...


...and if you see someone in need, don't ignore them.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Training partners...

Most of my training runs are solo.  For the most part, I like it that way.  I enjoy heading out the door by myself, being in my own head-space, and just plain being alone when I run.
As much as I enjoy this alone time, I do also enjoy a good hard workout with my friends. 
On Friday I ran for my 3rd time this week along the San Joaquin River Trail.  On Monday and Wednesday I ran by myself and was able to get in some good self-reflection. On Friday I hit the trail again with a local runner that I've ran a few events with, but never have really ran with.  Farin and I got in a nice 14 mile run with each other.  We talked a lot on the trail.  We talked about how we started running, why we run, events we've done, and just life in general.  As much as I enjoyed my 2 solo runs earlier in the week, it was really nice to push through some miles on the trail with a new friend.
Today I made plans to run with my friend Andrea.  I like running with Andrea because she's fast, very humble, and really funny.  I always have a blast running with her.  Our plan today was to run 12 miles on the road so that Andrea could get in some training for her upcoming marathon that she's running in a couple weeks.

About a half mile into our run we ran into our friend Becky who was on her training well as well.  We held a solid pace the entire run.  We were able to average a 7:20 mile average pace during our 12 mile run around Fresno.  Having running partners really makes the difficult miles fly by.  I really didn't even check our pace the entire run.  It was nice just running with some friends, talking, and just joking around.

About 9 miles into our run we parted ways with Becky, and then Andrea and I headed back to the park where we had our cars parked.  We talked about life, I shared some of what I had been going through over the last few months, how I'm moving forward, and how I'm coping with things.

My training partners have gotten me through a lot the last few months.  I'm very lucky to have the people I do to train with.  These people push me beyond what I think is my physical and mental limit... and more importantly, they listen when I need to talk.

My training partners are like my 2nd family.  Some of these training partners have been in the family for a long time, and some are new members.  It's funny how people can come into your life when you really need them... at that exact moment when you need them.

Until next time...


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Rebound

I'm a little hesitant about writing and posting this, but I've always tried to be as real and honest as I can with this blog... so, here we go.

I was able to hit the single track trail by my house on Monday and Wednesday (today) this week.  With a little bit of luck I'll be able to hit it on Friday as well.

I'm feeling more and more confident and comfortable with running harder on the trail.  I feel like ever since the race I did on Thanksgiving I've been feeling way stronger and more and more focused.  Even with all the progress I have made over the last few months, I realized I was falling back into a bad habit... I was starting to drink... a lot.

When my wife and I split up my friends all told me, "don't get into a relationship right away, don't have a 'rebound' because that's not going to do you any good."  They all told me to take my time and get my shit together. Don't find a person to fill any kind of void you're feeling.

I started training harder, running better, improving my Jiu Jitsu game, and getting my shit back together.
Everything started coming together again, but in the middle of everything coming back I was faced with the fact that I was getting into a relationship with a familiar friend.  I was slowly moving into a bad direction.  In a sense was having a "rebound," only it wasn't with a person, it was with alcohol. 

I pretty much don't drink anymore, and kind of gave up drinking when I started running ultras.  I never took drinking to the point where it was out of control, but I can honestly say that I use to drink to distract myself from what's going on in my life.  I was also doing a good job at distracting myself since mid October.

It was all innocent at the beginning, a couple beers with some friends.  But when they would have 2 I would try to have 6 or more.  It wasn't just being social, it was to mask what I was feeling.  We would talk about what I was going through and we would have a few drinks, then I would have a few more.

On Saturday night I was with some friends and we were all having a few drinks.  After awhile I lost track of how many I had, then I just kept going.  I stayed the night at my friends house, and in the morning my alarm went off and I was going to hit the trail.  I felt pretty shitty so I slept another hour and decided to run a route by my house instead.  I felt like crap during my run, but I was able to still get in a good workout. 

During my workout I told myself, "this needs to stop... today." 

When I got up on Monday morning I decided I needed to do the trail run I skipped on Sunday.  It was raining pretty hard, so I got out my rain jacket and some aggressive trail shoes, and I hit the trail. 

I love the rain, and I really love running in the rain.  The rain gives me the sense of a new start.  It's like all the shit is being washed away.  I felt deep down like this run was super important for me to do.
I told myself that today I was hitting the reset button. It's ok to have a drink from time to time, but I can't go down the road I was slowly starting to go down.  I ran the trail as hard as I could.  The rain was coming down hard, the trail was muddy, and I was feeling focused on my run.  I ended up running pretty solid and finishing earlier than expected. 

I felt refreshed at the end of my run.  It was like I could see clearly again.  I have big plans for this year, and I need to stay focused on the big picture.

I went out to the trail again today and ran even faster and harder than the previous day.  I was focused on every step I took.  I was in a good zone, my focus was clear, and I was running really hard.

There's always ways that we can distract ourselves from whatever pain we are going through in life.  A long time ago I did that with alcohol.  I'm happy that when I started doing that again, I was able to notice it and stop it.

Running ultras took the place of alcohol back in 2010 and I do my best to keep it that way.
I look forward to running on the trail this coming Friday, and seeing how hard I can push myself.

Until next time...


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Running Fast Again

One of my goals for 2016 is to run a half marathon in 1 hour and 30 mins.

Yesterday I went for a training run. Before I headed out I had no real set plan.  I decided to put on some headphones and head out my front door and run to Woodward Park and just see what happened.  I put on my mp3 player, loaded up a Tool album, and took off running.

I've been feeling more focused lately, and more confident with my running.  In the last few weeks I've set a new 50k PR and during a 4 mile race I did on New Year's Day I ran a 5k PR during that event.

Before I headed out the door yesterday I thought to myself, "you should go for it today and run really fast for 90 mins."

The first 2 miles went well, and I was running just under a 7 min mile pace, and I was feeling comfortable, focused, and centered.

As the miles went by I was feeling more and more comfortable with my pace.  There wasn't anything on my mind, just the run.  I was 100% focused on my run.  By mile 6 I was right on pace to finish 13.1 miles within 90 mins.

At mile 8 a song by Tool came on called Lateralus.  There was one part of that song that stuck out to me...

With my feet upon the ground,
I move myeslf between the sounds,
And open wide to suck it in,
I feel it move across my skin,
I'm reaching up and reaching out,
I'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me,
And following our will and wind,
We may just go where no one's been.
We'll ride the spiral to the end,
And may just go where no one's been,
Spiral out... Keep going,
Spiral out... Keep going.

This stood out to me. I think the key lately for me has been to be more in the moment when I'm running.  I'm becoming more and more comfortable with being uncomfortable and just letting go. I'm no longer ignoring the discomfort, I'm embracing it, I'm not afraid of it anymore.  I'm also learning that if you focus on something hard enough you can make it happen, you just have to have a clear vision of what you want and visualize your goal.  But you have to be able to hold onto that vision, even when things aren't going the way you've planned.  It's easy to stick to a plan when things are going good, it's another thing to stick to that plan when things are going bad.

By the time I came upon mile 9 of my run I started really believing that I was going to finish this half marathon distance training run in 90 mins.  I started to visualize on finishing... I saw myself hitting the stop button on my watch and it reading 1 hour 30 mins.  I pictured myself running strong all the way to the end. I kept this image in my head the rest of the run.

My official half marathon pr is 1 hour, 35 mins, and a few seconds.  Yesterday I was able to head out my door and finish a 13.1 mile solo training run in 90 mins.  This has been a goal of mine for a long time.  I totally suprised myself yesterday.

I have big goals for this year.  I want to run AR50 within 8 hours and 30 mins and I want to finish Headlands 100 in under 26 hours.

To hit these goals I'm going to train hard, eat right, and visualize myself making these goals.

Until next time...


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Woodside 50K (12-27-15)

On December 27th I ran my last event of 2015.  I took 5 of my friends from Fresno with me.  Two of us ran the 50k and the other 4 ran the 35k.

The Race I Had Been Avoiding

I had not ran the Woodside since April 14, 2012.  On this day I had finally ran a new personal best time at the 50k distance, finishing in 5 hours 33mins and 48 seconds.  I had given that race everything I had.  A couple months before this race I tried to break 24 hours at the Rocky Road 100, but fell short of my goal.  At the finish line of the Woodside 50k I talked to my friend Michael about my new PR at the 50k, and we also talked about what went wrong at the 100 miler a couple weeks before that day.

I always enjoyed running races and seeing Michael at the finish line.  He would always ask me about the races I had planned for the year, and would always give me a few training tips.

At the end of the 2012 Woodside 50k, Michael gave me some advice... he said, "No matter how bad you're hurting out there, you can always take a little more pain, run harder, and make your goal.  You just need to believe in what you're doing out there and trust yourself.  Enjoy the pain... remember why you're out here."

This was the last time I would talk to Michael before his tragic death in Death Valley 4 months later.

Since his death I have had plenty of opportunity to run the Woodside race again, but just didn't feel ready to run this race again and stand in the same spot I had last talked to my friend.

My Decision To Run

2015 was a very complicated year.  I was trying to find a new stable full time job (a search that is still ongoing), I started training Jiu Jitsu a little more seriously again and finally competed again for the first time in years, and I found myself in the middle of a divorce.  I was in a very dark place emotionally.  I was constantly feeling like I was failing, taking the wrong path, and just plain fucking up...

With the help of my training partners (running and Jiu Jitsu), I made it through some pretty hard emotional times.

Before I knew it, I was feeling back to my old self.  I was feeling focused, healthy, and ready to run and fight again.  I had a new training program that I had set up for myself, I started eating healthier again, meditating everyday again, playing Chess... and more importantly, I was healing emotionally.

Somewhere in the middle of all this I kept thinking about going back to Woodside.  I had been dealing with so many personal demons this year, why not confront one more.  The Woodside event was December 27th, and it totally worked into my training schedule.  With everything that had gone on in my life in 2015, it just made since to try to knock out this race and face what I had been avoiding.

I suggested to a bunch of my friends that they should go up and do the Woodside event with me, and five of them took me up on that offer.

The Drive Up To The Race

Since there were so many of us going up to the race, we decided to carpool.  My friend Travis had a SUV that could fit everyone semi comfortably, so he drove us all to the event.  I was feeling pretty excited about the race.  I was focused on running a solid race.  My training for the 6 weeks leading up to the event was everything I wanted and needed it to be  For the first time this year I truly felt emotional strong and ready for whatever the trail was going to give me that day.

My Big Mistake

About an hour after we left Fresno for the race, I started feeling like something was wrong.  I asked my friend Chris who was sitting in the back of the SUV, "Is my hydration pack back there?"  After a min or two Chris tells me, "No, I don't see it."

I had spent the night before the race packing my hydration bag.  I had my bottles ready, Gu's packed, a Bonk Bar that I had planned to eat at mile 17... everything I needed was in that bag.  That bag was left on my kitchen counter, and was not with me in the SUV.

Everyone in the car was silent.  They all new that I had fucked up, and that I was not very happy about what I had just did.  Travis asked me, "What do you want to do?"  I looked at the clock, and we didn't have enough time to go back for my stuff and make it to the race on time.  I told Travis to keep driving.

A few mins later I received a text from my friend Tabitha, "Good luck at your race. I know you're going to run fast!!"  I replied back to her, "I left all my shit at home on accident, I'm not sure if I'll be running today."  Then Tabitha told me "You'll figure it out, I know you will."

Don't Quit Just Yet

I started trying to come up with a game plan.  I started talking to myself, "the aid stations are about 5 miles apart, but there's a huge gap between mile 11 to 20, then after that they're about 5 miles apart again..."  I was trying to come up with something.

Then I started telling myself, "You've finished seventeen 100 mile races, you can figure this out... you can figure this out.  This is what life is giving you, just deal with it the best you can."

I was slowly working up a plan.  Then I came to me... all I need is a bottle, I can get food at the aid stations and get through the race.  It doesn't matter how fast I run today, what matters is that I run.

30 mins before we got the the race I asked Travis to stop at a gas station really fast.  I told him that I needed to get something.  We pulled up to an AM&PM and I got out of the car.  Travis asked me what I was getting, and I told him that I was getting a bottle for the race.

I walked into the AM&PM and bought a 20oz bottle of Mt Dew.  This was going to get me through the race.

Ready... Set... Go!!!

So... there I was at the start line of the race, with nothing but a 20oz bottle of Mt Dew in my hands.  I looked at my friends and started laughing.  How the fuck did this happen?  Oh well, there was no turning back now.

The race started and we were off.  I was feeling pretty good, and I was pretty surprised about that considering how the day had started.  We hit the first aid station about 6 miles into the race.  I had drank about 10oz of my Mt Dew at this point.  I grabbed 2 potatoes at the aid station and took off for the next one.  I was running well and had no intent on slowing down my pace.

I was able to maintain my pace all the way to the next aid station.  I finished off the small drop of Mt Dew that I had left as I approached the aid station at mile 11.  I grabbed a couple potatoes once again, and filled my Mt Dew bottle up with whatever sports drink they had on the course.

The more I ran, the more confident I was becoming.  I was in a zone, and nothing was going to stop me.  I checked my pace, and I was making pretty good time.  By the time I came upon the mile 20 aid station I was just under 3 hours and 30 mins into the race.  At this point if I could run the last 11 miles in under 2 hours I would set a new personal best time for the 50k distance.

The last 5 miles of the course is pretty fast.  I had a new personal best time in my sights, and I was doing it on nothing but Mt Dew, some sports drink that they had at the aid stations, a handful of potatoes, and pure determination to run my ass off as hard as I could.

Around mile 25 I hit the last aid station at 4 hours and 15 mins into the race.  This was the last aid station until I hit the finish line, and this was also a very fast last 6 miles.

6 Miles Left

The last 6 miles of the race I thought a lot about Michael.  I ran as hard as I could, I excepted the pain I was going through, and I kept pushing on.  I wanted to feel every moment of it, I wanted to be aware of what I was putting myself through, I wanted to give it all I had left.  It was a very emotional 6 miles.  I felt like Michael was with me the entire time.  The harder I pushed the more free I felt.  I felt like I was once again in control.

The Finish

I learned a lot on the trail during this race.  I learned to take what life gives me.  That sometimes no matter how well you have planned something, you need to be able to adapt when things go sideways.  You never know what you are capable of doing until you're in a position where you are forced to shine.  Sometimes you just have to accept the chaos in your life and figure out how you can make some kind of sense out of it.  You have to find peace in the chaos and just give it your all.

I can't say the race went 100% to plan... but I am happy to say that somewhere in all the chaos, I composed myself, came up with a plan, and finished in 5 hours 17 mins and 30 seconds... a new personal record for the 50k distance.

Until next time...