Posts Tagged ‘ultra running


A life lesson from a “tuff” race!


photo by

So I have been thinking about this blog post for about two months now and this last race pushed me over the edge to finally be able to articulate in some form what I have wanted to say.  Most of you  know that I think ultra-running parallels life in many interesting ways.  One of the ways is the unexpected blow up.  Just reading what I just wrote possibly brought up your own sacred times in life where you experienced a “blow up”.  Not of temper, not of fire, but of life itself and the dreams that are contained within it.  Times in your life that forced a renegotiation of your goals or path.  We have all experienced this in some form or another.  But what we do with these times is what counts the most.  Avoiding times like these at all costs will not permit you to totally avoid them.  We can plan, we can hope, we can pray, but these times occur regardless.  It is possible to minimize the damage they can cause or possibly their frequency but one thing is for sure; they will happen.  And this is ok.  So I am going to write out one of these the best way I know how because I think you’ll like it and I just need to do it so here it goes.  Picture your own life as I describe the situation in running form.

Ahhhhhhh……….my goal is ahead and I have worked so long and hard and dreamed for so long about it.  I can taste it.  I can almost experience my dream in my mind just pondering on the attainment of the goal.  THAT place is so happy.  I know it will be amazing to get there and the sense of peace I will have knowing that I got my dream.  The journey has been long to get to the starting line but I am here.  I start my race with such joy and comfort knowing what my future hours hold for me.  Running in the breeze thinking how blessed I am to be able to be taking part in life like this.  I meet people along the way that improve my experience greatly.  I find out more about them as we run together.    I know that they are most likely just for a time but at this time it is great to get to know them.  As I am running I see the hills before me without fear because I know I can walk if needed or I can slow it down enough to conserve my energies.  There is no rush really, I have a long race ahead of me but the excitement must be contained so that I don’t burn out on a good thing.  I keep on just getting more excited that my dreams are ahead of my and they will become a reality.  Of course there are rough patches during the run.  My legs burn and I want to rest.  My back is tight and I want to stretch.  Many thoughts come during those rough patches that widdle my dream down to barely possible.  Then the sun shines in through the trees and my life returns as I eat some more carbs.  My mind awakens and I am in “the good” again believing all is possible.  Time moves on and on as I run.  I’m running, I’m running, I’m running.  After a long time of pursuing this dream something happens seemingly out of nowhere.  It’s the blow up.  The blow up is a devastating crushing blow to my mind and emotions.  The dream is shut down and the door feels closed.  Survival is my only thought during a blow up.  That and giving up completely.  I know the end is near enough but the short distance from the present darkness to the light at the end of my great achievement appears to be many more miles than it really is.  My thoughts change from delight in life and running to self questioning and sanity.  “Was I stupid for trying to achieve and experience great things.  Did I bite off more than I can chew.  Will I hurt myself doing this.  Am I in danger in this dark time” .  All the negative thoughts that I was able to conquer regarding my dreams before are now so consuming that I cannot shut them up.  Panic sets into me just as powerfully as the joy set in earlier in my journey.  Will I be able to get what I want so badly out of this now that attaining my original goal is impossible?????  This is where the magic happens in ultra-running AND life.  I know I can’t make it to my original goal.  I am already running longer than my goal finishing time and I have so far to go still.  What am I to do with all of this.  If I give up and quit I still have to walk to the finish because there is now way out of the race (life).  If I keep going through this blow up it’s going to hurt really bad and I don’t want to hurt that bad anymore.  If I just go slower I might as well quit!  But then the renegotiating happens.  At first I hate it because it feels weak like a cop-out but the courage begins to build again but for a new purpose.  The original goal is now very far gone but the endurance and capacity to conquer the blow up now takes precedence.  I find myself realizing that the journey could very possibly be more important than the attainment of the original goal.  The the experience of this hurt, this “failure”, this “shame” could be worth millions more than crossing the finish line without scars.  Although down and out, I forge ahead with a new but painfully real struggle.  I must not let the “blow up” finish me.  Then it hits me, “OMG………..the goal is not me.  I’m me and I don’t have to let the circumstance finish me and in fact I can let it refine me.”  My heart melts at the prospect of making it through this blow up as a better man, as a better more knowledgable runner.  I find great peace in this painful experience knowing that just making it through to the other side of it means so much to me.  And when I cross the finish line where my goal once sat waiting for me to take it, I am thankful for making it at all.  I am thankful for that pain and hurt that even though at the time seemed so intense was really only temporary as compared to the impact it will have on my future runs and life. 

So I think it is with life too.  We all have goals and aspirations and dreams.  Sometimes it is as though we are running through life so smoothly but we don’t see that huge cliff that drops off just ahead.  That cliff that swallows up so much of what we think we have in us to give.  That blow up that takes so much out of us that life seems terribly painful to keep at.  So much is possible for us.  So much is right there for us to become if we can renegotiate the path and the goals.  In a sense I feel like even though we might not get what we originally wanted, we will get the best that is attainable by moving on through the blow up.  Things get painful, and slow, and don’t work on our time line but keeping on develops in us such a tremendous power to achieve the most important thing.  That is to achieve the depth and reality of the person that we can be.


Coming to the finish line for the third time. Strolling Jim 40 miler 2010 final race report post. Real men wear pink.

This pic was take in the flats after the monumental "WALLS" on the course. After about 35 miles things flatten out "a little" so that I was able to pick up the pace to beat that guy I told you about. LOL

 In this particular race, it is a mighty fine feeling to finally make it to the 35 mile point because you know that there are no more HUGE hills to do.  After the major undertaking of the WALLS (a section of the course that has very steep hills followed by very steep down hills.  This goes on for a mile or two), I figured since I was feeling really good that I should pick up the pace.  I was running nice and easy up to this point chatting away with everyone I could.  I started running around 10 minute miles until I reached the 5k more point.  Then I turned it up to sub 9 min miles to the finish.  I love it because I get to pass all the people who started the race at sub 9 min miles. lol.  Starting slow is a wise thing to do most of the  time in these runs.

Running down a small decline in a pretty sun exposed section of the course nearing the end of my journey.

I was thankful for the cloudy weather during the race.  It did storm like crazy and pour down rain for about an hour or less at one point.  But for the most part the clouds blocked the sun so towards the end of the course where things are very hot and exposed it was not so bad.  I did get very hot though after I picked up the pace to 8 min miles or so.  My face was red and I was getting dehydrated since I traded off water for coke for the last three miles.  It was worth the wonderful coca cola rush though.

This is a minimalist race. Every two miles there are water jugs just like these for the runners use. This year they did have 4 minimalist aid stations though which I did not really use. I stopped at one for water, they did not have any, so the mom of the station told her kid to run inside the house and fill up my water bottle. HAHAHAHA. That is why I love this race. He did it and I took off again.

 The above water jugs were my close friend when I felt hot.  I would pour some in my mouth and pour ALOT on my head.  These jugs are located at the last turn of the course.  At his point there is two miles left to the finish line.  I poured water on my head and booked it fast to wartrace to get my finishers medal. 

Here I am just about to dance a jig at the finish line. 11:47 average pace I think. My slowest Strolling Jim but a monumental one for sure.

 The guy behind me was such a great sport.  At the 5k to go point I heard a guy yell, “HEY WASHINGTON!!!!!!!! WAIT UP!!!!!!!!!!!”  He had left his friend in the dust to catch me.  We ran together until he wanted to take a walk break where I just kept on at my faster pace.  I had about .5 miles to go and one last hill and I had to walk.  I was all dizzy and dehydrated. I had not taken care of my intake for about an hour or more.  Look at the dude, he caught up to me and finished just behind me.  I gave him a big hug, he hugged me back, and we laughed about trying to run fast at the end of 41.2 miles.  I really enjoyed running with him.  At the finish my friend was right there waiting for me along with Lisa who was waiting for her husband and friends.  I did not partake in the BBQ chicken this year but I did have another coke. LOL.  I sat down and watched the winner of the race down his beer (a brazilian man who finished in 4:44:43).  The fellowship at this race is just wonderful.  My friend and I stood around and talked with the family for a pretty good amount of time watching others finish which is one of my fav things to do at this race.  We finally got in the car to head back to the motel when all heck broke loose.  The rain had come, the floods had started, and it was going to be the worst in 100 years.  Thank God for Carrie, Lisa, Mike and fam who took great care of me. 🙂

I have no idea why they picked a pink shirt but I think it might have been one of Gary Cantrells sadistic humor factors. Here I am in the motel while it is storming outside sporting my cool pink shirt.

 Overall the race was awesome.  I loved it.  My next post will be on the added adventure of being in one of the worst floods Tennessee has ever seen.


Strolling Jim 40 miler 2010 continued: 22 miles, chocolate cookie, heat, humidity, not good!!!!!!!!

Here I am out on the course. The man in front of me was 65 years old and very encouraging. He had lost 30 lbs and was going to lose 50 more. He said he was proud of me and "JASON!!!! Keep Going and NEVER stop running!!! GO GO GO!!!" That was at the tope of his lungs as I passed him. He also said I was a wise runner.

I really only had one rough patch during the race and that happened at mile 22.  A dear boy said, “Hey mister, do you want a chocolate cookie??”  Well I knew that this did not do well with my tummy but how could I say no.  I had three bites and threw it in the bushes when he couldn’t see.  I almost immediately got blood sugar roller coaster mania and felt sick.  This last for about 2 miles when it finally evened out.  No cookies for me.  Not that early at least.  HAHAHAHAHA.  Basically I ran all the flats and down hills at a nice relaxed pace.  It is a VERY hilly race so when I got to any hill I just walked and talked with other runners so that I could learn about them and meet people.  It was really nice not to push pace at all.  I was also heavier during this race than any other race I had ever done but I fared well I would say.  And my green shirt looked cool I think.

Just another pic of me running from afar

The guy behind me in the above pic was probably the only factor that added some “push” for me.  He was in front of my most of the time and we also leap frogged often.  But towards the end he was in front of me by a long ways and I was determined to beat him in.  I did beat him in by a long ways in the end.  I really picked up the pace for the last 5k.  I was happy about this. LOL.  I hit the marathon and 50k marks feeling very good.  I did not struggle in this race to keep on really with the exception of the cookie incident.  It is amazing how the beauty of the course takes you in and helps you to enjoy your time out there with friends.  Speaking of friends, my friend was an awesome handler.  She met me every 5 miles and because of this we met a fantastic family from the area.  The guys wife also met him every 5 miles or so and she had about three weeks worth of yummy food in the back of her suburban.  She was so kind to me and many other runs always stopping and asking if I needed anything to eat or drink.  Thankfully, she had REGULAR COKE in the back and I took a bottle of it around mile 30 and it FELT GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.   I took another one at 38 miles.  I love regular coke during an ultra marathon.  Because of the 100 year flooding that occurred during and after the race, I was blessed enough to be taken in by this family for about two days while I searched with my friend for a way back to the airport.  This woman, named Lisa and husband mike, made me biscuits and gravy.  I mentioned how much I loved them at the finish line and she invited us over to eat some that she especially made for me.  HAHAHAHA.  They are wonderful and I will never forget them for as long as I live.  They made the trip so much more memorable.

Adjusting my water bottles as I run in to meet my friend at a 5 mile marker.

I also have to say that having my friend meet me every 5 miles was such an encouragement.  Even though I did not need anything, it was nice to know that someone was going to be waiting for me just to look at me with encouragement and tell me to keep on.  I have never had this much support on this race before.  It was really cool.

At this point I am starting to move a bit faster. It is getting closer to the end.

During this race  I pondered on many things in my life.  What was to become of it, what had happened in it, what I was going to do with all of it……………and it was really good for me.  It was hard as I have a lot of memories with Audrey for this race.  She had gone with me the last two times I ran it.  This time, I had to work at making new memories, with new friends, with new strategies, and a new future.  I have to admit, it was not easy at all.  In fact, it was really hard, but I made it to the end with victory.  I feel good about that.


Long race #22, 3 full years of running, Strolling Jim 40 Miler #3. Race report 1


This is the story of the original Strolling Jim Horse

This is the town center sign which traditionally welcomes all the racers.

I still love the Strolling Jim 40 miler.  I can’t even express how much I like it and how much cooler it is than any other race I have ever done.  First off, it is on pavement and I love to run on the road far more than on trails which is weird for an ultra-runner.  Second, the scenery is absolutely awesome, lush, nostalgic, and refreshing.  Thirdly, the people at the race are just too kind.  Wartrace is a very tiny town in middle Tennessee but it is a beautiful place.  The race starts right in the center of the town.  Days prior to the race, the weather predictions said it would be severe thunderstorms, rain, and tornados.  WOW!!!  How fun right!!!  LOL.  It was fun though and there was probably only about an hour max of thunder, lightning, and rain but the tornado watch was on for two days.  At 4:30 am I walked out of my motel room to roam around outside to check out the weather.  It was very warm and humid and the sky was darkly ominous.  After some coffee and walking outside I hunkered down in the room again to watch how to get “Financial Freedom in 30 days” from buying real estate.  This was interrupted with tornado watch until at least 11 am.  This would, however, go on for two days.  HAHAHAHAHA.  At 7 a.m. on May 1st 2010 100+ ultra-runners took off to complete the 32nd running of the race.

Here is where we started the race.

And we all eagerly take off for our adventure. This was my first race that I did not wear my traditional black shirt. I wore my favorite color on this race: GREEN!

A rail road runs right through the middle of the town where the starting line is.

I am always pretty nervous and quiet prior to starting a race.  Even though this was my third consecutive Strolling Jim, I was still nervous because it is such a special race and you never know what it will be like during such a long run.  But once I take that first step of the run I fall into my peaceful place (that is…………until the lightning started. LOL).  The race goes right into hills immediately as it bends into its 40 miles.  This race I made a concentrated effort to take things very slow the entire time and to enjoy the process as much as possible.  I was not going for a PR, or a faster time, or anything really…………………I just wanted to enjoy the experience.  I did very minimal training for this race and ran only twice a week max since my 100 mile attempt.  I accomplished my goal for taking it easy.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of ultra running as it is intended.  I am thankful for being able to take part in my 22nd marathon or longer race and to have the blessing of running for three years consistently. 

More Strolling Jim posts coming up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler Race Report. Night before and race morning

Me and Coach Dean the night before the race

My first attempt at running 100 miles at one pop went well I thought.  The whole weekend was an amazing  experience for me.  On the way there on the plane, I wrote in my journal that this weekend would signify the start of a whole new life for me and I have allowed that weekend to do just that.  I did not make it to the 100th mile of my run.  I chose to DNF at mile 63.  But I am ok with this.  I went into this race knowing full well that I was not in an optimal place in my life for attempting to run 100 miles.  So from the get go I made my main goal to do the best that I could under the circumstances and to make it to the starting line of this run.  I chose not to finish the race because at mile 60 I was in extreme pain due to major blistering issues on both feet.  At mile 63, I knew that with the blisters I could not make the 30 hour cut-off time and that going one more loop to get to 80 miles would only increase chance of injury while still not improving my odds to finish.  So I feel that I made a wise call to DNF for this time.  I still accomplished amazing things.  I ran further than I have ever run.  I made it to the starting line despite major personal and emotional trauma for the last 3 months.  I started my life with a clean slate so to speak and opened my heart to people around me there.  It was an amazing experience and I will add THAT RUNNING 100 MILES IS NO FREAKING JOKE!!! 

Here I am after the packet pick-up meeting the night before. I was very focused and somewhat grumpy at this time. Prior to a new distance or extreme race, I tend to get a bit on edge.

This is the packet pick-up meeting where they tell you all about the rules and the trail. This meeting was great. It is so neat to see all the different people who want to run 50 & 100 miles. It is certainly a special group.

This is everything that I needed to run 100 miles. Set it all out the night before. Running 100 miles is a logistical nightmare. It is not just going out for a run, the planning and organization is a very important part of doing the run.

The days before my run I was nervously anticipating the start.  Once I take that first step so much of the anxiety goes away but prior to that first step I am a very focused and quite person.  I am not the funnest person to be around in the days prior to the race.  This type of race takes so much planning and months of preparation with how you will get your calories and hydration during the run.  How you will ensure your electrolyte balances will be maintained.  The scope of preparation and the scope of possible variables goes very deep.  But that is part of the challenge of the whole thing.  I always organized everything way before the night before but I lay it out to make sure I have all I need.  Funny thing is, that once I laid it all out I realized THAT I FORGOT MY SHORTS.  Yup, that’s right.  I forgot my shorts to my first 100.  I had to go buy new ones and that is taboo to do a race with new and un-tested equipment.  The new shorts ended up working perfectly though.


Ok. Looking a bit fat from my weight gain, here I am at 3 am race morning. Put some tunes on to block out the nervousness. I was feeling foggy already in my head. This ended up being a problem the whole day during the race.

This is the second pile of organized stuff. It is what I would have one and carry with me for race start. Food enough for 8 hours, gloves, socks, shorts, shirt, breakfast, and vapo-rub.

My sister, Coach Dean, and me in the lobby of the motel just before we left for the park where the race was held. Had one last cup of coffee. Coach Dean is holding a bag that I organized for my crew to help me at aid stations that they were allowed to be at. I also made one other drop bag for the half-way point of the loop where they could not go. Still nervous here.


Many times at these really long ultras on the trail they make you check in again prior to start. This is to make sure they know for certain who is out on the course to account for everyone. It was very cold and the atmosphere was somber yet excited at the same time

Me and Dean talking over some last minute logistics. It is just about time to get going on this journey

All the runners have their head lamps and flashlights. We are ready as we can be for the unknowns of running 100 miles

There I am in the middle of the pic starting my watch I think. wow. it is really time now.

Race morning is a precious time.  It is a nervous time.  And it is a most wonderfully triumphant time.  After check in, I sat in the warm car and talked with Dean and my sister for about 30 minutes.  The chatter among the runners could be heard as the buzz about running 100 miles increased while the minutes passed by.  When it was time to get out of the car I could hear the 100 mile starters chanting and yelling and being excited.  It was a great thing to hear.  But once it was time to start, everyone started their own watches and began to walk the first steps of the journey.  There were 350 people at the start about and the trail is single track so the going was very slow at first.  I had to walk about the first two or three miles just to get enough space to run my slow pace.  I talked with a lady who was going to walk the whole thing and had lost 70 pounds.  That was fun.  I always feel so much better about things once I start.  I was no longer nervous or scared or full of anxiety.  I was not just another ultra-runner who was going to do the best that I could.  No Ipod, just the chatter and sound of running clothes and feet hitting the ground.  There I was, starting an amazing journey knowing that I would be going further than I ever had before.


It is a freaking war over here. Take the poll too!

I feel like it would take this many people pulling for me to freaking eat good on WW for just one full damn day

I am at a loss right now for eating.  As you know, I can do running.  I can do goal setting.  I can do a lot of stuff but right now I am having the hardest time eating well.  Eating well is the most essential part of the weight loss and maintenance journey other than internal healing of self.  Without proper eating, I could gain all my weight back while still running and eventually running would end.  I am scared right now about this guys.  I have not been in this place since I was never on WW.  I have not given up hope though.  We all fight out fight but hearing you guys talk about your stuff on your blogs, I get courage from it.  I need you guys now.  I can’t do this alone.  I need some building up.  I know I get a lot of it already but this is a special time for me.  A VERY SPECIAL TIME.  A time like non other.  I am going to make it even if I do all bruised up and scratched.

So here is some truth for ya!  I weighed 211 when I went to Hawaii.  I weighed 207 the day after I got back.  I have not weighed since then because I am scared to death of it and it doesn’t even matter how much I weigh if I am not eating healthily.  I want to be in the 180’s and I won’t be able to get there before my 100 miler.  This was my goal but with all the Sh– that is going on I have been eating my emotions you know.  Here is what I am going to do.  I want to tell you all for the tiny bit of accountability that it is.  Usually you all forget after a while. hahaha  So I get to slip by.  Like quitting chewing.  Remember that one like a year ago, and then 6 months ago, and then a couple of months ago.  HAHAHAHA  I have quit now though.  12 days today.  No chew.  Here is what I want to do about this:

  • Take one moment at a time.  Bring it back to basics.  Make ONE GOOD HEALTH DECISION at a time
  • Keep my running program up to train properly for the 100 miler which is in 32 days.  It is not easy training for this type of race under this kind of emotional trauma, but I am convinced I will conquer.
  • Go grocery shopping for all necessary food to keep me going.
  • Blog more about my food, weight, and health struggles.  Get my mind focused
  • Go back to WW now that I am not so damn depressed.
  • Take every tiny freaking bit of encouragement you guys can give. 🙂
  • NEVER, and I mean NEVER give up.  One step, keeping on keeping on, I WILL MAKE IT DAMN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is my motivational pic for the moment. I am a hardcore athlete and I can get back into the shape I want to be in. I will win and live this battle.