Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Pictures

Let's get this out of the way right from the top.  2016 was not easy.  I continued to battle a rare virus that limits my ability to talk and required seven more surgeries this year at UAB Hospital.  As a result, my health continued to decline throughout the year and now we are seeking new and more aggressive treatment options.

But with the support of my wife Rachel, we continue to fight it and are hopeful for the future.

Running was my escape and despite of, or in spite of the hand I have been dealt, it was a pretty good year.

In December, I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the 7th consecutive time spanning 10 years, when I ran 3:11 at California International Marathon in Sacramento, California.

I earned my first state title in anything, ever, when I was the top male finisher at the RRCA 5km State Championships, held in Muscle Shoals, Alabama at the Swampers 5km race.

I earned 4 overall wins, including winning the Care Center 5km for the 6th consecutive year, bringing my career win total up to 82.

I earned 20 master's titles, including top men's master at Bridge Street Half Marathon in April.

I finished on the podium (top 3) 13 times, including a strong finish for 3rd overall at Xterra Monte Sano in January.

I became the first person to win the Huntsville Track Club Open Male Grand Prix by running only one race at age 39, and the remainder of the events at age 40.  It also marks the 2nd time I have won the title overall (2013) in addition to the five times I have been runner up (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)

I was standing at the finish line when my wife Rachel finished in the top 10 at Mountain Mist.  Did I mention that unbeknownst to her, she had a blood clot in her lungs at the time?  That's tough.

I became the only person to have finished every single running of McKay Hollow Madness 25km, dating back to 2007 (with a washout year in 2011 that cancelled the event), and with a strong climb up death trail, finished 2nd overall.

I ran in 2,400 total miles, across 3 countries (USA, Canada and New Zealand) and 19 states (Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin.)

I went on a meaningful run with Strava.

Did I mention that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and that Rachel and I were fortunate enough to go to game 2 of the NLDS vs. the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field, then return to Chicago for games 4 and 5 of the World Series?

Oh and we saw Guns 'n Roses in concert!

Photo Credits to We Run Huntsville, Suzanne Erickson and Keith Henry.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The wise man seeking out knowledge

"A wise man flourishes because he continues to seek out knowledge, while a foolish man perishes because he believes that he already knows everything." - Eric Charette

I realized long ago that I knew nothing about the sport of running.  I knew that it could start simply by putting one foot in front of the other.  I also knew that I was not very good at it, but that in order to become great, I needed to understand it.  I had very little physical abilities, so the only way I was going to succeed was to train smart.  I needed to know why a tempo run was important, the value it added to my fitness and how and when it should be run.  I needed to know how to train, how to recover, how to fuel.  

So I read every book on running; well I've read a lot of books on running.  I sought out the best runners in the area and listened to them talk about running.  I found mentors who were willing to share their knowledge.  I realized that I needed to be a sponge to absorb everything I could about running, soaking in the wisdom like water, so that one day I could pass that knowledge on to other runners, completing the cycle.  In the last 12 years I have gone on to coach individual runners, groups of runners, written training plans for others and for myself.  

For a small town, awkward kid who never ran a step in his life, I was able to perfect my craft through knowledge and training.  My approach had worked time and time again, but as I approached the end of my current training cycle, I realized that the labor of my hard work was not producing results.  I knew that it was time to call in the best.  It was time to reach out to my friend Will Rodgers of Running Lane.

I first met Will when he was a collegiate runner at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.  I believe it was back in 2008 when I was hosting a dinner at my house for the invited elite athletes running Cotton Row 10km on behalf of the Huntsville Track Club.  Long after most of the athletes had left and I was cleaning up, Will pulled into the driveway.  I don't remember why he was late, but he apologized and I invited him in.  Among a tremendously talented field, as a young 20 year old, Will was seeded 27th for the race with a qualifying time of 32:40 which was light years ahead of my 34:45.  Immediately I realized what a quality guy Will was, as we sat down for an hour and just talked about running like two old friends eating a spaghetti dinner.  He was humble, easy going and knowledgeable, unlike a lot of elite runners.

When I needed advice on goal planning for the marathon, I knew that Will was the one to call.  He and the team at Running Lane have built a great program of coaching to runners of all levels.  They believe that it is more important to train smart rather than to simply train hard.  Our beliefs are perfectly in line with each other; every detail of your training should have a purpose.

Will and I sat down for two hours and poured over every detail of my training.  As an engineer, I track details and statistics about every step I take, knowing that it is all relevant in order to analyze labor vs. results.   We drank coffee and poured over the data, talking like two old friends, just like we did 8 years prior before Cotton Row.  He was able to consult me on where I was and what I needed to do in the following weeks leading into the race.  Then we talked about racing strategy and came up with the perfect plan for success. 

One thing that I really liked was that Will was very honest with me.  He did not inflate my ego to think I could accomplish times beyond my fitness, while at the same time he gave me the confidence that I needed to stand on the starting line and execute to the best of my ability.  I am sitting in front of my laptop at a hotel in California, 24 hours before the marathon, in part because of Will Rodgers and Running Lane.  

This is not a paid endorsement.  This is me writing about my passion.  This is me paying forward the kindness of those who have been kind to me.  I believe in what Will and his fellow coaches are doing.  They are experienced and accomplished runners who have turned their passion into a career.  They are coaching runners of all abilities, helping them realize their potential.  

So if you are a new runner, one who simply wants to get better, or at the top of your sport, there is always room for improvement.  Maybe you have not heard about Running Lane, or maybe you have and just have not taken the next step to contact them.  Be the wise man and seek out help from  Don't assume you know everything about running.  Even this old veteran runner was able to learn new things from their guidance!