Ultra Distance

So I decided to take a few weeks off of the writing thing. I realized that keeping a set day to write made it feel like a chore and thus I started to feel guilty for not writing on my set day. And two weeks went by. But, that’s how this should be. Writing should come from the heart and soul and shouldn’t be a forced activity. I write for me.

That said, the last two weeks have been great! I am slowly bumping up the mileage and this last week topped out at about 28 miles for the week. Soon enough I will be at 30 and beyond. Which, I must note, is pretty crazy to think about, considering that I never considered myself a runner. Heck, there have even been times in my life where I would say I hated running. Funny how things change.

While ramping up the mileage I looked for training plans. Some for marathon distance. Some for half marathon distance. Some for beginners. Some for intermediates. It was all just too much. I have a very finite amount of time in which to run. That would be the few hours before work and the hour or so after. Going out for fartlek (seriously…?) runs or anything else too fancy just doesn’t work since I commute and run at the same time. This means I am carrying a backpack with food, clothing, and everything else I need for the day.

I happened to be talking to a friend of mine who is a very accomplished marathoner and half marathoner (we’re talking a masters level runner who has PR’s in the 1:10 range for a half and the 2:30 range for a full. He gave me the best advice and training plan I’ve heard yet. During his 10 years of competitive running (30+ races per year) they followed a plan of no more than 10% extra mileage per week. So, there it is. I am just going to run and not exceed 10% of the volume that I did the week before. Simple. Eventually I will get more fancy, but running is one of the most simple sports around. I want to keep it that way.

So, why all this running? Initially I was running with the end goal of commuting through the winter while my road bike hibernates. But it ended up being fun and rewarding, plus, I wasn’t going to meet my goal of running a half marathon in 2018 if I didn’t start running at some point. Well, a few weeks ago I did 11.5 in the mountains in a decent time and realized that a half was doable. Around the same time I was listening to a favorite podcast of mine, Trail Manners. They are a local (to Utah) duo that pod about trail and…dare I say it…ultra running. They happened to discuss a race that I was already aware of, but hadn’t really thought about. It is in Montana, in a place that is dear to my heart. And the shortest distance is 55k. Or 34 miles.

Wait…what!? So I’m going to go from a morbidly obese male, to a cycle commuter, to a run commuter, to an ultra runner…by July 2018? Apparently that’s what I told myself. And for now I’m drinking the cool-aid. Registration opens in November and will sell out in December, so in a few weeks I get to put my money where my mouth is. And then I get to put my feet where the money is.

It’s funny, initially I wanted to keep this a secret. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was afraid of failing. I didn’t want to be the “last joker” on course so I wanted to wait until I could at least be second to last. But then I watched a REI video, The Mirnavator, that changed my mind.

Beaverhead Endurance Runs…here I come. Slowly.

 Oh yeah, the weight loss. September was awesome, 6 pounds down for the month! That brought me to 80 pounds total and hit the point where I had to refresh the whole wardrobe, so there’s that!

Doctor’s Visit…

I thought about writing a long, drawn out, take-forever-to-get-to-the-point introduction to keep you captivated for a while…but…I’ll make it easy. I got diagnosed with asthma this week. In the best cardio shape of my life mind you, so there’s that. And, this is also the week that I decided to set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for myself. I’ve only shared this goal with three or four of my closest friends and family, so, more to come on that in the future. But in about 10 months it will all make sense!

A few months ago I went on a mountain bike ride on the Little Cottonwood Trail. Basically it is a dirt road that climbs. And climbs. And climbs. For a few miles. But it’s not a nice hard packed dirt road, it is pretty rocky, loose, and did I mention that it climbs? I definitely wouldn’t classify it as a pleasant ride, but the downhill is oh so fun! On one of the more stout pushes I noticed that I could barely breathe, requiring a break and a few minutes to cool down before rolling again. This eye opening experience caused me to reflect on other experiences, which, along with some family history, pointed to me having asthma.

I should have known. Mish probably has known for years. In fact, I’m sure she did know and was just being patient. But I don’t think I wanted to believe it, or maybe I just didn’t want to deal with it. I have avoided the doctor’s office for the last few years because I knew the answer to pretty much everything would be “eat better, exercise, and lose weight”. And, since I “knew” all the “answers,” I didn’t want to deal with the shame of being told the obvious. So, here I was-after years of struggling with breathing issues and chalking it up to weight problems-finally seeking answers.

I need to say, I am actually kind of excited to have a diagnosis. The years of struggling with cardio, struggling to see any progress in running, and thinking it was just me being out of shape are over. Large parts of my life are starting to become more and more clear. Plus, this just adds another layer to my personal journey! I now get to overcome weight problems AND asthma. I know this all sounds pretty stereotypical of an overweight person, and that actually makes this just a bit more fun for me. See, we are so quick to judge others and apply what we think we know to each person we meet. It happens to me all the time. For example, the medical assistant taking my vitals this week was concerned that my blood pressure was too low until she found out that I have been cycling 50-100 miles per week for about 6 months and now running 15-20 miles per week for the last few weeks. Magically, I went from being an overweight guy with low blood pressure, to someone that was in good shape. Imagine that. (I don’t say this to disrespect her, in fact, she was great at what she did. She was very kind and helpful and it was a pleasure to interact with her. There was absolutely no harm intended, and I must add, no offense taken. But, it is very easy to let our first impressions get the better of us. We don’t always know the full story, and until we do, we would do everyone a favor by simply seeking to understand.)

So, I am looking forward to what the future holds for me. Instead of viewing this recent news as a setback, I take it as motivation. I have done awesome things with sub-optimal lung function. And I will continue to do awesome things. So, my inhaler and I have big plans for the future!

A quick weight loss update: I just crossed the 80 pound mark this morning, and September is quite the month already! As of this morning I am down roughly 4.5 pounds for the month. Oddly, just on Monday I was starting to feel down and like I was never going to reach my goals, even while actively making progress towards them. Our greatest enemy and most valuable tool is our mind.

If you have questions about anything I am experiencing or doing, please contact me here!

See ya next week!

Long Run…?

Well that was fun!

Last week I wrote about why this blog exists, read that here. Simply put…I got made fun of on a run and instead of getting angry I decided to channel that energy into writing.

At the end of that post I mentioned a 12 mile adventure that a friend and I would be undertaking. If you are from Utah, that would be the Wasatch Crest Trail from Guardsman’s Pass down to Big Water in Millcreek Canyon. If you are here local-or if you ever find yourself in Salt Lake City-do yourself a favor and research this trail and go for a run! There was quite a bit of back-and-forth driving because we did this as a point-to-point, but, it is one that will be at minimum an annual excursion. You can see the full trip stats and pictures here!

The trail starts at a pass overlooking the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon as well as the Heber valley. It is what I would call gentle, with a few good climbs but only 900′ of total vert over our 11 or so miles. You do, however, lose roughly 2200′, so make sure your knees are feelin’ it that morning! On even numbered days you will share the trail with mountain bikers, which we did…on a holiday. And, despite what you might think, it wasn’t that bad. You can hear the bikes screaming down the trail and have plenty of opportunity to bail out of the way.

One of the things I enjoy about getting out on the trails is the sense of community that exists, even when you are meeting someone for the first time. This trip was definitely no exception. We ran into the crew from Balanced Art Multisport, an elite triathlon training powerhouse. A few of them were kind enough to share some miles with us, even though they are way more capable of crushing than I am. A bit later down the trail a group of bikers rolled past and asked us to keep our eyes open for an iPhone, which, about 10 minutes later, my friend snagged from the bushes! Needless to say, when we finally got in touch with them they were stoked! Aside from these experiences, pretty much everyone you meet on a trail will at least acknowledge your existence and say “hi.” They aren’t stuck in a device (I’m sure I’ll talk about the growing trend of being in the mountains with headphones in or worse yet a speaker blasting) or feel too insecure to make eye contact like we so often see on sidewalks or in elevators. Just make sure you return the favor, it makes the experience better for everyone!

If there was one special experience from this run, it is the confidence I gained. I have had a somewhat secret goal to run a half marathon by the end of 2018. There have been moments in the last year when I thought that would be impossible; times when I contemplated allowing that goal to slip away quietly with no one but my wife and I being aware of the failure. After this run (we ran a total of between 7 and 8 of the 11 miles) I not only know that I can run a half next year, I know that I will be completing that goal. More to come on that in the future, because I still need to pick my race and get prepped.

To wrap up the running, this was my highest volume week. A whole 19.5 miles (yeah, I want that half mile recognized). As small as this seems, this is another huge accomplishment for me. Aside from being my highest volume running week ever, it serves as a proof of concept. I have been commuting on my bike since March, and with the fast approaching winter I knew that it was time to start running. My commutes will total 20 miles per week, which as recently as a week or two ago, I didn’t know if I could handle.

Finally, the weight loss. I have been averaging about 5 pounds of weight loss per month over the last 4-6 months. So far in September I am down about 1.7 pounds! I’m sure it would be a bit more but there have been some donuts and cookies-yes, plural-that were too good to pass up. Do I feel bad about those cookies and donuts? Maybe I feel bad for them, but definitely not because of them. Food and eating aren’t things to feel bad about. Rather, we should embrace them, acknowledge them, be mindful with and of them, and enjoy them. At the end of the day we need to be accountable as well. That accountability is to ourselves, not to anyone else, nor to the scale. So, I don’t feel bad about the donuts. I try to enjoy them and keep everything in perspective! Much like my running, weight loss is a long term game. Distance runners can rarely see the finish line at any point in a race until they are right at the very end. But, that finish line is there. It isn’t a moving target. Weight loss is exactly the same. In the middle of the process it seems like the finish line will never be there. And, for that matter, we even tend to lose sight of the starting line that we came from. So, take some time to walk and reflect on where you started, where you are, and remember that the finish line is out there!

See ya next week!


“Run, Fat Ass, RUN!”

I’ve never been a particularly “small” guy…

First off, if you are somehow managing to read this…thank you! Thank you for taking the time read this story, I hope you get something from it. I also hope that you will follow this blog and get all the content that is to come!

I’ve never been a particularly “small” guy. Throughout my youth and young adult years-aside from a small period when from the ages of 19 to 21-and into adulthood I have struggled with weight. About two years ago I reached my turning point; something had to change and that change had to come from within. Fast forward two years and the impetus for this blog occurs.

“Run, fat ass, run!”

Those are the words I heard from a kid hanging out of the passenger side window of an old, tan Mercedes that seemed to only be running by stubborn German willpower. At that time I was definitely a “fat a**”, heck…I still am. But, when this latest bit of fat shaming happened I was in a different place. I had just eclipsed the 75 pounds of weight loss mark. I had been commuting on bike or foot for six months, being able to count my car commutes in that time period on two hands. I had contemplated recording my journey somehow (I even bought a GoPro) but never got around to it.

So, kid in the Mercedes, thank you! You gave me a push that I needed. I smiled and waved at you because my other option was to get mad and flip you off. And then, while processing what had just happened, the idea for runfarun.com was born.

Over the last two years, since the birth of my daughter, I have lost roughly 80 pounds. About 55 of those pounds have been in the last year, with the majority of that weight coming off in the last 6 months. While this is a great accomplishment, there is more to go. When I am talking to others and trying to protect myself I say I have about 30 more pounds to go. When I am being honest with myself that number is more like 50. There is plenty of work to be done, and the good news is that I have plenty of time in which to do said work.

Coming up next will be a 12 mile run/hike tomorrow (09/04/2017) with a good friend. We will be doing the Wasatch Crest Trail from Guardsman’s Pass near Big Cottonwood Canyon to the Big Water Trailhead in Millcreek Canyon.

The picture on the left is of me right about the time I knew I needed to change. On the right is me 75 pounds later (and my awesome wife who is on her own, unique journey.)