Doing it for the kids…

I was talking to someone (outside of the group) the other day about the upcoming race and  we started talking about goals.  I mentioned that I like to have an “A goal” and “B goal” and  she said, “well, i don’t have a goal.  i’m just doing it for the kids.”  She said this as if “doing it for the kids” means that she should “just” skip down the course ; as if “doing it for the kids” was her excuse to take it easy and stick within her comfort zone.

I know i can be a little crazy when it comes to goals but I gave her a perplexed look and said, “you can do it for the kids and still run hard, right?”  She looked just as perplexed as me.

For whatever reason, maybe because i’m a running coach, a social worker, and a super goal-oriented person,  I just felt like I needed to delve further into what exactly this means to her.  Yes, I restrained from doing this and instead just went home and told Keith all about it.

I went on and on and Keith said, “well yea, I’ll be running some of it for the kids too…which is exactly why I’m going to bust my ass.  Those kids bust their ass everyday fighting cancer and it’s the least I can do.”  Love it!    

This is such a good point.  If there’s ever a reason to push yourself outside of your comfort that goal that seems a little out of reach, it’s the kids of St. Jude.  They don’t shy away from pain.  They embrace it, deal with it, and overcome it.
Can you imagine, if you told any of the kids at St. Jude that you could grant them the wish of running the race, how they would run it?  I feel certain they would do it with 100% heart and 200% guts!  That’s all we have to do!
So as I run this race for the kids of St. Jude, i’ll also be running for Keith who is my biggest cheerleader, Georgia who would give anything to run, the group who are great motivators, and myself because running makes me a better role model, wife, friend….overall person.  For all of the above, i’ll be running with 100% heart and 200% guts!

Your goal: reaching for the stars?

“Smart goals are specific, measurable, realistic, written out, and should have a deadline or time frame.”  David Yukelson, sports psychologist

“Motivation has to come from within.  I make up my mind to shoot for the moon.  Even if i don’t make it, I’ll be among the stars.”  Francie Larrieu Smith, five-time Olympic runner

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive.” -Robert Schuller

I am a very goal oriented person and coach.  I think goals are crucial to our success as runners.  It’s human nature to be motivated by goals.  Without a goal, i find that i am a little more “slack” about my training but with a goal, i am motivated, challenged, and excited.

I can easily come up with a goal for every runner based on a mile test or past race.  From this goal, we are then able to determine training paces and strategies.  This is typically a pretty accurate goal.  Now, from this goal, some people want to tweak it a little to challenge themselves a little harder.  Obviously i know that if i give someone a goal of 2:01, they’re probably going to want to get to a 1:59 instead.  I love this.  I think this is great.

What i don’t like is when people sell themselves short because they’re afraid of “failing.”  As long as you are getting off your couch and giving it a shot, you are NEVER failing!  If all goals were easy to attain, they wouldn’t be goals.  A goal should challenge and push you.  An “appropriate” goal will take you outside of your comfort zone, not coddle you.

Goals can be reevaluated throughout a training season but rarely do i see the need for a drastic change to someone’s goal on race day.  If i know that i can do a 2:30 half marathon, i would never set my goal at 2:30.  That’s not a goal.  That’s selling myself short.  If i do a mile test or look at an old race and come up with a goal of 2:10, knowing it would be tough, i would welcome the challenge.

This is why i always suggest having an A goal and a B goal.  Your A goal should be one that you would be over the moon about but one that you think you have a good chance of achieving if all the stars are properly aligned on race day.  Your B goal should be a step down from that but still one that’s a challenge to meet….one that you’ll still have to work hard for but maybe when all the stars aren’t aligned!

Rarely have i met one of my goals.  If you are able to meet every single goal you set for yourself, you just might be setting them a little too easy for your ability.  I’ve gotten so close, though, that i know these were the right goals for me at the time.  Many years ago, i had a goal of 2:20 in a Half Marathon and i ran across the finish line in 2:24.  I allowed myself about 60 seconds of “mourning” and moved on.  I know that had i not had the goal of 2:20, I would have come in much later than a 2:24.  It was my goal that pushed me and carried me through the tough parts.  A couple of years ago, i wanted a 2:10….it was a 2:14 finish.  I don’t consider myself failing because i didn’t reach these goals.  I look at these as a jumping off point for my training season and when i get my A goal, that’s just the icing on the cake!

The purpose of a goal is the challenge.  The most important thing is to know that if you don’t meet your goal, you have not failed!  You simply didn’t meet your goal this time.  That’s the addictive part about running…there’s always next time!  So, when looking at your goal for St. Jude, don’t base it on your current training runs.  That’s just simply not how it works.  Your training runs are based on your goals, not the other way around.

Don’t be afraid to push yourself outside your comfort zone and allow yourself the opportunity to reach for the stars!

Marathoner Q & A

“Of all the races, there is no better stage for heroism than a marathon.”  ~ Sheehan  
Agreed!  There’s just something about the marathon that makes it a great race.  Is it that it’s so incredibly hard that  makes it so incredibly awesome?  Is it that it takes more discipline and commitment than you ever thought you would be able to give?  Is it all the hype?  Whatever the reason, it’s addictive!
Many people start out with the thought of completing 1 marathon.  Then they complete that marathon and start planning their next one.  This is how it has been for Steve (our fellow Star Runner).  After one marathon, he now has a list of ones he plans to complete.  Steve ran the New York marathon last fall, Chicago last month and will run St. Jude in December.
I thought it might be fun to pick Steve’s brain about his most recent one, Chicago, so follow along for our Q & A.
Did you have a goal going into the race?  I generally am not a big goal person.  For me, just completing a race is accomplishment enough.  However, the truth with this race was that I was trying to complete the entire race without walking.  I’m pretty, though, that if I had started out with a managed run walk, I could have finished in a faster time, but for some reason, ever since I first thought about the marathon, I have wanted to prove to myself that I could run the whole thing without taking any walk breaks.  This was my 3rd marathon and I have yet to prove this!
In regards to time goals, did you have an A goal and B goal?  In the back of my mind I was thinking that if everything went right I should break 4 hours, 30 minutes.  I guess that was my A goal.  My B goal was just to leave the race injury free.
When / IF you realized you weren’t going to meet your goal, how did you handle it mentally?  At mile 20 I decided that I was going to walk for a little bit.  So that “run the whole thing” idea was out.  I was still on track to break 4:30.  The idea of having to walk really did not bother me too much.  I just figured I would try this again some other time.  I was pretty excited that it still looked like I was going to have my best time.  About 4 minutes later, when my legs were so heavy that I could not run much faster than a 1 legged dog, I knew that 4:30 was out of the question.  Mentally, I was able to handle this because I felt so worn out that I really didn’t care about not making goals.  At this point all I wanted was to make to the finish line with some daylight left.  I knew that I would see my wife and family at mile 23 so I told myself that I could run, walk, pout, cry, ect. as much as I wanted until 22 and then I needed to pull myself together so that when I saw them they would not pull me off the course!
What would you differently (if anything):
*  1 day prior ?  I would eat more healthy carbs the night before.  I had Chicago pizza.
*  Morning of?   I usually have a bagel and I forgot to get one the night before.
*  At any point during the race?  I would take salt tablets
What did you eat/drink during race? I drank gatorade mixed with water and ate GU
Did you have a fueling plan and did you stick to it?  Yes, the only thing I missed was salt at mile 16.  In NY they had salt on the course.  Chicago did not.  Wether I needed it or not, I don’t know but I planned on it and not having it got in my head.
Did you have a power word and did you use it?  Not so much a power word as a phrase.  I ask myself “how did you end up here?” It gets me thinking and is usually good for a couple of miles. 
Did you hit “the wall”?  If so, tell us about it.  YES!! it started to build around mile 16-18 but I told myself that all I had to do was make it to 20 then I would feel better because I would be so close to the finish.  When I got to mile 20, it seemed like I had soooo far to go and I just knew I was not going to make it.  I wanted to just sit down and relax, but I knew that if I sat down that would be it.  So I decided that all I need to do, no matter how slow, was keep moving forward.  Slowly but surely I started to feel better and the finish finally did arrive.
Highest point during the day?  Seeing Steph and my family at mile 23 and pulling myself together enough right before then that they actually thought I was enjoying myself.
Lowest point during the day?  I was expecting to meet up with my cousin at mile 13 and she was going to run the 2nd half with me.  She has run 29 marathons but had to back out of this one due to an injury.  She was still registered so she was just going to jump in and run with me till the finish.  I was so excited because, with her experience, I just knew she would help me to the finish.  She was not there she had already left to run with someone else which really got into my head.
Best sign you read?  “This is the worst parade ever”
#1 memory of the whole experience:  Unfortunately it was seeing a guy loose his life 500 yards from the finish.  They were doing chest compressions right in the middle of the finish chute and I just knew he was dead.
Best advice as a finisher of multiple marathons?   I am not real good with advice.  I guess I would say just do whatever it takes to enjoy it and don’t let missed goals ruin the race. There were many emotions that I felt during the run but the one that I remember the most now is happiness.  Be happy that you made a choice and you are fulfilling it!!
Thanks, Steve!!  Great race!  

Memphis Misfits tackle Ragnar Relay TN

Want to know what it feels like to have a completely surreal, out-of-body experience?  Do Ragnar Relay!  Our team has been planning and talking about running the Ragnar Tn Relay for many months but, until we actually did it, we had no real idea of what we were getting ourselves into!

This was truly one of the most fun and most exhausting things i have ever done.  I have friends who have done overnight relays and have read umpteen blogs on overnight relays and definitely thought i was darn well prepared.  Well, i just might have been wrong 😉

People said, “oh, it’s impossible to get sleep” but i thought maybe they just didn’t try hard enough!  People said, “oh, it can get really dark, lonely, and scary out on those roads” and i said to myself, “ha!  they’re being silly.  how lonely can it be when you have 2500 people running?”  I also heard, over and over, that you will become closer to your teammates than you ever imagined and my thought was “i’m already close to these people, how much closer can we get?”

Silly me.  I was definitely naive!  Yes, it is nearly impossible to get more than a wink of sleep.  Yes, it can be very dark, lonely, and scary when out on those rural roads in the middle of the night.  Yes, i’m closer to many of my teammates than i ever imagined.  These are exactly the things that make the Ragnar Relay so incredibly awesome!

Alright, on to my race re-cap (be patient, it was over 33 hours in the making so this may just be a long post!)

Our team, Memphis Misfits, set out on our journey last Thursday afternoon.  We met in Memphis, caravanned to Nashville where we picked up our 2 vans, and headed to Chattanooga where we would be starting the race.   We had our “last supper” as a full team and made it back to the hotel for bed around 10:30 pm.  Alarms were set for 4 am (3 am Memphis time!) and off we went.  We went as a team to the race start where we had safety briefings and decorated the vans.  (Thanks, Misfits, for going to the start to cheer me on!!)

Admittedly, i was a bit nervous because i was the first runner and this was a complete unknown.  Excited, definitely, but nervous too.  I believe it was lower 40’s and a tad foggy, if i remember correctly.  I lined up with only 9 other runners and off we went for the first of 36 legs.  Our run started through a “trail” in a park, very similar to the “loop” in Overton Park.  About 5 minutes in to the run, i took my first wrong turn.  Fortunately, the other 9 took the same wrong turn so we figured it out as a group and got back on track.  Within 15 minutes or so, we were pretty spread out.  It was pretty surreal to be running in the pitch black dark all alone in an area i was completely unfamiliar with.  Being the first leg, my van didn’t really have a good grasp of how to leapfrog the runner so i saw them only twice.  It was a long 7.8 miles but if there’s anything that will make you run fast, it’s being somewhere in the dark where all you can hear is your own breathing and lots of barking dogs!  I could see the blinking lights of the safety vests of the 2 girls in front of me (the 2 guys up front lost us right away) and decided my goal would be to “roadkill” them.  Roadkill is what you get when you pass someone.  The most fun about this was that as i was passing them, my van was passing me which gave me even more energy for the kill 🙂

Each leg (run) ends at an “exchange” and this is where you hand off the slap bracelet to your next runner.  Mine was Mimi.  Handed off and away she went.  It was still dark and cold at this time and she was a “no van support” leg (i think?!) so we went to the exchange to wait and get Keith ready.  This was when i finally changed out of my wet running clothes (the last row of the van was “Jimmy’s house” as well as our changing room).  Here came Mimi UP a large climb, handed off to Keith, and away he went.  As soon as Keith headed off, we got Mimi in the car, clothes were changed while we were driving and cheering for Keith.  At this point, we were finally catching on to the whole “leapfrogging” your runner.   We knew Keith had a specific roadkill he was after (a guy who ever so rudely passed Mimi in the chute.  Come on guy!  that’s just rude!)  so this was fun to watch.  In came Keith and away went Henry.  We jumped back in the van, rode up a mile or so, cheered Henry as he came by, jumped back in the van, and so on until we got to the next exchange.  This was the handoff from Henry to Jimmy.  The same leapfrogging happened while JImmy was running.  At this point we were really starting to understand the process and we were having a ball.  We didn’t go into the relay with any plan to “race” our legs but adrenaline was really pushing us along so everyone was doing awesome!  In between cheering for our van mates, we would ice our knees, eat day old peanut butter sandwiches, drink muscle milk, and just be silly.  Jimmy handed off to Teresa for leg 6 of 36 and away she went.  This was when we were really getting excited because the next exchange would be the one where we would hand off to our other teammates (van 2).  We hadn’t seen them since early that morning when i started my run and while we tried to communicate through texts and tweets, it’s just not the same as being with them!  We found our team at the exchange and all went down to the chute to watch the handoff from Teresa to Steve.  This meant van 2 was “on” and van 1 was off.

The exchanges worked the same way for Van 2.  The runners in that van were Steve, Katie, Toby, Ansley, Stephanie, and Lauri (in the order they ran).  We were so excited to hear about their runs and experiences.  By then we felt like veterans!  (Little did we know, this was hardly even the beginning!)  This down time was our first chance at a nap but we had a couple of factors working against us- it was about 1 pm and we weren’t all that tired (just still amped up from our runs) and our next exchange wasn’t open until 3:45 which meant we had to try to get comfy in the van.  (This, of course, came as no problem later when we were passing out from exhaustion but at this time of day it just wan’t going to happen!)  We finally got into the school at 3:45 where we were able to change clothes (back into our running clothes), roll out our legs, and grab a bite to eat….peanut butter crackers for me.  We were so anxious to hear from van 2 because this meant it was our turn to be out on the roads again.  We got word that Lauri was totally killing her run and was closing in on the exchange so i headed off to the chute to wait.  There she came!  Yay!!

This is where the Repeat comes into play.  We headed off to repeat what we did for the first 6 legs.  While we were running, this gave van 2 an opportunity to rest and eat.  Of course, it’s nearly impossible to rest so basically your downtime quickly gets eaten up by who knows what and then it’s your time to run again.

We all felt great for our second legs.  We really didn’t know what to expect and, of course, hadn’t really fueled or rested like we would if we were home but that didn’t even seem to matter.  When you’re in the zone of the Ragnar Relay, you’re just going on adrenaline.  It’s so awesome to have your van come by and cheer you on or to see your other teammates at the major exchanges and you’re just really on “go” the whole time so you’re never really thinking about how tired or hungry you are.

This is, of course, until leg 3!  By this time, we had been up for about 24 hours and were gearing up for our 3rd leg.  My van tried to get some sleep at one of the major exchange points while van 2 was running their second legs but, unfortunately, this just didn’t work.  We had about 2 hours at this one location but being that it was a major exchange, it was loud and energetic rather than calming and sleep conducive.  At the time, this didn’t seem to matter too much.  We were definitely a little punch drunk at this point and would get the giggles and not be able to stop or would all yell at once where to turn or what to do but, again, this is just the fun of doing a Ragnar Relay!  I ate a peanut butter sandwich on the way to our exchange point where Lauri would hand off to me.

We got word that Lauri was about a mile out which gave me just enough time to run to the porta potty and roll out my knees in the parking lot.  “Team 3” was yelled out which meant it was time for me to get in the chute.  I remember seeing our other teammates (van 2) for a little bit while i was in the chute but i think i was kind of out of it by then.  I remember them talking to me but not really being able to compute what they were saying.  All i could think about was that i was cold and tired but super excited to get my 3rd run going.

This was definitely my coldest and strangest run.  I spent the first 15 or so minutes being pissed off that my glasses were fogging up.  Funny thing is that i didn’t have glasses on.  I was just running in some fog but my brain couldn’t make sense of what it was.  I don’t do well without sleep!  This was an awesome run.  It was one of the hardest runs i can ever remember having, not because of the terrain but because of my fatigue and comfort zone, but may be one i’m most proud of too.  This was the type of run i had heard about.  I couldn’t see a runner in front of or behind me.  It was cold, dark, and lonely.  I could hear howling and barking way off in the distance.  It was tough but it was awesome.

Leg 3 seemed to pretty much wipe out everyone in my van.  We were feeling beat up but we were still having a ball.  It’s amazing how funny some things can be at 5 in the morning on no sleep.  We had a ball serenading our runners with Hall and Oats tunes and teasing Henry about his 5 hour energy hallucinations.  We counted roadkill and were taken as roadkill more times than we could count.

We saw van 2 one last time before the big finish!  Teresa handed off to Steve and the rest of us hung out for a little bit, swapping war stories, and trying to re-fuel a bit.  I believe it was sometime in the early morning- maybe 8 am or so at this time- so we had all been up for 29 hours with no more than a wink of sleep here and there.  Needless to say, we didn’t look our best!

My van spent the next couple of hours trying to rest up, eat lunch, and re-group before time to go meet up with van 2 and run the finish line with Lauri as she came into downtown Nashville!!

This was the first opportunity that we really had a chance to be a team of 15 which was awesome as we all ran the finish line together!  It was certainly one of the most exhausting 33 hours, 28 minutes, and 46 seconds that i’ve ever had but also one of the most fun and rewarding.  If you ever get the opportunity to climb into some vans with your running buddies for an overnight relay, do it!

Huge thanks to my entire team for making this such an incredible experience.  Memphis Misfits, I love you guys!!