Sunday, December 14, 2014

St. Jude Marathon: Watching for Gracie

These clowns ran by - one bad runner running at least.
A marathon is a great achievement, and so when Gracie said she was going to be running the St. Jude Marathon I decided I would go and cheer her on as she worked to complete her goal.

Determined.  Anxious.  Thrilled.  Perplexed.  Silly.  Befuddled.  Full of joy.  Painful.  These were the looks on faces as they filed by in a never-ending massive group.

I just kept hoping no one would spit on me as I stood impatiently in the leaves on the edge of North Parkway, fighting off the chill with my coffee from +Cafe Eclectic.  I was fairly certain no one would spit on me, at least deliberately, but I'm not sure I've never accidentally spit on a bystander myself.

After all of the races I have run I am still struck by the odd feeling of spectating, and without exception an unusual feeling of being out-of-place washed over me last Saturday.  While I watched the St. Jude half-marathon and marathoners run by I was also filled with one other overwhelming emotion, one of awe. Not only have I been recently watching some St. Jude videos (and they have been having their effects on me to say the least), such as the one posted on the side here, but as I watched folks go running by I know I am not the only one who felt as though they were a part of something truly wonderful, something bigger than just themselves.

The more I learn about St. Jude the more amazed I am by their mission, purpose, and most of all by the fact that their doors are still open.  According to their website (click here) St. Jude has raised more than 7.5 million dollars through this event!!  So when  you see the slogan for the race that states, "Get run for their lives," one can really stand back in awe, as I did on Saturday, at the countless runners who wound their way past me in search of a finish line.  A finish line not made of tape or marked on a street somewhere, but one that comes in the form of "life poured back into me" as Maggie talks about in the video.

It was fun seeing +Bryan Baddorf run by with Max.  It was spectacular to recognize so many others from +Feb Boswell  to +Charlie Duke to Olaf to Meredith to Ben and countless others.  I suppose there is still a part of me, when I'm racing, trained to ignore those watching the race for the hopes of better concentration (not sure if that was good coaching or not but it was always instilled by various coaches). So engaging and being part of a communal event like the St. Jude Marathon, where the contestants actively seek out crowd participation is still new to me.  I remember in the Boston Marathon watching a guy run to the side of the road to kiss a Wellesley student and thinking, "what?"  (when running past the university students line the course and scream - some with signs saying "kiss me runner") I feel like I'm trying to explain one of the most basic aspects of any large marathon and yet for me it feels so foreign.

How terrible it is to have an injury when the St. Jude marathon is happening!  But how proud I am to be a part of a community that not only supports St. Jude but is a home to it as well.  Somehow I never did see +Gracie Irby run by on the way to completing her first marathon.  I stared at faces until it hurt my mind to try and distinguish familiar from strange.  I did come away from the run filled with joy, however, and it is a great hope of mine to become more of a part of those who continue to fight against such foes as cancer.  Whether it's through a run, by volunteering, by donating, or in some other vein.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Win in Wynne

It has been a crazy last month or so for this Badd Runner.  My marathon training seemed to be coming to a close with the race drawing nearer and all of my long runs accomplished.  Then I received a sudden, but welcome, life changing surprise.  I was offered and accepted a Territory Manager position with Mizuno!  The next week was a blur as I scrambled to attend Mizuno's running sales meeting in Portland, Oregon.  Unfortunately the timing of the meeting made it impractical for me to participate in the marathon that I had signed up for in Greenville, SC that weekend.  I was going to have to find another race so that all of my training wouldn't go to waste.

The same day that I got home from the sales meeting a friend of mine (thanks Kelly Hensen) posted on Facebook that she had an entry for the marathon in Wynne, AR that she couldn't use because her kids had qualified for the state cross country meet that next weekend.  Good for them and good for me!  She transferred her entry to my name and just like that I was signed up for a marathon the weekend after mine fell through.  Wynne is also right across the river from Memphis so I could travel over on race morning and be back in Memphis on the same day.  So at 5:45am on November 1st my wife and I were in the car and crossing the Mississippi River.

My wife wanted me to pose for a picture but this is about as playful as I get before I board the pain train. 

Race day was the first cold day that we experienced in the mid south this Fall where it had gone from the 70s to 35 degrees in a matter of hours.  I warmed up the best I could before I toed the line with about 500 other runners.  The event is pretty low key so I didn't really have any company on my 26.2 journey.  The loneliness was both peaceful and painful at times.  Despite the cold I started out right on pace and felt totally comfortable as I cruised mile after mile at just under 6:00 min/ mile pace.  The only problems I had during the first 20 miles were eating my energy gels.  I think the cold thickened them up and made it hard to swallow.  Then at mile 21 the wheels began to come off as I could feel my legs slowly turning to jello. The rest of the race would be in damage control mode.

    Rolling country roads make up the out and back course.

Many times in the past when discussing the marathon distance I have made the following observation and this experience has done nothing to change my mind.  All you can really do in a marathon is get to mile 20 as close to your goal pace as possible and then let the dice fall as they may.  Some days you will miraculously find a second wind that will carry you through to the finish and others you will find yourself engaging in damage control just like me.  In the end I believe it always comes down to a bit of luck.  Even the professionals blow up and find themselves walking it in sometimes. 

I didn't have to walk but my pace did slowly deteriorate as I saw my goal time die right before my eyes. (see my GPS data here)  The painful part is that at that moment there is nothing you can do about it but grind on.  So it went for the last five miles or so, the death march as they say.  Finally I crossed the finish line in first place in a time of 2 hours and 43 minutes.  My loving wife was there to cheer me on and help me get dressed when I couldn't stand (although she did put my pants on backwards.)  It was touch and go for about an hour after the run as my body couldn't decide if it wanted to shut down or not.  Fortunately a Mountain Dew, a massage and some donuts helped still the uncontrollable shaking and the wobbly legs.  

Post race walking is hard.  Pay no attention to the pants that are on backwards.

Overall my marathon experience was very positive.  I ran a bit slower then I would have liked but it was my first overall win at that distance and it was my first marathon in five years (read the Badd Runner post from that race here.)  I'm also very grateful that I was able to find a replacement race on short notice and stay reasonably healthy during my training.  Several weeks later and I am back training steady with no lingering ailments.  My goal now is to have fun with my running over the next few months until our first Badd Baby arrives and steals all of my sleep and energy.  

Grind on weary runners! 

   Post marathon cuddles are the key to recovery. 

Thanks to my lovely wife Rachel for the pictures and the support!  I stole the images from her race recap on the Midtown Maven blog. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Running Past a Gold Medalist - Dave's House

The process of regaining flexibility so my inner knee will not feel pain has not been what I qualify as fun, but the past three weeks I've still enjoyed a short two to four mile run once a week.  Just enough to get my legs nice and warm so I can stretch them out really well.  In the meantime I've been trying to commute to work on a new road bike as it does not seem to be causing any discomfort.

The short two to four mile run is what I want to discuss though, for a very simple reason.  My current residence resides only a mere quarter mile from one Dave Wottle, who many might know is the 1972 Munich Olympics Gold Medalist in the 800 meters.  Not only does his race stick out in many American's minds because he was the "guy who forgot to take his hat off during the National Anthem," but it was just one of those races that is amazing to watch!  

Wottle ran his race at a fairly consistent pace which put his first lap's pace quite slower than those who were leading the chase for gold.  But as one watches the second lap they begin to see Dave Wottle eating up one runner at a time as he appears to be accelerating to un-human speeds.  One runner and then another, he works his way slowly up until the last 100 meters where he lets everything loose.  Even then it is hard to hope he will have enough speed to overcome the last three runners standing in the way of a gold medal.  Somehow he blasts past them and at the line overcomes his final contender and wins the race!

In 1999 I met Dave Wottle while washing cars at my younger brother's fundraiser for their cross-country team.  His daughter Jenny was a freshman that year on the team and we spent a few hours washing cars together.  As things were winding down I heard a voice behind me say, "Hey Brett," and as I turned to face him, "I'm Jenny's dad, Dave Wottle."  Would you believe me if I told you I recognized his voice, even before seeing him, from all of the running movies and documentaries? We chatted for a few minutes and I remember being amazed (really I still am) that a gold medalist had asked me how my running was going!? 

As I run past his house on the short route I now hope will help rehabilitate my knee, I find an immense well of emotions fueling my labored pace.  Dave is Jenny's dad and Jenny is my wife's best friend from high school.  Jenny went on to run on my collegiate team and became my friend too.  And the Wottles are just great people we are blessed to call friends.  But Dave is and will always be the 72 800 meter Olympic gold medalist!  It is nice to sense this as I run past his house, knowing I am passing by one of The Greats.  I imagine him sipping his coffee and looking out the window, naturally he knows when a runner is near, nodding in approval of the offering even if it is meager.  

It inspires me and reminds me of my deep love for running.  Maybe watch the video and let Dave Wottle inspire you too.  If you've already seen it watch it again as I just did.  Amazing!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Running Like a Fish

(I know it's not a picture of a pool but it is water.  I wish I could swim in
this water and not be crushed upon the rocks)
Injury always plays a part in our running.  Sometimes serious and sometimes not.  One never quite knows what sort of injury a current situation might be until back running or still sidelined.

And so the pool for me holds with it a certain disdain.

As a child it was an obvious source of fun, wet noodles, and splashing - honestly it still holds these positive emotions when I see a pool.

Then the pool became a playing field when I joined the swimming team from age five to ten or so.  Those were fun times as well, mixed with all sorts of odd memories from freezing cold water to swim meets in bizarre places to a team I barely knew.  Most of these fuzzy remembrances come from being a kid who had to wear super thick glasses so I could see well, and as you may have guessed, once cannot wear such optical aids while in or around the pool - no contacts at this point.  Funny as it is, when I stop to look back on the window into my past on times when I was without glasses, it seems as though I'm looking now without glasses as though the memories themselves are blurred.

It was in college where the pool took on the dark turn of being a place where I had to go to train due to an injuries.  Endless amounts of pool runs can take their toll on the mind.  Even the smell of the pool can in moments conjure up a montage of never ending water workouts.

Regardless, when their is some pain keeping me from the roads I have two choices.  Move to an activity (such as the pool) that does not bother the pain so I can keep some form of cardio fitness, or just become a useless lump of lethargic laziness putting on the pounds.  I am not good at curbing my eating style and end up taking in way too many calories when I'm injured.

(I took this photo from a website - click anywhere on this link.
 It gets at what I'm trying to say for the most part
Recently a friend from college (Mark McBride) came to visit and he started talking about his Ironman experience.  For some odd reason these conversations were the spark I needed to get me swimming just enough in the pool that I think a childhood switch went off, releasing the idea of the pool as a place of joy back into my heart.  An old home where I suddenly felt much less like a runner trying to swim and more like an old swimmer getting his form back (I'm sure it looked atrocious).

Perhaps it's time for me to learn to love the pool again.  I still yearn the feeling of my feet pounding against the open road, but the run has been rough on the body.  For now I'm a stretching machine with a reborn love for the water surging in my blood - seriously I can't get it out of my ears so I know it's in there. Who knows, this might just be the nudge I needed to get me looking more seriously towards triathlons.

For now I'll be running, but like a fish.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Adding Another BaddRunner to the Pack

Recently I set a new goal for myself.  My aim is to run my legs into the ground sometime prior to January 28th. I'm not trying to permanently ruin my body, but simply be in need of a long break around that time.  The reason is quite simple...Procreation!

My wife and I are expecting our first little BaddRunner in late January and I don't expect to get much quality running done in the immediate aftermath of its birth.  I decided that my first step toward my goal would be to do a marathon in late October.  One of the crazy busy seasons for my job starts in early November and my training is always up and down during that time anyway.  So hopefully I can knock out a marathon before the intense road trips and then stay in shape for some shorter races before Baby Time.

The Spinx Carolina Marathon takes place on October 25th and I am planning on toeing the line there.  The course is rumored to be relatively flat for South Carolina and pretty fast.  It is also an area of the country that I have never visited.  We are hoping to make a nice journey out of it and head to Charleston or some other interesting stops in the area. I have not done a marathon since Boston '09 so the experience will be interesting no matter what else happens on the trip.  

Boston in 2009 with 1 Mile to go. 

Do not adjust your settings, those are Man-Pris pants!

After the race the BaddRunners had a tough time walking down the stairs. 

This season will be the first time in a long time that I have trained with a specific goal in mind.  After running competitively for ten years in school I got a little burned out on tracking mileage, workouts and results.  It will also be exciting to see what kind of motivation and focus I can conjure up for the occasion.  So all aboard the Pain Train and if you see me bearing done on you with the Eye of the Tiger then you best step off the tracks!   

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do the Chasqui Runner Still Exist?

(drawn image of Chasqui runner taken from this link)
A few posts ago Bryan and I wrote a cowritten piece on our visit to some Civil War grounds near Fort Donelson in Tennessee (click here to read the post if you missed it).  One reader commented on the post and asked if I had ever heard of the Chasqui runners.  I did a little bit of online research and found myself reading about the Incan Empire during the height of its glory.

I read a few sources on these runners (and no I do not know how to say the same out loud although it looks straightforward to me - Chasqui) and by all accounts these runners were top notch.  Running at insanely high altitudes and over extremely rocky terrain these runners made up arguably the most efficient post service of all time (click here for the site I like the most for further reading), even besting the Roman system which was carried out, for the most part, on much smoother surfaces and at much lower altitudes.   

It was not possible to read about these runners without imagining what it must have been like to have been one of them.  As a runner who has competed through middle school, high school, and then in college, it is safe to say I have quite an inferiority complex when it comes to my sport.  While when reason is employed and I get beyond just my emotional passion about my own activities and I can understand why so much emphasis is placed on other sports instead of track or cross-country, there is still a yearning to see professional runners on the same level as other professional athletes.  Once every four years we get close for a short amount of time but then running tends to fade back into obscurity, especially in comparison.  

(Yes the feeling of belonging certainly did contribute to our success on
and off the cross-country course.  One example - our principle Dr.
Atkinson attended many our meets, including this one.  I believe he
attended events from every sport but I had never seen a member of faculty
come to watch a cross-country race before - it made a difference)
The strangest thing happened to me my senior year of high school when my family decided to move from Findlay, Ohio to Memphis, Tennessee (more specifically Germantown).  In Findlay being a runner was not very impressive in the eyes of my classmates.  One of my teammates even won the Ohio State Championships individually, though the rest of the school seemed hardly to notice.

When my brother and I started attending Houston High School I saw some drastic differences. The team was much larger in numbers and seemed to be relatively successful (something that had eluded our team in Findlay).  But beyond even these revelations, the students in the school seemed to have an overall genuine interest and even respect for the team.  I could not believe it when my world went from being unnoticed to being thrust just into the fringe of the "in" group.  Trying to explain this experience words feels so very off of what I'm really trying to say, but the difference was there and somehow it was "cool" to be a runner.

While we did not literally "run" an empire by delivering important messages all across a vast territory, we were loved and respected in ways I hope all runners get a chance to feel at some point.  I never felt that sort of communal support previously and certainly have not felt it since then.  It was truly amazing to feel your sport was a part of the bigger picture and was recognized as such.  I believe we ran better for it and certainly took a certain amount of pride with us as went out to compete.

(Taken at a Samford competition - we had such a great team full of
amazing people.  It's hard not to miss running and talking with them)
Perhaps something like this exists in local running communities where people all gather round the common interest of a love for running.  I know in Memphis I felt a similar belonging through the group runs and activities centered around +Breakaway Running.  The community there has built something special and it is my hope we all experience something similar wherever we find ourselves.  Yes, running can be quite solitary by nature but it does not have to be that way.  Maybe it no longer makes sense to have runners like the Chasqui employed to transfer messages and important data, but we can still pause to look back and ponder at what it might have been like.  We can still demand more from our local communities from trails to group runs to a higher level of respect for our past time.

Sometimes I wonder how much money running has raised for various charities.  Or how many lives it has changed through the ever transformational weight loss it offers.  Just in my life running has established scholarship foundations, given people new purpose, saved lives, created life long friendships, and much more.  Maybe, just maybe, the Chasqui are still out there secretly running the empires of the world.  I suppose it is possible.  I'll keep getting slower and slower as time goes on (apparently) but there is so much more to running than winning races and having a fast time.  Volunteering, mentoring, coaching, and raising funds to name a few.

Lets keep running and changing this world for the better - what do you say?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Road Review: Huntsville, AL

My job as a traveling salesman keeps me ramblin' from state to state across the South and I get the chance to experience a lot of cities that I wouldn't normally visit.  One of those places is Huntsville, AL.  I used to always see signs for Huntsville on highway 65 when we would drive between Birmingham and Nashville for cross country races, but I never had a reason to get off and head east.  Now I go there every few months on business to visit the local running stores and sell them my fabulous product lines.  Of course the best way to see and feel any city is to run it!  It wasn't until recently that I had the chance to hook up with an ole college teammate and run the Rocket City.

The Huntsville Town Square

I met my buddy, Bo Brawner, early one morning before my appointments and he led me on a loop through the old part of Huntsville.  I love history stuff and we saw a lot of antebellum homes, the lovely town square and the natural spring that originally provided water to the citizens.  We also saw John Morgan's house (Confederate General) and a bank that Billy the Kid allegedly robbed.  My buddy Bo is a huge fan of the area and spoke of great running venues, especially the trails in the surrounding mountains.

      Bank robbed by Billy the Kid

A few weeks after my run with Bo I was back to help out with a Triathlon that Pearl Izumi was sponsoring.  The event was at a park about 30 minutes south of the city on the Tennessee River, but it gave me another chance to spend some time on the ground.  I must say I now have a very positive view of the Huntsville area.  There is great access to some rivers and lakes, it is right next to some mountains (or at least large hills) and there is a strong NASA presence. #NeverTooOldForSpaceCamp  Nice to meet you Huntsville.  I look forward to running you again. 

The packet pick up/ Expo for the Wet Dog Triathlon 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How Do You Reach the Finish Line?

Competitive running has always held an unusual mystique in my heart.  Perhaps part of it is where I learned to run and who ran with me, teaching me what it means.  Surely not everyone has run down the same path to discovering what running means to them and why they do it.

When we move into racing things often change and our motivation or even our attitude towards others can shift even if unintended.  The pain, the endurance, the sweat and heat can keep us from thinking as clearly as we might otherwise.  There are a few post race stories my parents have relayed to me that I cannot even remember, and the things I am reported doing or saying certainly do not seem like who I want to be.

But when someone in front of you takes a wrong turn in the heat of a race, do you speed up or shout out to let the person know of their error?  If someone tumbles do you jump over them to take advantage of their spill, or stop to help the person up?

A little while back there was a stir in the running community when Ivan Fernandez Anaya, an international runner from Spain intentionally lost a race to Abel Mutai by showing him his error, when Mutai lost track of where the finish line was at the end of an intensely competitive race.  From all of the comments and stories I've read after this uncommon moment, there are many different opinions on the matter and what should be done, should a situation similar to this fall in one's lap.  After all I have read here is what I think.

Just because the gun is shot, someone says go, a referee drops a puck or blows a whistle, or some other means of competition begins, does not necessarily give license for a competitive nature to obliterate all of our human nature.  Do we really want to finish a race having proclaimed through our actions "Win at ALL Costs"?  If Ivan had sped past Abel it might have won him a place on Spain's team for international racing or surely there may have been some monetary value to winning the race.  But at what cost to himself?

Having competed in all manner of sports over the years growing up, and of course random other contests such as who can pee the furthest, there seems to be more at stake then just another championship/medal for the wall/trophy for the case/whatever else a win might earn.  Sometimes the manner in which we reach the finish line can change everything.

Even if no one else was watching our actions, the course we run to reach the finish line changes us in the least, which is no small thing.  It would be great to one day tell my son/daughter of all the races I've won in the course of my racing days, but I think I might prefer to have a few Ivan Fernandez Anaya moments to share with the people I care about.

It's true that I am now older and no longer running competitively, so maybe it's easy to say things in this manner.  But I can see now that my perspectives during my racing days were not always the best.  One of the things I like best about my newfound vantage point is the communal aspect to running.  It helps to see the costs of winning and running as an individual in fresh eyes.  I have no problem with winning races - just questioning the process.

I applaud Ivan and his decision to help his fellow runner.  It is with honor I share his story and allow it to interject into my own running story.  Run, run, run... but think as you do it.  The running of the course might just make the race, even the person.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Running Church Experience...

(Shot taken on the trek to see Hardman's Hole - deepest
natural hole in New Zealand.  Beautiful scenery)
We are all defined by many different terms, though often misinterpreted or at least colored through a lens we do not always like, by those who hear the labels attached to our identity as a person.  It is part of what our stories take on as we move through our lives, connecting to ideas, activities, people, and organizations.

Running is one of these defining labels in my life.  I am a runner, which holds with it certain defining characteristics in my eyes and in the eyes of others.  At times this is beneficial as people think of me as fit or capable of certain physical feats, which may or may not be true depending on my physical shape at the time.  There are other moments when it holds some form of negative connotation in the minds of others.  While I'm not aware what all these might be, it causes people to shout things, throw things, and thrust obscene gestures out of windows as they drive by a runner just out for some exercise.

Another term that defines a bigger part of who I am as a person, if that's possible, is the word "Christian."  A term with more baggage and many more positive and negative attributes in people's hearts and minds.  In a further defining, which I struggled against for years and finally gave into for many reasons, I am also defined by the word "Baptist" as I am an ordained Baptist minister.

I do not apologize for any three of these terms or the negative feelings they might drudge up in your heart, but as with everything else in my life I choose to define myself in light of these terms in my own way and my own understanding of them.  There are certainly many people who have suffered to some extent, and most likely more people who will, in respect to my life and my choices as a running Christian Baptist - for all of those folks I am certainly sorry.  I know, that while this is true, in my own struggle to discern what it means to be a running Christian Baptist many other lives have bounced off of mine and have been made the better for it - for all of those folks I give thanks.

(Shot taken on the trail to Mt. Everest - run run run run run!)
All this said, when I woke up this morning thinking of heading to a local church for a service, I decided instead to go on a run.  Not only is this in part due to Sarah working and my despising going without her (I know, I know I should still go), but on top of that I have been recently trying to find new ways to make running more of  a spiritual activity.  So I slowly worked into my mobile church experience on the run with two thoughts in my mind.

One, I had been thinking about this world and the condition of it, leading me into thinking on the overall status of humanity.  Are we born bad or innocent?  In the end maybe it doesn't matter if we are born bastards or are taught to become bastards, but we all seem to be doing the best we can in spite of my favorite quote describing the basic human condition.  Dr. Cox from the show Scrubs said in one episode to sum up his feeling of people, "we are all just bastard coated bastards with bastard filling."

Already thinking along these lines, and with a smile on my face, I decided it would be good to read a passage from the Bible before heading out on my church run.  I opened Psalms and saw a line already highlighted from a while back - "May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise;" 119:41.  This led me to the second thought, which was basically, yes we are all bastard coated bastards with bastard filling, but the most basic promise we get in the Christian setting is that as believers we are no longer bastards.  Our bastard condition has been redeemed and our broken relationship has been restored.  We might still behave like bastards on occasion, but we no longer own the term.

(Shot taken on the Milford Trek in NZ - need to go back and run it)
I headed out for my run with one word overwhelming everything else in my head - joy.  Yes I was a
bastard and at times I can revert back to acting like a bastard, but in truth this part of my identity is gone.  I know my Creator and our relationship has been made whole.  It was a joyful run during which time I sang a little, chatted with some sheep and cows nearby, and spent some time in prayer.

As runners were all different, some gravitating towards mountain trails and others happy on roads 24/7. Perhaps by now, for better or worse, you might have guessed that some of the basic characteristics attributed to the words Christian or Baptist do not apply to me just as ultra running does not apply to me.  Along this thought line, what words apply to your life and what defines you as a person?

If Dr. Cox is right, we are in need of some help.  I've met a lot of folks along the run so far, some bastards and some not so much.  Today was just one of those days where the various parts of me merged and I had to write on religion and running.  I suppose it was the joy that forced me to sit down and write.  The joy of knowing I once used to be a full fledged bastard, a bastard who now has a Father/Mother/Creator.  No longer bastard filled, I'm now filled with the Spirit of God.  And though when I run I'm coated with sweat, it is no longer the bastard coated sheen in which I used to be covered.

(Shot taken from a run that works it's way up a long stretch of beach in
Oreti New Zealand)
We are all runners.  I'm just a runner who is also a believer in Jesus Christ as the resurrected son of God.  This belief has qualified me to continue running now towards a different finish line and with quite different purposes.  Even when my knees are shot and my will to hit the trails long gone, I will still be running!  You might be a runner with different spiritual beliefs, or none at all.  I only say this - keep your eyes open out there and peek around at the wonders we runners see out and about.  Don't let the abuse of bastard filled bastards with bastard filling keep you from seeing possible joys, relationship, views, and maybe even God.

Keep running all you runners.  Read about running, talk about running, write about running, and all along the way keep your eyes open for the joy of running is there!

*Bryan's comment adds the video - can't believe I didn't think to add it.  So here you go!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Civil War Running: BaddRunners Reunion Tour!

(We have to utmost respect for the history of the Civil War
but let's be honest - sometime's you've got to ride the
cannon, or at least Bryan does.  Wonder what would
happen if that bad boy went off?)
Running has always permeated the depths of society.  It is deep at the core of the history of what it means to be human and what it means to try and rise above the limitations of what humanity has to offer as it tests our abilities.  During any spare time for thousands of years humans have drawn a line in the sand and said, "Go!"  But even when our pastimes cease due to the grips of war, running has still been a quiet passenger working behind the scenes, or sometimes at the forefront, as a tool not only to be grasped but often as a game changer.

One only has to watch the movie "Last of the Mohicans" to see the use of runners during the French and Indian War ("Dude, Native Americans is the preferred nomenclature").  And while sadly Paul Revere rode a horse instead of running to announce "the British are coming," the movie "The Patriot"hints at how scouts who knew the wilderness would run secret messages to the armies, often on foot.  Why would movies lie about these things?  I think I remember surely reading something about these running messengers in some history books somewhere, probably.
(In honor of the occasion I grew and then shaved my beard
into a unique facial hair style called the "Burnside."  Mim-
icking Ambrose Burnside's amazingly intense choice of
facial hair I certainly felt the part while running over the
hills surrounding Fort Donelson.)

And of all the examples of running in military history, the most infamous is Phidippedes, who's name all runners should know by heart.  It is well known by most people that Phidippedes ran from Marathon to Athens to announce their stunning and unexpected victory so the city would fight the oncoming Persians instead of surrendering.  It is said that Phidippedes then collapsed, exhausted from his run, and died there in Athens after delivering his most important message.  This has always seemed amazing and yet somewhat dramatic.  Why did he die?  Surely he ran fast but his death had to be created to make the story better.  Plenty of people run marathons all of the time without dying.  Then I found a website claiming there is more to the story!  How have I not heard this before?

(Bryan rolling through the hallowed trails
on quite a beautiful day I might add.)
It was not simply a marathon Phidippedes ran.  According to this source the days leading up to the footrace to Marathon included two other runs for our beloved "first" marathoner adding up to 280 miles of total running!  This site suggests he ran to Sparta to enlist their help, some 140 miles away up and down mountains, then ran back to Marathon, 140 miles return trip, and then marched with the Athenians to go battle against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon!  It was only then, after the 280 miles of mountainous running and fighting all day in battle, Phidippides was asked to run to Athens faster then the Persians by sea and deliver his message of victory.  No wonder the man died!

So as my family prepared to visit a Civil War site a few weeks ago, the question then became how was running involved in the +Civil War?  From what I have read it sounds as though +Stonewall Jackson was capable of moving his troops so fast from place to place they mine as well have been running (they might have been, and perhaps this is where barefoot running got it's start - too soon? Click here to read an account of how effective he was at moving troops on foot).  And while the telegraph moved faster than any man on foot could have carried a message, surely there were heated moments of battle where important information needed to reach an general before something dastardly happened.  Telegram lines get cut, horses might not be available (shot, stolen, runoff, etc), and some times a single person on foot is the only way.  I stay in shape just in case.

(Here is where the river bent past the well placed fort to
control who and what was allowed past during a time
when rivers where the highways)
In honor of this age old tradition, and mostly because we were going to a Civil War battlefield and we like to run, my brother +Bryan Baddorf  and I laced up our plushly smooth +Pearl Izumi running shoes (well I was trying a different pair but still had Pearl gear on) and ran proudly through the fields at the notable Fort Donelson.  We were doing what we loved and exploring one of our favorite parts of history, but we were also connecting to something more significant.  We did not imagine in our minds we were running top secret messages and trying to break through enemy lines (at least I was not), but we did compel our bodies up and down those hills surrounding Fort Donelson where a similar struggle of self over body had ensued before.  We eagerly devoured information on metal signs whispering to us of the men who fought on that ground, who were also compelled by ideologies and beliefs.
(A better shot shows how anyone wanting access to the
South along the Cumberland river would have to first deal
with these cannons.  This river fort protected anything
beyond, most notably Nashville)
Fort Donelson was the Union's first major victory during the Civil War and as such was a great destination for our family's (a bunch of 'yankees') second Civil Wargasm (see Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic for description of Wargasm or just use your imagination.)  This Wargasm was all the sweeter because Brett missed the first one to Shiloh Battlefield.  Not to mention the fact that he is living on the other side of the world and we don't get to see much of the guy.  Still, running is a unique bonding experience and we were very blessed to have the chance to trot over this hallowed ground.

We could go on forever describing how special and long overdue our reunion was, but you get the idea.  We just hope to have many more similar opportunities ahead of us.  Obviously the activity that we love does not just run throughout our personal history but also throughout the human experience.  Whether you are carrying messages in battle or jogging around the park, life is much more interesting if you're running it!

(We both grew facial hair for the occasion as well, as  any dedicated person would.  Bryan chose the mustache and though I'm not sure he modeled it after any particular person, the mustache clearly was a solid choice of facial hair during the Civil War.  Just look at photos.  For mine, I had a few tough choices and finally settled on a facial grooming called the "Burnside," named after Ambrose Burnside.  Coincidently, this is the same person from where the word "sideburns" comes from.  So go ahead and thank him for his mighty contributions to the facial hair world.  And while you're thinking about how weird it really is that we call anything on our face "sideburns," go ahead and click on this link to experience some great Civil War facial hair.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life of a Traveling Salesman

It has been far too long since this Baddrunner has posted.  Part of the reason is because of my extensive travel responsibilities for my job as a traveling salesman.  What do I sell?  Running of course!  Or at least running products.  I represent Pearl Izumi, CW-X compression, Soleus timing and Pocket Fuel nutrition.  I travel around the mid South and sell my products to the local Running Specialty stores.  The travels can sometimes be a curse and sometimes a blessing.  Being on the road offers the unique opportunity to run in new and exciting areas, but it also creates obstacles that can cause you to have a terrible run or skip it entirely.  The following are just some of the locations and scenarios that I've encountered along the way.

I set up a Pearl Izumi shoe try on booth during the Endurance Challenge in Jonesboro, AR.  This is a great event put on by Gearhead Outfitters, but definitely not for the faint of heart.  This is an all day event, but the account did a phenomenal job keeping the runners fueled and happy!  I had done a long run the day before and so decided not to run.  This is a mistake I will not make next year.  I plan to run a few loops myself in this beautiful park.

I was in the Chattanooga area to show CW-X and Soleus product to the local stores and had a great run at the Chickamauga Battlefield.  It was perfect weather and plenty of room to roam.  Plus I freakin' love history stuff!

 Pearl Izumi sponsored a trail race at Loretta Lynn's ranch outside of Nashville and I was on hand to educate and offer try on shoes.  Nashville Running Company put on this race and it was gorgeous.  I also failed to enter the race here, but it is a mistake I won't make again.

I stopped by to see The Runner's Hub in Clarksville, TN sometime close to Christmas.  I didn't have time to get a run in, but still enjoyed the historic downtown scene.

My wife/ business partner/ life coach/ soul mate and I traveled to New Orleans to help out at the Jackson Day Race in the French Quarter.  I was so excited to work the Quarter and had several great runs while I was there.  We were happy to work with Southern Runner for this event.

When I was seeing my accounts in south Alabama, I drove by the White House.  Well okay, it was the first Confederate White House but still pretty cool!  I told you I love the history stuff.  I did get a nice run in this trip as well.

We went back to New Orleans to work at the Rock N Roll Marathon expo.  My buddies Bryce and Butze were running the full and so I hopped in to pace them through the first half.  I had a festive time, even grabbing a Jello Shot along the way thanks to Louisiana Running Company.

Pearl Izumi did a small booth at the Mercedes Birmingham Marathon in February and we were on hand to pump up the brand.  We worked with Trak Shak for this event.  Thanks to those kind folks for the tasty beers.  I bought my shoes there when I was in college at Samford University.  Great shop.

I struck a pose in front of the old Samford Track.  They had to build a new track across the street after I tore this one up!  I always enjoy running some of our old college training loops when I'm in Birmingham.

Then of course whenever I come home to Memphis (it always goes down smooth) I have good training partners to suffer with  There are also some great run shops that I get the privilege to service like the folks at Breakaway Running.

The travel definitely makes this job interesting.  I'm so thankful to get a chance to see all the great running stores across my region and interact with some amazing people.  I am also extremely blessed to have the opportunity to share some of my experiences with my wife along the way.  I look forward to more adventures in the future and will try to post as many as possible.

See you out there!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Running: A Spiritual Journey

I am not sure of your story, but running has always been spiritual for me.  The commitment of pushing the body beyond comfort was obviously more than just something anyone does for fun.

In the summer of 1998 I learned to love running on the empty Memphis streets at 4 o'clock in the morning.  Something about it fused with me deep inside my spirit.

During the fall of 1998 I was attempting to discern who I was after running had been so utterly wrenched from my grips.  As a tattered and torn mess my life was difficult to recognize in the absence of running.

In the aftermath of this mess and in the winter of 1998 I embraced a life-changing relationship with God in an attempt to restore a disoriented and disturbed spirit.

Since that December so long ago, the journey to re-introduce running into this new life has been entirely and fantastically spiritual.  The surgery.  The lifelong friendships.  The attempts to use running as a tool for the benefit of others.  The places it has taken me.  The pursuit of a bodily summit.  Education.  A wife.

What would my life look like if running had never been an integral part of forming who I am as a person?  It is truly impossible to know just how drastically different everything would be.

Now that I am waylaid again as I wait for my body to heal, it is my spirit that must learn patience.  Patience to learn how to define itself as this vessel that contains it puts the pieces back together.  Patience in loving life beyond running once again.

The body is healing, I think.  It is my hope I will be out there running fairly soon.  It's been just around a month since my mountain marathon and close to three months since my knee started bothering me.

I put a video together of shots taken on my iPhone during the run.  At the time this song by Mumford and Sons, "Hopeless Wanderer," felt appropriate.  As I watch now I feel as though it somehow taps into my spirit and how running has become part of what connects me to the Holy Other.

When this body is done running it will all be alright.  My spirit will continue to run even when my legs have given out.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Black Dog is Lingering

Well as it turns out "niggles" can turn into full fledged injuries.  Runners are notorious for being pretty terrible at coping with the inability to run - I am no better.  As I sit here writing a good two weeks after the run where my knee finally said, "Hey, you really should stop running!"  In all fairness my knee had been complaining loudly for some time and I knew I was pushing it way too far... but I wanted to run.  I ran the mountain marathon knowing I shouldn't.  Two days later I couldn't take it anymore and absolutely had to go run.  That was the day I knew I was done for a while.  I have been resisting the overwhelming urge to run everyday since.

The Black Dog is an ancient symbol for depression.  I found this description online - "an ever-present companion, lurking in the shadows just out of sight, growling, vaguely menacing, always on the alert; sinister and unpredictable, capable of overwhelming you at any moment" (pretty interesting and worth a read).  My first major injury entering college was my first encounter with said black dog.  Since then I have always struggled to keep running in the proper balance with my life so as to never see the black dog again,  a contest which I have proven both good and bad at in various times.  The hardest part for me is a mix of the physical and spiritual joy I receive from running - the physical from endorphins and such, the spiritual from a deep connection I feel with God when I run.

The black dog lurks nearby, I can sense him - no, I smell him.  The article quoted above mentions at the end that the black dog ultimately is a companion that needs to be left behind.  He is a companion we cannot afford to keep.  It is not for me to bring the black dog in, give him a bath, and name him.  No!  I will remind myself of the other joys I have in life.  I will leave the black dog behind.  

My ultra running buddy +Benjamin Winrow has been exposing me to all sorts of wonderful running videos.  This video on Anna Frost really touched me.  Not only does it perfectly speak to this post but watching it was like glimpsing into my own past.  Her words strike not just one chord with my heart but echo almost perfectly exactly how I felt my freshman year of college when I was a broken runner.  Please take a moment to watch it as it will completely move you!
This is the link to her blog if you'd like to hear more about her running:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mind versus Body

(Before the run - ignorance equals happy days)
 2014 Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon
      (click on the name to see more about it)

So who does not want to run a marathon through the mountains?  When Ben first started tossing around the idea with me I thought the same thing most people would think, "Um, no thank you.  I appreciate the invitation but please go to the looney bin where you might find some people dumb enough to run this with you." Well Ben is quite convincing and after doing a few training runs with him I began to see the benefits of running in the mountains - mostly the views.  The challenge of it is nice but to be honest it is not the biggest draw for me.  It feels nice when I am done but during the event itself I can lose focus on why I am doing such a thing to myself.  
(At the start of the race the Maori did a Haka war dance to
help inspire us on our way - pretty awesome)
(I tried to snag some shots along the way.  Sometimes it was
too dangerous and I had to pay attention but at other times
I stole a few beautiful pics)

So who is dumb enough to sign up to do a mountain marathon with Ben... yeah.  I was suspicious when looking over the registration information and finding out there was a compulsory kit each runner needed to carry.  No big deal, only the following items: short sleeve thermal top, long sleeve thermal top, full length tights, seam sealed waterproof jacket, thermal beanie, gloves, and a first aid kit with - a crepe bandage, tape, ten bandaid strips, a triangular bandage, small scissors, and a survival bag. This should have been a good indication that perhaps I should just leave this run to the more experienced trail runners. "No," Ben would say, "That gear is just in case the weather turns nasty when you're up on the peaks. No worries" (oh right that makes it sound better).  I managed to round up all of the "compulsory gear" and Ben let me borrow one of his running bags so that I could carry it all with me, along with two water bottles.  The day before the race I went to have my bag inspected and discovered my short sleeve top did not count as thermal and what exactly a survival bag was so I could buy one.  It's basically a survival blanket but bigger (those metallic looking things they throw on people when they need to be shielded from the elements).  I purchased the necessary items, stuffed my bag with it all, ate some delicious dinner, and headed back to get some much needed rest before the big day.  All the talk was done and this thing was finally upon me.

(As I said, the main advantage to this kind of running is
definitely the scenery - unbelievable until you see it)
I believe it was 4:15 am when Ben's alarm shattered the perfect tranquility of our hotel room and my pre-race off-and-on night of rest (always hard to just get the body to calm down before such an event).  Why so early you might be wondering?  We needed to wake early enough for the lengthy process of making it to the starting line before 8:00 am.  Ben drove us to the finish line which included driving on unsurfaced roads and quite a bumpy experience, and Helen, Ben's wife, road along so she could have the vehicle for the rest of the day until we finished (what a support she was to the experience!).  Then we all loaded onto four wheel drive short buses with what I guessed to be around 20-30 people each and were driven to the starting line.    
(Yep, we crossed several streams and rivers. This was one of
the smallest - pretty epic shot of this guy that was
running in front of me)
 I have to pause here to describe our ride to the start of the race.  I had just heard about a certain road called "Skippers Road" or "Skipper's Canyon Road" while being transported by a local a week before.  When we talked about this particular road he mentioned that almost all rental cars specifically mention it in their insurance policy and state that it does not cover driving on this nasty road.  Not only is it bumpy and plagued with holes, but it also winds down the edge of the canyon and can be quite dangerous.  I saw the sign as we were turning onto this road in our gigantic vehicle and the entire conversation came back to mind.  It was not long until I felt and saw why this road was left off of insurance policies!  Woah.  As Ben said, "This road reminds me of the roads in Nepal."  I clinched up a few times on the road down as we rounded bends and I felt as though I was peering directly down into the canyon out of my canyon-side window.
(I wanted to add a few shots that really
captured the steepness of some of our
But... we made it - obviously otherwise I would not be writing this post.  Even getting to the starting line was an adventure as we had to cross over a bridge twenty people a time at a quick walking pace to keep it from swaying too much.  Then down a hill to a river bank we went where we heard our final instructions and were motivated by the Maori Haka dance pictured above.  Off we went properly motivated, carrying all of our gear, and excited about what the next twenty-six miles had to offer us (some people were doing the 30k run which is a little shorter).  And everything went really for me for the first ten miles... the problem was that it was a marathon and not a ten mile race.

There were a few issues that added up to my performance - we will call them issues instead of excuses because who really cares.  But over the past month or so I've been nursing a "niggle" in my knee (click here to read a previous post where I talk about this a little bit more).  It was getting the better of me and in an attempt to keep my knee from exploding unexpectedly on a run I started taking off some time.  Regrettably when I finally decided my knee pain was too bad to train properly this past month for the run it had passed the point where any refund was possible.  And since the entry fee is nothing to scoff at I decided I would still run anyway.  I think this was a good choice as the marathon was a good experience.
(Great view but why do we have to climb it??  To be fair
the view was better at the top!)
Now that the run is over I believe a new anti-inflammatory medication I was trying out may have contributed to dehydrating my body some.  I say this because I began to develop cramps in numerous muscles, which has rarely happened before, and overall my body started to reject my attempts to push it onwards (and I was drinking quite a bit during the run).  Regardless, it was a great run and I am proud to have it under my belt, even if I will have to take some time off to let my knee heal - I might just become a fish and live in the pool for a while.

(At the top of the two main climbs there was an aid station
with a wonderful volunteer to give us water/electrolytes
and sometimes snacks like Jelly Belly beans)
This trail was the most technical trail I have ever run in my life.  Most of my efforts were spent trying not to fall off of the edge of some precipice or keeping from tumbling.  We ran on ridge lines, climbed hills steeper than any I remember climbing, descended monstrous downhills, crossed streams, waded a river, pulled ourselves over boulders with rope, scaled a ladder, leapt/ran down gravel/rock slides, and crossed a stream twenty-three times or so the last five kilometers (that does not include how many times we crossed stream before the final 5k).

It was an amazing experience overall but I cannot say that it was not without some major trials. After mile ten my body started to reject the idea of mountain running being fun.  In fact, as I neared the halfway point of the run I honestly doubted my ability to finish whatever this grueling course had in store for me.  As I neared the halfway point of the course my mindset had become so poor I had decided I would ask them for a ride to the finish line.  The lines had already been rehearsed in my head, most likely something about my knee, and then something funny happened.  As I approached the aid station at the half
(No real trail here - just running down.  I
quite liked this part really.  I felt free as
though I was just out running on
mountains like they were a playground)
marathon one of the aid workers said, "How's it going out there?"  I responded with, "Rough."  He almost instantly quirked back in a playful manner, "Rough day in the office aye?"  I have yet to discern if it was this short conversation, the runners who came up behind me (I recognized one and knew they were good runners), or if it was just the much needed food but I found myself continuing the course.  

Why?  How would I finish another thirteen miles when everything inside of me felt as though I barely finished the first thirteen?  I knew there were still some major climbs and I dreaded them.  

Something got me moving.  Somehow I managed to try and stay with that group of guys as long as possible.  And slowly but surely I worked my way through the rest of the course. 

The ascents were more brutal than my mind had imagined.  The descents were longer and more detrimental to my body than I could have predicted.  As the muscles in my body all started to revolt in their spastic seizing cramps I was forced to stop multiple times and stretch waiting for them to loosen their tight kung fu grip.  It was not fun to watch as others would run on by, envying their lack of lactic acid in their legs or whatever was causing my cramps.  But on we all went and up and down we all staggered, some faster and some slower.  There were moments when my mind found what I was doing to be a betrayal against all of what it means to be a human, while there 

(This picture is significant to me because it is where I knew
I would have no choice but to finish the whole race - the
halfway point where I kept going)
were other moments when the feat before me or the mountain I had just climbed was all it meant to be human.

With such a strange confluence of emotions and thoughts the marathon became much more of a journey than a run or race.  While it is true I still clung deep down to the self-centered thoughts of, "What will my wife think of me if I do not finish?" or "Man Ben is going to really make fun of me for coming in so slow." or even, "I am probably in last place and it is so embarrassing," there was another and deeper part of me that saw through all of that to the truth.  None of that mattered and most of it was entirely false.  Sure there is competition and pride and selfishness routed in all of what kept me going, but there was also something more real trying to uproot all of that other foolishness.  Maybe a connection to something greater, older, more pure, and even utterly more simple.  I grasped at it while I ran, when I could, fading out of my own thoughts and into the rhythm of the landscape.
(Our first climb after the halfway point... it...just...kept...
going.  But don't worry, there was more for all)

But how can I explain what I barely glimpsed out there?  I wish the pictures could show what it is to see these sites.  I wish it was as basic as me saying something like, "The views make it worth the effort."  There is something more primordial in the event.  As the mystical "unicorn" so the speak, it elusively dangled its scent before me for a few moments during the run and now as I look back in my heart's eye I can almost see it.  Like a dream the memory fades as I grasp for it.  Yet even if I could get a more firm hold on even the concept of what was happening I doubt my words would hold a candle to what was happening yesterday.

During the last five kilometers of this run I found myself speaking to my body, begging it to relax.  I had been cramping off and on for so long and
(This might be the best selfie I have ever taken - phew)
to be honest I was just tired of having to stop. I had the energy to finish and I desperately wanted to do so.  It is amazing what the mind will remember at times like these.  Our coach in college brought in a real crazy guy who wanted us to learn to relax our bodies so that we could practice more efficient breathing.  He took us through some basic yoga techniques, minus too much of the stretching, and he explained to us that we could focus on different body parts and make them relax.  With around what I guessed to be about 3,000 meters to go (just under two miles) I began to speak more directly to my body, imploring the techniques from a dark room so long ago.

My left abductor on my inner leg had been the main culprit and was not happy about my wanting to finish this run.  With a lot of focus, pretty much everything I had, I spoke out loud to myself, "Relax the left abductor."  It's grip remained.  In a stronger voice, "Relax the left abductor!"  It loosened a little bit and I followed  this up by calming my body as
(I had to whip out my camera and take a shot of this ridge
we were running up.  I kept thinking we would just run out
of space - so much ascending)
much as possible and whispering, "Relax the left abductor."  To my surprise it released and I kept running without having to stop and stretch!  This technique worked to get me safely to the finish line without having to stop and stretch one more time - I was ecstatic!  Who knows what was going on there or if I could have done that earlier to help combatant the ever strong revolt of the body but it certainly worked near the end of one of, if not, my toughest run ever.  I laughed to myself as it reminded me of a scene from the movie For the Love of the Game - a movie about baseball starring Kevin Costner.  In the film a professional baseball player is able to block out the crowd by saying the words, "Clear the mechanism" to himself (I'll post a link to the scene below).

There is so much more I could say about this run and I have said way too much already!  A special thanks to Ben, Helen, Miriam, Gordon Shona, Cath, and Simon for waiting and cheering me on as I finished as though I had just won the race.  What a way to finish!  It turns out Ben was not ready to make fun of me for finishing so slowly but had only words of encouragement for finishing my first mountain trail run (I knew my mind had been lying to me out there).

I have added a few more pics because they are really the best part anyway.  There will even be a video or two of the ridge line running and crossing a stream.  I hope you enjoy them - maybe go for a nice long run sometime soon.

(Here is the video clip from the movie I was talking about earlier - pretty awesome)