9.16.2014

3 Idiots Invade the KT82 Relay


In December of 2013, three Idiots started kicking around the idea of running in a new 82-mile relay called KT82. It started from St. Charles, MO and went to Hermann, MO largely along the Katy Trail.  There was an option to do it as a 6-person or 3-person team to cover the 18 legs of the race. Sure, it was a big commitment, but it felt like spring would never get here much less August 30th.  The answer was an easy "yea why not... I think....82miles... gulp".

Some quick math showed that the distance per person would be roughly 27 miles for the day on a 3-man team. There are plenty of ultra runners in the IRC that might think 82 miles solo is a piece of cake. Our team was not made up of seasoned ultra runners.

At this point in our story, between the three of us we had run exactly zero 20 mile runs.  None of us had ever run a relay race before.  The logical thing to do was to find three more people and do the 6-person.  Being Idiots, we decided to do the 3-person option.  Go big or go home, right?

We were fortunate enough to get picked in the lottery for a spot in the event. Over 400 teams applied for one of the 200 spots.  Now it was officially on – we had to figure out how to run 82 miles in a day as a team.

Of course after we were signed up and paid in full, we start hearing lovely things from people like, “Running the Katy Trail is pure mental terrorism,” or, “That running surface is nasty and will kick your butt.”  Sounds fantastic!

Some research on the legs proved that no one got a free lunch with their position on the team. Runner #1 got over 31 miles on his shoes for the day. Runners #2 & #3 got some gnarly single track trails full of rollers and tree roots, not to mention their legs coming home were longer.

Fast forward through all of the logistics and planning that is required to race day.  Yes, planning is important to these events, but it is also boring to read about.  The most important thing we had going for us from a planning perspective was Jason – our full time driver that wasn’t running the race.

Jason was our hero. He didn't run. He didn’t really know two of the three of us all that well or at all.  He did it to help us out and see what kind of trouble we had gotten ourselves into, and his positive attitude was there for us constantly.  It was a huge help for none of the runners to have to deal with driving these small gravel roads in God’s Country, especially since a 3-person team left little down time in between runs.

On race day our starting time was based on the estimated paces we turned in during sign up, and we were a little nervous. We had no idea how much or little recovery we would get when we weren’t running.  Could we actually run the paces we turned in?  If we went too slowly, we were destined for the sag wagon.  Too fast and we’re going to burn out before the end.

Shortly after arriving at the starting line, it became abundantly clear that we were in the minority regarding the number of runners per team.  We just weren't seeing other 3-man teams. None. Clearly we were living up to our team name of "3 Idiots".  During that "oh crap" realization moment (that was never whispered or spoken aloud), we took a breath and trusted our training would get us to mile 82. Jokes were made like, "Drive fast or I'll beat you to the exchange point".  We chose to have fun with the day instead of fearing failure.

Our pact going in was simple: don't get mad at one another no matter how things would shake out during race day.  Sounded good in theory, but time would tell how true we were to our word. Three smelly runners and one patient driver stuck in a truck all day long. Three runners that each had to pull off daily distance PR's to complete the race. There were bound to be logistical issues with this being the first time the event was hosted. The potential for anger and frustration were real, but we were not going to let it happen. Besides drinking water and not dying, we had to keep smiling too.

Here was the key to the relay going really well. We truly enjoyed each other's company. We might not medal in this race, but we didn't care. We were going to give it everything we had for ourselves and the team. The support and encouragement through the day from our teammates was awesome. It truly did feel like a team all day long. That was critical.

During the run we used a basic rotation of responsibilities. One runner took the handoff and headed out.  The other teammate mother-henned the poor sap who just finished. "You need to eat." "When have you last had salt?" "Tell me what you need and I'll get it." The guy that just completed his run got in the back seat and did what he had to do for himself. The fresh person then rode shotgun, helped the driver navigate, and got focused on taking the next exchange.

The great part of the relay experience was definitely the exchange points. It felt like a mini finish line over and over all day long. The runner seeing the cluster of parked vans, tents and cheering runners on the horizon. The two other teammates seeing their friend pop into view in that shirt color your eyes were straining to see. Screaming at the guy coming in to keep kicking just a few more yards. Being surrounded by good folks going throughout the same thing we were. It got us fired up time and again for over 12 hours.

At the exchange moment, the individual taking on the next leg made it a point to offer support and gratitude for what their fellow runner had just accomplished.  Sure, we could have grabbed the baton and taken off like a bat out of hell, but it was about so much more than the run.  It was about letting your teammate know that you were grateful for what he went through to get that baton into your hand.  Running away from your two teammates and driver, you felt obligated to run your heart out and put that baton in the next person's hand.

We absolutely respected the distance going in, but those breaks while waiting for your next go of it were not bouncing us back like we thought they might. Heart rates were not dropping as low in between runs as we guessed. Methodical bouts of foam rolling, fueling and hydrating could only do so much. The really fast teams that started late in the morning were flying past us like it was a 5k now, and we were getting tired.

It got hot. The breeze got still. Water got low. Legs got heavy. The Katy Trail seemed to go on to infinity with no end in sight. Still, knowing those guys were waiting for you down the road was such a different motivator than just trying to get to a finish line solo. Slow down. Take a little walk in some rare shade. Do whatever you have to do to get to the next exchange.

The next thing we knew our last leg was in front of us. Less than three miles to go, and we were all smiles.

In Hermann we met our anchor runner about a quarter mile from the finish to run across the line together. Every team did it, but it never got old watching the smiles and fist pumps as teams completed their runs.

It was something special to cross the finish line with teammates that share a passion for running but more importantly care enough to leave it all out there for their team. We loved it, wouldn't trade it, and accept that we will never have the opportunity to live that day like we did ever again.  You only get to do something for the first time once.

In the end there were 183 teams that showed up that morning and ran the race. Only 15 teams ran it as a 3-person team. Our little squad that had never run a 20-miler before we signed up managed to put up a time better than half of the 6-person teams.

3 Idiots? You're absolutely right we are.

Frank Weber
Corey Stelling

Nathan Rau


8.27.2014

Leadville or Bust


By Jeff Jones

For those who haven’t lived and breathed the Leadville Trail 100 for the past eight months, here's a little background to the race. I took an excerpt from Tom Ley’s "Boom or Bust; 48 Hours at Leadville’s Treacherous Ultra Marathon."

The Leadville Trail 100 was born out of failure. In 1982, the local molybdenum mine, Climax, the backbone of Leadville's economy for more than a century, was shut down―because, perversely, there was too much demand for its product. The growth of electronics made large-scale molybdenum mining worthwhile, and the small-scale operation in Leadville was squeezed out. The town was devastated financially; within 18 months, 40 percent of the population had left.
The year after the mine closed, a former miner, Ken Chlouber, came up with the idea of hosting an ultramarathon in order to inject some economic life into his hometown. As an avid marathoner himself, Chlouber was committed to making his idea a reality, despite being told by a local hospital administrator that such a race would surely lead to someone's death. Chlouber is said to have responded, "Well, then we will be famous, won't we?"



Those who know me, know that I love running, but even more, I love a run with culture behind it. When I first learned of the Leadville 100, I fell in love with the idea of running this race. 

Friday morning I woke up in the parking lot of the Leadville Courthouse, after driving all night and pulling in town during the early hours of the morning. My crew was still asleep in the rental car, and I was already beginning to get pumped. As I stepped out of the car and looked down the street, Leadville appeared to be straight out of the "Andy Griffith Show;" all-American old downtown USA, and my heart began to swell with a little pride. I gave myself a morning stretch and yawned slowly turning around, and that is when I saw it for the first time. The mountains were so enormous and beautiful that I immediately began walking toward them trying to get a picture that would capture the beauty.  Unfortunately this was harder than it appeared so I started running, I ran for a couple of miles around town taking pictures and getting a feel for the altitude. I had a bit of shortness of breath and began to realize that this race would be no joke.

I went back to the van and woke everyone up. We spent the day doing race briefs and taking in what the town had to offer. The race brief was long but very entertaining. In the end, the message I heard was “You are better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can.” “You will have to dig deep." Honestly, I underestimated this statement and this course. I thought eh, I got this. We spent the remainder of the day soaking in the beauty of the area and relaxing, because 2 a.m. Saturday would come quick. 
As the alarm went off, I felt like I had a pretty good night’s rest. I finished making my last-minute decisions (which I do not advise) put my race vest together and pinned on my bib.  I had decided to go out with more gear than I originally had planned, but still kept things light. The first-aid station would be about the distance of a half marathon so I made sure that I had just enough fluid to make it and ate heavily (something I normally don’t like to do) that morning. In addition to a good-sized breakfast, I mixed a protein/glycogen shake, which I normally don’t use until mile 25. Today though, I did a lot of things I don’t normally do until late in the race or when things start to go bad. 
The start line was full of energy. I met with my crew and the other crews of all the area runners. The Idiots Running Club and OMRR was well represented at Leadville this year. AC/DC's “For Those About to Rock” was booming in the background. People were jumping up and down. Fans were screaming from the bleachers. It was more like a rock concert than the beginning of a race. I made a joke that I haven’t been real successful on races with a downhill start to the guy standing to my left and he laughed and said, "Just remember it’s an ultra, start slow and then taper off from there." I heard people start yelling simultaneously and looked up it at the clock 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 (I felt a little lump in my throat) 5, 4, 3, 2, (my heart began to pound) 1. With a huge blast of the shot gun we all took off…..at a walk. Yep, it was a huge group, it took a while to get to a slow trot. 

The race began going a mile down 6th Street and hitting a dirt road to head out of town. I would say that the first 6 miles were fairly flat – dirt jeep roads and campground drives. At this point two things were going through my head; one, this race is going to be overrated, and two, I hydrated way too much. Then we hit, what I thought, was the first climb. The road tapered into a smaller trail about wide enough for one car and immediately began a steep climb that I would compare to the steep hill on the Silver Trail in Busiek State Park, for you local trail runners. I kept hearing the term “Power Line” thrown around and I saw some power lines running overhead so thought this must be it. I hit this hill at a good clip, since we were still in a pack it was difficult to run, but I thought it was way too early to take off anyway. I feel like it took me 10 to 15 minutes to get to the top of this hill, and we were on our way to run the lake portion, and again I thought “over rated”.

The lake area was pretty insignificant. It was small rolling hills, and as the sun came up was a pretty view. I remember thinking that this would be a wonderful trail to have close to home. This portion of the race was very runnable and had enormous amounts of crowd support. Many of the locals and run crews were hanging out by the boat ramps and picnic areas cheering on their runners. The one thing I was curious about was how hard will these thirteen miles be on the way back? Maybe this race might be a little tougher than I thought. 

I hit the first aid station “May Queen” at a little over two hours. I was thinking this is a great time – a 2-hour half marathon, and I'm  feeling good on one of the hardest ultramarathons in the U.S. I am killing it. I grabbed a little food and filled my hand bottle and said hi to my crew told them I was feeling pretty good and asked them to have  my protein shake ready at the mile-25 aid station so I could stay ahead of nutrition. And I was off. 

Somewhere after May Queen and the second aid station, I began to respect the race. I am sure that it was somewhere on top of THE REAL “Power Line climb”. As I began to ascend Power Line, I saw people slowing so I did the same. I decided that these people know something I don’t, so I started fishing for info. I came up next to a runner and they told me that this was “Power Line.” I said how long do you think it takes to get to the top? He laughed, "It’ll take a while." but that doesn’t really matter, what matters is how you run down “Power Line”. Sure enough, the up was bad, but the down was worse. To make matters even worse, I had the wrong shoes for sure. I would say my trip down Power Line was half a run, half a slide, and a lot of near falls. The advice I received at the top of the hill was “Save your quads, you will need them for later.” So I tried to run the downhill portion conservatively.  

As I came off Power Line I met with my crew at the Fish Hatchery aid station. Not only did I pick up my protein, I ate as much as I could and for the first time, filled all of my hand bottles, and topped off my reservoir. I thought it seemed a little early for this, but for some reason it seemed right. I told my crew I was a little tired, but everything was going well. I felt that I was running conservative, and then I told Derek Glos that last downhill was ruthless and we are going to have to head back up that thing later and like a trooper he said, “Bring it on!” I got a little laugh and took off through the field.

The portion of the course from the Fish Hatchery to Half Pipe aid station was mostly flat. This would be a great time to make up time, but at about mile 29 it felt like something came in and sucked the life out of me.  My arms went heavy, my feet felt like they weighed 800 pounds, and my eyes began to close. All I could think about was taking a nap. I walked slowly with my eyes closed for about 200 paces wondering what was happening. I AM SOO SLEEPY. Well against my better judgment I did something I only do when absolutely necessary and usually not until after mile 70 minimum. I pulled out my emergency Ziploc and swallowed a caffeine pill. I suddenly came back alive and trotted my way to Twin Lakes Aid Station. 
Coming in to Twin Lakes was amazing. It was a small town but the streets were lined with hundreds of people. Derek was again waiting for me right up front and helped me find my crew. This would be the last time I would see them for 10 to 12 miles. The big climb was coming, so I slammed down as much fluid and food as I could, got a smootch from my wife and started the trek up to Hope Pass. After a few water crossings, I made it to the base of the mountain and looked up in awe. 

As I started the climb, I was told to take it slow and save my strength because coming back up the other side would be much more difficult. I was starting to see a pattern here. I was running a race conservatively that I would always need to run more conservatively. So I began the slow march up Hope Pass. I feel like some of the miles ranged in the 20 to 30 minute per mile pace (Seriously, I’m not kidding 20-30 minute miles).  I felt that I must be getting close to the top, but every time it seemed like the climb had to be close to the end, I would hit another.  Climb after climb, switchback after switchback, the air grew thinner, and I began gasping for air. And I finally saw it….
Hopeless Aid Station. For any of you who have read the book “Born to Run,” this is the aid station you hear so much about. They have to have llamas carry the aid station supplies up because there is no other good way to do it. I guess they could air drop them??? Hopeless lies right at the base of the tree line, so although it seems like you have made it, you haven’t. I looked past hopeless at another half mile to mile climb up over the pass, and the air got thinner. At this point I felt truly defeated, but continued on. 

As I reached the top of the pass (12,600 ft.) I felt like I had truly done something great. I turned slowly and looked back and saw the most gorgeous view I have ever seen, Twin Lakes sitting between two of the most beautiful mountain ranges in Colorado. I turned back and a radio crew was calling back numbers, I smiled and one of the crew said, “Congratulations, you just climbed a mountain”. I thought, yeah, I did. Unfortunately, if I wasn’t humbled yet, I was about to be.  I realized at this point I really should have taken this race more seriously. This was no joke. 

The downhill of Hope Pass was the steepest trail I have ever run. It was about 4 miles of a controlled fall. By the time I finished my quads were on fire.  I absolutely hated myself, and thought for a second that I really did not like this. As I trotted in to Winfield aid station I was met by Derek Glos, one of the best runners and pacers I know. He asked me how it was going and I told him, I actually feel bad about taking him back over Hope Pass with me. I could think of a few people I didn’t like that I would gladly take over, but I really couldn’t do that to a friend. He laughed, grabbed my race vest to refill me, and put it on his back (muling is allowed at Leadville, and I won’t lie, I needed it). 

I stepped on the scale at the turnaround and was down 9 pounds (5.5 percent of my body weight, getting pretty dehydrated). This didn’t seem to concern medical staff, but it did me. I have been watching my weight closely on long runs while training for Leadville for just this moment. I fully understand how much weight I lose and gain during runs and this was abnormal. I made a note of it and made a much greater effort to consume fluids.  To look around, the Winfield aid station was a sad, sad, place. This is where most people drop or are pulled for medical reasons, and it looked like a war zone. I hate to admit this, but I used this as motivation to push me back over the other side of the mountain. 

Derek and I took off from Winfield on our journey back up Hope Pass. Picking up your pacer is the biggest game changer on these runs, but picking up Derek usually is a race saver, and he didn’t fail me this time either. Shortly after heading back up Hope Pass, I felt something tapping on my shoulder. I ignored it at first, but as it kept tapping, I turned my head to be greeted by a random stick.  Normally I enjoy Derek’s sense of humor, but this time I really didn’t get it. So I finally said “What’s up dude?” He said, “Take the stick.” Ohhhh... I use if for walking up the hill, I get it. And like that we picked up pace to a snail's pace from a slug's, but we were moving forward, and it was much more comfortable. By the way I kept the stick, stained and varnished it - my Hope Pass Stick, my Magic Stick.

The stick continued to be useful to help control my descent all the way back down Hope Pass as well. It took pressure off of my quads and knees and allowed me to pick up speed helping me make up a little time on the back half. Things were beginning to look promising again. As I came back in to the Twin Lakes aid station, I think everyone’s worries were pacified a little. I had been gone for quite a while since I had seen them last.  I guess I looked good by their reaction, so I filled my fluids, ate as much as I could, found an unused set of trekking poles, and took off to finish it out. 

I wish I could say that it was all downhill from here, but this is where it actually started getting a little rough. The next 10 miles were a little on and off running. We had one ascent and descent that was tough but compared to Hope Pass, it was very manageable. We seemed to be making decent time, and Derek and I used this little break in the chaos to discuss our strategy for the remainder of the race. We had about 7 hours to finish a little more than a marathon with one little hiccup, and we still had to climb the tough side of Power Line. I knew that would take at least 2 hours on its own, but if we could just run the descent then we would be able to have a chance at going sub 25. 

We reached the Fish Hatchery aid station, put on what warm gear we had left, as it was cooling off quickly, discussed the race plan with the rest of the crew, ate a brownie (hind sight being 20/20 I may have skipped that, we were in Colorado) and stepped off for the last major climb. 
The climb started off well, we slowed the pace, but not by much, and quickly gained ground on some racers ahead of us. Many people by this point were struggling significantly; most weren’t talking to their pacers. Every once in a while you would hear a pacer holler “hydrate” to their reluctant racer.  Not only is the Power Line ascent a monster, it has what are referred to as false summits. I think we hit the top of the climb at least ten times before it was over. As we closed on the top I took one last caffeine pill, ate, and hydrated in hopes that I could muster everything I had left for a speedy descent.

We came over the summit at the same time as another group, and I looked over the edge of the road to know that we were for sure at the top. Then it occurred to me, this wasn’t as runnable as I remembered, the caffeine never kicked in, and I was starving – a bad mix of feelings when you need to make haste. I attempted to run and my legs didn’t want to go. I walked a few steps and my legs didn’t want to go. I tried to run again and my legs didn't want to go. We did the math again and the sub 25 was looking farther and farther from reach. 

At this point, we slowly lurched into the mindless zombie walk. It doesn’t hit me often, but when it does, it is bad. Derek and I had several “dark times” through the next 7 or 8 hours, but they will all be memories that we will laugh about and lessons we have learned. After the sub-25 time expired we decided to stroll in. No need to end up injured for a few more minutes when cutoff was in the bag. It was a slow, miserable stroll, but we made the best of it. 

The finish line would only have been more beautiful if it was at the bottom of the hill on 6th Street , but I guess that is not how they do things in Leadville. They make you work for every foot of that course. When Ken Chlouber said, “You are better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can, you will have to dig deep.” I took it for granted. Now I understand and have a greater respect for the course, the city, the people, the volunteers, the racers who both finish or even attempt this beast, and myself.


I have silently made an agreement with myself that when I go back, I will have learned from my mistakes. I know the course and will not underestimate it. 

We had OMRR and IRC runners both running and crewing this event. Our travelling crew gets bigger every time we go out. They make these events so much more fun for the runners and other crews. This, like every event we have done together, was special. I wanted to thank all of you for your support. 




6.20.2014

IRC Relay for Life Team


As the sun began to rise, transforming night into day, the full moon remained visible in the early morning sky. For me, it was the perfect way to wrap up another 12 hour Relay for Life event. The final laps, as always, were run with tears leaking down my face and an attempt to hide the emotions from those that had braved the night. It never fails. I always cry knowing that this celebration of hope is, once again, coming to a close. I cry for those that we have lost, for those that are courageously fighting and for those that have won. I cry for the families, friends and caregivers. I cry secure in the knowledge that our children can one day live in a world where cancer is irrelevant.

Five years ago, I attended my first Relay for Life event. I didn't know much about it or what to expect. I only knew that I needed to go, needed to find a way to make a difference. Just six months prior, both of my parents had been diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo extensive surgery and treatment. Before that.... Cancer was just a word. Something that didn't affect me or those I loved. It was just one of those bad things that happened to other people. And then.... BAM!! I found out real fast that it was a horrible disease that does not discriminate and does affect everybody - not just other people. During the many weeks of camping out in hospitals, I would find time to slip out and hit the road for a run to clear my mind. Best therapy ever.

During the many miles that followed I stopped asking "Why?" and started asking "What can I do to make a difference?" Somehow I came up with the idea to run a 50 miler and carry an Honor Scroll bearing the names of those that have battled the beast and, hopefully, raise some money to donate. I had been running for a few years and my running resume' included a few marathons and a 50k so it seemed reasonable to think that I might be able to cover 50 miles. I also knew that we had an event in Ozark County each year that had something to do with raising funds to fight cancer... just wasn't sure exactly what it was or if I could be a part of it. I reached out to a friend and she immediately signed me up on her team and helped with the logistics of fundraising.

The first Honor Scroll run was a great success, raising over $1,000 for the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life. I somehow managed to navigate myself across the rough terrain of the Ouachita 50 miler in Little Rock, AR without completely falling apart. Looking back, it was probably the best day of running I've ever had and it completely opened my eyes to a new world. We can make a difference. We don't have to just sit back and let cancer win. If enough people do care and band together- we can win. I carried these thoughts into the Relay for Life that June.


I showed up at my first RFL with some extra shoes and a pink tutu in my bag. Why a pink tutu? Because somebody had pledged $100 if I wore it for one hour during the night while running around the track. I was NOT going to say no to a nice donation no matter how embarrassing. Believe me,  it WAS embarrassing.  For those of you that have seen the pink tutu at Dogwood Canyon the past few years - you now know how and why it all started. My plan was to run all night, for 12 hours, around our old high school track. Of course, you can't really run 12 hours at a RFL event due to ceremonies but I managed to get around 10 hours and 56 miles of running while raising a few more dollars for the ACS. I was a little surprised that there weren't really many runners at the event. A lot of people were walking, which is awesome, but I had the idea that there would be more runners. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about what exactly the Relay for Life was all about.  


Over the next few years I was on a team but really not a part of the team. They were great fundraisers and really knew the ins and outs of Relay but I kind of did my own thing all year and just showed up and ran. I feel very lucky that they brought me into the fold and generously helped me understand how things worked. Last year, I decided to start an Idiots Running Club team and see if we could get more people involved. It was a great experience and several runners jumped in to help out. We raised $8,800 and "won" Rookie Team of the Year honors.


There is a huge difference between just showing up with a pair of shoes and actually being the Captain of a team. For me, the biggest and toughest adjustment is the amount of mileage I am able to run. This year I ran 27 miles.... less than half of the first years total. That's been the toughest part for me to digest but when I look around and see so many people actually RUNNING during the event, I know it's okay. Runners from all over the area (and around the country in a virtual sense)  have joined the team and logged several miles. At this year's Relay on June 13th and 14th, fellow Idiot, Derek Glos made the trip to our little town and put in 36 miles to earn the top spot for most laps. Our team combined for over 160 miles of running throughout the night. That's 640 + laps around a high school track. That's a LOT of laps.

This year, the Idiots Running Club team raised close to $11,000 total through the combined fundraising efforts of many runners during the year. For us, this year's Relay for Life actually started last October with several Idiots donning pink shirts for the Dogwood Canyon events. Next up was the Rocky Raccoon 100 Miler in February where pledges of 10 cents per mile were collected. Shirts, drinking glasses and ornamental flowers were sold during the spring months. Everything wrapped up with personal donations and pledges for laps during the Relay for Life.


Runners are a special (by that I mean "weird") bunch of people. They are used to working hard and dedicating themselves to training for personal goals, PR's, qualifying times and trophies but this event does not offer those same rewards. It is not a race or competition. It is not about personal gain or goals. It takes a lot of time to put together a fundraiser and between work, kids, training and all of life's responsibilities there isn't much time left for stuff like this. And, to be honest, it really doesn't make a ton of sense to run several miles during a humid June night on an old asphalt track. I am so proud and thankful to be a small part of a running community that bands together with that same dedication to make a real difference. Not for medals, trophies, buckles or Boston Qualifying times just the knowledge that they are a part of something much bigger than any of those rewards.


Everybody that participates in the Relay for Life has a special place in my heart. Obviously, it takes much more than one small team of runners to truly make a difference. The Idiots Running Club team was a tiny part of a huge effort in Ozark County this year. The grand total raised was over $70,000. It always blows my mind that a county made up of tiny towns that nobody has ever heard of can come together and pull this event off with such success. People are generous and hard work always pays off. I am very proud and fortunate to be a part of the Relay for Life. I strongly urge anybody that hasn't participated to get involved. For everybody that has been involved in one of these life changing events - Thank you.  

5.13.2014

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....


"I ran my first marathon in Champaign this past weekend.  Needless to say it didn't go as planned, but it was a heck of an experience." ~ Nathan Rau, Idiot #647, Waterloo, IL 

It was time for my first full marathon, and I was feeling great. The training had clicked. I plowed through a peak 214 mile month and back-to-back-to-back 50+ mile weeks.  Several 20 mile runs or more were mixed in there too. I even had the pleasure of pacing my wife on some of her half marathon training runs.  The three week taper at the end had me feeling completely rested and ready.
I wasn’t going to just any marathon. This one was at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My Alma mater. The place I spent 7+ years getting a couple of degrees. The place I proposed to Annette.  The race with a finish line at the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium that I had been to so many times. This is where I would go for my first 26.2 mile run.
My buddy Frank and I took Friday before off.  We had time to take a quick walk around the heart of campus after we picked up the race packets.  I hadn’t been back to campus for some time, and it was inspiring to see it all again. Frank was who got me into distance running in the first place, and we had a fantastic day getting psyched for the run. I was chomping at the bit to get the race started.
I was the only one in our crew that was doing the full. They were awesome with encouragement and support.  On race day we gave each other the big hugs and settled into our corrals. It was finally time to go.  Everything was perfect.
I had set a goal pace that I knew would be challenging.  I decided a while back that I couldn’t count on future runs always being available. Who know what life would bring, so I better give it my all on this run. It was an aggressive but realistic pace, and I could not have felt more ready.
And we’re off! It was warmer than expected, but a beautiful day.  Everything was clicking along just as I had planned.  Drink water. Eat something. Time for some electrolytes. Stay calm. Trust your training.
Then, around mile 13 something unexpected happened.  I quickly got very lightheaded – even dizzy.  No big deal. Water. Food. Slow down a bit. Have some NUUN. Stay calm. Try to stay calm… but I admit it, something felt wrong.
Around mile 15 I walked for the first time, and I had never walked in training.  I thought a good drink and some Endurolytes and a bite to eat would do it. No big deal.  Doing just fine. Got a long way to go.  Try to stay calm. Just a little bump in the road.  Panic? No.
Then, those quads and hamstrings that had been so resilient for months started having a little fit.  Cramps popping up in both legs and jumping from place to place.  Stretch it out and keep going.  Keep up with the water and supplements.  Maybe I can just walk/run this sucker home and still sneak in under my backup goal time. We can do this… right?
Unfortunately, it was getting worse. Stopped to stretch/walk once, twice, again and again and again.  I was looking around for things the right height in people’s yards to put my foot on and stretch the hamstrings.  Light poles were my friend for giving the quads a stretch.  Now it was full panic.  Am I looking at a DNF here? What in the world happened?
Around mile 19 I took off my water belt and laid down in some grass to try to stretch. I took my phone out of the arm band and checked my texts to see how Annette and Frank did in the half. Annette’s text waiting for me was:
“Pr pr pr pr I can’t stop crying, keep running”
I was sincerely so happy for her.  She worked hard getting ready for this day. I managed a smile and looked up at the sky. I actually thought about the IRC oath:
“If I ‘DNF’ it will be because I have NOTHING left to give or I’m dead.”
I responded to her text with:
“Major cramps. Struggling to finish. I am okay. Taking my time. Want to finish.”
I decided I would walk the entire remainder of the race if I had to, but I was going to finish.  Dammit, I’ll walk as long as I need to so I can try to run a little more.  No more time goals of any sort. This was about finding that finish line and completing the race.  I wasn’t dead. I got the smile back on my face and looked for kids to high 5 cheering us on.
It was humbling to see the pace groups I had passed so long ago come trotting past me seemingly without effort.  I was envious of the smart runs they had implemented that day, and it stung to see group after group go by.
Run, cramp, stretch, walk, repeat. That was my story for several miles.  Then, I got this text from Annette:
“I am going to find you and bring you in if I can. Mile?”
Me: “22.5”
Now my eyes were darting around the spectators searching for that hot pink shirt with the yellow Superman logo on it.  We used to never run together. I was faster and we just did our own thing, but lately we had run together more and more. Sometimes a 5 mile trail run, sometimes 13.1 on the road, but it was really becoming something we enjoyed doing side-by-side.  Now I was counting on seeing her.
A little shy of 25 miles I saw her with a big smile waving both hands over her head. She settled in next to my waddling gait and asked what I needed.  We walked/ran it together, and it was amazing having her there with me.  My goal was to be able to run into the stadium and across the finish line.
We broke into our final run about half a mile from the finish.   There were quite a few spectators around the stadium and she started yelling at them that she wanted to hear some noise.  As soon as they quieted down, she yelled at them for more.  We turned the corner into the tunnel and ran from the end zone to the finish line side by side.  And we were running across that line. The final burst of energy and adrenaline came out of nowhere, and it felt great.
Frank was there waiting for us and we had another round of big hugs. Without these two people I would never have started running, and here we were together – on the field, looking at the jumbotron, soaking it all in.  My kids were in the front row and we took all kinds of pictures and gave them some of the attention they had been missing while mom and dad were busy running all over God’s green earth.
Annette’s PR got kind of lost in all of my drama that day. I am so proud of her and the run she had.  She deserved to celebrate the amazing accomplishment she had on race day.
In the end, I didn’t have the run I wanted or expected.  The how’s and why’s of the race are what they are.  However, I was proud I finished, and I had one of the most special moments with Annette I have had.  Of course we have the wedding and kids being born, but this was right up there also.
I will do another marathon some day, and I hope to do better. I think I have learned a lot. Still, no matter what my final time is in future runs, it will be hard to top the 2014 Illinois Marathon as a lasting memory.

4.09.2014

Croom Fools Run race review


by Rich Flint

Croom is part of the Withlacoochee State Forest and was named one of the “10 Coolest Places in North America” by the World Wildlife Fund in 1999. 

The race has three distances: a 16-mile, a 50K and a 50-mile race. I was originally signed up to run this race last year, but some life events caused me to defer to this year. The 50-mile run consists of a 5-mile starter loop followed by three 15-mile loops.

The event is limited to 250 participants with 125 maximum at the 16-mile run and is put on by Tampa Races.

The weather forecast for the race day was 80% chance of rain with humidity around 90%  and temps from 65-80 degrees - typical Florida winter/spring weather.

The 50-milers started at 6 a.m., so a light of some sort is needed for at least the first hour and 15 minutes of running. It had been raining during the night, but at start time it was nice and 62 degrees. 

At the start of the race, with most of the runners staying together in groups of two or three, the pace was slow mostly due to visibility. I stayed comfortably with the lead pack, most of whom had run the course several times and knew the way. At the end of the 5-mile loop we passed through the drop zone, but it was still too dark to ditch the head lamp, and the five or six guys and two girls I had been running with all stayed together and kept running. 

As soon as we left the drop zone we hit about a quarter-mile stretch where we were running downhill over a heavily rooted trail, making it sometimes necessary to hop from root to root. After that, the trail widened, the pace quickened, and the group thinned out even though it was still mostly single track at this point, and running was comfortable and easy. 
After a while only three of us were running together and talking. Around mile 10 or 12, I happened to comment "So who do you think’s lea." At that point I laughed out loud and looked at my watch. We were only running 9-minute miles, but that was far too fast for me to keep up for 50 miles. I told the guys I would have to talk with them later and slowed the pace. 

It was around 3 hr 40 min when I made it back into the drop zone and was met by my wife Denise. She took my light and empty drink bottle and handed me a full one, gave me my ration of gels and kicked me out the other side. I had instructed her to ask about how much fluid I had been drinking and if I needed salt, which she did but I declined the salt. 

That proved to be a mistake as I started cramping in the calves within the first three miles of leaving the drop zone. I slowed the pace even further and started walking more. I was only halfway through the race and I was feeling spent. (To back up just a bit, I always set two goals for my races. The first one is an unrealistic or a "if everything goes just right and I get a good tail wind" and the other a more reasonable one. This being the first 50 miles I had ever run and 20 miles further than I had ever run before, I thought to set any goal was foolish but this was the "fools run" so I decided that absolute very best for me 
would be 9 hr but more likely would be 10 hr.) But at this point I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the entire race. 

At the next aid station, which was about seven miles from the drop zone I asked what they had for salt, and said I was cramping. This older, wiry-looking guy grinned and pulled out a bottle of potassium pills and gave me two. They also gave me some Gatorade and some potato chips, and I was again on my way. 

After about another mile, a young lady passed me then slowed down, and we talked for a while. She had run the race the year before as her first 50 miler. She told me she found that after the first 25 miles the pain doesn't really get any worse. I found that somewhat comforting. I could tolerate what I was feeling as long as it didn't intensify. About three more miles we came to the next aid station, which also happens to be the start of the hardest part of the course. It was set up right after the place known as "Devil’s Hole," a deep sinkhole that you have to climb down, then back up out of. I stopped at the aid station and asked what they had with sugar and the lady smiled, handing me a cup and said, “Mountain Dew?” 

Just the thought lifted my spirits, and I drank 3 cups. The energy boost was almost instant, but so were the hills that made up the last four or so miles into the drop zone. By the time I got there, I was not at all happy.

Up to this point the weather had managed to cooperate with only a light sprinkle here and there, but the skies were getting darker and it looked like a storm was about to cut loose. Denise told me we were under a tornado alert. My feet were damp but not soaking, but I still decided to change into dry shoes, socks and shirt. I also took some salt, put on my hydration pack with some solid food for later, drank a little more Dew, then I told the wife I didn't want to do this anymore and headed down the trail. 

I had just made it past the section of roots when the first of the rains started. It was a slow sprinkle at first, but by the time I had gone a mile it was pouring and I could hear thunder in the distance. After another mile or so it was raining so hard I could barely see a few feet in front of me, the trails had turned to rivers and I was running in ankle-deep water most of the way. 

Oddly enough, in site of the weather, I was feeling good and holding about an 11-minute-mile pace. At the next aid station I stopped for them to record my check-in time, drank some Dew and thanked them for sticking it out, then headed on down the trail. By the time I made it to the aid station where they had given me the potassium pills, I was feelling so much better that I burst out of the woods to where they were and shouted, "HEY IT'S MY FAVORITE AID STATION PEOPLES!" They had been huddled under the small tarp that was over their table trying to stay dry but when they saw me coming they sprung into action asking me how I felt, what I needed, could they refill my hydration pack? (I have to say at this point, that everybody at the aid stations was amazing, but these guys were my heroes.They had pulled me from the pits of hell, and I had come out the other side running strong again.) 

To put icing on the cake, I heard someone behind me say "There you are." It was my Denise, she had come down from the drop zone to meet me and give me a motivation boost and it worked. I was happy and smiling. 

Did I also say they they had Mountain Dew at that aid station, too? I have to tell you that I seldom drink soda and almost never is it Mountain Dew, but I was drinking it like it was the elixir of the gods at this point. 

It was still a tough seven miles to the end of the race, and my legs were on fire. I still had to make it through Devil’s Hole and all the hills, but I was feeling good and starting to do the calculations. If I pushed and everything went right I might, just might make it in under 9 hours. 

During the worst of the storm, the winds where blowing so hard that debris was falling out of the tree. At one point a dead limb about the size of my arm hit the trail about 15 feet ahead of me. But now it was only a drizzle, and I was on a mission. 

The aid station right after Devil's Hole was manned by only one person. He was soaked to the bone . His check-in sheet was so drenched, if he touched it it would have fallen to pieces. But when he saw me coming he was to his feet, ready and eager to do whatever he could to help. I have never seen such a great bunch of folks. I told him how much I appreciated them being there for us. 

My watch had died at mile 42, so I was pushing as hard as I dared and making calculations based on assumptions but I was pretty sure I still had a shot at making it in under 9. As I came up out of the woods to the finish line, I could see the clock was reading 8: 57:15, and I crossed at 8:57:40. 

I had run my first 50-mile race, I drank water, I did not die, and I even managed to smile a time or two. 

Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not been for the love and support of my wife Denise, who knows how much these things mean to me and helps and encourages every step of the way.

3.25.2014

Not your typical race report....

Jeff Jones - Idiot #81
Skunk Run 2014 Overall Winner

Not your typical race report….well, not your typical race. Skunk Run 2014

"I run because it's so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can't. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you're capable of so much more than you thought." -Arthur Blank

I’m still not sure why I thought that a place named Caney Mountain Refuge would be just another walk in the park when I was thinking about mileage goals on Friday. My co-workers are always asking me; “How far is this race?” “How fast will you run this one?” In this case the Skunk run was different, I had never run an 8 hour endurance run, and it had certainly been a while since I had done anything like it. I made bold predictions and rationalizations because your first goal is always a little aggressive. My goal was to go out and run it hard, and well….

Derek Glos, who is finding himself in crazier situations as each day passes, just drove in from a trip to Oklahoma to pick me up in the wee hours of the morning to head an hour and a half to Caney Mountain Refuge. We stopped at McDonalds to pick up some food, I try to make sure I get 600-800 calories before my trail races to try to stay ahead of the calorie deficit. We spent all hour catching up since last time we had run together and a little strategy, but as we approached the first words out of my mouth were something to the effect “Well this probably won’t be flat and fast.” Goal one just adjusted to goal 2.

Upon arrival to the park the start finish area was already set up and a few people had already arrived. For any readers who have never run a trail race….DO IT unless you a major Type A personality with OCD, well then stay very far away, for your own good. The aid station was stocked and we received the warmest welcomes I have ever had at a race. I would say that this more closely resembled a family reunion that your typical trail race. As people continued to arrive they would introduce themselves as the offline version of themselves and then start a conversations where it last left off on the IRC Facebook page; jokes about the number 28, rubbing dirt, etc., etc.

Now for those that are typical trail runners you know that one of the best things about the trail race is the atmosphere, comradery, and fun, well... and beer. This race will not disappoint! You will not find a race that can challenge you to the point this one did that is as laid back and fun anywhere. I would say that this is as laid back as any fat-ass race out there but more organized. The best of both worlds!

As usual on the trails we all started a little slower. The trail started through a rough field and hung a sharp left into an immediate climb, both the 5ish and 11ish mile loops had to go through this roughly 2 and a half mile (on and off) climb. This was challenging, we kept the pace slower through the first loop. During this loop we decided to take the 11 mile turn, since we had plenty of time. About 40 minutes into the run is where I met Derek Sparks from Ava. This guy was closing fast on us, but instead of passing stopped to keep pace with Derek Glos and I. This made conversations a little difficult because every time I said hey Derek, I got two answers. So I just smiled and would talk to whoever answered first.

After running for a while Derek Sparks told us his stories and both of us were quite impressed by this guy. This was his first marathon. I felt very privileged to share that experience with him, while laughing and calling him crazy for making this his first marathon. He told us he was tired but we would have never been able to tell by the look of determination on his face and the sheer will to succeed. Not only did he finish the
marathon, but because of the two Idiots he was running with he had to finish his first marathon with a 2 and a half mile victory run back to the start and finish area.

This wasn’t the only inspiration for this day. I say at least a dozen kids out on the trails running, smiling, and having a blast. It is good to see kids out enjoying time with their family and enjoying that same passion that their parents have for running and the outdoors. I saw people who committed to walking the trails who were getting it done, some out all day, a very impressive feat in itself. And then I saw Emm Foster whom I though wasn’t going to run at all laying coming down the backside of the hill at a good clip, and later found out not only did she run but she got the most overall miles for the ladies.

The great times continued when I heard the award for most blood went to a kid that fell while playing at the start finish line. I heard the race director handed him the medal and said “now you’re a legend”, which isn’t too far from the truth.

I continued on and was approaching 30 miles when strategy played into my run. If you left before 2:15 you could go out on one more loop, but if you didn’t get back before 3:15 you only received 5 miles for that loop. Looking at my watch I was getting close to time so my only choice was to run the two five mile loops instead of one 11 mile loop. The up side I got to take in more food by hitting the aid station more frequently. The downside was that I got to see the finish line more frequently and had to do that initial climb through the first two miles more frequently.

By the time I was climbing that first climb on my last loop I completely understood why they called it Caney Mountain. I was spent. My legs were shaking uncontrollably. I was thirsty, hungry, and getting a little grouchy; and loving every second of it. This race had the best balance I have ever seen at a race. Good trails for people just coming out for the first time and here I was a little wobbly after seven and a half hours of running. I was glad to come in on that final loop to the group where we sat and had a couple of beers and talked about how we all smiled, drank water, and didn’t die.

3.17.2014

The Skinny on the Skunk Run

by Amber King Idiot #931

The short of it is, I met the mo’st awesome people and ran some mo’ ridiculously fun, yet challenging trails! The long of it is……

We got a late start so we didn’t leave Clarksville, Tenn., until around 6:30 p.m. The trip there and back was just as much a part of the “non-event” as the Skunk Run. Just a few words about the trip: Have you ever wondered where the remains of dead skunks and other road kill are taken to? I’m fairly certain we passed through the city in which they are contained. Witcliffe, Ky., or as we have named it – Sewer City –  is FOUL! 

We traveled on a two-lane highway (I hardly call it that when the speed limit was 55 m.p.h. and filled with semis going 45) for what seemed like forever until we reached Death Trap Bridges. We crossed two bridges that were barely wide enough to fit two cars, but were safely supported by guard rails that were ankle-high. After what seemed like forever (6 and a half hours) we rolled into Ava around 1a.m. Right as we reached the Ava sign, my youngest Kidiot announced, “Mama, I found the Skunk!” as we got a big whiff of dead skunk. It was obviously a good omen for a great day to come! 

My husband David went to check us in at THE hotel in Ava. The desk clerks asked him if we were there for a wedding. He said no, and the clerk asked him why we had driven to Ava because there seemed like a lot of people checked in other than the wedding guests. David explained that we drove to come to a run. 
The clerk said, “You drove all the way here to run? For 10 hours? Why would you do that?????” 
My husband replied, “Yeah, I know, but my wife really likes to run. She’s an Idiot.” 
Clerk-(laughing) “Oh, I bet she wouldn’t be happy to hear that, but she’d have to be an Idiot to want to travel this far or to run that long!” 

Since it was now 1:15 in the morning, my husband didn’t take the time to explain, but did voice his opinion that he should get a shirt that says “IDIOT SPOUSE SUPPORTER” because he’s no idiot…he knows what makes a marriage work…keeping Mama happy. Got settled into bed around 1:30 a.m. and was up at 6. I was anxious about knowing how to get to the site since there really isn’t an address for it, but was greeted at the door by another fellow Idiot, Gary Croy, who graciously led the way.


Once we arrived, picked up our shirts (love them!), bib #s (met April Wilson-super sweet), greeted each other and heard what I feel was the quote of the day, “There’s some good running up there once you reach the top of the ridge.” ~David Murphy 

That’s a lie. 

There is never a top, but it was all good running…or climbing rather. I set out and splashed through the creek crossing eager to get to what looked to be an open grass field up the entrance of the base of the “rolling hills”. I took about four strides and was almost taken out! This area I dubbed Mountain Goat Gully, booby-trapped by a million divots (excellent ankle strength training).

I reached the base of the “rolling hills” and started my ascent of the first of MANY steep inclines.  Note: Never trust David Murphy’s interpretation of the course. Along the way several fellow Idiots introduced themselves and chatted for a bit. Of these, the “Elites” were among them! Just an example of the mo’ awesome friendliness of the group! The running community is generally nice as a rule of thumb; however I think what makes this group excellent, is the acceptance and encouragement of the variety of levels of runners. These three stopped to walk alongside of me to make introductions, then galloped up the giant “rolling hill” like it was no big deal. 

I kept trucking up the steep inclines…I mean “rolling hills” thinking and even saying to another Idiot at one point, “Well, we eventually have to reach the top sometime right? Then we get to go down!” 

Yeah…that never really happened. 

Eventually, it seemed as though I was all by myself. I enjoyed the time reflecting on a variety of thoughts, let a few “WEEEEEE!’s" go on the downhills and an occasional "Are you kidding me?????" on the uphills.

Then the solitude got a little creepy. No worries because about that time, Jon Wilson was at the top of one of the MANY “rolling hills” on the four-wheeler. He kindly took my jacket back to camp and I felt a little lighter. I realized I had not eaten breakfast, so I chomped down a few GU chews, which was kind of difficult to do when you are trying to breathe in as much oxygen as possible through your mouth and chew at the same time. Chugged some GuBrew and climbed the rest of the “rolling hill” I was on. 

This was the first run I actually got to use my hydration pack my sweet husband bought for me for Christmas and I loved it! FINALLY, I think I reached the most “top” point of the “rolling hills” and the views were beautiful. I knew I only had a short time to run due to other travel obligations so I stopped to take pictures/videos to take it all in. 

Now, as much as I have explained – not complained – about the “rolling hills,” I have to say the downhills were F.U.N.! Stuck my arms out like an airplane for balance and flew down them. Behind the intense, focused look on my face was a huge SMILE! The last mile and a half was just enough to make me feel like a trail blazer and forget about how difficult the first part was, leaving me thinking I could absolutely do another loop or two. 

I checked into camp and hit the bathroom, because listening to all that water sloshing around in the hydration pack that was now empty because I sucked it down made me have to GOOOOOO! Refilled my hydration pack and didn’t realize that I had accidentally hit my watch and turned off my Garmin. Turned it back on about a quarter of a mile once I was back out onto trail. Because I was kind of crunched on time I decided I would just do the 3-mile loop twice. I followed three Kidiots on the loop.<-----Never trust a kid with directions about loops. Lost one, but the other two were quite the conversationalists and excellent pacers! We talked about family (siblings) and then we talked what we were going to eat once we made it back to camp as a reward. 

Logan taunted me with his detailed description of his breakfast burrito that he had eaten earlier. We came to the end of the trail loop to the road and the boys turned it into an obstacle course, scaling over the gate. I, on the other hand, took the trail out to the road. They weren’t impressed, but kindly waited and said, “Come on ma’am!” We were almost finished, but had to take a quick photo of their accomplishment of climbing the mountain. That’s when I realized I had taken the wrong loop. That was the 1-mile loop. Oh well, it was fun! I made it back to camp again and asked where the 3-mile loop was. David and Jon said to just follow the road back up from the 5-mile loop towards the conservation area.

There’s a sign..you’ll see it, they said.

No, you won’t. 

So, off I went out again, thinking I had just enough time to get the 3-mile loop in. I went down the road, then turned onto the back portion of the 5-mile loop following a kid, thinking she was running the 3-mile loop. Here we go with the “rolling hills" again. It wasn’t until I was 2 and a half miles into the trail that I asked another Idiot if she was doing the 5-mile loop and where she was at. That’s when I realized I had to turn around and go back because there was no way I could finish the 5-mile loop in time and this definitely wasn’t the 3-mile loop. I enjoyed chatting with her and it made the time pass quickly. She noticed on the way back a small conspicuous sign that said "cabin loop" and asked if that was the way back to camp. 

Um, yes I suppose it was if we were running the 3 mi loop! Grrrrrrr! 

So, we headed down the rest of the 5-mile loop, and I made it back to camp just in time to snag a breakfast burrito and a cinnamon bite, and head out. Jon reminded me that I had almost forgotten my medal!!!!!! Now, I will say, that about this time my cinnamon bite disappeared. Hmmmm….suspicious! 

I got in the truck and was a half mile out of camp when I realized I had forgotten to turn my watch off…excellent pace! When I arrived back at the hotel I realized that the hydration pack that I was so excited to use had concealed the blue bleed from my fairly new undergarment that went through my new IRC shirt. Skunk Run NOT Smurf Run! BOOOOOO! 

I took a quick shower, jumped back in the truck and headed to our friend’s house where the questions began: "Why would you come to Ava to run?" "Why is it called the Skunk Run?" "What kind of Idiot would run for 10 hours?" 

We enjoyed our time with friends, then headed back home. Arrived home at 1:30 a.m. and sprayed my IRC shirt like crazy with Resolve. Meltdown averted. Shirt is fixed.

And this is all why I will be back next year!!!!!!


*If it seems like there is a lot of mention of rolling hills, that’s because there are a LOT of them!