New Year, New Me!

With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, many people are thinking about the traditions of the season and celebrations to come. One such tradition that I have never really taken to is the New Year’s resolution. The whole “new year, new you” thing has always felt odd to me.

Why do you need a calendar to get rid of bad habits or make a positive change in your life? What one really needs is commitment and dedication. Gyms across the country will be booming for the first few weeks of January, only to slowly fade back to normal.  Big box retailers will have sales on the latest fitness equipment, diet meals and smoking cessation aids.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for someone turning their life around, I just feel that making a New Year resolution has become more a fad than a commitment. The first change that has to happen is the mind, not the calendar. Once the mind is in the right place, that’s when the magic happens.

A person becomes dedicated to the new lifestyle, the feeling of being fit. The strange thing is, with this comes other changes. You no longer want the same things in life. One starts to view life differently, priorities change. Over the course of months and years, you become a completely different person. You might not realize this until there is a reminder thrown at you, like an old picture of yourself or you run into an old friend.

Nearly four years ago, I put on some cheap shoes that I had bought at Wal-Mart and I tried to run. In my mind, I wasn’t a runner, I was a wannabe. Slowly, I became a runner, but I started experiencing life more as I ran more. My perspectives changed, I no longer wanted the same things out of life.

As I have continued to evolve, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t belong in the job I have been doing. Not that I’m unhappy, it just not where I am destined to be, as if my universe is out of sync. So today, after 8+ years of working at the same auto body shop, I gave my notice.

January 1st, I will start a new chapter in my life. For the last few months, I have been working part-time at my local Fleet Feet and I have decided to go full-time with them. It is a scary but exciting change in my life, but I am looking forward to not just going running, but living it.

Purpose

When I was in my twenties, I spent a year working for my great-uncle Olen. Drilling water wells, helping take care of a small herd of goats and just helping around his farm in any way I was needed. It was not glamorous work.  In fact it was nasty, sweaty work.

Uncle Olen left a very big mark on my life. He wasn’t an educated man, not learning to read and write until he was well into his forties. His father, my great-grand father, was the stereotypical hillbilly. A moonshiner who lived in a shack and refused to let his children go to school.  Despite the lack of a formal education, Uncle Olen was, through much hard work, a pretty successful man. At times, he could be very philosophical and wise beyond his lack of education.

When one of his brothers announced that he was going to retire, he seemed unhappy about it. When I asked him why, he told me “it’s not working that makes you old, it’s stopping”. At the time this did not make sense to me, but since that conversation I have come to see the wisdom of his words. Many antique car enthusiasts will tell you that one of the worst thing you can do to a car is to let it sit, not driving it. The parts will rot and rust will spread. We are no different, after-all,  we humans are advanced machines.

Uncle Olen was somewhere north of his seventieth year, yet he was still strong and had drive. Many days I wondered how he had so much energy.  Here I was, 50+ years his junior and worn completely out, yet he was still going strong.

I have observed many people since then and watched those who retired and lived their dream of doing nothing, only to wither away. Why is this? To me, it seems that Newton’s Law of Motion apply to humans as well as objects. Those who are at rest seem to lose all their drive and desire to get up and get moving. Those that have a reason to wake up and get moving are the ones that remain active and healthy.

So why get up, why move? Especially when we have access to all the information and entertainment that we could possibly ever want right at our finger tips. This is where purpose comes in. Something has to pry us away from that marathon of streaming sitcoms.

I am not talking about the type of purpose that inspires one to change the world. There are many reasons, be it family or just trying to make the world around you better, as long as it gives you a reason, a desire.

I recently met a lady who told me how she volunteered at a local pre-school as a surrogate grandmother. She would read to them, play with them and even bake cookies for them. What she did was pretty simple, nothing that was earth shattering. She wasn’t trying to change the world, just the world of a few children. I could see in her eyes that these children meant so much to her. They were her purpose.

In order to move an object, you need a bigger, stronger object. Such is the case with the human spirit. One has to find something bigger than themselves, bigger than the internet that is calling. We are often so wrapped up in a “me” attitude that we neglect looking at a more panoramic view of the world. We forget how we can affect one another through our actions.

The Best Run Ever…Until…

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. All the planning, all the training, all the desires came down to one weekend, last weekend. I finally stood at the starting line of the Arkansas Traveller 100. I wasn’t nervous or scared, I knew I was ready. I had a deep calm about it and that’s where I needed to be mentally.IMG_5639

When the gun went off at 6 a.m. I knew my plan, knock off a few miles before the sun heated things up. Then back off the pace a little, if things were going as planned I would have banked a few mile and some time before things got hot. I did not think about the miles, just the distance to the next aid station (although, my new friend Monique made an off the cuff comment after one mile that it was like 99 bottles of beer left on the wall, so from that point on it was how many bottles of beer were left). No thought wasted on anything beyond that…focus on the moment, the pace and how I felt. I would run by feel and feel alone.

Soon I passed the first aid statio

n, then the second and off the roads, on to single track trails. I backed off a little, it was slightly technical and uphill-no use in wearing myself out this early. Then the third aid station (which is also the first aid station since the opening 16 miles of the course is a figure 8) and still feeling great.

A few more mile and I emerged from the trail at Lake Sylvia, the first aid station that my crew was allowed to be.

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As I came in Tom and Kendall were ready, peanut butter and honey sandwich in hand, fresh singlet to put on and restock nutrition in my vest. In and out, smooth as a runner could ask for.

Next up was the Pumpkin Patch aid station. The stretch between there and Lake Sylvia was the section I was most comfortable with. Everything was still clicking for me when I came into the Pumpkin Patch.

This aid station is special to me. the first thing I did with this race, or any trail race for that matter, was help at this station for a few hours before I went out to pace Lisa Gunnoe, that was back in 2015.

Lisa’s family mans the Pumpkin Patch, so when I came in they were ready for me. Her daughter Kim grabbed my water bottles and filled them while her husband Chris got me Gatorade and snacks. Kevin King filled my ice bandanna and tied it on me. It was almost like having my crew there helping me.

The next couple of stations came and went with ease, E-tower then Rocky Gap. Stomach was good, legs felt strong at both stations. Quick banana and a swig of Coke and off I went. the stretch after Rocky Gap live up to it’s name, fairly good sized rocks and they were uneven. I slowed a little even though it was a downhill and I love a good slightly technical downhill. I wanted to save a little plus it was starting to warm up.

Next I came into Lake Winona, the second crew station. By this point, another one of my pacers, Shauna, had joined in. I decided that it was time for a sock change. My crew had a chair out and ready for me as if they had anticipated this. Tom and Kendall fed me and restocked my vest while Shauna’s motherly instincts kick in and she put fresh socks on my feet.IMG_5697

I slowed my pace a little at this point, there was a lot of uphill through the next section and not much shade. I was afraid the heat might get to me since there was no shade to speak of. Luckily for me, the sky clouded up some. For a few minutes I wondered if I would be running in the rain. I just pushed through to the next aid station, Pig Trail. A banana and a swig of soda, still feeling great so I cruised right through.

My plan all along was to manage my time at the aid stations and so far I was sticking to it. Don’t waste time but don’t go through so fast that I burn myself out or don’t get what I needed. Think about it before I was there and know what needed to be done so it could be done efficiently.  In this race, efficiency was the name of the game, not just efficiency of running form, but of time and weight carried.

Club Flamingo, the Bahama Mama stations, then the fun begins. It is the highest point of the course, Smith Mountain. Truthfully, the first time over Smith Mountain isn’t to bad (after the initial figure 8 the course is an out and back). I reached the top of the mountain with a man named Ben. We had been running together since Club Flamingo. I had warned him that as the evening wore on that snakes would be coming out.

After taking a moment to enjoy the view, he turned and nearly stepped on the biggest timber rattler I have ever seen. We backed up, hoping it would just go on. It just laid there, completely across the trail. The next option would be to go back to Bahama Mama, 2.5 miles. This would not be a great choice since it would add 5 miles to an already long run. Finally, it was decided that our only choice was to kill it. Sticks and stones do break bones, even in snakes. After we left, we realized that we had left the carcass in the trail, neither of us wanted to go back. As Ben pointed out, it would make for a good story for the runners behind us. For the people I spoke to, it did make a good story and we were called a few names.FullSizeRender (1)

Next was a nice long downhill. We took this section a little slower. It was smooth, but covered in leaves. After our last encounter, we erred on the side of caution, a snake would very easily be missed if we were moving too fast or didn’t have time to notice it in the dead leaves and timber.About a mile before Power line aid station, the course becomes dirt road again, snake would be more visible, so we sped up again.

At the aid station, you can get your first pacer, for me that was Chris.  We left out about dark. Headlamps on, we took off. Everything seem good at this point. Just as we settled in to a good pace, something happened, it was like a switch went off. My right leg felt like a knife was stabbing it every time I took a step.

I limped to the next aid station, Copperhead (ironic name after what happened a few miles earlier). My friend Susan was working, she tried to help me massage it, tape it, even put Bio-Freeze on it. Nothing worked, I made the decision to call it a day. I hated to do it, but I didn’t want to cause anymore damage. I’m still not 100% sure what caused it, but I know that I will spend more training time on hip and core strength for my return next year.

All in all, it went well up until that point. I felt good, physically and mentally. I was “in the zone” all day. It was truly one of the best runs of my life, even if it fell short by 47 miles.

Lessons Learned on the Road to the Arkansas Traveller

I haven’t posted much here lately. Life, training for the Arkansas Traveller 100 and volunteer commitments seem to get in the way constantly. As of right now, I have just started my taper, so I will probably have the taper jitters and over post things here.

They say that the person who stands at the starting line of their first 100 miler is not the same person who crosses the finish line. Really, you could take that a step further, the person who signs up is not the same one who stands at the starting line. Here are some of the things I have learned so far.

  1. For me, I have learned to manage my time better, to organize more. I knew going in that I would have to learn to roll with the punches more because things can and will go wrong. Did I forget some equipment? Oh well, learn to run without it. Adjust on the fly and roll with the punches. Something is bound to go wrong, just call it a challenge, face up to it, adapt and overcome.
  2. Speaking of adjusting, don’t be set in your ways when it comes to nutrition. I only allow myself to drink sodas during long runs and then it usually is an occasional treat at an aid station. Back in the day when I did drink it regularly, I would only have Coke or Mt Dew. I hated Sprite. At a race recently, the only option at a particular aid station was Sprite. So I decided it was better than nothing. To my surprise it went down pretty good.
  3.  Trust your training! As most of us do, I am second guessing what I did and what could have been done different. I hear many opinions on how to train for a 100 miler, and I am sure that they all work, but I have chosen one plan and I stuck to it. Some swear by back to back long runs, some never run more than 25-30 miles at a time. I know that these plans have worked, but I know that mine will work too. My advice to the person looking at their first ultra is to ask around, find a plan that fits into your overall fitness and lifestyle, and then don’t second guess it (I say this knowing you will second guess it like I have). They say opinions are like belly buttons, we all have one. When you start training you will get many (opinions that is, not belly buttons). Weed through them and find what works. Some ideas may help you. Listen to everyone and discern.

The most important lesson I have learned wasn’t about myself, rather it was about others. As I headed down this road, I was a little concerned as to who would be willing to assist me. This is a big endeavor, one that is nearly impossible to do by yourself. When word got out that I was in, many offered to help.  I was overwhelmed at the offers. The lesson I gleaned from this is that people want to be apart of something bigger than themselves, especially when it involves helping those around them achieve their very best.

What Not to Think About

Comedian Brian Callen recently used the phrase “what not to think about” on the Art of Charm podcast. He was referring to learning a new hobby or skill. This is the perfect analogy for running. Volumes have been written on how to run, how to train for a run, how to eat for a run, how to do this for a faster run, how to do that for a faster run, what exercises to do so you will have better runs, etc.

With so much instruction out there, it can be easy to get information overload. Some of the information may even sound contradictory. There are several shelves in my office full of books about running, which seem to multiply mysteriously. I’ve noticed a weird pattern, they seem to procreate around the time I look at Amazon.com because several days later there are always new books there. All of these books promise the same thing, to make the reader run faster and farther and more efficiently.

Chapters have been written on just tying your shoes. Yes, tying your shoes. Most of us learned how to do this as toddlers and have never thought about it again. It has almost become an autonomic function, yet there are many ways of doing it. I had a problem with my shoes coming untied, I learned that crossing the ends of the strings the opposite way would stop this. Who knew that something so simple could solve that problem, no more double knotting.IMG_8733

Somehow we have to learn how to discern all of this information, otherwise we could cloud our mind. Sometimes it’s through trial and  We run the risk of focusing on the wrong thing, watching the right hand and losing the left one.

We tend to complicate things and cloud up our efforts. We buy the latest and greatest in technology. Yet, in the end, we are all just trying to put one foot in front of the other as fast as we can. Many runners tend to focus on their GPS device, whether it’s a watch or a phone app. These can be dangerous to your mental game. If you learn to run by feel, then you look at your watch and realize that you are going faster than intended, you may slow down. While it can be a good thing to hold back, you may be holding yourself back from a major break through.

Still others tend to spend to much time visiting. I realize that running is a social sport, but at some level we need to be able to stop talking and push ourselves. I’ve watched many groups who’s main goal is to stay together, while there is strength in numbers, I can’t help but wonder if there is someone in that pack in front of me who could be preforming better. If you choose to focus on those around you, make sure that both of you are on similar levels.

What should you think about?  What deserves all your attention while running? What I have learned is that the focus should be on the enjoyment of the run. Not one thing has helped my pace more than learning to smile through it all. A smile can force you through the pain and to help you work past the low points.

A long run can be an emotional roller coaster with great runner’s highs. With each high point there is the one thing you rarely hear about, the runner’s low. Everyone has their own way of working beyond the low, but a smile can be the greatest tool in your box. Why? Well, research has proven that a smile will improve your mood. It can also reduce your perceived stress levels and lower your heart rate.

My question to you is, if you can’t smile while you are doing something that you supposedly enjoy, then why do it? We all have our different reasons for running, but we all share a common pains and a common love for the sport. Running is not comfortable, it can out right hurt at times. We all hurt in some way, so why not just smile through it all?

 

 

Navy 10 Nautical Miler

As runners we tend to measure our distance in one of two major systems, the metric system with 5k’s and 10k’s being the most popular of these. Then there is the imperial system with all its fractions and decimal points, 13.1 and 26.2 blah, blah, blah.

What if I told you there is another way of measuring your distance? What if there was a completely new distance in this system that you have probably never raced before? There is and it’s call a nautical mile. A nautical mile is roughly 1.15 miles

In 2010 the NSA Mid-South started this race, measuring at 10 nautical miles. Why this distance? According to their race information packet, 10 nautical miles is the distance from a ship to the horizon line. It is also the distance that our brave men battled from when they stormed the beaches of Normandy.

I have wanted to do this race for several years now and I finally made the time to do it. Overall, I’m glad I did and wonder why it took me so long to attend. I wasn’t sure what to expect there, I have seen many photos of the race and it looked like a major one.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon to the health and fitness expo/packet pick-up. It was not as large as the major marathon expos that I have been to, but there was plenty to see. They were set up in an old airplane hanger, so there was ample room, no tripping over other runners. In fact, the entire event was held on the largest inland U.S. Naval base. Looking around and watching the staff and volunteers, it was apparent that the officials had it all together. Everything was organized and everyone seemed to know exactly what they needed to be doing.

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Wearing our Arkansas Run for the Fallen shirts at the Expo

Sunday was race day! 6 a.m. start time! If you ask why the start time was so early, then you probably haven’t ran in the south much during the summer, it gets hot and humid fast here. As for Sunday instead of Saturday? I can only assume that it has something to do with the traffic and the fact that several major streets in and around the base are closed down completely.

At that time of the morning, the sun is just starting to peek over the horizon, but this day it was cloudy and there was a threat of rain. We were corralled up by anticipated finish times, faster ones in the front. As we took off, the course seemed flat to me, but I had been told there would be some rolling hills. We wound around what seemed like a back part of the installation, there were even some old airplanes there as if they were being prepped for display.

Before I knew it, I was at an aid station. The stations were at each nautical mile. I only used one since I was carrying my own water and nutrition. What I did see was that they were well stocked and the water and Gatorade had been kept iced, which is great for the Memphis summer runs. They also had porta-potties at each one, another good idea. With the cloudy conditions, the weather felt great and I just started running by feel and enjoying the day. Aid stations seemed to click by, each one with a sign showing what nautical mile you were at.

Along the course were sailors in their camouflage guiding and cheering for us. While I know that this was probably a typical military volunteer situation they seemed genuinely happy to be there, even at this early hour (for those not familiar, the military has a system where-as the superior rank tells someone that they have volunteered for a duty, otherwise know as being volu-told).

As for me, I went into the race just to enjoy and stay on top of my nutrition. I was hoping to do it in around 2 hours. I only casually glanced at my watch when the miles beeped, I didn’t really pay attention to it until mile 6 (actual mile since my watch doesn’t have a setting for nautical miles).  It was at that point I realized something, I was going to do a personal best on the 10k! I actually ended up doing a 58:39. It was then that I realized that I could actually do the 2 hour goal I had set. After all, I felt great and was already well over the halfway point, so why not?

A swig of Tailwind, a gel and off I went. The nautical miles and the accompanying aid stations seemed to click off. I had only made the stop at number 5 where I filled up my water bottle, so there was no need to stop at any others, but they made for great mental markers. I ran from aid station to aid station, just enjoying the run. The heat and humidity held off a little. It was warming up, but the overcast skies held off the major heat. I even felt a few rain drops along the way.

The hills were not bad by my standards, they were rolling hills that started18839314_1493715587333939_8228137875747962727_n around 2 miles in and were never a hard grade. By the halfway point, we had reached the maximum elevation. The worst was behind us or so I thought.

We entered a paved trail walking/jogging trail that went behind the base housing. Several of the residents came out to their backyards in order to cheer us on. At one point we went into the streets in the housing area with more residents out to cheer and one family outside with their water hose spraying into the street to cool the runners.

I always like to finish strong, push the last bit and this was my plan here also. What I had not counted on was the long steady hill up to the finish line. Again, it was not steep, just a long one, especially after 10 plus miles. I pushed as much as my legs would allow me to. I even managed to pass a couple of runners on the home stretch. As I approached the finish, my eyes went straight to the clock, 1:51 and counting. Official time-1:51:15.28, I had beat my goal!

I feel like I would 18835675_1530554330318974_4532056194763520342_nhave done a little better, had I realized that there was free waffles and beer at the finish. I’ll know next year, so maybe I can shave a few minutes off. The after party was well stocked, plenty of water and did I mention waffles and beer?

The most surprising thing to me was that 1,500 people were signed up, yet it had the feel of a small town race. It’s really hard to put your finger on why, but it just felt like a small race. Maybe it was the support of the local community, maybe it was that the organizers were on top of everything, or maybe it was the abundant volunteers who knew what needed to be done. Overall this is a great race that I am sure will continue to grow. I look forward to going back for many years and seeing what it becomes.

Why I Run Too Much

I am often asked why I choose to run so much or so long. There is usually a look of wonderment in their eyes, not the wonderment that one gets when meeting an idol. It’s more of a look of trying to understand the thought concept I have when I decided to run an ultra-marathon. There are many types of individuals who ask this question. A few are the more experienced runners who are wondering if they could do it; you can almost see the wheels turning in their head. Some are new runners, who are genuinely curious. Questions from these people are great, they make me think that maybe what I am doing is inspiring just one person to try and go further. Their questions are generally more in the line of how it’s done, not why.

The ones that bother me are the “why” questions I get in a nearly condescending way. The ones that are almost like the person is trying to watch a train wreck happening. They don’t think that it is possible; as if 26.2 miles is that absolute limit of human endurance. I have noticed something these people who ask me the whys have in common, most of them are people who I would classify as not understanding the fullness that comes with it. The ones who ask are generally either non-runners who would not under stand the running mentality to start with or runners who have yet to truly look for their personal limits.IMG_8726.jpg

We all have that point where we cannot go any further. The truth is that this point is a very personal thing. That point is one of mental exhaustion, where you can go no more. Your brain refuses to allow the body to continue any further. This is a primitive function of our minds that is a form of self protection. Something deep inside your head thinks that any more effort could become dangerous to the body and convinces you that stopping is the best and only option. I am not talking about stopping due to illness or injury, this limit is one that goes deeper. To not look for this limit is selling yourself short. It’s akin to leaving an uncompleted story, an unfinished book if you will.

What may be one person’s limit might be a warm up to the next person. While I believe that everyone can increase that limit with proper physical and mental training, when a person reaches their point, I respect that. No matter if its 5 or 100 kilometers or anything in between, they have pushed themselves and that is an admirable thing. To question someone who is searching for that boundary is to show a lack of understanding of what the true gift of running is, a mental exercise and test of ones will and grit.

The people who are asking why are the ones who have never searched for that limit. We should be asking them why. Why are you not trying to find a bigger goal? Why are you satisfied with what you have done? I have been known to ask people this. When I have, it was to individuals who I knew were capable of more, who I sensed were just scared to step into the unknown. There is a certain amount of fear that comes with finding these limits.

I may find my limit someday, I might find it at the most inopportune time. It may come when I lest expect it. It may come in the middle of a race, while that would be hard to deal with, in the end I would like to think I would have some satisfaction in knowing. On the other hand, I may never find it. I may spend the rest of my time here looking, but I will continuously be looking.  To say that I am not worried a little by the thought of running 100 miles would be a lie. To be honest, I am scared to death, but I refuse to let the fear or any other emotion control me.

Risks

Recently, I overheard someone say that they enjoyed trail running, but they didn’t want to risk falling. They were, therefore, going to stick to the roads. My first thought was of the traffic, neighborhood dogs and the falls that I had taken on the road. I also thought of the one time I fell and ended up in a cast, while road running. Yes, trail running can be dangerous, but I am not going to let fear rule me or my enjoyment of the world around me.  I fact, just a couple of weeks later I did take a nasty tumble. A little blood on my shoulder and knee, but all was good.

My pride wasn’t bruised, I fact I came up laughing about it. I should have seen that rock that was jutting up, silly mistake. Those who were behind me were more shook up than I was.

Later in the race, I noticed my left ring finger was bleeding pretty good. I stopped at a bathroom in a nearby campground and rinsed it off. The only way to describe the feeling was that it felt like a little knife in my finger when the water hit it. (Good thing I had bought a Qalo ring the week before.) The important thing was that I was still having fun. There were still 10 miles to go and a little blood wasn’t stopping me from finishing.

I think of scrapes and bruises much the same way that many mountain bikers do, they are trophies.  They show that the prize was earned, the effort was there. People see injuries and naturally ask what happened. “Oh, I was running down this mountain and lost my footing”.  I have notice that the look they give you is the exact same look they will give you when you say that you ran 50k or 50 miles. It’s one of complete amazement, shaking their head.

Truth be told, there is risk in everything we do, its just a question of what risks you feel are acceptable for the end results. There is risk in driving your car to work everyday, there is risk in bicycle riding. Risk all around you, most of the time we choose to ignore it or are completely oblivious to it.

To achieve your greatest potential, you will have to accept some risk. There will be times when you question that risk and those decisions. Fear cannot rule your mind without affecting your body and desire.

I chose to take the risks associated with trail running because the reward of the time on the trail in nature far outweighs the scab on my knee or a swollen ring finger.  Just in case though, I always carry a small first-aid kit in my truck.

Disconnect

Society has experienced an evolution, a redefining of sorts. Our perception of how we connect to the world around us has changed, along with how we interact with others. Somewhere, somehow in all this, we have lost our connection to each other. It seems odd that we now have social media that was intended to bring us closer together, but we are not any closer, we just have more facts about each other.  We have connected with people that we probably have not thought about in many years because their name popped up as a suggested connection.

The odd thing that has happened is that through all of these so called connections, we have truthfully become more distant. Our knowledge of each others lives would appear to be greater, but we are just catching the highlight reels of people’s lives, marriages, children and careers.

Our lives are like a castle; we have walls and moats for security and only allow in those we have chosen to, not everyone we meet. In recent years though, we have torn down the walls of security and we are left only with a moat. All the world can see your trials and triumphs. When we watch someone in this manner, we begin to think that we know them. Much like the characters on a television show, we don’t actually know them, we are only familiar.

A few short years ago, it would be normal to have only a few friends and we would not have had to list them. These friends would be very close, we would know many details of their lives, both good and bad.

Something else that has happened in all of this, we have not only become disconnected from those around us, but also the world around us, the environment. We no longer enjoy nature or it’s beauty. We go on a hike or just to a park and we cannot wait until we get back to our cell signal. If there is a signal, you will find people of all ages sitting around with there heads down, looking at their phones, meanwhile, there is so much to see around them.IMG_6901.jpg

Through our cell phones we now have every piece of information that one could need in the palm of our hand. We have become addicted to information, mostly useless information. I will admit that I am just as guilty as everyone else, but I am learning. I have made a conscious effort to put it down and enjoy the world around me. When I am out on a trail, I will rarely take a photo, especially on training runs. I have succumbed to the trend of “run-fies” and taken a few at some of the more scenic spots I come across. I feel like this is a little different, in the past one might have had a small camera to record a memory.

We must ask ourselves, where is the limit, when should I put the phone down and most importantly, do we truly know a person? How is it that we become an honest friend, not a “Facebook friend”? We can only do this through time spent together and sharing experiences. Screen time will never replace actually being with someone.

Training or racing together can build bonds. I think this is why the running community is usually close in most communities. The people have spent time with each other and had that face to face relationships forged. They haven’t been watching from afar across the moat at you struggle, they have been there struggling with you. Bonds and trust have lowered the draw bridge over the moat.

Social media has it’s place. There are many good things that have come from it. There are even many true friendships that have been made from it, but we must always ask ourselves, are we a real friend to others or a Facebook friend?

Is It Worth It?

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” the main character, George Bailey, holds his daughter at the climatic ending and as a bell rings, she proclaims “Look Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings an angel gets it wings!”

While this is a great sentiment, I must beg to differ from Zuzu Bailey’s teacher. When a Navy Seal trainee has had enough, he can quit. All there is to quitting is to walk up to a bell that hangs in the center of the compound and ring it. No angels rejoicing, no celebrations. Just a defeated dream and a lonely walk. Inside there awaits a blanket, coffee and a doughnut. A small consultation prize compared to the honor of wearing the Navy Seal insignia on one’s uniform.

The idea of the ringing the bell is so simplistic, yet it captures what the Navy is looking for in a Seal team member so brilliantly. Will this person quit when they are under pressure? When their team needs them, will they be there and ready to defend at all cost? By putting out a quick reward, they see who has what it takes. Much like the Stanford marshmallow experiment, will they take one marshmallow now or two later?

Nearly all the trainees are capable of completing the training on a physical level, but its the mental strength that is pulling men through all the near torturous trials. When that physical strength is gone, when they think they have reached the absolute limit, that’s when the test begins.

In every race we face a similar choice. Do you quit now and avoid any further pain, or continue, hoping for the prize that is at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Putting aside any thoughts other than the end result. We ask ourselves if it’s worth it. Is it worth all the suffering for that moment when you cross the finish line and someone puts a medal around your neck? Or that moment when someone asks you in wonderment, “you ran how far?”  Is it worth the pain?

These questions can only be answered by you. There is no one to whisper in your ear “yes, it is worth the pain.” You must do this for yourself. Do you want the coffee and doughnut that will only last a few minutes or do you want the glory of the finish?

If you choose to ring the bell and take the coffee, can you live with that choice, knowing that the ringing of the bell will forever echo in your ears? Is it worth it?

When you ring that bell in the race, your dream, your goal dies. All your training, all your early mornings and late nights are suddenly wasted. Is it worth it? Is it worth it?

Eddie Pinero once said in one of his motivational videos for Your World Within “anyone can run downhill, but not everyone will run uphill. The funny thing is that the prize is at the top of the hill.”

When things get tough, are you willing to keep going up that hill, scratching and clawing? At times hanging on by your fingernails asking yourself if it’s worth the struggle to the top? At the bottom of that hill is a bell with it’s coffee and doughnuts, it’s ease and comfort are . At the top is the prize, the glory of the accomplishment, is it worth it? Or would you rather have the easy way out and a doughnut?