I’ve started writing this post probably a dozen times. I’ve had so much in my head, but to get it on the keyboard and on the site takes ……. time. Time is very strange in life & on the run. Our third child just turned four ….. FOUR!!! Just yesterday (figuratively), she was squealing her first words but today she tops everybody else in the house put together with words per minute. Running three more minutes can sometimes seem impossible & agonizing while three more hours can at times be carefree. It certainly is all about circumstance and perspective. Some following this blog have probably noticed a sharp drop-off in writing – my last three race reports (here, here, & here) were basically just Instagram posts I put in yesterday (literally).  For those still with me and to some new readers – thanks for listening in on the craziest years and life-changes we’ve had yet.

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Catching Up

Just yesterday (figuratively), I was working on my first big career change: aeronautical systems engineer turned high school math teacher. A few minutes ago (figuratively), giant career change number two happened and to save you the long boring details, here’s an abbreviated list of what we’ve pulled a family of five through in the last 15 months:

  • Summer 2017 – sell house, sleep in friends’ guest rooms, & wrap up two jobs.
  • Run my second 100 mile trail ultra (summer 2017 – Burning River)
  • Move back to Eau Claire, WI (2017) – new rental house, new schools, new everything
  • Open a small family owned business – specialty running store (Blue Ox Running)
  • Work … a ton (compared to my previous lives)
  • Run … less (compared to my previous lives)
  • Run my first road marathon in five years (spring 2018 – Eau Claire Marathon)
  • Get injured … twice (more than any other time in my previous life)
  • Move again in town to our current house
  • Make “the decision of a lifetime” with what cordless leaf-blower best suits the family’s needs in aforementioned new house … WE HAVE PINE NEEDLES IN THE GUTTERS!!!!!

The above list has been a self-induced roller coaster of stress, thrill, & joy all rolled into one. About the only thing we didn’t do was have another kid … except we kinda did (figuratively) when we opened the business. We joke sometimes how Blue Ox Running is our fourth kid but in all seriousness it feels like being a new parent all over again – stressful? yes. Sleepless nights? yes. Am I writing this at 1:56am? yes. Stare off into a daze as we grab another family meal in the Taco Bell drive through? yes. Mental & spiritual health on the line? yep. Change in family rhythms? yes. Couldn’t do it without a village of help? hahahahahaha, if not we’d be dead (literally). Glad we did it? absolutely. God’s providing? more than planned. Is it our “job”? No, it’s a calling. What’s the worst part? the musty basement and occasionally having a nervous breakdown. What’s the best part? everything else – especially being able to take the kids to school, have coffee together on Tuesdays & Thursdays, host weekly events in the community, and getting paid to make videos with fart-jokes. Would you do it all over again? hahahahahahahahaha, would you not have your 4th kid?

Much like the other explosions of joy, thrill, and contentment in life (parenting, marriage, friendships, running across the mountains), this season of life has been incredibly demanding and full of responsibility. These go together I’m learning. Another lesson we can learn from the great teacher of distance running … want the thrill of the finish line and/or mountaintop? There are painful yet joyful days ahead in your preparations. Nobody wakes up one morning and just moves across the country, or runs a marathon, or gets married, or has a kid, or gets promoted. There are roots to be planted & work to be done beforehand. The key is planting and growing this work from delight instead of duty. This is what I’ve found in Eau Claire in our home and in our business – a season of root-planting with young kids and controlled chaos. Some might look the root-planting gardener with disdain thinking “why get so dirty?” … meanwhile the plant & fruit have future days ahead of it but also the gardener is having the time of their life getting dirty now! Some were made to garden and love it.

Running // Less but More // 50mi on the Ice Age Trail

As far as my personal running has gone – it’s been less. It’s been frustrating. It’s been free. Less miles, structure, and goals and more of doing what I can when I can. Since running my slowest marathon this spring, I settled in for a summer with some knee pains and found myself running a few shorter races … random 10k trail run, 2 mile road race (9:24), and 5 mile road race (25:50). A blast to be running faster and shorter again, but good golly do those short stints on the pavement hurt! The good hurt. The track workout kind of hurt. I ended the year this fall with no “A-race”, no real goals, no big build-up. I basically took a couple weeks off to regroup then went out to the Ice Age Trail and fastpacked for three days & two nights … in the rain.

Fast-packing is basically a combination of running and backpacking with a slimmed down pack. Totally self-supported (drinking from lakes with a filter) with everything on my back and sleeping in a tree-hammock with a rain-fly above. Some top notch brands helped me on my fastpacking debut by providing some fantastic gear – Ultimate Direction Fastpack 15, Altra Timp, Altra Wasach Jacket.

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Rarely am I low on motivation when starting an adventure like this, but I was contemplating not even going the night before and especially the morning of. After a demanding “one year birthday” week for the store I was low on sleep, low on miles of training, low on motivation, and had low chances of a good weather forecast – 100% chance of rain the next three days. Needless to say, I found myself at the trail head on a Monday afternoon and put in my first 11 miles before setting up camp. Boy I’m glad I got out. I can’t put into words how my heart and mind softened out there. As James Tealey writes in a song, it was the “language of our hearts” God gave me on the trails.

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Day two was 28 miles total – originally supposed to be only 14, but I broke it up into an out and back to Cornell and back to my campsite so I wouldn’t have to tear down and set up camp in the rain again. My stop in Cornell was incredible … coffee and an omelette to warm up at a bar with some town folk having some beers and play dice. 1pm on a Tuesday – On Wisconsin! I found a laundromat to dry out some clothes & gear where I miiiiiiiiight have been only in a t-shirt (used as underwear) for awhile. Don’t ask, it was never indecent exposure …. I think. Day three I ran the 11 miles back with all the gear to make it ~50 miles in 48 hours, but more importantly than counting the miles or what I ate or elevation I logged … my brain & heart did a reset.

After working 53 Saturdays in a row, I was in the woods alone reading, praying, singing, laughing, and getting poured on with buckets and buckets of rain. I was free. I was soaked in rain and grace.

I was immersed in God’s creation and God’s goodness. I wasn’t just reading about it, but experiencing & learning what it means to be washed clean and have my feet washed (literally & figuratively). I was “back on the trails” with everything I love about Wisconsin and fall running in full effect as the neon yellow leaf canopy hung overhead.

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Now I’m back and my right knee is killing me 🙂

After some rehab, I’ll be back and ready for a big training block for 2019 … don’t know where my next starting line or mountain will be. But I do know running has been the same but different for me lately. I haven’t tracked my training in months. I’ve just … gone. I’m mentally ready to hit it hard, but then again I told myself to hit the foam roller and cross-train more this winter anyways. Skis? Snowshoes? Bring it on winter. Bring it on year #2.