Category Archives: Lifestyle

18 months later …

So … I haven’t really blogged, or run the Western States Trail, in ~18 months.  First off, my race report was waaayyyy too long and I thought I’d let “it” (running, blogging, pictures, etc) just breathe for a long while.  There have been other reasons for time away.  Good reasons.   I knew heading into the epic and thrilling run at WS100 in 2014 that my life would be changing in more ways than one.
Continue reading 18 months later …


RACE REPORT: 2014 Western States 100mi

I’ll try.  I’ll try my best to put down into words what was the longest and most incredible run of my life.  What it all kind of means.  I’ve previewed this as being my last highly trained competitive race (more here) and none of it has quite hit me yet.  This retelling won’t be what “it” really was, but I’ll give it my best shot to bring you along with me into the mountains, into the canyons, into my brain, into what I felt that sunny Saturday in California.

(Update: click here for full WS100 video & photo gallery)

Continue reading RACE REPORT: 2014 Western States 100mi

Photo Friday: Double Stroller

I often find myself daydreaming and thinking about my future runs in the mountains – primarily Western States in June – while I’m on “regular” daily morning runs back home.  Earlier this week I had a run with my boys I won’t soon forget.  One I know I’ll be daydreaming and thinking about – even longing for – while I’m in the mountains in June. Continue reading Photo Friday: Double Stroller

Quick Training Update

Especially after the 30miler last Saturday on 3.5 hours of sleep, I’ve been totally drained and worn out to continue normal training. Instead of limping along and still racing Hawkeye 50k in 3 weeks, I’m going to pull the plug now on it, take 5-15 days to get energy & legs back, and get my late-winter rest in before the more important 16-week build up to Western States.   This has been without a doubt the most brutle winter of running I’ve ever trudged through but actually the highest mileage I’ve been at for a while and am encouraged how this should serve a more specific build up towards June 28th.

I’m very much looking forward to being a full-time volunteer at the Hawkeye 25k/50k in a couple weeks as while racing I’ve always been a bit jealous of the volunteers and aid station workers.

Listening to the body … going to pay off in the long run. Hard to do … gotta do it.

Training Cycles Part 1/5: Daily Training

A successful training program is one that gets you to the start line feeling fit and fresh.  Most endurance athletes may not struggle with getting out the door and doing some hard work, but in fact allowing themselves to rest and recover enough.  We must break up our training in cycles and be as intentional (if not more) about our rest than our hard quality sessions.  Below is part 1 (of a 5 part series) regarding smart training cycles: Continue reading Training Cycles Part 1/5: Daily Training

5 Steps to Safely Remove Dead Toenails

Yep, gross and awesome at the same time – dead toenails.  A badge of honor in the running community and quite possibly the mark of record miles or vertical change.  Toenails are often lost for a number of reasons because of how your toes and feet are jammed up in your running shoes.  In my opinion, they are in the same category as blisters – because that’s how it always starts … with a (blood) blister on top the toe but underneath the nail.  Some are avoidable by wearing better-fitting shoes / socks (minimize “swimming” of your feet in the toe box) but others are unavoidable (running downhill, sweating a lot, running through water, etc.).  Blister underneath gives way to dead skin … that skin was previously used to connect your nail to your toe … nail lifts up towards the heavens and is susceptible to being removed.  Below is a short list of steps to follow if and when you are faced with taking those suckers out … learn from my 12+ years of doing it right, wrong, and everything in between.

1. Identify an oncoming blister

Feels just like any other blister except now it’s under the toenail creating more pressure and discomfort as fluid / blood accumulates.

2. Safely remove fluid from blister

Do not be in a hurry to do this right after you run / race, but after a day or so of your blister deadening the toenail skin use a sterile (burning hot) pin to prick and drain the fluid / blood.  Don’t use your dirty fingernails to pull or stretch the skin around as you’ll be at risk of infection.  You might have to drain a few times throughout the day depending how the skin is healing and how your current activity is affecting the area.

3. Clip upper portion

When I see that the upper half of my nail is simply resting on dead skin and I’m able to pry / pull it off the toe itself, I will clip the top portion of the toenail (see picture).  This helps prevent retaining any dirt / infection in an area that essentially has a dead nail resting on dead skin … removing it will also get a jump-start on healing the raw skin / toe underneath.  This raw exposed skin will be VERY tender; I usually wrap in sport tape / band-aids for a few days while I run as you’ll feel every little bump and poke.

4. Wait

This is by far the most important step!  After clipping any nail that is ready above DON’T RUSH pulling out the portion of the nail that is attached in the cuticle of your toes at the bottom.  Chances are that your toe is swollen and fighting off possible infection already from the above steps and this last bond is much slower to die and “let go”.  Wait for redness and swelling to minimize before even attempting to pull off the last portion of your toenail … if it feels like it’s really going to hurt, stop!  Waiting 2-5 days is my experience before moving on to the funnest and last step.

5. Pull off bottom portion

When ready, this honestly doesn’t hurt much at all.  After waiting a few days as outlined above, test to see if the base of your toenail is dead and ready to slide out.  It might take some tugging, but should really come out all in one piece and one motion … left to right.  The connections in the corners of your cuticle might tear some skin and cause some bleeding, but there should be no shooting pain and before you know it, you’ll have a new (awesome) dead toenail in your hand!

Feel free to collect them and/or shove them in your significant other’s face … just because.

Why Running for Charity is Liberating

Halawi smallWhy do we do it?  Why do we get out there, day after day, and beat our bodies up?  When is enough … enough?  When the mind says “no more”?  When the body says “can’t do it”?  My tagline for this blog is “insights and ramblings about loving pain” – what a bunch of whack-jobs huh? Running competitively (and for fun) is honestly one of the weirdest, hardest, and most freeing lifestyles you could have, but we’re often at a loss for words for … “why?”

There are many many reasons why – I feel better about myself, I need to relieve stress, I am looking for a new personal record (PR), I want to be able to eat a lot, I want to loose weight, I absolutely love wearing tiny shorts, and the list goes on.  But I’d like to dive into one of the reasons at the top of many people’s list … and it has nothing to do with how fast you get to the finish line.  Instead of “I <fill in the blank>” there is a massive and growing population of people who run because “THEY …. need help”.  Let’s talk about charity running (or biking, swimming, trekking, walking, etc).

I’ve been a competitive distance runner for 16+ years and have been through it all – high school xc/track, NCAA xc/track, road racing, a bit of trail running.  Good years, bad years, frustrating years, and seasons of continued PR’s.  At the end of the day, the charity running project I did in the Grand Canyon was one of my proudest running endeavors … by far my slowest running endeavor, but my heart was on fire.  I won’t recap that trip or even get into the charity I supported, but I will say I encountered all of the following top five reasons, in no particular order, to get out the door and run for charity:

1. Community

The running community itself is tight – no doubt.  But there are many who simply have no idea why anybody would wake up 2 hours early and just … go … run.  Again, it’s honestly the weirdest thing I think anybody does and many would agree.  When running for charity, we open up the doors to anybody and everybody that might have personal experience or know somebody with the mission of our charity.  Cancer survivors, missionaries, veterans, and the list goes on.

2. No Pressure

For those that love to get out and perform to the best of our abilities, we know it takes a toll on the body but also the mind.  Is that twinge in my knee going to affect tomorrow’s tempo run?  Mile repeats were on average 2 seconds slower than last year at this time …. NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!  When training and racing for charity, you get to inspire and give the same amount regardless of performance.

3. Perspective

One of the most humbling moments in my running career was on the starting line of the 2011 Marine Corps Marathon.  A couple of minutes before the cannon exploded to send the mass of runners on their way, the wheelchair race began their 26.2 mile journey.  Double-amputees, war veterans, blind runners, and the like were attacking the pavement.  I usually always complain and moan the week following a marathon or tough race with how stiff and sore I am, but not this time – I was thankful my legs were intact with my torso.  Many people affected by the illnesses, poverty, and violence good charities help out would love to go take a walk down by the lake or jog for maybe 5 minutes … and here I am frustrated again that my timing chip doesn’t fit my shoelaces JUST right or worrying about hitting the first mile split within 3-4 seconds of goal pace.

4. Making a Difference

A lot of people are making excellent choices with excellent charities to provide better life (and preserve life) for the sick, needy, wounded, neglected, and impoverished.  Plain and simple, raising money makes a difference.  The logistics and costs involved in distributing simple healthy meals around in the globe, or cancer research, or providing clean well water to remote locations is incredible.  A single serving of food distributed by Kids Against Hunger is $0.25 – or ~1/30 the cost of grabbing fast food … a little truly goes a long way!  When you answer the call to impact those that might be very similar (struggling through a sickness you’ve fought or that’s in your family) or very different (3rd world impoverished children eating 1/2 of a meal per day) from you, there is something created in us that explodes with joy.

5. Model Commitment

By being the athlete raising support, you get to show your support system that you mean business!  You are dedicated to getting to that start / finish line and you’re not just “asking for money again”.  You are being proactive in your endeavor and challenging others to support however they can.  It’s good to ask for support in many different ways (not just money) so your team can dedicate themselves how they feel fit.  If somebody doesn’t want to (or can’t) give money, no problem!  See if they’d help share the word or design a poster for you.  Your closely knit team and on-looking strangers alike should see that you mean business.

I Race For Cause –

Running (and biking, swimming, walking, etc) for charity is increasing in popularity as is the commercial event-driven endurance fitness industry.  An incredible new and revolutionary way to “flow” the support to athletes and their personally chosen charities is at (I Race For Cause).  Check them out and see how good it might feel to benefit others while continuing your life as a whack-job endurance athlete.

Back in the Saddle Again – Hungry for 2013 Racing

NOTE: scroll down to start or stop mind-blowing cowboy music video

back-in-the-saddleFirst off, if the first thing you did before reading this was shut off the cowboy music, shame on you … it’s glorious.  Moving on, my 2+ weeks off has come and gone. Usually these bi-yearly rest & recovery stints come after a big peak race and includes:

  • Shoveling ice cream & quality beer into my gullet every night
  • Spending $1000’s at Taco Bell
  • Sleeping in
  • All of the above

This spring was different. My whole first week of “rest” was forced due to the worst stomach virus I’ve ever had .  Out of work for a week and living in one of two places – in bed or on the crapper. The worst. After a week of “fun” not eating solids, losing weight, and going “big potty” billions of times over, I knew I wouldn’t arrive at the starting line at Ice Age Trail 50 in a position to run a successful 50 mile trail debut … better a DNS than a DNF with the condition I was in. I took the opportunity to recover from sickness and take an additional following week of rest & relaxation – zero running but this second week included a lot more Taco Bell and ice cream than the week before.

And now … it’s come to pass and I couldn’t be happier. Don’t get me wrong, letting things go with an intentional rest / relaxation phase a couple times per year is very very very good for you – physically but especially mentally.  But, now it’s time to get back on the horse, back in the saddle, and get ready for the pain I so dearly love to wake up to.  I’ve tightened up my remaining upcoming summer 2013 schedule to still include a couple of 50 milers on the trails:

  • Pacing duties at Western States 100
  • Dances With Dirt Devil’s Lake 50 mile trail run (rugged for Wisconsin)
  • The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin 50 mile trail run
  • Late Fall – other trail / xc stuff??  Who knows….

TNF will be my peak race 18 weeks out from right now – perfect to build back up and attack! I’m also very proud to announce I’ve employed the experience of an ultra running coach for this build up – Ian Torrence – of McMillan Running Group.  I come to the table with plenty of running knowledge and experience (I love coaching myself in fact!) but am such an ultra newbie and look forward to Ian’s vast ultra knowledge & experience to guide me through race specific workouts and molding the long runs required (super long, back-to-back, fast finish, etc) to be successful and see where it goes for 2013.

Running again feels better each day.  Today’s 12 miler felt better than yesterday’s 8 miler which was better than Monday’s 5 miler.  I love routine and the spring & summer weather fosters my most effective schedule (with kids / family / job / etc) – up early and back from running, drills, strides before 7am (before kids are up).  I even have a “daddy chart” (next to my 3yr old’s potty chart) with goals to be efficient with my time … back by 7am, do the big dishes, shower / dressed in 15min, brush / floss teeth.  Yes, I’m 30 (not 3) years old and I have a chart … keeps me accountable with the little things to be more efficient with my time … gives me more quality time with family.  Anybody snickering at my version of a big-boy-potty-chart can meet me at 5am and see if they can keep up for the next 12-18 miles (earlier & longer on Saturdays)

Besides, if I get enough “checks” I get a sticker … and maybe some Taco Bell?

Boston 2013

the-one-fund-bostonI hesitate to even write anything … I’m just a guy that likes to run, enjoys chatting about running with others, and writes about running on this dumb blog.  I’ve never run The Boston Marathon … I’ve never even been to Boston, MA.  But today I woke up feeling even more sick than when I heard of the terror at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.  I woke up with a pit in my stomach as if my family had been attacked.  My family of Americans and more specifically my immediate family of distance runners … reaching, digging, and clawing out whatever is inside to put themselves in a position to tolerate self-inflicted pain and suffering.  An appropriate pain and suffering … a conscious decision to endure for a greater joy and, I believe, worship He who created us.

And at the climax of such sensible and truly awesome pain and suffering the Boston Marathon was met with more pain and suffering … this time senseless, destructive, and evil.  Bombs exploding, people mangled, and ciaos spreading like wildfire.  What makes this pain and suffering different?  The degree of injuries and bloodshed are no doubt worse and more severe.  But it’s ultimately the attack that makes this all frightening and so offensive.  In the short video clips I’ve seen, I’ve seen our counter-attack launched almost instantaneously … not with more violence, but human consideration.  The immediate counter to the absence of respect for human life was the direct medical care for those same humans.

No doubt I’ve gone on and on – sometimes publicly but usually in my thoughts – about how tough and tight the running community is.  Usually it’s eluding to getting up before sunrise for a frigid long run, enduring the hateful profanity hurled your way (sometimes with beer cans/bottles) from an oncoming car/truck, or silently screaming “is that all you got?” when your legs and lungs are on fire and you still can’t see the finish line.  Boston 2013 was different, but it’s made of the same people…with the same fire inside to better themselves that ends up bettering us all. Think you have nothing left coming down the straight away after 26.2miles? How about the runners literally diving into rubble to help people being ripped apart? What about those that KEPT RUNNING to the hospital to give blood?

Evil exists … but I’m so proud of those fighting it head on with blood and sweat on their brow.  Every once in a while, we gain some perspective on life through sports.  I’m often guilty of fretting over the best training with the best workouts for the optimum performance … all that energy into maybe shaving 3 minutes off a marathon PR?  NO!  Our hope and strength is in something no bomb or running race can give or take away … the two greatest commandments: Love God and love others.   I’ve never been so proud to be a runner than seeing my fellow too-skinny-for-football running geeks go from enduring their own pain of awesomeness to fighting to save others’ lives in a split second alongside the police, firefighters, and first responders.  For those not fighting on the ground, please fight with prayer for continued safety.


Be Encouraged … Running Leaves You Empty

fuelComing out of a difficult bout of snow storms, sickness, stress, and more demands in work & family life some days it’s easy to want to simply pack it in and just never run ever again.  I’m not kidding.  In today’s world of Facebook updates, Tweeting, and blogging at our fingertips, it’s really easy to give others the “highlight reel” … only giving insights on your best workouts, best long runs, days you feel amazing … I’m guilty of this more often then not.  And while it is encouraging to see others get out the door and doing well, sometimes it’s actually more encouraging to see and relate to others’ trials and suffering – when running and life suck … when they don’t fulfill you.  The idea that everybody loves getting out the door, always has enough time in the day to run, always feels great, always has an incredible support system that always understands what you’re doing, and fitness is progressing perfectly for their peak performance is simply an illusion.  There was a day last week when my wife and kids were out of town – I thought it a good opportunity to catch up on things around the house, work a lot, and run a lot – a perfect chance to be productive while I could.  I found myself about to go for a 20 mile run on the many slushy / icy sidewalks I’ve been restricted to all winter just sitting in my car, staring at nothing in particular, just beings still, and not saying anything for about 25 minutes.  I missed my kids, my wife, and was short on time with the Lord.  My worry and focus was upon how well I’ve been feeling while running and as of late, it has been the pits … my joy had turned circumstantial.

As much as I’d like to say, “I just had to go for a run and I instantly felt better” … a small part of me did, but there is an underwhelming emptiness that no run can satisfy.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to attain goals and be the best I can … running 3 minutes faster in the marathon (or 20 seconds faster in a 5k) can seem like a goal I want, something I need, something I’d run 90 miles/week for rather than 40 miles/week …. but even after all these years of running, still setting personal records, and running as quick as I ever have – faster than college – part of me is not satisfied.  If I keep up the quest for PR’s as my primary goal, I’ll never be satisfied as you can always run a bit quicker.  I’m getting to a point where I honestly don’t care about PR’s … a year of self discovery and exploration into running longer races on the trails gives me relief to simply “be out there, worship Him, and finish …. oh, and don’t die”.  I’m enjoying a somewhat revitalized outlook and hope to bring it with me if ever returning to shorter (track / road) racing and running.  Especially with balancing a healthy family life, moving towards higher intensity & lower volume training for 5k through half marathon distances seems very attractive some days, but I still know I have lessons and experience awaiting me in 2013 on the trails.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop running, but I’m starting to prepare myself for life beyond competing at my highest level weather it’s later this year, in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, I don’t know.

A short nagging pain in my knee towards the end of a run can flip my whole world upside down because I see it threaten my goal, my self-worth, my joy.  I hate realizing it can still effect me this much.  And in these moments I (hope that I) cling to ………  Him.  I still feel as though God has me running for a purpose to praise, glorify, and cling to Him; the trouble is when I put my self worth in the running and not His (and my) joy through running.  It’s a fine line that isn’t well recognized sometimes but I’m learning to just be in His presence and realize I’m not a runner … I’m simply a man wanting to worship God through changing diapers, work projects, time with my wife, flying around a track, or running up a mountain.  Some are more desirable on the surface, but all can be worshipful OR self-glorifying.  It’s not our actions that make us honorable (or dishonoring), it’s our heart and who we serve through those actions.

Thank you for reading my ramblings.  Another take on feeling empty even after tons of running and world renowned success comes from ultra legend Scott Jurek in this good (fairly long) read … and feel free to share when running leaves you feeling empty with others!!!

To lighten the mood in an otherwise fairly drab blog post regarding my failings, faith, and self worth please enjoy the following video of Bill Gates jumping over a chair like a gangsta:

Early February Morning


Out of town with family … start to my day today:

Sometime in the 3-oclock hour – wake up to 2-month-old Leo up for a normal feeding with mom.

Sometime in the 4-oclock hour – stay up and finally rock the little guy back to sleep.

Somehow without really thinking about it continue to get the running clothes out and knock out an easy long run before 7am.  Had the roads all to myself on a brisk one down by gorgeous icy Lake Michigan.

Feels good to be done pounding breakfast food with the family still sleeping and the whole weekend ahead of us … unapologeticly an early riser.