Category Archives: Run4Poverty

Run4Poverty: 2014 Western States 100

(NOTE: Updated 3/27/14)

After a successful 2013 Run4Poverty campaign to the Grand Canyon, I’ve decided to run for cause again this year for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in June.  I’ve chosen two different excellent organizations to support:

Continue reading Run4Poverty: 2014 Western States 100

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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.

ir4c-logo
I Race For Cause – ir4c.com

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 IR4C.com (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.

Run4Poverty Recap – Grand Canyon R2R2R (Rim-Rim-Rim) Run

Well, I’m back and accustomed to civilization once again.  Actually I’ve been back for a while and I wanted to recap my trip (April 5-10) before too much more time flies by.  Looking back on the whole experience is very weird … it sometimes feels as though this all happened to somebody else and I’m yet another outsider learning of my own journey all over again.  While editing through videos and pictures I find myself thinking, “what kind of crazy person does all of this?? What an idiot!” so trust me when I say I don’t expect everybody to just “get it” and understand what drives somebody to leave his family, sit in the middle of the woods for a few days, and then run 50+ miles across the Grand Canyon and back alone.  Parts of me just doesn’t get it … but I’m not really after finding some deeper meaning or having some in depth faux-intellectual discussion about it all.  I’d like to keep things more basic – I lived alone like a crazy person for a week and simply worshiped God through mind, body, and spirit.  Below are a few accounts of my journey:

Visual: first video below – photo / video recap of my camping & running
Audio: second video (audio) below – post-trip interview on my church’s online radio show
Written: my ramblings below about what I remember (with a few Instagram photos)

(note: if any media – video or photo – is NOT embedded correctly via Youtube or Instagram, let me know!)

Visual

Written

Camping
I arrived in Phoenix with only one tiny traveling scare – my main checked bag with ALL camping equipment didn’t come down the ‘ol chute with others that were on my flight and I was left alone in the airport thinking I might have to stick around in Phoenix for a few hours/days while it gets here.  I checked into the Delta baggage office and apparently it fell onto the tarmac and was picked up by another flight cart … should be down ~15 minutes.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the only traveling delay/incident that ended up being quicker than expected!!

Landed…mountains are calling….

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After being shuttled around to the rental car building I ran errands to gather my SPOT II GPS transceiver from a local backpacking store and went to Wal-Mart to buy all my food and some last supplies.  Needless to say, things like that always take longer than expected but before long I was bombing North up I-17 towards the Grand Canyon / Flagstaff / Sedona.  I’d mapped out a few fire roads I thought I could camp on the first night and most were more rugged than expected with some late snow melting the previous week.  After picking an area where I could park the car (and hopefully get it out in the morning), I set up my tent and quickly threw running shorts & shoes on to get a quick shake out run in before the sun went down.

Good first run / day….

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My first feeling of seclusion came on this joyful run down past Schnebly Hill Lookout for an incredible sunset.  On the run back to camp, it was beginning to get “dusky” and I started to feel really alone and just ….. out there.  I caught a glimpse of two huge mountain elk as they heard me coming, looked straight at me, and bolted down the mountain – something so large moving so fast made me feel again small and alone, but I knew God was protecting me and I headed into my first evening alone with a newly dug fire pit, beans, rice, and billions of stars overhead.

Tent up … time for a shake out #run.

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Saturday morning brought an early rise as I never truly got used to the time change (especially sleeping in a tent alone – any distinct sound can wake you at any moment).  Reading as the sun came up along with a few rounds of letting the cold & crisp mountain air shiver my whole body as I did “business” outside followed by flying back into my sleeping bag to warm up passed time until I made eggs, coffee, cleaned up, packed up, and was on my way towards the Grand Canyon.

Breakfast + warm socks this morning ….

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Another 2 hours in the car before I arrived at the Grand Canyon gave me time to think about those that asked for prayer before I left and my own prayer requests.  I took the scenic route through Flagstaff and up Hwy 180 before eventually heading due North on Hwy 64 (and also changing from a time of prayer to a time of singing-at-the-top-of-my-lungs-to-any-song-that-comes-through-the-radio).  Arriving at the Grand Canyon was all business actually – I was scouting out a few odds/ends for my run on Tuesday (mainly parking spaces, bathrooms, and showers) and refilling drinking water before taking a shuttle to Hermit’s Rest to enjoy a nice 8-mile easy run along the South Rim Trail.  The hub-bub of tourism and riding a 35 minute shuttle was kind of a buzz-kill as I just wanted to be alone again … the same alone I felt when those massive elk stormed down the mountain side.

In the words of Lloyd Christmas …. "we're there…"

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Fav pic of the day … done at the GC till Tuesday.

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Soon enough, I was running along the rim enjoying the view.  Taking pictures, video, and more scouting the Bright Angel Trailhead had me on my feet for 2+ hours before I headed back to my car and wanted out.  That’s the last I’d see of the Grand Canyon until my rim-rim-rim run 3 days later.  Not wanting to pay for a campsite, but especially not wanting to be around anybody (or their trailer home) anymore, I headed a few miles south to more National Park fire roads outside of Tusayan and set up camp.

The next days were honestly pretty uneventful and I loved every minute of it.  Not too much to write about except that I kept myself busy by gathering wood, starting fires, preparing food, reading, praying, running, organizing running gear, and once in a while doing more “business” in the woods … simple as that.  Checking in with family back home gave me great perspective about how alone I truly was and how different life is by yourself.  I yearned for seeing and being with my wife and kids and part of me wanted to end the whole thing early, but I’d have to wait. I liked morning best … dawn is by far the best time of day in the woods whereas I really didn’t like night time at all.  Coyotes made their position known every night as the sun was setting and I was finishing up dinner and doing the dishes … Sunday they were closest on both sides of me – I guessed ~1/2 mile behind and just over the hill in front of me forcing me to wash dishes and change into “sleeping clothes” (clothes I never ate or prepared food in) a bit quicker that night.

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The last full day camping (Monday) was by far the most “eventful” (and cold) …. SNOW lightning & thunderstorm!!!  An awesome morning / afternoon of hail, snow, and wind all clearing up just as quick as it blew in.  I started in the tent to get out of the wind, but with thunder-boomers, I took cover in the car and as it let up I snuck in my last quick 20 minute shake out run and came back to blue skies.  I hoped I was in the clear but the forecast still projected rain and up to 3″ of snow overnight.  Not wanting to wake up early to snow and have to pack up in the dark (and possibly snow) I decided to pack up camp Monday evening, eat dinner, and sleep in the car.

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Monday night’s slumber was uneventful … curled up on the back bench seat with long johns and a sleeping bag was as comfy as I’d been in the tent but I had more on my mind that night.  I’d be joining the sunrise along Bright Angel Trail and dive into the Grand Canyon on the run I’d been anticipating for months.  Once again, I was alone with my own thoughts and only my own body heat to keep me warm.  In and out of sleep (and in/out of the car for more frigid “business” in the woods) I woke up before my alarm of 4:45am and felt the same I do on a race morning … my body being more tired than I let myself realize (especially after looking back at the video), getting some food to eat as I drove up the road back to the Grand Canyon chatting with my 3 year old (wishing me “Happy Bertday Daaaaahhheeeeee”), my wife, and eventually my parents.  I say farewells, text my sister, update Twitter, secure my last gear, pray, turn on my GPS transceiver, and bury myself in the canyons as the sun greets me on the north face plateaus – my (half-way point) destination for the day.

Running

South Rim > River – “Euphoric”

Starting the run and heading down to the river was “euphoric”.  To finally be able to un-bottle the angst and energy I’d reserved all this time was such a release.  I kept to my feeding schedule every 20 minutes (2x gels + 1x solid every hour) and refilled water (10oz hand held & 10oz bottle on pack) at Indian Gardens Campground.  The best all around open views were right out at Plateau Point as the sun was coming through the cloud cover … I couldn’t stop but just keep spinning around giving me an “eternal” panoramic view I’d never had before.  Continuing onward the trail got rugged again as I switch-backed down towards the river.  Meeting and running along side the river was another shot of adrenaline as you don’t realize how massive the Colorado River truly is since you’re always looking from a lot further back in the canyons – well now that “green stream” was a roaring white-capped river cutting through the inner gorge.  Crossing over the river and into Phantom Ranch I was on schedule and in good spirits.  Another stop to refill water and send postcards (from a mule-delivered USPS outbox that’s since been discontinued) took ~8-10 minutes and I was on my way up the North Kaibab Trail.

River > North Rim – “Draining”

The first climbing up North Kaibab is gradual and very pleasant being pinned in a massive valley / gorge, or “The Box”.  It wasn’t until I reached Cottonwood Campground and was in the open sun that I started to feel a bit tired (~16 miles) and stopped to glob on sunscreen and stash away my hat, gloves, and arm warmers.  Taking another longer refill at Cottonwood put me back behind schedule but I was still moving well.  Approaching the Residence Pumphouse I saw a helicopter land on the landing pad assuming this is how supplies are delivered to this full time ranger residence.  Now, I’m getting tired and wanting more and more to stop at Roaring Springs.  I make the turn and my heart kind of sinks as to get to Roaring Springs one must go DOWN (steep) to Roaring Springs which means you’ve obviously got to come BACK UP … extending the climb I’ve already begun.  No matter, I head down and get to the end of the trail (I think) … look around and don’t see any water fountain.  Search around more … I KNOW I’m in the right place … there are posts for donkey’s to be tied but no fountain and now I start to feel like the jackass.  I’m behind schedule and getting impatient – both my 10oz bottles have ~5-6oz in them and I decide to skip my break and keep going with what I’ve got thinking the sooner I get to the North Rim, the sooner I get more water and get to break for a longer lunch.  (note – of course the water is there, I’ve confirmed it with others and other video that I was simply not looking in the right spot – probably wondered right by it).  I’ve got 4.8miles to go to the top and as I start trotting up the Roaring Springs detour path (the one I was dreading coming back up) I try to swallow a gel with no water and an instant gag reaction leads to some good ‘ol fashioned dry heaving followed by puking – things are getting fun.  My stomach feels better post-puke but I know I’m starting to run on empty a bit and need to keep moving to the top.  Lack of water leads to lack of solids as I can’t swallow anything at this point.  And this is how the next 1hr 40min of moving went.  I say moving because I was no longer running … my power hike turned into a normal hike which relented to a hunched-over knuckle-dragging schlep.  I planned to basically power hike (15min/mi) the last few miles on each rim, but this was harder than my expectations … these were hiking trails, not running.  Boulders, logs, and some trail washed away from snow melting on the North Rim made me break any kind of rhythm.  It wasn’t just the steady steep incline, but the terrain that dominated me (nothing like that in all of Iowa).  My moment of glory … finally reaching the north rim – something I’d been thinking about for months and the INCREDIBLE feeling I’d anticipated … was reduced to survival.  It was windy, snowy, and cold.  I envisioned taking a nice long lunch break and “righting” my legs and stomach … but no.  I was shivering and wouldn’t warm up anytime soon sitting down so I took ~5-10 minutes to throw some trash away, sip Coke (that I’d been saving for lunch), get one gel down, and turn around and start my journey back … half way done but feeling beatin’ down and dead.

North Rim > River – “Redeeming”

Coming down only a couple minutes / miles gave me some breathing room and I was able to eat more and finish my Coke.  I was encouraged I could jog down and make progress … eating more, drinking a tad more – although I still hadn’t filled up on fluids yet (besides opening my 16oz Coke).  Soon my cramping quads actually got into some rhythm and I found myself running back past Roaring Springs … part of me wanted to go back and FIND THAT DAMN WATER FOUNTAIN … but, I was in the groove of descending and didn’t want to mess around with even a quarter-mile climb coming back out.  I moved my garbage bag from my body (using as a poncho) to tucking it under my shirt to stop sweating so much but still maintain wind protection.  Knowing I was making progress I just wanted to see Cottonwood Campground again and soon enough I saw little number markers marking individual campsites along the trail – one occupied with a tent – and I knew I was close.  Fill up on full bottles (including an empty Coke bottle) of water now and doing more mental math, I chose to forgo my Ribbon Falls detour and keep making way towards the Colorado River.  I soon entered “The Box” again and was honestly feeling quite alive and chipper!!!  More mental math and time-keeping led me to possibly still go up South Kaibab Trail and head over Tonto to Indian Gardens.  My legs were in a constant state of hurt, but not dead.  I took pleasure knowing they WANTED to keep moving and I’d long surpassed (somewhere back by the Pumphouse) my longest run ever thus far!  Strolling into Phantom Ranch I met with cheery hikers, backpackers, and campers as they enjoyed beers and sandwiches in the canteen … I, on the other hand, wasn’t as cheery and bummed $3 for a giant lemonade before refilling and heading out ~3:45pm back across the river.

River > South Rim – “Grueling”

As much as I wanted to see different trail and head up South Kaibab / Tonto, I ended up heading along the river back up Bright Angel Trail as I knew the River Trail would delay any heavy climbing for a bit and I didn’t want to flirt too much with finishing before sunset – with how much trouble I had hiking the North Rim, who knows how going back up the South Rim would be?  I trotted along the river with stomach cramps from too much lemonade but smiled at how well I made progress – soon came a sharp turn AWAY from the river to head back up Bright Angel.  Oh boy, real climbing again.  I trotted / jogged for a while but had to walk / hike the gnarly stuff.  It’s usually very common to break up a long run into many pieces … instead of running 50+ miles across the Grand Canyon and back, just get to the river first and go from there … get to the next campground, etc.  Well, I was now at the point of just getting to the next stream, turn, incline … anything that could distract my mind into thinking what I was doing was normal or easy.  Knowing family and friends could track me at this point via GPS was a huge mental victory as I felt them also doing the math with me trying to beat sunset although it was a real struggle to not be to Indian Gardens yet … NOT be in my final push, but be trudging and walking with so much mileage left (6+ miles to go still).  The trail did relent approaching the campground and I ran with some rhythm when I could.  I was already starting to feel my last push of the journey come to me before I started it and knew I was going to do it today … I was going to be successful.  I welcomed this victory already as I wanted to enjoy my last climb.  Jogging into Indian Gardens I stopped again to refill (as I had this morning in the same spot) and made small talk with some hikers / campers passing by.  I exited the campground facing my last climb.  I dedicated the last push to my Grandpa and Grandma Condit for their commitment to each other despite age and sickness.  I needed to finish what I started … I was ready to climb.  I ran as far as I could (which was actually a lot longer than anticipated) and started power-hiking when needed.  I had a new spirit and mentally just knowing I was in the homestretch (opposed to being halfway done and feeling terrible on the North Rim) put my feet in front of each other.  The 3-mile Rest House came up a bit quicker than expected, but  the next switchbacks to the 1.5-mile Rest House took FOREVER … and the last 1.5 miles to the top felt about triple that … relentless switchbacks.  I had since put back on my garbage sack, gloves, and hat, and was starting to feel the elevation in my lungs and see some flutters of snow – I knew I was getting somewhere.  Almost by surprise I finally came across a small tunnel I knew was ~1/4mile from the top where I decided to run it in.  That last run up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon will always be in my mind.  There was no finish line, there was no fanfare, there was no timing chips, grandstands, fans, or prizes to be won.  There was simply a trail head and a couple having an argument in Spanish.  I didn’t care what I looked like … I hadn’t showered for the last 5 days, had just run 51 miles across the Grand Canyon, and was wearing a garbage bag.  But this was one of my, no ……. this was one of His finest hours through me.  God’s finest hours / moments are  rarely brought in with fanfare and confetti – born in a barn and later nailed to a tree – bloodied and pain-stricken were His victories.   My body wasn’t able but my heart was full-out rejoicing for what He had done … thank you Jesus … in before sunset!!!

So there you have it – euphoric, draining, redeeming, and grueling all in one.  My 12.5 hour journey was roughly 7.5 hours running, 3 hours walking / hiking, and 2 hours stopping (for food, pictures, water, etc).

There and back …

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After snapping this picture, I hobbled to my car, tried to shower at the Grand Canyon (but found out I had 7 quarters instead of 8!), drove to my Flagstaff hotel, hobbled to my room, ordered pizza, showered (the most glorious shower of all time), ate pizza / hot wings until I passed out, woke up at 6am, ate more pizza / hot wings for breakfast, and somehow got my body to the airport and back home safely.

GEAR REVIEW: Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek SJ Ultra Vest

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest
Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest

This video review on the Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest is fourth in a four part series with four various hydration packs by Camelbak, Ultimate Direction, and Amphipod:

  1. Camelbak Marathoner Hydration Vest
  2. Amphipod Profile-Lite Airstretch 20
  3. Camelbak Octane LR
  4. Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek SJ Ultra Vest (below) Continue reading GEAR REVIEW: Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek SJ Ultra Vest

Run4Poverty Grand Canyon Run – Last Update

Tomorrow I board the bird!!!  Final preparations are being made and bags are being packed, unpacked, and feverishly repacked.  I wanted to give a quick last pre-trip update with some logistics for those that might be interested in following along.  I’ll possibly be sending out occasional updates (I’ll be updating, not interacting) during my first days and providing live GPS tracking of the run all day Tuesday April 9th as follows:

 

ALL UPDATES will be available at RUN4POVERTY.com (and Twitter – @adamcondit)
SMS ALERTS can be enabled via the following methods:
  1. If you DO use Twitter – simply “enable mobile notifications” for @adamcondit
  2. If you DO NOT use Twitter – utilize “Fast Follow” via SMS by txt’ing “Follow adamcondit” to 40404.

 

April 5th – 10th: Possibly a few short updates / pictures / video (Note: I’ll be updating, not interacting)

Tuesday April 9th: All day real-time GPS tracking on the run.  Please keep the following in mind when following along online:

  • The GPS map “should” give updates every ~10-15 minutes. There ARE legitimate reasons why the map won’t be updated – if I don’t have clear view of the sky (satellites) under heavy tree cover and/or canyon walls.
  • I DO have the capability to send for emergency help and will do so if needed.  If my position isn’t updated for a while I am probably taking a break, eating, etc – I plan to take my time on this all day journey.  Also – technology is great but fallible … don’t panic if updates are not being received.
  • My tentative run schedule / map (view or download here) is “tentative”.  I’ll be using it as a soft guide, not a hard pace goal or schedule – I could change the route at any time based on trail condition or how I’m feeling.  Note that any times are considered local times – most of Arizona doesn’t observe daylight savings time so I’ll be in MST – same as PDT for April (2 hours behind CDT / 3 hours behind EDT).

Run4PovertyMap

Run4Poverty Grand Canyon Rim-Rim-Rim – Update

Run4Poverty.comHappy first day of spring!  It was only a few months ago I was starting to plan my charity run out West … and now in only 16 days I’ll be boarding a plane to Arizona.  I wanted to give a quick update with how life and my training has been preparing for my solo camping trip and run across the canyon and back on my 30th birthday on April 9th.  I’m very pleased with how my running training has gone and am feeling more fit in the last weeks.  Some longer 25-30 mile back-to-back long runs (consecutive day long runs) have given me confidence despite a cold, snowy, and wet February and March – images of the dusty trails and grander of the Grand Canyon corridor have been ingrained my head as I fight -20deg windchills, icy, and snow in the flat lands of Iowa.  Family life and my work have been challenging through this all as our adjustment bringing our second baby boy in December and changing programs at my current job have been anything but “normal” (what is “normal” anyways?).  I’m encouraged even more to recharge my batteries spiritually, mentally, and spend time with the Lord in Arizona.

I feel blessed by how many people have poured into this project with their prayer, encouragement, finances, and time.  With over $1500 raised thus far, the Sports Gift charity is more than happy to partner in this journey – thank you thank you thank you!!!  All information regarding the trip and ways to still support – including free music, giving, sharing, encouraging, and praying – can be found on the website under “Your Support”.  I’m specifically asking for prayer requests up until I leave in two weeks … I want to commit to support in prayer my support system – anything and everything, I’ll pray for you!  Lastly, stay tuned to the website for real-time updates when the trip starts.  I’ll be posting a few updates / pictures during the trip and possibly location / run updates on April 9th while I’m in the Canyon … all live updates on the front page of RUN4POVERTY.com coming April 5 – 10.

With gratitude,

Adam

2013 Racing Schedule & Training Update

Post 20 miler in zero degrees
Post 20 miler in zero degrees

As the frigid weather and blustery winds meet me outside each day in the winter months, it is often a great help (if not a necessity) to have specific events and training plans / phases to be marching towards and keep the motivation up.  The past few weeks of training have given me a lot of confidence (after 5 weeks of zero running) and I’m excited to firm up my 2013 racing schedule in a year of exploration and new (longer) races.

Spring / Summer Racing Schedule (as of 2/5/13):

Fall Racing Schedule (TBD)

 

Current Training

The last 8 weeks have been filled with conservative building miles after 5 weeks of zero running.  I’ve really enjoyed getting out for some longer runs, practicing fuel schedules, and just being out there although it will be more comfortable (and easier to schedule in the morning) when the spring weather comes into town (and my water / NUUN won’t freeze).  Somewhat of a down week this week is feeling good after building to 70 miles in 5 runs last week ending with a nice and easy marathon distance 26.2mi run in the Iowa ice and slush in 2:59:02.  I’ve kept my weekly schedule to 2-3 quality days – 1 midweek of hills or progression runs on feel and 1-2 long runs Friday and/or Saturday … Sundays off!

So here I stand with 8 weeks done and only another 8 short weeks until I’ll be screaming down the Grand Canyon for a full day of running, praying, and worship.  With each passing week, I’m feeling more fit, more eager, and more confident in a successful opening to a successful 2013.

Change & Transition: Running from 2012 to 2013

What a year it’s been – unlike any other in many ways – a few of which are why I haven’t posted in so long.  Thanks for standing by as I’m now ready to roll into 2013 feeling rejuvenated and rested.  But first, a quick look at some of my fondest (and most painful) memories in 2012.  Coming off of a fun and exciting 2011 (5k, 10k, 10mi, marathon PRs) I was eager to see where 2012 would put me in the 10km, 1/2 marathon, and a crack at a quick road marathon.

 

2012 Goals:

  1. Sub-31:00 10km
  2. Half Marathon PR
  3. Marathon PR
  4. Fun Ultra Debut

 

Track Pain

I distinctly remember the panic and pain I went through the last lap of my track 10,000m debut … despite not feeling the best in the middle of the race I was still running a strong pace to break 31min until the last few laps.  Being the mental-math snob I am with WAY too much data being thrown at me every quarter mile of a 6+ mile race, I knew I was in a bit of trouble when my splits slowed to ~78-ish and I needed a 73.x to sneak under 31:00.  I don’t know the last time I’ve truly shut my eyes to sprint and bring the fire out of my legs and lungs, but stopwatch be damned, 68.x was the final lap for a gratifying and new 30:55.66 10,000m PR … my #1 goal of the year.  I found myself hands on knees hunched over not being able to catch my own breath for a long while (30 seconds? 5 minutes? I don’t really know – it just felt like a “long while”) with my legs saying “so long” to my body … what I felt on the track that night was as gut-wrenching as I can remember any pain I’ve ever felt in my running career.  I loved it … it’s the feeling thousands of miles of training were seeking out.  And like most of those miles, I felt free and …. totally alone.  Gone are the days of dozens of high school or college teammates cheering you around the final turn or homestretch lap after lap.  This race was run at 11pm and nobody knew who I was … I did my best to listen to others’ splits given by their respective coaches … nobody on the stadium grounds knew who I was or why I was there but I didn’t care.  I actually enjoyed it feeling free of distraction or any kind of need for personal glory.  I feel the most vulnerable and alive when I’m enduring pain alone … that perfectly cool and clear night in April was one of the best releases of pain I’ve ever had – nobody to talk to afterwards but Jesus and marvel at His suffering for us.  Goal #1 – check!

Marathon Pain

Following a successful March / April, I figured I was primed and ready for a bright and shiny half marathon PR in May and/or June.  May provided a decent half marathon – 1:10:14 solo effort over a hilly course with temperatures reaching 80’s and humid – but June led way to a disappointing half marathon at the USA Half Marathon Championships … nothing like performing your worst on the biggest stage to keep you humble.  Still searching for a good half marathon effort (and picking up some sponsorship dollars), I found myself logging a 1:09:45 half marathon in what I thought would be a tune-up marathon pace tempo run in September … 2 second PR … goal #2 – barely check!  That race was in the middle of marathon preparations for an October marathon – my main build up since spring.  With some nagging foot pain, I toed the line healthy and had an absolute blast racing through the Wisconsin back roads and into downtown Milwaukee for a day filled with joy, cramping hamstrings, and world of mixed emotions (full race report here) – 2:30:52 for 4th.  Goal #3 – fail.

Trail Ultra Pain

After the marathon, I was excited to try something new while staying fit before our second child was born – a trail ultramarathon!   Of course wanting to do well and run a quick time, there was only so much I could do on limited training and inexperience on the hilly terrain.  That day – my longest run ever – gave me a new feeling of depletion (and dizziness) … I’ve never felt so terrible in my whole life running 8:00+/mile.  Another learning experience, but the social interactions and ESPECIALLY the spicy chili was great after finishing 1st in 4:08:00 – full race report here. Goal #4 – check!

Rest and Family Time

Even with all the joy I find in my self-inflicted pain, it was time for a break … rest … recharging of the batteries as we welcomed another boy into our family.  December 7th – sharing a birthday with his highly esteemed Uncle Joel (my brother-in-law, best man, and all around fancy pants funniest guy the universe has ever seen) – Leo J (Joel backwards) came in the calm of night and is still teaching me what is important in this life – patience, love, humility, dependence, and that the most important things in this life are worth suffering for – thank you Jesus for your example.

On the running front, I did NOTHING for 5 weeks.  I haven’t had that kind of down time for ~8 years and boy did I need it … mix in some nagging running injuries with complete lack of rest after my spring season and roughly 3-6 hours of terrible sleep for a month and the best thing I could do for my running career is … not run.  Getting back into it now with my first solid week under my belt I’m enjoying the newness of running once again – falling in love with the simplicity of running and I can truly say I do love it even through the -10 wind chills and terribly icy footing found in the winter months in Iowa.  Only 13 weeks and counting towards my first milestone of 2013 – a solo rim-rim-rim run across the Grand Canyon and back for charity.  Just yesterday while running my first decent long run in a while on the drab icy sidewalks of Cedar Rapids, I was already longing for and imagining the climb back towards the south rim … hungry and depleted … again in pain … again alone.

RACE REPORT: Wildcat 50km Trail Run – Ultra Debut

I put it on the calendar back in the dog days of summer … a simple and friendly organized race/run put on by Larry Sandhaas to benefit the park where area runners can find themselves lost in the woods on a variety of well maintained mountain-trails (as mountainous as it can get in Iowa – down in the bluffs off the Mississippi River).  On one of those particularly humid and hot summer days I drove down to check out the 10km out-and-back trail that the Wildcat 50k trail run is hosted on.  12+ miles later after two out-and-back treks I was completely trashed suffering the unfamiliar steep climbs, stairs, and rolling terrain.  Oh yeah, the heat index was 105F by the time I was done that day leading me to easily brush off how terrible I felt and chalk it up to the heat and humidity – “come November I’ll be flying up/down those trails no problem” I thought to myself as I dumped 4x 32oz bottles of Gatorade down my gullet still losing sweat just driving my car home.

Fast-forward 5+ months … coming off of a somewhat mediocre marathon performance I was excited to recover, keep my fitness up, and still have something to push for in my ultra marathon debut 5 weeks post Lakeside Marathon (4th place – 2:30:52).  I had decent recovery keeping the miles down but also getting out and running a few quality days per week … basically a few 14-16 mile long runs, a few fartlek runs, and a 15km XC race treated as a longer tempo run.  My left ankle was still tight since before the marathon but not getting worse and I believe some of that led to my left knee acting up a bit by the time I arrived in Muscatine for the 3rd running of the Wildcat 50k Trail Run.

Pre-race

Waking up early (5:15am-ish?), I double-checked with my very pregnant wife that no baby would be coming this morning and made out of the house with my hot water, bananas, and a bag full of running shoes / clothes / gear for the day.  Early morning driving alone to a race is one of my favorite aspects of distance running and on this morning especially as I was about to tackle a new distance – the runners’ high can often be in full flight before the legs even get moving.  After a quick trip to the ATM and my very own personal port-o-potty at some random nearby construction site, I arrived at the state park with dozens of runners already milling around also hoping for the rain showers to stay clear of the dense woods we’d be burying ourselves in today.  After a quick stretch, 1 mile warmup, piss in the woods, and change of shoes / shirt, I was ready to roll.  The race course was simple and very well marked … 5km out, 5km back – do that 5 times.  The task was not simple … according to my watch I climbed 7115 ft and descended the same.  The nature of the trail was not “climb 5km, descend 5km … do that 5 times”, it was more like “climb and descend the bluff a few times in the first 2 miles, get comfortable for ~10 minutes, climb and descend the bluff a few times in the last 2 miles ….. do that 5 times (see below and/or click here for full map/elevation)”.
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First Two Loops

My first two loops I was feeling fine (no knee or ankle pain!!) although I changed into different shoes between loops with there being more limestone / rocky trails than the dirt / mud I anticipated wearing road flats with Goat Head Gear spikes screwed in (I changed to the always comfortable Mizuno Ronin 2).  I knew with the constant up-and-down my body was flirting with and changing back and forth from my anaerobic and aerobic systems … something I’d never do in a road marathon (or half marathon even) especially this early.  Being all the wiser now, it was evident I was setting myself up for failure.  My legs didn’t hurt yet, so I maintained the pace but the effort / heart rate was going up-down-up-down as was the terrain.

1st & 2nd 10km splits:

41:42 (6:42 / mi)

42:15 (6:47/mi)

Next two loops

Not long into my third loop (roughly the 15th time I was climbing the bluff), the legs finally did their catching up to the fatigue I put my body in.  Very much less responsive on the uphills, slowing on the flats, and starting to feel depleted despite keeping to my 1/2 gel per 5km with Gatorade scheduling.  Popped an S-Cap but couldn’t fend off the lactic acid burning earlier on each accent.  Trying to settle into a rhythm, I still felt optimistic I could maintain 7:30’s to run ~3:3x on the brutal course … my body would have none of it though.  I knew it in my head beforehand, but now the bluffs of the Mississippi River were giving me the business in my legs … you don’t pace with your watch out here, you pace with your lungs / legs.  That fourth loop was the worst of it all … grabbed my iPod and a hand-bottle with extra Gatorade / gel but by the time I was thumping Jay-Z Unplugged and Maroon 5 (yes, I have a soft spot for incredibly pop-flavored rock) I was dizzy and couldn’t collect my thoughts with or without music.  More salt and a full bottle of Gatorade (still nothing solid to eat yet) for this loop which came in handy as I puked up a full gel when I forced down a full S-cap (salt tablet) and nearly shot it through my nose and eyes with the immortal almighty gag reflex.  Walking all uphills from this point on I knew I had been defeated in any kind of steady splits for the rest of the day.  What I enjoyed the most during this time of suffering was the encouragement and comradery of all the others on the trail.  Despite growing my lead to ~25 minutes, others knew I was in a world of hurt but we were all being out there doing the same thing, feeling the same, hurting the same – why else did we show up for this thing?  I was embracing this low and despite not having any energy, I still had my thoughts … I knew this would stick with me to learn from, to be better … just feel what is in your body right now … don’t forget this, don’t think about anything else … this is what it means to be empty and depleted … how does it feel …. you’re not even close to being done … you suck at this … why would you not know better … why the hell would you come out here for a few hours and simply run through the woods …

3rd & 4th 10km splits:

44:51 (7:13/mi)

55:05 (8:51/mi)

Last Loop

The last loop was really tough to get started on … what can I say, it was all more of the same – lots more walking on the uphills and I just thought to myself, “just keep your legs moving”.  Getting to the turnaround I started to feel a bit better and thought to bag the whole Gatorade / gel combo and take a bottle of Diet Coke (didn’t have regular soda there) … after a few shake-ups to unload some carbonation, it was going down better than anything else all day and I was feeling a bit of a rhythm to get me back home.  Glad to have gotten some of my legs back I was feeling a sense that I’d overcome a really low point – maybe it was me recovering well with soda, maybe it was just knowing I was near the end, I don’t know – but I had a bit of response in the legs again (not really on the uphills though) and thought to myself “hmmm…. that’s weird”.  I was able to climb a bit better knowing it would be the last and as I descended back to the road, I was certainly happy to see so many friendly faces cheering and welcoming me to the gallons of chili and soda I would be putting in my system in the next few minutes.

Last 10km – 58:35 (9:35/mi)

Total time (with all running and AS stops) – 4:08:00 (7:59/mi) for 1st … click for all splits here

The Aftermath

Obviously not how I wanted to run but I’m still so glad to debut finishing what I started and taking away a lot of good experience.  I certainly wasn’t expecting it to feel good the whole way, but by nobody’s fault except my own my first ultra felt more like a 31-mile interval session than the long slow burn the veterans have mastered.

What I could control on race daynutrition and pacing.  Back to TRAINING my body to eat … I’ve got to be better about putting in what I’m getting out of my body.  Experimenting with different fluids and more solids on long runs (and shorter quick runs) will be essential in preparing my stomach to be ready to actually use what I’m giving it and not reject it.  Pacing … I’ve got to get back to using and trusting sensory data over anything else especially in races and longer distances.  Similar to a marathon having a good or bad mile here or there, I’ve read and heard that ultras have extended ups & downs and you really do need to prepare for a real low point which doesn’t even mean you’re having a bad day (even though it feels like it in that moment).  Although I must admit and still do relent that this first experience was wildly exasperated by a road-guy throwing himself into a very non-roady trail ultra marathon with one ear still open to the wildly popular half-truth that a 50k is “JUST” 5 miles longer than a marathon.

What I could do better before race dayTRAIN for an ultra!  Looking at what I’ve done, it’s apparent I was ready for a flat road marathon 5 weeks prior – no more and no less.  In 2011 I was able to pull off two good road marathons 4 weeks apart (Twin Cities 2:27:20 & Marine Corps 2:29:xx).  I actually think the extra week (5 vs 4) this year kind of hurt me as I still didn’t get my mileage up for any real quality training and seemed to be caught “maintaining” for a bit too long.  Throw in a sinus infection and babying ankle / knee issues and you start to get the picture … not the best block of training.   Even for my peak marathon, I was in shape to run 2.5 hours at 5:3x-5:4x pace … nothing nearing 3 hours in a single run much less 4 hours!  With that said, the 7 weeks (2 weeks for marathon taper + 5 weeks in between) prior to Wildcat 50k my training load averaged 49 miles/week or ~60% of my normal training load.  Training on the terrain I want to perform on (although maybe limited in Iowa) will also teach my body the (somewhat new) mechanics of running quickly and efficiently on the trails as opposed to the roads.

Future plans – Currently as I sit and write this, I haven’t run a step since trotting down to the finish line of the Wildcat 50k … 17 days and counting!  I’m intentionally taking an extended period of time off (5-7ish weeks) to fully recover and rest along with a new addition coming to our family (baby #2) any day now.  I’ve worn out my body’s welcome of Arby’s and Taco Bell already and am enjoying 8-9 hours of sleep (which won’t last long) and almost zero ankle / knee aggravation.  With the new year, I’ll be starting a long build towards a Grand Canyon Rim-Rim-Rim solo run in April for charity and self discovery – no pacing / racing goals except to take it all in and have a successful 50-60 mile run through God’s creation – check out run4poverty.com for more information and ways to support!  After that, we’ll see what kind of shape I’m in to possibly race a bit through the summer and fall in the 50 km – 50 mile distances.

As always, thanks for reading!

Run4Poverty Sponsors: Ultimate Direction & Drymax

Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest

I’ve received some spectacular news that Ultimate Direction will be supplying me with a Signature Series Scott Jurek Ultra Vest for the Run4Poverty Grand Canyon run in April 2013.  Their new line of premium hydration vests are unlike anything on the market and have already sold out through mid-February.  A full gear review and follow up to how it held up in the Grand Canyon are surely to come as soon as I get my hands on it! See an overall product development video from Brand Manager Buzz Burrell below:

Also in this week are a few samples of Drymax Sport Socks including Running Lite Mesh, Cold Weather Running, Trail, and Maximum Protection Trail Running styles.  Gear review to come as well!

Run 4 Poverty – Grand Canyon Solo Rim-Rim-Rim Run

I’m pleased to announce my first Run4Poverty event to benefit those in need.  After years of post-collegiate training and continual 5k-10k-marathon type road and track racing, I’m ready to change gears for a bit.  I’m restless to explore and do some running I’ve never done before.  I very well might come back to traditional road racing but (as mentioned in this Des Moines Register article) all of 2013 will be somewhat of an exploration for me as I challenge myself in ways I haven’t before with distance running – some ultra running, trail running, who knows?  But to kick off the year, I’ve planned a solo rim-rim-rim run across the Grand Canyon and back in April.  This 50+ mile trek will serve a few purposes for myself and others.  I’m excited to raise funds for Sports Gift Inc. – a charity that provides sporting equipment to impoverished and disadvantaged children.  I’m also using it as a getaway trip for myself – I’ll be camping by myself the 3-4 days prior to running in an effort to escape, unplug, and be still.  Read all about what I’ve got planned – the run, the charity, my journey, and ways to support (not all financially) by simply going to (and sharing) ……

http://run4poverty.com

 

Is it easier to… A) Give up $1.67 per day of frivolous spending for one month

or …  B) Run across the Grand Canyon and back by yourself?