Podcast Ep. 12 – Welcome Back, Dingbat

So THIS Is Fitness Podcast episode 12

Podcast Ep. 12 – Welcome Back, Dingbat.

Every once in a while the universe has to remind us that yes, we do in fact live in the real world. There are rules you play by, things you do and do not do. Even if you can achieve something as incredible as a 100 mile endurance run finish…a half-marathon can still take you down under the right circumstances (i.e. if you’re being stupid). Simple rules do still apply – they are, after all, RULES.

 

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The Quest For 100

In the last three years I’ve learned a lot about myself, my body, and what we’re all capable of. I’ve witnessed people achieve some amazing transformations, milestones and accomplishments, and I’ve had my own fair share as well. With each success I have, each wall I break down…I can’t help but want to see what’s next. What ELSE can be accomplished that was previously “impossible”?

I kind of threw this out there at the end of the year…but didn’t really get into it. This past November I decided to leap off the edge and see, once and for all, how deep the rabbit hole really goes. I decided to see just how far I can come from my starting point of 305 lbs. I decided 2016 is the year of the Ultramarathon.

The final challenge? 100 miles.

Wait…what?

Yeah…like I said, I more or less announced this in a post last December. I realize now, though, that I kind of just used the announcement as a means to make a point (and frankly, looking back, I sounded like an ass doing it). Maybe I was going for shock value…maybe I was drunk on coffee…who knows. Point is…I didn’t explain the whys and wherefores of what really is kind of a momentous thing. I most certainly did not do the thing justice, that’s for sure. I owe it to myself, those supporting me, and to the thing itself to explain what the hell this is all about…and why on God’s green Earth someone would choose to do it.

So…yes. My latest challenge…perhaps the final, top rung of the achievement ladder left to climb…I am delving into the world of the Ultramarathon.

Ultramarathon?

Yes, I’m not making that word up. An Ultramarathon is a running event longer than marathon distance (26.2 miles). There are two kinds – either time-limit (as far as you can go in 6, 12, 24, 48 hours) or the traditional “distance goal” (50K, 50 Mile, 100K, 100 Mile). So…what have I chosen to do?

50 and 100. Yes, Miles.

Those are my two big goals this year. First I’m running the Pineland Farms Trail Festival 50 Miler on 5/29/16. After that…October 22nd to 23rd 2016…Ghost Train Rail Trail Race, where I’ve got 30 hours to achieve my goal of 100 miles. As my prize, I’ll bring home a big green cowbell (Pineland 50) and a rail spike (Ghost Train 100).

“You’re insane.”

Am I, though? Earlier this month I had my last big training weekend – Saturday 4/30 I ran 18 miles. 12 hours later, on Sunday morning, I ran the Providence Marathon. I only slept 4.5 hours in between the two…and I finished Providence in a new personal best marathon time. In the two days after…aside from a slight twinge in my left shin (which we’ll talk about another day) I felt fine. Literally hopping up and down. That’s exactly the kind of shape I want and need to be in with a 50 mile race just weeks away. As insane as it might seem…I’m actually ready for this thing.

The initial decision itself…THAT was a leap. It didn’t happen all at once, either.

At first I registered for 50K. I was nervous. It was DEFINITELY a big deal for me. But once I got over the initial shock I realized…if I can do a marathon, I can do a 50K (so I felt better). And if I could do 50K, I could do 50 Mile (so I upgraded my registration). And if, at that point, I can finish a 50 Miler…well, just keep training and I’ll have the best shot possible at finishing my first 100 mile race. It’s all about the training and trusting the process.

That training, though, HAS been insane.

Those who follow this blog may have noticed…I haven’t written a whole lot lately. It wasn’t really on purpose…its more a result of my free time being completely consumed by training for this latest undertaking. In case you haven’t figured it out on your own yet…training for an ultramarathon means one thing…

You run. All the time. Forever. 

Honestly though, I feel like all I do is run. I’ll spend a good 10+ hours a week running (half of that on the weekend alone). I have to get up at the crack of dawn to get it done so I either get to work on time (weekday) or don’t blow half my day running (weekend).  The downside is obvious…but on the bright side?

I can go run 10 miles without even thinking about it.

My body has reached a point where I could nap through a 5 miler. That intense weekend of Providence Marathon? I was fully recovered in just a couple days. It’s incredible to stop and think about how much I’ve improved my fitness…and sometimes I still marvel at the fact that I really am an athlete. I’m training for a thing that such a small percentage of the population even considers doing…even knows exists. I’m not the fastest guy out there…but when you’re taking on 50 and 100 miles…simply finishing is an accomplishment.

That is why I choose to do this.

Because I can. And years ago, as far as I or anyone who knew me was concerned…it was impossible. Now that I know what I know and have achieved what I have achieved…I want to see just how far I can climb.  With my friends and family behind me, and with the support of awesome sponsors like Cape Cod Nutrition Corner, I know…

This Is My Time.

I’m gonna get that cowbell. And damn it all…I’m coming for that rail spike. And if I can…anyone can. Go get it – I’ll see you at the finish.

Crazy/Normal

I’ve had some realizations lately – 

and I can sum them up quite simply:

People suck.

OK, that’s the harsh, short, exaggerated version. But… there it is.

So why would I think that?

Person A:
“I want to run a marathon!” /  “Let’s go do a 5K!” / “I signed up for an obstacle course race!” / “Wanna come with me to the gym?”

Person B:
“You’re nuts.” / “That’s crazy.” / “You have fun with that.” / “Yeahhhhhh….no.

…I have a problem with this. And you should too. This is a symptom of a bigger problem.

“A bigger problem”?

Think back to “Person A / Person B” and allow me to elaborate on “we suck”:

We reject that which we can’t comprehend/envision for ourselves.

It’s pretty plain to see, I think. Anything outside of our comfort zone…it all falls under the umbrella of “crazy”. People, when offered a chance to step outside their comfort zone and participate in something unconventional…usually don’t even take it seriously and give it thought. A quick dismissal is often the best you get. But it gets worse.

The dreamers are stifled.

All too often this rejection of the “crazy”…the disdain and reproach that is given as a response to these relatively big dreams…is delivered in such a way that “Person A” feels stupid. Feels discouraged. No longer wants to try.

My question to “Person B” is simple.

What are you so afraid of?

Sorry to get all “hippie” on you, but who decided what “crazy” and “normal” are, anyway? Who’s the “crazy” one, really – the guy who takes charge of his life, loses 100+ lbs and eventually runs a marathon? Or the guy that spends his free time turning the couch cushion into a mold of his less-than-firm ass?

Get out of the way. 

There is no room for negativity and roadblocks in this life. We are getting lazier, less ambitious, and less adventurous as time goes on. I have a message for “Person B” – get out of the way of people who want to reach higher. Just because you have gotten too comfortable with “normal” doesn’t mean others can’t break out and do something “crazy”.

And y’know what, “Person B”? Get out of YOUR OWN way – WHO SAYS you can’t go run a 5K? WHAT’S SO BAD about going to the gym? After you WORK YOUR WAY THERE…is a Marathon really so outlandish?

Join me. I dare you.

I am stepping off the deep end, and I dare you to do the same. 2016 is officially the Year Of The Ultra. I will be running:

– 5 Marathons
– 2 6-Hour Ultramarathons (shooting for 30+ miles)
– 1 8-Hour Ultramarathon (shooting for 30+ miles)
– 1 50 Mile Ultramarathon
– 1 30-Hour Ultramarathon (shooting for 100 miles)

Yes. I’m going to attempt to run 100 miles in one whack. Yes, prior to that I will run 50 miles in 12 hours or less (that’s the time limit). Those marathons? The 6-Hour and 8-Hour races?

Honestly…I’m supposed to run 20 – 30 miles those days anyway as part of my training…so I might as well get a medal for it. Hah. Yes, 5 marathons and three 6+ Hour Ultras will be TRAINING runs for me next year.

This plan is going to beat the crap out of me. I’ll be running 50, 60, 70 miles per week. I’ll be cross-training in the gym to stay strong to handle these runs. I’ll need lots of fuel all day long, and Cape Cod Nutrition Corner is going to be coming up BIG for me in that department (they’re sponsoring this whole adventure). But in the end…I think I can tackle it. And if I don’t hit 100? Well, at least I tried. And damnit…I’ll try again later. One way or another, I will finish a 100 mile ultramarathon.

Pretty much everyone I tell about this calls it “crazy”. Know what I say? There is nothing crazy about this. “Crazy” is an opinion. So is “normal”. 

It’s all relative.

“Normal” is simply another way to say “this is where I’m comfortable”. We don’t grow by staying “comfortable”.

Three years ago I had never “gone for a run”, and now I’m staring down over 2,500 miles in 2016. If I had never gone for that first run a 5K would still seem pretty out of reach. If I never started this fitness journey I’d probably be looking at me sideways too. I’d never have known that seeming “far off” and being “impossible” are not the same thing. I’d never have realized that there is no ceiling.

Maybe, just maybe… we should learn to appreciate the bold, daring choices of our peers. Perhaps we could learn to look at these chances people take as a level of bravery we should aspire to. As hope that we, too, can one day achieve something so great.

Maybe, just maybe… if we can all be a little more open…try a little harder…and always take that next step…

we might just accomplish some amazing things.

What’s so crazy about that?

The Marathon

They say The Marathon changes you.

Just over three weeks ago I finished my first marathon. 26.2 miles. For 5 hours, 12 minutes and 5 seconds I ran, jogged, walked, and struggled. But in the end, I crossed that finish line. I finished. And at the finish line…I wasn’t really sure what to feel. Finishing that marathon…achieving such a feat..it really made me take a hard look at where I’m at and how far I’ve come.

The Marathon did change me…and the nugget of knowledge I gained? It’s one I will never let go of.

It’s amazing to realize what you can accomplish in just two years. Really…March 2013 I “went for a run” for the very first time ever – 3.25 miles…it hurt…and now…just over two years later…I finished my first MARATHON. 26.2 miles…and I felt fine.

It’s…incomprehensible.

Or is it? I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it a million more…it’s truly amazing what the human body will do if you give it enough time, training, and fuel. There are people that successfully run Iron Man triathlons – they cover 140.6 miles swimming, biking, and running. There are people who run ultramarathons covering as much as 100 miles (maybe even more!) ON FOOT. There are countless examples, but the lesson is the same:

Your body will go the distance.

Despite what you may feel right now, your body will do it. Your body yearns for the challenge. It wants to be treated well, maintained, trained, fed the right foods and asked to move in ways you might not have moved in a very long time. If you train and fuel correctly your body can and will do what you will ask it.

And so it becomes a mental game. Do you have the heart, the spirit, and the mental toughness to outlast the forces that are working against you? In The Marathon you’ve got 26.2 miles of unforgiving pavement and the forces of Nature – sun, wind, heat, humidity, cold, rain…you’re battling the Earth itself to achieve your victory (and as far as I’m concerned there is nothing more pure).

But what about in your own journey?

On a daily basis, you fight against much more. Self-esteem. Peer-pressure. The fact that healthy food and gym memberships are SO expensive, but that McBurger with fries is just $2.99 and hey, my favorite show is on!

You’ve got to win the fight. It’s life or death. Battle back and say “NO, it’s NOT ok to just sit there and rot on the couch.”

“NO, I WILL invest in myself…because a gym membership now costs a lot less than my medical bills will later. If I eat out one less time a month…there’s my dues! I shouldn’t even be having that platter of nachos anyway.”

“NO, you will NOT make me feel stupid for going to the gym when I weigh 300 lbs…because I’ve got news for you pal, I’m NOT going to weigh 300 lbs for much longer…and won’t you look silly when I’ve got a 6-pack and you’re still rockin’ the ‘dad bod’.”

The Marathon taught me a lot of things about myself I never expected to learn…but quite possibly the most important thing I learned…is that there truly is no limit. It’s something I’ve believed for a long time, but there was a nagging suspicion somewhere in the back of my mind that there was, in fact, a ceiling…albeit a high one…and eventually…you would find it.

But now it’s been made crystal clear to me: there is no ceiling. There truly is NO limit to what you can achieve. As long as you set your goal, make a plan, train, fuel, and believe…you really can achieve anything. It might be hard to believe right now, sitting where you’re sitting…but I was sitting in a place very similar not too long ago…

Don’t lose faith in yourself. You can do it. Whatever “it” is.