How to Build A Support Network that Won’t Let You Down

support2

Most goal setting experts agree that if you’re going to set and achieve a big goal, you need to live for that goal.

You need to obsess over that goal. Eat, drink, and breathe that goal. You need to be all in.

When I decided to run my first 100 mile ultramarathon, that’s exactly how I felt. I read race reports, studied course maps, worked and reworked my training. It’s all I wanted to talk about. Just ask my wife…

And because it’s all you eat, drink, and think about, other aspects of your life naturally get pushed aside.

If you’re focused on a running goal, time spent on the roads or trails means time away from family and friends. You might have to sacrifice family dinners, happy hours with friends, or lazy Saturday mornings.

And let’s be real, that sucks. For you, and for those around you.

No one wants their wife, husband, or friend to leave them high and dry. Which is often exactly what you (the runner) are doing. And exactly why a lot of the people who care for us the most, don’t always care for our running goals.

Building A Case for Support

Being the one man (or woman) sport that running is, it’s easy to pretend that you don’t really need extra support to succeed with running goals.

But while it might just be our own legs that move us forward, the reality is that running is really a team sport. We need the team to be supportive when training gets hard, hold us accountable if we want to quit, and celebrate when we’ve done something awesome. And often times on race day, we need the team for logistical support.

No one wants to go at a big goal alone. It’s more difficult, lonelier, and you’re less likely to succeed.

If you’re the only one invested in the goal, it’s easy to quit because you’re the only person who will be let down. When others have invested their time and energy into your success, it’s harder to let them down as well.

That’s why we need to get our loved ones on board. That’s why we need a network that we can count on.

Share Your Excitement

We all want our family and friends to be as excited about our next marathon, ultramarathon, or other big goal as we are.

But chances are, no matter how happy they are for us, they just aren’t going to feel the same drive we feel that leads us to train every single day. And why would they? They don’t get to experience the same highs and lows, they don’t get to cross the finish line.

Which is why it’s important to share, in detail, what it is about the goal that excites you most. Help them understand where you’re coming from, and why you want to do it in the first place. The more they understand your motives, the more invested they will be in your process.

When I’m about to share a new goal with my wife, I like to cover these 3 topics:

  1. What I hope to gain from this experience
  2. What is so appealing about this particular race or challenge
  3. Why I need to train for this type of race over another, shorter distance or less time consuming race, to achieve my desired experience

If you just go up to someone and say, “Hey! I just signed up for this ultramarathon that’s going to cost lots of money and take up all my weekday evenings and Saturday mornings for the next 20 weeks, and I want you to be super excited for me!” Chances are, you’re going to get a funny look.

Help your normal support group understand your motives, so that they can focus on that sweet reward as well.

Don’t Hide The Truth

When you’re all excited about a new event, and when you’re all fired up to share it with your loved ones, it’s easy to forget (or push aside) the truth.

The truth is that it’s going to be hard. It’s going to pull you down. It’s going to take up your time.

It’ll sometimes make you tired, cranky, and want to eat an entire day’s worth of food before lunch.

But most importantly, the truth is that you’re not the only who will be affected. By committing to a big race, you’re also committing your loved ones.

If you don’t address this from the beginning, those loved ones who want to support you the most are going to be surprised two months into training when all of a sudden you aren’t around to cook dinner.

And that initial excitement and support they so graciously provide you with in the beginning, will disappear.

So even though talking about the hard stuff is no fun, it’s important to be up front about it from the beginning. Again, here are the topics I cover when discussing a new race with my wife:

  1. What sacrifices I’m willing to take to have the experience
  2. What those sacrifices will mean for our day-to-day life
  3. What type of support I’m expecting from you

Supplement the Support

Even with the best support group around, and I think I’ve got it, sometimes I need a little something more. Usually, because I’m the only one in my family who runs ultras, I find what’s missing through support from someone else who actually runs and can fully relate to my ups and downs.

Here are places I’ve had luck finding support outside of my normal network:

  1. A running group or partner
  2. Blogs and online communities (never hesitate to email me, for example)
  3. New friends who share the same passion
  4. Other racers (post on the race’s Facebook page, or ask the race director if they know anyone that might be looking for a running partner)
  5. A coach

This isn’t a complete list, and you may already have a great group of running friends who always have your back. If you don’t, put yourself out there and explore trail running clubs or meet ups. Having this angle of support will be priceless.

Let Them Know You Care

It took me 32 hours to run this year’s Massanutten Mountain Trails 100. 32 hours.

And you know what else took 32 hours? Crewing me at the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100.

My wife, mother, father, and step mother followed me along that entire time. They tended to my feet, filled my bottles, fixed me food, and made sure my pacer was always taken care of.

They gave themselves completely to my desire to run up and down those mountains for 103 miles. And I will be eternally grateful.

And I know that if I ever want their support again (which I most certainly do), they need to see how much I appreciate that.

When you first told your support network what you wanted to take on, they also made the commitment (knowingly or not) to be there for you. Acknowledge the sacrifices they make throughout training and on race day. Also remind them that you know it’s not just you that’s putting effort into the race.

Even when you’re tired and sore, show them that you care. And when all else fails, flowers never hurt.

Finally, Give The Support Yourself

If you want to build a support network for when you need it, make sure you are that support network when others need it.

Because being a part of someone else succeeding at a massive goal is almost as incredible and inspiring as doing it yourself.

11 Safety Tips All Trail Runners Need to Follow

curious little bear in the forest

Last week, I found myself in a scary situation.

It’s around 11:00 on Tuesday morning, and I am a mile or so from my bike at the trailhead of a scarcely used trail not far from my home. This particular trail, which I often use as a connector to a larger trail loop, is just over 1 mile in length. And it’s steep.

To give you an idea of how steep, it usually takes me around 21 minutes to get to the top, and only 7 to get back down.

I’m just starting back down the steep stuff to round out a solid 6.5 mile effort, when all of a sudden I’m on the ground gasping for air.

I’m not entirely sure how it happens, but the combination of slippery leaves and my lack of attention have me flying off the trail and directly into a tree trunk.

My chest hits first, knocking my breath completely out. Leaving me searching for air.

As I sit up, it isn’t the scrapes and blood on my arms that have me worried, it’s the sharp pain in my ribs. It hurts. Bad.

A week later, I’m still unable to lay on my stomach or side without pain, and deep breaths and sneezing cause me to cringe. But each day is better, and I have no doubt I’ll be back to my normal self soon.

The experience shook me up. I’ve taken plenty of tumbles and finished runs with more than my share of bloody gashes, but I’ve never been injured to the point of being scared. I feel lucky this wasn’t any worse.

Fear and Trail Running

Fear is a big obstacle holding many runners back from running trails. And for those of us that aren’t fighting those fears on a daily basis, it’s experiences like this that remind us how quickly things can turn sour in the woods.

Just the other day I got an email from a woman asking my advice on how to address her fears:

I’m really scared of getting lost by myself! I don’t feel mentally prepared for it. I feel like I’d freak out.

Whether it’s fear of getting lost, injured, or mauled by a tiger, venturing out into the unknown of nature can be intimidating.

Fortunately, trail running doesn’t have to be scary. And it doesn’t have to be dangerous. We can take a number of safety precautions that all but eliminate those concerns.

Below I’ve outlined my 11 favorite. But they aren’t just my favorite. They’re also practical. These safety tips should be followed regularly, each and every time we hit the trail.

Safety Tips for Trail Runners

Tips for Running Smart

The first part of trail running safety is making sure that you remember basic running techniques.

1) Stay alert, even when you’re tired: It’s easy to get sloppy towards the end of a run. Your form goes, then your mind, and before you know it, you don’t even remember the last mile of trail. Stay alert and pay attention to the trail at all times.

2) Remember trail running basics: Lift your feet, be light in your step, take 3 steps when it could only take 2. These are the types of trail running basics that are easy to forget deep into a run.

3) Carry extra food and water: You never know how long a trial run is going to take you, and if you end up lost, injured, or stranded, a 2 hour run could turn into something much longer. Carry a little extra fuel and water or purification tablets just in case.

Tips for Safety for Running Alone

As much as I value running with a partner or group, the vast majority of my miles are logged by myself. When running alone, it’s important to take extra precautions that aren’t as necessary when you’re with another runner.

4) Know your route (or carry a map): Never head down a trail without knowing where you’re going or having some sort of directions on you. Trail systems can be tricky, so plan ahead before taking off.

5) Bring your cell phone: When out in the woods alone, carry your phone with you in case you need it.

If you don’t want to carry a pack, I recommend the UD Jurek Essentials belt or the SPIbelt for carrying small items like your phone and keys.

6) Tell someone where you’re going: Assuming you’ve planned ahead, leave a note for your husband, wife, or roommate, or even share where you plan to run ahead of time on social media. Let someone know where you’ll be and roughly when you plan to return.

So if you end up wrapped around a tree and unable to continue on, someone will know where to come looking.

7) Don’t run alone: I know, you like to run alone, but if you’re planning a big outing, especially if it’s on a new trail system, try not to go by yourself. Call up a friend or find someone from your running group to accompany you. It’ll probably be more fun anyway.

Tips for Wildlife and People

I’m often told that it isn’t the trails that scare runners the most, it’s the wildlife or other people that keep them from going out.

8) Know what the dangers are: Depending on where you live, you’ll face different dangers on the trails. Here in Western North Carolina, bears and snakes are our biggest wildlife predators. On D.C.’s trails of Rock Creek Park, other humans were probably a bigger concern than wildlife. Out west, you have mountain lions, bears, and all kinds of other rugged creatures.

Get to know what dangers your area faces, so you know what to keep an eye out for. Then prepare ahead of time by learning how to handle a wildlife (or human) encounter.

9) Wear bright colors during hunting season: Fall and winter often mean hunting season. Even though hunting is typically illegal in national parks, it’s often legal in national forests and other state land.

I’ve encountered enough hunters on the trail to now wear bright colors during hunting season. The last thing I want to do is find myself facing down a shotgun.

10) Stay alert and make noise: Wildlife typically attacks only when it feels threatened, and the quickest way to threaten an animal is to sneak up on it. Don’t be afraid to talk or make a little noise as you move down the trail, and stay alert enough to listen for noises yourself.

11) If you need to, carry protection: If you really don’t feel safe alone on your trails, or in extreme situations, don’t be afraid to carry protection. No, I’m not talking about a gun here. I’m talking about pepper spray or some other easily transportable form of protection you can stow away in your hydration pack or belt.

Are You Ready to Run an Ultramarathon? (Video)

ready-to-run-ultra

If you’re thinking about running an ultramarathon, you’ve probably asked yourself this question:

Am I really ready to run 30+ miles?

I remember when I signed up for my first 50k. It was right after my second marathon and I thought I could conquer the world.

But as time passed and training weeks ticked by, I started drowning in doubt.

“A marathon is really hard!” I kept telling myself, “How are you going to run even further?

I had no idea if I was ready. And back then, I didn’t know anyone to ask.

The “Am I ready to run an ultramarathon?” question is probably the most asked question I get from readers. They love the idea of an ultra, but just don’t know if they’re ready.

And it’s because they don’t know, that many runners never sign up. They have too many doubts and are too scared to take the risk.

Today I’m going to attempt to answer that question for you. And hopefully reduce some of that fear.

Running an ultramarathon is big — crazy even — but it’s not something fear should ever hold you back from accomplishing.

To get started, you just need the confidence to know that you’re ready.

Introducing Trail Talk

This first video, on how to know if you’re ready for an ultra, is part of a new video series I’m launching today called Trail Talk. Every few weeks I’ll address a trail or ultra running related topic or question over video.

Video is new for me, but after watching all the great stuff people like Jason, Ethan, and Sage are doing, I decided it was too good a format for information sharing to keep avoiding. So here it goes nothing…

I’m the first to admit that I’m a little awkward in front of the camera. You’ll have to bear with me. Hopefully that will ware off over time. :)

Here’s the first edition of Trail Talk. I’d love to know what you think, so don’t hesitate to leave feedback in the comments. And of course, I also love to see comments related to the topic!

What’s discussed in today’s video:

  • Finding the drive and motivation for an ultramarathon goal
  • What endurance background is needed before running an ultra
  • Calculating your base mileage before training
  • How to run an ultramarathon and still have a life
  • Next steps for getting started

Additional RCR Resources:

Ready to take the next steps? Start with RCR’s free 10-part Trail Runner’s Cheat Sheet:

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Websites, including this one, love to share articles about how to run faster, get stronger, and avoid injury. They talk about hills, trails, and training plans, and while those can have major impacts on your running, they pale in comparison to one key ingredient: Your running form. Making slight adjustments to your running form is…

TomTom Runner GPS Watch Review

There comes a time in every runner’s life when they have to learn about the GPS. The runner has to decide if and when it is right for them to take that step, and what they are most attracted to once they’re ready. If they rush it, the runner might make an impulse decision which…

The Dos and Don’ts of Running a Ragnar Relay: Ultra Division

If you don’t read anything else in this post, but are considering running a Ragnar Relay, at least read these two important bits of advice: Don’t forget your pillow. Don’t get caught up in the “roadkills,” especially if you are racing on an ultra team (more on that to come). Now that we got that…

What Jim Carrey Taught Me About Running

You may remember a film released back in 2008 called Yes Man.  If you’ve seen it, you probably remember it as that mediocre film where Jim Carrey runs around saying “yes” to everything. The premise of the film is simple: A lonely, sad man named Carl is down on life until he goes to a…

Stop Running Like An Idiot

You’re an idiot.  There, I said it. Go ahead and curse me if you want, but I’m calling you out for what you are. An idiot. Alright fine, it’s possible you aren’t as dumb as I think you are, but there’s a high probability that if you aren’t acting like an idiot now, you have…

Why I Ran 442 Consecutive Days (And Why I Quit)

I took the elevator down to the hotel lobby around 9:30am.  I had told people to meet me there if they wanted to join for my final run of a 442 day run streak. To my surprise, over 30 people in running shorts and sneakers were waiting by the door ready to go out for…

An Ode to Cross Country

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann No matter where you live, there is something magical about fall running. Perhaps it is the slight coolness that pushes away summer, as a prelude to the crisp days of true autumn. Perhaps it is that first day you can wear a pair of tights or a light…

3 Surprising Reasons Trail Running Prevents Injuries

This is a guest post from Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running. Ask most runners about what prevents injuries and they’ll list the crowd favorites: strength exercises, good running form, and increasing mileage at a responsible rate. And it’s true – any smart runner should work on these aspects of their running to stay healthy. But mention…

The Importance of Good Running Socks (And a Review of the Best)

Lots of runner will tell you the most important piece of equipment for a runner is the shoe.  While that is probably true, socks, which are often overlooked and forgotten, are a close second. Nothing so small can cause as much discomfort to a runner as a blister.  They are painful, annoying, and if not…

Fighting the Running Demons With a Mantra

Ask any runner and they’ll tell you, sometimes you have to dig deep. Whether you’re 3 hours into a marathon or 15 minutes into a 5k, running can hurt.  And pain can make you want to quit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you just aren’t running hard enough. When the going…

Embracing Inspiration: In The High Country Movie Review

Runner’s aren’t all alike. We don’t look alike. We don’t eat alike.  We don’t always dress alike.  But we all do have at least one thing in common. Inspiration. Without it, there would be no PRs, no first marathons, and no run streaks.  We wouldn’t get up and run in the heat.  Or the cold. …

Why Your Job is Killing You (And Making You A Worse Runner)

This shouldn’t be anything new. If you haven’t already read countless articles on the topic, then you’ve probably figured it out on your own. Your job is killing you. Not to be all melodramatic on you or anything, but when you work in a 9 to 5 office like I do, it is hard not to…

Beat the Post-Race Blues

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann Running without a Garmin is peculiar. How far did I go in that 1 hour and 3 minutes? How fast did I go in that 63 minutes? If nothing is recorded, did it actually happen? I just race a marathon.  Months of training.  Hours of workouts.  All for the…

How to Properly Stay Hydrated During a Long Run

During my first 50 mile ultramarathon, I only pee’d once.  And it was within the first hour of the race. And I ran for almost 10 hours. But before we get too deep into my bladder issues, let’s first take a step back. I’m the type of runner who will schedule a whole shopping trip…

The 7-Minute Workout: Does it Work for Runners?

A few weeks ago I was sitting around the bar with a few friends when someone mentioned that they had just done the 7-Minute Workout, made famous in a recent New York Times Magazine article. If you aren’t familiar (and none of us were), the 7-Minute Workout is basically this:  A high-intensity interval circuit, featuring…

Wear Dirty Shorts: Running Practical, Not Hip

This may come as a shock to you:  I’m not very hip. And I’m totally fine with that. Because when it comes to running, a sport filled with new trends on a near daily basis, we often need to take a step back and take a more practical approach. We need to do what works…

8 Reflections on the Joy of Running

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann Many of us grew up with Irma Rombauer’s book on our family’s cookbook shelf. I never knew that this book, which is almost iconically kitschy, and in retrospect fairly bold for the times, was born from grief. It was the depression era, and Rombauer’s husband had committed suicide.…

Rock Creek Round-Up: May 2013

May has been a great month.  The weather in DC was fabulous, the trails are surrounded by budding trees, and the big cicada scare of 2013, causing terror up and down the East Coast, doesn’t seem to be as big a deal as people thought. It was also a great month on the interwebs, and…

Learn to Love Running…Again

It is difficult to equate fun with pain. Tempo runs.  Hills.  Long hours up and down the trails. Running can be painful.  And pain usually isn’t fun. But as any runner knows, running can be one of the most enjoyable activities out there!  After all, why would we spend so much time doing it if…

4 Ways to Rethink Your Everyday Run

Unless you are deep into a training schedule or getting yelled at by a coach, chances are you have an “Everyday Run.” Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: You’re short on time and only have about 30 minutes to squeeze in a run, so you quickly slap on your shoes and head out the…

Introducing The Rock Creek Runners: DC’s Newest Trail Running Club

“Do you lead group runs in Rock Creek Park?” That question, or some variation of it, is probably the most common question I get on Rock Creek Runner. The main goal of Rock Creek Runner has always been to provide a space for runners to come together and learn from each other, both through my…

Rock Creek Round-Up: April 2013

Last month I decided to start a new RCR feature highlighting some of the best articles and videos I’ve enjoyed over the past month. With so much exciting and fun information out there, limiting this list to just a few is harder than you might expect!  But here they are, some of my favorite things…

Finding A Diet That Works For Your Running

It’s not difficult to spend too much time thinking about running when we have access to countless blogs, articles, and coaches, all cranking out free info.  We spend all this time pouring over running advice because we want to run faster or further, and improve. But it is easy to forget that one of the…

How to Beat Your Fears of Running Trails

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann I originally wrote this post before the Boston Marathon took place. The attack is a reminder of what the feeling of fear is based on: vulnerability. On April 16, the day after the bombings, I took a 20 mile run and without even thinking had thrown on my…

The Finish Line: My Reflections On Boston And A Letter From My Mother

The finish line is a sacred place for runners.  It represents months, sometimes years of dedication, hard work, sweat, and tears. It is a place of celebration, relief, and most importantly, triumph. Like you, I was devastated by the news coming from Boston yesterday.  I’ve never run the race.  I’ve never even made it a…

5 Benefits of Hill Workouts (infographic)

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve altered a route because of an approaching hill.  They are just one of those things we runners tend to avoid as much as possible. But skipping a hill is a big mistake.  Like it or not, hills make us better runners. This week I’ve decided to do…

Moving Forward (Broken Ego and All)

It was only mile 16, but it felt more like a tired 40.  I had already climbed around 5000 feet, descending about half that, and here I was fighting my way up another climb. I first started to notice my body screaming while standing at an aid station waiting on a friend just a few…

Rock Creek Round-Up: March 2013

Sometimes I have plenty to say, but other times it is best to let the others do the talking. Every day I read something inspiring, informative, or just plain fun, and it seems selfish not to help spread the word about these great articles, videos, and podcasts. I’ve decided to try something a little different. …

OGIO Endurance 8.0 Pack Review (Video)

Sometimes you buy a product and think to yourself, “eh, it’ll do.” But other times you pick up a product and know after first use that it is really going to make your life easier. I didn’t actually buy the OGIO Endurance 8.0 Pack, it was given to me for Christmas by my mother, but…

The ABCs of Healthy Running

This post is written by Jennifer Heidmann First, a disclaimer. Though I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. I do not herein offer official medical advice. Read at your own risk. If you are new to running, or planning a great big new running feat, check in with your doctor first. I have…

One Word Changed My Training Forever

I discovered a new word this year. Well, I guess I’ve known the word for a long time, but this year brought it new meaning. Consistency.  Yeah, I’m sure you know the word as well. Over the past several months, I’ve really begun to adopt this word as my main focal word for running.  I’ve…

New Free eBook: The Power of a Running Mantra

There is just no way around it. Running is tough. I recently experienced this firsthand, several hours into the Mount Mitchell Challenge, when my legs were on fire and my mind was starting to doubt a finish. Had it not been for the 7 word phrase I repeated dozens of times, I might still be…

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