Why I Like Feeling Vulnerable


Back in March of this year, I wrote a post called The Benefits of Facing Your Vulnerabilities.

It was in that post, that I shared a few personal stories of when I’ve felt the most vulnerable, and how it was fighting through that vulnerability that spawned some major life growth.

But I also acknowledged that feeling vulnerable is scary. For the most part, we do everything we can to flee from that feeling.

  • We set up routines that we know will work.
  • We find secure jobs, that we can count on to pay the bills.
  • We hide from challenges, even many goals, because we are scared of failure and embarrassment.

Most of the time, the mechanisms we put in place to avoid vulnerability are good things. Important, even.

But sometimes, they hold us back from greatness.

  • Routines help with efficiency and anxiety, as long as they also allow for creativity and spontaneity.
  • Secure jobs support families and allow for financial planning, but it often comes at the cost of doing something you love and following a dream.
  • Failure leads to heartbreak and hurt, but without setting goals and taking risks, we’re left wondering what could be, or worse, could have been.

As a runner, I know that you already know this.

Running is all about vulnerability. We train for long races and go for PRs.

Through tough workouts, long-runs, and races, we break ourselves down in a quest to prove to ourselves and others what we are made of. That’s taking a risk. That’s being vulnerable.

But sometimes, running is where it stops.

For a long time, at least, that was the case for me. Then I decided to change that.

It was in that same post last March that I announced that my wife and I would be moving to the mountains of Western North Carolina. We were quitting our secure jobs, leaving our friends, moving further away from much of our family, and taking the biggest risks of our lives. All to be vulnerable.

To take a chance and find the life we are looking for.

In today’s post, I’m going to do something a little different.

Instead of my typical article with running advice, I’m going to talk about this recent move and transition. And share a few of the lessons I’ve learned from facing my vulnerabilities, and how it’s changed both my life and my running.

A Bit About the Move

For those that don’t know, my wife and I moved at the beginning of April from DC to Black Mountain, NC, a small town right outside of Asheville, where we’ve been living in a family house (Thanks Nana!) while we get our feet settled.

I’ve been working on blogs full-time, mostly here at Rock Creek Runner and for Matt Frazier at No Meat Athlete. My wife, Katie, is now following her dream of making a career out of teaching yoga by managing a yoga studio here in Black Mountain where she also teaches throughout the week.

To go from a major city to a town with a population of around 8,000 has been a big change, to say the least.

It’s given us the opportunity to have outdoor space for the garden we’ve always wanted, I now have access to an enormous trail circuit, that I run after just a 5 minute drive, and we are surround by a community and lifestyle that fits our needs better than city living.

But not everything is going to be easy. And not everything is going to fall into place perfectly.

We’re still trying to figure out exactly what our financial situation looks like as freelancers, and how to juggle a never ending list of projects we could take on.

We’re still living in that family home and trying to figure out what our living situation will look like in the future.

We miss our friends dearly.

We’re still feeling vulnerable.

While many things have worked out better than we could have ever imaged, there’s still a lot left to be seen, and failure is still very much a possibility.

But that’s what this was all about. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, and that there would be a million reasons not to take the risk in the first place.

We also knew that if we didn’t put ourselves out there, nothing would change.

This move has completely changed my life, and I’m happy and excited for each day.

While we might still be scared at times, it’s all worth it when I can sit on my deck to work through the afternoon instead of in a cubical.

6 Lessons I’ve Learned Through the Move

  1. It’s not always easy: Not everything about this transition has been easy. We’re still figuring out our finances, getting used to no paid time off, and trying to meet people in a community where we don’t have many friends. The good news is that difficult is good sometimes, and it’s pushing us to try new things.
  2. Working on your own takes a lot of motivation: For most people, setting your own schedule and working from home seems like the dream situation, but I’m here to tell you it has its up and downs. The biggest being that setting your own schedule requires a lot of discipline and planning.
  3. Where you run matters: I loved running in DC, and I’m so grateful for the trails in Rock Creek Park, but having access to hundreds of miles of trails, mountains, and breathtaking views, all within a quick 5 mile drive, is unbeatable. My running and training has excelled this summer, and I credit that progress to the trails beneath my feet.
  4. You have to believe in yourself: Not everything is going to work out the way you envisioned, and doubts can easily creep in. In order to keep pushing forward towards success, you have to always keep believing in yourself.
  5. Making friends is hard: It’s been since moving to DC after college that I’ve had to put in a lot of effort to meet people, and that part hasn’t been easy. It makes me really appreciate the friendships I already have.
  6. Where you work matters: My last job was at a non-profit in Washington, DC. I believed in that non-profit’s mission, and enjoyed the people I worked with and some of the work I did while there. But sitting at a desk, in a small cubical, stuck to a schedule that didn’t always work for me, was killing me. I was tired and frustrated. Now I love what I’m doing, and even if its a task I don’t really enjoy, I’m still able to find happiness in the process.

Will You Join Me?

I’m not saying you need to move or quit your job. I am saying that you need to take a risk, be vulnerable, put yourself out there.

My guess is that you already know what it is you’re holding yourself back from. Maybe it’s running a new distance or going after a tough PR. Or maybe it’s asking someone out or even leaving your current job.

Whatever it is, stop trying to find reasons not to do it, and just go for it. Life’s too short not to.

One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.
- Henry Ford

Beginner Ultramarathon Advice: An Interview with Sage Canaday

Photo Credit: Robert Goyen
Photo Credit: Robert Goyen

Sage Canaday hasn’t always been an ultra runner.

In fact, for many years while running for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Projects Team, his specialty was half and full marathons.

Speedy half and full marathons.

But even with two Olympic Trials qualifications and a blistering fast 2:16:52 marathon PR, he doesn’t label himself a marathoner anymore.

Now his focus is on Mountain Ultra Trail Running (as he calls it, M.U.T. running). And a successful M.U.T. runner he is! With wins in every distance from 50k to 100k, he’s now one of the top ranked ultrarunners in the world.

What makes him so fast? I like to believe it’s that speedy road background and deep understanding of running mechanics that sets him apart from other ultra runners.

Last week I had the honor of chatting with Sage on a number of issues related to ultrarunning basics and beginner techniques. It’s a fun interview, which I’m excited to share with you today.

In the 35 minute interview we discuss:

  • Sage’s journey from middle school track to pro mountain ultra runner
  • How road running techniques can be applied to ultra distance running
  • Training for mountain courses in the flat lands
  • Proper uphill running/hiking technique
  • Why speed work is important, even at the ultra distance
  • How Sage stays on top of nutrition and hydration during an ultra
  • Shoes, and how to decide which is right for you
  • The best part about the ultra running community

Listen to the interview with Sage here:

Or right click here to download and save the full interview.

Connect with Sage Canaday

Sage puts out a number of instructional videos and articles himself. Follow him on social media to stay connected:

Announcement: Coaching Giveaway

This week Rock Creek Runner is giving away the Premium Coaching Plan ($158 value) to TWO badass runners. I’m having so much fun with the new coaching plans that I want to offer up two more spots absolutely free!

Click here to find out more about the giveaway and how you can enter. Contest ends Tuesday, August 19th @ midnight Eastern, and winners will be selected at random and announced via email on Wednesday the 20th. Don’t miss out!

How You Can Run A Marathon (And Why You Should)


This might not be popular, but I’m going to go ahead and say it.

Running a marathon is not that hard.

I said it. Don’t get mad.

That’s not to say that running a marathon will not hurt. And sure, you’ll want to quit…

Quit during training. Quit after a bad long run. Quit the moment after you realize what it’s like to “hit the wall.”

But when someone tells me they wish they were the type of person who could run a marathon, I look at them confidently and say, “You can! It’s not that hard.”

I’m a firm believer that any runner can run 26.2 miles. And that they should.

The problem isn’t that they can’t, it’s that most people just won’t do it. They feel too intimidated by the distance or they just don’t know where to start.

It’s time to quit finding excuses and get started.

5 Steps to Running Your First Marathon

1) Set a Goal

Before we put ourselves out on a limb to accomplishing something big, we usually start by setting a goal. In this case, the goal is a marathon.

Once that goal is set, it’s all about finding the best path to get you there.

Depending on where you are with your running, that path could be a long one. That shouldn’t get you discouraged.

I find that goals are best accomplished when they are big. Really big. Marathon or ultramarathon big. The longer the path, the bigger and better the goal.

The path you take to reach that extra big goal, however, should be traveled with small steps.

  • Start running a few extra miles a week.
  • Establish a weekend routine that includes a Saturday morning long run, even if that long run isn’t very long yet.
  • Stick to a regular routine, as if you were in the middle of a training plan.

It’s these small steps that create habits and those small successes keep you motivated and on track to reach the big, far-out-there goal.

2) Pick a Race

Last year I wrote a post outlining a number of things to consider when picking your next marathon. They were:

  1. Timing
  2. Location
  3. Size
  4. Course Layout
  5. Cost

Those five tips ring true no matter what distance race you’re considering. The race you select can dictate everything from how you focus and when you start your training, to how you’re going to feel at mile 23 when you’re either listening to crickets or a roaring crowd.

Put in the time to pick a race that’s right for you. Trail, big city, country roads, they are all great for the right person at the right time.

Once you select that race, sign up immediately. Don’t put it off by thinking you’ll start the training and sign up later. Go ahead and lock in your registration so that you have the time to mentally prepare and that extra drive to stay focused.

3) Start Training

Once you’ve set the goal and picked out your race, it’s time to actually start running.

When I signed up for my first marathon, I was only running about 15 miles a week. The thought of running 15 miles during one long run seemed so far away. Let alone adding another 11.2 on top of that.

But I had a friend send over the training plan he used during his first marathon and I got started. I built the base required for the first week of training, and once it was time to start following the training plan, I jumped right in.

Week after week I added more miles and found myself running further and faster than I ever imagined.

Find the training plan that works best for you and your needs. That might be a generic plan you can find free online, but you’re more likely to have success with a plan tailored to your needs.

Maybe that’s Matt Frazier’s Marathon Roadmap,  Brad Hudson & Matt Fitzgerald’s Run Faster, or a personalized training plan written for you by a coach.

Wherever you find your plan, if you trust it, listen to your body, believe in your training, and obsess over the training and end goal. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can build mileage and run further than you ever thought possible.

4) Build Your Support Group

I’ve been trying to make this all sound easy. After all, I started this post by saying that running a marathon wasn’t that hard.

But the truth is that it can be hard.

Very hard. And that’s exactly what makes the accomplishment so awesome.

So what do you do when things get hard? You lean on your support network.

You’re support network will be there after a bad training run and tell you to suck it up when you feel like skipping a workout.

They will cheer you on at practice races, ask about your training, accompany you on long runs, and hop all over the city to see you for brief moments during the actual race.

I like to say that running is a team sport, a team never more important than during your first marathon.

Your support network could be a running club or group also running the race, or it may be a best friend, husband, or wife that never runs at all. Whomever it is, find them. Cherish them. And keep reminding them how appreciative you are.

Because trust me, when the time comes, you’ll really need them.

5) Practice, Practice Again

I do my best to ingrain this in the brains of runners training for their first ultramarathon, but really this is something I learned when training for my first marathon:

Practice everything about the race.

  • Practice wearing the clothes you’ll wear on race day.
  • Practice the pre-race dinner and breakfast.
  • Practice running some of your long run miles at race pace.
  • Practice consuming whatever nutrition you’ll use on race day.

Don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to what you’re planning for the actual race. Long training runs offer the perfect stage for practicing. Take advantage of it.

The Benefits of Running a Marathon

Signing up on a whim for my first marathon was one of the best decisions I ever made. It completely changed my life. Over the past 5 years I’ve gone from thinking 25 minutes at the gym was all I wanted to chasing down and accomplishing a 100 mile dream.

I credit those changes to a few things that training for a marathon taught me. Things I know will translate to anyone willing to take on the 26.2 challenge:

Discipline: You can’t train for a marathon without discipline. The simple act of getting out on the road or trail day after day, in the heat and in the cold, with no reason but to log miles requires major discipline.

The habits and discipline you form throughout training will still be there when reaching for goals in and out of your running shoes.

Achievement: Other than running, there are few things I work so hard for in my daily life that all come down to one day. One performance.

That practice takes time to learn.

  • How to stay focused.
  • How to handle delayed gratification.
  • How to avoid discouragement when it feels like I have too much work left to do.

But when that day comes, and you toe the starting line with a buzz of nervous and excited energy in the air, it’s a feeling like no other. The miles and hours that go by are the victory lap for all the hard work that got you to the starting line. And crossing the finish, that achievement will show you that it was all worth it.

It’ll make smaller life challenges seem like child’s play.

Leads to Bigger Things: There were times when training for my first marathon that I thought it would be impossible. It turns out it wasn’t. And reaching that goal back in 2009 lead me to run another. Then another. Then my first ultramarathon.

Crossing the finish line of your first marathon will show you that things you once thought impossible are now just stepping stones. With enough hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, you can get through even the toughest of challenges.

Knowing and understanding that fact could lead you to a new PR or a 100 mile ultramarathon, a new career or major life change.

Get a Free Entry into Marine Corps Marathon

One of Rock Creek Runner’s sponsors, the Sergeant Sullivan Center, is giving away free entries into the Marine Corps Marathon with a pledge to raise funds for the organization.

Having run the Marine Corps Marathon twice, I can easily say that it’s my favorite marathon. With the crowd excitement, runner comrade, and beautiful course, it’s no wonder people call it “the people’s marathon.” It also means that MCM is the perfect race for your first marathon.

Click here to learn more about how you can earn a free entry into the Marine Corps Marathon and support the good work the Center does for post-deployment health issues.

How to Avoid (Post-Race) Couch Potato Syndrome

The Washington Post recently published an opinion article titled Couch potato athletes: Why it’s hard to stay active after competition ends. According to a study by researcher Shawn Sorenson, who examined the exercise habits of 500 students and alumni from the University of Southern California, some of whom are current or former student-athletes, former eliteContinue Reading

3 Must-Do Drills for Trail Runners

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Friday Footnotes: Unplugged

Ed Note: This week’s Friday Footnotes was written by DC based running blogger Jamie Corey iPhone, check. Headphones, check. GPS watch, check. I don’t even put on my running shoes until all these items are accounted for. Once I make the mile-run to the closest trailhead, I find every tree trunk, log or rock onContinue Reading

5 Lessons an Ultrarunner Can Learn From A 5k Race

After getting home from a local Black Mountain, NC 4th of July 5k race on Friday, I looked up previous race results to see my most recent 5k time. Turns out it was back in 2009. That’s five years ago. I couldn’t believe it had been that long, but the more I thought about it,Continue Reading

The Trail Runner’s Gear Guide: Summer 2014

It’s officially summer, which means tanned bodies, sweaty workouts, and trails. Green, luscious, glorious trails. So by now you should have packed away those long sleeve shirts and 3/4 length tights, and begun breaking out that shiny new summer gear. It’s fun to play and sport new gear, but the reality is that the summerContinue Reading

What 3 Weeks in Italy Taught Me About Running

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6 Tips for Successful Summer Training

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13 Must-Knows For All Beginner Trail Runners

For the past several months, I’ve been on a mission to get non-trail runners to give the trail a shot. I even released a free eBook outlining all the best reasons why you should, and a complete 101 guide on trail running basics (posted to the Art of Manliness blog). But what I haven’t done aContinue Reading

Friday Footnotes: Why Running is a Team Sport

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The Perfect Pre-Race (or Long Run) Meal

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Scared Sh*tless

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32 Rules Runners Should Live By in 2014

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9 Last Minute Gift Ideas For Runners

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A Thankful Runner

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Beat the Post-Race Blues

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Wear Dirty Shorts: Running Practical, Not Hip

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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.Continue Reading

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, andContinue Reading

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 ifContinue Reading

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 theContinue Reading

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 thingsContinue Reading

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 theContinue Reading

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 myContinue Reading

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 doContinue Reading

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 fewContinue Reading

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. Continue Reading

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, butContinue Reading

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 haveContinue Reading

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’veContinue Reading

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 beContinue Reading


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