It’s no secret that I believe running is selfish. That has turned out to be a rather unpopular statement, but I still believe it to be true.

I mean think about it, running is driven by personal goals. It requires time and energy, taken away from other (often more important) things. Family and friends are left out to dry, but still expected to support and encourage you … even give up entire days or weekends just to chase you around a course.

But I also know that running is about much more than just personal goals and ambitions. It’s about being a better person, inspiring others to live a healthy lifestyle, and of course, community.

What if we started putting more energy into that side of running? The non-selfish side.

Think about all the great things that could happen.

Back in 2015 I themed this site around a single topic: Smart Running. That theme shaped the content each week, was the driving force behind new products and the Trail Talk podcast. And I’m proud of what we did.

But this year, I want to do something different.

Instead of focusing just on improving our running, and I want us to also focus on improving as runners. See the difference?

So this year, here at Rock Creek Runner, 2016 will be the Year of Service.

Allow me to explain …

Trail Running is Built on Service

Trail running is built on service.

It’s volunteers that maintain the vast majority of trails in the United States, and it’s volunteers that man aid stations, keep us fed, and keep us safe on race day. Most race directors are paid very little (if anything at all) to put on a race, and instead do it for the love of the sport.

We support each other on social media. We raise money for charities. We build each other up at running groups, and hold each other accountable when focus slips.

And by exploring nature’s trails, we’re helping to preserve them.

So, during this Year of Service, all the content will have the underlying theme of serving the sport, community, and our bodies by being better runners. Of course there will be plenty of focus on training advice, goal setting, and race day strategies, but it will also be more than that.

Serving Ourselves

All service starts with yourself. If you’re not in the right place, nothing you do will be as effective. So this year we’ll train our bodies and minds to be stronger, smarter, and tougher.

Serving the Trails

Trail running doesn’t exist without trails, and as regular users, it’s our obligation to help preserve the trails and surrounding wild areas, through maintenance projects, clean-ups, policy support, donations, and countless other ways.

To put my money where my mouth is, I’ve decided to donate 5% of all Rock Creek Runner proceeds in 2016 to Conservaction Patagonica, donated on a quarterly basis. Back in 2007, I spent a year in Chile, and while there, I had the opportunity to explore much of the Patagonia and lake regions. The land is unique and vibrant, and helped shape my appreciation for and understanding of the outdoors. I feel privileged to give back to those mountains and trails. Even in this small way.

Want to learn more about Conservaction Patagonica? Check out this cool (running related) video.

Serving You as a Reader

There’s nothing I want more with Rock Creek Runner than to serve you, the reader, as a runner. If I’m failing at that, the blog itself is failing.

My pledge for 2016 is to do even better than 2015, with more free content, resources, videos, and downloads. Another season of Trail Talk, products designed to serve your specific needs, and more opportunities to work with you directly.

Serving the Community

Community is the backbone of trail running, and over the course of this year, we’ll explore inventive ways to build, strengthen, and support this unique community.

16 Ways You can be of Service in 2016

I want this Year of Service to be about more than just me and Rock Creek Runner. Here are ways you can help:

1) Perform trail maintenance on your local trail system.

2) Man an aid station or help cook food at a local race.

3) Host a trail running meet-up to get your fellow runners motivated and excited.

4) Mentor a newer runner through your running club.

5) Donate to or volunteer for running charities like Girls on the Run or Back on My Feet, or to wildlife and trail non-profits like Conservaction Patagonica, Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, or Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

6) Hold signs at a race and cheer people on, or simply share words of encouragement next time you see someone running.

7) Pick up trash next time you’re out on the trail.

8) Take a non-runner out for a short run.

9) Volunteer to be sweeper at a local race.

10) Support legislation that preserves our forests and parks.

11) Lead someone on their first trail run.

12) Explore new trails and parks.

13) Mark the course, or assist in clearing markers and trash after a race is over.

14) Push yourself to run further or faster with new goals.

15) Be an accountability partner to a runner in your community.

16) Share your running experiences with others.

Are you ready to make 2016 the best yet?

We’re just a week away from ringing in 2016, and whoa! What a year it has been!

Oof, I hate it when people say that. Every year bloggers, bosses, your mother, they always seem to think the past 12 months have been unlike any other.

But seriously, when I sat down to write this post, and took a look back at everything that’s happened here at Rock Creek Runner, it really has been one hell of a year.

On a personal note, I’ve had the privilege of sharing many beautiful experiences, with wonderful people, on breathtaking routes and courses. In case you missed them, are a few highlights through pictures:

Sorry:

- Instagram feed not found.

But aside from my own experiences, it’s also been the best year yet here at Rock Creek Runner:

So far in 2015, I’ve posted 62 blog posts, all in an effort to help you run smarter.

I launched the Trail Talk podcast, wrapping up Season 1 with 23 episodes.

I released two new courses, the Trail Runner’s System and the Busy Runner Routine, which combined are helping more than 385 students reach their running goals, and the free Aid Station, which several of you sign up for every day.

I hired Alex Bea to redesign the site, so you would have a better reading experience.

I’ve directly helped dozens of runners train for and run trail races across the globe through coaching.

And most importantly, I’ve heard from more of you than ever before about your amazing running goals and successes. That, by far, has been the most exciting part of the year. Thank you for sharing.

And you know what? I’ve got even higher hopes for 2016.

More planning and preparations have already gone in to 2016 than any year before — Season 2 of Trail Talk is set to launch in January, new courses and resources are already in development, and I’ll be partnering up with other runners, coaches, and bloggers for all kinds of exciting new content. And of course, the vast majority always remain free for you.

A few official announcements will drop next week, so you’ll have to demonstrate a little patience until then.

Today I thought it’d be fun to stick to the past and present, and look back at your favorite posts and episodes (as determined by pageviews and listens). Just for kicks, I’ll also share a few favorites of my own from other sites.

Thanks for such an amazing year, and I hope you enjoy this little flash back at some of the highlights from 2015:

15 Most Popular Posts of 2015

Most Popular Instructional Posts

1. The 8 Running Hacks of Smart Runners
2. The Jackass’ Guide to Trail Running Etiquette
3. 7 Habits of Highly Effective (Trail) Runners
4. The 50 Truths of Ultra Running
5. The Ultimate Resource Guide for New Trail Runners
6. 37 Simple Ways to Improve Your Running (Without Causing You Stress)
7. The Trail Runner’s Guide to Fast Downhill Running

Most Popular Interviews

8. 3 Steps to Mastering Your First Ultramarathon with Stephanie Marie Howe
9. How to Run Faster & Prevent Your Next Running Injury with Jason Fitzgerald
10. Karl Meltzer on Trail and Ultrarunning Basics
11. Recovery, Nutrition, and Shoes with Mountain Ultra Trail Runner Darcy Piceu

Most Popular Motivational Posts

12. 12 (More) Trail Running Videos Guaranteed to Get You Motivated and Out the Door
13. How Trail Running Will Change Your Life (And How It Changed Mine)
14. Ultrarunning as a Microcosm of Life: My Black Mountain Monster Report
15. When is it Acceptable to Quit?

5 Most Popular Trail Talk Episodes of 2015

1. 6 Principles of Base Building for Endurance Runners
2. Go Big!
3. Essential Gear for Trail Runners
4. My 6 Biggest Ultramarathon Mistakes
5. How to Schedule Your Weekly Mileage

5 Non-Rock Creek Runner Posts I Loved in 2015

1. Your Body During a 100-Miler (Outside)
2. What Runners Are Thinking (The Atlantic)
3. The Ancient Mind-Hack That Makes You Happier and More Effective (Further)
4. Six Things That Elite Ultrarunners Are Doing That You Are Not (iRunFar)
5. A Marathon Tale: An Unlikely Duo (Desert Grit)
6. Why I Pushed ‘Too Far’ and Will Never Regret It (No Meat Athlete)

Sometimes, running is simply the worst. I’m allowed to say that, right?

I mean think about it … It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable.

Hell, statistics show that 60-70% of us get injured each year.

Like I said, the worst. So why do we run?

Do me a favor and think back on when you first started running. What was it that actually motivated you enough to go out and log those very first miles? Chances are it wasn’t a set distance, like to run a marathon. Instead, it was probably everything that comes with a goal like running a marathon:

  • Discipline
  • Fitness and endurance
  • Weight-loss
  • Stress reduction
  • Time alone
  • Adventure
  • Enjoyment

Those are the motivators that get us on the pavement or trail. But somewhere along the line, most of us lose sight of our original intentions.

The motivation for running shifts from pleasure to chasing a specific race goal, getting faster, or training harder. It gets broken down into weekly plans, and each week into daily runs, miles, splits, and segments. All of a sudden, we’re so caught up in the endless cycle of improving or progressing, we lose sight of the big picture for singular moments and quick thrills. I call that the improvement loop, and it never ends.

The problem with those moments and quick thrills? They’re fleeting.

Moments come, moments go. We spend all this time focused on a single event or goal, and once it’s over, we’re right where we started, looping back towards the next big thing.

Yup, running can be the worst.

Truth is in the Poison Ivy

A few weeks ago I sit at my desk, pantless (more on that later), to type out a few answers for an interview.

“What was your running highlight from the past year?”

That’s one of the first questions, and oddly enough, one of the toughest.

Like most of you when asked a question like that, my initial thoughts dart towards a specific moment — a PR or a big race.

I had a lot of good running moments in 2015: my first ultramarathon win, and a few other big, successful races.

At the same time, I dealt with several blows I didn’t see coming. A severe bout of post-race blues left me unmotivated for months, and in September a mid-race realization that I wanted to quit had me questioning my desire to run at all.

Then, last month, about 24 hours after I finish the Sky to Summit 50k, I wake up itching. The small red dots I can barely make out in a dimly lit bathroom are the first sign of the worst case of poison ivy I’ve ever seen.

Which brings me back to working with no pants on. No joke, I can’t put on pants for days, and more importantly can’t run for weeks.

For months long stretches of this year, overwhelmed by training and the pressure of the constant improvement loop, I searched for a good excuse not to run, only to come up empty. Finally I have an excuse — a swollen, itchy, pus filled excuse — and surprisingly, I don’t want it.

Funny how that happens.

As I spend these weeks on the couch, logging hours of Game of Thrones instead of miles, a few things become clear. The first is that it’s alright to pause and give yourself a break. The second is that I prefer working in my boxers, but that’s neither here nor there.

The break forces me to gain perspective. To ditch the mileage stats, and think about why I want to run so badly in the first place. I find myself thinking back to what brought me to this sport, and it’s those reasons that leave me sticking around.

Take a Giant Step Back

As the new year approaches, and you look forward towards new goals or resolutions (and continue that search for new and exciting moments ), take the time to get poison ivy.

Just play’n.

Take the time to first step back.

Instead of focusing just on running goals for the future, think back on those initial motivators, and the true highlights of your year of running.

While attempting to answer that interview question for myself, I discover that my highlights aren’t a win or other specific races.

They’re the experiences of training for and running those races with loved ones around me. They’re the bond with my local running community and mountains that continues to grow stronger. They’re the discipline, day after day. And they’re exploring new trails and new routes with new friends.

It’s the big picture of running as a whole, which makes this past year, and this sport, so great. When we get stuck in the improvement loop, and lose sight of the big picture, all that joy shifts to PRs, splits, and moments.

Moments may define a great run, but they are not what makes running great.

I have specific goals for 2016, and I’ll fight for results that push my boundaries, just as I often encourage you to do. But more importantly, I’ll aim to focus on the things that really matter. The motivators from the very beginning that still ring true today.

I hope you will too.

Because those are what will bring the most joy, and isn’t that what makes running so not the worst?

 

Just about a year ago, I shared my secret weapon for instant motivation. The one thing that never fails to pump me up for the miles ahead:

Trail running videos — epic ones, in fact — and I chose 12 of my favorite to share with you here.

It turns out I’m not alone in thinking videos are the jam, because that post quickly became one of the most popular in Rock Creek Runner history.

But a lot has changed in the past year, and a number of new, high-quality videos have been released … some even more inspiring and motivating than the previous bunch. So today I’ve complied 12 more of my favorites for you to enjoy.

Just get those running shoes ready now, because it won’t be long before you’re itching for an adventure.

1) Mile for Mile

Transport yourself to the majestic Patagonia with ultrarunners Krissy Moehl, Jeff Browning and Luke Nelson, as they run through the newly developed park by Conservacion Patagonica. As an added bonus, the video also shows the incredible work that organization is achieving.

2) Hardrunner

A fun, lighthearted look at the grit, determination, and spirit of exploration that goes into training for and running the Hardrock 100. Featuring appearances from Sébastien Chaigneau, Joe Grant, and many more.

3) 15 Hours | with Ann Trason

Billy Yang’s new series 15 Hours follows the life of a runner for 15 hours. He kicked off the series with Brett Rivers and Anton Krupika, but I think his latest film with Ann Trason, 14 time winner of the Western States 100, captures her personality and spirit the best.

4) Kroger’s Canteen

Salomon Running TV produces many of the best trail running videos around, often highlighting the spirit and drive behind some of the sport’s top runners. But Kroger’s Canteen isn’t about a runner, instead it’s about an aid station — maybe the most famous aid station in ultra running — and the people and soul that makes it so unique. Kroger’s Canteen is perched on a tiny ledge at 13,100 feet along the Hardrock 100 course.

5) Trail Fighter

Do former MMA fighters make good ultrarunners? Apparently. This is the story of Kyle Dietz, a former MMA fighter training to compete at the RUT 50k.

6) Western Time

There are countless highs and lows leading up to and during a 100 mile race, and in this short film, Billy Yang beautifully captures the story of Sally McRae’s 2014 Western States experience.

7) The Teacher

Stevie Kremer is one of the world’s top trail runners … and a second grade teacher. In this Solomon Running TV episode, we get a peek inside Stevie’s life, how she balances teaching and running, and how they benefit each other.

8) Wonderland

On July 1st, 2015, Gary Robbins set out to break the Wonderland Trail’s fastest known time, and The Ginger Runner was there to document the journey. The burly 93 mile Wonderland Trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier, with more than 24,000 feet of elevation gain.

9) The Beauty of the Irrational

Ryan Sandes of South Africa is one of those soft spoken runners you can’t help but love. In this film, The African Attachment documents his attempt to redeem himself against the jaw dropping Fish River Canyon.

10) Fast and Light

Another brilliant film from Salomon Running TV, this time about the draw of moving quickly through the mountains, and the birth and growth of Sky Running.

11) This is Your Day (Trailer)

I wish I could share this full video, but unfortunately this is only the trailer. This is Your Day follows Rob Krar, Caroline Boller, Karl Hoagland through the Western States 100, demonstrating the power of the body, mind, and importance of human connection.



12) Face to Face with Kilian Jornet

There are few things as inspiring (and humbling) as watching Kilian Jornet run through the mountains. This video not only captures his graceful running, but also his respect for the peaks.

Photo Credit: The African Attachment, captured from The Beauty of the Irrational

It’s the holiday season, which can only mean one thing…

Gift guides.

Want to know the truth about most gift guides filling your feeds this time of year? They’re rubbish. They’re an excuse for bloggers to rave about products they’ve hardly used, and for a company to send out a bunch of free crap in hopes that blogger will post said rave. No thanks. Not on Rock Creek Runner.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good seasonal gift guides out there — I’ve been known to write a few myself — but if you want my unsolicited advice, it’s to always read gift guides with a skeptical eye.

So this year I’m doing something different. Something more practical, and hopefully better for you.

Instead of a traditional gift guide, I’d like to share the running tools essential to every runner’s gear list. They aren’t new products, seasonal clothing, or the shiny trending gadgets. In fact, several are free or have been around for years. So if you don’t have them, then by all means, treat this like a gift list.

The goal here isn’t to get you to buy something, but instead to share the tools I think you should be using, and more importantly, how to use them.

Totally up front side note, if you do buy something, many of these links are affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, Rock Creek Runner gets a kick-back. So thank you.

Essential Tools for Every Runner’s Gear List

1) Recovery and Self Massage Tools

One of the best things we can do to aid recovery of your tired bodies is self massage. Regularly incorporating self-message and strengthening exercises is an important part of injury prevention.

Self massage helps to promote recovery by rushing blood into your worked areas, breaking up scar tissue, and increasing flexibility.

Recommended Self Massage Tools:

  • Foam Roller: By now most runners have experienced a foam roller. What was once seen as just a weird torture device has now proven to dig deep into your muscles to break up scar tissue, promote recovery, and make you scream like a child. Essentially you’re giving yourself a deep tissue massage.
  • Massage Balls: Massage balls allow you to target specific areas in a way that the foam roller never could. This is both beneficial and excruciatingly painful.

How to Use Them

There are several techniques for using a foam roller or massage ball, so many that it’d be impossible for me to cover them all in this post. So instead I’ll direct you to my 3 favorite self massage tutorials for runners:

Quick Tips for Self Massage:

  • Foam roll, or use the massage balls a few times per week between tough workouts
  • Take it slow, maintaining good form and technique
  • When using a foam roller or massage ball for self massage, move slowly over the intended area. Don’t rush back and forth
  • Be mindful not just to focus on one single area, but work through an entire routine

2) Running Book Library

Continue Reading

Have you heard about REI’s #OptOutside campaign?

They’ve made the bold move to actually shut down all 143 of their stores today — on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year — and instead encourage their employees and customers to hit the great outdoors.

As of the writing of this email, the news channels are already filled with stories of stampedes in big box stores and people who starting waiting in lines Thanksgiving afternoon … just for a deal.

But not everyone is at the mall today.

Over 1,000,000 people have pledged to take part. That’s a lot of fresh air!

Here are Rock Creek Runner, we’re fully on board with the OptOutside campaign. I’m in Louisville visiting family, and instead of hitting the shopping centers and outlet malls, I’m hitting a local trail for a crisp November run. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But one of the driving forces behind Rock Creek Runner isn’t just to get someone outside for one day, but give them the tools they need to opt outside – and opt for the trails – all the time.

So today I’m reaching out with two things, both in an attempt to get you outside, today and every day.

1) A Fitness and Nutrition Bundle

The first is a fitness and nutrition bundle you don’t want to pass up. It’s No Meat Athlete’s annual bundle sale, featuring 21 eBooks and courses (valued at $400) from big names like Rich Roll, Matt Frazier, Heather Crosby, Robert Cheeke, and many more. Oh, and I’m in there as well, with the complete Busy Runner Routine 4-week course.

What else is included? A lot:

  • Matt FrazierWake Up (eBook + audio), 100 Minutes Faster webinar series, ticket to upcoming live Online Goal-Setting Seminar
  • Heather Crosby – YumUniverse 5-day Test Drive Kit
  • Robert CheekeShred It! eBook + MP3 audio bonus with Matt Frazier
  • Chef AJUltimate Weight Loss Package – 21 Day Recipe Guide + 4 MP3 audio coaching lessons
  • Doug Hay – Busy Runner Routine course
  • Jeff SandersThe 5AM Miracle eBook and The 5AM Blueprint course
  • Ella MagersHow To Go Vegan A Beginner’s Guide eBook
  • Scott ShetlerPlant-Based Performance eBooks (A Compassionate Approach To Fitness and Know Your Strength)
  • Rich RollJai Seed eCookbook and Jai Meditation program
  • Sid Garza-HillmanApproaching The Natural eBook
  • Karen RanziRaw Vegan Recipe Fun For Families eBook
  • Derek TresizeThe Vegan Muscle & Fitness Guide To Bodybuilding Competitions
  • Whitney LauritsenHealthy Organic Vegan on a Budget eBook
  • Dreena BurtonPlant-Powered 15 eBook
  • Thomas Tadlock – Vegan 10 Day Tummy Tightener

Don’t get confused. This isn’t just for vegans.

The information on training, healthy eating, and productivity and habit change are relatable to anyone interested in health and fitness. Regardless of your diet.

All told, it’s $400 worth of products for a crazy low bundle price. This is a onetime thing, and the offer ends on Wednesday, so don’t miss out.

How it Works

bundle-15-2From now until Wednesday at 10am EST (that’s 5 days total), Matt is selling the bundle for only $49 (like I said, crazy!).

During that time, all of the contributors (me!) are given individual links, and get a cut from any purchases made through our link.

So if you’re interested in purchasing the bundle, by purchasing it through this link, you’re supporting me and the content on Rock Creek Runner! For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Get the full bundle here.

Now, I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t a sales pitch…

It was, and goes completely against REI’s anti-shopping campaign. But I hope that you can take a few minutes today to read about the bundle, and still skip the shopping center. Or maybe just flag this email to check out the bundle tomorrow.

I feel comfortable making this pitch today because I know that the resources included in that bundle will get you outside, eating healthy, and running strong. For many, many days to come.

2) Your Guide to Getting Outside and On the Trails

Secondly, I’ve put together a quick reference guide of resources, both on Rock Creek Runner and elsewhere, to get you psyched and ready for an outdoor trail running adventure.

I’m calling it the Rock Creek Runner Reference Guide for Opting Outside.

Check them out here:

How to start trail or ultra running:

Where to find trails:

Motivation for your next adventure:

Alright! That’s it for today. I hope you’ve had a great holiday (if you’re in the U.S. celebrating), and find time to get outside and start an adventure today.

Because there’s no time like the present.

Today, I am thankful.

Let’s face it, running is selfish.

You’re chasing your goals. You’re spending time and energy focused on yourself.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m the first to tell you that running makes me a better person. It gives me discipline, confidence, energy, and happiness. Without it, I wouldn’t be as good of a husband, friend, and worker.

But it’s still mostly for me. And you still run mostly for you.

Which means that our family, partners, friends, and loved ones have to pick up the slack. They have to take care of projects when we’re off logging miles, and nurse us back to life when we get home beat up and tired.

So today, I am thankful.

Showing Gratitude

A few years ago my wife Katie started a daily gratitude practice. Each day she writes down something she’s grateful for — often something small, that would otherwise go unnoticed. It’s simple, really, but has proven to do something much bigger.

Studies have found that expressing regular gratitude has an actual impact on your health. You’re sick less often and more energized, and you reduce the affects of stress and build stronger bonds and relationships.

That’s mighty powerful, considering showing gratitude takes basically no time, and costs nothing.

This week, runners all over the United States will sit down with their families, friends, and loved ones to share a feast. In that same spirit of Thanksgiving, it only feels appropriate to say thank you, and show gratitude beyond just the dinner table, to everyone who keeps us running.

A Thank You Note

Thank you race day volunteers, for the long hours, rainy days, early mornings, and endless smiles that go in to caring for us runners.

Thank you crew members and pacers, for chasing us around, tending to our every need, and keeping us moving forward.

Thank you readers, listeners, and bloggers, for the endless encouragement, inspiration, and support.

Thank you wife, husband, partner, for supporting us day in and day out. For picking up extra chores or duties while we’re out training, and keeping us focused when we lose it.

Thank you family, for understanding our goals and dreams, holding us accountable, and celebrating each finish, even if a goal isn’t reached.

Thank you race directors, for pouring yourself into the race, keeping us safe, happy, and fed, and for envisioning the potential of a route.

Thank you running club, for meeting each week, no matter how cold, rainy, or dark. For accompanying miles with laughter, joy, and post-run beer.

Thank you trails, for never ceasing to provide adventure, challenge, and respect. Thank you for inspiring us to be better, and humbling us when we think we are.

Thank you running partner, for pushing us to show up when we feel like sleeping in. For celebrating big runs, and encouraging us to work harder.

Thank you spectators, for cheering for us even when you have no clue who we am. For sending chills down our back after a long stretch of miles, and putting a pep in our step just when we need it most.

Thank you fellow runners, for building a community we’re proud to be part of. For constantly inspiring us to run faster, further, and stronger. For holding us accountable, keeping things fun, and never ceasing to amaze us with your achievements.

Today, tomorrow, and every day to come, we are thankful.

 

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
– T.S. Elliot

Every sport, every action, has a set of truths. A set of rules or laws that define them — Drink enough beer and you’ll get tipsy, for example.

Rules you can count on reigning true at all times, in all circumstances.

Trail and ultra running, of course, is no different, and the truths of our sport guide how we train, how we race, and how we handle certain situations.

The trick then, is to know them ahead of time. To understand them — and understand how to apply them — so that you can use these truths to your advantage.

Here are the 50 truths I’ve come to know and understand over the past several years:

1) When you feel a small rock or stick in your shoe, take the time to get it out.

2) If you think you’re going too slow during the first half of the race, you’re actually going to fast. You have nothing to prove during that first half.

3) Downhill running is fun, but it’s also a challenge.

4) Every volunteer should be thanked.

5) There will always be someone that looks cooler than you. Quit worrying about the latest gear trends, and do what works best for you. Besides, the trail quickly equalizes everyone’s coolness.

6) Ultrarunning is hard, and never forgets to remind you of that fact.

7) Training your stomach, and taking care of your stomach, is just as important as training your legs.

8) Ultramarathons are more mental than they are physical.

9) In case of emergencies, pick a leaf from a tree, not from the ground … You know, when wiping your poo.

10) It’s often more efficient to speed hike hills than it is to run them.

11) Always take care of, thank, and be kind to your crew, they are your lifeline.

12) It’s better to just accept the hard times than it is to dwell on them. You choose to do this sport, after all.

13) No matter how slow you’re going, progress is progress. Move with purpose.

14) Always take care of the trail — Pick up trash, move fallen branches, etc.

15) Volunteering at a race is one of the biggest inspirations available.
Continue Reading

In the past two months, I’ve run two 50K ultramarathons.

Both on trail. Both wearing the same pair of shoes, after similarly negligent training, and with finishing times just 20 minutes apart.

But the outcomes, they were remarkably different.

This is the tale of two 50Ks, the Steep Canyon 50K in September, and the Sky to Summit 50K in November. While you may already know the results of those races, it’s the journeys — in particular the differences in those journeys — that have lead me to share this tale.

We’ll begin with Steep Canyon:

Steep Canyon

I go into the Steep Canyon 50K feeling confident. Not in my training, or my ability to race, but that I can handle the distance without trouble, and have a good time running it. That confidence leads to an almost arrogant approach to the day. Arrogance which allows me to neglect my standard pre-race routine, and opt to waste time joking around with friends instead.

I have no race plan. No nutrition plan. And have done no mental preparations for what would become a 6 and a half hour day. Yet for some reason, this lack of preparation is of no concern.

Sky to Summit

The week leading up to the Sky to Summit 50K is filled with preparations. Days before I leave, I begin gathering gear for both camping the night before and running on race day. On my last few taper runs, I find myself focused on the race, and engaging my thoughts with the mountain adventure soon to follow.

It’s exciting, exhilarating, and leaves me feeling a bit nervous.

Steep Canyon

A few miles after we take off from the starting line, I focus in on the other runners. I pick out a few I believe I should beat — based solely on appearances, gear choices, and how hard they’re breathing (profiling, much?) — and lock in right behind them up the first climb. Any thoughts of pushing too hard are easily ignored by my laser focus on mile splits and place.

As one of the guys I’ve locked on to chats with another runner around mile 5, I realize he is running the relay, and will be finishing in just 5 more miles. Discouraged, I let him pull away, and my thoughts immediately drift towards … my nipples.

“Damn it!” I cry out to myself, “You forgot to Band Aid your nipples.”

Even though, there’s no way chaffing has begun this early in the race, it’s the only thing I can think about. Immediately my nipples start to burn, and I’m positive I’ll enter the next aid station with streaks of blood running down my shirt. For the next 5 miles, I kick myself with disgust for being so careless earlier that morning.

As I reach a drop bag around mile 10.5, I grab some tape and press on … head lowered. Frustrated.

Sky to Summit

Within the first 3 miles I’ve climbed more than 1,500 feet on mostly runnable, smooth terrain. I start off fairly swift, but quickly settle in to a comfortable, sustainable pace. My friend Peter is nearby, but instead of chasing him down, I decide to let him pull ahead, focusing on what would become my mantra for the day: Stay relaxed. Stay comfortable.

As we hit the first downhill, I fall in behind a woman running well but with a hint of timidness. I’m strong on downhills, and would normally blast down this mountain with delight.

“Let me know if you want to pass,” she says.

I thank her, and just as a few guys barrel past us, I respond with,

“I’m fine right here. I’ve got nothing to prove in the first 10 miles of a 50K.”

We cross through the first creek, and my focus shifts towards my feet. I realize that while I remembered to tape my big toe, I forgot to spread lubricant in between them. It is raining, and has been all morning, so my final preparations were clouded with the attempt to remain dry as long as possible.

It made for a messy morning, so forgetting lube came as no surprise.

My feet are notoriously prone to blistering, especially on such a wet day. But instead of harping on the mistake, I decide to let it go. What happens next will happen, I reassure myself. Now that I’m out on the course with no lube on hand, there’s nothing more to be done.

Stay relaxed. Stay comfortable.

Steep Canyon

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It’s that time of the year again.

No, I’m not talking about the Holidays or Christmas shopping.

It’s time to break out the cold weather clothing, put on a tough face, and head out into the darkness. (For those of us in the northern hemisphere, anyway.)

Shorter days — made shorter by the end of daylight savings time — make it nearly impossible to train through the winter without running in the dark.

I don’t know about you, but I’m at least a little scared of the dark. Night running is intimidating, it’s more work, and it’s an easy excuse.

Which is exactly why many runners end up skipping the darkness, either by bailing completely, or by slogging it out on the treadmill. Neither of which are ideal.

So today we’re going to break down everything you need to know to feel comfortable, safe, and excited for months of running in the dark.

The Benefits of Night Running (And Yes There Are Some)

Believe it or not, there are actually benefits to running in the dark. At least for the positive thinker, there are.

For starters, your ability to run in the dark opens up a lot more time to run. You’re no longer forced to rush home from work and cram in a few miles as the sun goes down, or sprint out of the office during a lunch break. You free to go home, stick to a normal schedule, and run whenever you get the chance.

On top of that, I find running in the dark a refreshing escape from the visual noise of screens and lights. It focuses your vision, blacks out the background, and allows you to zero in. A route that you’ve run hundreds of times before, suddenly becomes a new experience.

You rely more on your other senses, listening, smelling, and feeling the road or trail. It’s relaxing.

And finally, running at night is great practice for ultramarathons. Many ultras over 50 miles in distance require at least some running in the dark. Either through a pre-dawn run, or running through the night.

The night offers new challenges, and if you’ve had little experience — especially if it’s late in the race and you’re already tired — those challenges will feel like mountains. Training at night is great practice for race day.

Safety Tips to Live By

When it comes to night running safety, concerns are drastically different between roads and trails. On the road, you have cars and other humans. On the trail, the terrain is your biggest challenge.

For that reason, I’ve split the safety tips into 2 sections. You may notice a little overlap, but my hope is that this will make things easier to follow.
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