Thursday, May 27, 2010

Turning The Page

About this time 3 years ago my oldest daughter, who is now in medical school, graduated from the University of Michigan. It was a somber day in Ann Arbor as we packed all of her belongings to bring back home. A lot of memories came to the surface as she reflected on what was a critical and very defining 4 years of her life. So many things had happened over that time that I'm sure for her it seemed like a lifetime which was now coming to an end. I mentioned to her that your life a book for you to write. Every day you write another page that adds up to a chapter. As in any good book, even some of the best chapters have to come to an end. Thankfully, it doesn't stop there. And so like a good writer, when a chapter in your life is over, you turn the page and start writing a new one. You don't forget the chapters before as they all have a hand in making the story what it is now.

So as we close the chapter on the 2010 edition of the Fargo Marathon, for which I must say was the most difficult and fulfilling marathon I have ever run, I am super excited to start writing the next chapter of my Ultra Life.

Again, thanks for following along as we prepared for the Fargo Marathon. It was a memorable event for all who participated. I'm already excited for next year. But then, that will be a chapter or two down the road.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The End of the Road

Again, wow. What a day. A day full of all kinds of excitement. The weather, the goals realized and the goals that some had to let go and save for another day. All in all it was an exceptional day. Hat's off to the Fargo Marathon race committee. So many things were done right in the past years that I didn't even think could be or needed to be improved upon. The committee does listen to runners and takes their comments and concerns very seriously. You voiced your concerns and they have responded. I know right now they are planning on how they can make things even better for next year. A very impressive group of individuals who of could not have accomplished their objective without the support of the community and the volunteers which are exceptional. From the aid station workers to the police and traffic volunteers who kept us safe and though were focused on safety were able to offer a cheer for runners as well. I truly appreciate the effort all have made to provide me and 20,000 other runners a safe, fun coarse to run on.

It started off well with our family and friends group of runners gathering at the motor home outside the dome as we have for these past 5 years. A rainy star turned into a nice but humid day. I'm ok in heat but the humidity took it's toll on me, averaging over 80% before we finished, but had little impact on my sister Jodi as she made her Boston qualifying time of 3:45 by crossing the line with a minute (and 2 seconds) to spare.

My running buddy Jon struggled late in the event but gutted it out and finished strong with a big smile on his face. Asked if he was going to plan for another marathon there was no hesitation at all when he said he would. I'm so proud of Jon for keeping a positive attitude through such a difficult event. 26.2 miles is a long way to be alone with your thoughts. The distraction of the crowd is nice but in the later miles it seems like all you can hear is your body telling you to stop. We all go through this. That is the test of the marathon.

So with sore legs and my thoughts moving forward to an event I have coming up in a couple weeks, it is kind of sad that my work here is done. Fargo Marathon asked me what my 20x10 was, "To encourage and support others in reaching their goals" and asked me if I'd blog about it. I did. I had fun and I hope that I was able offer some encouragement and support to some of you out there that have read the blog, contacted me or talked to me on the street. Along with that, I hope some of my goofy adventures have entertained you and maybe offered you a little insight as to what makes me tick. For me, I'm still trying to figure that out so if you know, don't tell me. I hope I never figure it out as I don't want to stop trying. I'm having way too much fun. So long for now. It's been fun.


I will have some more runs and events coming up in the future where you can track me. If you are interested in following along or hearing more about the events and my thoughts, let me know and I will keep it going.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Congratulations Fargo Marathon for making your 20x10 goal of 20,000 runners. I hope everyone will achieve their 20x10 goal.

Finding Motivation

Wow. What a Friday. The FargoDome was buzzing all day. I got there before 7 for a breakfast with the people that make up the Fargo Marathon Committee. What an impressive group. Focused, dedicated and determined.

The expo was busy all day. I was at the Q and A table most of the day up until the 5k. It was so fun to see some of the people I have met via the blog face to face for the first time. I hope your event today goes well. I am as excited for you as I am for myself.

As I was sitting at the table, Sandy Buttwieler from KFGO was roaming the Fargodome looking for interviews for the radio. One of the marathon committee people said she should interview me and she looked a little puzzled and said "why" and the committee member said, "cause he's the guy who sat out in the parking lot, smoking a cigarette, eating a doughnut,, watching the first ever Fargo Marathon and now he runs from Grand Forks before the marathon". Sandy said she remembered the story from 2 years ago and started quizzing me for a few more details about the story. Sandy must be pretty good at asking questions because before it was over, she had me in tears. Not from laughing, but from all of the emotions it brought up that I sometimes push back down. Don't want to show any weakness you know. But you know what, I'm a softy. I guess I'm better off just admitting that and going with it. She really roughed me up, but when it was all over I felt relieved and surprisingly refocused. She asked me what my brother Gene would say to me about what I was doing if he were still here and I said he'd say "Keep going, go further". I had never really thought of that befor., I had only ever hoped that what I was doing would meet his approval. I'm trying to use our situation to make a difference in someone else's life and I think he would approve. I know he wouldn't approve of me stopping now. So I will keep going and I will go further.

Then it was out the to 5k at 6:30 to watch my Mom(76), wife(?) and sister-in-law(?). Crowd was enormous. It took nearly 10 minutes for everyone to clear the start line. Waiting for them to come in I stood all by myself on the corner of University and 17th ave. It was just like 5 years ago when I sat about 100 yards away and watched the runners come by - except this time there was not a cigarette but a bottle of water in my hand. I was totally blown away and I was reminded again of why I am here and why I am doing this. Short, tall, fat, skinny, old, young, physically fit, physically challenged, sighted, sightless. All with one common denominator. No quit. I stood there in tears. I found my motivation for today's run. Thanks Mom.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Kids Race

I'm running Fargo on Saturday. Are you? If you are, I'm wondering why.

Seems like every kid in town was running last night at the kids race. Kristy and I along with the girls (Becky and Liz) volunteered for traffic control at the event. I can not believe the number of kids participating. The first wave that came at us, as we were at the turn around point, was the kids 6 and under. What kid wants to go out and run for a 1/2 mile? Seems like when I was a kid under 6 years old I was having my Dad give me a piggy back ride from the basement to upstairs. I didn't want to walk it much less run it.

Maybe all of this marathon stuff is catching on. Maybe Mom and Dad aren't runners though they see something good in it and they are trying to instill it in their kids? If so, I think we have the Fargo Marathon to thank. You see so many people outside running these days and I'm sure they are not all training for the marathon. They see what's going on around them and just instinctively know it is for good. And that is something good.

It was so inspiring to watch these kids running their hearts out and thinking that they probably have no idea why they are doing it. Mom and Dad want me to do it, and I get a medal. For kid, that is true Joy. I am so fortunate to be able to be a part of this. Nights like last night is what helps keeps me going.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Making Adjustments

Nearly all of my running friends can't stop talking about the forecasted temps for this Saturday's Fargo Marathon. If the predicted temps hold true, it will be a difficult day for runners hoping to have a personal best as the conditions may not allow.

In 2007 I had my sights on a fast Twin Cites Marathon. When the starting gun sounded, it was 72 degrees and 87% humidity. Not good. I was optimistic that the humidity would burn off so I held my pace. I could tell within 2 miles that my body was saying this was not going to happen. I saw some clouds and thought maybe it would rain and cool things down. I maintained my pace. 9 o'clock and it was 74 and 82%. About the same. Holding on. At the halfway point it was 76 degrees and 80% humidity. I finally admitted to myself what I knew at mile 2. I had to slow down. Like most runners, the weather added about 30 minutes to my finish time. That is for those who finished. A lot either ended up in the medical tent or carted off to the hospital. My nephew ran the 10 mile event that same morning and when he staggered across the finish line, he said he felt as though he was being beamed aboard the Star Ship Enterprise. After hearing all the stories about how many people needed attention and couldn't finish, I felt fortunate that I had kept myself healthy and a little embarrassed that I was pouting about not being able to run my fastest time ever.

The memories of that most difficult event won't soon go away. Ever since then, I think I have taken a much different approach. No one event will be the "be all, end all" as there will always be another event. I'm in this for the long haul, so I refuse to put a lot of weight on one single event. In some of the longer events I run, most of which are being run on difficult terrain, you need to constantly make adjustments as you go. You learn to take only what the trail will give you. Misjudgements usually put you on your face. If it does, you learn your lesson, adjust to the conditions and move on. The key is making the adjustments before you end up on your face.

So on Saturday, take what the weather will give you and do what you have to do to keep yourself out of the medical tent or the back of an ambulance. There will be another race day. This is such a wonderful event for this community. The volunteers and spectators who have braved the ugly weather for these past years deserve a year of warm temps and sunshine. Make your adjustments accordingly and if a personal best is not in the cards for you, just enjoy the day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rachel and Maggie

I have to get a shout out to Ultra Friends Rachel and Maggie who this past weekend took on the beast known as the Superior Hiking Trail. The 50K (31 miles) event, as well as the week leading up to the event, tested them both physically and mentally and they both passed with flying colors. Their positive, can do attitude is something I truly admire. They're also both a little wacky. Positive attitude and wacky. Yep. That pretty much sums up an ultra runner.

See more of their adventure here. Video at the bottom.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Marathon Week

Marathon week. What an exciting time. For the runners, it can be the best week of their lives or the worst. Most have already decided what it will be. Some are sad that their Saturday group long runs are over and will savour the week and upcoming marathon events and some are glad that after next weekend, they'll have their Saturday mornings back or in other words they will be glad to "get it over with". Golfing, fishing or sleeping in will be back on the calendar. For me, not much changes. I always look forward to the Saturday group runs and when they are over, I look forward to the solitude. Kind of like living in North Dakota where the winters make you appreciate the summer.

Speaking of summer, it looks like we will have summer weather for next weekend. I'm glad for the spectators and volunteers though I'm certain it does cause some concern among the event organizers as most runners are not yet acclimated to running in warmer temps. If you are a runner, remember as always, hydrate early and often. You may have to scale back your marathon goals. That's just the way it goes. The bottom line is that there are few runners who can perform at their peak in warm weather. More blood moves closer to the skin to help keep your core temperature down and that means less blood flowing through your muscles. Less blood flowing through the muscles means you will slow down. Pushing harder than you've ever pushed before can be expected for marathon day though if it's hot, it might put you in the medical tent. Best save the effort for a better day. Please use good judgement when toeing the line.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Perfect Weather

Another rainy morning run on tap for today. With the marathon festivities to begin just a little more than a week from now, it's hard not to look ahead to see what the weather will be. It would be nice to have a perfect day of 75 degrees for the spectators and volunteers and 55 degrees for the runners. I know that can't happen but we can always hope.

I was thinking how nice that would be as I was sitting at a meeting for marathon volunteers earlier this week as race director, Mark Knutson, along with Dave Boe from the Fargo Police department, were going through all of the safety issues regarding traffic control during the marathon. It really hit me then that what makes this marathon so special is these people. It's not the people running the course, it's the people lining the course - the spectators and volunteers that are cheering and keeping the runners safe. We need each other. No runners, no traffic control needed. No traffic control, no runners. So as much as I would like 50-55 degrees for myself, I'll take a warmer day for the sake of the volunteers and spectators. They deserve it.

Like I said, just a little over a week to go before it all gets started. Are you involved? If not, I would encourage you to volunteer for something. A couple hours of standing at an intersection doing traffic control gives you a front row seat to all of the action. You can see all of the runners from the elite to the turtles. Otherwise, there are volunteer needs before the events begin for things like medal preparation and packet stuffing. Check out the marathon website for more info. Be careful though, most people will only volunteer for a year or two and then they will be running in one of the events!

Speaking of running the events, there are 17,500 runners signed up so far. If you are not volunteering, you should participate in one of the running events. Not a runner? That's OK. The 5k on Friday night is perfectly suited for walkers. Some experienced walkers will even tackle the half marathon. The event organizers are hoping to get 20,000 participants in this year's marathon events. Let's do what we can to make this happen. If you are a runner already signed up, get one other person to sign up and we'll be there.

It takes a village to make some things work... or in this case, a community of runners, volunteers and spectators! I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bang For Your Buck

The Fargo Marathon was voted the #8 overall best marathon and the #1 best value marathon in all of the United States this past December in Runners World magazine. We are fortunate to have such a quality event right at our doorstep.

As myself and nearly 20 thousand other people get ready for the upcoming Fargo event, some of my Ultra Friends headed out of town for their first 50 mile event. Tim and Joel set out last Friday for the Kettle Moraine Forrest near Madison Wisconsin to take on the Ice Age Trail 50.

Arriving in WI late Friday night, they got little sleep in preparation for the 6 a.m. start of the event. The weather was much like we have here in Fargo. Unpredictable. They said everything was throw at them except snow and locust. Weather like that can bring the heartiest of runners to their knees especially when you are expected to be out in it for 11-12 hours. Well the good news is they both persevered through it all and finished the event within the 12 hour time limit. Not without some drama as Joel finished with just over 4 minutes to spare. Back home now, both a bit battered but richer for the experience. One thing nice about an Ultra is that you usually get your moneys worth.

I added the elevation profile of the Ice Age course. Though this event is not considered one of the more difficult as far as elevation goes, take a look at it (click to enlarge) and see how it compares to the flatness of Fargo. This is tame compared to the beast Joel and Tim will tackle this fall. Joel has signed up for one of the toughest 100 mile events on the planet in the Wasatch 100 in Utah. Tim will be running with him as a pacer which are allowed after about 40 miles. Besides reaching an altitude of over 10,000 feet, the elevation gain/loss is almost 27,000 feet. That is 5 miles of uphill and 5 miles of downhill. Now that's getting your moneys worth.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Staying Focused

With this past weekends long run of 15 miles, I was surprised to hear of a lot of people, besides myself, having a hard time with it. You'd think by now we'd be used to it and 15 being 7 miles less than the week before should be a piece of cake, right? But here is the reality. It's 15 miles. 15 miles can not and should not be taken lightly. 15 miles is a long way to drive much less go out and run just for the "fun" of it. I don't think we were all truly struggling with the difficulty of it so much as the surprise and a little disappointment that it wasn't much easier. We are on a taper now aren't things supposed to be easy? Not really. I guess it is how you look at it. Tapering is a cut back in the miles and time on your feet to give your body the time it needs to fully repair itself. The intensity should still be there to keep you sharp. You need to keep your focus. I was achy and kind of lazy all last week for some reason and Saturdays run was a wake up call to me that there is much work to be done before marathon day less than 2 weeks away. Be smart with your training miles.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Marathon Inspiration

I bumped into Kathleen Wrigley during my long run on this past Saturday. She looked like she was having a good time with her dedicated group of running partners and told me she was doing 21 miles with 21 days to go before the marathon. What an inspiration.

If you don't know Kathleen and her story, check out her blog and catch her speaking at the Pasta feed Friday evening before the marathon. Also speaking at the pasta feed will be Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes. If you don't know his story, pick up his book "Ultramarathon Man" or go to the Fargo Marathon website where you can link to both Kathleen's blog and Deans website. These are two people I look to for motivation and inspiration to keep going and to go further. How fortunate we are to have them both speaking at this years Fargo Marathon.


The longest week of the training schedule is over and we've seemed to have come through it OK. A little soreness and a twinge of pain here and there but nothing uncommon to most runners. With just a little over 2 weeks to go before the big day, the endurance part of the training is over and now we focus on maintaining our fitness as we let our bodies recover from the 15 weeks of mileage buildup.

Jon has some knee pain and Jodi a sore hamstring though both are confident of their recovery and are undaunted by these minor setbacks. Jon and I had a very successful run on Saturday completing 22 miles with mile 22 being our fastest. Jodi and I had a good run on Sunday for her final long, long run so we all seem like we are well on our way to achieving our marathon goals.

With the weekly mileage going back down the body will begin to fully repair which can cause some mysterious pains and some concern. That is part of the process I guess that takes some getting used to. Identifying what is just pain and what is an actual injury. Most of what you get during taper is just some annoying pain. When the body is given a chance to heal all of the stressed muscles and tendons, they begin to push and pull on parts and places that usually don't get pushed and pulled on. These pains usually don't last long so take a deep breath and they will soon be gone. Your body does and incredible job of adapting to the stresses of running. It makes we wonder what our limits are.