Sunday, November 27, 2016

What's next? The lure of 100 mile races.

What's next?  It's a tough question when you have run a bunch of half and whole marathons and 24 ultra marathons, including eight 50 milers and four 100 milers.  What's next?  The Grand Canyon?  Check.  (one of the top three most amazing experiences of my life, by the way) Running a 200 miler? .... Nah.  At least for right now, that is not on my bucket list.  Running a harder 100 miler?  BINGO!

After my last 100 - Rocky Raccoon in 2015 - I thought I was done with that distance.  I didn't make a firm declaration - I know better, but I thought getting the 500 mile jacket at Rocky would be the end of that era.  Not so much.

There is something about the 100 mile distance that draws you back.  Besides the thousands of miles run in training, hundreds of squats and push ups, hours holding the plank's the journey on race day that can not be ignored.  The great unknown.  To me and people like me, it is downright irresistible.

The starting line of a 100 miler is unlike any other start line I have experienced.  At least for me, the nervous energy and doubts that fill my mind at shorter distances do not exist there.  In their place is a calm, peaceful feeling.  There is an understanding that what you are about to attempt defies rational thought.  Some people might think you are cool or superhuman for attempting a 100 miler, but most just think you are crazy or self-destructive. At the starting line, you understand that both schools of thought hold a grain of truth.

Many romanticize the idea of running 100 miles and getting a belt buckle.  The reality is far from that ideal.  The question is not if but when it will start to hurt.  The test is how well you can manage that pain and continue to push towards the finish line.  The lesson is who you are when you are laid bare and all of your truth is exposed for the world to see.

There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the finish line for a 100 miler.  All of the doubts, all of the pain, all of the all disappears in that one moment.

2016 has been a nice break.  Fairly lazy except for covering 31 miles in the Grand Canyon,  and now I am rested and refocused.

Looking forward to signing up for the AT100 miler as soon as registration opens, and spending all of the summer of 2017 running hills at Clark Creek and loops of Chicot.  Top notch pacers are secured, and race crew is in place.  Now it is up to me to make it to the finish line so that I can wear that sweet belt buckle to my 47th birthday party.

Happy Running, Y'all!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to the Basics

I find myself three weeks out from attempting the double crossing of the Grand Canyon with some of my favorite people.  One more peak training weekend and its time for the taper.  And the doubts that inevitably follow.  This is a different undertaking than anything else I have ever done.  This is not a race.  There are no aid stations, just a couple of water sources.  There is no back up plan.  A favorite quote about the Canyon - "Going down is optional.  Coming back up is mandatory."  Unless you want to pay a high price to be rescued via helicopter, you have to climb back out of the Canyon under your own power.

Will I be optimally trained?  No.  With the brutal heat here in south Louisiana this summer, long training runs were no longer just unpleasant, they were dangerous.  I wasn't able to get the volume in running I would have liked, but I was able to do plenty of strength training, stairs, and parking tower runs.  It will have to be enough.  

In starting to prepare for the actual event (three weeks from right now we should be crossing the bottom of the Canyon towards the climb to the north rim), I find myself switching into race prep mode.  Tomorrow, we are heading to Clark Creek for a last big hill workout, aiming for 5,000 feet of gain on Saturday alone with another hill workout on Sunday.  (The total gain for the double crossing is just over 10,000 feet)   Saturdays run is our "dress rehearsal".  We will be wearing the same thing we will wear for the Canyon, carry the same amount of fluids and food, and carry our trekking poles (one of my favorite discoveries - more on that later).

In my prep for tomorrow (and for the big ditch), I am pulling out my tried and true.  I am leaving my Suunto (fancy schmancy running/trekking watch with gps, barometric altimeter, bluetooth capability, etc., etc.) at home, and wearing this:

This is the watch I have worn for all of my ultra marathons, including all four of my 100 milers.  I have never worn a GPS watch on a trail race.  Why?  Well, first of all, for me, it would just add stress.  If I am making a big climb, I don't need to look down and see that I am doing a 20 minute pace.  Secondly, the distance on trails is never accurate, another source of stress when your watch might tell you you have run 50 miles but the actual course tells you that you have 3 miles to go.  Lastly, I always want to minimize the chances of gear malfunction.  The less stuff that can go out or lose battery power, the better.  I have seen people who are so dependent on the data that their devices give them, that when that device fails (they inevitably do), their mental game is shot.  It is hard to come back from that.

So, as you see, my faithful cheapo watch needs a little maintenance, then it should be good for the next 5 or 6 years.  Heading to the jewelry shop today to get the battery changed.  As I hand my watch over to the repair tech, he may see it as a cheap piece of junk (part of the band was chewed off by my cat, so I just trimmed around it with a pair of scissors), but I know that this watch has more value than any Rolex he has ever handled.  And I will smile as he holds it, knowing the amount of times I have had to rinse the sweat, bug spray and sunscreen off of it.  

Sometimes less is more.   This is one of those times. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


According to Western States 100 race doc, a pacer can be defined as:

A pace runner, or pacer, is defined as a “trail companion” who may accompany a runner along designated sections of the trail. Pacers are allowed solely as a safety consideration for fatigued runners in the remote and rugged territory of the Western States Trail. Absolutely no physical or mechanical aid may be given by the pacer to assist the runner over difficult sections of the trail (except in medical emergencies), and no food, fluids or supplies of any kind may be carried for the runner.
Pacers should be experienced trail runners in excellent physical shape and conditioned adequately to run 40 miles over rough terrain. Most pacing will be done during night time hours and early morning; so pacers should be warmly dressed, used to running with flashlights, and familiar with the trail. Pacers should be adequately supplied with flashlights, food and water. They may accept aid at the checkpoints.
A pacer is an encourager, therapist, drill sergeant, decision maker, guide...and so many things that can not be put into words. Ultra distance races allow pacers for the safety of the runner.  Many times, when you have been running for over 12 or so hours, you might not be in the position to make the best choices for yourself regarding whether you should eat, what you should eat, how close you should get to the edge of that cliff...your pacer is there to help you to overcome the unexplained desire to eat those peanut m&m's when you have a raging peanut allergy, and remind you that you might be shivering uncontrollably because your jacket is still tied around your waist.

Choosing a pacer is not something you should take lightly.  The wrong personality choice can be fatal to your race.  I have heard stories where after running 90 miles, a runner has to drop their pacer because the pacer is whining too much or the pacer simply can not keep up with their runner.  Before you make a knee jerk decision to ask your best buddy or your spouse (This can ruin your race at best and damage your marriage at worst.  Yes there are exceptions, but they are just that - exceptions) to pace you, there are a few things you need to consider.

First - What type of runner are you towards the end of a race when you are fatigued?  When you are feeling this way - what would you respond better to?  Do you want someone to be a cheerleader?  Comedian? Strong, silent type?  Drill sergeant?

Second - Out of your group of friends - who have you run enough long distances with so that you are familiar with their attitude when they are fatigued?  Pacing usually takes place in the later hours of a race when your pacer has already been standing around all day waiting on their chance to run with you.  They will be tired.  When night falls, they will be sleepy.  Whether they are doing 20 or 40 miles with you, they will be working hard under rough conditions.  You need to have a pretty good idea of someone's true grit before considering them as a pacer option. 

The best way to illustrate this is to tell you a few of my pacer stories.  As with every aspect of my 100 miler journey, this was a procession of bad to excellent choices.  Hopefully this can help you make the right decision.

ROCKY RACCOON 100 MILER 2011 - Pacer Disaster
Going into the 2011 100 miler (my first), I was planning to run the whole thing with a friend at the time.  This was a great idea until at mile 60 he was called away for a family emergency, leaving me facing the last 40 miles of my first 100 miler completely alone. I did mile 60 - 80 in the pitch black, sub freezing weather on my own.  You haven't lived until you find yourself trying to change the batteries of your headlamp while sitting on the side of the trail in complete darkness, next to a lake, with no other runners anywhere to be seen, using frozen hands and minimal fine motor skills due to exhaustion (probably 18 hours into the race at this point).  For mile 80-100 a well meaning person decided they would keep me company.  I would have been better on my own.  Every time I moaned from jamming a toe, they encouraged me to sit down, and they made sure I knew that this was really a hard thing for them and that they were still sore from a race they had run the previous weekend, etc., etc.  When at mile 93 I found myself thinking angrily about how I was going to do it better the next year...I knew I was hooked.  Finish time:  27:55

ROCKY RACCOON 100 MILER  2012 - Perfect pacers, terrible conditions
As soon as I healed from 2011, I started planning 2012.  First order of business - lining up pacers.  My two first thoughts were Mark Weineke (an experienced trail runner who has completed most of the toughest 100 milers in the US) and John Fell (a multiple Ironman finisher, mountain biker, and all around tough dude).  Luckily they both agreed, and 2012 I was ready and aiming for a sub 24 hour finish.  Mother Nature had a different idea, and after torrential downpours for most of the 100 miles, slogging through mud, rinsing sand out of my shoes....I finished in 25:28.  Shy of my goal, but I was satisfied considering the conditions.  Mark and John were wonderful pacers, and this run helped me to fine tune what I was looking for:  I like for my pacer to run slightly ahead and guide me along the trail, many runners like the pacer to run just off of their shoulder (even the side they want them on varies).  I also like for my pacer to keep light conversation but not to expect me to answer them.  Both of these guys were perfect at this.  But, I didn't reach my goal so when planning for the next year...

Mark Weineke - expert pacer, great guy!

ROCKY RACCOON 100 MILER 2013 - When the stars align
Just before putting my money down on RR2013, my first call was John Fell.  He not only agreed to pace me again for this redemption run, he offered to do the last 40 miles with me.  He had never run that far, but John is one of the toughest human beings I know, so I wasn't worried.  8 months of hard training later, and we find ourselves at Rocky.  I managed to stick exactly to my predicted splits for the first 60 miles, and knew that I would do whatever John told me to do for the last 40 miles.  John had run enough with me at that point to know me pretty well.  He would tell stories (he tells great stories) and told me from the beginning that if I wanted him to shut up just to tell him.  I told him he could talk all he wanted just not to expect much banter on my part.  I knew I would have to work harder than I ever had to achieve my goal, and I didn't want the pressure of conversation.

John would run slightly ahead of me and guide me to the smoothest sections of the trail (there are TONS of roots at RR).  When the roots got too nasty, we would walk for through them then run again.  When we got to aid stations, John did two things that were very important - he made sure I was getting the fuel I needed, but he also made sure he got all of the fuel that he needed.  A pacer who bonks is of no use to anyone.

On the last 20 mile loop, John started bargaining with me.  I was beyond rational thought at this point, and working on sheer survival instinct.  I can't even describe how this last loop feels.  You just have to experience it for yourself.  It was then that John told me that if I gave him 5 minutes of running, I would get to walk for 1 minute.  As I got more and more fatigued, he would tell me to give him 1 minute of running and I would get 1 minute of walking.  All this time John never looked at his watch, so I knew he wasn't really keeping time, but he somehow knew when I was almost at my breaking point because that is when he would let me walk.  It worked.  Finish time 23:27

This is just one example of many I could give of how the right pacer can make a world of difference in the kind of race you have.  What qualities in John Fell did I see that made me think he would be a good pacer for me?

1.  He is an experienced long distance athlete, and I know he is very familiar with suffering and would understand to some degree where I was at in my head.
2.  He is a plain spoken person - no bullshit or flattery - just truth.  I like that.  
3.  John has high expectations from himself and everyone around him.  I have tremendous respect for him and what he has achieved, and I would NEVER want to let him down.
4.  He is physically capable of completing the distance required of him and barring injury, I never had to worry about John slowing me down.
5.  We met prior to the race to go over race splits, nutrition plan, etc., so he knew exactly what plan I was following and what my goals were, and he was experienced enough to understand any spur of the moment changes that might need to be made.
6.  He wanted me to reach my goal almost as much as I did.
John Fell.  No words to explain this feeling.

To end a too long post, keep these things in mind:

Some people will find the idea of pacing you for an ultra distance race sexy or may think it sounds cool for them to say that they were a part of an ultra.  Avoid these people.  The idea may sound sexy but the reality is not.  If they are the type to make it about them, they are not the type to be of any help to you.

Some people will get their feelings hurt because you don't ask them to pace you.  Let them.  This is your race, not a popularity contest.  As with any task, you choose the tool that will most effectively help you to achieve your goal. If they are that sensitive, they would suck as a pacer anyway.

Because you think you might end up walking the last 10 miles of your race, don't pick a pacer who is only qualified to walk 10 miles.  If the stars align and you are crushing the course, the last thing you want to do is wait on a pacer.

When you choose a pacer, choose someone with thick skin.  You may not be rude necessarily later in the race, but you will be pretty raw and you will not give a damn about your pacers feelings....until a day or two later.  Choose someone with a good sense of humor.

Any specific questions about this topic, post on the Paix Running Facebook page or email me at

Happy Running! 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016


By the title of this post, you pretty much understand my racing philosophy.  Actually, that is pretty much my life philosophy.  No, I don't mean that you can line up for a race completely unprepared and under trained and if you "want" it bad enough you can achieve your goals.  Wanting something, REALLY wanting something implies a willingness to do the work necessary.  If you fantasize about a finish line - whether it is a half marathon or a 100 miler, if you are willing to do the work you can make that fantasy a reality.

Now let's be serious.  If you are out of shape and have never run before, I am not going to tell you that you can run a 100 miler in 6 months.  That is unrealistic and setting yourself up for disappointment.  BUT - if you set realistic goals, make a plan and stick to it, odds are in your favor.

I have often been asked for running advice - from reviewing training schedules to injury consultations.  I love helping people - especially beginners, so I am FINALLY entering into the coaching world.  On my terms ;-).

I started coaching years ago with Team in Training, helping beginner runners complete a half or whole marathon.  I loved it.  My favorite of those two distances is the half marathon.  A huge accomplishment in its own right, and a much more manageable distance for those of us with family and work obligations.  I also enjoy helping people break into ultra distance races. These are a whole different type of event, and require a completely different type of training and mindset.

I have a fondness for first timers.  It takes a boat load of courage to commit to a long distance race for the first time.  That is where my focus will be. I want to help people reach what may be a very intimidating goal for them.  I want to help regular folks like me realize that it doesn't take super human powers to do these things.  You just have to want it bad enough.

So that is the catch.  I will only take on a few folks at a time for coaching.  I want to be  in tune with them and where they are in their training and life in general - it all goes hand in hand.  If I am going to do this, I want to give my people as much of myself as possible so they can cross that finish line strong, healthy, and happy.

Here is what I am not:  I am not a data geek.  I am not going to analyze your heart rate to see if you are fatigued.  I know when I am fatigued, and I will watch you and talk to you to determine how your training is going.  I want you to be successful, relaxed, and I want you to enjoy the journey.  That is what training is - a journey.  It is not 6 months of suck followed by a race and then relief that it is over.  Every day is a new day, and brings you one day closer to reaching your potential.  That doesn't end at the finish line.

So, if this is something you are interested in, shoot me a message and we can get together to talk and see if it will be the right fit.  WARNING:  I have a low tolerance for whining.  I want to hear about aches, pains, and challenges you are facing but there is no room for excuses.  All you have to do is want it bad enough.

Check out my race resume tab at the top of this blog if you are interested.



Sunday, April 3, 2016

Mais, dats a BIG ditch

Grateful.  That's what I am.  I am grateful to have discovered running, and I am tremendously grateful for the people and experiences it has brought into my life.  It has given me a different perspective on things.  I have always been a very curious and adventurous person, and running fits into that perfectly. While some may be content to stand at the top of the Grand Canyon and look over at the other side and marvel at this wonder of nature, for years now, I have had a strong draw to see the Grand Canyon from a perspective very few experience - up close and personal.  I want to touch the walls of the canyon.  I want to stick my hands in the river at the bottom.  I want to feel the same burning in my legs and lungs that others have felt when attempting to traverse this amazing place.  And this year, I am going to attempt just that.

I, along with a few of my brave (some would say demented) cohorts are heading to the big ditch this fall to pay our respects to mother nature and soak in as much of her beauty as possible.  We are heading to Arizona to attempt the double crossing of the Grand Canyon.  I say "attempt" because there is absolutely no arrogance involved in this endeavor.  Yes, we have many ultra marathons between us.  Yes, we have spent quite a few hours inside the "pain cave" as they say, BUT...we also have the utmost respect for the challenge we are undertaking.

The double crossing is approximately 46 miles long.  Starting at the south rim, descending S. Kaibab Trail, crossing the bottom, ascending N. Kaibab Trail,  then turning around and doing it again, this time, ascending the south rim via Bright Angel trail.

After 23 ultras, including 4 - 100 milers, this is by far the scariest thing I have ever undertaken. And I can't freaking wait.  When I attempted my first ultra - a 50 miler - I did not know if I could finish it.   When I attempted my first 100 miler - I did not know if I could finish it.  Now, barring freak injury, I know I can do these things.  They are still enticing because I always want to do them better, but to have a big unknown on the schedule is exciting to me.  I am a big fan of self sufficiency, and the double crossing embodies this for me.  The motto of the Canyon is "Going down is optional.  Coming back up is mandatory."  There is no back up plan.  It is up to you to make the right decisions to insure your safe return to the top and to safety.  I can't express my excitement for this endeavor.

So, as my partners in crime and I contemplate a long summer of hills, hills, and more hills, all is right in the world.  Stars are finally aligning in my life.  My trail running company, Paix Running, is growing and my races are getting great buzz, my kids are healthy and happy, and my son (18) is doing his first 50k next February at Red Dirt.  Life is good, y'all!

I will attempt to keep you posted on my R2R2R training - if I can stay awake long enough :-).



Monday, February 22, 2016

It's been far too long, my friends...

Wow!  It is going on 2 years since my last blog post.  As I sit here, I am listening to "Never Gonna Give You Up" play on the radio.  Seriously.  Hang on, gotta fix that.  That's better.

Well, almost two years ago, I was preparing for my fourth 100 miler at Thunder Rock as part of the Forge Racing Team in 2014.  That race didn't end well for me, and had me dropping at 60 miles with a really funky stomach and shaking uncontrollably because of the low temps.  Good times folks, good times.

Since then I went on to complete my 4th 100 miler at Rocky Raccoon in 2015, my second sub 24 hour finish, earning my 500 mile jacket on that course (I had previously completed two 50 milers out there).  My racing since Rocky 2015 has been minimal.  It has been hard to find motivation, and I found myself in a "what's next" kind of place.

What's next is a change of direction for me. I will continue racing, I LOVE ultra distance trail races, that is my home.  Over the years, I have been a part of many great races and some not so great ones.  I have also seen a not so subtle change in trail racing.  Yes, the old crusty trail runners are still out there doing their thing, and we are blessed to welcome some new yet to become crusty trail runners to the mix.  It is so great to see a sport that I love and that has given me so much grow and reach more people.   When people enter into the trail running world, they are exposed to a depth of character in their fellow participants that is hard to find anywhere else.

Trail running is a welcoming sport, but it is not for everyone.  If you are demanding or unreasonable about your expectations of a race, you might be disappointed.  If you come into the sport for the right reasons - love of nature, camaraderie with fellow athletes, setting and reaching new goals - then welcome, we are happy to have you!

I want more people to experience and embrace trail and ultra running.  It is one of the most primal, basic experiences out there.  There are no pro tools here, folks.  It doesn't matter how much money you spent on your shoes, because if your legs haven't done the work, you will have a big plate of humility handed to you on the course.

Shout out to Don Schoolmaster for the logo design.

So, I have started my own trail running company, Paix Running (  (Paix means peace in French)  My first ultra distance race will be the Red Dirt Ultra on February 4 - 5, 2017, in Kisatchie National Forest.  I will have distances available of 50k, 100k, and 100 miles.  I have a core planning team in place and we are already meeting to be sure that every aspect of the race is covered.  We plan on giving you a top notch race experience - old school.  If you want your name announced through loud speakers when you cross the finish line, or blaring music and adoring crowds....

BUT - if you want a race where all of your NEEDS are met, the course is well marked, there are plenty of well stocked aid stations and plenty of experienced ultra runners along the course to encourage you and keep you moving... well this is the race for you!  There will be cool race shirts, medals for the 50k & 100k'ers, buckles for the 100 milers (special buckles for the sub 24's), and an official Red Dirt beer made by Bayou Teche Brewery.  Seriously excited, guys.  You guys will get the kind of race experience I always enjoy and look for in races.

So, here is the beginning of my journey as a Race Director.  And nothing has ever felt quite as right as this.

Paix, y'all.