Bighorn Trail Run Training – 4x4x48

Training for a race as tough as the Bighorn Trail Run takes a certain amount of crazy, grit, discipline and sometimes just plain stupidity.

I realized the last part as I finished up Run #3 of my 4x4x48 Challenge (4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours) around 3 AM the first night.  I had “napped” for about an hour after finishing up Run #2 around 11 PM and dealing with slight dehydration, an inexplicable late night hunger and the inability to fall asleep knowing I was getting up in about two hours to head out for another run.  As you can tell from the above picture 3 AM isn’t a great look on me.

It only got worse.  By the time my second 10 PM run rolled around I was feeling more and more like a zombie, trying to figure out what to drink, what to eat and pulling my shorts and shirt on backwards.  As I finished that eighth run I realized I had four more runs to go, a measly 16 miles, yet another 16 hours of this circle.

I ran Run #9 at 2 AM dangerously dehydrated and exhausted and then spent the hour after returning from the run on the toilet.

Through it all though I realized that I was getting stronger.  My 2 AM run I averaged 9:20 per minute miles.  Run #10 was my slowest as I walked for probably two of the 4.3 miles I ran but I completed them and vowed to eat and get a nap.

Run #11 was a stronger run and then my final run at 2 PM, 44 hours after I had started this adventure I ripped off another run in the lower 9 minute per mile pace.

This is what it takes to finish an ultra marathon.  It takes a ton of sacrifice, not just by the runner but by the significant other.  It takes beating your body up and doing things that cause pain and discomfort and doing them time after time after time.

And to think we do this all because this is our hobby.  This is what gives us life and makes it all worthwhile.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my ultra marathon lifestyle because I know it is a great analogy for my life as a whole.  If I’m not willing to do more than what it takes to finish a long race, what makes me think I can finish this great race called life, which also takes endurance, discipline, sacrifice and a different mindset.

Overcoming Injuries

When you push your body hard injuries are bound to happen.  Training for a 100 mile race is no different.  Training for a race like Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic is not for the faint of heart.

So it wasn’t a surprise when I was out running trails with new snow that I buried my left leg deep in some new snow.  As my left knee bent backwards at speed I knew that my training would have be put on hold for a couple of weeks.

Doctor reports came back with no ligament damage so I knew it was just a matter of a little rest, which is not easy, and some exercise to strengthen it again.

So I took the time off and the knee feels great so it is time to start the hard training again.  Two weekends from now I’ll be starting my back to back long runs on Saturday and Sunday.

Stay tuned as I post regular training updates on this site with some really awesome pictures.

Building Bridges

I love running in the winter. The air is crisp, the trails crunch as you run along. The things you can’t see when trees are full of leaves suddenly become visible.

Such was the scene in front of me as I ran around the reclaimed land from an old coal mining town. I don’t run in this place from May to October because, whereas it is quiet and you can run for miles without seeing anybody, the rattlesnakes own this land so it is best to leave it to them. However, during the late fall and winter, I own these trails and love to get out on them.

As I was running a new trail along the river, I came across a scene that made me stop and think. In the middle of nowhere, along a gently flowing river as I crunched through ankle-deep snow, right in front of me arose huge concrete foundations with really large steel stanchions and what looked like  three-inch thick steel cables crossing the river. The bridge that used to be held by these incredibly strong-looking foundations was no longer. Over the years the wood had broken and crumbled into the water. I was struck as I gazed at this sight at how much like life this former walking bridge, built to cross a river, is.

There are areas of my life that are just like a broken bridge held up by a strong foundation. And to my frustration, there are areas where I have a strong bridge but the cables are broken.  What I want to express, what I want to communicate falls apart and crumbles into the river and a possible path to an unknown other side becomes more difficult and sometimes even impossible.

This can describe relationships, both personal and work, where the easy part is finding who is at fault and why it happened, but the hard part is determining how to rebuild the bridge so the other side can be accessed again.

I look at our culture today and I see broken bridges everywhere. In our political process there are no longer bridges, they have been destroyed by hyper partisanship. In many of our work relationships the companies we once were proud of working for have replaced leaders, who had vision and could communicate clearly the vision to follow, with managers who only tell you what to do.

In our marriages we have replaced the fullness of communication and understanding one another with existing in the same house together but without the richness of a bridge to cross back and forth in our relationship together.

Most of all I see broken bridges in our spiritual lives. What should be a rich relationship built on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ has been broken and crumbled into the river of religion and movements.

My deepest desire, as I run along the meandering trails of life, is to be a bridge to bring people together and not to break them apart. I may not be super-human and able to make this suddenly happen, but I do know that in the place that I am called, my greatest task in life is to bring the best out of people so they can recognize and begin to live from a place of strength and not weakness.

In reality this is why I run. I run to seek meaning and direction from the God, who built a strong foundation in me. It is God who told me that I am a conqueror! I am a warrior! I am a man called by God, no matter what the world around me assigns me as a title. Most importantly I am a bridge builder. Every person I come across in life desires to be made whole, to have somebody recognize their valuable contribution to society and every person I come across deserves that somebody recognize their inherent good.

I know this may mean that I don’t get my bridge crossing the river from sustenance to riches in life, but I do get something far more valuable.

See, when I recognize the inherent good in somebody else, I build a bridge between their hopes and desires and their reality, which they can then choose to cross over. Building bridges isn’t recognized by all. My employer will most likely never recognize my value to the organization, because they can’t understand it. However, there is someone far more important that I build bridges for and He is my rock solid foundation, with strong cables and boards, crossing over the rivers of life.

Thirty Day Devotional

Living An Ultra Life is my motto in life.  I want to live life to the full (John 10:10) but most of all I want others to live life to the full also, to dream the impossible dream, to view life as limitless and then have the courage to pursue it.  The following are thirty devotionals that will be published in 2018 along with the book Living An Ultra Life that I want to share with you before they get published.  If you would like this in PDF form please just hit “Reply” and say “Send mine” along with your email address.  My hope is that these bless you as much as they have blessed me writing them.

I didn’t start running until I was past my 46th birthday so I had no idea what was in store when the idea to begin running was planted in my heart but I am ever so grateful that God put that thought there.  I didn’t tell many people about the first 5k I ran, mainly because I was embarrassed that I wouldn’t be able to finish.  In fact my running became serious when I first set the goal to be able to run around the block without stopping.  Once I accomplished that it was to be able to run a mile and then the big decision to run a 5k.  After I finished that first 5k in December I thought I would hibernate for the winter and find something new in the spring.  The whole month of January I did a couple of runs but pretty much that was it until the day I was praying for the son of friends of ours who had just had his leg amputated after stepping on an IED on patrol with his squadron of fellow Marines in Afghanistan.  As I sat in my warm house the thought hit me, “run the Marine Corp Marathon!” And that there is what they call crazy talk.  But being the great man of faith that I am I decided to test that thought by seeing if any of my friends was as nutty as me.  My first buddy, Kevin, laughed me off the phone and basically Bill told me no way.  But I have perseverance so I called Harrison, a young Marine from my church.  I mentioned that I was thinking about running the MCM and would he give it some thought and prayer.  He immediately, excitedly replied “YEAH! And the rest is history.

And the story would have ended there.  I would go on to run the MCM and cross it off my bucket list and move on but along the way God has worked on my heart.  The discipline and endurance and pushing past what I thought I was capable of combined with the desire to spend the last 30 days before my first marathon contemplating what God has in store for me on this journey have planted this seed in me.  Every one of these verses came to me as I ran and pushed through every adversity  the 30 days before the marathon to still my heart and make me aware that every step I take is a step closer to becoming the man who God created me to be.   In the six years after my first marathon I continue to use this thirty day prayer guide to still my heart and seek direction not just in the now ultra marathons I now run but every day life.  Hopefully as you prepare yourself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually for your race these little devotionals will help you be awake to what God is doing in your life.


Plans Are Awesome…If You Do Something With Them

Before my first 100 mile race attempt I meticulously wrote down my nutrition plan.  It had everything in it, what mile and aid station to eat, what to eat and how much liquid to drink so that I wouldn’t have to keep all those thoughts in my brain while at the same time running 100 miles.  My wife, as my crew chief, had mapped out all the aid stations along with approximations of what time I would arrive.  She had written what I possibly might need at each aid station and where it would be in the car.  We both had great plans to make this an epic race success.  

And then we promptly forgot everything at home!  With no written plans we left the pre-race meeting kind of discussing the what ifs and what to haves and hoping beyond hope we hadn’t forgotten anything else.  Basically we were going to wing it and hope that everything turned out well.  For the most part the first 30 or so miles went great but I had no way of knowing where I was with my nutrition and hydration plan.  My wife really had no idea what I might need as she got more tired and after my body began rejecting everything I put in it I arrived at the 50 mile turn around and all bets were off.  After about thirty minutes of painfully trying to get any kind of food to stay down I threw in the towel knowing that I could have done so much better.  The easy thing to do at this point would be to say “good attempt but maybe the shorter ultra distances are more your style”.  After all there is a lot of planning that goes into running a 100 mile race.  However, that’s not my style so we are both going to go after this again only this time we are doing something different.

See the first attempt both of us made the plans.  Sure we sought the advice of a couple of people but for the most part we did all the planning and hence all the forgetting of the plans.  As I was thinking about what had gone wrong on the race I recalled this verse, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure everything out on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”  Proverbs 3:5-6 (Message)  As I was running one day the words “Listen for God’s voice in EVERYTHING you do, EVERYWHERE you go” thundered through my heart, my mind and my soul.

Doubt and fear are very real in all of our lives, usually we begin to doubt and fear when we have attempted something and it didn’t turn out right.  A business goes south, our dream job dries up, a relationship sours, the diet plan causes us to gain weight, trying to stop drinking doesn’t work…I could go on and on and on.  As I have begun to think over the times when I have attempted something big and failed and how the doubt and fear becomes like a cloud always hovering over me I begin to see the times when I have planned out the details on my own, set about a task list and then dug into the chores of doing.  Many times I make out meticulous plans and then forget where in the world I put the plans and then just kind of wing it, somehow hoping it will all come back to me magically in the moment.

However as I began to think about this whole listening for His voice in everything I do and everywhere I go I am filled with the most inexplicable peace I could ever imagine.  The great thing is that I am like way more of you than you think.  I’m not some super guru who can sell you the magic elixir of success but I can tell you that there is a peace out there as you set out on your plans.  See when we listen for His voice in everything we do and everywhere we go suddenly the path is made clear.  It’s not straight by any means but it becomes clear.  We are able to keep track of the details better, the nutrition and hydration we need comes to mind quicker and our crew keeping us running is able to follow our lead a bit better.  It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to write the details AND remember to bring them with you but maybe you don’t have to try to do everything all on your own trusting in your experiences and your memory.  Maybe as you plan you can begin to listen for that still, small voice that wants to calm your doubts and fears and fill you with an everlasting peace.

Beyond Your Limits

When my body starts to whine and complain on a training run this is the point where I know it’s time to make a decision.  Recently I was out running trails and I had done a lot of uphill and my quads and glutes were screaming in agony.  I came to a point in the trail where I could take a right turn and in three to four miles be back at my car where I could put the screaming hounds to bed and drive home satisfied with a pretty good run.  Taking the left turn would add a lot more miles to the run and add a couple more uphill sections.  As I came up to the point where I had to make the decision everything within me kept saying “you’ve done enough”, “this was a good run”, “save some for next week”.  I literally began to step off to the right when something within my spirit screamed “STOP!  Go left!”  After about a mile or so I began to doubt the wisdom of my decision as I faced a hellacious uphill.  I began to doubt whether I could do the extra miles and I seriously began to doubt whether I had what it took to become more than a back of the pack runner.  And then suddenly it was as if the wind stopped blowing, the hill flattened out and something I could never even attempt to explain in mere words happened.  I’m not sure what this phenomena was but suddenly I began to believe in who I’m becoming not who I’ve been.

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:13 (NIV).  It is not about who we have been in the past but who we are becoming in the future and the present.  I have done some amazing things in my past, accomplished significant goals and overcome huge obstacles.  If I dwell in the past though I am going to miss the incredible future that is already opening up before me.  Doubt has this way of being able to sneak in under our defense radar and totally obliterating who we could become if we were to push beyond our limits, the limits that are self-set by our inability to picture the future person we are becoming.  It doesn’t matter if you have already succeeded way beyond what you thought you could do or whether up to this point life has dealt you a bunch of lemon seeds without even being able to enjoy the taste of the lemon.  What is past is past, it’s only there to serve as a guide to the future.

What is important now is to be able to strain toward what is ahead, to press on toward the goal of becoming the most incredible person you can possibly become.  Doubt can only serve as a temporary obstacle to be overcome if you set your mind toward the future.  Think of pushing beyond your limits as a place to aspire to instead of a place you will never get.  Begin to see yourself making the left turn, the harder turn that will probably add more hills and miles and then set out on that path willing to give it everything you have.  Then when you have given it all you have push a bit beyond and then a bit more beyond and suddenly who knows what you will find.  I know on this particular day when I pushed to the top of the hill I was surprised by something I had never seen before.  At the top of the hill kind of tucked in behind a knoll was a herd of probably twenty or thirty antelope all lying down in the tall grass.  As I topped the hill and looked to my left a couple of the antelope stood up and acted like they were going to leap off up the hill beyond where I was but most of them just lay there looking at the strange dude who was all out of breath.  It is the closest I have ever come to running up on an antelope as they usually dart off at the first scent of a human.  It filled my heart with joy as I continued the run because if I had turned right and gone back to my car I would never have been blessed with the serenity and peace of these antelope just lying there watching me.  What is out there for you to experience as you push beyond your limits?

Make D.O.U.B.T. Work For You

Every time I have run the Big Horn Wild and Scenic Trail Run there have been different conditions.  Snow the first year, extreme heat the second year and mud from hell this third year.  Every time I have run this race I have begun with a niggling doubt about whether I was ready or whether I could do the distance.  The first year I ended up having to drop because I took a really bad fall and was pulled because I had concussion like symptoms.  The second year I finished the race but took nearly two hours at an aid station trying to cool down my core so I could finish the last seven miles.  This last year I was feeling fantastic until the pouring down rain at the start turned the course into a slippery mud bath.  Each time I have begun with doubt though and even though that is bad, what is worse is that I didn’t use that doubt and make it work for me instead of against me.  That is why I have come up with this acronym to wear on my sleeves this next year.

D is for Discipline.  I know that discipline is best displayed when I stick to the training plan and stick to faith.  The training plan is easy….run, run some more, work on core and balance, rinse and repeat.  The sticking to faith thing is what I am working on this year.  I’m not talking about faith in Jesus, that is actually pretty easy.  I’m talking about faith that Jesus has already accomplished more in and through me than I ever could by myself.  Discipline is merely doing what you know needs to be done each and every single moment even when it is hard or monotonous.

O is for Overcoming.  I love to follow the people who overcome great obstacles.  I don’t want to over simplify what it takes to overcome but it is best summed up this way.  If there is something keeping you from becoming the best you that you can possibly imagine you being then you need to identify what that is.  You need to search for it like you would search for a rare gem and when you find it you need to look at what is stopping you from being the best you and say “okay, you may look like a giant right now, but you’re going down”.  Then become the person you would like to be by each and every moment of each and every day approaching life as if you’re already there.

U is for Understanding.  For many years I didn’t understand why I was on this earth.  I couldn’t figure out who I was supposed to be at any given moment and for many years it crippled me.  Finally I read a verse that is kind of tucked away in the Bible and I began to pray different.  “But God didn’t give you an understanding heart or perceptive eyes or attentive ears until right now, this very day.”  Deuteronomy 29:2 (Message).  I began to pray that God would give me an understanding heart, perceptive eyes and attentive ears.  As I sought understanding God opened my eyes to see the people around me that just needed me to acknowledge their goodness.  God opened my ears so I could listen and respond to them and help them move closer to being the person that He created them to be.  As I began to pray this way I began to see that I could make doubt work for me instead of against me.

B is for Blessing.  I didn’t really understand this whole blessing thing until somebody prayed for me in my thirties.  Up until this moment I thought that blessing meant that God was going to GIVE me something, whether that be riches or fame or land or all of it.  I thought me being blessed had to do with me receiving something.  “I’ll make you a great nation and bless you.  I’ll make you famous; you’ll be a blessing.  I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse.  All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  Genesis 12:2-3 (Message)  I didn’t notice the hook in that verse until this person prayed for me though.  See this person didn’t pray for me to be blessed, this person prayed that I would learn to BE a blessing.  That one little four word section right in the middle is what got me to changing my outlook on life “…you’ll be a blessing.”  When I run races now there is nothing I love more than to come up on somebody struggling and to encourage them to stick with it, stay with them for a while, share nutrition or water or just keep them moving one step ahead of the other.  When I failed at the 100 mile distance this last year somehow God got me to the finish line in time to see two people who were close to quitting at the 25 mile mark come across the finish line.  My body may not have made it to the finish but I know that my sticking with these two for about ten miles helped them get to the finish and realize their dream.  Be a blessing instead of just waiting for your blessing and watch God turn your doubts into victories.

T is for Thanksgiving.  Every day that I strap on my running shoes and some running clothes I get to see the man who God is making me.  So every time I step out the door to go for a run I am thankful.  I had such bad habits before I started running that I was most likely a statistic waiting to happen.  Instead somehow God put a dream in front of me.  It was a dream of one day being in good shape with a body weight that was manageable and fitness that I could do almost all of the things I could only dream of.  Over the last seven years thanksgiving has become so much more than a day to celebrate, eat and watch football.  Thanksgiving has become a lifestyle, one where every day I go out and give thanks for who He is making me.  As I give thanksgiving on a daily basis God allows my doubts to work for me.

Making your doubts work for you instead of against you means that you must embrace DOUBT in a real way, a way that says that every day I am going to be disciplined, I am going to overcome, I am going to seek understanding, I am going to be a blessing and I am going to give thanksgiving.

Pushing Through Doubt

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”  William Shakespeare.

As I slid into the eighteen mile aid station I knew I was about 30 minutes behind schedule.  The mud and snow and sleet and rain had severely hampered what I knew was great running territory where I expected to gain time not lose it.  Facing one of the hardest portions of the course in the next part was a nearly four mile slog straight up and over a pass.  I call this stretch the Wall of Death and as I refilled water bottles and grabbed a bite to eat I chose not to even try changing shoes and socks and set out.  Somewhere in the first eighteen miles I had over extended a knee in one of my many slides trying to maintain footing and the uphill section I was running nearly put me to tears as I fought the pain.  As I slid into the aid station six and half miles from the next time cut off I realized looking at my watch that in order to not earn another dreaded DNF I was going to have to run this section in a time I had never done before as I had just over an hour to make it.  To say doubt was my trail companion is an overstatement.  Everything made me want to just toss in the towel there and slowly make my way to where my wife was waiting at the aid station.  Two things however made me pick up the pace and give it everything I had.

The first is something we will all need to overcome our doubts and push past them to reach our dreams and desires.  This quite simply put is somebody else.  One of the people who I had put in hours training with, both enjoying and hating some of the training runs, was also at this last aid station so close but yet so far to the timed cut off aid station.  This was her very first ultra and the desire that burned in her eyes made me say out loud “damn it, we’re going to give it everything we have to get you to that aid station in time!”  I was emphatic about making up lost time and pushing through pain not for my sake but for a friend.  I wanted to see her accomplish a goal that was an out there goal, a goal that looks impossible.  We together pushed through some really hard sections until I got her to two miles from the aid station.  I had pushed my body as far as I possible could and told her that she needed to fly like the wind the rest of the way and try to make it.  My gimpy knee was not allowing me to push it on either uphill or downhill sections.  Unfortunately neither of us made that cutoff but we could hold our heads high knowing we gave it everything we had.

The second thing that made me push through my doubts was that I knew that if I just gave up I could never forgive myself.  Much like this Shakespeare quote I knew that there was a future good I would lose if I feared to attempt to do whatever I could to make it.  As I limped up the final hill to that aid station and peeled off my bib I knew that I hadn’t failed because I failed to attempt but rather that I was successful because I attempted and gave it everything i had.

Doubts and fears are real.  They’re not some fake imagining lurking only in the minds of people who attempt great things but also lurking in the minds of people who could attempt the doable but settle for the comfortable.  1 John 5:4 “This is the victory that has over come the world….”  To overcome the world is to gain victory over its sinful pattern of life by obedience to God’s commands.  You may not know this but you are already equipped to overcome your doubts and fears.  There is no secret potion you have to drink or super person you have to become.  To put overcoming as simple as possible, all that is required of you is that you be obedient.  Whether you’re attempting to overcome an addiction, trying to lose weight, trying to become a faithful spouse or trying to run a 100 mile race; all that you need is already within you to overcome all the doubts and fears that are coursing through your body.

Run on my friend for you are ready for great things and you will only not win if you fail to attempt.  This is where you will separate your doubts and fears from the reality of an ultra life lived, a life lived to the full.  This is a life that won’t always be filled with victories but one that will be filled with confidence because you attempted.

No Transition Without Doing It

The year I turned fifty I decided that to celebrate this momentous occasion I would run fifty miles on my birthday.  I knew it would be hard, knew it would be hot and knew it would take a long time.  As I ran that day I just kept repeating to myself “just keep moving forward”.  Around the forty mile mark I was done, I was toast.  I had nothing left to give to this run.  I began thinking that it had been a noble attempt but there was no way I could go another mile.  And then something surged up within me, something I have no idea where it came from.  I angrily yelled loudly to myself “Just do it Mike!!!”  And then I just began moving forward again, one foot in front of the other.  And as I stepped into my sister-in-law’s driveway at the end of fifty miles I wept.  I had done something I never would have thought possible four years before when I began running and it was possible because I adopted a Just Do It attitude.

Waiting for the perfect situation will never allow us to transition well.  There is no right time to transition, whether that be a new job or adjusting to an empty nest.  There will never be the perfect boss, the perfect organization, the perfect church or even the perfect spouse.  However, we can transition from one aspect of life to another gracefully if we always tell ourselves that there is no sense in waiting.  When we decide that we have what it takes now and it is just a matter of stepping outside our comfort zone we can make our transitions more natural and allow ourselves a greater peace as we make these transitions.  First though we must put aside the self-defeating thoughts and begin to think of life as something that we just do, we just reach out and decide to do something and then never allow ourselves to quit or give up.

Transition will be painful, almost as painful as a fifty or hundred mile run, but we do have everything we need to make these transitions inside us now.  Unlocking this will force you to make a vow to move relentlessly forward with the decision to just do it, just move through the pain and do it.


Thankfulness – The Transition to Peace

I will never forget the day I was running a new trail and I came up this really steep ascent and as I came to the top the picture before me literally took my breath away.  I was a bit in front of the person who was running with me and as I took in this sweeping body of water ringed with trees all around and the sweeping mountains in the background I was nearly in tears at the beauty.  As I stood there in breathless wonderment all I could do is whisper to myself “Thank you, thank you, thank you God”.  I am so thankful for times like these in the mountains and on the trails when I either run around a bend or come down into a canyon or top a hard ascent and I’m greeted with such incredible beauty and majesty just set right there for me to admire and be thankful for.  

This characteristic hasn’t always been a part of my lifestyle.  I grew up surrounded by incredible beauty, had the privilege of sailing around the world in the Navy, have visited some of the most stunning places all around the world and I missed the beauty.  I missed the beauty not because I didn’t see it but because I was so busy expecting the beauty to do something for me.  I have also, regretfully, missed the beauty of people around me because I was expecting them to notice me, promote me, help make me wealthy or make me feel important.  I missed the beauty because I was jealously expecting something for myself instead of being thankful for the opportunity to experience such natural beauty and human beauty.  I decided as I began running and losing weight that I would be thankful for everything around me, even when there are times when I’m not enjoying life or faced with a struggle that will be difficult.

Being thankful allows me to see people, nature and even traffic differently.  I notice that as my attitude changes that situations change.  I’m not wealthier, healthier or have more friends or prestige but I am at peace.  Being thankful has brought me a peace that I could never have achieved trying to get people to notice me or promote me or think I’m awesome.

Thankfulness keeps propelling me relentlessly forward in this great adventure called life.  I would love to see you join me on this adventure, with a thankful heart and attitude.#RelentlessForwardMovement