running

Barkley Fall Classic: a race that changes your perceptions

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The pain still lingers in my legs and in my soul, as I sit down to recount the challenge and adventure of last weeks Barkley Fall Classic.  I am not one who writes super detailed race reports, so keep that in mind as I try to sift through the agony and pride this race has produced.

It all starts off with a 12 hour drive from New York state to Tennessee.  I was lucky enough to have the love of my life Gia accompany me on this adventure.  She was upbeat the whole drive which took the race jitters edge off.  We went down Thursday so that I could relax.  Needing wifi for her college work, we stayed in a hotel (which I have to admit, I am not upset about at all).  Well the hotel lost our reservation, but lucky for us, had a room available still.

Fast forward to packet pickup Friday afternoon… I was looking forward to this, especially after getting lost on the way there.  Thanks Siri!  When you walked in, you could see the excitement on everyone’s faces.  You could also see who was faking excitement.  Could you blame them?? Even if half the lore of this race was true…. It would still be a hellish struggle of a day.  Alas, that is what we signed up for.  I was stoked for packet pickup because I got to see a couple of fellow Orange Mud Ambadassadors … Chad Hause and Johne Lehne.  Two quality guys that have completely earned my respect last weekend.  Hugs were given, hand shakes were plentiful, then “See you at the start”‘s were muttered.

Surprisingly, I got some decent sleep…. well, better sleep than normal before a big race.  Saturday was upon us and we were ready for the challenge.  Were we??  I could feel my stomach filling with nervousness as it does every race morning.  Like every other race morning, I ignored it.  The drive to Frozen Head State Park was a solemn one at that.  Gia tried to perk me up… all I felt was impending doom.  Once at the race start, we ran into John and Chad and the nerves settled.  It was pleasant to know some faces in the crowd.  Mulling around a bit I met some facebook friends, which was great.  Couldn’t help but see fear in some of the racers eyes though.  Not gonna lie… that was unsettling. With the light of a cigarette, we were off…

 

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Down the paved park road we went.  Some were joking around, some were very silent.  When we got to the trail head… that’s when it got so very real.  So for the rest of this story there will be no play by play.  Instead, I am going to talk about the points that stick out in my mind.  I am doing this for one reason:  if you wanna experience this amazing challenge of an event, no story or portrayal will really do… sign up, put your big boy/girl underwear on, and run it.  They don’t have words for some of the emotions you feel on this course.  So let’s really dive in:

Switchbacks. Like them? you sure won’t after these.  I’m talking relentless. I’m saying they seemed never ending.  Just when you thought “sweet, that has to be the last one”… Nope… You are wrong… Now keep running and feel dumb.

Yellow jackets. When you are exhausted but slogging along, what is your favorite thing to do?  If you answered  “run for your life”… you win a prize.  The beauty of the yellow jackets is that you don’t see them coming.  Is it gonna kill you? Not unless you are terribly allergic.  It’s really the surprise factor I think.  Plus, your friends get a good chuckle while you are running and flailing about wildly.  Don’t worry John… I laughed at you too brother.

Testicle Spectacle.  I’m not gonna lie.  I kinda had fun on this one.  Don’t get me wrong…. it was kinda brutal.  There were briars here and there…but there was also a little shade.  My quickly evolving plan was to get into a pistol squat and slide when it was wicked steep.  Worked beautifully.  So call me a liar if you want, but it was kinda fun!

Brushy Mountain State Prison.  Best part of the course for two reasons. 1…. I like history.  2… It was the flattest part of the course.  Plus someone at the aid station gave me a soda and it was the most delicious thing ever!  As a history nerd, the prison just plain rocked.

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Rat Jaw.  I don’t think there are enough curse words to express the way this part of the course can make you feel.  It is pure evil genius really.  Steepness, “never ending”, briars.  We were super lucky by the way. Cause some of the briars were mowed down. This section was easily the most hated in my book.  People were just laying about like dead bodies.  They were just exhausted…hopefully rallying.  I would rather go down and up Testicle Spectacle 3 times than do Rat Jaw once.  A little part of me died on Rat Jaw. Luckily it was a weaker part of me.  It can have it. I don’t need it anymore.  Anyone who made it up that mother effer is a stronger person now… and you can take that to the bank!

Cutoff Aid Station. I’ve never been so happy to see an aid station.  I knew coming in, that I missed the cutoff.  I wasn’t even mad about it.  Sure there were a bunch of things I could’ve done differently to make the cutoff. I had to take the “marathon” finish.  Now I know what it takes.  I got to shake Laz’s hand here.  That was awesome.  So I left, this checkpoint with under a mile to go and my head held high.  Huge thanks to Becca “Mother Fucking” Jones (her words, not mine) for the roughly four mile jaunt of laughs at the end of the race.

The Finish.  Never felt better to have something be over.  It was brutal.  It also changed me… made me tougher.  Taught me weakness and pain… and how to deal with both.  I am looking forward to going back sometime and crushing it… pain and all.  I admire anyone who towed the line that morning… finish or no finish.  Starting that endeavor showed fortitude. As you may already know… I had to airplane the finish.

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Huge thanks to Orange Mud, Carson Footwear, and The Fartlek Running Company for letting me represent their companies to the best of my ability…. and their wonderful products. Thank to John Lehne who ran most of the race with me… never letting me give up, and sharing the pain cave.  Thanks to Becca for making the last few miles a laugh.

Thanks to Laz, Steve, the volunteers, and everyone that made this epic event possible.

Finally… Thanks to my other half, Gia Sabatini, for putting up with my craziness.

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burpees, fitness

Impending Doom or Ultimate Success?!?

I tell people all the time that there are two people in the world that truly love burpees: the man who invented them … and myself.  The mere utterance of the word “burpee” tends to disgust people.  The array of emotions comes out of them uncontrollably, from minor nervousness to straight hatred.  Not me though, I get pretty amped up when I know I get to do burpees.  Is that normal?  Probably not, but like I said… I love burpees!  I have done two burpee miles in my lifetime so far and fondly remember the pain.  Have I gone too far though?

Roll Up

You see one day I was cruising the ole internet looking for races (a common occurence), and came across The Burpee 5K.  Did you feel that stomach of yours flip flop when you read that? A 5k worth of broad jump burpees!  Oh boy!!  The official race is in Illinois so I thought it was a no go.  Then I saw it…. virtual race.  So I signed up.  The race was a no brainer seeing how all proceeds and donations go to The Green Beret Foundation.  Nothing but love for military charities here!  When I registered, I was confident.  When I got the confirmation email however, mild panic.  What was I thinking?  How could I do this to myself? So I have come to this conclusion….

One of my favorite things to do is ultra running.  In this grand running (which is a race over marathon distance, 26.2 miles) you come to expect pain.  It isn’t when the pain hits, it is how you deal with it when it does hit.  So that is my approach to the insanity that is The Burpee 5k… take the pain and trudge onward with relentless forward progress.  The official race is held September 26th, but I have a local 5k to run that day…. so September 27th is my projected date to accomplish this feat that many people have told me is impossible.  All I ask is that you send some good vibes my way that day.  Heck if you want, you can join me.  You can even get a team together and do it as a team.  Here is the link: http://www.theburpee5k.com  … Looking forward to rocking this thing.  Another check in the crazy block it is!  Rock on!!

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Real Talk with Salty Anchor Fitness

Other than being a running fanatic, I am the owner/operator of Salty Anchor Fitness… my personal training business.  In this line of work I see all sorts of highs and lows.  Everything from tears of sadness to the look of a child on Christmas morning.  I’m not gonna lie, it is rough watching people get upset with themselves.  Life isn’t easy folks…. process that and deal with it.  If goals weren’t difficult to obtain, it wouldn’t be worth it! So deal with it.  So perhaps I will start by telling you this…. YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!

If you can get that through your head, things won’t be as tough.  Take that lousy self-doubt and fucking throw it away.  It isn’t needed.  On top of that…. Be willing to put in the work!!  There are no quick fixes.  Even surgeries aren’t quick fixes, yet people are all about hopping on that band wagon.  So what is the secret?!  Just fucking believe in yourself!!  End the excuses and take control of your life through hard work and dedication.  People with no arms and legs do obstacle course races, and you are gonna bitch to me about push ups?!

Do yourself another favor…. Take the word “CAN’T” and replace it with “TRY”… Take the word “QUIT” and replace it with “CONQUER“.  The only person holding you back from your goals and dreams is you.  So take a positive approach.

Be the bigger person too.  Quit hating on people because they can do things you can’t.  Work on you, fuck everyone else.  There are many different body types.  I was never meant to be ginormous like power lifters.  Do I cry about it? Hell no.  I am strong, functionally fit… and love me some running.  Play to your strengths.  Everyone has different skill set to bring to the table.  Your skill set might inspire others, so work on you and be humble about it.

Also…. eating right is a pain sometimes.  That is a fact.  No one is perfect.  Find the nutrition plan that is right for you and do your best to stick with it.  Again, nothing happens overnight.  You must be vigilant in your endeavors.  Weight loss, if that is your goal, should be slow and steady.  Don’t be that douche that wants to drop 45 lbs in two weeks.  That is insane! The only way you are dropping that much weight that fast is to quit eating all together and go on a diet consisting of only water and cocaine!  Doesn’t sound too healthy does it?!  So be proud of your progress, even if it is slow.  The long journey is more rewarding…. remember that.

I know this may sound like a lecture, and it certainly isn’t meant that way.  Just real talk.  To be honest, I believe in everyone… even the ones that don’t believe in themselves.  I love my job.  I love helping people.  Think of a world without self-doubt.  A world where people were truly held accountable for their own actions, instead of blaming others.  You can be in that world.  Life is what you make it, so stay dedicated and positive.  Embrace the struggle.  Be that inspiration to others with relentless forward progress.  Why you ask?!?! Because….. YOU ARE WORTH IT!!!

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First 100 Miler, First DNF, Lesson Learned

Would I rather be writing a race report explaining the thrill of getting my first 100 miler buckle? Of course! Just isn’t in the cards.  So today I come to you with a tale of defeat and lessons learned….

So let’s readers digest the race: Beast of Burden 100 miler.  Chose it due to lack of hills, which I knew would be mundane to me.  I love hills.  They keep me in check.  After 25 miles I had to DNF.  My first official DNF.  It was and is more heart breaking than ever imagined, yet seems a little necessary.  Ultimately… It has made my resolve stronger, but we will get to that.

What happened? My knee happened.  My right knee to be exact.  The same one that has proven to be problem worthy for many years.  Around mile 24 it just gave out.  I knew my race was over.  Even had visions of never running again.  After being seen by a sports doctor, physical therapist, physicians assistant, getting x-rays, and an mri…. turns out my running career will remain ongoing.  No fractures… yippie!  No rips or tears… woohoo!  Just not enough rest… uh oh.

That’s right… rookie mistake.  It’s all on me.  Totally my fault.  Did I need to learn this lesson on the 100 miler stage? No, but it happened all the same.  You see… two weeks before the Beast of Burden, I ran 62 miles (the furthest I’ve ever ran).  In just under two days after I ran 20 miles.  Too much, too soon.  Some people could have done that with no problems what so ever.  I, however, had been training like an animal and should have known better…. especially with a knee that is prone to giving me problems.  Lesson learned.  Some times learning the hard way is the only way for it to really sink in.  At least I was smart enough to drop out when I did and can run another day.  It is my therapy…. I need it.  Fellow runners would understand, while non runners roll their eyes.  Everyone has their outlet…. running is mine.  Separating mind and body is a big deal.  My mind always tells me I’m good to run.  Doesn’t make it right.  So again, lesson learned.

Everyone knew how important this goal is to me, to complete a 100 miler.  They all blindly supported me.  I felt the love.  Even after having to drop out, I still felt the love.  Lots of people sent me uplifting messages, which I appreciate.  However, I think some were too “puffy cloud and rainbows”.  It wasn’t that they weren’t welcomed…. just that my brain isn’t wired that way.  Enter Bryan Lamb, a fellow Orange Mud Am-badass-ador.  Bryan is a triathlete machine who in my opinion has two voices… complete sarcasm and blunt truth.  Both welcomed, because that is exactly how my brain is wired.  Here is what he told me:

Kevin – It’s absolutely a failure. Realize that. You had a goal, you didn’t meet it. That’s the definition of failure. However, you’re looking at it like a negative thing – and it absolutely isn’t. Our entire lives are up of failures and successes. They both define who we are (and who we will become) just as equally as one another. Use this failure as a building block to a greater success, it’s how you become stronger and it’s something you’ve done thousands upon thousands of times before. There’s nothing negative to it and you’ll be thankful for this moment when you crush your next 100.

Most people might have read that and got upset and defensive.  I didn’t.  Why?… Because he is right! I failed…. plain and simple.  Just cause I failed doesn’t mean I am out of the game though.  I am coming out of this upset a stronger person.  My resolve has been strengthened.  In fact, I’ve taken the doctor recommended time off.  Tomorrow I am hitting the trails for a test run.  My head is back in the game.  I’ve mapped out the road to my next 100 miler.  More importantly, I’ve learned a lesson.  The love of the run is stronger than it ever has been…. and I am overwhelmingly thankful for that.

Remember: everyone loves a good comeback story.

Remember: everyone loves a good comeback story.

Relentless. Forward. Progress.

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Stroehmann Back on my Feet in24 : My First 24 Hour Race

So here are my thoughts and crazy experiences of my very first 24 hour race….

A few months back a fellow Orange Mud Ambadassador put the idea of running this race out into the world.  Always a sucker for a challenge, I jumped at the chance.  Informed my other half and she told me I was crazy.  My response…. “Well you are with me, so….”  To prepare I put in a cubic butt load of long runs and two-a-days.  Did I feel completely ready? No.  Was that the first time I’ve felt unprepared? Hell no… so all systems go!!

The day before the race, we packed the kids in the car and headed to Philadelphia…. Land of the cheese steak and pretzels.  After a 4 hour journey turned into 5, we were checked into the hotel and ready to rock.  Walked the mere one mile down to boat house row (hotel location is important btw) and snagged my race bib and awesome schwag bag.  I’m a sucker for any race that gives you socks.  Let’s be honest runners… socks can be a huge expense.  On the walk back to the hotel we took in some sights and got some amazing food truck grub. Then it was time for sleep… which didn’t go well.  I woke, however, with a sense of adventure.

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I’m not going to lie.  I was nervous as hell! I had never ran a 24 hour before.  I was out of my element.  Heard so many people talking about their strategy.  So many varying ways to run…. I chose to run by feel.  Little did I know, it would help me immensely.  We mulled around waiting what seemed like forever for the race to start.  Then suddenly I found myself at the starting line ready to rock.  Bang!… We were off and running!!

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My mood was high when we started.  Nerves were settled.  All I had to worry about was the wicked heat and humidity we all knew were coming.  Thankfully, I had my Orange Mud Vest Pack on.  Let’s take a look at the race course.  No out and back.  No point to point.  Just an 8.4 mile loop.  Aid stations roughly every two miles…. but you got to run past the Rocky Steps every lap!

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After the first lap I noticed people waning in the rising heat.  I felt like I was flying! Partly cause I kinda was.  I just felt great.  When I wanted a break, I walked.  When I wanted to run, I did just that.  Running by feel was working.  I was gaining ground.  Crushing my fear of lap races, I made a lot of friends along the way.  People were roller coasters of emotion out there.  What a pleasant mix of runners.  Young, old, race snobs, spartan racers, weekend warriors, ultra runners…. every category was accounted for.  After lap 5 the race director had a chat with me.  Told me he was impressed, that I looked strong.  I felt strong!! Each lap was faster than the last.  My 100 mile goal was looking like a walk in the park (no pun intended).

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Gia would keep me updated on their activities as I ran.  Those lucky ducks went to the zoo while I endured the heat and humidity with ease.  The sun was setting, It was headlamp time.  Awesome…. I love night running…. in Philly…. with unsavory characters (non racers). Let’s just say I had no issue picking the pace up.  About 12 hours in, what I didn’t want to happen… well it happened.  My knee popped something fierce.  The old reminiscent pain I’ve felt before had revisited.  I was torn apart because I knew what it meant…. My race was over.  I had to play the smart runner.  I also had to finish the lap I was on.  So I walked/hobbled 6 miles.  I felt like I let everyone down.  That I had failed.  At the finish line, I let them know I was done.  The race director shook my hand and told me they were impressed with my effort.  Then told me my distance… 62 miles.  62 effin miles! Furthest I’d ever ran!! So it wasn’t a total loss…. Brought a smile to my face.

I learned a lot at this race.  That I run much better by feel.  That it is our struggles that define us.  That unlocking the ability to be a better runner is in your mind.  So I will be back next year to attack this race again.  In fact, just so it is in writing, I’m aiming for 120 miles next year. There was something amazing about 24 hour races.  Sure there are many other runners there….. but you are really competing with yourself, and I love that.

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Huge thanks to the following:

  • all the selfless volunteers that helped out
  • the aid station that was ran by runners…. best by far!
  • everyone who supported and cheered me on in this endeavor
  • My other half, Gia …. without your love and support I have no clue where I would be in life
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Fitness: Conception can be the Devil

I do my best to be light-hearted and fun.  Taking time to enjoy the little things in life … enjoying it as it comes.  I love my job.  Being a personal trainer is a huge privilege, but today something happened that left me perplexed.  Let me explain:

Early in the morning I received a message from a lady I had never met.  She wanted me to train her.  Sounds easy as pie to me, so I set up the initial meeting.   The most important meeting where you discover their goals and start forming a plan to help them get there.  So later in the day she arrived, happy as ever.  She was energetic, soft-spoken, and appeared ready to start the ball rolling.  After introductions I hit her with the most important question: What are your goals?  That is where it got interesting… This happy-go-lucky, yet soft-spoken lady, reached in her pocket and pulled out a piece of paper.  She quickly unfolded it and held it at her side, exclaiming “I wanna look like this!”

It was a picture of a super model.  Ugh.  Her eyes were bursting with excitement and here I was with only the answer she didn’t wanna hear.  She must have seen it in my eyes, cause the excitement had left hers.  A million different starting points ran through my head.  So I began with four simple words…. “Let’s talk about it.”  First and foremost, she didn’t have the body type.  I’m not saying that she couldn’t lose weight.  That is possible.  She wanted weight loss that isn’t healthy.  Not wanting to directly insult her, I left the body type issue for further in the conversation.  Instead, I led off what I knew would be a not fun conversation by asking her if she thought the anorexic/bulimic super model in the picture looked healthy.   Her response in total came out to, “I have to look like this.”  I teach functional fitness.  I help people strengthen themselves, not destroy themselves.  I truly tried.  Gave her many different healthy fitness avenues she could go down.  They weren’t good enough to her though.  In her mind, she had to be super model skinny.  Sadly, I had to let her know I couldn’t work with her.  Boy was she pissed.  She had a few choice words for me and I took them with professionalism.  When she stormed off mumbling, I felt bad.

I felt bad for her.  All her life society has paraded unhealthy models for her to see.  They have warped this poor lady to thinking she has to look like that.  It’s shameful really.  Honestly, I haven’t a clue how women put up with that kind of pressure.  It is bad enough you all have to go through child labor, but to add image issues on top of that?!? My hat goes off to the few that truly understand where they stand, and goals that are achievable.  I was truly perplexed.  I guess conception can be the devil.

I want to leave you with what I believe the secret to functional fitness is.  I mean…. after all this, you need an uplift right??  So here it is:

The secret to good fitness is to wake up every day wanting to be just a little bit better.  Not perfect.  Not leaps and bounds better.  Just a little bit…. because all those bits add up to something great as long as you stay dedicated.  Any goal can be met, within reason.  Positivity is key.  So if you want to entice positive change…. do it! Make today that day! Prove the naysayers wrong and follow your dreams! Believe in yourself!! Cause hey…..

I believe in you!

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Post Ultra Duldrums

Here I am click-clacking on the keyboard instead of run-running like I would like.  So the feeling in a state of worthlessness starts….

I know it is all in my head.

I know I just have to let my legs and feet heal up.

I know I am not invincible…. Even if it felt so at times on the race course.

I know I need rest.

UGH!… REST… I hate that word. I preach it to my clients.  Know it is good for me, but do I have to like it?? Nope. Sure don’t.  yet here I sit with my foot in cold water typing this.  Playing it smart.  It is gonna be a long year after all.  Got a 24 hour race to look forward to.

Well thank you.  Thanks for listening to my ramblings.  Rest = Torture for the mind = Great for the body …. I can live with that.

Happy thoughts people.  Happy thoughts.

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