Blue Ridge Relay

Team 1 wearing blue, team 2 wearing gray.

Oh my, where to begin? At the beginning seems appropriate. It was January and I was working in China when Bourbon Chase Cap’n Mike emailed a notice that the Blue Ridge Relay team he was on needed a few more runners. I knew the BRR would be a challenge and especially so because at the time I was working too many hours to do any decent training. I had been in China off and on (mostly on) since September. All the gains from the hard training I had done earlier in 2010 were slowly wasting away. I was tired of being alone though so I replied immediately, “I am too weak to resist an opportunity like this”. A couple more emails, a check sent, and presto, I was officially on the team.

I was back in the US by February and hit the ground running. By April I was back in decent shape. I ran very well in an 80 mile relay in Illinois. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I ran there on some pretty tough hills.

The logistics for getting to the BRR were beginning to look like a nightmare. It was discouraging and I came close to throwing in the towel. I decided to stick with it though and eventually had two hotel rooms booked, one in Boone for the night before the race and one in Asheville for the night after the race. I had also arranged to pick up team member Brian in Lexington so I wouldn’t have to drive all the way by myself and would have someone to share the cost of the hotel rooms. Brian reserved a one-way rental car to get us from Asheville to Boone where we would meet up with the rest of the team.

Carrie, Kelli, and Kelsey

As the race date approached the logistics were nailed down and more emails were exchanged. The level of excitement was building. One email asked each team member to choose the legs they wanted to run. The legs were rated according to difficulty as “easy”, “moderate”, “hard”, “very hard”, and “mountain goat hard”. I really wanted to run one of the two “mountain goat hard” legs but I also wanted to go for distance. My first choice was to be runner #5 with the longest total distance, 30.2 miles, in four legs. 1st leg, moderate, 5.2 miles, 2nd leg, very hard, 10 miles, 3rd leg, hard, 5.6 miles, 4th leg, very hard, 9.4 miles. My second choice was runner #4 which was only a total of 26.1 miles but included one of the “MGH” legs. My third choice was runner #2 which was 28.8 miles with three hard legs and one very hard leg. I guess no one else was dumb enough to volunteer to be runner #5 so that’s what I got.

After the running order was set for the team another email arrived containing a document with estimated run times for each runner on each leg. Holy cow! How on earth did they get the impression that I could run that fast? Sure I had submitted my time for a 10k, but did they not understand that Indiana is flat. North Carolina is not flat. I had been completely disappointed in my performance at Bourbon Chase last year and I didn’t want another poor performance this year at BRR.

Finally race day eve had arrived. I was at the hotel in Boone, NC where I would finally meet for the first time the 8 other members of the runningjustasfastaswecan team (RJAFAWC). In run order: Kelsey, Kelli, Melissa, Doug, Me, Angie, Dan, Carrie, and Meghan. We actually had two teams entered in the race. RJAFAWC Team 2 members were: Matt, Brian, Mark, Tristan, Ryan, Karen, Ben, Devin, and Mike. Friday morning we loaded up the vans and drove to the start at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Both our teams were starting at the same time 9:30am. The race would pass back through Boone later in the evening.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous. We could not have asked for better weather, sunny but not too warm and not too humid.

Leg #5

The race consisted of 36 legs. I was runner #5 so I would run legs 5, 14, 23, and 32. After nearly 3 hours riding around in the van it was finally my turn to pound some pavement. Leg 5 was moderate 5.2 miles. My projected time was 37:42 The start was down hill so I took the bracelet from Doug and sped off at a pretty fast pace. After about a mile the course starts going up and is mostly up hill to the finish. The grade wasn’t too severe though except for about a quarter mile at the 3.5 mile mark. I never really knew where I was on the course. The miles are not marked. Actually while running through a small town I was off course. I missed a turn and ran up a parallel street for a block or two. It didn’t shorten or lengthen the course any. When I hit the top of that last steep part I knew I only had about a mile to go. I knew I had been running pretty fast, but didn’t know for sure until the finish. 34:18, so I’m guessing the leg wasn’t quite 5.2 miles. I am capable of running 5.2 at that pace, but not so sure I did on this date. Either way I beat my projected time so it was a pretty good start for me.

Leg #14

Yeah, Grandpa kicked my a$$.

By now it was dark. On passing back through Boone we stopped at Chik-Fil-A where I bought two chicken sandwiches. I ate one (about an hour before my run) and saved the other for after this leg which was 10 miles, 866 feet of ascent and 177 ft of descent. Not the hardest climb I’ve ever done, but definitely no walk in the park. Projected time 1:15:00. The steepest part of the course was in the first two miles. I was pounding along pretty steady and starting to feel that chicken sandwich trying to fly back out. That bird didn’t fly but I won’t make that mistake again. Once the road leveled off a little I just kept plugging away, trying to increase my leg turnover. A few miles into the race I started seeing the mile markings for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon. This gave me a pretty good idea where I was on the course and I knew for sure each time I had clicked off a mile. At one point the team van passed me and someone yelled out yeah Jeff, your kicking Grandpa’s a$$. That inspired me to keep pushing hard and it also started a conversation in my head about how I would post that on facebook. The conversation with myself kept my mind off the fact that my legs were really starting to burn. With about two mile to go the course again became a little steeper and now the tables were turned. Grandpa was now kicking my a$$. Finally I saw a sign with my favorite two words “exchange zone”. Time 1:17:50, about 3 minutes off projected time. Not too shabby. And a cold Chik-Fil-A sandwich never tasted so good.

Leg #23

This leg kicked off sometime around 2:30am. A couple steep down hills followed by a steady up hill climb for the last 3 miles. My projected time 42:00. The first half mile was relatively flat on a paved road. Then there was about 1.5 miles of gravel followed by a steep paved down hill for a half mile or so. Running on the gravel in the dark was called for intense focus on the surface to keep ankle twisting to a minimum. The full moon at times helped a little and each time a van would pass me from behind I could see very well. The steady climb took its toll on me and for the last mile or so my legs were feeling like jello. Just keep the jello jiggling up the hill. The road at this point was straight so I could see the exchange zone up ahead. No time for crying, just keep pushing, almost finished. Time 44:20, just a little off projected. I gave it my best shot and I was pleased with my effort.

Leg #32

It’s 10:20am Saturday and by now I’m just plain tickled at the fact I’m still able to get in and out of the van unassisted. Also I’m glad I to be running down this mountain rather than up. 9.4 miles down all the way to the finish. Steep down in the first 5 or 6 miles. Total descent 2093 feet. My projected time 1:10:30. I knew that after the pounding my quads would take in the first 5 or 6 miles that the relatively level last 3 miles would be torture regardless of how fast or slow I ran the first part. So I ran the first part as fast as my legs would allow. I’m

These feet need some help.

guessing in some of the steeper spots I was hitting close to 6 minute miles. Oh, did I mention this was a gravel road? Yeah so in my state of sleep deprivation I intense focus on the surface was difficult at best and to make matters worse the cool morning air was making my eyes water. So in other words I was practically falling down a mountain with my eyes closed. About six miles into the run the road is paved and levels off a little. My legs are screaming by now but I’m trying to drown out their screams by singing the song “Put In Me”. I passed two or three runners in the steep gravel section. Now on this more straight, more level paved section I can see another runner up ahead. I’m gaining on her. I now use the thought of passing this runner to take my mind off the pain. It works, one more road kill. I’m now very close to the finish. I was told there would be a nice creek with cold water where I could soak my aching feet. Ahhhh, the exchange zone, the creek, happy feet. I am finished, time 1:05:24. Good fulfilling effort.

Kelli after a hard 6.3 mile run with a tough up hill finish.

As I write this it has now been five days since the race and I think I’m still experiencing the runner’s high. I can’t tell you when I’ve ever had more fun pushing myself this hard. I think there are at least a couple factors that inspired me to push myself to the limit. One is the support, encouragement, and example of the other members of the team. Everyone on the team always seemed to be giving 110% when they were running and when they weren’t running they were shouting encouragement to those who were running and not just to runners on our team but runners on every team. Finally and probably most inspiring was an email I received after my first leg from my friend Kim. In the email she wrote out a prayer for me. I re-read that prayer again before my third and fourth legs. That prayer really touched my heart and inspired me to push myself as far as I could.

Father, protect Jeff as he starts this day of dedication to what he has trained so hard to do. Be with him and give him the strength and endurance he will need to complete his goal. God, I pray that you will fill Jeff with your presence and that this physical journey is a time of worship for the two of you. Father, I pray that your surrounding beauty will envelop Jeff and he will be reminded and be in awe of how great You are. In your Son Jesus’ precious name, Amen

God did give me strength, I felt His presence, it was a time of worship, it was beautiful and I am totally in awe of how great God is, amen!

Summer Beast of Burden 50 Mile

That last time I attempted a 50 mile run was in September 2009. I had not properly trained for it and wound up throwing in the towel after 34 miles. Since then I have run three 50k races but had not felt the urge to take another bite of the 50 mile apple. Ok, that’s enough of the clichés for one post. Back in May I decided I wanted to run the Howl at the Moon 8 hour run in Illinois but by then registration had closed. What to do? I needed to run a race longer than a 50k to prepare for the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim run in October. Just my luck, the Summer Beast of Burden added a 50 mile option this year. Awesome! The start/finish area for BoB is at Widewater Marina in Lockport, NY just 10 miles from my brother’s house. Nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone. Sorry, I can’t help myself with the clichés. Visit family and run a race, awesome!

Bucky the Goat on his perch.

My brother’s in-laws have a dairy farm. The milking barn is maybe 100 yards from my brother’s house so the sound of cows bellowing is pretty much constant. They also have three pet goats. The goats were Amber’s senior project. Anyway, this is Bucky the Goat up on his perch. Bucky escaped on Friday afternoon. This led to some fun on the farm, goat herding edition. Think “City Slickers” except I didn’t pay for this fun and as far as I know no one died. Ok, enough fun on the farm, time to get back to the Beast.

Generous dose of Body Glide to the feet. Muy importante!

The BoB consists of three distances, 100 mile, 24 hour, and 50 mile. The race is run along the Erie Canal Towpath between Lockport and Middleport. It is 12.5 miles to Middleport so the 100 mile consists of 4 round trips and the 50 is 2 round trips. The race starts at Widewater Marina on the south side of the canal, goes west for about a mile on a paved path then crosses over to the north side on the Exchange Street lift bridge. On the north side the course turns east. On the north side the path is fine crushed gravel almost all the way to Middleport. There are just a few very short sections of pavement. In Middleport the course again crosses the canal on the Main Street lift bridge. Just over the bridge is a Moose Lodge or Masonic Temple (can’t remember which or perhaps something completely different). The aid station and timing matt are in the building. This is the turn-around. The course now follows the same route back to Widewater Marina. Besides the aid stations at the start and turn-around there is only one other aid station by the lift bridge in Gasport which is almost 7 miles from the start. On an 85 degree day that was too far for one hand-held bottle, but after the first pass they added an unmanned water stop at the Day Road bridge, about 3 miles from the start. Since the course is along the towpath of a man-made canal it’s pretty much flat as a pancake (buttermilk pancake at Cracker Barrel, yum). Somewhere I read that over the 100 mile distance there was 300 feet of elevation gain/loss. You’ll have to run on a track to get any flatter than that. In a few spots there were very slight inclines for a few steps, but at no point do you ever feel like you are running up a hill.

The Start.

The race started at 10am. I don’t know what the temperature was then but the sun was shining brightly. The high eventually reached 84 or 85. Humidity didn’t seem too bad. The course has virtually no shade though. There is a little shade on the north side but at least 90% of the time you are exposed to the sun. I used some Coppertone Sport 30 SPF spray on sun screen. This worked very well; I did not burn at all.

I started out at a nice slow pace, but after a few NY minutes I could no longer fight the urge to go faster. The first trip to Middleport seemed easy. I covered the 12.5 miles in about 2 hours. Easy except for the distances between aid stations being too long for one hand-held bottle in this heat. Next time I’ll carry two bottles. I was at least smart enough to make sure I drank several cups of water before leaving the aid stations. The aid stations were fairly well stocked; however, they didn’t have pretzels which are usually the only thing I eat. What they had didn’t look good to me, lots of sugary stuff. They did have Heed for my water bottle and except for the first stop in Middleport they had Hammer Gels so that is what I ate. The return to Lockport also seemed relatively easy; however, a few miles from Lockport my left calf started to cramp up so I stopped to massage it out and took another Enduralyte. The calf didn’t bother me the rest of the day. As I was about two steps from exiting the Exchange St lift bridge the lift warning bell started to ring. Scared the sheet out of me. I made it across before the bridge came up but there were a few runners behind me who were stopped by the bridge going up. Return time was about 2:18. Not as slow as it sounds because that included my time at the turn around aid station. At 4:18 the first lap was faster than I thought it would be so I beat my dad there. I told him it would be closer to 5 hours.

This picture was taken from near the finish line, but because I'm on the opposite side of the canal I'm about 2 miles into the race.

The second trip to Middleport didn’t seem so easy. I probably wasn’t taking in enough calories. I didn’t feel dehydrated though so I was getting enough fluid and I was taking Enduralyte capsules frequently. They had the unmanned water stop set up at Day Road by now. Still that wasn’t enough water. As I was running I was thinking I should have told my dad ahead of time to ask at the timing table if I had been through yet. Turns out he did just that. God blessed me this day because just as I was approaching the Canal Street Bridge I looked up and there was my dad just starting to cross. He beeped his horn and I waved. He then drove up to the Orangeport Road Bridge to wait for me. Earlier there had been several spectators there watching the race. As I was nearing I really needed some water so I decided I would just ask someone. Just as quickly I decided I wouldn’t ask because I didn’t want to impose on them. If every runner asked them for water they would need a several cases of water. I would just keep running since Gasport was just a mile ahead. Then I heard someone yell “hey Jeff, you want some water?” There was my dad with a bottle of cold water. Yes, thank you Jesus.

This time at the Gasport aid station they had sno-cones. I had a cherry flavor. That hit the spot. Even with the extra water from my dad and the sno-cone the remainder of the second trip to Middleport did not seem easy. I was trying to run for 10 minutes and walk for 2. That worked pretty well. I knew I was slowing down and wanted to get to Middleport in 7 hours. That would give me 3 hours to get back to Lockport and still beat 10 hours. This trip took about 2:38 so I beat7 hours by almost 4 minutes.

I had arranged to have a pacer run with me for the last leg from Middleport back to Lockport but I wasn’t 100% sure she would be there. Several weeks before the race I mentioned to my niece that she might like to do it as a training run if she would still be in NY at that time. She’s training for a half marathon. She wouldn’t be in town but she talked her friend Sara into doing it. I’d never had a pacer in a race so I didn’t know what to expect. When I crossed the Main Street bridge I saw Sara and her mom sitting there waiting for me. At that point just knowing I would have someone to run with was a pretty big adrenaline boost. After taking on some water and eating some watermelon Sara and I headed back to Lockport.

Sara and I nearing the finish.

Running with someone with fresh legs made me run for longer stretches than I had been on my own. Sara’s encouragement was very subtle but very effective. It was nice to have someone to talk to. The combination of shorter walk breaks and longer runs really did the trick. We made it back to Gasport in just over an hour. Now with just under 7 miles to go I was cautiously aware of the fact that if my wheels didn’t fall off I would easily beat 10 hours. Fortunately once again my dad was at the Orangeport Rd Bridge with water. We also had water at the Day Rd Bridge. Now just a couple of miles to go. My hamstrings were starting to cramp up so I had to stop to stretch and take more Enduralytes. Legs don’t fail me now. Now back across the Exchange St Bridge for the last time. Only a mile to go. I didn’t run all of that mile, but probably most of it. I was running strong the last couple hundred yards. Huge adrenaline rush will do that to you. Of course it always feels so good to stop. With the help of my talented pacer the last leg only took 2:29, nine minutes faster than the trip out. Total time 9:25:35, a PR for 50 miles and good enough for third place overall in the 50 mile race.

The Belt Buckle, nice.

Definitely enjoyed the BoB and would recommend it for anyone looking for a summer ultra challenge. I should also mention that they run the Beast in the winter too, brrrr! I’m already thinking about returning next summer for either the 100 mile or 24 hour. Next up, the DINO Trail Series resumes this Saturday at Town Run Park.

Dancing With Dirt, Gnaw Bone

A couple of weeks ago I ran the Dances With Dirt, Gnaw Bone 50k. The weather was picture perfect. Not too warm, not humid, not cold, a nice breeze at times. The course was very similar to the course I ran there two years ago. But this time the mud troughs were almost completely dried up and we ran the 20 mile loop in the opposite direction.

There was no bushwhacking in the first 18 miles so up to the North Tower aid station the going was relatively easy. I was feeling great and having visions of a sub 5:30 run. That’s when they finally hit us with the bushwhacking. Still the going wasn’t too difficult. Even up to around mile 23 I still had a shot at 5:30.

It was around mile 23 when they hit us with the “4-pointer” ridge climb. Straight up the ridge, hands and feet, about 200 feet or more. When I got to the top I was spent. I stopped thinking about a sub 5:30 and starting hoping I could still beat 6 hours. Shortly after the ridge climb there was a little confusion as to what trail to take after crossing the dam on Strahl Lake. I lost a few minutes there, but gained a little recovery. Also, Mark Linn, who was running the 50 mile, caught up to me and we ran together to the last aid station before he would turn to do another 20 mile loop and I would turn toward the last 5 mile stretch to finish. Mark helped keep me motivated and running even though my legs were screaming stop.

During the last 5 miles I was passing lots of people who were walking the half-marathon. That helped to keep me running. I did walk a few of the hills. When I would reach the top and want to keep walking I was telling myself that walkers don’t beat 6 hours. The last mile or so was a little different we crossed the river at least once and ran down the middle of it for a stretch. When I finished they asked me what age group I was. I said 45 to whatever. They told me I was first in my age group. Awesome! 5:57:38, over an hour faster than my time there two years ago. Sweet! As I turned around another runner finished. He had passed me back at the confusion spot. Turns out he got lost somewhere along the river in the last mile. He finished 2nd in our age group a minute behind me.

Ivan The Cheetah, 50 Meter Dash Champion

I had a pretty good day on the trails, but the real story isn’t about me or the race. The real story starts after the finish. For the first place age group finish they gave me one of those folding camp chairs and a hat. The one Ivan is modeling in the picture. The second place finisher got a chair but no hat. He was a little upset with himself for getting lost. I felt bad and almost gave him my hat. Almost, so glad I didn’t.

When I got home I posted this on Facebook:

“Danced with dirt, slopped in mud, ran through a river, total distance 31 miles. The river was in the last mile so it washed most of the mud off my shoes and the cold water felt great on my sore feet. Time was around 5:58, 12th place overall, 1st in my age group.”

My friend Janet replied with this:

“Impressive. That’s a great time. But….the best run of the day in this state came from one of my kids….Ivan got 1st place in the 50 meter dash at the Special Olympics…and it made my day! He told me he was “runnin like a cheetah!” Congrats to ya both.”

As I was reaching for the box of kleenex on my desk, I was so glad I kept the hat. I boxed it up and mailed it with a note that read:

Ivan,

Congratulations. Run Wild, like a cheetah!

Peace, Jeff

At times I can’t even fathom how truly blessed I am. I’m told Ivan loves the hat. Please pass the kleenex.

For my next race I’m heading back to Brown County for the DINO Series 15k. Run Wild, like a cheetah!

Real March Madness

These flowers popped up in early March.

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post. I guess I didn’t feel as though I had anything big to post. I still don’t have anything big to report so I’ll throw a bunch of little things into this post.

On March 12th I ran the DINO Series 15k race at Eagle Creek. Conditions were very good this year. It was sunny and not too cold. There were a couple spots with mud, but no shoe sucking muck like last year. I had a pretty good run but finished about a minute slower than last year. Still managed to place 2nd in my age group.

The very next day, March 13th, I ran the Big Ten Hoops 5k. I didn’t expect to run very fast, but would give it my best shot. Fortunately I had a co-worker/friend there to run with me. He asked what I planned to run. I said I hoped to hit mile 1 in about 6:30 and then just try to hold that pace. He said he would try to keep up with me. At the mile 1 marker my watch said 6:15. Holy cow, that’s my PR pace. Can I hold that? The day after a 15k trail run? Just do what you can I told myself. I didn’t see the 2 mile sign. It was hidden under an overpass. I never looked back to see if my friend was still with me but with about a half mile to go he pulled up next to me and asked how I was doing. OK, I said. Now I have to keep pushing. We rounded a corner and could see the finish about a quarter mile away. Time to put the hammer down. He had a little more gas in his tank and finished about 4 seconds ahead of me. We covered the last tenth of a mile at a 5 minute/mile pace. Not bad. His time was 19:47, a PR for him and my time was 19:51, my second fastest 5k ever. Ok, maybe I’m not in as bad shape as I thought.

On Saturday March 26th I ran the Sam Costa Half Marathon. On Wednesday, 3 days before, I ran 12 miles on the Knobstone Trail with 4 friends. We ran from mile 0 to mile 6 and back. The trail is so rugged that it took 3 hours to complete the run. With those 12 miles on Wednesday, I ran 63 miles in that 7 day period, including 17.5 on Saturday and 16 on Sunday. That’s the most I’ve ever run in a 7 day stretch. So to say I went into the Costa with no taper is an understatement. That’s ok, I wasn’t really trying to prove anything this year, just have a good training run and see where I am, hopefully finish under 1:35. My strategy was to run the first mile in about 7 minutes and then see what happens. At mile 1 my watch said 7:02, not bad. Mile 2, 7:02, good. Those would be my fastest miles of the day. From mile 3 to mile 8 I ranged from 7:13 to 7:17. I was simply trying to hang on until I could start to push the pace for the last 5k. Couldn’t wait so I tried to pick up the pace in mile 9. Mile 9 and 10, 7:11, mile 11, 7:07, mile 12 7:10, mile 13, up hill, 7:14. Didn’t pick up the pace as much as I was hoping to, but I’m happy with my effort. My average pace for the first 7 miles was 7:11 and my pace for the whole race was 7:11. Time 1:34:02, about three and a half minutes slower than last year’s PR pace, but my second fastest half ever. I can’t complain.

I’m just thankful I didn’t choke to death during the race. Right after the last water stop, I tried to take an enduralyte capsule. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The capsule got stuck in my throat. I was able to cough it up, but rather than just let it dissolve in my mouth I decided to try to swallow it again. Dumber, dumber, dumber. This time it was really stuck. OK, I’m still breathing, good. Now I’m just praying this thing doesn’t drop into my lung. I think I might make it. Then I could tell the capsule had finally dissolved. Fortunately, I coughed out rather than suck air in. When I coughed a big white puff of electrolytes flew out of my mouth. I don’t think anyone saw this. I can’t imagine what anyone might have thought had they seen it. All that salt and potassium in the lungs probably wouldn’t have been fatal, but probably wouldn’t have been pleasant either.

I like to have a mantra to focus on while running races. During my warm up run for Costa I was praying and said whatever happens I just hope that God is glorified. Then the chorus and bridge for “Glory to God” popped into my head. So those became my mantra.

Tried to embed this video, but Sony says no. Here’s the link to youtube.

Next up: Saturday April 2nd is the DINO Series Race at Mounds State Park. Then April 16th is the River to River Relay.

Double (not exactly) Polar (not at all)

Thankfully didn't see any Polar Bears on the course today.

Ran the Polar Bear Doubler this morning. The Polar Bear is a 3 mile race followed by a 5 mile race 45 minutes later. If you run both they call it the Doubler. Seems to me that double would be 3 and 3 or 5 and 5, not 3 and five. Also I didn’t see any polar bears and it wasn’t even cold out so not sure how this is a Polar Bear run. Whatever.

First up was a 3 mile race. I ran this race on a whim to gauge of my fitness level. I didn’t have any goals or expectations. I felt really sluggish in my warm up run. I obviously had not recovered from the 9 mile run Thursday night. A 9 mile pace run is not something I would normally do two days before a race but I didn’t see this as a race so much as a speed workout/fitness test. In most races, especially the short one, I take off too fast at the start. This race was no exception but I was instantly pleased and horrified when I hit the one-mile mark at 6:15. That is my 5k PR pace. I wasn’t sure what shape I was in but I knew for sure I wasn’t in 5k PR shape. If I was only running the 3 mile race I might have tried to keep pushing the pace a little but I backed off in mile 2. In mile 3 I could hear a runner breathing down my neck. I decided that if she was going to pass me she would have to work for it. I shortened my stride, leaned in, and increased the cadence. Eventually I started to pull away, never even saw her. After the finish I was delirious and didn’t think to turn around and thank her for the nice run. I may have been distracted by all the vomit on the ground in the finish chute. In hindsight it would have been better to have let her go and save some gas for the 5 mile run. Finish time 20:39

Starting the 5 mile run too fast was not a problem. I was somewhat recovered from the 3 mile but definitely had no spring left in the legs. I never even heard a warning. I was flapping my lips with a friend I hadn’t seen since last spring and suddenly the horn went off. First mile was a respectable 7:04. Having neither the desire or ability to maintain that pace I decided to relax and then try to kick a little in the last 2 miles. I cranked out a 6:51 in mile 4. Couldn’t keep that up and came across the finish with a mile 5 time of 7:14. Finish time 36:02. Not bad.

I need to get some serious speed work in over the next few weeks and lose the last of my China fat, about 5 pounds. Coming up on March 12 is the Dino 15k at Eagle Creek. March 13 is the Big 10 Hoops 5k. Then Sam Costa on March 26th, my all time favorite half mary. Run Happy!

Not Feelin’ The Love

Conditions in 2009 were also quite good.

2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 I was definitely feelin’ the love. This year unfortunately not so much. I was in the mood, but physically just wasn’t up for the challenge. On Saturday while I was romping around the woods at Eagle Creek the hardcore trail runners were in Kentucky for Louisville’s Lovin’ The Hills 50k. I’m a little bummed that I wasn’t trained for the race. This is one of the toughest 50k races you will find. The first time I ran LLTH in 2007 I was a trail running neophyte. I had never run a 50k. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I can’t remember if it snowed during the race or not, but the trails were icy and slick. I went down several times. My knee was sore before the race even started. At the 22 mile mark I almost threw in the towel, any sane person would have. My friend Tom who was also running his first 50k was gracious enough to stay with me. He and I finally crossed the finish line after 9 hours 14 minutes. On the ride home we were both adamant about not being interested in running that race ever again. So naturally we both returned the next three years in a row. My best time was 6:30:34 in 2008. The weather and trail conditions then were about as good as you could expect for this time of year. After hearing about the conditions this year I’m not all that sorry I missed it. Maybe I’ll feel the love again next year.

Jason and Jeff at The Bird Nest in Beijing

I have been working in China since September. I returned to the US at the end of October to run in a couple races. I returned to the US again in late December to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. I will return to the US again at the end of January and currently have no solid plans for future trips to China. Including two previous trips in the spring and summer of 2010, I have spent a total of about 15 weeks in China so far. Spending so much time away from home has been a challenge but what a blessing it has been to have such extensive exposure to another culture. Most of my time here has been spent working in Weifang but I have also been fortunate to do some sightseeing in Beijing, Shanghai, Jinan, and even Hong Kong.

Across the river from the Pearl Tower in Shanghai

Maintaining a relationship with Christ can be challenging in the hustle and bustle of everyday life no matter where you are. Being in China has compounded the challenge because of the isolation from fellow Christians. Fortunately I am able to access Northview sermons through the internet. I stay connected with my life group through email. I can also access Christian radio through the internet and being in China is no excuse for not reading my Bible every day. These things are all good, but they don’t adequately replace face to face fellowship with other Christians.

Finding opportunities to serve has been difficult and the language barrier makes witnessing a challenge but then witnessing has never been a strong point for me. For Christmas I did manage to put together gift bags for all the workers at the factory where I work. Each bag contained some cookies and candy along with a piece of paper wishing a Merry Christmas with Luke 2:11 in Chinese and English.

During the Christmas break I read the book “365 Thank Yous”. It’s a story of a man who turns his life around by each day finding something for which he is grateful and sending a hand written thank you note to someone. I decided to work on improving my own attitude of gratitude. I would try to start each day by having my first waking thought be “thank you God” and then through the rest of the day finding reasons to be thankful for everything even for things that didn’t on the surface appear to be good things.

The Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong

On my way back to China after New Year’s I was informed that the usual hotel where I stay would not have a room for me until January 10th. The new hotel did not have English speaking staff. For the first day I couldn’t connect to the internet. For the first two days I didn’t have any hot water in my shower. The room is tiny and there is no place to put my clothes. There are no English movie channels on the TV. Ok, if this business of finding reasons to be grateful were easy then it wouldn’t be such a good opportunity for growth. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn more Chinese, thankful for finally finding and being able to decipher the Chinese instructions to access the internet, thankful that this hotel is closer to a restaurant and grocery store I frequently visit, thankful for more time to read and write since I won’t be watching movies. Finally I am thankful for the refreshing, clean, running water in the shower.