Mini Book Review of “The Ultramarathon Guide: A Simple Approach to Running Your First Ultramarathon” by Michael D’Aulerio

I grabbed this book off of Amazon because I am a runner with budding aspirations to complete an ultramarathon. This book by Michael D’Aulerio is a great primer for such events. It is separated into chapters with each containing practical and useful information. D’Aulerio offers tips on topics such as what to bring to an ultra, how to stay motivated, and how to fuel and hydrate. It is a helpful read that I can see referring to from time to time as I continue to grow as a runner. I highly recommend it for any novice runner who is contemplating an ultra.

Mini Book Review of “Running to Leadville” by Brian Burk.

This book is very similar to author Brian Burk’s other book ‘Unfinished’. Like its counterpart, there are many grammatical errors. So much so that I felt I should lead with that in this review as it could deter some people. I will say this, however, it is a good book. Burk’s very strong at describing the ultra runs that are featured in his stories. In this case, that’s the Leadville 100. If you are even mildly interested in long distance trail runs, you’ll enjoy this book. Like ‘Unfinished’, there is a huge plot development, however, it occurs earlier in the story and doesn’t come off as an interruption to the plot. If you are choosing between the two titles, pick this one.

Mind, Spirit, and Body

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Thessalonians 5:23, NASB.

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul prays his readers may be made entirely complete, in body and in spirit and in soul. I emphasize the last two because they seem to me the most ignored in our current day and age. Let’s face it; we understand all too well that our bodies are important. We live in a world that glorifies appearance. Spend a few minutes scrolling Instagram or watching TV and you’ll quickly understand what I mean. The health and wellness machine is all about appearance. The truth is, however, our appearance is the most superficial level of our existence; and when we overemphasize the superficial, we are neglecting what’s really important.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that we are not a body with a soul, but a soul with a body. In terms of Scripture, this is an accurate statement. the Bible teaches that when we die, we’ll be absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8) and that at some point in God’s plan, we’ll receive new imperishable bodies (1 Corinthians 15:43). In fact, our mortal bodies can’t even inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50). This begs the question, Why do we focus all of our time and attention on the one aspect of our being that matters the least?

It seems to me, that when it comes to health and fitness, we better work on our mind, spirit, and soul, before we worry about our body.

I have a long history of weight loss and, unfortunately, weight gain. Over the past 34 years or so, I have lost a great deal of weight at least 4 times … probably 5 now that I think about it. I have spent a great deal of time counting calories, counting reps, and mastering various programs. I have agonized over various workout routines and driven myself nuts over the tedious little details. But what I’ve never done, is focus on my soul and spirit first.

The truth is, you can do everything right physically and maybe even lose weight; but still be a very unhealthy person. I’m not just talking about those skinny fat people we’ve all heard about, you know, their BMI and weight is under control and they’re considered beautiful by the world’s standards, yet their cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure is a mess. More importantly, I am referring to people who focus all their attention on the physical yet sacrifice the spiritual and the eternal aspects of their existence.

Genesis 1:26 says that all mankind is made in the image of God. He created us with physical attributes, yet He also created us with immaterial attributes; “soul, spirit, intellect, will, conscience, mind, and emotions”1. I’ve lost and gained weight so many times in my life because my emotions, mind, and will were suspect. I could get healthy physically, but never mentally or emotionally. That’s why I would so often turn to food when my life got flipped upside down. That’s why I embraced every emotion I experience with food! Sad – get ice cream, mad – order a pizza, happy – go out to a restaurant and celebrate! Whatever happened in my life, good or bad, caused me to turn to the sin of gluttony for satisfaction. This isn’t a physical problem … it’s a spiritual matter.

Perhaps you’re there. If I’m being honest, there is still a part of me that is. That’s why the plan I’m embracing now involves the mind and spirit and not just the body. This may seem out of order to you, but when it comes to weight loss, I’ve learned that the body is the least important aspect of my being. I’m learning that meditation, prayer, Bible Study, and the formation of good, healthy habits should come first. The body will follow my mind and spirit’s lead. A healthy mind equals a healthy body and a sick mind equals a sick body.

Whatever plan you’re following, learn from my mistakes. Do not ignore your mind and spirit in favor of your body. Any success you achieve following such a plan will be an illusion.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs us “Above all else, guard our hearts, for everything you do flows from it” and truer words have never been spoken.

If you’re interested in learning more about the plan I’m on, leave me a comment. I can give you more information and introduce you to a health coach that can help you get your priorities straight. I can even help introduce you to the Savior who can heal your mind, body, and spirit.

Mini Book Review of “Reborn on the Run” by Catra Corbett

Reborn on the Run by Catra Corbett

This book depicts the incredible journey of a meth addict turned ultra runner. The feats that author Catra Corbett accomplishes on the trail, are incredible. Reading her story helped encourage me that I can recover from my days as a Type 2 diabetic. In comparison, my mountains aren’t nearly as big as hers. Unfortunately, there are enough typos and errors in this book that it detracted, at least for me, from the amazing story. I’m glad I read it, however, and I am now a fan of Cards Corbett.

Mini Book Review of ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ by David Goggins

CantHurtMeDuring a conversation about ultra running, a friend asked me  if I had ever heard of David Goggins. He billed Goggins as the most inspirational man he had ever heard of and pointed out the author and ultra runner was a former Navy Seal. I was immediately interested because I am huge fan of the Seals. They are  the closest thing to actual, real-life super heroes I know of, so I immediately looked Goggins up and bought his book, Can’t Hurt Me. 

I don’t want to steal any of his thunder, but I will say that Goggins is, indeed, incredible. The things he has overcome and accomplished is beyond amazing. His life history is remarkable … but I wouldn’t necessarily say he is inspirational. I feel inspired when I read a book that encourages me to go out and reach beyond myself, and Goggins certainly attempts to do that, but he is so practically inhuman in the things he has accomplished that I can’t really relate. For instance, Goggins wanted to be a Navy Seal so he lost 100 pounds in a very short time frame and went out and did it. Likewise, he wanted to be an ultra runner, so he went out and completed a hundred mile event with no runs leading up to it. Who does that? He did, but can anyone else? I certainly can’t. I’m at the other end of the spectrum having just completed my first sub forty minute 5k. It took me two years to run a full half marathon. I want to be an ultra runner, but I’m no where near ready and I know it. As such, there’s really nothing from this book that I can take away and apply to my own life.

Goggins is incredible. He is other worldly. He is a hero, and I am now a fan, however, he is not inspiring. Physically and mentally, Goggins is a spectacle. He refers to himself as the hardest man alive and he may just be. I enjoyed his book and will be on the lookout for him on podcasts and such, but while he amazes me, he does not necessarily inspire me.

If want to be amazed, buy this book. Be forewarned, however – Goggins is a former Navy Seal and uses language you would expect a Navy Seal to use. If you are easily offended by four letters words, avoid this one.

It Feels Like Something is Broken Inside of Me

Saturday I participated in what, is for me, the hardest run on my schedule. For the second year in a row I signed up for and ran the Indian Run at the Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It is beautiful, well-organized run through one of the most beautiful parts of Ohio. But it is tough. When I ran it last year it was, at the time, my longest run ever. It included many sections of climbs that I was not prepared for and it was all I could do to finish. As soon as I crossed the finish line in 2018, I knew I wanted to come back and do the run again. My long-term goal is to someday do an ultramarathon, but this 20k run through Hocking Hills beat me and I immediately knew I wanted revenge.

That revenge was supposed to happen last Saturday. With another year of training and some modest weight loss, I was convinced I would do better than last year. In some ways, I suppose I did. I beat last year’s time by 18 minutes and physically, I think I feel better and am recovering faster than last year. However, once again, this run beat me.

My problems began at mile 4 with a steep climb up Steel Hill Road. I had strategically planned to walk the hill and did so, however, about half way up the climb I began suffering from painful calf cramps. These cramps plagued me throughout the finish and hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt while running. Every step was a struggle. These cramps put doubt in my mind that I would be able to finish and caused me to walk much more of the course than I intended. I only finished because turning around at that point would have been a more difficult run; plus, my cellphone was out of service which prevented me from calling my wife to come get me. So I trudged forward.

The problems got worse at mile 9. For the second year in a row, in that exact spot, I experienced what I can only describe as an asthma-like attack. Wheezing, a failure to catch my breath, and elevated heart rate accompanied a feeling as if I were about to pass out. It was a sensation I hoped I wouldn’t experience again after last year. It was sensation that put me in survival mode. I was no longer concerned about time, or crushing the run, I just wanted to survive it.

In doing so, it felt like something broke inside of me. I vowed in that moment that I would never sign up for the Indian Run again. It’s just too tough. The 20k distance had beat me down again and any hopes of ever completing the 40k or 60k distance were dashed. In fact, in that moment of suffering, I began to question why I run in the first place. I thought I had made some gains, I thought I had improved, but here I was suffering in the same ways for the second year in a row. It called into question all the work and training I have done over the last year. It made me feel like giving up.

I told my wife afterwards that I was never signing up for the Indian Run again. I could hear the shock in her voice when she responded by telling me she had no doubt I would be back. But beyond that particular run, if I’m being honest, I’ve entertained the notion of just quitting all together. I’ve thought about giving up. I’m not a natural runner, I’m built more like an offensive lineman than an ultramarathon runner, I’m slow …. and here’s the deal, I I always will be.

I don’t mean for this post to be a downer, but for the first time since I began running and losing weight, I am questioning if its all worth it. I’ve run a couple of times since then and I’m starting to recover physically, however, I feel like I’m a long way from recovering mentally. I feel like something is broken inside of me.

I’ve never experience this type of pessimism and dread following a run and I’m not sure how to recover from it. I don’t know if it is normal to feel this way after such a hard effort, but I know I don’t like. Running normally gives me pleasure and peace. That is not where I’m at right now … and I miss it terribly.It

There Are No Shortcuts

This morning during prayer I was lamenting to God about the man I am as opposed to the man I want to be. I confessed to Him that I’m not the man spiritually that I aspire to. Paul wrote to Titus (Titus 2:2) that older men should be “temperate” and “self-controlled”  and I was convicted because I’m not quite there yet, even though I should be. So I was confessing this to God and asking for His guidance.

I’m not one to often say God spoke to me, but in my moment of prayer this morning, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and clearly articulated, “There are no shortcuts.”

There are no shortcuts. 

Results

Too often, we complain about a lack of results when we’re not willing to do the work required to get those results. That’s true spiritually and physically. I’ve stood on the scale and shook my fist because I didn’t lose what I wanted to lose even when I knew in my heart of hearts I didn’t put in the required work.

I have lofty goals, both spiritually and physically. I want to be the guy Paul is writing about in Titus 2:2, “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” I have also set a goal to run a 50k at 50 years old (I just turned 49). Both goals are going to take work … and there are no shortcuts.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NIV). No spiritual goal is going to be achieved apart from Him. To become a Titus 2 man, I need to continue in my study of His Word and continue seeking His will for my life. The same is true of running a 50k. During a recent 8 mile trail run, I struggled mightily. In fact, I struggled more than I expected. It showed me how much further I need to go before I can run a 50k … and the clock is ticking. It’s going to take work.

There are no shortcuts.

I’ll either put in the work to achieve my goals, or I won’t. But it occurs to me as I write this, that nothing worth achieving is easy. I expect my goals to take work. God has told me so, Not because He wants me to struggle, but rather because there are rewards that can be found in the midst of the work.

Every run, every study, and every workout is a lesson. There are no shortcuts.

My Goal to #Run50

Yesterday I turned 49 years old. I feel blessed to have done so. I once had a doctor tell me I would be lucky to turn 30 if I didn’t get my diet and obesity under control. I was a young man then with a newborn baby. Since that time, I have lost significant amounts of weight and unfortunately gained significant amounts on multiple occasions. Most recently, I’ve dropped in excess of 100 lbs and maintained it, for the most part, for the last two years. I could still lose some more weight, but I have managed to get off my diabetes and blood pressure meds. For that, I am grateful, because I recognize it as pure grace. There are plenty of people out there in similar situations who are losing their battles with obesity and diabetes. They would give anything to trade places with me and go for a run; even at my slow speed.

Even so, I live in fear of failing. Of giving up. I fear I will gain my weight back and sacrifice my health and new found fitness for food and gluttony.

My mind is constantly working out this tension. The desire to become more healthy and conquer my weight issues verses my desire to indulge in pizza, chips, and snacks. As such, I have formulated a plan to keep me inspired over the next year. A plan to run a 50k at 50 years old. My plan to #Run50.

My longest distance thus far has been a 20k ran through the hills of Hocking Hills State Park in Logan, Ohio. It’s a run that I will be repeating in September. It almost beat me last year. I bonked after mile 9 and struggled to finish … so I recognize I have a long way to go if I want to run a 50k. My goal is to structure my next year of training to enable me to run a 50k ultra at 50 years of age. In doing so, I’m going to do my best to lose as close to 50 more pounds as I can.

I want to do this for me. I want to do this for those who can’t do it. I want to do this to honor God who has blessed me with life. I hope you’ll follow along and help me accomplish my goal.

Mini Book Review of ‘Training for Ultra’ by Rob Steger

traingultraMini  first became familiar with Rob Steger through his excellent podcast entitled Training for Ultra. In the podcast, Steger connects with all sorts of personalities from the Ultra Running community and recaps races and training methods. He has frequent reoccurring guests which serves to engage the listener in a way that few podcasts can accomplish. Along the way, Rob shares his own story of how he became an ultra runner.

I was eager to learn more about his story, so I picked up this book for my kindle. Essentially, this book serves as a detailed account of the first three years of the author’s ultra running endeavors. I was amazed at how much he accomplished and how far he grew as a runner in just three years. While he points out he is a ‘middle of the pack’ runner, Rob Steger has accomplished amazing things. Early in the book, he states that his goal is to inspire people to run, and he has done just that.

This book will make you want to train for an ultra event. i enjoyed it a great deal.

Am I Still a Runner If I’m Injured?

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’re aware that a hip injury has sidelined me recently. I’ve certainly griped about it enough! There was no fall, stumble, or other mishap that led to my injury. I didn’t get hit by a car or fall over a steep cliff on a nasty trail. I can’t even say I had upped my weekly mileage too fast. I went for a run in January during a period of less mileage than normal (cold weather has that effect) and my hip just started to hurt. I fought through it for four miles. They next day, my hip hurt a little worse, so I took a day off. When it still hadn’t resolved itself after a couple of weeks I shut my running down and eventually went to a sports medicine doctor. The diagnosis? An MRI revealed I had a “mild focal marrow edema involving the inferior margin of the left femoral neck.” I’ve heard it described as a bone bruise. My doctor called it a “baby” stress fracture and indicated it would turn into the real deal if I didn’t stop running. He shut me down for another three weeks. Then I am to ease my way back into running and shut myself down if I still experience pain. I’ve already missed all of February and with this plan of attack, I am likely to miss most of March as well. In addition, the half-marathon I had signed up for at the end of April isn’t going to happen. Even in a best case scenario, there wouldn’t be time to train for a long run.

I must admit I was originally fairly disappointed. Running has been my primary source of exercise over the past two years. It has helped me lose well over one hundred pounds and has given me a great deal of joy. I love it. I’m slow and I struggle, but I love it. My running is my alone time with God. It allows me to pray and to listen for His response. Not being able to do it hurts. I am blessed, however, that there is hope this will all heal and I will able to run again soon.

I wonder though, how long can I lay off of running before I am no longer a runner? The doctor gave me the go ahead to bike, swim, and lift during my layoff … but I identify as a runner. I’m hoping to use this forced time of cross-training to work on my swimming and maybe even dabble into some sprint triathlons later this year. But in the meantime, not running stinks! Maybe I need to identify as an adult-onset athlete rather than an adult-onset runner. Cross training may have to become my new best friend.

Happy running to all those out their doing it. Know that I am jealous!