Mini Book Review of ‘The Fat Adapted Running Formula’ by Michael D’Aulerio

This book is like others by Michael D’Aulerio. It’s not necessarily poorly written or bad, but it is very repetitive. The 5% of the text the presented new or useful information was well done and informative. It would have made a great blog post or article, however, in an attempt to stretch it out, D’Aulerio adds a great deal of repetition, most of which includes patting himself on the back. He also spends far more time extolling the benefits of fat adapted running than he does offering practical “how to” advice. This title is available for low cost on the kindle and is free for Kindle Unlimited members … which is how I would recommend you get it. I certainly wouldn’t spend any money on it as the truly useful information can also be found via a web search.

The Fuzzy Fandango 50k Race Review

Shortly after I DNF’d at the Germantown 50k in September, I started planning for a second attempt. My original thought was to find an easy, flat 50k sometime in 2022. I thought it would give me more time to train and help ensure a finish … but my wife immediately talked me out of it. Her thought was I needed to finish one as soon as possible. I had the training in and she knows me well enough to know the DNF would haunt me until I got it out of my system. So I began weighing my options for 50k …. and settled on the Fuzzy Fandango in the Mohican State Park near Perrysville, Ohio.

When I selected the Fuzzy Fandango, my nativity suggested it should be relatively flat. I’ve lived in Ohio my who life and know that the farther north you go, the flatter it is. Perrysville is about 2 hours north of where I live, but in this case, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The hills and climbs were pretty extreme for me. At nearly a vertical mile of climbing, it far surpassed the Germantown run I DNF’s at. The advantage, however, was that it was only two loops as opposed to the four loops at the Germantown. That meant I only had one real opportunity to drop at the midpoint. If I could pass that point without dropping, I had pretty good odds of completing the run. Stef went with me to fill my bottles and give me support at the end of the first loop … she also encouraged me to keep going at that point – and it worked.

Somewhere around 6 to 7 miles into the run, my left knee started hurting. I’m not sure what I did to it, but I was having some issues bending it, but it was manageable. So when I reached the midway point at 15 miles, I had that in the back of my mind, but with Stef’s encouragement, I was able to muscle through. The second 15 mile loop involved a lot of walking, some hamstring pain, and lots of prayer. I told God at one point that I didn’t know how He was going to get me through the second loop, but He pulled me through … and up all the climbs.

At 19 miles or so, I was seriously contemplating giving up. Thankfully, two runners caught up with me at that point and kept me company for several miles. It is amazing how much that helped take my mind off of the pain in my knee and my frozen fingers!

What I will remember most about Fuzzy Fandango is the kindness of the people who directed it. At 29 miles or so, runners had to ascend steps up the side of a dam. My hamstrings were basically shredded at this point and every stair step hurt. The race director, however, showed up at the top of the steps to check on me and give me encouragement. Meanwhile, one of the other directors, along with some runners, were keeping Stef company at the finish line and easing her concern for me. They gave her updates as to my progress and let her know I was still moving. When I finally hit the finish line, there were several people there to celebrate with me. The volunteers even managed to save me some chili to eat at the end of the run. I doubt I will ever enjoy a better finish line experience – even though I came in dead last.

I’m so glad I took a chance and signed up for this run. Next year, I think I will take another stab at Germantown and will surely revisit the Fuzzy Fandango for at least the 25k …. I can’t wait!

Mini Book Review of Puke & Rally: It’s not about the Setback, It’s about the Comeback by Dr. Rob Bell

This book is about recovering from failure … which literally means at time you have to rally after you puke. I expected a practical guide on how to remain mentally strong after the going gets tough. I was hoping it would have tips I could apply to my future long run attempts. What I got was more of a series of anecdotes about people who have overcome serious setbacks. It was still a beneficial read even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, however, as inspiring as some of the stories were I am not entirely sure how and if they are applicable to my own story. If I understand correctly, this short read is a companion piece to Dr. Rob Bell’s book ‘The Hinge’ which I’ll probably check out in the future. For what it is, Puke & Rally serves its purpose well.

Mini Book Review of A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion by Dean Karnazes

Dean Karnazes is a legend. This book is meant as a companion piece to “Ultra Marathon Man” which helped me fall in love with long-distance running … and its just as good. What stood out to me when reading it is just how much Karnazes loves running. His love for running is obvious as he shares his unique running adventures culminating in his last Western States run. You can’t help but root for him as he describes what it’s like to run Western States as an older, more seasoned runner. It’s incredible read. It’s almost as if you are running Western States with him. I will never accomplish even a tenth of the running feats Karnazes has experienced, but reading this book makes me want to run more. It reminded me that running is not about speed or being the best on the course … but about the adventure.

My First DNF – The Germantown 50k

For the past 12 weeks, I have been training for today. The Germantown 50k Trail Run. Four, torturous loops through the Germantown MetroPark expertly ran by the Ohio River Road Runners Club. Why? Well, I happen to love running — especially trail running. Also, I firmly believe God put this specific distance on my heart, which is odd considering I’m not an especially gifted runner. I’m slow and not built like a runner at all. But running has become an avenue for prayer and contemplation. My best conversations with God tend to happen when I’m alone on a run. So I didn’t argue or complain that God put the 50k (31 miles) on my heart.

Until today.

I gave Germantown my best. My biggest fear was missing the time cut off after the third loop and not being allowed to start loop four. To qualify, I had to finish the third loop by 2:45 pm. A generous time allotment, but as I mentioned, I’m slow. Out of fear, I ran more and walked less than I had planned on the first two loops. According to plan, Stefanie joined me on loop three to pace me. It was slow going to say the least. I was experiencing severe stomach distress that wasn’t allowing me to take in much nutrition. What nutrition I did take in was a struggle to keep down. Basically, I was a train wreck. Dizziness, cramps, stomach cramps … the works. But I finished the third loop before the cutoff with about 20 minutes to spare. Mission accomplished. The problem? I didn’t have a fourth loop left in me. After loop three, I dropped.

The dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish). I managed to cover 22.83 miles with 2467 feet of elevation. But ultimately, I didn’t finish. Which made me mad at first. Specifically, I was a little mad at God. Why would He put the 50k on my heart only to allow me to DNF? I didn’t understand … and, if I’m being honest, I’m still struggling. But I have realized something in the last few hours.

The God of Victories is also the God of DNFs.

Perhaps there was and is something God wants me to learn amid this DNF. We Christians talk a lot about living the victorious Christian life. But God’s Word is clear, we claim an ultimate victory that was won by Jesus on the cross. In life, however, God often uses failure to grow and mature us. The Apostle Paul understood this. That’s why he wrote, “And we know that for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Paul praised God though victories and imprisonment. Following his example, I will praise God in my DNF.

I have yet to decipher what God is trying to teach me. Perhaps I need to rely more on Him and less on me to finish a 50k. Perhaps, He is simply teaching me to wait on His timing. Whatever the lesson, today wasn’t the day. But I will keep plugging away. As Stefanie has reminded me, I need to focus on what I did achieve today. I did make the cutoff. I did complete 22.83 difficult trail miles (my longest yet) and almost 2500 feet of elevation. And I am praising the God who has blessed me by allowing me to do it.

I guess my first DNF isn’t that bad. It’s back to the drawing board. I’m now on the lookout for a 50k with a little less elevation!

Trail Running is 90% Mental

Some people may make the case that a person must be mental to go running out in the middle of the woods, but that’s not actually what this post is about. Rather, I am simply making an argument that a successful trail run, especially a long trail run, is mostly about mental fortitude and attitude.

Case in point, I am currently training for my first ultra run; a 50k run in the Germantown Metro Park that will consist of four 7.75 mile loops around the park. Last week for my long run, I set out to do two loops in that park. Basically, I wanted to know what I was in store for. I’m not a big fan of surprises come race day. So, I set out and drove the hour and a half to see the park for myself. My first impression was that there were far more hills than I expected. About four miles into my first loop, the elevation started adding up. I instantly got down on myself and the negative talk began. Perhaps you’ve been there. “You can’t do this. You’ll never be able to complete four loops. You’re not a real runner. You have no business trying to do this.”

I hate to admit this, but the negative voice I hear in my head at times is my own. I have a tendency to focus on the negative when it comes to myself. Perhaps it comes from years of fighting obesity, but I am able to quickly forget how far I’ve come. I forget that I am not the man I used to be. I can do it quite easily. Long story short – I did not complete two loops during my first encounter with Germantown. I hit my limit after just one loop.

I walked away feeling defeated, discouraged, and embarrassed.

Today was a different story. I completed two loops in their entirety. Yeah, it was tough. I even got attacked by a swarm of bees at one point. But I overcame the bees and the hills. What had changed in a week? I’m still basically the same runner I was last week. The handful of training runs I competed over the last seven days didn’t make me twice as capable as I was. I’m still not fast or naturally gifted. The one thing that did change, however, was my mental state.

I went into today’s run accepting that it was going to be tough. I began the run in prayer. I asked God to give me strength, to protect myself and my companions from injury, and to protect me from myself. My negative self talk has the potential to cause some damage and I had no desire to go down that road today. I confessed that to God, asked for His forgiveness, and put my trust in Him.

I then spent the entire first loop focusing on staying positive. It helped that my wife stayed positive as well. Despite some aches and pains from a foot surgery she is recovering from, she stayed more or less in a good mood. That helped – a lot. I am convinced that surrounding yourself with positive people is the most basic way to stay positive yourself. Basically, I just tried to enjoy that first loop. I focused on the blessing of being on a trail with my wife and our son. I slammed my Tailwind to stay hydrated and walked the big hills with no apologies – I had bigger fish to fry.

The second loop started after a changed shirt and a PB&J sandwich – calm down, it was was sugar free jelly, natural peanut butter, and low carb wheat bread! Both Stef and Zach opted out of this loop, which left me on my own. The aftershokz went on and my running playlist was engaged. My running music is comprised of loads of positive, upbeat praise and worship music. Casting Crowns, P.O.D., Skillet, and Toby Mac. Before long, I found myself singing out loud; much to the chagrin of the various hikers I passed. I find it impossible to focus on negative things when I’m praising God.

This strategy worked well. The second loop seemed to be flying by. That is until mile 11. As a rounded a corner I saw a dog harness, cell phone, and various articles of clothing strewn about the trail, which is weird, but my brain didn’t even get a chance to process it before I was attacked by a swarm of bees. Before I knew what was happening, I had probably been stung about a dozen times. Eventually, I realized all the stuff on the trail belonged to another runner and his dog who had been attacked as well. The dog had accidentally stumbled into a hive and upset the bees. This was at about the same point the hills began.

Everything post bee attack was tough. Real tough.

My heart rate skyrocketed and I had some breathing issues. Fortunately, the inhaler I carry on my trail runs helped some. The hills were made tougher with the pain of the stings, but I had to take moment and thank God it hadn’t been worse. I also prayed for the dog, because she seemed to take more stings than the rest of us. The bee incident did manage to shorten my planned 19 mile run to just under 15, but on a positive note, I managed to complete two full loops.

The only change was my mindset an my attitude.

God’s Word tells us to to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable … excellent or praiseworthy” Philippians 4:8. I’ve learned the mind is the most powerful weapon a trail runner has. Sure … it would be nice to have the endurance and lungs of Jim Walmsley, but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen. Through dedication and hard work, I may be able to slightly improve my running performance … but nothing will have a more dramatic impact on my running than an improved attitude!

My advice for trail runners, regardless of their skill level?

1. Stay positive! Don’t allow negative thoughts to get a foothold.

2. Focus on those things lovely about being on a trail! There are plenty of people who wish they could enjoy a train run, but for whatever reasons can’t. You are blessed!

3. Begin each run in prayer and praise God frequently throughout your run. You are never alone in the woods!

4. Finally, prepare yourself mentally before the trail gets tough. Spend time in God’s Word and in prayer during the week before your long run. Don’t wait for hills to talk with God … know that the hills are coming, and talk to Him in preparation!

I’m a work in progress, but this lesson is going to stick with me.

Mini Book Reviews of ‘Into the Furnace: How a 135-Mile Run Across Death Valley Set My Soul on Fire’ and ‘Stronger Than the Dark: Exploring the Intimate Relationship Between Running and Depression’ by Cory Reese

A few times in my life I’ve enjoyed a book so much I immediately pick up something else by the same author. It almost never works out for me. Perhaps it’s because of my high expectations or maybe it’s the mathematical improbability of one writer making magic twice in a single lifetime, whatever it is, I am almost always disappointed the second time around. I recently took a chance on ultra runner and author Cory Reese by reading two of his books back to back. I really enjoyed Into the Furnace and then took a chance on Stronger Than the Dark. Oh my, I was not disappointed! What follows are mini reviews of both titles.

Into the Furnace: How a 135 Mile Run Across Death Valley Set My Soul on Fire: On the surface, this is a book about Badwater, but in reality, it is about so much more! Funny, heart wrenching, and honest. As a 50 year old wanna be ultra runner, I’ll never run through Death Valley, but there are some philosophical gems in the pages of this book I can apply to my life. Such a good read!

Stronger Than the Dark: Exploring the Intimate Relationship Between Running and Depression: In his latest book, ultra runner Corey Reese takes a deep dive into the ocean that is his depression. He is powerfully, and somewhat painfully, transparent. He discusses the cause, symptoms, and side effects of his depression honestly. In doing so, he gives the reader permission to be honest about their own pain. Ultimately, Reese argues that running saved his life. But it’s not just the simple act of running long distances, that seems fo have saved him, rather, running is the vehicle used to transport him to a place where he could experience healing. This is an important book for anyone who has experienced depression. I honestly had difficulty putting it down.StrIn his latest book, ultra runner Corey Reese takes a deep dive into the ocean that is his depression. He is powerfully, and somewhat painfully, transparent. He discusses the cause, symptoms, and side effects of his depression honestly. In doing so, he gives the reader permission to be honest about their own pain. Ultimately, Reese argues that running saved his life. But it’s not just the simple act of running long distances, that seems fo have saved him, rather, running is the vehicle used to transport him to a place where he could experience healing. This is an important book for anyone who has experienced depression. I honestly had difficulty putting it down.

I highly recommend both of these titles for anyone interested in running or ultra running. Reese has a way of using running to address bigger, more important subjects. I hear he has a third book as well, and I can’t wait to read it.

Running Shoe Review: Brooks Adrenaline ’21

When I first began running a few years age, I instantly fell in love with Hoka OneOne shoes. Hoka and I were a match made in heaven and it was love at first sight. I was heavier than most runners, pushing the scales at nearly 300 lbs at the time, and Hokas featured a thick, padded cushioning sole. It didn’t take long for my “shoe guy” to hook me up with some Hokas in an attempt to lesson the beating my knees and joints were taking. I loved them so much I named my German Shepherd Hoka. I still love them … but, alas, it was time for a change.

I was introduced to my new shoes when I had a gait analysis at my favorite running store. The salesmen recommended them because my analysis indicated I had an over pronation that “came and went”. The salesmen indicated that the Brooks Adrenaline had unique guide rails that would offer just the right amount of stability to help correct my over pronation. I was a little skeptical as the Brooks offered a greater slope than I was used to with my Hokas, but out of desperation, I bought them anyway.

Enter Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21.

Having lost a significant amount of weight since I took up running, my body composition has changed somewhat. I weigh under 200 lbs for the first time in 26 years or so and have more lean body mass. My running has changed as well. I’m only “pretty” slow as opposed to “really” slow. A twelve minute mile is cooking for me; and all that slow running is tough on the body. Recently, even with my beloved Hoka’s, I’ve developed a bit of an IT band issue. Searing pain that begins in my hip and radiates down to my knee on long runs. The pain normally doesn’t hit me until I’m ten miles or so into a long run, but when it hits, it hits hard. The pain is bad enough to degrade my already clumsy running gait and will hurt for a little while after the run is over. With a goal of working my way up to a 50k distance, this painful issue on long runs has become quite an obstacle.

I’ve got about 30 miles in the Brooks Adrenaline shoes so far and wanted to offer my initial thoughts. These shoes are great! While I would like to say they instantly cured my IT band issues, that isn’t the case. However, I have really enjoyed running in the Adrenalines so far. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes offer a good mix of stability and feel. While my feet are supported and stable, I can still feel the terrain underfoot. This combination of stability and feel gives me a certain level of confidence when running. In my short time in the Brooks, I’ve tried them on the road and on the trail, and enjoyed each experience. These shoes are responsive and stable, which is an experience I didn’t get with my Hokas. Because of that responsiveness, I’m actually able to feel what my foot and toes are doing as I roll through my gait – and I think this may be key in making the necessary adjustments to correct my over pronation.

These shoes are excellent … just don’t expect me to change the name of my dog.

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.