The Straight & Narrow

LoopJB#-478

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Mallory Brooks

If the straight and narrow is your thing, you need not apply. If you don’t mind a little blood, some elevation, and the occasional feeling that you will need a search party to help you find your way home, then hit the trail…where nobody cares how neon your shoes “used” to be.

Thanks to the softer-than-concrete trail running surface, you’ll trade in your sports injury doctor’s appointment for a few bandaids…or if you’re running through the yucca of west Texas, make that 100 bandaids!

You can forget about your ostrich-like running stride. The roots and rocks that become your companion on long runs force you to take shorter, quicker steps with less injury-causing heel strikes.

Tired of dodging the triple wide jogging strollers and dog leashes on Town Lake? Trail run. Hate the water cooler social club? Trail run. And when, not if, you get tired and want to rest, find a rock with a million dollar view, breathe deep, and call it meditating. Nobody ever gave anyone a hard time for stopping to meditate.

At the end of the day, if the straight and narrow is, in fact, your thing, the trail doesn’t mind being your friend with benefits. Use it to get faster on the road. Use it to clear your mind. Use it to get away from the dozen electronics strapped to your body. Just be prepared to be the one being used and abused…and crawling back for more.

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Ready to mix things up? Rogue trail training begins September 23! Whether you want to take on Bandera or simply breathe new life into your training, this is the ticket. Info and registration here.

World-wind: The Surprises

by Allison Macsas

Travel is full of surprises, and has a particular knack for turning all of your expectations upside down. The first group that we took to Morocco this year – “Week One,” as we creatively reference them – did just that. Despite our experience with the itinerary, the place and the people, time after time I was hit with the unexpected.

THE FLIGHT DELAY:

Waiting...

Waiting…

I will fully admit, I was a bit uncertain about this group prior to the trip. We’d had a couple of get-togethers and everyone was great – but also quiet, and the excitement level seemed low. Although deep down I knew better, a small part of me worried that this wouldn’t change, that we’d spend ten days traveling and running in awkward silence.

Arrival day came, and Gabe and I woke up in Marrakech to a text – half of the group had been delayed in Dallas, and missed their connection in Madrid. Rerouted to Casablanca. The girl who had texted was “pretty sure” that there were 9 of them, but wasn’t sure that she knew everyone. Our stomachs sank – although a common travel reality, this was not how we wanted to start off the trip. They’d be so tired! So cranky! So jetlagged! But, there was nothing we could do except go to the airport at noon to pick up the 10 who did make it on time.

Those ten were very happy to be there, and we got them settled in as planned with the option of either eating dinner at the planned time, or waiting until the rest of group arrived, which was looking quite late. Gabe stayed back while I headed back to the airport with Hamid around 9:00 that night. The place was packed with drivers holding signs, and it was apparent that a lot of planes were landing at once which, in Marrakech, means never-ending immigration lines. 45 minutes passed. I bought a Snickers bar to tide myself over. Another 30 minutes passed, and the flight that they were supposedly on updated to “arrived” on the status board. 30 more minutes passed. Floods of travelers had come out – French retirees, German hikers, British teenagers on holiday – but none of our people. The crowds of drivers thinned. The floods slowed to a trickle. Hamid, who never looks nervous, looked nervous.

A long-awaited first meal!

A long-awaited first meal!

Just as I was starting to panic a little, I saw a Rogue Expeditions shirt. Then another! All nine of them came out together. They were exhausted, hungry and antsy, but they had also had six hours trapped in a tiny airport to get to know each other.  We got them to our riad, checked in and up to dinner as quickly as we could. The rest of the group had chosen to wait, and we soon had 19 talkative and extremely excited runners around a table, all clearly bonded over the experience. My worries disappeared, and I joined them in anticipating an incredible week.  

 

IT NEVER RAINS IN MOROCCO:

I made a packing list for this trip that I’m very proud of. Many people have followed it to a T, and fully enjoyed traveling light and having all that they needed. However, it doesn’t include any mention of a rain jacket. In the time that I’ve spent in southern Morocco and in the stories I’ve heard from our crew who lives there, I was convinced that rain just isn’t going to happen in that area. The rivers come from High Atlas snowmelt, the irrigation and drinking water comes from springs and wells and a huge reservoir in Ouarzazate … not from rain.

Fast forward to our very first run, the afternoon after the flight debacle. Clouds had been gathering during our drive, but no worry – they would simply keep the temperature at a pleasant 60-something degrees. We had a wonderful picnic lunch and began what is one of my favorite runs of the trip, heading down the backside of a quiet mountain road for miles, through a few small villages and eventually to the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou. About 30 minutes in, we felt some raindrops – it felt great. They became a bit more steady, but stayed nice and light. Not too long after that, thunder rumbled. Villagers appeared at the doors of their houses – it wasn’t clear whether they were more surprised by us, or the water falling from the sky. We kept running – the rain came down harder. Then, it started to hurt. Hail!

Why yes, those are rain clouds!

Why yes, those are rain clouds!

At this point, it was clear that we should probably take cover. The drivers made sure that they picked up everyone, and we huddled in the trucks as they insisted that it hadn’t rained in this area in years. The hail was short-lived, and most of us decided to get back out and continue running once it tapered off. I endured the “it never rains in Morocco” jokes, both that day and on our rest day in the Todra Gorge, where it poured for an entire day. Needless to say, the packing list has been updated.

 

Mitchell racks up the mileage

Mitchell racks up the mileage

THE KIDS:

The question of whether kids are welcome on our trips had never crossed our mind until a couple asked us prior to this trip. They had a 13 year old boy, Gabriel, who runs and has traveled and has no problem hanging with adults. We couldn’t think of any reason why not, especially since he’d be with both parents, so we said sure! Months later, just a few weeks before departure, one of the other couples that had signed up asked us a similar question. They were having second thoughts about leaving their 9 year old, Mitchell, with a caretaker for so long and his mom wanted to give him her spot. He too was a runner and had traveled – nine seemed young to us, but we again could think of no reason why not. Mitchell was in.

I was a bit apprehensive, wondering how much they would run, if they’d be bored around a bunch of adults and whether the adults would mind having kids along. But, again, my concerns proved unfounded. Gabriel definitely had a mature personality, and was happy to relax and hang out and soak up everything he was learning about Morocco. Mitchell was pure energy – talkative, but never once cranky – and provided an endless source of entertainment even as he ran circles around many of us.

Gabriel summits!

Gabriel summits!

And what a place for kids! There is much open space, so little traffic, such a sense of freedom in the areas we travel through. Kids (and adults, for that matter)) can run free, climb sand dunes, fall down, make friends – I was shocked when I went through photos and video and realized how often Mitchell had village kids running alongside him, how he’d end up in the middle of a pickup soccer game at rest stops. Language didn’t matter, and he was not the least bit shy or self-conscious, as adults tend to be – he just jumped right into everything. The drivers and other locals doted on him. We all kept commenting on what an amazing education he was getting – to see and experience so much at 9 years old – and he certainly was. But, it soon became clear to me that he was educating us at the same time – to let go, jump in, have fun and take full advantage of everything in front of you.

 

Village games

Village games

THE SOCCER BALL

We had a former soccer player, Jarrod, within the group, which never really came up until our third day of running. 4 or 5 miles into the run, we turned into a village where soccer match was happening on a dirt plot. He asked, more or less, if he could join and they said, more or less, sure. So he jumped in and played awhile, and played very well.

He was hooked on the thought of the sport after that  – after all, it’s played in every village, seemingly at all hours of the day! A day or two later we had all gone for an evening walk in N’kob when he spotted a ball displayed in a street vendor’s shop. He bought it, and we all kicked it back and forth as we strolled through the town. Before long we caught the attention of some small kids, who joined in and soon had an intense match stirred up with Jarrod in the middle of a maze of mudbrick homes. We all watched and laughed, local women came out and watched and laughed – it was a spectacular evening, full of smiles.

 

soccer iriki

The ball traveled with us for several days, making an appearance on Iriki Lake, among other spots. On our final full day in Morocco, we had a long journey from the desert back to Marrakech. At one of our many rest stops, there was a pickup game happening in the middle of the main street. Mitchell of course joined in, and Jarrod made his way over. After noticing that the ball they were playing with was completely flat, he tossed his in as a replacement – and left it. Faces lit up, the game sped up. Such a small item, such a small gesture, but at the same time it was so, so big.

I went into that week feeling uncertain about the dynamics, confident in my no-rain declarations and completely unaware that a cheap soccer ball would play such a big role throughout the week. As it happened, the group could not have been better, very real friendships were developed, that cheap soccer ball brought many smiles, and we got a little wet. Surprises are a given when you step out into the world, and they always provide lessons, provided you are simply open to noticing them.

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Missed the first part of the World Wind series? Catch it here, and check back soon for the Kenya installment!

How to Place or AG for the first time

by Mandy Deen

Some of you who have been running with Rogue for a long time might be sick and tired of hearing your teammates/pacefriends/longrunningacquaintances/people you vaguely recognize only in pre-dawn gloom, go on and on about their verified running achievements (Placing in races! Winning age-group awards! Winning races!!!). I mean, honestly. Some of you who are new to Rogue might be highly intimidated by hearing all the victory stories and reading all the blogs. I personally was not told that either placing or age-grouping at some point was a requirement when I signed up. Don’t worry! I myself, a life-long hobbyjogger, have figured out a fool-proof way to place at races; please follow and apply as needed:

FIRST: You should probably decide that it’s something you want to try and do. That’s a good first step for any endeavor, but I thought I’d mention it in case it was news to anyone (some of you may be Aggies).

SECOND: Know what you’re up against and be realistic. If you’re a 25 year old guy, maybe try and pick a race that’s geared exclusively towards women. OR, try to be born with superior endurance genes and have developed these over the course of your life until you’re an elite and finely tuned athletic specimen.

For the rest of us, you can probably manage by picking a small or dangerous or far away race where the least amount of competition will dare to show up. This is probably the single most important step in this process; I can’t highlight this fact enough. This is also the most advantageous time to actually employ all your serious hipster tendencies you’ve been willfully restraining all these years. Go for the off-beat, indie, previously unheard of races. The handcrafted, artisan races, if you will.

Personally, I picked the Rogue Trail Series for a number of reasons. A 10k trail race is enough of a butt-kicker with just a smattering of fear-of-faceplanting to be a fun challenge, but not enough of a serious race that you’d have to actually train for it. Or so I thought. Also, far fewer women run trail races, so just by showing up I’m already top 30. You see?

THIRD: Show up. I firmly believe that approximately 80% of life is just showing up. Really, it’s how I got myself through school. The Rogue Trail Series is a SERIES, requiring participants to show up to not only a single event, but a SERIES of races! This is when it is really advantageous to either a) be a professional runner and therefore have the time and inclination to devote your life specifically to races, b) an athletically-deluded 30ish unattached person without any pets who can’t even be trusted to keep a rosemary plant alive. You’re probably going to be free all of those weekends, is what I’m saying.

FOURTH: Talk about it a lot. Like, obnoxiously. Mention that you’re in race-prep every chance you get until your family and teammates want to strangle you. Plot elaborate methods for further limiting your competition by giving faster people the wrong directions or misinformation about race times. Attempt to manipulate Rogue organizers into joining your plot.

As you talk about your wish to actually place at a running thing for ONCE in your life, you will feel a tightness in your chest and throat begin to develop. Don’t panic, this is just fear and anxiety, brought on by your life-long fear of public failure and history of under-performing when you know people are watching you. This is how you know you’re probably ready. As the race date approaches this feeling will intensify, and you will find yourself dismissing thoughts of the race out of hand. Focus on the fun logistics of the race, what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to eat after, how many beers are ok the day before. You probably won’t have even thought about the actual race until it’s 5:30AM and you’re on a dark highway headed towards Reveille Ranch. That’s the appropriate time for your Come-To-Jesus.

FIFTH: Rope a teammate into driving you out there to the race. Spend the entire hour and ten minute car ride chattering about life, your job, NPR stories, and what is the socially appropriate number of beers and breakfast tacos post-race (probably around 2 each for a 10k. Sneak a third if you can). Fall silent only when you have the your crushing realization that everyone you know knows you’re trying to place at this race. Remind yourself the 10ks are supposed to hurt, then try and make peace with it.

SIXTH: Arrive just as the 30k is starting. Spend 24 out of the next 30 minutes standing in line at the port-a-potty because you got impatient and switched lines when you should have stayed in the one you were in.

Screen shot 2014-07-04 at 3.57.01 PMSEVENTH: Spend the last 6 minutes prior to the start standing awkwardly off to the side, hyperventilating, looking around for your competition, and pretending like you’re not trying to elbow your way to the front. When the start sounds, go out WAY too hard, uphill. All your hyperventilation and adrenaline shoots through your bloodstream and you’re pretty much exhausted by the top of the hill (seriously? An UPHILL start?). Remind yourself that based on the tiredness and instability in your hill-running butt muscles that you probably should have tried and warmed up prior to the start. You saw other people doing that. Remember? They’re probably doing a lot better on this hill than you are. Spend the next 2 miles charging up hills and aggressively pushing forward, trying to pass people. Be sure that most of the other women got out ahead of you at the start.

EIGHTH: At mile 2 your breathing becomes unsustainable. Inwardly accept defeat. Of the paltry 5 people you managed to pass, only one was a girl, and the other 4 guys have already passed you back. Also, you never passed that little 8 year old kid. Slow down, spend the next 2 miles tucked in behind a guy with a “serious trail beard,” recovering. Convince yourself that you just lost all chance at placing for the race AND the series. Console yourself with the thoughts of beer and breakfast tacos. They get you, they don’t care how fast you can run. They’re your only friends.

NINTH: Experience a rebirth during the final 2 miles (this is completely unrelated to the fact that a) the main climbs are over, it’s generally downhill, and b) your body has finally warmed up and kicked over.). Respectfully pass Serious Trail Beard, charge on towards the finish and your friend the beer.

10386379_1435286356725055_1808594032217830950_nTENTH: When you have sufficiently recovered, follow the smell of bacon to where the excellent Rogue organizers are cooking breakfast for an army. Find the beer, and your other 10k friends. Find out how their races went, drink some cold water, watch the 30ks come through. Note how the 30kers are all in much better shape than you. Be happy to be finished and holding a beer, as there are some serious painfaces happening and the clouds have burned off. Discuss the course in detail with the other 10kers. Eventually wander over to the live-results tent. Disinterestedly find your finishing time and placement. Feel very relieved to see that you ACTUALLY finished in the Top 5!!!!! Wait anxiously for the awards ceremony. Make your teammate take lots of pictures of you with your award, and post it to Facebook immediately. Enjoy the rest of the 30k race by hanging out with other people and talking incessantly about your award. When you get home, sleep the sleep of the victorious for the rest of the Sunday.

There you have it. Ten easy steps.

 

Off and On Again

by Chris Mclung

There are two ways that I know a shoe is good.

One of those I documented in this previous review of the Adios Boost. To save you from having to re-read that one, I will summarize: basically, my dog helps me.

The second is based on what comes to mind when someone asks me after a run: “So, how was the shoe?” If in that moment, my mind goes blank, then I know we’re on the cusp of shoe nirvana.

Enter: the Cloudracer from On Running.

On is a relatively new and unknown brand in the US, although it’s been going nuts in Europe for at least 2 years. It all started when Olivier Bernhard, a three-time World Duathlon and multiple Ironman Champion, retired from professional competition. As someone who struggled chronically with Achilles issues, he teamed up with a Swiss engineer to make a shoe that would give him enough relief to continue running for fun as a retired pro.

They expeon-cloudracer-running-shoe-review-4rimented with all sorts of designs, but the most effective was a make-shift shoe where the traditional foam was augmented on the bottom by cut up loops of old garden hose. These garden hose loops would eventually transform into On’s Cloudtec technology, the little rubber circles that appear on bottom of their shoes.

The company claims that these little clouds provide the magical combination of a more responsive ride with better horizontal and vertical force dissipation (i.e. cushioning) than conventional shoes. The video at the bottom of this page shows the comparison in action: [Note: That video is pretty compelling until you realize that the comp shoe is a Nike Structure Triax without the swoosh on it, a shoe bound to make anyone land with a thud.]

My first reaction when I saw them? Gimmick. Let’s be honest, that’s what you are thinking too. Much like with the lugs on a Newton shoe, the first thing you think of when you see something silly protruding from a running shoe is “that’s a gimmick, where’s my tried-and-true Brooks or Saucony or Mizuno?”

HOW WAS IT?!?

HOW WAS IT?!?

But I will try anything once, so I took a pair of On’s for a spin about 18 months ago. I was seeded a pair of the original Cloudracer, their lightweight trainer (in the orange and silver color you may have seen). We will call it Cloudracer 1.0 for the purpose of this blog. Upon returning from the first run, Subtle Chuck screamed, “How was it?” My honest answer at the time: “Awful.” I felt the little clouds protruding into my feet with every step. It wasn’t painful by any stretch, but it was annoying, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the shoes.

At that point, the decision was easy. We wouldn’t be carrying On shoes anytime soon. Fast forward 15 months, and I was given another pair of Cloudracers to try, this time in green and silver. I was promised by the On rep that I would love this updated version (we’ll call it Cloudracer 1.5). I accepted the shoes politely because I don’t usually turn down free shoes, but I quietly thought that it would be a cold day in hell before they made their way onto my feet on a regular basis.

Screen shot 2014-06-27 at 12.48.50 PMOther than the color change, the shoes looked exactly the same as version 1.0. I had plenty reason to be skeptical, until I accidentally ran in them one day. They were the only pair of shoes I could find one morning (thank you, Jasmine) while getting ready to coach, and therefore, the only shoes I had when I went for my usual post-coaching easy run on Wednesday.

After that run, I didn’t think about them again, until Subtle Chuck asked me in his soft, muted voice: “Have you run in those new On shoes yet? What did you think?” The mind went blank. Let me think. Had I run in them yet? Yes, I did accidentally that one day after coaching. How did they feel? Wait, I don’t remember. I don’t remember thinking about the shoe at all that day. That can’t be right.

So, I started to play it back in my mind. I remember the run being slow (as usual on my easy days) but also smooth and free. The clouds didn’t bother my feet. I thought about a lot of things that morning, as I would during any solo run, but not the shoes, not once. The shoe disappeared on the run that day, like it should. That’s shoe nirvana.

The difference from version 1.0 to version 1.5 is the all new “speedboard”, a rigid, plastic piece (similar to the Adidas torsion system) that is integrated into the midsole foam to make the ride more responsive and give the On shoe a more uniform feel. What a difference it makes. With that change, the clouds could do their magical thing and your feet don’t know the difference.

The On Cloudracer now has a home on our wall

The On Cloudracer now has a home on our wall

Now, the Cloudracer has a permanent place in my rotation as my Wednesday/Friday shoe (for easy days). It’s light (at 8.5 ounces for men and 7.5 ounces for women) and responsive (thanks to the speedboard) like any racer should be, but has enough cushioning to be used as training shoe for most. The offset is just 5mm (heel to toe), so there’s no extra bulk in the heel to get in the way of smooth, efficient running. In addition, the upper is probably the most breathable on our wall, perfect for hot, humid summer runs.

So, I was wrong. On is definitively not a gimmick. The shoes are the kind that make your mind go blank when you run… that free your mind to think about solving all of the world’s problems instead, taking you one stage of enlightenment closer to shoe nirvana.

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Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike.

 

World-wind

by Allison Macsas

Stage One of packing for 5 weeks, 3 countries and a ton of running.

Stage One of packing for 5 weeks, 3 countries and a ton of running.

March and April were a world-wind.

My role with Rogue Expeditions took me first to Morocco with a group of 19, a trip that we wrapped up in Spain. From there, it was off to Kenya for a test-run of our November trip, then back to Spain for a 12 hour laundry-sleep-and-email stop before heading back to Morocco to meet our second group of 19. After ten days there, we went back to Spain once again with the group before finally boarding a plane back home to Austin.

Being treated to tea, lunch and gifts in Hamid's family home before heading into the Sahara.

Being treated to tea, lunch and gifts in Hamid’s family home before heading into the Sahara.

Kenya? Everything I imagined.

Kenya? Everything I imagined.

That’s the nutshell version, though in reality those five weeks were five of the most impactful weeks I’ve ever had. I’ve traveled plenty, but have never gotten to share it with so many people for such an extended period of time. Friendships were formed, meals shared, photos taken, lessons learned, languages practiced, stories told, limits pushed and many, many miles run. The Morocco trips were as close to flawless as we could have possibly hoped for  – across the board our guides and drivers were thrilled, the group dynamics were fantastic and our runners repeatedly thanked us for the experience of a lifetime. Kenya was everything I’d hoped for and more, a place filled with the some of the warmest, friendliest people I’d ever met, sights that most people will only see via National Geographic documentaries and Iten. The itinerary we’d created was top-notch, far beyond our expectations, and we left knowing that we had a new unbeatable experience to offer.

But, for all of these successes, I made one big mistake: I didn’t write about it while it was happening.

Okay, so we did sneak a mid-drive nap or two...

Okay, so we did sneak a mid-drive nap or two…

There were many reasons as to why I didn’t, chief among them the fact that, as a guide, I was “on” during all waking hours. There is no sneaking off to open your laptop, nor do you want to, and once you finally do retire in the evening, it’s deep, immediate sleep. During those five weeks, there was only one full day that Gabe and I had all to ourselves, and we spent it watching mindless movies in a hotel room in Marrakech. I did well to keep up with our social media channels, updating the world on our adventures with one-line snippets whenever we’d get a bit of workable wifi, and figured that I’d write an epic recap once we got home – and that’s where I went wrong.

 

An absolute sense of wonder and calm in the Sahara

An absolute sense of wonder and calm in the Sahara

sahara start

Running is pure fun with a crew like this!

Despite the around-the-clock responsibilities, we weren’t “busy” in the typical sense; we were engaged. There was rarely a reason to rush – these are not grab-and-go cultures. There are views to take in. Things to learn. People to connect with. Meals to savor. Miles to be run. Or not, if you don’t feel like it. Sunsets are appreciated, and weather largely determines what will or will not happen that day. The internet may or may not work, and you soon stop really caring either way – the world is right there in front of you! Everything was mafi-mushkil or hakuna matata – no problem, no worry. Working or not, I’d never felt so present, so THERE, and I’d definitely never appreciated my ability to run as much as I did during that time. It’s easy to recite the “live in the moment” mantra, but have you ever actually experienced that? For five straight weeks, I truly did, and I promised myself that I wouldn’t let it go.

But then, back to Austin. A place that I love, full of people that I love, and that I really was excited to return to. But, it’s a city and, like in any city, time waits for no one. Within two hours of landing, Gabe and I both had insurmountable to-do lists running through our heads. All of our conversation instantly shifted to “tomorrow I need to…” or “this weekend we need to…” Present moment? No time for that! Dinner was grab-and-go, interaction devolved into staring at our phones and neither of us slept well that night.

The next day it was back to work, back to pre-dawn workouts with Team Rogue and back to spending a significant amount of time sitting in traffic as I tried to get to and from these places and others. Of course there was a ton of work to catch up on, family & friends to catch up with, new trips to focus on and a big race to start silently stressing about – reflecting on and writing about my travel experiences immediately found a home at the bottom of the list.

This guy knows something about relaxation.

This guy knows something about relaxation. And running.

After a week of this, I had a serious discussion with myself during a morning run. I reminded myself that “busy” is not a bragging right, that “tomorrow” is never guaranteed and that very few “stresses” actually matter at all in the scheme of things. Where had my mafimushkil, hakuna matata attitude gone? I reminded myself that just a few days prior I had been acutely aware of these things, and that there was no excuse for forgetting them just because I was back home. If anything, home is the most important place to live out these lessons.

Shocked and thrilled after a surprise PR just a few weeks after this world-wind. Slowing things down seems to speed me up!

Shocked and thrilled after a surprise PR just a couple of weeks after this world-wind. Slowing things down seems to speed me up!

You know what? With a little effort, it worked! In my day to day routine, I began to walk places, take in my surroundings, busy schedule be damned. In work, I would take a step back the moment that I began to feel overwhelmed by to-do lists and emails, refocus, and simply work on each thing, piece by piece. In my personal life, I’ve made a point to refrain from the phrase “too busy” when it comes to plans with family or friends. And in running, I managed to hold onto the incredible feeling of freedom and pure joy that I’d experienced running through Africa. It led to one of the best races I’ve ever had, just a few weeks after returning home, and I feel confident that it’s going to lead to big things this fall.

There is nothing better for the world than people getting out and experiencing the world. It educates, it opens minds, it connects. Much like running! I’ve always been a big believer in this, and saw it firsthand in many of the runners who traveled with us over that month. It reaffirmed everything that we’re doing with Rogue Expeditions, and everything that we have planned. Two months later, I’ve had my time to reflect, and now I’m ready to write about those experiences – a short series will follow over the next few weeks, covering the highlights, the big moments, the lessons and the aftermath from each segment of that world-wind. So please, take a break, slow it down, and read along!

 

 

I AM IRONMAN!

by Bryan Peterson (re-posted from his blog, Lost in Transition)

“Bryan Peterson of Austin, Texas, you are an Ironman!”  The words that I had imagined hearing for almost a year.  The words I finally heard the evening of May 17, 2014.  I had been training for this for almost a year.  In many ways, I had been preparing for this for a larger part of my life.  I had done it.  I had accomplished a goal I set out for myself.  A HUGE goal. A goal that only a small percentage of the population reaches.  I had finally accomplished something epic and awesome that no one could take away and that will forever be a defining part of my life.  It was an incredible moment.   One of the best of my life.  One that I’ll never forget and will always cherish.

Here is how that amazingly epic moment happened:  I woke up early at 3:30 AM.  I had slept pretty well, all things considered.  I wanted to give myself plenty of time to eat breakfast, have a juice, relax, and mentally prepare for the day ahead.  I have been incorporating mindfulness into my training (as well as the rest of my life) for a few months now and I’ve been amazed at how much of a difference that’s made.  I wanted to afford myself some time in the morning to have a full mediation session.  I felt like I was going to need it.  This would end up being a huge benefit later in the day.

After all of this, I slowly started to get my stuff together.  This was different.  For other races, it seemed no matter how much I prepared the night before, there was always frantic running around race morning combined with general nerves and jitters.  There was none of that.  I was calm, organized, and focused.  Even to the point where I wasn’t even second guessing myself.  Every time I’ve stepped up my distance or attempted something new, I’ve always been a nervous wreck.  Yet, here I was about to take on the biggest, longest, and toughest event I’ve ever tried and I was more calm and confident than I have ever been.  This was a testament to both my mental focus and training.  I had trained hard.  I had trained for a long time.  It had both physically and mentally exhausted me.  During training, I often couldn’t imagine doing this again.  Yet, here I was focused, calm, confident and prepared.

10376174_4351374359673_87545117750910528_nThe rest of my Support Team (My wife Marisa and close friends Cody & Erica) awoke and we made our way down the transition area.  These guys have been very supportive and encouraging and I felt very thankful to have them with me. This too would be something that would end up being a major factor later in the day.  I made my way over to my bike, checked everything over, pumped up the tires, and placed my water bottles and nutrition.  After letting a couple of people borrow my pump, I was off on the 3/4 mile walk to the swim start.  I met up with Marisa, Cody, and Erica and we made our way down to mass that was the swim start.  Making my way through the crowd I got my body marking done, dropped off my special needs, and then realized that I was unfortunately going to have to get into the seemingly infinite line for the port-o-can.  All the extra time I had afforded myself was about to dissipate in a line for a coveted turn into a smelly 4′x4′ plastic compartment.  Memories of my BCS Marathon where I was in the can when the gun went off came flooding back;  I wasn’t going to let that happen again.

10155881_4351373959663_7626371584554301765_nFortunately, I made it out with about 7 minutes before the starting gun.  As I did, I met one of my coaches, Amy Marsh.  (Her husband Brandon Marsh, my other coach, had already taken off in the pro start)  She had some last minute words of wisdom and wished me luck.  I got the wetsuit on, got my good lucks and goodbyes from the Support Team, kissed the wife, and scrambled down to the start.  There was a big bottle-neck at the small boat ramp that led into the swim start.  As I got to the traffic jam of people, the gun went off.  There were a few people that tried to push their way up through the crowd once that happened.  They soon realized we weren’t just meandering around or scared to get in the water.  We were all trying to get in the water as quickly as possible.  I saw people jumping off the pier the other way, some of which were hitting rocks in the water.  I had no idea where the actual start line was.  I just knew I needed to go “that” direction, where everyone else was going.  I found an opening, dove off the end of the ramp, started the Garmin and began swimming.  U2′s “Beautiful Day” was playing.

10270812_4351373759658_3641262469941922820_nSwimming is by far my weakest event.  My strategy is just to survive, make the cutoff, and not expend all of my energy.  I am what they call a very not-fast (try not use the “s” word) swimmer.  I’ve had some really bad swims and some swims that were not completely terrible.  Two things happened on this swim that have never happened to me during a race before.  The first, I never stopped.  I’ve learned that for some reason my body has a hard time getting moving.  The first 3 miles of a run, the first 5-7 miles of a ride, the first 500 meters of a swim are all hard and my body just wants to quit.  After that, the body realizes it has lost the argument and succumbs to providing the athletic performance it’s been trained for. If I can just push through the first 500 meters, I’ll establish a rhythm and I should be fine.  I quickly got in a rhythm and never really got out of it.  I got kicked, punched, bumped, grabbed, and swam over, but still I never stopped and never felt like I needed or wanted to.  The second thing that hadn’t happened before: I was passing people.  Not a ton of people, but it seemed like I was passing more people than were passing me.  This was my philosophy for the bike and run and it seemed to be working on the swim.  As we made the turn into the canal (about 3,000 meters), I glanced at my Garmin and noticed that I was swimming at a pace faster than I expected to.  A pace I hadn’t really done much of even in training.

I slowed a little bit in the canal due to the fact that the close quarters forced everyone on top of each other.  I had about twice as much contact in that last 1,000 meters than I had in the first 3,000.  As I made my way to the swim exit, I prepared to get out of the water and start my transition.  I had done the distance a few times in training.  Each time I had completed it, I felt a little tired, a little winded, but that I still had plenty of energy to ride and run.  In all of my other races, when I got to the swim exit my legs were tight and shaky, taking a while to get my legs underneath me.  Neither of those happened here.  I stepped onto the stairs at the exit and was very surprised.  I didn’t feel winded.  My legs were strong.  I felt incredible.  At that point I heard my name from the crowd and saw the Support Team.  I felt amazing.  My Garmin would later inform me that I swam 2.75 miles due to the start behind the start line and the wide angles I took.  I did that distance in slightly faster than what I expected to do the 2.4 miles.

I got out of the wetsuit and into the changing tent.  Or, rather I stopped at the entrance to the changing tent, noticed the cluster of people, and decided I would put my shoes and helmet on outside.  I dropped off my bag, ran to my bike and I was off again.  As I got to the mount line, I again heard my name.  It was the Support Team again.  Did I mention that these guys were awesome?  That, the rest of the cheering crowd, and the momentum from the swim had me exhilarated.  I felt charged, as if the bike wreck from a week ago

10375995_4352426625979_5331065386940029297_nThe bike was one of my best rides yet.  I was dialed in, present, and focused.  My mind wasn’t wandering and I was able to both focus on and enjoy every moment.  I wasn’t even phased by the guy who felt it necessary to tell me that when the light hit them right, my shorts were basically see through.  Mindfulness at work!  My hydration, fueling, and nutrition strategy was working perfectly.  I was able to stay in the aero position for most of the way.  Not even the wind, chip seal surface, or hills really phased me.  After all, none of that was anywhere near what I’d been training on in Austin.  I got a good boost from when I was passed on the bike course by the Support Team.  They had, unadvisedly, driven out onto the bike course, cheers and cow bells blaring.  It was much appreciated.

I had a brief stop at special needs and another at a rest stop to run into a port-o-can (peeing on the bike just wasn’t happening).  Even with those two stops, I finished the bike in 6:35, averaging 17 mph.  I was happy with that.  As I dismounted, I again saw the Support Team cheering loudly.  I felt great as I ran into transition.  A volunteer took my bike and I ran to get my transition bag.  As I went into the changing tent, I realized I now had no concept of what time it was.  It really didn’t seem real that I was now about to run a marathon.  A brief sit to put my run shoes on, quick slather of Vaseline on some strategic areas, a laugh at the guy behind me that had put a McDonald’s cheeseburger in his run gear bag, and I was off again.

10389657_4352421625854_7245791371472206240_nI had a quick pee, had sunscreen applied and I was ready.  The run.  The part of which I felt the most confident and well trained.  As I exited the changing tent, I again saw the Support Team.  They were very encouraging and confident, saying “You got this”.  My wife was very encouraging.  “This is part you’re most comfortable and confident about.  You’re doing great!”  I couldn’t believe I where I was.  I couldn’t believe that while I was tired and wearing down, I felt good; better than I even imagined I would at this point.

I had a very specific run plan that I knew I needed to stick to if I was going to finish where I wanted to.  The run was a three loop course, roughly 9 miles each.  The first 10 miles, I ran my plan perfectly.  By mile 12, things had started to get tough.  I was getting hot, physically and mentally tired, and despite my best effort my legs were slowing down.  I decided I would have to dip into my special needs bag after all.  I grabbed my fuel hydration (mixture of electrolytes and amino acids) and a rice cake.  I felt like I needed to eat but couldn’t take in anymore gel.

10155336_10104838677029324_6262672349794269732_nMy feet hurt.  My legs were getting wobbly.  I was tired and felt like I was running out of gas.  I realized I was off my race plan.  For the next couple of miles I was telling myself that I was just regrouping and that I would get back on plan soon.  I then realized that wasn’t going to happen.  My plan was now to just stay focused, keep pushing and try to finish as strong as possible.  I didn’t feel like I was failing or being weak or breaking down.  I was giving it all I had.  This was just the reality of my race now.

The crowds were incredible.  Rarely was there a place where you weren’t surrounded by legions of cheering fans.  Some plain clothed.  Some in costumes.  There were the hippies banging on garbage cans.  There was the triathlon training group in speedos.  There was the guy in the speedo and gift wrapped box strategically placed a la Justin Timberlake on SNL.  There were the signs.  Some funny, some inspirational, all positive.  There were all the people who were cheering your name, giving high-fives, telling you how awesome you were, and spurring you on.  There were all the children who wanted high-fives from every single person who ran by. It was the largest amount of and densely concentrated positivity that I’ve ever experienced.  It was awesome!  Dispersed throughout all of this was the Support Team.  They would randomly show up at different spots to cheer me on and emphatically ring the cow bells.  I was struggling.  I was tired.  I was slowing.  But I was energized.  I was happy.  I was going to finish.

Starting the third loop, I could neither believe how much more I had to go nor how much I had completed already.  I still had no concept of what time it was.  I kept pushing through.  I tried taking gel and it was really hard to get it down.  I tried the flat Coke, that didn’t work at all.  I had some cookies at one of the aid stations and they seemed as if they were some of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  Unfortunately none of the other aid stations had them.  I just kept moving, putting one foot in front of the other.  “JFR” as my running group says.  The distance between aid stations felt like it was getting longer and longer.  The sun had gone down.  I made it to mile 24 and it took all I had to keep moving.  The run/walk had become a little more walk than run.  Once again, the Support Team showed up to cheer me on, cow bells and all.  I had two more miles to go.  I had come so far, and now I didn’t have far to go.

I made it to the loop turn off point.  The place where I had gone to the left twice before to go onto the 2nd and 3rd loop.  I was now going to go right, following the signs that said “Finish”.  It was a dark and deserted stretch as I ran uphill from the waterway toward the finish chute.  I was by myself.  I heard U2′s “Where the Streets Have No Name” playing from the finish line.  It was getting louder and louder.  U2 is my favorite band and that’s one of my favorite songs.  It would be so cool to run in to that.  I could now hear the crowd and they were growing louder.  I had all the motivation I needed.  As I turned the corner and entered the chute, the energy was palpable.  Everyone lined against the fence, banging on the barriers, emphatically cheering, yelling my name, giving high fives.  It was absolutely incredible!  For so long, all I could think about was finishing.  Now, I didn’t want this moment to end.  I made eye contact and high-fived everyone I could.  In the last stretch, the crowds were bigger and louder.  The emotion I was feeling at this point I still can not put into words.

1959440_10104838443372574_7909037999941766960_nI heard my dad’s voice and saw him, my mother, and my cousin there to cheer me on.  I high-fived each of them.  I saw the finish line and heard Mike Riley say those words: “Bryan Peterson of Austin, Texas, you are an Ironman!”  I was no longer touching the ground, I was just floating above it.  Nothing hurt anymore.  I felt incredibly alive!   I ran towards the finish line, feeling exhilarated, ecstatic, accomplished.  I put my arms in the air.  Just before crossing the finish line, I again heard my name.  It was the Support Team. Marisa, Cody, and Erica had been there the entire way.  At the start, numerous points throughout the race, cheering, encouraging.  And here they were cheering their loudest.  I ran over to them and got high-fives from each of them.  I turned and cross the finish line.  14:04:08.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life.  I am an Ironman!

Your First Marathon

by Chris McClung

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

The Dallas Marathon in December 2000 was supposed to be my first marathon, but I didn’t make it to the start line. I was sidelined with injury just two months before race day. Diagnosis: tibial stress fracture. Translation: broken leg. Doh!

Ok, now, listen carefully… I want you to run your first marathon THIS December, and I know you can do it. Yes, all of you on-the-fencers, I am talking to you! You might think that I am crazy, but give me just a few more moments to push you off that comfortable seat on the fence.

It’s been almost 14 years since I signed up for that first marathon. I was barely 21 years old and had run only one other road race in my life – a 10K. Dallas was a natural choice. Even though I lived in Houston at the time, it was a relatively short drive away to run on my home streets with no shortage of friends and family to cheer me on. There would be plenty of time for the big, exotic, destination races. There was work to be done, and I loved the simplicity and familiarity of my chosen race.

I laugh when I think back on the naivety of that new runner. I had no idea what I was doing, but oddly at the same time, I had absolutely no fear of covering the distance. Now, I am jealous of the boldness of my younger self; real or not, youth brings a courage and fearlessness to do things that is often stifled as we get older and wiser.

Interestingly, at that age a marathon was already on my “bucket list.” I am the son of a runner and marathoner, so it was something that I had witnessed as a kid. My Dad’s story of his first marathon was the stuff of legend in our house. To this day, he swears a guardian angel appeared to him after collapsing to his back on a swath of grass just beyond the finish of the Cowtown Marathon. The angel appeared in the form of a mysterious woman who was oddly willing to massage his cramping calves into relief before disappearing as quickly as she appeared. To this day, we don’t know if this actually happened or was a vivid post-marathon hallucination, as are known to happen.

In addition, my then girlfriend (now wife Amy) was also already a marathoner, something she accomplished in Houston at the absurdly young age of 19. So, as a new runner and 10K-finisher, I was somehow the “slacker” in the family. Others around me had finished a marathon, so my assumption was that I could to. That, paired with the naiveté of youth led me to sign up for Dallas with absolutely no doubts that I would be a marathoner 6 months later.

As you know already, I was wrong. I spent race day in December on the sideline, cheering on my friend and training partner. We were college friends and were supposed to checking the box on this milestone together. Instead, he would do it alone while I watched from behind the barricades with a boot on my leg.

What went wrong? Well, the same naiveté that urged me to fearlessly sign up for the race also pushed me to make every mistake in training that I can now think of. It wasn’t enough to just finish my first marathon; I wanted to hit a specific time. To reach that, I assumed that I could do it alone without a coach. I found an online schedule, and dove into training.

I ran too much, too soon. I ran too hard. All the time. I didn’t do any stretching or strength work to supplement my running. And, most certainly, I didn’t slow down at the early signs of pain. A little shin pain turned into shooting pain up and down my leg, and before I knew it, I was doing 3-hour “long runs” on the elliptical machine in denial over what was happening and determined to still run the race.

If I had a coach or a structured program, then none of this would have happened. I mean that quite literally. I wouldn’t have ended up with a broken leg, and the Dallas Marathon would have been my first. But, it’s bigger than that. Everything happens for a reason, and I don’t think that I would have been inspired to be the coach I am today without that first experience of failure.

A broken leg left me with lots of time to sit. Devastated by the outcome, with time to spare and emboldened to never make the same mistakes again, I poured myself into every training and coaching book I could find over the months that followed. That began a journey for me that would lead me to successfully coach myself to my first marathon in Chicago the following year and then eventually to Rogue where I now coach a seriously cool and committed group of Morning Show athletes.

I, along with am amazing cohort of fellow Rogue coaches, am committed to making sure that new marathoners don’t make the same mistakes I did. Our methods are tried and true. Thousands have walked and run on this now-very-well-paved path to their first marathon and you can too.

So, what’s the moral of this story? We end where I started.

Get off the fence. You can do it. Stop doubting and just sign up. Then, let us help you. Our Texas Marathon program, starting in July will get you ready for one of 3 familiar, well-organized, and beginner-friendly races in San Antonio, Dallas, or Bryan/College Station. [Note: Dallas and BCS are two of my personal favorites] All you have to do is take the first step where, in the words of the great runner-philosopher George Sheehan, “Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.”

Will you be the person you were destined to be? Or will you continue to sit comfortably on the fence in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat?”

10373522_10152273679728666_5112001614360975145_nThe Texas Marathon training program will begin on July 12, 2014 with a huge kick-off party, open to everyone! Come on out to run, enjoy breakfast, win prizes, chat with coaches and receive a swift kick off of the fence.

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Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 2.46.38 PMChris McClung heads up all things retail at Rogue Running, and currently coaches The Morning Show, a group for half marathoners and marathoners alike.