Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nepal is still Struggling

Nepal is mostly out of the news here in the US. Celebrities are back in the news and a few protests and arrests are making headlines. 

This is so typical. A tragedy happens in a very poor place and before it has much of any resolution, the rich countries move on. Prove me wrong.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 201

As life goes, sometimes it picks up. This past week ended up being a busy enough week. At work we ran into an issue, and it has no easy solution. Which means it ends up requiring quite a bit of time. I even worked a little on Saturday and Sunday thanks to this issue as well. One hard aspect of this is that designing out the issue would be challenging, or at least expensive. You know, work can take it out of me. I try to look at this experience, and work in general more as a learning experience, and to state the facts and let others make the opinions. When I offer an opinion it so commonly gets shot down or argued against. I'd like to make more decisions, and maybe I can, although it is difficult when I have the least seniority in the group. 

Running went wellish. I ran three times for a total of seven miles. Unfortunately my left fibula, which I ran 90 miles on two weeks ago without pain, started to hurt again. Great. So I'm working with some doctors to figure it out. 

Saturday morning my parents started texting me at 7 AM about the earthquake in Nepal. Wow! What a situation! I have to board a plane in five minutes, so this will be short. Dawa Steven Sherpa, head of Asian Trekking, is my best source for info. He is working with a Turkish rescue team and posting his resource needs on Facebook. Looks like diesel and satellite communications bandwidth are two things he could use right now. Everyone I know is safe except for one of my Sherpa friends. I assume he is simply out of communication range. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Here's what I know, and it's not much:

  • An earthquake 7.5-7.8 magnitude, depending on the source, struck about 80 km (50 miles) north west of Kathmandu on the way to Pokara, a major city in Nepal, and thus a well traveled road. There were also a series of aftershocks, maybe even 15 of them up to a magnitude of 6.6. 
  • Confirmed dead is over 600 right now in Nepal and 700 total when you count India, China, and Bangladesh. 
  • There seemed to be avalanches on Mt. Everest both in the Khumbu icefall and on Pumori, the other side of the valley. All of the members of Asian Trekking are okay, and the China Tibet Mountaineering Association said that there are not reports of injuries or casualties on the north side of Everest. Apparently the Everest ER test was destroyed in an avalanche and Asian Trekking is functioning as triage center with Dr. Nima, who I will vouch for as an awesome man and very effective doctor, very busy. Dawa Steven Sherpa is in Kathmandu and he is my resource via Facebook.

Here is some background:

  • In 1934 Nepal had a similar 8.2 magnitude earthquake that did significant damage and killed over ten thousand.
  • In October 2005 in the Kashmir part of Pakistan there was a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that killed 80,000+ and displaced over two million people. I actually volunteered to go to Pakistan to use my mountaineering skills along with about 50 other mountaineers, some of them very big names, to access some of the remote locations that had been cut off from land slides, but ultimately governments and militaries stepped in to help and our little mountaineering band was deemed not necessary.
  • The Indian subcontinent is sliding up onto Asia, pushing the Himalaya higher, we all know this. Unfortunately plate tectonics don't always move nice and slowly.

Here is my speculation:

Given the poverty and ruggedness of Nepal I doubt most buildings there are built to withstand earthquakes. I also doubt that any numbers we are hearing in the media right now are accurate because communication is normally difficult due to the ruggedness in Nepal. And yes, while I imagine I could have done some good being over there in person and I have eagerly checked Everest updates this year as my friends go to camp one and two, I am rather happy this Saturday morning to be sitting in Dubuque, Iowa.

Friday, April 24, 2015

One Shot, One Opportunity

I'm going to Maine next week and I have to say I am extremely excited! I'm on a secret mission (or something like that) for work. It is a "mission" I have been lobbying to go on for the last 11 months and it's actually happening! The results of this short trip will be studied and direct quite a bit of my future work, as well as my team's future work. Point being, it's exciting. There is also some pressure to get it right. This is a one shot thing, and if we screw it up it will cost months of time and quite a bit of money. We're going to learn a lot!

Sometimes we only have one shot, one chance to get it right. Fortunately in things like long distance running or engineering that one shot might take a week of dedicated time or hours and hours of running, so it's not like one pitch in a baseball game, but the idea is the same. I try to take this attitude to most of the things I do. It's like 60% the next step, perfectly. It's why I kept walking for 10 painful hours at the 24 hour world championships, I don't know for sure I will get another chance, and I wanted to know I kept going and gave it everything.

When you give your best, you know there are no questions left at the end, that was your best. No one is perfect, and your best might not be as good as someone else's best, but if you really give your best, chances are you will be surprised how good that is.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

What I've learned about Magnesium

I've been taking magnesium supplements for a week and a half now, and read a dozen articles on the Internet. Here's what I've learned, with strong confidence:
  • You basically can't overdose on magnesium. You can, but the amount you would have to consume is prohibitive because the body will more or less just not digest it. It seems to pass through you like fiber, and give you diarrhea if you have too much. This is an important point because iron and caffeine are two other performance enhancers (in my definition of performance enhancer) and you can fatally overdose on them.
  • Magnesium enables muscles to relax. It does not contract muscles or make them more powerful or help with oxygen distribution or dull the sensation of pain. The challenge I faced was that both my quads and hamstrings were probably locally short of magnesium so when I tried to step, I could not get either the front or back of my leg to relax when the other side was contracting and thus felt great pain trying to take every step. Similarly I vividly remember being on the table one time and one of the medical students, Katie, was trying to stretch me telling me, "relax" and I was screaming in pain, "I'm trying!" Yet I just could not. By the way, taking a magnesium supplement before going to bed is great, I have been sleeping so well!
  • Number 569, Guiliana Frigero, is the one that suggested I needed magnesium at one point well into the darkness of the night as she walked past me, hours after I had been struggling to walk.
Roy Pirrung and  Guiliana Frigero, the woman who suggested Magnesium as she threw the hammer down passing me.
There are other potential benefits of magnesium, but the truth is, they are more contested and generally less well studied.

Maybe there is a placebo effect, but I have learned that if it works, it works, and magnesium has greatly helped my recovery. Talking to other ultra runners, I am not the first to have a magnesium shortage. At least, other ultra runners have felt much better after upping their magnesium consumption.

Relevant links:

Dr. Hyman's blog on magnesium and relaxation and doctors prescribing pills. 

WebMD's take on magnesium.

A Competitor article on magnesium.

To provide the opposing view that magnesium is not necessary: S!Caps.

An article about how difficult it is to measure magnesium in the body.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It's the hard times we learn from.

Sometimes you have to suffer to learn the lesson. It hurts. You may bleed. You will cry. But! You know what? In some strange way these things happen for our benefit. The 24 hour world championships hurt more than I have ever hurt before! Now I know about magnesium and it is a mistake I doubt I will ever make again. In hind sight of maybe another 15 really competitive years it's nice to learn the lesson so early. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 200!

Wow I've lived in Iowa a long time! It's surprising to me how long I have been here. Yet there are quite a few reasons I have stayed here this long. Enough reasons that I should really take the time to write a separate blog post about them. In large part though, it's the people, the work experience, and the facilities, if you would call the short commute, great trails, nice paved roads and such facilities.

After the excruciating final 10 hours of the 24 hour world championships, my week started in Italy. My mom took this picture of my sister and I sun burnt and tired as I hobbled out of the stadium. I have to say, a 24 hour run is a very satisfying thing to finish. I can easily say that on the day I could not have done any better because I did not know any better.
Post 24 Hour Run... Hobble
The rest of the week was very quiet. Sunday afternoon we had the awards ceremony. Also, Sunday afternoon we were all dealing with the aftermath of a long race and sleep deprivation, which wrecked nearly as much damage on our crews as on us runners.

Monday my mom and I traveled to Milan and stayed in a tiny little hotel up a narrow flight of stairs in an old section of town. At supper I had this dish of mushrooms cooked in oil with bread, the kind of dish I've never even heard of in the US.

Tuesday my flights all went very smoothly, although between Monday night and the three flights I only had maybe four hours of sleep in 40 hours. My dad met me at the airport and helped me with my luggage and getting to my van. Then I drove three hours back to Dubuque, stopping at Hy-Vee to pick up a magnesium supplement before I even got home.

The rest of the work week was nice and quiet. We had a major issue with one of "my" parts, but in the transition from design team to manufacturing team other people took responsibility for the issue and led the necessary action. In other words, exactly what is supposed to happen, happened.

Saturday I went to a track meet and spent three hours in the sun getting sun burnt, again. Life is good! I hope you had a good week too.

Monday, April 20, 2015


What defines healthy? It's a good question because one of the dangers of more invasive medical testing and analysis is the finding of abnormal results. Yet healthy as a whole, as an individual, is not the same as healthy blood or healthy cells. A microcosm being, how does one know if he or she is fully recovered from a major ultramarathon? It's going to be mostly how one feels, as various markers will likely subside well before recovery is complete, or remain elevated as the person is a long term athlete.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Should I Run the 2015 Boston Marathon?

It's Monday. I just finished a rough ultra on Sunday. I'm recovering well, last night I even walked a mile over undulating terrain.

Normally I would not think of racing so soon after a major ultra, but it's the first time I've registered for Boston, and not running another marathon seems like a waste of a very expensive entry fee. I don't know, road trip?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

2015 24 Hour World Championships Race Report

This was an amazingly positive experience! I write that a scant 11 hours after the finish of the race, and I can barely walk... but I'll get to that.

To get to the 3600 person community of the USA 24 Hour Team Facebook page go to:  It has dozens of pictures and all sorts of statements about how the race went.

As many of you know, in late February I came down with leg pains so bad I went to see an actual doctor. All of the doctors basically agreed it was probably a stress fracture. Great.

A stress fracture is a big hit to mileage, and this was no different. Here is the graph of my mileage starting from a week after the 2014 North Coast 24 to April 11th. I had a little calf injury in November so that I scrapped running the CIM marathon in December and then did not have the greatest build up due to the fibula issue, and because of the winter weather I spent a lot of time on cross country skis, and I have been working like crazy launching a new product at work. In short, you can see part of a typical build up in October last year followed by a little break and a weak start to training followed by my fibula getting really bad. Of course, mileage isn't everything, but for a person like myself it is a good indication of how things are going.
Weekly mileage for week after North Coast 24 to 2015 24 Hour World Championships
Even days before the race, at the Chicago Airport, my fibula was hurting, I thought it might be because I had bicycled too hard on the Friday eight days before race day. Needless to say, I wasn't terribly confident going into this race I would even make it an hour before dropping out with severe leg pain. As I wrote from my hotel in Turin, Italy, I didn't know what to expect in the race.

The morning started with my 7 AM alarm followed by a relaxed breakfast in jeans and a t-shirt. For the first time I was nervous about my performance. You see, when there is an injury to blame, especially with the doctor's signature it is an actual injury, the actual end result of the competition becomes less important. Instead, getting to the starting line just to compete is the new goal. We athletes can sometimes be so driven that in the moment of competition we don't worry about the injury, and we barely feel the pain, but if just being allowed to even compete is in jeopardy... it's terrifying. Now I knew, I would run, and suddenly that meant I cared about how well I did, and of course I wanted to do well.

I dressed, wrote a quick blog post, and headed down to the lobby. It's a little surreal with all of us athletes standing around in our uniforms, most of us for our first race with USA on our chest. Is this really happening? I'm wearing the same uniform that Meb has worn?

The trip to the stadium was quick, we unloaded and I headed over to the tents to tape my big toe on my right foot. Sometimes it hurts when I run, and a few wraps of tape keep it from flexing too high to hurt. I checked out the aid tent and realized that my crew (my mom and my sister) had never crewed one of these things, they had my headlamp out sitting on the table already.

I headed over to the stadium entrance at 9:20 AM and was one of the first, if not the first, to check in and have my front and back bib numbers checked. I've learned that it's best to check in as soon as you can because the number of track races I have had where checking in presents a problem is probably 10+%.  That went smoothly, so I basically just walked around, tried to drink a little more, and go to the bathroom, until ten minutes before the start.

Ten minutes until the start I did my leg swings, like I do before every race and 90% of all my runs. I took my sweats off and gave them to my mom and then said a prayer and headed to the start. We lined up maybe 20 feet behind the start line. We didn't want to get lulled into being in the lead after one lap. As we were standing there the whole Japanese men's team lined up immediately behind us with stoic faces of competition. I laughed. Well, I guess they talked about us in their strategy meeting. People moved around a little and the USA women actually started closer to the front than us, maybe 10 feet.

Suddenly a noise was made and we were off! I had tears in my eyes because I was here running at the world championships. It's emotional. I'm wearing USA across my chest! How many of my ancestors have suffered and worked hard so that I might end up living this awesome life I live? I am so fortunate! The pre-race plan was to aim for 8:45-55 pace, the four of us, Harvey, Olivier (pronounced Oh-liv-e-eh given my pronunciation skills), John and myself since our qualifying marks were all pretty similar. Rich was going to do his own thing, and Greg wanted to start out even slower than us.

USA! USA! Courtesy of Greta Varesio
After one lap I was pretty excited because no matter what happened later in the race, I had a distance, I was officially on the board! My leg might as well fall off. I felt quite good, better than expected. Early in the third lap for about a minute I felt some sensitivity in my left fibula, which had been the one hurting most, but it went away, and as I am happy to say, my fibulas were never an issue! I will say one of the medial students, Leah, who had worked on me Thursday and Friday told me Sunday afternoon she did something which is supposed to help heal bones, but she didn't expect it to work that quickly. Who knows, perhaps the 11 days of no running before the race, and six weeks of averaging about 12 miles a week were what I needed to fully heal my fibulas? I really thought they would pose a problem and I would have to stop in the beginning of the race, unable to even walk.

Everything went really well for quite a while, like four hours, the four of us were all within maybe 800 meters of each other. Rich had run ahead and Greg was close behind. I ran the first couple hours with Harvey and Olivier and then picked up the pace slightly because I was feeling good for a couple laps until I caught up with John and ran with him for well over an hour. At one point early in the day I ran with Roy Pirrung, the man, the myth, the legend, for about half a lap. My parents seriously live five miles away from him in Wisconsin, but I had to go to a race in Italy to meet him.

It was pretty strange, the first few hours there were national team members from other countries which were lapping us, and we're sitting there saying to each other, "we're on 162 mile pace, on a technical and mildly slow course going into the heat of the day, what are people expecting to run, 190 miles?" As time passed of course they all faded.

About four and a half hours into the race I stopped to have my legs looked at for the first time on the medial table. My quads had already taken a beating after about 34 miles. The next couple laps went really well, but then my legs started to get more stiff and I experienced my first crash. It was not so bad, but I think at the time I said it was as bad as I felt at 140 miles during the North Coast 24 last fall.

During this time I was learning how poor I was at communicating with my crew (once again, my mom and my sister, who I have known my whole life). For example, once I said, "ice my hat." On the next lap they had put a dozen small pieces of ice in my hat and as I grabbed it and threw it on my head and the ice all spilled out, I thought, 'touche, they did indeed ice my hat'. So I told them the next time around to "dunk my hat in ice water". Lesson learned. Quantities of liquids and foods were interesting too. I would ask for something and the volume that I received would generally be a surprise. Usually a good small quantity, but when I self-crewed at North Coast I always took the volume that I wanted. So several times, many times actually, I would finish the drink, and not get enough, or get something and throw part of it away because I wasn't hungry. Lesson for next time: actually write out, and follow, a nutrition schedule. Sky had a complete three page document for splits and nutrition her crew chief, her boyfriend Tommy, kept. It was impressive to look at before the race, I felt like such a newbie.

At six hours I took the watch off because I had settled into a rhythm of sort, and after 40 miles I could tell that my body wasn't doing great and there was no need to look at my splits when they won't be inspiring. While I had slowed down, my pace wasn't bad and I figured it was because I had not been eating and drinking enough so I tried to take in more calories. It seemed to be working through hours seven and eight...

Hour 9: The Second Crash

Around hour nine my body quit cooperating. Around hour eight I was breathing really hard to run 9 or 10 minute pace. The equivalent breathing of running 6 minute pace when I am fresh. I noticed this in other runners later in the race, and it must be going from running on glycogen to fat, that's my best guess.

The medical staff said I was out of glycogen. So I began eating more, but I knew, I was out of the race. Even if I could recover from this crash I wasn't going to put down the mileage to be in our top three and contribute to the team score. At the time I was actually pretty pumped I had made it nine hours still with a shot of contributing to the team. I'm still really excited actually that I ran that well for that long. I basically faked a 50 miler. If you had told me before the race I would run nine hours before the wheels slowed down significantly, I would be surprised. I was thankful to God that I had made it that far, and resolved to keep eating and drinking and running when I could because you never know when three other guys on the team are going to break their ankles or something.

For the next three hours I was trying to eat because the medical staff was monitoring my glycogen and said I was not full. I still want to know, how you can grab someone's shoulders and know what their glycogen stores are?

My rough 12 hour split was 101 km, which is about 63 miles, or 20 miles less than I split at North Coast. However, I was just coming around about this time and I started running more! I was on the upswing and expecting that 200 km was within reach. It was getting cool so I told them I would change into my tights. When I came around again they had my tights ready, but apparently had no idea (because again I didn't tell them) I wear running shorts under my tights (a lesson learned after many cold runs wearing only tights) and they were expecting me to change like in public under a towel, yeah right!

For the next hour and a half I ran great! I hope that I can get splits, but I doubt it. I was running most of the time, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because even though I was full, people were telling me I needed to eat, and I thought they might know better than me. Early in the face I had fought a little with my crew about not needing an ice pack on my neck or sunscreen or eating gels, and after my crash I decided I would just do whatever the USA crew team told me.

Then I threw up. I've never thrown up because of running. I've run gut wrenching 400s, marathons, and all the standard very competitive runner stuff,  for 14 years! Yet peanut butter and jelly sandwiches put me over the edge. For the next lap or two I ran just fine, then I crashed harder than I have ever crashed. I don't think there is a lower low.

Hour 14: The third Crash

Around hour 14 I was reduced to a walk, and a limping walk at that because my left achilles/calf was really tight. It was so slow! I think I had a lap of like 50 or 55 minutes, for a measly 2 kilometers. Surely quite a few laps were over 40 minutes. I cried because it hurt so bad. I actually thought about crawling. That was a strange conversation in my head. Ultimately I decided I would tear up my knees and hands and the toes of my shoes if I tried to crawl so I might as well keep limping along.

At one point I was laying on the medical table crying, and saying "I'm so weak!" I felt like I should be able to push harder through this pain and perform better, I felt like I was a failure, I felt like I was giving up. Of course, after saying that, people cheered me on and Tommy was in my face yelling "You are not weak! You are awesome!" So I got up and left the medical area. This race, this crash after throwing up, was the most physically painful experience of my life. It hurt so bad!

Why didn't I quit? Several reasons, at the 2009 World Championship Marathon the runner who's blog I followed at the time Nate Jenkins ran a painful 2:32, but he finished because the other two Americans dropped out with injuries and three finishers are necessary for the team marathon medal, or even a listed team finish. I respected him more after that because he could have stopped and limited the damage, but he didn't, because if he quit the team was out. I was also thinking of my grandpa, who fought in the second world war and had two people die right beside him, and I assume that neither of those men ever had a family or kids, and that seems to make my life all that more valuable, so I can never give up. I thought of having to tell this story to 40 different people when I returned and I knew the mental pain I would experience telling them I stopped was far greater than the physical pain I would endure until the end of the race. Plus, I was checked by the medical staff numerous times and they said I was okay. I had told them before the race I might want to continue even at risk of serious damage to myself, so they would have to bench me if it came to that.

Sometime in the night at the suggestion of an older Italian woman in the open race she suggested taking magnesium, which when I told other people and two people said that magnesium had helped their cramps in races. Although, that being said, I didn't really feel like my legs were cramped as rather tight. More of a long term tightness. Those symptoms actually seem consistent with magnesium deficiency, which prevents muscles from relaxing. I think that I probably wasn't getting a great amount of magnesium in my diet leading up to the race, because I wasn't eating enough vegetables like spinach, and then I did not drink my mango protein smoothie, or any other foods with magnesium like bananas, as early in the race as I did at North Coast. Lesson learned, be sure to get enough magnesium. I've been taking a magnesium supplement from Tuesday through today, Thursday, and I feel like I am recovering quicker than I did from North Coast, despite having a far more painful race.

As I continued to limp around the course I began to have a bit of a following. I could talk and cheer for people just fine and I did. It was great to see all of the Americans like Rich, whooping and hollering, Harvey, who I would yell various quotes at, Greg, John, Olivier, Katalin, Traci, Maggie, and Connie. I made some friends too like Robbie Britton. At one point, hours after I had been reduced to a walk I yelled at Robbie, "I'm coming after you!" At which point him and three other people around us laughed. I tried to talk to and encourage number 105 from Japan, the second fastest Japanese on paper coming in, when I walked past him when he was doing even worse than I, but me not speaking any Japanese and him no English it was a short conversation, and he eventually lapped me again walking faster. I talked to a guy from Uruguay and another from Mexico in Spanish a little. I talked to a young lady from New Zealand who was wearing a space blanket (and still walking faster than me). These 24 hour events are bizarre, people in marathons don't wrap space blankets around themselves and keep going to the finish. In a marathon, when you visit the medical tent, that's it, you're done. In a 24 hour run, when you visit the medical tent they try to get you back out there running.

The nights are so rough in these things. There was even a fire and a power outage in the stadium that night. At one point early in the night Maggie had been throwing up and we walked and jogged together a bit, well she was passing me and I tried to keep up for 100 meters, but then she recovered and was so strong toward the end. Katalin was so smooth through the whole race. When it was cold before dawn she put on this knit white stocking hat and it reminded me of Bill Rodgers, that sort of old school it's-not-about-the-technology-I'll-beat-you-wearing-cotton simplicity. By the way, she wrote a blog post about the race, you should read it, she is a huge talent in this sport of ultra running.

Eventually the sun came out and with it many people who had been sleeping or resting and the quiet course grew crowded again.

No one ever told me where we stood or where any individual runners mileages were. My best information was when I came around the timing mat I would know how many painful hours I had left and how few laps I had completed. With maybe two hours to go we learned we were in fourth and had a shot at the Germans, so I began to watch for the Germans and try to motivate our top three guys Rich, Harvey and Greg, to go after them and get us a medal. They did great! Harvey and Rich were just positively flying the last couple hours. Greg may not have been flying, but I was walking slowly, Olivier was mostly walking, John was throwing up, a lot, and Greg was still moving faster than the three of us. The women on the other hand were actually flying. Seriously, Runner's World or Competitor, or Running Times should do a profile on the "24 Hour Women of Team USA" because they just blew the competition out of the water. I think they set a record for most distance covered by three women from the same country at one 24 hour race.

The gun was shot signaling the end of the race and I hugged my sister and cried. Then I found my way to the ground and laid there. My mom and Karen came over and the three of them helped me back to our team tent. Oh it felt so good to be done! They laid me down on the pole vault mat next to Rich and Greg, and I have to say, having a pole vault mat right next to our team tent was amazing! I drank some more protein smoothie and the medical team eventually came over to tell me I was fine and I needed to man up and walk 7 km back to the hotel. Okay that's not quite what they said.

At this point we didn't know how we did as a team. We knew, because you basically always know after a 24 hour race, that everyone gave it everything and that was all we had. I will save the post race aftermath for another blog post, it was also educational.

In summary, lessons learned:

  • I need magnesium in my diet, if not in foods than at least in a supplement.
  • Next time I am going to write a schedule for nutrition and hydration, based on what I like, and a warmer afternoon and cooler night, and then I am going to follow it, none of this having a crew without a plan for the crew.
I would like to thank my mom first of all. She was so concerned about me before and after my first 24 hour race when she heard I was trying this again, she knew she had to come. I'm not always the most pleasant person to be around and unfortunately my family often gets the brunt of my frustration as I try to maintain positivity to the rest of the world. My parents have always been there and supported whatever I do, whether it's climbing a mountain for two months in Pakistan, going to an expensive east coast school, or running for 24 hours, and I'm really thankful that I have the best parents in the world. I'm thankful to my sister, who had no idea what she was getting into when she wanted to come help crew me. Seriously I don't think it is a game to put my sister in over her head despite the number of times I have done it. Howard and his wife Karen did so much to help organize and plan this, I really did not have to worry about anything except the actual race, which was fantastic, thank you! Dr. Andy Lovy, Dr Greg, Leah and Katie our medical team was amazing! You guys put us back together multiple times, and I am sure the USA did as well as we did because of your help. Mike and Rich thanks for waiting and waiting and waiting and driving us around always getting us where we needed to go. (JFK 50 miler you say...) All of my team USA teammates Harvey, Rich, Greg, John, Olivier, Katalin, Traci, Maggie, Sky, Aly, and Connie, you are all so inspiring! Keep it up, I hope we meet again on the trails or the next 24 hour world championships. Let me know if you would like some help crewing, I'd like to give it a go sometime. Thank you to all of the families, significant others, and friends that came across the pond or from another country to support us! We had such a big group it was motivational and I know how much you all have to sacrifice to help us, that's why I usually do self-supported things, I don't want to be selfish and ask for help from awesome people like you. You didn't have to be there, you could have been somewhere else, and I thank you for being there. Finally, thank you to the Turin sports club for hosting this event, and making so many arrangements in the last like two weeks when the original race director left. That's not easy, but you pulled it off!

One last request, I'm in the market for pictures of myself, running, walking, limping, puking, on the medical table, whatever, so if you could tag me on Facebook or email them to me that would be nice, thank you for reading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Do You Dare?

Do you dare to take a risk? Do something that might go wrong? Try something where your success is not guaranteed?

Why not?

The fact that there is risk scares people away, and that's good because it means less competition for you and I.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


What does our body use magnesium for? Do we store magnesium? Is a magnesium muscle cramp the same as a sodium cramp or potassium cramp? Can you over dose on magnesium? What foods do our bodies best absorb magnesium from? How long after ingesting magnesium does it get to our muscles? Why is it listed on some food labels but not others with similar content?

Sodium and potassium are well discussed in running literature, magnesium I have not really run across in the past but this past weekend brings up several questions, and these are just to get the conversation started.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 199

Well I did spend half of the week in Italy, and undoubtedly everyone wants to hear about that, but it's going to take me some time to process the race specifically, I'm already working on the race report.

The week started off with Easter and me visiting my family up in Wisconsin. Monday I worked in the factory, again. It's seemingly never ending supporting a production launch. Perhaps it is to be expected. I'm so tired from 24 hours on the move right now and only 11 hours of sleep since then, I don't have the energy to write more...

I need to pack to get to Milan, so that's going to be all for today. I am so tired.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Here We GO!!

Less than two hours to race time! By the time you wake up in the USA I will be running 8:45 pace or so. I'm not sure what will happen. No idea how my legs will hold up. I do know, team USA is strong and we have six men capable of 160 miles on a good day.

To follow us on Facebook:

To follow us on Twitter: @USAultraRunning

Obviously, I won't be blogging or tweeting until this thing is over. In the odd chance that some Internet tracking exists that didn't yesterday I'm number 185... a nice mileage goal eh? HAHA!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Really, Truly Trusting God

Trust is a difficult thing. Lack of trust breaks up relationships. Many people have trust issues. I certainly have my own set of trust issues. 

Obviously, I'm getting ready for the 24 hour world championships, which start in 21 hours, and I'm trying to heal a "95% chance" of a fibula stress fracture. Those are not mutually conducive goals.  

In many ways I do trust God above all else. I feel that many of the things I do exemplify that, because death really does not scare me the way it scares most people. Yet trusting God to handle an unknown is not that hard really. In other words, trying to really conceptualize death is difficult, because there is so little that is as permanent as death in the human world. Similarly, people may understand the science of climate change, but it seems so overwhelming, so big with no easy solutions, we continue to use disposable cups and silverware when using a cup or spoon we can wash would be better. Another example, the universe is so big, that just trying to imagine how small we are in it is really beyond comprehension, at least for me.

Where trust gets difficult is in the minutia of daily life. I have not run more than 17 miles a week in the last six weeks. How am I going to run for 24 hours tomorrow? I have a broken leg, or two. As I watch my teammates trot off on a run and I head back in to the medical table to have my legs and hips worked on again a part of me asks, 'what I am doing here?' In this situation it is easy to yell and scream at God, or reject his very existence. 'Why these six weeks of pain? What did I do to deserve this? I'm going to fall on my face tomorrow!' Yet those are the wrong things to say. I know many of the things I have done wrong, and frankly, I don't deserve the privilege of running or walking ever again.  Still, it's hard to accept the fact that I need some suffering, some failure, some rejection, to appreciate the blessings I have. Why does it have to be that way? Why can't I just appreciate blessings and gifts as soon as I hear about them instead of having a setback and a difficulty to make me appreciate what I have?

I don't know what will happen tomorrow. There is a myriad of possibilities. But! I do know, and it's taken me crying on at least six of the last nine days and barely running for six weeks to realize it, whatever happens Saturday and Sunday will be for my benefit, and quite likely the benefit of others as well. It may not be pretty and I may not understand why what happens tomorrow happens, but every step is a blessing, every lap is a blessing, the support system Team USA has here in Turin, Italy is a blessing, and in the odd chance I never run another step let alone another race after this, this race and my whole 14 year running career has been a blessing.

As a post script, people sometimes confuse trusting God with neglecting to seek human help, and that is totally the wrong path because relationships are often one of the greatest blessings and opportunities we have. I have talked to five doctors (not counting my doctor friend in Austrialia), two medical students and my massage therapist about this leg issue, and several of them on multiple occasions. I've had x-rays, I've had six people twist and bend my foot and leg trying to help. The point is, to once again quote the book of the Bible I was named after, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:9 Which is to say, sometimes life won't make sense to us, but it is for our benefit.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Here we go! Getting ready for the 24 hour world championships!

As I flew from Frankfurt over to Milan, we flew over the Alps, and just on the northern side of the Alps we flew over this mountain. And I though, 'wow, that's a steep face! And it actually looks a lot like the Eiger north face, the face points north and has a long summit ridge to the west. ' Sure enough I checked the maps this morning and it is in fact the Eiger. Which is to say, if I could only climb one thing in the Alps, it would be the north face of the Eiger.
The North Face of the Eiger!
All of my luggage arrived, including the many drinks, more than a gallon, of liquids I was afraid would be pulled out in security somewhere along the way. Also, upon arrival in Italy, I have never gotten into any country so easily. Not a single security person checked any of my papers, luggage, or anything. Everyone on my plane streamed through the 'goods to declare' chute with no one manning the tables. 

Dinner Wednesday night was late, we left the hotel at maybe 7:30 and didn't get back until 11:30 at night. The biggest challenge is that the drives are like 1-2 miles to go anywhere, so if we walk, it takes half an hour, if we drive it still takes 20-30 minutes round trip.

Thursday so far the men checked out the course from about noon to two, after a late but thankfully quick lunch then a two hour team meeting. Two hours! My only previous ultra, and qualifying race, I showed up one hour before the race, got my bib number and timing chip, changed clothing, and set up my cooler of drinks and food. We just spent two hours, two days before the race talking about it. It's crazy.  That being said, racing in a world championships in a foreign country does take some preparation. It's oddly motivating. In other words, there are so many people stressing out over this, like for example, my mom and sister have to figure out how they are going to eat Saturday and Sunday morning, while I run, that I am getting really relaxed about the whole thing. Plus, walking a few miles over the last few days my leg has felt great! It gives me a lot of confidence, that, you know what, I could have a really good day out there. 

By the way, the Italians don't really do refrigeration, air conditioning, or ice, which you wouldn't think would be a big deal when the high temperature is only 70F, but coming from 40F and 50F, it feels warm. I haven't been focusing on taking pictures, so pictures will probably be delayed in all of these posts.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

More is Never Enough

I wanted to simply be on Team USA, in other words, go to a world championship, but as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I wanted more. I realized this as I was watching the movie Wild about a woman who decided she needed to intervene in her own life and hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It's a good movie if you haven't seen it. What dawned on me is that typically I, and maybe most of us, think of greed and materialism in terms of physical excess, more possessions, more money, but the truth is there is no difference from experiential greed. Which comes full circle to me, because I realized quite a bit of my negativity lately stemmed from my ever growing greed for a "better" or "more impactful" experience. The truth is, that wasn't what I originally wanted, and it may not be what I need.

Every experience provides us a learning opportunity. The journey I have been on the last six weeks, and over the next four days, is truly one that has, and is, teaching me to appreciate all that I have. This is crazy, I'm sitting in a hotel in Turin, Italy getting ready to run on Team USA at a world championship! I've said this before, but it has been a little lost lately, I have a great life, in my opinion, the best life in the world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I'm Headed to the 24 Hour World Championships in Italy

Oh dear, I don't know how this is going to go. I haven't run since Monday, March 30th. I had a good run, but my legs have noticeably hurt since then, so it's been on the bicycle for me, or even taking the day totally off. I've cried in four of the last five days because of this.

I feel like am imposter. Having only raced one ultra, but having done a few fun runs, I have a feeling for what my body is capable of, and it is quite a bit. My body can do much better than 154.5 miles in one day, a lot better. Yes in the past six weeks I have not run more than three days in one week and not more than 17 miles in one week. Sure, I've been on the bicycle, but cycling is nowhere near the 100+ miles per week of running I was averaging going into the North Coast 24. I see on Facebook my team USA teammates having send off parties and taking all sort of very excited pictures, and I can't help but think, 'my legs hurt, right now, sitting here. How am I going to run for 24 hours?'

Trying to use an analogy to relate to other people is difficult for me in this case, and I like using analogies. Perhaps this works, imagine you are taking a test, in a subject you like, and the last time you took a test you scored 96%, really great. However, you just had the flu and missed the last week of class, but having trouble recovering from it the doctors find out you have appendicitis, and you're out for another week and a half. You return to take the next test on your first day back, and the expectation is that this is test day, and you have to do it today. Have fun.

Thank you everyone for supporting me, for praying for me, for being excited for me. Yes I am excited to be on a team USA, it has been a goal of mine for a long time, it is just not at all the way I had hoped to go into global competition. It pains me to talk about it. As awkward as Mt. Everest was for me after the accident when I returned empty handed, feeling loss and disbelief at the magnitude of the tragedy, and had some depression from it, this is like that in reverse.

What am I doing? If this was any other race, I wouldn't run. Yet I've never had this chance before and while I hope to have it again in the future, I don't know that I will. I mean the fibula is basically non-weight bearing, so I expect that I won't do any permanent damage. Regardless of the permanent damage, I fear it is going to really hurt. I mean last time with no injuries and strong training, I couldn't walk for three hours after the race. On the pain scale I feel that I am only modestly more pain tolerant than average, and this could really hurt.

I know I am crazy. I don't know of any way to really relate to most people that I can run a 9:17 mile, for 24 strait hours.

What will happen in Turin on Saturday? I have no idea. I still harbor the fantasy that I could win this thing, but images of being reduced to a walk after a few miles crowd into my thoughts as well. This is an opportunity for me to be grateful for all that I have, both physical and mental gifts as well as material and financial. I am about to do something that some of my friends probably considered impossible, until they met me. This is also a lesson in patience. I think, had I not had any races to prepare for, my leg would be totally fine by now and I could begin a build up for summer and fall races.

Patience and gratitude, two things I could exercise more in my life, and this is the perfect time for me to learn this lesson. Perhaps perseverance will be learned in the course of this event too. I don't know.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 198

Work was calm. Which is basically a first for 2015. I was in the office about a day and a half before taking a trip down to Kansas to inspect the final testing on our new axle. I am thrilled to say the test results were spectacular! After years of development and millions of dollars we have a product, that barring normal quality variation, is really going to be the best in the market. When you travel for that sort of work issue, it's a good trip. Usually I only travel because something is broken and I know more about it than everyone else.

I ran once this past week, but it was a nice 14 mile run at 6:49 pace on Monday. I asked myself, 'if I could do one workout before this upcoming 24 hour race, what would it be?' The result was a medium long run (14-17 miles) at a moderate pace (sub 7) any longer and I might really break myself, any faster and the same negative result. So it's six days later and I haven't run yet, and my leg still hurts, so... we'll see.

We had Friday off of work for Good Friday and it was nice to travel back up to my parents house in Wisconsin and spend some time with my family. Even if it meant that everyone seems so much more excited for this upcoming race than I do. There is a history of runners experiencing major setbacks before big races and coming through really well. Emil Zatopek, Joan Benoit Samuelson, even a previous USA 24 hour runner Jon Olsen. There is something to learn in every experience and while I hate to admit that resting could possibly be good for me, perhaps that was a purpose of this injury. The other side of the coin is, what ever happens, I qualified to go! Getting to the start line is sometimes the hardest part.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sometimes, I Can't.

Sometimes what I want to do, I cannot do. If fact, I suppose that happens frequently, but today I'm specifically talking about things I have done before that I am capable of doing again, yet for whatever reason (like an injury) I can't do right now. It's hard to accept that reality, even if it is only temporary. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

You Don't Want to Hear It

After a great run Monday, I'm reduced to pain again. When a setback like this occurs, again, a negative flood of thoughts cascade through my brain. It's not pretty. Since you don't want to hear it, I'm not going to tell.