April 5th, 2016
12 strangers. 2 vans. 26 hours. 190.6 miles. 565 kills. 0 hours of sleep.
Ragnar SoCal 2016 – Team Nuun
As I sit here on the airplane ride home from San Diego, I almost don’t even know where to begin explaining this epic journey. The medals? The team work? The event logistics? The post race party?
So to bring it back a bit, and give you all some history into this epic thing that happened this past weekend. It was back in January or so, that Team Nuun ambassador coordinator put a call out for athletes wanting to run on Team Nuun for Ragnar SoCal for 2016. With out even googling, or looking into exactly what Ragnar was, I put my name forward with minimal expectations of being considered for the team. I figured there are 500+ athletes that run for Team Nuun, what are the chances that I would be selected 1 of the 12, in fact 1 of 10 because Nuun sends 2 of there own employees. Well it was on my way back from my epic trip to the LA Marathon, on February 16th while sitting in LAX that I received an e-mail from Brian stating I was selected to be on the team to run in Ragnar SoCal and to send a confirmation e-mail letting him know whether you can commit, otherwise they have to select someone else.
I instantly starting looking at my work schedule….perfect, it landed on my 4 days off. I next started looking into flights for the days I was required to be there….ooooohhh pricey!!! But I made it work with arriving early and leaving later and flying with points. So I turned to Robyn who happened to be sitting beside me, and I explained this whole thing to her, and without hesitation she said “ YES, go, that will be such an amazing experience"
As soon as I arrived home, I confirmed my attendance, booked my flight, and then started looking up what exactly Ragnar was, because I will be honest, I sort of knew what it was, but not really. I was completely ignorant to the fact it was essentially an ultra marathon relay on steroids. For those of you who don’t know what Ragnar is, it is essentially this giant race series that occurs all over the United States. Had someone said to me initially that it was this, I would have politely declined, and boy I am so glad I didn’t!
Shortly after accepting the invite to attend with Team Nuun, a private Facebook group page was made, and the 12 selected runners were added and we all started to introduce our selves as we were all complete strangers from across North America from New York, Chicago, LA, San Diego, Hawaii, Seattle, Vancouver, and WINNIPEG! We all had one thing in common in that we were runners for Team Nuun. We all started to add each other on social media and as the weeks go by the page starts lighting up with excitement, and tips from past Ragnarians experience, and blog posts, and packing tips.
At this point I was grasping the concept of what Ragnar was, but still didn’t fully understand the entire idea of how it worked with 2 vans, 12 runners, and how the heck we were going to start in Huntington Beach and end in Coronado Beach, just south of San Diego? We don’t get to sleep? All these articles say you don’t shower? Pack smelly clothes in Ziploc bags? No van support at 3am in the morning? All this started to sound more and more bad ass to me…..I was getting so excited, but in the same token actually kind of nervous, I had never been a part of any kind of ultra event, regardless if it was on a relay team or not, and oh yeah, doing this with 12 complete strangers. This was definitely something way out of my comfort zone, and I genuinely could not have been more excited to experience it!
A few weeks out we were assigned our runner position, and the legs we were responsible for running. All 12 runners run 3 completely different legs, all different distances ranging from 2.5 miles to 12.5 miles, and also rated from easy to very hard. So no one ever ran the same leg, as anyone on the team, which was sort of interesting in a sense that no one truly had the same run experience on the course in terms of terrain, distance, and difficulty. So after taking much advice from the team members who had done a Ragnar before and doing a lot of google searching, and blog reading, I packed my suitcase(s) and was on my way to San Diego!
I arrived early on the Wednesday, and had an entire day to hang out, and relax. I attended a local run club which was absolutely awesome, and got to meet some kick ass people in the San Diego community, and reconnect with some fellow ambassadors who I have become friends with over the past few years. The rest of the athletes were arriving through out the day on Thursday.
Thursday was awesome, as everyone had arrived and we started to finally meet one another after being social media friends for quite some time. It was so awesome to put a face to a name, and really meet, and hear everyone’s story. I think one of my favorite parts of this entire experience was how we all came from different walks of life, and yet we bonded so quickly, and became this tight knit group only hours after meeting. I genuinely consider all 11 of these new faces my friends now. We had a rocket scientist!?!? What? An actuary, a meteorologist, a paramedic, a few spin studio bad asses, and a professional blogger from NYC, just to name a few of the professions there. But you get the big picture….we were a real different group of people!
One of the first things we did as a team was decorate the rental trucks with washable paint. It is something every team does at Ragnar. Keep in mind, 2 vans per team, 700 teams….thats a lot of vans rolling around all decked out in creative artwork. We went to town, and really had some fun with it. ( see pictures )
So after team bonding activity number 1 of decorating the vans, we all headed out for dehydration and had some drinks and a very delicious dinner at Stone Brewery.
Friday came around, and we loaded up the trucks with our gear bags, our snacks, our giant water cooler, big box of supplies, and were set to take off. So Van 1 rolled out of the hotel at 10am, and headed north up to Huntington Beach where runner 1 started leg 1 of this 190.6 mile race.
So it isn’t confusing, easiest way to explain how this relay worked was this: Runner 1 hops out of the van, and runs there designated mileage for leg 1. The van then navigates to where runner 1 will be ending there run in the designated exchange zone, and runner 2 hops out, and runs there designated mileage for leg 2, and runner 1 hops into the van. The van then drives to the next designated exchange zone. Runner 2 finishes there mileage, and runner 3 starts there run, and this goes on for the entire race. Essentially the van leap frogs exchange to exchange letting the next runner out.
Now you are probably wondering….well where is van 2? With runners 7-12 in it?
Right….so when runner number 6 is out running, van 1 drives to the big exchange station at exchange 6 as its called, and essentially tags in van 2, and runner 7 takes over, and van 2 now continues the relay, and van 1 gets a break until runner 1 is up again to run leg 13. Make sense? Probably sounds more confusing then it actually is.
Some of the funnest moments were driving and navigating in all hours of the night and day trying to get to the next exchange zone. It added a bit of an amazing race aspect to it because you would always want to be at the next exchange before the runner out running there leg got there, and to cheer them in from kicking so much ass out there!
So as the race progressed so did the lack of sleep, soreness from running every single leg so hard and cleanliness went out the window. Even after running the small legs, you still got sweaty, and hot. Baby wipes were your new best friend in this race.
Another great highlight that really stood out for me was when the vans got to meet up at the big exchange zones to change out runners. It was seriously so awesome greeting each other with big huge hugs and high fives, 100% supporting one another. It was like we hadn’t seen each other for years, each and every single time!
Many laughs, many jokes, many conversations, many miles, many kills and time seemed to fly by. Oh that’s right….you are probably wondering WHAT THE HECK IS A KILL?
A kill is best described as when you passed someone while out running. Each runner kept a tally in there head to report back to the team at the van after completing that leg. The team would go wild in cheers as the runner would record it on the side of the truck. As a team we had 565 KILLS total! Every single van had a kill tally going which was awesome to see as it was great motivation for chasing runners down, or running even harder so no one passes you.
By the time we knew it, van 1 was done and we were meeting up at the last van exchange, and it was only a matter of time where we would all meet up one last time to greet the final runner at the finish line to complete the 190.6 miles as a team. Our official finish time was 25 hours 57 minutes which still stands as finishing 1st in the mixed open category!
My favorite leg that I ran was when I was running down the coast. Close your eyes and imagine this - ocean to the right with the sounds of the sounds of waves crashing, and the sun just peaking through to warm you up. It was a chilling part of the event for me as I could not help but to think how lucky I am to be apart of this experience, and how lucky I am as a runner to be surrounded by this beauty.
The entire experience of Ragnar was awesome! From the start to the finish. It will be something I look back on for years to come, and will always hold a special place in my heart.
The biggest thank you to Brian and Megan ( our Team Nuun leaders ) for being the best damn leaders around and making this the experience it was!
12 new friends. 1 kick ass experience. 1 very happy runner.
January 15th, 2016
Everything happens for a reason...
Here we are almost a month after my first blog entry, and there have been a few times over the month where I randomly thought to my self “ I wonder when I am going to write my second entry?” “ Is it going to take something big to inspire me to do so?” “ What is it going to be on?”
As I sit here typing away, I am sitting at my desk in my office at home. Within plain view my collection of marathon medals are nicely hanging on the wall, each with a different story of failure, and success. Each one reminding me to never take a race for granted and that is ringing true to me right now.
Today’s blog entry has been inspired by a recent event, what I would call a tragic incident, but to most, just a set back.
After my failed BQ attempt at the Hamilton Marathon, I took about 3 full weeks off to rest my injured groin. To mentally get well, physically get well, and just be clear of any sort of training for a while. I was seeing my Physiotherapist ( infamous Stephanie ) continually working on getting healthy, and to get strong again.
In those 3 weeks of inactivity, I really wasn’t my self. I was sluggish. I was tired all the time. I was a grumpy Gus. I was flat out “bleh”. There was a moment in there where the switch flipped back on, and I just knew it was time to slowly get back onto the horse, being cautious of my groin injury. I called up my coach and told him I was ready, I was ready to start training again. I told him my next race on the schedule was the LA Marathon on February 14th. We came up with a plan, to slowly introduce running again, and as you may all know, how fast you lose your “ running cardio “. So being weary of pushing too hard too fast, we started off slow, and easy. Like I was just learning to run again, or at least it felt that way. Fast forward 3 weeks rest, 4 weeks of easy running, and 7 weeks of physiotherapy, my groin injury was feeling great.
Enter what I call the fun running again - tempo, intervals, speed work, long runs. I was cruising along getting back into some great running condition. I started to attend an hour long boxing class once a week. I through in some hot yoga. I attended November Project multiple times. I was feeling fit and strong as a runner.
To rewind a little bit, after some discussions with my coach I had set a goal time of 3:15 for the LA Marathon, which would be a PB by more then 4 minutes ( 3:19:46 current PB ) and then 14 weeks later I would attack the Fargo Marathon, and go for my BQ and run a sub 3:05 in Fargo. I was feeling confident with how my training was coming along, that this would be obtainable.
Enter, Wednesday, January 13th…….What was suppose to be a wake up and see how you feel kind of day. ( Tuesday, I ran 1 mile repeats X 6 ) If I was feeling good my coach wanted me to do an hour tempo run. If I was feeling 50/50 then to do a 45 minute recovery swim. I woke up feeling okay and had slotted my self in mentally to do a recovery swim in the afternoon because in the morning I was off to go play SQUASH.
Well, after a bit of a warm up, rallying back and forth we got started. Lets just say in the middle of an intense rally point, I over extended and awkwardly swung, and pop went my lower back. I froze in my stance, and knew something was wrong. Being a “ tough guy “ I continued to play for a bit longer, and it was only after I was slowly jogging to hit the ball back that my legs gave out on me and I collapsed to the ground.
Quite literally the first thing that came to mind after I got up was “ holy F*&^ I have LA in a months time, WHAT AM I DOING?!?!?!”
Here I am typing this two days after the injury occurred and my back is still in a lot of pain. I have been icing it, using the tens machine on it, stretching, and taking anti-inflammatories. I woke up this morning to go to work, and I must have been in complete denial as it finally sunk in when I was going to lift Charlie ( he only weighs 35lbs ) into my SUV to bring to doggy day care, and I couldn’t lift him. It then sunk in that 80% of my job is bending over, lifting patients, lifting medical equipment and lifting the stretcher in and out of the ambulance. So, I got to work, booked off and came back home and here I am now.
Uncertain of how long I am going to be out of commission for. Uncertain what the LA Marathon in less then a months time will now bring. Uncertain when I will be pain free.
I have to ask though. Why me? Why me? Why me? I was just coming back from my groin injury. Finally feeling fit and feeling good again, and then this. Why? Right now it is something I can’t quite wrap my head around, and probably wont until all is healed.
Never take for granted the process its taken you to get to that start line. I am not saying go wrap your self in bubble wrap, and don’t do anything outside of the lines, but more or less to be aware, be prepared, and be careful, especially so close to your future goal races. I would give ANYTHING in the world right now to jog at a light pace even for 30 minutes, anything.
I have always been a believer in everything happens for a reason, and despite it not being in my favor this time, I will stand by that today.
Everything happens for a reason.
December 22nd, 2015
I can’t run…..YES YOU CAN!
How many times have you heard the famous line “I cant run” from someone in your life? I think I have literally run out of fingers and toes to count on.
It is a funny thing, as soon as that person you are talking to imagines themself running, or the discomfort associated with running, they instantly go to this negative place.
If I would have listened to these inner words five years ago, I would still be a 220lb, overweight ex-football player who hated running. Instead, I decided to say “YES I CAN.”
My journey began back in June 2010. I will always remember my very first “run” on the treadmill. I lasted maybe 15 minutes at a speed of 5mph, huffing and puffing the entire time. I was winded. I was tired. I wanted to give up. But I stuck with it, and as days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, the weight slowly started to come off. I was soon able to run for 30 minutes non-stop and thought to myself, “I have come this far, I am not stopping now.”
For the first time in my life, after losing some weight, I was finally starting to feel good about myself and was gaining the confidence that I never had.
I was determined to keep run training. I set weekly goals to stay focused and on track, whether it was to hit a certain speed or time. I would celebrate each goal completed by setting another goal. I never hired a coach. I did not follow any type of run program or plan. I was running on pure determination. It was multiple months of tears, sweat, and eventually happiness.
Fast-forward a few more months. I thought to myself, how cool and amazing would it be to participate in a half marathon? Could I do it? What would my friends and family say? Would I fail? I don’t know how to run that far. Regardless, I put my fears aside and registered for the Manitoba Half Marathon.
I will never forget the emotions and happiness of crossing that finish line in a time of 1:39:11. I had done it. I ran the entire race non-stop. After that, I knew I was hooked. It was the instant sensation of “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.”
It’s been five years since I started my running journey. I now weigh 170lbs and have completed five Marathons, 34 Half Marathons, dozen’s of 10 mile, 10km and 5km races, and a hand full of sprint triathlons. My current goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon in a time of 3:05 in May 2016, and to complete my first Ironman in Arizona in November 2016.
To all the self-doubters out there who think they can’t run, take it from me that you most certainly can! We all have it in us to do amazing things, and reach limits never thought possible. Of course if it were easy, everyone would be doing it! In the end, it’s worth it! If I can change one persons mind set out there, I have succeeded!
Feb 25th, 2016
26.2 miles of love….
So as most of you who are reading this know by now know the LA Marathon was back in February, and you are probably wondering why I am writing about it now?
Well the truth of the matter is the last months have been busy busy busy and here I find my self sitting on an airplane coming back from the Ragnar Relay SoCal ( see next blog ) with time to kill and a head full of things to say. Its better late then never…..especially this marathon experience.
For me, this was no ordinary marathon. I was battling a back injury that quite literally limited me to a hand full of runs in the previous 5 weeks leading up to LA. My longest run prior to LA was in December which was only 14 miles. Previous to that, my longest run was 26.2 miles at the Hamilton Marathon way back on November 1st.
Where am I going with all this?
I was 100% going into the LA Marathon on what ever run fitness I had prior to getting hurt. After getting injured ( see previous blog ) I completely 180 degree changed my mind set for this event. I was coming into this event not to race it, not to set a PB, not to qualify for Boston, but to spend 26.2 miles to have fun, enjoy the course, the fans, the scenery, have zero goal finish time and finally to spend 26.2 miles battling the nerves of asking my now Fiancé Robyn to marry me on the grand stage at the finish line of the LA Marathon.
Let us rewind a little bit, as this entire experience in LA was absolutely awesome. We arrived in LA early afternoon on the Friday, had some dinner, explored around a little bit and had an early night. On Saturday afternoon we attended what was a very seamless, perfectly well oiled machine of the LA Marathon Race Expo by Sketchers. 20,000+ runners and you would have never of known, as from a participant perspective it was fast, friendly and overall great runner experience! We spent a few hours at the expo exploring around like two kids in a candy shop, checking out the 200+ vendors that were set up. A+ LA!
Oh, and there was this USA Olympic Marathon qualifier or something to qualify for the summer Olympics in Rio going on in the streets of LA where thousands conjured and watched…..weirdo’s …Did we? OF COURSE! It was hands down one of the neatest things to watch live, in person. It truly is incredible how fast these ladies and gentleman run. It is one thing to watch on TV or YouTube videos of these endurance freaks, but to see these guys fly by two feet in front of your face, cruising 5:00/miles or faster, is truly incredible ( total running dork )
Race Expo. Check. Watching the USA Olympic Qualifiers. Check. Pre race dinner. Check.
So it was Saturday night after dinner the night before the race that we were both in the hotel room getting our running gear ready, and for the first time I pulled out the carrying pouch where I had the ring hiding the entire time. ( I bought the ring back in December, and had made it this far with out her finding it or having any type of suspicions.
Stealth as can be, I placed the ring into a little pocket on the front of my running shorts and zipped it up. It was in this exact moment I thought to my self “ this is happening, and this is how you are going to do it, no turning back now, sh*t just got real” We finished up with our pre race routines and called it a night.
Wake up, breakfast, shuttle down to the LA Dodgers stadium where the 20,000 other awesome people gathered to start the race. We said our good byes, good lucks love you’s to one another and off we went our separate ways. I was in corral A, Robyn corral D. As we walked our own ways, an amazing feeling came with me, knowing that the next time I would see Robyn I would be asking her to marry me…what? Is this real life? YUP!
So the marathon started and off we went running through the streets of LA and all the different boroughs, and into Beverley Hills, Hollywood, Brentwood, and finally finishing in Santa Monica along the ocean. It was a very well organized event. Water stands every mile were on point. The course signage and course marshals, on point. The volunteers through out the entire course, on point. The crowd support was like nothing else. 3-4-5 deep cheering you on the whole way. There was never a moment on the course where I had the feeling of “ oh I feel lonely right now”.
So as the miles went on, so did all the thinking in my head of how I was going to execute plan “ propose to Robyn at the finish line”. Every step I took I felt like I checked my pocket to ensure the ring hadn’t mysteriously jumped out of the pocket, even though it was zippered up, and a .0001% of it some how unzipping it self, and then falling out…just a little paranoid.
3 hours, 33 minutes later I crossed the finish line, feeling great and smiling more then ever. All things considered I was extremely happy with this result, as stated earlier I was running on what ever fitness I had before getting hurt.
So, boom, I finish and hurrying along faster then normal as the finish area was about 1 mile long. Traditional set up: get your medal, water, food, photographers surround you for a picture, and bag check being at the very end where my phone happened to be which I needed to get to so I could track where Robyn was on the course and logistically figure out what time to sneak back to the finish line to greet her.
So at this point I have Robyn on the tracker knowing she will be about another 30-40 minutes, I changed into my gear check clothes, washed up a little bit, and slithered my way back to the finish line. Definitely used my Race Director skills to sneak back to the giant finish blow up gantry. As you could imagine a large scaled event like the LA Marathon, they do not let anyone near the finish line, for obvious security reasons. So I sorted of blended my self in with the event and medical personnel and at the right moment asked one of the medical personnel “ I know I am not suppose to be here right now, but I want to propose to my girlfriend as she crosses the finish line, and she will be here any minute, can you take a photo for me?” Hesitant at first her response was “ uh yeah…” So as Robyn approached the finish I handed my phone off to the medical person and walked up to greet her, got down on one knee and the rest is history….and duh, she said YES!