Wednesday, August 28, 2019

You Never Lose a Race!

*Just a heads up, this post is going to get real and is not as light hearted as my normal runner ramblings.

I started this blog because I am truly passionate about trail running, ultra running, and running in general.  I want everyone to lace up their shoes and run.  Even if it is to the stop sign at the end of the street, around the block, or laps around their school.  Our society is so hyper focused on social media and the digital environment that they forget there is a real world only ten feet away.  People are losing sight (or have never discovered) who they are and what they can accomplish.  People are too focused on the lives of others that they do not know how to properly deal with stress, anxiety, depression, or conflict.  I truly believe this is one reason why we are seeing an increase in violence within the U.S.

It is hard for me to talk about, especially in such an open forum, but for years I have battled the effects of depression, anxiety, and aggressive and sometimes unmanageable rage.  I had to find an outlet before I hurt someone else or myself.  One event in my life almost sent me over the edge and I know I needed to get away from everyone before I exploded.  Luckily I was cleaning my barracks room and my running shoes were sitting on my bed right in front of me, as if they new I needed them.  I slipped on these painfully inadequate saviors and just started running.  By the time I had run myself to the point that my toes were bleeding and I didn't have the energy to walk, much less be mad, I had been running for eight hours.  The adventure of trying to find a cab back to base is a whole other story for a more light hearted blog.

Since I am passionate about the benefits of running nothing chaps my pale cheeks more than hearing runners complain about a DNF (Did Not Finish) or down play their performance during a race.  Who cares what place, time, or distance you came in.  The question you should be asking is, "Did I give it my all?"  The only person you are racing against is the version of you that put toes on the starting line.  You have zero control on how other runners feel, who the weather or terrain is going to effect them, or who mentally strong they are going to be on that day, at that race.  You can control how you feel and how you are going to deal with the challenges ahead of you.  You should come across the finish line or end a race a different person than you started.

I hope we all have been to that point in a run or race where your toes are aching so bad that it feels like toothpicks are shoved under your nails.  THe arches of your feet feel like you are stepping on red hot nails.  Your knees are wrapped with razor wire and clamped into a vice.  Every flexion of the hips sends a sharp pain shooting down your legs like an electrical charge.  It feels like you have crushed glass and sand paper between your thighs and ass crack.  Your back is screaming, head is pounding, mouth is as dry as the Sahara, and all you want to do is lay down right where you are and sleep.  This is the point at which you have the opportunity to morph into a newer better you.  Your brain is telling you that can't go on, that you don't want to go on, that quitting is the best option.  It is so tempting to listen but your heart is telling you to endure, to press on, that you can keep going.

The emotions that are generated at this point are amazing.   There is all this anger that starts to build up.  Tears begin to swell in your eyes.  You are beginning to tremble and your fist begin to clench as if you are trying to hold on to your sanity.  Your heart rate is increasing as if you are about to leap off the edge of a waterfall.  The shaking increases, your muscles are becoming more and more tense; if you are not in a full blown cry by now than you are close, and the fighting between your brain and heart is getting louder in your head.  Your body feels as if any second you are going to explode sending a shockwave across the earth that a nuclear blast.  Then finally you can not take it any more and you belt out, "FFFFFFFF*******CCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK!"   At that moment there is a victor.  You either found your limit or found the strength to live with the pain a little longer.

Either decision, to continue or to quit, does not matter.  In that moment you fought your most dreaded and fearsome foe, yourself.  No one can say that by pushing yourself to such a point where you are teetering on a complete mental breakdown that you are not a different person afterwords.  In the end, that is all that matters.  So what if you came in 56th, DFL (dead fucking last), first, or DNF'ed.  Running is about you, your personal growth, and finding the most importing thing in the world; you! The other runners have their own battles to attend.  The volunteers are there to support you and help you during those rough times.  Everyone is at the race to celebrate the victories, not just the elite's, but all of the runners.  Some of the most crazy, energetic, and lively race finish celebrations I have witnessed were for the runner that finished DFL.

So in closing, no matter how your race goes, own your performance.  You grew from experience.  Your are a better person then you started.  You have learned something new about yourself.  Take what you have learned, build upon it, and incorporate it into your life.  The stresses and anxiety you face day today can hardly challenge you as emotionally as that point on the trail.

- Pain is Inevitable, Suffering is Optional.  Ultra Flunkie

If you are interested in learning more about running ultramarathons or other distance run coaching, please visit

Monday, August 26, 2019

To Endure Or Not To Endure

The question of to race or not to race has already been answered if: 1. you are reading this blog 2. the second tab on your browser is  Now the question is to endure or not to endure?  There are many types of ultra marathon challenges you can choose from.  If it is your first, then you are lucky in the fact that this book of your life is a "choose your own adventure", and it starts now.

If you have ran an ultra before: Continue to Paragraph 2
If you have never ran an ultra or can barely spell it: Continue to Paragraph 1

**If you have ran an ultra before you might want to skip to the next section because you didn't read the "choose your own adventure" books as a kid. 😎**  If you have not ran an ultra yet then don't worry, this post is going to benefit you the most.  Ultras usually start at 50 kilometers and go up from there and have cutoff times in a similar manner to marathons and half marathons.  The normal or usual progression for a someone wanting to get into ultra running is to train for a 50k which is very similar to training for a marathon.  The only modification in your training is to adapt to the terrain, weather effects, and nutrition. 

So you trained for a 50k or any other ultra distance but is that really your limit?  How do you know how far you are capable of going?  Maybe you are capable of running a 50 miler or 100k.  This is where my favorite type of race comes into play.  Timed endurance races are usually looped courses and are in the formats of 6, 12, 24, and 48 hours.  You can run as little or as long as you want.  The point is to accumulate as many miles as possible in the time limit.  

I love timed endurance races mostly because it is the ultimate gauge of how far you can push yourself.  First off it's a mind fuk.  Its hard to pace yourself when you don't have a finish line that you are trying to reach.  Second, you can rest as long as you want and usually set up your own little aid station with the stuff that you think you need/want.  This also can screw you because you can get really distracted while at your fortress of solitude.  The third reason, also my favorite, is that you get to interact will all the runners, aid station volunteers, and race directors a lot more than any other type of race.  You keep coming through the start/finish line over and over again.  Everyone has their areas set up next to each other and are usually sharing their food, beer, grills, etc.  You can even have your own cheering section or beering section that camps out.  Have them change your socks, put ice down your pants, hand you a cold one, and then slap that tail and tell you to get moving.  These races are more of a community event.  The final reason, and most relevant to this blog, is you have to opportunity to see how far you can push yourself in that specific time period.  So if you are training for a 50k because that is the logical step into the ultra community but you completed over 50 miles in a 12 hour endurance race, why waste your time?  Most 50 milers have a cutoff around 12 hours. 

I love to just run at my own pace and enjoy being outside.  So the type of race I sign up for is very important to me and only me.  This is something to think about when picking your next race.  Why are you looking at a particular race?  Is it the challenge of the distance, the challenge of the terrain, maybe it is the theme of the race (Habanero, Badwater, Georgia Death Race) that draws you to the race?  For me the community atmosphere and the enjoyment of running is my priority and that is what pulls me to timed endurance races.  

So next time you are browsing take a peak at a timed endurance race.  Give it a try and see how far you can push yourself or how drunk you can get and still complete a loop. Whatever tickles your pickle.

-Time is one thing that we can never get back.  So how can you make the most of it if there is a limit on the distance you can travel?  Ultra Flunkie

If you would like to learn more about running ultramarathons or have questions about coaching, please view my coaching page at

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Medal Or Just Metal?

I was running a six hour endurance race in July and overheard a discussion between two runners about finisher medals. One individual made the statement that they did not want a medal and another asked him why. The conversation almost ended in an argument because neither could see the other's point of view- was it just metal or was it a medal (in this particular race they were hand crafted ceramic and they were both wrong). An unattended consequence of hearing this conversation is that it sparked a series of arguments in my head as I tried to determine where I stood on the topic. The outcome of the internal chaos that rattled around in my head for the next few hours is as follows:

 The Ultra Flunkie blog and ultimately my brand's mission is to inspire others to get outdoors and just get moving. Ultimately, I would love for all of my Ultra Flunkies to successfully run one 50k just to prove to themselves what they are capable of. So how does this relate to medals? My wife and I have our medals hanging up in our family room and yes I even display a few 5k finisher medals. This is not to brag or to show how bad ass I am, my dog reassures me of this everyday, but to remind me where I started and what I have achieved. Each one had weeks, months, or years of effort behind them. They remind me on those days, when a short three to six mile run hurts, that I am capable of much more and to pull my depressed head out of my butt.

 If you are new to running and are trying to complete your first mile, three mile, or even your first half marathon, then you are putting a lot of effort into your training. You are constantly fighting the urge to sit on the couch and binge watch all the seasons of Fringe. You are fighting the urge to stay inside because it is too hot, cold, raining, dark, early, late, or the sky is just too blue. When race day comes around you are sweating before your toes even make it to the starting line. Your pulse is beating in your neck and in that bulgy little vein near your temple.  Your heart feels like its going to pop out of your ribs like a slimy little alien. Your brain is telling you to just get back into your car because you are not ready. And your anxiety has you standing in a line with 100 other runners to empty your bowels in the only two port-o-potties that haven't overflowed yet. Then you finally start running, the fear begins to be replaced with pain in your feet, back, knees, or a sever side stitch or stomach cramp that will not go away.  You want to just stop running and go home but you push yourself to keep going. The anger builds up inside of you while yelling to yourself, "Left Foot, Right Foot, Left Foot, Right Foot," hopefully only in your head.  Trust me, other runners will start avoiding you if you lose track of what you are yelling in your head and out loud! Finally, you hear the music, cheering; you see crowds of people, and then those two magical, beautiful, and angelic words appear: Finish Line. Once you cross over to the promise land of vitamin waters, bananas, and hopefully beer (there better be beer or why did I pick this race) the pain diminishes temporally and you are overcome with joy. Then world will know just how excited you feel because all your social media pages are going to be selfies of you, your medal, and your beers (all of them)! BE PROUD, YOU EARNED IT!

Now weeks or months have passed and out of the excitement from your last race....... excuse me: triumph and glorious victory..... you have registered for an even longer distance. The anxiety and fear begin to set in again. Now is when that piece of metal needs to be medal. It needs to remind you of the hard work you put in to achieving that victory. It will remind you that you survived the last time and you still had the energy to get sloshed with your new running buddies after the race. That medal will be the encouragement to keep going. To run faster, further, and harder than you ever have before.

So, if the medal ever just becomes metal, then ask yourself why did I run today? If it was not to challenge yourself, to reach a new level of zen or self awarenesses, was it to help someone else to reach their goals?

 Let me know what your medal or medals mean to you. Leave a comment and tell me which one has the most sentimental value to you.

- The value of an object is directly related to how we perceive its worth.  That means you are and should be the most valuable object in your life, so treat it as such.  Ultra Flunkie

For running programs and coaching please visit 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Not Your Mama's Stroller

Just imagine if you had an endless aid station on your next long training run.  This aid station has all of your favorite snacks, drinks, and of course beer!  I know, this is an ultra runner's version of a wet dream but it can also be a reality.

In my latest YouTube video, with help from Ultra Flunkie D, I reviewed the Thule Chariot Cross.  This stroller is a multisport, bike, and cross-country trailer that is also an amazingly capable jogging stroller.  If you want to see more, follow the link at the end of this post.

Now, I know you are wondering why are we discussing jogging strollers especially in conjunction with aid stations.  Many of us have families that we are trying to work our running schedule around.  In my family, my wife has her own sport that she is obsessed with, I mean competes in, that requires her to travel weekly for practice or out-of-town races on the weekends.  (Dragon Boat racing is a cult and nobody can convince me otherwise). This usually means that Ultra Flunkie D and I are hanging out together.  I still have my miles to get in during the week and I really hate running on the road.  This led me to search for a jogging stroller that can truly go on the types of trails that I prefer to run at the same time safely protecting my little man.  This led me to Thule.

Running with a stroller is not just for the moms.  Imagine running your ten miles or 20 mile runs pushing a sled the whole way.  You are going to either be pushing a load or pulling against an apposing force depending if you are running up or down hill.   This engages additional muscles, especially in our core, that we typically ignore during our normal training sessions.  Trust me your back and gluteus will be speaking to you the next day.  An added bonus is that you are sharing your passion for the outdoors with the little person or persons you created.  Thats a lot better than allowing them to just sit in front of the electronic babysitter.

Ok Ok, now to that amazing aid station I enticed you with at the begging of this ramble session.  Many of us that run ultras do it because we are just that crazy and not just for races.  This means there are times that we find trails that need to be tackled and the running is not the most difficult part, the logistics are our biggest hurdle.  Personally, I love the C&O Canal Tow
Path.  It just happens to be approximately 50 miles from Great Falls to Harpers Ferry.  There are only a few places someone can drop off supplies to me while running but I have found a way around that.  A well designed jogging stroller can provide a rolling aid station that is tailored specifically to your needs.  I like to have battery packs, first aid supplies, caffeine, extra clothing, and a variety of snacks on hand.  You never know what you or someone you come across on the trail may need.  The best part of the Thule is it can be set up to be pushed as a jogging stroller or pulled like a rickshaw.  It also can hold approximately 95 pounds and has a waterproof cover.  Essentially I have everything and anything I need at any point.  Perfect!

So next time you see someone running with a stroller, remember, they are putting much more effort in their run than those floating past them.  If they look way too happy to be running then its probably some Sailor Jerry's and coke in the cup holder.

Ultra Flunkie's Thule Chariot Cross Review

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Get Off Your Ultra High Horse

Admit it- we all have heard someone say it or have said it ourselves, "I will not pay to do a (5k, 10k, 10 miler) because it's a waste of my time!"  I know I use to say this exact statement until I realized that I was being ignorant and honestly extremely selfish.  Yes, I can run much longer than a 10k and usually do during my lunch hour, but it shouldn't be all about me.

Ultra running is usually a pretty lonely sport.  Unless you have a really special, and slightly crazy, someone then you are usually running alone.  Does that mean that your friends and family do not like to run or are not interested in taking it up?  The answer is NO, they just are not as crazy as we are and have no desire to run that far.  Yes, they think we are crazy!!  Maybe they are working their way to their first half or full marathon. Now ask your self, how many times have those same individuals supported you during your training, as crew members, race or emotional support team, and lifted you up when you DNF'ed?  Is it too much to run the Army 10 miler through D.C. with your spouse or run the Across the Bay 10k in Annapolis with your work buddies?  They have been there and supported you so why would you not be there for them.

Now that the guilt trip is over, let me give some advice on how to be selfish and unselfish at the same time.  Look at the 10k or 10 miler as a speed training day.  Start the race with your friends or loved ones and pace with them for a little while.  Then be a good person and sprint 800 meters ahead, or past the really cool thing everyone wants their pictures with, and pull off to the side and wait for your partners.  Now take their pictures and make sure you get some good action shots.  We all know the ones you get from the race photographers make you look drunk and lost.  Now rinse and repeat during the rest of the race (pace, sprint, stop, pictures).  Make sure you run in with your running partners so you can all cherish the memory with the standard finish photo.

What?  This is an ultra blog so yes I am still going to find a way to help us train without looking like selfish pricks.

- A picture is worth a thousand words, but if you don't take a good one you are going to hear a lot more than that,  Ultra Flunkie

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Introductions are in Order

Who is this Ultra Flunkie dude?

Well I am far from an elite or competitive ultra runner but I do absolutely love the sport, if you want to call it that.  Before I ever knew that there were 50ks and above races, I was spending all day running local trails to escape from the cement world.  I was not born with the ability to run ultras (I am sure there are some out there that were) but instead developed an ability to push myself while maintaining a positive mental attitude thanks to a 20 years career the U.S. Marine Corps.

Now it is time for me to begin planning my transition to a new career. My new priorities are to devote more time to focus on my family, my passion for trail running, and more specifically ultras.  Trail running is my escape, my relief from the stresses of everyday life, my way to deal with anxiety and depression, and my grounding cable.  That is why I want to- no- I have to publish this blog.  I want to bring this amazing sport, or hobby for some, to more people.  There are so many people that are so focused on their jobs, bills, social media ("who likes me?" stuff), and other stresses but have no productive means to deal with it all.

I am not an expert, a doctor, an elite athlete, or anything special that makes me an authoritative figure.  I am a fellow runner, and running coach, that is passionate about running and developing a healthy lifestyle and I want to share with you my thoughts and experiences.  Even if only one person finds this blog helpful and educational then I believe it to be a success.

-Everything Is Amazing, Ultra Flunkie

Motivation Monday: Mindset

Mondays! Uh, here we go again.  Out of any day of the week this one seems to be the hardest. As a culture we have developed social mindset t...