Sunday, March 4, 2012

Midnight to Sunrise Run - LIMITLESS

First point, I want this blog to inspire others to push themselves and believe in themselves and teach others to live life at ultimate levels. This is my mission. Waking up everyday with this mindset gives me a sense of accomplishment. If I can inspire one person to be a little better, a little healthier, a bit more motivated or assist them achieve a goal, mission accomplished!

After completing Ironman in November of 2011 there was some down time with my training. I needed some time off of the structure and the constant routine of daily training. More so than anything, my mind needed a break. Ironman training is arduous and I had been going at it for years! Once completed, I had a big weight lifted off my shoulders. Don't get me wrong, I was very stoked on my achievement. I had just done something that only few people ever get to experience. But now it was over. My training post-Ironman was actually pretty fun. I got back in the gym, lifted some weights, did what I felt like doing. There was no structure. For me, to be on a non-structured exercise routine is completely out of the norm. For the past 7 years I have always been in a phase, a meso-cycle of some sort, always building up for a specific race. And for the first time in 7 years, I was not in this cycle. So for December and January I had the "just do what sounds fun" approach.

That brings us to my run....

During February I ran Dry Creek road. For those of you that are not familiar with this road, it's an 18 mile run with about 3000 feet of climbing. Grueling!

I ran it with my good friend Josh Hickey. I ran it well, felt strong up the hills and thought to myself, "what's next?" Josh and I started talking about running from Exeter up to Three Rivers and scheduling some self-supported long runs. Kind of weird that I started talking about running long as it never really sounded fun. But lately running has become my outlet. After studying the likes of Dean Karnazes and David Goggins, something about this ultra distance running became intriguing to me.

I headed out on a run 1 week ago. It was a Friday night around 8:00 pm. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, who runs on Friday nights? Most people are either unwinding from the long week, partying with their friends or hanging out with their families. I went for a run. I didn't set a time goal or a distance goal, I just wanted to run without limits. I would run for 90 minutes, (even had a thought of running all night) but this is when it hit me. Too many times we create self made barriers in our life. We tell ourselves we can not do something or we are not athletic enough, or we don' t have the time and then we end up cutting ourselves short on experiencing life changing things.

Too many times we allow negative self-talk to dictate our day to day living. “I’m too fat”. “I’m not tall enough.” “I look horrible in this outfit”. “I can’t get to the gym today”. “I can’t eat healthy food”. See these daily thoughts can affect our overall personality and way of life. They will affect our capacity to achieve the goals and things that we want. When you decide to embark on any goal, these pessimistic thoughts will not support your objective. Stop this way of thinking! You must work on trying to eliminate the negative thoughts that enter the head on a daily basis. Conditioning the mind to do this takes work. The first step is to believe in yourself and to always put positive thoughts into your head. “I will get to the gym after work.” “I will shop and cook healthy foods.” “I can do one more repetition.” “I can go 5 more minutes on the treadmill.” “I can run 5 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles.” These thoughts become real when you truly start believing in them. See, the thing is, whether we are physically gifted or not, we all have the ability to improve our attitude. When we improve our attitude, limits are broken and many things are possible. This is the first step when taking on a challenging task. In the fitness world, it’s a must to work on your attitude towards your perception of yourself, the exercises you are doing, the trainer you are working with, the program you are performing and the foods you decide to eat. Do not set limits. Break down those self-made barriers and open yourself up to any goal that you want to accomplish.

The next day after my Friday night run, I told my friend Josh Hickey that I wanted to plan a Midnight to sunrise run. Josh is an ultra-runner who has completed many big runs, including The Pine to Palm 100 miler last year. He does 50k training runs on random weekends.

I knew he would be crazy enough to run with me. So we started chit chatting about putting together a self supported ultra distance marathon that would have us starting at midnight and take us through the deep of the night until sunrise. Sounds kind of nutty but again, it was an individual limit breaker.

Why you ask? Is there really an answer to that question. To me, it's why not? Why not do something unique that pushes the boundaries a bit. While most people are sleeping or getting drunk, we will be out running, finding strength, growing our spirit, opening up our mind and challenging our body. Maybe that's why I like to run, because it's my serenity, my peace, my time to really zone out and grow. So we planned it...

First, let me make a clear point, not everyone needs to run long distances, in the middle of the night, to break down limits and barriers. That's not the point here. The point is that this was my individual challenge and endeavor. This is how I wanted to push myself mentally, physically and spiritually. For you, it may be to run 1 mile, or 10. It may be to stop drinking or smoking, and get healthier. The key thing is to PUSH yourself.

"When stagnation happens, life stops and you begin to die." Dean Karnazes

Let me make another point, train! If you want to achieve a specific goal, you need to train. Maybe your goal is a marathon, you need to train. Maybe it's to start a business, well you need to train. Maybe it's to build a stronger relationship, well you need to train. Every facet of our life needs training. Put in the work before going to the next step. Don't just go run 26.2 miles, you will get hurt. Don't just expect business to be successful without work, you will fail.

"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail." John Wooden

Life still had to happen all day Friday. Work was at 5:00 am and clients needed to be trained. But I made sure to eat and stay well hydrated all day. I was fortunate because I was able to rest and relax most of the afternoon and into the evening. And that is what I did. Knowing I had a 6 hour run from midnight to 6 am forced this down time. I had an easily digestible meal at 6:00 pm that consisted of pasta, turkey and beans. At about 8 pm, I went to my bed to rest my eyes for a couple hours. I was pretty excited for my adventure ahead that I only managed about 30 minutes of good sleep. 11:00 pm definitely came very fast. I brewed up some coffee, ate a cliff bar and packed my gear for the night ahead.

I definitely had some questions in my head leading to this epic run. First, how would my body hold up. Except for my marathon in my Ironman, I had never come close to running for 6 hours. This would be by far my longest run ever. And to run through the night....Would I get tired? Would it take an emotional toll on my body? Would I run into nagging issues like blisters, chaffing, pain? There were some questions waiting to be answered.

I showed up to Josh's house at 11:30 pm to a plethora of food, drinks and snacks for our night ahead. It was better than any other aide station I have seen before. This would be a big determinant on how the run would go. Nutrition is an integral part of endurance training. If you do not have a plan, you will fail! Knowing your bodies needs are crucial to maintain energy output throughout a run of this length.

Side note....

Why? This is a question many people get in regards to attaining a specific goal. Why do you want to run? Why do you want to do an Ironman triathlon? Why do you want to lose weight or change your lifestyle? Why do you do mixed martial arts? Why are you not drinking? Why do you do anything? As we move forward in life it is so critical to keep moving in a positive direction. We must put one foot in front of each other to grow, move closer to our goals and to achieve greatness. This is one of the many reasons why I compete in multisport. It gives me a goal, a chance to get better, a competitive atmosphere and I am able to be surrounded by positive/like minded people. So why you ask? Why did I decide to run in the middle of the night? Well because I am capable. I can. I wanted to. It made me better. It taught me about who I am. I wanted a challenge. I wanted something unique. Why do you want a specific objective? Figure it out because those whys will keep you motivated. They will keep you pushing even during the tough times.

We headed out at 11:45 pm. Headlamp on - check, fuel belt ready - check, music on - check, mindset ready to run all night - check! We took off running together, chit chatting about whatever came to our heads. But most of the time, silence was the norm. We zoned out, opened our mind, was in tune with our body and listened to our own self thinking. That might be why I run. I can be in tune with my spirit, my soul, my body, and my mind. The mission was to run out approximately 6.5 miles and then return to our "aide station", break for a few minutes and then head back out. Breaking the run up into 3 parts made for a better mental aspect. I told myself, 3 x 2 hour intervals, I got this. Brings me to my next point...

Try your best not to look too far ahead in going after your aspirations. You must have a path that you are trying to follow but it's huge to live one day at a time. Goals become more attainable when you break them up into smaller pieces. If you have a goal to lose 50 pounds, don't be set on the actual number. Break it up into small pieces. If you wanted to lose this 50 pounds over a year, your small goal is to lose just under 1 pound a week. This is very attainable and realistic. But looking at 50 pounds as a whole, makes it look too daunting and could be frustrating. The first step is knowing where you want to go. Then you must break down that objective into pieces, then you start constructing a game plan that breaks your goal down all the way to the tasks you must handle today. Get the tasks done today so you stay on track to achieve your ultimate goal. This is a constant, consistent way of life. Keep going after your goals. Don't let up. Be determined and get through the tough times.

Surprisingly we hit mile 10 very easy and fast. Fast, not in the sense of pure speed, but time just flew by. We were running 9:00 minute miles, which isn't bad in regards to ultra distance running. We were 3 miles away from our first break and it felt like we had only been running 30 minutes. We are off to a good start. The only thing that was affecting me was it got cold and my hands and arms were freezing. But that was an easy fix as I added an extra layer to keep my core warm and cover my arms better. We finished loop #1 in 2 hours and ran 13.2 miles. It was now 1:50 am. At break #1, I ate a snickers bar, drank a few drinks of a mountain dew, filled my bottle with Gatorade and was ready to head out on section #2.

We headed out to loop #2 and decided to take another route. This route would lead us through the downtown streets of Visalia, which at 2:00 am was pretty serial. Running down the middle of the road on a usually busy street is different. The few people that were still out, maybe from their party escapades definitely gave us some weird looks. "What are these guys doing?!" There we were, running gear on, head lamps shining bright, just running through the streets at 3:00 am in the morning. Yeah, I guess I would think that was unusual if I saw that.

As we hit the 20 mile mark, it was now around 3:00 am. This is where the mind really started to wander. My thoughts were all over place. At times, I would chuckle out loud because I would think about what I was doing at that specific time.... You get to a point where you start getting an out of body experience. Honestly from about 3:00 am - 4:00 am, my mind was on cruise control and I don't really recall many of my thoughts. All I know is that I was still running strong. My body was surprisingly feeling good. It didn't feel I had been running 26 miles. Yeah, I was hitting the marathon mileage and still had spark in my legs - thank God for endorphins and adrenaline. I was pretty excited turning the corner to head back to our aide station for the second time. I was hungry, needed to refuel, stretch my legs and was ready for the last push.

At one point, I told Josh, "we should try and hit 40 miles". He gave me a look, like if I was crazy or something; and that is coming from Mr. Crazy himself. So I told myself to just hit this last loop and I would call it a night or morning, or whatever it was. It is now 4:00 am, it's my normal wake-up time but the feeling you have when you have been running for 4 hours and still have 2 hours of running to go at 4:00 am is a bit unusual. They talk about a "runner's high", I think I had it. During my last break, I ate 1/2 of a Snickers, drank a few more drinks of mountain dew and had 2 cliff shot blocks. Just enough to regain my energy.

The last loop I did by myself. Josh was feeling fatigued (he had been recovering from a cold, so we decided he should not push through and only run about 5 miles on the last loop). I must say that running in the dark, by yourself, no cars, no one to talk to, barely able to see the ground in front of you, this is eerie. I think it had to do with already running all night, body was getting tired, my mind was definitely tired and the music was getting annoying. At 4:45 am, I turned off my music and allowed my mind to just go. Running around the golf course was interesting because my mind was going in and out of what was going on. I would be in the zone and a minute later be out of it, thinking about how tired I was, and then would get back into the zone. It went back and forth for awhile. I made it to the 33 mile mark! I stopped and walked for 2 minutes as I drank some fluids and took a moment to recharge my thoughts and pep talk myself to finishing the last few miles strong. I said out loud "It's just you and nature, Justin. Let's handle this and finish strong." I took off at around 7:30 min/mile pace. Actually felt good at this pace. My heart rate was low, I wasn't breathing hard and I was able to hold this pace. I came around the last few turns and was pretty in tune with my thoughts, my body and my overall feelings of the last 6 hours. "Limitless", I told myself as I turned the corner to Josh's house. It was over, run completed. It was 6:00 am, the sun was rising, I could see the beautiful mountains lining the valley wall and I took it in...

Total Distance: 36.1 miles
Time: 5 hours 45 minutes
Calories burned: 3861
Calories consumed during: 1000 (166 calories/hour)
Avg. Pace: 9:33 min./mile

The first thing I did was use the restroom. I forgot to mention that I drank some green tea at stop #2, it was great. The warmth of the tea soothed my throat and warmed my body but the antioxidants made my stomach rumble. The last few miles I needed to use the restroom bad. Once that was done, I wanted to eat. I had 2 mini bagels with peanut butter and honey, drank a Gatorade, had some orange slices and sat and rested for a few minutes.

See breaking a limit or doing something unimaginable for most people can be quite exhilarating. That is why I challenge you to reach new heights, go for something kind of crazy, push your your limits! You will know what I am talking about.

I headed home, took a very warm shower, ate some more food and fell asleep for a couple hours. My adventure had come to an end but the journey is just beginning. What's next you ask? Well, without giving too many details to my next project, I will tell you it will be an epic expedition that will really push my limits. The plan is to announce my project on March 24th at the End of the Trail Half Marathon in Visalia. Let's just say I will be running a lot for the next few months!

Finally, if you made it this far - WOW! Thank you. I challenge you to go out and push your own limits. Find what motivates you, drives you, inspires you and really find that inner strength to achieve a specific goal. Don't settle for average because nothing ever good comes from average. Know that you can do big things. You can accomplish your goals. You can knock down those barriers. Just put in the work, put in the preparation and ROLL BABY!

Thank you for reading and let me know your thoughts...

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