Thursday, March 14, 2013

I'm leaving...

Thank you everyone who has been following me on here, but I am no longer going to be posting on this site. A couple of years ago I tried wordpress to compare it with blogspot and see which I liked better. I posted everything at both sites to see which I prefered. It was a tough decision and one obviously I took my time making. But I finally decided that wordpress is a better fit for me. I hope you'll forgive me and visit/follow my blog at Thank you again!
Some of my recent posts there:

Whole Grain, Steak & Veggie Delight

Monday, February 25, 2013

Quick & Easy Healthy Meal

I originally started this blog to document my journey from heel striker to forefoot runner. Along the way I started posting about running in general, and cycling and triathlons. I also intended (and will at some point in very near future do so) to blog about my profession of athletic training. Recently I hit upon another topic to write on that actually relates to all of it, nutrition, more specifically cooking nutritious meals. I’ve been cooking fairly nutritious meals for a long time and keep playing with new recipes, and over time I’ve come to realize that many people I know are astounded by how easy it is for me to make healthy but tasty meals. So, I’ve decided to start sharing some of my more successful experiments with food on here.
We all know that healthy usually means fresh, but also frozen and to avoid processed foods. But keeping fresh foods at home means constant trips to the grocery and we don’t always have time for that. I try to the go with frozen, but occasionally I will throw in a can of something, as I did for this recipe.
I took a couple of turkey Italian sausages that we had in the freezer and lightly thawed in microwave until I could chop them up. I heated a large skillet and dropped in the sausage to brown with about 1/2 a diced white onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic, salt & pepper.
While that was cooking I put 1 3/4 cups (w/ splash more) of water on to boil. Once boiling I added in 1/4 cup farro, 1/4 cup bulger wheat, 1/4 cup quinoa, and about 1/4 cup of whole wheat spaghetti broken into ~1" pieces. (water ratio on grains: farro 3:1, bulger wheat 2:1, quinoa 2:1, and the splash was for pasta (needed more)).
Once sausage was cooked I added can of diced tomatoes (with liquid), 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1/4 cup of chia, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, dried basil (prefer fresh herbs, but go with what you have...), and more salt & pepper.
When grain/pasta mixture had absorbed all the water I added it with some additional water (about 1/2 cup as grain was a little too al dente) into the sausage, onion, tomato, pea mixture and let simmer for a few minutes until water was absorbed and grain done.
I served with a topping of fresh grated parmesan cheese. It was quite yummy. Sorry I didn't get a pic to share (camera/phone temporarily out of order). From start to finish took about 25min and there was enough food to serve four. Nutritious, delicious, easy and quick, what’s not to like?

**(the grains chosen were partially for flavor but also because they had about the same cooking time as the spaghetti so it would all be done at the same time)
**(regular Italian sausage, or about ½-2/3 pound of ground meat could be substituted for turkey Italian sausage)

Don't forget, March is National Athletic Training Month: Every Body Needs An Athletic Trainer. (posts about #NATM2013 coming soon!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trail Running 101: How Not to Trail Run

I've been hitting the trails my whole life and running for over 35 years, and running trails for over 30 years. I've gained a lot of experience over the years and I pretty well qualify as above average when it comes not just to running, but to running trails. There isn't much I haven't encountered or dealt with, yet I recently received a reminder that I'm not perfect.

A friend of mine recently completed his first Ironman (140.6, the real deal) and is looking for his next challenge. This summer he also read Scott Jureck's book "Eat to Run", and he is now looking to do his first ultra with a long range goal of running a 100+ mile ultra some day. He knows I've done three 50k's and am looking to do a 50 mile within the next year. So, he invited me along when he planned to do his first 50k. Unfortunately the race was already closed, but undeterred he decided we should just do a 30 mile trail run in its stead. I agreed and less than two weeks later we inked in to run.

He got online and started looking at a trail and figuring out logistics. He quickly decided on the Appalachian Trail and found a place where we could start which would have us hitting a gas station 5 miles later, and a place to park his car with supplies 5 miles beyond that. The plan was to drop off his car and take my truck back to start point. We were to run 15 miles out (15.6 actually, he wanted 50k) and then turn back. With the gas station and his car we would have "aid stations" at 5, 10, 20, and 25 mile marks. Everything sounded perfect, except one teeny, tiny, thing. Neither one of us had ever seen the section of trail we were going to run.

Morning of the run came and he drove over to my house. I then followed him through the narrow, winding mountain roads to where we were going to drop his car. It was still dark and we didn't know exact spot where trail intersected road. After driving a while and knowing that we were getting close we found the spot where a trail hit the road and parked his car. I dropped off my supplies in his car, conferred with him about what he had and then we headed to out start area. By the time we got to our start point it was light enough for us to begin, so we geared up and set out.

I have to admit, that despite his having a fairly well thought out plan and course I did have some apprehensions. The first and foremost was the terrain that we would face. I didn't care about the ascents and descents, I knew they'd be there and they'd be long and steep, I was concerned about the trail itself. I had some fear that trail could be so rocky that running could be virtually impossible. In addition, we had a lot of rain recently, and who knows what that could have done to the trails.

Anyway, after putting on our camelbacks, off we went. We had about 100 yards on the road until we hit the trail, and were quickly there. Unfortunately, one of my fears was already showing its ugly head. The trail was immediately too rocky to run. The trail was nothing but rocks, some loose, some not, some suspect, but not runable. In all fairness, it was also a very steep climb that we may have walked anyway to save our legs for the run ahead. We slogged our way to the top, and got some sketchy, but runable trail and took off.

Back in the early spring I started developing some problems with my right hip. I went through bouts of better and worse through the rest of the spring, all of the summer and into the start of the fall. I was starting to feel better, but going into the run I was concerned it may not hold up, and within first mile I found out that it wouldn't. Our first downhill I slipped and came down hard on the heel of that same leg. I immediately felt a sharp, searing pain in my hip, and quickly lost strength in that hip. I could run, with little pain, but I wasn't able to lift knee of that leg as high, and that would quickly prove a problem.

The trail continued to be very rocky, and impossible to run in many places. It got to the point where we were desperate to run and we were running every possible opportunity. Unfortunately, since I was having trouble lifting my right leg, I was catching more and more rocks and roots with my toes and aggravating the hip further. I could have turned back, but I'm not that smart and it goes against my deepest beliefs, keep running until you can't.

After over an hour of running we reached the gas station that marked the five mile point in the run. We stopped for a few minutes while Doug (Jr as I refer to him) got something to eat. We both grabbed a quick drink as well and continued on.

The trail didn’t get any easier, and if anything actually got harder. The footing was horrible and we had some pretty steep ascents and descents. It resulted in us doing a lot of walking and slow jogging, but when we hit a decent stretch of trail Jr would take off. I did my best to hold on to him during those stretches. For the most part I was holding close to him, but it got harder and harder to do with each passing mile. I found myself focusing on just making it to the 10 mile mark and his car. I wasn’t going to quit, but I couldn’t look any further ahead than that point, or I would start the negative downward spiral mentally.

Almost two hours after leaving the gas station we finally reached the road where Jr had parked his car. Unfortunately, the trail didn’t cross the road where we thought it did, but it was close enough. We only had about 100 yards on the road to get to his car, where we pulled out our stash of food and drink. While refueling we discussed how long it had taken for us to reach that point, how far we had left to go, and terrain that we would most likely encounter. We quickly came to realization that instead of the 6-7 hour run we had thought we were going to do, that it was more likely going to be well over 10 hours. This was more time than either of us really wanted to put into the run, and to my relief, Jr agreed that we should turn back.

A few more minutes of rest, food, drink and foam roller and we started back the way we came. I had tightened up pretty good during that stop and really started to struggle to keep up. Jr was running strong, and now that he knew we weren’t going 30 miles, but rather only 20 miles which he’d done before (though not on trails), he started pushing the pace. I was struggling to lift my right foot enough to clear the rocks and roots so I wouldn’t trip or injure him further. As a result, I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been on where I was stepping with my left foot. I was only concerned with getting enough lift with my right.

About 2 ½- 3 miles into the return I paid the price for my inattention to my footing. As I was swinging my left leg through I smashed my pinky toe into a large rock, and the momentum of my foot and leg kept them traveling forward. Unfortunately my pinky toe remained with the rock (remember, I wear Vibram Five Fingers). The toe was forcefully ripped to the side and I felt an immediate sharp burning pain sear through my foot. I’ve stubbed many a toe over the years, and some of them very hard, but I knew instantly that this wasn’t a stub. It was broken. Plain and simple, there was no doubt in my mind, I broke my toe.

Despite the quick eruption of pain in my left foot, and the shout of pain that escaped me, I kept running. Jr heard me, glanced back, saw that I was still running and so he continued on not knowing what I just did. We still had over 7 – 7 ½ miles left to get back to my truck. I could have stopped and turned back for Jr’s car, but we had already shortened the run, I didn’t want to totally kill it for him, so I kept running.

The rest of the run was just a painful blur. I could no longer push off on my left foot, and could lift my right. This resulted in me catching my right foot more and more often on roots and rocks. Each time that I did so, the hip got a little bit worse. And, because of how rocky the trail was, I kept banging and catching my broken toe on other roots and rocks, most of which with healthy toe wouldn’t have been that bad, but were now causing me a good deal of pain. After what seemed an eternity to me, we reached the gas station again, which meant only 5 remaining miles to run.

We both got something to eat and drink while we were at the gas station. Jr inquired about my hip, and I told him it hurt, but I’d make it. I decided not to tell him about the toe just yet. I didn’t want him to try getting me to stay at the gas station while he went for truck, or to cause him to quit the run. It is just a pinky toe after all, and though it was painful, and I could tell very swollen, it wasn’t going to kill me. I’d been struggling to keep within visual range of him on the good sections of trail, and was taking some risks to try and catch back up on the bad, but I thought I could make the remaining distance without slowing him too much. So when he was ready to run again, so was I.

Not really much to say about the remaining 5 miles beyond that it got harder and harder for me and I kept falling further and further back. He started waiting for me at start of each of the bad sections and once I caught up, he’d start off again. Finally, with about 1 ½ miles left I confessed what had happened to my toe after he’d had a lengthy wait for me to catch up to him. I told him to go ahead and I’d be along as soon after him as I could. He refused to go and kept waiting for me, and so we very slowly covered the remaining distance. When we got back to road that my truck was parked on, he smoothly accelerated down the road the short distance to the truck. I was able to run a slow hobble behind him.

On the day mistakes were made, but things were also done right. It is always good to either scout the trail you plan to run, or get a good description from someone who knows. You can head into it blind, but may find yourself doing very little running as we did. Also, I probably shouldn't have attmepted anything like that until I knew my hip was fully recovered and healed. Trail running is much more strenuous than running on roads. However, we were smart enough to run with a partner in case something happened. Jr had done an excellent job of figuring out logistics for keeping us fueled and hydrated. We had our cell phones with us, and we were smart enough to turn back (well, at least Jr was) when we knew trail was going to be too much for us to do the distance we had planned.

After the run, instead of letting me lick my wounds, my wife had me out digging a new garden. Pinky toe and hip aren't that important...

Oh, and thanks to Doug, aka Jr, whose pictures I stole for the post...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Help Promote National Athletic Training Month

As a way to help promote and celebrate National Athletic Training Month, those of you with twitter accounts and a couple free minutes around 1pm (eastern) tomorrow, I’d love some help: Please spread the word and tweet away:
District 4 NATA member Travis Gallagher, ATC, urges athletic trainers across the country to tweet about the profession on specified dates and times (see schedule below). By coordinating efforts, NATA members can make athletic training a trending topic, which will then be promoted to all in the Twitter universe. Athletic trainers and their friends, family, former athletes and followers should tweet and retweet as many times as they can at the designated dates/times using the hashtags listed below:
Thursday, March 15, 2012: #ATaccomplishments #NATM Tweet at 1 p.m. eastern, 12 p.m. central, 11 a.m. mountain and 10 a.m. pacific Examples:
-Hearing reporters use the proper “athletic trainer” terminology when giving injury updates #ATaccomplishments #NATM -ATs taking it upon themselves to get recognition through social media #ATaccomplishments #NATM -AEDs in every school #ATaccomplishments #NATM
Thursday, March 29, 2012: #ATFavoriteMoments #NATM Tweet at 1 p.m. eastern, 12 p.m. central, 11 a.m. mountain and 10 a.m. pacific Examples:
-Watching my ACL athlete return and contribute to a championship! #ATFavoriteMoments #NATM -Passing my National @BOCATC exam #ATFavoriteMoments #NATM -Having “Athletic Trainer” trend on @Twitter #ATFavoriteMoments #NATM
Help spread the word by emailing, posting and tweeting about these upcoming events. Ask your co-workers, colleagues, friends, family, students and athletes to be participate to ensure a successful project. Thank you!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March is National Athletic Training Month

Athletic trainers save lives
Sports injuries can be serious. Brain and spinal cord injuries and conditions such as heat illness can be life threatening if not recognized and properly handled. ATs are there to treat acute injuries on the spot. Athletes have chronic illnesses, too. People with diabetes and asthma can and do safely work and exercise, and the athletic trainer can help manage these critical health issues as they relate to physical exertion.
Not all athletes wear jerseys
There’s an emphasis on physical activity in America and with the graying of the population, there is an increased incidence of injuries. Boomers have been and will be physically active well into their senior years. Athletic trainers work with the recreational and professional athlete. Many jobs are physically demanding. The duties of a baggage handler, dancer or soldier all require range of motion and strength and stamina, and hold the potential for musculoskeletal injuries.
Athletic trainers are experts
Working to prevent and treat musculoskeletal injuries and sports-related illnesses, athletic trainers offer a continuum of care unparalleled in health care. ATs are part of a team of health care professionals – they practice under the direction and in collaboration with physicians. ATs are specialists; they work with physically active people to prevent and treat injuries and conditions. ATs aren’t personal trainers, who focus solely on fitness, conditioning and performance enhancement. ATs are health care professionals.

The athletic trainer is the health care system for athletes and others
Athletic trainers are on-site. They work with patients to avoid injuries; they’re there when injuries happen and they provide immediate care; and they rehabilitate patients after injuries or surgery. It’s a continuum of care. Athletic trainers come to the patient, not the other way around. They know their patients well because they are at the school, in the theater or on the factory floor every day.
Athletic trainers take responsibility and lower risk
School administrators, athletics directors and coaches have their own jobs, which may pose a conflict of interest with athlete safety; they are not experts in managing injuries or sports-related illnesses, nor should they be responsible to do so. Handling injuries at school or at work, rather than sending the patient to the emergency department, saves money and time loss – and gets them back on their feet faster. Just as professional athletes do, recreational athletes should have access to professional athletic trainers.

(all of the above taken from NATA PR packet)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Push to the Edge

This summer I stumbled across a long lost friend, a partner, a tool. It had been many years since we'd last raced together and sadly I didn't even know it.
Years ago when I first started running I quickly established myself as a front runner. I always raced better during track and cross country season then I did on my own during the summer, but either way I was a threat. During the summer I always placed top 3 in my age group and during cross country and track season if awards were given, I was usually one of the recipients.
It didn't take long for me to figure out though that I ran better with a team
than I did when running solo. And the more the team needed me, the better I
Another thing I quickly learned was that the worse I felt, the better I did.
Heaven help the opponents if on a day I didn't feel well or was hurt that the
team really needed me to step it up because I was guaranteed to blast one out.
I was the go to guy on race day and the more my team needed, the more I gave.
I went on to run college cross country for a couple of years after high school.
I started out my first season with a big bang, winning my first race. My team
needed me and I came through. We won the meet, barely, and against the one
school's second team, but it was our first victory. And our last...
The following week in a much bigger meet pulled off a top 10 finish to lead my
team to dead last. The next week I dropped to top 20 and we again finished dead
last. My finish place declined steadily thereafter.
My second, and final, college season didn't fare any better. I never placed and
until the final meet of year we placed dead last. That last meet we achieved
our teams lofty goal of beating someone, anyone, and finished second to last.
My team didn’t really need me and I was fine with just running, but not
actually racing.
I continued running and racing for many years after that. Often doing well in
smaller local races and always finishing in a respectable time, but never quite
getting back on top of things. A few years ago I added triathlons to my race
schedule with similar results. I was finishing run and tri in top 30% but not
really being competitive. I was running hard, training hard, but falling short.
I was good, but just not good enough.
Last season a friend, much younger than me got into triathlons and I sort of
became his mentor. Shortly thereafter a coworker did the same and we became
friends as well and now I had two 'mentees'. They both showed promise and did
well in their first seasons. Both were faster than me for very short distances,
but lacked strength and experience to challenge me so far in an actual race.
At the beginning of the season the youngest and newest of my mentees, Jason, convinced
me and the other mentee, Doug, to do a sprint tri to kick off the season. I
reluctantly signed up. I've known for years my strength is in distance, and
avoid most shorter races, but decided it would be fun to go 'head to head' with
Race day came and I found myself starting a couple of waves in front of both of
them. Part of me had planned to take it easy and have fun, but once I knew they
would be behind me trying to catch that all changed. I was all business by race
start and pushed myself through water with everything I had. As I exited the
water I pounded across the grass to transition and I was quickly out on the
bike. Once I got on the road I just hammered away on the pedals and it seemed
like I was back in transition in no time. I flew out of T2 and speed around the
run course and before I knew it I was across the finish.
I knew that I had a good race and thought that a possible age group award might
be coming. What surprised me was that I finished 3rd overall and managed a 6:28
pace on the run. I hadn't run that fast in years for any distance, much less at the end of a triathlon. I was thrilled, evidently I was finally doing something right, because I was getting faster again.
The following week I had two more tri's, an olympic on Saturday and a 1/2 iron on Sunday. I went into the season with high hopes that I was going to have breakout races. Saturday I PR'd but not by as much as I had expected and Sundays race was solid, but nothing to get excited about.
I was puzzled as to what happened. Yes they were longer races, but some of my
new speed should still have carried over. I pondered this for a couple of weeks
while I tried tweaking my training in an attempt to figure out why I had done
so well one week and then just ok the next.
About two weeks later I read a blog post written by a friend, Ann B, about underachieving. Something clicked on and I suddenly had a neon bulb shining on things. In high school and college I stepped up my game and pushed with all I had to help the team. Since then it was just for me and that extra push, just faded away. I still ran hard but not as hard. I pushed through pain, fatigue, cramps and more, but I hadn't really been pushing myself to the breaking point. I was willing to go there for the team, but had ceased doing it for myself.
Until the sprint triathlon that is. Something about being beaten by younger and
faster friends brought it back out and I pushed to the red zone and slightly
beyond. I have more experience than either of my friends and currently I'm a
much stronger runner and cyclist, but I know they are faster than me. They may
not be able to hold the speed for long but I really thought they had enough to
beat me at a sprint and I just wasn't ready to let that happen. As a result I
pushed through the pain, hit a point where I thought I was all out and pushed
beyond it and had a break out race. The following week I hit that same point,
but didn't try to push through, I thought I was at the limit, but wasn't.
The rest of the summer I had hits and misses with my performances. I pushed
through that extra barrier several times, but not consistently and didn't
always hold it, but I was relearning. My final Tri of the year, a couple of
weeks ago, I found that push again on the run and it carried me to a 5 minute
run PR.
Despite finding that extra push and now knowing it is there, I still can't tap
into it regularly. I can still run/ride/swim long and hard and push through the
comfort zone and well into the pain, but I'm not finding that extra push that
takes me into the red zone as often as I would like. Maybe part of me realizes
the danger of it more than I did when I was younger. It is a point beyond pain
where you know you are teetering on the edge of crash and burn and possible
injury, but you ride it as long as a hard as you can. Experience helps keep you
riding that razors edge without plummeting over it, but it also takes
experience and a lack of fear or care about what may happen if you push too
hard to get there.
Pushing to the edge helped me tremendously back in high school, but it was also my downfall back then too. It took me to many wins and high placings in many races, but I went over it several times as well. I lost half of my sophomore cross country season with
injury from pushing over the edge, and 2/3 of the track season that year for another injury. Junior year I managed to walk the edge without a slip, but my senior year I pushed so far over I fell into the abyss. The summer leading into my senior year I pushed it to the edge and held it. I held it through most of the season. I was on a mission. Our team had a goal of placing at the state championships and possible getting the school’s first ever win there.
That senior season I PR’d week after week, and we won meet after meet. There was only one meet we didn’t win during the regular season. We then went on to win our conference, sectional championship, regional championship, and the school’s first ever semi-state
championship. Unfortunately, I rode that edge too long and at regionals I felt myself sliding over, and by semi-state I went into a free fall. I still raced well in those races, but I knew I was in trouble. The legs were pure rubber and I couldn’t get them back. At the state championship, not only did we not win, and not place, we were 15th out 16 and I was one of the last 10 finishers.
Yeah, it takes a team to win, but an individual can bring them down. After two years of being one of the main team leaders, I had nothing in me. Unfortunately, my team mates instead of passing me as they should, most of them ended up grouped with me. A mental block made it hard for them to pass the guy that had been leading them. I yelled and
encouraged and finally with ¾ of a mile to go literally grabbed one of them and
shoved him in front of me and pushed him away. Finally trance broke and the all
took off and left me. It was over 2 months before I got my legs back and could
run with any speed or strength. The loss that day was not purely mine, and I
know it now, but it was a tough price for a great season.
Pushing yourself to the edge is what defines a true competitor. There is a big risk with each race, but a potential big payoff as well. My mind set has difficulty accepting that pro athlete that will drop out of a race, just because they are not among the leaders, but part of me knows that they do it so they aren’t risking that fall over the edge for nothing and that they will be ready for the next challenge.
For me the difference between a jogger and a runner is motive and how much they push, not the pace they actually run. Joggers run up to the edge of comfort and no further. Runners push into the pain and go with it. A competitor will push a bit farther and risk injury or DNF to try and get the win.
I used to know that razors edge well and I miss it. I've raced very well over the years despite losing it, but I'm getting hungry for more. Thanks to Jason and Doug pushing me
and Ann for switching on the light, I think I'm on my way to regaining it. I will never win anymore championships, but this old body still has some big races left in it and I mean to find them. I’m ready to take the risk again.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Hill Not Taken

I've been a strong runner for years and more importantly a strong
hill runner. Friends, coworkers and other runners have often asked how I became
so good at running hills and what can they do become better at them. There are
many answers to the second part of the question, but the answer to the first
goes back many years.
I started running competitively in 7th grade. I had wanted to go
out for football when I got to middle school, but due to my size my parents
wouldn't let me. The previous spring I had done really well at our school's
field day in the mile run, so I decided to try cross country instead and fell
in love with running.
The two years I ran in middle I worked hard, did what coach asked,
but no more. All of my team mates avoided hills whenever possible and I
followed suit. Hills sucked! I hated them! They hurt and just weren't fun to
run. Some of the race courses we ran had them, but why run hills repeatedly
when you may only see one hill in a race. So, unless we had to run them in
practice, we didn't run them.
I carried this philosophy with me to high school and quickly
learned that it was shared by my new team mates. We'd run the hills that coach
made us run, but when we were just given a set time to run, we always avoided
them, which, considering I grew up in northern Indiana, was very easy to do.
I began my 9th grade season on the freshmen team but quickly moved
up to the junior varsity (JV) team. At certain big meets where they had a
freshmen team race, I would drop back down so we could try to win it. One of
the races I did this for was the New Prairie Invitational.
A week before the New Prairie Invitational the upper classmen
started talking about Agony Hill. Supposedly there was this monster hill on the
course that humbled seniors and ate freshmen alive. The closer we got to the
meet, the more they talked about it, until we went to sleep dreaming about it.
I didn't take them too seriously, these were the same guys that took us out
snipe hunting at cross country camp almost two months ago, so I took what they
told us with a grain of salt. I was convinced this was just another part of the
Race morning we pulled up to the school in our bus. I was glued to
the windows with the rest of the freshmen looking for the monster hill. But no
hill was to be seen anywhere. The area around the school was flat farmland, the
school property was flat and the small woods adjacent to it showed no
indication of hiding a hill in it. The trees weren't tall enough and showed no
increase in height anywhere. We knew we had been suckered.
We got off the bus and did our warm up around the school property.
We found one small "hill" that took all of 2-3 strides to get up and
joked around about it being Agony Hill. We started joking around as all fear
left us. After running we stretched and got ready to race.
We lined up to start the race with 16 other teams, each team
allowed to have 2 people on the actual line and the rest behind. We had about
100 yards before a sharp right turn so it was very important to get out fast.
The gun went off and I took off like a shot. I was one of the first
10 to reach the turn and found myself in great position. The whole first mile
was on flat, hard grass. We did have that one "hill" to run up with
that we joked about, but it didn't slow things any. I don't remember that mile
split, but to give you an idea how fast that course was through the first mile,
as a senior I was in lead group of 8 that went through the mile mark in 4:45.
We weren't that fast, but we were moving quickly.
About 100 yards after the first mile mark we went into the woods
and started to run slightly down hill on the trail to a dried up creek bed. The
next 1/2 mile wound along that creek bed which had a sandy bottom, making
running difficult. The banks were kind of steep so it was hard to run on them
and you were pretty much forced into the sand. However, the sand was not my
main concern. I was starting to get very worried because, even though very
gradual, we were still going downhill. Distance can be deceiving in the woods,
but I was pretty sure that we'd been going downhill for quite a while and I was
starting to think maybe the upper classmen hadn't been joking after all.
Sure enough, we made a turn and there it was, Agony Hill. It
looked more like a dirt wall than a hill. This thing went almost straight up
and it was a solid distance to the top. I hit the thing at full speed and was
instantly slowed to less than walking speed. Some the runners in front of and
behind me were using their hands to help claw their way up and I quickly joined
It seemed like an eternity before I finally reached the top. I
crested Agony Hill and knew I was done. There was still over a mile to go and
my legs were cashed in and gone. I staggered on and just focused on keeping my
feet moving and nothing more. After what seemed like an eternity I crossed the
finish line. I had been beaten. Not just by other runners, but by Agony Hill.
It was my master.
It was a long ride home after the race. I had been humbled and was
embarrassed by my performance. But a new runner emerged during that bus ride.
By the time we pulled into our school's parking lot I had resolved to never,
ever, let a hill do that to me. I didn't know how I was going to beat Agony
Hill, only that I would do it.
From then on, any time I got a chance to run a hill, I would. My
team mates would get upset with me, but I became obsessed with them and any
time I could I would steer runs toward them. This wasn't easy to do either,
there really were very few hills in the area, but I soon knew them all. I would
run them on weekends, and breaks. I would do loop after loop after loop over
them. I still hated running them, they still hurt, but I was determined to
master them.
By the end of the following summer I was looking forward to my
rematch with Agony Hill. Race day couldn't come soon enough. Unfortunately, one
week before the meet my season came to an end with an injury. I would travel to
New Prairie with the team, but instead of facing Agony Hill I would be taking
times and cheering from my crutches. The hill seemed to laugh at me that day,
knowing I would not beat it again that year.
Over the course of the next year I ran hills even harder and went
into my third match up with Agony Hill confident I was going to be the better. I
looked forward to every race, and put my all into each one. But the one I
looked forward to most wasn’t until midseason. When the day of the New Prairie
Invitational finally arrived I was ready. As I had two years previous, I again charged
onto Agony Hill and again it showed its might. But, this time when I crested it
I still had something left in my legs and was actually able to run on. I still
slowed tremendously, but I was definitely running strong. The win that year was
mine, but it was like Rocky beating Apollo, it was only because I got back on
my feet first. I still had work to do.
After another year of hard work my senior year came and the final
match up with Agony Hill with it. I already mentioned how the first mile went.
I finished the 5k course in about 16:23, a PR, and more importantly, when I
crested Agony Hill I took off and hammered the last part of the race. I crushed
it. Agony Hill was mine.
Beating Agony Hill was great, but the real victory occurred
somewhere along the way to get to that point. I don't know when it happened,
but it did, and that's all that matters. Somewhere I lost my fear of hills, I
didn't dread them anymore. I enjoyed running them and they became my friends.
They still hurt, but it was a good hurt that I welcomed. Running hills will
never be easy, it is just like running the 100 meter dash all out. If you are
really, truly pushing as hard as you can, it will hurt, it's just the better
trained you are the less it hurts and the quicker the hurt fades away. Same
with running a marathon. I will never say running hills is easy, but if easy
was what I wanted I wouldn't be an athlete to begin with.
This same philosophy and love of hills that I got from running has
carried over to cycling as well. I go at hills on my bike the same way I do
when running. I challenge every hill I see and grind it out in the biggest
gears I can. Both when riding and running, if I come to an intersection and I'm
unsure which way to go, I always take the one that looks like it goes up the
When I asked my recommendations for getting better at running
hills it is simple, run them. Run them often, run them hard, don't fear them,
embrace and respect them, but strong. Since my freshman year at the New Prairie
Invitational I have run every hill possible, there hasn't been a single hill
not taken, and that has made all the difference.