Good Chinese Food

Tonight I ate at a Chinese restaurant somewhere in small town Pennsylvania.

At the entrance I was greeted by a note with an arrow and the words “use other door” hand written on it. The arrow pointed towards a door hidden in the shadows on the side of the building. I long narrow hallway void of any lights lead me to a large cloudy fish tank next a set of double doors. Unfamiliar smells and curious music teased and tempted my senses. I was captivated, I had no choice but continue.

As I sat alone at my plexiglass covered table admiring the fascinating decor, it occurred to me that the only reason I was here was because I was alone. I would have been to apprehensive to suggest the possibility of eating here with anyone else. The food was great, the waitress was coarse, and the floors were dirty. Why am I concerned about the comfort level of others more than my own? How could a place that feels so comfortable alone feel so uncomfortable with others?

My running takes on many of the same characteristics. I run differently when I’m alone, compared to when I around other people or I think other people are watching me. I’m concerned about other peoples perception of me, and I’m  concerned about disappointing people.

When I’m alone running on the trails very rarely do I ever think about my foot placement or my stride, I just run. I get lost in the moment and time ceases to exist. The sights and sounds and smells of the mountains surround me and create a feeling that words are unable to describe. I and happy, I am content, my mind is quiet, and I only exist for that moment.

When I’m running around or with other people I am always looking towards my next step. My mind is is constantly searching. I hear myself breathing and wonder if it is noticeable by those around me. Is my stride smooth and even, am I picking my feet up, are my shoulders relaxed. I wonder if I am running to fast or too slow, should I slow down or walk the climbs, should I be talking more. I am every where except the present. I am uncomfortable and anxious. I enjoy running with people, but I don’t enjoy being noticed by people. I don’t look at this as being a negative or bad characteristic, just part of who I am.

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The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, and passion.

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Running away


I once heard someone talking about distance runners. His comment “All distance runners are running away from something” really struck a nerve in me. At first it angered me. How could a complete stranger make such a comment about me, let alone all distance runners. I knew for a fact that I wasn’t running away from anything. I loved to run and that was the only reason that I was running.

Then I started to think about it and really look at myself. Yes, I loved to run, but I was using running as an escape. While I ran nothing else mattered. I was able to leave all the hustle and bustle and stress of everyday life behind for those few hours. I was completely content and wanted for nothing when I was in the mountains. I felt free, nothing else existed other than the few feet of trail in front of me. I loved this feeling, I loved how my body felt after a run had ended. I loved the happiness that had filled my body.

I realized that what this complete stranger said had truth to it. I realized that I was running away, I was wanting to leave certain parts of my life behind. I had never looked  at my running from this angle before. I was confused and wondering if my running was a good thing if all I was using it for was an escape from reality. I struggled with this, but I continued to run, I continued to love each and every moment that I had on the trails.

One day I realized that something had changed. I wasn’t looking forward to my runs quite as much. I was able to find excuses for myself to sleep in, to cut my runs short, and sometimes to skip my runs all together. Once again I was confused. I still loved to run in the mountains, but I felt more like work than pleasure. I was running with a watch, keeping track of my splits and my heart rate. I was no longer running to run.

I still loved running and I loved racing, but I did not like people taking notice of this. People noticed that I was always smiling and laughing when I would come into aid stations. They noticed that I loved races and runs that pushed me to my limits. People noticed that sometimes I would do well at races and that I spent almost all of my free time in the mountains. I took notice of this and without realizing it I started changing how and why I was running.

I was no longer running away from something, I was now running towards something. I was running towards the people that were taking notice of me. I didn’t want to let down all the people that were noticing me. I no longer just ran in the mountains because it gave me joy, now I ran in the mountains because I was training. I no longer ran when ever I felt the need, now I had training plans and schedules to keep. I had a certain number of miles each week that I had to run … no more, no less. I had certain heart rates that I had to keep for certain runs. I was worried about my form, I only had “x” amount on minutes at each aid station during races. Every aspect of running now had a number and a reason attached to it. Running was no longer running.

It look me a long time to realize how my running had changed and how much I had changed. It became obvious to me during a race in Vermont. I was just about half way through the race and I was doing well, but I wasn’t happy. As a matter of fact I was very unhappy and border line miserable. On the fourth day of the race I stopped. I quit the race, I no longer wanted to continue. I felt so good to be finished with the race, but for some reason I stayed at the race kept running on my own.

Over the next six days I ran where ever and when ever I felt like running. I ran the course with my friends that were still in the race, I would get lost for hours at a time while exploring new trails, I would run into town and bring back food and drinks … I would just run. I started to remember how much I loved running. I remembered the feelings that I used to have when I started running. I felt the happiness and joy, I felt the desire and uncontrollable need to be running. Once again I was running away from something. I just ran.

I don’t remember what he looked like or what his name was, but I will always remember and be grateful for what he said.

“All distance runners are running away from something”

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Winning …

“How important is winning?”

    We are taught from an early age the importance of winning, the importance of striving to be the best at everything we do. I struggle with this.

When it comes to running, winning a race does not motivate me. Being the fastest or having the ability to run the furthest on a particular day may be important to others, but it has little importance to me. I enter races for the love of running, for the chance to spend time with my friends, and for the chance to challenge myself.

    “With that being said being the best on a particular day does effect me.”

    I love the making people happy, and when I do well at a race it seems to make people around me happy. When I do well at a race it makes sponsors happy. People seem to love a winner. Because of this I struggle.

Sometimes I loose sight of why I run, I get caught up in what is important to other people and forget what matters the most to me. I run for a feeling, a feeling that I have never been fully able to translate into words. A feeling of complete freedom and joy. A feeling that is so simple until I choose to complicate it.

     “Second place is just the first loser.”

    I have won a few races over the years, but the races that I am most proud of are the races that I struggled with. The races that I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. The races where I had to dig deeper than I thought possible. The races that humbled me. These races are the ones that make me proud, these are the races that I look back on on smile. These are the races that I would like people to take notice of, these are the races that define who I am and what I am capable of.

   I love to run and I love to challenge myself. I love the feeling of tired muscles and complete exhaustion after a long run. I love the sounds and the smells of a mountain trail. The feeling of acceptance that I get from being alone in the mountains. The comfort that comes from being completely alone with your thoughts. The rhythm of my heart beating, the feeling of air entering my lungs, and the sound of my feet against the ground.

    I don’t remember the first time I ran or why I started, but I do remember the feeling it gave me. I have run in the deserts and in the mountains, on beaches and roads. I have run barefoot and in boots, in sandals, sneakers, crocs, and sponsor correct shoes. To have run in jeans and shorts, tights, and basketball shorts. I have worn cotton shirts, technical shirts, sleeveless shirts, long sleeve shirts, and no shirt. I have run with hats, gloves, face masks, sun glasses, ipods, water bottles, camel paks, and bandannas. My appearance may have changed over the years, but the feeling and my love of running are still the same.

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A simpler life

Standing on top of Rich Mountain looking at a familiar landscape that I felt I was seeing for the first time. Two years ago a run up Rich Mountain was nothing special, just another day in the mountains doing what I loved, but today was different. Today I was able to do something that I thought that I would never be able to do again … I felt alive.

The mountains have always been a place of contentedness for me. I have visited them many times when I was lost and confused, and I have visited them many times when I was over flowing with love. The result is always the same, they accept me from who I am no matter what condition I am in.

Over the past year and a half I have felt lost more than I have not. I have struggled to find an understanding of who I am and what is happening to me. I fought and struggled until I was to tired and unwilling to continue. I accepted that my days of running were over, I accepted that I would never fully understand what had happened to me and what was still happening to me. I accepted that my future was uncertain. I stopped fighting and began only to  exist. I was aware of what was going on, but no longer had a desire to understand why it was happening.

I am living day to day. I have good days and I have bad days. I have days filled with sadness and pain and I have days filled with happiness and joy. I do not know what tomorrow will bring and I am OK with that. I  understand and accept that I will never be the person that I once was,  even though I’m not sure who I am today or who I will be in two weeks. I do not know what the future holds for me. I do not know where I will be or what I will be doing in two days.

I am very grateful.

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     Hidden away in the quiet Mountains of North Georgia lay a handful of fern lined trails and cloud covered peaks that only locals know about, trails that are rich with history and beauty, but lie in the shadows of the well known trails. Trails that were, and still are, on the verge of being shut down, but thanks to the hard work of several race directors are being given a new life.


     H9 50 seems simple enough, start running in a State Park and keep running until you return to the same State Park. It is not advertised as one of the toughest 50 miler in the country, actually it is not even advertised !! There are no big name sponsors, banners, or cash prizes … only a piece of steel with the letter “H” and the number “9” cut out, a plethera of Christmas lights, and a handful of dedicated volunteers.


     Sometime between 6 and 7am, standing in the shadows of cabins 7 and 12 a blurry eyed race director greets every runner in the early morning light. He briefly mentions orange flags, water crossings, Banjo Road, the Road of Despair,  sticker bushes, Viking Barbie, and obscure peaks with beautiful names like Little Bastard, Akin Mt, and Payne Mt. … then without any fan fare the clock on a laptop starts and the runners disappear into the early morning mist of the North Georgia Mountains.


     Soon the runners start to reappear, they have all changed over the last few hours, they are beat down and beyond tired, yet they all summon the will to run the final hill to cabin #7. They are greeted with cheers from volunteers, runners, and an even more blurry eyed race director … a hand shake and a hunk of steel seal the deal, you have finished H9 50.


     The exhausted runners sit in multi colored fabric camp chairs with twinkling Christmas lights overhead recounting their time on course, swearing that they will never run H9 again, waiting until the last runners return, eating hamburgers, smiling, laughing, and making plans to run H9 again.

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My name is Willy, and sometimes I run

My name is Willy, and sometimes I run

(My Peak 500 experience)


        Running makes me happy, and is a large part of my life right now, but it does not define me. My life does not revolve around running, it revolves around the desire to experience, the need to feel, and the joy from smiling.

      I returned to the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont and the Peak 500 Ultra Marathon without a   game plan, no training having been done for this particular race, and no desire to run 500 miles, so why was I here and more importantly why was I so happy about it ??!! Had it not been for a desire to see a few friends in Vermont, I most likely would have stayed in Georgia and continued to run on the familiar trails of the North Georgia Mountains.

      The race started at 4pm under sunny skies with  forecasts of heavy rain, wind, and cold night time temperatures on the horizon …. I packed a rain jacket, questioned my sanity, and took my first steps away from the security of the barn and into the wilds of the Peak Racing Trails. 8 days and 13 hours later I fell asleep with my head lamp still on my head, my shoes still on my feet, and a feeling of accomplishment from completing an unrealized goal.

       This year I chose to run …. not for a belt buckle, not for the satisfaction of finishing, not for a special person or a cause … I chose to run because I love to run. Along the way I met a new friend (Nick), strengthened a  friendship already established (Michelle), and was reintroduced to an old friend (myself). I found a feeling that had been misplaced long ago, a feeling of happiness and content, a feeling that only comes when you are free from yourself and your perceptions.

Running is such a beautifully simple thing, why must we complicate it.

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Andy …. you are a sick and twisted individual, thank-you  !! 

Nick ….. it was an honor !! you are a Bad Mother Fucker

Michelle …. tough as nails and a heart of gold !! happy Michelle is awesome !!

Doc …  have you and Michelle started the cloning process 😉

Joe …. Rochester is beautiful in May, and you need to get lighter picnic tables !!

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Left Hand Turns ….

 “Running with Friends Makes Everything Better”


     My friend, who will remain a nameless badass, ran the  Hinson Lake 24hr run in North Carolina over the weekend. I tagged along to help out and get in a few left hand turns of my own. I was still feeling a bit off from having the flu and running the Georgia Jewel the weekend before, but remember my DUMASS motto … “Poor Decisions make for Better Stories”.

      We arrived the night before, went to packet pick up, and then went to the lake and set up our tent. We walked the course and I was told that the course was slightly different from years past with a few trees missing. I instantly fell in love with the course, soft sandy surface, rolling with plenty of flat sections and well defined walk points. A course that one could do big miles on if one was willing to suffer !!

     Race day arrived and soon my friend and all of the other runners, 230ish, were on course making the first of many left hand turns. Crewing/pacing is very different from running … your only concern is for that of your runner …. your runners needs always come first !! The first 4 loops were run rather quickly, so I went out on the 5 loop for a quick diagnostics check of my runner. Everything seemed to going smoothly so I started running every other loop. By noon the runners were all starting to feel the effects of the very high humidity and starting to show signs of suffering. At 2:30 We decided it would be best for me to get a nap so that I would be freshish to run through the night.

     I wasn’t able to sleep but I did get off of my feet and hear a lot of the runners talking about how tough their day was going. I was amazed at how many had stopped by 5pm when I returned to my duties. My friend had also had a rough couple of hours, but was fighting through it. I was handed a cheese hotdog and egg tortilla (which was amazing !!), and I was back on course with my friend. We ran side by side for the next 13.5hrs … we had good times and bad times, but we kept moving forward and doing left hand turns. It is very easy for me to suffer during a race, but it is much harder to watch someone else suffer. All you want to do is make it stop, but you can’t, so you lie and say things like “you are looking great” even though they just came out of the bushes after hurling 🙂

     I was constantly watching the clock and crunching numbers to make sure that my friend would hit the 100 mile mark. My friend was running/walking a thin line and I was trying to pushing as hard as I could with out pushing my friend over the line. We were doing well, with about 20 minutes to spare when the lap counts changed, somehow we had lost 2 laps !! I was keeping a record of every lap and knew exactly how many we had left to hit the 100 mile mark and how much time we had to get it accomplished in.

     All a runner should have to worry about is running, the crew should take care of everything else. I tried to get the laps straightened out and was able to get one of them back, but I couldn’t stop and have a debate … I had to stay with my friend and keep them moving. With 6 laps to go the lap count once again went off and my friend was well aware of it this time. We ran 1 more lap and then another friend took her out while I had a discussion with the counters. I was prepared to go to war for my friend, but the counters were very understanding and it didn’t take much to get the lap counts corrected.

    With 20 minutes to spare my friend passed the 100 mile mark with a smile on her face and a banana in her hand !! All that was left was the final beer lap and a well deserved rest … so proud of my friend and her amazing accomplishment !!

“Running with Friends is Awesome”

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