Ragnar Relay Michigan ’19 Recap

 

51362393_10156296301139403_7883723161152258048_nI’m about 2 weeks overdue on this but I wanted to still do this.  I’ve had time to think about it and take it all in and it was a pretty incredible experience once again.  So without further adieu, here goes:

For Jenn and I, Ragnar prep starts well in advance.  Being that this was the fifth time that I’ve captained a team, there are some things that I’ve learned along the way.  I’m sure first time teams don’t have a bag full of reflective vests, blinkers, and headlamps.  I do.  It’s all part of the gig so about the week before, I double checked to make sure I had enough of everything so we were covered in case we were short anything.

This year we started earlier so we were all set to go on Thursday but that wasn’t without the usual midnight or later packing that takes place when you’re trying to figure out what the weather might actually look like.  Michigan in late September is a total crap shoot and this year was much better than last year’s race but we were probably a short bit from it being pretty bad.  More on that later.

Thursday the 26th arrived and all of our stuff was ready to go.  We took our 3 littles off to school, hugged them, and reminded them that Mimi would be picking them up.  We rushed home, texting one of our runners, Kelly, that she was good to come pick us up and she was there within 20 minutes.  In what was one of the 2 best moves of the race that was done months in advance, I was able to get my passenger rental vans reserved at a much more convenient location that honestly saved us an hour of transit as well as the inkling to pick people up which only took more time.  Special thanks to the folks at Enterprise, other than leaving the vans with less than a quarter of a tank, you guys rocked it.

On the way to Krogers to pick up our gas and gift cards that we’d use to pay for more gas while on the trip, the first true speed bump in the trip occurred.  I got a call from a returning runner, Matt, that another of our runners, Amy-Jo, had a family emergency and wouldn’t be joining us.  She was devastated and we were equally bummed out for her.  She was one of our strongest runners and was also our lead-off runner so while we had time to figure it out, the ramifications of filling her mileage would have a chain reaction from the beginning of our race.

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Since I was the captain and had been through similar scenarios before, I wanted to have time to figure out how to get through this so I decided that no decision would be made till we got together that evening with the majority of the team present.  We did miss her tremendously though.  About 11:30 we had most of the Fort Wayne folks that would be coming so we headed off.

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We arrived in Holland and picked up Chris and headed off for Montague, getting stuck in a little bit of traffic but nonetheless, got checked in, and headed off to dinner not long after.  Artie got himself a brew or two.  We got back to Grand Haven at a decent time to be able to hang out a bit, get some van decorating done, and rest up for the next day.  Along the way, I decided that I’d take Amy-Jo’s first leg of the race.  I was definitely good for 4.8 miles and didn’t anticipate any issues later on in the race with tacking this one, afterall, I had the rest of the day to fuel back up for a 3.5-er.

After what may have been my best pre Ragnar night of sleep, I was good to go.  I got all ready that morning getting hydrated and psyched up for the race.  After 4 of these, with this being my 5th, I was actually pretty confident and carefree which was a really weird feeling.  I know that I was really happy with how the team had come together and having that crew behind us, I knew we’d be good.

We started off in the 7 a.m. flight and the sun was due to come up within the next 35 minutes so I knew the headlamp would be needed but it really wasn’t that long. At a Ragnar, any person you pass, you get to count as a “kill” and at most of these races, I’ve not had that many.  If I got 2 or 3 per leg, I was lucky but this time, I hit the motherlode.  I will take it on a technicality but you can’t take it away from me.  🙂

So we took off out of the chute and literally 8 people ahead of me missed the turn right side as it guided you onto the sand covered sidewalk.  I technically passed 8 people in that first 100 yards and I counted every one of them!  Ha!  That part of the run was particularly difficult even though it was flat as a pancake.  Running in what amounted to 6″ or more of sand wasn’t good and I felt like I was blowing out my legs in a very short amount of time.  The sand was choppy from other runners so I actually veered farther to the right into sand that hadn’t been run on yet and that was actually pretty good.  It actually worked well enough that this little strategy got me all the way till we crossed the road.  The path was winding us partly around the little harbor and it was pretty cool.  There were some beautiful little spots where we popped out near the lake/harbor, others that took us past some marinas with some pretty big sailboats, and then what might have been the third creepiest part of a Ragnar leg I’ve experienced.

I cut hard right through a path they carved out and onto a gravel-ish path that was to the side of a rail road track that looked to be out of service.  We were running in this area that was well below the houses above and to our right and next to a fence that had overgrown bushes, etc. there.  I’m 6’1 and 205 and I was thinking, this wasn’t exactly the safest place to run.  Luckily, it was 7 a.m. and not 10 p.m. so it wasn’t too bad.  Making a turn out of that part of the course, I curved back towards the water and then another right turn and I could see the exchange off in the distance.  It was time to kick it in and finish strong.  I handed off to Kelly and the rest of Van 1 and we were off to breakfast, which was the same restaurant/bar that we went to the night before in the Muskegon area and it was great again!

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After breakfast, we had to stop at a store for a couple of supplies and Artie, ahem, Batman wanted to make a point that he got justice*…cough….”just ice” for us all.

And then we waited as you do during a Ragnar.  It is definitely the hardest part of the race.  Whether it’s trying to get food, water, or rest…all of the downtime and what to do with it, that’s the hard part.  While we waited:

 

Van 1 was at it and crushing it.  They all did a great job.  We were getting antsy and getting their updates, we started to get pumped up.  It wasn’t long and we were catching some rest in Montague and it was our time.  Michael was ready:

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He took off and it’s pretty amazing how fast a guy his size can move.  He was out the door and just tearing up his run.  He brought it in, and Jenn took off.  She had a couple of MASSIVE hills she had to climb but she tore them up.

As you can tell, she finished really strong.  That girl that was just behind her was really closing the gap but when Jenn heard the cheers of them trying to will that girl on, as well as ours too, she took off.  After those hills, I would have been spent!

Andrew then started our sprint to the next exchange.  We had 4 straight runs of 3.5 or less.  He had a really nice run.  Ryan and Chris were expectedly fast and I ran an ok run.  I personally thought I should have been better on that run.  I ran my first leg in a happy time for me but my legs just felt tired from the 7 miler a few days before and that 4.8 was looming larger than I anticipate.  It was a fun run but I slowed more than I thought I would and I was more glad to be done than really anything.  Then it hit me, I had run twice and still had 2 more to go, both 6.2 or longer.  I wasn’t happy about it honestly.

I was happy to be done for that stretch, get some food in my belly, and get some rest.  We found the same great smokehouse we found in Ludington last year and I had some brisket that hit the spot.  It was AWESOME.  If I’m ever up there again, I’ll definitely be searching that place out.  After dinner, it was time for a nap.

I tried to get some rest but rain started and that’s when things got interesting.  Kelly had added on Amy-Jo’s 2nd leg so she was running that tagged onto her 2nd leg for a total of 11 miles.  It was beastmode-gritty type of stuff, with much of it rainy.  Van 1 really got hit pretty good on their 2nd leg but it wasn’t until poor Cherri was out running that lightning started to hit in the distance and they eventually called a hold.  We had been solidly in the middle of the pack at that point but that didn’t last long.

Cherri finished her run and we were to skip Amanda’s next run, a 4 miler and wait an hour.  So Van got the luxury of trying out the very best decision of the race and that was our house we rented for Saturday night AFTER the race that I rented for Friday night as well for during the race.  We on the other hand got way off kilter.

We had to wait that hour for a 4 mile run, which may have taken us less than 40 minutes so we essentially lost 20 minutes on the deal.  A lot of the teams that had been in at the High School waiting to go, had pulled their runner from the 4 miler and got to skip the next run, an 8.1 miler, which in theory, could have taken close to 90 minutes in the rain.  So they got to jump 8 miles and 20-30 minutes ahead.  We lost track of a lot of folks that we’d seen throughout the day.  Michael, Jenn, who battled an IT issue in the rain, Andrew, and Chris battled through the night.  As Ryan waited on me to take off, the volunteer checking people off told us that we were in the last 10 that he was waiting on.  I had a hard time believing we were that far behind but when Chris came in, he said he hardly saw anyone out there and he passed them.  I only saw 5 runners.  4 of them passed me and I passed the other.

That night run was my nemesis from the previous year when it was low 40’s with a 15 mph headwind that just beat me into submission.  I had almost quit on that run in ’18 and almost did again this year.  I took off and was doing well.  It was freaking early in the morning as we had lost that hour and it was nearly 5 a.m. by the time I took off.  We had gone from ahead of pace to nearly 2 hours behind.  I was pretty well shot from the get-go and was only beaten down more by an elevation chart that said the hill I would climb for the first 1.5 was really a 2.5 mile once I got out there.  I didn’t remember how much climbing it was other than alot and when I got to the 1.5 mark and I could tell it was still a battle uphill, I was starting to feel like this was a mistake.  The hills and fatigue were hitting me and I was power hiking the worst of the hills, occasionally looking back to see if anyone was coming.  Two girls that were machine line churned their way past me and I could see a faint blinker in the distance that they eventually passed.  I thought it was a marker but it was another runner who was walking.  If he were walking that run, it was a pretty lonely walk.  He looked 100% healthy on it though so good for him for soldiering through!

This is where things took a slight downward turn for me.  I had a car pass me and I looked over my shoulder as it took me by surprise and I sidestepped wrong with my left foot and caught the edge of the road.  I landed awkwardly on it, rolling my ankle.  Immediately, my ankle hurt and I was thinking, this isn’t good.  I slowed down to a walk and tried to see how I was and thought, maybe I should make a phone call.  I figured out I was 2 miles out at that point and that’s about when I did call last year and Artie gave me a quick pep talk and I was on my way again.  I had been running about a 10 minute pace though which was so much better than the year before when I was running 12 1/2’s into the freezing wind with an aching hip.  If my ankle would be ok, I’d give it a try.  The only issue though was that it felt like because I was compensating for the left ankle, my right groin muscle was tightening and it wasn’t a fun feeling.  I ran/walked the rest of the way and even finished pretty strong.  I had “conquered” my nemesis leg but I knew deep down that I lost my last leg.  At that point, I had run 14.7 miles with the last 2 on a balky knee/groin combo.  The tank was pretty low then but there was some serious sleep on the way.  Talking with Jenn, she pushed me to make a decision on lessening my mileage.  I told her I’d sleep on it and we’d go from there.

Once we got to the house, it was just before 6.  We knew we’d have about 5 hours or so till our last run so we hit a quick shower so we’d not dirty the beds and got some much needed sleep.  I can not tell you how nice it was.  After 4 other Ragnars and having slept in the front and backs of vans and on a chase lounge in the summer warmth before, this was by far, the best.  The team left the king bed for Jenn and I.  I got 3 1/2 solid house of sleep in a bed and woke up feeling great.  The ankle/groin issue wasn’t gone so I talked to my guys.  We weren’t going to win anything so I flipped the script for the final legs.  Andrew would take Michael’s 3 miler.  I would take Jenn’s 2.3 while Michael would take on an additional 3 than planned by taking Ryan’s 6, then Jenn ran Andrew’s original 3.5.  She handed off to Ryan who took Chris’ 7.5, who ultimately took my 6.6 to finish up.

We had a short 10 minute drive up to St. Ambrose Cellars and waited for Amanda to come in.  She finished strong and Van 1 was off for some rest before the finish line festivities!

Everyone in that last van was dead.  Despite feeling refreshed from the sleep in bed, the legs just weren’t there.  The hills of Michigan had chewed us up and we had one more to go to finish up.  The revised line-up worked pretty well.  I had a huge downhill that worked out pretty well in that short 2+ miler.  It wasn’t a pretty run as I struggled with the groin a bit but it was sunny and beautiful out.  Never forget, every run is a privilege and despite the discomfort, this was no doubt a privilege.

The only thing we had to avoid to finish up really was anyone getting hurt further and the waves!  Oh the waves!  Right by the seawall a the finish line, the wind had turned awhile back and were coming from the north and the lake was super choppy and just crashing waves against that wall.  It looked like something out of the west coast with the water spraying 10 feet high above it, soaking everything near it.  We avoided the drenching for the most part and finished as a team.

It really was wonderful how the team came together to overcome the obstacles before us.  I’m truly grateful for their willingness to tackle the extra miles and doing so looking out for each other so that no one got hurt further.  It truly was a team effort and they have a lot to be proud of.

 

Never Forget

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Different generations have different moments that are stuck in time.  For my parents, it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  For my grandparents, Pearl Harbor has to be the date in their lives that changed everything.  I was a bit too young for the Challenger disaster.  I remember it happening and seeing it on the TV’s in the store windows as my family and I walked down the sidewalk in a small town square but nothing for me defines life-changing as September 11th, 2001.

It truly is difficult to comprehend that it was 18 years ago now.  I’m writing this in the wee hours of September 10th and realizing that people born tomorrow, the Senior Class of ’19, are considered adults now and able to buy their own lotto tickets and smokes.  All of them and this isn’t to disrespect them at all, have no clue to the true impact of what it was.  It’s a story in a grade school social studies class or a lesson in U.S. History for some High School Junior. It’s a date, that as FDR referred to December 7, 1941, “that shall live in infamy.” 

So what does this running blog have to do with 9/11?  I could have just said nothing but I think that’s a gross mistake.  It’s a date that should be rehashed in memory and feeling.  It’s a reminder of how far we’ve come and some days I’m not sure it’s forward or backward but it needs to remain that reminder because for most us, while it was a day that changed us forever, most of us didn’t experience the pain and loss directly.  

So I want to share a story that begins on 9/11, fast forwards to 9/25, and I still think of today, multiple times a year.  I live in Fort Wayne, IN, far away and that day was like many that fall.  It was a pleasantly sunny day and I headed off to Lowes where I worked in the Lumber Department during my college days.  I was really looking forward to the day.

My best friend was a HUGE Parrothead aka Jimmy Buffett fan and I had somehow won 2 tickets with primo parking passes to watch Mr. Buffett play Verizon Wireless Music Center, which became Klipsch Music Center, and now is Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center, but was formerly Deer Creek to many of us back in the pre-sponsored music venue days.  I won those tickets through a raffled after giving blood during a drive for the American Red Cross.  I knew Margaritaville when I won those tickets and that was it.

When 9/11 happened, everything was cancelled.  The uncertainty of the time was frightening in it’s own.  We were at war, but with whom?  The skies were clear as there weren’t any planes flying.  When would that begin?  For some of us younger guys, would the draft begin again?  There was a lot up in the air and none of it was good and worst of it all was we waited to see if it happened again in another city.  As I mentioned, everything was cancelled and we just waited.  And that’s what we did.  We waited in front of our TV’s stunned, for whatever was next.

Two weeks later, life was getting back to some semblance of normalcy here in the Midwest and the concert had been rescheduled to September 25th.  The weather was no where near as nice as it would have been on 9/11.  It wasn’t rainy but for a hula and beach themed concert, heavy coats were necessary as it was so cold that evening but something stuck with me that I’d like to share and it’s something that Jimmy said.

I am paraphrasing here but he said to “dance tonight. If we don’t sing and dance and get back to life, the terrorists will have won.”  That’s what we did that night and it was one of the most memorable concerts I’d ever been to in my life.  I was a fan instantly and for 9 years, I never missed a show in Noblesville.  I would love to get back to a show sometime soon but those first time all those years ago were awesome and my appreciation for him and his music started that night.

I think the point is that I’ve never forgotten that.  It’s why I run.  It’s why I con my friends into joining me in adventure races.  It’s I hold my kids closer and am more cautious with strangers than what my parents probably had to.  Those that work to strike fear into us must never win and they only do when we allow it.  Through the horror of that day, there has been beauty that grew out of it.  There’s now a generation of us, many parents now, that were told to dance and sing and not let the bad guys win.  Hopefully that can lead to the next generation that has that ingrained in them because life is a true privilege.

If we didn’t realize it then, we did immediately, and we must never forget that.

Race Review – NeighborLink Fort Wayne’s Night Moves 8/23

Ok so this is my first foray into writing a race review but I thought it’d be a great opportunity to start AND highlight an event that I found to be (spoiler alert) a great time.

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From the beginning, since NeighborLink Fort Wayne has been our charity of choice, we wanted to make sure to be involved in and support some of the events that they put on throughout the year.  Night Moves is a natural fit for what we do as part of running a Ragnar involves running a night so we’ve got the necessary gear to run at night and in fact, I really liked the idea of getting some of the team together that maybe hadn’t participated in a night run before, out there and somewhat comfortable.

It has always been a goal to get the team, as many as possible at least, together prior to our annual Ragnar Relay for a fun run to just catch up, talk about what’s to come, and answer any questions that some of the newer runners may have so participating in an event like this achieved something that we’ve tried to do for a couple years and it definitely paid off.

Lastly, it was also a great opportunity take in Fort Wayne.  If you’ve never been to our city, Fort Wayne has gone through a transformation over the last dozen years or so.  It started with a new ballpark downtown for our Single A baseball team and the area has absolutely blossomed.  From improvements in amenities to new restaurants and pubs, new hotels, and now the just finished Promenade Park that’s part of Phase 1 of our riverfront development, a lot has been going on in the downtown sector of Fort Wayne and this race gave us the opportunity to enjoy the city in a way that we’ve not done before.  Again, it delivered in a big way.

The concept behind their Night Moves racing series is a simple one.  They’ve removed the barriers of cost and just asked for or encouraged a $10 donation per runner.  You’re not going to find any race in the area that you can participate in that’s this affordable, nor maybe this fun either.   NeighborLink really did a fantastic job of having a volunteer at 95% of the corners or intersections that you came to and required guidance.

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We started off at Fort Wayne Outfitters, who essentially hosted the race as it was the start and finish for the race.  We took off from their location and headed down a quick path to our left and onto the Tree Canopy Trail that’s part of the riverfront development.  It was a really need path with the only downside to it that it was a Friday night in downtown, part of a new park, and a festival had been going on in downtown so there were a good number of folks checking out the new Promenade Park and this trail.  As we curved around the trail, dodging local pedestrians, we came to the end of it and turned left onto the pedestrian bridge that was lit up that night and carried us over the river and to the other side of the park.

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This was a really need way to get a quick glimpse of Promenade Park as we ran through it.  It was a beautiful night and the steps down to the river were lit up and reflected off of it.  As we exited the Promenade Park we turned right onto Harrison Street and cut left down an alley past a mural of a buffalo, at least from my memory, I believe it was a buffalo.  The idea of the race was to take us past as many of them as we could.  It was a neat concept.  The only thing I’d say is that starting earlier in the evening would allow us to see them better.  That said, once we turned onto Calhoun Street, we got to see downtown lit up in all of its splendor.  From the some of the shops to restaurants with outdoor seating, it was really need to be in the middle of it all with so many people around.  It was a great vibe down there that evening.

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We proceeded down Calhoun and cut into another alley that was painted on both sides in a colorful manor and it had Edison style lights overhead.  It was really cool.  We raced through that alley and crossed paths with some of our runners ahead of us that were directed them and eventually us to circle around the building.  It created a fun little intersection of runners and when we came back through the area from the other direction, I was sure to be paying attention in case anyone else was coming through.

By this point, I was running far too fast for me.  I had broken a part from my pack a bit.  I had started the race with my wife Jennifer who told me that if I was feeling good to go ahead.  I caught up to Kelly and Amanda a short while later and honestly, my legs were feeling fantastic.  Earlier in the week it had been nearly 80 degree with equally as high humidity.  It was around 65 degrees and while the humidity was similar, due to the cooler weather, it didn’t feel anywhere near as oppressive as it had just a couple days prior.

After doubling back through those allies, we headed back up Calhoun and took a right onto Main Street and through part of the Taste of the Arts Festival which was winding down.  Shortly thereafter, we turned left onto Lafayette heading north and crossed the St. Mary’s River and headed towards the Old Fort.  By this point, myself along with a girl, that may have been in her mid-teens, pulled away from our portion of the pack.  Due to the nature of the race, you had to stop at crosswalks depending on traffic and we were running at a pace that was pretty good and we got some separation from the group we’d reached and then eventually passed about 10 minutes before.

Around that time, I turned my headlamp on as it was getting into some areas that weren’t lit as well as the previous segments of the race.  I was glad I had it on me as well.  The young girl only seemed to have her cell phone for light.  That’s nothing I’d ever recommend and the dad in me was coming out as I felt like I had to try to keep up that pace so she wasn’t running with just the faintness of that phone.

When we turned onto the River Greenway path that cut through the Old Fort, it was pitch black!  I had gotten ahead of her a little ways but my 38 year old lungs weren’t enjoying running at that pace and I started to slow a bit.  My first mile was around a 9:15 and my second chimed in my ear at an 8:51 while I was plugging away in the darkness there.

Eventually she passed me and I did my best dad mode try to keep my headlamp on her so she could see where she was running.  I kept pace with her as we turned onto 4th Street and till about the time we got near the skate park at Lawton Park.  The lights of the skatepark were pretty bright and I turned the headlamp off at that point.

It wasn’t long before we made another turn left onto Clinton and onto the path onto and over the colorfully lit Martin Luther King Jr bridge and into the eastern side of Headwaters Park, making a hard left turn once in the park which doubled me back under the bridge and then looping back up onto it heading in the opposite direction from where I originally came across, all the while the bridge lights changed colors from a rainbow pattern to blue and then white.  It really is something to see a night.

So I headed back west down 4th street again until I passed the fox murals by the Big Eyed Fish and hung a left onto Wells Street.  The 4th street section was the only area of the race that could have used a few more volunteers for comfort as the sidewalks weren’t the greatest and it was fairly dark there around the neighborhood.   Once on Wells, I ran all the way back to Fort Wayne Outfitters and ran into Matt and Chris, two members of Runnin’ Not Walken that were a good bit quicker than I am and had already finished.

Upon crossing the finish line I was told to meet up with a nice lady who was checking off names of those that finished, not for times, but for safety so that they could ensure that everyone that went out, made it back.  This was afterall, a fun run, and we weren’t out for time but to run for the joy of running and to support this wonderful organization.  After checking my name off of the list, Matt and Chris pointed out a cooler to the side that was for runners to partake of, if they were interested, and I did.  It was a great Mad Anthony’s wheat beer that had my name on it and it tasted fantastic.

Within a couple of minutes, Art and Amanda, 2 more members of the team who couldn’t run that night arrived just as the last of our team was finishing up.  We all were happy to see each other and all seemed to enjoy the race and the route.

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Kudos and hats off to Andrew Hoffman and his team for putting on a great time.  Every volunteer out there had a smile on their face and was more than encouraging as they greeting us during the race.  They really did a fantastic job of supporting the runners and directing them where to go.  Other than a couple spots that were a bit on the darker side, there wasn’t anything to really worry about despite running through the city at 9:30 at night!

Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again soon as they have a race in a couple of weeks but for a first go of it, we had a great time.  If you’re in the Fort Wayne area, love running, and appreciate those that are doing good and want to support them, this is the race for you.

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Oh and I’d be making a big mistake if I didn’t offer it out there but if you’d like to support NeighborLink, they are Runnin’ Not Walken’s Charity of Choice this year.  To date, we’ve raised $4,620 on a $5,000 goal so we’re getting close.  If you’d have an interest in contributing, please click the following link to give.

Thanks for reading and as opportunity allows, I’ll definitely do more of this.  Oh and here’s a picture of Promenade Park during the day.  Isn’t it beautiful?!?

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On Patience and Things Working Out…

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Things have a funny way of working themselves out.  It’s been one of the joys of organizing this running team for 4 years now.  It teaches a lot of things but #1 on that list may be patience.  We have 45 days to go and still have 1-2 spots open but those should be filled shortly.  We are in GREAT position relative to our fundraising goal but there’s a part of me that is looking for ways to inject a JOLT into the fundraiser too and but I’ve learned that takes patience as well.

There are times over the last year where it’s been easy to get excited, upset, down, and fired back up again.  It’s been a bit of a roller coaster but yet I feel more confident in the team, it’s abilities and where we’re going than I ever have and before we raise our final dollar for this year’s campaign or even run the first mile of the race, I’m ready and excited about 2020.

Three instances stick out to me most:

The first was when I decided it was time to move on from Kate’s Kart.  I wasn’t happy with how things had been going and more and more push back was happening against us when I felt like we were more than impactful.  I still love their mission but what we do, as a team, and how we do it, has become personal and the way things worked out, it personally hurt to step away from them.  That was the down.

The up happened when I met with a couple of folks when I was having some doubts.  Both friends and family pushed me to believe in what we had created.  Matt Herald told me that I’d created a monster of a fundraising vehicle that any local charity would be lucky to work with.  That has stuck with me.

What also stuck with me was when I had made my list of prospective new charitable organizations to talk to.  I’m not sure I ever shared this publicly but I talked to Andrew Gritzmaker of Mad Anthony’s Childrens Hope House, Anthony Juliano of Asher Agency who was a board member of Fort Wayne Trails, and then Andrew Hoffman of NeighborLink Fort Wayne.  I had only originally planned on talking to the Andrews but Anthony had popped up, looking to learn more about what we did and when I heard about FW Trails, I was interested too and ironically enough, they were one that a couple of folks on the team suggested too.

The excitement that was fostered from those meetings all pointed towards NeighborLink Fort Wayne.  Mr. Gritzmaker and Juliano both inquired into who I was thinking about working with and when NLFW was mentioned as part of the prospects, they both glowingly talked about Andrew Hoffman and what NeighborLink does.  By the time I actually sat down with Andrew Hoffman, I had pretty much made up my mind.  There was this calmness about him that reassured me that this was, by far, the right choice.  I’ve not doubted that decision since.

The second and third instance of things working out are somewhat similar.  The first of those happened back in early spring when I was working on sponsorship requests.  I had 2 come in that had budget constraints and couldn’t support us.  It was a $500 loss for us.  2018 had been our first year that our expenses were fully covered via sponsorships and that bad become a great draw for recruiting runners as well as giving the campaign a shot in the arm when we had extra sponsorship dollars spill over into the fundraiser.  Losing two sponsors that equaled $500 was a bit of a gut punch so early in the process.

What followed almost immediately took almost took me off my feet.  I had sent my requests out a good bit before I had gotten that bad news so getting answers was a bit slow so getting bad news stunk but the next day, Sue Teasdale and her team at Coldwell Banker Roth Wehrly Graber came in with a $1,000 sponsorship.  They had been $500 the previous year so not only did she re-up, but $500 more which I hadn’t planned on either.  You can’t tell me that was a coincidence.  Somehow…someway…when you’re on the right path, things have a way of working out.

The most recent instance was this week.  I’d been talking with a sponsor from previous years about coming back.  I’d been after them since February and usually they commit quickly.  There was some confusion in the process but we ended up losing them too.  They too, would have been a $500 sponsor if they supported us at the level they had in the past.  We weren’t necessarily down $500 considering that I believe we have enough sponsorship dollars to cover our costs BUT it would have been a great donation for the fundraiser.

Then we put out on Monday, as we’ve normally done, a Meet the Runner  profile on Kelly Kreischer, a returning runner from last year.  Her friends and family since Monday have donated $450 and I had my cousin Toni & her family and a friend from church Ann, donate $25 each.  If you’re counting at home, it’s $500.  J

Again, I am a firm believer that if you’re on the right path, things find a way to work out for the best and this week was just another reminder.  We are at $3855 raised now and are well on our way to our $5,000 goal.  I have higher aspirations than that $5,000 total but we’ll land where we’re supposed to and that’ll be great because it’ll all work out.  Just like it is supposed to….

Taking Aim

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar

I have taken the last month or so off of social media and blogging for the most part.  There’s been some work so that the accounts can function during that time but man was it nice to step away and really relax and concentrate on spending time with my family and friends.

As August kicks-off today, I just wanted to share some updates on Runnin’ Not Walken, how the fundraiser is going, and some thoughts on the future.

First off,  the fundraiser just hit $3,145 between the combined fundraising pages we have set up.  Why’s that a big deal?  $2,250 plus $3,610 plus $4,536 plus $6,517 plus this year’s $3,145 equals $20,058!!!!  Those are our totals since we started fundraising in 2015 for each campaign and including this year’s amount.  We weren’t sure we’d hit $1,000 but here we are, just crossing over this monumental number.  Unbelievable!

Secondly, we recently received a pledge from Parkview Health for $750 which put us at $3,750 in total sponsorship dollars.  This is now an all-time high in support from the Fort Wayne business community!  We have a couple high dollar potential sponsors in the pipeline and with expenses hoping to be flat to slightly up, we’re at the point where most of all of our future sponsorship dollars will go pouring into the fundraiser which should provide some major boosts to it.

Thirdly, we’ve started to introduce the team.  If you’ve not visited our Facebook page lately, head over to www.facebook.com/runninnotwalken to learn more and make sure you follow!

Lastly, this post started with a quote from Zig Ziglar about taking aim.  I always start these fundraising campaigns a bit sick to my stomach as I think to myself about how we’re going to pull this off but somehow the team always hits it’s mark.  We are now less than $2,000 away from hitting our goal and I’m excited to see how August goes.  Here’s to taking aim at hitting the goal by Labor Day and see how high we can push it from there!

Runnin’ Not Walken Update

Happy Tuesday!  I just wanted to update you quickly on how the fundraiser to benefit NeighborLink Fort Wayne is going.  I’ll keep this brief but I realized that the last update I sent out was about how I felt that May was set-up to be a big fundraising month for us.

So the fundraising challenge I threw at the team was to raise $750 on May first and if we hit that, then anything we raised in May would be matched.  The challenge was actually $500 but knowing how awesome the team is, I knew that they could pull it off and I was right.  In total, we raised more than half of our fundraising goal of $5,000 in May and the great part is that those donations were all from private donors.  We’ve not really tapped into the local businesses yet for donations or have had any extra sponsorship dollars go into our fundraiser yet and we’ve always had a little.  Anyways, as of right now, we’ve raised more than $2700 and I can’t wait to see it turn over $3,000!

June has been a little slower but that’s to be understood.  Most of our team is made up of parents so with school winding down and summer programs taking off, there’s not been a ton of time to go after this much but here’s the silver lining to it all: we usually only start our fundraiser 3 months out.  We’ve got ourselves off to a heck of a headstart in comparison to how we usually operate things so again, there’s not a reason this doesn’t continue to grow in a big way.

It’s going to be a very exciting second half of the year.  If you have an interest in what we’re doing, you can visit https://www.nlfw.org/project/15772 to learn more and make a donation.

Thanks for reading this far and have a great Tuesday!

Happy Running,

Gabe

Run-Gooder #10 – Karl

This is an article originally posted on February 5th but being that Karl just finished his 7th Ultra, it seemed like a great opportunity to reshare.  

Congrats Karl!  You are a true inspiration my friend.  Now, have a rest.  🙂

Sincerely,

Gabe

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Karl is a UK runner that I happened upon the other day as he is running and fundraising for the British Heart Foundation in memory of his father, Jack.  The more I read about what Karl is doing in his dad’s memory, the more I knew he needed to be featured, spread the word on what he’s doing because it’s incredible, and maybe some of you would consider giving to his cause.  He’s getting very close to his goal so every little bit helps.

I asked Karl about his story and I could chop it up to shorten it down a bit but I do believe that he does a beautiful job of describing all he went through and the amazing challenge that he’s embarked upon so here’s his story, in his own words:

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“Running through grief” – My mother lost her short battle with cancer in July 2011 at age 50.  I was 24 at the time and she was way too young to leave this world.  She was my everything.  She was my world!  I was devastated and living a life without her was something I was not at all ready for.

Before my mother passed away, I wasn’t one to worry about my current or future health.  I was overweight, ate unhealthily, probably drank way more than I should, smoked regularly and they were things I would turn to during difficult or stressful times.  When my mother passed away, I packed in the cigarettes and limited my drinking but had no real coping mechanism.  I didn’t want to hit the self-destruct button but I didn’t know how to cope or deal with the loss.  It was the darkest time of my life.

It was only when my daughter was born in October 2012 that I realized how precious life is and started to make a real effort to start looking after myself.  By this point in my life I was thinking to myself, ‘if I was to die at the same age as my mother, I’m already passed the half way point’ and that was a scary thought.

I tried many different things to help improve my physical and mental wellbeing.  Even with my beautiful daughter being in the world, the amazing support from my wife, dad, sister, brother in law and many other friends and family, deep down I still felt like I was struggling to cope and didn’t know what to do with my thoughts.

It was 2016 when I really came to terms with my mother’s loss. I started running in June 2015 and ran my 1st half marathon in Cardiff in October 2015. I decided then that in 2016 I would raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in her memory. During that year I ran 4 half marathons (Merthyr Tydfil, Llanelli, Cardiff and Swansea), 3 marathons (Edinburgh, The Wales Marathon in Tenby and Gloucester City marathon) and finished off the year with The Gower 50 mile ultra-marathon.

Before I started my marathon challenge I didn’t realize the positive impact that year and running would have on my life. I had found my coping mechanism. My last surviving grandparent, my grandmother (my mother’s mum) passed away after a short battle with cancer in May of 2016, as devastated as I was, I was in a much better place mentally to deal with her loss.

After 2016 was over I realized that running and exercise is an amazing tool when life gets tough and it can really help improve your outlook on everything. That year changed me and my whole attitude towards all aspects of my life and really helped me grieve the loss of my mother & grandmother.

Sadly, a short while later in April 2017, my dad passed away suddenly aged 67. He died from the effects of undetected heart disease. I was 29 at the time and a lot more mature & self-aware. Being in this position before and understanding what grief can do to someone, I wanted to allow myself to experience the pain of losing my dad but I didn’t want it to take over my life. At the time my daughter was aged 4 and my wife was around 10 weeks pregnant, I couldn’t let the grief consume me as it did in the past.

I knew by running and exercising regular not only would it be good for my physical health but more importantly my mental wellbeing.

Spending the majority of my time each week working and looking after my family gives my mind a huge distraction from grieving. But, this is also why I always make time for a run or some form of exercise. Whether it’s a 4am run while my wife and children are asleep or a run on my lunch break during work or any other time I have a spare hour to myself. I make sure I get it done because the mental resilience running has taught me is invaluable. When I’m out running it’s just me and my thoughts. It allows me the time I need to think about what’s happened and to grieve.

Since losing both of my parents at relatively young ages, it’s given me the motivation to look after myself and regularly monitor my health. It frightens me to think of my children growing up without me.

Unfortunately, my dad died very suddenly and his heart disease had gone undetected so there was nothing that could have been done to save him. Not every story of heart disease ends so tragically. Many people live happy healthy lives with heart conditions and a lot of that is down to the amazing research and hard work carried out by the British Heart Foundation.

Wanting to turn my grief into something positive I decided to take my love of running and I will be attempting 7 ultra-marathons between January 2018 and June 2019. The distances vary between 32 miles to 100 miles.

I’ve completed 4 so far…

#1 Brecon to Cardiff, 11 February 2018, 43.9 Miles in 7 hours 22 mins

#2 The Vale Coastal Ultra, 7 April 2018, 33.6 miles in 6 hours 17 mins

#3 The South Wales 50 mile, 23 June 2018, completed in 14 hours

#4 The Gower 50 mile, 6 October 2018, completed in 10 hours 37… this event was a special one to me… it was held on my Grandma’s birthday & this event was also my 1st ultra-marathon experience back in 2016 when I run it in memory of my mother. When I completed it back in 2016 I certainly didn’t think at the time it would be the last run my dad would be at the finish line for. This makes this event even more poignant for me. It was very strange going back there to do it all again, this time in his memory!

The Gower 50 was always going to be an emotional day, I thought I managed to keep my sh*t together quite well considering, that was until after crossing the finish line I was caught completely off guard by the very kind gesture of Joe Timmins (the race director) & the Run, Walk, Crawl events team. At the finish they presented me with a frame including all the Run Walk Crawl event medals I had completed for the British heart foundation during that year with an engraved plaque saying ‘Ultras for Dad 2018’.

The course was a beautiful yet brutal one. Another awesome event to be part of and I was able to knock an hour and 17 minutes off my 2016 time.

4 down 3 to go! That’s all 4 for 2018 complete, the remaining 3 to be completed this year.

#5 Brecon to Cardiff 70k, Sunday 10 February 2019

#6 The Vale Coastal Ultra 50k, Saturday 6 April 2019… And to finish…

#7 The South Wales 100 mile ultra, Friday 21 June 2019… This will be my first 100 mile attempt, I’ve got a lot of work to do over the next 5 months if I’m going crack the South Wales 100 but I’m ready to work for it!

18 months of fundraising for The British Heart Foundation charity in memory of an amazing man, a man I was lucky enough to call Dad, Jack Williams. Gone but forever in our hearts.”

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If you feel compelled by Karl’s story to give to his cause, please visit www.justgiving.com/Karl-Williams17

You can also find him at @ktw09_Williams on Twitter.

Thanks for sharing your remarkably vulnerable story of grief and personal discovery with us all Karl.  I wish you nothing but the best of luck to you on your fundraising campaign as well as in your upcoming races.  Everyone will be cheering you on from across the pond. – Gabe

The Rock: Bring Everyone With You

I saw this today and while this isn’t really a running related video clip, I love the message and couldn’t help but share a few thoughts on it and how I feel it relates to what RNW and I are doing.

I share this because there’s a lot of negativity in the world and if you follow The Rock on social media to get a glimpse of him, the guy brings a lot of positive energy to the table and in this video as he accepts this award, he gives us a few lessons that he’s applied to his success.  I think this inspiration is a good way to end the week so here goes:

First Off:  “The most powerful thing that we can be is ourselves”

Isn’t this the truth?  You hear these stories all of the time where someone works their butt off to achieve a goal or dream and when they reach that milestone, they’re not satisfied.  It’s not out of a quest for “what’s next” but because they sacrificed everything, including being true to who they are, to get what they “wanted.”  It’s a sad reality but all too often true.  So do you.  You can have it both ways.  You can unceasingly keep your eye on the goal and do it your way.  It might not be the easiest road to travel upon but as, I believe, Yogi Berra said, “Take the high road.  There’s less traffic up there anyways.”

I have been blessed by the group that has made up Team Runnin’ Not Walken.  We’ve not had a superficial soul once.  We have a group that genuinely cares about the causes we’ve worked for and each other and that is without a doubt, powerful.

Secondly: “While yes it is important to be ourselves, you have to recognize the joy and responsibility to bring everybody with you.”

I’m paraphrasing the rest but he talks about being “kind and compassionate by being inclusive and just good to people”, stating that that MATTERS!  On team Runnin’ Not Walken, I have a team of people that live by that and want to help others.  It’s how we’ve had the fundraising success we’ve had.  The running part is a great adventure, a great tool to bring awareness and people’s generosity towards our charitable causes to the table but our level of running success has largely been that we’ve finished.  I’ve never told a runner no.  I’ve told people “not right now” because we had a full team but I think largely every runner that’s expressed interest in running with us has and I’m proud of that.  Running a race like what we do is a huge challenge and it’d be great to have 12 6 minute milers and win the race but, I’ve had people, every year, with something to prove to themselves and it’s an honor to witness them go for that goal.

This phrase isn’t exclusive to what we do though.  This is a great message for life in general.  Too often we’re comfortable, whether it’s in our everyday dealings with the world or even in the workplace, only dealing with the people and places that make us comfortable.  If we’d be more inclusive and open minded, we could “bring” more people into our circle and enriching it and them in the process.

It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice

I’ve seen too many people in the world with a win at all costs mentality and some of them get far but I’ve seen far more people go much farther and be far more revered in their circles of friends and families as well as within the community because they are good and nice to those they encounter.

The result of their kindness and being nice to those they encounter is that while they’re focusing on Golden Rule principles of treating others as they would like to be treated, they’re secondarily becoming irreplaceable and important in the minds of those they encounter.

I’m fortunate and blessed to say that I’ve got a whole team of folks like this.

I hope you enjoyed the video.  It definitely kicked my day off right.  I hope it helped make your day a bit brighter.

Happy Friday!

Gabe

 

Back on the Right Path!

img_1804The last week or so, I’ve had been thinking about a lot about the direction of Runnin’ Not Walken and Runners Doing Good.  This November will be the anniversary of the first year of the blog and we’re less than 6 months from the 5th anniversary of the running team being founded.  A lot of good has come from these efforts and I feel like there’s plenty left in the tank.  I’ve written about Gabriele, “Gabe” Grunewald a couple times of late and the inspiration that she’s provided to so many.

I had received a direct message through the Runners Doing Good Instagram account recently and came across an interaction I had with her back in January and it got me thinking.  If someone of her stature liked and  believed in what RDG was about, I was probably on the right path.  I also probably got off of that path slightly.

Life had gotten pretty busy with training for a mini-marathon I ended up not running in because of an injury and kicking off the Runnin’ Not Walken fundraiser properly.  I had lessened the runner stories and featured more team and personal stories.  Runnin’ Not Walken can be a part of that but it shouldn’t be the only thing and I hope to get back to the runner features that got this thing rolling.

There are stories to tell, runners and causes to support, and inspiration to spread.  There are so many runners that are making an impact in some way that featuring one a month profile isn’t enough.

So here’s the pledge, give me a quick bit and this thing is going to get ramped up and move forward with more great runners and stories of inspiration.  Pete, @thewannaberunner, if you’re reading this, I’m looking at you buddy.  What you’ve done is rock-star stuff man.  You should be proud of what you’ve accomplished and the inspiration you’ve given so many.

If any of you have read some of the past features, what are your favorites?  Do you have a runner or team of runners to nominate?  If so, let me know in the comment section!

What If Wednesday

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I saw this picture the other day and it stuck with me a bit.  I’ve had a lot on my mind with Runnin’ Not Walken and wanting the team to succeed and so far it largely has.  We still have some big goals to hit but with our 5th year coming up next year, it’s gotten me thinking…what’s next?  There feels like there’s more to this that needs to be explored and if the chance isn’t taken or the path gone down, will later become never and a regret?

I still don’t have the answer completely but I know this….Runnin’ Not Walken is a kick-ass Ragnar Relay team name, with a cool logo for our magnets and tshirts.  Many of our fellow ragnarians comment to us during the race how cool it is the logo is and it’s one of their favorite tshirts and most sought after and sometimes stolen magnets but this I know…you can’t make money with someone else face as the logo.  If more is to be explored in this running adventure, then we’ll need something new.  As fun and cool as the RNW logo can be, the possibilities are limited.

So here’s the ultimate question:  Is it possible to organize this a bit more to serve not just Fort Wayne but other towns and cities where someone and I mean multiple someone’s are out there doing something epic to make a difference in their neighborhood.

The running community is a powerful and supportive group.  What if that power were combined a bit more where Runners Doing Good became a mantle to carry and goodness was spread around even more?

I think if the power of the running community were brought together, the  impact could be incredible.  So the question becomes, can a Runners Doing Good group request newbie runners to elite runners and everything in between?  Runnin’ Not Walken has succeeded where more and more got involved.  I think they would even more so if we’re running to benefit groups in their communities.  I could be wrong but it could be incredible to find out too.

 

 

 

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