Ragnar Trail Michigan Thoughts

Advertisements

“Gratitude Makes Sense of Our Past, Brings Peace For Today, and Creates a Vision for Tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

Wow. I saw this and I couldn’t agree with it more and had to share. I will do a full recap of Ragnar Relay Trail Michigan sometime this week that will detail the ins and outs of this event but for now, I wanted to convey more the feeling I have sitting here. The recap will give operational information. This comes from a well earned recovery nap that’s keeping me up later than I would rather be as it’s 10:35 on a Sunday night.

I’ve only been home barely 25 hours from Ragnar Trail Michigan but the part of the race that always impacts me and is currently doing the same, are my people, my team, my friends, my little Ragnar family.

You know you’re in the presence of good people when you spend nearly every moment of the day with them, minus the time you’re running and sleeping, from Thursday at 5:30 pre-race till almost 9 p.m. on the following Saturday when the last 3 hopped in their car to go get their kids and you could probably sit and talk with them for hours longer if given the opportunity.

There were a lot of reasons to try Trail Michigan but my biggest worry had always been upsetting folks because it cut the roster from 12 to 8. I’ve been blessed to have so many people that have taken up the Runnin’ Not Walken and now Runners Doing Good mantle and run to make their miles count for something bigger than themselves. All said though, to go from 12 to 8 would mean that some runners wouldn’t have a spot unless others gave up theirs.

Good, bad, or otherwise, I was loyal to my original core runners. I knew that didn’t necessarily make our team faster, too. It was a tough choice but no matter what anyone says, this team isn’t about finishing first. I’ll almost guarantee that we’ll not finish last but winning isn’t something at the top of our list. I know that probably sounds like the worst bit of coaching and team building possible but we’re in a different place than where we started in 2015.

We were a running team that fundraised a little back then. Today, we’re more of a fundraising team that happens to do epic running stuff. And when you’re going into a race you’ve never competed in before and don’t know a ton of what to expect and how you’ll react to it, you still with your core. When you’ve got decades of experience, decades of friendship, decades of love, decades of laughter, and decades of history with people, despite the difficulty of saying goodbye to some folks and knowing that on the running side you might not be as deep, it makes it easy to jump into something unexpected when the folks you’re jumping with know you so personally and will do anything for you.

Advertisements

So tonight, as I wrap this up, it is with great gratitude I say thank you to anyone who has ever run for us in the past. You’ve paved this path with us and someday, I hope this develops into something that if the opportunity and want for you to join us returns, we’ll have an opportunity to add you to the team.

For the present place I am, it is with great peace that I lay my head down this evening. The decision was right from day one, especially in light of the turbulence of this past 12+ months. I am so appreciative of these wonderful people: Courtney, Chris, Melissa, Andrew, Kati, Michael, and Jenn. Each in their own ways make me smile and go out of their way to make the others around them comfortable, smile, and enjoy each others time together. It’s not a big production time of thing either, it’s a very relaxed and subdued way they do it and it makes just picking back up after all of this time so much easier.

As far as a vision for the future, I’ll be honest, there were times in 2020 and definitely here in 2021 where I had my doubts that I should be doing this anymore. Everything was so difficult and part of that was my fault. I said yes to a few different things. I said yes to head coaching my son. I said yes to leading the alumni of my grade school and in many ways, the parish, to a degree. Both things have been incredibly rewarding as I thought they might but inside this training window, man did it make it challenging. I really didn’t think I’d be able to pull off the running. It had been a true challenge to get any consistent pain free mileage and it wasn’t until the last week prior to the race that I got new shoes and because my feet were now pain free, I was able to train harder and guess what? My legs hurt because they were sore and not hurt because my shoes were shot. It’s a big difference but there wasn’t a ton of time to get as strong as I’d hoped. As you’ll find out in my recap to come, it worked out ok.

As of right now, with the fundraiser but a week or so from ending, we’re $400 from our goal. That goal, I didn’t think we’d get close to just a couple of weeks ago. We’ve put a considerable push towards it and have had people respond wonderfully and generously and it gives me optimism that we’ll scratch across the finish line here.

But back to the future, I feel positive for what’s to come. It’s been good for my soul to be back in this routine. It’s been good to bring people together to rally around NeighborLink Fort Wayne and raise money and awareness for them. They are such a wonderful and worthy group to partner with who ultimately makes it so easy for us to be us and do things like this.

Overall, this whole experience with this team this year has been so good and so positive, I feel at peace with a future that includes Runners Doing Good in it. I wasn’t completely sure of it all at one point but here I am, exhausted both physically and mentally to varying degrees but overcome with a feeling of satisfaction and comfort with where we are. It’s pretty cool and when I have a more concrete idea of what that future holds, I will share it but for now, know that a vision is forming and Runners Doing Good will be back sometime in the not so distant future.

Campaign Update!

Advertisements

Today is the day before, the day before we run. 🙂 I don’t know why that thought popped in my head but it makes me laugh. Most importantly, though, it’s a big day because we’re closing in on our goal and I wanted to provide you all with an update on our fundraising campaign to benefit NeighborLink Fort Wayne.

As of last night, we were at $4,552 raise for NLFW. Our goal is $5,000 so we’re over 90% of the way there. All of this is pretty remarkable because we’ve covered our costs, barely, through local sponsorships and individuals who’ve given to help our expenses. In non-Covid year’s those dollars exceeded our needs and we had a surplus that poured into our fundraiser.

This total is significant because it’s largely given from private donors as there’s been very little, less than $100, that’s gone into the fundraiser from sponsorships. In year’s past, that number was pushing $2,000.

So if we hit our goal, it will represent the largest outpouring of love and support through private individuals our team has ever received. That definitely is appreciated and gives us a warm feeling but being that we’re so close, the question comes to now….can we get there by the time we run our last mile on Saturday?

Visit our NLFW site to donate now!

DONATE HERE!!!!

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

Runners Doing Good #8 – Gabe

Advertisements

I hate writing about myself and if I could get away from leaving this part blank, I would but it’s not fair to subject all of the friends and family that I put through this to profiles on themselves and then not do it myself so here goes.

I am, from a distance standpoint, number 1 on our leaderboard. I wouldn’t say that’s a feat of greatness by any means. It just means that I’ve done this the longest of anyone that’s run with us. I suppose that something. Had I not cramped up at the very end of ’16 and had Michael finish for me, this year I would have crossed 100 miles run in Ragnar Relay races for Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good. I’m not particular OCD or anal about anything but that fact does annoy me a bit. 98.76 miles sounds like a lot but 100+ just sounds nicer.

What’s most important to me about this whole thing is that we’ve done a lot of good, for great organizations, with great friends, and have created a culture and expectation that is predicated on exceeding expectations.

A couple of thoughts on those points:

First — Doing a lot of good for great organizations….

We haven’t skipped around to a lot of groups within the Fort Wayne community. This year will be our 7th campaign, which just took me by surprise when I looked it up and our 6th run, and we’ve only worked with two: Kate’s Kart for 3 campaigns from ’15 – ’18 and NeighborLink Fort Wayne from ’19 til now.

Combined, and it’s why I’ve left this line seperate from the above paragraph, we’ve raised $31,876 as of today!

That’s remarkable considering we never thought we’d raise $1,000 that first year. Most importantly of this point, it’s supported the do-gooders. We’re not set up to be the boots on the ground that does the work but we can do something audacious and raise some money to help their mission and when you consider we’re quickly approaching $32,000, I’d say we’ve done a nice job of that.

Advertisements

On doing this with great friends —

While this has snowballed in ways I never could have imagined, I’ve had some of the very best people I know at my side the whole time. That has been a true blessing. It’s not often that when you’re in your mid-30’s that you get to take time-out and play outdoors with your friends but I’ve been lucky in this regard.

I often speak of year one in nostalgic terms and that’s because the people I ran and played with as a child were all in that van with me. My cousins Brandon and Joel, who I spent countless hours playing basketball and baseball, running around the farm on our bikes, picking and eating berries, fishing, and whatever else we could get ourselves in to were there. Nerk, their cousin on the other side of their family, who is probably the friend I’ve known longer than any other outside of family was there. Joel’s girlfriend, Ruso, who’s now his wife, was an absolute joy to have with us that weekend. My godson Ryan was there and it was an amazing opportunity for us to reconnect and hang out in a way we hadn’t before. He was busy with school and growing up as I was beginning my adult life with getting married and starting a family so we didn’t get to hang out a ton there for a bit but the Ragnar allowed us to do that. His brother Adam, much like Ryan, joined us and I was 10 when he was born so it was cool to spend time with him and catch up in a way we hadn’t. It was also amazing to see him connect with Artie, one of my very best friends who’s also a bit crazy, and how those two jumped right into the Talladega Nights theme as drivers. Those two were a bigger deal that weekend that anything we did. The other teams loved them!

And that was just one year! In all, we’ve had more than 30 runners take part in a Ragnar in one location or another whether it was in Wisconsin on our way to Chicago in the oppressive heat, taking on the cold of late September in the northwestern half of “The Mitten”, or whatever we’re going to see at the end of this week.

There have been so many people that have made this whole adventure special that I can’t name them all but as always, my wife Jennifer is at the top of that list. It’s no surprise that we really hit another gear when she got involved. Taking this all on wouldn’t be possible without here but being able to share it with her is special. She downplays here contributions the whole way but half of our team this year is because of her. She’s a magnet that people gravitate towards and I know for a fact that I’d hardly have a team without her and our fundraising success would be limited considerably. She makes the motor run.

Beyond her, it’s been incredible to take on this challenge with friends, family, and acquaintances that becomes friends because of this shared experience. It’s difficult to put into words what it means but again, it’s just special and I never would have guessed this would be one of the true perks of doing this for so long but beside the joy of good we do, doing that with these people is at the top.

Advertisements

On a Culture of Exceeding Expectations —

So much of what we’ve done has been the result of this snowballing effect because our expectations were so low to begin with. We just never thought we’d be “here” or whatever this is but we’ve upped the ante every year in some way.

Typically that’s involved beating our fundraising total, which coming out of the pandemic, I don’t expect us to do. I believe we’ll pass our goal by July 2nd but $7500? Not likely. It’s a weird year for that but we’ve got several returning runners who I wasn’t sure we’d get back and people are as engaged as any year we’ve had in a long time as we tackle a new racing format and my feeling is, regardless of what the weather does, that this event will exceed our expectations in a lot of ways and pave a new path forward for us.

If it weren’t for the stress of so many things converging at once this spring, I wouldn’t have had any. This has been largely, the most stress-free event I’ve planned to date. That’s huge! In the past, I had vans to lock in, condos to rent, and a ton of other details involved with a 12 person traveling and running roadshow to coordinate that while it was amazing, it was also amazingly stressful, too. I’ve welcomed this relief. While the sponsors were a grind to get this year, the lower cost of the event because of not having all of those things to lock in also made it easier to cover.

It also positions us to really take off next year too and make whatever comes next sustainable. I have an 8 year old that wants to run with us some day and he needs to be 14 to participate. I’m not sure how many years of this I have left but if it’s about as easy as this year has been, then I can see the day that I share this experience with him.

Also, we’re at almost $32,000 raised for area charity, when you add up all we’ve done! That’s huge and far beyond our expectations. Remember, we started with the hope of $1,000 and the idea that the 12 of us would pitch in to hit the goal when we came up short. At this point, why not shoot for $50,000? That’d be pretty amazing to say too.

Advertisements

Lastly, I’m just excited for what this week holds for us. It’s been a grind to get here but every opportunity here is special and can’t be taken for granted. The weather might not be great but we’ve seldom had ideal weather but through it all, we’ve got a ton to be grateful for and I have meant it when I said that 2021 is going to be great.

I believe that because the world is in a better place than we were and it’s easy to regard things that way but I have and we all should have an appreciation for where we are today. It wasn’t easy to get here but we are and things are only continually improving so when we get to gather as a group and do something as crazy and daunting as a Ragnar Relay, we’ve got to take time to enjoy it and treasure the difficulty of it all, the accomplishment of the campaign, the people we get to share it with. That’s where the good stuff resides and I can’t wait to experience that.

Thanks for being a part of this, supporting us, and following along. We’ll always do our best to make you all proud and hopefully you feel we have.

Sincerely,

Gabe

Advertisements
Advertisements

Runners Doing Good – #7 Melissa

Advertisements

I wasn’t sure that we’d get Melissa back but I couldn’t be happier that we have. Melissa is the wife of Chris and has been a good friend for a long time. Even longer, she’s been a good friend of Jenn’s, as they both attended Michigan State University and are both proud Spartans.

Melissa ran with us in 2018, our first year at Ragnar Road Michigan. It was a terribly cold race, overall, and I think I heard somewhere in the midst of the race so that she could spread out and get some sleep, she slept in a horse barn at a 4-H Fairgrounds. Sometimes the accommodations during a road relay aren’t exactly the Hilton.

That said, she’s awesome and a much better runner than most of the team and if it weren’t for the cold, I’m sure she would have been back for ’19 but all it took was a pandemic and a switch to a trail race just down the road from her dad’s house for her to come on back. Oh and the race is in June vs. the end of September. I’m sure that helps too :-).

In all, it’s fantastic to have Chris’ much better back with us. She’s a great friend and we’ll be a better team because of her.

Advertisements
Advertisements

Runners Doing Good #6 – Andrew

Advertisements
Advertisements

This guy has been an absolute rock throughout the years. I’ve had the fortune of knowing Andrew since I was 18 years old, had him in my wedding, and I in his, and have shared this crazy adventure with him, when this year is over, 4 times, and had it not been for a family emergency, 5 times.

The only year that he truly missed was Year 1 but he joined up in 2016 and endured the extreme heat that we struggled through that year and somehow came back the next year. It is remarkable that he’s still running with us and even dragging Kati, his wife, into the mix, because every year he openly talks about and admits that he doesn’t like running. He’d much rather be on a bike but again, he keeps coming back.

In fact, he’s run with us so much that not only is he passing 50 miles run for us, not only is he passing 60 miles for us, but he’ll run his 65th mile for the team and put himself firmly in a Top 5 runners all-time for most mileage. If not for the one year he had to pull out not long before the race and he’d be Top 3 with more than 80 miles run for us.

One of the best stories about him was that first year he ran with us, 2016. He was jamming out to a song with his earbuds in and ready to go. Someone made the mistake in asking him if he was ready to go which prompted him to respond. I’m sorry. Respond might be too light of a term for what he did. The music was so loud and he shouted back in kind, “YEAH, I’M DOING GREAT. GOOD TO GO!” We all busted out laughing and funny enough, it wasn’t the only time it happened on that trip.

In all, he truly is one of the best people and friends I know. He might not like running. He might not be particularly fast. Lord knows I’m not! But in all, he has a heart for helping others and at the core of what Team Runners Doing Good is, that’s what it’s all about for us. We might be marginally faster than a pack of turtles but we just want to help others through our running and Andrew not doubt epitomizes that sentiment. As has always been the case, we are lucky to have him with us.

Advertisements

Runners Doing Good #5 – Kati

Advertisements

Every year we have a newbie and this year, Kati is it and we couldn’t be happier to have her join us. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Kati for a long time. She’s been married to one of my best friends, Andrew, another one of our runners – more on him later, for nearly as long as Jenn and I have been married. She’s truly one of the nicest people I know.

On top of it though, she’s a former collegiate track athlete. Yes, college might a few days ago for us on Runners Doing Good, however, if it’s been a part of you in the past, there’s always a part of you that’s there. This is something she’s wanted to do for awhile to get back into running a bit and I know she’s going to do well for us and enjoy the experience.

Interestingly enough, because everyone runs the same distances in a Ragnar Trail Race, Kati will jump up the leaderboard pretty quickly. She is the 33rd person to lace ’em up for Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good but with 16.1 miles under her belt once Trail Michigan is over, she’ll be our 23rd most mileage.

One Week Away!

Advertisements

Make no mistake about this. There is absolute joy in thinking about next week but it’s really hard to imagine getting to this point. 2020, as mentioned a hundred times now was so hard but so was the ramping up to get here.

I didn’t know how easily people would support our efforts. I believed $5,000 was something we could do and it was a throttling back of a completely audacious goal. Originally, I wanted to hit $10,000. I’m glad we readjusted our outlook. For one, it was more realistic. I just couldn’t anticipated how slow sponsorships would come in.

In fact, it’s just now happened where gifts to help cover costs go beyond our expenses. That’s the latest we’ve ever gotten to this point. I believe that’s 3 consecutive campaigns where we’ve covered our expenses and 100% of remaining gifts will go directly to NeighborLink. With so little time, I’m not sure how much business support will actually come in at this point but I’m holding out hope.

Either way, it’s a great time to tell our story again. Please watch the below video to see what we’re all about, why Neighborlink, and why Ragnar Relay!

Advertisements
This is Runners Doing Good
Advertisements
Advertisements

Runners Doing Good #4 – Courtney

Advertisements

Courtney is one of our originals! It is amazing to have her back with us. She actually ran the very first miles for Runnin’ Not Walken back at Ragnar Relay Chicago in 2015 as she was our lead-off runner. The weather for that first leg of the race wasn’t the greatest but she battled through it and the rest is history.

She then ran again in 2017 and tackled the Deep Dish Ragnar Leg for us! She ran so fast that our next runner was caught putting her shoes on because we thought we had a little bit of time left before Courtney would show up!

Combined with what she’ll run here in ’21, Courtney will hit a milestone at Ragnar Trail Michigan: 50 miles run for Team Runnin’ Not Walken / Runners Doing Good! That also places her 6th on our mileage leader board.

Runners Doing Good #3 – Chris

Advertisements

This guy is an animal. He’s maybe one of the few people on the team that actually looks like a natural runner. For so long, we’ve probably been, at first glance, a much better charity softball, basketball, or football team than we looked the part of a running team. That’s not a dig at anyone that’s run on the team in the past, however, there’s been a lot of guys who were say, 6’1 and 200+ on the team.

Chris doesn’t exactly fit that profile. He’s probably not been heavier than 180 in his life but he’s a runner and watching him go is something to behold. He also, because of his vast accomplishments within the running arena, brings a relaxed feeling to our efforts because he was willing to tackle literally any leg we needed of a traditional road race. As Captain, having someone like Chris who I could just plug in to any assignment was a godsend because that wasn’t the case with everyone on the team.

Chris, for us, after Ragnar Trail Michigan, will rank #7 all time on our career mileage leader board with nearly 50 miles of roads and now trails run for Runners Doing Good. We truly are lucky and blessed to have him back for the 3rd race in a row. He’s a great runner but an even better guy and we are, no doubt, a better team in a host of different ways, because he’s with us.

Advertisements
Advertisements
Advertisements

2 WEEKS!

Advertisements

2 weeks man.

2 weeks!!! HOLY COW!!!

When 2020 began, I was convinced it was going to be the best year. Not in some corny “best year eva!” way that you see some “influencers” throw things out so easily and frequently but truly. We’d just finished a nearly $7500 fundraising campaign for NeighborLink Fort Wayne in 2019. Momentum was hitting in all sorts of ways. To say we felt empowered was an understatement. Things were really feeling like we were going to hit another gear.

I didn’t realize we were downshifting.

Ragnar – CANCELED. Fundraiser – Started (BEST STARTING MONTH EVER!!!)….then CANCELED. Motivation – CRUSHED. Mental Health – CHALLENGED and APPRECIATED. Momentum – STOP DEAD IN ITS TRACKS.

There was so much about everything that happened in ’20 that was just a complete and total grind. And honestly, it was all running completely counter to what any of our expectations would be.

The team was supposed to break both fundraising and sponsorship records to bring in a net $10,000 in funds given to charity. This expectation has had to be throttled back considerably as both businesses and individuals have been more careful with where their money goes than at any time in our team’s history.

We were, despite slightly downsizing and changing races, going to field a team that may have been our fastest in years while also representing what Runners Doing Good aspires to be, as we always do. We got part of this goal right as we have great people. The running part? I’m only going to speak for myself but I’ve had to lose 15 lbs to finally get under the number that I usually start at when I begin Ragnar Training.

We were also going to sell wristbands to help fund future operations and costs. We’ve sold enough to cover the costs of the wristbands themselves but beyond that…not so much.

Advertisements

For me personally, the worst part of 2020 was that the flow and cycle of all of this was interrupted. We really had it running like a well oiled machine for years and the point of the trail relay was to simplify the process while still increasing the quality of what we do for our runners. Having everyone together for the entirety of the race and being able to get better amounts of sleep would be huge plusses. We’d always gotten such solid support from our sponsors that paying the extra for the Glamping wouldn’t be an issue. All of it would add up to be less stressful for me and enable this thing that snowballed in ways I’d never imagined to keep rolling, keep growing, and keep improving.

Much of that concept for the prepwork and workload for me has rung true. I’ve not run the race yet but the simplicity of the preparation has been much appreciated. The last couple years have been an escalation of negotiations to get better pricing from van rental agencies, renting condos for after races that some folks didn’t stay for (ugh), and then ultimately getting one for during the race so that we could get better sleep, etc., etc. , etc. It was increasingly harder to overcome but we did. The idea to go this route has made this part infinitely better. I can see a return to road racing someday but we’ll approach it differently I’m sure.

The biggest casualty of the the cycle being broken was that as a runner, I lost motivation. I had all of this time and ability to run. I’d never been a high mileage runner. We’d never fully considered ourselves “runners” like you know, good ones who are out every day.

We really started off as a running team that did so to have fun and raise a bit of money for charity and are now at a place where we’re more of a fundraising team who uses an epic event like a Ragnar Relay as a tool or carrot to entice people to support us and the fun we have as a team is the cherry on top.

So I went from being a low annual mileage runner to a nearly no mileage runner in 2020. My weight tends to fluctuate and I’m blessed with a bit of a typical male metabolism where once I get the thing revved up, the weight will come off. If my metabolism was an vehicle, I put it in storage last year. I usually finish a Ragnar somewhere around 200 lbs and normally start at around 210-215. I realize that’s not exactly svelte for a runner but the last time I was around 200, I was running easily in the mid 9 minute mile range with the ability to string together some 8’s with quarter mile splits in the 7’s when I was really rolling.

At the beginning of my training this year, the only rolling going on was me as you’d have to roll me down the street. I was at my heaviest ever and pushing 230 before I finally got that vehicle out of storage and revving it up in my training this year. I’m finally down about 15 lbs and my runs are better but some nights, it’s a struggle to keep it under a 10 minute mile. I feel like I’ve started from scratch.

Advertisements

So here we are:

In 2 weeks, we’ll hit Ragnar Trail Michigan. It will be our first trail Ragnar ever. We’re not sure if we’re completely ready. I’m confident that half of the team will be rock stars while the other half that includes me is going to have to get by a bit on guts.

The fundraiser? We’re sitting on nearly $3700. That’s not quite the $5,000 I was planning on but I have reasons to believe we’ll get there somehow. We’ve had so many new donors that have given and quite a few past donors that haven’t yet so there’s a good chance we boost this quickly by the time we draw it to a close.

Yes, this has been hard and we’ll overcome it because we’re not going to give up. Whether it gets easier in the next 2 weeks or we get tougher, two things are certain:

  1. We’re not done yet and we sure as heck are not giving up.
  2. I know we’ll appreciate this cycle when it’s over.

I say that about number 2 because it’s been so hard to get to this point and while it’s difficult not to find some angst in the struggle, it truly is wonderful that the ability to take part in events like this is possible but for many, the pandemic weighed so heavily that it has made getting here more difficult than normal. When it’s over though, I’m sure we’ll raise a beer and smile but for now….

YIKES IT’S ONLY 2 WEEKS!!!!

— Gabe

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: