Tuesday, December 24, 2013

1 Gallon and Counting....

That saying, "it's the little things that mean so much", I couldn't agree more.

I took the leap into being a blood donor for the American Red Cross for various reasons. It is a decision that I am very proud of, and one that can never be taken away. December 23rd was a date that never meant anything to me, just "another" day on the calendar. But from this point forward, I will celebrate that day every year that passes. December 23rd, 2013, marks the day I pledged one gallon's worth of blood to those who need it. But with that said, it almost didn't happen.

I had been looking forward to this day for months, literally. It really was my personal Christmas, and a day that meant everything. My wife, Jerri, and our two young daughters loaded in the car and drove over to the main blood donor center in Hagerstown, Maryland. We arrived about 15 minutes early and I signed in and anxiously waited for 1:00 PM to arrive. It did...and passed. This was my third visit there, and just like the other two before, the "workers" in the back were late. Yes, I know things happen, but when you are the very first person on the list....

A very unfriendly male came out to get me so I could start the process. As he took my information, checked my pulse and blood pressure, I tried to make small talk...no can do. Sure, you have to be professional, but this guy was a straight up A-hole. He then pricked my finger and checked my iron level...12.3! As a vegetarian and long distance runner, iron has always been my arch enemy. Being that your iron level has to be 12.5 at minimum, he told me I could not donate. After going back and forth with him for a few minutes, and having no luck, he finally went out to have someone else retest me. Another awesome and personable male came in (sarcasm) and retested me. He barely squeezed any blood into the vile, more air than blood. Ugh!! 12.4!! Still not high enough. He shot me down and told me to come back in a few weeks. I was having none of it. I told him I would go home and get my iron level up and have it done later. He was adamant that I couldn't do it and told me to have a nice day. I didn't like this guy at all.

As luck would have it, our little town of Williamsport was having a blood drive at the American Legion. This is the cool part. I took 200 ENERGYbits and drank a bottle of water. We again packed the kids up for another go at it. I repeated the process and waited. But unlike the main center, everyone in Williamsport had a smile on their face and had a friendly attitude. My volunteer nurse pricked my finger, again with more air than blood, and it came up 12.1!! Now I was starting to worry. However, she was SUPER nice and had a male nurse retest me. I noticed that when he checked me, that he squeezed hard on my finger and filled it completely with blood. The result came back....wait for it....BAM!! 13.6!! He told that me if a little air bubble gets in during the testing, that it can throw the test off. That's what happened the previous three times, not enough blood and too much air. OR the ENERGYbits kicked in and elevated my iron level. Either way, my gallon was happening!

My nurse was the best! She even told Jerri and the girls to pull up a chair and sit right next to me. Emily was super happy about this! Less than ten minutes later, I was done. "Gallon Girl", as she was known, even showed Emily how to fill up the testing tubes. She even mentioned how impressed she was that Emily didn't get sick when watching. I couldn't believe the difference between the nurses at the Legion and the main center. It was like night and day. I have come to the realization that those who volunteer at blood drives do it because they actually love helping! I think this because the three times I have been to the main center, where the workers come down from Johnstown, PA, they have acted a certain way. Like they hate dealing with people. It really is a shame.

Back to "Gallon Girl" and those at the American Legion. I am so glad fate would put me there because they were all amazing! We even got to see Katharine, our elderly volunteer. We have seen her at a few locations over the past year. No matter what, she always takes the time to speak with the girls and make Emily smile. I swear from this point forward that I will only donate at blood drives. No more going back to the main center in Hagerstown. They will not suck the fun out of donating for me. I would rather deal with a volunteer who loves the American Red Cross opposed to a full time worker who goes about it as "just a job."

My next scheduled donation is in February and I am happily awaiting to start on gallon two. I love donating and feel honored after finishing. Knowing that I am helping save lives means more to me than words can express. I never forget my loved ones that have passed, and the donations that kept them going. I think about Brian, my friend that would have passed away had it not been for the many donations that were given to him during surgery after surgery. And to the many faceless victims that have been dealt a bad blow by life. And now I will think of my town of Williamsport, the American Legion...I couldn't be happier to know that is where my gallon was given. Thank You!!

~"Gallon Girl" and myself after my donation~

~Me and Em's...my biggest supporter~

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Boyle/Stach Wedding

I want to be very blunt and honest right now. By all accounts, this wedding should have never happened. After a horrific car accident that took sixty percent of his blood and left him dead eight times on the operating table back in 2004, that should have been the end of Brian's story. When I think of the accident and of Brian, I am reminded of a quote from "The Notebook." Simply stated, "You know what they say, science goes only so far and then comes God." And even though Brian's life was put into the hands of the best of the best, even they didn't know. But God knew. God knew that wasn't the end of Brian's story, it was the beginning. Fast forward nine years. Through heartache and pain, highs and lows, and some of the greatest memories ever made, and here we are.

St. Mary's Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland has to be the most breathtaking church I have ever laid eyes on. I can honestly see why Brian proposed to Pam here.

When my family and I arrived and entered the church, I was ready for one thousand people to be in attendance, but I was wrong. Brian and Pam chose this to be an intimate gathering of family and close friends. Don't get me wrong, there were still a few hundred people. But those in attendance weren't just ordinary people to fill seats. Somehow, each person touched Pam and Brian in the closet of ways and were lucky enough to be a part of something very special. And very special it was.

From the opening prayer to the final blessing, this was one remarkable wedding. The glow on both of their faces as we watched their uniting in marriage was a blessing from above. As Pam's sister stated later, "I don't believe in fairy tales, but this is hard not to." It really was that special. And although the wedding was very formal, the reception was the exact opposite. All the nerves were gone and the laughter and dancing began. They really went all out to make sure everyone was taken care of. From meal preparation to the overall feel, it just felt perfect.

Our little Emily ended up getting sick (something that has happened when she is overwhelmed) and I thought we would have to abruptly leave and head back home. We chose to stay because she cried and said she couldn't leave, she had to meet Pam and Brian. After a nap at our table, she woke back to be in better spirits, so we headed over to the dance floor to watch everyone. It was then that the ever amazing Heather came and stole Em's away from me. She took her on the dance floor and loosened Emily up and really made us feel that much more welcome.

~Look past the bad quality of the photo and see the excitement she gave Emily~

While this was happening, it gave me some time to speak with Brian's mom at length. I find it funny that she said the same thing my wife said before even going down..."I don't know what it is but he really likes you, there's a bond." I was telling her how honored I was when asked to attend his wedding. She told me that Brian has a core group of friends and I am there. As I sit here and type this, nobody...not even my wife, knows what that means to me. Words like "honored", "touched", "humbled", don't come close. Brian and his family mean the world to me. His father, Garth, was very gracious and knew me as "Ray from JFK." His mom coming right over and hugging me. You can really tell why Brian is the way he is just by meeting his parents.

We watched as the glowing bride and groom celebrated a wonderful day that was years in the making. We had the chance to meet Pam and Brian's friends and parents. I met Brian's former Coach and we talked for some time on how to perfect the run. It really was the best wedding I have ever attended. And my Em's....well she had the chance to meet the beautiful "Princess." That was worth the trip alone. Her little face was aglow as Pam knelt down to her level and spoke to her as if they had known one another for years. Pam's sister was right when saying, "Pam loves kids, and kids love Pam."

~Pam and Emily....and Gracie too~

It was an exciting day for all. Memories were made that will last a lifetime. New friends were made. And yes, Brian and I agreed to get that 100 mile race in. The best thing of all? My birthday is today (17th) so attending the Boyle/Stach wedding was the best present ever.

~Em's enjoying her time with her new friends~

~Enjoying a moment with JoAnn, Brian's mom~

~Emily and Sydney. Love how kids form friendships without hesitation~

~Mommy and Ari getting their groove on~

~Love this guy like a brother~

At the start of this story I said this wedding should have never happened. But God was here to show us that fairy tales come true if you believe hard enough in them. Congratulations Brian and Pam!! You two deserve the best of the best.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Paying Too Much To Run?

People ask me all the time why I don't race more than a few times a year. The fact that I don't really care to "race" anymore is one reason. But the main reason is because it is just too expensive. With a wife and two small daughters, I just can't see dumping a load of money into a race, especially when it can go to my family.

Big races like the Boston marathon cost roughly $150 for registration. That's not counting hotel, food/drinks, expo spending, etc. New York City marathon is a whopping $255 if you are not a NYRR member. There are plenty of races that are steep in price, and I get that it does cost a lot of money to run a big city marathon. But it does make me wonder how many RD's out there are just jacking up the price because they know people will pay. That's where I have to call BS.

I ran an indoor marathon last year, yes, indoor. It was a local race, a first year event, and it was going to help out the college track team. It was held on a 200 meter track, which equaled out to 211 laps around. All of the help were volunteers. They may have paid the DJ, but he was terrible and played mostly 50's and 60's music. We brought our own bottles, which the aid stations filled for us. They had some water, Gatorade (I think), and a few gels. I can't recall if we had food, but honestly believe we didn't. Total cost was $75 for a shirt and a small medal.

I really didn't think $75 was too bad, a little steep, but doable. I said that I would come back, yet I have been on the fence about doing it again. Last year I dropped at 19 miles due to being sick (chest, head) coming into the race. This year there is a new RD, and with that comes a new race price, $100 to run an indoor marathon. Yes, the money is supposed to be going to the track team, but why the increase? There are no changes other than the RD. It is being held indoor so there are no outside people to pay. Shirt cost and cheap medals cost a little money, but $25 more per person for the same race...for the same stuff? I really wanted to support this race and make it a yearly event. I may still do it because my wife and kids could constantly watch me, which would be awesome. But if I decide to enter this marathon, while running lap after lap I will still question why some RD's think it's OK to stick it to the person who wants to race and have fun.

And it's not just this race. There are races all over America whose registration prices have skyrocketed in recent years. I guess it all boils down to this: Races sell out no matter the price tag.

But when will too much be....too much?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Hero of Humanity"
An Interview By Brian Boyle

~The Day I First Met Brian Boyle~
~Photo Courtesy Of: Brian Boyle

On August, 30th, 2013, I was given one of the coolest gifts ever. I was interviewed by someone who I hold in high regard. That person is Brian Boyle. For those of you who don't know Brian, or his story, I am going to post a link to an in depth account as to what happened, and his miraculous turn around.

~Click Here: Brian's Story~

To have Brian, a young man who has traveled the country and talked with thousands of people, contact me and say he wants to do an interview with me, I was honored and humbled more than one could possibly know. In my eyes I am just an average person who likes to run a lot. A father who loves his kids. A husband to his best friend, and wife, Jerri. I'm a guy who likes to fly under the radar and do things I love. Like donating blood. Or promote the companies I run for. What I really love to do is get out there and meet and run with runners so I can learn about "their" story. When I went back for Brian at the JFK 50 in 2010 (I had seen him earlier in the race) I already knew his story. I didn't want to ask him questions about his terrible accident. I just wanted to help him get to the finish line of his first ultra marathon with a smile on his face.

What I wanted to do was take his mind off all the miles and get him in good spirits again. Within a few miles we picked the pace up, yet were still talking and enjoying the day. By the time we hit the rolling roads, like Brian said, we were nailing near a 7:00 minute per mile pace. My biggest joy that day? Knowing Brian broke his goal time of 10 hours in his first 50 mile race. And to do that with his parents at the finish line...even more meaningful. And to think that six years prior, death came to take him away. Brian is a one special young man.

Brian is my "Hero of Humanity"

And so are the thousands and thousands AND thousands of people that depend on those of us who can donate blood here in the United States. The men, women, and children who are suffering life threatening illnesses. They are the silent heroes...my silent heroes. And just to set the record straight, I don't do any of this for the exposure. Some would say it's narcissistic of me to even write a blog about this. But what SOME people don't know is this: I want to promote this story. I want people to read EVERYTHING that Brian has written thus far. I want people to realize that donating blood is a major issue here in the United States. I want to keep reminding EVERYONE that can donate...to donate. The exposure is not for me, but for those who promote me in some capacity or another.

Thank you over and over again to Brian Boyle for writing this article and taking notice in my small contribution to a variety of things. I am proud, and I am happy...Thank you!

~~Click Here: My Interview/Story with Brian Boyle~~

Thursday, August 29, 2013

53.02 Miles--A Personal Best Time

Roadblocks, we have them every single day. Some people choose to throw their hands up, others choose to go right through them. On Sunday, July 21st, I chose to determine my own outcome. On a whim the week before, I decided to leave our home and see if I could make it to Hancock, MD and back. That's over 50 miles. I knew I could make it, yet I didn't know what my overall time would be. I had no real plan other than to tie my shoes and stop when I made it home. The one thing I knew I would do is stop in Hancock to refuel. Other than that, just run.

The first mile was way too fast as I came through in 8:39. I would be done by mile 10 at this pace as the temps were hovering near 94 with the heat index. As I hit the C&O Canal towpath I hit a nice stride and zoned out with my music. I took the time to relax my mind and NOT worry about the distance I was going to try and cover. The early miles clicked off relatively easy, which I was happy about. I would pass mile marker after mile marker while trying not to pay attention as to what mile it was. Then I hit Dam 5, roughly 8.25 miles in.

I tapped into my ENERGYbits and drank some water. I lost less than two minutes before continuing on. I kept telling myself it was just "another long run" to keep from coming unglued. The one thing I truly had in my favor was the fact that I train alone 99.9 percent of the time. I'm used to being out there for hours on end by myself. But knowing that it was going to be extremely hot out, I had a friend join me for some miles. He met me around the 12 mile point and had water for me. My pace was steady as he rode beside me. It would have been nice to have him the entire time, but life is life. We parted ways about four miles later. He snapped a photo of me, gave me my camera back, and headed back while I continued on.

I was so happy to be on the Rail to Trail. For as much as I run on the Canal, it's not my favorite place to run. I was now within ten miles of my turn around. My pace was laboring and I could feel it. Then it hit me...I was running steadily uphill. Nothing major, yet enough to make you feel it. I kept telling myself to stay on top of hydration and to keep taking my ENERGYbits. As rough as it was, I tried to look around and smile. I would do anything to keep positive and focused. Every few miles I would take my camera out and snap a photo, sip some water, and keep moving steadily up the rail trail.

I started getting pumped as I began passing walkers...yes, I am now within a mile of my turn around! It couldn't have been better timing, as I began to run out of water and was in need of real food. The entire way up was fueled on nothing but ENERGYbits. And even though they kept me going mentally and physically, my stomach was telling me to fill it up. Unfortunately this was Hancock, and real food is hard to come by. Such a cool town...with nowhere to eat! I eventually ate just one slice of pizza, which was only half good, and started making my way back.

As I began to head back "down" the rail trail, I kept thinking I didn't want to run the Canal back. I started hitting a low point from that thought so I started thinking alternate routes. I called my wife and told her to map out the road home to see if it was quicker. I clicked off some more miles while she checked. And then with two miles before my turn off to the Canal, I got the call. Good news: Somewhat quicker. Bad news: A very nasty and dangerous road that is super hilly/steep. The road it was!

Once I hit the road and could see all around me, I felt revived. Even with the massively steep inclines, which I speed walked, I felt good. I was now 35 miles into it and was still holding a HUGE PR time for this distance. I stayed strong and maintained 9+ minute miles. When I reached the top of a long incline, I would haul tail down the other side to make up for my walking. I'm glad I wore my SKORA Form's because as my legs began to tire, I knew it wasn't because of my shoes.

Another reason I was happy was because traffic was limited. That's a good thing because in my area, especially in the area that I was in at the moment, it can be deadly if a car doesn't get over for you. As you can see from the photo below, I had NO shoulder to run on. And with the blind spots from the constant curves, bad things could happen in a second.

At 45 miles I knew I was going to run the fastest I had ever run 50 miles in, as long as I didn't fold. I had busted tail all day long, never once turning off my watch so I could get a "real time" result. I eventually turned off my last back road and hit the Canal for a little over a mile. I came into Cushwa Basin still in good spirits AND over 50 miles. I walked my last big hill and struggled my way home. I was at the point of pure hunger. I had gone 8+ hours with one slice of pizza and over 100 ENERGYbits. I earned a big meal. I hit our front door in a time of 8:13:18, besting my 50 mile PR by well over an hour. I covered a total of 53.02 miles on Canal and roads. I'm happy to report that I had NO blisters! Thank you Injinji! I spent all day pushing myself to see what I could do. Even though I was alone, I was fine with that. The best way to train for a long distance race is to go the long miles by yourself. I found out that I am not a quitter. I could have slowed down and blamed the heat, the hills, or a thousand other things...but I didn't. Like Ice Cube said, "Damn, it was a good day."

Thank you to those I run for and promote. SKORA Running, Injinji Toe Socks, ENERGYbits, I couldn't have finished with that time if it weren't for your help. Your products help me push the limits, and then some. You rock!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My New Role with ENERGYbits

On Wednesday, August, 7th, I was formally introduced as the first ever "Brand Ambassador Advocate at Large" for ENERGYbits . Some of you may be wondering what ENERGYbits is, which is fine. That's why I am writing this blog. I am here to help educate people on what a great company Bits Of Health is, and what their great product ENERGYbits can do for you.

Bits of Health and their products, ENERGYbits, RECOVERYbits, SKINNYbits, and VITALITYbits, are the creation of Catharine Arnston. Catharine, the Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Bits of Health, has spent years learning about Spirulina algae, as well as Chlorella algae. When speaking to her or just listening, you can really tell that creating a healthier world is her mission. She has built her company from the ground up, dedicating thousands of hours learning anything and everything she could about the benefits of algae. She has also assembled a great group of people to help build her company to where it is today. I am humbled and honored to be able to say I am a part of such a great company.

This next step will be both educating and amazing. I will get the chance to work with my fellow ambassadors and learn more about them. I will also take the time to learn more about algae and its many wonderful benefits. Until I met Catharine and her dedicated group, especially Jonathan Levitt, I thought algae was just something that grew in water. Now I am fascinated with it. It really is the most incredible gift that planet earth has ever created.

Do you know that by taking ENERGYbits Spirulina algae, your body is absorbing 64% percent of raw protein. And that you are getting 40 nutrients. All of this in one single tablet, or bit as we call them. Sprirulina algae from ENERGYbits is so healthy that you can stop taking store bought supplements and vitamins. Think about how many pills you are putting in your stomach daily. Calcium, multivitamins, magnesium, vitamin C, etc. Think about the money that is spent in a month's time on all of these. Think about all the added ingredients that are used when manufacturing these pills. Now think about taking a 100% vegan, healthy alternative. One that is 100% natural with no added colors, no additives. One that works with your body and not against it.

Lets talk cost. At $115 a bag, or roughly $80.50 with a Brand Ambassador's top discount, you are set for a month straight. That's if you take 30 bits a day. You may think that is rather pricey, but lets break it down. We all know how much a Starbucks coffee/latte/espresso can be. Yet most of the general public will not bat an eye at splurging on them daily. Or how about a SONIC burger meal, which can run you somewhere near $9.00 for one person. Why did I use these examples? Because a Starbucks brewed coffee (20-24 ounce) will fill you with an insane amount of caffeine...415mg for just that one drink. Clearly we know that is not good. And SONIC's food, whether it is tasty or not, is fast food. WE ALL know fast food is not good for our bodies. Yet we will buy these things daily without a care in the world. If we would just cost out some coffee or some greasy fast food, the price of ENERGYbits really isn't all that high anymore. Actually, it's quite affordable.

If you are still not ready to go all in and buy a bag, there is another option. ENERGYbits has set up a very nice "Sample Program" where you can buy a single serving sample for just $5.00. That also includes shipping. Canada residents would be $10.00. International would be $12.00. That truly is a great deal. They are selling you the bits at cost because they want a healthier society. You can email jlevitt@energybits.com if you would like some more information.

My "job" as a Brand Ambassador Advocate at Large is so many things rolled up into one. But most importantly, it is caring about you, the potential consumer. It is getting you to test this great product, and not stopping until I succeed. This food/algae that has been here since earth's beginning. From helping with colds to helping with the rebuilding of your red blood cells. From mental clarity to endurance. For a healthier and happier lifestyle, Bits of Health has a product that matches your needs.

This isn't a marketing pitch. I wasn't asked to do this. I took the time to write this up for you because I want you to know there is a healthier option. My question to you is simple. What would you pay for great health? The answer should be simple..."Anything."

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to contact me via Twitter at RayRunsLong or through my Facebook at Ray Jackson Jr if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. I am always free to help.

Now go get PoweredByBits

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sixth Blood Donation and Counting...

Be Someone's Hero

Every second that passes, someone needs our blood/platelets/plasma. From people involved in vehicle accidents to burn victims. From cancer patients to the elderly who just can't maintain their blood any longer. The truth is that thousands and thousands of people unknowingly depend on us. And right now the blood/platelet supply is urgently needed. Quietly this weighs heavy on my mind and heart.

Today (July-31-2013) was my sixth blood donation for the American Red Cross. And while all donations are special, this one was more meaningful than I could ever express in words. In July of 2004, the 6th to be exact, Brian Boyle was involved in a horrific traffic accident. His car mangled from the dump truck that slammed into his drivers-side door, Brian's body lay even more mangled inside. His heart had moved across his chest, and his organs and pelvis were pulverized. Brian would eventually lose 60% of his blood, clinically die more times than one could fathom, and then lie in a medically-induced coma for two months. And even though Brian saw the darkest of times, he never quit.

In 2007, he crossed the finish line of the Ironman in Hawaii. In 2008, Men's Health magazine named Brian on of its twenty heroes. 2009 was a non stop ride of five marathons in five weeks. It was in 2010 where Brian and I would meet and make a lasting friendship. During the 48th annual JFK 50 mile ultra, Brian passed a buddy of mine that I was running with. I instantly knew who he was and called out his name. We chatted for a bit and then parted ways. I had told him I would catch back up later on run some with him. As fate would have it, I did meet up with Brian about 38 miles into the race. He was struggling but positive and smiling. I ran the remaining miles by his side before letting him enjoy this victory to himself. He is an incredible human being, and seriously strong willed. At one point around 42-43 miles in, we dropped 9 minute miles. He went on to finish in 9:50:16.

We had planned on running a 100 mile ultra together, but life happens and we never had the chance to...yet. Later on this fall, my wife and I will be attending his wedding.

Thoughts like these were popping into my head today as I was donating. If it weren't for the anonymous donors who took the time to donate, too many people would be lost. Who knows, maybe one day I will be on the receiving end. I hope not, but life works in mysterious ways.

I was told on Twitter than this was a selfless act. That made me feel good. I have also been told not to donate because it would ruin my training. I laughed to myself. I enjoy running, it's what I do to pass time, but it's only recreational. I make no money off of it. I have some awesome sponsors who understand me. To lose a week or two of fitness to save lives is a no brainer. I wish I could donate every single day.

This coming Sunday I will be donating platelets. The procedure is rather lengthy, running around two or more hours. But thinking of those that have cancer and go through chemo. Those that live with constant pain for 24 hours a day...again, a no brainer. Add in that my platelet donation can be worth from 12 to 18 whole blood donations, I am stoked!

I will be thinking of my Uncle Eddie and Uncle Paul. I will be thinking of Jessica, who lost her husband 3 1/2 years ago. As well as Catharine, who lost her father 2 years ago. Andi, whos niece contracted cancer at age 13. Now at 17, she is cancer free. And the many people who I don't know who deal with this ugly disease every second of the day. To move mountains, we must try. I hope you will take the time to donate. Thank you for reading this!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

10 Years And Running

Today, July, 12th, 2013, I went back to where it all started for me. I haven't stepped foot on North High's old track since 2003, and for good reason. The track has been abandoned and all but forgotten. They now have a state of the art stadium that could house a college game. But tucked away on the back half of the property sits something special for me. As my wife, two daughters and I looked down from where we parked, I wondered if we could even make it through the high weeds and thickets to get to the track itself. Looking down, a rush of memories came back. That first time around the track when I could only make it a 1/4 mile before walking. Cold nights when I would try and run at midnight. Hot days when I would bring a gallon of water and run-walk myself into shape.

~Standing On The Track While Looking Out~

I won't lie to you...I hated it. It was the hardest thing I had ever done mentally or physically. At that moment in time, and for years before that, my lifestyle wasn't the best. I had always chose to party instead of being healthy and clean. Yet I knew from the very first step that running would be with me for the rest of my life. It fueled me when my former wife would tell me I sucked. Or when certain family members made wisecrack jokes. In their eyes I was wasting time, or turning my back on them. Little did they know, I was only trying to better my life. It had nothing to do with anyone. It had EVERYTHING to do with me. If there was one person from the very beginning that believed me, it was my buddy Milburn. He told me what to do, what to run, HOW to run. I kept at it, trained and ran as much as possible, and entered my first 5k race. I then proceeded to run/race more 5k's over the summer in 2003. I got faster, I felt better, I signed up for a 50 miler!

~Rounding The First Turn~

Something special happens when you tell the girl you are dating (I was separated at that time) that you are going to run a 50 mile race. Instead of getting that loving support you THINK you are getting, you get the opposite. The "I know who you really are and what you do." Or "I studied science and know what the body is capable of doing. You won't make it. You will quit." Needless to say, we didn't date much longer. And after I finished the JFK 50, she wouldn't look at me when we were in the same room. For a guy that people "thought" they knew, they didn't. I went on to finish 6 more JFK's after that. Not to mention finishing 1/2 marathons, marathons, 50k's, and most recently a 24 hour race.

~The Back Stretch~

Since I have started running, there have been many good times and bad. I divorced my former wife (good times) and lost my Mom (bad times). I lost so called good friends because I needed to stay clean. Certain family members STILL treat me like a black sheep because I want to lead a better life for my wife and daughters. I finally found a really cool girl and we married. We now have two little girls that are like my best friends. I have seen sights that no person in a car could see. I kicked my bad lifestyle. I'm healthy. I have run thousands and thousands and thousands of miles. I logged a week of 141 miles and a month of over 400. I have been hit by vehicles, had things thrown at me. I've ran side by side with the great Karl Meltzer. I've paced and made a great friend in Brian Boyle. Even when I hate the idea of running, I love running.

~The Home Stretch~

And best of all? Me...the guy that was never supposed to keep up with running. The guy who was told he sucked, who was told he would quit, is still going strong all these years later. I have been picked up by great companies like Injinji, ENERGYbits, SKORA Running Shoes, and Vega Nutrition. Maybe not because of speed, but because I am passionate about this thing we all love to do. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I am a better person because of running. That's the honest truth.

~We Can Rest, But Never Quit~

For those who have backed me in my journey. For those of you who have always believed in me, regardless of speed. To my wife Jerri, who has always been my biggest supporter. To my sponsors who back me, believe in me, and put up with me. If I told you "Thank You" a million times, it wouldn't come close. You all keep me going even when I want to say no more.

And for any new runner that has wanted to quit because it's too hard...DON'T!! It's a daily struggle but so worth it. Don't worry about speed, etc. Just worry about being healthy and doing something fun. It all works out in the end....

And this all started because I stepped foot on this weathered, beaten down, track. Simple things like this track bring great memories out.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ENERGYbits-RECOVERYbits--The Difference

Hi Everyone! As an Ambassador for ENERGYbits, I wanted to help potential consumers know why, and how ENERGYbits and RECOVERYbits are different in comparison. I hope this helps you when thinking of what type of algae you may need or want.

ENERGYbits, we all know, is made from 100% Spirulina algae. These great algae tablets can be used in boosting your athletic performance. They can also help to maximize your endurance while working or working out. I personally use them for running because they boost my mental alertness and keep me rolling smooth for miles and miles. BUT...they can help with so much more than "just" exercise. You don't have to be an athlete to take these. You can take them when you are in a crunch and need a snack. They can stop your craving for food, all while giving you a steady stream of natural energy throughout the day/evening/night. The added plus? They are only 1 calorie per "bit." Packed with over 40 nutrients, as well as boasting the highest concentration of protein in the world with 64%, ENERGYbits is a proven solution for a healthy lifestyle. One thing they are not is a supplement. They are 100% raw food. The United Nations even endorsed Spirulina algae as the most nutritious food on earth. The list of amazing things Spirulina algae can do for the body is worthy of a page itself. Just to name a few: Balancing blood sugar, lowering blood pressure, reducing fatigue, increasing mental vitality. As I have called them over and over, my miracle tablet. I bet you didn't know that research done by NASA showed that 1 kg of Spirulina had the nutritional equivalent of 1000 kg of fruits and vegetables. Now onto....

RECOVERYbits are also algae. However, they are made from 100% Chlorella algae, and are to be used differently than ENERGYbits. RECOVERYbits can be used as a natural way to recover, prevent or help correct illnesses of any kind, including colds and hangovers.

To really give you an idea of how great Chlorella algae is, and how to properly use it, I went to the RECOVERYbits website and copied the following for you to read. As you can see, and even though it is also algae, it is used entirely different than ENERGYbits.

"Chlorella algae is so highly regarded, it was used to help the victims of Hiroshima and Chernobyl heal from radiation poisoning. To this day, most Japanese still take chlorella before they leave their house each morning, not Vitamiin C. And for good reason, chlorella contains a vast number of vitamins and nutrients, including Vitamin C, ZInc, all your B vitamins and more. In a nutritional "show down", American Idol style, chlorella algae, would beat Vitamin C hands down. In addition to being over 60% protein and having all of the key nutritional components that your body needs, our RECOVERYbits® have a powerful ability to help detoxify your body and eliminate chemicals and other toxins that gather there. Taking chlorella daily can help remove the additives that are present in our food supply, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. Some doctors are even recommending it to cancer patients because it not only helps build their immune system, but it helps remove the excess chemo therapy after each treatment and thus helps patients feel less nauseous. Remarkabley, chlorella algae binds to all toxins (including alcohol in your bloodstream) and eliminates them from the body through natural means (elimination, urine, sweat, etc) .But don’t worry if you haven’t heard about RECOVERYbits® or chlorella algae. You will. The extraordinary health properties of chlorella algae can’t be over looked much longer. It is virtually unknown in America, but for the last 50 years, millions around the world have taken it to improve their health."

As you can see, although they are both algae, they are very different from one another. ENERGYbits are used for exactly that, energy. As I mentioned earlier, they are a great mid-day snack as well. They would be great to take post workout to build that energy back, and to get those electrolytes back into your system. And we all know how we feel after exercising...hungry. Pop a few with a glass of water and you're good until dinner.

The best time to take RECOVERYbits is when you are feeling sickness coming on. They would also be good after really long runs when your immune system needs recharging. Or after drinking alcohol, wine or beer, to prevent a hangover from happening. I wouldn't suggest taking them as a mid-day snack. Leave that to ENERGYbits. As you can see, they are as different as night and day. I just wanted to post this so you, the consumer, get the right benefits from using both products. Thank you for reading. Have a great week!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Energy & Recoverybits: An Excellent Combination

There's just something special about this awesome green pill. So small, yet so powerful. Like Kyle Dietz...little, but packs a knock-out punch. Add in the fact that it is 100% raw food with all natural ingredients and you have a winning formula.

I came into contact with ENERGYbits around September of 2012 after chatting with Jonathan, who is their Brand Manager. He then sent me a sample "tin" of around 50 bits to take and review. While waiting for my sample to arrive, I researched what ENERGYbits really was. I found nothing negative at all. I was looking for something that I could substitute my long runs with. Gels were ripping my insides apart. All of the artificial ingredients and sugars would not break down and caused stomach cramps, as well as other issues. I loved reading about ENERGYbits being 100% Spirulina Algae. But what really intrigued me was that they increase endurance, increase energy, boost alertness, and lower blood pressure.

They also pack a whopping amount of protein. ENERGYbits actually contain the highest concentration of protein in the world, coming in at 64%. That's three times the amount of a steak. And if you are vegetarian-vegan like myself, that is something we need. They also contain 40 nutrients, yet only 1 calorie per bit. The rave reviews and amazing description from their website had me ready to try them. Once I did, I never looked back. I am now a Brand Ambassador with them and looking to the future as being bright with their company, Bits Of Health.

My running has improved dramatically, as well as my overall health. I feel better and have cut out all gels when running. I now only run on ENERGYbits and real food. Another important fact: These aren't just for "running." Whatever your form of exercise is, ENERGYbits will work for you. Or if you just feel that twinge of hunger hitting you and you don't want to eat, eat, eat. Just pop some bits in your mouth and have a glass/bottle of water. They are a great wholesome snack that will keep you full, as well as mentally alert. I use these for my running, but my main reason for using the bits is to stay healthy. Spirulina Algae is nature's wonderful invention and I love it!

About a month ago I was having a conversation with Catharine Arnston, the Founder and CEO, about the benefits of another product made and manufactured by Bits Of Health. That product would be RECOVERYbits. Since I am an extra long distance runner, Catharine mentioned that I should try them sometime. Made from 100% Chlorella Algae, RECOVERYbits helps prevent colds, builds the immune system, and improves digestion, just to name a few. Any long distance runner knows that our body breaks down over long training cycles and we are prone to colds leading up to big races. Adding RECOVERYbits after long runs, as well as using ENERGYbits before and during, would keep my body firing on all cylinders. I also love that RECOVERYbits helps in rebuilding RNA and DNA, as well as rebuilding blood cells. That is very beneficial to me as I donate blood for the American Red Cross on a regular basis. By taking RECOVERYbits I will be able to bounce back quicker and resume full on training with limited interruption.

Like ENERGYbits, they contain an amazing amount of protein. RECOVERYbits contain 60% and also have over 40 key nutrients that our body needs. Like I said at the start of this blog, there's just something about this green pill. It's simply amazing what algae can do.

I have taken the RECOVERYbits for the past few days and can't wait to see how they help me. I have also shared them with my wife and young daughter...YES, they are great for kids too!! If you get the chance to try them, you should. They have a great taste, like a "soy nut." However, I would still recommend swallowing them with a big glass of water.

I am so glad I came across ENERGYbits/RECOVERYbits and Bits Of Health. They make fantastic all natural Spirulina and Chlorella algae products that will keep me healthy, alert, and happy. Hopefully you will feel the same way I do and check them out.

ENERGYbits & RECOVERYbits are an excellent, healthy combination.

Disclaimer: I am a Brand Ambassador for ENERGYbits. However, I am not a Brand Ambassador for RECOVERYbits. I took time out of my day to write this because I believe this will help me, along with others, in recovering from post work-outs, and help with the prevention of colds. Thank you for taking time to read my blog. If you want to order ENERGYbits at anytime, you can use my code ULTRA for 30% off a bag of 1,000 bits. See you on the roads or in the woods.....

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Negative People Will Not Beat Me

Which Way Do You Want To Go?

As I was running home from the doctors office, delirious from the heat and hurting from the orthopedic assistant twisting, pulling, and yanking my arm all over the place, I started to really think about some things that have been bothering me lately.

I started thinking back to 10 years ago when I first began running. I had entered the JFK 50 mile ultra marathon. A girl who I had been somewhat dating began to show me just how kind and caring she truly was. She was having a rough day, week, month, and started telling me I wouldn't finish the 50. She knew the human body and studied it and I didn't have what it took to complete it. She practically guaranteed I would quit. She really hated me after I finished it, and then 6 more years in a row after that one.

The stories are endless. If I have a really good run or race, I am critiqued or criticized for training too hard or not racing faster. Just recently, on May 25-26th, I ran The Sole Challenge 24 Hour race. The day before, I had found out I had a possible torn rotator cuff. Even though I was in considerable pain I managed to run 63.427 miles, never once thinking about quitting. I gave it my all, and yet there were a few people that made subtle little remarks to try to bring me down. I guess they do it to make themselves feel better, or at least better than me.

We have all dealt with people like this. They put you down for running, or the way you raise your kids. They make you feel as if you are inferior to them, and that you could not live in their shadow. Another prime example for you. I just landed a major shoe sponsorship. This is major and huge news for me. It proves I am worth something to someone-or some company. I have been lucky like this a few times. Yet when I tell a certain person, or people, they make it seem like it is no big deal. That it happens all the time. Just so you know, it doesn't happen all the time. If it did, everyone would be sponsored.

As I look at my little (almost) 4 year old daughter, or my 8 month old daughter, or even my wife, I know I need to be a positive influence. It is a work in progress. That is why I have changed my attitude on my social media web pages. And although I was quite smart at times, and even an instigator, I never ever put someone down when they gave their best. That is why I have turned a "new leaf" as of late. It's time to steer clear of those who wish to put me down only to bring themselves up. Only positiveness will I hear.

Like from my wife, Jerri. There are times when she knows I shanked a run or that I had a cruddy race. Yet she is the first one there to tell me how great I did. She is there to bring my spirits up because she knows how hard I am on myself when I don't run up to my own standards. While not sucking up entirely, she will let me know I could have done better. But she is very proud of me because I went out and tried, that I gave it my best, and that's all one can do.

The best person I can use for a positive example is my friend, Brian Boyle. Here's a guy that died 8 times, went through complete hell for years, and is now a true inspiration for thousands and thousands of people around the world. I had the honor of pacing him in the late stages of the JFK 50 mile ultra a few years ago. Instead of falling apart and throwing in the towel, Brian rose to the occasion and dropped some seriously good miles...all while smiling and talking with me. In all the times I have spoken with Brian, not once has he ever been negative. He is just someone people want to be around. Quite frankly, he is the coolest person I have ever met. I can honestly say I have never met a person that wants YOU to succeed as much he does. Just an incredible gift that God has given us.

There's also Bobby, a friend I met on Facebook. He is a very talented runner and could smash me in a race of any distance. Yet he loves running so much and interacting with other runners that time doesn't matter. What matters is going hard and having fun. Learning what it takes to be the best person you can be...inside and out. To just hang out and talk running.

There's Junkie and Doc. Junkie holds the World Record for most marathon wins. Doc has posted something like 15:27:56 for a 100 miler. These two men are way out of my league when it comes to running, but don't tell them that. Both have talked to me and gave me tips, with Junkie helping me in other ways. Both are incredible ambassadors for the sport of running, and incredible people in general.

There's true friends like Todd B, Kristy, Laurie D, Hope, Amber, Josh B. And new friends made through running like Leigh, Jackie, Hidi, Jonathan. Jeremy Sexton, Mike M and their families. Martie S and her awesome husband Michael. New SKORA teammates like Kyle D, Kyle K, Mike W, Tyler, Evelin...ALL very positive people that I love interacting with. Also Nicklaus Combs, another guy that pumps positive vibes.

I have rid myself of some negative people and will continue to do so until I only have positive people around me. It's time to be who I should have been years ago. It's time to promote my sponsors with pure energy in public and behind the scenes. It's time to be the Dad and Husband my wife and children deserve.

So if you talk to me and you feel like putting me down is the best way to make yourself feel better, that will be the last time we interact. And remember....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Sole Challenge 24 Race Report

On May 25th, 2013, I embarked on something I have never tried before. As a long distance runner, I believe only long distance runners will get why I did this. What did I do? I ran-jogged-walked, but never crawled in a personal quest at The Sole Challenge 24 Hour Race at Norlo Park in Fayettville, PA. The idea for this race came from the brilliant mind of Rick Meyers. Rick is a very accomplished ultra runner, and is also the owner of the The Runners Sole running store in Chambersburg, PA. Rick had great Assistant RD's in Danny Mowers and Ron Kelly. The credentials for these three men could be a blog in itself.

I chose the 24 hour option of this race because, well, it was the hardest and longest of the three. Ultra runners have sick minds when it comes to "fun." I also chose this race because I know Rick, and wanted to support his race. He has given so much to the community and is an overall great person so it was a no-brainer on signing up.

The only bad thing about all of this is that I tore my rotator cuff right before the race. I spent the day before in the hospital getting x-rays and being checked over. Hearing the words, "torn rotator cuff" was not what I wanted to hear at the moment, or at any moment...ever. But not for one second did I think of not running. To all of you who are reading this, this race was special in ways I cannot describe fully.

Race day was beautiful, albeit a little chilly. Temps hovered in the 40's during the morning, perfect running weather. As the day moved along it reached the 60's. The wind was strong and gusty the entire day, which beat us all up. Scott Jurek was the special speaker the night before and came out to be the official starter of the race. Before the race, Scott talked with runners and families, and even took the time to take photos. Never turning down person. We could not have had a better ambassador for the sport of running to start this race.

Wearing My SKORA Form and Hanging With Scott Jurek

After some quick words from Rick, Scott, and Mike Melton (the official timer), the race was on.

Can't Race Without Getting A Good Luck Kiss From The Family

My ultimate goal was to settle into a run-walk routine throughout the day and then proceed to make a move during the night as people fell to exhaustion. The one thing I didn't count on was so many talented runners piling large amounts of miles on so fast. The 6 and 12 hour runners had some serious talent, but I tried to concentrate on the 24 hour runners. And as I ran the first loop I watched Peter Morgan, Laurie Dymond, Angie Fuss, Johna Bollinger, Ryan Henry, and so many others turn on their jets and just roll. I knew from the first lap that it was going to be an awesome 24 hours. Scott Jurek was making his way around the course in reverse fashion and encouraging everyone with his positive words and his infectious smile. As I was making it up a nice long gradual hill, I stopped and chatted with him for roughly five minutes. Not only did he talk running with me, he talked life. Memories I will cherish forever.

The minutes turned to hours, and the hours slowly passed by. I had a blast meeting the other runners on the course, and making new friends. Another thing I loved is this was a looped course so every 1.547 miles I had the chance to see my wife and two daughters. Seeing their smiling faces and hearing my wife's encouraging words helped me through each lap. She also kept me in check with my hydrating and staying on top of taking my ENERGYbits. From start to finish I did not ingest one single gel, I only used my ENERGYbits. And while others had stomach issues ranging from feeling sick to actually getting sick over and over, I felt no issues at all. All I had to do was concentrate on my running. That's a great feeling to have.

Another thing I stayed on top of was keeping my feet happy and fresh. As this was an asphalt surface, the pounding was wreaking havoc on everyones feet. I chose to run in my SKORA Forms in the beginning of the race. They felt good, but knowing that they were a zero drop shoe, I watched how many miles I ran in them at once. I am still strengthening my legs and feet and wanted to be smart about going all out. BUT there will be a day where I will be able to wear them the full 24 hours.

Feeling Great In My SKORA Form "Real Running" Shoes

Hours Later And Still Feeling Good

If I am rambling on, please forgive me. This was a great event and many memories were made. I loved this course and having the time to learn about others lives. I had a plan to just run during the day and take it easy, then make a move at night when people were tiring. I took photos while enjoying this gorgeous day.

A Mix Of Runners Spread Out On The Backside Of The Course

Mike Melton, who is an awesome race timer, kept us up to date on where we stood in the race. At one point during the day I had fallen to 27th place. Around 12:30 AM I started getting tired. My wife was now at home and I had nowhere to rest, so I went to the only place that was semi warm...the bathroom. As much as I wanted to keep going, I just couldn't. If I stayed out there any longer I would have called it quits. I listened to the words that Rick Meyers and Scott Jurek voiced at the start of the race..."Whatever you do, keep going, don't quit. Take a break, rest, but don't quit." I slept for a total of 3 hours on a cold concrete floor. It was quite possibly the worst place I ever laid my head to sleep...but it refocused me and I went to work when I woke up.

I started gaining on some runners and even started picking people off. As dawn broke and the sun came to see us, I felt good about my plan. I knew that with a torn rotator cuff I wouldn't be near the top where I would have liked, but I was happy with my placement. It was in the 30's during the night so when the sun came out it felt...perfect. My wife and daughters arrived around 8:15 and walked a lap with me. It gave me the chance to reflect and tell her about everything that had happened since she left.

Still Smiling 22 1/2 Hours Later

Such as Peter Morgan, who had never run further than 50 miles. He was a ball of energy and was so nice to everyone. He went on to win the race with a total of 122.267 miles. Or Laurie Dymond, a mother of three beautiful girls. Laurie is a friend of mine and someone I look up to. She is my female running hero and inspires me with her desire and passion for the sport. Up until she toed the line at The Sole Challenge, she never ran further than 50 miles. She took 2nd overall and logged an astounding 113.087 miles. Or Angie Fuss, who topped her old record of 76 miles with 84.150. There's Ryan Henry, who just a week before ran the very brutal MMT 100+. That day he put in 103.7. During The Sole Challenge he busted out a sick 104.243 miles. The list of accomplishments and personal records go on and on.

The Sole Challenge was 100 percent about challenging the soul and proving what you were made of. New friends were made that day. Lifelong friendships were strengthened as well. I had the honor of walking the last lap in with Joseph Raines, who achieved his goal of 100 miles by going 100.607. I achieved my realistic goal of 100k by going 63.427 miles. I ended up placing 19th overall, knocking off 8 people through the night. I was 4th in my age, barely missing top 3 by a single lap.

So many of us set some sort of personal record that day. And without the never ending drive of Rick Meyers to get this race started, well, we would have all missed out on some incredible memories. I personally can't thank Rick enough. He went all out and brought in great assistant RD's and had the best aid station workers. Not to mention having a licensed medical staff who are also accomplished ultra runners. Bringing in a massage therapist who made things better at 3 in the morning when legs were locking up. Rick and his crew took care of us and made us all feel great. This was/is a top notch race that has the potential to be a National Event. I will be back year after year if I am that lucky.

A special thank you also goes out to my sponsors. I couldn't have run 100k if it weren't for Injinji Performance Toe Socks. No toe sock compares to the original...and the best. And also to SKORA Running Shoes. Even though I switched back and forth between shoes, my feet felt the best in SKORA. As well as ENERGYbits. If it were not for them my stomach would have been a mess. Staying on top by taking them kept me mentally clear, kept my fatigue in check, and my stomach happy. I couldn't have finished without the help of these great, and VERY supportive companies. That is 100 percent truth. What a great day-night-day of running! And when so many things are given to us, we all earned our medals. This one is my favorite. And this race will always stand out as my favorite.

A Feeling That Will Never Be Duplicated

Thank You SKORA Performance Running Company!!

Let the training for next year begin today. Thank you to all who read this, or ran this great event. You are all amazing and have a place in my memory. Until next time......

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Sole Challenge 24 Hour--My Thoughts.

This coming Saturday, May 25th, I will be running my very first 24 hour race-run. It's called The Sole Challenge 6-12-24 Hour Run. Up until yesterday I was as calm as a Hindu cow. But as I was searching who was in the race, how good they are, thinking of where I will place, my nerves have kicked in. Scared? A little. After a monster January of running, with one week at 141 miles, I have really slacked off in my training. Although I have logged some good runs where I have totaled 20+ and 30+ miles, I haven't put enough of those in to feel confident in my ability to do well. And for the amount of people that are running, there's some good talent toeing the line.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I never really prepare for a race. I run a certain amount every week with no distinct plan. Sometimes that really works out and I have a great race. Other times I bomb in nuclear fashion. The one good thing is I have had some great encouragement over the past week from new friends, lifelong friends, and from my wife. One comment was always the same. "There's no set miles so do what you can do." I really need to remember that as I am letting people lap me in the early part of the day. I need not get caught up in a "quicker" pace that will leave me hurting 12 to 16 hours later. I do have a realistic goal that I have set for myself, as well as a wish goal. I will be keeping those both to myself so I don't feel the pressure of having to hit a certain number. There will be some real horses out there, yet only a few have went further than 50 miles. On the ladies side, wow, it's going to be a good one. My friend Laurie, as well as Angie should put up sick numbers. I am really pulling for them. But honestly, I am only concentrating on the men and my placement...to a point. My wife and two little girls will be there through the day to keep me positive. With it being a loop course of 1.5+ miles, I will see them a lot. That will most certainly keep my mind off things.

I love the fact the the RD--Rick Meyers, will be allowing personal listening devices. I've loaded up on music and movies to listen to. That way I can just zone out and keep to my schedule. I will be doing a walk-run routine right from the start, and hoping people will blow up when it gets late and we all start to get really tired. That's if I don't blow up with them. I really want to keep up on my hydration and take my ENERGYbits every hour. It will help keep me mentally focused and help keep the fatigue down. When I go long I have trouble eating and drinking so I plan to really force it all down. With the time, distance, and calories I will be burning, I will to need to stay on top of things.

I will have an assortment of Injinji Toesocks with me to change in and out of. That should really help keep my feet fresh and blister free. I will be bringing along both pairs of my SKORA "real" running shoes. I love the "Form" and the "Base" and will be logging some quality hours in them. However, I will be bringing other shoes to switch to when my feet get tired. Anything to keep going. This is going to be a huge day for me as I will be setting a PR for distance if things go right. I'm really excited to see new friends, old friends, and great people in general. I know Rick and his crew will be putting on a top notch event. He will be on top of food and drinks, and will be catering to the vegetarian and vegan runners as well. I can't thank him enough for that.

And as always, when I do these personal blog posts, I try to do them for years down the road. Just a little something to remember and read when I am too old to do this great thing we do. It's going to be the most pain I have ever put myself through. And with 100% certainty I will think about stopping, but I won't. Too many things are given to us now-a-days, this will not be one of them. This will be painfully earned. This will show me how strong I am on the inside. And when I stop running at 24 hours, tears will be shed. I will hand my medal to my daughter Emily, and I will think about loved ones that have passed who would be proud of me. Yes friends, this weekend is going to be "liquid awesome."

A special thank you to my sponsors for everything. Injinji ToeSocks, SKORA Running Shoes, Vega, and ENERGYbits. I couldn't make it this far without you. From training to racing, you keep me stocked up and ready for anything.