If it weren’t for the people…

I recently cut short one of the most frustrating runs I’ve ever been on. And it’s because of the van in that picture.

In the middle of a 7-mile easy run in the bitter cold, I was running through a dark empty field on my way between two parks. Up ahead in the dark, I could see a van parked in the parking lot. Then I saw two large dogs moving around. I thought “Oh I hope those dogs belong with that van.” thinking that if they did, their owner was nearby to control them.

That would not turn out to be the case.

I’m a dog lover. I have a dog, and she is the love of my life. Any other dog I meet gets more love and attention than the person who brings the dog. It’s just a fact. BUT, when I see an unfamiliar, unrestrained dog while I’m out on a run, I am cautious.

I paused my music and slowed my running, as I always do when I see a loose dog. As soon as one of the dogs saw me, she started running at me. Fast.

As you can see in the picture above, the area is pitch dark. The field is where there was a stadium a few year ago. The stadium was torn down and replaced with a big empty field, waiting for a purpose. There’s a gravel path that goes through, which is lit with several small solar lights that don’t do much. Aside from those, there is nothing. And generally, there’s no one who comes through that area except random runners or walkers — which on a night like that night, there was only me.

I stopped moving, and started yelling commands at the dog that was racing toward me. “STOP. NO.” Undeterred, the dog reached me and jumped at me. I was terrified, alone in the dark, and a strange dog was jumping up at my face.

Lucky for me, this dog only wanted to play. She was excited to be outside, and someone had appeared out of no where, and she wanted to play with that person. She wouldn’t stop jumping at me. I didn’t want to play, though. The second dog appeared, and the two ran off together, thankfully.

Finally, someone got out of the van and called from the distance, “Oh she’s so friendly, she wouldn’t hurt anyone.” I got closer and explained, with a raised voice, “Your dog jumped on me. In the dark. It was terrifying.”

The lady laughed and said that her dog just wanted to play, I didn’t need to be afraid. I responded, “You can’t let your dogs just jump on people in the dark.”

The lady got back in her van.

I moved on, walking past her and the van and headed to the other side of the parking lot. The dogs continued to want to play with me and follow me into the dark.

So, like I’ve done hundreds of times when loose dogs want to follow me, I stopped and waited for their owner to retrieve her pets. I stood in the parking lot in the bitter cold, wind blowing all around me, while two strange dogs circled me. Their owner back in the warmth of her van. I managed to get one of the dogs and take her back to the van where the lady finally got back out, admonished her dog for being bad, and finally, finally, took control.

I. Was. Livid.

I continued on my run, but by now I was freezing cold and in a really negative space. I couldn’t stop thinking about how irresponsible that woman had been with her pets. I was not upset with the dogs. They were not at fault. They were excited and playing, and I just happened along into their zone. Lucky for me, they were friendly, and did just want to play.

But it was so frightening to stand while a strange dog charged at me in the dark, not knowing whether she was going to bite me when she jumped.

This was not a bad animal experience. This was a bad person experience. The animals are not to blame. That person should not have dogs, plain and simple. She is clearly not responsible enough for them.

This is all to say: You might think your dog is well-behaved, friendly, and wouldn’t hurt a fly. But that doesn’t make it okay to let them run untethered in a public area. More importantly, if your friendly, well-behaved dog jumps on a stranger, it is your responsibility to get that dog under control and make sure that stranger is not injured, whether your dog meant for injury or not.


Love for Place

Late last summer, I did something that pushed my capabilities to the max and changed something inside me.

And, no, it wasn’t running the farthest distance I’ve ever done. That honor goes to the Tunnel Hill 50 Miler.

No, it actually wasn’t the most elevation climbed either. I managed that when I ran the Art Loeb Trail and climbed around 10,000 feet of vert.

So, what could have been more challenging than any of my past experiences?

The Tecumseh Trail. Indiana’s second longest trail, coming in at 40 miles of quintessential Hoosier terrain.

On September 15, I headed down the new-to-me Tecumseh Trail with nothing but my headlamp to light the way. Tecumseh was marked very well with white blazes on the trees, some signage at intersections, and special markings when the TT joins another trail for a certain distance. So, as long as I kept my head up and focused, I’d know what was going on. I may not know exactly where I was or what was coming up next, or what to expect around that dark corner, but I knew I was on the Tecumseh Trail, right where I belong.

For 40 miles, I explored the woods and trails of Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests. Climbing impossibly high, by Indiana standards, and experiencing heart-filling beauty.

On paper, and on Strava, it was 40 miles and a little more than 13 hours.

But in my heart, this was an unrivaled adventure that changed me.

In the days and weeks after my run, as my legs recovered and as I started to wrap my mind around what I had accomplished, I came to realize that I broke through something – something that I still can’t quite define. I came to believe in my capabilities more, and trust that I would be able to do something. Something like run harder up that hill. Run longer, farther, faster.

Another thing I came to realize that oddly took more time to accept is that I realized the love I have for Indiana’s wilderness.

I have spent the last several years falling deeply in love with trail running. That love has come over miles and miles of Indiana hardwood forests. My through-run of Tecumseh broke down a barrier in my heart for this state and the outrageous beauty you can find here. 

“But the mountains!” my romantic soul cries out.

I wasn’t born in the mountains, my soul wasn’t grown there, but somehow, I yearn for them as much as anything. At the same time, I find deep fulfillment in the knobs and ravines, man-made wilderness lakes, and the incredible dense forest of the Midwest.

I realize now, it’s not the mountains I love: It’s the mind-blowing beauty of nature in all its glory. 

Yeah my Hoosier state is hot and humid in the summer. Sure it’s colder than one might expect in the winter. But there is such beauty in each season, and in each color the seasons bring.

So in an effort to embrace this newfound love, I’m diving headfirst into Indiana trail running — not because it’s all that’s available to me, but because it’s where I thrive.

This year, I’ll be running a lot of Indiana trail races with the Indiana Trail Running Association. I’ll participate in the Indiana Trail Racing Series, which will take me back to Gnaw Bone as well as some other new races. This year is the Hoosier year for me, and I’m incredibly excited.

And yeah, I plan to keep my blog updated better with training, race reports, and gear reviews. So don’t give up on me yet.

Let’s go run.

Real Talk

The other day I had a health screening for my insurance at work. They check basic things and “grade” you based on national guidelines for weight (BMI, body fat %), cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

It didn’t go great for me — beginning with the weigh-in. I’ll never hit my BMI, which isn’t a fair measurement anyway. According to my BMI, I’m obese, which I’ve gotten used to seeing. I also didn’t hit my body fat %, which was disappointing, but I don’t normally think much of it. But on that day, the nurse practitioner apologized a lot to me when I didn’t hit the numbers I was supposed to. “I’m so sorry…I’m just…I’m so sorry.” Why was she sorry? I wasn’t dying, and to be honest, those measurements are a poor snapshot look into my overall health.

After that nonsense — plus a finger prick to get blood — my blood pressure was in the “pre-hypertension” range.

My bloodwork came back okay, but not incredible.

The advice I was given was to eat more vegetables and exercise more.

As I went back to my desk, the voice of that nurse practitioner saying “I’m sorry… I’m just so sorry” played on a loop in my mind.

Have I failed at being healthy?

Even though I’m vegan and an ultrarunner, I still need to be given the advice of eat more vegetables and exercise more. What have I done wrong?

As I sit here writing this, I’ve lost 72 pounds from my heaviest weight. I’ve run more than a thousand miles this year, and I’ve run well over a thousand each year for the last several years. I’ve completed 10 ultramarathons, including two mountain adventures.

But everything I’ve done and accomplished — things I could not have imagined doing only a few years ago — some days they count for nothing. Nothing.

Every pound I gain weighs on my mind like 100 pounds. But rather than every lost pound feeling like a victory, that psychological weight sticks around and may never go away.

That one pound lost is like a small stone tossed at the giant wall of work yet to be done.

When those pounds become noticeable — whether it’s a notch on my belt or a strained button on my shirt — body dysmorphia causes me to imagine myself looking like those numbers at the clinic tell me I look: obese. An “I’m so sorry…” level of obese.

With these thoughts and feelings dragging me down, I headed to a company meeting. I sat down and looked around the room to say hello to people I know. I caught the eye of a friend, Angie, who was sitting a few rows back and over from me. I waved at her, and she pantomimed that I was looking thin and fit. She said I looked really great.

I’m not very good at accepting compliments for some reason, so I sheepishly smiled and said thanks, and then the meeting started.

As I sat, though, I realized how meaningful it was for Angie to say that, and what it actually meant. It meant the world. It was a lifeline that pulled me out of the pit I was sinking into.

After the meeting was over, I thanked Angie properly. I told her how much it meant for her to say such kind things — and that I had been feeling down about the way I looked and felt, and what she said really helped me out. We talked a little about what I’m doing to stay fit.

What does this all mean?

All of this happened in the morning. My health screening was at 7:30am, and the company meeting was at 9:00am. I thought about everything all day trying to sort out everything I felt. It was a meaningful day, and I think there are three takeaways:

1. Be kind to each other.
Compliment your friends and coworkers. Be genuine about it. It could change their day in ways you couldn’t have planned for.

2. Accept compliments, even if you don’t believe them.
I don’t mean receive a compliment, like I did at first. Accepting it, especially when you may not even believe it, will have a great effect.

You deserve to be complimented. You deserve to feel so great about yourself.

3. You are not — and never, ever will be — a loser.
And I say this while coming off of feeling like a pretty big loser myself.

But it’s true, no matter what rebuttal you have. You are not a loser.

You gain weight. You lose weight. You work hard. You try your best to be your best. Every bit of that means you are a strong, beautiful, person. Perhaps the most winningest of them all.

You’re the best. Own it.

Adventure time


There have been so many times that I’ve found myself asking: “What the hell am I doing out here?”

The 5am alarm on a Saturday morning.

Pushing through thick, wet snow and icy cold wind, my beard turned into icicles.IMG_20180217_170552_499.jpg

Deep in the woods, swimming through the humidity and heat, sweat soaking my socks and shoes.

Trudging up yet another hill during an ultramarathon, the finish line somewhere in the distance.

Why am I even bothering? I’m literally going nowhere!

But invariably – invariably – the next day, those thoughts are gone. Instead, I’m remembering what it felt like to be on an adventure. Discovering new trails, new abilities, and being inspired with new ideas.

I’ve thought about it. You know, the big “IT.” Would I give this up? Would I stop pursuing these crazy miles? And I know, without a doubt, that I would absolutely not give it up. In his song “Every Time,” David Ford says “I’d choose this mother*****, and I’d choose it again.”


That’s why I’m currently planning to complete solo runs of Indiana’s two longest trails, the Tecumseh Trail and the Knobstone Trail. For no other reason than that I love adventure, and trail and ultrarunning has taken me to some of my greatest adventures.

I’ll start with Tecumseh, a 42-mile point-to-point trail in my own Hoosier State, only a few hours from my house. Tecumseh is pretty hilly, with 4,000 – 6,000 feet of vert (depending on who you ask), so this isn’t going to be a walk in the park, but I’ll be ready. I’m building on the stellar work I put in for Gnaw Bone, so I have a pretty good head start. I’ll do this sometime in August (date TBD).

After that, I’ll set my sites on Knobstone, an infamous Hoosier trail if ever there were one. Its 50 miles rolls through notoriously difficult terrain with steep climbs and descents and very few switchbacks. It’s also well-known for being pretty dry, with little-to-no access to water on the trail. Thankfully Ashley is going to crew me for both adventures.

There’s more to plan and sort out, but I’m so excited to hit the trails for a few solo adventures.


The finish line.

It’s been a few weeks since Gnaw Bone, and I’ve started working toward my next goal run, and I want to talk about that – so maybe I need to talk about Gnaw Bone too.

So there’s really no way to sugar coat it. I did not run 50 miles at Gnaw Bone like I had planned.

That statement comes a mix of pride and disappointment. Yeah, it’s a little confusing. Not only that, but any time someone asks me how that run went, it’s not as easy as “It went great!” or “It didn’t go so great.”

Here’s what happened:


At 6:15 on race day, the director yelled “GO!”, and 50 milers and 50kers took off into the twilight. For most runners, the beginning of an ultra is not an all out rush toward the finish line because we all know we’re going to be on the trail for many hours. In my case, I was aiming for a 12-hour finish.

The Gnaw Bone course is like a crazy lollipop. The 50K and 50M run essentially the same course: both start and finish on the stick of the lollipop and run clockwise around the sucker part. The 50K runs once around the sucker, and the 50M runs twice around the sucker. At mile 27, where the stick meets the sucker, there’s an aid station. I had to reach that aid station before 1:30 pm if I wanted to go back out for a second loop around the sucker.

There’s not a ton that happened in the first few hours, except for settling into an all-day routine of run, sweat, eat, drink, repeat. I started off pushing my mind into positive space pretty early, so I would have a habit in place when the going got tough. I focused on the miles and hours I was crossing off my “to do” list. I kept saying “You’re doing great. Keep going.” I thanked the volunteers, told the other runners they were doing great. All the good stuff. I really felt wonderful.

At around mile 20, the course goes from flowy singletrack to rough off-trail bushwhacking, which is very difficult. We go straight up the steep hills instead of running up switchbacks, and instead of clear, smooth trails, the path is strewn with deadfall and bramble. But I kept going. Crossing the miles off. Even when giant horseflies started circling my head, I fought them off with my Buff and powered through.

Focused on that 50-mile finish.

When I stopped at mile 23 to meet Ashley at the aid station, my legs started cramping.

My quads seized up first, which is an unfortunately familiar feeling. But then my calves and feet cramped up. I sat still and tried to get them to relax, drinking water and taking salt pills.

This was probably the worst I felt all day. I was nearly halfway through the race, and things were really tough already. These cramps really threatened my positivity. “Why does it have to be so hard?” I asked Ashley as I sat at a picnic table, waiting for my legs to release.

A few minutes passed and my cramps eased.

I changed my shoes and headed back onto the trail.

Through more off-trail, over more ridges and through ravines, I found a new routine. Run until the cramps come, take more salt and drink more water, keep running. It was painful, and I wasn’t going as fast as I would have liked through the tougher sections, but I was moving – determined as ever.

Focused on that 50-mile finish.

I allowed my average pace to fall, but I had a plan. After the mile 27 aid station, the course goes level for a little while as we head back toward Ogle Lake. Level, and even down hill for about 4 miles. I knew I could make up some time when I got to that point, so I kept pushing. Pulling precious seconds back so I could lower my average pace and stay on target.

Finally the course came out of the woods and onto the road for a little while. I ran as well as I could, still nursing cramping calves, as I headed toward a major point in the race: the mile 27 aid station that I needed to reach by 1:30. It’s there that I could also choose whether to continue the 50-mile run or drop down and finish the 50k. Of course I was going to finish the 50-mile run.

As I approached the decision point, though, the volunteer at the aid station said, “I have some bad news for you.”

I missed the cutoff by 4 minutes.

I looked down the road and let out a sigh. I had worked hard all day with an unwavering focus on a 50-mile finish, and I was so ready to head back out on my second loop. I knew I was going to finish.

But, the rules said I would not get that chance. My 50-mile finish faded away.

I ate some food, drank some some soda, and got back on the stick part of the course and headed to the finish line 3.5 miles away.

When I crossed the finish line, I got a medal and a nice cold IPA. Then I sat on the porch of Mike’s Dance Barn with my friends.

It’s always a great feeling to finish an ultramarathon, and I’ve tried to hold onto that these last few weeks. I’m proud of what I did. Not only did I run 31.63 miles, but more importantly: I didn’t let fear and past failures dictate what I can and cannot do.

Even if I didn’t reach my ultimate goal, I ran a smart race and gave it everything I had. Sometimes it just takes a few tries to reach that goal.

I will always be proud of giving it everything I’ve got.

Am I ready for this?


Last year I attempted my second 50 miler at Gnaw Bone in Brown County State Park. I made it 21 miles and decided I’d had enough.

I gave up – but I didn’t give up at mile 21. I gave up at mile 0. When I was standing at the start line in the dark, I thought to myself, “I don’t belong here.”

That DNF was really hard to come back from. It affected me a lot more deeply than I expected it would.

But I came back. Last summer, after I worked hard and ran my fastest half marathon, the siren call of Gnaw Bone called me back, and I’ll be standing at the start line in just a few days.

Am I ready for this?

For the last few months, I’ve been hitting the trails harder than I have ever done before.  I’ve identified to two of the most challenging trails in the area, and I’ve made them my project, eschewing the easier trails for steeper, longer, more technical and challenging hills. I’ve climbed thousands of feet, repeating the largest hills and most challenging sections of trails again and again. And once more for good measure.

I’ve learned a lot about how to approach the most challenging runs, discovering new mantras like “You don’t have to fly to the top, just get to the top,” and more simply: “I am powerful.”

I’ve been building competencies – but not just in my legs. After last year, I knew my biggest weakness that day was my mind. “I don’t belong here” tore me down over those 21 miles.

So this year, while my legs were burning running up those hills over and over again, my mind was working hard as well.

Over time I gave myself permission to push harder, to push past where it starts to hurt or feel impossible.

Over time, “I can’t run this hill again” turned into “I’m powerful, and I’m not afraid of this hill.”

Over time, “I don’t belong here” turned into “This is my race, and I’m strong enough.”

Not every run has been wonderful and seamless. The cracks start to show when the miles get long and the hills are endless. But I’ve learned to embrace the beauty – the absolute beauty – of the suck.

When I embark on the longest runs, it’s not the work I look forward to. It’s the adventure behind every twist of the trail and every crest of a hill.

In just a few days, I’ll start in the dark on another great adventure.

Am I ready for this?



Personal Record

In 2014, I ran my fastest half marathon, breaking through the 2-hour mark for the first time, crossing over the finish line at a stunning 1:59:11. It was barely under 2 hours, but it was under nonetheless. Then I stopped racing road halfs and dug more deeply into trail and ultra running, which is really where my passion lies.

But this year, I decided to do another road half – really because of one specific reason:

After an incredible spring of running the 30-mile Art Loeb trail and racing Yamacraw 50k again, I came into the summer on a DNF. I attempted a 50-mile trail race, and dropped out at around mile 21. While I do not think dropping was the wrong decision on that day, it still felt like a kick to the stomach. I didn’t like thinking about it let alone talking about it. Which is why you have likely not heard anything about it.

With the summer approaching, my motivation to run was all but gone. My confidence in my own running abilities was just shot. I had planned a pretty ambitious year, and I didn’t think I could do any of it any more. Toeing the line at another ultra seemed like a terrible idea.

So I decided to go small and build back up, snagging wins along the way. I don’t mean medals and awards – but injections of confidence: I can run, I can work hard, I can achieve. And that’s just what I did. With Doug’s guidance, I got into speedwork like never before. At first, I wanted to go for a 5k PR, but shortly into that, I thought it wasn’t enough. I wanted to dig deeper, so I set my sights instead on the Evansville Half. This would mean hard track workouts under the blazing summer sun. Tough tempo runs through the streets of Evansville under the blazing summer sun. Long runs with speed work – under the blazing summer sun.

While the miles wouldn’t be quite as long as what I had gotten used to in training for ultras, they would be tougher miles. And I loved it. Heading to the track to bust out 400s, 800s, and 1600s at paces I had never run before was incredible. I could feel myself getting stronger, and the confidence that has come with that is priceless.

A few weeks before the race, I hit the road for the longest run of the cycle. It was 15 miles, with the first three miles at race pace and the last 3-5 miles also at race pace. When I finished, I had busted my half marathon PR by three minutes. So that sort of set my goal for the race even higher. Not only do I need to break by PR from 2014, but I also wanted to break my NEW PR from a training run.

I was thrilled.

I got into the starting corral on October 14 with a few thousand other runners, ready to tour the city and see what I’m capable of.

The Evansville Half Marathon course is flat and fast. The first 8 miles, there are basically no hills at all. The last 5 get a little rolly – with 4- to 5-foot hills, which can seen a little insurmountable after running hard on flat roads for so long.

Ashley rode her bike through town to see me at a few places along the course, which was always a welcome boost. She waved and yelled, and I grinned and ran.

The first few miles, I eased up to my sub-8:30 pace, and it really felt pretty comfortable. My legs were turning over well, and my breathing wasn’t too labored. Eventually, it would start to feel more difficult to keep that pace during those last 5 miles. When the going got tough, I turned up my tunes and focused on keeping my form under control. Turning corners, climbing little hills, wincing into the bright sun and blue sky.

I knew this is what I worked hard all summer to do. I knew that I could do the distance; I knew I could hold the pace.

I picked up the pace slightly over the last 1 or 2 miles – or at least increased the effort. The finish line came into view. I locked eyes on that big inflatable frame.

At 1:52:36, I crossed through. Tired, sore, sweaty.

Proud, confident, strong.


Transcendent Trail Run Tuesday

When I’m anticipating the end of the work day, I’m thankful for the second hand’s unceasing movement – Because it’s almost 4:00, which means in an hour, I’ll be headed home. 30 minutes after that, I’ll be headed into the woods.

Even now, typing these words, I get a small surge of adrenaline.

The woods are where I belong, and today is Tuesday.

Tuesdays are for trail running.

When work is over, I get home and change into running clothes, pull on my trail shoes, and drive across that money-saving bridge into Henderson where, just on the other side of the Ohio River, John James Audubon State Park awaits. This park is home to a short trail system that is remarkably grueling – perhaps even more grueling because no one expects it when they head back there for the first time.

I run in to the heavy hardwood canopy and follow the single track to get as many miles as I can before the sun goes down. As the summer wanes, the forest’s deepening shadows urge me forward, up steep hills, along plummeting ridge lines, and flying down into ravines – only to come back up again and again.

It’s only 15 minutes from my home in the city, but these woods are a welcome refuge from the noise and bustle of the highways and expressways that crisscross Evansville.

From a few points on the trail, high above the Ohio River, I can look out and see the tall buildings in Downtown Evansville miles away. I can’t hear it, but I can see it. Then I turn and head back into the woods and stop to look at the turtles that line the fallen trees around the edges of Wilderness Lake. On the other side of the lake, a deer heads down for a drink. Her red-brown body reflects in the water in front of the deep forest that climbs up the hill behind her.

(Just to the left of the white tree in the middle)

Audubon is a beautiful place to run – but it’s also maddeningly difficult. There are days that the wild ascents take everything in my mind and body to get over. My legs take bites out of the hill, climbing up to a peak that I can’t see. Maybe it’s around this corner…maybe this one? Surely this one.

When I finally reach the top, heart thumping in my chest, I don’t stop. Instead, I pick up the pace a little, allowing my legs to turn faster on the relative flat of the ridge line. Soon, my pulse slows and my legs settle into a relaxing cadence – just before I dive back down into a ravine and head for another climb.

It never gets old, this early work week escape between the office and the dinner table. It’s always a true pleasure to suddenly be deep in the woods running with deer, squirrels, spiders, and horseflies. With a smile as I turn onto Backcountry Trail, I wholeheartedly welcome the challenges I know are just beyond the next curve, and I relish the opportunity to give it my all on a training run that is every bit as fun as it is important for my fitness and goals.

It’s Transcendent Trail Run Tuesday. Hit the trails – they’re waiting.IMG_20170810_182420766_HDR

There is magic today.


Sometimes running can only be described as magical.

Moments like the one pictured above – when I’m on top of a mountain with other mountains, the big blue sky, and big fluffy clouds all around. But, I can also feel the magic when I’m climbing that mountain in the rain with more mountains and miles ahead of me.


The mountains don’t even have to be there. I feel the magic when I’m deep in the dark green woods, following the dusty singletrack for miles and miles.

I live for this magic. The moments that last in my mind forever.

While running in the mountains and forests are the most fulfilling for me, I begin the majority of my runs by going out my front door and turning either left or right – and I don’t live near mountains or in the forest. When I’m grinding out the miles on the roads around my neighborhood during the week, it can be difficult to find the magic.

And, if I’m being perfectly honest, those weekday miles can really be a drag.

But, while they may not always be magical, those weekday runs are probably the most important. Without solid weekday miles, the long runs on the weekends and the adventure runs in the mountains would not be possible. It’s a simple equation. Much like I work during the day at my job so I can afford to do the things I love, I run during the week to have the ability to go on the adventures I love.

Just because my weekday runs don’t have the obvious makings of a magical adventure, that doesn’t mean that they don’t hold some type of magic of their own.

So, starting today, I’ve committed to finding the magic in every run.

I’m not going to force it, but I’m going to look for it. There is magic today; I just need to be open to it.

I’ll share my experiences on Instagram – so if you don’t already follow me there, you should! I’ll post a picture from every one of my runs that shows some of the beautiful places I get to run in town and in the woods.

I also want to challenge you to look for the magic in your own life. You’re in your life’s adventure today. Some day you’ll think back to now and say “Remember when…?” Make sure you appreciate it while you’re living it.


Why Ultra?: Art Loeb Edition

Ever since I started running ultra distances, I’ve been asked a lot of the same questions. The first and most common is: “Why?”

It’s oddly one of the more difficult questions to answer; maybe because I think too hard about it. I try to look into my psyche and find the real thing – the deep answer about what makes me want to run farther and farther.

But, really – I don’t have to dig deep to find the true answer.


Several years ago, I embarked on a backpacking trip with a group of students from the university where I work. This was going to be my longest backpacking trip, and we were going to the mountains of Pisgah National Forest to hike the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail. This was before I ever dreamed of running, let alone trail running.

To make a long story incredibly short, things didn’t go super well that week. The entire trip was a lot harder than anyone anticipated. To top it all off, we finished on the wrong side of the mountain.

While things didn’t go terribly smoothly, the trip did leave me with the desire to go back and get it right.


One year later, I went back. This time, it was with Ashley and a friend. We caught a ride from someone to take us to the trailhead. While we were in the car, that person told us about a “group of crazy people” that comes out to the Art Loeb every December and runs the entire length of it in a single day.

“What? How is that even possible? How do they carry food, water…how do they make it up the mountains….etc., etc.”

I had just run my first half marathon a few weeks earlier, so the idea of going 30 miles in the mountains in one go was unfathomable. And, as as we tried to figure out the logistics of such an undertaking, it just became more difficult to wrap my head around it. But at the same time…something stirred inside me.

I want to run the Art Loeb Trail.

March 2017

For several years, I’ve had that trail in the back of my mind with every ultra I run. Every time I finish a 50k, I try to imagine what it would have been like to cover that distance on the switchbacks up Pilot Mountain, climbing up to Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, and traversing the Shining Rock Wilderness and the Narrows – all major points along the Art Loeb, if you haven’t guessed that already.

So imagine how it felt when earlier this year, I learned that my running coach (Doug Hay) was planning to run the Loeb in March 2017. Imagine again how it felt when he asked “Want to join?”

On Saturday, Doug and I ran the Art Loeb Trail – an actual dream come true for me. I’ll write a post about the trip and the conditions and challenges we met with along the way later. But first, I want this sentiment to stand alone:

I run ultras because it feels so good to follow a dream from its infancy to its completion. It feels so good to say “yes” to the adventures that at first seem impossible or crazy. It really seems crazy and impossible are the most appealing to me.

On top of Pilot Mountain (thanks to Doug for the picture!)