Thursday, December 18, 2008

Depression 101


I find it very important to take a moment to discuss Depression a little bit. It is surprising to me how many people think Depression is "just someone being sad." It is WAY more involved than that, and a lot more serious, though it is something that can be over come. It is my hope through my blog, that someone else out there may realize they are suffering needlessly and can seek the help they deserve.

Depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. It's more than just a feeling of being "down in the dumps" or "blue" for a few days. If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include
  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Energy loss
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
Depression can run in families, and usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30. It is much more common in women. Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

Often, people have other illnesses along with depression. Sometimes other illnesses come first, but other times the depression comes first. Each person and situation is different, but it is important not to ignore these illnesses and to get treatment for them and the depression. Some illnesses or disorders that may occur along with depression are:
  • Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD);
  • Alcohol and other substance abuse or dependence;
  • Heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease.
Studies have found that treating depression can help in treating these other illnesses. There is help for someone who has depression. Even in severe cases, depression is highly treatable. The first step is to visit a doctor. Your family doctor or a health clinic is a good place to start. A doctor can make sure that the symptoms of depression are not being caused by another medical condition. A doctor may refer you to a mental health professional.

The most common treatments of depression are psychotherapy and medication.

Psychotherapy
Several types of psychotherapy-or "talk therapy"-can help people with depression. There are two main types of psychotherapy commonly used to treat depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT teaches people to change negative styles of thinking and behaving that may contribute to their depression. IPT helps people understand and work through troubled personal relationships that may cause their depression or make it worse.

For mild to moderate depression, psychotherapy may be the best treatment option. However, for major depression or for certain people, psychotherapy may not be enough. Also, a study about treating depression in older adults found that those who got better with medication and IPT were less likely to have depression again if they continued their combination treatment for at least two years.

Medications
Medications help balance chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Although scientists are not sure exactly how these chemicals work, they do know they affect a person's mood. Types of antidepressant medications that help keep the neurotransmitters at the correct levels are:
  • SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
  • SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
  • MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
  • Tricyclics.
These different types of medications affect different chemicals in the brain.

Medications affect everyone differently. Sometimes several different types have to be tried before finding the one that works. If you start taking medication, tell your doctor about any side effects right away. Depending on which type of medication, possible side effects include:
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia and nervousness
  • Agitation or feeling jittery
  • Sexual problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Bladder problems
  • Blurred vision, or
  • Drowsiness during the day.

Why do people get depression?

There is no single cause of depression. Depression happens because of a combination of things including:

Genes - some types of depression tend to run in families. Genes are the "blueprints" for who we are, and we inherit them from our parents. Scientists are looking for the specific genes that may be involved in depression.

Brain chemistry and structure - when chemicals in the brain are not at the right levels, depression can occur. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, help cells in the brain communicate with each other. By looking at pictures of the brain, scientists can also see that the structure of the brain in people who have depression looks different than in people who do not have depression. Scientists are working to figure out why these differences occur.

Environmental and psychological factors - trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, and other stressors can trigger depression. Scientists are working to figure out why depression occurs in some people but not in others with the same or similar experiences. They are also studying why some people recover quickly from depression and others do not.
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My Personal Battle
I am suffering from Depression and I have high anxiety and levels of panic. I hate being like this because it's not who I am nor who I want to be. I refuse to let a few "disconnected wires" in my brain to control my life. I've spent a lot of time over the last 21 days trying to discovery where all of this started, how long have I been suffering and what are the key elements in my life that has helped to trigger my depression and anxiety. Without getting into too much detail I can positively say that I have been battling various states of depression for over 13 years. It stems from a variety of situations including but not limited to my parents divorce, feelings of abandonment from my siblings, poor grades in school and the feelings of being a failure, unsatisfied with my "life track," the relationship I had with my grandmother when she passed away (2002), continued mourning of my grandfathers death (2006) and recent relationship issues and associated mental abuse.

As you can see from the list above, everything on the list is something I can get over and should get over. In reality, I should probably be over it now all ready but some people are incapable, move slower than others or just simply have a hard time letting go. This is a trait of depression. I hope through the continued use of medication and through regular visits to a psychologist I will be able to over come these thoughts and feelings and move on into a happier place in my life. I know that Depression is NOT a death sentence. I know that it needs to be fought. The hardest part thus far has been standing up to the fight, toe to toe with an illness that tries it's damnedest to keep me in bed. Regardless, there are people in my life who are also suffering from depression and their fight is NOT going the way it should or could. I beg them.. please... stand up for yourself. You don't have to be a prisoner... you don;t have to suffer. Get the help you desperately need and deserve. This life is worth living.

There is a process in all of this and I think I'm going to be OK. I recognized that I had a problem that was quickly getting out of control. I took control of my life and my thoughts and sought the help that I needed immediately. No, going into the hospital was NOT an easy decision to make. I spent 3 days in a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit. Why? To escape. Some people choose suicide as their escape.. I choose to fight the feelings of despair and to take control. It was a hard choice.. it took some coaching from good friends.. but I got there. I recognized I had a problem, I acted on it, I owned it, I'm fighting it and I AM WINNING IT.

This is just the beginning of a long battle... but I will win. Just like a long 100 mile ultra. I was stuck in an aid station, I rose from the ashes, stepped back onto the trail and can only do what I've trained to do... Relentless Forward Progression, on step at a time. The finish line is calling.. I can smell the barn... Full speed ahead.


The Road Im On - 3 Doors Down

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gear Review: Nathan 2V Plus


I used the Nathan Elite 2V Plus during the 2008 running season as a product tester for Nathan Human Propulsion Laboratories. There are various pro’s and con’s to this product, of which I will discuss in detail below in the hopes that any changes made to these products will better serve my fellow runners.

Running with handheld bottles can become a drag, especially 50+ miles into an ultramarathon when your arms are tired from running in the same posture for so very long. Having an efficient waist pack is an integral way to ensure that you are able to utilize the various parts of your body that help propel you, instead of holding you back. I choose the 2V Plus because of its functionality.

The pack comes with two 22 oz. Hydration bottles of which I am not a fan of. I find the plastic used to make the bottles is very stiff. I do not like the mouthpiece because it has a tendency to leak, and is very hard to pull up and push down. I do very much like the clip ring that makes up part of the bottle cap as it makes the unit easier to clip anywhere and carry if I am doing activities other than running such as hiking or snowshoeing.

The pack has twin angled insulated holsters for quick bottle access. I love the angled idea as it allows the bottles to rest comfortably against the back. The angle of the bottles leaves you plenty of room so that when you swing your arms while running, it is very unlikely that you will hit them. The twin holsters are functional in that you can easily remove the bottles and place them back in without any hassle at all. This is essential in preventing the annoying. The insulated pockets keep drinks warm or cool.

The zippered rear pocket is one of the reasons I love this pack the most. I can place many of my run essentials in this pocket; hat, gloves, buff, arm warmers, batteries, supplements, flash light headlamp. It is also easy to reach back and unzip the pocket while running. While it is obviously difficult to put everything in this pocket, the fact that the pack has additional twin removable zippered pockets in the front for easier access. These pockets are also great for gels and other supplements. You can remove these zippered pockets for easier cleaning.

The pack also has front glove/jacket draw cords on the front. This increases the functionality of the pack. On cold race mornings or colder runs where the temps are bound to rise; the draw cords allow you to store your gloves or jacket out of the way.

The pack does come loose while running, though not as quickly as other packs I’ve had. The strap stays do tend to get in the way and when I go to tighten the waist strap, I sometimes have to stop to move the strap stays aside. This has been known to be a major nuisance as it causes me to stop during the run and waste valuable time. If there was a way to prevent the pack from coming loose or slipping, the pack would be PERFECT.

Grade: A-

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ice Storm '08

For those of you who remember the Run Across New Hampshire, you'll remember that the run was a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire. Nate has been selling raffle tickets for $20 each, through his company National PowerSports Distributors. We are raffling off a sleek 2007 Honda Shadow 600LX! The raffle is THIS WEEKEND! So please, if you haven't yet purchased a ticket, do so now! You can go HERE and click on one of the purchase boxes on the right. We really need your help in making it to our $10,000 total.
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Ice Storm '08
Clean-up continues from last weeks ice storm here in New Hampshire. I was one of the lucky ones who never lost power. There are over 800,000 households and businesses in NH, and of those more than half were without power at some point over the last few days. Today, over 100,000 homes and businesses are still without power. New Hampshire is still under a state of emergency and has been declared a federal disaster area. The national guard has been called in to help in the relief effort as well as utility workers from Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Canada and other surrounding states.

I had a chance to drive around some of the towns here in Southern, NH yesterday. It is easy to say, "How bad can it really be" when you drive around your own town out here on the seacoast, where we often escape storms given the warmth of the ocean. While we had our own problems here in Dover, driving through other towns really opened my eyes to the severity of the situation. To see the sheer devastation caused by the ice was both beautiful and terrifying. Seeing rows of telephone poles bent over or broken, trees down closing entire roads... its really something to see. Winter has yet to begin this year in NH and after 4 or 5 days without power, many residents have all ready had enough. Our first accumulating snowfall here in Dover looks to be heading our way for Wednesday. Hopefully crews can clear the roads enough to be plowed safely. Today, there are still over 100,000 homes and businesses without power.

I haven't run since Thursday when I took Alex out for his half marathon. I'd like to use downed power-lines and trees as an excuse, and the gym being closed as another... but the "funk" has crept back in over the last few days. Friday was a scheduled day off, Saturday I never got up early enough to run before work and then Sunday I spent with family and checking out the damage. Tonight, I'm going to make up for lost time and getting out on the roads with the RUnners Alley group. if they'll allow me. They meet on Monday evenings at 6pm at the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth. They also have a Thursday group at 6pm and a Saturday 8am group. Both of those groups run 4-6 miles and are open to all levels. So.. I'm going to show up and see how it goes, maybe make some new friends.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekend America

On November 29, 2008 I was featured on NPR's Weekend America. The short segment was a follow up piece to Sean Hurley's earlier piece that aired on New Hampshire Public Radio. You can read a copy of the story or take a listen by clicking HERE.

Part of the piece talks about why I run, or why I started embarking on such adventures. And here is what was said:
"When I ask directly, John doesn't talk about running. He tells me about his childhood. John's parents divorced when he was 12. His family drifted apart. His confusion and loneliness intensified and he soon found himself struggling against a powerful rage.

"For many years," he says, "I decided I was just going to take it and deal with it, and as the years went on it kind of got worse. I ostracized some of my family members and went away to college. I was pretty suicidal in college and ended up failing out.""

I can't help but think about the interview now. The interview was while I was running across New Hampshire. I remember thinking all morning about the questions I knew Sean was going to ask and I remember not being able to think of any answers.. until that is, he asked. And what I came out with surprised even me. I knew that day, that "for many years" is still happening. I'm still suffering from depression. I should have caught it then, done something about it then.. but I waited, and a month later I hit rock bottom. It just strikes me as odd, that I would ignore my own intuition. That I would ignore acknowledging that something was wrong.

Many people have sent me e-mails, commented or called about my openness on my blog. I've been asked a few times, Why would you put all of these thoughts up here? Why? I'll tell you why. Because I want to help. I want to help myself, but I also want to help YOU. "You" is out there. Someone else who is lost, unsure of what to do, going through the same daily torture that I am going through. They are afraid to get help, afraid to step up to their problems.. Well, I'm going to show that you CAN step up to your problems. You CAN take them on head on. Its like being in an ultra. It will almost always get better, just one foot in front of the other and sometimes... some times you can't do it alone. But one thing is for sure, you can't fake it. A lot of people have faith in me, but what is most important is that I have faith in myself. I gather my hope from various places, I garner faith, I am struggling, but fighting. "You" can and will too.

But in the mean time, the story played on Weekend America, yet the story is still just beginning. It never ends. A good friend told me, "While you cannot change the past, you can change the ending." Onward, upward, forward.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stick vs. Rock


5 or so years ago my good friend Zepp had come home from the military and had soemthing to tell me. He emerged from his truck, a lost and sunken soul. Crying, unsure of what to do, he told me how his girlfriend was pregnant. Zepp was all of 19 years old, I had no idea what to tell him, but I listenned. We went for a walk that day, headed down the road to a local trail I knew and walked to a swamp. When we got to the water edge, I asked Zepp to join me in an experiment.

"Zepp, pick up a rock and throw it in the water and as you do.. tell me what you see." Zepp picked up a rock, threw it in the water and he tells me, "The rock makes a splash and a bunch of ripples and then it sinks." I asked, "And what happens to those ripples?" He replies, "Well, eventually they die out." I smiled and then asked him to pick up a stick and do the same has he had with the rock. Zepp picks up a stick, throws it into the water and he answers, "The stick makes a splash, it keeps floating along and it keeps making ripples the entire time." I then looked my good friend straight in the eye and told him "You have a choice to make Zepp. Do you want to be the rock? or the stick?"

Years later I asked myself that same question today. But a good friend of mine helped me think about it from a different angle over lunch. For the last few years of my life I've been the rock. I splash, I make big waves.. I sink. But now I want to be the damn stick. I want to make tiny ripples. But the new perspecti8ve that was brought to my attention today was this though, "Sometimes, a stick is just a stick." I need to learn that I can be just me. That no one can strip me of my "bark" and glue new bark onto me. I am ok just the way that I am... being who I want to be, doing what I want to do. The ripples will come... the wind will blow..

One of my classmates wrote in a paper recently, "A man known as Keith King once said “Take it where you want to take it, however before you do something with it, you don’t understand it.” ....it (education) offers endless possibilities to experience new things. Yet it isn’t till you actually go out and face them when you will really understand it. Everyone knows that running twenty-six miles is long and strenuous on the bodies yet that’s all they know. It doesn’t matter if you run a short distance everyday, for that is an entirely different experience then running fifteen, twenty or twenty-six. ... Education is experience, which you then reflect on afterwards. Same goes with running, just with a little twist. You can prepare your body for months before you run a marathon, however if your mindset is not there, you won’t be able to make it to the finish line. It’s when and if you do, the time you spend reflecting on it afterwards when you realize what exactly you got out of it."

I've done a TON of reflecting as of late. I ackowledge my problems and my weaknesses. I know my strong points and my weak points. I know what I can work on alone.. I know what I really need help with. I know what hurts me. I know what hurts others. I know what makes me happy. I know what makes others happy. And yet I struggle with understanding the word PATIENCE. I've always been an "all or nothin" kind of person. I hate that. I want to take things one day at a time. I want to smile again. I want to feel loved. I want what everyone else, I think, wants. But I'm stuck.. because I'm not entirely in control. I know what I AM in control of.. and that's all that I can work on. And I'm working on it very dilligently. Truth, honesty, integrity and courage. These are my morals moving forward. I have the unique opportunity to reinvent myself in the weeks and months ahead. These morals are the framework of a better being.

Rock or stick, sink or swim.. big splash/dying ripples.. little splash/undying ripples. I'm not sure as I have a choice in this.. but either way I know that I can either BE a rock or BE a stick... and both are fine just laying on the shore just being themselves. Regardless... I know my mistakes. I will forever own them. I will continue to reflect on them and learn their lessons. I have no other choice... I just feel like I'm losing, losing what I truly want.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jackson


My alarm went off at 6:40am. I rolled over and hit snooze, as most anyone would. I laid there, and started my day as I seem to start most days recently... thinking. Like you twist the key to turn over your engine and start the car.. as the gas flows into my engine for the day, my gears start turning and I'm all ready in hell. I'm torturing myself. I just want to be happy. I know what used to make me happy. I have an idea of what will make me happy. But I'm not happy... I struggle to get out of bed to face a new day. I reset my alarm for 7, then 7:15. Finally I get up, drag myself out from under the covers, throw on my hiking clothes, grab my food for the day and head out into the chilly morning. Its damn cold for December and the wind has been howling all night. If it's cold here at the seacoast, I can only imagine what I'll face up north in the Mountains.

It was a bit easier to drag myself out of bed knowing that I'll be hanging with two friends I haven't seen in a long time. One is Hans Bauer who lives in North Conway. Hans is a genetically gifted runner who ran 198 miles in last years Across The Years 48 hour run, winning the event. Hans is a real life Forrest Gump, having criss crossed our country on foot, on bike and by thumb. The other is Phil Rosenstein who just completed his own run across the United States, completing his journey in New Jersey last month after 96 days of pushing a jogging stroller. Phil is also a gifted runner and gifted human. Last year he completed the Grand Slam of Ultra-Running and The Last Great Race all the while running in Australia's version of Badwater, a 155 mile desert Run. This year, Phil had life changing open lung surgery to remove infection from pulmonary edema and pneumonia. I'm very lucky to have both of these men in my life, and knowing of the adventures I'd hear about today on our hike.. I knew I had to go.

The drive to North Conway is only about an hour and twenty minutes from my new place. It felt like six hours. I scanned through radio stations looking for good music. Looking for morning shows that aren't corny, repetitious or just plain old lame. It's not hard to sink into thought while driving for so long. Passing by places you've passed a zillion times, letting the car make its own way up Route 16 as it has each and every time before. I manage to get my mind off of thought for a little bit and tried to enjoy the morning. But I feel empty.. something is missing. I arrive in North Conway and pick Phil and Hans up. Hans is dressed like a soldier in The French Foreign Legion. Phil is dressed like someone wanting to die. Phil is merely wearing a pair of running tights covered by bergelene long johns. He has three technical shirts on, a fleece lined jacket and a hard shell jacket for protection. I question whether he'll be warm enough, but trust Han's judgement in the outfitting. We head to International Mountain Equipment (IME) in town to rent Phil a pair of boots suitable for the day. He goes downstairs to find his own pair of "moon boots" and pays the $20 rental fee. Finally we're off. I drive us up 302 and into Crawford Notch. The wind whips across the road, so strong that my car slows from time to time and is pushed from side to side. As we pass American flags, they are straight out and look ready to rip from their poles. Snow and ice over the road, we climb to the top of the Notch and park across from Saco Lake.

As we open the car doors, the air is so cold our throats immediately dry up. We are left breathless, standing beside the car, scrambling to get what gear we need to get going. I use the car as a barrier from the wind and lace up my Koflach Mountaineering Boots. The boots are heavy, but my feet will be warm. That's all that I need on a day like today. Hans and Phil are ready to go and all ready jumping around. I reached into the backseat and pull out my pack. Hans takes off, he's only carrying a camera and a water bottle. I throw my pack on and Phil asks, "You're going to carry all that?!" I looked at Phil and noticed again how he was dressed. He also was only carrying a water bottle.. no pack. "You never know Phil.. and just wait until you see what it's like above tree-line. I have extras incase you guys need them.. They don't call me Sherpa for nothing." And with a smile we head across the street and onto the Webster-Jackson Trail.

The Webster-Jackson Trail is the most direct route to the top of Mount Jackson (4.052'). Though the average gradient of the trail is definitely not steep (2,150 feet over 2.6 miles) it is somewhat deceptive, as there are several rather flat sections that alternate with much steeper ones. Nevertheless it is one of the easier 4000 footers, and has excellent views (as do all the peaks in this section). I'm not sure there was anything easy about today's hike. The trails are covered in snow, and packed out by travelers before us and frozen over making the trail a relatively "paved" trip. This is one thing that makes winter hiking so much more enjoyable for some folks, as the rocks and roots are filled in and there is less to negotiate. As we wound our way up the trail, we weren't but 15 minutes from the car when Phil started to complain about his hands freezing. I heard Hans trying to encourage him to keep wiggling his fingers and moving about. Then I asked what he had on for gloves, "Scuba gloves, they are excellent." Too bad we weren't scuba diving. I stopped, took off my pack and reached into my bottom pocket to retrieve a better pair of gloves for Phil. I gave him a pair of fleece gloves with Thinsulate. His hands would warm within 5 minutes and his trip would be much happier.

Fresh snow from the days prior glistened in the morning sun. The trees had a tiny layer of fluffy snow clinging to their branches. It's cold... damn cld. So cold that the trees are cracking from the freezing temps. I couldn't speculate how cold it was at this point, but I knew it was cold. The trees were sheltering us from the wicked winds that swirled above. I could hear the rush of air rising up and over the ridge above. I knew what to expect above tree-line. I managed to keep our pace light and cordial so we could all not only talk and keep warm, but also to prevent sweating. Only problem is that I kept my jacket on and I was overheating a bit. I was sweating, and when we'd stop, I'd start to chill. I should know better, I know how this layering and de-layering process works in winter. I was failing myself in scary conditions. I needed to be careful. Watching Phil maneuver the trail in his rented boots was kind of comical. He didn't do too bad for a guy who spent 2 of the last 3 months in the desert south-west running 30+ miles per day. He'd never been to NH before, never experienced our winter.. never experienced our "Worlds Worst Weather." And was all ready quite surprised. I was surprised by his will to continue on.

As we reached the junction of the trail where you can choose to go to Jackson or Webster, I took off my pack and we stopped for a break. We heard a bird calling above and we wondered what it was. I heard Hans say, "There it is!" I stopped and looked... ah yes, the tree rats. A grey Jay had found us and he was hungry. I reach into my pack and break off a few pieces of bread and tell Phil to hold out his hand and be still. I place a drop of bread in his hand and get my camera out. The bird swoops in and lands on Phil's hand, grabs the bread and flies away. Phil was excited and was definitely enjoying his NH experience. I took off my glove, ripped off more bread and held out my hand. I love these birds. They just want what makes them happy.. food. After we finished feeding our friend, he came back and perched humbly on a branch, just looking at us as if to keep us company before we moved on. I drank a strawberry yogurt smoothie, one of the only things that won't freeze in these temps, and I got some much needed energy to push on. We threw on our packs as we began to chill a little too much and carried on our way.

"So that was only 1.4?"
"yup, 1.2 to the top."
"wow"

We continued to climb slowly into the heavens. The snowy landscape now reflected the deep deep blues of the morning sky. The sun merely tickled the tops of the frosty trees over head. The higher we got the colder it got. My throat started to hurt from breathing in the frigid air. The snow on the trees started to thicken as most of is was plastered in place by a heavy coat of rime ice. The wind began to pick up and Phil started to feel the effects of the constant climb. The snow drifts blanketed the mountain side and as the wind whipped through the trees, created many carved drifts akin to any kaleidoscope design. Conversation began to quiet and I began to prepare my friends for the top. We turned a corner and could see the summit dome. "Almost there guys.. it's going to be cold.. be ready." We climbed the last few pitches in the trees, and we popped out at tree-line and enjoyed magnificent views. The wind swirled and howled around us. Nothing but mountains surrounded us, rising above plumes of blowing snow and the effects of up slope winds.

We climbed the final pitch to the top of Mount Jackson. As I maneuvered up the final pitch, the wind caused me to literally float to the top. Each step into the frozen tundra kicked up chunks of snow and ice and they flew violently through the air. As Phil and Hans approached from below, I stopped to look back. The chunks they dislodged hit me in the face and felt like someone was shooting me with 300 pellets. When I reached the top, the wind blew so violently that it whipped me around. My cheeks immediately began to freeze, my breath was taken away, my eyes froze, icicles formed on my facial hair and my eyelids tried to freeze shut. The temp was -13F and the wind blew at 40+ mph with gusts over 60 mph. Wind chills were around -40F. I've been cold a few times in my life... and only one time had I been colder than this. My ears began to sting and burn, I was starting to worry about frostbite. I tried to move my hat to adjust it, make sure my skin was covered, and I felt my hair pull. I had sweat and my hair was frozen to the inside of my hat. The condensation on my buff from breathing had frozen the buff stiff. I took a few photos and then ran to the southern side of the summit where I hunkered down below some trees on a rocky out cropping. Phil and Hans followed. Phil's face was lit up and red. He was smiling and in a bit of disbelief. "I've been in wind like this before.. but I've never been this cold. WOW!" It was cold for sure but we were safe. We stopped for pictures, smiled, enjoyed the gorgeous day. Hans wanted a group photo of the three of us on the top near the cairn. So we walked back out into the wicked winds. Phil sat down on the rock so he wouldn't be tossed about by the wind, I crouched down beside him and vigorously rubbed my hands together to keep warm. Hans tried to set the self timer on his camera, his hand was in pain from an old frostbite injury in his ice climbing days I could hear him rivaling in pain. He ran over, the camera blinked and the picture was taken.

I ran across the top of the summit and scurried quickly down the steep pitch we climbed up before. I made my was quickly to below the trees, the wind tried to push my back up, as I crouched down I was blown upright. I was in pain from the firigid air, I could barely breathe, I was frozen, I ducked for cover. In the tree's it was still cold, but the respite from the wind was welcomed warmly. I wanted for Hans and Phil, we turned and continued our descent. Hiking down in winter is always much faster. From glissading to boot skiing to just being able to wander faster, it is enjoyable. I enjoyed hearing many more running stories, thoughts, annecdotes... and even had the chance to share some of my own. I enjoyed their company, and I was pressed to remind myself that a day outside is better than a day inside. We stopped to enjoy the view off of Bugle Cliff, then finished our hike back to the car. I took off my boots, hopped in and drove us to the Muddy Moose where we enjoyed lunch. We sat right next to the fire place. Hans had a beer, Phil a lemonade and I a coke. We ended a frosty and frigid day in the mountains with a warm fireplace and the company of great friends.

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Thoughts:
In February of 2000, Guy Waterman a legendary climber and mountaineer, took his own life on the summit of Mount Lafayette in NH's White Mountains. Guy's legacy will be carried for hundreds of years, especially through his institution of the Alpine Steward Programs that helped revitalize NH's alpine zones. Guy also is the only person who has ever hiked to the summit of all 48 Four-Thousand Footers, from all 4 Points of the compass, in winter. But there is more to Guy's story. Guy suffered from depression and was having a hard time dealing with his long standing battle with cancer. In February 2005, on a day much like what I hiked in today, he nestled down next to a cairn with his dog, a bottle of Jack and some pills. Guy froze to death that day, and its how he wanted to go.

Many times I have talked about Guy and many times I've heard the question, "Why would anyone want to die like that?" And I think today I learned the answer on my own. Not because I thought about taking my own life, but because I understand some of Guy's pain. As I battle my own depression, I know the internal struggle that comes with it. The inability to just shut your brain off. The inability to simply be at peace. While standing on the summit of Mount Jackson today, it was so damn cold that it was all I could think about. I didn't think about how to get warm, I didn't think about moving.. I just centered my brain on COLD. I had a moment of peace. I looked up and enjoyed the views, I took them in... my brain thought COLD. Guy fell asleep on the top of his favorite mountain, one he was most passionate about. He sat in the cold and that's all he probably thought about that day. Not what pained him, not what troubled him. Just peace, quiet and cold with his best friend. I think I understand, but know I'd rather live than die.

I love hiking. I love the thrill of reaching new heights. I loved challenging myself in the harsh winter air. I felt like I accomplished something today... I survived. But I still feel empty. "Big deal, I've been here before.. its not THAT bad." And it's funny.. it was treacherous up there. It was dangerous. I'm sporting new frost nip on my right thumb and pinky.. all because I wanted to snap some photos. My ears burn and have frost nip of their own. And my old frostbite location on my cheek is stinging. Worth it? Yeah.. but I'm not sure why.

For more photos from today's adventure click HERE
You Are Here - NEEDTOBREATHE

Saturday, December 6, 2008

2000 Miles

2001 as of the writing of this post to be exact. That's how many miles of managed to get in this year thus far. I'm kind of surprised actually, I thought I'd be much further along mileage wise considering how things were going at the beginning of the year. But as the year is slowly coming to a close, I'm beginning to realize that I may just barely run more miles this year than I did last. I guess thats not a bad thing. Why? Because once again I've managed to stay injury free, healthy and racing often. There are some tricks to this trade, and I think in this avenue I've figured it out. Moderation is key. You don't need to run crazy miles to be an ultra-runner. I know marathon runners who run more miles every week/month/year than I ever will. It's kind of ironic actually.

At any rate, I went out for an 8 mile run yesterday with my good buddy Steve. It was a good run with a mix of roads and trails. It was a brisk day here in New England as temps struggle to get near the upper 30's and a chilly breeze kept us from thawing out really. I know I even managed to get a little muddy and I sweat quite a bit. My pace is up and you'd think it feels good to run. I'm not sure if it's the depression or the chemical reactions from my medicines, but I'm not getting my usual runners high after running. I really just feel numb, like I didn't do anything. Almost jipped in a way. Come to think of it, I felt this way after my run Across NH. Regular visitors to my blog will remember me talking in the days and weeks after the RANH how I had yet to really wrap my head around what I accomplished, or how I felt or what I learned... and from what I've read, my depression has a lot to do with this.

But there is hope.. I went to the gym yesterday after my run and did day 2 of my circuit training. The workout is quick, but thorough. My quads and hip adductors are sore today. I'm sore to the touch, sore when I walk up or down stairs.. THIS IS A GOOD FEELING. I haven;t been sore from anything since October and I guess in a way, my masochistic nature is actually enjoying this. Perhaps I need to just run a little further when I go out?

I'm feeling a little better all around. I'm not obsessing as much as I was and the non-stop shaking and trembling has finally stopped. Thank god because it was driving me crazy. I'm still thinking quite a bit but when I do my thoughts are centered, clear and concise. I come to conclusions quickly and am able to make decisions. I am eating again and obviously running and working out again too. My sleep cycle sucks. I toss and turn all night and I wake up more tired in the morning then I was when I first went to sleep. I hope this changes because I'm BEAT! All in all, I know the medication is working, but I still have a long way to go. My first regular psychiatrist appointment is on Friday, and I can't wait to get there and get down to business. I'm a fighter, I have hope, my head is high. I know what I want in life, I know who I want to be and who I want to be with... I'm happy.. and I'm a fighter. So once again, I take me trusty sword and enter the tunnel to fight off my inner demons... the battle will be long but in the end, good will prosper.

"I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!" -Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stuck In An Aid Station....


Thats how I feel... like I'm at mile 88 of a 100 mile race... stuck in an aid station, unable to move, no motivation to continue. Depression sucks and it is something I am struggling to understand on a daily basis. All I know is that for the last week or two, I have done nothing but tremble. I shake constantly, from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep... that is IF I sleep. I can't seem to really concentrate on anything, I think I spend a majority of my day spacing out, staring at nothing... thinking.. about what I have no idea. And when I am not spacing out, I am thinking, obsessing about my mistakes. I end up hating myself and want to do nothing but quit.. quit everything. BUt I guess thats the easy way out.

I always thought about how ultra's are synonymous with life. I think back to the Vermont 100 this past year, 88 miles into the race, I know I'll finish, I know I can break 24 hours if I try. But the medical staff sat me down in a chair, and I still to this day have no idea why. And all I did was sit there, and pout.. and wonder. So to in this life right now, all I can do is sit and wonder, I'm having my own little time out and I have no idea why. I feel trapped in my own body, I feel lost, I feel helpless and I feel like there is no way I'm going to finish this "race." Quitting is oh so easy... just like in a race, a nice warm bath and a bed isn't all that far away and its so easy to say it. But I like challenges, its why I choose to do what I do... to push the limits, to find the limits. I can overcome depression.. and I will. Relentless forward progression, one step at a time.. I'll get there.

I made it to the gym today. Its the first time since maybe April that I had been. I spent maybe 2 hours there. I started by hopping on the treadmill and warming up with a 3 mile run. I even put the treadmill's incline up to 15 and practiced my power walking. Then I broke right into my circuit training which still kicks my butt as good as it ever did. It felt good to sweat, it felt good to focus on something, to put the negative energy to good use. I felt like I was doing something again, like I'm fighting back. But the feelings are only temporary..

I woke up this morning sick to my stomach. I rebounded well. I went to the doctor, missed a few classes in the process, and got a few things straightened out. I went home for a bit and decided to start taking the steps to getting life back in order. I showered finally. I ate some food (hasn't been normal), I went to school and got a 100 on an EMT Practical. I went grocery shopping and then went to the gym. I made an appointment, finally, to see a psychiatrist next week. But regardless of how well today went, I am still sitting here with my head in my hands. Lost, sad, unsatisfied. I still want to crawl back into that hole I dug and hide. I feel like I'm there, my thoughts and my feelings, and others, just keep shoveling some of that dirt from above on top of me. I'm suffocating in my own self destruction, my own self pity. The medication (Lexapro) isn't working yet.. its still probably weeks away from working its magic. I hope I can make it because I'm going crazy.

I think the worst thing right now is knowing that I can't have what I want in this life. Time heals all wounds and this is one that I truly hope heals. And I fear that I truly will never be happy... I'm just stuck in an aid station.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving 5K - A PR Story

St. Joseph's Hospital - Great Gobbler 5K
Thursday, November 27, 2008 - Thanksgiving Day
Location: Nashua, NH
Distance: 5K
Time: 21:27 (NEW PR)
Pace: 6:55 (NEW PR)

I emerged from the car with my sister, her husband mike and my two young nephews kenny and Timmy. The air is cold and below freezing as the temps hover around 30. The sun is still struggling to rise above the horizon on this Thanksgiving Day 2008. I'm dressed for the weather in my usual cold weather garb. Fleece lined tights, red shorts, a short sleeve tech-wick and 2 long sleeve tech-wicks. I have my buff keeping my neck warm and trying to hold some of my heat in. A winter hat covers my ears, I'm not really listenning to anything in particular anyway. I'm still zoning out, still not here. Kind of in a "the lights are on but no-one's home" state of mind. I'm foggy, I'm tired and I'm lost.

As we stand in the pre-registered line we hear a gentleman step forward and offer up some instruction. I step out of line to ask him if he was the RD to which he replied that he was. I introduced myself and he whisked me away to set me up with a bib-number. I don't need a shirt, I don't need anything.. I just need to run, To push myself, to let it out. The next 30-40 minutes was spent standing in the chilly morning air, watching the sun continue to rise. The fields are covered with a thick frost from the night before as hundreds of anxious yet hungry runners mill about and exchange their hello's. They say their hello's to friends from parent teacher orgs, from school, from scouts, from sports to whatever. They all know each other. We all stand there with arms crossed and legs dancing, waiting for the moment to step forward and toe the line.

The kids start first as they participate in their own run lap around the track. Each kid gets bib #1, a friendly gesture to sportsmanship. As the kids run around its great to see them moving, their legs in motion, them earning their own turkey and various slices of pie to follow. They smile, they wagg their tongues, they gasp for air and some even look ready for collapse. We watch, we cheer we congratulate.

Now its our turn. We all follow the RD to the starting line where I take a position up front. I don't know what I want, what else is new. I know I'm here and I'm ready to run. I'm ready to take my life back.. ready to take charge. Could today be the day I make my first step? Is this the new beginning of many tomorrows? I stand on the starting line and wait for the command and moments from the past flash through my head. Hardly any are about running, thoughts, just thoughts... racing faster than my legs will ever carry me. But there was ONE memory of running that popped into my head...

Summer of 2005, I had shown up here to Mines Falls in Nashua, NH to run in a weekly 5K series that was put on by the Moose Milers. Months before I came to run, I had called their club asking if I could join up and get some help with running. They told me on the phone that I was "too slow, consider joining The Greater Derry Track Club." Funny... GDTC had just told me the same thing. I showed up on that summer night to run their weekly 5K and when I arrived the race had all ready started. Their website was wrong, and I was pissed. I threw my shoes on and asked the RD if he would record my time when I returned to the finish.. he told me, "No, you're late." I ran my fastest 5K that warm summer night, finishing in 21:39. To this day it has stood in my head as my fastest 5K.. but remained unofficial.

I thought back to that warm night in 2005 as I stood in the frigid air during this late 2008. I'm thankful to be alive, thankful I've survived the last few weeks to even be here, on this track, in this place... breathing. The hardest struggles in my life I've yet to relaize, but as I stood on the starting line of The Great Gobbler 5K with over 600 other runners, I realized that the hardest struggle, the hardest challenge of my life is now before me.. and it starts with a single step. The whistle blew and we were off, I was careful to not fall into the fast rabbit start of those with eyes bigger then their legs. I held on patiently and turned the iPod up. Yeah.. I ran with my iPod to try to drown out my racing mind.. to concentrate on the run... concentrate on PRing here again.. this time making it official.

We got off the track and ran across the field before bottle necking onto singletrack trail that leads us into Mines Falls Park. This 5K trail race is one of the few in New England on Thanksgiving morning if not the only. We wind our way along the Nashua River as the breath of 600 hungry souls lifts slowly into the air. I hear nothing, my music blares. I don't even hear myself breathing, I know I am.. but not hard. As the cold air pierces my lungs, I lift my buff to cover my mouth to try and re-humidify the dryness that gets drawn in. I look at my watch around the 1 mile mark and am astounded to see a 6:03 mile. I need to ease back off, ease into the run.. to hell with it... Just hang on.

I run fluidly and listen to the songs play as we round numerous turns. I pass folks on the small "hills" that we come to. Around mile 2 we make another turn and I know we're heading home.. I look at my watch and see 14:30. I need to hang on.. My eyes glance ahead and I feel my focus. As the music plays my thoughts come about.. "Take it back john... take back your life. You are in charge.. this is about you.. you can do it... be strong... take it back." I stare into the future, and pick up the pace. I'm breathing heavy now, my arms are cramping, my lungs burn, my legs start to tire... I pick it up some more. The pain feels good... "Take back your life John... take it back." I charge ahead, out of the woods and onto the track for the last half lap. As I take the 1st and 2nd turns on the track, I pick up the pace even more down the back stretch, I look at my watch to see that I am running at 5:18 min mile pace... I'm flying.. I pick it up even more. A tear streams down my cheek as I gasp for air.. I'm running for my life, I'm running into what I hope is the future. I cross the finish line and see the time.

21 Minutes and 27 seconds is my new official 5K Personal Best. I came in 59th out of over 600 runners. I was exhausted yet complacent. I want to vomit, I'm tired, gasping for air.. still lost. I did it.. I made a PR, why am I not happy? I start to shake again.. thats all I've done for over a week now.. I've shook. Nerve's, anxiety.. its still in charge. I'm trying to take my life back from my own inner demons, demons I thought I lost.. the race is long, and I'm still only on the starting line. Wondering, hoping.. racing.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rise From The Ashes



I don't know where I went wrong... I don't even remember half of what happened it seems. But I do know that I've hurt others more than I hurt myself and it was a thought I couldn't bear to live with. I thought of evening the score. Certainly in this life I know what I am truly capable of.. and in many aspects of my life, I'm still unsure of exactly what what is or why I do the things that I do. In my heart of hearts and in my soul of souls I feel remorse and regret for a great mistake and injustice. I broke a heart.. and in turn I broke my own. I thought about hurting myself.. I don;t even know why. Something took my life over on me.. I was losing control.

Where have I been the last few days? I checked myself into a treatment facility in Manchester where I spent 3 days in support groups and in a quiet room with no tv, no radio, no computer.. thinking... just thinking of what I've done and who I've become. As much as I thought I knew about myself and this life.. I realized in a few short days that I know nothing and I learned of the real fear I have knowing how fast things can get away from me. I'm getting help now. For the first time in my life I take medication to help me cope.. to help me sleep. I'm getting fixed, I'm getting better.

I need to get back on track. I need to rise from the ashes and take hold of my life. "I'm in control".. I need to remember this. I make my own choices, I need to know what I want and OWN what I want. I know what that is.. I'm scared to death that I'll never have it. Words will never say or show anyone how true this really is. How BAD I really want it and what I'll do to get it. And what I needed to do all along was really so simple... but I blew it.. I blew it. And now I want it even more.. because I can't stand the thought of losing it. I've met a lot of people in my short time on this earth, many have affected me, many have changed my way of thinking and feeling... but no one quite as much as she did.

I'm picking up the pieces, slowly. I finally hit rock bottom. My life in shambles but repairable. Now is the time to rise from the ashes, to climb from the hole I buried myself in. I am not a quitter.. I am a fighter and life will go on. Come with me my friends and grab my hand, walk with me to the promised land. Show me where I went astray and lead me to that long winding single-track trail I know and love. Where one adventure ends a new adventure begins. I have the power to choose what education I will gain from the experience. Mis-educative or non-educative. Given what I've learned all ready, the lessons I'll carry with me every day for the rest of my life... I gained nothing but a grande educational experience. I just need to use the tools I have to continue to fix the ship and sail into the future. I don't know what my future holds.. but I do know what I want it to hold. I can't go it alone.. I know I have amazing friends who will help me get by. I'll rely on their strength to reignite my own. And I'll continue the search within for my own Human Potential... because I know that its still in there, waiting. Waiting for me to light the torch and march on... march into the darkness with my sword in my hand. I'll slay the demons and win over the world again.

Uccidere il lupo!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pawtuck Pounding


Wow... we finally did it. We've talked about it ad-nauseam over the last year now. "Hey man.. we gotta run 3 loops in this place." I've gone out there many times with the intent of running the loop 3 times. Each time I've gone, it took me so long to do 2, and I was so wrecked after 2 that 3 became nothing more than an inside joke. Until today. Nate and I started out around 10:30am for our try at 3 loops. This place is rugged. Each loop consists of a 6 +/- Mile loop that goes up and over North and South Mountains in the park. Each loop holds about 2200' of elevation gain. On a good day, we can bang out one 6 mile loop in about 1 hour 25 minutes. The average time is about 1:35. As if its not challenging enough, we've chosen to run the loop in November, once all of the leaves are down covering the rocks and roots that make up this park. And on a day where the temp hovers around 50 and a heavy thick drizzle falls from the sky.

We held no reservations about finishing. With the uncertainty of how Nate's foot would hold up under the stress of the run, and how I would hold up staying warm given recent affects of my anemia... we agreed that we'd simply run as far as we comfortable could. If we got 3 loops in, great! If not.. ce la vie and we'd live to try another day.

The Pawtuckaway Mountains are a small, rocky, circular range that form the outline of an ancient volcanic ring dike dating from 130—110 million years ago. The ring dike, first completely mapped in 1944, is a smaller and more accessible example of the same kind of geological process that formed the Ossipee Mountains to the north. In 2008 the new public availability of aerial photography on Google Earth led one New Hampshire resident to discover the ring dike and wonder if it was the impact crater of a meteor. This same question was discussed on a geocaching forum in 2005.

Loop 1:
Rain continued to fall at a slow but steady clip this morning and not long after leaving the comfort of our cars I was soaked. Nate was wearing a light jacket and the warmth his body was generating caused him great discomfort. It didn't take him long to stop to shed a layer. We stashed a few water bottles for refills in a rock crevasse I know of near the stream at Round Pond before heading around to North Mountain. The run begins by us running down into the glacial hole that makes Pawtuckaway what it is. We make our way down a rock strewn doublewide trail to Round Pond. From here is where each loop starts and ends. The loops takes us out below The Lower Slab rock climbing area, along a marsh and then bypasses the bouldering area before making its way to the base of North Mountain. From here we climb steeply up alongside the Devils Den before topping out at a National Guard Repeater. The run then continues on to the top of North Mountain after one more gnarly incline. We then traverse the top of the mountain and get lead down a steep steep downhill section which is marred by lose rocks.

After making it to the bottom of North Mountain, we run on snowmobile trails and dirt roads across this section of the park to the base of South Mountain. From here we work our way around the trails and climb steeply once again to the top of South Mountain which is home to one of New Hampshires 14 active Fire towers. From here, we run through some large boulder areas before making our way downhill to "the stream" which we cross and then run alongside on an old road, remnants from the old town that once existed here. Then we head over to "The Switchbacks" working our way down and around to the shores of Round Pond which lead us back to the start/finish. Great.. one loop complete. Only one problem.. the downed leaves make it hard to follow the trails we know so well which causes us minor confusion along the way and a few moments of memory lapse.

Loop 2:
The rain had let up and the mist dropped heavily now. I was soaked and cold but continued to move along as gracefully as possible. I have a few kinks left from the RANH. IT Band issue in my right knee and a sore right quad and piriformis. As we completed North Mountain we ran along the snowmobile trails, I took notice as we always do to the old foundations that lie silent in these woods. We speculate one to be an old church given its enormity and the close proximity to the old Cemetery that lies forgotten in the wood as well. The settlers all died in the last 1800's at ages as old as 85! Simply unheard of for the time period and it seems as though all those who rest here, lived to be older in age! After much searching on the internet, I have found no information about this lost town.. I am intrigued.

We got lost and turned around coming off of South Mountain. It took me awhile to figure out we had gone the wrong way and only after we lost a few hundred feet of elevation. I made Nate turn around with me and return to the top so we could find our way once again. We added miles and elevation... great.

Loop 3:
We though it would kill us. We certainly hiked much slower than we had on the previous two loops and we were feeling the burn. But Loop 3 hurt no more or less than loop 2 usually does. As we ran down North Mountain we ran into two hikers, "Are you guys ok or is this your normal pace?" Must be interesting to imagine that some people "run" down mountains. hehe. We carried on and made quick work of the usual running sections before staggering up South Mountain on last time. After returning to the bottles at Round Pond, we headed back up the trail to the cars.

Pawtuckaway N-S Loop x3
20 Miles
7,000+ Feet of Elevation Gain
5 Hours 20 Minutes


It was great to be out challenging myself again. I haven;t done much running this month, or since the RANH, opting to take some time off to regather myself and allow my body a chance to rest. Nate and I had a great time reminiscing about what we've accomplished this year. I think we did all that we set out to do. We look very much ahead to 2009 and continued success and dreams. We have some great (crazy) ideas shaping up for 2009 and we hope some of you will come on out and join us in our adventures. If two knuckleheads like us can do it.. so can you. Stay tuned! Good news is.. while his foot was sore, it is evident that his foot is healing faster than I had originally thought! Way to go Nate! We talked about many things we've been waiting to talk about and it was just an all around excellent run to partake in. Snow will be falling soon and the trails will disappear.. looks like road running looms ahead.

Happy Trails
SJ

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flakes On Kearsarge South

I hiked to the top of Mount Kearsarge back in January with my friend Pete. (Read the Old Report!) I remember the magnificent views from the top of the 2,900' peak, I knew it was a no brainer when Jen told me she wanted to go hiking Tuesday. There were many options available at first, but after a lazy start to our morning, many of those options quickly disappeared. I was left with two. 1.) Short Hike, minimal views of Manchester (Uncanoonuc) or 2.)Longer hike with 360 degree Views. Jen was quick in deciding where to go, so we loaded up the car and headed west.

We stopped on our way at National PowerSports Distributors to say hello to Nate. I haven't seen Nate since the Run Across New Hampshire. The Healing of his foot has gone slowly thus far just like the sales of raffle tickets for the bike we are raffling off. This is a great time for me to remind you all that we are raffling off a 2007 Honda Shadow 600. We will ship the bike ANYWHERE in the world. Tickets are $20 each and the drawing is around December 15th. The proceeds from raffle ticket sales go directly to The Make-A-Wish Foundation of New Hampshire. After planning some runs of our own in the coming weeks and months, Jen and I headed out to the mountain. "Just a little farther..." I should have told her the drive was a bit on the longer side.

After a tasty lunch at a coffee shop in the tiny town of Warner, we made our way to Rollins State Park where our first observation was that of a closed and locked gate of the access road to the trailhead. The trailhead had now changed and our hike was shaping up to be much longer that the .5 miles we anticipated. As we made our way up the, at times steep, road to the state Park, flakes fell from the sky all around us. The small trickling streams and run-offs on the sides of the road are now home to icicles. The high mountain ponds have a thin sheet of ice encasing the top of the water, and the tiny balls of snow bounce off of everything, sticking to only what is all ready frozen. The sky was overcast, gloomy grey and the wind picked up the higher up we went.

Upon finally reaching the summit of the Mountain, we were treated to the 360 degree views I had promised. Snow fell to the valley in the surrounding areas. A chilly wind blew from the west north west. A small group of folks had hiked up from the other side of the mountain, a few kids with a fascination of spitting off the ledge and being far too loud and crazy for the relaxing souls liking. As we explored the summit we overheard one of the mothers/babysitters talking.. what she said "explained it all." We got a good chuckle and headed back down the mountain. As the sun set for the day, the road grew darker and the earth around us more quiet. On the way up AND down the mountain, the road seemed to never end. Our small hike turned into an 8 mile jaunt. Regardless of how long it was or how long it took, it was an amazing time shared between two valued friends.

Happy Trails
SJ

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Race Director 101

I was going to write a multi-part report of my experience from this past weekends New England Ultras; but I've decided to just stick to telling you folks very matter-of-factly about my experience as a Race Director over the last year and of course this past weekend. I would start by saying that directing a race is no different then running a race. I felt just as stressed and wrecked post-race as I have at the end of any long ultra. But with the job came many highs and lows, disappointments, aggrivations, moments of elation and personal satisfaction. Here is the story:

I am very proud to be a part of the Peak Races team. We hold a series of races in Pittsfield, VT that are into our second year on the scene. We have a Snowshoe Marathon/Half, 150/100/50 Milers in Illinois in April, 50 Miler in June, Death Race in June, 6 Hour Mountain Bike Race in August.. and our new edition of our November Funeral Run. Back in April of 2007, I spoke with Andy Weinberg, Our expert RD, at the McNaughton Park 150/100/50 miler. We talked about putting on a longer race in Pittsfield and how challenging it would be given the terrain and potential of elements. As time wore on, the idea was solidified and the race was going to be put on. I really wanted to try my hand at being an RD and give back to the community I have grown to love. So after discussion with Andy, I took it upon myself to accept the job as RD of the New England Ultras in Pittsfield and Andy would be my Assistant RD.

Fast forward to April of this year. I got the ball rolling with an e-mail to the rest of the Peak Racing team. The e-mail included an action list of things that needed to be completed for the race to happen. I envisioned a very difficult, multi-loop/p2p 100 mile and 200 Mile ultra that would challenge even the seasoned veteran. The race would be very grass roots. No fancy buckles for awards, no over the top aid stations, no massive clock keeping time. Just people... running. Left, Right, Repeat. The way it should be. We offered our races at a rather inexpensive price. If you figure the Western States 100 costs $300 to enter.. our race was affordable at $210 for 200 Miles. This was also important to me, that we offer the race cheap and hope to only cover our costs.

People started signing up and the real work began. But when August rolled around, the wrenches came flying.. and very quickly I wished I had never accepted the job. Turns out that our original race date was Nov 6-9... which also happens to be youth hunting weekend in Vermont. I could envision 12 year olds with shot guns shooting at racers thinking they were frolicking white tailed deer. So we moved the race date forward a weekend. I then asked how everyone was doing on the action list. No one had accomplished anything, and then I found out that they were unable to help anyway. Great... now it was down to Joe and I. Furthermore.. no one was getting landowner permissions for us at all over the summer.. and it was now much too late to even begin to ask. So.. Joe and I scrambled to come up with an idea for a course... and we discussed at great length if we would even put the race on at all. Joe's main concern is that it ended up being a profitable enterprise. The amount of pressure I felt was getting to an insurmountable point because I had to ensure to Joe that the race wouldn't run in "the red."

Long story short (haha), we decided to put the race on anyway saying, "You've gotta start somewhere" and do our best to give the runners what we thought they'd want in a quality challenging course, good aid stations, free stuff and a great time. Thankfully, one of the Peak Organizers sacrificed some of his time to help us design a course. So to Jason Hayden, who has a beautiful loving family; and is very dedicated to his job.. I thank you for your time in helping us create one hell of a challenge for these runners. The weekend before the race, I headed up to Pittsfield to mark the course. Thanks to Steve Van Orden for his help in making sure the ribbons were hung with care. And after running the loop, we had a good sense of how seemingly impossible 200 miles seemed. Thanks to our sponsor Moeben Sleeves and Darn Tough Socks for giving us some great product to hand out to our runners.

Being a race director is a full time job. A full time job that I tried to do on part time hours. I'm embarrassed by this. I really think the race suffered because of it. In reality, there was nothing more I could do. I just spread myself too thin. I work part time at EMS, I'm a full time student, I was preparing to run across NH and I was the best man in a wedding in Virginia. All of this in the weeks directly leading up to the race. I was operating under the mind set that, "how bad could it be?" It can get pretty bad if you're not careful. I really felt like I was behind in race preparations even in the days leading right up to the race.

Regardless of how we got there.. the race was going on and I was in Pittsfield to ensure everyone got started and came to their finish-line safely. Out of the 8 who registered for the 200 mile run, only 4 showed up. Five miles into the first loop and Pete Stringer had to drop out. He slipped on some ice and aggravated an old back injury. I felt really bad for Pete as he is one of those people in our sport that you just HAVE to look up to. He is a true champion and an ambassador to say the least. The first night was a frigid 18 degrees in the valley. John Izzo came out and helped set up and feed the fire. I took a nap on the ground, all wrapped in my sleeping bag and woke up as runners came in. I napped again an hour later for another hour, woke up, helped a runner.. then moved to my car. I slept in the car for two hours. So on the first night I managed to fit 3 naps in for 4 hours of sleep. One of those times that I woke to help a runner, I had frost on my glasses, my face and everything else. It was damn cold! I can;t imagine how uncomfortable it was for the runners but this is what we wanted. This with the fact that 4" of snow covered the higher elevations of the course made it not only challenging but perfect.

When the sun rose on Friday, the aid station on the course was unmanned for most of the day. Unfortunately its not easy finding volunteers to come and help you when they all have jobs. We did our best to help the runners by periodically checking in up there. I then had the job of helping Anthony carve about 300 pumpkins for the Pittsfield Halloween Pumpkin lighting. Not very much fun to say the least but it gave me something else to do.. on top of getting ready for the 100 milers to register, check in, etc etc etc. Watching 3 runners run a 12.5 mile loop can get pretty boring but we made the best of it. I was awake for 89 hours and only managed to find time for a total of 8 hours of sleep in that time. 4 hours on Thursday Night, 3 hours on Friday Night and 1 hour on Saturday Night. I really hated leaving the race each time... I wanted to direct. It was fun. I only wish I had more volunteers and a bigger crowd running. But I suppose for a first year race it was perfect.

Highlights:
1.) The first highlight came on Sunday Morning. On his two previous trips to the Aimee Farm aid station, Randy Dietz came in and wanted to quit. We talked him back out onto the course both times. When he finished his 2nd to last lap, he came in and look haggard. I asked him, "Randy.. want a beer?" He gave me a rather quiet, tired and depressing sounding "yes." When Randy showed up, he gave me one of his favorite beers to try... As he was searching within himself for that extra something to get him to the finish, I was honored to sit beside the fire and share my beer with Randy. When we finished, he looked at me, stood up and I told him, "Get out of here.. I'll see you at the finish." This really moved me, that a runner would take the time to just sit down and enjoy a beer... a few times prior wanting to quit.. and leaving knowing he would finish. Simply amazing.

2.) For quite a long time into the race John Bridges yelled that I had better save the last 10 mile lap he had to join him. I didn't bring any of my running gear, and I didn't even want to run. But, when the time came, I was honored and humbled that John still meant it and asked me if I was ready to go. I left the race to one of my volunteers and headed off to pace John on his final 10 of 200 miles. Joe Holland came along with his wonderful dog and we really enjoyed a little over 2 hours together on the course. John is an animal and true champion. 190+ miles into the longest race.. and this guys was still running negative splits. It was a truly moving experience.

3.) Carl Asker... the course closed at 72 hours and at that point Carl had only run 150. As we tore everything down, and prepared to go home.. Carl continued on, refusing to quit until he completed 200 miles. And he did it all for Tyme For Lyme and Lyme Disease Awareness. Carl embodies what determination is. He exemplifies what strength and courage is. Human Potential... yeah, Carl's got PLENTY of that. It was amazing to watch him go... but beyond frustrating to watch him sleep! Carl slept more during the race than I still have since the race! lol.

All in all it was an amazing experience to be an RD. I don't think I can do it again at this time in my life. Timing is just bad and the work is just unreal. Putting on a 200 mile... 72 hour event was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But as the last runner came in off of the course on Sunday, I stood watching his headlamp bobbing through the woods with a real sense of pride. Pride in knowing that the mission was accomplished. The first annual New England 200 Mile, 100 Mile and 50 Mile ultras had been completed successfully. A huge thanks to all of you who came to help volunteer and an even bigger thanks to the runners who came out and tried the course. I knew that it would take a massive army to put an event like this on.. but we managed to do it with less than a dozen dedicated volunteers. Thanks to JP Lewicke, Steve and Allyson an Orden, Josh Robert and Loni Allen, Cory Delavalle, Adam Wilcox, John Izzo, Joe Desena, Andy Weinberg, Mike Halovatch, Kate Pallardy, Jason Hayden, Angela at The General Store and Ray Zirblis. You're volunteerism and help was paramount in ensuring the success of the race. Without you it would have never happened. I'm not sure who will direct it next year.. but I'll be there helping.. or maybe even running. As far as this year goes.. it was a real pleasure to be able to give back to the running community in such a small way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Results

Here are the results from this past weekend New England Ultras
200 Miles
4 Starters
1. John Bridges M 32 69:59

100 Miles
9 Starters
1. Courtenay Guertin M 33 26:58
2. Al Laporte M 39 30:57
3. Randy Dietz M 58 31:57
4. Ri Fahnestock M 29 34:19

50 Milers
8 Starters
1. Ben Nephew M 33 8:56
2. John Fegyveresi M 31 11:55
3. Austin Stonebraker M 29 13:26
4. Charlotte Vasarhelyi F 32 14:12
5. Sharon Zelinski F 43 14:25
5. John Turner M 49 14:25
7. Jennifer-Anne Mineri F 33 15:50

Of course it wouldn't be my style if I didn't take some time to share the experience with you all. All in due time. I'm totally wrecked from directing the race this weekend. All told, I was awake for over 89 Hours and only managed to get 5 hours of sleep sprinkled into that time frame. My body hates me! So, once I get a chance to catch up with school and life.. I'll be sure to report here how things went and to tell you why I'll probably never direct another race in the immediate future. It certainly had its highs and lows, and was an experience I'll never forget.

In the mean time.. its election day. The first votes in the entire nation are cast here in New Hampshire on election day in a tiny town called Dixville Notch. Dixville Notch has a population of 21 people, and at midnight on the day of the elections they cast their votes. Very early this morning, Obama won the town 15-6. I'm off to the polls to perform my civic duty. I hope you will as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New England Ultras


So I'm off to Pittsfield, VT for the weekend to try my hand at race directing. So far the experience has been educational for sure and once I return from the weekend, I plan on sharing my thoughts on the topic with all of you. Basically, regardless of how this weekend turns out, its going to be a very VERY long time before I am a race director once again.

The 200 Milers start on Thursday evening, 5pm. They have 72 Hours to complete the course.
The 100 Milers start on Saturday morning, 5am. They have 36 Hours to complete the course.
The 50 Milers (New option) start on Sunday Morning, 6am. And they have 12 hours to complete the course.

I toured the course on Sunday when I went out to hang the ribbons. It's a muddy, slick, slippery mess. About 90% of the leaves are down and strewn about the trail. They are saturated and cover up all of the rocks and roots. Over the last 5 days the course has received over 4" of rain and from what I hear, a few inches of snow last night. Water was pouring out of everywhere on Sunday and I'm certain it still is. The few muddy sections we have are slippery and deep. Runners WILL BE WET and miserable... or maybe they enjoy it. Quite a challenge lay before them and its our duty to help them succeed through the best of all of our abilities. It should be a good time.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, we need volunteers. Pittsfield is on Route 100 in Vermont. We'd love to have you. Feel like running? We welcome you to our mountains to run as many or few laps as you desire. The course is open. Runners will need pacers. Or maybe you want to enjoy a nice challenging long run. We'll be there.. come see us at the Aimee Farm. Good luck to all those all ready registered, including Ri Fahnestock, who if and when he completes the 100 mile event, will win the coveted $10,000 Peaks Purse for completed ALL of our races this past year. (Snowshoe Marathon, McNaughton Park 100, Peaks 50, Death Race, 666 Mt. Bike and 100 Mile Funeral Run)!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

RR: The Run Across New Hampshire Part 3

Part 3 - The Final Part.
CLICK HERE FOR PART 1
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2
CLICK HERE FOR PICTURES
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Portsmouth or Bust
The discomfort I feel is nothing I didn't expect. I am amazed at how much my body is literally shaking. Shaking from the tremors of running this far on the pavement and its evident that my body is in a state of shock. My knees are sore and IT Bands tight. My feet are killing me, however the pain has been so horrible for so long that my feet are actually starting to go numb. This is something I never expected... my feet going numb. They are so swollen from the run that they literally fill every inch of my shoes. I am however re-energized and ready to finish this run up. I'm within the Portsmouth City Limits now. Nate has come back to cheer me on. I am once again being cared for by a full crew and we've picked up about 4 runners. As we left the EMS parking lot, I noticed that Josh was back out with us. "What are you doing man?!" "Hey... I've gotta finish this with you." I was totally stoked. We were now a party of 10 runners. Just as we were heading out, my professor Brent came up to me and told me he had something for me. He pulled from his pocket a book written by John Dewey titled, Experience & Education. This book we've been dissecting for a few weeks in class now and I'd be lying if I told you I loved it. But the fact that Brent took it out, opened it up and read a short quote from the book... actually a random quote. Regardless, not only was it funny, but it meant a lot. So Brent.. this is for you.. a Dewey quote that speaks to me: "Every experience is a moving force. Its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into." ~J. Dewey

We ran as a solid group out of the parking lot and headed back to Woodbury Ave. I thought it would be funny to get to Woodbury Ave and stand there waiting for the Crossing Lights to change to walk. Here I was 115 miles into a run, and I was actually willing to stop to wait for a light. I think mostly because I was afraid of being slammed by a car and hurt with so little left to go on the run. We cross the busy avenue and made our way onto the sidewalk where I decided to run a little bit in the grass. Of course it felt nice to run on the grass, but it was short lived. All I could think about was, "Well, I ran on the damn pavement this long." So I got off the grass and continued to run down the sidewalk. For some reason I really felt more fluid on the pavement at this point. I'd run for so long on it that I actually felt like I was a part of it. And judging by how my calves, legs and feet had hardened from the run, perhaps I really was a part of the sidewalk. A row of tree's grow from the other-side of a chain link fence. Its branches reach high and sway over the sidewalk, but someone has cleared the way creating a tunnel for us to run through. Its dark under the branches even though the sun shines brightly on the other end. Its rays reach inside our tunnel... trying to grab us and free us from the darkness. There always seems to be some darkness, light always teases us to be free. As we run out from the tunnel we continue to run under I-95 and along the shores of Portsmouth Harbor.

As we ran down Woodbury Ave I could feel my pace picking up still. I ran at a pretty good clip, maybe even 10 minute miles or faster. Josh looked at me and said, "You smell the ocean can't you?" Indeed I could smell the ocean. I could feel the waves, I could hear them crash. I was quiet and content. I thought about all that I had been through thus far. I was feeling amazingly great and I had no understanding of why. As we ran ahead we entered the historic streets of Portsmouth. Colonial homes lined the tight and narrow streets. We followed the signs for Strawberry Banke, which led us past one of our states first settlements. I very much think about how hard they must have had it in the late 1600's; landing their ships on our shore and starting life over. If they could only see us now as cars zip and zing through the streets. But Portsmouth is very much a "horse and buggy" kinda town, and you get the feel of it as its many residents walk on by. We pass many old churches as church goers climb out of the pews and pack into the world. As we pass by one house of worship, I remove my hat and give my respects to religion. As we wind through town and Rout 1B is just ahead, I look back to make sure we have everyone. Apparently in my speedy uptake, we lost sight of some of the girls and they had fallen off the pack. I stopped on a median strip and waited while laying in the grass. The sun shines gloriously, the leaves continue to rustle and the colors fall from the sky. Its windy and chilly but the perfect day none-the less. The girls rejoin us and Tory looks tired. She urges me to move on and they'll catch up. "No way in Hell! I invited you guys to enjoy this moment with me. I want you to experience it. This is no race. There is no cut-off, no reward... we're doing this together." And as I got to my feet, I told Tory we could walk for a while.

New Castle and The News
We turned onto Route 1B and continued to run out of Portsmouth and across the bridge onto Goat Island and the Island known as New Castle. The wind is really whipping through this area as w are now at sea level running along New Hampshire's Granite Shores. As we cross the bridge onto the island I see our crews set up and ready to go. Everyone runs in together and attends to their individual needs. I get ushered over to a car where a WMUR-TV News 9 reporter is waiting to conduct an interview. Nate has been giving him some background information about our run. As Nate answers questions, the reporter and camera man see me, step in front of Nate and block him out. The attention was now on me and I caught all of this. I felt terrible for Nate, as if he didn't feel bad enough.. after this run I have found just how ignorant reporters and the rest of the media can be. Reporter: "So John, what's the story here?" Me: "The story is that this has always been a dream of mine, I've always wanted to run across the state of New Hampshire and really enjoy its beauty, up close and personal instead of through the car window and thats exactly what I got this weekend. This state has a lot to offer if people would just slow down and enjoy it." I was so exhausted at this point that I was lucky to even get that much out. I thanked the reporters for coming out, went to the aid vehicles and just asked that my bottles be refilled. I'm done eating, but continue to take in some Powergels. I've eaten so many gels that the taste buds have been burned from my tongue. To continue on about the media, my phone rang while running and it was a photographer from the Boston Globe, she wanted to know if I still planned to be at the finish between 1 and 2. I told her I had no idea what time it even was so I couldn't even begin to tell her what time it would be. With 4 miles to go, anything could happen. She then asked if I could give her "an exact time of my arrival." NO. Then she said, "Well, can you call me when you're getting closer or is that too much to ask?" Too much to ask... is that too mush to ask?! Yes.. its too much to ask. At 120 miles into this run, I am doing nothing but concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, forgetting about the pain, thinking about my friends at Make-A-Wish and reminiscing about this great journey.. "Yes.. it is too much to ask." And I hung up.

We leave the Goat Island fishing area and continue to run through New Castle. The tiny colonial homes here are even closer together than they were in Portsmouth, and many of them are the originals that have stood strong here since before the revolution. The immense history that has transpired on these rocky shores, rushed through my soul. I have such an appreciation for history, when men were men, when winter was winter. I can't even imagine how hard life used to be. The wind continued to whip across the water making it quite a challenge for us to push on through while crossing tiny bridges. The harbor is choppy as white capped waves crash along the shore. Tiny boats lie resting on the sides of the water, I can see Maine to my left and Portsmouth to my right. A man riding a bicycle continues to ride along our route and cheers us on at short intervals, "You're doing amazing John.. almost there." I start to think about it... almost there. I feel amazing. I know I can keep running and I don't want this to end. I know I could run further, but for what or from what. I knew I needed to stop.. and the end was pulling us closer. We continue to run and walk together as a unified group of runners. We turned a few more corners, ran past Wentworth By The Sea, and crossed one last bridge. As we crossed the bridge, I looked to my left and saw Odiorne State Park... the end of this incredible journey. I could see it! Emotion began to overcome me.. and I knew I just had to keep it together. We entered Rye and the crew was stopped at the final aid station with less than 3 miles to go.

I ran in and the crew asked me what I needed, "Nothing but to finish." The celebration was starting. Everywhere I turned people were taking photos, shaking my hand and patting me on the back. I still have 2 or so miles to go, and I was ready for all of it. I noticed Jason from the Make-A-Wish Foundation was ready to run as was my dad. My dad.. I was so touched that my dad had decided to come out and run the final miles with us. Another family whose daughter was the recipient of a wish a few years ago had come out to support and they were running as well. Our party of ten was now a party of 14. i had dreamed of this moment for years. Everything that I wanted this run to be is exactly how it was, right down to a crowd of good people, with hearts bigger than my own running along side me in the thrill of accomplishment, and the acknowledgment of achievement through adventure. I told the crews to get to the finish and I'd see them there. I rallied the runners and we were off. 2 miles to go!

We ran down Route 1A, the wind has died now, blocked by the trees that line the land between the ocean and this road. Its not much farther now. I lead the group of 14 runners and keep looking back to see where my dad was. I spotted him at the end. I pulled off to the side and instructed everyone to run ahead. I stopped and waited for Dad to catch up. Dad:"Hey.. you're supposed to be leading this thing." Me:"Nah.. thats overrated, I want to run with my father. Thanks Dad." We continue to run down the road and talk lightly about what was about to transpire in the moments that were quickly to come. I looked over at Jason from Make-A-Wish, "Hey Jason, I just want you to know how much of a true honor and privilege it has been to run on behalf of your organization." I left the two men here, and surged back tot he front of the pack. As we rounded the corner, I saw the barrier lining the edges of Odiorne State Park. Nate and Sarah drive up in the van to tell me there is confusion at the Seacoast Science Center in terms of where I was going to finish. I tried explaining it to them.. but something was up. I told them to just wrangle everyone up in the parking lot.. and we'll go where we need to go together.. everyone can join me on the final bit. They loved the idea and so they drove off. Then I saw that Boston Globe photographer, she holds her camera up and starts snapping photos. She asks. "Where are you going?" I told her, "The finish is up here" "Well thats not where they told me it was." I'm not BEYOND pissed off at these reporters, I don;t even want them here. I could care less about them. So I tell her, "Well, I'm the guy who just ran 124 miles. I know where the finish is and I invite you to come on down, donate to Make-A-Wish, snap a few photos and celebrate with us. But thats up to you." I turn back to the road.. and push on. As I continue to run, I know the end is near. Less than a mile left, I get this sick idea in my head to push it a bit. I look back at the Don, smile and ask if he is ready.. "for what?" I turn around and start running an 8:30 minute mile down Route 1A. I'm smokin! Josh starts laughing, I hear someone breathing heavy behind me. I'm not breathing heavy, I'm not sweating.. so I ask, "Who's breathing heavy!?" Silence.. even the breathing stops. I look at Josh and we laugh. And before I know it.. we turn the final corner and I run through the front entrance of the Seacoast Science Center... the finish.

Welcome to Odiorne Point State Park
As I run into the parking lot, this loud round of applause breaks the silence. I hear people starting to yell, "Yeah John!" I couldn't believe it.. I made it... I was here. One of the first voices that sinks into my head is the distinctive voice of my brother in law Mike. I was so glad knowing that he, my sister and my young nephews were here to witness this moment. I continue to run forward, through the parking lot and out onto the grass. I see Karen Provazza who is one of coordinators of our finish line event. I ask her, "Where do I finish?" She pointed to the right, "Over by those rocks.. thats the Eastern-most point of our state." Great. I pause in the field, and wait for everyone to catch up. Runners, spectators.. everyone. Camera's are going off everywhere, its sheer craziness. People come up to me and start shaking my hand, patting me on the back. "Great job Sherpa.. simply amazing." I reply, "yes, but we're not there yet. Come on everyone! Come with me to the water!" I wave everyone to hurry up. "If I can run 124 miles.. you can run 124 feet!" I can feel my emotions starting to build and build. This is a moment in time, that I've always dreamt about. Man... I did it. I DID IT. And just then, I turn around and see Stephanie there, and just as she did the night before in Concord.. she lunges at me and throws her arms around me. I didn't think I could get a bigger hug.. but I did. And it was all I had in me not to cry. I hugged her, lowered my head to her ear and whispered to her, "Remember Steph... you can do anything you put your mind to in this life. Anything. If you can think it, you can do it. Always remember that... always." She shook her head yes and we continued to embrace.

I let go of Steph and noticed everyone had gathered. The round of applause was continuing, people cheering, whistling.. it was an amazing feeling. I felt like a rockstar. I found Karen and we started walking arm in arm towards the water. "Come on everyone, follow me!" As we walked to the water, Karen was in amazement. I looked at her with a smile and all I could say was, "Hey.. did you guys know that you are a LONG way away from Keene?" We got in a good laugh, walked through a row of bushes and in front of me was the ocean. "You're not going to jump in right?" Hmmm... "No" Hmmm... I continue to walk forward and crested the rocky hill lining the shore. Laid out before me is the mighty Altantic Ocean. Waves crash along the shore in the distance and against rocks that rise from the murky deep. The ocean has never in my life looked so amazingly beautiful.

I walk over the water tumbled stones, and stop to admire the view. Is this real? Did I really just do this? I feel amazingly great. I could keep on running.. but I'm here. I'm at the end. I walk down to the waters edge and suddenly everything gets quiet. I don't know where everyone else is, but in this moment, I felt totally alone. I heard no other person, just myself.. and my thoughts.

I watch as the waves crash against the shore, I hear the rush of the water, and smell the salt. A seagull soars above and lets out his distinctive call. Seaweed floats in and out with the tide. I walk to the edge of the water and step up onto a group of large boulders. The waves crash below my feet. I look out from my vantage point and realize that I've got nowhere else to run. The road ends here, the journey is over. The adventure is complete. I am overcome by emotion and crouch down, put my head in my hands and begin to cry. I did it... I really did it.

I stand back up straight and do all I could to just let it out. To let the world know that I did it... that I completed the greatest journey. I saw New Hampshire.. all of it. I stood tall, looked to the ocean, gazed upon the sea, threw my hands into the air and yelled "Yeaaaaaaaaaah!!... Whooooooo... Yeaaaaaaaahhh!" The silence was deafening as everyone simply watched. I wish I knew what they were all thinking, what they were seeing through their eyes.. what was their perspective on what was taking place.I wanted to know.. but I enjoyed the silence, I enjoyed my moment just as much with silence.

Yesterday morning, 31 Hours and 50 Minutes ago, I stood on the rocky river banks of the Connecticut River, gazed through the darkness at the state of Vermont. I filled a vial with water and vowed to carry it to the Atlantic. 31 Hours and 50 minutes... 124.4 miles later, I took out my vial, unscrewed the cap tipped it upside down and completed the rivers journey to the sea.

I couldn't resist. I'd run this far, I just became the first person to ever Run Across NH. 124 Miles... I couldn't believe it. The water was so beautiful as the suns rays danced on the top like gold on a river of coal. I jumped off the rocks I stood upon and walked into the water. Waves crashed against my weary legs, the 40 degree water made all the pain go away. Salt water touched all of my wounds, yet I felt nothing. Nothing but that sheer sense of accomplishment. There was no buckle, no medal.. just man and earth. I walked further into the water as the waves nearly knocked me down. I began to laugh like a child. I stopped, and looked out into the sea. I looked up at the sky and thanked god for allowing me the courage and strength to make it this far. But even more.. I looked beyond the clouds and spoke to my grandfather who I miss more and more everyday.. "We did it Moe... We did it."

I walked from the water. I really felt like my soul had been washed. My demons on solemn ships floating amongst the waves. Many lessons learned, take their place in my heart and the knowledge in knowing that I'll never glare into the distance the same again. I walk out of the water and Nate comes down to the edge and puts his hand upon my shoulder. "You did it man... nobody else here knows what you've been through quite like I do.... go ahead man... go ahead and cry.. You did it." I grabbed Nate and we embraced, two best friends. A fallen friend, a storied moment and a personal triumph all at once. I lost it.. and cried.. "you did it man.. simply amazing."

Nate and I stop and pose for more photos. And while Nate thinks his adventure ended at Mile 70, its hard for me to explain to him how it really didn't. Because from mile 70 to mile 124, I ran with his spirit in my mind. I ran to the ocean in knowing that I would get there for us. As the wind brushed across my face, and the salt water dripped from my shorts. I began to chill. Nate moved aside and my mom walked down to me. She held up a fleece jacket.. and wrapped it around me. "John.. this was Moe's jacket. I think he'd want to keep you warm right now." I just couldn't hold my emotions in anymore. I miss my best friend. I miss my grandfather. I cry in my mothers arms. I'm at a complete loss for words, but manage to find a way to thank mom. "Mom, you taught me all along that I could do anything I put my mind to... and I'm living proof of your example.. thank you.. I love you."


Final Thoughts
I walked from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean a new man. I have only managed to scrape against the surface of what I experienced and learned on my adventure across New Hampshire. This really is one amazing place, a land of hardened people, rugged lands and temperamental earthly extremes. I've said many things about this place and I've even talked about leaving here. After this weekend, I'm not sure if I could. I love New Hampshire and I'm so thankful that I had the opportunity in this life to see what my state has to offer me from a completely different perspective. We live in a land of machines. Man is just as much a machine as is a car. You can pedal a bike, run, skateboard or whatever. Whatever it is that you do.. take a moment to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty that your state has to offer. I promise you won't be disappointed.

I started running in 2004, and when I started running, I started as a way to prove myself to others. To prove the naysayers wrong, to prove that I am worth your time. That I care, that I'm human and that I have feelings just like everyone else. But on this 124 mile adventure, I finally understood that I don't have anything to prove to anyone. That I only need to run because I love to run. And it was this thought, from before I took my first step, that saw me to the ocean. I used to run because I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I know now that they are.. and not because of my ability to run.. but because I live every day of my life trying to utilize the morals and values they taught me as a young man. Because I appreciate this life for everything that it is and I try to live everyday as if its my last.

I'd like to sit here and tell you that a journey ended on Sunday when I made it to the ocean. But I can't. I can't because I know that while one adventure ended, the journey is just beginning. I've got many places to go in this life and I know that I'm going to reach all of them. Because I know what Human Potential really is, I know where it resides. I know how to tap into that place in my soul that helps me accomplish the seemingly impossible. I can accept that nothing is impossible, that if I can think it I can do it, that I can do anything I put my mind to and that the journey is not what is beneath my feet.. the journey is within. "HUMAN POTENTIAL is that little voice in your head that dares you to dream it, moves you to do it and wills you to experience it. It is unlimited.” ~SJ

On Saturday, October 18, 2008 I began the greatest adventure of my life. On Sunday, October 19, 2008; 31 Hours 50 Minutes after I began; I became the first person to ever run across New Hampshire and my dreams had once again come true. Its not hard to chase your dreams, the hard part is admitting that you can and even starting in the first place. I'm not sure I'll ever know everything I learned while running this weekend. And I'm glad because it leaves doors open to learn more in the future. These journey's are about self-discovery. I discovered a sense of self within me that I never knew existed. Proof that there is always more to learn. All I can say to all of you moving forward in your lives is this: "Listen Deep, Breathe Deep, Look Deep.... GO FAR."