Thursday, January 29, 2009

Progressing...

SO things are starting to come together again finally. My psych put me on a new medication called Buspar. Its another anti-anxiety medication. basically, my body is not producing enough serotonin to interact with the anti-depressant (lexapro). So the Buspar is a serotonin drug that is designed to create more serotonin in my body for the lexapro to react with. Things have been going much better since being placed on this medication except the fact that I am a bit of an insomniac now. So... bring on the sleeping pill. I feel like a walking pharmacy and I hate it. Its against my own moral standards to be taking any kind of drugs like these and now I take a whole collection of pills. I'm so disappointed but I see their purpose and they are working.

I feel like a giant cloud has finally been lifted up from over me and I'm finally getting a chance to view the wreckage in my life. What I have done, what I have been through thus far is not pretty. I'm very disappointed, and now begins the hard work of rebuilding myself and getting back on track. Hard work it is indeed but I am up to the task and ready to take it on. I'm very grateful to have such an amazing support system of friends and family and I thank them all. If not for them, things would be drastically different. I am humbled by and appreciative of you all. Thank you.

Two days left in January 2009 and I have just 13.4 miles to go to make it to the 100 mile mark for the month.. here's hoping I can get there!

Happy Trails!
SJ

I Dare You - Shinedown

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009

RR: The Boston Prep x2

Frigid Loops
Boston Prep 16 Miler x2
Derry, NH
16 Miles x2
Lap 1: 2:37:13
Lap 2: 2:50:22
Run Time: 5:27:35


The Boston Prep x2 is a tradition I started in 2008 and hope to continue in the years to come as one of my winter training runs. I posted on a few running websites and looked like I had a decent group ready to run with me this year. But as quickly as numbers came, they went.. going from a group of 7 to a group of what looked like 4. As I drove to the morning meeting place for our 6:30 meeting time, I noticed one of the bank thermometers read -10 degrees. I wondered how big our group was actually going to be. Upon arriving at the Derry Village School, the number was a tiny 3 of us. Bob Ayers had driven down from Burlington, VT to join me on both loops and Steve VanOrden from Newmarket had agreed to come out for the first loop only. Their company was greatly appreciated on what would turn out to be a frigid New Hampshire morning, an a great day for a run.

I arrived fashionably late in what is best known as "Sherpa Time" and quickly laced everything up and got ready to run. It was damn cold, and there are only a few times in my life that I've actually been out to run in temps this cold or colder. As we started to head up the hill to the official starting line of the race, the cold air was piercing through my fleece lined gloves and my hands were experiencing sharp and frigid pains of freezing. It was so cold and dry that the skin on my right thumb cracked open and I was soon bleeding. Not a great way to start a long day of running in these conditions but I have work to do.. it's time to get back on track.

Our small group quickly sunk into your typical telling of various ultra and life tales. At a time in my life where it is impossible to predict where my brain is bound to travel , the conversation was nice as it really started to help bring things back into a perspective I've been missing. As we carried on down the frigid roads of Derry we passed over Green spray painted lines in the road, and before we knew it, a nd a few hills later.. we were all ready halfway done the loop. Amazing how much good conversation can help make the time pass. I didn't wear a watch today, so I had no idea how much time had passed. I just knew that the goal of loop one was to take it easy, run when I could, walk the hills and just enjoy the company. This is exactly what was accomplished. I was covered from head to toe in a thin frost that was caused by the condesation of fluids from my body. My hat, my gloves, my fleece neck warmer.. everything had a thin layer of frost on it and Bob joked that I looked like Frosty The Snowman.

As we made our way up "The Hill" at Mile 11-13, Bob supplied me with many quips; one in particular sticks in my mind. "Not bad today... better tomorrow." This would become the focus of my thoughts for the remainder of the day as I would begin to struggle and look for that finish line. As we moved over the crest of the courses biggest hill and began our descent for the finish, my legs and brain started to tire. It was so cold that the fluids in my handhelds were a concoction of frozen protein slush. Eating and drinking on this run was becomming a serious chore and things were unfolding just as I had expected they would. Steve was starting to tired and getting a bit quiet... so was I... I was wondering how a second loop was going to go.. I've done this long enough to know. I needed to really lace it up now if I'm going to complete the day.
-----------------------------------

Loop 2: Miles 16.5-33
In returning to the school, I stopped off at my car to get my check book and head inside to register quickly for the race itself. Over 600 runners were lining up in this years edition of the Boston Prep 16 Miler and the small group of us joked if we thought we were "ready for Boston." I doubted it... not sure I'll ever be ready or even really care about Boston. WHATEVER. Ha! After getting my bib number and pinning it to my fleece pants I joined Bob out in the hallway as we said our goodbyes to Steve. I was starting to shiver from the cold sweaty clothes I was wearing and knew I needed to return to my car for a quick change. Bob's girlfreind had brought us many ultra-goodies and I stopped here first to enjoy half a banana, a cookie and refilled my water bottles before heading out to the car. At my car, I stripped frozen layers off, put new warm layers on and then quickly rushed out of the school parking lot with the rest of the crowd. Bob and I ran to the starting line where once we got there, I knelt down and tightened up my shoe laces. It was time to dig deep and really give it hell.

There was no gun shot, I didn't even hear a go. All I experienced was a wave of people all moving forward in unison and just like that, the second loop was on. The temp was probably around 10 degrees now which of course felt more like 30. The mass of runners head down the road, bottle necking one another as we stretched from snowbank to snowbank. The pace was comfy, but I could tell Bob was wanting and ready to run a bit faster than I. I was in the middle of a tough spot and was hoping to snap out of it. We giggled and rolled our eyes as we collectively listenned to the various conversations happening around us. Then we started looking at what people were wearing as many were dressed for arctic mountaineering expeditions rather then your 16 mile run. As I glanced over and noticed a guy in what looked like rain gear, running with a hiking pack on.. We chuckled as I looked closer... and i said, "Hey, that looks like Bogie D." Surely it was, and Bogie and I broke out into sarcastic and fun conversation. Bogie is an area Ultra RD and ultrarunner, just out for the race.

Around Mile 3.5 I stopped to relieve myself in the woods as Bob took off. I'm kind of glad that he did as it was obvious he was interested in running a different pace then I was for the second loop. Bob is in much better shape than I and I know he was really enjoying the day. After coming out of the woods, he was no where to be found and I was no struck with a sense of urgency as I was about to take on the final 12 miles alone. But I suppose this wasn't a bad thing because I was finally being given some time to challenge my mind in ways different than that in which I have implored as of late. I put my head down and started to struggle... what mile is it? Oh yeah... 20.. and that wall was right in front of me.

My bottles are completely frozen now haven been out in the cold for well over 4 hours. My gels are hard as a rock and I'm sure that I'm not squeezing out all of the gel that rests inside. I'm really struggling now. My legs are tired and so is my brain. I've been thinking for miles now. How did I ever run across New Hampshire? In a phone call post run Nate reminded me that currently I am dealing with depression, lack of motivation, recovery from a surgery that I haven't yet been cleared to run after yet and a severe lack of training. It's funny because I was thinking about all of the above factors around Mile 10 of Loop 2 (Mile 26) and thinking about quitting the run. Quitting the run... are you KIDDING ME?! I had just run a marathon, 10 more miles than all of these people will run today and I'm thinking about quitting. I stop and walk and manage to crack a bottle open to slurp down some slush. I'm hungry, my stomach is gurgling and I just want to be done. I'm sore. I haven't run an ultra distance since running across New Hampshire in the middle of October 3 months ago. "I can do this.... I can do this,... one step at a time John... one step at a time."

Yes... ultra running really is like life. One step at a time. Horrible now but maybe better later. I kept running when I could and for stretches shorter than I would have liked. I was like a wobbling ship on the verge of sinking in rough seas. From left to right, speed up, slow down. It must have been a gruesome sight to see. Where is everybody? Wouldn't someone come out to cheer me on? Anyone? No.. too damn cold... I'm all alone.. and just simply running. I wanted to quit, and then I started thinking, Well how did I make it across New Hampshire 3 months ago? Oh Yeah! I ran the flats when I could, and I walked all the hills... and I just enjoyed the journey. And so it was as well on this frigid day in January, that I churned my gears when I could, and walked more than I would have liked. When I ran I pushed at levels I should only exude in 5 and 10K's... I was on a mission to finish. There is no quitting.. there is no DNF... this is a tradition. Relentless Forward Progression.

As I crested that big hill one last time, and started to run the stretches for home, my calves began to cramp. One of the race staples is warm gatorade. I cooled it off by dumping a bit of cold water into the cups, and sucked down a few S! Caps to curve the cramps. I could barely run now, it was more like a shuffle. I could feel the chaff burning between my thighs and in my groin. I'm in rough shape now... I need this to be over with. I started playing "phone pole." I...walk...I...run....I...walk...I...run... etc. Anything to get to the finish line. This was at one point a race. I was trying to keep up with people in my general vicinity. I was trying to stop being passed, but with 2-3 miles to go, I could care less if anyone else was running at all. I just ran, with purpose when I could, and am determined to get this ship back on track. Mentally, physically and spiritually. I'm going to get there.

I rounded the turn and sprinted up the final incline to the finish line, finishing the actual race with a time of 2:50:22 my worst time here EVER. I placed 596th out of 655 finishers (803 Starters). Not the best results ever but I'm more than glad I got out there. After crossing the finish line I received my "finishers award" a hand towel from the 2007 Boston marathon... Left-overs. I went into the gym to get some food and drink... plenty to drink but all of the food was all ready gone. But that was ok.. I hopped right into my car, went to my mothers house and loaded myself up with some of her home made chicken noodle soup. That always cheers and warms you up. Thanks Mom.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Run Preview: Boston Prep x2


This Sunday will be the second year that myself and a small group of intrepid runners will take on the Boston prep 16 Mile course not once, but twice in the same day for a total distance of 32 miles. We started this little tradition last year with a cold and snowy run through the hilly streets of Derry, NH. This year, no snow but it'll surely be cold as hell. Temps are scheduled to be below zero for the 6:30am Start and hopefully into the teens for the 10AM start of the official race. I have no time goals for this event, I'm just glad to be getting outside and running an ultra-distance to bring my monthly numbers for January up towards the century mark which I hope to surpass over the course of the next week. It'll also be a good way to get me outside and chomping at the bit to continue my training towards the 2009 Ultra Season.

Wish us Luck!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Dark Age

It's been a long few days... I haven't had a good nights sleep since some time last week. All I've managed to do is sit up at night, lying awake, staring into the darkness, feeling the wet tears stream down my face. Its so easy for someone to say "snap out of it" or to ask "what's wrong with you?" I wish the answers were that easy. Unfortunately, I can't just snap out of it and I have no idea what the hell is wrong with me. I'm stuck in a deep dark place, it has a strangle hold over my entire being. I do things wihtout knowing why. I say things and make decision and not knowing why I made them. I look back on the day and feel like its been 3 days. I look back on a week and feel like its actually been 2 weeks. Time itself has been altered in my life... it's creeping by at a snails pace... no end in sight.

I'm feeling a bit better today thanks to the help of family and friends yesterday. Many of them come here and read this, this is no place to properly thank them. Hell, I don;t even know how to properly thank them. I can tell you that some of them think that leaving me alone is the best way to help me... I agree in the sense that sometimes i just don't feel like talking. But I can honestly tell you that having people step out of my life is NOT a help at all.. it makes me worse, makes me feel ill and sad.. knowing that this illness in which I have no clear control over is causing such rifts in important relationships. It drives me nuts.

From the ages of 11-15 I sunk into a time of my life known only to me as "The Dark Ages." A time in which I made a concerted effort to simply forget everything. Believe it or not, as a young man now, I can think back to many memories of my life... but it's this time period which I truly have managed to completely black out. I have few memories of this time period, not many of them good but there are some. It's because of this reaction that I now love taking photographs so much... a way to document history so that in the event that I am sinking back into a Dark Time, I might be able to hang onto memories through the gifts of photographs. Unfortunately, I know that I am now once again on the doorstep of Dark Times, unfortunately at 27 years old... this is not a place I desire to be. I want to enjoy life, I want to remember its many lessons for what they are. But I want more than anything to have a more positive effect on the lives around me, rather than this current negative schema. I'm desperate, I'll do anything.. I just want to be FINE again. I'm tired of crying, tired of sleepless nights, tired of pull my hair out of my head... I want to look up again and walk proudly across the earth, knowing who I am, where I've been and where I am going. Right now.. I'm here, without a mission, without a purpose or reason... I'm scared, lost and alone.. I do still feel like my disappearing will only better the lives of those closest to me.. as crazy as it sounds... its not all that crazy in my head. Or maybe crazy is just what I am...

"A woman can forgive a man for the harm he does her...but she can never forgive him for the sacrifices he makes on her account." ~W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence English dramatist & novelist (1874 - 1965)

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Struggle Continues

"The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt." ~Thomas Merton (1915 - 1968)

It was a struggle to roll out of bed today, as it is most days it seems. I haven't slept a wink in the last 3 nights now. I'm exhausted, stressed, shaking... and I feel like dying is a pretty good option. It beats suffering. I've got so much on my mind that I don't really know how to sort through it all. I don;t know how to deal with it all. I don;t even really know what to do anymore. I'm lost... so very lost and struggling. I am capable of owning my decision, owning my mistakes.. I'm actively searching for different ways to act. Different ways to try to exude some kind of happiness from my soul. Different ways to get those whom I love around me to even want to be with me. Right now.. I don;t see how anyone would want ot hang around a sad sap such as myself. I doubt I'm any fun.. or am I?

Once I finally got out of bed today I went out for a 4 mile run. It felt good to run. I got slush and powdery snow all over myself. I ran at a comfy clip, banging out 8:09 min miles on average. This has been a typical pace for me as of late. I know I could run slower.. I know I could run faster. Hard to believe that the first Ultra run of 2009 is just 5 or 6 days away. I don't even know if I am up to the task. Do I need a pacer? I do.. I need a pacer in life and a pacer Sunday.. I fear. After my run, I cam home, covered in road salt, and crawled right back into bed. I laid there and fought back tears, wrestled with that pit in my stomach, that lump in my throat that I can't seem to swallow. I'm so lonely.. ready for school to start again.. I fell back to sleep.

My phone rang and I woke back up. It was Josh and Loni, two great friends who have been keeping an eye on me, listening when I need someone to talk to, offering help, advice or just an ear. They had arrived in Dover and were coming out on a snowshoe with me. I threw my clothes on quickly, ate lunch (at 3:30) and headed out with them to Kingman Farm. Conditions for any kind of snow sport activity are mint around here. We had 4 inches of Snow over night on top of the 8-10 we got on Sunday. Snow is everywhere. We strapped on our snowshoes and went for an amazing walk around the farm as the sun set in the western sky. We watched as the sky turned from blue to gray to pink and orange to nothing more than darkness with clouds illuminated by the areas light pollution. It was a brisk 4.5 mile hike that we accomplished, talking about the ultra scene, what's coming up on our schedules and even a little bit of football. It was so nice to get out and be with people. Thanks Josh and Loni,

After a nice pasta dinner I'll head to the gym to work out for a bit before returning home to finish up some work I have to do around here. Anything to keep my mind occupied. Perhaps a movie? A Phone Call? Anything. What I miss the most right now is sleep and my sanity. I'm falling apart.. I need to get back into a routine and right now I'm just one big mess. I'm almost embarrassed to be seen. I wonder if my medication is working. Somedays I am feeling great, high highs.. some days nothing more than the lowest of lows. I thought about going to the hospital yesterday, I feel worthless and destructive. Like if I would just disappear, I could make the people who I love the most... I could make their lives so much easier and more enjoyable, instead of drama filled misery. One day at a time, one foot at a time, searching for my compass.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Kicks


I am once again excited to be sponsored by Brooks Running and their Inspire Daily Program for 2009. This past week I was delighted to receive by way of UPS my new shipment of Brooks Adrenaline ASR 5's. These are by far my favorite Brooks shoe product. These shoes are Road to Trail Hybrid shoes that perform exceptionally well. In fact, I ran across New Hampshire, all 125 miles in one pair this past October. I am excited to be breaking in 2 new pairs in the coming weeks as I prepare for the 2009 running season. I also received to new pairs of running shorts. The Revelation Pacer is my favorite short and I've been running in them for about 3 years now. My new colors are Earl Grey and Titan (Red). Thanks to Brooks!
---------------------------------------------
Struggling Again

I'm having a hard time again lately. I'm not sure how to act or react to certain situations anymore. I'm amazed at how sensitive I really am and how things tend to affect me. I wish things were different but they are not. But if I have learned anything over the last few days, it's that it's OK to hurt, it's OK to cry and it's OK to be upset. And I am hurt, I am upset and I have been crying. When I'm not crying, I have a pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat. It's so easy to think of the ways that would make things easier... too bad none of those ways are acceptable... acceptable to me or anyone else. Thoughts like, "If I just disappear, (name)'s life would be so much better, so much easier." That's where I am right now. Living in this pit of despair, trying to find a way out and I have no idea what the hell I'm even doing anymore. I am feeling like the way that I feel isn't OK. I have no business being hurt, or upset and I should just suck it all up and be a friggin' man... I wish it was that easy. Instead.. I cry and I'm angry. Maybe it's because I care so much more about the love, compassion and success of others, that I forget about myself? I don't know, I'm only scraping the surface it seems. I'm frustrated... I'm lonely inside.. I'm quitting. Thats how I feel today, right this moment anyway. Tomorrow could be completely different. I sometimes go a few days feeling great and fine again... only to come crashing back down and living in this state of nothingness. I'm anxious, I can't stop shaking again.. ugh!

I'm drowning in a sea of depression
gasping for air, barely breathing
It's hard to stay afloat
if I can only tread the water longer.

Where have you been lovely?
I really friggin' miss you.
But you've abandoned me despite
my best efforts to keep you close.
Where did I go wrong?
How did I lose you?
All of my worst nightmares about us
have come true...

This race is longer than any I've run before
I'm spending too much time in these aid stations.
My legs burn, my eyes are heavy from the dark.
I just want to sleep, I just want to quit.
Do I know when to quit? Is it time?

My heart is heavy, a lump in my throat.
I can't even swallow my own pride these days.
I just wanted one thing,,,
You, me, a smile, a laugh
and together. But somehow I feel like
I've lost again.. and now I've got nothing.
Just good memories that are forever
engrained in my heart.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bondcliff

Hike to Bondcliff
17.6 Miles
9 Hours 30 Minutes


I posted on a hiking forum to see if anyone would like to join me on a hike today. However, people were more interested in correcting the date I posted for Tuesday than actually considering hiking. Then I messaged my classmate Alex about the idea and he accepted the challenge. Alex arrived just after 5am. I was pretty much ready to go and was eager to make the drive up north. I needed to hike, especially to this place.. Bondcliff. I've said it before and I'll say it a million times, "If the mountains are your church, Bondcliff is the Altar." It is indeed a powerful place, at least to me, one of few spiritual places in my life. A place I know I can go to to dive deeply into my soul and try to figure things out. We arrived at the trailhead at 7am and we were on the trail for 7:20. Local thermometers ready -2, another great day in New Hampshire. The sun is still rising from the valley to the west as we took off down the gray and white colored trail. We step onto the bridge (see above) that ushers us and welcomes us into what I call "The Holy Land" better known as the Pemigawassett Wilderness. As we crossed the frozen river, chills ran up and down my spine from more than just the temp, I was once again home.

The Lincoln Woods and Wilderness Trails are very similar. Old railroad logging beds built in the late 1800's and early 1900's to drag countless amounts of timber from these woods. We walked briskly in just our boots through the endless tunnel of evergreens covered in white pillows of snow. It's always nice to have a good hiking partner. A good hiking partner is someone who knows when to talk and someone who knows when not to talk. Alex was one of those people as we moved briskly towards the Bondcliff trail. The river weaves too and fro from our vantage point on the trail. At times we hear its rushing sounds as it weaves its way through the frozen and unfrozen sections of itself.

We finally had to stop to throw our snowshoes on. While most of the trail up till now has been broken out for us, it is still powdery snow, slick and hard to manage. I had to wait for Alex to figure his snowshoes out, adjust them and strap them on. I ate and cold pretty chilly but he didn't take too too long. It gave me an opportunity to stop and pose for a picture.

From here we made our way onto the Bondcliff Trail. The 4.4 miles to the summit is home to a relentless climb, in fact.. almost all climbing. We followed a neatly packed out single track trail which was marked up by the snowshoes of the last passerby. For a time we observed the tracks of a wayward moose, whose tracks were huge and whom we hoped to not run into given the enormous size of the hoof marks. It was great to see the moose weave in and out from the trail to the deep powdery woods. The snow is 2-3 feet deep and getting deeper the higher we climb. The moose prints disappear and we monitor prints of either a bobcat or coyote. We climb higher and higher and begin to feel the temperature drop. The winds pick up from the south and snow begins to lightly fall from above. My plans of bagging 3 peaks today are beginning to dissipate, but thats fine. I've been here before. We continue on, cautiously negotiating a snow slope.

As we climbed ever higher towards the summit of our 4,000 foot friend, the winds continued to pick up and gust. Snow began falling a bit heavier now and the wind was knocking the large plumes of snow caught in the trees towards the earth. It was becoming hard to stay both dry and warm but we pressed on. We arrived at the Hillary Step and I motioned to Alex that it's a good time to stop and eat. So we stopped and added some extra layers of clothing and got ready for the wicked weather that was awaiting us on the summit and in this summits small Alpine Zone. Alex sat comfortably on a rock and ate hummus, crackers, cheese and who knows what else. He brought enough food and supplies for a small army. Me? I just ate from a bag of pepperoni and a small bag of trailmix. Stonyfield Farms yogurt smoothies are great energy as well.


After stashing our food back away, we loaded our packs back on and we made our way onto the summit area. We climbed the Hillary step and entered a world known only here, and the arctic regions of our world. Rime ice encased itself on the small trees known as krumholz. Views? There were no views, the summit was socked in and the clouds brought visibility down to about 50 feet. Winds whipped across the summit. What I remember vividly as warm summer winds the brush across my skin, are now frigid winter winds that chill me to the bone. The temp was around 0 with the windchill at around -15. It was cold, nasty and violent. We walked across the summit cliffs, following each cairn carefully from one to the next and then.. finally.. there it was...

........BONDCLIFF........

Bondcliff, a place where all the world seems lost and all that matters in the next few moments.. are you. The altar, the place where mind over matter doesn't matter because you're all ready there. As we walked towards the precipice, I fell into the snow and rested my back against the rime covered rocks. The wind gusted briskly and soon rime ice began to form on my pack, my poles, and even my frigid face. As I stared across the void the clouds rushed by and as we sat in silence my eyes played tricks. The powerful draw of the rocks almost appeared to be apart of a tv set, where static fills the screen. I handed Alex the camera, and I walked around the the cliff itself. I've been here many times in winter, never having stepped to the edge for fear of falling off, fear from slipping on the ice. Today, I had no fear, nothing else mattered to me but the chance to get on the cliff and do what I had yet to do over these last few months. As I walked out to the cliff face, I dropped to my knees in a drift of powdery snow, I reached my hands out to the ground and I crawled across and onto the cliff. I stopped and stayed there kneeling, the wind and ice crystals sandblasting my face, my eyes squinting, I closed them and stayed there, in one moment, the whole world seemed to drop from existence. There are no views here today, yet then again there is. When the winds and clouds shroud the views of afar, you are forced to view within. So as I kneeled on the cliff, I finally did it I asked god himself for forgiveness and to provide me with the courage and strength to continue on my journey. I told my grandfather I missed him and I spent a few moments looking within, the only view that was afforded on this day of arduous journey.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are Lottery's Really Fair?

The December 2008 Issue of Trailrunner Magazine included an interesting article on the growth of our sport, Ultrarunning titled Growing Pains. In the article, author Garrett Graubins discusses the lottery systems that many races are being forced to engage themselves in. “And while many races use online registration or first-come first-served mail-in entries, others have resorted to lottery systems in an attempt to give runners a fairly weighted chance of entry. In some lotteries, every entrant is given an equal chance of being picked. In others, entries are weighted according to a number of factors..”

Weighted chance of entry. This means that you have a chance of getting in… but it’s not going to be good. For those of you who were waiting to get into Western States as a Two Time Loser, you know your feelings on the weighted lottery system are pretty strong. I was upset too knowing that I had qualified for the race, but was going to be missing out on climbing Squaw in June again and again because I only have an 11% chance of getting picked in the lottery.

“In some lotteries, every entrant is given an equal chance of being picked.” Are they really though? Are we really being given an equal chance to be picked to run in their race. I’ve scoured the internet for races with lottery systems in place and want to focus on two of the tougher ones. I’m going to leave out Western States because it’s been talked to to death and feelings are a bit over the top in the community. (or are they.) Instead, I’m going to focus on Massanutten (MMT) and Hardrock. As an aside, I’ve all ready run at MMT and was a lucky winner in the lottery for 2009, so I will be returning.

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100
The system is a two-step process. You fill out the application, they have a lottery and, if you "win," you go back to the Web site to pay the entry fee. If you "lose" the lottery, you can get on the waiting list.
Priorities: The initial field will be selected randomly. Each qualified runner has an equal chance of being in the initial starting field. We will, however, have priorities on the waiting list. Given our experience with movement off the waiting list, we expect that these priorities will be significant.
Here are the priorities. Within groups, ranking is by the random number that is assigned in the entry process.
1. Prior overall winners of the men's or women's division of the MMT
2. Applicants who, on three prior occasions, served as pre-committed volunteers at the MMT
3. Finishers of five or more MMTs, ranked by number of finishes
4. "Two time losers" -- applicants who did not get in last year's MMT after being in the lottery, joining the waiting list, and staying on the waiting list until the end and then lost this year's lottery. (Here is the list of those who, if they lose the lottery this year, will qualify as two time losers.) All other applicants will be ordered by number of finishes (4 down to none).

This process seems pretty fair. Everyone is initially given an equal chance to be entered into the race. It is the WAITING list that is weighted. So unlike Western States, where the lottery itself is weighted, MMT only weights the waiting list. Your chances of getting into the race initially is 1 in how ever many enter the lottery. But if you’ve never run MMT and get placed on the waiting list, your chances of getting off the waiting list depends on how many repeat runners are trying to get in. The chances of getting off of the MMT waiting list have always been good, but with the new lottery in place, we could see a chock full waiting list as the years progress making your chances of getting off slim to none.

I spoke to Race Director Stan Duobinis about the MMT system and here is what he had to say:

SJ: Stan, How did the MMT committee come up with the current lottery system?
SD: The MMT lottery system was a compromise. At first, our Board of Directors wanted to have special categories that would get priority in the initial lottery. I did not want any preferences. I wanted a truly fair lottery. I use the word “fair” as it would be used by a statistician -- no weighting, no favoritism, every entrant has an equal chance of being chosen. (I'm an Econometrician -- if you don’t know what that is, it is essentially an economist who is also a statistician.) At the same time, I thought that we should reward our volunteers and possibly allow for repeat winners. So, we compromised, and created a fair lottery, but put special preferences in place for the waiting list.

SJ: Do you think weighting the wait list is fair?
SD: The use of the word fair implies that the system is an arbitrary one. It is arbitrary! I've had people tell me that this factor or that factor should count for setting priorities on the waiting list. Many of them choose a factor that might move them up on the waiting list.

When you get to trying to define the word fair, it becomes whatever you or I or some group decides. Your are suddenly in the normative world -- judgment. This means that you can argue about what you have done, but there is no right or wrong. What SHOULD be done is based on HOW YOU FEEL.

SJ: How do you feel about the lottery systems in General, necessary, nuisance, other??
SD: We are the victims of our own success. I and many others have helped to make ultras popular. Most of my "work" has been to simply talk to people about how great the events are and what how good it feels to finish one. Unfortunately, the most popular ultras appear to be ones that involve a challenge, an adventure and some exploring. Trail ultras have grown in popularity much more than road events. In fact, many road events have disappeared. That is fine except for one factor. While there are many trails at MMT and plenty of space to run so that we could easily accommodate double or triple the entrants on the trails, the parking at the various aid station locations is such that crews are now overwhelming those facilities. In fact, for MMT, the limiting factor on entry is really the crews and the cars. National forests don’t have lots of parking lots, and that's a good thing!

So, given the increased popularity how do we deal with 350 people wanting the 175 spaces at MMT this year? We hold a fair lottery. By the way, I have found that everyone who bothered to comment on our system of entry found a fair lottery to be a good system.

The Hardrock 100

Entry: This is a "post graduate" run. For safety reasons, we cannot accept entries from minors and novice runners. To apply to participate in the 2009 HRH you must satisfy at least one of the following qualifying standards.

i) finished any Hardrock within the past 5 runnings;
ii) started Hardrock within the past 3 runnings;
iii) completed any one of the following during 2007, 2008: Wasatch, Eagle, Bear, Leadville, Angeles Crest, Massanutten, Western States, Plain, HURT, Bighorn, Grand Teton, Tahoe Rim Trail, Tour de Mont Blanc (163 km version), or Cascade Crest Classic; or completed HURT in 2009.
iv) demonstrated equivalent mountaineering experience;
AND, you must be approved by the Runner Selection Committee.

Candidates not living in North America (who may not have access to the runs listed above) and any other candidates who have not run one of the qualifying 100 mile runs but wish to be considered under standard iv should submit a 500 word (or less)
account of their ultra-running/mountain experience that convinces the selection committee that they are prepared for the run.

North Americans must understand that to qualify under standard iv requires demonstrated exceptional mountaineering AND trail running experience. The Board of Directors rarely allows North American applicants into the event under
standard iv.

Entries postmarked no earlier than January 1, 2009 and received by selection day will be considered. The Board of Directors will select entrants on or about February 1, 2009 and the selected runners will be notified immediately thereafter. A wait list will be maintained after the field is full. If you are on the wait list and do not receive a spot, your check will be destroyed after run weekend.

The hardest part of getting into Hardrock is qualifying. The standards are set high, you must have completed one of the toughest 100 milers in the country to even be considered for their lottery. If you are selected, you are guaranteed a qualifying spot in the lottery in any one of the following 3 years. In my opinion, this lottery seems the fair given that there is no two-time loser rule, which proved disastrous for the Western States contingent, and nothing is weighted., not even the waiting list. The only thing that can save you here is your own ability to qualify, get lucky and show up on the starting line in July. But then again, what I think is unfair, is the process of giving extra tickets to folks who qualify under multiple standards. This, in essence, keeps many new comers out of the race and most of the new timers become repeat runners. This is exactly the type of system that is going to continue to quell the steady growth of our sport and I think old school ultra-runners and RD’s know it.

I asked one of the Board members of the Hardrock 100, Blake Wood Acting President of the Board of Directors, a few questions and here is how it went:

SJ: How did the Hardrock committee come up with the current lottery system? What do you think is the fairest part of how the system works?
BW: I'll answer these together. About five or six years ago when we realized that we were going to get more applications than our permit limit, the Hardrock Board met to discuss how we were going to choose who would get to run. There were a variety of options considered - some only half-serious. Among these were a lottery, a policy of first-come-first-served, a policy of simply choosing who we were going to let in (i.e. choose our friends), and (the half-serious one) choosing who to let in depending on how large an entry fee they sent. We decided a lottery would be most fair.

The next question was "what kind of lottery?" There were many runners who had stuck with us back when our numbers WEREN'T growing, and when it wasn't clear that Hardrock was going to be a viable run. We felt that we should reward them for their loyalty. We also wanted to reward those who have contributed to putting on the run. At the same time, we didn't want to shut out newcomers. We decided that a weighted lottery would be the best way to balance these goals.

Charlie Thorn and I came up with the basic algorithm - runners with more than a certain number of finishes are grandfathered in (to reward loyalty), extra tickets were given based on the number of DNFs and DNSs a person has (to reward loyalty and to help those who have sat on the wait list), extra tickets were given for work on the Hardrock trail and substantial service to the run (to encourage contribution to the run), and extra tickets were given to top-5 finishers from the previous year (a compromise between our policy of NOT emphasizing the competitive aspect of the run and the general community perception that the best runners ought to be encouraged to enter.) This algorithm was in effect for four or five years.

This past spring we decided to revise our lottery algorithm to remedy some perceived shortcomings, in particular, that it was too hard for newcomers to get in, that we didn't give enough extra consideration to those who had sat on the wait list, that we unduly rewarded some runners who rarely finish, and that we didn't sufficiently reward winners of the run. The revisions included changing how we determine who is grandfathered in, no longer giving extra tickets for DNFs, and automatically accepting the previous year's winners. This also had the effect of increasing the chances for newcomers to get in - basically because there were fewer total tickets in the lottery. Our acceptance rate for first-time applicants is somewhere around 25%, whereas it would be around 40% for a straight one-person-one-ticket lottery (that is, last year we had 2.5x as many applicants as entry slots). These revisions were a compromise hammered out between members of the Hardrock Board of Directors.

SJ: What do you have to say to those who have never run your race, and are on your waiting list?
BW: I tell them what their chances are of getting in, and encourage them to improve those chances by continuing to apply and by coming to Silverton to participate in our trail work weekend.

SJ:How do you feel about the lottery systems in General, necessary, nuisance, other??
BW: Lotteries are like income taxes - a necessary evil. Like taxes, they are also an opportunity to encourage desired behavior - in our case volunteerism and loyalty to the run. Like taxes, lotteries work best when they are perceived as "fair", although that perception will certainly vary from person to person. Feedback we have received from unsuccessful applicants is overwhelmingly "I didn't like the result, but I can't think of a better system." A very few "elite" runners have blasted us for not letting them in automatically.

SJ: Do you think that awarding "extra" lottery tickets to some entrants is fair? Do you feel that this leaves many first timers out?
BW: Yes, I think it IS fair. It rewards those who have contributed to the run in some way, through hard work or long-time support. It provides first-timers a reasonable chance of getting in, and gives them a way to nearly double or triple their chance by doing trail work. It improves the chances for runners who have sat on the wait list in previous years.

SJ: It is sad that many of the better ultra’s in our country are having to resort to a lottery system but it does work better than a first-come first-served system of entry. First-come first-served only works for those with a quick trigger finger on the mouse, some down time to be able to sit and weight, plenty of money in the bank to throw away at a moments notice and a prayer. Some folks do not use computers or have no access to a computer during the times in which races open up their registration. Still, there are plenty of quality races in our sport that deserve the same numbers and respect as these high profile races such as Western States, Hardrock and MMT. Remember, there is NO SUCH THING as an easy 100.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Progress?

I went to the psychiatrist today for a follow up on how things are going. I let him in on how I can't seem to stop crying lately. Any little thing sets me off. Even something so little as someone telling me how they feel... I get emotional and start crying. Not just crying though. Crying like a young child who just found out that their doggy died, Hysterical crying. Crying that leaves me breathless and drained.. ready for bed. Ready to crawl under my covers and hide for the rest of eternity. I'm so tired of crying, tired of feeling depressed, tired of it all affecting my friends and loved ones too. This disease doesn't just affect me.. it affects all those close to me and for that I am truly sorry to them. It's not my fault.. though many times I feel like it is. I feel helpless and out of control.. I just want to be fine again. I want to live again because right now all I feel is like I'm dying. At least my spirit tends to be.

The doctor told me that my inability to run due to my surgery has left me without exercise. Exercise for me is my drug, it is my coping mechanism, it is my way of self medicating. When I run I give myself the opportunity to meditate, to medicate and to simply live. But until I am cleared by the doctor who performed the hemhorroidectomy, there is no running. The doctor suggested I try swimming if need be but regardless I NEED to move. I need to get the endorphins flowing. I need to feel adrenaline rush during personal accomplishment. Lately I have felt nothing. Just sadness, crying, despair. I sit with my head in my hands.. thats my exercise. I'm slowly going crazy.

Hopefully next week things will change and I can find flow again. I am hopeful and I have a lot of faith in myself, faith that I will climb out of this hole I am in. Faith that I will slay my demons once more. I've been here before in my life.. never quite like this, but regardless, I'm there again and ready to fight. It's a struggle and a monumental challenge. But there is hope, there is a goal and I will overcome.. I need to.. for me first... and for everyone else second. Until then, this book tends to help put it all into perspective.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sword In The Stone


I stand upon the rocks, mercy in my soul
I grasp the handle of the trusty sword.
I pull with all my might,
the sword emerges from below.
I've got my weapon,
off to find that troll.

I jump from the rock
and dive deep into my life.
Where are those demons,
its time for a fight.

Not one, not two but three maybe four,
the demons are everywhere,
they make my life a whore.
I'm tired, and scared, its awfully dark in here,
no escape, time to fight,
can't take it anymore.

The demons come out,
they surround me on all sides.
I raise my sword, grit my teeth,
I stare confidently into the dark.
But as the demons approach,
I get scared, weak.... it's time to fight.
I must find the strength to fight on...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Boston Prep x2


Sunday, January 25, 2009
Derry, NH
6:30AM


The Boston prep 16 miler is said to be one of the toughest road races in New England. The very hilly course is appropriately dubbed as Moderately Challenging.

Last year we started a new tradition of running the BP, twice on race day.

Here is how it works.
We show up at 6:30am and run the course once as a group. The first running takes around 2:30. We return to the start/finish area and go into the school to retrieve our bibs. We then head back outside after a 45(+/-) minute break... and join the rest of the crowd for the actual race and it's 10am start. We then run the actual 16 mile race at our own pace.
Total Miles: 32

If you want IN.. you must let me know ASAP. You are responsible for signing up for the 16 miler. Once you do, I'll take your name and give it to the events RD who will hold our bibs for us for easy access after our first loop.
You will receive all of the benefits as the other 16 mile runners, pre and post event.

Who's in?!

SJ

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Surgery


I had Surgery last Tuesday... a Hemorrhoidectomy to be exact. Some of you may remember back to August where I had a lousy race at The Wapack. It was after that race that I scheduled a doctors appointment to discuss the scary situation that had occurred during the race. It at that doctors appointment that I found out I was anemic and losing quite a bit of blood. Seventy year olds had a higher red blood cell count than me. A later visit with an endocrinologist pin pointed the problem. A hemorrhoid inside my colon was swollen, infected and bleeding constantly. (sorry if this is TMI for some of you). The decision was made that I would need an operation.

Well, last Tuesday I finally had the operation and it went quite well. Unfortunately, from what I was told, the problem is not yet entirely solved and I'll need to have a second surgery in about 6 months. For now however, the bleeding has been stopped. I went home with a Foley catheter for 3 days, which was thankfully removed this past Friday. I had a few rather uncomfortable days, but thanks to the magic of drugs and potions, I have healed quite nicely and was able to get out for a brisk walk tonight. Still no running for me for at least another week. For now, I'll take to walking on the treadmill or around town to practice power-walking/hiking for ultras. There is always something that can be done. I've even made my way to the gym.

So the update is the surgery went well, I'm recovering well and the story is still not over. However, the surgery last week will buy me some time and energy to compete at a higher level in the 2009 season. All thats left is to get back out there and train and worry about all of this later on at the end of July.

Aid Station Thinking


The sherpa flags are hung, but the wind isn't blowing. There is no flapping in the breeze. With a cup in my hand, I drink delicately from the waters of life... but nothing happens. I feel awful, sick to my stomach. I'm covered in mud, grit and soaked with salt saturated sweat. My feet are tired, sore and blistered. My muscles ache.. my mind is numb. I'm still just stuck in an aid station.

All of my life I've taken things to the extreme.. and every time I sit and ponder, "Why do I do this?" Why... why anything? Nevermind why... how about who? Who am I? Who I am? I have no friggin idea. Or do I?

I can trace my life back to when I was younger.. when I spent time with my grandfather after kindergarten. Every day we did the same thing. He'd pick me up and I go with him to work or back home for snacks and some time outside. We spend the summer evenings together. Regardless of the weather or any other eliminating factor, every night he would take me out for ice cream. Like clock work, we never missed a date... it was our time together. It's what we did. At age 14 my grandfather fell ill and it became my job to take care of him no. Instead of him buying me ice cream or toys, I washed him, bathed him, helped with the chores inside and out. I assisted him with his bowel movements, and every night I lifted him from his wheel chair and put him to bed. It was the very least I could do for a man who took such great care of me, my siblings and my cousins. He deserved the respect in return. But what I didn't know then I half suspect now, that these actions... this willingness to care for one another is part of what makes me who I am today... someone who takes everything to the extreme.

After taking care of my grandfather I moved on to soccer. I had always played, but I never obsessed about it like I had started to in High School. Major League Soccer was the new league on the scene and I was in 100%. I was pen pals with the league commissioner. One year, my mother and step father took me to Florida to an all star game. While sitting in the stands, I looked over and saw Doug Logan, the Commish.. I rose up, walked over and asked him if he had a pen pal in New Hampshire. The man turned, extended his hand and said, "It's a pleasure to finally meet you John." Just as I had been about my grandfather, I was now in love with soccer. I had the team pennant of every team in the league hanging on my bedroom wall. I had Jerseys for more than half of the league and wore them to school, switching teams on a daily basis. I lived, breathed, played, watched and ate soccer.

After soccer it was Backyard wrestling. I've yet to really talk about this on my blog but its true. I was a backyard wrestler for more than 5 years. All that I did for 5 years was talk to my group of buddies about wrestling. Planning our matches, story-lines, and in effect.. planning our friendships out. We practiced together, we wrote together, we laughed together. And once or twice a month we got together on a weekend and had weekend long camp-outs where we kicked the snot out of each other, power-slamming each other to the hard turf, hitting each other with steel chairs, garbage cans, ladders and baseballs bats wrapped in barbed wire. We put tacks into our faces and head.. we bled... we "lived" a wild life. But I was obsessed with wrestling. I owned action figures at 18, I went to all of the local PPV shows, even appearing on TV a few times in the audience. Life was all about wrestling.

After wrestling was done I moved on to hiking... I loved hiking. Being outdoors, fresh air, views, people. It was great. I obsessed about hiking. I hung lists around my room of peaks to bag. I kept tallies, and still do, of how many times I've climbed each peak and on which date exactly I had. Which trails I took and from which direction I sumitted in winter months. I even went so far as to making a documentary film about hiking and sold hundreds of DVD copies of the film to raise money for charity. But something happened to me while hiking.. I needed more.. I need to test myself a bit more.. this wasn't enough. I learned that it wasn't the hiking that I was obsessing about.. it was the challenge itself. The prospect of pushing myself to inconceivable limits and the idea of proving to others that I can do anything you say that I can't.

Or was that really what I intended? I started running between peaks.. then running at home. I honestly hate running. I train about as little as anyone I know and manage to do OK as a mid-pack runner. Am I obsessed with running like I was with everything else? No... I'm not. I'm obsessed with pushing the limits.. I'm obsessed with proving to others what I can acomplish.. and I am obsessively scared of rejection... of failure. Despite the many things I have accomplished in my life.. to prove to myself that I CAN ACCOMPLISH anything.. I still can't help but feel like a total failure. Deep down inside I know that one of the most important things in life, LOVE, is what I mess up the most. I mess it up because like everything else in life.. I become too overly obsessed with it.. and I push people away in the end. I'm my own worst enemy.. sabotaging myself and getting in the way of my own happiness with others.

I am still standing with a great opportunity before me. An opportunity to reshape my life and I am scared to death. For years my life has been pre-planned, laid out in front of me.. the ideas in my head were always in motion. And for the first time I can remember.. I am without a plan. I am scared shitless without it as well. I don't know where i am going or what I am doing. Who am I though.. who am I? I'm an obsession junky, and I'm stuck in the aid station and I can't get my ass out of the chair. I just want to love and be loved. I want to care about and be cared about. I want to hug and kiss and all the like. I just want to be.. but some days its just hard. Its hard to even get out of bed... its hard to stand up and face that guy who is looking back at me in the mirror. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what and who would you take with you. I guess right now my answer is.. I'd have to leave myself at home, that guy in the mirror is better obsessing by himself.

(Updated Current Playlist - Right side of site)

You Found Me - The Fray

Sunday, January 4, 2009

'08 Video - '09 Resolutions

Below is my 2008 Year In Review Video. Followed by my resolutions for 2009. Enjoy


2009 Resolutions - SJ Style

Running: Now that I have had the surgery to try and get my anemia under control. My 2009 running resolutions rest on the laurels of healing. I ask many people if they have been able to tap into their own Human Potential and if they even know what their level of potential is. For the longest time. I thought I knew the answer when I asked the same questions to myself. Yet mystery still lies within the answers I give. So, now that I am better, feeling stronger and more alive... my 2009 Running Resolution is to tap into my true Human Potential and to find out what gears I really possess and what I am really made of. A lot rests on what races I get into. But rest assured, there is no such thing as DNF or DNS. Happy, Healthy and fluid running. Train more, train harder, train smarter. The potential is unlimited, now I just need to prove it.

Life: In life I have a mountain to climb. I have a great deal of respect to earn back for myself. I have an even greater deal of respect to earn bac from a few others. I'll be starting there. I hope to find my courage again. I hope to remain true, honest, trustworthy, loyal and brave. I resolve to be happy and content with my life. To learn to live in my own skin and accept myself first before anyone else can accept me. To not let others run my life, to make my own decisions for me... and for me only. To do more right then wrong and to continue to change lives in any small way.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

December & 2008 Recap

December has come and gone and so too has the year that was 2008. What an interesting year it was. I'm going to recap December first and then the year second.

December Re-Cap:
Miles Run: 79.5 Miles
# of Runs: 12
Avg Miles: 6.63

Month Starting Weight: 145 Lbs
Month Ending Weight: 158 bs
Weight Change: +13

Race Results:
None
--------------------------------
2008 Re-cap
Miles Run: 2,065.54 Miles
# of Runs: 174
Avg Miles: 11.87

Ultra Highlights:
2nd Youngest Finisher in the 2008 Pittsfield Snowshoe Marathon
Dropped out of McNaughton Park 150 at 100 muddy miles
Completed The Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in 32:09
New Course PR at Pittsfield Peaks 50 Miler (VT): 12:20
2nd Sub 2 Buckle at The Vermont 100 (VT): 23:37
New 50 Mile PR at The Vermont 50 Miler (VT): 8:58
Became the youngest person to Run Across NH 125 Mi: 31:50

Final Run Of 2008

I went out for a run Sunday through the seacoast of New Hampshire and it was my final run of 2008. I guess you could say that my year ended in such a way that it seems to be going as of late. Slow, unpredictable and sluggish at best. Regardless, here is the story of a 20 mile run that capped off what really did end up being a fantastic one.
----------------------------
I knew I wanted to run today and I had ideas in my head of where I wanted to go. But in the end, I decided to just put my soles to the pavement and let life take me wherever it may. Recently, I've made many connections between running and life, and knew today would be a day to connect. Connect with myself, the world around me... and try to reconnect some of the portions of my brain that still seem fickle in their attempts to work. I stepped out my front door to the enjoyment of 55+ degree temps and a steady wind. The sidewalks are now mostly clear and lawns that were once buried by some 3 feet of snow is now covered by anywhere from nothing to what's left of 6" drifts. Maybe the trails will come back one more time... ha! This is New England... think again John...

I took off from my front door and ran South on Route 108, Dover Rd., to where it turns into Stark Rd. From here I continued straight and began my journey south down the coast. The first thing I notice, as I normally do, is the abundance of graveyards in the area. IN the first mile and a half of my run I pass 3 of them and all 3 are huge!

After stopping to take a quick photo with the new camera , which is WAY fast by the way, I knew exactly where I was going to run too. I was heading for Newington and Eastern Mountain Sports. I figured once I got to EMS I could grab a Cliff Bar for lunch, and then decide if I was going to continue on down the coast or head for home. And so became my plan..

I continued running through Dover down Spur Road which winds its way along the western banks of the Bellamy River and where it meets up with The Great Bay. Spur road is lined by HUGE Pine Trees. In the late 1600s and early 1700, many of the pine trees that once stood on roads such as this were cut down and shipped to England to be made into mast's for the King's Navy. Now these streets are once again lined with tall pines a testament to the resiliency of mother earth.


Spur Road is home to a monument I have passed many times in my training for races. Today I took a photo and am determined to learn more about its significance.

The monument reads, " This stone marks the site of the Deacon John Hall Spring. Nearby, was the hall home. Old Log meeting house, stocks, whipping post and hall slip - 1648. Erected By The Hall Heirs"

I continued my run which crossed US Route 4 and head down through Dover Point. I ran passed Newick's and the DMV. This section of road was part of the Run Across New Hampshire route, of which I am still getting melancholy and euphoric over. I ran down to the water to check things out up close, snapped a photo of the bridge and then made my way across and into the town of Newington.


I took to the busy streets of Newington which is nothing more than a commercial town bordering Portsmouth. I began to think about running to Rye today.. making for a 36 mile run., but my legs are starting to tire. I decided to just continue on to Eastern Mountain Sports where I can pick up a Cliff Bar for lunch. As I ran down the streets of Newington, drivers refused to give me any room to run, and I was pushed off the sides of the road and into, at times, knee deep snow banks. My feet are soaked and now filled with icy slush. My legs are tiring even faster from running through the snow. I ran into the EMS parking lot to see the place buys, as normal, and I stepped inside. While inside I purchased a Luna Nectar bar which was really good. "Fruit Smoothie" Flavor.

I said goodbye to my co workers and Roger exclaimed, "Hey... why don't you just run down the coast?!" Well, I know he was being half serious, but more so just being a wise ass. I looked at him, smiled and said, "I've all ready done that before." I stepped back out into the warmth of the day as the sun continued to try and peek out from behind the whispy gray overcast. I've yet to see my shadow today and was hoping the sun would make an appearance to warm my soul. And my shadow might appear so I'd have someone to run with. But alas.. it was not to be. I backtracked through the busy Newington roads, back over the bridge, passed Newicks and onto Route 4 where I started heading west for a short time. I made my way to the Scammel Bridge which is lined on both sides by deep snow drifts.

I make my way across the bridge, over the bay, again giving my legs a hefty workout by breaking trail through old snow drifts. I peer off into the water looking for any signs of Loon. Loon fly to the bay in the winter time as the water doesn't totally freeze over. They fly here because the lakes and ponds they frequent to the North are freshwater and frozen. But no loon today and I am sad because those birds are pretty rad. As I near the far end of the bridge, I jump the railing and take to the wide open Route 4 which has a very large and comfortable shoulder for me to run in. At the first light I take a right onto Back River Rd where I make my way up various winding and rolling hills, out of Madbury and back into Dover. On my way up the first hill as I pass through many picturesque farms, I spot a 9' monument made of marble. I stop and take a picture and on it it says; "In memory of the Leighton Household. Erected by Mrs. Mary A. Leighton Rollins - 1885."

I continue on my way, working back into Downtown Dover after fighting many rolling hills and much traffic. Regardless of how busy the world seemed to be today, I got in my final run of 2008. As is with much of life, we embark on long or shorter journeys and we encounter the unexpected. It is up to us how we will deal with the issues that arise and how we intend to deal with them. Every issue is a natural product of itself and requires its own level of attention. Just as in life, we must choose to run in the snow bank for awhile or fight traffic. We must decide where we are going and how we will get there.. how long might it takes us? And regardless of the route we take, the path we go down... regardless of how long it takes, we must stop to evaluate the journey for what it is.. We must evaluate what we learned.. We MUST reflect. Today's run was a bit sluggish. I was tired and late in the run my head started to get to me as I ran through the final rolling hills. I got to thinking as I always do while running, but I wish for my thoughts to be good thoughts now.. no longer paranoid ones. 2008 opened with a bang.. and ended with what feels like a Kaboom! But what is important is that everything that happened in 2008 I have been able to reflect on. The journey I am taking is up to me to control... I can't change the past, but I can always change the ending to come. My story is merely just beginning.. this run was just one more of many.. but what is important on this day is not how I felt physically.. but the fact that I stopped long enough on my route.. on my journey.. to look around. Won't You?