"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~Thomas Merton
It's taken me my entire existence on this earth to make some sense of this mystery we call life. For so many years I've struggled with the unknown and the constant fight of life's daily battles. Going to bed restless as my mind won't shut off. My internal alarm clock forcing me to wake up long before the day should begin. As a kid and even now, I lie awake thinking there is more to this crazy world. I have come to realize that that 'more' I so desperately craved was right in front of me, every moment of every day. It's the simple things. The time spent with family and friends, warm summers, crisp fall air and the changing of the leaves. It's the rising moon, the rain, the snow, the setting sun and the birds flying free in the sky. It's finding yourself on a trail that takes your breath away. In these simple moments you realize how beautiful life really is.
These simple pleasures have always existed; yet the paths we all travel are cluttered with distractions, with unnecessary noise by the very 'things' we think we can't live without. This in turn has affected the way we process and internalize happiness, leaving us to believe that it's the way life is supposed to be. We strive to stay connected by any means possible. An updated Facebook post, or a text. We have forgotten basic human interaction; the simple gesture of a hand shake, a hug or physical presence. These simple means of connecting are what makes the soul smile creating lasting memories of what's important in life. No post or terxt can give you the substance of presence.
Finding true self happiness in this life without question remains at the forefront for most everyone. I realize happiness means something different for you or I. Yet the mere thought of it is refreshing and keeps you wanting more. It's that positive light we all seek, making us feel like a kid again. It helps knowing your life lived to this very moment, whether it has been bad or good, is behind you pushing you forward. It reminds you to embrace each moment as you put one foot in front of the other.
Many things can add to finding such happiness. It’s up to all of us to find it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing my family and all my life events to this point as not contributing to happiness. I’m talking about a connection to ones self that many truly never find or experience. I’m talking about self discovery, my self discovery. The Love of the Run has done just that. The run redirects your focus, breathing life back into what’s important. It has a way of calming the mind and freeing your spirit.
In the beginning it was all about the time it took me to finish the distance I wanted to reach. It seemed impossible then, but the more I did it the more it became clear that I was the one holding myself back. From training, nutrition and the fear of the unknown of just how far I could push myself. Little did I know over coming those limits had a purpose.
Photo credit: Candy Hernandez. Picture of Keegan and I taken right after finishing a 148.88 mile run across Michigan in 2014 all for Team Keegan and to help kids with cancer. Nothing was going to stop me, not even a pulled groin or an achilles flare up. This run was more then a personal goal. It was about giving back and helping kids with cancer. This run set so many things in motion for me on so many levels.
That purpose drove me to secretly want more, not worrying about what I had to do to reach my goals. Each distance I would run gave me the confidence to run further. Setting goals and crushing mental barriers. It became less about being fast and more about taking the time to breath. Reaching that moment of clarity, the Ah-ha, it feels like nothing can stop you. These thoughts flirt with selfishness, yet become necessary to stay motivated in life. Don't ever be afraid to challenge yourself or others for what truly makes you happy. The run teaches you to push yourself, to test your strength, and find an inner peace that keeps you happy. The run-like in life- has deeper meaning and is unpredictable. With this unpredictability comes balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
A big part of why I run is to stay connected to life. Family, friends and the people who choose to support what I love to do make all the difference. Now a days you can find me on the trails. I run less to run more. I am just as happy running 1 mile as I am running 100 miles. All I need is my Orange Mud and my LUNA Sandals. Stay motivated everyone and keep on enjoying the Love of The Run :)
On April 25th I ran my first 100 miler The Indiana Trail 100 at Chain O' Lakes State Park in Indiana. I have been running since I was 15 and the last couple of years I've discovered ultras. I'm hooked! I was not sure what to expect on race day given the past reports on how the course could be. This year lived up to its expectations and more. When the rain started it was constant. This made the course muddy and challenging, especially during my last three loops. The course was made up of six 16.67 mile loops totaling 100 miles. My wife Candy crewed for me. (Thank you Candy for your tireless support). Great friends were trail side to cheer everyone on and give a helping hand. Extra support from my ‘running tribe’, Erinn Sullivan Hadley, Mark Norfleet and Theresa Flores-Novicki made all the difference.
This is how my fun run went……….
Loop 1: Ready to Run
The week leading up to the race I was sick with what I thought was the flu, but on race day I was ready to go. The start happened so fast. We arrived around 5:30 a.m. A few minutes before race time I saw my tribe. A great group of friends who were also getting ready to ignite their running spirits. What up?! Toni, Steve, and David! The starting line temperature was perfect. I trained in minus temps in preparation for this race, so the low 40's and a forecast of rain later in the day was not bad at all. I lined up in the middle just behind the lead pack. I glanced back at the wave of lights and I couldn't believe it, I was just about to run 100 miles! The energy was high and it sent a charge though me, I was ready to run. My goal was to finish and enjoy the experience. I completed the first loop around 9:15 a.m.
Loop 2: All smiles :)
Feeling good and happy at this point. I was really enjoying the course, the crowd and the awesome aid stations. I'm not going to lie, I found myself being sucked into the aid stations on every loop. The energy was great and the support was unbelievable. My favorite stop was the school house. All I can say is peace, love and happiness. I used the aid stations as needed to refill my bottle and refuel. It started to rain lightly at this point. I was feeling really good. Mentally I was in a good place. My spirits were high. I couldn't have asked for a better start to the race. I finished the second loop around 12:40 p.m.
Loop 3: Blame it on the rain
It had been steadily raining most of the day. During the first 3 loops I mainly used Hammer Gels, Skratch, Sustained Energy and Endurolytes as needed. I wore the Orange Mud VP1 and was able to carry everything but the kitchen sink. The VP1 worked perfect! At this point I found myself eating pierogi (perfect snack to stuff in your pockets by the way), applesauce (great for upset stomach), drinking pickle juice (the perfect sodium upload) and eating whatever I could throw in mouth. I’m sure I looked a little like Cookie Monster as food was flying in mouth. Nam! Nam! Nam! I loved a sweet Mountain Dew and the old standby, PBJ. The rain was continuous and heavy at times. Dressing in the right layers made all the difference. A couple of miles into loop 3, the mud started to get bad. Draining me on every step as both feet became submerged in mud that was the consistency of peanut butter. I stayed focused. I chose to walk over certain sections as to not hurt myself. Even with my cautious steps, I still managed to tweak my right leg just behind my knee. I blocked the small ache out of my head and kept going. By the end of the 3rd loop the back of my knee started to hurt. A DNF didn’t even cross my mind. I was going to finish. I was able to maintain a steady pace and finished this loop around 4:38 p.m.
Loop 4: Mind over Mud
I love running in the rain. Good thing, because it was a steady flow at this point. The rain could have been my worst enemy or my best friend. On this day she was my bestie. It was comforting to have her by my side. I laughed as she made me slip, created fun uphill challenges and literally kept me grounded. After awhile the mud became soothing between my toes. I had never run in mud that challenging before. Mentally I was fresh but my legs were really starting to feel the happy pain. Physically I could feel my body slowing down. I found I was over compensating to take some of the pressure off my right knee. Still blocking out the pain I continued to move forward and make the best of the IT 100 Mudapalooza of 2015. My pace was slow, yet steady on this lap as I came in around 8:52 p.m.
Loop 5: No pain, no gain
It had been dark for a few at this point and it was time to change my upper clothes before the temperature dropped even more. It was pointless to change my shoes. I was in new territory as I reached 80 plus miles coming into loop 5. Between trying to figure out my calories and sodium intake in addition to continued blocking out of the pain in my right knee, I found myself light headed, shaky and on the verge of passing out. Candy and the amazing volunteers at the main aid station were quick to act and a few minutes of rest, food and recovery and I could be on my way again. I learned that my digestive system was not very happy and it reminded me at every aid station for the remainder of the race. Ugh, runner problems. Before the mud hit I was on course for finishing in 24 hours. Yet I realized that determination, consistent forward progress and heart was all I needed to finish.
Loop 6: “You don’t have to be fast. But you’d better be fearless.” – Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
On the last loop the pain was intense. Every step was amplified on the up hills and down hills. As I hobbled through the last loop in the early morning hours, I feared the worst for my right leg as the stiffness was at its peak. The temperatures dropped but it didn’t seem to affect me. (Who ever invented hand warmers deserves a Nobel prize). I was never mentally drained and even though I was not moving fast, I couldn't help but get lost in what I love to do. The sunrise was amazing and seemed to give me a 7th wind. In the last remaining miles I could feel all my hard work had paid off. One last crawl down the finish line chute and my goal was complete. I finished!
28:06:24 hours later I had earned my buckle.
My first 100 mile race was more then a race. We race to push ourselves, to test our strength and find an inner balance that keeps us moving forward. The run—like in life —has meaning and is unpredictable. We can find and fulfill this meaning with certainty not by the miles we log, but by the moments we live in each step. Stay motivated everyone and keep on enjoying the Love of the Run.
A GREAT BIG THANK YOU to my wife and crew Candy for putting up with my crazy and supporting me. Erinn and Mark you made it easy and kept it fun in the beginning loops, thank you. It was nice meeting you Geoff Peterson, you killed it! To all the great volunteers, the Race Director, Mike and his amazing crew….Thank you for such a great race that lived up to its expectations and then some.
Key things I used:
Hydration pack: Orange Mud VP1 hydration vest pack www.orangemud.com
Shoes: ALTRA Olympus 1.5 www.altrarunning.com
Blister prevention: 2toms (100 miles in the same shoe and same socks. Zero blisters. This stuff really works) www.2toms.com
Race Caps Supreme