First 50

Saturday I’ll be running my first 50 mile race, the American River 50 Miler. A multitude of

Official-Course-Map-AR50-2014thoughts are passing through my mind this week. Among them are “what the heck was I thinking!” Three years ago I said I would never run anything further than 5 miles. Now, 2 marathons, 3 50k’s and several 10 mile races and an adventure run of about 30 miles later and I am stepping up to a whole new level.

Of course, I feel woefully unprepared! I have not put in the miles that I had hoped up to this point. I have been recovering, I think, from plantar fasciitis. I have changed shoes, inserts and socks and I am hoping I have the right combination to run 50 miles with a minimum of pain. I am running a slower pace now than I was last year and yet, I am still planning on picking it up on Saturday and running the best race of my life.

I have the amazing support of my family and my running group. Folsom Trail Runners have been nothing short of amazing in the advice and encouragement I have received. My pacers, Matt and Stephanie are ready to get me through the last half of the race and I am simply hoping to get to them before they get bored and leave (just kidding, I know they wouldn’t… I hope… I think).

I have paid more attention to my nutrition (still lots of room for improvement there) and my cross training (even more room for improvement there). I have worked on running form and relaxing during the run. I have focused more on mental preparation than physical preparation and, I think, that will be more important for this race.

Today I will pack up my drop bags and make final preparations for the run. I might go run an easy 2-3 miles, just to calm my nerves.

I’m not going to win, but I do have the goal to improve my overall age group ranking. I’m not even sure how they figure that out, but I’d like to see the number improve. I’m pretty much a “back of the middle of the pack” runner and I hope to improve that a little. Mostly, I want to make sure I finish before the cut off.

My plan this year was to run fewer races, but longer distances. I’m getting part of that… the next month is going to be interesting, as what used to be long runs turns into training runs. My schedule the next seven weeks includes:

AR50
Mokelumne River 50K
Folsom Lake Trail Run 35K
MeOw Marathons Adventure Run (single or double marathon – not sure yet)
Dirty Secret Trail Run 10 Mile
Race Behind Bars (my first mountain bike race)

Truth be told, I am loving this! This will be the race of my life, no matter how long it takes!

Way Too Cool Two

Saturday was my second start at Way Too Cool and my 3rd attempt at the 50k distance. Running 31.2 miles as slowly as I do gave me a lot of time to think about and, at least part of, it consisted of things some runners might find beneficial. So, I have a lot to report. For those of you who just want to get the general idea, I finished. I was able to improve my time on my last 50k and that is the first time I have improved over any distance since last July. Scroll to the end if you just have to know my time… full race report follows.

WTC14

Training, or lack thereof:

Recovering (or not) from plantar fasciitis greatly affected my training since the Sly 50k in August. Since CIM in December my training consisted of doing nearly nothing during the week and running a long (ish) run on the weekends. On race day I was feeling pretty good, but I knew the lack of training was going to have an impact on my endurance. My last couple of training runs have been in the 15 min/mile range, whereas last summer I was pretty consistently around 12. None the less, thinking of the 50 miler (maybe two – AR50 and MeOw Marathons) that I have coming up, I decided to press on and test my limits. I think I found them.

I arrived later than I had hoped and parked more than a mile from the Ultra Village. I saw my FTR family at the start, but I had missed the traditional group photo op and still had to get my bib and check in, and, of course, the obligatory pre-race porta potty stop. The race is run in two waves (8am and 8:10 start times) and slow folk, like me, are scheduled for the second, but the porta potty line put me to the start line at 8:17. Thankful for chip timing, I started my Garmin with two others in our own “3rd Wave” and pursued the others already several minutes ahead. I caught the back of the second wave pack before I hit the dirt at mile 1.5 and started picking off runners on my way to Knickerbocker Creek. The creek was just below the knees this year and I have no desire to wait in a single file line to rock hop across in a feeble attempt to stay dry, so I splashed my way across and skirt past a few more runners. At this early stage I’m still running up hills and felt lucky to get in a conga line that matched my pace on the Secret trail. Despite the crowds, the slip and slide trail conditions and a first class back splash covering my back side in mud, I reached the Cool Firehouse at mile 8 in an 1:41, 4 minutes ahead of my goal pace.

I set three goals for every race. First, my ‘it would be awesome if I could do this’ goal. Then my ‘this is what I really think I can do’ target, and finally, my ‘I’ll be really disappointed if I can’t do this’ goal. For this race, my dream was under 7 hours. I had broken the race into three 8 mile sections, the first one down in under 1:45 meant I was on pace for sub 7 hours, but the hills were yet to come.

Leaving Cool and heading toward Hwy 49 is usually a fairly fast section and I did get some stretches of bounding downhill, leaping off of rocks. The slippery conditions and the over crowded trails however slowed me down a bit. Another porta potty stop and the first significant climb put me at mile 16 one minute behind my ideal pace, but still well within my second target of 7:30. This is where my lack of training became evident as my legs just quit. If was even going to finish this race, it would not be because of my legs, but in spite of them.

At about the same time, I started having stomach cramps that I couldn’t identify. It wasn’t intestinal. I tried different food at the aid stations, but that wasn’t it either. It took me several miles before I realized that I was using my abs more (something I have been working on) and they were sore. By the time I finished I felt like I had been doing crunches the whole time.

Another thing I have been working on is Chi running. I don’t know very much about it yet, but I have been applying the basics because I have heard two things about it. First, the style of running reduces injury and uses less energy to move forward. Second, the joy of running on the verge of out of control has always been the best for me and I am trying to get more of that. As my legs gave out, I knew I would need some force to keep me moving to the finish; gravity never stops! I’ll write more on this as I learn more.

Reaching the aid station at mile 21 I felt good. Tired, but good. I refueled and stepped into new territory, as that is where I dropped last year. After a peanut butter sandwich and some electrolytes, I took off the shirt and the arm sleeves and threaded them on my spi-belt, refilled my water bottles and leaned down the hill from the aid station. The next 4 miles were mostly about enjoying the solitude and preparing my head for Goat Hill, the steepest and most infamous section of the course. I really enjoyed this section, although fatigue had thoroughly set in, letting gravity pull me down the downgrades and pushing up the rises, it was slow going, but beautiful single track in the trees with perfect running weather.

I pushed my way up Goat Hill and made the final 5 miles on the winding single track mostly alone, which was fine for me this day. I could see my second goal slipping away, but, considering the lack of training and the fact that I have actually put on some weight (all on my gut – don’t judge me!) I was starting to feel lucky if I even made my drop dead goal of 8 hours. I made it to the last aid station and only needed a splash of water to make it the last 1.4 miles. There is an immediate climb that I have run many times, but not this time. Water was running down it like a small stream and it was as muddy and slippery as I was tired. I walked that stretch and then trotted the last bit, making sure I could run to the finish line.

I finished at 7:52, chip time, and came across feeling pretty good. My bib number was 747 so I felt compelled to spread my wings and fly across the finish like a very slow moving airliner. They handed me a medal and a water. I kept the medal, but quickly traded the water for an ice-cold amber ale Matt had saved for me. Hanging around with my FTR friends, talking about the course and the great accomplishments of some of our members and all of our great finishes was the best part of the day.

Gear and Nutrition:

Although my training was poor, to say the least, I had very good luck with my gear and nutrition. The spaghetti feed carb load the night before, oatmeal and a banana for breakfast and my traditional Starbucks pre-race got me started. I always carry a couple of Gu packs just in case, but I try to rely on the aid stations because NoCal Ultras always does such a great job of taking care of the runners. Even after the long Facebook discussion on hydration, in which I was a proponent of the back pack over the water bottles, I opted for the double 20oz bottles anyway because the aid stations were close enough together to refill often and quickly. I also knew it would be warm later and I might want to go shirtless and that would not be possible with the pack. I converted one of my water bottles to electrolytes around mile 4 with a drop-in tab (can’t remember the brand). I didn’t like the taste and I used up all the water so I  just made do until mile 8. I refilled the bottles with water and electrolytes, respectively and that combination seemed to work. I am a firm believer in eating what my body seems to crave at aid stations and took potatoes and salt, a cookie, peanut butter sandwich quarters and salt tablets at each station. At mile 21 I took two s-tabs (I wish I hadn’t but they handed them to me and I took them both) and switched to two bottles of water because I had run out at mile 19. Fortunately there were some spectators right there who had ice and flat coke… Perfect! I looked at the pizza at the last aid station, but by then I just wanted to finish and time was slipping away. There would be pizza in 1.4 miles, and a cupcake!

I started with a Hoo-Rag around my neck, but decided it was too warm and put it in my truck a 1.4 miles. I kept the nike running cap, Balega short trail socks, and arm warmers. The shorts are Conner Trail Shorts from local company RypWear. These are a seamless short that are extremely comfortable and provide with almost no chafing (properly and amply applied Glide helps too) and absolutely none of the cutting and binding caused by the typical built in liner in most running shorts. I wore the Patagonia shirt that was given at last year’s WTC and this is the most comfortable shirt I own. I was pleased to see that they supplied us with another of the same this year in a different color. Thank you Julie! I took off the shirt and arm sleeves at 21. Threading the spi-belt through was a bit of brilliance I came up with because I was tired of losing things I hang in my belt. The spi-belt is light and holds several Gu packs and some Chomps in the pocket with virtually no weight.

Finally the shoes. I have been running trails in Brooks Cascadias and they fit me wonderfully. The plantar fasciitis, however, finally compelled me to try the Hoka Mafate 2 (I got mine at Running Warehouse, but you could also try Gold Country Run and Sport if you are local. The extra cushion provided by Team Marshmallow has been amazing. Especially on the downhills I feel like I am floating. It took me a while to get used to the raised profile and I wish the tongue was a little wider at the top because the lace creates a blister when I use the heal lock eyelet, which I need to do. I haven’t checked the changes in the new Mafate 3 yet.

With all this amazing gear and the nutrition working well, you’d think I have a better time, but 5-7 extra pounds around the waist and no training during the week for 4 months will cost time.

Truth be told, I’m happy to be able to run this distance without pain. Now, let’s get ready for 50 miles!

Ready or not…

Saturday will be my second attempt at the Way Too Cool 50k. I have spent more time napping than running in recent weeks and I have never felt so under prepared for a race.

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Last year I dropped out due to a knee injury at mile 21. Since then I have completed another 50k, a 25 mile (I did over 30) adventure run, a second marathon and a 25k with some tough hills. However, I have not had a 50 mile week since November and I have gained 5 pounds and lost lots of speed.

I keep telling myself that the rest is what I needed, but I’m not totally convinced. My plan to do other training to make up for lack of running fell by the way side. Basically, I have been a slug.

My plantar fascia has been feeling better… Until I ran 16 on pavement last weekend and aggravated it again.

My hope and my plan is to have fun, enjoy the trail and finish the race ahead of the sweepers.

I need to also keep in mind that I have a 50 miler in a few weeks, a 35k after that and a double marathon adventure run in May. There are many more miles in my future and it doesn’t really matter if I’m slower….

Yes it does! It’s frustrating!

Truth be told, I’m not through improving and the people I like to run with are faster than I am, so I need to get faster just so I can keep up.

Have you felt this way? Share your thoughts on recovering from injury, re-motivating yourself, and getting better with age.

you gotta keep moti-VAT-ed

I’ve got an excuse to not run for every day of the week. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. It’s too early. It’s too late. I’m too tired. I’m sick. My knee hurts. My back hurts. My foot hurts. I just don’t feel like it.

There are just as many things that suck our motivation out of us as there are excuses to let them. Motivation has to change from time to time because it has to overcome different circumstances and obstacles. Motivation is what makes the reasons to do something over-power the reasons not to. When I first started running, I wanted to lose a few pounds and get in better shape. I lost the weight and my cholesterol went down. With the health issue resolved, I needed new motivation. Maintaining my health was not enough for me. I started running longer races and trying to improve my times. The excitement of my new hobby and the challenges it presented carried me for a little over a year. After some injuries from over-training and the resultant slower times, I started feeling too old to improve my times anymore and my motivation began to wain.

I still love running on the trails, but I can’t seem to get up and train. The places I love to run are further from my home and the distances are greater. Both of these require better planning and considerably more time. I’ve added a mountain bike, but the trails for that are the same as the trails I run on, so… not any closer. I also need to spend time with my family so the obstacles are just bigger than they seemed before.

No they’re not! The obstacles are the same! My motivation is weaker! Time for new motivation.

Here’s the cycle…

I don’t feel like running and I don’t. The next day it’s a little easier to not run. After a few days, I get into the habit of NOT running. Then I start feeling bad for not running. My endorphin level goes down and I have even less energy. Depression starts to creep up and I can’t sleep. I’m tired from not sleeping, so I take a nap in the afternoon, instead of running. Because of my nap, I’m not tired at bed time so I stay up watching TV too late. I stayed up too late, so it’s hard to wake up in the morning…

So, now I’m in this funk with a 50K coming up and barely had enough motivation to write about it!

I know sometimes we all need to just take a break, but breaks over! Time to get back to it.

How do you break out of your funks?

Truth be told, I have never had a day when I ran and wished I hadn’t and I have never had a day when I did not run and was glad for it.

Oh For The Love

steep ravine start

happy to be back on the trail

I started running to lose weight and get in better shape. I soon found a rekindled love affair with running and, especially, the trails.

Last year, I set some aggressive goals and pushed myself to try to reach them. Not only did I not reach two of my four goals, but I injured myself in the process and started to not enjoy running as much. It usually takes long distance runners years (much more than 2) to get burned out, but I could tell I was headed that direction and I didn’t want to be.

steep ravine ocean view

amazing view of Stinson Beach from the Steep Ravine Trail

Time off! Time off was a must.

I took three weeks after CIM and then an easy trail run. A 10 mile trail race a few days later and the Plantar Fasciitis returned. A lot of stretching and 18 days later, I ran the Steep Ravine 25k in Stinson Beach. I was undertrained, although the rest had done me good. But this is not a race report.

Running through the trees and in and out of the view of the coast, I found a peace that I had been missing since I could not run, due to my injury. Climbing the steep hills, although exhausting, was also exhilarating. I stopped often to take pictures and walk breaks as needed. Most importantly, I remembered what I love about running.

Steep Ravine Trail

running through the redwoods on the Dipsea Trail

Being! Just existing with nature. I find myself on the trail more than in any other place. Nothing of the troubles and concerns of life matter when I am on the trail. The people I run with, whether I know them are not, create a family-like camaraderie beyond almost anything I have found elsewhere. Above it all is the peaceful contentment I find in solitude on the trail, and the communion I find with God in the presence of His magnificent creation.

So I am returning, not just to running, but to the love of running. I have no fear of failure, for my only goal is to run. I have no time constraints, nor pace objectives. I may get faster. I may not. Of only one thing I am certain, I will run… a lot.

goat hill

part of Goat Hill on the Way To Cool course

This week I returned to my home trails. Running with many friends in Cool for the upcoming 50k. I found myself alone on the trail several times throughout the day. It was during this time that I realized what changes I need to make in my running… and in my life.

I need to do more of what I do for the love of doing it! I have always advocated doing the “right thing for the right reason,” but I am not sure I have always kept track of what “the right reason” is.

I think I may have stumbled upon it…

LOVE! Perhaps it seems silly, or something, but, as Paul McCartney once said, “what’s wrong with that?”

My greatest peace comes from three things (maybe four): running, music (I like almost everything), and nature, the forth is probably motorcycling, but that’s another blog. In fact, when I am running in the mountains, listening to my iPod, I reach a near perfect place for me. When my legs are so tired that they lose their feeling and I’m somehow still moving fast enough to feel a breeze on my face… when I can smell the trees and the near by stream, and classic rock, blues or country is thumping in my ears, I am totally disconnected from everything except where I am and what I am doing.

Why can’t I do everything I do with that love? Seriously! Why can’t I?

mountains above Cool

mountains above Cool

I don’t see any good reason. I teach because I love math and I love my students. I play and sing because I love music. I run because I love running. I write because I love writing.

Truth be told, There’s enough of hate, anger, frustration, etc. I’m not going to add to that. It won’t be an overnight transition, but I will get there. The focus of all I do will be love. Besides, what’s not to love?

CIM 2013

Run for a Reason - BeChange

Run for a Reason – BeChange

27 degrees! 7AM. At least it’s not raining!

I expected to have a good race, although I was concerned about my training (or lack thereof) over the past 4 weeks.

2013 was to be the year of goals… of achievements… of miles and races and personal bests. Instead it was a year of injuries and frustration. On the upside, I did finish my first 50k, my second marathon, and an adventure run that took me beyond anything I thought I would possibly be able to do… ever. I had the opportunity to mentor a student through completing her first marathon and that has led to mentoring three more students in running races in 2014. I completed 17 races and some of those did have improved times over last year. I ran a total of over 800 miles (although I was shooting for 1000); that’s a lot of miles for a 3rd year runner. My injury in February slowed me down and I over-trained trying to make up for it. That probably contributed to my plantar fasciitis which has plagued me for the last 3 months.

Despite that, I had high expectations for the CIM and felt good at the start. The plantar fasciitis was sore, but not affecting my stride and not unbearable. Running with the 4:10 pace group through the first 3 miles and settling in on pace to complete at 4:30 through the half, I still felt I was on track.

I don’t know if it was the pounding of the pavement, or the cold, or the fact that I had run very little over the past 4 weeks, but the hurt set in at about mile 15. I was able to push through and still had hopes for a decent finish for the next 5 miles. Passing through the “wall” I felt I could still pick up the pace and finish strong, but the more I tried to pick it up, the slower I got. My foot was still hurting and now so were my knees and calves.

My buddy, Dave, caught me at about mile 22 and we decided we were too tight to really run and that our goals were so far out of reach that it didn’t matter any more. Quitting was still not an option and, as we often say, “keep a pace… forward is a pace.” So, after a stop at “aid station” Starbucks, we continued at a shuffle-walk until the end. We talked and hung out and made plans for how we might help next year without running and what trail races we might do.

26.2 miles in just under 6 hours. It actually turns my stomach a little and I’m a little embarrassed of my time, and a little angry at myself, but we did finish.

The most important thing is that, no matter how difficult, and painful, it got, we did not let down the kids we were running for. See, we run for a reason. We run for those who can’t, who don’t have some of the bare necessities that we take for granted every day. Things like school supplies, medical and dental care, clothes, meals, etc. What’s amazing is that this tremendous need that we run for is right here in Sacramento.

Jason Harper, founder of Be Change shared this with us, talking to all of us who ran:

 

Yesterday I met with a child who will benefit from your efforts.  Before I could say hello, he said, “How’d all our runners do? Did we do good?”  
 
He is 12 years old and I had been telling him the support he receives to get a warm jacket, a trip the dentist, or a doctors visit is because of Be Change Runners.  That is where he found love, acceptance and kindness. Its also why he said “Did WE do good?”  Because he aligns himself with you.  You are part of the only resource for life altering needs being met in his life.  On behalf of him, thank you.
 
I told him, “We did real good!”  I said that because of you.
Truth be told, I have no intention of running CIM, or any long race on roads again, but I’m glad I did it. I hope I can continue to raise awareness and money to help these kids change their circumstances. Please help me by contributing on my Group Rev page. Together we can make a difference. No gift is too small or too large and it is tax deductible.
Thank you!

A Final Push….

Less than two days from my second marathon and the thoughts that occupy my mind are many.

Is the plantar fasciitis going to keep me from running the way I want to?

Can I really come close to a 4 hour marathon?

How will I feel on Monday?

How cold will it really be?

Has my training been enough, or did I rest too much trying to heal?

Why have I neglected the kids I’m running for so much?

See, I started this whole thing because I was raising money to help BeChange raise money to support elementary school kids in less fortunate parts of Sacramento. The benefits that they have for these kids will change lives. Then I fell in love with running again and seemed to lose a little of my focus about the reason I am running.

It’s great to be able to do something I love to benefit others, but, in fact, if I forget about the reason I’m doing it, then I’m not really doing it for that reason.

I don’t have the financial means to help the way I would like, but I can run. I can go run 26.2 miles and wear a Be Change shirt and raise awareness. The part I have let up on is the making people aware part.

Friends, this is a real need. There are kids in our town that may never get more than 2 miles from their homes. They may never go to college. They may never realize their dreams.

We can change that! But I need your help. 100% of your tax-deductible gift goes to the kids. There are no administrative costs because all administration id donated. Kids will get shoes, school supplies and even get to take trips to colleges to learn about what is beyond their neighborhood.

So, I will run… run for a reason. Won’t you support me and help change some lives?bechangekids.jpg

 

Truth be told, whether I have achieved my goals this year or failed does not matter, if I am doing it only for myself. This goal matters!

Flexible Goals

I began the year with some fairly lofty goals. Mainly, I planned to run at least 12 races and at least 1000 miles, including a 50k and a second marathon. Both seemed pretty doable on January 1.

My first injury slowed me down considerably and brought my first 50k attempt to a painful stop at mile 21. However, I could still achieve my other goals if I included a 50k later in the year and kept plugging away at the miles.

I chose to run the Run On The Sly 50k in August. ftr_slyIt was hot, dusty, and a little smoky, but I was not concerned about time and was fairly certain I could finish. Somewhere near mile 12 I stepped on a root, or a rock, or something and twisted my ankle. I completed the run and wasn’t last, but the price for running 20 miles on a sprained ankle was that the favoring of my right caused plantar fasciitis in my left. In case you don’t know, this is a painful swelling of the tendon running from the forefoot through the arch, connecting to the Achilles tendon and on to the calf. In fact, the problem is most often caused by tightness in the calf that does not get properly stretched out. I have been determined to not let this deter me, but I can now see my 1000 mile goal looking very far away.

I have already surpassed my race goal this year, starting 15 races so far (and only leaving 1 incomplete) with two left to go. My times have not improved in the second half of the year as I hoped they would, but I have run some tougher races (Euchre Bar) and increased my distance.

Truth be told, I have two goals left to achieve this year and one of them is infinitely more important than any race or distance.

… Just Got Real!

 

IMG_0281Starting out before light on a steep downhill trail with Mark and Lorelei, we were excited to be getting under way and looking forward to the day’s adventure. Although my light was not as bright as I would have liked, we picked through the rocky single track with a minimal amount of stumbles. We reached the bottom and the footbridge fairly quickly and dropped our bags of supplies for later on the return trip.

As the sky lightened and the sun began creeping up over the mountains, the beauty of the canyon became more and more apparent. The single track trail paralleling the North Fork of the American River provided amazing glimpses of the water below and the trees above. We could see the evidence of bears and mountain lions, although we didn’t see any face to face.

We made one small wrong turn that forced us to scramble up the hill back to the correct trail when the trail we were on came to a sudden end. Running away from the river, past the farm, up the road, through the gate, we came to the first climb and there is where the running came to a stop for a while. We hacked and bush-wacked our way through the blackberries up the old Pioneer Mine to find our first book and remove our respective pages. We stopped to read our pages (in order) aloud, which made us feel much better about tearing pages out of a book; we certainly were not destroying literature. Continuing on the, slightly better, trail, we soon reached a jeep road and could run again. Here is where we met up with Ingrid and Ray, who had missed the turn and were doing this loop in reverse. We continued back around, wondering if we would meet up with them again at the other end of the loop and increase our party by two. We made good time running down the gradual descent on good road and soon found ourselves on very runable single track again bordering the creek as we made our way towards book 2.

We repelled down a small drop with a handy rope left for that purpose and took a couple of pictures crossing the creek. The instructions we had directed us to proceed up “the steepest way possible.” What we were not quite prepared for is how steep Ebeneezer’s Highway turned out to be. Crawling, pulling, climbing! No running and very little standing up right took place on this. At one point I lost footing and slid for some distance back down toward where I had come from. I grabbed a tree and stopped myself just before the slope’s steepness increased dramatically and it was here, hanging onto that tree looking down at the creek, hundreds of feet below me, that I realized this was not your typical weekend run.

There were no safety patrols or sweepers. There were no EMTs or medics at aid stations. There were no aid stations. This was real risk! It occurred to me there that I could actually get seriously injured or even die out here.

From there we picked our own paths up to the ridge. We wove our traversing trails back and forth across each other’s. we came across others, one on his way back to a DNF and a couple on their way back to a complete run, as well as some going the same direction we were. We didn’t even all see the same people, re-emphasizing just how vast this hillside is. We joined forces again at Humbug Ridge and ran much of the way to the drop bag location. Although we somehow spread out, with Mark up front, Lorelei behind and myself somewhere in between. At least, until I ran past the turn and got a half mile too far up the road before Race Director, Sean, caught me and guided me back. Lorelei was resting and decided to cut the day short. Mark had already left to go back and Starchy, who had been on the same hill with us had just arrived as well.

After some food and refilling the water and Gatorade and some rest, Starchy and I headed back down the ridge. Our thinking was that, if we could angle down Ebeneezer’s and cross the creek closer to the river, we could save some time and make it back to the footbridge to maybe have time to climb the last hill and get our last book page. That’s where things went wrong.

We found a relatively easy way down the hill and, with a lot of zigging and zagging, we climbed down to the creek and took a couple of pictures before we crossed the ankle-deep water and found a way up the other side. Knowing that we would have to go right after crossing the creek, we angled up and right. We soon discovered that the climb was tougher, steeper, and longer than we thought it should be to get back to the road. If we could just make it up this cliff we would have a better vantage point and be able to get our bearings to plot the remainder of our course back.

Leaves and loose rock made climbing/hiking/crawling/scrambling difficult. It seemed like the top of an outcropping of rock would provide a better view and easier climbing. About 10-15 feet up a hand hold came free and I was headed back down, back first, head towards the bottom. I landed with a crash that sent leaves and rocks and dirt down towards Starchy. When the dust settled and he called out “you OK?” My response was that I was taking inventory. After a few moments I replied that I had hurt my thumb and my ankle, but nothing seemed broken. Once I could stand we made it to the top of the rocks and discovered we were no more than halfway up the side of this mountain. Time to check the map and compass.

Starchy discovered that we were getting further from our former trail and that, in fact, we had crossed the river and not the creek and that we were actually angling away from our destination. Time to turn around and head back. The climb back down to the river was at least as treacherous as the climb up and it took a combination of sliding, falling and climbing to get down to the water. Now we needed to head down stream to the creek and get back on course. But now we were almost out of light, the temperature was falling and we were miles off course in an area that no one would even think to look for us.

We crossed the river several times, but headed in the right direction, in order to walk on whichever side looked more walkable. Several times we had to scramble up and around and back down because the river was too deep to cross or walk thorough. Realizing that we were at least 3 miles from where anyone would look for us, I was beginning to feel anxious and thinking of news reports I have seen over the years that start with “the bodies of two hikers were recovered…”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, it comes naturally to me to pray in times of crisis, although often later than I should. So I prayed. I prayed for courage, knowing that fear was a huge adversary here. I prayed for physical strength. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for guidance. I suddenly felt calm and warm and prayed, “God, You told us that with the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains. I don’t need You to move a mountain, just a creek, or us. Put us on the right path.”

In the next five minutes we stopped to take another look at the map and Starchy suddenly got excited and scrambled up the hill. “Get up here!” He calls out, “I’ve got good news.”

“You found the creek?”

“Better”

“You found the path?”

“I’m not spoiling the surprise.”

I scrambled up the hill and found myself standing on the path. THE path. We were now on our the same trail we started on, at least two miles downstream of where we thought we were. We were on the other side of the creek, although we had not crossed it. We were less than 3 miles from the footbridge and food; 5 miles from the finish. One last climb. 1800 feet up… and drive home. What started as 25 miles with 10000 feet of climb ended up being 30 miles with 16000 feet of climb.

Much of the “adventure” I put in my life has no real risk. Many of the things I do to overcome my fears contains no real danger, but feigned danger… a safety net… a cushion. This didn’t. This was real.

Truth be told, many will probably explain God out of this, but I won’t.

Do you need to be mentored? Do you need to be a mentor?

The short answer is “YES!”

There may be a time for the “sink or swim” method of teaching, but that is not mentoring. Mentoring is beyond telling, or even showing, someone how to do something. It is a steady guide through the learning and/or growing process that ensures the success of the individual being mentored. Above all, mentoring requires trust.

I’ll share with you two examples….

I love to snow ski, but it didn’t start out that way. When I first went skiing I asked a friend of mine to show me how. He said, “It’s easy. Go to the top, point your skis down and, by the time you get to the bottom, you’ll know how.” Well, long before I got to the bottom, I had given up. I took my skis off and walked down the hill.

On the other hand, a few years ago, I decided to take up running. This is something I had done from time to time, but I bought myself some new shoes, started running around my neighborhood and entered a couple of 5k races. Then I met a guy who also ran and asked me if I wanted to run together.

He showed me some different places to run. He always made sure I was doing OK. He checked on me if I was having a hard time keeping up with him, and made sure I had enough water. He taught me about Gu – on the run energy food, easy to carry, easy to consume. He introduced me to running culture and to other runners. He also introduced me to trail running. After one of our runs (I had said that I was not interested in running anything longer than a 5k (3.1 miles), he told me we had just run about 6.5 miles and maybe I should do a 10K with him on New Years. That was 2012. I relented and have since run several 10ks, several 10-mile races, 2 half-marathons and my first marathon. In August, I will be completing my first 50K and I am considering a 50-mile race next year. I would not have been able to do that without his mentoring. I am now getting ready to mentor a good friend of mine, as he gets ready to run Tough Mudder in September. This is a 10-mile race with obstacles and lots of mud, ice water, and electric wires to run through – but that’s a whole other message by itself.

Mentoring isn’t really mentoring if it doesn’t lead to further generations of mentoring.

It’s not enough to teach someone how to do something; we must also teach them to teach others how to do so. You might say, “I’m not a teacher. I could never do that.” But everyone has a different part to play and everyone has different strengths. We have been given those strengths to use to help others, as well as ourselves.Each part does its own work, plays its own part in building up the community. You don’t have to be a teacher to show someone else what you know. However, you do have to have patience and, most importantly, I believe, a love for what you are doing and a love for the one you are mentoring.

So, are you ready to develop mentoring relationships? Here are a couple of tips and a couple of warnings…

Mentoring relationships cannot be forced, but they must be sought out. As you travel on your journey, look for those further along than you from whom you can learn and look also for those behind you on the path to which you can provide guidance and encouragement.

Build trust and friendship before you offer instruction. No one wants to be told what to do by someone they have no relationship with.

Lead more by example than by words.

Be patient. Don’t rush it. Relationships take time to develop and sometimes they just don’t. If you find one that doesn’t work, keep the friendship, but find someone else to mentor or to be mentored by.

Don’t take on too much. Jesus mentored 12 men. One of them didn’t follow. I think, that for most of us, two or three is the maximum. One at a time is probably enough, but it depends on the time commitment necessary and the time you have to spend.

Everyone should be mentored AND be a mentor. If you have not been mentored, find someone who is able and willing to mentor you. If you are currently being mentored, start looking for someone to pass it along to.

Mentoring is essential in sports, business, education, hobbies, religion, community… really, everything.

Truth be told, mentoring looks like this:

chaingang

– people guiding each other through rough waters by reaching forward and backward… all the time.