Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ode to My Hill



Running out at Comanche Lookout Park yesterday, I felt like jotting down a fun poem or a play on homophones in the English language.  I've done quite a bit of run training in this small park and wanted to honor it in some way.  Everyone needs a hill, a place to challenge themselves.

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I cried a tear, climbing your tier
Whilst tearing the tor
Your course, coarse
Through the gravel floe, mind in flow
I’ve made a peace with this small piece

I’d felt weak all week. 
Hearing pleas of please
Running I need, my quads I knead
And my heel, now healing 
Bidding you marque, making a mark

The trails not new, each turn I knew
However in the mist, I missed
Sitting idle, dreaming of idols
A small hare, sweat in my hair
What do I hear, here?

I’m born again, being borne
Nevermore mourning in the morning
Desire whet, with water tongue wet
Through every groan, I’ve grown
Seeing a hart, warming my heart
Through your thyme, I pass my time

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Trail Toes - No Chafing No Blisters

     What anti-chafing, anti-blister product do you use today?  I'll bet you you're using Body Glide.  I know I used Body Glide from the time I started training for my first marathon in 2007 until September 2013.  It is a good product.  Then I was introduced to Trail Toes.
     Trail Toes is most comparable to a product which is no longer on the market called HydroPel. Frankly, in any wet or super humid conditions, Trail Toes is the greatest product on the market today.  This stuff protects your feet, not allowing them to absorb water under the skin, the chief cause of blisters.
   
     Full disclosure: The Trail Toes staff and family are close friends of mine.  We've known each other since 2008.

     I have used the Trail Toes anti chafing/blister cream for the following ultra-marathons or OCR events:

The Bear 100 - Sept 2013 (used beta product) (33:18:xx)
Texas Spartan Beast - Dec 2013  (2:43:46)
Brazil 135 - Jan 2014 (34 hours)
Neuces 50K - March 2014 (4:29:18)
Prickly Pear 50K - March 2014 (4:21:53)
Georgia Death Race 100K - March 2014 (15:02:03)
Texas Independence Relay SOLO  200 Miles - March 2014  (60 hours)

     In all of these events I have had none to very minimal blisters.  The only race where I actually did have blisters was in the 200 mile event. Those were one small blister between my big toe and index toe on each foot and one on the bottom of my right foot. After mile 80, I never changed my socks or re-applied Trail Toes Cream, so one could argue those blisters are my fault. :)
     In addition to using this product for racing, I use it on a daily basis.  Everyday I run, I use Trail Toes to prevent nipple chafing, chafing under my arms, and between my legs.  My legs are huge and so are my latissimus dorsi.  This product is welcomed in my running bag!  You can see my running resume here JOHNSHARP-ATHLINKS.
     The Trail Toes company is owned by my friend Vincent Antunez.  This company is a family owned business.  Along with his wife, they mail out every package you order from the website.  Their commitment to quality and to customer satisfaction is unparalleled.  Originally this product was only offered in the large jar which you see in the Trail Store, but based on feedback from the customers Vincent has made this product available in a variety of  different sized packaging and offerings.  These new offerings make drop bag planning for Ultra-Marathons easy!!
     I highly encourage you to give this product a try.  You'll see for yourself, this product is light years ahead of it's competition.  Use my code "Run 200s" to receive a 10% discount.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Back to Training

     The conclusion of this week will mark 3 weeks post TIR 200.  I did not do all of the things I should have to recover from the event.  I should have done some yoga, and I did not.  I did, however, go to Airrosti for 3 sessions and that helped a great deal. I've been kicking around some ideas on training to start preparing for Hardrock.  Most of these ideas would be laughed at, so I won't publish them here.  I'll just do the work, put the work in and then if the race goes well then I'll be glad. 
     I have a few niggles from the big run, but just need to stay consistent with foam rolling and stretching.  Maybe throw in some thrusters to stretch under load.  This week, on Monday, I ran a 7:50 pace 10 mile run.  I worked in quite a bit of "pickups" where I drop down to 6:30 and get some turn over a breathe heavy!  I should end up with 60 miles for the week.
     Been considering some new shoes.  For trail I picked up a pair of Nike Zoom Wildhorse.  I solicited feedback via my friends on Facebook and they sounded like a good purchase.  I'll be trying these out next week on a super rocky trail at Cibolo Creek in Selma, TX.   Of course I'll provide my own thoughts.  Nike hasn't traditionally been in this space, but I'll give them a shot.  Also I'll be running the PowerLine out by UTSA with Jason Crockett and his crew. 
     For road shoes I've been using NB 980 Fresh Foam, Brooks Pure Flow, and Sucony A5.  I have been kicking around the Sketchers Go Run3 to try out and see how they run.  Meb runs in them, so can't be terrible. 
     Really looking forward to getting back on the Versa Climber and training more with kettlebells.  Also, building bomb proof glutes. Going to head out to the Brazos Bend Trail Races next weekend.  Haven't decided on whether I'll run the 50K, but I probably shouldn't.  My buddy John Taylor will be running, so going to help him out a bit. Also help out Rob Goyen if any errands need to be run.

     Stay motivated, even if today isn't your best day.  Consistency is key!

Monday, April 7, 2014

200 Miles Under The Texas Sun: My Search for a Lost Pony


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    Once, on a hot afternoon in June of 2008, we'd just left the Dry Fork aid station headed down to Cow Camp.  The Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming are pretty nice in early June, notwithstanding the mud.  Joe and I were having a chat about running.  I felt pretty good, being 15 miles into my first 100 mile trail run.  I says, "Man Joe, I'll tell you what, man!  I wanta run that Texas Independence Relay as a Solo run.  Yea man, wouldn't that be bad ass?"  Ole Joe just kinda grunted a bit and said, "Johnny, why don't we talk about this tomorrow?" 
     Way leads on to way, things come and go.  Dreams fade, shit happens, life happens.  I was 30 years old back then and had just run my first marathon in November of 2007.  In the intervening years between then and now lots of things happened.  No I didn't get married or divorced or have any kids.  My career has been stable.  I kept on ultra running.  A little here, a lot there.  Over the years I DNF (did not finish) nine 100 mile races and finished about seven 100 mile races.  I remember each year when TIR time would roll around or sometimes 6 months out, I'd start talking about running the TIR 200 Solo!  I talked about it so much that I am very certain that my ultra running acquaintances would think to themselves, "Yea, sure bud. Let me know when you're not just jaw-jackin."  I went through all the running fads.  Garmins, HR monitors, introspection, reading running books, hurraches, minimalist shoes, hydration packs, race fueling strategy, bought every running movie I could find, etc....  
     One of my ultra running mentors, Allen Wrinkle, ran the TIR Solo in 2009.  That year I ran on a team with Tony Boatman, Mark Richards, and Alan Tanner among others.  In 2010 I helped crew my buddy Dmitiry on his solo attempt, on day one.  He was ultimately unsuccessful.  In 2012 I ran on a team with my friend Kelli Newlon, Team Asics.
     I'm 36 years old now.  I've dealt with a lot of issues that folks deal with when the start running.  Those issues are always the same.  Some childhood problem, your mommy didn't buy you that pony,  bad marriage, overweight, low self-esteem, rape, molestation, beating your spouse, alcoholic, drug user, killed a man, etc.., etc......     My personal issues were alcoholism, low self-esteem, and fear of abandonment and acceptance.  I got it.  It took me a while, and lots of running.  I ran much, early on, as a teleological endeavor.  Where can running get me too?  Nice car, eh!  But I'm trying to get to California.  I had a firm grasp on my "issues" by 2011.  That took about three years of running.  Then I spent a bit of time really ramping up my quality in late 2011 early 2012, only to fall back into an abyss.  Spent most of  Q3 2012 to end of Q2 2013 in a big ass hole I dug for myself.
     I was very fortunate in 2013 to have a close friend in Samantha O'Brien.  She would text me, check on me.   It was always, "Hey Cowboy, what's going on?"  I was pretty down due to some issues with my professional work.  After 14 years, I'm sure that you can't always ride a cresting wave, but being down in a trough ain't no bueno.  Another buddy Isaiah Vidal would hit me up to train, along with Johnson Cruz from Nicaragua. I got a bit motivated and did a few workouts with them.  They totally kicked the shit out of me.  I even went back to CrossFit but that didn't stick.  Isaiah convinced me to run the Spartan Beast out in Monterrey, CA in August of 2013.  In May I was all in and we made our plans.  In August I backed out.  I had not trained at all.  I had run the Leadville Marathon in July with my buddy Wade Wilson.  At 195lbs I suffered in the altitude and dammed near died (kinda). Isaiah really wanted me to run the Spartan Beast.  I think he knew it would help me out.  But, I backed out.  
     Isaiah went on to Monterrey.  He did well and was challenged to ride a bicycle from Texas to Vermont for the Spartan Championships.  What a tough MF'er.  He inspired me. That first week in August of 2013 I went out for my first, "training run" in about a year.  I said, "Johnny, you can't control what folks think about you, but you can control what you think about you."  This is Stoicism 101, but when you're in a hole, you don't want to give up all that hard work you spent digging.
     That first day back was tuff.  100 degree,Texas afternoon in August of 2013, out on a four mile run.  I had to walk a mile of it.  But, I went out the next day and did it again.  And then the next, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one.  Until it wasn't a big deal anymore.  It was just a part of my life.  I didn't worry to much if work was gonna miss me.  I ran, and then I ran some more and then a bit more.  August was a good month.  
     I ran the Bear 100 in late September on 8 weeks of training.   I continued to train and ran my first Spartan Beast in December in Texas.  I went down to Brazil in January 2014 and ran the Brazil 135.   Ran sub 35 hours.  I called Jay the RD of the TIR and told him I want to make a bid for the Solo in 2014!!  He was receptive.  
      In August of 2013 I had finally reached the point where I was either going to become a master at this craft and quit bullshitting, or I was going to walk away from running.  I mean if you're going to spend your time doing something, then it's worth doing well.  Doing that thing to the best of your abilities.  If not, you're really just pissing in the wind, and then you end up with piss all over you.  So towards the last part of 2013 I became a student of running.  When you first start running, you just go out there. You have some success.  Maybe get that half-marathon completed or a full marathon.   Then you think you know it all.  Run an ultra or two, maybe a 100 miler.  Boom, you are a expert.  I spent time really thinking about running.  Form, technique, energy systems, etc....  Reading every article I could find on running, strengthening, sprints, running drills, you name it.  Evaluating my weaknesses and looking for areas where I need to improve.  Besides increasing volume and frequency, I focused on quality and specificity.   Threw in a glute and core routine with some foam rolling and everything really started to come together.  Bullet proof!  Was I spending 4 hours a day training?  Yea, but what else do I have going on? 
     So why the Texas Independence Relay? Why 200 miles?  From even back in 2008, I just felt drawn to this idea.  Basically this event loosely follows Sam Houston's retreat from Gonzales known as the Runaway Scrape.  I'm at least a 4th generation Texan, maybe 5th on both sides.  One set of grandparents, the Dreyer's  lived in Gonzales.  I learned how to swim in their pool out at Shady Oaks neighborhood.  In October of every year we'd go to the Come and Take It parade and annual festival.  I spent my junior high and high school years going to school in Yoakum.  I'd played football in almost every town along the early part of the route.  If not football, we'd drank beer and cruised back roads on quite a few of the back roads in the first 50 miles of the race!! I bought my first car in Eagle Lake, one of the towns we pass through. A 1983 Camaro I purchased in 1995, thank God I didn't have a mullet! My mom lives just across the bayou from the San Jacinto Monument, in the Highlands.  This monument, this obelisk, is the tallest in the world.  Taller than the Washington Monument.  It was built in the art deco architectural style which is my favorite style.  Art deco, let's bring that back!  Texas is known for doing things bigger.  It's people are typically larger than life, gregarious and outgoing.  I feel like I embody this quality.  When I'm in a foreign country and people ask me where I'm from I don't say USA or America.  I tell folks, I'm from Texas.   The distance, to run it in one go, is unfathomable for most people.  Hell it was for me, but what a big ole dream.  For all of these reasons, I knew that one day I'd run this event.  
      Running 200 miles is pretty simple.  You just put one foot in front of the other for 200 miles.  I mean, hell that's so easy a cave man can do it.  However, the real crux of the problem of running 200 miles is logistics. The second salient issue is crew harmony.  Who do you pick?  Why do you pick them?  Will they jive with the other two members?  How many crew?  Thankfully between talking with Joe and Vincent, crew organization, shifts, etc.. was pretty simple.  Two 3 man crews that work twelve hour shifts.  Joe has run Badwater and Vincent has crewed there.  Successful Badwater crews over the years have developed best practices which relate directly to this event.  It's basically a Badwater style road race with support crew.  No sense going around and trying to re-invent wheels.  
     I sent this message out to a number of probable friends that I thought would be willing to support me on February 11th, "Men/women wanted for hazardous journey. No wages, stifling heat, long hours of complete boredom. Safe return probable. Honour and recognition in event of success."  Along with other information about the TIR.   By early March I had the crews picked out.  Vincent, Gina, and Samantha would be Crew 1 (Day) starting from Gonzales and Allen, Mom, and Jaime would be Crew 2 (Night) coming out of Houston.  Below are the instructions I sent out to the crew members on the 20th of March:

    
General Plan: Run from Gonzales, TX to La Porte, TX loosely following Hwy90 and I-10. Have fun, be pretty dammed tired, try not to piss each other off, have some beers, and stuff. 

Specific Plan: Load up Vincent's truck which will act as the crew vehicle for the duration of the race on Thursday 27, March. Friday morning at 0430 we will leave with Crew1 from San Antonio in the crew vehicle bound for the start line in Gonzales. I will ride with Bill Conway in my car. Start the race at 0600 on Friday 28, March. The crew will leap frog me along the course providing aide such as food, water, coke and helping to navigate the course. It's important that the crew vehicle is never more than 2 miles away from me. I plan to employ a run/walk strategy where I run about 2 miles and meet the crew truck. Break to a walk and the crew hands me food, water, etc... Spend about 5 minutes walking and then pick up the running again for 2 miles for as long as this can be maintained.
Crew2 should try to meet and travel to where we will be on the course in Houston late Friday night, avoiding afternoon traffic. Maybe about 10PM. Once Crew2 reaches Crew1 on the course they will spend 20 minutes discussing their roles and responsibilities and conduct a hand off such that from my perspective it's a seamless transition. Crew1 will use the vehicle that Crew2 drove from Houston to leave the course and grab a hotel room along the course and rest up. Once they are fully rested say 8 to 10 AM on Saturday, they will come back on shift and relive Crew2. Crew2 then of course will do the same, grabbing a hotel room up along the course.Each crew will rotate in this manner until we reach the San Jacinto Monument!During each crew relief, the on coming crew will need to call ahead and see if anything needs to be brought in for their shift. Maybe ice, cokes, or new legs. Maybe some hot Hooters chicks. We will have a SPOT GPS tracker in the crew vehicle and you can see that tracker at the website below with 5 minute location updates. Each crew when they arrive on shift will need to change batteries in this device and verify that the location is still working. This will be used so that the RD Jay Hilscher and the Crews will know how to find us and can track status.

     Crew selection was probably the most critical decision, even outside of nutrition/hydration strategies.  Each member of the crew brought specific personality traits, prior experience, knowledge, commitment levels, and motivations with them to this event. In total, these 3 men and 3 women were the chief and direct cause of my success in completing this event. From having crewed at big events, to having run numerous races, run this distance before, local knowledge of the city and course, demeanor, availability, etc....  This list could go on for days.  It's out of the scope of this report to identify each and every reason I picked each of my crew members, but please know and understand that crew will make or break you.  Not only does one have to consider how you feel about the member you have selected, but must consider how that person feels about being there.  Additionally, you have to look at how member one will interact with each of the other members, etc...  Basically 30 separate relationships, if my math is right.  (it probably is not)
     So what did we do for nutrition/hydration?  I went to HEB the Sunday before the race.  I bought about 230$ worth of food and drinks.  Cinnamon rolls, apple turnovers, Mexican wedding cookies, donuts, chocolate chip cookies, sandwich spread, rye bread, peanut butter, jelly, chips, spaghetti-o, chicken noodle soup, ramen, ready to eat packaged chicken, grapefruit soda, coca-cola, Starbucks espresso drinks, butter tortillas, grits, corn bread, Velveeta shells and cheese, Gatorade, apple juice, bananas, peaches, nectarines, Coors Light, and I don't remember what else.  We had a bunch of food.  I vaguely remember eating or trying to eat a bit of each of it. I did eat lots of corn bread and shells and cheese.
     SPOT tracker and social media.  Yes, why not. It's a big deal for me, let's get folks involved.  Each crew had a designated position for pacer/social media. In reality Samantha did a bang up job with the social media.  It does seem a little self-serving and it is. With the SPOT tracker, the RD could keep tabs on us without having to bug him.  Also it enabled the crews to be able to find each other when they needed to make crew changes.  Additionally, if anyone wanted to meet me on the course and ride or run a bit, that option was open as well.  Gordon and Robert came out!  Through Facebook we sent out the link to my SPOT shared page and let folks know I would be running this event.  I also sent the link out to some of my co-workers.  It is pretty exciting because the SPOT is set to send an update every 5 minutes.  You can view these updates via satellite view and can essentially see what I was seeing.  The terrain and topography, foliage, barns, stores, city etc... It was a real opportunity for  anyone who was interested to really get involved.  Maybe live a bit vicariously, maybe be inspired.  For me, I got a bit motivated reading the Facebook comments.  It's probably too much disclosure, but I only read comments while I was in the port-o-johnny!  If anyone was inspired, I just think that is great.  Inspired to do anything, achieve some goal however small or large through watching me via Facebook and SPOT then what a great ancillary benefit.  While it was not my primary intention, being a part of helping people achieve something is pretty dammed hoooaaah!  A lot of time when someone does some running event, they do a charity fundraiser or run for some cause.  I did not.  I ran purely for personal achievement.

Here is the link to the interactive course map which you may find will come in handy to get a sense of refrence while reading the rest of the report:

http://texasindependencerelay.com/interactive-course-map/

       We arrived in Gonzales about 5:40 AM on Friday the 28th of March.  There was not much to do but take some pictures and start running.  My aunt Linda met us at the start line and that was a good thing.  I had a little rumbling down below in the GI area, if you know what I mean.  She swung me by her house and I was able to take care of bizness.  Vincent, Gina, Samantha, Bill, and aunt Linda and I took some pictures and we started.  So typical of an ultra-run start there wasn't any fan fare.  I just looked at my watch and said, "Okay it's 6AM, see you guys in one mile."  Vincent and Gina ran the first mile with me.  Gina and Bill partied pretty hard the day before so she had a nice whiskey hangover and ran the mile in cowboy boots.   Running in cowboy boots was fitting, in the grand scheme of things.

     The prologue is just a one mile loop around the courthouse, downtown and back to the start line.  Once this was done, the crew started doing their crew thing and I eased on up the road.  At the first big intersection were these signs. Like political yard signs with all kinds of motivational statements and my name on them.  Wow!  Really!  Gina had this idea to have these made up.  That was pretty cool.  We had to run a bit along the shoulder of highway 90.  This sucked because it was 0700 and there were lots of 18 wheeler trucks because of all of the oil field traffic in the Eagle-Ford shale formation.   The RD did a good job of keeping us out of the way of the trucks between Gonzales and Flatonia.  Most all of this section was back roads.  Gravel roads that are maintained at the county level.  This section was beautiful and reminded me of the Brazil 135. At exchange 2, the Sam Houston Oak Tree, my buddy Bill had followed the crew vehicle after picking up tacos at Buccees.  We had a quick "gun show" contest to see who's got the biggest arms.  I'm not doing bad for not lifting serious weights in 10 years.
     Between Exchange 2 and 3 we take a hard right turn onto CR 354.   This is where I showcased one of my hidden talents of "cow whisperer" .

video

     At exchange 4 I told the girls to head on back down to Shiner and do a brewery tour.  And also asked them to pick me up a double meat, double cheese bacon burger from Friday's!!

     Dammed good burger.  I figured it would take me three hours to get to Flatonia at exchange 7, so told them don't rush.  Here was exchange 4 with Vincent and I.

     The miles between exchange 4 and 7 were okay.  Just Vincent and I talking.  All that, "Hey Vincent, you know that if I can keep up this pace, I'll go 48 hours talk!" I was taking it really easy, but that kind of talk always gets you into trouble.  At one point a nice dog started running with me for a mile or so.  I thought maybe we'd just take the dog with us.  Like a mascot, but she turned back.  Luckily by this time, all of the porta-johnnies were being dropped into place.   In Old Moulton I took my first "break" which worked out good because this is where Vincent gave me a pair of running tights to wear.  I typically never wear these, but I was kinda having some minor irritation from the shorts I was wearing. So, having these tights saved my race. 
     In Flatonia at exchange 7 we met back up with the girls.  I munched on the burger as I walked while drinking a Coors Light, walking right past the police station of course.

      A local guy had put my name and other solo guy's name on the marquee of the local theater.
     At some point between Flatonia and Schulenburg, Gina got out and did some pacing for me.  It was pretty hot this afternoon so we were trying to keep it going easy and not getting too excited.  In Schulenburg I stopped at the exchange 9 and did some foam rolling.  This was about 49 miles into the race. Vincent cut up some avocado and was stuffing food down me.  Here I changed socks, applied more Trail Toes, and put on my Hokas.  Previously I was running in New Balance 980.
     Just before exchange 10 we come down a small hill and cross underneath I-10.  I'd been dreaming about this particular spot on the course for years.  You can always see this section when you're going back and forth between Houston and San Antonio.  I'd always think, "I can't wait, one day I'll be running down that hill on my TIR Solo run."  Today was that day.  I stopped at the port-o-johnny here.  Then a big as storm blew right across the front of us.  Luckily we were far enough behind it we did not get rained or hailed on, but we got the cool breeze. 
      At Borden, exchange 12, Vincent had me stop and get some food.  They pulled out the table and chairs for me.  I was doing okay, but was going downhill.

     This was about mile 61.  The next section I almost quit.  Between exchange 12 and 13 things got really bad mentally for me. Mile 61 to 65.  I was hurting everywhere, but especially in the tendon behind my left knee and my left calf.  It was about 9:30 PM maybe.  I wanted to quit so bad.  I started making up all sorts of reasons.  I swore I'd quit and never run Hardrock again.  I'd back out of India, La Ultra - The High. Maybe Rajat would give me some sort of refund.  I said, "I need to tell Vincent to call Mom, Allen, and Jaime and tell them not to come."  No sense in wasting their time.  My patellar tendon on my left knee was hurting like hell as well.  Generally I just felt exhausted.  I thought of how dumb it was to have run two 50K and a 100K+ race this month.  Really, why didn't I freakin taper?  I figured I could quit and, you know, everything would be okay. It's not that big of a deal.
     Then a thought occurred to me.  I typically drink 6 to 10 shots of espresso everyday. I had not had any coffee yet.  Yea, hell yea!  That's it. I need some got dammed coffee.  I hadn't mentioned to any of the crew what was going through my head during that time, but Vincent made me some coffee and Gina got out and started running with me again.  We covered that six miles between exchange 13 and 14 pretty quickly, just over an hour or so.  In Columbus I told the team that I was going to quit earlier but, I'm good to go now.  Whooooooooooo!  Man that was a bad patch, real bad.
     In Columbus the crews did the first crew change.  Mom, Allen, and Jaime had arrived from Houston.  I asked Samantha to pick me up some coffee at Whataburger.  I told everyone hello but kept on running, hiking. From downtown Columbus to Altair is almost 11 miles.  Somewhere I heard it was like 3 miles and kept keying on that and was just getting frustrated.  I could see these radio tower lights and at this time Allen had gotten out to pace.  He mentions, "Yea, those towers, that's where we turn at Altair." Really, really, bro?  WTF.  Arrrrghghghghg!.  After what seemed liked forever we reach exchange 16 in Altair.  This was mile 82.46.  I changed my socks here and applied more Trail Toes cream on my feet.   I never changed shoes or socks again.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it! 
     We made our way into Eagle Lake, TX which rounds out to mile 92.  It was about 3 or 4 in the morning.  The witching hour in ultra running.  When shit just goes down hill.  Allen was still moving forward with me.  We stopped at Buccees and I laid out on some bags of deer corn they had stacked up outside.  I didn't realize it before but my Mom had stuffed my little sister in the truck.  I didn't even know she was there.  Mom went in and got me a taquito and a cherry, vanilla coke and some more coffee.  I'm sure other stuff happened here but I started moving forward again. On out of town headed to the big grain elevator down the road at the next exchange. 
     The road in the area was narrow with no shoulders, a really shitty place to run.  Jaime ran with me during most of this section.  The grain elevator at exchange 19 was reached about 7:30 in the morning, mile 99.  Not too bad.  I started getting pretty cold and wasn't moving well.  I took on some calories here, but was cold so wrapped myself in a blanket and continued to make forward progress, now that the halfway point, 100 miles had been reached.  I know I told some joke or two, but don't remember what they were.
     We arrived in Wallis, exchange 21 about 10 or 10:30 in the morning and we met back up with Crew 1.  Vincent, Gina, and Samantha.  I was struggling and not doing well. Exhausted.  I asked Samantha to go to Subway and get me a sandwich.  She asked, "What do you want, what kind?"  I told her, "Turkey and avocado" but in my mind I told her to get me "turkey, cheese, cucumbers, mayo, and avocado".  So of course when she got back with my sandwich, I was like (in my mind), dammed this ain't what I want.  I didn't verbalize anything because I knew I didn't say what I wanted. I laid in the camper, eating the sandwich.
     After leaving Wallis, we got a nice surprise because Thomas Orf showed up on the course!   Thomas and I have been friends since Bandera 100K 2009.  We spent some time together that day.  He's one hellva runner.  It really was nice seeing him out there.


     Thomas took all of the above photos while he was on the course.  I'll be honest and say that I could only think of getting to Cinco Ranch.   I just wanted to get off of the highway.  The trucks and cars were really starting to get to me.  In between exchange 22 and 23, I started to throw up a little bit. 
     From Wallis to the approach to Simonton, Vincent was feeding me a half a cup of grits and cornbread or velveta noodles with cheese every mile. I'd had just enough fuel for about 9/10th of a mile and start crashing.  Just depleted.  Gina started pacing with me again about 3 miles out of Simonton.  We passed a statue of what looked like Alexander the Great on riding his horse Bucephalus.  How fitting.  I'm a lover of Greek history and know the story well.
     At the church in town, Vincent says, "Johnny, you gotta get some sleep, you need to sleep."  Okay bro.  I knew it I guess.  He put ice packs on my knees, feed me food and a coke and I slept for 30 minutes.
     I took a chance to read some Facebook posts, but kinda passed out on the blue tarp.  Gina and I made our way up to Fulshear once I woke up from the nap.  The traffic was really getting to me.  The cars, the trucks, the motorcycles.  Just nerve racking.  In Fulshear at exchange 24, mile 123 Samantha hooks us up with espresso shots from the local coffee place.  Finally, civilization.  As we turned into Cross Creek ranch subdivision, Vincent and Samantha pulled the campers into the grassy area at the front of the subdivision entrance.  They got lots of stares and middle fingers, but I got a beer.  Gina and I started going through the neighborhood and stopped at the school at exchange 25. There was some sort of fundraiser going on at the school.  As I laid on the sidewalk, little kids with their parents gave us stares.  Samantha said in a mocking voice of some little kid, "Hey dad, why is that man laying on the sidewalk, eating chips and crying?" 
     In the next section we met up with Rob Goyen.  He took a video and said he'd see us later on that night to help out crewing.  Cool bro!  Finally we reached Luke's Locker in Cinco Ranch.  Luck's is the best running store chain in Texas and this was a real milestone for me.  At about 37 hours we finally made exchange 26 and mile 133.  This was almost further than I've ever run before. Earlier in the year I ran the Brazil 135 in 34.5 hours, so I figured I was not doing bad and had paced myself pretty good, being as how I was in the general area of my last attempt at this distance.
     Vincent had planned a rest stop for some sleep at this time, it was about 7 PM once we arrived. I didn't argue.  I ate the soup, which Vincent burned his hand on.  Drank a beer while sitting on the cot and had something else, which I cannot remember.
     I was being treated like royalty.  The funny part was this was Saturday night and this is a pretty nice shopping area with some restaurants.  Folks were all dressed up, going out. Some douchebag and his wife were in "biker gear" just idling their motorcycle looking for a parking spot just behind me in the picture.  I gave them the "look" and an aggressive wave as I lay on the cot, covered up with a blankie.  Intimidating, I know!  Don't make me got up off the cot, I'll whip that ass.  Sleeping was not going well, but I needed the break to let the food do it's magic.  I left just after dark and headed on down the course.
     In between exchange 26 and 27, Gordon Montgomery shows up out of no where.  Really?  Wow, this is out of control.  Gordon and I have know each other for six years.  He's from Ireland, and I'm half Irish.  We both have pretty quirky personalities.  He's been sidelined from running for a bit because of a hip injury, but he brought his mountain bike.  It turns out that he could not have showed up at a better time.  We were about to enter the George Bush Park through Terry Hershey Park area which is about 18 miles total where the crew can only meet  you at the exchanges which were six miles apart.

    At exchange 27, Crew 1 were about to go off shift.  They loaded Gordon up with some food and water for me.  Exchange 27 to 28 were really nice. I knew this section well.  I think I ran it one year when I did the relay, or maybe I didn't.  Gordon and I talked about presence, being, acceptance, life, goals, meaning, value and general conversation that two men can have when both aren't worried about egos.  We've studied some of the same philosophical/psychological material in our spare time and we agree on a number of items and part ways on some as well.  Running and walking, we made good time.  Allen came forward from exchange 28 and met us, about 2 miles in front of the exchange. I'd wanted to stop and rest but there were mosquitoes everywhere and I could not sit down without getting 500 bites.

     At exchange 28, Rob Goyen and Jeremy Hanson show up with Crew 2.  Crew 2 consists of my mom, Jaime and Allen.  I ask Rob to take Gordon and his bike back to his car and that was no problem.  Jaime and I take off through Terry Hershey Park. This section was nice because the trail is undulating which made it easier to plan the run/walk.  I sat down on a bench and pulled a rock out of my shoe.  Actually it was a tiny, tiny pebble but a good excuse.  During this section Jaime did his best to keep me occupied with questions, but I was bit tired of talking.  However we did spend some time drawing parallels between Christians and vegans/buy local/organic/save the planet folks.  In as far as each group tries to make you feel moral/ethical guilt for not buying into their bullshit, then they are the same. 
     Between exchange 29 and 30, Allen started running with me.  We kept ourselves entertained with telling various stories and jokes about our past loves that can not be repeated here. :)  We stood  underneath this sign for pictures
Jaime was trying to take a photo of us and after like 5 minutes of, "oh shit, let me try again". We gave up.  I looked at Allen and said, "Gee bud, It sure was nice hugging you under this sing for the last five minutes.  Too bad we don't have a pic."  Somewhere around this time, the first relay teams passed me.  I really wanted to be in downtown before this happened, but it was not to be.  Around 4 in the morning, I asked my crew to pull out the cot, cause I needed sleep again.  I slept for 30 minutes.  I sat up from the cot, stood up and rolled on down the road. 
     Jaime and I showed up in Memorial park as the sun came up.  Earlier in the night, after I asked my crew to make me some ramen, I waved Rob up.  I leaned into his window like a prostitute after I saw a Whataburger sign. "Hey Rob, you wanta make a girl happy?  How bout a sausage, egg, and cheese tauquito?"  He had picked up some fresh coffee earlier from the sketchy Waffle House. I never ate that ramen. Going into Memorial Park, Rob had picked me up a quad espresso from Starbucks.  I drank about half as Jaime and I made fun of passersby. "Hey runner, elbows down, elbows down, I yelled." 
     We reached downtown about nine o'clock in the morning.  Allen was running with me from Memorial Park.  On our way there, Allen would entertain us with telling passing runners, who may or may not have been in the event, about how I was running 200 miles.  Most didn't give to shits, which was pretty funny.  One lady was like, "Oh really? What's your cause?"  I says, "My cause? WTF?"  She says, "Yea what charity or reason are you running for?"  I kinda looked at her sideways and said, "Personal achievement, I don't run for charity." 
     In downtown at exchange 32, I met up with Kelli Newlon and her team.  We've been great friends for a few years and as I mentioned earlier, I ran on her team in 2012.  She gave me a big ole hug.  Of course I took the liberty of giving her a big ole butt squeeze, cause that's how I roll.  She was waiting to start her leg but I had to keep on rolling.  Just before we took a hard right  to head out of downtown to Herman Park, Kelli passed me. I was toast.  Stopping here, I had about 35 miles to go, just over a 50K.  Vincent gave me some aspirin  He'd been tracking this and as a PA he was very conscious about dosage, timing etc..  I don't want my knees to hurt, but I dont want to be on dialysis either.  He did a great job and what I realized is that the recommended dosages and timing are pretty true, don't exceed them.  I filled up on shells and cheese and cornbread and coke.

     As I eased into Herman Park I crossed under the "arc de Sam Houston".  Wow.  Just pissed, hot, and frustrated.   I sat down on a bench at the end of the reflecting pool, before the exchange.  I asked Vincent to get me the book.

     The book had the legs, the distances, the maps in it.  The crew had purposely been less than forthcoming with the book, but I had to see it.  I looked back and see Jaime with the book.  I yell, "Bring me the dammed book." Jaime. At this point I'd lost track of the course, the mileage, and felt like I was running into oblivion.  I needed to ground myself into what was left, regardless.  At this point I had really lost my sense of humor and this wasn't fun anymore.  I knew I couldn't quit now and didn't want to, but jeeze this really was sucking. 
     After looking at the book and getting out of Herman Park, Allen and I met back with the crew.  Jaime says, "How bout some Wendy's?"  Yea, bro, "Double Baconator!"   When we reached McGregor Park we had less than a marathon to go!
     As you can see in the lower left quarter of the pic above, you'll see the smiling face of Wendy.  I think I drank a beer here as well. This hamburger really helped out. I needed real food and stole some of Jaime's fries.  I started feeling really good rather quickly.  Tony Boatman was at this exchange, exchange 34.  We talked a bit. It was good to see him.  He was the team captain when I ran this as part of a relay team in 2009.  He remembered when I started talking about running this solo back then.  Also I started quoting this line from one of Jimmy Fallon's skits.  Where he is playing Vladimir Putin.  In my best Russian accent I would say,  "I play new game on iPhone, Candy Crush.  I take the candy and I "crush" it!"  I really got a kick out of this.
     Allen, Gina, and myself left McGregor Park in good spirits and it lasted through exchange 35.  At one point I really picked up the pace, maybe eight minute mile pace for a bit. It really felt good to run, really run since I had been shuffling for so long.  This did not last for more than a half mile.  It was very irresponsible, but it was fun. 
     Somewhere after exchange 35, probably just after we crossed Reveille street I stopped to take a break.  I would lay with my back flat in the chair with my legs propped up against the truck, hips bent at 90 degrees.  This helped to make my feet feel better, but as I was trying to get up, I started cramping really, really bad in my upper left abdominal muscle.  This hurt so bad.  I leaned backwards against the truck trying to stretch and open my abdominals and you could see this muscle protruding through my shirt.  I would not release.  At day three, in the heat of the afternoon, I almost broke down.  I just wanted this shit to be over with, but still had 17 or 18 miles to go.  I moved to the tailgate and laid down on there, so I could get flat. Finally the muscle released.  I did the deep breathing technique I learned in kung-fu a few years back. I asked Vincent to give me the salt shaker.  I poured a heaping tablespoon into my hand and ate it, washing it down with a big drink of water.
     I started running again.  In less than a quarter mile I was up to nine minute pace or faster.  Gina and Allen were running with me but It almost felt like I was having an out of body experience.  I was breathing deeply and calmly, holing back tears.  We reached the pedestrian bridge where you cross over I-45 which has some "uphill" where normally anyone at mile 186 would walk, I never slowed down.  Gina kept trying to run right beside me, but I waved her back to get her out of my peripheral vision. Up the bridge, across, down the other side.  I blew threw exchange 36 waving Vincent off. I hadn't had any water or anything since I started running after the cramp, but I could not stop.  I dropped Allen here.  He jumped in the camper with Samantha.  I knew what I was doing was foolish and was getting a bit upset cause he was certain there would be an epic blow up, 10 miles from the finish.  I started running faster, maybe around 8 minute pace up until the point where Allendale Road crosses Richey Street about a mile in front of exchange 37.   I stopped, my legs were getting tired and I knew I needed water.  I asked for some beer, water, and Vincent gave me some more Wendy's baconator.  This was about two-thirty in the afternoon and I had about a half-marathon left. 
     You never realize how much reserve you really have.  There was no way I should have been able to run like that for over an hour at this point, but it happened.  If you dig down really, really deep you can do anything you make up your mind to do.  It was just like my mom had always told me since I was kid, "Son, you can do anything you want to, if you want to."
     At this point there was no doubt that I would finish.  Amazingly nothing was "messed up".  My knees hurt and my feet were tired, but nothing debilitating.  Around this time, between exchange 37 and 38, my mom had arrived back on the course with my oldest sister, a niece, a nephew, and my little sister in addition to my friend Bill in my car. There were four vehicles on the course now.  Samantha's camper, Vincent's truck, my car and mom's Expedition. I though of  the Van Morrison song, Caravan.  "And the caravan is on its way, I can hear the merry gypsies play."  Jaime, Allen, and Gina were running with me.  They ran with me the whole last half marathon.  Around exchange 39 I asked Vincent to round up all of the Trail Toes shirts he could find so we could finish wearing our sponsor's gear, last leg.
     It's strange that as you are approaching a 567ft monument across an open plain, you never see that dammed oblesik until you are about 3 or 4 miles away.  We stopped on the overpass of Pasadena Freeway to have a real good look at the monument still two and a half miles away.  Was this really real?  Am I here?  Yea bud, you are.  My nephew started running me, along with Gina, Allen, and Jaime.  One last stop for the crews and support vehicles on Independence Parkway.  Everyone put on the Trail Toes shirts, so we could rep our sponsor at the finish! 
     That last two miles took forever.  One always thinks how at the very end, you'd just be so ecstatic that you could run 6 min miles to the end.  Not me.  I walked and shuffled a bit, stopped.  My knees hurt.  Just before we turned off the main road into the park, with about a mile to go, Samantha took this photo.
     I think the picture says it all.  Pure exhaustion.  We turned into the park and Allen mused about what type of grandiose speech I'd make or what meaningful statement I'd make.  I was just quoting lines from Good Will Hunting.  "I was just hoping you might give me some insight into the evolution of the market economy in the southern colonies. My contention is that prior to the Revolutionary War, the economic modalities, especially in the southern colonies, could be most aptly described as agrarian pre-capitalist."  or  "What am I, fuckin' sandwich welfare? I think you should establish a good line of credit." or "Well, I got her number. How do you like them apples"  Pretty nonsensical I guess you could say, but it was my finish and fitting.  How absurd it is to run 200 miles and equally absurd to quote movies lines at the conclusion of such a monumental undertaking.  In keeping with the spirit of the event, we laughed until the end. 
     We were the last finishers of the day, all the other teams had completed their relay.  Some of the teams cheered us on as we approached the parking lot of the monument.  I told Gina, Allen, and Jaime, "Hey watch this, and I broke into a semi-sprint."  It was a joke, it didn't last long.  We did it.




     Jay greeted us at the finish line.  Allen and Bill got the blue Solo cups out and filled up beer for everyone.  Samantha made a video at the finish asking me for a statement.  I said, "If anyone comes to you and says, lets run 200 miles. Don't do it."  The race photographer took a ton of photos for us.  Jay an I chatted for a minute or two.  I completed the run in 59 hours and 57 minutes beating the course record by eight hours or so.  I say "I completed"  but that is not really the case.  We completed the run.  My crew and I.  Vincent, Allen, and Jaime had to pack up and get headed home.  As I lay on the sidewalk talking with Jay's former running coach, Samantha snapped this photo of me by my pizza.  It was further edited.
 
     My family, Bill, Gina, and Samantha head over to mom's house, just across the bayou.  She was already making the pork chop celebration dinner. We opened beers and sat around, everyone was exhausted.  Wow, it really did happen.  Six years later, I crossed that line.

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     Takeaways? Lessons learned?  I never did find that pony, but I guess I never was looking for a pony.  The idea of a lost pony is just a metaphor/allegory for the answer to the question, "Why do we run?"  Why do we run 5K, 10K, half-marathon, 50miles, 100miles or 200 miles.  No one, to my knowledge, has ever given the correct answer to this question.  The question "Why do we run?" may as well be just a rhetorical question.   For me it is a rhetorical question, similar to, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"  Nobody knows.  It's okay to not know, be okay with that.
     Don't be afraid to ask for help.  The immature will tell you, they did something all by themselves, but they didn't.  Life does not happen in a vacuum. It was hard for me to ask 6 people to commit a weekend of their life to my goal.  I did it anyway and could not have done it without them.  When you ask for help, let people help you.  This really just revolves around control and trust.  If you've assembled the right team, delegate and don't micro manage.  This is Leadership 101.  You'll be surprised by the initiative and ingenuity of your team members.  Give a bird room to flap it's wings.
     If you have a goal or a dream, regardless of how long it takes you to achieve it, get started on it. If it takes six months or six years, that time will pass regardless.  The longer you wait, the longer it will take.  Do set some goal for yourself that enhances your life and challenges your known limits. 
     Be gracious and magnanimous.  Be kind.  When Vincent and I talked about how to set up the crews he relayed to me, numerous times, a story of when he was crewing out at Badwater.   The runner he crewed was very rude, basically an asshole.  I didn't want to be this runner.  I wanted to keep my friends once I was done.  One of of my goals was to treat my friends helping me as best as I possible could.  I think that goal was achieved and it makes the running of 200 miles mean that much more.
     Don't try to short circuit stuff.  Pay your dues and put in your work.  Find a mentor, ask questions, and always be a student.  I could have tried to run this event 3 years ago, 2 years ago, last year and I know that I would not have been successful.  When you are out doing some thing, enjoy it. Don't lament the fact that you did not do this X years earlier.  When you are doing whatever it is you are doing, it's always the right time.   All the DNF, all the finishes, every person I've meet in running led me to the start line on March 28th.  The accumulated knowledge of my crew and myself got me to the finish line 60 hours later.
     Finally, believe in yourself.  You can achieve anything you put your mind too. Don't let anyone keep you in a mental cage of self-doubt.  Use goal setting, backwards planning, long range planning, visualization, or any other technique to help you achieve success.  It may be the case that we have more than one life, but we'd never know it if we did.  All we have have is this life, right now.  Go on out there, be audacious.