Thursday, April 24, 2008

Things I'm Thankful For (on a long run)

Pushing on two weeks after I completed my 50 mile run I have already moved on to planning my summer goals, workout and nutrition plans. But before I move on to bigger better things in my training, I want to take some time a post a quick one on some of the things that helped me out through my big goal of running an ultra-marathon.

Here they are, in list form, in no particular order:

- My Mom
When the going got tough during the race, I thought about her inability to move comfortably, how challenging it is for her to even move her arm. And my pain went away.

- Adidas Supernova Trail Running Shoes
These bad boys felt great mile 1 and felt even better at mile 50. Through mud, water, sweat, rocks so on, these things held up and felt so great. I walked away with pretty good looking feet given what I just went through.

- Injinji Socks
While they look funny (they are like gloves for your feet!) but they kept my feet blister free...well...I had a small one, but really, after 50 miles, having only one small little blister is pretty good.

- Jim
My trainer friend Jim Bathurst (who can do some pretty impressive exercises. check him out at He was great support and helped push me through a few pretty rough patches. It's great to have a friend there for support when you're attempting a run like that.

- Cliff Blocks
Man these things are a life saver. Since the last marathon and then through this run, these things just taste great and somehow give me some great energy. I will be using these for a long time.

- Fig Newtons
Holy cow man! These things were like steroids for me during this run! I never would have thought it, but I looked forward to getting a handful of these at every aid station. Can't say enough, so good.

- James
My friend, who on the same day attempted a 100 mile run; this guy has been great help for me over the past half a year. He took me out on my first training run before my first marathon and has been some great motivation for me. I hope to pace him on his next 100.

- Cheese its
Even soggy from sweat in my waist pocket, these things are wonderful. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for them running or no.

- Other runners
I swear to god, the longer the run, the friendlier the runners are. Everyone is supporting one another, everyone is willing to help. It is a great feeling when you know you are surrounded by crazy people just like you.

- Volunteers
People we have never met coming out to wait on you hand and foot. They come out and stay out there in any weather and for hours on end. These people are unbelievable!

There you go, ten things I'm thankful for on a long run. I'll be posting up my new training program and goals early next week after my 26th birthday (Sunday the 27th!!). Hope everyone is well and training hard!


Josh Courage

Thursday, April 17, 2008

BRR 50M Cont'd

I'm back to tell you about the rest of the run...36 miles down, 14 final grueling miles to go...please read my last post before you read this one.

At this point I was set into a pretty good grove of trudging up the many hills and jogging/running/flailing down the downhills and shuffling/running the flats. The pain was a recognizable fatigue in the legs and I knew if I tried to keep a quick pace with the walking parts, it would make the running parts that much easier. The only problem I was having at this point was in my torso. My chest ached and my kidneys hurt to no end. I was sure I was experiencing kidney failure, mainly because of the pain, but also because of the lack of piss throughout the course. The downhills were the worst just because I would get so short of breath. This happened because I couldn't take a normal sized breath and was relying on short breaths to fill up the lugs as I moving along.

I recognized areas as I ran back through already charted path and at this point, besides one other runner, I was totally alone between stations. This led me to lots of thinking and pondering about pain, about my life, about why people would do such a thing as run distances beyond explanation. I wish I could tell you I came up with some wonderful revaluation, but I didn't. Looking back on it now, I realize I did more zoning out and looking around than actual deep thinking and the greatest thing i got during, and now after the race was this: the body really can just keep going. The times in life where you can't seem to move, or you're in too much pain to do something; well, chances are you can do it, you can move, you can perform. It really isn't the body at all that holds us back from being able to accomplish amazing feats, in fact, I think there is still a complete misconception as to what the human body can actually do. I think it's the mind that holds us back. Our own brains, how we think and what we tell ourselves. When you're out on the path and every second you go over the problems, the negatives, the excuses you will give when you quit, the justifications for quiting, they are overwhelming and they happen in any and all situations. But do you listen to them and act on them? Or do you push on through and overpower them? Believe me you can. And when you do, the next time you are challenged, they;re are less, then less, then even less. My goal is to one day be in a place where my mind and body are on the same level and are constantly working together. Where there is never "I can't" and always "keep going".

The last 5 miles were a mix. I walked the first 1.5 with a couple others who spent the majority of the time complaining about just about everything; one of them even had the nerve to say that he thought Dean Karnazes was taking steroids!! That was about the last straw and I said "screw this, I am running to the end". It was the longest 3.5 miles i ever ran, but I ran just about every inch if it. At that point I just wanted to be done, wanted to be sitting down and eating something. Wanted to be away from the woods and on to other things.

As I approched the finish line I felt a surge through my body of the same feeling I had near the end of the Marine Corps Marathon, I did it. I crossed the line at 12 hours and 7 minutes, a slow pace but I crossed the line. As the wonderful Ultra saying goes, "to finish is to win", and I was so happy I was done. I sat with Jim in a little grassy area, eating a hamburger and talking a little about the day as we watched others cross the finish line. My mind was not totally clear but one thing I remember very clearly was telling Jim that I could finally get back to weight training again, distance running was going on hold.

Close to a week after I finished my first ultra, I know i will do it again, I know I want to go further too. I think it will be a while before I get back into it but I am not done with running. I am planning on running marathon whenever I can, and I plan on running a 50k in September. Besides that, I am happy that I did it. I learned so much and feel like a new person. The world seems easier, pain seems less harsh and happiness and comfort seem more regular in my life. Running works wonders and the further I go with it, the more wonderful I feel.

I will never stop running, I will never stop training, I will never stop moving.

Josh Courage

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The 2008 Bull Run Run 50 Miler

On Friday, April 11 at around 3pm I packed up way to much running gear and drove on down to Clifton, VA to Hemlock Overlook Park. The park rests about 15 miles or so outside of Centreville, VA, near Manasses right along the Bull Run River. Through some traffic, I got there around 4:30 and walked my way up to a small cabin where I picked up my packet, shirt and for $5 got a blanket, a hat and another shirt (not a bad deal). I can say at that point I was already beginning to psych myself out a bit just seeing some of the other runners. They were all older, had runners bodies, seemed excited and chilled out. I, on the other hand probably looked like a rabbit walking through a pack of stray dogs. So I grabbed my stuff and scurried to my car to hang out, reserve a hotel room, and wait for the pasta dinner at 5:30 (the wonderful pre-7pm dinner we runners enjoy the night before).

I walked up with a small crowd to another cabin for the dinner and while we all waited around outside for things to get organized, I chatted with a couple other runners. One man, who seemed pretty uneffected by the fact that tomorrow he'd be running all day reiterated one piece of advice I kept hearing and reading: walk anything that looks uphill, "run" the rest. The other piece of advice I found pretty funny, and, it turned out to not only be some great words of wisdom, but also, what the majority of these ultra runners live by:

"Start slow...then taper off". Turns out, there's no avoiding this (unless you're a freak of nature and run these things under 8 hours).

Dinner was great, I hid in the corner a guzzled two heaping plates of pasta, chicken, salad and bread; then I hit the road to find the hotel. I was in bed at 9pm, my running gear layed out, my drop bag packed up, my water bottles filled and my gut and brain a little overwhelmed with what the hell I was about to do.

I pulled into a grassy parking area around 5:45am and trudged my way to the start line with a bunch of other runners. I put my bag down in the drop area and applied Body Glide to every possible part of my body. I strapped my water bottle belt around my waist and secured my 3 packs of Cliff Blocks, 2 packs of GU, 1 small Body Glide package, 1 tube of Chapstick and a few kleenex into their appropriate pockets and walked up to the start area. I felt surprisingly calm and sat there on a large rock just watching all the runners gather together. We all crammed into the small up hill, all 350 (I think a little less than this actually). When the Race Director yelled GO, we were off!

The crowd spread out through a small loop around Hemlock Park and when we returned to the start and took a sharp right turn into the woods, we were already in single file formation. This is how we would have to stay for the rest of the entire run.

Things went well from the start. I felt great, nothing ached, the people were fun to chat with, we all just moved slowly along, walking up, running, sliding down. The weather was warming up and was humid, but I wasn't worried, I like humidity after all...I just never ran for a full day in it. I hit the first aid station at Centreville Road feeling strong. I drank a couple cups of Gatoraid, refilled both water bottles, had a bit of banana and a cookie and was on my way back to the trail. My first obstacle came right at this point. It came in the form of a Cliff Blocks packet. It literally took me about 8 minutes to open the damn thing, and by the time I did, I was a mixture of pissed and compeltly cracked up that it took so long. The lady I was talking to the whole time just kept laughing at me, then stole a couple blocks and we went about our run. I guess it was a good distraction, I mean, it did take about a mile for me to figure out how to open it. Just about then we hit the turn-around and headed back to the Centreville Road aid station again.

With my bottles refilled, and a bit more fuel in my system, I retraced my steps to the start at Hemlock where I would pass the 16 (ish) mile marker.

This upwards loop was pretty flat, from that first aid station, around and back there were no major hills, some mud and some great views. I gave a "good work" to everyone I passed (I got to see the entire group because of the narrow path and the turn around) and I soaked in the beautiful scenery.

Just after the Hemlock aid station is when I started to feel it. I started to cramp up in my calves. Now, I don;t know if you've ever cramped up, but it hurts, a lot. And not only that, usually when it happened, you get to spend a bunch of time laying on the floor screaming, but not this time; I just kept running. y calves, my hamstrings, my right hip flexor and my groin, they all were right at the edge. If I straightened my foot out, abducted or adducted my legs too much, I'd be done, tumbling down one of those 35 foot rock and root infested slopes. So I walked, I hobbled, I just kept moving and at any time I felt them tightened up a bit too much, I stretched very quickly and then kept moving. This kept on through the Bull Run Marina station at mile 21 and the Wolf Run Shoals station at mile 26. I was so unbelievably close to quiting at that point it freaked me out. I was thinking as I hobbled along about what i would tell people, how i would feel, would i have to go to the hospital? All this was going through my mind. At each stop I consumed as much salt as possible and received 0 sympathy from anyone. They just said "have some salt man!". So I did. And I kept going.

This kept on, the cramping, the pain, the negative thoughts, through the Foutainhead station. I got passed by what felt like every single runner who signed up, but I kept moving. At this point, every step I took was longer than I had ever run before and I wanted to finish so bad. At mile 28 I got to Foutainhead and saw my main man Jim Bathurst waiting. He hooked me up with some more Blocks (he cracked them open for me) and reiterated some advice: "have salt man". So I did; and I kept going. Do Loop was coming up and all I kept hearing was "survive the Do Loop and you're good to go". I had no idea...well, at this point, I had a pretty good idea to expect the worst.

And then, somehow, by some miracle, the cramps disappeared. I was leaving the Do Loop station, about to enter into certain death as I assumed, and all of a sudden I felt as good as new. The path was wide, slightly down hill, a lake could be seen and crew teams were out practicing. No one was around me and for about 15-20 minutes I cruised. I could not believe that after all that pain, almost giving up, feelings so strong I have never felt them before, it all just got better.

Then Do Loop hit. Thank god I was feeling fresh, they were not kidding. Steep slopes where you had no choice but to sprint and/or slide down and then, right at the bottom you had to stick your foot out to stop from running into the uphill. And they weren't 10 feet, they were longs; 30, 40, 50 feet and more, over and over and over and over again. Talk about taking a beating 33 miles into a run. But I felt strong, and came out of the Do Loop, and pushed on back to Fountainhead with no serious problems (except I hadn't pissed in 20 miles).

My friend Brendan was waiting there with Jim and it was great to see them both. I got some more blocks, some more salt and snacks, and refilled my bottles. Brendan gave me some good motivation telling me I only had 14 miles to go, and even HE could run that far. The good thing was, at that point I could still laugh. I also decided that at each station I would ask as sincerely as I could if i was winning. Only a few people laughed at this, most of the time they just said yes. I kept saying it anyway. I guess it was my subconscious way of making light of things; it numbed the pain a little.

14 miles to go. My body was starting to fatigue. My stomach and chest started to hurt. My legs were heavy. And worst of all, my kidneys started to hurt. I couldn't take a deep breath, I would tire out if I moved to quickly because I couldn't breath. I had pissed, but only a little, and I don't care to share the color of that with you all. I tried to just forget about it and keep going. I did keep going...but I couldn't forget about it all. 14 miles to go. I told myslef that I was going to finish. And that was all I needed.

I'll finish this up tonight or tomorrow when I get back from MA where I'm helping out with my mom. Please feel free to comment as much as you'd like!!!

Josh Courage


I just ran 50 miles straight.

I hurt

But I feel so good

(full story to come soon)

Josh Courage

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Week To Go!

Well ladies and gentlemen, in a week, on April 12th to be exact, I will be out in the woods, along a bank of the Bull Run River in Manasses, VA ready to cross the start line of my first ultra marathon; the Bull Run Run 50 Miler. It's been a while since I made up my mind to cross over to the super exciting side of running and ever since then I have been getting more and more eager for the day to come (at this point I can't honestly tell the difference between sheer fear and'll say woo hoo! bring it on!).

Physically I'm pretty sure I'm ready to go. I've run 5 marathons in 6 months and have felt stronger at each one, telling me my legs are really beginning to adapt to this concept of running for extended periods of time. My cardio is up, I can go forever, especially when it's at a nice easy clip and I stay steady. Mentally, I'm almost at 100%. I will say that the reactions I get from a lot of my friends hasn't really helped: a lot of them just say that I'm crazy and should rethink what I'm getting myself into. Well, as some of you will know, my response to that is to laugh and say thanks for their concern and worry, but I'm ready, and I highly doubt anything too bad will happen to me, and if it does, I am prepared to take responsibility for it/them. BUT, in my head I'm really saying "shut up! A great way to support a friend is to acknowledge that he is relatively smart and has prepared well enough for the thing he is attempting and if you want to say anything in response try "good luck", "man, that's great", or, "go get 'em tiger" or something like that".

Ahem...well, now that I got that off my chest I can move on to talking a little more seriously about what this next week will entail for me. I will be taking it very low key, sleeping a lot, sitting around a lot, eating a decent amount. My nutrition plan will be to limit my carbohydrate intake through Tuesday and then begin my carbo loading through race day on Saturday. I will be studying the course a bit, mostly to figure out where the aid stations are and where I can time and place some of my crew (if I actually can get a crew together). You see, there will be an aid station every 5ish miles, but crew is only allowed to be at a select few of them. While I can refill my water bottles and get some light food and such at the aid stations, the crew will be carrying extra socks, shirts, towels, shoes and so on that I am hoping I'll not need, but assuming I will. So, I need to figure out a general time when I'll be hitting each aid station so that I can be sure a crew member will be there to help me out. The other big thing to mention here is the moral support they supply. I imagine around mile 30 I'll be needing a few major pick-me-ups, and that will really be the main job of the crew; as well as jog with me here and there for the last 20 miles or so.

All this is where I feel a bit under prepared. I really don't know what to expect out there. I have read tons on ultra running, I have read up on the course and taken everything I can from it. I have continuously fought with my conflicted mentalities of just getting out there and running the damn thing, and, being super prepared and comfortable with every tree and rock along the way. As I think about it, I'm pretty sure I am more than prepared and I really have nothing to worry about. But, when you're sitting around with a week to go before embarking on an event greater than anything you've ever imagined yourself tend to over think a thing or two.

But I am ready. I'm ready for the pain. I'm ready for the bumps and bruises and falls and cuts. I'm ready for the water fills and the food. I'm...not quite ready for the bathroom situation while running through the woods for ten hours... I'm ready to push myself farther than I've ever gone before. I'm ready for the unknown, the excitement and surprise of it all. I'm ready to humbly challenge myself to go beyond, to keep going, to not stop when everything I've learned is to collapse and give in. I'm ready to completely change my life in one day.

This is SO exciting!

Josh Courage

P.S. Pictures will be added on Monday when I return to my computer (I am up at my mom's place for the weekend)