Monday, January 23, 2012

If I were sponsored....

The marketability of trail running has no doubt grown over the years. Though still very much a fringe extreme sport, it is evident that companies are starting to invest more of their time and money on ultramarathon athletes. It's nearly impossible to show up to a big name race and not see the logos of brands like Montrail, North Face, Udo's Oil, Innov8, Hoka One One, Patagonia...the list goes on. More and more runners are reaping the benefits of having companies support their endeavors, and thus more and more branding opportunities are showing up at events. Many of these athletes, for obvious reasons, use the brand(s) that sponsor them. In most cases the athlete very much likes the company they represent, because they enjoy the product, or have previously performed well with the product. It's a wonderful symbiotic relationship.

All of this made me wonder how it would look if I were actually sponsored by brands that I use on an everyday basis. I think we'd come up with a fairly wild assortment of logos, and a notable few that would look wonderfully out of place at any trail race. Here is my dream list of sponsors.

How could I survive, let alone train, if not for the amazing, calorie filled, delights of Taco Bell? I can't even count the number of times I've had a workout, and the first thing I eat afterwards is a scrumptious burrito, nachos, and mexican pizza. Gotta replish those glycogen stores!

Men don't need nipples, but since we have no choice but to have them, why not protect them? Johnson and Johnson band aids never fail to save my tatas from the unbearable risk of chaffing due to sweat, moisture, cheap fabrics, and the perky cold.

Now this would actually be a cool brand to be sponsored by, along with rival brand Quicksilver. Nothing says fashionable than showing up to a race in my trademark Hawaiian boardshorts. I have toed the line to more races in my blue floral shorts than other other pair of pants. Short shorts? Heck no! Boardshorts say I'm stylish, laid back, but I also want to protect the thighs from the often rugged nature of the trail.

Laugh if you want, but I'll be laughing my way to a PR. I won my first ever ultramarathon after eating several(more like four) delightful confections for a pre race breakfast. These 200-300 calorie gems have won their way into my heart, record books, and stomach. The coffee ain't bad either.

Why waste another $1.00-$1.50 on the same boring chocolate flavored gels? I mix things up by putting a small jar of this pure gold in my drop bags. Just a little scoop gives me twice the calories of a gel, plus the carbs and protein. Combine it with its partner in crime, peanut butter, and it's a match made in heaven.

The ultimate pre, or post run cocktail! It has the sugar for carbs, salt for electrolyte balance, and alcohol to dull the senses long enough to sign up for another ultra. Margaritas are also excellent for aleviating pain in the later miles of a race, or at least allowing to forget how much pain you were actually in. The only downside is that margarita is not an actual brand, though getting Jimmy Buffet to sponsor me would be pretty sweet. A good IPA is also a nice substitute.

Last, but certainly not least! The same food that got me through college is the same food that gets me on the road to race recovery. You can find noodles for as cheap as 10 cents, or as high as (gasp) 50 cents a bag. It's got all the sodium and carbs you need to recover strong for the next run.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. In case you're wondering if I really use the above brands, the answer is yes. My nutrition is terrible, and I like a good drink every now and then. If you happen to know anyone working in the marketing department for any of the above companies, please give them my info so I begin representing their brand as soon as possible.

My new slogon: "Mike Runs on Dunkin". It's got a nice ring to it :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Into the Heart: Beyond the Trails and Blue Skies

Romans 5:3-4

"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."

It was a bitter cold, and eerily windy winter night. The date was January 13th, 2005. An emotionally temultuous 2004 had come and gone, yet the advent of a new year forshadowed far bleeker things to come. 2005 had yet just begun, but the hauntings of the prior year had not settled. It was only two months after I completed my first ultramarathon, which was only possible because I relentlessly pushed my body on behalf of my grandma's own enduring. My grandmother was four months into a battle with a cancer that had attempted to ravage her body over the last two decades. On this eve, and seemingly hallowed ground, her valiant battle came to an end. It was in the late hours of the evening that a mighty wind shook my grandparent's small apartment and she passed away.

I am reminded that running serves a myriad of purposes. It can be as mundane as a daily training routine, a weight loss plan, for competition, personal achievement, or for rememberence. However, when we strip away all the superficial layers that make up the motif of our passion, we'll find that there is always something rooted deeper than our often nonsensical pursuits. There are those times we find ourselves enamored with every footfall, and the times in stark contrast where we question why we even step out the door for a run. Awards, times, goals, natural surroundings and fellowship are part of the allure, but inward is where the greatest secret is kept.

I am thinking of the stories told and untold that shape me. That shape us. Testing ourselves and our limits is a way of smiling in the face of the mortality that faces us all. None of us will live forever, and therefor why live life set inside the so called parameters defined on our behalf by societal norms? As humans, we are given a range of physical pain and pleasure, as well an the same measure of emotional and mental agony and illumination. Why live life in mediocrity, in the middle 50%, always in the safe zone? To experience all of these IS to experience ALL of what being human is about. I hope you're all thinking of that Teddy Roosevelt quote that essentially says the same thing. Sometimes it takes the most bitter and darkest of times to come to the realization that we can still celebrate in the trials, as well as victories, so long as we are still alive to do it. That is what we call character.

I love hearing how runners like Shannon McGinn began running because of cancer, or how a hero like Anita Finkle can still bring it for 100 miles months after her final treatments. On the opposite side it saddens me when fellow runners lose loved ones, or suffer their own hardships outside of our peaceful little world of ultras and trails. What I do know is that the things that will bring these people back is something, some place where they will need to dig deep and find restoration. This is where the Apostle Paul's message in Romans rings loud and clear. Suffering isn't just some emo method of self induced harm, or penance for self righteous betterment. It is a constant reminder that life is not just about how you live in the best of times, but how you look yourself in the mirror, stand up straight, and go forward into the headwinds of the distant lands of conflict. Even ultra stud Geoff Roess said it's not about how fast you run in the fast parts of a race, it's about how "fast" you can still go during the worst parts. Sounds pretty similar to me. Sometimes the greatest motivation in life is seeing something on the other side of the storm that is worth fighting for, and then stretching your arms to reach it.

I am happy that running is not my greater joy, or the source of my fulfilment. It is, however, a wonderful and metaphorical reminder of what truly matters. When I acknowledge that, that is when the best part of me comes out. That is when I love running the most, but better yet being alive has never felt better.