Blog written by: Kris Lord; Team RWB SF Veteran Outreach/Engagement Director

The snow fell in big soft flakes outside of Wilderness cabin, on what was our third and final day of storytelling camp in Northern Michigan.  Outside of the cabin windows, we could see the outlines of the muskrat-inhabited lagoon and the wooden bridge through the snow.  And it was fitting that on the day we would share our stories – stories we had been mulling over and chewing on and silently practicing in our minds and notebooks – we were surrounded by a hushed and respectful silence in the outside world.


Storytelling Camp
I heard stories of sadness, of joy amidst chaos, of resiliency and survival.  We had been told many times over the weekend that each person has a story worth telling.  That there is no need for one-upping, and especially one-downing – a trait many of us seem to share, thinking that our story isn’t important enough to tell.  Our leaders this weekend put forth tremendous effort to guide us. David Chrisinger led us through different exercises with skill and humility, teaching us that telling our story is akin to bringing others into our confidence – that our stories can be acts of letting others in, and a sharing of wisdom we’ve earned through experiences.  I was profoundly moved by his simple statement: ‘Start with one true thing’.  Build from there.  We are all capable of doing that.  Zack Armstrong, an insightful and compassionate leader, trusting us with his story as we were trusting him and the others, showed us that he was equally moved by all that we shared.  Joe Quinn, with his humanness and humor, never deviating from his message that we are all worthy of being heard, encouraged us as leaders to set that example of being worthy.

“My life is changed after this weekend”, was uttered more than once, in the context of feeling one’s story was worth telling, or having the experience of interacting with those previously avoided turn out to be a positive one.  We came from so many different backgrounds, and found common ground not only in spite of, but born of unique experiences, and that did more to bridge any divide than many thought possible.  There was an acknowledgement of our differences with a genuine appreciation for the individual journey.

As with my other Team RWB camp experiences, it was the moments in between that added a layer to the bonds that were starting to be built.  Talk over coffee before class yielded glimpses of wisdom and intriguing depths in the person next to me.  During a mid-morning break, marveling with another teammate at a dragonfly perched outside of the cabin door, warming itself as the air slowly thawed, while we appreciated the shimmer of its wings.  Laughing at both strikes and gutter balls, and picking up unflattering but well-deserved nicknames at the bowling alley.

There have been many incredible shares already by my campmates, and I can only echo their sentiments, and add my own impressions.  I’ve been processing the experience, and each time I think, ‘OK, I’ve got it.  I know what I want to say’, one of my campmates does something brave, or displays an act of leadership that impacts me.  Did our time together at camp have anything to do with those things?  Our combined experience of being seen and heard, and supported with empathy but not pity?  I hope so.  I see a ripple effect with this camp, that began with a pebble in Wilderness Lagoon, starting small and expanding outward in soft waves, and I can’t help but wonder what might be possible if the storytelling were to spread and continue.

After this weekend, I see that not only is it important to share our story, but the act of ‘holding space’ for others to do the same is an incredible opportunity to grow in more than one direction.  The act of empathetic listening is a gift that we can give, and the mark of a great leader.  This camp offered us opportunities to do both – each time one of us was brave enough to stand up to share, the room went quiet; and afterwards, there was a respectful silence as we sat with what we’d heard, until the next person stood.

I went to camp a very grateful observer, and came home a changed participant.  As David said, even if our stories wind up in a drawer, never having been read by another, it’s OK.  I believe the act of letting them out – whether the medium is verbal, written, or artistic – gives us space to look at them, and potentially change the hold they have on us.

 

 

In this podcast, we talk to one of the best rock climbers to ever live, Tommy Caldwell.  We dive into a number of topics, to include his involvement with Team RWB, rock-climbing as a post-counter culture sport, and how being a family man has changed the way he looks at life.

We cover a ton of content in this podcast, to include:

• This epic rope swing

• The Fitz Traverse

• The Dawn Wall

• His biggest fear.  

 

  

Blog written by: Brian Perry

 

So there I am, in a bar with teammates and the legendary and current Leadership Director of Team RWB, Joe Quinn.   There’s just four of us there, sitting at a table, waiting for the rest of the crew to join us.  I was young in my endurance journey and none of my clothes fit, but I felt great.  What I didn’t feel great about was my career.  I was explaining my story to the group when Joe snapped back with a way to help me get out of this rut. His response had a surreal impact on me. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone in New York … or in my goals.  I was about to ride the RWB wave from my first half marathon to an Ironman.

“I would like 9:30, but just under 10 would make me happy,” I planned with my 4th coach in 2 years.  In the world of ironman triathlon, this is Kona-qualifying fast; a feat similar to the esteem of a Boston marathon qualifier, yet much more elusive.   In other words, you better want it bad, really bad, and you better be ready to hurt.

My athletic performance over the past two years had slid to levels of “do you even lift, bro?”  Leading up to the Ironman, I knew the training I was doing was not up to par with my pie-in-the-sky expectations.  Ironman had fallen low on my priority list and I didn’t have my typical edge.  This is dangerous for such an event, and even more so for my pride. It is an impeccable accomplishment, and should serve as your main focus from the time you start training for it.  I was just trying to squeeze it in.

My warmup race at 70.3 Syracuse was not a good day.  I was average in the swim, got a flat from my rented bike, and WALKED a lot of the half marathon.  Perfect execution. Either way, Ironman Lake Placid was happening and I had to make the best of it.  In the days leading up to this epic race, there was a lot of angst in the house, with everyone trying to eat whatever magic they thought would serve a PR on game day.

Ironman

The swim starts and I am being trampled.  Awesome.  Right away I look at the life raft and think, “It could all be over.”   Then I remembered Sarah had bought me an Ironman mug, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to use it.  After the first loop around, things settled down, and I was able to settle in a rhythm.  I lost my Garmin in the water, but I knew I could pace myself reasonably well on the bike.  I remember finishing the bike and yelling at Sarah to get me a vegan sandwich from the only place in town.

And then it happened.  I started eating at a couple of the stops along the course, splurging on Gatorade, pretzels, and whatever else was available.  My stomach turned and my day just got increasingly longer. I met a friend along the way and we suffered the rest of our Ironman journey together.

The best part of the race was at the end – entering the finisher’s oval and Betsy handing me Old Glory to take across the finish line. For me, the most powerful moment was crossing the finish line, and the crowd cheering at a fever pitch. Of course I got emotional, briefly, and I chalked it up to the energy and atmosphere; but really this whole athletic journey was necessary for me.

In the end, I now have a different type of glory.   Mostly that it was finished.  Over. Complete. I am an Ironman.  What really matters was that I pushed forward in my life and can reflect back on some incredible memories of the past two years and the awesome people I’ve met along the way.  There could be a day that I seek a revenge performance.  For now, I am content to cheer you from Boston while I sip from my new Ironman mug.

 

Brian Stann is the CEO of Hire Heroes USA, an organization that is helping thousands of Veterans find high-quality jobs.  He is also one of the toughest and most accomplished people we know.  Brian played football at the US Naval Academy before being commissioned in the United States Marine Corps where he earned the Silver Star for heroism during one of his tours in Iraq.  Never one to slow down, Brian became a professional fighter and eventually became the middle-heavy-weight champion in the World Extreme Cage Fighting Championship and top middleweight contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  In addition to all of this, he holds down one of the world’s toughest jobs as a father of three young daughters.

We cover a lot of ground in the podcast including:

• Finding a passion outside of work

• How to promote your abilities without being arrogant

• The importance of a great attitude

• Who he’d like to fight again

• And… soooo much more

Brian is an incredibly inspiring guy and we guarantee that this episode will have you ready to run through a brick wall.

 

 

  

Blog written by: Liza Howard


So you’re thinking about running 50 miles?   An ultra sounds like it might be fun?  An adventure?  A worthwhile challenge?  Or maybe you just succumbed to Eagle peer pressure?  Training for and running an ultra can be a fun adventure and a worthwhile challenge.  It can even give peer pressure a good name.  And whatever brought you to this point of embarkation, the 27-week training plan will help guide you to the finish line.

Long-time ultrarunner, coach, and race director, Joe Prusaitis, designed the plan to accommodate different fitness levels and time constraints.

Trail Running Joe

Joe began running roads well after military duty & college.  It was a short trip from road to trail. 20+ Marathons were the foundation used to catapult directly into 50mi & 100mi races. He then rolled through Hardrock, Western States, Wasatch, Vermont, Heartland, Rocky, Grand Teton, Arkansas, Bighorn, Barkley, and Badwater. Joe prefers 100 milers most and mountain terrain best, but also loves the variety, so just about anything and everything was worth exploring. From 1997 to 2008, Joe finished 35+ 100milers and a plethora of other odd ultras in the mountains, plains, and deserts. All of this over the past 25 years must be upwards towards 300 races, but he quit counting a few years ago. He was putting training plans together for friends from the beginning, but he started pursuing coaching professionally in 2009. Since then, Joe has coached 200+ friends. He still runs, but most of his time is now spent either coaching or reading. Odds are good that if you have a trail running goal in mind, whether it’s pretty pedestrian or sounds perfectly crazy, Joe can help you.

Here are some thoughts on getting started with it.

• Consult with your physician before you begin Joe’s program. The conversation will probably go something like this:

  • You: I’m planning to run a 50-mile race.
  • Doctor: That’s crazy! Why would you want to do that???
  • You: It seemed like a good challenge… Ultras are pretty popular these days.”
  • Doctor: You’ll ruin your knees.

 

• Joe’s plan starts with a 12-week base phase. If you can’t run 15 miles all at once yet, use the template to slowly build to that distance before starting this phase.  Just add one to two miles to your long run each week until you reach 15.

• Runs are scheduled for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays during the base phase. See the training plan for details.  Running is optional the rest of the week. Your fitness, the date of your race, and your work and family responsibilities will determine whether you choose to run these days.

• This 12-week base phase is a good time to work on speed.

• A 12-week endurance phase begins next. The goal of this phase is to increase the distance of your weekly long runs. You’ll build to a 35 to 45 mile run.  Key workouts remain on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

• A 3-week taper follows, bringing you to race day.

• Running with a friend or a group will make your long runs much more enjoyable. If you can’t keep up with a group for their entire long run, run with them for part of your run.  You can also enlist friends to run with you for shorts sections of your long runs.

• Take in 180-200 calories every hour when your runs last more than 90 minutes. You can use any combination of gels, chews, food, and drink mixes to accomplish this.  Figure out what combination sits best in your stomach.  Knowing how to fuel yourself is key to finishing an ultra.

• Drink to thirst. Make sure you bring enough water or sports drink on your runs to avoid becoming thirsty.  If you’re going to wear a hydration vest during your race, practice with it during your long runs.

• Pay attention to any aches and pains as they arise. Rating them on a scale of 1-10 in your training log will help you recognize when they’re worsening. Don’t run if pain is worsening from day to day.  And seek professional advice for any aches and pains lasting more than 10 days.

• Enjoy the crazy journey! And come to Team RWB’s National Trail Camp this October if you can for guidance from Joe, me and the best ultrarunners in the United States.  http://trailrunningcamp.org/

 

More on the author:

Liza Howard is an accomplished mountain, ultra, and trail runner living in San Antonio, Texas.  She divides her time between her husband and two young children, teaching for the Wilderness Medicine Institute, coaching, directing Team RWB’s national trail camp, and running 100-mile and multi-day stage races.  She has won the Leadville 100 twice and holds one of the fastest 100-mile trail times run in the United States.   She started as a road marathoner and continues to find success there.  She coaches for Sharman Ultra Endurance Coaching.