Well-Done Wednesday (4/18/2012)

Hello Everyone! I apologize for missing last week’s Well-Done Wednesday! It was an insane week with so much going on and the final prep for Ironman St. George. Fear not, we are back this week! Check these out!

1. Amazing Ironman Video that I almost used for this past week’s post – The story of Brian Boyle and his journey back from a car accident that nearly took his life along with his will to live. Will have you misty eyed for sure.

2. Great story about this past Monday’s Boston Marathon – From Ben Kaplan at National Post

3. The Sum of My Parts – Great post from Daniel Colameco contemplating what really makes up the self.

4. Reasoning on the Decision to take on the Ironman – A look into the drive and decision to take on the Ironman along with everything that goes along with it. –  from ironmaninthesnow.

5. Running Errands and I’m Crazy – Fun post on when life needs meet running needs:) from Run, Sweat, and Sparkle.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday pieces! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week!

Always in Stride,

Jack

Dear Mom

Well, here I am, less than three weeks away from Ironman St. George. As odd as it may sound, training has blown by. It honestly does seem like just yesterday that I got the crazy idea in my head and began a loosely structured training plan. When I told others that I was doing the race, I was met with a range of reactions and comments. The one that sticks out most to me is that of my mother. She finds it difficult to understand why her baby boy would want to do such a tortuous, crazy activity, an activity that has the potential to injure or harm its participants in many ways. The marathon stressed her enough; I can only imagine what the Ironman is doing to her psyche. This post is my letter of explanation to her as to why I must do this race.

Dear Mom,

As long as you have known me, I have always been one to go against the grain. Whether it is against the rules you and Dad had set, or just the popularly held belief, I have fought it. It is the nature of who I am. My greatest fear is to live a life that is simply “normal”. I want to live a life in which people are fascinated by my accomplishments and experiences. In order to do so, I have slowly been progressing along a road that takes me to events that only a small population of the world has been capable of doing. The ultimate goal is to find something where I am the only human capable of a certain feat. For now, the Ironman suffices. Only .003% of the world’s population races the Ironman each year.

I think on a certain level we would all like to be a superhero of sorts in our own lives. When you think of all the classic superhero stories, the hero must enter the depths of absolute darkness and find a way to overcome it. Ironman provides the perfect set for this scene. Each and every athlete that attempts the Ironman will go through pain. Doubt will creep into the mind and make the athlete ponder why they are even out there. Each and every muscle within the body will scream out in agony at some point during the race. Pain is just a means of seeing how strong one is mentally. Once you challenge yourself to finish an Ironman, there is nothing you cannot do. You learn how to become your own superhero.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W_WTFASVCU]

Mom, the video in this post captures exactly why I will be racing the Ironman: “In a perfect world, we would all have a goal or a dream and a way to play it out. We would all have a moment when we emerge from the darkness with the joy of the world on our face. When we see the light knowing that it’s up to you and only you. When in the night of the unknown, there is a way.” I absolutely need to have an experience like this. Listening to the video gives me chills every time I play it as these words are spoken.

I will go to St. George as a continuation of my search for whatever it is I’m looking for. I’m not really sure of what it is, but it is in this race. I’ll find it in the red rock formations, the crystal clear water of Sand Hollow Lake, and in my own sweat and tears as I conquer the 140.6 miles. You can be sure that as I am approaching those last 40 meters, the joy of the world will most certainly be on my face as the announcer screams “YOU ARE AN IRONMAN”. It will be a mix of tears and smiles as I complete the greatest journey of my life thus far. Though you may not quite understand, you have told me many times before that “a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child”. Based on that, there is not much more a mother can ask for than to see the joy of the world on her child’s face.

Love,

JH

Always In Stride,

Jack

P.S. I apologize for missing last week and having to rush out my recent posts without the highest quality. Things are hectic right now but will hopefully be slowing a tad after the race!

Quote – “If it’s really going to matter, it may be something that no one understands except you.” – Ironman Video

Song – Mother We Just Can’t Get Enough – The New Radicals

Video – Ironman Light of the World Video

Well-Done Wednesday (4/4/2012)

Happy Wednesday!!! I hope you all are having a fantastic week and plenty of great runs! Check these links out for some extra motivation and smiles:)

1. A Great Run Project by a Fellow Iowan🙂 – “Last but not least, we promise that when your head hits the pillow on the evening of your run, you’ll be pleased about your day.” – agoodrun Check this out and think about joining up! Great movement:) I’ll be doing a post for this project on my town of Manhattan Beach, California in December!

2. Memoirs From a Puppy – A fun post about a day of running through the eyes of a puppy. Great pictures, sure to put a smile on your face! from DownShannonLane

3. Taking the Scenic Routes – “There are two ways to catch the fever with running and both of them involve getting outdoors.” From Ben Kaplan at National Post

4. Some Hit the Wall, Others Crush It – Nice couple of motivational running pictures from Brooklyn at A New Dawn.

5. I Can Do This – “I can overcome three knee surgeries and still run a marathon every year” – Great short Nike ad

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday links! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week and what you think of these!

Always in Stride,

Jack

I Am Addicted

[youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTv3sHGNOmQ”]

“I am addicted. I’ve collected footsteps before dawn, seen places I never knew existed, run to the moon and back, been a rabbit for the neighborhood dogs, obeyed the voice in my head, let music carry me when I couldn’t, raced against yesterday, let the world be my witness, measured myself in meters, kilometers and finally character. I’ve plugged into a higher purpose, left this world and come back changed. I am addicted.” – Nike

It’s difficult to attempt to put into words the level of addiction that I have reached with running and endurance sport training. I liken the end of my workout to the end of a much anticipated amusement park ride when I was a kid. I just cannot get enough and it always leaves me wanting more. My coach knows this all too well. He makes sure to check up on me during scheduled rest days as he knows I’m the type of athlete to ignore rest as are most runners and triathletes.

The highlight of my day is always my workout(s). It is a fix that I must have to function. Those who know me well, know to watch out when I haven’t been able to get my workout in. It is as essential to me as showering, eating, and sleeping. I often get questions from friends such as “Don’t you get bored?”, “Do you ever get sick of running?”, and “Don’t you want to quit?”. The simple answer to all of these questions: No. Running and triathlon dictate everything in my life right now and nothing takes precedence. Going out, dates, work, phone calls, meals, TV, etc. all are just background noise compared to running.

I know this post is scattered as it is hard to put in to words exactly what my running addiction means to me. I think the quote from our video puts it best when it states I’ve “measured myself in meters, kilometers and finally character. I’ve plugged into a higher purpose, left this world and come back changed.” Running has made my character what it is. I interpret every event of my life through my running as I am constantly drawing parallels between the two. I can’t even begin to imagine the person I would be if I hadn’t found running. I’d love to hear what your running addiction means to you and how you put it in to words. Feel free to share in the comments!

Always in Stride,

Jack

P.S. In case it’s bugging you, the voice in the video is Edward Norton.

Quote – “It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.” – Ann Trason

Song – Now We Are Free – Gladiator

Video – Nike I Am Addicted Ad

Well-Done Wednesday (3/28/2012)

Happy Wednesday! Last week we got a great response to Well-Done Wednesday so we are going to be continuing on this new addition to the blog! Here are this week’s picks!

1. We Need More Runners Like This One – “I tell you this because all this positive energy tends to spill out onto random people when I run. When I see someone out running, working really hard and you can tell it’s tough, I always smile at them. Or if I see someone who just has to come to a stop for a rest, I’ll say “You’re doing a great job!”” from asolorunner!

2. Inspiring Running Challenge With a Wonderful Purpose – “Each morning or night before our runs we hold hands in a closed circle and share who we’re dedicating our run to that day – why we’re running! The circles bring smiles, laughs, and tears. Most importantly, they remind us why we’re running 3,080 Miles over the next 21 days.” from Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults!

3. Great Guide on a Lot of Things Running – “Today I came across this Infographic on the Greatist.com website and HAD to share it with you.  Even if you’re not a runner, it has some interesting facts.” from Fancy Oatmeal!

4. Amusing London 2012 Olympics Commercial – I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited for London 2012! This commercial put a smile on my face:)

5. I’m a Runner Moment – “I just had my first, “hey, I’m a runner moment” last night.” from Run Big Boy. Fun post about the running community and how easy it is to make a connection with other runners.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday pieces! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week or what you think of these pieces! It just might get included in next week’s 5!

Always in Stride,

Jack

I’m Sorry, We’re Breaking Up

A row of children stand in assorted bathing suits along the stony edge of a local pool on a crisp, 50-degree spring morning in Western PA. The instructor commands the students to enter the water and they obey…with the exception of one. This one, lone, 8-year-old child remains, overcome with fear and anxiety. As he sees it, icy temperatures and crushing pressures await in the water beneath, 2 of the greatest enemies of his asthma. Memories of being “dunked” underwater against his will by friends and siblings plague his mind. In the end, he gets his way and is pulled from the swim lessons, never having learned how to swim.

Our story fast forwards to 2010 where we find the young boy has grown to a young man of 22, anxiously awaiting the start of his first triathlon. Not unsurprisingly, he has neglected the swim training and is “hoping for the best”, counting on the wet suit to save him. A nervous mother paces the sandy banks of Portage Lakes, awaiting  the sounding of the gun. She wonders how her baby boy could possibly make it through the swim, never having learned how to swim. Boom! The gun goes off and a slew of neoprene clad athletes enter the murky waters.  He is tracked by the watchful eyes of his mother and father as he is easily identified in the water. He is the only one with his head always above water, floundering along, not un-similar to a lackadaisical Labrador. Though it only lasts 15 minutes and 58 seconds, to the mother it feels like an eternity. As he rises from the water with a cocky grin, she sends a text of relief to the siblings, “He’s alive.”

Anxiously awaiting the start.

We shift now to modern day. The dawn has yet to break in a small, Southern Californian beach town. The eager triathlete, now 24 years old, rises at 5:15 AM to begin the day’s workouts. The boy has reached a new milestone in his life, he has fallen in love…with his discomfort. Morning sports talk murmurs through the car speakers as he drives to his new hallowed training grounds, the Hawthorne Pool. Though the temperatures and fears are the same as when he was 8, they are no longer of concern. He fights his inner demons, steps out over the stony ledge, and plunges into the pool. The morning’s laps have begun. He relishes the searing of his lungs, his fatigued upper body, and the overall discomfort. He has learned how to attack that which he is scared of. With each and every stroke, he becomes stronger as he morphs the weaker self in to the greater self.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sElYG7LmUU]

This is my story of my favorite break up, sounds odd doesn’t it? The fact of the matter is that some break ups are empowering as they release one to become who they are meant to be. Our video of the week perfectly captures the inner dialogue of how one must combat his or her own mind to overcome inner demons. Who you are at this exact moment in time is not match for who you are capable of becoming. This has been consistently proven throughout the course of your life as you grow stronger each and every day. As a child you learned how to walk, ride a bike, etc, all of which you were incapable of at one point in time. Running is no different. Perhaps it’s time you “cut the cord” with your excuses, your weak self, and your self imposed limits. Master your mind and become limitless.

P.S. To my weak self, I’m sorry things didn’t work out, I’m sure you’ll find someone that suits you better. Just was never going to work between us, you always kept holding me back:)

Always in Stride,

Jack

Quote – “Fear is the strongest driving-force in competition. Not fear of one’s opponent, but of the skill and high standard which he represents; fear, too, of not acquitting oneself well. In the achievement of greater performances, of beating formidable rivals, the athlete defeats fear and conquers himself.” – Frank Stampfl

Song – ‘Till I Collapse – Eminem

Video – Nike Reincarnate Ad

Well-Done Wednesday (3/21/2012)

Hello my wonderful readers! I am now going to be adding more content to the website in the form of other blogs/posts/videos for you to check out and also a new section for training articles! We’re starting with “Well-Done Wednesday“, a collection of blog posts, videos, and photos that I have come across that I think you’ll enjoy. Check them out now!

Beautiful trees I'd love to run through. Picture via Flickr(LostPizzaBoy).

1. 25 TED Talks You Should Show Your Kids – Provided to me by one of our readers, a great compilation of wonderful TED talks. “Living Beyond Limits” with Amy Purdy is fantastic, be sure to check it out!

2. A Night With an Old Friend – Great post on simply being in the moment and simply “being here” by good friend and fellow runner, Daniel Colameco.

3. Ego and Faking It – “An Ego on its game does not go into overdrive, it does not take a day off. It remembers the sting of failure to meet expectations and yearns to experience sweet victory every day.” – Great piece on the ego and using it to your advantage from an old teammate and awesome friend, Alli Shutt.

4. Feel Good Video on “Validating” Those Around Us – Uplifting and catchy:) If this video doesn’t put a smile on your face and put you in a better mood, then I don’t know what to say.

5. Running With Gratitude – ” I should be thankful for every single step I run because there are so many who cannot.”A touching post I found on being grateful for the ability to run from “I Broke my Umbrella”.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Well-Done Wednesday pieces! Check back next Wednesday for a new 5!

Share with a comment what you have found this week!

Always in Stride,

Jack

Testing the Limits of the Human Heart

Though I never had a chance to meet the man, I carry a vivid image of him in my mind: warm Oregon wind blowing through his wavy blonde hair as he breezes along a reddish-orange, white-lined oval. The surging crowd powers his wiry frame turn after turn as he teaches everyone within sight the meaning of running. However, an unfortunate spring night robbed us all of this wondrous talent and one of the world’s greatest distance runners.  He was a completely new breed of runner and was said to have believed “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.”

My mind flashes to this runner at least once over the course of every run. As I click off the miles,  I find myself attempting to emulate his elegant, magnificent form. His running was a work of art, not only in the way he ran, but for the reasons he ran as well. He wanted to put on a show for all of those who spectated as he circled the track. Perhaps it’s the warm comfort of sepia-colored nostalgia, but I have yet to see any athlete compete in the way he did. The passion that flowed through his veins and seeped out every pore of his body was contagious as it was the beginning of the rise of distance running.

Not only was this man able to inspire the world with the wonder of distance running, he also proposed a mental fortitude that challenged every conventional belief. It was an attitude of respectful arrogance, an idea that I have adopted in to my own racing. Each and every time I toe the line, full well knowing there are runners around me who have achieved greater feats and times better than mine. However, I refuse to let anyone’s reputation precede them. When I toe the line I expect all who are competing to give me their best, as I will give them mine, and let the score be settled on the course. This man held this same idea but on a completely different level. He was the definition of fearless when it came to racing.

This man I speak of is one of only three idols I have ever had and ever will have in sports. At times he may have been looked at as cocky, arrogant, or crazy, but it is for these reasons and far more that I look up to him. He had that swagger about him that all great athletes possess that allows them to transcend their sport. Each and every morning I wake up to a larger than life size poster of him telling me “The best pace is a suicide pace, and today is a good day to die.” It is impossible not to strive for greatness with this myth of man, motivating me each and everyday. He was a legend, he was the rube, his name was Pre.

Steve Prefontaine

My larger than life Pre watching over and motivating at all times.

Always in Stride,

Jack

Quote – “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart. And that he did. Nobody did it more often. Nobody did it better.” – Bill Bowerman’s character in movie Without Limits

Song – Baba O’Riley – The Who

Video – Without Limits Trailer (The Story of Steve Prefontaine)

Elemental Motivation Part 5: Running With a Smile

We have reached our final post in the 5 part Elemental Motivation series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Our final post will focus on one of my favorite activities next to running, smiling. As long as I can remember I have been a huge cheeseball, my friends, ex-girlfriends, and family can attest to this. I can often be found with an enormous grin on my face as seen in the picture below.

Jack McPheron

Me at 7 years old being Indiana Jones cheeseball.

However,with the exception of a few scattered races, this smile seemed to fade away while running. Running was a chore for me and each mile was a grind. For many years, my running took on a more serious tone and was not an enjoyable activity. Most runs were tarnished with high expectations of required times. I succeeded in placing an immense amount of pressure on myself and as a result, often came up short of my goals. It was not until college that I began to realize the power behind a smile when it came to running.

When my college running career began at Penn State, it had a different look and feel to it as compared to high school. I was running for the club team, which carried a certain level of relaxation to it. Club Cross Country is by no means uncompetitive, as the top runners post times equal to that of varsity runners. However, I felt I could relax more when running with this group and let myself enjoy the race. The effects were visible immediately as my times quickly fell like a rock. Over the course of 4 years, my times went from a 36:30 down to a 27:50 for an 8K race. There was also something very different about these races, I was happy while running. I quickly got to a point where running was the highlight of my day. As one can see in the picture below, I would flash smiles all around the course, once again returning to my inner cheeseball.

Smiling through a grimace during an 8K.

The smile is quite possibly the simplest way to change every aspect of your life. It can be done in an instant and can make you feel better both inside and out. There is also a magical quality about the smile that makes those around you feel better as well. Your perception of your running is reality. If you choose to see it as a form of torture or work, then it will be so. For me, I’m sticking to the smiling route and viewing my running as one of my daily joys and endorphin fixes.

Always in Stride,

Jack

Song of the Week – Live Like We’re Dying – Kris Allen

Quote of the Week – “Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles. What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

Video of the Week – Funny Nike Running Commercial

Elemental Motivation Part 4: Those Who Raise You Up

The video below is my favorite team motivation video of all time and is quoted throughout the post. I highly recommend watching!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSv4ygvECUQ]

“Every once in a while, it’s good to take a look, inside. A good hard look. So go ahead, peel back the shell and look at your heart. What do you see?” The summer of 2010, I found myself looking inward, looking for answers. I was looking in to who I was, what I wanted, and where to turn. Throughout my four previous years of college, I had always had a team to call my own, my family, my home. It was the lifeblood of my college experience. I dreaded returning to the University as I felt I could not return to the group that had been so fundamental to my being over the past four years. Our fourth part part of Elemental Motivation Series will focus on the group I turned to and how a team can raise up the individual.

“Sure you’ll fail, you’ll fall, you’ll come within an inch of your life, and you will triumph. I know you will.” Upon returning to campus for that last fall in Central Pennsylvania, I summoned myself to a musty classroom filled with unfamiliar faces. Leaders of the group spoke with unfamiliar terms such as: port, starboard, bow, coxswain, catch, erg, and more. It was a whole new world to me as well as a new team and new experience to be had. I had found Penn State Crew. Though I did not know it at the time, I had stumbled upon the greatest team I would ever be a part of. I found myself surrounded by the hardest working, most loving, and most dedicated group of people I had ever met in my life.

“You will become the best there is and it’s because of them… They’re with you, they’ve got your back, they lead you forward, they catch you and lift you, and travel with you to the top. To the summit, the very pinnacle of sport.” As the semester progressed, I quickly began to realize that I had been given exactly what I needed in order to end my college career on a positive note as well as excel my athletic career to new heights. I was engulfed by a group of people who loved me instantly for who I was, regardless of the past and where I came from. From day one, they made it clear that I was now one of them and that carried an immense amount of weight. I have oftentimes heard people tell me that “no one believes in you as much as you believe in yourself”. For the most part, I have found this to be true, however, with Penn State Crew, they helped me to realize anything was possible and fully believed in me.

Rowing the 8

Rowing the 8 with my fellow oarsmen.

“What you have now is stronger and more powerful and blazing with a greater passion than any single heart could muster.” With Penn State Crew, I learned the definition of hard work. I will forever maintain that there is no harder sport than rowing. The 2k test is excruciating, leaving one in a state of fatigue in every sense of the word. After races, my lungs would be on fire, hands bloodied,  legs filled with lactic acid, arms limp, and my body in a state of shock. Not only does crew require physical prowess, but also finesse and power of mind. All those in the boat must work together to row in perfect harmony. Each and every stroke is a perfectly calculated measure with innumerable working parts. This is precisely why those who take on the challenge of crew must be up at 4:30am, every morning, in order to perfect their craft.

I owe much of who I am today as an athlete and person to that wonderful team. As Steve Gladstone says, with crew “there has to be a passion, not a mild interest, but a passion” as well as a complete dedication to the task at hand. I have since taken this mentality into my pursuits of the marathon and Ironman to ensure success in both. Crew has made me realize that my body can take plenty of torment before giving in, it is just a matter of overcoming the mind to take it there. My challenge to you this week is to ask yourself what it really takes to achieve your running goals. Being honest with yourself is often one of the most difficult aspects of training, but also leads to the quickest path to success. Next week, check back (or register your email) for the final installment of The Elemental Motivation Series. You can find previous parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I’d love to hear your stories of those who raise you up whether it be friends, family, teams, etc. Feel free to comment!

Always in Stride,

Jack

P.S. We will be back on our regular schedule of Sunday morning posts starting this Sunday!

Penn State Crew Team

The Penn State Crew Team

Quote of the Week – “There has to be a passion,  not a mild interest, but a passion.” – Steve Gladstone

Song of the Week – Will You Be There (Theme from “Free Willy”) – Michael Jackson

Video of the Week – All For One Rowing Video