thank you matt

My close buddy Matt surprised me with a YouTube documentary last weekend of a recent trail race we did together.

Though he’s a father of two, a full-time firefighter / paramedic, and is juggling many other more important personal tasks, he still found time to create a documentary.  And this was the first video he’s ever edited.

There are friends and then there’s Matt.  He’s been by my side through many important life events (including two trips to Leadville, 1 failed attempt in 2017 and this year).  And even though I should be the one thanking him for taking time away from his family to help me with a selfish and personal goal, he spends 100 hours to learn how and then create a professional quality video that I can turn on and re-experience that day for the rest of my life.

Matt’s a special friend.  I’m lucky to know him and I’m a better human because of him.

a beautiful moment

On August 18, we accomplished a 3 year goal, crossing the finish line at the Leadville 100 trail run (see finish below) in 29 hours and 47 minutes (cut off was 30 hours).  To provide context, the Leadville 100 is a historic 100 mile footrace above 10K feet in the mountains of Leadville, Colorado (About Leadville).  We toed the line in August 2017 as well but missed the cut-off time at the 50 mile mark.

The race is technically an individual effort.  Only one buckle is awarded to each finisher.  So why use we?  Because during two attempts, I had my wife, mom, brother, some of my best friends, professional mentors, and other family there as my crew.  And in this sport, your crew does not spectate.  Each of them played critical roles on the team, staying up for days to help prep gear / food, crew aid stations, pace me, and provide whatever support is needed to help me find the finish by 10am Sunday.

At the 24 mile aid station, my mom refilled all my water (I carried 50oz), my wife fed me pb&js, and my brother replaced the gels in my kit.  It was like a nascar pit stop.  At mile 55, my close buddy Matt gave me a pair of dog tags he made for me to remember a fellow teammate and close buddies’ passing just days (who was also supposed to be out there with us that day).  At the time, I didn’t feel like I could take another step but thinking about what my teammate would say to me at that moment combined with the gratitude I felt for Matt and his support helped fuel another gear I never thought I had.  At mile 70, Jenny gave me a big hug with a warm smile.  And my mom rubbed my back and told me how much she loved me.  It was really late and they’ve both been up 24 hours but their love and genuine excitement (I’ve discussed how much this support means to me in a previous post) was contagious.  At mile 80, my former colleague / mentor reminded me of the proud nature of the unit we served in together.  Every so often he would calmly say, noticing a few athletes ahead of us, “fix bayonet scotty” which provided another boost of motivation.  I wanted to compete in a way that made my former community and teammates proud. And my brother, in addition to pacing me 10 miles up a mountain 8 hours earlier, pushed me the final half marathon as our crew nervously waited by the finish.  We were close to the cut-off and needed to move relatively fast to finish.  For a moment around mile 91, I had to take a seat because I wasn’t sure how I would walk another 300 ft, much less 9 miles.  I wasn’t done but I had to gather my thoughts and figure out how I was going to finish.  My bro and I decided to cut the remaining miles into 300 feet run / walk intervals  And this plan worked as it distracted me from what I had left and motivated me to run hard for short bursts so then I could walk.  My bro’s confidence, calm demeanor and ability to problem solve 29 hours into the race were invaluable.  I provide these anecdotes to highlight the value of my team.  There is no way I would not have been able to dig deep enough to travel that distance over that terrain without their support.

So I’m sure you can imagine how I felt when my bro and I crested the final hill just a few hundred yards from the finish and noticed our crew running to us with arms in the air.  After high fives and hugs we locked arms and, with celebratory tears in our eyes, slowly walked across the finish (see video of moment below).

It was a beautiful moment as it was a perfect blend of:

  • the execution of a challenging goal that required years of training and multiple attempts
  • the camaraderie of working in teams in adverse and stressful conditions
  • the rare but genuine support of loved ones that sacrificed to be there on my behalf

In fact, I can confidently say it was and will always be one of the best moments in my life.  One that will go in a box* that I can hopefully, every few years, pull off the shelf, and go back to cresting that final hill with my bro and then walking across the finish line again.  Arm in arm with my crew.

Thanks to all involved, I love you.  And to Buck Smith, always beside you brother.

Thanks so much for your time.


*Trey Anastasio reference (Wading in The Velvet Sea)

be patient out there

I paced / crewed for a buddy a few weeks ago in a trail run on the Wyoming / Montana border called The Bighorn Trail 100.  My buddy is a talented trail runner with an impressive coach (All American collegiate runner, top 5 Leadville 100 finisher) who travels with my buddy for each race.   Given that it was just the three of us out there for the weekend I was able to spend some quality time with my buddy’s coach.  Over those two days we spent hours talking about a range of topics from career to family to running.  It was a memorable trip.

A few days after I returned to Chicago I received the following text from my buddy’s coach.

“Best of luck at Leadville.  Be patient out there”

For some reason, and it took writing this post to figure it out, this advice had an immediate and profound impact on me.  It wasn’t because of the words used but instead because of how perfectly tailored the advice was for me. It was the kind of advice you only receive from a seasoned veteran who knows exactly what it takes to get the job done.

Historically I’ve ignored the word patience as it’s largely overused by parents, teachers, and other disciplinarians.  But the more I thought about it, both in the context of the upcoming race but also in other aspects of life,  the more the word took on a new, inspirational meaning for me.

Patience (noun):  the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering 

The aforementioned google definition sends chills, right?  Read it again if your answer is no.  This is a word reserved for the masters of their craft like Jesus or Chesty Puller or Nelson Mandela or Des Linden; each of whom withstood setbacks and suffering in the pursuit of excellence.  Patience.

Be patient out there.  Now I understand coach, thank you.