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Why I run? For Haiti.

I’m going to preface this by saying I posted this picture and a lot of this text on Facebook weeks ago, and I intended to make it a post then but never got to, but seeing as though I am 10 days out from Haiti, I’ll post it now.

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Me painting Loudia’s nails

This is Loudia, a little girl I met on my very first trip to Haiti 5 or 6 years ago. She instantly became attached to me, and I her. I love going back and seeing how she’s grown along with all the other children I’ve gotten to know over the years. This is me, painting her nails on my last trip to Haiti to see her. Loudia knew all too well this was my last day in Haiti this trip, the look on her face and how she acted that day showed it. When a heartbroken girl asks you to paint her nails, you paint her nails. It was upsetting for her and it was upsetting for me. This, is why I run.

As far as I know, Loudia has spent most of her life in this orphanage, along with her older sister. To see how they’ve grown over the years that I’ve had them in my life has been quite the experience. Amazing to see the girl that she is growing into. Seeing her as this shy little girl who barely talked to now being able to speak to me in some english that we’ve helped teach her over the years. To say it’s amazing to see the growth is an understatement. This, is why I run.

I remember one trip that I was there I got terribly sick, I think I ate some ice cream from a street vendor, I know, huge mistake. It was hot, I like ice cream, so why not? Right? Wrong. Very wrong. I was sick for days I won’t give you the details, but I was of no use for days. I recalled going to the orphanage the one day and trying to play with the kids, and do school with them, but I was not having it. I ended up laying down in the missions house on a couch, sleeping it off and praying I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom, because the bathrooms these children had to use were terrifying. No one should have to use these restrooms, and I certainly didn’t want to either. Loudia snuck into the missions house so she could see me, the kids aren’t supposed to be in this room, for reasons I’m not sure. But everyone let it slide because of how much I mean to Loudia and vice versa. She took care of me while I was sick.

But, inevitably I had to venture to the bathroom. God, I did not want to. I let her know I was going, and she wouldn’t let me go. She, some of the other girls, and one of the house moms went to the outhouse/bathrooms and cleaned it as best as they could and freshened it up because they didn’t want me to have to use the restroom because even though they have never known anything else, they wanted it to be in top shape before they would let me use it. I remember feeling so broken that day. That these children don’t have operating toilets, running water, clean drinking water, nothing. These people have practically nothing. Just to let you know, they now have running water, and purified drinking water thanks to the awesome teams that go and support the orphanage. I was so amazed by the thoughtfulness that they took to take care of me this day. This, is why I run.

I hope to one day see Haiti free from the poverty they have experienced their entire existence. To have clean restrooms, with running water, and water to drink. And to know that I, that we, made a difference. This, is why I run.

Thanks to Team Tassy for all that they have done and continue to do in Haiti, and thank you to all who have donated for all of my trips and always supported me.

In 10 days I will begin my 230-Mile run across the country of Haiti to help end poverty, raise as much money as we can, and show that Haiti is not a place to pity or fear.

This, is why I run.

Group or Solo Running?

This is a tough subject for a lot of people. Many people can’t even think about running alone while probably just as many people have the same feelings about running in a group. What makes one better than the other? Or is there no difference at all?

When I first started running I ran alone until I felt comfortable running. Kind of like how if you are out of shape some people will feel weird about going to the gym because of their embarrassment. Yet, that’s kinda the point of the gym, to help get yourself into shape…Right? But, I digress. After I felt comfortable enough in my own skin, running 3-5 miles at a time alone I then started to run with groups. I’d wake up at 3:30am 3-4 days a week to meet up with some friends to run before work, and then weekends I’d drive over an hour to run my long run in the city with a group in Pittsburgh.

This was all great, until for whatever reason I wasn’t able to make a run. Because of weather, work, or any number of reasons. So because I became so reliant on group runs I lost the ability to run alone. Or at least I lost the desire to run alone. It became very easy to just say well, I’ll find a group to run with tomorrow or I can take another rest day, no big deal. I trained for my entire first marathon this way, and luckily I was so motivated that I only missed a few runs. So I never really saw the effect relying on group runs was having on me.

The real problem started when I got injured after my first marathon, as I’ve talked about previously. Once I got back to the point of being able to run again, I felt just like I did when I first started running. My pace wasn’t what it used to be, my endurance wasn’t as high. So naturally I was embarrassed to run with groups cause I wasn’t “as good” anymore. Ridiculous right? This went on for some time. I was caught in this wanting to get better, but hesitant to run with a group, and somehow I just settled on barely running. I don’t recall how long this lasted, but finally I buckled down (still not as strict as I should have been) and began to just run on my own. All my runs, totally solo. And what happened is I fell back in love with running. It wasn’t an easy thing, my pace came back slower than it would have if I were with a group, I’m sure. But I truly loved to run again.

Running became my time. The only time I could disconnect from life, work, technology, anything at all. It’s where I got all my thinking done, solved my problems, and everything in between. This is also the time I found trail running, like real trail running. I had only ran trails a few times until this point. Trails truly revolutionized how I felt about running. I still love a good run on the road and a road race. Afterall, that’s where I started to run.

So, after a very long hiatus of running with a group, I somewhat reluctantly began running with groups every once in awhile, and you know what, it’s not half bad either. I really enjoy running with my tribe of runners. But if there is one thing I’ve learned, I definitely need my alone time runs. Something about just getting lost in the woods by yourself for 20+ miles on a weekend to know what you’re made of and really have some quality alone time.

All in all I’d say I prefer to run alone compared to a group, especially training for ultras or trail races in general, you quickly get separated and end up running alone for most of the race, so I look at it as a more practical way to train for some races.

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But, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you run with a group or run alone, just make sure you keep moving forward and run.

 

Haiti!

Have you heard? I’m going back to Haiti in February! Not in the normal way I usually visit Haiti, normally I’m working with the Hope Alive! Clinic Ministries along side the Haiti-Initiative and working in a local orphanage in Mariani, Ouest, Haiti. I have been doing so since 2011, I haven’t been able to visit as often as I was used to, but I guess thats what happens when life, work, and everything in between is so demanding and busy. I’m so excited to be going back to Haiti, except this time I’ll be running across the country. 230 miles to be exact. What does running 230 miles across Haiti look like? Here’s the route.

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We’ll be starting in Cap Haiten and finishing in beautiful Jacmel. Here is the exact breakdown:

Day 1 – Cap Haitien to Plaisance – 28 miles
Day 2 – Plaisance to D’Ennery – 15 miles
Day 3 – D’Enery to Gonaives – 18 miles
Day 4 – Gonaives to Saint – Marc – 34 miles
Day 5 – Saint­Marc to Giulbert – 19 miles
Day 6 – REST DAY
Day 7 – Giulbert to Port­au­Prince – 29 miles
Day 8 – Port­ au­ Prince to Jacmel (FINISH LINE!) ­ 56.7 miles

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So many have asked why am I doing this? Whats the point? For me I have a long time relationship with Haiti, I’ve been going there for years, love the people and the country and look forward to watching those communities grow. And I’m saddened when I see the disasters that take place there. Haiti will always hold a special place in my heart, and I love to run, so what better way to support Haiti than by running across it? How exactly does running help Haiti? Team Tassy’s mission is to end poverty by bringing good and dignified jobs. Every year Team Tassy hosts an ultra marathon of 230 miles called the Run Across Haiti. The purpose of the run is to show that Haiti is not a place to be feared, or pitied and our goal is to raise $200,000 by the end of our run. Please help me by donating here, every dollar makes a difference.

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Pittsburgh, PA Run Across Haiti Teammates

In only 28 days I fly to Haiti and begin this journey. 28 days to do whatever I can to continue my training and be sure I am ready when I get there. I don’t know that I’ll ever be trained enough for 230 miles, but I know one thing. I’m going to give it my all, and do whatever I can to help end poverty in the beautiful country of Haiti. As always, thank you for reading and following along in my journey.

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The Last Pair of Shoes I Ever Wore

You didn’t think you’d come to Powered By Sandals.com and see a guy running in shoes did you? If you did, I’m sorry to disappoint. There will be none of that nonsense here. Only kidding, no hate to shoed runners!

I get asked all the time “Are you running in sandals?” More frequently I am asked if I’m running in flip flops. Depending on the situation I just reply with a simple “yes” or “pretty much!”. Apparently I’ve become known for this around the City of Pittsburgh. One day I was running across the Rachel Carson Bridge downtown and some lady(non runner) yelled across the road and asked “Are you the guy who runs in sandals?” I laughed and responded with a resounding “Yes!”

So why do I run in sandals? It all started after my first full marathon, the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon. I became injured during the race, with what seemed to be IT Band Syndrome (ITBS). I had no idea this injury was going to be as debilitating as it was. Being a new runner I had no idea how to recover from this so I did what any new runner does, I rested for approximately 5 days after the marathon and went to the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail(LHHT) to do my first trail run of ‘Gate to 8’ which is a very difficult 16 miles. I had fun, but after the first 8 miles I could no longer bend my right knee, and by this point I was 8 miles into the middle of the woods with no other option than turn around and go back. After Gate to 8, I began my approximate 6 months of rehab, rest, and the occasional run that made me confident I was healthy. Then, I would go run the next day and not be able to walk after 3-4 miles.

What does a runner do when they cannot run? They read about running, talk about running, and get depressed over the fact that they are not running. I remember hearing all about the book ‘Born To Run,’ that it was an incredible book and that I should read it. I bought it and read it within a 2-3 day period, which for me is fast. This book is primarily about the Tarahumara people who live in the Copper Canyons of Mexico and how they are these incredible endurance athletes who can run for 200+ miles at a time and do so without being injured, and without the modern running shoe. After reading the book I met a few runners who run as they do, in sandals, and they said how it changed the way they run. I, with nothing to lose and wanting to do anything I could to run, decided I was going to get a pair and try it out.

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The Last Shoes I Ever Wore

By this point I was able to start running again, in shoes, and still with aches and pains every time. However, it was enough that I could deal with. I just kept to short distance, 3-5 miles. My Girlfriend found out the brand I wanted was Luna Sandals, the size I would need, and the model to get. She got me my first pair for Christmas that year, and it was by far my favorite gift. Within three weeks, I was fully switched over to sandals and I never ran in a pair of shoes again. During those first three weeks I had been alternating shoes and sandals and I realized quickly that when I was in sandals I no longer had the pain and discomfort and then the very next time I ran I would run in shoes and be in a world of pain again. I dealt with this for those three weeks and came to the conclusion that every time I was in shoes I would hurt again. So I did it, I kicked off my Saucony Kinvaras and never looked back. I’ve now been running for over a year with much higher mileage, many more long distance races (marathons to ultra marathons), and currently training as you’ve read for the Run Across Haiti, a 230 mile 7 day race across the country of Haiti. All in a pair of sandals.

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My First Pair of Luna Sandals

Why have sandals helped me become a better, healthier runner? The theory behind running in sandals or barefoot is that you are running just as you were made to run. Your feet are not being conformed to a shoe, no false support changing how your foot impacts on landing, etc. A lot of shoes can feel good because of all the support and that you don’t feel the feedback from the ground but over time of running in them, they may promote poor form and can cause injuries like I had, or worse. Sandals and barefoot can help improve your form and promote a forefoot strike, because you’re in your most natural setting and simply do what comes natural. Remember running barefoot as a kid in the yard and how fun and free it felt? No one taught you how to run, you just ran.  And that’s exactly what Luna Sandals have done for me. I would never say this is a solution for everyone, as it’s simply not that way, but for me it has made me a much happier and healthier runner.

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First blog post

First Post

The obligatory ‘First Blog Post’

I guess everyone has to have a first, right? Well, here’s mine.

I never thought I’d have a running blog, mainly cause I was never sure I had anything that interesting to say or talk about. But with the new year here I have some cool adventures in store. The main reason for starting a blog to begin with is because I have signed up to run across the country of Haiti in 7 days. That’s 230 miles, yes two hundred and thirty miles in seven days. I’ll be doing this with about 30 other amazing runners with the organization Team Tassy. We have one goal in mind, other than running 230 miles, its to end poverty in Haiti by creating dignified jobs. Why am I doing this? I have a lot of reasons for doing this, I have a history with Haiti and I love to run. Why not combine the two?

What goes into training for this daunting task of running 230 miles across the country? So much. Early mornings, late nights, lots of fundraising, planning, and of course running lots and lots. I have so much support from my Girlfriend, friends, family, co-workers, employer, and many more. I haven’t been the most exciting person to be around the last few months, but until the end of February I will be living, eating, and breathing training for this adventure. So I apologize to all my friends, family, and Erin for being on edge and often stressed out.

To kick off the new year and my first training day of 2017 I couldn’t think of a better way than to run 20.17 miles. Here’s to more posts and many more miles!