The leaves turning colors in fall is one of my favorite times of year. The metaphor is powerful. The leaves are essentially being starved to death by lack of light and colder weather and in their darkest hour they become their most beautiful. They paint their masterpiece.
My goal of completing 24 epic runs in 2019 to have the best year in running ever is not lost in the metaphor. I’m constantly racing. Sometimes ultra-distance race efforts are mere days apart. My body is being pushed to the brink over and again for the goal. For the chance to look back and see the colors of yellow, red and orange on an autumn landscape canvas of my life and know it’s my masterpiece.
The first 27 days of Autumn were possibly the most epic of my life. I packed what some would call a lifetime of adventures into just under 4 weeks. I completed 5 of my 24 epic runs in those 27 days and those stats don’t tell the most important story… the memories and friendships made on the way:
* 22 of 24 complete! I added a 25th because I don’t believe any of my 13 FKT’s are top 5 *
The stats of my first 27 days of Autumn: 211 miles run, 8 national parks, 7 states, 6 countries, 2 running records, 2 ultra-marathons & 2 FKT’s.
A brief timeline of the first 27 days of Autumn –
Day 1 – Drive to Wisconsin, dinner with whole extended family and best grilled salmon I’ve ever had.
Day 2 – Set a new FKT on the Ice Age Trail (write-up here). 34 miles that left me nearly unconscious.
Day 7 – Fly to Zion, climb the west rim trail, see the greatest view of my life.
Day 8 – Run a record 7 national parks in one day (write-up here). A top 10 life moment under the stars.
Day 9 – Climb the Incline in Manitou Springs on the commute home.
Day 13 – Race the “Thru the Leaves” 50k ultra-marathon. Break previous course record but finish 2nd.
Day 19 – Board a flight to London after a super crazy 1.25 mile run from Economy Lot G to Terminal 5.
Day 20 – A taper jog around the Queen’s house before dinner with 13 of my new closest friends.
Day 21 – Set a new FKT on the Thames Down Link in the craziest mud I’ve ever run through.
Day 22 – First to ever run a 5k in all 5 of the “Home Nations” on the same day in the UK (write-up here)
Day 23 – Quick shakeout jog before joining a members only casino in Britain so we could drink all night.
Day 24 – An 8 hour plane ride that honestly wasn’t long enough.
Day 27 – A win and course record at the Broken Toe 50k to get redemption as well as my fall win.
Two of my biggest goals of the year came to fruition during these 27 days. I won an ultra-marathon in each calendar season and I broke a record 12 FKT’s in one year. My spreadsheet of 24 epic runs filled up to 22 completed runs. I added a 25th race to this list because I haven’t given myself a chance to accomplish one of my two stretch goals: FKT of the Year (5 are selected each year).
(One of the few things that hasn’t gone right this year was my quest for Nolan’s 14 which I had to delay until next year for scouting purposes. I also wanted to go after the Trans-Zion FKT but a rockfall has closed a section of the trail for months. So, I added the Grand Canyon-Alt FKT. A fire is threatening that FKT as well but it won’t dull my sparkle. I need my signature FKT of the year and I’ll find a way to throw down one way or another this fall.)
While this was statistically the most action packed 27 days of my life, what I’m really going to remember is the people along the way. I wanted to write about these 27 days to truly process what a wild running adventure these days were. But more importantly, I wanted to write at least one thing to each new or old friend that played a part in making these 27 days possibly the best of my life…
Robert Hill – After a brief meeting during a race, you went out of your way to hook me up with ECT&U podcast, which ended up being one of the most fun parts of my year. It’s really rad that you take time out of your day to do cool things for other people. You’re a good dude. “CATTLE GUARD!”
Adam Dorband – Life has thrown you a few lemons this summer but no one could’ve guessed on our trip with your positive outlook. All the video work you did to make a special documentary on our trip was incredible. Your daily vlogs continue to show even the ordinary days can be awesome.
Bob Emmert – It was great to share some of those late miles in the National Parks with you as we pushed for the goal of a full 5k in each park. You’re tough as nails and I’d bet on you any day.
Crystal Howard – You are one of the most overwhelmingly positive people I’ve ever met. You dream big, smile more and always stay positive. It’s awesome to be around!
Lindsey & Eric – I love your sense of adventure and persistence to run through an injury and make the most of your day. Coming straight from a musical festival proved you were definitely the cool kids on the trip and I’m so glad you came to balance out my intensity with your chill and fun demeanors.
Kelly Nicholson – You are one tough lady in the outdoors! You and the Bob’s were the only folks I couldn’t catch up Angel’s Landing after parking. I loved hearing your stories of trails and running and appreciate your adventurous spirit (moving to Montana being my favorite example).
Lori Money – You are one of my biggest supporters and a constant source of encouragement. I love that you got to experience this trip with your son. I promise you I will get you both up a 14er. You are one of my favorite people and always a bright and cheery addition to our trips.
Rachel Telder – You crack me up always. There is never a dull moment with you and you definitely made all those hours in the van a lot more fun. I’m sorry I told you that you looked like a trail runner and jinxed you so badly… and your eye… it was all so much more fun because you were there!
Samantha Struck – You are so sweet and fun! I love that you powered through the tough final sections of the incline and never gave up. It was super cool to have to parent/offspring teams on this trip!
Scott Struck – Meh. It was kind of fun having you there. (You’re one of my favorites and always a fantastic source of encouragement and wisdom in my life. I greatly appreciate you!)
Kathy Roschek – Oh Kathy, the adventures we’ve had this year. I believe you to be the most rad 72 year old in history. I know I can’t scientifically prove that, but I’ll believe it til the day I die. You are as kind as you are adventurous. Let’s go to the beach a few times this winter and have a chill “no-adventure” day!
Adam Feinberg – You were the best roommate! Thanks for making the van time so much more fun, introducing us to Pimm’s and especially the thoughtful gift of the signed UK5K hat.
Aly Wolfe – You are one of the coolest ladies I’ve met in a long time. You even laughed at my NAFTA jokes. Oliver is so lucky to have such a cool mom who closes down Irish dance clubs and climbs mountains.
Carolyn Willis – You were such a great addition to our trip! Thank you for sharing your birthday with us and helping to make our van the cool van
Erin AufderHeide – You are not only hilarious but have the best running form! Thank you for all the laughs, bringing “Scotty” to life and convincing me to wear a wetsuit in the river.
Gena & Chad – You are such a fun couple! Thank you for picking up my tab at least a few times, for all the great laughs, stories and memories. We are definitely doing a yoga inspired trip in 2020!
Jacob Akley – Bro, the trip was so much better with you. Thanks for all you did to document it all for us. You are a constant source of positivity in everyone’s life you enter.
Jacqueline Reuveni – You have personality for days and it was so great to meet you and get to know you through 24 hours in a van together! You definitely made van 1 the place to be as we trekked through 5 countries!
Lisa Brady – I’m so glad you spent your birthday with us! It was great to hangout in Europe with you and you definitely had the funniest text of the trip “Oh the humanity!” (in response to finding out the 2nd Ferry didn’t have VIP access)
Queen Jessica – My Queen, Look, a castle! Hm, must be behind the trees. Anyways, did you bring your grinding jeans, cuz’ we’re going clubbing. Also, your such a fun mom bringing popsicle cutouts of your kids. Oh hey, do you want a cookie?
Kyle Fraser – My dude, your masterful driving on the wrong side of the road was second only to all the good times closing down pubs, clubs and casinos. Only a few more months until our next big hurrah!
Laura Beth – Thank you for dinner and a show! I’m pretty sure we now own the record for most countries run in a single year by siblings. Next year we’ll iron out our Rockettes line performance.
Dad – I’m guessing you assumed your days of driving me around would end when I got my license at 16. Thanks for picking up the slack 20 years later and driving/crewing me all around the Midwest as I race every other weekend (or more). You’re the best!
Non-Friendship Statistics for the first 27 days of Autumn, 2019:
211 miles run in 19 days (11.1 miles per day average)
8 days completely off running for recovery
8 national parks run
6 hard race efforts of 16 miles or more (3 were 30+)
2 ultra-marathon podiums (one win, one runner-up)
Mileage by State:
MI - 73
WI – 33
OH - 31
UT – 28
CO - 7
AZ - 3
IL - 1
Mileage by Country:
United Sates - 176
England – 23
Scotland – 3
Wales – 3
Ireland – 3
N. Ireland – 3
Ice Age Trail – FKT (34 miles)
Thames Down Link – FKT (17 miles)
Fall Ultra-Marathon Win – Broken Toe 50k (31 miles)
Fall Ultra-Fail (beat old CR but got 2nd) – Thru the Leaves 50k (31 miles)
Most National Parks Run In A Day – 7 parks (23 miles)
First to ever run in all “home nations” in a day – 5 countries (16 miles)