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Written by: Michael McKinney, CTB Why the heck would anyone run a 50k, let-alone a 50k trail run over difficult and at-times dangerous terrain? It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times as I prepared for my first ultra trail run a couple of weeks ago. It’s one thing to love running, but why was I changing it up? I’d run a few road marathons, so why not focus on improving my time? Why take my running off-road while increasing the distance? I’ve been pondering these questions in the days since I competed in the Shawnee Hills 100m/100k/50k. After all, the training was intense and time-consuming, the run itself was difficult and risky as trails and rocks and streams aren’t always the safest running surfaces, and I’m fairly comfortable at home with my wife and three great daughters. What compelled me to get out there, to push myself harder, to risk failure or injury? *** I didn’t start running until I was 36 years old. I ran off and on for a few years until my wife, Brandy—a runner herself who had competed in a couple of half-marathons— encouraged me to run my first 1/2 marathon five years later. I was hooked to the sport from that first race, so I began training regularly with an online coach because I wanted to run a full marathon, and I did—it was a great experience. Since that time I’ve run a couple of marathons, a few 1/2 marathons, and an entire 5k dressed as the Easter Bunny. I have to admit, I didn’t plan to run the whole race in that hot-as-hell bunny suit, but the looks on the other runners faces as I ran along beside them, my big bunny eyes wide and my ears flopping, spurred me on. Running as a bunny was challenging, but not challenging enough. Neither were the marathons. And not because I'm an adrenaline junky or believe myself to be an elite athlete. I’m neither, but I do believe trail-running has a few benefits that make the risk of injury and the intense training more than worth it. Trail runs are less peopled. The Shawnee Hills 50k portion of the run had only 39 competitors and 34 finishers. This means that as a runner, I spent more time alone, had more time in my head. There is a meditative aspect to running that is amplified in the woods where everything is green and the breeze rustles through the leaves. At the same time, the small number of other folks on the trail made it imperative for me to create connections with other runners. This helped me to keep track of the trail’s twists and turns and created a safety net. This 50k trail run required me to pay attention in a way that we rarely do in our regular lives. Roots and rocks and ditches make missteps not just possible, but probable for the runner who isn’t paying attention. And paying attention to the trail isn’t the whole of it. I also had to pay attention to my hydration and my nourishment in a way I have never needed to before. Injury on a trail run is a real risk. So back to that question I started with—why the heck would anyone run a 50k trail run?  Sure, connections in a running community, solitude, building attention skills are great answers, and they all contribute to my love of the sport. But here’s the real reason. Because it’s fun and challenging. Seriously, it is that simple—being comfortable is great, but it can also be limiting. I believe it’s important that we push ourselves out beyond the edges of our comfort zones, that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to risk failure. I didn’t know if I could finish a 50k trail run, and I don’t know if I can finish another, but that’s okay. It’s where I want to live at least part of my life, on the wild trail where not-knowing can bring the biggest rewards. ...
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By Erik Jensen, CTB My wife Hannah and I are expecting the arrival of our firstborn child any day now. The emotions we feel leading up to the big day are often overpowering, but the predominant feeling is joy. I still remember the out-of-the-world happiness I experienced when I found out Hannah was pregnant. It was right around Halloween and we were getting dressed for the annual A.M. Transport Halloween Party (which is a blast, by the way). It was hard keeping the good news to ourselves, but we managed to have a great time anyway. Waiting for our baby to be born is difficult, especially these past couple of weeks when I know it could happen any moment. And even though I understand that it’s out of my hands, patience has never been one of my strengths. So I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I admit that when I want something, I want it immediately or yesterday if possible. So waiting a full nine plus months? This seemed impossible. My only glimmer of hope was the possibility of finding out the gender of the baby—which my wife quickly dashed with an iron fist. Ugh. I wasn’t super happy about this, but then again, I’m not the one carrying the baby. So once again, my patience was tested. Fast-forward 38 weeks and things still haven’t changed—this patience thing is really hard. Just a couple weeks ago we had our final ultrasound and I was tempted to take a sneak a peek even though I was told to put my head down and cover my eyes (I’m assuming I could have found out the sex).  And even though I really wanted to, I didn’t. When I think about that moment now, I’m happy I didn’t look. It’s hard to be patient, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Seeing my kid for this first time and finding out if it’s a boy or a girl will be the apex of my life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I plan on carrying this new-found patience into my career at A.M. Transport. Yes, I will still want things to happen quickly and hope for expedient email responses, but sometimes it ok to wait for a bit. Life is like a fine wine, with age and time, things become divine....