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Showing posts from November, 2008

Fast and eccentric

One of the best elements of ultrarunning is the characters that exist within the sport.

There are names and places too numerous to mention within the realm of my experiences, but one who will always stand out is an icon and patriarch - Eric Clifton.

It would be possible to write on for pages regarding Clifton's accomplishments. He holds the course record at the JFK 50 mile at 5:46, and is also a winner at the brutal Badwater 130 mile desert run.

I first met Eric when living in Greensboro, North Carolina in the mid 1980's. He was a top triathlete and his wife at the time, Shelby, was a top competitor in the Race Across America (RAAM) ultra bicycling event.

I remember one occasion when Eric and Shelby rode 100 miles from Greensboro to Charlotte, raced in the triathlon there, and then rode home.

On another occasion, Clifton told me he was worried about a few pounds he had gained. He was doing 100+ mile weeks in the mountains of New Mexico and living on one bowl of ice cream a day.


The ride that endures

Sometimes a bike becomes more than just a machine.

It takes on characteristics of a friend; or it becomes special and feels like a well-worn baseball glove every time you put it on.
That's how I feel about my 1999 Haro Escape mountain bike.

It started out as a cutting edge (for the time) off road ride. I remember many outings on the trails near my home in Westerville, Ohio. Many times the bike would get submerged in mud bogs, and I'd have to come home and pull the crank apart to let the water drain out.

Years went by and all was well until my bike was "wounded" in our transition to Florida. The movers snapped the front suspension fork, so I replaced it with a rigid fork and added slick tires to build a commuter bike.

After that it was really fine rear panniers and a lighting kit.

Then, tragedy struck. I was mowing the lawn, went in for a quick shower and when I came out my trusted friend was gone, stolen out of the garage.

I panicked and roamed the area for hours, hopin…

My life with the Aussies

Well, I still have two qualifying tests to go (out of five) but I could not stay away from my master competitor see, I am a legend in my own mind.

For the next few installments, sit back and stay tuned for some of Tom Terrific's adventures from Down Under; these are tales of the wild and not so sane training runs while on my trip to Sydney, Australia in May, 2007.

I was adopted by a crew of very hardcore ultrarunners. These boys knew how to suffer, beyond levels of my accomplishment.

The two dudes in the photo are some of my trail mates from a run on the Great North Road. This day was about a 50K, but on the out and back I ended up doing about 25 miles. No real support and a few rain barrels along the way. At one point a Buddhist monk set out some drinking water...that was nice.

So, the guy on the left is Louie. This man of all seasons told me that for over 20 years, he was a delivery truck driver who would tote a bottle of booze and get blind drunk over the course of e…

Hang in there!

To all my master competitor friends and compatriots:

Sorry about the lack of postings.

I am in the midst of completing five (5) qualifying exams over ten (10) days, as part of finishing my PhD program in mass communications.

I'm treating each step as if it is a 100-mile run.

To be one with nature, to become part of the elements, to work within the flow, not fight against it.

It's much like doing ab crunches on the brain.

So, I will be back with you soon.

Journey on.

Core competency

I was listening to a podcast with Craig Alexander, the winner of this year's Ironman Triathlon. Craig was giving shout-outs to hammerheads who assisted him with his preparation and it wasn't long until he moved to Dave Scott, the six-time Ironman World Champion who set the stage for much of today's endurance training and racing protocols.

Craig explained how Dave had taken him to the gym for a core training workout. By the time it was over, Alexander was on the couch in a fetal position; he said the 54-year-old Scott crushed him with the routine.

Core training is really important to overall performance. Strength at the core helps you to carry your body well while running and also lends to confidence because we feel power at the center of our effort.

I integrate core training into my plans each week. Check out the image above; doing push-ups off an exercise ball forces you to isolate the core muscles while working the arms and chest. I work to isolate my midriff area whil…

Making time at the 13.1

The Florida Track Club hosted one of its annual events yesterday, the Tom Walker Memorial Half Marathon. This year the race was moved to the Gainesville Hawthorne trail. This is a very popular local running and biking path, with no traffic and less stress.

I can almost be seen in the photo above. I'm buried near the back, in a red shirt and black visor...making my stupid running face that I have been trying to overcome for the past two decades.

My running friends Meghan (in purple top) and Adrienne (aqua singlet) are to my left.

The turnout was excellent. I started with my running buddies Meghan and Adrienne. Meghan was off like a rabbit, so we shuffled into line behind her. The weather was overcast at times, gracious even in November for Florida, as the temps have been rising into the high 70's.

I was great to see so many familiar faces on the course. And near the finish I recognized Ed and James, two track club members I trained with in 2006...both talented master competi…

Hammer down

Guess it's time for a bit more bear with me.

The photo at right is yours truly making pretty fine time at the 2004 JFK 50 mile in Boonesboro, Maryland. As you might note, I'm a bit "thick" and was racing in my pre-Florida body. But nonetheless, it was a good day. I hit my personal record for 50 miles, an 8:53.

JFK starts with a two mile uphill on a country road off the start, then takes a hard right onto the Appalachian Trail. It's a leaf-covered and rocky single-track and with 1300 runners the trail can bottleneck.

I always loved that section; it's all silence until someone trips and falls and you hear a bloody scream coming off the trail.


After 15 miles, the trail goes into heavy switchback mode as one traverses a steep descent. I was moving well at the time this photo was taken and actually stormed past a gaggle of young marines.

There was never a prouder moment for master competitor. I yelled "runner on your left!" and …

Seasons of life

Well, I must say I'm sorry. I haven't posted blog updates for several days and there is a reason why.

It's called academics and I'm in the eye of the storm. The photo above was taken at a recent U of FL football game weekend with my PhD cohort group. This is my final year in the PhD program in mass communications at the University of Florida. I have come to understand that this journey isn't for everyone and the stress load can be substantial.

I am well into the proposal for my dissertation topic, which is involvement among individual and team sport athletes. I will explore the involvement indicators for individual sport through ultrarunners and team sport through rally car auto racing drivers and crews.

And soon, I will take qualifying exams...five 4-hour sessions over ten days. This is where I must demonstrate that Tommy Master Competitor is ready to get into the PhD "club." The idea of being able to expound on what I know is overwhelming...but it …