Honest Songs

I vividly remember sitting in my white Jeep Cherokee in my high school parking lot when I first heard Chris Carrabba belt out “please send me anything but signals that are mixed cuz I can’t read your rolling eyes.” I was immediately hooked upon Chris’s first breath and down stroke ofAgain I Go Unnoticed.” It was short, simple and driving. It was raw. It had so much emotion behind it. I’d pretty much bought in completely by the time they released their MTV unplugged album in 2002.

I feel even more in love when they released “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar.” I will STILL watch the bonus DVD (Far From Home) that came along with that cd.

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that Dashboard was one of the BIGGEST influences for my own songwriting and music style. I fell in love with his language and the pure simplicity of his stripped down sets of him and his acoustic guitar. Same thing goes with Dan “Soupy” Campbell of the Wonder Years and Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. The way he writes is just honest and raw.

Soupy Campbell

I’ve always been a “lyrics” guy so anyone that has heartfelt, sincere lyrics typically gets my full attention. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Turner and one of his songs “Try This at Home” has been a great reminder to just do it. Just create music for the sake of creating music. Who f’n cares if anyone likes it or will listen to it. Stop doubting yourself and just have fun with it. It’s not that serious.

Frank

Kati and I talk about this concept all the time. We (as humans / people) get so wrapped up in placement and position. We’ve been so conditioned by the mentality of “be the best or don’t participate at all” that we will not participate in something we enjoy for the soul reason we can’t be the best. How much are you missing out on because you’re too afraid to start or you don’t think you’re too good at it? So WS

Youre never gonna get people to listen to your music. No one cares about your writing. Your songs aren’t mastered in a studio. Why bother?”

Because I like writing and playing. I like the creation process and think it’s important to put that out into the universe. It’s that simple of an answer. That’s the “why.”

I took an extended break from the band back in my 2.5 year stay in grad school. I just didn’t have the capacity to do both. So we put our debut album out in October 2018… played a few shows and fell off. That’s mostly my doing. I had to make choices for my career and had to set boundaries. I still continued to write and put out acoustic stuff… and we did play a few shows… but it was just too much. But now that I’m settled into a job… music has resurfaced full force! I’m writing more solo acoustic stuff and hoping to play a good amount of those types of gigs. Also the band is back playing and getting ready to record 4-5 new songs! We’re kicking off the rust with a show at Interstellar September 17 and will hopefully start playing elsewhere in the upcoming months.

Da bois

Life is good. I’ll probably start making more music related posts with new songs, lyrics, and videos. I did a quick inventory of ALL the songs I’ve ever written and it’s something ridiculous coming in at +60 songs. Obviously most have never been released or recorded. Some are sweet. Some are mean. Some suck. Some don’t. I plan on releasing a lot more music from now to the end of the year so be prepared… or dont… I don’t really care one way or the other.

I do have a new single “October Skies” coming out on Monday. Well… it’s out now on SoundCloud and to download on Bandcamp… but will be available errrrywhere else on Monday (ie: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, etc)

But if you’re not doing something you think you might enjoy or something that you already love but you don’t feel you’re good at it… or that you think other people will think negatively of it… just do it. Who f’n cares. Be creative. Be you. Do what you want!

6593

“What’s the numbers on your chest represent? A phone number? Social security number? A specific date?”

Actually, it’s the elevation of my favorite mountain.

I never expect anyone to understand. Sure, there’s a few that truly understand the feeling of having your soul and heart attached to a certain place, but for the most part, people just shrug and move on as they do with most tattoo questions.

Mount LeConte has held a special place in my heart since the moment I turned the corner at Inspiration Point and my heart fluttered with excitement at the site of the distant Anakeesta ridge.

First trip up LeConte: 2013

LeConte has been a critical part of cultivating so many amazing friendships…

It’s been the home of some wild and crazy solo adventures like The Great Ascension (a 78 mile link up of an out and back of every trail connected to LeConte)

GatlinDome… a +40 mile loop from my hotel in downtown Gatlinburg up and over Clingmans and back…

And some non solo adventures like… Fav 2 Fav… a +40 mile point to point that linked LeConte and Rocky Top…

And the sunset after an off trail free climb of Charlie’s Bunion

Everything from hot summer runs with cool downs in Pigeon River…

Beautiful, crystal clear skies…

Classic Smoky Mtns…

Foggy, enchanting tunnels into the magic forest…

Cold, snowy, freezing weather….

Solo midnight summits…

After hours stargazes and a lot of good, clean fun…

The mountain has even inspired a lot of great songs found on my Huggins Hell EP and The Mountains Are Calling

To say the least, LeConte is a staple in my life.

A few weeks ago, Matty Fierce and I went up to celebrate my graduation. When I received my undergrad degree in kinesiology, I went through the entire process of walking across stage and taking ALL the pictures, but wanted something a lil more intimate and special for my graduate degree.

When me and MF head to the Smokies, we typically try and slide in some newer trails as to slowly check em off the map. We spent the previous day running a 25 mile route on a few trails we’d never been on that lead us to familiar spots.

But I really really wanted to be on my mountain for graduation. So we bounced up Alum and hit the usual spots like the Lodge and the summit…

And Myrtle Point…

As we started making our way over to Cliff Top, I came across a stick that resembled the shape of a diploma.

I’ve got an idea for a graduation picture…”

The rocks were empty when we arrived…

But soon enough, a hiker came up and offered to take a picture.

It was perfect. I’ve had a lot of cool photos with a lot of amazing people on LeConte, but this photo will always hold a significant spot in my heart. It means so much more than I’m willing and able to express through text.

After the trip, I posted the pic on one of the Smokies Facebook pages. I had always enjoyed seeing others’ pictures and experiences that get posted there and just thought maybe others would like to share in this one. It was well received.

It even got pushed around enough that Abby Kousouris of WVLT in Knoxville reached out for an interview!

After that, Tandra Smith of Al.com reached out for an interview!

At this point in my life, I’m feeling extremely grateful. Grateful for a body that allows me to move across mountainous terrain to see the wonders of the world… grateful for the love and support I’ve received and have in my life… grateful for all the people and experiences… simply put… I just feel grateful. I’d even go as far as saying #grateful.

If you know me at all… you probably know that I’ve painted my body with the places, experiences and people that I love the most. I don’t ragret any marking I’ve ever made… (not even one single letter) and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so until I make the passage to the next life…

That reminds me… I need to check to see when Justin of Sanctum Tattoos & Comics is free…

Until then… peace, love and 6593.

Zach of All Trades, Master of… Education?

As most of you know, one of my BIGGEST passions in life is MUT running, but I tend to dabble in just about everything. I love to play/write/sing music solo and with my band, I had a halfway decent baseball career, I’m a sub par mountain biker and tend to just dive in to whatever seems interesting. Typically I can skate my way through anything and at least be semi-good at it. If I pick something up fairly quickly and successfully, Kati will often times throw the “But can you float?” question at me to drop me down a few pegs and keep me humble. And yes for the record… I most certainly cannot float. I sink like the Titanic.

By no means am I a master when it comes to anything… especially trail running. You do anything over the course of a decade, you’re usually able to hone certain skills and get pretty good at whatever that thing is. I personally view trail running as an art form more so than a sport. There’s a certain elegance and beauty in moving seamlessly through rugged, mountainous terrain. I feel like those brief moments of being caught in the flow (if you know, you know) brings a certain level of clarity and freedom. For those few moments, I feel a connection to the higher power and everything goes serene.

To have my name associated with the word master, especially when it comes before the words of education, sounds preposterous (I have to use fancy words… because ya know… higher ed and such). When I graduated with my undergrad from Montevallo in 2009, I swore on everything sacred that I would never go back to school.

Even with a degree in Kinesiology, I had no clue what I actually wanted to do with my life. I bounced around from job to job, learning different skill sets from each, but really didn’t have a passion for a one single thing. Years later in 2017, I had a good job as a Warehouse/Parts Manager working for a company that sold/rented equipment for screening/crushing/drilling rock. I knew absolutely nothing of big equipment and was definitely not mechanically minded, but I learn quickly and am good with people. The work was good but it just wasn’t me. I didn’t feel like I was utilizing my own personal skills to make my community and world a better place. So I took some time to self examine and started compiling a list of all my strengths, weaknesses, what I enjoyed doing, what I didn’t enjoy doing and what I would want a career to look like if I didn’t have any limitations. I took note that people, often complete strangers, would reach out to me and pour out their most personal problems and issues without knowing why they were even talking to me. At the time, I had a really close friend who disclosed her own personal battles with mental health. Hearing her story and struggles made me want to become educated on how I could realistically and genuinely help people struggling with the unseen.

A year earlier, I had started volunteering with Make a Wish and helped launch the Trailblaze Challenge here in Alabama. I really enjoyed the process of getting people to push through their own personal struggles and doubts, to achieve something they thought was damn near impossible. Being able to witness the staff’s love for people was truly inspirational. They sacrifice so much of their time and energy into making dreams come true for kids in need. Seeing how it effected not only the kid, but just as much the family, really hit home as to what kind of good can be done if we could just simply love and show compassion to our fellow human.

All of these factors played into the “hey babe, I think I want to go back and get my master’s degree” statement I made to my wife back in 2018.

I’m not really one to half ass anything. If I’m gonna do something, it’s gonna be whole ass or no ass. After I got accepted into the program, I went hard. I decided to be a full time grad student while working full time. The first Fall semester I took a full load (3 classes) and continued through the summer and remainder of my schooling as a full time student.

It was non stop work. I’d find myself having to come home after a 3hr class, to do homework or a paper for another class. Running quickly took a back seat. My mileage sank but honestly, the busyness made me streamline and rethink my training. Instead of lackadaisical, carefree miles, I had to force myself to make more conscious decisions with my runs. Over time, my runs became ones of better quality. Despite my training looking different, I still found success in the structured process. Pinhoti 100 was the first race I structurally trained, and I ended up with one of my best 100 milers to date.

21:41 – Pinhoti 100 (2018)

I knew going into my 2nd semester that something was going to have to change. My commute for work was approximately 1-1.5hrs one way and with having class 2-3 nights a week, it just wasn’t working out. I hated to leave (cuz it was like a $10 an hour pay cut), but it was necessary in order to pursue this goal. So with a whiskey drink and cake, I said farewell to Crusher Works…

And hello to Impact Sports Rehab.

Impact was 3 minutes away from the house, 10 minutes away from school and allowed me to work part time w/ flexible hours as needed for school. Not only did I get to utilize my undergrad degree for the first time, but I also got to see the impact Physical Therapists and PTAs have on people’s lives and the community. I was immediately brought into the family, but it was a family I already knew since I had done my own rehab there in 2017 when I did PT for a 360° labrum tear in my shoulder.

I enjoyed my time at Impact, but I knew that I couldn’t work there for the remainder of grad school. Financially I couldn’t keep digging our family into a hole and my internship requirements would place me working the same hours as the PT clinic was open. So after a year at Impact… it was back to retail…. another thing I swore off for good.

I hopped into a retail supervisory role at America’s Thrift Store and worked mainly nights and weekends. Since my internship required 600hrs, I was going to have to break it up into 2 semesters. It can be done in 1 semester, but that would a 40hr/week internship, and again, financially I couldn’t just not work for 5 months. So I slipped into a routine where I would go to my internship site rom 7a-12p and then close the store from 1p-930p. The days I had class, I’d either open the store from 7a-330p and do class from 5p-830p or do a full 8hrs of internship before class. It. Was. Exhausting. I found that running just couldn’t be a main focus and had to slide into the self-care slot. Some mornings I’d wake up and run early, some days I’d run after I got off work late at night and other days I just couldn’t pull myself out the door for a run. It took some time, but I eventually accepted this season of my life and allowed myself to run when I felt like it and not put too much stock into performance. Despite the lower mileage, I linked together a smooth 50 mile effort at Blood Rock 50. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact it was at the beginning of a 3 week period of no internship/school and it was a cause of celebration!

1st OA ~ 8:38 (Blood Rock 50 – 2020)

My time at the thrift store has been a lot of freakin fun and it’s mostly been the direct cause of the work family.

I’ve got the opportunity to work with some really fabulous people. Seeing the cool and crazy stuff that comes through the store is the highlight of every day, but there’s been some wicked good/bad stories that’s derived from thrift store. If you follow my Instagram you’ve probably seen some of the… unique items that get donated and have probably heard some of the crazy stories of customers and happenstances. I may eventually create a drop down section on my blog called Tales from the Thrift and share some of these stories!

I’m currently in the midst of working out a 2 week notice with the thrift store. My internship is complete, all classes are accounted for, and I passed my comp exam. All that’s left to do is graduate on Saturday. I’ve opted to pick up my degree instead of walking at the ceremony (sorry mom) so I can spend graduation day running on my favorite mountain. I’m extremely lucky to have been given a job opportunity in the field I’ve been studying for the past 2.5 years. I’ve accepted a job as a school based therapist for Shelby County and can’t wait to get started.

If I’m being transparent, I haven’t felt accomplished in a lot of things in life. That’s not to say I don’t recognize that I have accomplished or been successful at things, it’s just I’ve never felt that feeling of accomplishment that I feel like others feel. I can’t remember a single time crossing the finish line of an ultramarathon and feeling like I had accomplished something great. It was the same for baseball. Even after going to the College World Series or being inducted into the UM Hall of Fame, I just didn’t feel that elated feeling of accomplishment. Maybe it’s my own personal self suppressing the need to celebrate. Through team sports, I’ve been trained to show little emotion and to “act like I’ve been here before” after big accomplishments. Celebrating successes and showing excitement instead of internalizing it is something I’m actively working on.

I do feel accomplished for this degree though. Perhaps it was because of all the sacrifices I’ve had to make in order to make this goal happen and it was something that I chose to pursue without any outside influences. Regardless of my own personal pursuit towards this degree, I litrully could have NEVER accomplished it without the unconditional support of Kati.

She’s seen me at my lowest. She’s picked me up and has validated me when I’ve felt like I was an imposter. She’s sacrificed so much of her time and energy to help me pursue this goal. She’s taken 2nd jobs to help cover finances when I was having to cut back hours for my internship. I’m forever grateful to have her as the person I get to walk hand and hand through this experience we call life.

I’m looking forward to so many things post graduation but I think what I’m looking forward to the most is simply getting back to a simple routine. I’ll be back on a M-F schedule and won’t have to be constantly thinking through school and internship. I’ll no longer have plan around weekends, me and Kati will actually get to spend some quality time together, I’ll get to spend more time creating music and running big mountains with my friends. I can get back into a running routine and hell, I might even get to go all out and start dedicating myself to a more serious training regiment.

I’m so thankful to have such a wonderful support system. None of this would have ever been possible if I didn’t have some amazing friends and family in my life.

So cheers to the next stage of life!

I’ve Tasted Blood & It Is Sweet

I don’t race that often. It’s not that I have anything against racing, it’s mostly that I’d rather be roaming the rugged and remote Appalachia under my on accord.

Chimney Tops summit – Great Smoky Mountains

And honestly, racing be aspensive yo!

So I try and limit myself to 1 or 2 bigger races a year. Since Covid shut down the country and the race scene this year, my “A” race for the year was canceled. I feel it was for the best. I’m through chasing HR qualifiers and heading back to Cruel Jewel 100 for a 3rd time just seemed… preposterous and… painful.

Mile 85 ~ CJ100 (2018) ~ not loving lyfe

I got my long distance fix when I linked a 78 mile route on my favorite mountain for my birthday in October, but with the year winding down, I kinda wanted to throw some of my built up stress into something hard (Blood Rock = 50 miles w/ ~ 13,000ft of gain). The last 6 months in particular have been some of the busiest and most stressful of my life. I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the master’s degree tunnel… but that light has felt more like an approaching freight train. Since the counseling program requires a 600hr internship, I had to switch jobs (again) and hop back into the retail world in order to be able to work full time and knock out my internship. I left my physical therapy family…

My girls from Impact Rehab

And joined a new family at Americas Thrift Store.

Management Team – Halloween

Between spending 20hrs at my school internship site counseling students, working 40hrs a week and wrapping up the Make-a-Wish Trailblaze Challenge… running has been one of the few things that’s kept me stable and sane. My typical week for the past semester has been jam packed. “Double Days” is a term Kati and I coined for days where I have to either do internship then work or work then class. A DD on Monday/Tuesday means going to my internship site to counseling 4-5hrs then strolling into work for an 8hr closing shift and a DD on Wednesday/Thursday usually means opening the store and then going to 3hr class or counseling supervision. If I’m lucky enough to score an “off from work” day during the week, I spend a full 8hrs at my internship site. If my “off from work” days land on weekends, I either marked/flagged/lead a Make-a-Wish hike or tried to slide in an adventure of my own. Despite the crazy, hectic schedule, I still managed to keep decent mileage on my legs each week and squeezed in runs when I could.

I felt like I’d had so much stress built up and kinda felt that I hadn’t been able to do anything that I wanted to do. Everything felt like a commitment or requirement out of my control and honestly… I just wanted to lay waste to something that I chose to do… so the Monday before Blood Rock weekend, I signed up for the 50 miler. The 50 miler was the only distance that fit my time frame… I had to be at work at 630am Saturday morning so that took out the 25k, 50k and 100 miler. I figured if I could bang out the 50 miler in a decent time, I’d at least get a few hours of sleep and could coffee my way through a sore and zombiefied morning of work.

Blood Rock 50

The last time I raced a Tosch race was in 2015. I was a big bearded, long haired dude running around the woods in a French Maid’a outfit…

Don’t worry… I left that sexy outfit hanging in the closet for the BR50.

I’d forgotten how enjoyable it was to go to a packet pick up and actually see people you knew. The weather was a wee bit chilly at the start, so I tried to stay in my car until 5-10 minutes before the start.

pic: Suman (Mruns)

I walked up as Tosch was wrapping up the pre-race meeting and took my spot near the front of the pack at the starting line. I stood dwarfed by a tall, athletic looking dude…

pic: Suman (Marathon Runs)

I now know what Kevin Hart feels as he stands next to Dwayne Johnson…

After a 30 second count down, we headed out up the road to begin the race.

pic: Suman (Marathon Runs)

Daddy Long Legs shot out ahead of me and I followed suit. Thankfully, years of ultra experience has taught me patience and to not pursue out of my comfort zone, so it wasn’t hard settling into a rhythm and watching DLL break away.

We came through NTH 1 Aid Station (mile 2) fairly quickly and darted on the single track. I saw my buddy Matt Benefield setting up the aid station and yelled a quick “hey” to him! After a half mile we started the brutal Back Country Trail. The next 5 miles would be a series of up and downs resulting in approximately 2,000ft of techy climbing. I wanted to keep Daddy Long Legs in my eye site so he stayed a climb ahead of me. Climbing up through the fog was enchanting! The fog clutched tight in the trees and swallowed the view as we passed over King’s Chair. I finally caught up to DLLs as we started into the Back Country beyond King’s Chair.

Daddy Long Legs: “Which race are you running?”

Me: “The 50. How about you?

Daddy Long Legs : “The 100. Good! I don’t have to worry about you as competition.”

This immediately rid the atmosphere of any tension and we settled into good conversation as we descended to the bottom dirt road.

Turns out… Daddy Long Legs was not his given name… it was Zack Jordan… and Zack absolutely crushed the 100 miler (1st overall in 23hrs42mins). We ran side by side along the bottom “sunken road” and Zack took point as we started the climb up Topless. To put Zack’s (Daddy Long Legs) stride into perspective… 2-3 of my lil hobbit ass strides compared to one of his American bred quarter horse strides. We both chose to bypass the water only Billy Goat Bridge aid station (mile 7.1) without checking up and rolled together till we got to the NTH 2 aid station (mile 12.5).

We got to NTH 2 at 1:55… coming in a little bit quicker (35mins) than I had originally anticipated. I figured the first 23 miles would be the toughest and I wanted to get as much as I could out of the way while I still had daylight. I was pleasantly surprised to see Matty Fierce at the aid station. For some reason, I had it in my mind that he’d not be there until the last time I’d come through NTH. I quickly refilled my bottle and darted back up the trail.

I was moving swiftly uphill but got a little too aggressive on the descent down Eagles Nest and took a hard fall. Between the slick, leaf covered terrain and grade off the mountain, both feet flew out from under me and I landed square on my back. The fall knocked the breath out of me, but fortunately, it only sent a shock to my system and didn’t do any damage. The jolt pumped enough adrenaline in me to power through the return trip through the Back Country riding a “high.

Mile 22.9 ~ NTH 3

I was still moving smoothly and comfortably by the time I reached the NTH 3 aid station (mile 22.9). My GPS was already showing short (showing 17.5) so I had to transition to paying closer attention to actual time (3:40) rather than mileage. MF was there waiting with a warm Arby’s sandwich, a cold Coke and a new water bottle.

The Cabins aid station (25.7) was practically vacant as I rolled through. I said a quick hello to Tony as I crossed over the timing pad at the start/finish area. I made a comfortable push near the BMX area along Yellow before starting the easy ascent up Orange towards the abandoned Boy Scout Cabins. While running with Matty Fierce the week before, I had imagined I’d be running down Tranquility Camp Road in the dark. Surprisingly, I was well ahead of my expectations and pushed hard down the descent to the Yellow/White connector. I caught a beautiful and fiery sunset climbing up YW and didn’t have to flip on the headlamp until I started the descent down Green.

I saw the all too familiar red glow from the heat lamps in the owl/hawk cages before turning onto Yellow/Green connector. The moment my headlamp came into view of the Terrace Drive aid station (mile 32.8) I heard a lonely “ROAD PRONG!” being yelled from the open field. Of course… I returned MF’s “Road Prong” with a gleeful “Road Prong”’ of my own.

Terrace aid station (mile 32.8)

I rolled into Terrace aid station (mile 32.8) at 5:09. The aid wasn’t entirely set up yet, but the race strategy wasn’t to even utilize aid stations unless completely necessary. I crammed a few more gels into my waist belt, switched out water bottles, monched a lil more of my Arby’s sammich and downed a bit more Coke before heading off into the night.

I was still feeling fresh leaving Terrace so I moved quickly up Johnson’s Mountain. I slowed a bit after veering off the main trail towards the neighborhood, but once I hit the Hamptons I felt like Britany and Tiffany Wilson…

The asphalt was welcomed and made for faster running until I reached the massive climb up the power line. The power line “trail” was steep but was over quickly. I stayed composed and pushed gently up the climb. I didn’t even find in necessary to have a “BF.”

I picked up the pace once I hit Peavine Road and cruised in around 6:00 to Peavine 1 (mile 38) feeling strong!

I kept the pace up as I backtracked the way I came. After leaving the trail and hitting the asphalt again, I crossed paths with the 100 mile leader (which I presumed to be Zack “DLL”) along Peavine Road. I was surprised I didn’t see any headlamps as I made my way back to the turn off near Johnson’s. The lack of headlamps made me push a little bit harder up towards the the infamous “Blood Rock.” I never felt bad throughout the race, but I took a hard step-down descending Green/White connector that jostled my belly a lil bit that resulted in a slight throw up in my mouth…. which was swallowed involuntarily and unexpectedly for some unknown reason. The climb out of Peavine Gorge was peaceful. The sounds of rushing water paired well with the cool night air and it made for a tranquil escape from the steep climb. The Peavine aid station was bustling with crew & volunteers when I came through the second time. I reached Peavine 2 (mile 44.7) at 7:09.

2 of my favs! (Sonia and MF)

I finished the last bit of my Arby’s sammich (yes… the same one I’d been steadily monchin’ on all day), took another swig of Coke and grabbed a new headlamp.

Peavine 2 ~ mile 44.7

Sonia was there cheering runners on and I think I may or may not have been forced to twerk on Matty Fierce before being released from the aid station? I’m sure there’s incriminating video evidence out there somewhere…

Matty Fierce: “No other 50 mile runner has come through Peavine the first time around. It’s just you and your time now.”

I dipped down the back side of the pavilion and descended down to the creek below. I the climb out was fairly steep but I knew the climbing was over when I saw the gorge overlook. I was hoping the route was gonna take runnable Blue Trail from Peavine, but instead, it took the old Grey Trail up past Sugar Shack along the ridge. Since this isn’t a “normal” trail, it was windy and rocky. I never found good rhythm through the section. I reluctantly accepted the slower movement and tried to enjoy the chilled night until the trail dipped back down to the Blue Trail. When my feet hit familiar Blue ground, I dove right back into a smooth rhythm that lead me up and over Shackleford. Passing through Maggie’s Glenn for the final time ignited one final push to the finish.

The 50 mile distance has always alluded me. It’s one of my favorite distances to cover but one that I’ve just not figured out yet. Hell… last year at Lookout Mtn 50 miler I got passed at mile 49 that dropped me out of a podium finish.

Lookout Mountain 50 miler (8:55) – 4th OA

However, Blood Rock was a critical piece to slowly figuring out that 50 mile puzzle. I came across the finish line feeling like I’d just put in a hard 5k effort. I still felt like I had life in my legs, but had expended enough to feel happily depleted and worn.

Blood Rock 50 finish (pic: MF)

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a smoother and better executed race. I felt strong, composed and confident all day and most of the running seamed relatively effortless. I was fortunate enough to cross the line 1st in 8:38, setting a new course record (for the updated course that has been used the last 3yrs).

Good People Brewing (thanks Mike!) – (pic: MF)

I learn a little more each time I cover long distances and maybe one day the “take the next day off from all lyfe activities” lesson will be learned… but for now… the 545am wake up call to be a zombie at work will have to suffice.

I’m extremely thankful to have pieced together a solid race to cap off a weird, weird year! I can’t say enough about the dedication and passion Tosch puts into his races and how selfless and incredible all the volunteers are who make these events so special… yall the real MVPs. And a huuuuuuge THANK YOU to my Champion Crew Chief (Matty Fierce) for following me around in the drizzle and cold all day and into the night. You da best… ROAD PRONG!!

I’m excited to be finally wrapping up my masters degree in May and looking forward to sliding back into a more balanced and less stressful lyfe schedule. Until May… I’ll continue to throw in adventures and training as time permits, but for now, it’s time to recover so that I can get up into the mountains for some wintry adventures.

pic: Ash

Brick Roads

The annoying sound of the digital alarm clock from across the room blared. With blurred vision, I could barely make out the bright red glow. 3:40am. For me, this ungodly Friday morning hour wasn’t an untypical time to see on the clock, however, it was usually on the opposite end of the spectrum. Instead of waking up at 3:40am, more times than not, I was just closing my eyes. Between the demons I faced in my constant Tyler Durden type state of insomnia and the allure of dancing/partying the night away at the local bar, I hardly ever found sleep in Fuller dormitory.

I crawled out of bed, slipped on my Montevallo Baseball shorts and fumbled down the cold concrete hallway.

I forced open the front door of the dorm and started down the stairs towards an old green Jeep Cherokee. The passenger door creaked as I pulled it closed and nestled into the front seat. No words were exchanged, but his blood shot eyes communicated enough. With the exception of the radio softly murmuring in the background, we rode in complete silence as we headed off campus and onto long, hilly county roads. Sleepily, I gazed out the window admiring how the full moon illuminated the countryside.

We pulled over onto a familiar gravel pullout along Hwy 17. I stepped out of the jeep and closed the door. Coach Goff rolled down the window, “See you back on campus Andrews.”

I watched his taillights disappear into the distance before I took the first steps back to campus. This was my “punishment.” I somehow always managed to find a way to get into some sort of “trouble” throughout the week. We’re not talking “real” trouble… we’re talking your typically baseball shenanigans that gets taken a little too far and disrupts practice kinda “trouble.”

For the past 5 weeks, I had found myself in the early bird rotation. I would wake up at 3:40am, stumble into a semi-warm Jeep Cherokee, ride in silence to a gravel pullout, step out into a dark, cold morning and run the 6 miles back to campus. Sometimes a fellow teammate would do something stupid enough to join me, but mostly I ran alone.

At first, I hated everything about this predawn ritual. I wasn’t worried about anyone driving these desolate roads and swiping me into a ditch… I was more worried about the unleashed dogs that plague rural Alabama. Nevertheless, after a few drop offs, I became comfortable with the route and actually started to enjoy the solitude. I found it invigorating to be out roaming the world at a time when most souls were still fast asleep. Maybe because it was always viewed as a form of punishment, but I hated running. Despite my distaste in running, somewhere along the dark Salem Road, I began to let go of the ”punishment” and shifted my focus on the movement itself. Over time, my breathing became less labored and I became captivated by the sound of my foot steps on the worn asphalt. I found that by the time I would top the hill on King Street, I’d be smiling and happily anticipating the downhill cruise to the finish.

At every finish, Coach Goff and his piercing eyes would roll down his window and say, “Alright Andrews. See you in the gym at 6am.”

I’d just smile and nod before walking back to my dorm to eat a quick snack before our team morning workout.

I owe more to Coach Goff than I could ever formulate into words. When multiple programs told me I was “too small to play college baseball,” Goff took a chance on me and signed me to the University of Montevallo baseball program. He consistently threw me into positions that not only tested my abilities, but helped me learn to become completely comfortable in uncomfortable situations. He also taught me how to win and succeed the right way… humbly with poise.

All former players joke about his jelly bean analogy… “Don’t be like a jelly bean! You can’t just be hard on the outside and soft on the inside! You’ve gotta be hard all the way through!” We laugh, but in all seriousness, he really did help us (or at least me) harden up and learn to push through adversity. From an athletic standpoint, because of Goff, I feel like I can still dig into a deeper level and give a little bit more of myself when I think my tank is empty.

Me and Goff at the D2 World Series ring ceremony

I never thought that 15 years later I’d still be running the same beautiful college town.

The lessons and work ethic I received from my time playing baseball at Montevallo has stuck with me over the years and has helped mold me into the human I am today. Though I don’t necessarily miss the game, I do miss the moments and the camaraderie.

Me, Hicks and Blakney doing what we do best… goofing off.

I’d like to think I would’ve still gotten into endurance running (or at least running) at some point in my life but there’s no way to know for sure. Maybe Montevallo is actually where my passion for running truly started. Regardless, each time I run through Montevallo, I can’t help but think back on the wonderful memories. Montevallo is where I met my wife…

We married June 5, 2010 on campus

Montevallo is where I learned to play the guitar and write music…

performing at the Bus Station (now Main Street Tavern)

Montevallo has helped shape my world view and has given me the ability to meet and love people from all walks of life. Though we still have ambitions of moving to the mountains someday, Montevallo feels like home. And for the time being… I’m happy to be home.

“Painting Pictures”

Painting Pictures live at UMmm It’s Music
The desert's cold tonight, the moon hangs high above me
You grip my pillow tight and hum along while I sing
You keep painting pictures, I keep writing songs
About how I won't miss her when I come back home 

They say the writings on the wall 
But you keep painting pictures, painting pictures
All night long

The City in the Pines, Hotel Monte Vista
I count the highway miles to drown out the distance
The blood spilled on your canvas, my words hang from a wire
Flowers left suspended for another life. 

 They say the writings on the wall
But you keep painting pictures, painting pictures
All night long

This westward wind keeps blowing 
Our words into the sky 
Split tongues leave words unspoken 
And I don't ask why

We walk down San Francisco, your hand locked tight in mine
You're quoting Casablanca, I stumble through my lines
"Here's looking at you kid," the gin is running low
I stare into the sunset thinking thoughts you'll never know

They say the writings on the wall
But you keep painting pictures, painting pictures
All night long