2016 #ClubDaugherty Review: Hit The Dirt!


While being easily distracted during this peaceful Christmas Break, I’ve spent the past several hours sipping coffee and reading over several years* worth of yearly recaps on this very website. It is fun to reflect on what has happened over the course of five years, and just like those entries in the past, I look forward to sharing with you our lives in 2016.

I think friendship is the key term to describe 2016. Truly the year was split in half for Darco and myself. The first half from January to July, and the second half from July to December.

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I have a few artist in class

I continued to teach in 2016. By God’s grace my contract was renewed for the 2016-2017 school year. Teaching the same grade, working with the same people, and hanging out in the same school. Darco had a rougher start to 2016, the numbers for her store weren’t exactly what she was looking for, and this resulted in some serious stress for both of us. As anyone with a significant other could tell you, seeing someone else suffer because of stress is a hard thing to handle. Thankfully, we were still getting accustomed to our new home near the lake, and outside of her job, it was rather peaceful. I was

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I’m the…well…you already know

running races on the road each month, all part of a giant statewide circuit, and somehow wound up winning the state title for the 5K in my age group. Darco also hung out with me while I tried a 44 mile relay race with some local runners. Naturally, for the safety of everyone, I ran the shortest legs on the course. One of the runners though; she was nuts. She had ran a 50K the day before out in the middle of Kansas, signed up with our group, ran around 14 miles, and then decided she would go home and go to bed. Did I mention that she also was one of the top finishers of the 50K?

 

So peaceful that when June came around we decided that we could potentially host people in our home if they came to visit. Meaning, opposite of 2015, our friends from Pittsburgh, 13323407_851041924776_2669912194769923398_oPennsylvania came to visit us. With a catch…there was three of them! True story, we found out a few weeks prior to their visit that they were expecting their first child. Hanging out with them while visiting the city south of us continued to demonstrate to myself how strong friendship ties can be, and how important they are for the overall health of an individual.

July brought about the heat and summer break. I spent most of my days planning out lessons for the upcoming school year, looking at road races, and going to training sessions throughout the city. Darco was knee deep in her store; slowly by mid-year she was starting to see a change in the sales pattern of her store. A deep breath for her for sure, and the passion of what she was doing was reignited.

It was after our July 4th annual road race, the things started to drastically change for the

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This is becoming a routine sight

two of us in the running world. I had been admitted into a running ambassador program for one of our local running stores. Because of this I was around all sorts of runners; 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, all sorts of craziness! These people were obsessed with time, nutrition, and shoes. Realistically they were a positive group to be around, both for myself and for Darco. That was until one of them, during a speed session at a local high school, suggested that I join them on a Monday night run.

That changed everything.

That night run wound up being in the woods with about 15 other crazy people. They weren’t runners, they were trail runners, and some of them were ultra marathon runners. All of sudden, in the middle of the summer, I was exposed to this world of running through the woods, on random trails made of dirt and rocks, and having fun in the process. I had originally thought it was just me that this new adventure was going to affect. Originally I hadn’t noticed my wife quietly watching from the sideline…wanting to join in. We both ditched road running for good and decided together we would try this trail thing. It was hot, hard, and probably deadly. It was fun though. I ran my first race in July, Darco ran her

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She amazes me

first race in October. Combined we have run the following distances: 5 Mile, 7 Mile, 10 Mile, 25 K, 20 Mile, and 21 Mile.

The most amazing part was what it did to us on the social level. Suddenly we were on the trails with groups of people 4-5 days a week. We would eat dinner together, travel together, and motivate each other. The person who got me started, I was even able to watch them finish their first 100 Mile race. We wound up in the middle of Missouri, Nebraska, and Arkansas through the second half of the year. Sweat pants have been switched out for tech shirts, and shoes have become as important as our food. It is hard to express in words what trail running has done for us. Partly the physical side of things, partly the social side of things, and partially the marital side of things. We have had several trail dates that involves walking, running, sweating, and just enjoying each others company. I never thought I’d say it in a serious tone, but trail running has benefited our marriage in incredible ways.

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That is her heartbeat

Along with our extra-curricular activities Darco was notified that she would be getting a new store. Due to the increase in sales, she will be getting a new building two blocks from my school. She is extremely excited. Her sales are beating last years numbers and she is even looking at additional ‘advancement’ in her company. Trust me, I married an incredibly smart, young woman. Her ability to conduct business is amazing to watch. God has such a unique talent for this lady. There have been moments that I’ve sat in her lobby just watching her; jealous of what is capable of doing. It is humbling. School is back in session for the 2016-2017 year. My kids are amazing; each one of them is an incredible gift. This year I’ve made a stronger effort to work better with my peers inside the building; I contribute some of that to the assistance of our running friends working with my social miscues.

We have bounced around churches in the area. Ironically, we have wound up in Darco’s hometown for church on more then one occasion. Our home church kind of came to an abrupt end when the leader announced that him and his family were relocating to Colorado to plant a new church (God has done amazing things in their lives since heading

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We did the adult thing! Landscaping!

out). We are still working on where we belong, but we’re not giving up.

I know in the eyes of many, between deaths, elections, and a combination of both, 2016 has been a rough year. I think this year, personally, is a testament to God’s unfailing love and grace. My wife and I are living a life together that neither of us could have ever imagined. Our financial debt is getting so, so small, and we are looking at realistically purchasing the house that we are currently living in. This is a life that neither one of us deserve, and we know that, but we are grateful God has been so good to us in 2016.

As with any year; thank you for taking the time to humor my random thoughts on this page. My heart is so full this year; I’m truly in a place that I have never found myself before. God is so good.

Here is to a beautiful, God-breathed 2017

-D & Darco-

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Full & Content


Between passes of chips amongst the tables, around the salted rims of margaritas, and underneath the bowls of salsa was found laughter, humor, and smiles abroad.

Over 20 people; from different walks of life, lined the tables for a feast and an evening of company. Work, family, politics, all major themes were in play through the monthly dinner at the local eatery.

People spoke of future adventures, heckled each other for being ‘too hurt to run’, and inquired with newcomers on which wind blew them towards this strange, close crew.

A refill of water, a new plate of chips; the night passed on for the tiresome group. As the night began to settle, the laughter transitioned into final farewells;.knowing that they would see each other once all too soon. Bringing the evening to a close.

It’s true to what many say about the lines of family and friends easily being blurred. I’m fortunate, blessed to be surrounded so frequently of this unique hybrid that leaves my heart full and content.

-D-

Beyond Myself


A week ago I was outside in the early fall weather, watching people defy the odds of humanity. Many were running between 50 and 100 miles in one setting. This is indeed the strange life of trail running. I had volunteered to work at an aid station over the course of six hours, but that was partly due to wanting to watch people that I run with throughout the week, complete these insane adventures.

***

I am a jealous person. In many ways I qualify myself as “the world’s worst Christian” because of my thought process throughout the day. I am a messed up, poorly constructed individual who has a knack for being envious at people who go above and beyond what I could ever consider as ‘possible’. In many instances I have completely avoided contact with people after their grand accomplishments solely out of spite.

Yes, I can confess to you that I am that petty of a person.

It is awful. Along with the usual bouts of anger, hostility, etc…the jealousy aspect of my own life is truly a disgusting creature to deal with. It has assisted in ensuring that I am alienated from other people, it has helped in constantly coming off as an arrogant human, and in many ways it has aided in ensuring that I blend in with the modern Church.

That is why trail running is so, so important to me now. I watch people, friends, complete tasks that I know I never can. I saw a friend run by five times to complete 100 miles in less than 24 hours. Understand, they were running 100 miles in less than 24 hours. I saw another friend compete her first 100 through what I am assuming was gut-wrenching pain in her feet. I was able to congratulate one of the coolest ladies ever on her first marathon race on trail, leading up to her first 50K in October. I was fortunate enough to see someone who struggled with injury at a race in July, power through a 50 mile race this past weekend.

I am not jealous. I am in awe.

The truth is this: I have typed before about the unique situation of blending faith with fitness and what running has done not only for my physical life, but also my spiritual life. However, instead of it being an immediate fix, a quick hit of something intoxicating, this reality continues to linger as if it is a real thing. I have friends. Not friends of my wife, not people from church, not people from my childhood, not people with some past connection with me. These are true, 100% original friends that I have run into solely from running. Anyone ever reading this website knows what it means for me to report the idea…the notion…the belief that I have friends. That reality, that truth has led me to tears on multiple occasions. As a person who lives with his flaws on his shoulders, knowing that God has no excuse to bless him with anything; to have friends…that is an unspeakable grace that I do not know how to comprehend.

They are motivating. They are caring. They are kind. They are loving. I live for each passing week because it is another opportunity to be around people that causes me to want to be a better person. I am not jealous of them, their lives, or their abilities. I am humbled because they are so far above and beyond what I could even be, both on the trails and in real life.

It is as if, even after ten weeks of doing this, I just want to pen a letter to each one them; thanking them for allowing me an opportunity to be myself, to be a ‘terrible Christian’, to follow them, and to still be loved.

I am a jealous person. I deal with envy in the most horrible of ways. I am the ‘world’s worst Christian’. Right now though, in this split second of time, I feel wanted. I am beginning to see what I have missed out on throughout life because of my own failures of demonstrating grace.

I have happiness.

I have friends.

I have love.

-D-

XXXI: Trail (Running) of Tears


I never understood teammates that I had played sports with in school.

If they missed the winning shot.
They cried.
If they scored the game winning touchdown.
They cried.
If they broke a state record.
They cried.

I never understood the emotional responses from these student-athletes that I knew through my education years. What could cause someone to be so emotionally distraught that they would break down and cry during a sporting event? In my mind that didn’t register as something that was acceptable. They were not professional athletes, there wasn’t a human life on the line…it…was…just…a…game.

***

For a few months I had been toying around with the idea of ‘trail running’. There really is marginal running, it’s more about technical footwork, strength, and a lot of hiking. I had established amazing friendships, found incredible support, and most of my nights have been spent traveling around dirt, single path trails along the countryside. It is brutal, it is hard, and yet there is something about surviving that causes you to want to do it again the next day.

This is the world of trail racing.

Saturday morning, 9:00 AM CST I stood in the grass with nearly 100 other souls at a local lake. People were holding bottles of water, vests held food and hydration packs, hats were on, shoes were laced, and the horn blew. We were the last group to take off during this day. An hour prior the runners that were partaking in the 20 Mile and 50K (31 miles) had already begun their journey. The group I was with was running the 10 Mile course. It was the ‘safe’ course for newer runners, compared to the hard mileage that laid ahead for the other two groups.

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Real photo at mile 7. Credit: Mile90 Photography

I’ll be honest in saying that the majority of the event is a blur to me now. The air temperature was a stifling 96°F with an extremely dangerous heat index of 103°F. The weather, mixed with being in the woods, resulted in an absolutely awful environment to run for any amount of miles. The first several miles my stomach was tied in a knot. I had ran this course a week prior, I knew it was a hard course, but by mile 4 my legs were completely exhausted. They were too heavy to move. I was in a struggle for this race.

By mile 7 I began seeing signs that stated, “You’re NOT almost there, but you look fabulous” and “Chaffing the dream!” I knew that this meant I was almost to an aid station that was being manned by the group that I run with on Monday nights…the ‘mud babes’. At the station I heard cowbells, screaming, a hairy man in a bikini top, and was inundated with the questions of “What can I get you?” and “Do you need your bottle filled up? Get him a bandana with ice, he needs to cool down.” Within five minutes of that small oasis I was back on the trail for the final three miles.

There was support raining from the trees!

There was support raining from the trees!

Becoming part of the trail running community has shown me so many different sides of humanity. It isn’t necessarily the race that really stuck out to my emotionally/spiritual self; it has been the people that I’ve been blessed to be around. They don’t argue, they’re not mean, and they are not stuck on their ‘pacing’ from their GPS watch. They help each other out through every obstacle. As one person stated, “Trail running isn’t about you against everyone else. It’s you against the mountain, the distance, your demons, yourself.”. In a world that is covered in competition this sporting event requires you to depend on the person your running against in order to survive (literally).

Mud Babes 16 Birthday

Tonight we celebrated birthdays (Mine, Darco, and two others), and then we ran (and ate cupcakes afterwards).

Being around these people outside of just race day has caused me to question so much in reflection to my own connection and growth within my own faith. How is it that this group of people can drink a beer after a run, moon a camera, and carry on in the heat for 3 to 6 hours…and still get along with each other? Politics are not brought up. Work is rarely touched. Family is mentioned frequently, and the next ‘fix’ of a race tends to be the highlighted conversation. There isn’t music players attached to everyones ears, and there isn’t asphalt for miles all around. Everyone is coated in sweat and mud, not pressed in dresses and slacks. Uniquely, the closest connection I’ve found to the world that God created is everything apart from the stone-faced, mortar-laid, carpet-clean church that I’ve been in for so many years. There is transparency (sometimes way too much of it in relation to bowel movements) on the trail, whereas I find so many hidden agendas laced throughout personalities everywhere else. Ironically, running through the woods feels closer to God than being in church on a Sunday morning.

When you move throughout the trails and enjoy the company of those around you, there is an emotional bond that is being built that individuals like me aren’t aware of until usually when we cross the finish line.

***

PS16 VIThree hours and six minutes, a time that I will never forget. I remember seeing the clock slowly tick by as the finish line came up to my sweaty, soaked, mud-caked shoes. Three hours and six minutes I had been alone in the woods, fighting off fear and disappointment, dealing with extreme heat and loneliness; all to cross one line and acknowledge that I had completed something I never thought I could ever do.

I crossed the finish line.

I saw Darco waiting for me.

I wrapped my sweat covered arms around her, and buried my head into her shoulder.

And I cried…

-D-

#getyourpraiseon


1 person says they want to run; 23 show up…

Somewhere around 6:00 AM I left the house. By 7:00 AM I was trekking through mud and rocks. I continued to repeat that process for two and half hours.
Welcome to my playground.

Welcome to my friends.

I’ve made note in the recent past that I’m finding myself around unstable trail runners. The addiction of this isn’t just from the insanity of running through mud and rocks, but because of an answered prayer.

For months, really years, I’ve been praying for friends. They’ve come and gone, but nothing really long lasting. It has hurt because it is something that I desire, but really struggle at creating.

My cup now overflows.

What started as being part of a running group for a local business has now turned to outings to run on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, Thursday’s, and now even random Saturday’s.

There’s laughter, beer, running, stories, and smiles. No one gets left behind due to their speed (or in my case, the lack thereof), and everyone encourages each other. Today I ran 9 miles with these people, they stayed with me, made humorous comments, and didn’t give up on me.

That’s a friend.

The reality for me is that God, one usual, was faithful in hearing and answering prayers. I’m smiling, I tell stories, I grab food afterwards, and I laugh. I laugh like I never have. It isn’t about running a fast race, it is about moving with good friends.

I’m happy. God is good.

-D-

XXXI: Ultras


I wanted to be fast.
I wanted to win.
I wanted to prove everyone wrong.
I wanted to prove myself wrong.
I accomplished none of these things.

Try to imagine this strange complex (some of you may be able to relate). You love a specific sport, soccer, football, baseball, etc…it is your life, it is your desire, it is something you dream about. There is just something about the event that just drives you. You play, participate, practice, train, etc…However, when the day ends, you are still too short, too big, too slow, or you just don’t ‘have what it takes’.

How do you accept that reality? Do you quit? Do you keep going? What is your exit plan when your dreams don’t always pan out the way you envisioned them?

For about a month, almost two months, that has been the life I have been living when it comes to running. I love running. I love everything about it. I train, I run, I eat well, I practice with others, and I run races. I just love to run. However, in a world full of statistics it turns out that passion doesn’t always equal results.

To be honest; I’m 6’5 and around 250 pounds. Overall I am just a big guy that towers over other people. There was not a lot of biomechanics that came with this physical package. Where MC and many other family members thrived in athletics; I looked good, but when push came to shove, I fell down. A lot.

I needed a change up. I didn’t want to vacate running because I still love the sport. However, I could slowly but surely feel the burnout growing within my own heart. I was growing tired of lining up for a local 5K race, running the race, and finding similar results. This year alone I’ve finished 4th in my age group in four different races. The ‘click’ just isn’t there, and now I’m starting to accept that reality.

Praise God for random strangers, stupid ideas, and foolish attempts.

Several weeks ago I wrote about making friends, trying out speed running sessions with random strangers, and even my involvement of being on a city running team for a local business. I needed all of those things, desperately. They were all the slight pushes I needed to move away from what was comfortable, but not fulfilling, and into something extremely uncomfortable yet incredibly fun.

Trail racing.

This is running on trails that are designed really for mountain bikes. A lot of rocks, roots, dirt, and the such. I’ve been out a few times, and each time I come back loving it that much more. Partly because of the technical challenge, partly because trail running people are a very special, close-knit group. Also, the distances for the races are a little different compared to standard 5K. They range from 7 miles to 20 miles to 50 miles to 100 miles, and everything inbetween.

I needed this. Road running was just becoming stressful, frustrating, and the love was really lacking. This is new, refreshing, and at the level of insanity that I’m comfortable with.

Because of all of this I’ve joined up as a volunteer for construction projects on our local trails (AKA: more friends), I run with a specific group each Monday (AKA: more friends), and of course our running team comprises of several trail runners (AKA: more friends).

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Flyover Trail Racing (I have no idea what I’m going to do with this)

This has also allowed me to experiment with design and concepts for logos, brands, and marketing. I launched (for fun) a Facebook page, blog, and Twitter account really recapping my experiences in this new sport.

Personally, and this is not something I would have predicted, it is the support that is best part of this transition. These crazies all enjoy doing foolish things on the trails, and they don’t make excuses about it. I don’t have to go to races alone, I don’t have to talk to myself about my adventures, I now have a group of people that are all just as unstable.

I consider that quite the blessing.

Here’s to the ultrarunners. You untable, insane, awesome group of people that I can call my friends.

-D-