Above All Else, Bob Mueller Enjoys Running

You can find Bob Mueller’s warm smile and joyful demeanor at many BAR runs. Bob’s pure enjoyment of running for running’s sake is the secret behind that glow.

“I never was and never have been a competitive runner.” Bob didn’t run or train in high school. “I didn’t get really serious about running until I turned forty.” Now, he has been running well over twenty years, has completed over sixty marathon/ultra marathon races, and is just fourteen marathons away from completing the fifty marathons in fifty states challenge.

It all started when Bob changed jobs, and a guy he was working with was a big distance runner. This coworker claimed that anyone could be a runner through training at long slow distances. So, Bob started adapting those principles on his own. Then, his friend gave Bob a marathon training schedule. “The first time I ever had a bib number on was when I ran a marathon.” After completing that first marathon Bob thought he was done with running.

Wisconsin friends who ran city of trees in 2014, out for a visit, all 50 staters

Months later, Bob started to feel the itch to run another marathon. He had trained all on his own for that first race. He then thought training would be better with a group. He joined up with a marathon focused running group in Wisconsin where he made lifelong friends who paced with him, helped him grow, and got him interested in the fifty states marathon challenge. Running has become his favorite form of exercise. “I really value the benefit of a group more than anything else.”

Marathon Medals

When Bob moved to Boise, he found the BAR and joined the group. He loves seeing new members and helping new runners. “In every other sport you are competing against other people.” If there are people who don’t feel they are good enough to run with the group, “they just need to look at me. I am happy with where I am at; I don’t mind being at the back of the pack. Everyone is good enough to run.” Bob brings a pure enjoyment in running for all who participate in BAR runs to draw from.

The joy of running is of the utmost importance to Bob. “It was only eight years ago that I ran a 3:40 marathon to qualify for Boston and this year I couldn’t break six hours in Alabama. And, you know what? To me, I am equally satisfied with both ends of the scale…Wanting to improve is always there, so I wouldn’t want to imply that I am complacent. But, I enjoy running too much to get discouraged with where my performance level is at. Because then that ruins the whole thing. The day I can’t go out and say I enjoyed the run I was on and I worry more about the time I had, then I have taken all the joy out of the sport.”

Join Bob at our next BAR run and take part in the joy of running with him.

See you out on a run!

2016 Sawtooth Relay with Josh, Sarah, Kallie, Courtney, we didn’t know each other before event, permanent friends afterward.

Beer and Running

The relationship between runners and beer can run deep. A friend of mine was asked about beer and running. “Doesn’t drinking beer hurt your running?”

His response: “The only problem with drinking beer and running is you might spill some!”

There seems to be something special about runners and their beer. The drink is common fare at post-race celebrations and some of my happiest memories involve a pint with my friends after a run. Of course, for the performance minded runner, consuming beer should always take place after a race.

There are exceptions of course. Every year the Boise Area Runners – The BAR – holds a brewery run here in Boise that appeals to the runner and beer lover inside me.

I remember showing up to my first brewery run with a mix of curiosity and anticipation. I came prepared with my $10 in cash to give to Woody, (the run host). He explained the route we would follow coursing about six miles through the Boise area.

Twenty or so runners, we ran the mile to our first stop, 10 Barrel Brewing. Woody purchased two or three pitchers and announced the choice of brew. A stack of taster glasses in hand, we all joined in getting familiar with some of Boise’s best micro-brewed beer.

The comfortable autumn weather provided an ideal context for discovering the beauty of Boise’s cityscape and the talent of our local brewers. A little taster at The Ram, Boise Brewing, Woodland Empire, Cloud Nine, and Highlands Hollow gave me a deep appreciation for the quality and variety of craft beer available in the Treasure Valley.

In the last mile a few of us decided to get after it and run “fast” to our final destination. While my head swam from the previous drinks and the exertion to try to keep with the group I gave up in a fit of laughter and joy at being with such great people taking part in two of my favorite activities: running and drinking beer.

You have a few opportunities to join in a brewery run. The BAR’s first this year will be Sunday, March 19 for the Boise Pub Run (details here). A pub run will also be part of the Running Retreat on Saturday, April 22 in McCall (details here). Last, on Sunday, October 15 we will cap the fall weather with a Boise Pub Run (details here). Hopefully you can join us!

See you out on a run!

Frank Z. Racing on a Whim

I played sports growing up—wrestling, soccer, and baseball—and always ran as a part of these activities. But I never considered myself a runner. It was always a chore, and painful one in that. I’ve had asthma since as far back as I can remember and running always seemed to flare that up. So my running was limited. It was a means to an end, having enough endurance for specific sports, but nothing more.

It wasn’t until Spring of 2013 when I went on my first proper distance run. Mike, a coworker I had been on a few hikes with, threw the idea out there. Apparently Mike was under the impression I was a runner. He was wrong. But regardless, I said I was in. We ran a route up 15th Street and then looped through Camel’s Back. I had that all too familiar sensation most new runners have: I thought I was going to die. My lungs screamed at me to stop and my legs burned. But I pressed on, made it through, and we finished the route at Mike’s place. Hands on my knees, gasping for air, I asked, “How far was that?” Mike replied, “Probably about 3.5 miles.” I was ecstatic. “That’s the furthest I’ve ever run!” Mike looked at me with a funny look, “You mean like ever?”

Yes. This was the beginning. I began running once a week with Mike and eventually started to mix in a few treadmill runs per week as well after lifting at the gym. We slowly extended the length of our runs and by the end of summer, we were running around 8 miles a pop. Mike threw the idea out there about jumping in a race. I asked what some good options would be and he suggested the City of Trees (COT) Half-Marathon. I’d never been in a race, had only recently learned the distance of a half-marathon, and was skeptical how running in a race would be any different from a training run. I decided against it.

Mike moved away and I continued to run a few times per week. And while I enjoyed (and still do) my solo runs, I missed the conversations that ensue when training with a partner. I searched the web for Boise running groups. This is when I found BAR. I came out for a Thursday evening run at Camel’s Back. I spotted a motley crew of unmistakable runners forming a circle. I went up and chatted briefly with a few people. We all exchanged introductions, talked about the potential routes, and then we were off. Up Kestral. This was my first legitimate trail run out in the Boise Foothills.  I still remember the peaceful feeling I had while cruising down Red Cliffs, watching the sunset over Downtown. This BAR group seemed to know some good running spots.

I continued to run with the group over the coming weeks. Late September rolled around and we were gathered in the Griddle after a Saturday morning run. Breakfast talk turned to upcoming races. Someone turned to me and asked what I had coming up. “We’ll I’ve never done a race, but I had thought about the City of Trees Half . . . .” I trailed off, failing to mention I had decided against that. My response was met with enthusiasm and encouragement. My cohorts quickly convinced me to give it a shot and see what happened. So I did.

Race day, COT 2013. I still didn’t have a watch. Or proper running gear for that matter, other than my pair of Saucony running shoes. Race day seemed cold, around 40 degrees or so. So I wore a cotton undershirt along with a long sleeve thermal. And basketball shorts. I still didn’t really think of myself as a runner at this point. Racers lined up and I found a spot near the middle of the pack. Someone asked me what my goal time was. “About 1:40.” In reality, I hadn’t thought about this very much. I didn’t even know what pace I would need to run a 1:40. I knew Mike ran low 1:20s and figured an extra 15 to 20 minutes seemed about right.

The gun went off. I went out at a brisk pace that still seemed comfortable. A few miles in a joggler passed me. I didn’t know the term joggler at the time. And for those of you who may still be unaware: joggling is the “art” of running while juggling. Simple enough. Except this joggler was beating me. Competitive instincts kicked in and I made sure the joggler didn’t pull away from me. This meant picking up the pace and stepping outside my comfort zone.

I kept with the joggler until mile 7 or 8 when he slowed at an aid station for water. I continued pushing, determined not to be passed at this point. I turned into Julia Davis Park for the final 5k (on the old COT course). I started to struggle pretty bad here. I was in uncharted territory, with my longest run to this point being 9 or 10 miles. Two runners passed me and suddenly I found a second wind. I grinded through the last few miles and the finish line came into site. I kicked with what I had left and saw the clock as I passed through the chute. 1:39:38. Grinning ear to ear, I knew I was hooked.

Beau Seegmiller “Running Makes the Best People”

Anyone who has seen Beau Seegmiller arrive at a BAR event with his characteristically joyful smile knows that Beau loves being part of a running community. He joined the BAR six months after moving to the Treasure Valley, and immediately found rewarding personal connections.

Beau founded a running club in eastern Idaho, and was part of a club when he was in graduate school in Arizona, so he had high expectations when he showed up for his first BAR event. “Runners are the best people. It’s the people that make running so joyful.”  The BAR lived up to his expectations, and within a few weeks of coming out to group runs, Beau was hooked. From the training benefits of running with others, to the nearly immediate friendships running allows him to form, Beau is dedicated to the group and enjoys supporting others as they stride towards meeting their running goals through the BAR.

In addition to running for the social benefits, Beau is committed to marathon training. He explains, “Nothing captures my sense of self and meaning like running. The marathon itself has come to be the quintessential metaphor for a life journey and all of its challenges.” Beau balances his dedication and work ethic with a willingness to adjust and back off if fatigue or precursors of injury warrant.

The day before his 18th marathon (Onward Shay, October 30, 2016), Beau reflected that he doesn’t run to be healthy or keep his weight under control. “I definitely don’t run because it is convenient (it isn’t). I realized recently I would be running just like I do even if it was bad for me. There is something about the transformation that takes place in a build up for a big race that is intoxicating. And then, running a race, truly running a race to the limits, brings me smack up to the edge of my very existence. Sometimes I have been able to peek over the edge into that abyss of nothingness and it thrills me. Running, it is the stuff of life and death and I can’t help myself.”

Beau appreciates how running enriches his life, and he has a compelling desire to support others in pursuit of their running goals. He coached middle school track and cross country athletes in eastern Idaho for six years, and found tremendous joy in helping youth experience the physical and mental benefits of distance running. No coaching positions were available where Beau currently teaches, and he was considering trying to do some freelance coaching in the Treasure Valley in order to contribute to the running community. The opportunity to run for a leadership position with the BAR in 2015 came at just the right time to provide Beau with a meaningful way to make a contribution to the sport he loves.

Over the years, Beau has had many experiences that deepened his appreciation for the communitarian nature of running. One particularly memorable event was in 2007, while running his third marathon and first Boston Qualifying time. Somewhere between mile 17 and 18, he hit the infamous wall and his legs felt like lead. He turned a corner and found himself running uphill and into the wind. His mindset went from bad to worse, and he momentarily fantasized about lying down on the street to sleep. Then a group of four runners who were cutting through the wind in a makeshift V-formation came along side him. They were taking turns in the most difficult position while the others got a respite from the brutal headwind. One of the runners said to Beau, “Tuck in behind me.” When Beau didn’t understand the directive, the runner repeated, “Tuck in. We will take you in.” Beau was able to stay with them for 6 miles, set a smashing PR and his first BQ. He never saw the V-formation runners again, yet he will always remember their kindness. Such supportive acts are not random at all, but rather part and parcel of the long distance running community. Being a part of maintaining and expanding that sort of compassionate community is one of the powerful motivators that helps Beau love running.

As Beau says, “Running makes the best people.” See you out on a run!

Randi Walters’ Journey Through Running

We all run for different reasons. What is interesting for Randi Walters is how the reasons and character of her running has taken on additional aspects through the years.

Randi was active in high school. She participated in the team sports and even tried out a Cross Country practice once but decided it was not for her. It wasn’t until she was in graduate school in California that she watched a close friend finish a half marathon. This friend had always told Randi that anyone could run. So, Randi gave it a try.

She jumped right into running at the half marathon level. She ran a three-quarter mile run for her first training run and built from there. The more she ran, the more fit she became. She found that running complemented her graduate studies in that it gave her something else to focus on, to balance out her time. There is so much that feels out of control in graduate school; running became a space where she could see more immediate results. “You can finish a half marathon a heck of a lot faster than you can finish a master’s degree.” Completing her first half marathon is still one of the high points in her life.

Randi soon discovered another aspect of running.  “The more I did it, I started noticing…my fitness was increasing, I just felt better, I felt clearer, like my mind was clearer. I felt happier. It was one of those things where there were just too many pros to not run.” As she kept at it, she joined communities of runners and got better. The better she got the more she wanted to keep doing it. “I started to feel more competitive. I started to place in my age group for events, and I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I am not too bad at this.’”

The drive to compete soon became another component of her running. “It’s not that I felt competitive with the people I was racing against, but I started feeling more competitive with myself.” She began pushing herself and seeing results. As the results of improved times continued, she figured, if she keeps pushing herself, who knows what kinds of results she might see.

Running communities have also added a significant layer to her running. While in California she ran a number of Ragnar Relays and experienced the joy of being involved in team competition running through the night. A highlight of the last Ragnar Relay she ran was taking first place in the open women’s division.

When she and her husband, Austin, decided to move to Boise, they looked up the Boise Area Runners (the BAR) on meetup.com before they even arrived. The BAR has been a big part of her running since relocating. It was at a BAR run where the idea to train to qualify for the Boston Marathon was planted. She trained all summer, running a number of fast laps with the BAR on the Boise High track, and completed a Boston Qualifying time at the Sunriver Marathon this last September. Her training for the Boston Marathon in 2017 begins this coming January.

As Randi reflects on her journey through running and the added dimensions it has taken on, she says, “I still feel at my core I am running for the same reasons, but now it’s like there is this added challenge of trying to do it a little bit faster.” And that is why Randi will be out there running for years to come! See you out on a run!

Randy Thompson – Becoming a Marathoner

This month, Randy Thompson shares a race report he has written describing how he completed his first marathon. Enjoy!

Sunday, Oct 9, 2016, Portland Oregon (d2)

The runner staggered slightly as another wave of pain shot through his legs. Off balance now, he splashed into a nearby puddle, flooding water over the top of his soaked shoe. The big white 20 mile course marker crept into sight ahead, on the right, as packs of chattering runners passed on the left. Everyone seemed to be having fun, but it dawned on the runner that he was not having fun. This was not going according to plan or expectation.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-6-20-22-pmHe was 62 years old. This was his first marathon. As a runner for 15 years, he had completed twenty 1/2 marathons, with times ranging from 1:45, in his youthful 40’s, to 2:15, recently. He had carefully planned the past 40 weeks, since Jan 1, 2016. He had read all the training materials, consulted with experienced marathoners, watched endless videos. He expected challenges, rough spots, and difficulties. But THIS?

They said “Don’t go out too fast”, “Take all your early walk breaks”, “Hydrate”, “Eat”, “Keep a PMA (positive mental attitude)”, “Don’t try for a time”, “Focus on finishing”. And his favorite: “Have fun”. He had embraced all this wisdom and more.

Well, maybe he had started a bit fast, at his aggressive pace of 9:45 (minutes per mile). OK, maybe, he had forgotten about those early walk breaks. He had planned a 30 second break every mile, which was conservative and should make only a minor impact on his overall time. But the early energy, music, cheering crowds and thousands of runners packed closely together had swept him up, there was no time for walking. The big, warm, sweating group of runners around him, felt like a single breathing creature with heaving sides, and he was part of it.

Against all advice, he had a secret time goal of 5 hours. It seemed logical, double your recent half-marathon time of 2:15, add 20-30 minutes and presto: 5 hours. 4:45 if everything was going well, 5:15 if it wasn’t. Already relegated to the “F” wave, he could do better. He expected more of himself.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-6-21-46-pmThe 40 weeks of training involved 600 miles during 100 runs, ranging from 5 to 20 miles each; 3 pairs of shoes, dozens of dark groggy 5am morning runs, hours sweating in the Boise summer sun; gallons of Gatorade, Core Power, GU gel. Running on vacation for heaven’s sake (Yes, it was Hawaii, but still).

This was his 4th try at the Portland Marathon. The first one was over 10 years ago. Something always seems to come up to disrupt the training and set the marathon beyond reach: injury, health, family issues, business problems.

The three training runs to 20 miles had produced some desirable effects. His body adapted to the stresses and responded with remodeled muscles, connective tissue and metabolic changes. Actually, one of the runs was really only 18 miles. Another was a total disaster, with dehydration and exhaustion. Probably not much adaptation from that one. But the trainers and coaches said that was enough to “finish”. No one said anything about “compete”. He should have thought about that before he started.

Miles 1-5 passed quickly and pleasantly enough. The rain, which had been on-and-off since the corralling at 6am, was not an issue. Sure, sun and warm air would be nice, but that has drawbacks as well. 60s and drizzle was OK, The fearsome Harrison St Hill was a yawn. Maybe that was the first sign of getting cocky. Nearly the entire family was on hand and they had waved signs at his first mile and then the 4th mile, on the way back from the hill. He felt strong, limber, relaxed, cheerful ….cocky.

Miles 6-12 were a dreary “out and back” into the train yards and industrial area. The rain picked up and the wind started, cold and unpleasant. His glasses fogged, his fingers went numb. His shoes, socks and feet were soaked. He worried about his cell phone getting ruined in his hip pack. But the bathroom stops were easy, water and Ultima was plentiful, his GU supply and flask worked well and he felt pretty good, all things considered.

During miles 13 to 16, a father and two 20-something kids were ahead, all wearing the same bright outfits, all tall and stringy, all running carefully and consciously, probably first timers too. The runner likes to chat a little after being shoulder-to-shoulder for a while.

“First time?”
“Yes, you?”
“Sure, how’s it going?”
“Ok, you?”
“We’re on a 5:00 pace and the rain has stopped. Life is good”

Sounds a little cocky, doesn’t it?

“I’m from Boise, you?”

If the conversation sounds short and choppy, remember they are running after all.

“Father, son, daughter”
“Mind if I run with you for while”
And so on…

The time and miles pass pleasantly enough. Something to do and think about, besides the road. Then the steep ramp up to the St Johns bridge, a good time for some walking and then shuffling. Only 1 mile to the top of the bridge and then the view; grey and misty, but it’s mostly downhill from here, he thought. He remembers that the photographers start to appear after the bridge. They say smile and wave like you’re having fun. He was.

More family at mile 19, his sister and her husband, a retired track coach, “You’ve got this, no problem” he says. That should have been a warning.

His marathon WAS NOT a double 1/2 marathon. And three 20 mile training runs at 13:00 do not prepare your mind and body for the challenge. PMA is not a substitute for trained muscles, joints and connective tissue that know what 50,000 steps will feel like.

The combination of a fast start, too few breaks, and a fixation on finishing time led to his meltdown at 20 miles. How cruel.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-6-21-27-pmIt started with profound aching in his big butt muscles where they attach deep inside. At the other end of his kinetic chain, all 26 bones in each foot complained at each step. His feet felt mushy and weak. In the middle, between pelvis and feet, his calves, knees, quads and hams all quivered, whined and flashed warnings of approaching collapse. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Was he really too old for this? Did he not train enough? Train correctly? His mind was racing, as the coaches predict. He was trying to solve problems with no answers, get fixed, get back on track, but his body refused to respond.

The only possible response is to slow down, mix in walks, take deep breaths, relax his frantic mind, and try to find some positive thoughts. But now, the rain returns again in earnest, thick grey sheets in visible waves, soaking his thin clothes, skin and soles. Oh well, what else could go wrong? Great, the course markers and his watch now disagree by 0.7 mile and his watch is predicting 5:20. His left brain spins frantically, trying to figure it all out.

The pack is now clearly divided into the “haves” and “have nots”. He does not “have it”, despite his brother–in-law’s assurance that he did. Might as well lie down and die.

He should have followed his race plan but it was too late. He went from too little walking, to too much. Now a walk every 1/2 mile was necessary and the walk rate went from a fast 15:00 to a stumbling 18:00. A satisfactory 5 hour finish was lost, even 5:15 seemed unlikely. His world was collapsing.

The runner’s vision tapered down to only 10 ft. in front and almost nothing to the side. His head is down and dejected, not held high and confident. There were a few hardy cheering souls out in the rain or under pop-up shelters and tents. A few soggy musical performances were bravely going on, but he was having none of it. A particularly enthusiastic cheering group, close by, interrupted his misery with cheerful “looking good”, “keep going”, “you’ve got this”. They were mocking him for sure. It earned them a curt “this is horrible”. He felt immediately ashamed and his funk deepened. The entire time and space of the world existed between mile markers; first 20, then 21, then 22, then 23. The walks became more frequent and longer. He developed a limp, but it was so unfocused that it varied from leg to leg, responding to different pains. He was in a dark hole.

Unexpectedly, 24 emerged from the mist, the rain stopped, an open portable restroom appeared at the friendly aid station staffed by the Red Lizards, who were all dressed as… you guessed it. 24 is a wonderful number, divisible by 2,3,6,8 and 12, making it the very best number on the entire course. He had one pouch of his reserve energy gel, “2nd Surge Ultra”, to be used only in a moment of great need. He ripped it open and swallowed it in one gulp. Caffeine, amino acids, sucrose, maltodextrin, and probably miracle ingredient X9, chased with two waters. He imagined it had magical powers.

Mile 24 starts at the bridge back to town, and to the finish. You mean there is an end to this? With an empty bladder, magic X9 in his veins, modest sunshine, a great song in his earphones and his world turns brighter almost immediately. The runner’s head clears and he smiles.

Mile 25 is still a slog but the runner is running hard now, his breath fast and loud, blood pulsing, pain forgotten. Then the 26 marker appears. The crowds are thick and noisy, the runners have the entire street, separated by the cheerful, bright blue barriers. Suddenly, he sees the finish arch ahead, the cheering is overwhelming. It all merges into a head-exploding flash.

And then it’s over. He is a marathoner.


Thanks to Jenn, Cari, Scott, Henry, Blake, Sam, Marilee and Nile who stood in the rain to cheer me on or sent powerful messages.
Thanks to Jeff Galloway who wrote “Randy, You can do this” in my autographed copy of “Running Until 100”.
Thanks to my extended family and friends who offered encouragement and advice along the training journey and who sent congratulations at the end.
And special thanks to Janet, who arranged our life to make it possible, and supported and encouraged me along the way. Couldn’t have done it without you.