Monday, March 27, 2017

"Touch of Grey"

Disneyland 2007
All runners have some experience, event, or person who triggers the desire to take that first run.  I was curious about Clint's inaugural event.  He talked a lot about running with his mother when he was young; when running was just to experience the freedom and adventure, and not as a competition.  But the real motivating factor was a photo. We've all heard the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words," but in Clint's case, a photo triggered "a thousand miles of running,"  and a complete change in lifestyle.

In 2007, Clint took a family trip to Disneyland and photos were taken.  Clint acknowledged that marriage, fatherhood, a promotion at work, three knee surgeries ten years ago, and a year-long recovery contributed to the extra pounds on the scale that the Welch family did not even own.  "I was a big guy.  And I handled my pant size and advancing notches on the belt as a big guy would. I owned it - but I didn't realize it."  It wasn't until he saw this photo that he realized he had a problem. This photo is the impetus that completely changed his life, with trail running as only a part of the transformation that came after nutrition changes and lots of miles on a treadmill.

Rebecca Welch, Clint's wife and anchor, said that living with Clint was not so easy when he was 330 pounds.  "He wasn't happy with himself.  And that transferred to the family.  He wasn't the same guy that he is today.  He is loving now, peaceful, and very conscious about keeping balance with family."  Becca admitted that the 330-pound Clint was more uptight and self-centered.  Clint's entire world is different today as a direct result of running and smart eating choices.  This transformation began ten years ago, and still continues today, despite the many ups, downs, bright spots, and touches of grey that all of us experience.

I asked Clint to describe how he went about making this lifestyle change.  He started by working out on the treadmill.  "I love to run.  I really wanted to run, but I wasn't in shape.  So I started by walking on an incline on the treadmill.  And making smarter eating choices."  He wasn't yet a vegan, but shared that he is also a reader.  He read the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  The book included a meat eater's guide and a non-meat eater's guide.  "I started by limiting my protein to turkey and fish.  But when I read more and more, I realized that the authors of these books were heart surgeons, and they were vegans.  I began to shift." Heart disease is in the Welch bloodline, so eventually Clint dropped all animal products from his diet.  "I'm not an 'asshole vegan.'  I still wear leather boots and don't preach being a vegan to anyone.  It's a personal lifestyle choice."  I actually interrupted Clint at this point because I had absolutely no idea he was a vegan.  I didn't know Clint on a personal basis prior to this blog relationship, but we've had enough beers at common parties that I would have thought that being a vegan would have been dropped at some point. Clint says that my reaction of total surprise is normal because he doesn't preach about it.  "It's a personal thing.  The more I read and live this life style - the more I'm moving away from all animal products, as much as I may not want to openly admit that."

Bad Bass 1/2 Marathon 2011
Clint says he was mortified when he took a close look at the Disneyland photo. So the change started with recognition and acknowledgement that a problem existed.  Then he started with walking and eating wiser. Finally, he was able to run and completed his first road half marathon.  Running started taking a bigger role in his exercise routine, so Clint did some research online and eventually discovered FTR, or Folsom Trail Runners.  FTR is a trail running group founded in 2008 by Diane Cressey Hanes to organize group trail runs for all levels of runners.  This is one of the most supportive groups of people who welcome runners of all shapes, ages, and speeds.  In July of 2011, Clint signed up for and completed the Bad Bass Half Marathon Trail Run in Castro Valley. Running in a trail race with people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles who share the same love for running, adventure, and freedom changed everything.  "I have a tattoo on my leg from that race because it was another life changing event.  I get shit about it because it's 'only' a half-marathon, but it was the beginning of trail running for me."

This was just the start.  In 2012, Clint ran three more half marathon trail races.  In 2013, he upped the mileage to two half marathons, a 10.4 miler (Blood, Sweat and Beers), two 50Ks, and the American River 50 Miler.  This became the qualifying race that was Clint's first ticket for the Western States lottery. And this is where the Western States journey began.  Later that year, he ran his first 100 mile race, the Rio Del Lago in Granite Bay, CA.  At that time, the Rio Del Lago was not yet a Western States qualifier, but Clint was ready to add a 100-mile race to his training plan.

Founded in 1974, Western States is the world's oldest and largest 100-mile endurance race that is the 'mecca' of trail races.  Thousands of people from all over the world apply for a lottery ticket to enter the race.  The Lottery was instituted back in 1981, and in 2015, the Western States admin increased the qualifying standards for the lottery to 100K and 100 miles races that meet or exceed the difficulty of the Western States course.  There is a specific list of qualifying races all around the world.

Clint attended the lottery live and was not selected.

Every consecutive year that runners qualify, the number of lottery tickets get doubled.  The word 'consecutive' is important here. If a runner fails to qualify one year, the number of tickets return to one.  So in 2014, Clint completed four 50Ks:  The FOURmidable, Mokelumne River Tail Running Festival, the Canyons Endurance Runs, and Gold Rush.  And then in June, he finished his second 100-Mile qualifying race, the San Diego 100 in Lake Cuyamaca, CA which earned him two tickets for the lottery.  Clint attend the lottery live again, and again, was not selected.

Training continued, but in 2015, Clint entered a year that was not dark, not black, but included a 'touch of grey.' He adopted a training plan that included a massive number of miles without strength, core, or speed workouts.  He started the year with the FOURmidable half marathon in February, Way Too Cool 50K in March, the K2 Challenge and Mokelumne River Trail 50K in April, the Gold Rush 50K and Born to Run Ultra 30 Miler in May.  In July he entered the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile race as his Western States qualifier to earn his four lottery tickets.  The extreme miles of his training plan that year must have added too much stress on his body and knees.  He ended up dropping out of the race at mile 80.

2014 Javelina Jundred - "Touch of Grey"
In order to continue his consecutive streak of qualifying races, Clint entered the Javelina Jundred in Fountain Hills, AZ less than 90 days later.  Luckily for Clint, his wife was by his side as his crew chief.  "Becca is the easiest person you will ever know, but as a crew person, she is a hard ass."  All trail runners know that ultra races include dark times when racers need to dig deep and find the ability to push through pain and the desire to quit. When I asked Clint about the support of his family, he shared this photo with me and said that it perfectly exemplifies Becca's role and importance to him on his journey to Western States.  He knows full well that without Becca's support and crewing, he would not be one of the lucky lottery winners.

When I met with Becca, I asked her to share the story behind this photo.  She explained that the Javelna Jundred consists of a 22.3 mile loop followed by four 19.4 mile loops.  The runners change the direction from clockwise to counter-clockwise after completing each loop.  Clint had been suffering with knee pain all year and came into the aid station after completing 60+ miles.  "He was in a dark place.  He was in pain. And he was having a hard time keeping down food."  Becca had him sit down and try to eat.  She gave him some Advil and then became the 'hard ass' crew chief.  "Look, you signed up for this.  This is your qualifier for Western States.  You will finish."  If you look closely at Clint's face in this photo, you can see that Becca is reaching through to his inner core and he is hearing the reality of her words. Obediently, Clint gets up and with Bill Clements as his pacer, he goes on to finish the race, earning his four Western States lottery tickets. It takes a team of supportive people to train for and run ultra marathons. Clint is blessed with the best of the best right in his own household.

In the coming weeks leading up to Western States 2017, I'll continue sharing Clint's journey and describing all the very special people who are supporting and helping him realize this dream.  And every week, it's important to continue sharing his current training schedule:

This week's training 03/20-03/26/17
Mon - Cap Tappers shakeout run - 5 miles
Tues - The Ranch - strength, mobility, flexibility, tissue quality
Wed - 4 mile speed workout
Thur - The Ranch
Fri -  Rest and recovery
Sat - 16.7 mile hill repeats at Stagecoach Trail (2 mile hill with 900+ feet elevation gain repeated 4 times)
Sun - 4.3 mile 40th birthday fun run at Claimstake Brewing Company

Next week is Clint's 40th birthday.  My birthday wish to him is some abatement to the knee pain that he is currently suffering, caused from arthritis and prior surgeries.  In 2001, doctors literally 'broke' his leg in order to reposition his patella tendon, and added two screws to hold it in place.  In 2011, he needed another surgery to add a cadaver tendon to his right knee. That same year, his left knee required arthroscopic surgery to scrape off arthritis and to add support to the patella tendon.  I asked Clint to describe the pain.  "It hurts all the time, like my knee caps are bruised.  But when I run, especially down hill, the pain intensifies.  And I don't feel like my knees have the stability to take downhills at a fast pace."

Clint wants to inspire people to run. He wants everyone to enjoy the freedom and adventure that trail running provides.  And many of you reading this blog right now are absolutely capable of running 100 miles.  But, he thinks it is important to present the reality of the experience, which includes all spectrums of color, including some dark times.  "We will get by.  We will get by.  We will survive."

#seeyouinsquaw  in 89 days.

1 comment:

  1. More prideful tears. Great job again, Sylvia. Becca is such a gift to this family, esp my son, of course.