2019 Recap, 2020 Goals

2019 Recap, 2020 Goals

2019 had a lot of changes. I moved to a different country to build a team at a new company while switching to full-time ultrarunning and racing on completely unfamiliar terrain. There was some success for sure, and plenty of things to celebrate, but also a number of times I fell short. Any good year should have a combination of those, and the best ratio probably varies by person, but I can’t help but look at the year largely as a stepping stone, a scouting expedition before returning in full force. That could seem like a negative view, but I view it as quite optimistic: the best is yet to come.

2019 left me with a bit of blood on my chin (no, that’s not a goatee)

2019 Recap

DateRacePlaceTime
Dec 72019 Cheviot Goat Ultra410:36
Nov 3NYC Marathon1212:35
Sep 29Berlin Marathon3,8883:11
Sep 8Tor Des Geants1692:52
Jul 18Ronda dels Cims 170KDNF11:15
Jun 28Lavaredo 120K3215:41
May 29The Grand RoundDNF79:53
Mar 30Barkley MarathonsDNF 21:02
Feb 6Franklins 200M160:53

2019 started with my first ever 200 miler, the Franklins 200 in El Paso in early February. It was quite a challenging course, with the rocks absolutely ripping me to shreds. It was a great introduction to the distance, and I’m thrilled to have come away with the win (although just short of my sub 60 hour goal). It would be months before my feet would fully recover, though.

Did I mention it was windy? Photo: Stasulli Photo / Trail Racing Over Texas

After that it was time to say good-bye to our friends and our home in Rockville. We visited all the Washington, DC landmarks and attractions that we hadn’t bothered to see over the previous 5 years, got ourselves prepared as best we could to move across an ocean with 3 small children, and headed out.

Fortunately for the kids, they don’t have to worry much about shielding their eyes from the sun for pictures in England.
The Farm to Founders 50K (inaugural?) was a great success: the full length of the Rock Creek Trail from rural Maryland to the Lincoln Memorial.
Not sure which of us was more excited. This was one of those things that was so much more incredible to see in person than I would have imagined.

But wait! Why not do Barkley the week that we’re leaving for England? Sounds like a brilliant idea! I was genuinely excited to get out and enjoy some time out there, and to see what I could do with a different perspective on the race. Unfortunately it turns out that that perspective, granted / cursed me with the wisdom to realize after 2 loops, while in the lead with Guillaume, that I did not have the proper mindset to push through what I knew loops 4 and 5 would bring. I felt worst for the people who had supported me in getting back to Barkley, but at that point I accepted what was 100% inevitable and tried to escape with the best outcome I could: valuable lessons learned and at least somewhat preserving my body for the next imminent challenge. It would unfortunately become a theme of mine for the year.

Jared and I were all smiles beforehand. The guy in the back (Karel Sabbe) ended up being the last person standing.

Upon arriving in the UK, my focus turned completely towards that next challenge: The Grand Round. Well, completely except for getting myself and my family situated, dealing with mountains of bureucratic UK paperwork, and building a new team at our startup. I did the best training, planning, and preparing as possible, and gathered an incredible group of support (I really will never be able to say enough about the support I was given for that crazy adventure). Unfortunately it too came up a bit short, but it lit a fire in me that I hadn’t seen since before finishing Barkley.

It was a bit windy there too. Oh, but there was also torrential rain! Fun times.

But there was no time to dwell on it: Lavaredo 120K was in a few weeks! The race covered some incredibly beautiful terrain, and although not as quickly as I would have liked I did manage to make it all the way to the finish line this time! And then I got to take a helicopter ride. 🤦‍♂️

First helicopter ride, and one of the coolest pictures I have. Photo: Federico Ravassard

I had evened the score for the year between finishes and DNFs, but just a few weeks after Lavaredo came Ronda dels Cims. Andorra is an amazing place, and I’m pretty sure there’s not a single flat piece of ground big enough for a football field. The course was perfect for me: steep and technical. Unfortunately I wasn’t prepared for warm temperatures, and found myself dangerously over-heating after pushing a solid pace early on. I ended up dropping out fairly early, in my first ever DNF in a “normal” race. It stung pretty bad, especially at a race I had been so excited about. But again, I had another big challenge right around the corner, and thought it best to only ruin one race instead of two.

I at least made it to the highest point in the race.

The thing with a race like Tor Des Geants is that even if the race part of it doesn’t turn out too well, you still end up with a journey of a lifetime: 205 miles through the Italian Alps circumnavigating the Aosta Valley. I ended up making some poor strategic decisions, gave in to the sleep monster, and tumbled out of the top 5 down to 16th place. But, I finished. And if I get the chance to return I’ll have a huge advantage over the 2019 version of me.

So I ended up 3 for 6 in my planned 2019 ultra events: 50% DNF. But I easily learned more than I ever have and those failures set me up for the future better than a string of mediocre successes ever could have.

I rounded out the year with a couple of marathons: Berlin and New York City I ran Berlin shortly after Tor Des Geants purely for the joy of running it, and then came away with a 2:35 PR at NYC shortly after losing my best friend: our dog Dixie. Not content to finish the year with a 50% ultra DNF rate, I slipped in one last race: the Cheviot Goat Ultra, where I came away with 4th place and learned a thing or to about northern England bogs.

After the first bog. Before the worst. Photo: Craig Kilday

The end of the year was largely the same as 2018: endless work to keep our startup moving forward. Around 80% of contracts in our business start on January 1st, so November and December are just heaps of fun. Fortunately it wasn’t quite as bad and stressful as the year before, with enough revenue to keep the lights on already in the door and an actual team to take a huge amount of the most time-critical work. I even got to stop a few times to enjoy a British Christmas!

2020 Goals

In the past, I’ve laid out my goals for the year pretty clearly. This year, things will be a bit more abstract. The start is clear, though: not even two weeks after 2020 starts I’ll be setting off in The Spine Race to cover the full 268 miles of the Penine Way. My experience at the Cheviot Goat Ultra gave me a small taste of what it will be likely navigating that terrain in winter, and fortunately Jasmin Paris just put out her race report from 2019 in time for me to read it about 37 times. There’s really no way to not understate it, so I’ll just say this and leave it at that: it will be challenging, and quite easy to take a quick turn for the worst.

I’m hoping for a good bit of this at The Spine.

Beyond that, I’m going to keep the details and the timing of my plans a bit closer to the vest this year. As my training progresses and my life evolves, I want to be sure I’m doing things for the right reasons in the right way, and am focused on the goals rather than on the perception of the goals.

I will say that I plan on fully utilizing the lessons learned in 2019, and trying to take care of some unfinished business. My experience isn’t the only thing that puts me in a much better position than I was at this time last year. There’s no pending move to another country. I have the stability, the knowledge, and the objective outside perspective of a coach (David Roche), along with the huge stress relief of not having the burden and time sink of planning and analyzing my own workouts.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m transitioning to CTO of our company. In the world of startups a change in title doesn’t necessarily mean much, but in practical terms it means I’ll be spending less time doing all of the time-critical difficult to estimate technical work, which we’ll be able to distribute across the team instead. If that results in me sleeping properly and consistently it could be the single biggest boost my training has ever seen.

One thing that won’t change in 2020 is the sponsors that I’m working with. As difficult as having a demanding job might sometimes make my ultrarunning “hobby,” it does mean that I’m completely free to work with the companies whose products give me the best chance of success rather than going with the highest bidder. All of these companies have given me great support for years and have been wonderful to work with.

So all in all, 2019 left me with a bit of a bloody chin. But a ship’s not safe in harbor, you’ve gotta break a few eggs, or insert your cliche of choice here. I’ve never been one to go with the whole New Year’s Resolution thing, or new year new you, or whatever, but I really feel like things are going to come together in 2020. Failure can be the shortest path to success, and those shortcomings of the past year will be my springboard for the next.

2019 Podcast Round-up

2019 Podcast Round-up

I got a bit behind this year on posting podcasts and other interviews I did, so then I stopped trying entirely. I decided I’d try to pull together the ones I could find or remember and give a full run-down here. Please let me know if something is missing (which I expect someone would probably only notice if it’s one I did with them).

I believe these are in chronological order, so while all of them hit a number of topics the focus of the first ones are primarily Barkley, followed by The Grand Round, and then more general interviews towards the end.

‎Everyday Running Legends on Apple Podcasts

‎The perfect podcast for your run. Brodie Sharpe interviews everyday runners who have motivational running stories designed to inspire every runner. Get a boost of inspiration listening to a wide range of runners whether it’s training for their first marathon, completing their 100th ultra-marathon or…


Like a Bigfoot Podcast #144: John Kelly – Finisher of Barkley Marathons on When/Why We Push Our Limits

In 2017, John Kelly became only the 15th finisher of the Barkley Marathon, an epic race through the rugged mountains of Tennessee. He battled through pain, exhaustion, sleep deprivation and three years of preparation in order to achieve one of the biggest accomplishments in ultra running.


233 John Kelly, Barkley Marathons finisher and 2x Kona finisher – Oxygen Addict Triathlon Podcast

We’ve got an in-depth interview with an incredible athlete for you this week. Barkley Marathons finisher and two times Kona Qualifier John Kelly is on the show! John talks about becoming only the 15th person ever to finish the insanely tough Barkley Marathons, when he completed it on his t


Episode 496 – John Kelly

This week Holly speaks to the Barkley-marathon-finisher John Kelly, Tom’s non run streak comes to an end and he’s back from the parkrun UK annual conference and Martin’s back from a rather painful Strava Mile at the always-incredible Night of the 10,000m PBs, which also saw incredible racing from start to finish.


Episode 172 – JOHN KELLY – ‘The Grand Round’

Episode 172 of Talk Ultra is here… We bring you a full and in-depth interview with John Kelly about his amazing journey to attempt The Grand Round in the UK and the Godfather of Trail, Kurt Decker is co-hosting. ***** Speedgoat is currently on ‘The Longtrail” with Belz (his crewman from the AT) ***** Talk Ultra is…


Beating the Barkley Marathons – An Interview with John Kelly – James Runs Far

What does it take to complete the most difficult adventure race in the world? The Barkley Marathons! John ‘Random Forest Runner’ Kelly is one of the few people to have ever finished the brutal challenge.


Ep. 31 – John Kelly – Failure is Feedback by Smart Athlete Podcast by Solpri

In today’s episode I sit down with John Kelly – ultra runner and one of only 15 people to have completed the Barkley Marathons. I ask him how he found himself get into ultras in the first place. Something that varies with each guest I find myself speaking to that has decided to truly go the distance in running.

2019 Cheviot Goat Ultra

2019 Cheviot Goat Ultra

I’ve long known what it’s like to have a home field advantage. At Barkley, I feel a bit like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. The first time I ran it I was shocked to see how shocked people were by the terrain. In ultrarunning just the mential stress caused by misaligned expectations can often present a large problem, let alone the lack of proper preparation. Running in the cold is fine. Running in the heat is fine. Running in one when you expect the other (or both in one day) is often disastrous.

And so when Jim Rutherford picked me up to head to the Cheviot Goat Race, I thought I had an idea of what the race would be like. It would be wet, there would be some bogs, but I mean, it couldn’t be much worse than Paddy Buckley on the Grand Round, right? I’ve dealt with that stuff before. It would be fine. And with work having been overwhelmingly busy leading into the race, I just hadn’t been able to prioritize giving it any more thought than that.

Welcome, won’t you stay (stuck) awhile

We got started early in the morning, in what I’ve come to consider rather good conditions for English mountain weather. It was expected to get increasingly bad through the day, though, so the course had been reversed to get the higher more exposed section out of the way early. A group of 7 of us headed up the first climb together. Near the top I looked back down to see an incredible, beautiful trail of lights behind me leading all the way back down through the valley. I hadn’t realized there were so many people in the race and thought at first I was seeing a busy morning commute on a highway (except it was Saturday).

Our lead group started to split in half at the top. I was hanging off of the back of the first half when I took a slight miscalculation on the path and stepped on something that looked like ground just slightly to the right of where the others had gone.

Before I knew what had happened I was standing waist deep in a bog. I couldn’t move my legs. At all. I thought quicksand had been invented by Hollywood, but here I was. I looked behind me, wondering if I was going to have to wait on someone to pull me out. I reached out with my pole and found there was solid ground just a few feet in front of me. I lunged forward and grabbed it, slowly pulling myself out.

Shortly after, largely to my relief, the next group caught up to me. We stayed together up to the Cheviot and on the descent two of us broke away. It turned out to be Galen Reynolds, and I found myself running alongside a bearded, gluten-intolerant Canadian with initials GR. Why does this seem familiar? Galen was great company, and it was good to get to pick his brain a bit about Tor Des Geants, where he has had tremendous success.

We ended up getting a bit closer than intended, though. The Penine Way was actually laid with stones for that portion, with those stones occasionally being slightly covered with murky water. I stepped on what I assumed was one of those spots, only to subsequently find myself completely buried in mucky slop. Galen immediately came crashing on top of me. I hadn’t found myself thrashing about in the water like that since my last triathlon. When we climbed out we both enjoyed a good laugh, compeletely covered in mud. Two North Americans do Northumbria: a comedy.

Nice trails y’all. The ample water sources make this a breeze. Photo: Craig Kilday

Flying solo

We stayed together until the half way point, where we grabbed some food from our drop bags and continued on. He got out ahead of me a little, but I stayed close behind until taking another unintended excursion. There were no course markings, and in many places no discernible path, but there was a GPS track that I had loaded onto my watch.

Unfortunately it was not behaving as expected. I mention this only in case someone has had a similar experience and knows how to fix it. The watch wasn’t showing the exact route, it was showing straight lines between waypoints on the route. So where there were curves it differed quite significantly, and in one case I found myself going down through a sheep pasture, over a fence, and down and back up a steep overgrown ravine (hooray, Barkley terrain!). The strangest thing is that my watch seemed to know where the correct path was, telling me I was off course when I followed the displayed route if it diverged from the actual route. So it’s as if it just wasn’t displaying it correctly.

In any case, by the time I found my way back onto the course Galen was out of sight. He went on to have an incredible second half and came away with the win. Meanwhile I wouldn’t see another runner for the remainder of the race, not in front of or behind me. I repeatedly strayed from the best path and found myself wandering through fields of heather, where running seemed like a gauranteed way to break an ankle or end up in another bog, this time never to be seen again.

The bogs weren’t as bad on the 2nd half, but I still felt a bit like Frodo.

I did manage to make it to the finish before the weather got really bad, and I only needed to take my headlamp back out for the last few miles. I came in 4th, fortunately well behind 3rd place or otherwise the sting of finishing one spot off the podium would have hurt a bit more.

I got to hang around in the cafe at the end and chat for a while before heading out to completely destroy my hotel shower with peat bog filth. The race was put on by great people and was a wonderful event. I may not have gone home with any extra hardware but I did take away what was for me a truly unique experience.

I don’t think that shirt will ever be yellow again.

Until we meet again

The Cheviot Goat was great preparation for The Spine, which I have in just a few weeks. Learning the terrain features, what to look out for, and how important it is to stick to the right path, will of course be a big help, but just as importantly my expectations will more closely align with reality. There won’t be another shocking moment from being waist deep in a bog and not knowing what to do. I’ve never been on the bad end of a course where local knowledge is so important, and I actually have a much greater appreciation now for the challenge faced by people who show up at Barkley having never been in the Tennessee mountains. I’m just glad I won’t have that introduction in January when I set out for 268 miles.

Gear and nutrition

Despite the conditions being pretty unusual for me, my gear was my pretty standard setup. Note: I have relationships with many of the companies mentioned below and much of the gear was provided to me. For a full list of those companies, and in some cases discount codes, see this page.

I used a pair of La Sportiva Kaptiva GTX with winter running gaiters in hopes that my feet might stay somewhat dry. They actually did really well until I went waste deep in a bog, at which point nothing short of waders would have helped me.

I went with an Ultimate Direction Mountain Vest, which did very well carrying the rather extensive kit list (the weather can turn nasty quickly, and people can get stuck out there for a while).

My XOSKIN long sleeved shirt, calf sleeves, and socks (toe socks with normal socks over top) kept me comfortable, warm, and chafe-free, and my standard nutrtition plan did quite well at this race: Perpeteum to start and at mid-way, with Hammer gels and a bar distributed over the rest of the race.

I did have to enjoy my first Irn-Bru while I was up there, though. Speaking of unique experiences… that one hit the spot.

Our Dixie Dog Delight

Our Dixie Dog Delight

I don’t really process my thoughts all that well through verbal conversations. Most of the time inside my own head works just fine. That’s one reason I run – that’s thinkin’ time. But sometimes there’s too much to fit in there.

I wrote these thoughts out the night after our dog died. I didn’t write them out for anyone but myself. I’m not interested in a conversation; I’m not looking for anyone’s sympathy or anything else; I would actually very much rather not talk about it beyond just leaving this here and letting it go so I can move on. But over the past few years many of the high points of my life have been quite visible. With sample bias being one of my greatest enemies as a data scientist it seems appropriate that balance be provided to that, especially given how social media tends to paint an idealized picture where people have perfect lives and nothing ever goes wrong.

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The Grand Round – A Fun Run

The Grand Round – A Fun Run

I did not achieve what I was aiming for on The Grand Round, but I ended up with more than I could have hoped for. I have never been more proud of a failed pursuit or gained as many unexpected positive outcomes. Of course I wish a few things had gone differently and that I had been able to finish. I’m an overly competitive goal-driven Type A perfectionist who is horrible company for a “casual” game of anything, and falling short will always gnaw at me. I went out to seek a challenge, though, and based on the criteria I laid out I got exactly what I was seeking. If everything was predictable, there would be no excitement or passion, no adventure, no exploration. In a way, the plan has to be for things to not go according to plan.

As it stands I had an incredible adventure and learned a great deal, both specific to the challenge itself and more broadly applicable to my own life. I also learned that there is at least one thing that I can reliably plan on: the passion and selfless support of the fell running community. I’m still in a bit of disbelief at their generosity, and I come from a place that I’d say epitomizes southern hospitality. I’ll tell you what, though, we sure ain’t got no monopoly on kindness.

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Seeking Grand Challenges

Seeking Grand Challenges

I wanted to get my thoughts on why I’m doing this “Grand Round” out ahead of time, before they’re forever altered by the pain, joy, and experience of actually doing it. For my own sake as much as anything, I wanted them crystallized in writing and set aside for me to reflect on afterwards. Because honestly, I’m terrified. This is likely to be more challenging than even Barkley, and I haven’t been this terrified of anything I’ve attempted since my very first attempt at Barkley. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing; actually I’d say the opposite.

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2019 Barkley Marathons

2019 Barkley Marathons

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need

We’ve all at some point or another had those lyrics stuck in our head, and we’ve all probably had a number of situations where they were quite appropriate. I think a key word that really gets overlooked, though, is try. You don’t just sit there and have what you need fall into your lap.

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2019 Barkley Marathons Training

2019 Barkley Marathons Training

Training for Barkley is a bit of a conundrum as it is. There are so many variables involved in the race that it is impossible to optimize training for all of them. This year I had a couple more wrinkles thrown in: I was getting ready for a big move and trying to somewhat hide the fact that I was doing Barkley. At the same time, though, I had the benefit of more experience and more confidence under my belt, and a much different mindset approaching the race.

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Look How Tough I Am!

Look How Tough I Am!

I have no idea what this post is going to end up looking like. I just have some thoughts that I want to attempt to get out, and we’ll see where it goes.

I’ll also preface this by saying that this is 100% my opinion and feelings on what I do and why. As far as I’m concerned, what anyone else does is completely up to them and none of my business as long as they’re not endangering others. And that’s my main goal I guess is to try to ensure that people aren’t needlessly doing stupid things for the wrong reasons or without the proper training and preparation on account of me. I have 3 kids, and after seeing my 4 year old scramble up a briar and scree-covered 60 degree slope like a mountain goat a few days ago I know that there are enough problems my genes will cause without adding me setting a poor example.

I thought I had plenty of time to take a picture, before realizing I was going to have to nearly run to stay right behind him and make sure he didn’t fall backwards.
We were coming back up from the fishing hole on the Obed River that I used to go to as a kid with my family. I carried him down, he wanted to go up himself…

So the general topic of this post, at least, is the trend in endurance sports of glorifying pain, needlessly disregarding sensible safety precautions, and trying to look like the biggest, hardest “badass” instead of just going out there for the personal challenge and the experience. Some people probably are going to have problems with this or get offended by it, but I feel like I need to say it, especially with people out there putting their lives at risk for nothing more than taking a cool selfie.

“I was urinating dark dirt brown”

Again, what someone else chooses to do to themselves is up to them and I really try to not single people out in any sort of negative light, but it’s hard to broach this subject without mentioning “the hardest man alive” and I do have a problem with this kind of stuff being passed off as motivational or as an example to others. For the context around the title of this section, see the excerpt from his blog posted here. (I’m not a reddit user myself but this is what came up when I Googled that anecdote). If you have more time on your hands you can also listen to his interview on the Joe Rogan podcast.

The guy is tough, no question. He has an amazing life story, has accomplished some unbelievably incredible things, has done great work for charity, and has no doubt inspired a lot of people. That’s all awesome. But I don’t view unnecessarily putting yourself at serious risk of major health complications or even death as a positive example and I don’t want anything I do to influence someone in that way. He was in real need of medical attention and continued on, making it even worse, for the sake of a race. And frankly, not even an “important” one. Some things are worth it, some are not.

That’s especially the case when the risk is primarily caused by lack of proper preparation. I’ve mentioned before that I’m all about jumping in the deep end and seeing if I can swim, but when I start to sink and someone throws me a life preserver I’m not going to say “no thanks let me enjoy the pain of water filling my lungs.” I’m going to get out and use the knowledge I just gained to know what I need to do the next time. Even when risking your life might be worth it, like in actual war, you’ve gotta know when to cut your losses.

For me, the pleasure has never been in the pain; it’s been in overcoming the obstacles that cause the pain. This is a perception I find myself coming up against constantly, with Barkley being viewed as a “masochistic” race. And yes, I do voluntarily put myself through and force myself to push past a lot of pain. There’s just a line, and for me that line is when I’m creating a high risk of permanent or long term health consequences.

This is something I haven’t told many people, but after IM Mont-Tremblant, where I was pushing for the age group win and my first sub 9 hour Ironman, I peed red. Blood red. It was like Kool-Aid. Did I stand there and laugh and say “oh man, look how tough I am!”? Nope. It scared the absolute @#%& out of me like few things ever have. And it gave me serious pause as to whether I should be doing what I was doing.

I told the doctor in the med tent, and she had me wait around until I could use the bathroom again. Fortunately it was clear the next time and she said it was just dehydration. If it had been red again, or brown, good chance I wouldn’t still be at it, at least not at the same level. My health, and my ability to grow old and be there for my kids, is far more important than finishing some race in some certain time. And yeah, it’s a real fine line to walk. I want to find what I’m capable of and inspire my kids and others, showing them what you can accomplish if you really set your mind to it and work for it, but without going too far.

This was the best part of IM Mont-Tremblant week, not winning another cheap metal Ironman plaque.

Amelia Boone has also put her body through some incredibly tough things and accomplished some amazing feats. She’s a 4 time world champion in obstacle course racing, has been called the “Queen of Pain,” and even with her consistent success in OCR she wanted to branch into ultrarunning to continue challenging herself and pushing her boundaries. I also have a great deal of respect for her and consider her a friend. She knows that some risks are worth it and that sometimes you have to back off, e.g. by focusing on health instead of running Barkley with a fractured heel and pushing further past the breaking point (pun not originally intended, but I do love a good pun… sorry Amelia 🙂). She isn’t afraid to share that with people and expose that she’s not, in fact, invincible. Note: to be clear, nothing in this post is Amelia’s thought or opinion; I’m just using her as an involuntary example.

Then why do I do it?

There are quite a few reasons. And sure, one of them is because I’ve always been super competitive and love having something I can compete at now that my stellar grad school intramural softball and flag football career is over. I could easily find something for that competitive urge that doesn’t involve continuously pushing my body to the brink, though (anyone up for a game of ping-pong?).

I don’t recall ever looking like this after playing World of Warcraft. Not even after camping the Time-Lost Proto-Drake for weeks on end. Photo: Leon Lutz

The main reason is that I love to discover new things about myself: most of all new strengths and new things I never thought I was capable of, but also what my weaknesses are (hi swimming, my name is John). That translates to so many other areas of my life, ones that matter much more than some race through the mountains in Tennessee, and I hope translates to other people’s lives as well.

I’ve had the great joy of being able to do that through an activity that I also love: running aimlessly (randomly, if you will) through forests and mountains. So I get to kill two birds with one stone, and I hope that everyone is able to discover something that allows them to do that: whether it’s running, analyzing data and writing code (oops, that one’s me too), music, reading, traveling, or any of the other countless hobbies out there.

At the end of the day, that’s all I am: an overly competitive guy doing the hobby I love who has had the good fortune of discovering that I’m also rather good at it. I’m not a badass, or a stud, or a hero, or a legend, or a warrior. I appreciate the sentiment, and I know people mean well, but to be honest I just feel a little awkward whenever anyone calls me those things (and what do we then call people who actually are those things?). In fairness, though, taking a compliment in any form has never exactly been one of my strengths.

Boom! Dominated that carny game at Winter Wonderland! Totally badass.

But whether you’re a proponent of those terms or not, I think the key here is that I do these things out of internal motivation, not to try to show people how tough I am. I greatly appreciate the words of encouragement I receive and I’m really, truly amazed and grateful that people can take motivation and inspiration from something I do (that’s one reason I have this blog in the first place), but otherwise I wouldn’t care if people even knew that I run.

And if you want to call me something, then John will do just fine. Or for a select few, Dad. Or, since I’m moving to a country where they still hand out crowns just for coming out of the right womb, I guess King of Frozen Head will also do. 😉

Badass
Photo: Annie Wells, 1997 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Spot News Photography
Hero
Stud

The Fresh Prince of Barkley

I know I haven’t posted anything in a while. The whole moving to the UK thing hasn’t left much time for writing blog posts. On the running side, though, here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to in the past month.

I did this as a fun project and challenge on my home turf, not really as anything related to Barkley. It was a personal challenge, and I chose to share in hopes that it would motivate others to set their own big challenges, or to come visit the park to challenge some of the records. I think it’s safe to say, though, that Brett’s record isn’t going anywhere. Probably ever. Plus, no one will ever run that same course again… it totally wouldn’t trigger the segment on Strava.

2019 Franklins 200 Miler

2019 Franklins 200 Miler

Even by my standards this is really, really late for a race report. But that is in no way a commentary itself on the race, I’ve just been a bit busy with the whole moving to another country thing. It was an extremely well organized event with a great community and a challenging course that I came away from with quite a few lessons. Thank you to Rob Goyen, Trail Racing Over Texas, and the volunteers who put this race together, and also to Gina Fioroni, John Sharp, and Jaime Aparicio, my impromptu crew who turned out to be invaluable when things didn’t exactly go as I planned.

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2018 Recap, 2019 Goals

2018 Recap, 2019 Goals

Now that we know for sure where I’ll be located this year, I can start to plan out the year a bit more. But first, a quick look back at 2018. The idea of a ‘year in review’ has always seemed a little arbitrary to me, as I view my goals as more of a continual progression, but I do think it’s useful to occasionally pause to take our bearings and appreciate how far we’ve come. And the start of the new year is just as good a time as any!

If you want the really quick overview you can always just head over to the schedule / results page.

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Kelly Family Brentrance

Kelly Family Brentrance

Or Kellentry? Usexit? I don’t know, I’m not very good at this. I do know that I at least outlasted the other John Kelly in DC, but after five and a half years in the DC area (the longest I’ve lived anywhere other than my childhood home in TN), we’ll be moving on in April. That is, assuming our destination doesn’t implode on March 29. Sorry, 29 March (gotta get used to that).

If you don’t care about the why, or any other details, here’s the important info:

  • When are we moving? April
  • Where? Somewhere near Bristol, England
  • Is it permanent? No, temporary while I build out the development team at our company
  • Where to next? Not sure, but hopefully finally to a “permanent” spot where we can settle down and our kids can grow up, likely somewhere in the VA / NC / TN area
  • Are you going to run races in Europe? Dang sure better believe it
  • Why are you moving? Well, that’s what the rest of this post is for
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