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October Goals

Today’s post is going to be a simple one. I’ve shared before how much I believe in setting goals. With today being October 1st, it’s goal reveal day! When I’m setting goals my main objective is to grow. Whether it’s mentally, physically, or emotionally, I want to become better than I was the day before. With that, here are my goals:

For those still with me, let’s dive in and break down what each goal means to me.

250 miles comes down to roughly 100k per week. Lately my weekly mileage has hovered around 40 miles. I used to look at 40 mile weeks and think, how am I going to get this done? Eventually it became my new norm, and felt effortless. When I was coming up with this goal, I told myself that I had to make it a significant jump out of my comfort zone if I were to grow as a result. That lead me to 250 miles. It’s not completely absurd, but it definitely will require a commitment from me. Game on!

61 days of gratitude is a two month challenge that I’m kicking off today. This one is simple. The world needs more positivity and it’s good to take a breath and remember to appreciate what we have. Big things, little things, and all the other in between things! Today, I am grateful for my new kettlebells because they’ve reenergized my strength routine.

My script. I’ve recently started a feature length idea that mixes together my story, my mom’s story, and the stories I heard while attending NA meetings during my mom’s recovery years. That’s all that I’ll give away for now.

Ah the final goal, and often the least discussed. Sex is an activity that a lot of us participate in, but not one we often talk about. It’s difficult to be vulnerable about our intimate lives, but I’m hoping to fight that stigma and encourage more open discussion on an oddly forbidden topic. I can’t speak for other relationships, but I know that when Emily and I are more sexually active together, we are happier and healthier. I know that a few friends have expressed similar findings as well.

Well that about sums it up for me this month. What goals do you have in mind? Has any of this inspired a thought for you? In what ways will you leave your comfort zone?

Fall

Fall, or Autumn, is my favorite time of year. It’s arguably the best time for running, as temperatures begin to dip and humidity fades away. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where the leaves begin to change colors, then the scenery is beautiful. Food wise we shift towards delicious comfort foods like soups, stews, and roasts.

However, my favorite element of Autumn, is the sense of community. Perhaps it’s the holiday season where we celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, and Festivus. All of these holidays bring people together and, with the exception of Festivus, they focus on being kind and sharing with one another. Maybe it’s because I grew up on the East Coast where winter can be harsh, but people seem to treat one another better from October through the end of the year. Almost as if we know it is miserable to be outside so we do what we can to make it a little bit better for each other.

Each November, I like to do 30 days of gratitude. Some days I appreciate the big things, and other days I share my appreciation for the little things. For example, I am grateful for my health and my ability to run and I’m also grateful for clean public bathrooms during a road trip.

This year is different though. 2020 blows. Because it has been a tumultuous year, I think it’s a good idea for me to expand my normal 30 days to 61 days. Starting October 1st, via Instagram, I’ll be sharing at least one thing each day that I am grateful for. Each week I’ll provide a summary on here as well because we can’t have enough gratitude in the world right now!

I invite you to join along and use #61daysofgratitude on socials. Let’s flood our circles with a healthy dose of positive energy and bring some light into our lives.

Do good!

The Unknown

Who’s that runner?

Yesterday I made a post on Instagram about why I seek out the unknown. When I say the unknown, I’m specifically talking about the area beyond my comfort zone. The two examples I highlighted with my post were ultramarathons and rock climbing.

Ultras and climbing take me out of my comfort zone for different reasons. Climbing is the easy one; I’m not a huge fan of heights. When I’m in the climbing gym it doesn’t matter if I’m on a v1 or a v4 bouldering problem, once I get high enough my brain tries to take over. It’s during this time that I can incorporate some mental jujitsu in order to top out on the wall.

Running is a bit different than climbing because I don’t know where or when I’ll step beyond my comfort zone. This is what drew me to wanting to run ultras in the first place. Every distance up to a marathon became normal for me. This isn’t to say that every shorter run I do goes well, but it doesn’t send me to that unknown area. When I read about a runner pushing themselves to the point of hallucinating or escaping the hurt locker that they found themselves in after 50/100/200+ miles, I get goosebumps. I think about wanting to be in that position so that I can really test myself. Do I really have the mental fortitude and willpower to handle this incredible challenge?

You’ve probably heard the line “you can’t have happiness if you don’t have sadness.” For me, stepping outside of my comfort zone accomplishes a few things. First and foremost, it expands my comfort zone which is important for me to continue to grow and evolve as a person. Second, by experiencing uncomfortable situations it makes me appreciate my comforts even more. Third, it expands and makes my life more interesting and allows me to connect with people in new ways. Finally, it creates the potential for some awesome stories to tell!

I encourage you to take a chance on something new this week. Be like Elsa and go off into the unknown!

My first FKT

The view of LA from behind the Hollywood Sign

For those that don’t know, FKT stands for Fastest Known Time, and there is a website where you can find and track them all over the world! While they’ve been around for forever, sometimes called “course record” or “speed record”, FKTs have become more popular over the last decade. With most of 2020’s races being cancelled, runners are heading out to challenge FKTs in an effort to have something to train for. This past weekend, I joined the club.

I set out to break the Griffith Park FKT this past Saturday. The course is roughly 14.2 miles long and the time to beat was 2:36:28 set by Matthew Accornero on August 9th, 2020.

At 5am I was supposed to meet up with Katelin and Jonathan. Katelin was there to set the first female FKT for the same route, and Jonathan was just looking to get some miles in. I say I was supposed to meet up with them because Jonathan wound up seeing a random headlamp heading out onto a trail and thought it was me. When I called him 20 minutes after he said he was going to the bathroom he told me what happened and I just laughed. Katelin forgot her headlamp and my backup lamp’s batteries were dead. We were off to a solid start.

Katelin and I finally got started closer to 5:30. I quickly shifted my headspace into a race mindset and began going over the course in my head as my legs went to work on the hills. The course starts out with a gentle sustained climb for about 2 miles before a fun, fast descent just under a mile long. Naturally, because I had a goal in mind, I started to get a side stitch within the first couple of miles. Thanks LA heatwave. I tried my best to just focus on my music and the sunrise. I got through the first couple of miles and the joy of the downhill erased the cramp from my conscious.

From the bottom there are 3 separate climbs up to the Hollywood sign. The first ascent is a ridiculous, almost 20% grade incline, up an overgrown hiking trail. Fortunately, this section is only about 1/3 of a mile but it crushed my calves. The next two climbs are roughly 1/2 mile each and runnable. I reached the Hollywood sign in an hour and had 8.5 miles to go. While I ate a Split Nutrition packet, I did some quick mental math and knew that the FKT was in reach.

The next few miles went by quickly, but then my side stitch started coming back. I chewed on a salt tab, drank some water, and told myself I was fine. I banked enough time on the downhills that even if I slowed my pace by a minute per mile, I would still be able to beat the FKT. The next steepish incline I came to, I walked and did some deep Wim Hof style breathing before hitting the most crowded part of the course. I’m not sure if the breathing was more for my cramps or to build patience while I dodged people on the single track downhill, but either way it worked.

I reached the final 5k with 40 minutes to spare and my brain asked me if I wanted to coast the rest of the way. It tried to tell me that I could take it easy, not have to deal with cramps or tired legs, and still set a new record. I thought about what David Goggins or Eric Thomas would say before I smirked and told my brain “nice try bud.”

I crossed the imaginary finish line in 2:18:24, breaking the previous FKT by 18 minutes and 4 seconds. I’m stoked to have earned my first FKT, but I know I can run it faster. After my 100k attempt next weekend, I plan on going back to break my own record. Hopefully the heatwave and California wildfires will be gone by then.

Happy running and do good,

jbb

Run for something

Embracing the rain during The Ranch 50k where I PR’d by over 45 minutes.

I’ve been unemployed going on 6 months now, I’ve battled with depression, and I’ve watched humanity grow to embrace hatred while rejecting compassion and empathy. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that this has been a rough year.

Movement has been my saving grace during this time. Honestly, movement has probably been my saving grace since I was a kid. Growing up I had team sports that allowed me to vent my frustrations, but that outlet disappeared with the end of my collegiate rugby career. Since I graduated college, running has become my solace and this year I’ve run more than ever.

I started taking my running serious towards the end of last year. I had hired a coach and started setting my sights on competing in races instead of just participating in them. I was stoked to race Badwater Salton Sea 81 miler. I was crushing my training, and had just raced a 50k and PR’d by over 45 minutes. I told my teammate John and our crew captain Pam that I wanted us to aim for a top 5 finish. Not long after that, races started getting canceled due to Covid.

Suddenly I had nothing to train for, and the motivational wind was gone from my sails. The longer I went without running, the more I felt drawn to my couch or bed. I withdrew from my friends, from my partner Emily, and from myself. I would set out for a long run and mentally check out before quitting after a few miles.

Fortunately, I have friends who can be almost as stubborn as myself. They continued to invite me out on runs and encouraged me to rediscover movement. Little by little, my activity level increased. Right around the same time I started reading Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall. Sherman is a donkey that inspired me to get off my ass. (pun intended!)

After finishing that book, I read The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn. Again I was inspired to keep my legs moving, but I also felt an itch to do more than just run. That’s when I reached out to Pam and told her I wanted to run another ultra. Her response? “I love that. When and where?” When I told her I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, she told me I had until Sunday to make a decision. This was on a Wednesday. I called her back the next day and when she answered all I said was “last 100k of Badwater 135, thoughts?” Pam’s excitement came through the speaker, “fuck yea! Let’s do this.”

We set a date for September 20th and my excitement increases by the day. 100k will be double my longest distance yet. Current predicted temperatures for that weekend are high 90s to low 100s. This may not be an official race, but it is a personal race. The only thing I won’t get when I finish is a belt buckle. I feel like a kid again waiting for the last day of school before summer vacation starts. This is going to be AWESOME!

Change must come.

Today we should be celebrating Mark’s 34th birthday. Instead he was immortalized at 12 from a gunshot to the head. In recent years, every time Mark’s birthday or the day he was killed comes around, I’ve reminded myself to be grateful for his influence on my life.

Today is different. Today I’m battling disappointment and anger. The tragic story of what happened to Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin has warped into the story of Kyle Rittenhouse. For those that may not know, Kyle is a 17 year old kid who drove across state lines, murdered 2 people, shot and injured a third person, walked towards police while holding a rifle, and after giving some hand signals, was free to go. Yes, he has since been arrested and charged with 1st degree murder, but the fact remains that local police knew there were people shot and killed and yet they let him walk away from the scene. Meanwhile, Jacob Blake tried to intervene and stop a fight and a cop shoots him in the back SEVEN times in front of his 3 young sons.

When Mark was shot on February 5th, 1999, my life was changed. Mark’s killer, Brian, had stolen the gun from a family that we knew, shot Mark in the head, and tried to bury the gun. He was arrested and sent to jail. After a couple years, he was released. Kalief Browder spent more time in Rikers Island for ALLEGEDLY stealing a backpack!

I’m disappointed and angry because our system is bullshit. Police, and our entire judicial system, continue to terrorize the Black community as well as any allies, and yet welcome with open arms a young white kid who idolizes the badge. Kalief Browder spent more time in prison without a trial, than Brian did for murdering Mark. Brian Banks spent almost 6 years in prison for being falsely accused of rape, but Brock Turner spent 6 months in jail after being caught raping a young woman behind a dumpster. Breonna Taylor was sleeping when cops shot and killer her and they’ve not been held accountable.

To the Black community: I see you, I hear you, I stand with you. Black lives matter.

To the defensive whites: Stop talking, start listening, and show compassion.

To racists: Go talk to someone and work on your deep rooted insecurities.

To Mark: Happy birthday bud. I miss you.

Twitch

The Covid era has been bonkers y’all. I’ve been out of work since the beginning of March and experienced a variety of different emotions. With the promise of returning to work, I looked at my original lay-off as an extended vacation. I even joked that I would have the opportunity to experience life as a sponsored athlete. Being able to train and recover as much as I wanted for a few weeks sounded awesome!

Those weeks turned into a month and then 5 months later, we’re still here. During that time I went from running 6 days a week to maybe once or twice a week. Along with running, my passion for storytelling was met with a yawn. I was spiraling and needed some help.

I’m fortunate to have people in my life that truly care about me. My partner, Emily, who is always asking to read or hear about the newest idea I’ve had or to tell me to go for a run. Mi hermano mayor Jonathan, who calls to check in on me and reminds me to always evolve and adapt. Jeff graciously offers to read and provide notes on any scripts I’m writing. Miguel reminds me that I have a voice worth listening to. Christoff encourages me to continue adventuring and always requests that I share my adventures with the world. Liz and John share long bike rides with me that turn into mutual mini therapy sessions. Amanda and Dax shun the negative naysayers and lift me up with positive reenforcement. Finally, Marc, Katelin, Zeb, Rachel, and everyone else that has been down to run some ridiculous miles with me. Thank you all, I love each and every one of you.

This brings me to the reason I started writing today. Yes, in typical Jesse fashion, it took me 3 paragraphs to get to the point. I recently launched my own Twitch channel where I’ll be broadcasting some ps4 gaming, as well as working on creating some adventure content. I’d love it if you could take a minute to give me a follow, and please bear with me while I work on getting it off of the ground. Also, if you happen to be a streamer and have any advice, I’d love to hear it!

Finally, goals. My mission is to facilitate positive change through storytelling. Perhaps it is through laughter at my sometimes terrible gaming, or encouraging you to get up and move through my running or hiking. Using Twitch, or any other digital platform, I aspire to inspire. Ultimately, I’d love to be able to solely focus on adventures and telling the stories that come through them. To be like Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, Guillermo del Toro, Christopher McDougall, Hillary Allen, Courtney Dauwalter, Renan Ozturk, Michael Pollan, Tolkien, or even that new Zac Efron Netflix series Down to Earth.

I know it seems like a lot, but I don’t have it in me to dream small. So here I am, inviting you to join me for this adventure! I’d love it if you followed along.

Twitch/Instagram – @buckbrennan

100 miles

Last week I set out to run 100 miles in a single week for the first time. Before I reflect on the overall week, here is a brief recap of each day:

Monday – 13.1 miles

  • We kicked off our 100 mile week with a hot, middle-of-the-day, half marathon in the Verdugo mountains. Overall a solid run with pretty steady pacing.

Tuesday – 15 miles

  • Unwisely, I began Tuesday morning with a 50 mile bike ride. After a mid-afternoon nap, I met up with Marc and Katelin and we set out for 15 miles inside of the Santa Monica Mountains. By mile 14 I realized that I had not eaten nearly enough calories to sustain my efforts, and got a bit light headed. I quickly downed two Splits and was feeling back to normal.

Wednesday – 10 miles

  • Another hot day, so we decided on another early evening run. This turned out to be a poor choice as Fryman Canyon was PACKED! My legs felt a bit tired on the uphills, but overall the run was fine.

Thursday – 10 miles

  • THIS SUCKED! We started in the early afternoon and the sun tore me to pieces. Between the sun beating down on me and my lunch not sitting well, I was not having a good time on Thursday. I had to change up the route slightly and skip the last hill.

Friday – 23ish miles

  • Honestly the first 17 miles were awesome. Originally we had two separate 10 mile routes planned, but the first one wound up being 12 miles. That was fine though. The second loop was a 10.9 mile disaster. We cruised through the first 5 miles with the sun beating down on us. I remember saying “just about a 10k left, and we CRUSH 10ks.” Next up was Marc almost stepping on a rattlesnake which lead to me being anxious and stressed out for the next mile or so whenever I heard noises in the rocks and bushes. We came to the start of our final 5 mile climb only to discover that most of the trail had been washed out and was blocked by fallen trees that we had to climb over or scramble under. Those final 5ish miles took us over 2 hours!

Saturday – 20 miles

  • Saturday was a dick. We kicked things off with a 7 mile out and back that I was excited about. I love a tough climb that I then get to turn around and bomb back down. I don’t however, love running uphill, surrounded by pesky gnats, and getting bitten by a horsefly on my collarbone. Mildly annoyed, I reminded myself it’s a part of trail running and I’d soon be flying back down the hill with a big smile on my face! I reached the bottom and a few minutes later Marc popped out of the trail as well. Then Emily came trotting out of the tree line and the look on her face wasn’t a good one. She ate shit on the descent and in the process scraped her hand and knee. Oh and she scratched her phone screen, which she just had replaced. I bet she was so happy that I convinced her to wake up at 5am with me to go for an adventure. As I sat there helping Em pull thorns and gravel out of her skin, Marc let me know that his ankle wasn’t feeling good and he was going to call it instead of run the second loop we had planned. I drove back to LA and ran 13 miles around the Hollywood Reservoir.

Sunday – 8.7 miles

  • An anti-climatic final Trash Trucks loop in Griffith.

There it is, my 100 mile week.

Overall reflection:

Back in April, I was supposed to race Badwater Salton Sea 81 miler. When that was cancelled, Marc suggested I run the distance over the course of the week the race was scheduled for. I took the bait for that idea and told Marc he’d have to do the same if AC100 was cancelled. Flash forward to this past week and sure enough AC100 was cancelled.

I haven’t been running much, so on day 1 I told Marc he could count on me for 30-50 miles. I was only kidding myself, because everyone else knew that if I started this, I’d want to finish it.

Each day presented some new challenges, and I started discovering that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. Each run left me feeling more of a sense of accomplishment, and more grateful for the ability to pursue this goal.

All that remained going into Sunday’s run was 8.6 miles, and I was feeling great! I met up with Dax, Miguel, and Katelin and we set out for the final few miles. As my watch beeped at the 8th mile Katelin said I looked better than I did back in April at the end of my 80+ mile week. For the next three quarters of a mile my legs felt rejuvenated. Stride for stride my cadence was light and bouncy.

And then, I was done. The overall accomplishment was satisfying, but reminded me that I had more in the tank. I like to remind people that they are stronger than they think. That if they ignore the voice in their head that tells them to stop, they will achieve much more than they ever imagined. I feel like I made 100 miles seem like a mountain of a task, and when I finished, it reminded me that every mountain can be climbed.

Final note – Yes, I ran with a few different friends this week. We ran with buffs and with space between us.

Run happy, friends!

InsideTracker

Last year I made the choice to finally take my running seriously. I reached out to my friend, badass ultra runner Hillary Allen, and asked if she would be my coach. We came up with a training program and I hit the trails running.

I had signed up for Badwater Salton Sea, an 81 mile race scheduled for this April. 2019’s winners finished in just over 15 hours, and 5th place came in at 18 hours. In conversations with my race partner and our crew, I set a goal of placing top 5.

No matter how many Hillarepeats™ I crushed, I knew that if I wasn’t fueling my body properly, I wouldn’t reach the goals I had set. I enlisted the help of my friend Jonathan Levitt who works for InsideTracker. InsideTracker is a group of incredible scientists who are driven to help optimize your body from the inside out.

I opted for their Ultimate test package which included a 42 biomarker blood panel. I went to a local clinic to have my blood drawn and then it was sent off to the lab for testing. About a week later I had my results, and I was geeking out over the information.

Out of the 42 biomarkers that I had tested, 33 were optimized, 4 were in the “needs work” category, and 5 were “at risk.” Along with the results comes personalized nutrition recommendations based on your biomarkers. You have the ability to filter recommendations based off of any dietary restrictions you may have.

Armed with this new data, I focused on the areas that needed improvement and that’s when my running elevated to the next level. I began putting on more miles than I ever had and was recovering just as fast as I was running. Leading up to the 81 miler I registered for a 50k. Hillary told me to treat it as just another long training run instead of my goal race. Even with holding back some, and the terrible rain, I managed to PR my 50k by more than 45 minutes.

I’m a big fan of quality over quantity and InsideTracker has provided a major boost to my quality of life. I plan on competing for a long time, and living even longer. I’ve always known that what I put into my body matters, but with the insight that I got from InsideTracker, I now know how to optimize my body.

InsideTracker isn’t just beneficial for elite athletes either, I mean I’m not elite yet and it helped me a ton! They have a wide range of plans available to suit your needs and to help you be the best you possible!

I believe in InsideTracker and I know you will too when you see the results for yourself. You can even use my code, FRIENDSOFJESSE, to get 20% off and a free Inner Age panel.

Dad?

Today was the first day in almost 7 years that I talked to the guy who is supposed to be my dad. John last reached out to me in December of 2013. Well ok, his wife Dawn sent me a friend request on Facebook and then a message. The message explained that his hiatus from my life was due to his ex-wife Nancy.

I took this excuse with a grain of salt because he was gone long before Nancy showed up, but hey I’ll keep an open mind. I happened to be flying home to visit my mom, and meet my nephew Michael who had just been born. I responded to Dawn letting her know that I’d be coming home and that I could take a day and come visit them. She insisted that they would come to me so that I didn’t have to figure out how to get over to them. I thought, okay wow he’s finally making an effort.

The day comes for them to visit, and to my surprise they came early! I was engaged with the conversation for about 10 minutes until the red flags started popping up. With each verbal exchange, I noticed John’s attention shifting. I heard my brother waking up upstairs, and watched John’s eyes shift toward the stairs. It then dawned on me that he wasn’t there to see me, he was there to meet his grandson.

I navigated my way through the rest of that visit and before John left he said he’d keep in touch. Once they were out the door I asked my brother if he had talked to him lately. My brother told me he hadn’t been answering his calls since Michael was born. I felt used but kept a sliver of hope that John meant what he said, that he would finally be a dad.

Which brings us back to today. After writing about my conversation with Jamal, I got to thinking about John. Since I had no way of contacting him I sent Dawn a message on Facebook asking if he was alive. She let me know that they weren’t together anymore, but that he is in fact alive. She even went as far as letting me know that he has been waiting for me to get in touch with him. Well shit, I dropped the ball on that one!(insert facepalm emoji here)

“I’m curious if he’s alive and how he’s doing? Haven’t heard from him in 7 years.” Dawn liked my directness in approaching her. I figured I was entitled to a minor snarky comment. She happily sent me a text message with his contact info. (For those keeping score at home: I had messaged her on Facebook and after a couple back-and-forths she then sent me a text message. Clearly showing that they’ve had my number for 7 years and this was the first time either one of them had ever used it.)

I looked at the contact info for a few seconds. I asked myself if this was really a box that I wanted to open again. Even after I reminded myself that he’s been consistently absent for 32 years, I figured fuck it, what do I have to lose? I sent that green bubble iPhone message and actually got a response after about 5 minutes.

“Yea I am alive good to hear from you call me some time”

I’ve had a few hours to digest that text and I still smirk when I read it. This guy still can’t show some initiative and make an effort. I don’t know why, but I’m going to give him a call. Part of me wonders if I’m just doing a character study, or perhaps I’m digging for some buried treasure of emotional storytelling. Maybe I’m just really watching and learning how to not be a dad so that when the day comes for me to be a dad I know what to do? Spoiler alert, I’m going to be a kick-ass dad someday.

What I do know is that I refuse to hold hate inside of my heart. I refuse to lose hope. I refuse to let the 7 year old kid that is inside of me down. Everything has the potential to be awesome, and maybe John can still provide something. If he doesn’t, well I still have my mom to look up to.

“A true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.” — Zeus, Hercules