Running up, over and through the cogs

Posts tagged “Namibia

Joys of a Journey that Never Ends

“We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry.”

E.B. White

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Me, greeting and embracing my wife, Edna, at the finish line of Racing the Planet’s 2016 250k Sahara Race (Namibia)

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

I’ve heard it all before. Keep running like you do and you’ll be sorry.

WRONG.

I’ll be ecstatic! And guess what… I am!

Before I found running I was an overweight, depressed young man with little to look forward to. I was wandering the earth (from my couch) lost, disconnected socially, struggling to define myself.

Getting off my ass saved my life and sent me on a journey that has taken me all over the globe. It led me to start my own successful business. It’s how I found my wife.

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

jeff-lung-before-and-after

Um… no.

I started this blog 5 years ago knowing on I was on the cusp of something special. The changes that were taking place in my body and in my mind were beyond positive. I was excited to wake up every morning, to see what great things I could do in my community, to see where the boundaries of limitations might be on any given day, only to push them back a bit further and transform into a better version of myself. I wanted to share my journey. I wanted to inspire others.

Though my posting frequency has dropped off a bit this year, I am happy to report that the journey is alive and well. In May, I accompanied my (now) wife, Edna Jackeline Vazquez, to Namibia as she raced another 250k across the desert. I tagged along as a race volunteer, much like I did last year in China, and once again, I was extremely impressed with the amount of love, strength and fortitude the ultrarunning community provides. The amount of individual accomplishments witnessed in just one of these 7-day stage races is enough to fill a lifetime. I have now been lucky enough to volunteer at two of them; and I must say I am now eager (and mentally prepared) to compete myself, someday soon. Meanwhile, my wife only has one more race to go, The Last Desert: Antarctica, before she becomes a member of the ultrarunning elite 4 Deserts club.

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In June, with just one hour and two minutes to spare before the 32-hour cutoff, I crossed the finish line of the Mohican Trail 100, arms raised, legs shot, brain fried. It was a grueling, soul crushing challenge that I never gave up on, despite not being in the best mental space. A full report is certainly in order, but the short version is that I had to adapt from the original race plan and dig deep to finish all on my own, without a pacer, fighting an overwhelming desire to sleep and the urge to quit entirely.

I also sat in a hot tub in my hotel after the race which deserves a report of its own. I highly recommend.

Jeff Lung Mohican 100 2016

In July, I got married! I married my ultimate pacer for life, Edna, whom I met through… yep, RUNNING… thus completing (and also starting anew) the continued life-as-an-ultramarathon metaphor. It was a glorious day filled with love, joy and Michael Jackson dance moves. Te amo, mi amor!

jeff and edna wedding

My business continues to make a difference in the lives of those looking for change. I am thankful to be witness every day to life altering hard work and dedication. Losing weight, getting stronger, being the best versions of themselves possible — my students continue to impress with their willingness to explore their limits on the paths of their own journeys. A young boxer I work with, Alex “The Bull” Garcia, is the epitome of such hard work and dedication. He comes to work hard every day, striving to be the best he can be, knowing that sport can be the door to an open mind and a brighter future.

Iron Lung Fitness boxing

In Alex Garcia’s corner of his most recent match which he dominated and won.

My own boxing career continues as well as I prepare for an October 1 bout in Libertyville (more details to come). Meanwhile, Edna and I are planning to make a reappearance at the Evergreen Lake Ultra (51 Miles), a race we thoroughly enjoyed back in 2014, as well as run the 2016 Chicago Marathon, together. The latter will be the ultimate combination of my favorite race meets my favorite person. We plan to run side by side the whole way.

I look forward to celebrating in the streets!

So to my fellow run crazies, the next time someone says to you:

You won’t be able to do that forever, you know.

You’ll ruin your knees.

You’re too skinny.

Just remember:

It saved my life.

It brought me my wife.

It gave me a reason to get up and be the best version of myself possible, each and every day.

jeff and edna wedding selfie

 

 

 

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I’m Still Ruuuunnnniiiing!

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I never stopped running. I never will. It’s who I am.

Since my last adventure recall back in September, life jumped down my throat, taking wild swings and unforeseen chops — testing me in every way like an ultra eats at you, mile by mile, aid station by aid station, poisoning you with thoughts of quitting, thoughts of defeat. It was tough. No question. But I didn’t give up. I put my head down and kept pounding pavement. I laughed. I cried. I fought.

Considering the severity of issues I faced, I found great difficulty in committing my thoughts to a public realm. The time wasn’t right. I needed separation. I needed solace.

I needed space.

But I never stopped running.

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(Edna, Melvin and I, minutes before the bell rings)

I never will. It’s who I am.

November was a “rest” month. I took it easy, but shook my legs out regularly.

December was much the same, though I admit, these days I much fancy an hour long treadmill slog over a slick 20 degree bone chiller.

Like last year, January began my boxing training in earnest. I ran regularly (4-5 days a week) to stay conditioned, but much of my training focused on sport specific drills, including sparring. At the same time, my business, Iron Lung Fitness, doubled in size, leading to a heavier teaching load, including four aerobics classes each week that I led like Richard Simmons on Red Bull (still do! check them out!).

February introduced me to Alex Garcia, a local talent with big boxing ambitions. I took him under my wing and we went to war and had a great showing in March. I am very proud of him and look forward to his bright future.

(Alex "The Bull" Garcia)

(Alex “The Bull” Garcia)

And just last night, I followed up my 2015 Chicago Golden Gloves Championship with a trip to the 2016 Semi-Finals. The decision didn’t go my way, but I gave it my all and learned a whole lot about myself along the way, including the fact that I will be back in the ring sooner than later.

BOOM!

Self discovery = Putting myself in extreme situations that measure the size of my heart, mental strength and ability to adapt.

Getting in the ring and committing to combat… running a balls-out-marathon… covering 100 miles on my own two tired feet.

This is not the life everyone would choose. But it’s the only one I know.

I’ll never stop running.

It’s who I am.

(Working the mitts with the best partner one could ask for)

(Working the mitts with the best partner one could ask for)

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(Part of the Iron Lung team)

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(Me, Edna and Papá Arturo)

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***

NEXT UP…

My lovely fiancee, Edna Jackeline Vazquez, is training for Racing the Planet’s 250k race across the Namibian Desert and I’m going with her! Like I did in the Gobi last year, I am tagging along to work as a race volunteer and assure she doesn’t get homesick after 7 days of sand-trekking without a shower. It begins May 1st and I can hardly wait for all the adventure to come!

When we return, we will have just enough time to rest before running the Mohican 100, June 18-19. This is Edna’s birthday weekend and I promised her two belt buckles as a gift, even though it will most certainly require a bit of crying, pain and suffering. HAPPY MUTHAFUCKIN BIRTHDAY!!!

Mohican is a beast and we both know it.

Oh well. Bring it on, Mohican!

And after that? Who knows… maybe the Chicago Marathon if I can get in. Maybe some more local trail races. A real non-working vacation would be nice. And I imagine another fight or two or three will be on the schedule.

One thing is for sure in the Lung-Vazquez household: we don’t take no easy roads.

Hands up.

Chin down.

Go to work.