Strong Legs, Big Heart

A friend of mine sends me a picture of the weight bench almost every morning telling me how much he was able to bench press that day. This friend is regularly setting PR’s (personal records). This motivates to me to get up and go to the gym. I haven’t been consistent with my weightlifting routine but seeing how my friend is consistently able to lift more and more weight makes me want to approach weightlifting in the same way. So, this week, I went back to the “Arnold” style bodybuilding workouts. Normally, the order of the workouts is Chest\Back\Abs on day 1, Arms on day 2, and Legs on day 3. However, I didn’t want to do leg day on the same day that I would be doing my long runs so I decided to switch up the order and do leg day, arm day, and chest day.

in the middle of set of lunges. Contemplating quitting for the day
in the middle of set of lunges. Contemplating quitting for the day

On Tuesday, I returned to the gym. Leg Day. I started off with 4 sets of 15 Squats at 185lbs. Not as heavy as I was doing last time but it’s been awhile and I wanted to ease back in. I was listening to Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP.” I did my sets- “Not too bad,” I thought. From there I went immediately to Lunges. Again, I went lighter than normal starting off with a pair of 25lbs dumbbells and doing a warmup set of 15. I used a pair of 35 pounders for my 3 work sets. The first set was fine- I was able to do 15. The second set I managed to only get 3. My quads were burning. I wanted to quit. I thought to myself, “maybe I’m doing too much too soon. I’ll try again later.- NO! PICK UP THE WEIGHTS! So what, your quads are burning? Your quads are gonna burn when you’re running up hill after hill after hill. You’re running a hill. PICK UP THE WEIGHTS!”

“- IT’S STILL YO MO’FUCKN SET!”  CT Fletcher’s voice yelled in my head.

I picked up the weights and did another set. I was able to do 8 that time. From there I went on to finish the rest of my workout. When I left, my legs were like jelly. I could barely lift my legs to change in the locker room. Then I had to take the stairs.

There's an elevator right next to this. No pain no gain.
There’s an elevator right next to this. No pain no gain.

My legs were jelly, but they still weren’t sore.

Two days later, my brother Mike, the ultrarunner, asks if I want to hit the trails again? I say “sure.” I meet him up, and we go back to Robber’s Peak in Anaheim Hills. Last week, we did a five mile loop. I thought we were going to do the same loop again but as we got to the top of the trail that leads back to the parking lot, my brother says, “let’s go this way. We’ve got time.” So we added a few more miles to the trail.

Chutes trails is my favorite.
Chutes trails is my favorite.
Chutes trail as seen from above
Chutes trail as seen from above

My brother was limping a little bit when we first arrived to the trail. I asked what was wrong and he told me that one of his toes was injured but that it wouldn’t be too bad once he’d run a couple miles. I spent the entire morning trying to keep up with him even though he was dealing with an injury.

My brother Mike tearing up the trails.
My brother Mike tearing up the trails.

The trails were still beautiful and green because of all the rain. It sort of made the pain I was enduring well worth it. Two days after a heavy leg day meant that my legs were completely sore. Taking them on what ended up being an 8 mile run up and down a bunch of hills only made it worse.

Everything looked so green. The camera doesn't even do it justice.
Everything looked so green. The camera doesn’t even do it justice.

It’s been two days now since that run and my legs are still completely sore and if I have to pick something up off the floor, I have to stop and think about whether or not I really want to pick it up or if I should just consider it lost. “Dropped my pen? I’ll get a new one. Dropped my keys? I think I have spares lying around. Dropped my phone? Damn. Ok, here goes…” (very slowly squats down to pick it up, groans, very slowly stands back up).

Seriously, these last couple days have been hard.
Seriously, these last couple days have been hard.


The icing on the cake was this big staircase on that last leg of the course that connects to a very steep trail heading back to the parking lot. Literally next to this steep climb labeled “not recommended for horses” is an easy trail that leads to the exact same place.

My brother says, “let’s go up this way.”

“Really, you don’t want to go this way instead?”

“No, trust me. This will make you strong. You’ll thank me later.”

Up we climbed. I probably will thank him but it’ll be waaaaayyy later.

Stairs... why'd it have to be stairs
Stairs… why’d it have to be stairs
You're reward at the top of the stairs? A steep trail which even horses would rather not deal with.
You’re reward at the top of the stairs? A steep trail which even horses would rather not deal with.

I’m glad that I’m getting back on the trails. I was telling my brother that the toughest part of Tough Mudder is the terrain, not the obstacles. I’m sure most people quit just because they get tired of dealing with the strenuous climbing involved. This trail system, which includes some technical terrain, is the perfect training ground for ultramarathons and obstacle course races. Plus, the fresh air and the views beat running on a treadmill or around a track any day. It’s also fun running with my brother because he’s able to share with me the wisdom he’s gained from years of training and running ultramarathons. I have also found strong support and motivation from friends and family cheering me on. It is a lot easier to stay motivated when you have so much love in your corner, so many people that believe in you.

I’ve received a lot of advice from experienced ultrarunners this week. Three things I took away- 1. I need to increase my mileage (60 miles per week at least). 2. I need to listen to my body. 3. I can do it-it’s all mental.

-Increase of mileage makes my body (heart, lungs, legs, etc.) stronger. Mental is interchangeable with willpower, or heart. Rocky had heart and he went the distance…

So 2 things are needed to be successful: strong legs and a big heart.

Only 3 more weeks until Tough Mudder.

10 more weeks until the Born to Run ultramarathon.

32 more weeks until the EC100.

God Bless,

John Flores