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Gut Check Fitness

26 Posts tagged with the fitness tag


Hey Gang!


Just got back from the 2009 North American Wife Carrying Championship. Here's a link for some quick coverage to give you an idea of what it is.  I will tell ya, it's definitely harder than I thought it would be. Running 300 meters with a 128lb person slung up on ya gets friggin' hard! Plus going through mud, over logs and through a water pit just wears your *** out. We did well but I fell to my knees once on the sand hill and was penalized time which dropped us to 11 place. I'm perfectly fine with that. We went there to jsut have fun. I gotta tell ya they kept announcing the World's Fittest Man is here. Which I hate! Everyone wanted to kick my butt of course. It makes ya nervous. Nik and I lined up against a 29yr old x-country stud and his little wife. He even had on running spikes. I was like "oh ****!" We were neck and neck until the sand hill where I tripped to my knees. He wanted to beat me so bad he launched over the hill and drove her into the ground!haha...Luckily it was soft. I got back up and passed to win by 3 seconds. Made me work. Just a good time. I would do it again. I love events like this that are fun, goofy but challenging. Isn't that we're after in the long run anyway? You gotta have the fun factor! Getting settled back in. I'll start putting up daily workouts tomorrow. Time for me tos start training for the Barkley 100 Miler so will keep ya posted.  Got that then Texas Water Safari and hopefully La Ruta de los Conquistadores. Remember, don't take yourself to seriously. Enjoy life and have one helluva good time while doing it!



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Had a great group this morning, about 20 people. I'm telling ya gang this stuff can be hard to do alone so try to find another twisted sicko to join ya! Also, if you have some about as fast or faster training with you, you will both get stronger and faster through competitive competition. It does work!



As I've told ya before, there's about 50 of us getting ready for the Boot Camp Challenge next month and then the big Gut Check Challenge, Nov 14th. So we're training our ***** off! Upper body stuff, Mon & Wed, lower body Tues & Thurs, a mix on Friday. Today we got after some short but strenuous 200 meter repeats then some lower strength. Here's how it went;


  • 1 Mile warm-up

  • 8 x 200m - *note, you can run them on a track or whereever you choose. 8 on a track can be boring but you can watch your times better. I like to mix them up and screw with peoples heads so we did 5 on the flat through the neighborhood, then 3 repeats up a long ramp, that sucked! But kick *** training.

  • 1min box jumps

  • 2 x 30 sec side step ups - left & right for 30 each

  • 2 x 30 sec single leg squats with a hop

  • 5 burpees w/pu

  • 10 walking lunges

  • 5 burpees

  • 10 reverse lunges

  • 5 burpees

  • 5 single leg long jumps - each leg

  • 5 burpees

  • 10 more walking lunges

  • 5 burpees

  • 30 sec decline sit-ups - spin it around to;

  • 30 sec decline leg lifts

  • 5-10 min stretch


This is a great little lower body smoke session. Listen, fat & speed are bitter enemies! Run faster, wathc what you shove in your pie hole and you will get leaner. Get after it!



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Endurance blast 5-09-09

Posted by JoeDecker Jun 9, 2009

Today we did a middle distance blast. Nothing fancy, but very effective if you want to stay truly 'full body fit.' Remember, fitness by definition is cardio endurance, muscular endurance & strength, flexibility and your body fat composition. To have well rounded cardio endurance, I like to incorporate hills & stairs, speed work, tempo runs, fartleks and the list goes on. This morning we hit some middle distance speed pace work followed by calisthenics:


  • warm-up x 800 meters or half mile

  • timed mile - about 80-90%

  • 2 min rest

  • timed half mile - 80-90%

  • 2 min rest

  • another timed mile - goal to match or get better time than first!

  • 2 min rest

  • 50 alternating step-ups

  • 15 side step-ups *each leg

  • 15 single leg squats with hop *each leg

  • 15 front step-ups *each leg

  • 15 partner hamstring falls

  • 5-10 minutes of stretching



It's a great workout but you got to get after it. Will definitely help you increase your race times and also lose weight. Fat does not like speed!haha...Enjoy!



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Keeping fitness fun!

Posted by JoeDecker May 12, 2009

I've been actively working out and competing in everything from Powerlifting to Track & Field for 25 years now. Wow, where does the time go! People ask me all the time, "How do you stay motivated to stick with it? Don't you get bored?" My answer is always NO! I love putting myself out there and always trying to see just what this human body can do. That being said, I have also found that for me it's very important to look for new fun, interesting and challenging events to try. "Variety is the spice of life!"


I know we all have a favorite activity whether it be running, cycling, lifting, etc. but I truly think it does the body and the mind good to try new activities. It not only helps to keep ya mentally sharp but cross training can also help you avoid over training injuries. I am a firm believer in the benefits of x-training expecially as we get older.


Don't be afraid to try something new, you just might like it. If you're a runner, trying cycling, swimming, paddling or adventure racing. If you're a powerlifter try a strongman competition or Highland game. If you do cardio, try a strength event and vise versa. Don't focus on winning just on having fun. It's all about the 'fun factor!'


A couple weeks ago I decided to have my own challenging but fun event, The Gut Check Challenge. It's one part Boot Camp, one part Strongman and one part cardio craziness. It consisted of suicides, burpees, tire flipping, truck pulling and carrying stones out of a canyon. Good stuff and a great time was had by all! You can check out the action here -


So remember, try to keep it fun. Don't take it serious all the time. Try something different or challenging for a fun break. And never ever stop playing like a child!


Joe Decker

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It just seems like yesterday that I was back in college at WIU doing what typical college students do. Most of us have been there. But I think back even then that I knew there was something more to life than just partying. I wanted to find out what it was. So I hit the books, graduated with honors, moved to DC for my internship and in 2000 broke the Guinness World Record for Fitness. Oh, I still like to work hard and play harder but I truly do believe that we should all strive for greatness. It's inside all of us, you just have to find it and go for it. There's an old saying that goes, "Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you'll fall amongst the stars!" I am very honored to receive this award and looking forward to attending my alma mater on Friday!


Work Out with the World's Fittest Man & WIU Alum Joe Decker on April 17


MACOMB, IL -- If you're looking for inspiration to get into shape, look no further than Western Illinois University alumnus Joe Decker. In 2000, Decker made his mark on the fitness world by breaking the Guinness Book of World Records' 24-Hour Fitness Challenge, giving him the right to claim the title of "World's Fittest Man."


Decker, who graduated from WIU in 1998 with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology, is the recipient of the College of Education and Human Services' 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award and will be on WIU's Macomb campus during COEHS Week (April 13–17) speaking to and working out with students.


"Fitness Boot Camp with Joe Decker" will be held at 11 a.m., Friday, April 17 at the Donald S. Spencer Student Recreation Center, and at 2 p.m. Friday, April 17, in Stipes Hall 121, Decker will be talking about his fitness journey and the importance of maintaining a healthy and fit lifestyle.


Once overweight and out of shape, Decker is an ultra-endurance power athlete, renowned fitness trainer and syndicated columnist who has helped thousands of women, men, kids and seniors get into shape and lose weight. Decker is a personal testament to overcoming addictions and obstacles, and he has founded his own high-speed fitness company working with individuals, groups and corporate clients. In addition, Decker is regularly involved in charity work and has established a research fund at WIU for childhood obesity from his winnings on the television show "The Weakest Link."


Both of Decker's appearances on WIU's Macomb campus on Friday, April 17 are open free to the public and help celebrate this year's University theme, "Health and Wellness: Challenges and Responsibilities."


To learn more about Decker, visit his website at For more information about Decker's visit to WIU's Macomb campus, as well as about COEHS Week, contact Dana Moon, assistant to the dean in the College of Education and Human Services, at (309) 298-1690 or

981 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: fitness, daily-musings, ultra-marathon, joe-decker, world?s-fittest-man, gut-check-fitness-class, gut-check, outdoor-fitness, get-fit-with-the-world?s-fittest-man, extreme, strongman, barkley, 100, ba, joe, decker, world?s-fittest-man100

Just like many of you, I'm all about 'shocking the body!' Unfortunately as we get older, more fit or just plain stupid-er, it becomes more difficult and we have to get more creative. For most people just maintaining 50% is good enough. But of course not for us 'Gut Checkers', we're 110% all the time, even when we're taking it easy! This pertains to cardio, to lifting heavy weights and many times to partying. Hey, it's our gig and what we like.


So, this morning I was feeling a little frisky since it was my day for hill or stair repeats. I have a love - hate relationship with gravity. Dragging my 200lb carcass up and down stairs or hills is a constant struggle against gravity. Oh to be a buck ten, but then I couldn't lift heavy stuff, I'll stay two bills. I took the gang to H*ll's Hill, a local infamous asphalt monster that's 180 yards long with a 15-20%. Trust me, sometimes crawling comes to mind. We started out with one easy warm-up run, gasp, gasp, then do some warm-ups, with lunges, side lunges, single leg hops, running backwards, etc. Next came a fun little suicide, up to 2nd water sprinkler back, to the 4th and back, and so on. Pretty tough. Then the fun part. A timed half mile on the hill, 6 non-stop repeats with your lungs burning and the lactic acid pumping. This took us about 15 minutes of serious quivering quad fun. Ok, easy job back to the park. Hey, we got 10 minutes, so we finished off the morning with suicide repeats on Satan's Stairs, it has 108 steps. Ahhh, where's my water. Yes, it's over.


As I sit and write I my calves and quads are cramping, my knees are still knocking and man, do I feel good! I can't imagine not going 110% or changing it up. What have you done this week to 'shock your own body?!' Get after it! Have fun!



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The Barkley 100 Mile trail run, this is the toughest race I've ever run in my life. Having completed the the Badwater 135 (twice), the Marathon des Sables, the Grandslam of Ultrarunning and countless other endurance events, I thought I'd have no problem at Barkley, was I seriously mistaken! Last year I completed 2 loops of the 5 loop race before pulling myself at the end of loop 2 due to injury. Here's a link to my last year's Barkley farewell -[]


It's in progress right now with one runner left. Go Andrew! I had every intention of going back this year and was even invited again. Unfortunately this year I injured myself 2 months before the race during a 50k training run. As you can imagine I was and still am pretty disappointed. I would give anything to be out there with the other 35 runners slugging it out with the Barkley. Oh well, there's always next year. I broke the Guinness World Record when I turned 30 and plan on taking Barkley out next year when I turn 40! Oh, and Running with the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain too.



I truly feel that we were all put here on this big ole wonderful planet to do incredible things, not to let life pass us by. Find your Barkley whatever it may be and go for it! "We're not here for a long time, but for a good time!"



1,261 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: fitness, daily-musings, ultra-marathon, joe-decker, world?s-fittest-man, gut-check-fitness-class, gut-check, outdoor-fitness, get-fit-with-the-world?s-fittest-man, extreme, strongman, barkley, 100, ba

People ask me all the time, "How were you able to do 1100 push-ups or 3000 crunches for Guinness Book?" Many times these numbers are almost too much for the mind to comprehend. Heck, they were for me at first. I remember when I first joined the US Army, 12 push-ups on my first PT test. That was it. You needed 60 to pass. That seemed virtually unattainable. But with the help of my 'friendly' Drill Sergeant I was able to do around 100 at the end of Bootcamp. How did that happen?


Here's the trick or atleast what has worked for me over the years. Also, this can be applied to running a marathon, a 100 miler, bench pressing 400lbs or pulling car. Take your ultimate goal and break it down into manageable & realistic sets over a realistic time frame. For instance, when I first started running, couldn't run a full mile. Well, kept with it then ran a 5k, 10k, half marathon and eventually a marathon. Did it hurt, yes, but was it worth it, of yeah! Then decided, hmm, can do a marathon, now let's try a 50k. How about a 50 miler. Ok, what about 100 miles. From 1 mile to finish 100 miles took me 10 years but I do feel that it can be achieved much faster. I've worked with clients that have started at 10k's to the marathon and done the 100 miler in less than a couple years. You can do it. Just gotta be smart and want it bad enough. Back to 1000 reps. Ok, could do 100 push-ups without much trouble, now add 10 more at the end of each set. 2 months later, 250 push-ups with quick breaks at every 25 or so. 2 months later 500 push-ups with quick 10 sec. breaks at the end of 10 reps. Within 1 year hit 1100 push-ups for Guinness Book in 45 minutes. Applied this same methodology, which is actually called "Progressive Overload" to 1100 jumping jacks, leg lifts and 3000 crunches. After Guinness in December 2000 I wanted to attempt the World Record for Push-ups in 1 hour, which was 3,500 at the time. My goal was 57 push-ups a minute for that hour. So again, I broke it down into manageable sets. 30 push-ups, 10 sec break, 27 push-ups, 10 sec break which came to about a minute. I came somewhat close. My max for 1 hour was 3,000 push-ups. Yes, it hurt and I left a puddle of sweat the size of lake. Believe it or not, it wasn't muscle fatigue that got me but my darn blood pressure went through the roof being in the push-up position for an hour. Got a massive pounding migrane and blurry vision, had to call it quits. So the bottom line, no matter what the goal, break it up into manageable blocks over a releastic timeline. Periodically check your progress along the way and the sky is truly the limit. Believe me, if a an out of shape guy like me can go from 12 push-ups to 3000 and 1 mile to 100 miles in 10 years, you can too! The sky is the limit! Never, ever quit or lose site of your dreams and your goals. You'll look back some day and regret. To me, living and eventually dying is being able to look back on judgement day and have the fewest regrets. "Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'!"




Joe Decker W.F.M

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Accordomg to the Scientific American, a great publication by the way, thousands of new cells are generated in the adult brain every day. Within a couple of weeks, most of those newborn neurons will die, unless the animal or human is challenged to learn something new. Learningespecially that involving a great deal of effortcan keep these new neurons alive. So what does that mean for you? You better start exercising your mind unless you want to end up with big muscles but dumber than a box of rocks. And NO, watching Idol or Dancing with the has-been Stars does not count. Get your brain off the couch and let's get started!


Here are couple options that I use. In 2006 my New Year's resolution was to read every Novel that has won a Pulitzer Prize - I'm about 60 books into it now and look forward to it as much as I do the Caveman workout! Also, when we do watch movies, we've been picking them from the AFI's list of the top 100 movies of all time - Pretty much guaranteed to be interesting. In addition to this, I decided to start taking classes at the local Community College at lunch time or after work. In an Astronomy class now that I don't miss. Absolutley love it! Going to take Literature over the summer. Why not?! We're never to old! What are some ways you exercise your mind?

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My 2009 Challenges!

Posted by JoeDecker Jan 21, 2009

People ask me all the time, "Where do you go after breaking a Guinness World Record? What's next?" Let me tell ya, in this day an age someone is always coming up something a little more extreme or even crazier. So even I don't have a problem finding challenging and even fun events to keep myself motivated and in shape. Here's my wish list for 2009. What's yours?


-First, get back to Guinness weight & shape - How? - I'm currently following my own eating & exercise program from my book "The World's Fittest You." Already lost 6lbs, feel better and running faster. It's all about taking baby steps, being realistic and not expecting it to happen overnight.


-Second, I got invited back to the World's Toughest Trail Race, The Barkley 100 Miler Only 7 people have ever completed it. I'm training my butt off and expect to be number 8 this year!


-Third, I'd like to try to qualify for the National Strongman competition in the under 200lb class. I may try it in Indiana. It's going to happen. Just not sure when. Strongman and Ultrarunning make for odd bed fellows. Which I find that much more appealing! The crazier and more insane, the better!


Fourth, and craziest event, The North American Wife Carrying Championship, This one looks to be a blast! I've found it's fun to compete in a broad spectrum of fitness events, from the serious to the just plain fun.




Whatever your goals or resolutions are, stick with them. Don't quit on yourself. Odds are you'll be sorry and look back some day and go, "What if?!" Now is the time. Have fun and never stop playing like a kid!

1,264 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: fitness, daily-musings, ultra-marathon, joe-decker, world?s-fittest-man, gut-check-fitness-class, gut-check, outdoor-fitness, get-fit-with-the-world?s-fittest-man, extreme, strongman, barkley, 100, ba

We had our 2nd Annual "Running with the Turkeys 10k" on Thanksgiving Day. About 20 hearty souls showed up to enjoy the little course that I had layed out for them. I told them there would be a couple little water crossings along the way and to be ready. Well, most of them know me and knew this meant they might be swimming. And yes, they were right. It rained the night before and all through the morning of. I was a little nervous that it might be a little too muddy but decided to give it a try. What's a little mud amongst friends? The mud wasn't too bad and the rain let up but when we got to the water crossing at the half way point, it was a raging torrent! Yikes! So, rather than have everyone cross there I decided to do it up stream over a bed of reeds. It was still waist deep but not as strong. I stood midstream to make sure that no bodies floated away. Everyone made it across with only a couple people going under and Jeff Martini, of course crying like a baby!;-) I got what I thought was everyone in around 9:20 AM, only to find out we still had 2 lost in the canyon. Great, there goes my mimosa drinking time! I had about 8 bottles of champagne and OJ at the end. I went back out and couldn't find them so decided I'd better go guard the mimosas with Martini, Fran, Doug, Nancy and the rest of the crew back there drinking. I think Jeff White, Marnie, Pam, Eldar and I finished off most of the cocktails about the time the 2 lost runners showed up. Asia and Chuck has spent 3 1/2 hours running back and forth in the canyon. Not fun! Sorry guys! All and all, race turned out extremely well and everyone had a great time! Oh, our first runner in was our oldest, Doug, at 51! He's a machine and a die hard Gut Check fan! There's all kinds of fun stuff out there to challenge yourself. Just look! "Never stop playing like you're a kid!" Stay tuned for our 1st Annual "Gut Check Challenge" coming up Feb. 28th. Don't miss out!


Joe Decker

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How many times have you found yourself telling people, "Do as I say, not as I do." Most likely plenty of times. Being a Fitness Professional I constantly get asked questions concerning eating and exercise. My motto is, "work hard and play harder!" This means I love to run, lift weights and stay active, but on the flip side, I love to drink wine, eat pizza and smoke the occasional cigar. As you can see, opposite ends of the spectrum. But hey, I'm an extremist.


This has been all fine and dandy until lately. Sometimes life passes us by and we just go with the flow. It's easy to get caught up and then tell yourself, "well I'm not that bad." Compared to what or who? In 2000 I broke a Guinness World Record and followed it up with some other crazy events like the Raid Gauloises, the Badwater 135, the Marathon des Sables, the Tough Guy Challenge and other fun stuff. But even extreme and challenging stuff has started to fade.


I know I'm getting older and I will slow down, but wait, not yet. A couple weeks ago I got on the scales and the dial screamed - 203lbs?! What the ....?! Ok, I'm not a big believer in the scales. But 203?! I tell myself, "We need to start thinking about this." That same day I'm out for a jog and a guy probably 10 years older and 10 lbs heavier than I am passes me on MY running trail. Ok, gotta catch him and show him who's boss. Ok, faster legs. Uh-oh, can't catch him. Feel like I'm going pass out. What the ....?!


Time for the wake up call buddy! My little speech of, "Do as I say, not as I do" has finally caught up with me. Too much wine, pizza and cigars. Ok pal, time cowboy up. But where to begin?


And then it hit me or at least I noticed it on my bookshelf. Five years ago I published a book with Penguin Publishing Company called "The World's Fittest You." It's about a fat out-of-shape guy, which is me, that turns his life around to become a Guinness World Record Holder. An amazing story, if I do say so myself!;-)


I grabbed it from the shelf, copied down the shopping list, and looked over the workout program. Time to get the party started as they say and follow my own advice.


I've now been following the eating and exercise program that I wrote five years ago and feel great! I've lost 10 lbs in 2 weeks and my strength and endurance have increased. If only it could tell me how to grow more hair!;-)


Remember next time you tell someone, "Do as I say, not as I do" that maybe some day you may have to step and actually "Do as you do" yourself! And it's actually not that bad. Try it!


Have a great day!

949 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: fitness, daily-musings, ultra-marathon, joe-decker, world?s-fittest-man, gut-check-fitness-class, gut-check, outdoor-fitness, get-fit-with-the-world?s-fittest-man, extreme, strongman, barkley, 100, ba

Atherosclerosis is what our parents and grandparents used to call hardening of the arteries. It involves the gradual deposit of fatty substances called plaque along the inside of our arteries. As plaque builds up over the years, it can result in blocking the blood supply to one or more parts of the body.


Yet only about half of Americans understand how dangerous atherosclerosis really is, according to a recent Harris survey. Part of the reason is that most people don’t experience any symptoms until it’s too late. Heart attacks kill 600,000 Americans every year.


That’s the bad news. The good news is that atherosclerosis is also highly preventable. Here are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk:


1. Get fit: A great starting point is getting up off the couch and exercise. While it may be tempting to just dive into a new workout routine, you should always check with your doctor to make sure your training plan is right for your current medical condition.Depending on your personal situation and general health, your doctor might recommend a program specifically geared to weight loss, building muscle mass or improving tone.


2. Make necessary lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes can be difficult because they often involve changing or eliminating certain things we really enjoy. I love Mexican food, but I also know that if I don’t moderate my intake, I could be facing weight gain issues.


There are other lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of atherosclerosis. Quitting smoking is always in season. And keeping an eye on your LDL cholesterol is another way to good heart health. (LDL cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol that can result in more plaque deposits in your arteries. It only takes a little bit of homework to make sure your diet is low in cholesterol.)


3. Talk with your doctor: Sometimes, you need a little more than diet or exercise to maintain proper heart health. Sometimes it’s genetic and there is not a lot you can do about it. In those cases, there are a number of medications you can discuss with your doctor that can slow down the process of hardening arteries.


A simple aspirin can reduce the chance of blood clots formed by platelets that can clump together in the bloodstream. Some statins have even been shown to slow the progression of atherosclerosis. There also are anticoagulants like heparin or warfarin that can thin your blood, thereby helping prevent clots.


Remember there is no magic bullet when it comes to keeping your heart muscle and cardiovascular system in good shape. A combination of appropriate lifestyle changes and talking with your doctor about diet, exercise and the use of medications can put you – and keep you – on the road to maintaining a strong and healthy heart.


For more information about heart health, go to:


Us against Athero:

American Heart Association:

Mayo Clinic:




Joe Decker is recognized as "The Worlds Fittest Man" because he is an ultraendurance power athlete, renowned fitness trainer, motivational author and speaker who has helped thousands of women, men, children and seniors get into shape and lose weight. Once overweight and out-of-shape, Joe transformed his body and his life through an amazing journey from fat-to-fit. In 2000, Joe broke the Guinness World Records® 24-hour Physical Fitness Challenge to help inspire and motivate people to get fit. He recently authored the book, The World’s Fittest You, which outlines how anyone can get on the road to a lifetime of physical fitness with hard work and discipline.

1,488 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: fitness, daily-musings, ultra-marathon, joe-decker, world?s-fittest-man, gut-check-fitness-class, gut-check, outdoor-fitness, get-fit-with-the-world?s-fittest-man, extreme, strongman, barkley, 100, ba

The Barkley 100 Miler has come and gone. Just like that it's over. Still, I find myself sitting here some what dazed and confused, trying to figure out what exactly happened to me.


December 26th, 2007, I send my application in for Barkley 2008. I'm doubtful that I'll even get in due to the popularity. A couple weeks later I get an email from Gary Cantrell with this very memorable line, "Hi Joe, be careful of what you wish for." Being a young strapping man I let this comment slide. How tough can it be?


I put together what I consider to be a pretty comprehensive training program for the upcoming race. I spend weekend after weekend running local hills and trails. Many of the hills aren't that tall but really, how tough can Barkley be? I've been to Himalayas for crying out loud.


The weeks roll by and Barkley is almost here. Nicole organizes a surprise Barkley fundraiser event and invites many of my friends. Great people, good times and it's time to go.


Saturday, March 22, I land in Nashville, rent a car and off to Wartburg TN I go. Roll into Frozen Head State Park about 5pm in the evening. Set up my tent, organize race gear and I'm ready to go. Uh-oh, need a map of the park. Ranger Michael pulls up and we chat. Great guy. He has an extra map at the station and goes to get it for me. Very cool. Now I'm ready to go scout come first light.


Sunday morning, I awake to temps in the 40's. Yikes, this is cold for a So Cal boy. Takes me a couple hours to get things organized and ready to go. Gotta have my coffee, eggs and bacon first. Necessary gear - check, compass - check, map - check, I'm ready to go or so I think. I know how to navigate using a map and compass. Used to do it all the time when I was with the 10th Mountain Light Infantry Division. Should be no problem even though that was 15 years ago. I head out on the trail and find Book 1 no problem. This is going to be easy. The next portion is unmarked trail meaning no orange blazes or road signs. Now the real navigating test begins. Within an hour I find myself terribly lost. Use the map dummy. Uh, I can't even find myself on the map. This could be a problem. It's getting cold, don't have much food or the necessary warm clothing. Now I think, great some Girl Scout troop is going to find your frozen carcass out here come spring. Survival mode takes over. Using my compass I shoot an azimuth in the direction I think I need to go to return to camp. Unfortunately this means wading streams, busting through briers and climbing impossible inclines. Onward I stumble for a couple hours only to eventually come across the trail that I needed 4 hours ago. Nice job stud. Hurriedly I make it back to camp to lick my wounds and get ready for day two. It's got to be better.


Monday morning I awake to about an inch of snow on the ground and frigid temps. Ok, this is officially no fun. Be tough ya big wimp. Ok, yesterday was a disaster but it'll be better today. Right? Let's hope so. Out I go to pick up the trail I stumbled upon towards the end. Got it. Onward I go. Ok, not so bad. Orienteering skills are coming back. I find Books 2 - 7. It's a great navigating day. But wow, is this trail brutal. Are we really supposed to run this?


Tuesday morning comes, still cold and now I have a sinus and lung infection. Thanks irony, just what I need while climbing mountains is to be out of breath. Ok, only 3 more books to go. Off I go and have no problem finding them. My map reading is back. It's about time. Feeling confident. No problem.


Wednesday. It's taken me 3 days to locate and cover the 20 mile loop that is supposed to take me less than 12 hours. This could be an issue. I decide to wake at 0430 hours and attempt the entire 20 mile loop in the reverse direction. A little voice asks, might this be just a little too many miles on your body this close to the race? Let's see, 13 miles on Sun, 20 miles on Mon, 10 miles on Tues and now another 20 miles today. Hmmm, 63 miles less than a week before the race. Yes, this could be an issue. Do I risk over training or the possibility of getting lost during the run? I decide to risk the over training. I've put in lots of hill training before hand and should be fine. Unfortunately I make the wrong decision. The climbs along the way are no problem, but the insanely steep descents start to make my knees sing. And it's not a very pleasant tune. I've never had patellar tendinitis but have read about it in books. Lucky me, I feel all the symptoms that I've read about in my own knees as I stagger back into camp. I'm worried but what can I do. Ok, two days to go, get plenty of rest and you'll be fine by race start on Sat.


Thursday I pick-up Jeff Martini at the Nashville airport. Luckily Jeff has volunteered to come and crew for me during the race. Thanks Jeff. We head to Darnelles to buy more supplies. We're ready to go. I've got plenty of coffee, pb & jelly, POP Tarts, Snickers bars and everything else. Jeff has plenty of beer and lighter fluid to play with the fire while I'm gone. We're set.


Saturday morning comes. The big day is here. We awake around 6am to a cold thunderstorm that has continued throughout the night. Great. This is Barkley for ya. Expect the worst weather. Now I know what they mean. Jeff makes a hot breakfast. I get all my gear ready to go. Nerves are on edge. They blow the ceremonial conch shell to signal one hour until race start. It's almost here. What to wear? I decide to wear my Army pants that I trained in rather than shorts. This will turn out to be a bad call. Food is packed, water bottles filled and we line up at the start.


8:41 AM and Gary lights the official race starting cigarette. And we're off. Loop 1 goes smoothly. I find all the books and am back in camp in around 9 1/2 hours. Way ahead of schedule. Unfortunately it's now much hotter than the previous days and my clothes are soaked with sweat. I know that I have to change into dry clothes or I'll freeze during the colder night temps. No more pants but shorts should be fine now. Wrong. This will turn out to be a very painful lesson. I also decide to leave my jacket behind thinking that a lightweight long sleeve shirt is enough. Wrong again. Off I go. The sun sets quickly, the temperatures drop and it begins to rain. Uh-oh, it's getting real cold all of a sudden. Just move faster I think. This should work. It does for awhile. I get out my new REI flashlight. Time to test you out. Another HUGE mistake. You don't test out new gear during a race. Batteries go dead in about an hour. I change them. These go dead. I change them. Last set, they go dead in about 15 minutes. Oh crap, it's cold, rainy, very foggy, extremely dark and I'm under dressed. Nice job Einstein. I've got 10 miles to go and only have a very crappy headlamp that can penetrate about a foot into the thick fog. I stumble on. Through brier bush after brier bush I go. My body eventually shuts out the pain inflicted from each cut. They begin to feel like being emerged in warm water. Ok, this is probably not good. I'm up, I'm back down, I fall sideways, I fall forward and I fall backward. This is ridiculous. It's virtually impossible to stay on my feet in the rough terrain without light. This is what ya get for pulling such a moronic move. I want to strangle the salesperson that sold the light. Luckily for me I'm able to hook up with Blake that has done the race before. He has a good light and let's me follow along. Half way down Zip Line ridge I slip off a wet rock, fall about five feet and feel my already sore right knee twist painfully. I knew it right then that my Barkley race was over. You're done buddy. No, this can't be. Try to shake it off. I stumble on and am able to cover about 5 miles in 6 hours.


Even though I still have enough time to continue on for the 3rd loop and a possible 60 Mile Fun Run finish, I know that it's not worth it. I might have considered it at an ordinary 100 miler but not at Barkley. Quit. Drop out. I've never had to do this before. But this is what I now must do. Wow, what a hard pill to swallow. I feel completely fine and know that I could go on if only my knee wasn't throbbing. Gary comes by and I give him the news. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the first nor will I be the last. I head up to the race HQ and let the bugler play Taps for me. Ok, this really sucks.


So, what exactly happened the last couple weeks? It seems like a whirlwind. What just occurred? Still trying to sort things out. What an absolutely incredible, wonderful, powerful, painful, discouraging, enlightening experience. Am I depressed or upset that I didn't finish Barkley? I don't think so. I actually feel a little giddy maybe even happy. Why you might ask? Even though I didn't complete the 5 loops that I so desired, I did learn a considerable amount about myself out there on the trail. They say adversity creates character. If that's true, my character just doubled. Also, I now have something to look forward to next year. Barkley is my personal mountain to climb or ocean to cross. I told Gary that I'll continue to come back year after year until I complete the 100 mile course. It might happen next year or possibly never. Regardless, I have a goal, a challenge, a dream. I think that this famous line from the movie Fight Club sums it up best, "I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid, then I ran some more!"


A special thanks to Nicole for holding down the fort while I was gone, to Jeff Martini for hanging out in the woods with me, to all the people that supported me with this crazy endeavor and to Laz for making this friggin' insane event known as The Barkley possible. Thank you all!

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"Who's afraid of the dark?!"

Posted by JoeDecker Feb 25, 2008

For the past few months I've been training for the Barkley 100 Miler that takes place March 29th. It's considered one of, if not the toughest trail race in the world. Only 6 people in 20 years have finished. So, I've been training my butt off with big dreams of possibly finishing this monster.


I went out to Cuayamaca State Park last Saturday in the afternoon to put in a 50 Mile Training run by myself. I get out there, park my Harley and ask the Ranger if it is ok to leave it there while I go for a run. She asks how far, I say 50 miles. She then asks, "All at one time?" I say yes, hopefully be done around 1-2 AM. She says, "You're going to be out there after dark?!" I say yes. She says, "OH! That's when the Big Boys come out!" I know she means mountain lions. I try to act like I'm not scared but now she has planted the seed!


I take off, it's a beautiful afternoon. I'm at the edge of the Anza Borrego Desert when the sun sets. Absolutely breath taking. Now the sun is down. No problem. I'm an ex-hunter/ex-soldier/all around tough guy. I ain't scared of the dark or any old mountain lions. No sir.


As the time goes by in the dark, I hear the normal forest critters. Coyotes howling in the distance, owls in the trees and other normal noises. No big deal. It's pitch black without a soul in sight. I'm completely alone. For some reason I keep thinking, "that's when the Big Boys come out!" Darn it, I can't get it out of my head!;-)"


Then it happens, about 10 PM I hear a far off scream that sounds like a woman being strangled. Having heard it before, I knew the sound. It was one of the Big Boys announcing his arrival! Goose bumps crawl up my neck but I try to convince myself it's no big deal. For some reason that always becomes difficult when you're alone in the woods.


I notice that my pace has increased, dramatically! I still have roughly 20 miles to go and the first 30 took me about 7 hours. Great, I've got about 4-5 more hours I'm telling myself. I'm leaping streams in a single bound, running up hills that I would generally walk and pretty much hauling some serious butt. It's funny how this just happens.


Need less to say, instead of 4-5 hours, I make it back to my Harley in a little over 3 hours. Probably a new course record! I'm sweating profusely, my lungs are heaving and my legs are smoked. After I catch my breath, I stand up, collect my composure and try to make sure that no one has witnessed my mad dash out of the woods. Good, no one around.


It wouldn't have mattered anyway. "I'm not afraid of any ole mountain lion. I always run 4 minute miles during my late night trail runs!" Right?!

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