The Power of Big Fat Audacious Goals

Do you get caught up in living today instead of designing tomorrow?

Snap out of it.

Check out what these two guys accomplished with just a little planning.

As an advisor, I can’t tell you the number of times I heard “but” or “I just can’t.” It was discouraging to watch some people achieve everything they wanted for themselves, while others sat in front of the television, so paralyzed by fear that they never reached anything.

I have a close family member who spends much of the time I’m with her saying, “I wish we could…”, or “Some day I’d like to….” in a really whiny voice. It’s clear that this woman has no intentions of ever turning her “I wish” into “I did.”

Let’s talk about the power of getting what you want.

If you listen to our podcast, you’ll know that last weekend I went with two good friends, Troy and Malcolm, to help them run 100 miles. You read that number correctly. They set out to run a race longer than most would ever dream.

If you read this post and think, “This doesn’t apply to me! I don’t think I’d want to run 100 miles,” you’ve completely missed the point. Go read and live in Fantasyland. The point is this: What is it that you want to do? What is your plan to reach that pinnacle?

The course was a 20 mile loop the runners would circle five times. Each loop was a mixture of trails and two-track access roads. Sprinkled around the loops were 3 aid stations, one of which runners would hit twice on their journey. Along with the finish area, runners could stop 5 times each loop for food, water, or first aid.

The day before the race we headed for the pre-event briefing. I was amazed. How many people do you think would try to do something this crazy? There were over 700 runners listening to the rules on littering, race courtesy, and how aid stations worked. Half the runners were signed up for the 100 mile race. Half! The other half? They were going only 50 miles.

Malcolm had finished the 50 miler a year earlier and whispered at the briefing, “This is the only event where you’ll race 50 miles and feel like a total wimp.”

I found out another statistic later: over 200 of the starters wouldn’t finish the trek.


Troy and Malcolm before the start better


The Starting Line


We were at the line early Saturday morning (about 5:30 AM). The 100 race began at 6 AM and the 50 started an hour later. Runners streamed across the campground, nearly all wearing headlamps, and some with a second flashlight in hand. When the starting whistle sounded, imagine people with headlights slowly jogging down the trail. It looked like a stream of fireflies leaving the campground and dancing single file through the woods away from us.


Malcolm and Troy entering an aid station.

Malcolm and Troy entering an aid station.

Early Miles


It was amazing to me that, while I went back to my high end hotel (LaQuinta!), caught another hour’s sleep, and edited our podcast, Troy and Malcolm were out there running. I picked up another friend to grab some lunch, and they’d been going for 6 hours and weren’t even halfway done. By the time I reached the campground again at five in the afternoon, they’d still completed less than 60 miles.

All in all, the reports on the runners were good. Malcolm had some trouble with blisters on his feet (he’d popped three) and Troy seemed a little punch drunk. But when they came in after dark to complete their third lap, both still looked to have plenty of energy.


Troy and pacer Barry headed out at 60 miles

Troy and pacer Barry headed out at 60 miles


Malcolm and Christy

Malcolm and pacer Christy leaving the start/finish area after 60 miles



Runners were allowed pacers after 60 miles. Here was the plan: our friend Christy was going to pace Malcolm the entire way, because she was training for her own 50 miler in a few weeks.

Four of us would pace Troy. Barry, an experienced triathlete would pace for 12.5 (where an aid station was located) and Rob, another experienced triathlete would take over. Both of these guys had completed an Ironman, so they were ready. I’d jump in and pace from miles 80 to 92.5, where Christi, Troy’s spouse (and also an experienced marathoner) would take over.


My Turn


What a blast…and a challenge at the same time. Troy and Malcolm, who’d been running together the whole day, didn’t reach the finish line together to start the final lap. Troy was now alone with his pacers. Barry had stayed on to run with Rob and Troy the last 7.5 because there were so many roots that it was too easy to fall in the dark.

I strapped on my light helmet, Barry gave me instructions for pointing out roots and changes in the footing, and we were off. It was midnight. Troy and Malcolm had been running for 18 hours straight.

It became clear to me immediately that running 80 miles had had a huge impact on Troy. He mumbled most of the time, and I tried to tell stories to keep him moving. However, there were so many roots that I spent the majority of my time hunched over each one, making sure he cleared his feet as he shuffle-ran down the path.


The System


After awhile, we found a system rooted in rally racing. I’d watched some of this sport on extreme sports shows. The driver kept his eye on the road while the navigator called out turns and obstacles. I started calling the run like I’d seen on television. I felt like a dork, but here’s what it sounded like,”

“Step down. Step down again. Watch this bump. Clear. Stay left. Stay left. Step up. Uneven footing. Another big root. Okay, we’re clear. Nice job.”

Troy was in such bad shape that as we went to leave the aid station at 83 miles, he turned and started walking up the path the way we’d arrived. I turned him around and we were on our way.

Using our new system, we passed quite a few runners. These were the nicest people on earth. A friend joked that it was what you’d imagine Woodstock would have been like if everyone was incredibly physically fit. “Great job, man.” “Keep going, dude.” “Lookin’ good!” were the calls of the day.

There’s a feeling you get when you’re in the middle of the freezing woods at 2 am and suddenly you see the yellow glow of the next aid station. It feels like an oasis. You know that just up the road there will be warm or cold drinks, tons of food, and most of all, a little bit of civilization. Troy would celebrate a little at each one. He’d made it another few miles.






But I knew at the 12.5 aid station that we were going to have a task on our hands. Time was running down and our pace wasn’t fast enough to bring Troy in at his stated goal: 24 hours. While we maintained a positive outlook around Troy, the team seemed pretty negative. At least we’d finish. That’d be a huge accomplishment in itself. In fact, Malcolm was now about 45 minutes behind us, and was clearly trying to finish rather than race to 24 hours.

Because of the roots, I decided to stay on. We’d be a three person team, Christi, Troy and I. I’d run out front and call roots out, while Christi would shine her flashlight on them as we went. After a brief stop, the three of us trudged into the darkness again. Seven miles and just over an hour and a half to go.




We got lucky.

Troy was in no position to tell us, but most of the rest of the loop was a clear two-track jeep trail. We made good time, but at the last aid station, with three miles to go, it was clear: we were right on the edge. I could see Troy gathering the little strength he had left to try and make it. The guy could barely stand up and he was still running! It was an incredible human feat.

Throughout the night, we’d been relying on my Nike + system rather than Troy’s GPS to keep track of miles. This tracking, while wildly inaccurate, helped us keep Troy’s spirits up throughout the segments. During the last three miles he must have asked us twenty times, “How much time do we have?” “How far does she (the female voice on my Nike + system) say we have to go?”

Finally I announced, “Troy, she says we’re done.” She’d been early all night, calling miles before we reached them, but the three of us celebrated that moment, and then moments later celebrated again when we crossed what we knew was the last road before the home stretch.


Want to hear more motivational stories from people with big goals? Check out our 2 Guys & Your Money episode with Natalie Sisson (who left New Zealand and travels the world) and Chris Klinke (who climbed Mt. Everest).


The Finish


I couldn’t believe the change in Troy when we turned the corner and saw the yellow glow of lights across the finishing tent a couple hundred yards away. He let out a war whoop, as did Christi and I. There were echoes of people at the finish whooping back at us. We sounded like animals barking back and forth at each other until he crossed the line.

Did he make it in 24 hours?

We crossed the line at 23 hours, 52 minutes.

Malcolm finished in just over 25 hours.

It was an amazing bucket list accomplishment for both of these men.


Malcolm removing chip at finish


What Does This Have To Do With Your Goals?



1) Set huge goals. While Malcolm finished in 25 hours, instead of his 24 hour goal, he still accomplished something that few will ever do. Don’t set your goals too small. Set them high. Even when you don’t reach them, you still can hold your head high.

2) Set milestones and celebrate. I find people get lost on their way to big goals because they don’t have any markers along the path. Those aid stations were a great oasis to refuel, plan, and then set out. Rather than setting out to accomplish 100 miles, the race became a struggle to reach the next 3 miles.

3) Find qualified friends to help. Troy and Malcolm said that the pacers were a shot in the arm at 60 miles. It became much easier when you had a fresh voice who’d run some serious distances themselves helping you through it. They say you are the people you surround yourself with. Find people who’ve been on your journey. Even if they aren’t going for the same goal, they’ll be able to help you win.

4) Use technology. Sure, the Nike + was innaccurate, but it was close enough that it helped us monitor our progress at any point. Troy and Malcolm still had to run, but without the flashlights, GPS, and suitable clothing, they would have never made it.

5) Stick to a system and work hard. Sure, we got lucky the last 7 miles, but we wouldn’t have been able to learn from that luck if Troy hadn’t worked his ass off to get to that point. My old mentor used to tell me “Work hard and the opportunities will come.” In this case, as nearly always, the opportunity came.


Malcolm and Troy afterward...ready for bed


What big goals are you working on? What are you waiting for? Get started!

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  1. says

    Congratulation Troy and Malcom, I am in awe!! I thought I liked to dream big but stories like this put everything into perspective. I set big goals for money, like 30% net worth increase for 2013, and if I reach half that goal I’d still be happy, although targeting higher usually helps reach higher.
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    • Average Joe says

      Thanks, Jennifer! I felt like a total moron when I started crying after running a marathon and couldn’t stop. I was equally as choked up when these guys finished. It wasn’t even me but being that close to someone’s bucket list accomplishment was a powerful experience.

  2. says

    Congrats Troy and Malcolm – I get in a bad mood when I have to drive 100 miles. You guys really put it in perspective.

    (Joe, you thought you were going to run roughly a half marathon and you ended up running a full? “Because of the roots, I decided to stay on.”? That’s pretty awesome to run a surprise marathon if that’s what happened, haha.)
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  3. says

    My knees were aching just reading that. What an accomplishment, although it seems so awfully hard on the body. I’m not sure how I feel about big goals. I guess I approach it slightly differently in that instead of big goals I have “visions” of what I want success to l look like, then I set smaller, short term goals, which isn’t too far off from what you’re talking about. Lets say I decided to make a big goal of running a marathon in Oct. What generally happens to me is it’s so big that I don’t end up doing anything. Instead my goal is to run each week, several times per week. If I’m improving and getting closer to that Oct date, then I sign up. Does that made sense. That being said, I always, always try and believe anything is possible. I don’t say I can’t.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..When Spending Thousands is a Drop in the BucketMy Profile

    • Average Joe says

      It WAS a pounding. My back hurt from bending over with the flashlight for 20 miles to make sure Troy didn’t fall. He did, once, and I felt incredibly frustrated that we hadn’t caught every root. Of course, the one I missed was hidden under leaves and looked like nothing.

      I DO understand what you’re saying. It’s funny how people are motivated different ways. I generally will do nothing unless I apply cash to the goal. Once I actually sign up then you can bet I’ll train my legs off.

  4. says

    What an amazing thing to do! 100 milers certainly have a different gear than most of us, although maybe it is in the attitude?

    I remember last year in the little sprint triathlon that I do each summer, there was a lady who was pretty big and certainly didn’t look like the athletic type. You couldn’t help but kind of wonder when you saw her compared to most of the other people who were registered. She finished dead last, and I talked to her a bit after the race. It turns out that she had lost something like 100 pounds over the last year and her motivation was to do that triathlon. She said it was the hardest and best thing she’d ever done. That was a huge lesson to me not to judge and that you can do whatever you set your mind to. For a morbidly obese person to say they were doing a triathlon must have been like me saying I’m going to climb K2, but she did it. We can certainly apply those lessons to our lives. Without a goal, you don’t really get very far. Thanks for sharing this story!
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    • Average Joe says

      I think you’re right about attitude, Kim. They certainly have a whole different level of patience….

      I love stories like that womans’ experience. It shows that on first glance you certainly don’t have the full picture. She was every bit as rewarded as the “winner” of the race.

    • Average Joe says

      Amen, John! How great a feat that was for Malcolm. In the big scheme of things, not a big deal on the 24 hour thing….he’s kicking so many people’s ass with this accomplishment because he showed up.

    • Average Joe says

      Clearly, hanging out with people who’ve done this (or are doing it) is #1 on your list, Grayson. I know you enough to know that you’ll achieve that goal because (in part) you read blogs by and hang out with people who’ve been there or are headed in the same direction.

  5. says

    WOWOWOWOW! That made me tear up. Incredible accomplishment and I was feeling a little mopey today so thanks for knocking me out of it. Sounds like you did some pretty incredible running yourself, and I am inspired. I have big goals right now but feel a little stuck as to how to get there. No matter, I will continue to create and work hard and it will come to me…
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  6. says

    I love this. I am all about the big fat audacious goals, especially with running. I try and focus on one thing at a time. This year, I’m aiming for speed. Next year for a goofy (or equivalent!). The next year Mr. PoP thinks I should try for a 50 miler.

    Congrats go out to both of your friends – and I hope they are recovering well after the race. I imagine 100 miles does some crazy things to your tummy – not to mention the blisters and sore legs.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..He Said She Said: What We LoveMy Profile

    • Average Joe says

      You’ll love the Goofy! It’s a blast (we just went slow and enjoyed both runs…took pictures with many of the characters along the routes). I think 2014 is my year for a 50 miler also.

  7. says

    Excellent Post! Congrats to Troy, Malcolm and the entire support team for working so hard together to help these two gentlemen accomplish this huge goal. And I love the fact that you played navigator. I use to participate in Rally Sport as a navigator as we drove through a tiny road in the mountains. One mistake and car was headed off the cliff. It is important for anyone that wants to achieve their goals (big or small) to know when to ask for help.
    Sicorra @TacklingOurDebt recently posted..Great Ways to Express Your Gratitude By Complimenting PeopleMy Profile

    • Average Joe says

      I’m sure MMM was just copying me. :-)

      Agreed on specifics. I think that’s why people have credit card debt and no long term savings. They can imagine the sweater in the store (it’s right in front of them!) but they haven’t been specific about long term goals.

  8. says

    One of the best posts I’ve read in a while–LOVE this! Congrats to everyone; 100 miles is no easy feat. I’ve completed 50-milers–kudos to everyone–long races are always a mental AND team effort!

    This is also very timely for me as I’ve just announced today how I quit my 9-5 job in order to pursue my passions/online business ventures. Go big or go home! :)

    Don’t forget…ICE BATH!!
    The Happy Homeowner recently posted..I Quit the 9-5…ForeverMy Profile

    • Average Joe says

      I was waiting for you to get here! You’re the one blogger I know who’s been through some of the stuff these guys accomplished.

    • Average Joe says

      Ha! Mandy, they said their most often heard comment afterward was, “I don’t even run to the refrigerator!”

    • Average Joe says

      You’re funny. I actually had lunch with Malcolm at noon (we all got a few hours of sleep after being up all night). He was still limping like he’d ridden a horse all day. However, by the next day, when I had breakfast with Troy back home, he was getting around really well and I heard Malcolm was doing well, also. Unbelievable. Me on the other hand? Five days of limping after 20 miles. Wimp…..

  9. says

    Good points! Some of my students participate in Student Run LA. They participate in the Los Angeles Marathon and learn a great deal from the experience. Every kid who participates is different just from participating in the training. I would like to see more kids involved in sports to help them achieve.
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    • Average Joe says

      That’s awesome. I help run a race locally called Run the Line (we’re a race that runs down the state line between two states). The day before kids can compete in Kids Run the Line Too, in which they’ve already run 12 miles a little at a time and run the 13th mile together as a big group. We get about 300 kids out. I also wish this number was bigger.

  10. says

    That was a pretty incredible story thanks for sharing this. There are so many times we set goals or give up on thing that we don’t even give a chance to flourish. These 2 accomplished something that many people in their lifetime would never do. Hanging with the right people helps I agree. Great job!
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  11. says

    What a motivational story! I used to watch IronMan triathlons all the time on T.V. and want to do that, now I am just happy to run without having an asthma attack. I find it easier to go 50 miles on a bike, than 1 running. I figured if I can run a 5k without stopping this year I will push myself onward and upward. Until then I just keep huffing and puffing and going from day to day.

    I love to dream big, but sometime too big. I will want this huge goal, but find out the day-to-day kills me and then I give up. Surrounding myself with good people is the only way to get through that drag and get my butt moving. :)
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  12. says

    Love it and love the story! Joe you make me so proud to have done this for your friends.

    Running an ultramarathon is a long standing dream of mine (you know I’ve run marathons first); and now that I have a bit of a track record with achieving impossible goals :) I may just go for it. Have already started getting my body into a chape to cope with very long distances – ‘the slow burn’. Now I go running and people see a middle aged woman running slowly; I see an ultra-marathon runner.

    You coming with me?
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