The sun had shown brightly at our backs as we ran the buffed yet rocky single track at Lake McMurtry, the trees providing little relief from the Oklahoma heat. Lost amongst this wilderness is where the idea behind Churn and Burn was created. It was something said, almost as an inspirational pep talk to get us to our destination. It is something that we believe in, endures within us.
This phrase was first uttered back in 2011, but oddly enough I remember it well. Trey Nixon and I had set out on a fifteen mile run, linking both of the west side trails of Lake McCurtry, Stillwater Oklahoma. At the time Peter Damicone, Trey, and I had thought that we had been the only trail runners looking for much longer distances in Stillwater. We knew of a few in other cities, TATUR in Tulsa, and the Landrunners in OKC, and Bill Ford, a local who we all thought of as a celebrity. The three of us would meet up and run the fifteen miles of trail every Saturday morning. Finishing it off with Taco Bueno in the afternoon, while topping off the night with beers to celebrate. The phrase itself came from one particular day out on these fifteen miles of wilderness.
I remember Trey and I had set out later in the day, testing the mid-summer Oklahoma sun, and quickly regretting it. I remember walking up one of the few climbs somewhere around mile ten and telling Trey I wanted the run to be over. I just wanted the water I had in the car, and as much chocolate milk and Taco Bueno as my body would allow me to consume. Trey’s response was simple, “churn and burn, dude”. For some reason, we started saying it over and over during the last five miles of our run. We would come to a steep uphill, “churn and burn”. We would get to a flat area and start sprinting “churn and burn”. The next weekend group text was not “are you guys ready to run?” The text would just read: “Churn and Burn”. The phrase took on a mind of its own. It became a motivating phrase for our dirtiest and most soul-crushing times. When everything seemed to be against us. We would see one of us start to struggle, and the other two would remark, “come on, churn and burn!”. We later decided to see who else was interested in the fun we were having with this little idea. We decided to put on a race.
Our first race was The Fatass 50K Hosted by Churn and Burn in 2012, next the Churn and Burn 50 in 2013. Everything revolved around that phrase. We plastered it on the flyer because it was what we had to call ourselves; it was something that motivated us to push past any and all boundaries. Not only in running, but in any new adventure. As I got moved into fixed gear cycling, I would still yell “Churn and Burn.” When I moved to Washington, I got into rock climbing, still shouting “Churn and Burn.” Even in the going away book I received, filled with letters from all my Oklahoman friends, Trey finished his off with simply signing Churn and Burn. It has become who and what we are.
The three of us always talked about starting some sort of brand. However, it was hard to figure out exactly what we wanted to create, from clothing, a full running store, or just a race group; but we’d never questioned what we would call it. The idea took time. Planning would happen every once in awhile when someone would bring it up, but it’d slowly dissipate. Stillwater, Oklahoma was just not a running town yet. We had seen cycling catch on within the community and take hold with the guidance of two of the most amazing people, Bobby and Crystal Wintle, and their shop District Bicycles. But us runners didn’t have anything. Our local running shop was more of a road running store that seemed to be stuck in the past. Our outdoors shop invested no money in running, as there were no runners to speak of. Despite these things, a creative spark still burned within us for a few years.
We had been three of maybe five ultrarunners in Stillwater, Oklahoma. That was in 2013. Now, with only Trey and Peter left in Stillwater, trail running started to take off. We had been lucky enough to know training plans, and the few other runners in town. The three of us had become very close with District Bicycles and the cyclists in town. We had hosted races, and made contacts with many of the racing and running groups around not only Oklahoma, but also Texas and Kansas. It took the graces of Bobby Wintle to finally host a large 50K race (fatass style of course) alongside his amazing Land Run 100 gravel cycling event. Bobby knew that we had asked not because we saw some huge investment, or some way to “bank” off this new love for running in Stillwater, but because we love the sport, and we know it well. Bobby Agreed.
And so on March 18th, 2016 Churn and Burn hosted its first official race, The Land Run 50K. Afterwards, the three of us regrouped. We had decided that it was time. It was time to give this whole crazy idea a shot. It was time to let running completely take over and consume our lives. We had already spent so many years letting Churn and Burn be who we are, it was time to do something about it and turn our little phrase into something so much more. Our love for the culture of running is what is driving us. For us, freedom is what is found by pushing our bodies past limits we had set for ourselves. We had found our passion and we let it destroy us and build us up, time and time again. So I want to thank you, every single one of you who have been here from day one, or are just finding our little group. Welcome to Churn and Burn Running.