2015; calling this year eventful would absolutely be an understatement. I experienced a lot, hurt a lot, learned a lot, and grew a lot. The dichotomy of this year being the best worst year of my life often sent me into overload. It was quite a bit to deal with. I had to confront a lot of ugly truths about myself, come to terms to with the death of my mom, and all while dealing with the pressures and grind of everyday life. Everyone has their breaking point, and I can’t be anything but grateful that I’ve come back from a very dark place, a place where I almost ended up following suit after my mom passed away. However, it doesn’t bring me much happiness to say that despite my huge initial plans for this year with the exception of a few races, I have not run competitively, to speak of, in 2015.
What I did do a lot of this year though was plenty of self introspection, reflection, and reevaluation of my goals. After a personal situation that nearly extinguished my life, I slowly began working myself back towards health and a positive mindset. The truth is, I had to work (and continue to do so) through a lot of anger, discontent, and internal turmoil that I was letting eat me up. I think I had reached a point where I was kind of just attaching myself to an almost Shakespearean concept of I can’t make this life work, I can’t make love work, so to hell with everything. I’d had my heart broken and tossed aside like a common piece of trash from a romance or two, “friends” who swore they’d be there vanished, the family was still in upheaval, and I continued to just slip further and further away. Though my cynicism and lack of faith in people may be justified, I am making my best effort to change my thinking. Who knows, I most certainly have not always done the right thing or acted the right way, so I am working towards letting myself accept my due part of responsibility when things go wrong. I used to think people are a product of their environments, I find myself now leaning towards the idea of your environment and circumstances being the product of you and your behavior. Ultimately, I am the captain of this ship, and am finally understanding that life is 10% what happens and 90% how I react to it.
With that said, my physical and mental health is making a certain and steady recovery. In addition to picking back up with trail running, I have gotten back to my fighting roots and began training MMA and Muay Thai again. It feels fantastic to have a grip on my health, and I have every intention when the time is right, to compete regularly again. That is of course, after I run a few trail races first 🙂
As I look towards the future, I find my priorities regarding my athletic pursuits, in particular trail running, have changed significantly. It’s hard to pin point whether or not this change occurred from my ever growing desire to compete in races rather than just complete, my opinions on shorter races vs longer ones, my well known and public exchanges with people and race directors (one in particular) who shall remain nameless, or if it just happened naturally. To arrive at my point, I don’t know if I necessarily have desire to run “ultra” distance races anymore. More on this later in this post…
I think the trail and ultra scene has changed greatly, even in the last few years, in good ways and bad. I think it’s great that the sport has grown and expanded as it has. The competition in the field now is quite fierce and definitely at another level. Sponsorships are harder to come by as opposed to when they were practically being given out 8, 9 years ago. People are exchanging their tv remotes for running shoes and getting out of their houses, which I think is awesome. Unfortunately however, the growth and popularity of the sport has also brought some negative aspects with it. Many teams and clubs nowadays may as well call themselves fraternities, and there certainly is quite a bit more attitude and ego being thrown around. Many of the promotions that claim to be communal usually aren’t, and wind up just using that as a facade for the same clique of people who treat anyone new as a complete outsider. The charade just seems to go on and on unless you’re a “part of something.” Well, after running races throughout Colorado and surrounding states through an extensive variety of promotions, I can say with sturdy resolve – fuck your team, your clique, or your crew. That may sound harsh, but it’s been on my mind for a while. I’d rather opt to stay on the outer fringes and avoid all the drama and hierarchy nonsense that always seems to exist in those inner circles. I think far too many runners allow themselves to get sucked into the mindset of who they are associated with or sponsored by somehow correlates to their level of talent, or somehow validates them as a “real” runner or athlete. I’ve seen it play out real time as well – many’s a time I have seen an unknown local who trained his or her ass off smoke “elites.” Another thing that really gets to me are the ever increasing price tags for races now. Look, I get it – putting on a race is hard work, often thankless work, but it’s hard for me to justify paying some of the prices these promotions are asking for. Can it honestly be that much per head to make the race happen? If that’s the case, I’d rather race directors/promotions keep their “swag.” Case in point – in my closet I’ve got a 5 foot pile of shirts and medals that to be honest, I don’t really give a shit about. I’m there for the experience, to network with other like-minded people, and to test myself, not for fashion memorabilia. Often times I’ve wanted to say “Can you not give shirts or medals out so I can keep a portion of my race entry fee?” But enough of that I guess, on to my shorter vs longer race philosophy…
When I first started running ultras in 2012, I was completely hooked and charged full steam ahead like a bull seeing red. After reading Born to Run, I was in. I took the book and everything that came with it verbatim and without question. I bought in to the Christopher Mcdougall philosophy that we’re all basically cavemen who should be running 100 miles barefoot while eating cactus and corn. Well, sorry, but now I think that’s bullshit. Certainly the contrary from what I used to think a few years ago, but what can I say – crafting by experience I suppose. Hence my desire (for the foreseeable future) to really only participate in shorter, higher intensity races. Half marathon and below I suspect. I realize a lot of what I am saying may be blasphemy to the ultra crowd, but I am less and less impressed with the completion of 50, 75, or 100 miles. I want to be clear here and say that I mean absolutely no disrespect, and my hat certainly off to longer distance runners, but I just think it takes a higher level of physical fitness and athleticism to run shorter distances at much higher intensity. And who knows, maybe the pain tolerance of running an ultra is an athletic skill, but I guess that’s really to be determined by who you talk to. I always remember feeling sore and fatigued after an ultra, but never like I’d had my lungs ripped out and my body ran over by a truck – as was always the case when I ran my fastest 1/2 marathons and below. If someone wants to go out there and torture themselves for 15+ hours, then be my guest, but I’m just not interested in it anymore. Ultimately it may be comparing apples and oranges, but at the moment, these are where my priorities rest. At long last, if this makes me that guy who’s always running or bagging a mountain alone, so be it. There’s strength in both comradery as well as solitude.
As I look to 2016, my goals are just to take things one day at a time. I’m not going into it with all these enormous expectations of this race and that race, but rather, just focusing on my health and fitness and seeing what feels right at the time. Chances are excellent that I will be traveling again, and thus doing races in as many interesting and off-the-beaten-path places as I can find. Colorado is fantastic but I am really ready to explore some new areas of the country, and for that matter, the world (Damn you Heidi Kumm for living in the Swiss Alps) The plan this winter is to stay on top of it with some winter hiking and mountaineering, snowshoeing, and of course continuing my fight training. Speaking of which, there are always fights available so when the time is right, I’ll definitely be stepping back into that cage to do business. I think for the longest time I avoided doing certain things I used to because of the negative memory or experience associated with that particular activity, but I’m beyond that now. I don’t run, fight, climb mountains or race races for anyone else other than myself.
In closing I just want to thank my family and friends who stuck around and helped me through probably the most difficult year of my life, Red Ace Organics (www.redaceorganics.com) for their support despite what happened this year, and of course my extended running family for your willingness to help and to always share some miles on the trail. I wish you all a productive, healthy, and rejuvenating off season.
See on the trails or at the dojo,