Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pre-race rambling and a year in review

Another 50 mile race is upon me. Ready or not, I'll toe the line at 6am in Leadville, Colorado. I don't know the results, or even what to expect, but the goals are clear now.

As one could tell by my posts regarding racing, I'm trying to nail down the real reasons I love the sport of running(not ultras specifically). I'm not naturally gifted - every time I talk sports, I'm told I look like a swimmer. My old addiction for the adrenaline rush still lingers when I bomb down a hill on my mountain bike. My blood boils when I see a muddy dirtbike in the back of a truck because I miss hucking 250 pounds of metal into the air. Knowing all this, why is my preferred method of self destruction a slow, arduous trek over mountains and into thin air?

As much as I obnoxiously pursue minimalism, I'm a gear nerd. I wear test shoes for several companies. I visit running stores and peruse the web just to see what new offerings have surfaced. I have an entire porch full of trail shoes outside my door with mud and shale dust on them. My girlfriend has one lone pair of Merrell Trail Gloves that are falling apart, but far from retired. Which of us is the true minimalist? When I talk about it with her, she smiles and shrugs. I admire the simplicity. Is it the simplicity of running that appeals to me? I'd like to think so, but my closet and browsing history beg to differ.

Maybe I love the attention. Our society has experienced a boom in the popularity of running. I've won a few small races. I'm proud of these accomplishments, but every win has come with a little bit of a stigma attached to it. I can't help but feel guilty, wondering if success was a result of attention and praise-seeking behavior. I write this blog, hoping people will read it and get something out of it. My fear of poorly sourced motivation stems from a disdain for such behavior. Could I have such an avoidance of such attitudes that ended up resulting in me becoming what I hate?

After some talking with others(and myself...I'm obviously crazy), I've realized what I'm looking for. I've drawn on past feelings. I've mentioned in earlier posts the feeling of elation that comes over me on random occurrences and during a few key races. Everything is right- body, mind and spirit seem to all be getting the right idea. On these rare occasions, I'm fully engaged in what I'm doing, yet unattached to any results. The pain in my legs feels good somehow. I'm aware of who's ahead of me and behind me, but not preoccupied about it. Not a magical out of body experience or anything like that, but everything just feels damn good.

I'm looking for that rare time when the actor becomes the play, the runner becomes the run. Of course I'd like to win every race I enter, but not at the expense of another having a bad day. Maybe I'm still looking for that performance where I feel like I truly perform to my potential, where I have the most profound experience. If any one's ever tried meditation, you might be able to relate when I describe what I'm feeling like this:

"I've been at it for quite a while now...I'm so in the moment. This must be what meditation feels like....
Oh shit, I'm thinking again, aren't I?"

While writing this, I realized I've posted on this blog 76 times since starting it exactly a year ago. It seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago all at once. I went back and read my first post, and consequently thought of how I got started with all these endeavors to begin with. I started out as a heartbroken kid who used his hand-me-down bike to show his departed idol just how much he meant to him. Though Mike is no longer the inspiration behind every run, he still helps me get my head back into the game when my ego starts to take over. His memory reminds me that life isn't about medals around our necks or articles written about us in the paper. It's about searching relentlessly for peak experience. It's about enjoying those moments when everything is right and realizing how right things are even when they seem so wrong.
Losing my big brother was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, but as I learned from him, there's good in everything. This tragedy lit a fire under me that has yet to go out, a burning in my heart to squeeze as many perfect moments as I can out of life. As this fire was a gift to me, I want to spread it around. My life's goal is to help other people figure out what makes them feel alive. I'm still figuring out how to make it happen, but each day brings me closer. I;m not the only one to be affected.

Though total clarity is more of an ideal than an attainable goal, the fog between my mind and an understanding of pure experience is slowly lifting. With each race, each peak, and year, I get closer to finding out what it's all about. All my thinking is my own worst enemy.

Sam's going to take some pics of runners while volunteering at Leadville,
so she was playing around with her camera.

My taper was so long that my tan faded. Not a good sign!

Footprint of barefoot and a nearly bare foot.

New Balance was kind enough to overnight a care package.
Thanks Ryan!
Here I am, watching Hot Rod, greatest movie ever made, sipping a PBR. The excessive taper is complete. I'm anxious to see the mountains again. I grew up a fat kid with asthma. Bring it on, thin mountain air!



  1. Man ur a good writer vanilla bear. I think u need to get a column in a magazine and get paid to this shizznot fa sho! Miss ya budday gonna need to hangs out when u get back to town.

  2. Miss ya Stavie! I'll be seein' ya sooner than later! Say hi to yo wife!