Sunday, May 11, 2014
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Why I no longer run ultras
Running was a method I used to work out problems, accomplish goals and gain self esteem while at the same redirecting painful memories into positive energy. The method served me well for many years but there was a downside in that it required focus, hard work and seclusion. The consequences of the seclusion, in particular, impacted the other people in my life without my knowledge. As I came to realize what I lost with running vs. what I gained was substantial. Alienating myself from my family was an immature act that left me in an okay state but deprived the other people in my life of my attention. I would consider my running accomplishments to be impressive but I also consider the effort not worth the cost of what I lost.
So why run 100's in the first place you may ask. My answer may sound selfish and in fact it probably is but the reason I ran was to feel good about myself and later on in my career to help other runners feel good about themselves as well.
The running stories I've published clearly identify certain people who positively impacted my life and who I admired & respected however there is no person I admire or respect more than my wife. She is the person who has helped me to understand the importance of sacrifice, sensitivity & courage. I now realize that it is more important for me to attend my 11 year old's ballgame than it is for me to run. It is more important for me to be available to take my 14 year old to karate than it is to run. It is more important for me to be in the house upon my wife's return home from work to ask her about her day than it is to run. And finally it is important for me to listen and not always feel as though I have to respond.
What my wife has showed me is that the hug of a child or the smile on his face or her herself saying I love you is more fulfilling than the feeling of crossing the fnish line of any 100 mile race.
Unless I destroy everything my wife has worked so hard to bring into my life I have no reason to ever want to return to the lifestyle I maintained as an ultramarathon runner.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Running both the good & bad
It’s been a long time since I shared my thoughts in writing but finding myself with a few moments today at peace I felt it was time to share some thoughts. Running provided and still provides an excellent outlet for my emotions as well as an avenue that opened the doors to my creative side that helped to build my self esteem. I learned early on that to be successful at sustaining a long term running program I would need to implement methods that helped me to focus on external influences outside of the internal functions of running itself. This came naturally to me as the start of my running career was initiated by a divorce. Having a need to release emotion I found that running served a purpose in my life.
Like most beginners my goal as a runner was to build strength by increasing my mileage. I set goals and worked hard to achieve those goals and then set higher goals. When I felt that I had reached my potential I took it up a notch by attempting longer distances. I started racing at the 5 mile distance with a goal to place but found myself coming up short over and over again. Over time I became physically stronger but more importantly I became smarter which helped me to develop strategies to satisfy my goal. Ultimately I began to place in almost every race at varying short distances. Placing at races was fun but as time went on it was not challenging enough to satisfy my inner drive. I became bored which was a prompt to step it up a notch.
At the marathon distance the goal was to finish in the time lime provided which I easily accomplished in my first attempt. Obsession set in. After the first I saw no end nor did I want to see an end to my running career. When my goal was achieved I set higher and higher goals each marathon thereafter. The ultimate thrill at the marathon distance was setting my personal best time of 2:53:12 in the 2000 Boston Marathon. I then followed it up with a similar time at the Philly Marathon in November of that same year .
It was not long before I became bored at the marathon distance so I took the JFK challenge. My first attempt at the 50 mile distance left me with a finish in the top 50 in a sub-8 hour time. I loved that race so much that I followed it up with 9 more in consecutive years. Completing 10 straight showed that I could run through adversity and injury but toward the end it also revealed the impact that my running had on others.
The 100 mile distance loomed and though a bit intimidated I tackled the distance with no tutelage from other but instead used what I learned through reading race reports to give it a go . The 1st result was failure but with failure brought more desire. I read, I asked questions and I read more. I changed my style of running, I deviated from my normal paths I challenged myself to work harder. My second attempt was a success as were my next 23 attempts in a row including the Grand Slam, Badwater and my personal best 15:57 Rocky Raccoon 100 (2nd Place National Champion)
I trained hard but a result of my hard training was negative impact on those around me. Though it is a difficult thought and something I did not willingly admit at first I neglected those around me. I have bad memories of times when I neglected to follow through on promises, respond to requests or to those in need. My actions were not malicious or deliberate but instead they were driven by my mind which focused on a goal that I felt to be unachievable without 24-7 attention. Successfully I achieved one goal after the other but unfortunately the goals never ceased nor did they move to another field in life. I was caught up in my own little selfish world leaving those who cared for me susceptible to hatred for me.
The thrill of accomplishment diminished with each ultramarathon finish leaving me with only the physical wounds as a memory of my run. I was left feeling empty and in pain. Finally, after 17 years, I understood that an entire world existed. While I am proud of my accomplishments I also hold myself accountable for neglecting to be a well rounded person.
My mind clear and open I find new challenges in the form of my new family. The challenges I face can be tough but my background as an ultramarathon runner leave me not intimidated. The reward that come along the way as being a productive member of a family are certainly more rewarding than any ultramaraton finish I have ever had. Though the memories are there the desire to toe the start line of an ultramarathon have long ago disappeared. My goals are family oriented and focused on those who I can positively influence to be productive in life. Lucky for me I found a good companion in life who is understanding and willing to be with a person of many flaws.
I was not the best runner but when looking back I am proud of the work I did to progress from square 1 to a person who completed 80+ races at the marathon distance or greater. I’m now at square 1 again making many mistakes and hope to learn enough to be able to look back at the age of 80 and be just as proud of my accomplishments as a family man.
The former “Relentless Runner”
Monday, September 28, 2009
2009 Delaware 100 Report
I lived this past year as most in these times have, building relationships, caring for my family and fighting desperately for my job. I found my place in life in a home where I’m surrounded by loving people who provide challenges outside those which I’ve been faced with before. I am happier now than I have ever been with a beautiful wife and two young step children by my side. I welcome the new challenges that I’m certain to experience and want to share with those whom I love the challenges that I’ve already conquered.
My wife, Angela, has read my stories and tries to understand why but as I’ve explained to her, if it is not in your heart you will never fully understand. It is not a cult or a way of life but instead it is part of a person’s soul. It is an individual sport yet those who participate connect and bond as they battle a common foe. The foe is not the person behind you or in front of you but instead it is your own mind. The questions start at mile one, “can I do it”, “did I train hard enough”, “will my body break down” and on and on they go, sucking precious energy from your body. How a person reacts to these battles determines the outcome of his or her run. They can be fierce battles that test your ability to make correct decisions about your body while keeping your mind in check. There are strategies which I personally incorporate to ensure success, mind games that I truly enjoy. I do it because I can and to prove to others that if they have a desire they to can do it as well. I am not superhuman, I have no particular outstanding skills or abilities just a burning desire to accomplish a goal.
Friday, February 06, 2009
In ten years time I have completed twenty-five one hundred mile races not including an impromptu run that I did in 2005 to benefit the Hurricane Katrina victims. While in the world of ultrarunning this pales in comparison to some but in the real world where even one would seem quite impossible my twenty-five would put me in an elite class. The reference I have made to elite is not an indication of my skill but instead it is an indication of how many people would consider an attempt at running this distance.
There was a time when I believed those who made such attempts were superhuman or even heroes. As I entered the sport and became more aware of the ins and outs I realized that most were just average people who stepped outside of the box. No matter the level we are all equal. Those that excel are those that are willing to teach what they have learned to help others improve.
I started to run as a way to release negative emotions generated by a divorce but as I progressed I became possessed and maybe even obsessed. The positive effects were many as I gained confidence through my ability to run which allowed me to shed all of my fears. As I grew in the sport I also grew in life and ultimately I came to realize that my obsession with running took away from my quality of life. I have many stories that I could share of times when I neglected my family and friends just so I could run but I won't share as I don't care to rehash the past.
In my mind there can be no moderation when it comes to ultrarunning so in my case a choice has always had to be made. Will I share my life with others or will I remain wrapped up in my own wants and needs? I lived with being selfish for a very long time but I learned how valuable friendships can be in each and every race in which I participated.
When I failed at my first attempt at running one hundred miles I swore I'd never return but the lady who drove me back to my hotel told me I'd be back. Sure enough after a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself I was back on the horse and working towards my second attempt. Four months later I finished my first and focused on my second while never failing to realize that I had some unfinished business with OD. This would be the beginning of a viscious cycle that would have no door leading me to a safe exit. The goals would never be achieved as I always set the bar higher. Even after gaining redemption at OD I found no satisfaction in such a minor feat. I worked by myself only using the stories of others as a guide. I failed miserably in my attempt to stay injury free as my penchant to do things in excess always caught up to me in the end. My performances improved as I increased my training mileage and with that I would increase even more. Eventually I tallied enough miles each day that my body became worn and battered. My crazy mind believed it was a good thing in that it would prepare me for the war of a one hundred mile race but when my limbs shattered to the point where I couldn't walk I shockingly realized I was wrong.
I never ran the same again after my injury in 2006 in fact the pain from that injury still riddles my body even as I write today. Despite the injury I continued to run at a lower level than ever. I lowered my expectations but still felt disappointed that I was not the same. As my training miles decreased my thoughts increased and became more logical. I learned to take things in stride and to prioritize the important things in my life. In "o7" I barely trained for Western States but still entered with an agressive goal only to walk away disappointed despite my finish. In "08" I gave one last gasp effort at reclaiming my past when I crewed 70+ hours at Badwater returned home twenty four hours later to participate in my own twenty four hour event. I completed just over 100 miles in 99° heat but the satisfaction that I felt inside was not due to the miles but instead of the havoc I wreaked on my body. I was blistered from head to toe and for the first time ever spent time in an ambulance. I didn't realize how odd my feelings were until two weeks later at mile fifteen of another one hundred mile race. It was at this time that I finally said I've had enough and almost walked away from the race prior to completion. My heart was the only thing that stopped me because my brain had given up. Though I finished I made some very long term final decisions at that race. I would run Cascade Crest in two weeks time but I would do so as a non competitor. I would be there to have fun, to experience the mountains one last time and to look deep inside of myself to gain new perspective on what I want out of life. My fourth event in five weeks would take place on the hardest course but with my mind at ease it would not take much effort. However when all was said and done my feet were more than two times their normal size. I barely made it through the airport as with each step I grimaced in agony. I finished, I hobbled away with another buckle but my body received another terrible beating.
I am still an advocate of distance running but I now stress the fact that once a distance is defeated there is no need to have to come back to do it over and over again. I did it and I was not a hero and my life never changed. However when I helped those who were in need I accomplished something much more than I ever could on my own. I shared what I learned and others were able to grasp the meaning and use it to their benefit. Hopefully the message I am sending today will also be understood and used in the life of another.
I fear that I will lose the admiration of many but I am willing to risk the loss for the chance of obtaining something even more. I once stepped outside of the box to attempt running distances that most would find unbelievable and now it is once again time to step out of the box to experience other things. I love my family, dad, mom, brothers, sisters in law and nieces and nephew and soon to be wife and step kids. It's time to conquer challenges outside those which present themselve in the sport of ultrarunning.
Always remember to share what you've learned and never feel as though you've learned enough. No matter who you are or what you do there is always someone who is better.
Friday, November 21, 2008
No JFK for Me
I came to understand that running is a tool that can be used for success and once the tool is used it can be put back in it's place until needed again. I know what I want out of life and in order to get it I can't cling to what I have because it feels safe but instead I have to have confidence that I can put that tool in its place and use what I've learned to get what I want. I have gained an understanding that running will always be a part of my life but it will never again be my life. My decision to not participate in the JFK 50 this year signifies the end of a chapter but the book continues on as I now look forward to whatever the future may hold.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
2008 Delaware 100 Report
Carl Camp did not come up with the idea for the Delaware 100 after hitting his head on the toilet seat nor was the result the fluxcapacitor, however, for those of us who live in the fantasy world of ultrarunning his idea was just as exciting. The no frills run would allow us the opportunity to test our limits while running freely without the hype, the cost or the stress associated with other endurance runs. In December of 2005 Carl was able to capture the imagination of seven hearty souls who towed the start line of the inaugural
A decision was made to cancel the event in 2006 to allow more time for improvements to be made. As the year came to a close Carl remained silent as to the status of the 2007 run but in the late spring he announced that it would be on again. This time, however, the race would be held in September on a course that would consist of both trails and roads. The change of date would more than likely provide a better chance of moderate temperatures and the course change would allow us to comply with the park regulations. Though Carl’s plan has always been to keep the field small he made an attempt to attract others by gaining a link on the site most viewed by the ultrarunning community. His effort did not go unnoticed as runners from places such as