If there is a cancer. Then the first thing you need to do is cut it out, Right? Where to start though was the hardest thing for me to try and figure out. A couple of post back. Olga V. left a comment that gave me the starting point for answering a lot of well, unanswered questions I had. She ended her comment by saying this. "The attitude I have about my running today was a lot better than the attitude I had a year ago under similar circumstances."
This started sort of a domino effect. Bringing forth a whole bunch of wisdom that I had received from friends and competitors over the years. Since Olga had given me a starting point. I began reading all of my old posts in search of the reason for my disappointment and frustration I'd been dealing with for so long. Why was my attitude so much better today than a year ago?
Where did it all start to go wrong for me? The answer to that question can be linked to a specific date in time. The one defining moment that I feel, changed it all for me was when I crossed the finish line ahead of everyone on the final stage of the 3 Days of Syllamo. Securing my place as the overall champion for the most grueling weekend of racing I have ever endured to date.
"With great power comes great responsibility." or so it was according to Peter Parker's uncle. I felt so powerful in light of what I had just accomplished. Truly believing I had taken my running to the next level. Upon returning home from that wonderful weekend in the Ozark Mountains. The local praise I received only helped to further swell my head. I was on top of my small insignificant world for the time being and I felt unstoppable. Shortly after the jading effect wore off the burden of trying to live up to my own expectations as well as the expectations of my closest friends became too much for me to handle. Poor showings and D.N.F's soon followed if for no other reason than the fact that I just choked when the chips were down.
Was I really scared of success or was I afraid of losing a stupid race? Both. I was scared of both. It started becoming very easy for me to make up one excuse after another as reasons for my poor performances. The truth was that I was way too hard on myself and set way too high of expectations along the way. The harder I tried to reach my lofty expectations the further I ran myself into the ground. Running was becoming a job that didn't pay shit and one I absolutely hated going to. Still I continued to train hard. Thinking that at any moment I would snap out of whatever funk I was in. Once again becoming the picture of ultra running consistency I used to be. My good friend, my closest friend Paul Schoenlaub always used to tell me that most of the ultra runners he knows are undoubtedly over raced and under trained. I'd be damned if I was going to be under trained. so I tried to beat the system. If I could accomplish what I did on a 70 mpw average than just think of what I could do on 100 mpw. Running anything less than 80 mpw became a slap in the face to my level of fitness. Things seemed to be going well too. For the longest time I kept a high average mile per week around the 90's but as with most all of us. Excluding the few freaks of nature out there that can elude injury during such intense levels of training, things slowly started to fall apart. The high mileage weeks began to place a strain on not only my body but my family life. My irritability increased and my immune system decreased. Reducing me to nothing more than an empty shell of the husband and runner I used to be. Injuries soon followed. Accompanied by an ever compounding frustration.
Over trained and over raced now by my own standards. My legs are exhausted and mentally my enthusiasm is day to day. I do have a renewed enthusiasm for this sport as I mentioned earlier but nowhere near what I used to have. When I ate, slept and breathed it just a few short years ago...
The goals I've set are I think within my capability of reaching. In order for me to accomplish them. I've had to look at what it will take to do so.The first thing that has to go though is the continual 80 plus mile weeks. Along with around four to five Ultra marathons per year. By cutting out that many Ultras from my schedule I will assuredly lose my ride with Salomon and it will be up to Willie to decide if he wants to put all his money down on a horse that only runs four to five ultras a year. At the same time though I feel that this is exactly what I need to come back from the land of the ultra running dead. The stress of not being on a team will be a huge weight lifted from my shoulders and I can get back to racing without any outside expectations except for that of my own conscience.
I truly wish that I could run more than four or five Ultras per year but I just don't have it in me anymore. I don't think I ever had it in me to do more than four to five a year. That's neither here nor there now as it is all water under the bridge and I have made the decision that's best for my family and myself. To just run a few extra ultras a year as training runs has never been a concept that I was to keen about. It would not be fair to race management or myself for that matter. After all its a race and it should be treated as such. I know that for most everybody out there. There is more to it than that and I respect that. I wish I shared the same point of view as you. The communing with nature. The camaraderie of friends. Its all a very important part of this sport. For me though the communing with nature comes from my long training runs alone as I've always done and the camaraderie with friends comes before and after the race. That moment in time between the starting and finish line is for me and is there solely to appease my own appetite for self destruction. My opinion on that will never change.
Wow! What a relief. I feel much better now that I've gotten all that out into the open. Now I can look towards the future with the same excitement I had when I first started doing this eight years ago. I don't know for sure what tomorrow is going to bring but I do know I'll have a lot better attitude about it. For what its all worth I feel like I've finally broke out of my slump and I'm starting to have fun again. The road I just returned from was long and at times very difficult to continue down. I was able to tough it out though and I'm very happy to say that I didn't get lost out on the trail somewhere.Thanks to everyone who has stood by me and put up with my shit over the last year and a half. You will not be forgotten. You are all living proof that the ultra running community. This close knit family of trail running fanatics. Is what makes this the greatest sport on the face of the planet. Take care and I'll see you all out there somewhere.