Over the past few days I've gotten a lot of thought-provoking feedback regarding my Jemez Mountain 50-Mile race report. My race report struck many, including my beloved wife, as a bit negative. When I re-read the report, I could easily see how it would be viewed as negative and sour-grapes in tone, and perhaps even turn off some folks.
One reader, whose feedback I very much appreciate, suggested I celebrate all that's good in my life--family, health, job, etc.--instead of focusing on negative stuff like what went down at Jemez. I've made a conscious effort to keep my family out of this blog. Occasionally I'll mention my wife, our son and even my job, but rarely do I offer any details on my non-running life because I'm not comfortable bringing them into the public domain. Suffice it to say, I couldn't be more blessed in my non-running life. We'll leave it at that.
Every day I feel lucky to run. When I wasn't able to run like I wanted because of plantar fasciitis, it really hit me how much we take for granted our own health. And this was just a foot injury! In the realm of employment, something similar happened a few years ago. In March 2007, the organization I worked for had a budget shortfall and I was laid off with zero notice. With the love and moral support of family and friends, I quickly got back on the my feet and was gainfully employed within a few months at University Hospitals Health System (UH), where I worked for three great years before we relocated to Denver last spring, and everyday I entered the parking garage at UH to report to work I felt lucky to be there and have a job that paid well, offered super benefits and enabled me to help provide for the family. Sometimes it takes a swift kick in the ass to appreciate what we have.
And so the feedback I've gotten about Jemez has been kind of a kick in the ass, making me realize that I've somehow taken the joy out of running. As I've written on here before, back East I was a competitive ultrarunner who was able to achieve many of the goals I set out for myself. Out West, it's been a different story, especially with mountain races. My pride has been hurt and it's upsetting to me that I've continued to fall well short of my goals in races out here, regardless of the ridiculously deep talent. Through it all, I've racked up miles and convinced myself that this would eventually pay off. But in the wake of Jemez, I now realize that the mileage, while good, is only part of the equation. I have to get to the trails more and get comfortable cruising up and down mountains. Jemez showed me that. So, when you take that into account, Jemez was an overwhelmingly positive experience--it revealed a critical flaw in my training that I'm now eager to address (once my quads return to health!).
I don't mind admitting that several times during Jemez I considered DNF'ing. The only reason I didn't DNF was my son. Never will it be said that I quit because it got tough (only if I got seriously injured), because this would set a terrible example for my son and also let down my wife. In just about every race, they sustain me. How could I ever tell my son to keep going in the face of adversity when I myself had quit?
Oftentimes when I'm in a race I think about my son and imagine one day him doing this same race, maybe with me next to him as his pacer (if I can keep up with him!). For me, I see running as part of my legacy to him. But maybe he won't want to run. I'm OK with that, too. My greatest legacy is love.
With Leadville now three months away, I've more or less decided to put away the past and just move on with focus and passion guiding the way. It's a different ballgame out here and so all I can do is my best and cherish every run I go on, the beauty of the mountains, the relationships I have in the ultrarunning world and my love of running long distances. Forget about expectations and just have fun. Isn't that why we do this sport anyway?