Monday, December 31, 2018


"You and me, we don't even have a choice. See, we're born with this killer instinct that you can't just turn off and on like some radio. We always have to be in the middle of the action 'cause we're the warriors. And without some challenge, without some damn war to fight, then the warrior might as well be dead." - Apollo Creed, Rocky IV

As hard as it is for me to believe, 2018 was my fifteenth year of being a "serious" runner, and my twelfth consecutive year of running 3,000 or more miles per year. I ran my first marathon in 2004, my first ultra in 2005 and my first 100-miler in 2007--and since that time it's mostly been a fun ride.

I hit my peak in 2008 and 2009, not only in terms of race performance with a few nice wins but also in training output with years of 4,000 miles. It seemed back in those years I could tear myself to pieces at the track and then the next day wake up feeling fresh as a daisy and ready for the next workout. My body gave me so much in training and races and it was fun. But it wasn't just physical. I had the killer instinct and was willing to suffer...a lot.

I am now a bit older and 2018 has been a year that, quite honestly, I hoped would never happen. As the year comes to a close, I'm not sure I can or will continue my ultra running, at least in 2019. Whether or not I'm burned out, I don't know. Since the late summer, the story has been this: If I feel the fire, usually it's fleeting.

I am going into 2019 having not registered for a single 100-miler or even a lottery--a first for me. I did register for the North Fork 50K--a race I really love. I am eying a return to the Burning River 100 in July. Although the Burning River course has changed a little since I last ran it in 2007, I still know the course quite well--it is flat and fast, which I like. Burning River is also a beautiful course that runs point to point. I love the idea of going back to Cleveland. But Burning River remains a question mark as I am still not sure I want to train for another 100-miler. I have been running ultras long enough to know you should NEVER register for a 100 unless you are all in.

In addition to having to be all in, another ground rule for entering a 100 is that it must be a race I can train for off my doorstep. It can't require that I drive the 45-60 minutes it takes to get to the foothills and mountains here in Denver. If my schedule were to allow for a half-day in the mountains, then great. But a race can't require that I do that--it can't "force" me into anything (which is why I've retired from Leadville). I am more aware than ever before that my son is growing up fast and that the responsibilities I have as a dad are not just about quality but also quantity. With parenthood, quantity counts, too. The experts who say parenting is all about quality are lying. Yeah, quality is the most important thing, but you have to be/should be there a lot, even for the mundane stuff that in the end adds up and counts. I want to be there. I have a busy job that requires a lot and so I can't just keep piling on other responsibilities that cut into my ability to be there for my family--to deliver on not just quality but also quantity.

I do still love the trail! Photo by Mike Wilkinson.

I am still in love with the idea of 100s. I'm still very much in love with the outdoors. Last week, we spent three days at Copper Mountain skiing and I couldn't get enough of the feeling of being on top of big mountains. I'm just not sure I'm in love with the 100-mile training process anymore. I do feel that if I got in really good shape for Burning River, meaning I had the time to do so and also go through the training injury-free, I could run below 20 hours and possibly contend for a top-10 spot. But then I have to check those notions at the door because the reality is that I have not finished a 100 in a few years. I have also lost a lot of speed--speed that I feel I can partly restore. But it's not just speed; it's also strength. My legs now ache on long runs. I'm in really good shape, but not in ultra shape (anymore). I need to get stronger. I do know from years of experience that winters are always a grind for me. Once April rolls around, I will be feeling MUCH better and the fire may re-light.

The quote above from Apollo Creed, albeit a fictional character from the Rocky movies, does really speak to me. I do see myself as a warrior, and I need some challenge out there to stay hungry. It is hard for me to envision a year of no "challenges." What challenges I take on...I just don't know (yet).