philosophy

A new adventure

TRT 50 mile, 2007. Photo by Scott Dunlap

The photo above was taken in my first year of ultrarunning, it was pre-sponsor days. In fact it was my very first 50 miler. Now looking at this picture, I see an immensely amount of foreshadowing about the course of my running and, more over, being sponsored. What you can't see in this picture is that I am wearing one of my beloved pair of Salomon running shoes. I wore the heck out of those shoes and finally in 2009 became a member of the Salomon running team. At that point in my running career, I was becoming very ultra focused and had my eyes on the 100 milers for 2010. Yes, I was still doing some road stuff, but it was secondary. I loved my time on the Salomon running team. They were amazing generous sponsors and I really loved my teammates.

Last year, I found myself as a runner. Deciding to try and run the Olympic Trials in the marathon was a turning point in my running career. I got back to the root of who I was as a runner and the way that I train best. No, I am not going to say that I found a road runner. Instead, I found an adventurer. And I found someone who can seek adventure within as much as I can seek adventure on a mountain or curving the line of some single track. I found balance, challenge and started to redefine myself. I am a hybrid runner. I love road, trail, combos, uphills, downhills, short and long distance. I just love to run, unabashedly and unbiased. My contract was up with Salomon at the end of last year and I decided not to renew it. I didn't have any other offers on the table at the time, but I could see that where I was going with my running, was not the proper fit for the Salomon team anymore. I am very thankful for my time at Salomon and the opportunities they gave me. 

After the Olympic Trials, I was feeling incredibly inspired in my running. I was choosing races according to my hearts desire alone. Dreaming big and setting some huge goals. I feel like I am exploring the possibilities of who I can be as a runner and as an adventurer. It is a really cool feeling.

When I started exploring the possibilities of potential other sponsors, I spent a good amount of time considering whether I would find a sponsor that would accept me for who I am as a runner. I made a firm decision that I would run for no one if it mean compromising the things I had learned about myself. 

I said the photo above was foreshadowing and looking at it now, I see it was. When I was unsponsored and new to the sport, I simply wore what I liked/loved, what felt comfortable, what made me feel like I could run like the wind. What was I rocking?


I am excited, humbled and absolutely overjoyed to announce that I am joining the North Face team. I am super stoked to be a part of such an amazing group of athletes and represent for a company that embodies the same spirit of adventure that I do. I have some great races lined up for the year and I can't wait to get started!





Spirit of Adventure

Krissy and I celebrating our FKT at the Grand Canyon
(photo: Ultraspire)

This time last year, I was gearing up at my first attempt at making the Olympic Trials qualifying standards.  I decided at the end of 2010 to shift my focus towards that goal and for the first time in my running career really see how fast I could be if I focused on running the marathon. I had never really given the marathon my full attention and had never really put all of myself into it. I ran my first marathon in 2005 and by August 2006, I ran my first ultra and was hooked. From then on, the marathon was just a training distance, an afterthought. Yes, I PR'd a few more times at the marathon distance, getting down to 2:49 at the end of 2008, but I categorized myself as an ultrarunner. That is where my heart was.

I got into ultrarunning because I wanted to get away from my running being dictated by time, pace, and the constant pursuit of PRs. I didn't get into running for that reason and I didn't want to cultivate that part of my running. I run because I like to challenge myself, I like the adventure, I like the journey. Ultrarunning is a great way to explore those aspects. I hadn't ever considered that I could race marathons hard and retain that. I entered last year with a bit of trepidation, scared that the marathon training and the pursuit of the OT qualifier would change me as a runner and not for the better. I didn't want to become type A about my training.

My first attempt at the qualifier at Houston didn't work out like I had hoped but it served as the perfect catalyst for more clearly understand myself as I pursued this goal. I realized that it had to be more to me than just pursuing a time goal; it had to be about the spirit of adventure of pursuing such a goal. I found a way to retain who I am as a runner and why I run. 

Adventure: Can I battle through a 100k race 2 weeks after a DNF/food poisoning?
Go to the well, have the well be dry and keep going?

Ultimately, last year was a great adventure and exploration of seeing what my body could do as I pointed it towards getting as fast as I could in the marathon. Last year was also an adventure because I did this and still ran four 100k races, set a Fastest Known Time at the Grand Canyon R2R2R with krissy and spent the better part of the summer training with and then pacing Nathan for Hardrock 100. I didn't just spend the year obsessing over January 14th and my progress towards that. I work best in short training cycles of 8-9 weeks and this year have discovered what really works for me in terms of developing as a runner. The adventure has been within, exploring what my body can do at the speed end of the spectrum instead of the endurance end. I have discovered some cool things along the way, such as my ability to run uphill has improved extremely though the amount of time I spend on the skill has drastically decreased. My endurance hasn't waned and I am starting to learn how to race a marathon, which is such a different feeling than an ultra. Instead of trying to stay comfortable for as long as possible, I am trying to figure out how to run "eyeballs out" for as long as I can. I have challenged myself to confront my limits and have been pleasantly surprised to find that I have only begun to scratch the surface. The past year has brought me to a place where I am unafraid to be who I am as a runner. I am a hybrid runner. I run on trails and roads, I run marathons and ultras. I love it all and have finally been able to empower myself to follow my heart in choosing races instead of trying to fit in or be someone I am not. Over the past year, I have stoked and cultivated my curiosity and sense of adventure. Nearly every race that I have succeeded at, I have toed the line with one thought "I have no idea how this will go". Run at 100k National Championship 3 weeks after making my OT qualifier? Adventure. Finishing UROC 100k two weeks after DNF at World 100k and food poisoning? A Journey. Race NYC marathon two weeks after deciding NOT to race JFK 50 miler and after a 35 mile training run? Curiosity. 

I know have 3 days and 19 hours until I toe the line in Houston for the 2012 Olympic Trials. My recovery went quickly after NYC marathon, my month of December had some fantastic training, but it also had some really bad days and a cold lodged itself in my system last week that has yet to shake. It has been both good and bad, but that means I am back to the same place mentally: curious. I have been through the thought process of what a bad race would mean, I have shredded up time goals and ideas of what pace I might go out at. I am holding on to the sense of adventure and wondering, "what can I do with this race?" For me the most important part of any adventure is being present for it, soaking it all up and smiling through the obstacles that will undoubtable arrive. I don't think I have to state that I want to have a great race, I believe that is self evident. On Saturday I will race with curiosity, wonderment and a spirit of adventure, chasing after the best that I can be. I for one am excited to see what I discover.

Life is like a trail race


Bestest Everest and I at SD100 (photo: Brett Rivers)

Life is like a trail race.

When I ran Vermont 100 in 2008, the course was marked quite well. Every "respectable" interval there was a flag or, better yet, a "confidence marker" which was a large yellow pie plate with a giant C on it. Flags and marking in a trail race are our life line to success. Yes, knowing the course helps, but in the end we rely on these tiny little markers to get us where we want to go. 

I followed the markers quite successfully for the majority of the race. However, at one important and not obvious intersection we (I was with pacer JB by this point) missed a marker due to some distraction (racers on horseback asking for directions) and blazed right past a crucial turn. We realized our error in less than a mile and retraced our steps back to where we had gotten off course. I lost a few minutes, but in the end, the mis-direction just provided me with a necessary shot of adrenaline to change up the pace of the later miles of a 100 miler and more importantly, made me be more cognizant of my surroundings and keeping myself present.

In life, we go along our path, living our lives, make our way and look for little markers along the way to know we are going the right direction. A reassuring word from a friend, a pat on the back, a reassurance, a feeling; our "confidence markers" can come in all shapes and forms.

In life, just like trail racing, we sometimes go off track. We take a wrong turn or go down a path that isn't the way we truly want to go. We lose the markers and go into uncharted territory.
When you make a wrong turn, correct it then don't look back.
UROC 100k (photo: Running Times)

But just like in trail racing, we have a choice to stop, look at a map, turn around and go back to where we got off track. Sure, it means took a little extra time getting there, but we make it there, maybe a little worse for the wear or a little wiser, but we make it there. 

Other times, we choose to keep moving forward, even when we haven't seen a marker in a long time. We keep pressing forward in faith that we know the way and are self-reliant for reassurance. I've climbed mountains this way, literally (hello Hardrock) and metaphorically. It is hugely empowering to proceed into uncertainty like this and finally be rewarded with a marker, a weigh station, a sign you are going the right way. 

We can be not so lucky when we move forward in faith. Sometimes we end up cutting the course, ending up at a dead end or other such disasters. It is then that we can choose to either change our goals or find our way back. No matter what path we choose, there is always a way to find a way back, to be true to ourselves and our journey.

I realize that this year has been a lesson in finding and losing, changing and rediscovering, my own path as a runner. At the end of last year, I decided that I wanted to focus all of my attention on being the best runner I could be and make a go at qualifying for the Olympic Trials. I was all in. I made my qualifier in my second attempt in a horrible weather day at the LA Marathon. This was a huge confidence marker along the way. My goal was not just to qualify but to be prepared to be my best come the Trials in January 2012. But somewhere along the way, I took a wrong turn. I started doubting myself, I started to question my goals, I let other's expectations permeate into my brain. I went down a path, ignoring the signs that I was getting away from where I wanted to go and plunged headlong down the mountain.

I just realized I was off course. I was going the wrong way. Sure the path I was heading down was a suitable path, totally acceptable and safe. But it was not where I wanted to head. No, I set my sights on being the best I could be and I don't want to relinquish that. I don't want to settle, I want to make my once in a lifetime experience (because making the Olympic Trials could be once in a lifetime!), magical. That is where I want my path to go for now. I lost that dream, that goal for a while. I pushed it aside because I was scared. I let it move to the back burner because I wasn't respecting myself as a multifaceted runner.

But that is where I want to go. I finally stopped going the wrong way, I realized I was off course and I corrected my path. The Trials are in just over two months and I plan on doing everything in my power to be as prepared as I can be on that day. I finally see the signs that that is the right way for me to go right now, that that path is the one that is true for me in the immediate future. From there, I am sure I will dream other dreams, pursue other paths and be lost and found all over again. But for now, I see the signs and I know I am going the right way. And I can't wait to see where this path will take me.