Recently, on this blog, Robert Blair asked if I would be willing to write a post about how I manage to hold down a full-time job, care for my family, and run ultramarathon races. The short answer is, quite simply, my family is with me every step of the way.
Let me start with my wife Shelly. She loves the sport! A runner herself, she is smart enough to stay away from ultramarathons but enough of a thrill-seeker that she enjoys living the sport vicariously through me. Plus, she loves the warmth and closeness of the ultra community and has made many friends of her own during the years we have been doing this.
In addition, on the emotional and psychological front Shelly knows that without training and racing I am pretty much of a train wreck at work, at home, and pretty much everywhere else so usually, when the alarm goes off at 4:30am and I reach to press the snooze button, she is there to kick me out of bed, often, quite forcefully. With my training Shelly is both a coach and a counselor, carefully monitoring my moods and fatigue level to help me maintain focus and balance at the same time. On race day she is a fierce competitor never letting me whine or complain and always looking ahead, not behind. It's a subtle approach but one that works for us. She enjoys the thrill of the hunt as much as I do and so far it's worked.
Then, there are my three boys, Carson (12), Logan (10) and Tully (7). Perhaps I'm a lucky man but these guys love going to 100 mile races. And, they've been doing it since they were born. In fact, Western States has become such an annual ritual for them that they are currently lamenting the fact that they know, someday soon, I will drop out of the top-10 and the reality will set in for them that there may, in fact, be a last-weekend-in-June when we don't travel to Squaw and Auburn. I am fortunate to be blessed with three boys who love sharing the experience of running 100 milers with me and that, ultimately, makes the experience so much richer for me and for all of us.
Finally, there is me. I try my hardest not to let my training interfere with my family life. Certainly, when we pack up to go to races and essentially devote our entire vacation time to my races it does get in the way of family time but, as I noted above, they actually enjoy it. So, how do I prevent it from getting in the way of regular old life? In short, I run very early in the morning and try to be completely open and honest about what I can do and what I can't do. Then, when it comes to needing to get those long runs done in the lead-up to a big race I usually just use the training camp approach and check-out for two or three days which allows me to stay focused and also not overdo it. And again, Shelly and boys usually support that knowing that it will pay off in the long run.
So, there you have it. Not sure if it could work for everybody but for me, and for us, ultrarunning is an integral part of our family life. In fact, the boys and Shelly are, as we speak, eagerly awaiting the results of the Hardrock lottery because they want nothing more than to climb into the car after Western States in June and head out for two weeks of camping in the Colorado highcountry. Maybe, as with me, this stuff has gotten into their blood.