Wednesday, January 13, 2010

DNF's - A follow up

On my runs over the past two weeks I have been reflecting frequently on the post I wrote about dnf’s a couple weeks ago. In those reflections I have realized that I have learned much by the reaction to the post and thought it would be helpful to put my thoughts in writing.

First of all, I learned that far more people than I thought actually read my blog. Judging by the number of comments on the blog and the overwhelming number of offline emails I received on the topic many people read this blog and are interested in its content. I am not entirely sure why, but the blog seems to have a substantial following in the ultra world and I think I misunderstood the significance of that. As somewhat of a techno-neophyte I don’t really understand a lot about this “new media” world and the reaction to the post gave me a wake-up call about the significance of this “new media”. What started three years ago as a place for me to write about my thoughts and feelings as they pertain to ultrarunning has turned into something entirely different. Not sure why, but it has and I need to adapt to that new reality, I suppose.

As a result, I now know that there is a responsibility that comes with hosting these things that I did not previously realize. Honestly and naively, I basically thought, maybe, 100 people followed this blog and that from time to time they would comment and state an opinion or ask a question. Someone commented on another blog that there should be a distinction between bloggers and journalists. Let me be clear, I am a blogger and I don’t intend to quit my day job to attempt to become a journalist. I leave that to people far more talented than me. That said, I am a highly interested observer and fan of the sport and some of my posts are certainly written from that perspective. Others, of course, are written from my perspective as a participant in the sport and occasionally posts are written simultaneously from both perspectives. This brings me to the next thing I learned in all of this:

Back in my last job when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area I spent significant time studying diversity education and the ways in which race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics affect the way we view the world and our position in the world. Working with one consultant, I learned a lesson on the difference between intent and impact. To keep it brief, in diversity education there is an effort made to distinguish between these two and to create an environment in which all parties are aware that what their intentions are may not always match up with the impact of those intentions and that out of those mismatches conflict can emerge. In the dnf post I am afraid I did not heed this lesson. My intent was to discuss dnf’s as a means of evaluating a runners’ body of work for a season. However, the impact of my comments was suggestive of being judgmental and disrespectful. While I stand by the notion of dnf’s being worthy of consideration for interpretation in the voting for UROY I also understand that to raise the issue and specifically and publicly (to a far wider audience that I realized) name specific runners was a mis-judgement on my part.

Additionally, I was surprised that some readers commented that this post was about me. That somehow by citing specific examples of dnf’s by others I was attempting to highlight something about myself. While I understand where this interpretation might have come from I must say the days of me being compared to any of the five runners I listed are long over. Yes, it’s true, in the past I did finish in 2nd place to two of the runners on the list. But, in one case it was when the winner essentially coasted to the finish to preserve himself for Badwater two weeks later and the other beat me to the finish by over 90 minutes at Wasatch and then the following year broke the Course Record. Needless to say, the post was not an attempt to highlight me against these runners and the only reason my dnf record came into the discussion was when an early commenter asked about it and I answered him.

Finally, I must address the one regret I have about the post. One commenter to the original post asked if I thought I could have surfaced the issue and provoked a discussion on the topic of dnf’s in a different, less volatile way. Having thought about it I think I could have done so by not naming specific people and their specific performances. That way I could have still raised the question (should dnf’s be considered as criteria by the voters of UROY?) and not been perceived as disrespectful and judgmental. Clearly, the five runners I named represent some of the best male ultrarunners in the country and they have my full and complete respect and admiration. I know that in every 100-mile race, whether it is run to the finish line or not, there is a story; a story that is intensely personal and unique; a story that cannot and should not be told by others; a story that, at the end of the day, is quite possibly why we all do these things in the first place.

25 comments:

brownie said...

Your blog rocks, and don't go changing it because you may have pissed some people off. It's your opinion, and if others don't like it they don't have to read it. I'm sure the guys you mentioned in your original post have somehow gotten over it and have managed to sleep at night once again...

Brett said...

A lot of people follow your blog because you're good at what you do, you post interesting things, and you are passionate about the sport. Some people like me read it even though 87.4% of the content relates to Western States. ;)

Running is a great mind clearer, and I have often thought of better ways to have said things and done things while pounding the pavement. Then I anguish over it more as to why I didn't do a better job the first time.

I am a firm believer that these things happen for a reason. So don't regret the post or how it was written for a second...if there's anything you feel you can learn from it, then take it to heart...great.

Most of us have done worse...

Gundy said...

In some ways, you were merely articulating the whispers/thoughts of quite a few people out there irrespective of their "rightness". I think it's still difficult to talk about a topic in a non-specific way. Most athletes in major sports have to deal with bloggers/journalists constantly questioning their "heart" (just ask Randy Moss) and making judgements; maybe it's simply a sign of the growth of the sport that the discussion has moved beyond merely being in awe of people doing the distance. Just a thought.

Have a great year and see you at Western States; it was a pleasure to share the trails at Rocky with you for 20 miles last year.

GZ said...

Hey, I like your blog.

I don't have to agree with every belief of yours to like it.

I think it took some balls to put the post out there, and balls to come back and say that you have changed your thinking on it.

Did I agree with some of the things implied in your post? Nope. Did I get that you were kicking that around in the context of UROY. Yup. So we talk, debate, chat, whatever - and learn.

I appreciate that it was in this forum with you stating it rather than an anonymous poster / poser. Ideally, it would be a great yap on a run, but that will be some other time.

GZ said...

P.S - were you a voter in the UROY?

AJW said...

GZ, thanks for the comments and yes, I have been a voter for the UROY Awards for the past four years.

On a related note, it is likely that next season dnf's will be listed as part of a runner's body of work provided the rd's who report results to UR mag include that information in their results.

GZ said...

I think it is fine to consider that. As Brownie stated earlier - a DNF is a loss to everyone in the field (and I have lost to everyone in the field on occasion - but will stand by it being the right thing for me to do that day).

Are you willing to comment on how you voted? And/or how DNF's particularly impacted your view of how to vote? If not, I respect that. I get that this can get a bit more sensitive (back to names).

AJW said...

GZ, since I just outed myself on being a voter I'd rather keep how I voted to myself for now.

Mike L said...

In some respects the blog entry so many found upsetting has been a blessing to you.
It has led to new insight, increased clarity on the subject materal and refreshers of lessons learned long ago. All in all it was a thought provoking entry that generated intelligent thought and emotion. When most people speak or write their honest thoughts they will be seen by many as controversial. I think the key is to be tactful about expressing real thought without trying to be "PC"
bla bla bla... Keep up the good work!

Speedgoat Karl said...

I've said a few things in the past that offend some. And I never meant to offend anyone. But that's the real world. It's not perfect.

Blog it up, and don't miss the luge run, cuz' after you do that, you'll be posting some hilarious entertainment.

Gretchen said...

I appreciate your remarks on the difference between intent and impact - a very important distinction. Thanks for returning to this topic to share your thought process and the insights you've gained since the initial post.

Also, you should check out a little thing called Google Analytics. ;)

Alaskan Assassin said...

I do not even know you and I actually received numerous emails from fellow runners that were pissed off about your DNF post. I just now actually read it for the 1st time.

My question to you is....What's the point of doing a follow up post? This is your blog and you can say what the hell you want (even if it is crap. ha!). Be strong in the face of adversity. If they dont like it there are plenty of other blogs to choose from.

Lee said...

I read your blog regularly. I didn't comment on the post b/c I just thought it was your take on the issue. Just b/c I don't agree doesn't mean you should have came out with less force.

However, most of the people listed in the post have big fan bases. While most of us will never know what it feels like to CR, or finish top ten, we do pull for ya'll. We are the people shouting for you at Michigan Bluff. Our crews travel ahead to get a glimpse of the front runners. I visualize being able to flow like you guys, and it's that kind of thinking that's gotten me through a few miles.
Both good posts, and I will see you in Auburn...I'll be the guy just ahead of you (ok, not really, but I can still talk junk until then!)

Ultra Steve said...

Well done Andy! Keep doing what your doing. Now get back to that 5 min mile :-)

C.J. Hitz said...

Great follow up AJW. With your blog and its wide audience there does come responsibility. The human race does quite a nice job of keeping each of us accountable when something doesn't quite smell right. That first DNF post just didn't smell or taste like the AJW folks had come to know. Nothing wrong with stirring things up and rocking the boat but your post had crossed a line and went a direction you admitted was different than intended.

Thanks for your willingness to admit error. You're a class act in the running community.

Footfeathers said...

I admire bloggers who say what they feel and believe. I've long stopped reading the day-to-day boring training blogs and the sugar sweet superficial ones; picking lint out of my toenails is more interesting. Keep on truckin'.

Rock Ghost Town this Sunday!

Scott Dunlap said...

Somewhere between personal journal and journalist, in that pit of emotions/opinions/analysis between the facts and the insights, that chasm between what you feel and what you "should say", lies everything beautiful about blogging. People are coming to your blog to dwell in this world and see your truth, so don't go a changin'.

You want to rile some folks up, try breaking a story before the journalists, or post some Karnazes vs Jurek fodder. People go f'ing crazy and start telling you about your responsibilities as a blogger. Wha? I don't even spellcheck! ;-)

Gretch is right - get some Analytics rolling! I think you'll be surprised at who reads and where they are from. Your blogging is always insightful and entertaining and I bet your audience is much bigger than you think. I enjoy it very much.

SD

crowther said...

I think that a name-less discussion of DNFs might have sounded too theoretical to be truly interesting. Aside from the truism that it's your blog so you can do what you want, one possibly effective approach may have been to list the race results (all of them, not just the DNFs) of a few UROY contenders and then say, "Notice that Roes, James, and Koerner had one or more DNFs, whereas Meltzer and Wardian did not. Should this affect the UROY voting? Why or why not?" That might have kept the discussion focused on the UROY issue rather than the problematic tangent of whether DNFs are morally wrong....

Ben Nephew said...

How can you include DNF's if all the races don't report them? Will reporting DNF's a requirement?

Burt said...

AJW:

Thank you for the follow up and clarification. I am an educator and "used-to-be" ultrarunner who loves following the current action in the sport. Your blog is a great means for me to do that. I admit to being surprised by your first DNF post and the specificity with which you framed your position. It felt..."aggressive" for lack of a better word and I wondered to myself what example that set for students/kids. Nonetheless, I loved your courage to post it. This current post only reaffirms to me your deep sense of respect for the sport of ultrarunning and the efforts of others in all challenging endeavors. As I wrote on Anton K's blog after his Leadville DNF post: "Anyone can post after they do well. But, I really respect posting and taking the time to clarify when things go poorly." This current post of yours leads me to the same belief about you. Running a 100 miles can sometimes seem easy compared to this type of true integrity. Thanks. All the best.

William Swint said...

AJW,
You should never have to apologize for calling it like you see it. More people in this country need to speak thier feelings and not worry who's feelings get hurt.

rdljon said...

Great post Andy! I have pondered over the same thought of DNF's and UROY. It should be part of the discussion but not the whole discussion. Good luck this season man. I envy the fire you have for the sport each and every year. Hope to see you on the trails soon.

Chris said...

Andy:

Just now saw your blog and found the DNF discussion interesting. Being a mid packer my DNFs don't garner much discussion.:-) But I did have one at Cactus Rose this past year where I had to drop at mile 85. Without boring people with the details it became very much a safety issue and I had wife and kids to think about. Still have no regrets.

Concerning Tony and Leadville. I don't think the comaprison with Carpenter is apples to apples. It was Matt's first 100 and from what I recall he used the humbling experience of the 40 mile death march to fuel his efforts next year. Kudos to him for finishing.

I think if this had been Tony's first effort at Leadville he may have elected to death march it home. However, after having won the race twice and owning the 2d and 3d fastest times it was course record or bust. That was his motivation for doing the race. Granted he might've earned some extra respect for death marching it in but that wasn't necessarily his goal. So I don't think the comparison with Carpenter is entirely valid.

Anyway, enjoyed reading the blog and liked the way you stuck your neck out on this issue.

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