Wednesday, August 31, 2011


A few years ago I wrote the following article for our school newsletter. While the focus of the article is on kids and teaching it is perhaps relevant to running as well:

"Developing The Disappointment Muscle"

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to re-connect with an old friend and colleague Erik Weihenmayer. Erik and I had worked together in the late nineties at Phoenix Country Day School and had parted ways in 1999. I had gone on to work at The Head-Royce School in California and Erik left the school to pursue his dream to climb the “Seven Summits” – the highest peak on each of the seven continents. This is, of course, an incredible triumph, what makes it even more amazing is that Erik Weihenmayer is completely blind.

On the day he stood atop Mt. Everest Erik became the first blind climber to ever climb to the “top of the world.” As one might expect, that accomplishment did not come easily. In the early weeks of the expedition, Erik and his team worked their way up and down the mountain establishing base camps and rehearsing their climb. On many occasions during this training phase Erik and his team became frustrated and concerned. On their first attempt to cross the infamous Khumbu Icefall Erik required thirteen hours for the crossing. Most teams manage to cross the icefall in six or seven hours. They were in trouble. Confronting the tallest mountain in the world they were worried, anxious, and increasingly disappointed.

At this point Erik did what he had done since going blind at the age of thirteen, he turned his disappointment into success. Erik refused to let the fact that he was blind and, therefore, slow, deter him. In fact, the adversity motivated him. On the day that his team began their final assault on the mountain they crossed the Khumbu Icefall in an incredible five hours and a few days later they stood atop the world’s highest mountain.

Through hard work, discipline, and the tremendous desire to turn disappointment into success Erik and his team overcame the early frustration inherent in their situation and found the strength and fortitude to make it to the top. In the process, they made history.

By embracing his blindness and seeking out difficult challenges Erik developed a strong “Disappointment Muscle.” A psychologist friend of mine has spoken about this “muscle” and suggests that too many of us have poorly developed “disappointment muscles” as a result of too many years of being shielded and protected from adversity in an attempt to stay happy and content. As parents and teachers we must be aware that our kids need disappointment and adversity in order to find ultimate success.

Only through building resilience and courage was Erik able to climb the “Seven Summits.” By building the strongest disappointment muscle he could, he found his way to the “top of the world.” In that story, there is a lesson for us all.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Follow up

Thanks to all the commenters on my last post. Trust me, I did not post the link to give it any undue attention. On the contrary, I simply wanted the readers of this blog to see it and to hear from me that I think it is mean.

Before I comment further, I want to congratulate Kilian on an amazing race and also give a shout out to Mike Foote, Nick Pedatella, Scott Jaime, Mike Wolfe, Hal Koerner, Roch Horton, Jack Pilla and Darcy Africa for great races this past weekend. And, I'd like to share my disappointment about the negative direction much of the conversation around the race is going.

I think, unfortunately, some aspects of ultrarunning are trending in a negative direction. For the last three years now we have been hearing the chorus of how the sport is changing. Most of this dialogue has centered around changes for the better (increased competition, greater exposure through sponsorship, etc...) and some for the worse (increased exclusivity in events with lotteries, environmental impact of big races, etc...) but few of the comments on the changes have crossed over into this trash talking area. That is what concerns me most about the derogatory nature of the previous post. It appears as though the friendly, civil, we're-all-in-this-together ethos that has long characterized the sport of ultrarunning is going away. I, for one, don't like it and call on all of us to reverse this trend.

Certainly, the competition in the sport is great and I love toeing the line at WS every year knowing how difficult it will be to fight through to the end. Am I best friends with all my fellow competitors? No. Are there certain people I take pleasure in finishing in front of? Absolutely. But, do I, at the end of the day, respect them? Certainly. Always.

A small little example from this past year's WS100: After Highway 49 I was surprised to come up on the 8th place runner who turned out to be Dave Mackey. Now, let's be clear, I have never been close to Dave Mackey toward the end of a race and it was pretty exciting to be passing him. Of course, it was not all that exciting for him so my lead over him was short lived. In fact, ten minutes after I passed him he passed me back and that was that. Did Dave want to beat me? Absolutely. Do we respect eachother? Undoubtedly. Was there any trash talk around this after the race? No. Dave is one of the classiest guys in the sport and he's been doing this for a long time. Who can forget his epic battle with Scott Jurek in the 2004 WS100? A battle, by the way, that was so intense, that in his post race speech Scott credited Dave with pushing him to the Course Record. That is dignified, civil, and respectful. The way it should be. The way it's always been. I know I sound old fashioned, but it's true.

Now, ever since my post a few years ago about whether or not dnf's should be considered in the Ultrarunner of the Year voting I have taken a bit of heat for being disrespectful of the dnf and several good natured posters seem to be eagerly awaiting my first dnf. For me, that's neither here nor there but it does inspire me every time I race. In addition, since the race at UTMB over the weekend, several people have asked me to comment on all the dnf's there. All I will say is that I believe those dnf's should be considered part of each runner's performance list in this year's UROY voting. However, given that I know none of the details of the reasons behind the dnf's I have no reason to judge. In fact, from my perspective, it is up to each runner to judge his/her performance in his/her own individual way and the rest of the world can take it or leave it. And, since I personally know many of the folks who dnf'd at UTMB, I can say with certainty that nobody is more disappointed about their dnf's than them. In that group you have, quite simply, some of the greatest American ultrarunners of this generation and I am sure we are all a bit disappointed that so many did not finish. I know many of us (I was literally glued to my phone all day following Meghan's posts on Twitter) were hoping for an American victory. It was not to be on this day. Knowing the toughness and resilience of many of those runners I can assure you they already have the date for the 2012 UTMB circled on their calendars and, in a way, the offensive post I posted on my blog will likely only add fuel to the American fire. A fire, quite frankly, that burns in each of us. Always has. Always will.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Much to say about this race that I will do so in time but this came across my desk and raised my eyebrows today:

Not sure what to think about that but it sure is mean.


Sunday, August 21, 2011


Well, it's been 5 years since I last got injured. It was a classic runner's injury when I came down with IT Band Syndrome seven weeks before WS. Now, to make it a "daily double", I've got a brutal case of PF. It's been nagging for about 8 months now but it's finally gotten to the point where I need to shut things down for a bit. I limped through the last five miles of my run yesterday and had to hop to the bathroom this morning because the pain was so bad.

Today, I'll be dusting off the swimming goggles, hitting the drugstore for some heel pads, and joining a gym. I guess it was inevitable after five years of injury-free running that I'd succumb to one of the classic ailments. Any and all readers out there with advice about this capricious injury please drop me a note.


PS -- Highlights from yesterday; BroncoBilly's excellent finish at LT. Mackey's CR at Waldo and my man Brad Mitchell's impressive 2:47 in the Pike's Peak Ascent.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WS100 Website

Someone just showed me this.

Yikes, Twiet used to be there! I wonder what it means?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Shoulder Season

I have had a funny stretch of running since WS this year. While I feel fully recovered and am getting excited about the upcoming fall season (I'm running UROC, Grindstone and Masochist) I have been a bit slow to bounce back.

Maybe it's a combination of age, a new job, and the oppressive July humidity in Virginia but I have found it quite easy to bail out on runs and just go with the flow. Probably good, in the long run, but still a bit curious given the fact that running is, aside from my family, the most important thing in my life.

And, it is in that context that I am really excited about the next 24 hours. You see, circumstances have impelled me to return to the Mountain West this weekend (I am actually on the plane now) and while the visit will be quite short (I return on a redeye flight out of Salt Lake on Saturday night) I am fortunate enough to have two great runs with friends to look forward to.

As I know I have written about here before, most of my running is done solo and I like it that way. In fact, I like to say that running brings out my "inner introvert" (if there is such a thing). Ironically enough, it is in the world of my running that I also have some of my best friends in the world. And, over the next 18 hours I'll be hitting the trails with a few of them.

First, this evening I am meeting up with my good friend and editor-in-chief of Bryon Powell for a run on the Wasatch Front 100 Course. Bryon and I love running the trails with one another and I can assure you if there is anyone else out on the trail this evening they'll be sure to know we're there as we'll be chattering away like schoolgirls at a sleepover from start to finish.

After that run I am going to drive up to Sun Valley and tomorrow morning meet up with my friends and long-time training buddies Brad Mitchell (, Hank Dart ( and possibly Mike Stevens and Travis Vandenberg as well. We are heading out to the mountains north of Ketchum for a "Three Lakes Loop" that takes in Prairie, Miner and Norton Lakes while traversing 18 miles all between 7000 and 10,000 feet. That has the added bonus of being the location of many school backpack trips back at my old school in Sun Valley and is quite simply one of the prettiest sections of mountain singletrack in the area.

So, I am guessing that these two runs will jump start my fall running season and connect me back to what I love most, sharing beautiful mountain trails with good friends. I'll follow-up with a report from the weekend early next week.