Friday, October 28, 2011

Running Madness

This is an oldie but goodie, especially as we gear up for another summer of running.

Say what you want about the Western States 100 -- commercial, elitist, old-fashioned, tired, over-hyped -- it is an extraordinary event with a compelling story to tell.

In this very brief piece I love the language and the living nature of the experience, "scary", "stupid", "nobody believes it", "pain is temporary", on and on.

And, hearing and seeing Dave Terry in this video brings tears to my eyes. To those who knew him, you know what I mean. To those who didn't, trust me, he was one of the great ones.

Take 3 minutes to enjoy...

Monday, October 24, 2011


Back in the early '90's when I was living in Philadelphia, working at the country's oldest Quaker school, and writing my Masters' thesis on "Wilderness and the American Character" I was engrossed in the simple life. Since then, of course, I've had five jobs, lived in six houses, and had three kids. Along the way, things have gotten quite a bit more complex. Recently, however, my life has been simplified. And that is due, in part, to running.

It's cliche to say that running is the ultimate simple sport. All you need are shoes, shorts and the desire to get out there. And these days, you don't really even need shoes:)

Thing is, the cliche is true, running is a simple endeavor and, if given the proper place in one's life, it can help to simplify those other places in our lives that are becoming increasingly complex, complicated and, in some cases, downright unsustainable. For those of us who have chosen the complex path with kids, jobs, houses, cars, can be difficult, if not impossible, to carve out the time and space for simplicity. It takes effort and a choice to be present and in the moment.

I was reflecting recently on the last two years of my life -- two years that have been filled with transition and change. Through those two years, the one constant, at least until I was stripped to my core with a debilitating injury eight weeks ago, was my running. Now that I have begun to slowly crawl out of the injury hole and things are looking up, I am pausing to look back. The visceral memory of the complexity of the past two years lingers and what makes that reflection meaningful and purposeful is the acceptance of the growth that has taken place, growth that I did not know I needed.

In those moments of deep simplicity and silence I am reminded of that great Buddhist saying,

Don't ask why this is happening to me?

Rather, ask why is this happening for me?

Monday, October 17, 2011


In August, when I first came down with this nasty case of pf I am still battling, I thought quite a bit about patience. I kept telling myself that I needed this injury to learn patience and to prepare for myself for my second life as a runner. I needed this injury to come to grips with the inevitable impact of aging and I needed this injury to remind me that the cocky, arrogant jerk I was in my thirties could be brought down to size with the burning, painful, debilitating inflammation in my foot that is not much bigger than a quarter but has now persisted for two months. I admit it now, I needed this injury.

And now, it needs to go away!

I think, at this point, I am doing all the right things and I have been able to run for 10 minutes, flat and straight, each day for the last two days (at a blazing 9 minute per mile pace). Never mind the fact that putting on my shoes takes longer than the actual run, I am running again, and that's good -- not just for me but for everyone around me. One foot in front of the other, baby steps, like starting over again at 44 years old.

More to the point, this necessary patience in my life has brought to bear something that is so essential for all of us to learn to live in this world as erratic humans. For too long in modern American society we have been in a place where immediate gratification is what it's all about. The what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitude seems to pervade everything. We're left to wonder what's next and how can we get ahead of it. We just start to figure out the iPhone4 and everyone tells us we need to get the iPhone5, or whatever, you know what I mean. But patience, true patience, that is a really good teacher. In many ways, it's the best teacher.

Back to August... Remember the World Track Championships? Remember Usain Bolt's false start in the 100 meter final? Man, the guy had been invincible and all of a sudden he was walking off the track and giving the championship to someone else. Furthermore, he had to wait an agonizing five days for his next race.

In the end, his impatience taught him patience.

And maybe that's the ultimate lesson for all of us these days. Because running, especially long-distance ultramarathon running, is all about patience. If it can impact a sprinter it can certainly the rest of us who slog out of Squaw on the last Saturday in June and, at best, arrive in Auburn just before sunset. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years, decades, even, to realize our true potential. Dang, how about a 100 year-old man finishing a marathon!

So, stop, pause, reflect, be patient. Maybe your next race will be your best. Maybe not. But it will teach you something. It will teach you how to run, how to live, and how to be. And, it will do it at a time and in a place where oftentimes those things are harder to do than they used to be. That's gotta be good for something!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Grindstone 100 -- Crew Report

Last weekend I had the honor and privilege to crew my good friend Craig Thornley at the Grindstone 100. Most of the details of the race are covered in his report that can be found here but a couple additional thoughts are in order. I'll go with top-10 format since that is Craig's favorite medium:

10. Crewing a race is much harder than running a race. Especially when injured.
9. Sitting around a campfire at an Aid Station is a lovely thing, especially when you're not running the race. However, if David Horton is sitting around the same campfire, don't plan on getting any sleep.
8. Tweeting a race is really hard. Irunfar has it dialed. I won't be quitting my day job any time soon.
7. When a race starts at 6pm and you are crewing make sure you have a plan for staying awake. It's not easy. Beer and coffee help.
6. Neal Gorman is one tough mofo.
5. The weather in Central Virginia in mid-October is amazing. Kind of makes staying up all night for two days straight seem worth it.
4. Clark Zealand is an outstanding Race Director. He goes about his business in a calm, dignified way and makes every runner feel like they are the reason he does what he does.
3. Craig Thornley knows how to run 100 miles on his terms. Even when he's 3000 miles from home in a strange, God-Forsaken, dark, rocky land he understands that all you have to do is keep going. And, he also knows that after 96 miles there is nothing unusual about taking 10 minutes to drink four ounces of Pepsi.
2. The Grindstone 100 is poised to be the best Boutique 100 miler in the country. The combination of an outstanding race director, an extraordinary setting, a family friendly start/finish venue, and a perfect time of year this race really could become, and should become, the AC100 of the East.
1. There is no better way to cement a friendship than to crew for your friend. I know that many readers of this blog know that Craig and I often finish eachother's sentences but there is no better way to see how a team works than to actually see how a team works. Without being overly zealous I'd like to see the two of us teaming up again in the years ahead. I reckon you do too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grindstone 100

I'll post a report later in the week. But for now, here are three photos from the weekend:

Horty, LB, Clark, CJW, SJW, AJW
LB and AJW
"You're good!"

Sunday, October 2, 2011

WS Race Director Search

It seems to me that in the midst of all the chatter about changes in the sport the situation with respect to the WS RD Search is perhaps more relevant than any other. This is the first time I can recall that a race has actually posted a job for an Executive Director and defined the position in such a thorough and thoughtful way. As a non-profit director myself I applaud the WSER Board for being so transparent and open in their process. For a group that has been much maligned over the years for their seeming lack of transparency this is an excellent step.

While I don't know this for sure, I doubt Norm and Greg were subjected to such a rigorous process. To me, as the race continues to evolve and the challenges increase, this kind of selective process is essential to insure ongoing success. I will be interested to see what kind of candidate pool emerges and ultimately how the selection is made. The Board is clearly looking for a person with a broad skill set and a depth of experiences in running and beyond. As is often the case in my industry, it strikes me that they are looking for "God on a good day!"

Here is the blurb from the WS100 Webesite:

"The WS Board of Directors is currently accepting resumes for the position of
Western States Race Director

To be considered for the position, please submit your resume and a minimum of two letters of recommendation to:

All resumes and letters of recommendation must be received by 12/1/2011.

Selection process will be based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:

A minimum of five years in a leadership role. Is highly ethical, honest and respected in the ultrarunning community.
Embodies and understands the ideals and values of the WS Endurance Run.
Has an understanding that the primary mission is to give each WS runner an outstanding experience that is both safe and memorable.
Able to work collaboratively with the WS Board.
Has the ability to seek, cultivate and foster key relationships and partnerships in areas ranging from federal, state and local resource management groups to potential corporate, business and community partners.
Understands that proper perspective, credit and acknowledgment is always given to our history and unique research mission.
Knows and understands the value of treating all runners and volunteers with respect.
Has a good grounding in finances, paying bills and living within the means of a specific budget.
Has some understanding of communication, both broadly strategic as well as internal, in areas of print and electronic media.
Has the ability to think clearly and deliberately in emergency situations.
Willingness to relocate to the Sacramento/Auburn, CA area.
Possesses excellent speaking/writing skills.