Friday, January 25, 2013

"Know Thyself"...what I learned in 2012

This is a Mission Statement...Not a Memo.  

This post was supposed to be a Bandera 100K race report.  It was my coming out party on the national stage, where I claim my National Championship and reap the plunderings of being the best- blah, blah, blah.  Unfortunately, like another National Champion hopeful linebacker Manti T' January not only failed to enshrine me as champion, but came with a nasty slice of humble pie to go with my injuries.  OK, I didn't let some idiot convince me my fake girlfriend was still alive.  That is seriously being out of touch with oneself.  My lack of self knowledge was a bit more insidious.  It was motivated by greed and ambition.  Even though I "knew" the outcome, I went along for the ride, like I was watching a re-run.  Like poor Manti, I failed to read all the signs and listen to my instincts. 

The only picture I took at Bandera.   My campsite not 10 feet from Tim Olson's, but just 20 feet from at least one million portapotties.  What is it with Texans letting the crapper doors slam shut when people are sleeping?  Fitful night.
So what happened in Texas?  I quit around 12 miles into the race with a badly stained/ torn left calf.  Was I surprised?  No.  I have had problems in that area each of the past 3 years from November to June.  As soon as the Idaho winter comes, I have gone from solid to crumbling like flipping a switch. This year, the symptoms were all there:

1. Long training and racing season with massive damage and fatigue accumulated.  Check.
2. Super strong November with big power and miles trying to jam everything in before my trails get buried under snow.  Check.
3.  Soleus, posterior tibialis, and gastroc tightness giving way to knots and little tears up and down the lower legs.  Check. 
4.  Mileage falls, but I rest enough to go hard a few days later, making the injuries worse each time.  Meanwhile the intensity training continues, even in cross training, without any base/MAF training, completely erodes the base and turns me into a 10K runner/ Crossfitter.
5. Serious injuries up and down the chain explode as I soldier on in the face of mounting problems.  "Gotta get ready to race."
6. Hip flexor tendonitis, shin splints, calf strains, and the kiss of death for a runner- achilles tendonitis.  CHECK, CHECK.  CHECK YOU MORON!
7.  Try to race in January with all the injuries and lack of fitness and POP! goes the athlete.  

Didn't I do the same thing last year?  Yes, this pattern has repeated four times now.  What now?

Well, Texas was a colossal failure, but it is water under the bridge.   I have no emotional bruising or disappointment.  I had no spiritual connection to the race (big mistake) and I was just racing for the competition and possible cash (mistake) and I wanted to be on iRunfar.  There, I said it!  I wanted to be the big time guy.    I was willing to risk my career and health on pure pride and ego!   I lost my way.

Now, there is a message that is resounding in my head as I try to sleep at night: 


This sport is particularly cruel to those who fail in this simple edict.  It is this failure that chews up our champions and spits them out after just a few years on top.  I can honestly say that each time I have suffered a setback in training, I knew EXACTLY what was coming. I fed the rat/ scratched the itch anyways and I lived with the consequences.  I am living with my choices now, stewing on the couch, tearing my hair out, wanting to rip through the hills, just 5 months from the Big Dance.  The frustrating part is that I did know myself well enough to have seen this coming.  But, the temptation to splurge is huge.  The pull of the alpine is strong for me and I must binge from time to time.  The same goes for my competitive spirit.  Timing of these binges is the key.

Further adding difficulty to our journey of self knowledge is that we ultra runners have so many details floating around in our heads, that we miss the big picture: 

...continued healthful progression toward our ultimate potential.

If we focus on how many miles Nick Clark ran this week and that he ran Mt. Everest worth of vertical- we may feel the need to keep up.  Remember, it is not "Know Clarkyself."  It is know thyself.  Plato, telling his stories through Socrates, espoused self knowledge above all else.  He counseled his followers and adversaries that trivialities like mythology were not worth pursuing, because if he (Socrates) doesn't know himself, then how is the minutia of other things worth the effort?  Nick Clark's numbers might as well be mythology to me.  They are so out of touch with what is possible for me and most others, that they might as well not be real.  Focusing on what others are doing will only lead me farther from focusing on proper doses of training stimulus and the inevitable breakdown that follows when I listen to myths about who does what, versus my own instincts.  I know that If I am smart and listen to my body, I will be ready to roll come June 29th- regardless of what training some other athlete does.  It was in fact Nick Clark's recent blog post that reminded me of the dangers of over-aggressive training too early in the year and his commitment to stay light in the buildup to Western until the right time.  Nick deems 2013 to be the year of "DISCIPLINE."  He acknowledges that in the past he too has done too much, too early, and it has cost him.  This is just another way of saying that he will use his self knowledge, gleaned from failures of the past, to advance to the next level.  I believe he may have just found the secret to a few more years on top of the mountain.  It will be interesting to see if his pursuit of the Grand Slam comports with what his body demands.  Time will tell and the ultrarunning world will be watching intently. does one come to know him/herself?  We can fail repeatedly until our time has passed and we can think of what might have been.  Or, before the sand slips through the hourglass, we can carefully define our nature, our essence.  Boil it down to who and what we REALLY are.  Pursue our own truth and cut away the remainder.  This was a key concept for pursuing universal truth for Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  They would ask..."Chair, what IS a chair?  What is it about a chair that defines its chairness?"  Then, after deducing the minutia from its defining characteristics, they would know the nature or "form" of what a chair is- the universal truth of its existence.  The chair is just an example they used because it is easy to grasp and easy to define its form.  Base/Pedestal/Legs + Thing where your butt goes = Chair.  A back would be nice, but a chair exists without one.  The aim was to boil down the nature of ourselves and of existence to this simple recipe.  I'm not sure I'm there yet, but after 33 years of life, I am getting to know my nature quite a bit.  The harsh lessons of being an ultrarunner either teaches you quickly, or you retire.

By pursuing my true nature, the simplest possible existence for myself and my family, I WILL: true to myself and stop trying to be the guy in the iRunfar interviews.  
...honor my truest motives- those that define my life and my nature. my gut and my warrior spirit.
...glimpse my potential...the one I have been eyeing for 28 years, when my father took me for my first run.

No more EXCUSES.  No more EGO.  No more BULLSHIT.  One, two, ten-thousand.  As my strength returns and my resolve fortifies, the path becomes clear.  On to Auburn.

B heads back into the sub-zero cold of the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K

2013 will be a big year for SCOTT.

Gorgeous powder day.

If you think you like coffee, you should try the amazingness that comes out of the AEROPRESS.  

Birthday Pumpkin Log Cake.

Poppin bottles.

Skater chicks.

Our Christmas tree harvest.

Still got it.  Katie spots.  Chalk dust chokes the air.

Earnin' turns.


  1. I can remember the last time I was so injured I had to take some big time off. It was after I did a painful 150 at Across the Years a couple years ago. I had at least 2 months of "rehab." It's always great when you have the legs to go with the spirit, but that, as you know, is not always the case. In reality, whenever I have a race that is a gutfest, wherein I need major time off, I always "overcompensate" with my recovery period. This has always left me feeling great when I do resume training again. Long story short-always be prepared to take 3-4 months easy when you really hurt yourself. that is why I have been competing solidly for the last few years without huge breaks off. I hope you can recovery well and get back to training for W$. We all know you should win, so train like you can!

    1. No long breaks for me. Things are coming together nicely. Time to build the base and keep the breaks on for a while. I've got some new ideas for how to survive the winter up here while running. They seem to be working.

  2. The best is gonna be when you know yourself and hence so it all together and get that big timey spotlight.

    ... and then when irunfar shows up, all the video is you running off and shouting "NO! I am not doing this! Go find Clarky!" (I actually had a more vulgar version of what you would say but you get the idea ...)

    1. Well George, I have been training to be a runner since January 2011. Sure, I ran before that, but once a month if that. I ran a couple ultras off the couch just for fun. In 2011, I got 1900 miles, 2400 in 2012. Basically, my mileage has dropped off the map each winter due to injury and inability to train in the rough conditions with consistency. This volume has allowed plenty of gains- my PR's on training runs and interval circuits during that span have dropped a good 20%. However, the big time demands year round focus.

      I felt the need to clearly lay it on the line for the world (like 6 people who read this)- my commitment to holding the line this year. Health and consistency at any cost. It's not a's a mission statement.

      Take that Bryon Powell!

  3. Thank you for the honest write-up -- nicely done. Here's to listening to yourself & sharing it with us!

  4. With your positive attitude and intellectual "race" self analysis, it will all come together. Rather nicely I presume. It would be difficult to compete without knowing "thyself"

    1. Awwwww Deby...we can't all just bang out 6-10 one hundred milers a year like you can;)

      I'm trying to figure this stuff out and it's definitely chess not checkers. Glad to hear you think I'm on the right path.

  5. I can empathize 100% - going into last year's Western States I was looking at what everyone else was doing, so I did it too. Big mileage, little (or no) rest. Why? I, too, wanted to be interviewed at the finish line . . . The result was disastrous (personally), and it took me the better part of 3 months to recover (physically and mentally) and to embrace, as you said: "...being true to myself and not trying to be the guy in the iRunfar interviews.
    ...honoring my truest motives- those that define my life and my nature." Good stuff.

    After this post will definitely be pulling for you on that little jaunt from Squaw to Auburn!

    Train well and enjoy.

    Josh Katzman

    p.s. - hope to make it out to IMTUF some day - looks spectacular. Are you keeping it at the end of August in the future? Not sure if this year will work, but I teach in Boston, so any race I can do during summer vacation is always great!

    1. Josh,

      Not sure how you found this distant corner of the blogosphere, but welcome. You are a fantastic runner with a sparkling resume and I thank you for sharing this with me in the build up to Western. I see that we have lots in common. We're both 33, have won some local and regional races, but lack the big signature win. Like me, I'm sure you were ready to give anything for Western last year.

      I see you stayed in the low-20's place wise all day, where you ultimately finished. Very steady and still an enviable result. Was that your plan to lay back and surge at the end and you just didn't have the extra gear when the time came? Or, was it just a bad day where you felt "off" all day? What was it that was missing for you or that you would have changed?

      For IMTUF, it would be an honor to have a great runner like you to come out and race. We do plan to keep it in late-August, as it just fits better there. If I can help you with logistics at all, just let me know. I can line up transport from Boise and make sure you've got a place to stay. Idaho is great for mountain running. IMTUF is a fine course and I'm sure you will be happy that you came out. There are rumors of some other top-tier guys and gals coming out for 2013, so if you can make it, there may be someone to keep you company out there.

      Best wishes,

    2. Jer,

      Ah Western! As you said, I had devoted a lot of time/effort into it. Part of that was actually a couple of years ago reading Nick Clark's post about his lead-up to Western (I think '10) where he had had 11+ weeks over 100 miles/week. So, thinking that is what I should do, I basically did 14 weeks all averaging around 110 miles or so. The problem was I was just doing everything slow - I wore myself down and never recovered. I run to/from the school where I teach and I should have known something was up as my times on that run kept getting slower the closer I got to Western. I had a big clue in early May at a tough 50 miler when I felt flat from about 50 yards in, and that feeling persisted, pretty much through Western. Even resting heart rate was about 4 - 6 beats/minute quicker than it usually is - I tried to taper, but at that point I think I was too far over the cliff. Just never felt any great surge of energy (except maybe for a few miles post-Robinson Flat) and had nothing on the ups. I was too worried about what everyone else was doing in their training to actually pay attention to myself (figured if Clark was putting in those miles and running top-5, so could I). As for race day itself, one of my friends, Kevin Sullivan, ran 16:59 in 2009, so the goal for me was to, one, beat his time, and two, get into the top-10. I kept to splits pretty early, but let myself get mentally beat by the fact that a large group of guys were 10 - 15 minutes up on me pretty early (I was looking at the splits though after the fact and should have seen that M-10 was never more than a few minutes up in the early miles. I've chocked that up to lack of experience against top competition, and not being comfortable "running my race."). Sorry - I could go on for quite a while about that day, so I'll stop there for now. Suffice it to say, I've become much less obsessed with mileage since then, and the results have been good. (If you want to ask any other questions about Western, I can try to help as I can -

      As for IMTUF, I mentioned it to my much better half today (figured I had some karma after shoveling out for 8 hours from a huge snow storm!). It's in the works . . .

  6. This is a real goldmine of info Josh. I can see that a commitment to high miles no matter what, could make one really weak. I know that I have gotten to my best with at least a month of pursuing PR's on my favorite runs before a taper. I believe that strength is the number one indicator of performance- not endurance. I plan to stay at a moderate level of intensity and build a wide base for another 1-2 months. Mostly because I am injury prone during the winter, but also because I feel that I will be even less injury prone when speedwork time comes around if I have lots of gentle miles under me.

    I also know the feeling of being really psyched out because I was behind in a race. In a 100 miler, I'm running my pace/my race no matter what.

    Let me know about IMTUF. Exciting stuff...

  7. I just come read your blog when I need reflection, deep introspection and something to just dial me in to what I know is "thyself". Thanks for always keepin it real Jer!!!