Monday, December 26, 2016

Five Year Malaise...

I’ve sorta hit a wall on how far running can take me, my DNF’s on tough Mountain races these past couple years have been sobering realizations on just how crushingly difficult Ultra’s can be, and I have serious doubts whether or not I have the drive and commitment to keep pursuing them; especially after 5 years of almost relentless racing, one Ultra after another, I feel like I could use a break from the scene.  This doesn’t necessarily mean I want to give up running Ultra’s, I still love the opportunities to explore new trails and parks these races run through, as well as the racing atmosphere and all the wonderful people I’ve met over the years.  I plan to run distances up to 50Ks fairly regularly, but the endless grind of training for and the suffering and pain of gutting out multiple 50 Milers, 100K’s, and one or two 100 Miler attempts each year, is what I’m reluctant to put myself through at the moment.  One piece of writing that I recommend reading, is an article by Geoff Roes, where he talks about most competitive runners burning bright for the first few years they hit the racing scene, before eventually burning out after five years or so, with him being a prime example of one such former elite runner.  Now, I’m nowhere near suggesting that I’m a competitive elite runner in anyway, but for the past five years, I’ve pursued Ultra’s just as vigorously, in my own way, and got caught up in the excitement of just how far, how fast, and how high that I can run...until I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Time and age gradually undermine everything we do, and no one stays at the top level of any activity forever, but there does seem to be a much quicker decline in ultarunning than in nearly any other activity you might compare it to. Certainly there are instances of ultrarunners who get to the top level and seem to stay there for a long time, but for every person who stays highly competitive in the sport for more than five years, there seems to be dozens who do not.”

One major reason that I love Ultrarunning, is for what I just mentioned, it allows me to travel and constantly experience new trails from across this vast and beautiful country.  Whereas I mainly raced local in Texas the first several years of running Ultra’s, a confluence of events occurred during the end of 2015 that has allowed me the freedom to scratch my traveling bug; first I had finally paid off all my credit card debts, freeing up a lot of cashflow for spending on travel, and most importantly, I bought a Toyota Prius that I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post.  The Prius’ incredible gas mileage (I normally average 47MPG on long Interstate travels), combined with its lengthy cargo area, enough to stuff a twin-size air-mattress back there, makes it an ideal car camper; when you can drive around 1,000 Miles to Colorado, find a cheap spot to camp out for an extended weekend, and then drive back to Texas all for under $200, it really opens up a whole new world of possibilities for a budget traveler.  I often found myself signing up for races that I had no business signing up for, just for an excuse to travel, like Zion 100 Mile in Utah, and Run Rabbit Run 100 Mile in Colorado.  I’ve been to Colorado three times this year, Utah twice (one flying), California (also flying), Arkansas, and all across the vast State of Texas (with Big Bend National Park twice), all while enjoying living like a hobo out of my car, it’s a great way to see the country!

Just for reference to bed length with seats folded flat, I normally use a slim mattress that takes up less space for trips, so that I can have more space for cargo.

My most enjoyable experiences this year, not has been racing so much, though I loved all the Mountain races I’ve been through (DNF or no), rather it has been my visits to America’s Majestic National Parks; for the first time in my life, I’ve finally gotten to see places that I’ve only dreamt of visiting as a kid, like the Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Big Bend National Park, and other trails and outdoor areas like Pike’s Peak in Colorado.  In these Outdoor Temples of America, the trails and scenery are vast and stunningly beautiful, and I aim to experience as much of them as I possibly can for the rest of my life.  So instead of running so many Ultras throughout the year, and making them the focal point of my travels, I want to go on more my fast-packing and hiking trips through the National Parks and other public lands; just recently, I’ve returned from a failed Outer Mountain Loop attempt at Big Bend National Park, but still spent three days out there traversing over a 100K of trails anyway through Big Bend’s incredibly scenic Chisos Mountains.

For 2017, I'm still mulling fast-packing trips either through Rocky Mountain National Park, Olympic National Park, and a few others, or I may just go on an epic 5,000+ Mile round-trip Drive, two week long sight-seeing tour through various National Parks (an America the Beautiful $80 annual pass gets you into every park for free!), and do short day hikes in-between; either way, there will be lots of hiking and pictures involved! While I may not place so much emphasis on running Ultra’s for 2017, I still view having Ultra’s on the yearly schedule as necessary, the training for them is what keeps me fit and healthy, after-all, especially if I want to go on epic fast-packing tours through the National Parks; being an Ultra Runner will always be an important part of my identity, and who knows, I may come roaring back to the Ultra scene for 2018 after a healthy break.  As for this blog… I may have to change the header to one of my previous blog post’s title, “Hiking Myself into a Coma”.

Some photo's from my trips through Big Bend National Park this year:

Love this Car...