Ultrarunning and the Trail Running Media

I’m putting together a ruck for a trail run along the Front Range this evening.  In goes a little dried mango.  Two bottles of water: one of which I’ll probably drink, the other is there just in case.  A light sweater.  My phone.  And where are my truck keys?  Check my head lamp, are the batteries good?

Cascades in Smoke

I’m thinking about each of these things as I put them in my bag.  Thinking about them as if I were going to be running up and over a pass or beyond the horizon, even though I know that this is just a recreational run and most likely it wont exceed six or seven miles.  I’ll be in full view of the lights of down-town Denver the whole time.  I’ll probably start counting cars as they make their way along Highway 36.  This run will be about as far apart from an running an ultra as one can get.  But its still going to happen on a trail.

For me, there isn’t a lot that separates a “trail run” from an “ultra”.  Very little other than distance or time, take your pick.  If I had more time, I’d run more distance.  When I read about someone else’s epic journey, in a race or just along some trail the mile markers just serve as a reference points to anchor some segment of the story.

If there are pictures included I’d rather know what I’m looking at than the distance from the trail head or the start.  Is that a view of the mountain pass you’ll be running up today?  Yep, well that’s cool, I want to run it too.

Distance is a function of time regardless of event; if you’re racing an ultra, fast packing a trail, or just going out for a jog a story can happen.  Yes, there are people who can pack more distance in less time than I, and I say good for them.  Speed is important, but never as important as the story.  Distance can happen anywhere, but its not that impressive if its nothing much more than an odometer ticking away miles.  Don’t believe me, then ask yourself where are the epic ultra accounts from Kansas.

That’s why I run.  For the story.  Each footstep forward is another sentence in the story of that run.  Maybe it will never be told, but it unfolds nevertheless, inside my head as I make my way along any trail or path.  And just like any story, if the author places too much emphasis on one element over the others, the story itself will become unbalanced and much less compelling.

Running for a cause, along the PCT for the WTA

Do I think there is too much emphasis being placed on ultrarunning in the trail running media?  I don’t know, does it sell?  If by “ultrarunning” one means racing on trails over long distances from the sole perspective of the sport’s minority elite, well then my answer might be “yes”.  There are a few good story tellers in that bunch, but most of them are just good runners.

Trip reports, race reports, gear reviews from the hopelessly normal, even the perspective of mindful trail walkers — these are things I wouldn’t mind reading.  Share your story, share your joy in running.  You can write about that ultra race you just completed, but if it isn’t a good story than forgive me while if I glance over the first couple of lines and move onto something enjoyable.  Adding the word “ultra” to a piece of writing and expecting it to shine only works for cleaning detergents.

Health Goals

After the Blue’s Clues post I resolved to do my best to go back (to 2009). There are a bunch of changes being made in my life right now. I’ve once again given up animal protein and as I’ve worked it out of my system some components are once again working a little better.

I’ve been digging deeper into both meditation and Buddhist practices. I’m not very good at or knowledgeable of either, but the more I read and learn (even though I still forget plenty) the more I can see how this may help me moderate some of the highs and lows I’ve experienced over the last year or so. Perhaps more importantly, I’m building a part of myself that has largely been neglected for ages.

This resolve also includes some health goals with a physical component, mental strength building exercise, and self-discipline. I’ve decided to start running again, sort of like I did in ’09 but without working toward a milage goal for the WTA. Instead my goal is to be able to run 100 miles again sometime around the middle of the year.

The 100 mile plan

Running, specifically trail running, has been my outlet, my practice, my sanctuary, and my passion for a long time. When I lost the ability to do it in the past it devastated me. So maybe there’s a little of that going on right now. I think it would be good for me to jump up and smack some wilderness signs once again.

What color hats to Saguache’s wear in the wilderness?


Physically, this is great for me too. First, I’ll have a reason for all the weight loss (ha ha). Second, because I’ll start to self regulate for sleep again — no more insomnia and no threat of sleep medication. Finally, because running people live longer and who knows what all the other medications might be doing to me right now.

While its still deep snow and winter conditions I plan on using my XC and AT skis plenty, but that’s just gear that allows you to run on the snow. And as I did in ’09 I’m extending the invitation to anyone who’s interested, come run with me! The weekday outings will probably include Aral, and the weekend long runs I’ll probably be very lonely. My target pace for the next 26 weeks is 10 minute miles on short days to 12 on long, but I’ll happily kick my own ass if you run faster or slow down to accommodate if you’re not up to that range.

And don’t worry, the meds are working. Now that I’ve reduced the wellbutrin to nil my seizure threshold is much higher. I’ve even been given permission to drive again.