Friday, December 2, 2011

Just Because I Can

Doesn't mean I should.

Cryptic, eh?  I have been focusing on new goals for the upcoming year and my reasons for them.  After PH100, I had some pretty dark moments of anger and resentment that I have had work through.

First, I was very angry at the RD of PH100.  I felt misled, misguided, and then in the end after reading many of his posts and comments about the race, I felt as though he was laughing at those of us who felt the race was not as advertised.  I have spoken to a few close friends about this situation and while most people would blow it off and never look back, I am a firm believer in finding the lesson in everything that I go through.

Yes, I do believe he misled the runners, yes, he did advertise a fairly flat, fast course when in fact it wasn't one.  Yes he did make jokes about the folks who complained, and in the end, he even ran the course himself to "prove" how easy it was.  Slap me in the face.  He finished the course in 31 hours, 1 hour over the time limit allowed to the rest of the runners and then gave himself a belt buckle.  Speaks to his character I suppose.

Ultimately, the lesson can not be about him, however.  It must come back to me.  What was my part in this race?  How did I fail?  How could I have prevented the dnf of my "A" race?  The answer is simple.  I need to be a better runner.  Better able to handle ANY terrain thrown at me, regardless of how it is advertised.  Better able to handle ANY weather, regardless of what time of year it is (I don't do well in temps close to 90 during races).  Better able to discern the correct races to enter. 

I thought I had investigated enough about PH100 before entering, but I am convinced now that I should have found an elevation chart, an objective course description, or even better, visited the course before I registered.  Granted, I really did think I was given accurate information, but rest assured, I will never take an RD's word for anything ever again, unless his name is Joe Prusatis.  He doesn't lie.

Here are the personal goals I decided upon after PH100 for 2012:

1.  No 100 milers for 2012.  Primary focus will be on the 50K - 50 mile distance with a possible culmination race at Bandera in 2013; 100K.

2.  I will refrain from any race that requires the use of a pacer and a minimal, only if it's convenient, occasional crew.  I felt that I let people down at PH 100 by not reaching my goal.  I know that they don't feel that way, but I do and in order to alleviate myself of that emotional bag, I will stick to this plan for the year.

3.  Focus will be on consistency, strength, confidence in runs on difficult terrain.  This will involve rigorous cross-training of swimming, yoga, strengthening and if I can add it in, cycling.

4.  For cost-effectiveness as well as convenience, I will run most every race in Texas, as many of Tejas Trails races that I can and strongly consider completing the Capt'n Karl's series this year.  I will avoid as many comforts as possible, ie hotels, so as to add to the mental toughness I feel I need to acquire right now.  I love to camp, and I camped the night before Rocky in 23 degree temps.  It was a great race!

5.  My training will be done to meet MY goals.  While it is nice to have company for these long runs, I can no longer sacrifice my own "plan" just to have company.  If our plans mesh, great, if not, then no hard feelings.  I'm letting go of guilt this year.  I will register for the races that I feel I can finish, not because a good friend is running it too.

Some may say that I am being too hard on myself.  I am anyway, in my mind, so why not put it out in the open.  I am responsible for what happened in Oklahoma.  I dnf'd.  I decided to stop.  I wasn't fully prepared.  I didn't have all the information.  I spent a bunch of money that ended up being for naught.  I should have done better.  Next time I will.  I don't regret the experience because I learned so much that I really needed to learn about myself, especially with respect to my running.  I spent a wonderful weekend with my husband and some good friends.

Shortly after I devised my goals, I heard that Western States Lottery was about to open.  I don't know what happened to me.  I left these well-thought out, well-intentioned goals completely in the dust and threw my name in the proverbial hat.  I entered the WS lottery, why?  Because I could.  Because I finished a 100 miler within the specified time period that the race officials require.  Because my ego thought it would be cool.  Because I can't stick with a goal to save my life.  Because....

But just because I can, doesn't mean I should.  The next morning, I realized what the heck I had just done.  I entered the WS lottery.  Sure, my chances of being selected were small.  2000 applicants, 350 slots.  What are the odds?  Right?  What ARE the odds?
A Daily Mile friend suggested a book, Relentless Forward Progress.  I have never before purchased a book for my kindle app on my phone, yet, I felt compelled to buy this book.  I did and I quickly found my new mantra, my new threshold for which everything I do will now pass through.  FOMO.  Fear Of Missing Out.  In the book, he is referring to why we feel burned out, depressed, anxious, etc, during our training and his answer is that we are too quick to sign up for so many races that we feel we may miss out on something.    This could not be more true for me.  And I didn't even know it.  The most successful athletes I know are meticulous about their training plans, even more methodical about the races they enter.  Sure, I know a few who run everything and run every day and seem to be doing great, but most of the successful, balanced, and happy folks I know follow a carefully thought out plan and racing schedule which includes time for recovery, rest, and relaxation. I have been operating somewhat in this way in the last year, but I want to refine my approach to reflect what I want to become.  And yet, I enter the WS lottery.

If you don't know, the WS lottery is drawn and you are immediately charged the 340.00 entry fee.  There are no refunds, no transfers, no roll-overs to another year.  This is an expensive price to pay for my ego's sake.  I ran a few weeks ago with a group in Houston and met a guy who was selected FOUR YEARS IN A ROW!  Now, I know people that have been on the lottery list many times and not yet gotten in, but this guy made it in FOUR TIMES!  My chances of getting in seemed almost inevitable.  And the saddest part about it all, I really had no TRUE desire to run this race, yet.  I am not ready.  Not physically, not emotionally, not spiritually, and not financially.  The only reason, I could discern, was my ego.  My pride.  My stupidity.

I spent all of last week praying about what to do.  I didn't know if it was possible to withdraw from the lottery, but I started believing that I should consider asking.  I spoke with a trusted friend who has come to understand the inner workings of my mind, and he was able to help me sort through the ego and realize what I really wanted.   Finally, I asked myself one question, "If I could wake up tomorrow and be withdrawn from the lottery, how would I feel?"  I knew then I had to ask about withdrawing.  I knew because I would feel complete relief.  I had even determined that if I had been selected, my ego deserved the 340.00 fine, so I have been holding that aside just in case I ended up having to pay up. 

Tuesday, I contacted the RD of WS and briefly told him that I was in no shape to run WS at this time and would like to be sure that someone on the list of 2000 people that were hoping to get in should have the opportunity for that slot, not me.    He was so kind.  He sent me words of encouragement to consider entering the lottery again next year and removed me from the lottery.   I was elated.  And lesson was learned.  Just because I can, doesn't mean I should.

Now my focus is back to where it needs to be.  Appropriately, the book title, Relentless Forward Progress, seems to be another good mantra for me.  Not hanging out with the negative stuff too long, only long enough to learn and then move on.

Happy running to all of you over this Advent season.  Stay blessed, balanced, and run with joy!


  1. I think that sometimes we make a dubious choice not because of our ego, but because of our passion. In the end, there is not necessarily a difference in the outcome, but there is a difference in why we made the choice.

  2. My coach has a favorite saying that I hear all the time. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!" This was is a cool post and one that hits close to home for me. I had a terrible year before changing coaches, bouncing from overtraining to injury and back. Perspective went totally out the window. It sounds like you have you head in a really good place. Thanks for sharing this.

    Also, the above comment is great. I'll be thinking about that for a while.

  3. I find that sometimes it's best not to run a trail race in it's first year running. There's a learning curve for RD's and races usually improve and develop reputations over time.

    I will say though, that the RD giving himself a buckle for finishing an hour over the time limit was a jerk move!

  4. oh, and Bryon Powell, the author of Relentless Forward Progress has a blog - - I highly recommend it!

  5. Thanks for sharing. This was a really good post.

  6. 1st off, what an excellent post. I think we could all stand to learn something from it. 2nd, I really admire your decision to contact the WS100 RD and ask to be withdrawn. It was the right call for you and a classy one at that. 3rd, I second Jeff's comment on! It's a great site.

  7. I must say—huge mistake withdrawing from the WS lottery. With six months to prepare, someone like you can finish sub-30 hours.

    But if it helps you sleep at night, it's the right decision.

  8. Great post. I think your 2012 goals are excellent, and you gleaned some very important lessons from the PH100. Here's to a great 2012!