#1 – LISTEN TO AND TAKE CARE OF MY BODY
So here’s the heady part of the feel good end-of-year post. Remember that strange joint inflammation and arthritic pain that I felt in the beginning of July on our trip to France? I dismissed it to some sort of strange uric acid / gout imbalance at the time, but it never fully went away and is still lingering at a minor level to this day. I have been to a doctor more times in the past four months than I have been in the past decade for blood tests, examinations, x-rays, and opinions, and the best diagnosis they can come up with is a early form of pre-clinical Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The months since returning have been incredibly stressful at times, mainly from my own worrying that this would indeed be the Western medical diagnosis. RA was my biggest fear from the first night of panicked Googled symptoms in a campground in central France, and this fear has occupied a large portion of my mental space since the original painful flare-up. And yet, after I heard the doctor explain what she thought might be going on, it felt like a huge weight was actually lifted. I realized that a large source of my anxiety was both past trauma from my medical experiences as well as the headiness of just not knowing what was going on.
Out of all six factors that can show up on a blood test, I have a very slightly elevated measurement in the most unspecific factor (the Rheumatoid Factor, or RF). But that metric combined with my subtle joint pain was enough to point her in that direction. Basically she said that there was a small chance that it goes away and never comes back, a larger chance that it comes and goes for a while, and a non-zero chance that it continues to progress and get worse and worse.
So what does that mean for me and my running? It means that I am committed in a way that I have never been before to take care of my body and take care of my mind. I have doubled-down on the plant-based, anti-inflammatory, essentially vegan diet that I adopted when we returned from France. I am meditating daily and trying to reduce stress and anxiety in my life (particularly around this issue). I am taking my traditional month off in December so that I can really listen to my body and be with the current symptoms to see how they feel. I am trying to not get ahead of myself and give thanks every day for all that I have and continue to receive from the universe – I truly am blessed. And in the mean time, besides the slight joint pain that moves from my toes to my fingers to my wrists, I feel better than I ever have. My mind is clear, I wake up full of life and energy, and overall I am quite happy.
My biggest hope is that I can continue to run in a similar manner to what I have done before, but I am also slowly switching gears and preparing for a day when I cannot run in the same manner (whether it’s from RA or just plain old age). Just as I have been re-examining my health I have also been re-examining my relationship with the sport, and I have realized that the essence that I am really chasing is the freedom and sacredness of being outside, the time spent with loved ones, friends, and family on trails, and the meditation that it all brings me. I won’t always be able to run like this, but I’m going to try to do it as long as I can without causing damage or pain to my body or soul.
#2 – RUN ANOTHER HUNDRED
I think about the magic of my sixth place DFL finish at Ultra Trails Lake Tahoe every single day. My close friends in the sport warned me before the run that if a 100k was a physical journey, a 100 miler was a spiritual one. I don’t need (or want) to run 5 hundos in a year, but I would sure like to try my luck at another one in 2020. As I get older and wiser my running is shifting to longer, more sustained pedestrian efforts, and less centered around speed or PRs. Given my medical uncertainty I might have to approach my next 100 mile effort from a conservative angle, making sure that I give my body what it needs and don’t push it too much. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to make the journey again – to run all night long and into the sunrise is one of the greatest gifts in life.
I’ll have 4 tickets in the big gold barrel at Western- I’m telling the Universe right now that if I end up on that auditorium stage on December 7th I will be ready to go and give it my all on my beloved Western States trail come June (update – I didn’t get picked, wah wah….) The odds are much more in my favor for another trip around the massif (this time in a single push!) for UTMB, a race that I think I want to do once but am still somewhat scared and intimidated by (especially the crowds). And if those don’t pan out, then the possibilities are literally endless – Mogollon Monster? IMTUF? Another run at UTLT?
I’m a teacher by trade and a natural coach. Patience, communication, and meeting people where they are at is literally my job description every single day. I love helping people, I love teaching people, and I love coaching people and supporting them working toward a goal. I’d love to pick up some more coaching clients during 2020 and help make some people’s dreams and goals a reality.
So far I’ve really only worked with family members and friends, with some occasional other gigs, but I am hoping to expand in 2020. I believe I can provide personal and customized training and race support for runners ranging from short distances to long multi-day pushes. I feel like I have the resume to stand behind and the experience to help guide decisions. At the risk of shameless self promotion – know someone that is looking for a coach? Shoot me an email and we can talk!
#4 – VOLUNTEER MORE IN THE COMMUNITY
The magical community of this sport is what keeps me coming back for more, and I tapped into an even deeper level of it in 2019. From Fatass events, to aid stations to pacers, crew, and race directors, there is literally a village of people around each individual ultra-runner that keep the show going behind the scenes. One simple goal in 2020 is to volunteer even more in the surrounding community and give back to the sport that gives me so much.
I participated in my first ever trail maintenance day in September at Anthony Chabot regional park in the East Bay Hills. I had a ton of fun and laid down some serious hard labor on a beautiful Sunday, and can’t wait to go back again soon despite the weeks of poison oak that I came away with (such a noob move wearing short sleeves). I discovered my hidden natural talents for dry-masonry as I sculpted a rock retaining wall on the newly built trail, and even met a handful of ultra-runners from the area that were also working there for the day. It was fun but most importantly felt great to leave a permanent improvement in a park that I use so often.
The festivity and energy of the aid stations is often what kept me marching on at UTLT, and I came away from that race thinking that I need to get the East Bay Quadbanger gang together and sponsor an aid station at a local race. I can cook a mean grilled cheese (thanks Phish tour), and it would be an excellent excuse to hang out together, outside, while cheering our peers down the trail.
#5 – BALANCE RUNNING AND FAMILY LIFE
Ahhh, the golden goal of every single ultra-runner out there – How can you balance an unquenchable thirst for running and racing with spending quality time with your family?
I like to think that I get a little better at this goal every year, and also that I still have a lot of room for growth. For me, it’s about the opportunities to spend time with my wife and kids outside, far away from the distraction of home and work life. Unfortunately that’s also when I’m often in the most opportune spots to go for a long run. This has been the subject of more than a few spousal discussions, and I do realize that my drive to run can sometimes complicate the logistics of a family camping trip or weekend outing.
For 2020 I am going to strive to really keep focus on the larger picture – I have enough base miles in my legs at this point in my career that a couple missed “long runs” are not going to make a difference, especially if they are replaced by long family hikes and just plain hours on my feet. I really do value the time and connection with my family more than anything else in the world (yes, even running) and I need to make that a priority too. My boys are growing up incredibly fast and I know that one day soon in the future it will be even harder to hang out with them and share quality time together.
The solution? I think it’s to just be flexible with family outings and go with the flow. A shoulder season trip to Yosemite was originally supposed to be a long mountain run for me and my wife – by the time the actual weekend rolled around, it had morphed into me taking the boys up to the Valley for a quick two nights in the tent. We made the most of it, did some epic hiking and exploration, and I had one of the best weekends of the whole year – no running involved. See? Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. 🙂
Thanks for reading and for following along with my crazy life and adventures. Here’s to all of us meeting our goals in 2020, and most importantly, having fun with the ones we love outside in beautiful places. Happy New Year y’all!