Skip to main content

(I don't) know when to quit

The photo at left is a shot from the finish line of the Mohican 100 mile. You can see the deep tiredness in my eyes and face, a culmination of a lack of sleep combined with muscle groups that faded many hours before.

There's something about making the finish that means everything to me. It's a completeness of being, bringing closure to an epic journey you started over a full day before.

But, I also realize that my tenacity and strong will have been a burden to others. Those who crew me at races watch as I melt down, come unglued, and struggle to put one foot in front of the other. They have loved me and cared for me and knew that the best possible solution was for me to stop and call it quits.

That seldom happened.

There was the time my shin was throbbing and inflamed, where every step brought pain. So instead of dropping, I kept shoving backs of ice into the front of my tube sock, and death marched 40 miles to the finish.

On other occasions it has been my feet. It seems I seldom make it past 75 miles before blisters and deep bruising strip away any semblance of an enjoyable finish. For the most part I soldier on, take the finisher's buckle and then suffer through a week or 10 days of excruciating pain, barley able to put weight on the stumps that used to be appendages at the end of my legs.

I'm not saying any of this is right or good. It's just who I am. Quitting is not a viable option. I have two 100-mile DNFs in my ultra career. One was at Superior Trail in northern Minnesota. I had no business being at that race and it was a foolish and misguided attempt. The other DNF came at Mohican in 2004. I was attempting to coach another runner through the race, fell off my own pace by over three hours, then became hypothermic at the Covered Bridge aid station at mile 64. I still regret that drop. I could have regrouped and put a finish back together.

Bottom line, they don't make quitters buckles, but maybe they should. A quitter should be acknowledged as well as a finisher. We all need to embrace the demons that go along with failing the assignment.

But it's also good to be gentle with one's self and understand that some things are not meant to be.

That's something I can work on going forward.


Popular posts from this blog

Scott Jurek ate vegan, won ultras...then got divorced

(Disclaimer:  I am a Brooks-supported athlete; as part of that relationship, I was provided a complimentary copy of "Eat & Run")

I was recently on a few flights making my way home to Wisconsin and en route was able to plow through Scott Jurek's new book "Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness."

It's a fast, enjoyable read. I've been around the ultra scene for a long time and have known some of the greats, i.e. ultra champ Eric Clifton. So it's always interesting to see how the world looks from another icon's point of view.

My thoughts in no particular order:

1) I've been vegetarian/borderline vegan for 12 years and have always been concerned with protein intake.  Jurek advocates for the protein he naturally induces through his plant-based diet.  Maybe that is enough. Maybe it's not necessary to bang down 100+ grams of protein supplement every day. Good info and good advice.

2) I'm buying on big time to Scot…

Build your low cost gravel and commuter bike

It's the saga of Craigslist. You have a great perfect condition road bicycle to market. You ask a fair price. A few calls come in, most often the caller throws out a low ball offer, maybe 50% of asking price.

You don't need to give the bike away. You may not need the cash.

Consider re-purposing. You already own an excellent commuter and gravel bike. Think your bike is too low end, not good for the purpose?

Wrong. In most cases less expensive bikes are build with heavier parts, which means they are stronger. Heavier wheels = better ability to absorb commuter bumps and gravel roads.

A few simple modifications and you'll be rolling for transportation or logging road expeditions.

Here's my 2011 model Specialized Roubaix. I rode it for several seasons as a serious piece of road equipment. A few buyers offered up a few hundred dollars, so I went in another direction.

1) Added 700 x 28 Continental Gatorskin tires. Gatorskin tires wear like iron and you can trust them in off …

Now this is better...

Hey, I don't want to dole out too many epic photos in one day...but after that fatty shot from the New York City Marathon, I had to dig a bit deeper, and found this:

Check out that attractive specimen (second from right) circa 1986...only a year earlier and Tommy Terrific was looking pretty ripped.

I'll tell you this triathlon training camp was one of the high points of my master competitor career. On the left is Mark Hinson, the best triathlete in the southeast in the mid 19890's...and far right is Frank Kohlenstein, a soccer coach from South Carolina and the dude who got me into ultrarunning...that's tanned and toned Tommy next to David Bailey, one of the greatest men who ever threw a leg over two wheels with an engine.

So, right around the time of this camp, I crewed for Frank at the Western States 100 mile endurance run in California. Hinson ran with Frank through a very tough 20 mile desert section and when he made it to the next check, he pulled me aside and told…