Before I started running 8 years ago I went to the mountains for adventure. Often there were objectives like summiting a peak, running a rapid or a river or hiking to x location. Once I started running I continued to adventure, but more and more often the focus shifted away from adventure and more towards competition. I ended up with a split personality; I love racing and I love adventure. Maybe that is the reason I really like FKT’s, after all an FKT combines racing and adventure.
Last summer I raced a lot; Red Hot 55k, Menan Butte Challenge, Transvulcania, Bighorn, Speedgoat, El Vaquero Loco, The Rut, and The Bear. That was a lot of racing. In between the racing I got in some really good adventures; pacing Ty at Hardrock, Idaho 12ers, Kungsleden (King’s Trail in Sweden), and Mile for Mile filming in Patagonia. By the time I finished the trip to Chile in December, I didn’t have too much motivation to sign up for a bunch of races, or anything else for that matter. I was tired. During a short break I took in January I did a lot of thinking (turns out you have a lot of time to think when you don’t spend a couple hours a day running) about what I wanted to get out of 2015. On one random day in January I was reorganizing my photo library and had a great chance to review my year in photos. Something struck me while I was working on that; I smiled a lot more in pictures during adventures.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like racing. I relish the challenge, I enjoy pushing my mind and body, and I love the gathering of the tribe that occurs at races. I really loved the opportunities I had last year to travel and compete in the World Skyrunning Ultra Series. I have so many friends who I only see at races. The international trail running community is something very special. On the other hand, I run because I love being in the mountains. I don’t mind running alone, or with just one or two friends. I am happy with solitude. Frankly, this leaves me a little conflicted.
Just after the first of the year, many of my friends started sharing on social media their racing plans for the year. I am always excited to read where I would cross paths with friends, who was lucky in race lotteries, and what challenges they are taking on. I did not draft a race plan. I put out a couple of feelers for support to races, but didn’t push particularly hard. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to race. I wasn’t too psyched on the hype and carnival-esque nature that many major races have started to turn in to. After several months of indecision and awkward responses with my running friends like this; friend, “what are you racing this year?” me, “ugh not quite sure yet”,(awkward silence). After several of these conversations, and after a lot of thought, I decided that I really want to focus on adventure.
Yep, you heard me right, I am going to focus on adventure. This might mean to some that I am not going to focus on racing and that’s true. It doesn’t mean that I am not going to race at all, but it will be a lot less. I had a friend ask, ” Does that mean you are going to try to do a bunch of FKTs?” Well, no. I might give a couple of FKTs a go, but again not going to be my focus. Weird, right? I am a”professional” sponsored ultra-runner that is just going to go have a bunch of adventures. Yes, that is exactly what I am going to do. I actually have a pretty fun season that is starting to come together. I am going to do some projects that are very closely tied to environmental causes. There are a couple of trips planned in places I have never run but have meant to for years. I am also going to allow myself to be spontaneous and take advantage of opportunities or invitations that would be impossible to fit into a strict race training plan.
It feels pretty good to write this down, almost like some type of confession. For a while I felt ashamed of not having the desire to race, like I was giving up on a sport that has given me so much. The reality of it is I am going to pursue what makes me most happy. I am going to push my body and mind as far, if not further, than I would in races. I am going to bite off more than I can chew. I may have some adventures that mimic a bit of what my friend Kelly Cordes described as disaster style. I am excited and this has me training as hard as ever. I am not training to be as fast as I potentially can be, but to be as strong, and resilient as possible. I want to be able to go for a long adventure unsupported and have the physique to be successful. Interestingly I am training a little more like an alpinist than an ultra runner, but more on that later. I am very excited for what this year will bring, and I will do my best to keep you posted.
I’d like to end this post with a thought from Kelly Cordes. This was the bonus question at the end of an interview on Adventure Journal, he was asked how he defined adventure, he replied: “An unknown outcome, and probably one that entails an element of risk. I also think that adventures happen in myriad ways, a realization that sometimes escaped me when I was younger. There are internal adventures with growth and dealing with life, intellectual adventures, and the more typical physical adventures – they all embrace risk and the unknown in different ways, and I think the best adventures probably combine elements of each.” I agree Kelly, here’s to a season, hell a lifetime, of adventure!