Monday, August 14, 2017

Mashed Potatoes and a Leadville Preview

This is a post I was planning on getting to at some point. If you came for a purely running blog post then this isn't the one for you. It may be oversharing but it is what it is. Read at your own discretion.

Ultrarunning has been a stabilizing factor in my life. The pursuit of goals and the regular structure of training has given me some needed purpose and a method of dealing with life's problems. The small progress and even occasional setbacks of each day's workout, builds up to a race where all the work and discipline is put to the test. The race appears to be the goal but I have learned that the daily pursuit is the true source of joy and self discovery. Training for and running a 100 miles or more teaches you that any plan you have will need to be adjusted or just scrapped for a new one on the fly. Problem solving and flexibility will be the best tools to have. Accepting the current conditions for what they are and not trying to control what you can't control will keep you from wasting energy worrying and getting angry about things you can't change. All of these can be applied to life overall. Often easier said than done but there is also the lesson that perfection is an impossible goal. In fact imperfection is what makes life interesting.

This being said, running has not been fun for me recently. My best guess (and hope) is that this is simply burnout from running too many races over the past 18 months. By my count I have finished 9 races of 100 miles or more in that time, DNF'd another 2, and run several 50 milers. There has not been any real recovery time or a good few months of training build up. All this led to the DNF at Western States and the race in Vermont where I finished but did not enjoy any of it. It has led to me struggling to get myself out to run in an effort to stay fit enough to make it through the next race. If I do manage to get myself out, I just want it to be over and don't get the satisfaction from it I once did. This led me to start thinking about the mashed potatoes analogy.

What is that?

I saw this post going around a year or two ago with a screenshot of this:

This made complete sense to me and maybe it will to some of you as well. It made sense to me because I have been through it, probably most severely in 2009, due to and likely greatly contributing to a doomed marriage. It was a very difficult time in my life but I eventually came out of it and it led me to the very good place I am in today.

Through running I found my way out of a very low time. I found a coping mechanism. Lately, however, running and some other activities in life have started to taste like mashed potatoes. Only a little bit though so while I am concerned, I can still use the lessons I've learned from running to problem solve and adjust. Running long distance teaches you to become very aware of everything that is going on in your body and mind. I've learned to recognize the signs of depression in myself and feel it is time to take some steps to work on this.

Now I'm not sure if how I'm feeling is related to simply being burned out. The more I learn about concussions and CTE with the potential behavioral and mood altering effects associated with them, the more I worry about the price to be paid for playing football. Getting hit in the head several thousand times over nine years cannot be a good thing. However, my current state could be due to any number of things. Whatever it is will eventually be sorted out.

I hesitated to even post this but my motivation in sharing is twofold. First (and least) is to adhere to the spirit I started the blog, to be candid and document for myself this running journey and attempt at the the Order and the Grand Slam. Second and most importantly, is to show others that it is OK to discuss these issues and, hopefully, this will lead to those affected getting the help they need. We still live in a society where just bringing up mental health issues makes people uncomfortable. Mental health is somehow not treated in the same way as "physical" health. I do believe it is improving but there is still work to do and I hope I can do my small part to help that.

And to just finish up on this topic for now, I'm fine. No need for concern. It's just a health thing that requires some attention but I appreciate your understanding and support. The response I get from people who have been reading the blog has been motivating for me. Thank you so much.

We are now a week away from Leadville. I rested for a week after Vermont and, as I implied above, my running in the meantime has not been the best. I keep telling myself that I just ran 100 miles a month ago so I should be fine. Leadville, however, is a race at altitude, starting in the city of Leadville at around 10,000 feet above sea level. From there it drops a small amount but eventually crosses over Hope Pass, the high point of the race, at 12,600 feet.

40 to 60 miles looks fun!

There are only 11 aid stations, so they is a good distance between each one, meaning I will have to carry plenty of water and calories with me. The time cutoffs will be tight for a big slow guy like me. I will need to push to get out to the 50 mile turn around in a good time to give myself a chance at finishing. I am lucky to have some friends offer to crew and pace which will be new and helpful to me as I have only had a crew at my first 100 and never had a pacer. My brother and his wife will be out spectating and, hopefully, we will be celebrating together at the finish line. That is a big motivator to get there.
Considering my current physical and mental state combined with this course and the inherent difficulty of running 100 miles, I have my work cut out for me. I am looking forward to the challenge and a chance to be around ultrarunners, who are inspiring, good people. I am hoping to have a good time even when it is miserable and difficult.

Check out the folks over at Defeat The Stigma Project for the great work they do raising awareness of mental health issues. Like them on Facebook at


  1. Good luck Dan, enjoy the day and remember you are in one of my favorite places in the world. There are so many people that for a lot different reasons will never be able to get to stand on top of Hope pass. Mike and Ilze.

    1. Thanks Mike. I'll be standing up there twice if all goes well!