Tommy Caldwell? Kevin Jorgeson? Ever heard of these guys? Well they’re very important. They’ve got many leather-bound books and their apartment smells of rich mahogany. Oh… and they also climbed a tiny little rock facing recently. And when I say “little rock facing” I really mean they just completed the hardest free climb in the world along the Dawn Wall of El Cap.
So yea… these guys are kind of a big deal.
Do you think these guys woke up one morning, took a deep rich mahogany filled breath and said… “Hey bro.. let’s go climb the Dawn Wall.”
The answer is not just no… but hell no.
This amazing feat was the culmination of 7yrs of preparation, training, and hard work. They not only had to be physically prepared for such an epic endeavor, but they also had to be mentally prepared because of the risk and high potential of injury and/or death.
A few days ago I came across a sentence in a short article about the amazing Dawn Wall climb (written by Andrew Bisharat ) that hit home and really got me thinking.
“Show up prepared and turn your projects into mere formalities.”
I started to look back to the root of my trail running adventures. I started recounting the countless miles I spent training for my first 100k. I even went as far to pull out the excel printed training plan that I created for the Georgia Death Race...
I laugh now because back then I was so structured. I can still vividly remember proudly drawing a line through a completed training week with a different color highlighter. I also remember the disappointment of having to mark through a number with a black line because I didn’t hit that exact mileage goal for the day. Ugh. I felt like a failure on those days.
Now... my training is completely different. Night and day different. I no longer track mileage, paces, or have a fancy colorful spreadsheet. I simply spend countless hours on a weekly basis roaming the woods and climbing mountains... the only documentation of my runs usually coming in the form of pictures.
This works… for me. This organic, free flowing style of running is not and will not work for everyone. I always try to encourage people to find what type training works for them specifically. If it is structured and mileage based… then roll with that. DO YOU! Regardless of what the latest running magazine says… there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to training.
When I’m sitting on my tailgate at a trailhead lacing up my Salomons… the last thing on my mind is “training run.” My view on running has progressed to a point where it no longer feels like “training” but more like… “I get to go play in the woods today!”
I honestly think that this progression and way of thinking has played a very important role from keeping me from burning out. I still get extremely excited every time I step foot in the woods… even when I’m running along the same familiar trails.
photo: Varina Hart
I think there sometimes can be a misconception that I don’t train. Maybe it is because I enjoy the hell out of running and it doesn’t feel like training. Maybe it is because I stop and take a ton of pictures. One of the reasons I take so many pictures is for the memories. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back or stumbled across an old picture and it immediately placed me back in time… back to what I was feeling in that particular moment… what the weather was like, what a certain breeze felt like... or even a good memory with a long lost running partner. These things are extremely important to me and I hold these moments and memories close to my heart.
But no matter how you view or sugarcoat it… all of this time spent running and wandering the woods is nonetheless… training. Whether I’m out for a long 3-5hr run or a fast-paced, hard 30-60min effort… I’m training. With the exception of long run days, I rarely go out to the trailhead with a formal plan for the type of run I’m intending to do. I base most of my efforts off of feel. Some days when I’m feeling frisky I’ll gun for a fun Strava CR route like the King’s Chair ascent. I wouldn’t bother looking me up on Strava or Movescount… I hardly have anything posted… and when I do post, I rarely stop my watch (even when I’m taking pictures or talking).
photo: Varina Hart
So yes… I do “train”… a lot. And when race day comes around… I am always extremely relaxed, calm, confident and fully prepared for whatever distance that I’ve been gearing towards. Because I have trained… showing up on race day is nothing more than a mere formality. I am 100% confident that I will complete a race or any run that I set out on (unless something out of the ordinary happens or something seriously goes wrong). This is not me being cocky… it is me being confident in my training. I very rarely compete against another person… for me… racing is about pushing my own limits and enjoying all of the hard work I’ve put in over the course of weeks/months prior to an event.
Have I ever signed up for a race last minute? Yes. Was I unprepared for those races? No.
There have been plenty of times where I would get a free weekend or I would get invited to come to a race by some friends. Some of these races can be utilized and take the place of a training run. For instance, my friend Sunny and Sonia were running the Pine Mt 40 last year. I somehow got off an entire weekend (was working 6 days a week at the time) and they let me crash on a pullout bed. I had already planned to run a 35 mile training run that weekend anyways, so it was a no brainer to go down and enjoy the trails with them. Given… I did give a harder effort on race day than I would have if it had just been a training run… but I was still well within the parameters of my training and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in the Georgia mountains.
I personally believe that social media is the epitome of the ever raging battle between good vs evil. There is so much good that comes with social media... accounts, pictures and people can inspire and drive us to push further and really strive for amazing goals. I can’t tell you how many Instagram accounts and blogs have inspired me to push further and take risks. ie: Ashley Walsh. (the Godfather of us Trailgangstas).
Like Ashley's account, I personally hope that my social media account will help inspire people to get outside, take adventures, and maybe even set and accomplish a goal that they never thought possible.As positive and uplifting as social media can be… it also has a dark side. Sometimes social media can create tiny devils that will sit on your shoulder and hiss at you.
That tiny little devil taunts you as you scroll your Facebook/Instagram feed...
“Rainbow Dash just completed a 100 miler. Why haven’t you?”
*hits like button*
“Did you see where Fluttershy just destroyed that 100k?!”
*hits like button*
Sometimes these devils can start subconsciously putting unhealthy pressure on a person to maybe commit to an event or a distance before they are ready.
“Oh snap… Pinkie Pie just did her 4th 100 miler! Her 4th!! What’s the furthest you’ve ran?”
*hits like button*
“Dude… Princess Twilight Sparkle just set a new course record at Hardrock.”
*hits like button*
These social media devils can expel warped perceptions of reality, especially when it comes to professional athletes. Like most, I too idolize some of the top professional athletes. Who doesn’t wish they were somewhere high up in the Alps mountain-goating around like Kilian…
Or off the grid doing the Drakensberg GrandTraverse like Ryan Sandes…
Or even running and roaming the wild wild West on the back of a motorcycle like… Rickey Gates
I strictly used Salomon runners in these examples for a reason. Salomon endorses some of the best athletes on the planet. They pay these people to perform at an extremely high level. They are PROFESSIONAL athletes. We are not. What they are capable of doing is probably unattainable for the majority of the population. One of the nine reasons that I adore Salomon is Salomon Running TV. They visually capture the simplicity of running and how it can connect you to the natural environment. In the majority of their videos, they step away from the race scene and solely focus on enjoying running as more of a lifestyle instead of hobby.
At the end of the day… we are not professional athletes. We are not even the Rainbow Dashes, Fluttershys, Pinkie Pies, or even the Princess Twlight Sparkles of the My Little Pony world…
We are all just our own special and unique Unicorn... and guess what? That is ok. Whether you're training for a 5k, half marathon or 100 miler... train smart, train hard, be prepared... and simply be the best damn Unicorn you can possibly be.
I live for adventure. I enjoy nothing more than pushing my body’s limits… and after hours, weeks, and months of preparation… when the day or event finally arrives for me to push those limits… it will be nothing more than a mere formality.
Mile 92 of Grindstone 100