Monday, September 19, 2011

Satisfaction

I recently wrote something to the effect that "this has likely been the most satisfying year of running I have ever had." Based on comments on this blog, emails I have received, and some comments I've read on other blogs it seems as though some people have a hard time believing this. Here's my attempt at explaining it a little more clearly:

The typical confusion seems to come from the idea that satisfaction as a runner is more or less dependent upon race performance. More specifically it seems like many folks can't believe that this could possibly be a satisfying year of running for me because I DNF'ed at Western States and UTMB. I fully accept that for many people race performance and satisfaction as a runner do inherently run hand in hand, but this has never been the case for me. Sure, it's all part of the equation, and performing well at a race can be (and almost always is) really satisfying, but this doesn't (for me) mean that performing poorly is automatically unsatisfying. And more specifically, a couple poor performances certainly don't define an entire year as unsatisfying. I've been on almost 200 runs this year. The vast majority of them have been really wonderful and satisfying, a few of them beyond any satisfaction I've ever gotten from running previously.

For a few years now my primary running goal going into each season has been to be healthy and fit enough to spend huge amounts of time outdoors, in the mountains, exploring my surroundings on the power of my own legs. This year I have done more of this than ever before, and I've been fortunate enough to do this with dozens of really wonderful people. This is why I said that this has likely been the most satisfying year of running I've ever had.

Beyond this though, about 8 or 10 times a year I like to get together with a whole bunch of like minded and capable runners and share the experience of all pushing ourselves as hard as we can over a particular route, each of us looking for a way to do this a little faster than everyone else, or a little faster than we thought possible of ourselves. But again this is 8 or 10 of the 200-300 runs that I go on each year. I'm bummed that I had very little gas in the tank on a few of these runs this year, but in no way do I look at this as reason to feel like this has been an unsatisfying year of running.

Just a bit of food for thought on your Monday afternoon. Hopefully this explains things a little more clearly for those who seemed confused or in disbelief.

20 comments:

Footfeathers said...

Thanks so much for the insight, Geoff. Makes perfect sense. Now go get together with a bunch of like-minded guys this weekend and run alone at the front! Have a great race.
Tim

Dylan Bowman said...

Amen.

Devon said...

I totally understand. I feel like I have been running better and developing more as a runner this year than ever before and yet my biggest focus race ended in a DNF. Yet, I am satisfied with how prepared I was and how I went about things. I truly have realized and embraced that the good days don't always fall on race day even if we get 99% of the details right. Makes it even sweeter when it does come together and that is true whether its a race or just a run.

Bryon Powell said...

Keep enjoying your runs and running, Geoff. I'm no elite, but I like to incorporate some competition into my schedule, but my runs at WS (good) and UTMB (not so good) won't dictate my thoughts on my running year. Having a dozen or two great runs this autumn would be enough to make this a great running year in my mind.

Davide1224 said...

There's a Zen philosophy that I adhere to that suggests the secret to life is "not minding what happens." Win or lose, rain or shine, life unfolds as it should and if we can accept it on its terms and live life with joy, we've found the secret. Keep running.

Freebird said...

Awesome Geoff. I hope the year continues to treat you well.

Ben Nephew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Nephew said...

I think this post brings up several interesting points.

1. I think you can have interesting commentaries on the sport without being critical of a single person, whether or not comments were misunderstood.

2. Finding the right balance between training and racing is difficult in any type of running, but this especially so in ultras. When you consider how many things need to go right to have a good ultra, it doesn't take a statistician to realize how unlikely it is to focus on a small number of races a year and have success at all of them, even if you are training well. When single big races go poorly, there can be psychological fallout. I've seen plenty of runners perform poorly at Boston and have it ruin the rest of their year. On the other hand, ultras are hard on the body, and racing too hard too often can have long term physical effects. The decision on how much to race is personal and depends on many factors, but placing a great deal of emphasis on any single race can be dangerous in many ways. While there are some races that are more significant than others on the calender, having more than one goal race a season may be beneficial for many reasons.

Good luck at UROC. Seems to be a pretty solid field despite a lack of champions(?) and being mostly a race full of B-level runners(?). With the wide variety of strengths in the field, combined with a course that has a some of everything, it should be an entertaining race.

GZ said...

Geoff - excellent. For what it is worth, I find a lot more learning in failures than success. And so a weird satisfaction that comes from failures (instead of success).

Hope to catch up you back here in CO.

fabrice said...

Dear Goeff,
First of all I have a lot of respect for all your wins. But now I don't know???? Since may it has been all about how you never lost a 100 miler and you were missing some competition because you were so good. Then WS and everyone talking bad about the euro !!!! and pep's saying go sticking up... At UTMB.

I like your way of thinking but I believe some race deserve more respect and even if you know deep inside you are not going to win you still have to finish.

Best of luck for your next race Fabrice

sharmanian said...

Geoff, I totally see how our own perception of races and running can differ significantly from that of outside observers. The best runs aren't always races and the best races aren't always wins.

tothebrink said...

Thanks Geoff. I lost a lot sleep Sunday night worrying about UROC this upcoming weekend. This philosophy of looking at races not as the defining moment of the year but as just another stretch of the journey has most definitely grounded me. Thanks.

Fixated on the Trail said...

Obviously you know what you are doing Geoff. Alot of naysayers think you had an off year just because you didn't finish every race you started. I say BS to that. I'll bet that # is less than 1/2% to those who can say they've finished every race. I know I haven't, but have learned from those experiences. Keep doing what you are doing and continue to enjoy it. Thanks for sharing with us.

sado said...

It's about the journey, not the destination. You seemed to have figured this out Geoff. May the force be with you.

Christoph said...

For a few years now my primary running goal going into each season has been to be healthy and fit enough to spend huge amounts of time outdoors, in the mountains, exploring my surroundings on the power of my own legs.

-------------------

Bingo. That is what most people do not understand. That's what differentiates trail runners, at least some of them, from road runners. We want to run, but we also want to EXPLORE and be outside and ACTUALLY travel across the landscape with our legs. That is the larger point. Some people just do not and will not understand this.

MannImSchatten said...

I read your recent post and still didn't understand it ... so I went through your 2010 posts and compare them with what you've written this year. I think it finally starts making some sense to me ...

with respect
Vlad

Erik Sagerdahl said...

I feel sad for runners who all they care about as winning. Ten years from now, everything about winning will change...but one thing that can stay with us forever is our love for getting out there and run in the mountains. I'm glad you will never be a retired used-to-be runner, overweight, talking about the past....that is much sadder than losing some races.

AJW said...

All of us who run for the satisfaction of running get it. Truly. And, to be frank, from my perspective it's unfortunate you even had to explain yourself on this blog. But, such is life...

runningfarmer said...

Agree with AJW, no justification needed but cool of you to reach out. My biggest race turned into a total grind to just finish and my second biggest in two weeks may be a repeat of that due to a knee issue. Despite that, great year with lots of new routes run, new running buddies and lots of miles and smiles. That's what matters. As always, you manage to keep it real.

Cheers,

James

ashwalsh said...

Inspiring. In it for the love of the run- good stuff! Thanks for sharing :)