Monday, July 30, 2012

A Farewell to Trails

“War is not won by victory.”
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

I suppose, it must also be true, that war is not lost by defeat.  It is difficult to argue with the score card.  To date I have started 5 trail races.  All 5 have resulted in injury, 3 in DNF’s.  I feel I’ve given it a fair shake.  23% of my training miles this year have been on trails. And yet, less than 2 miles in to MT Hood 50, I rolled my left ankle, again, and went down in a cloud of dust.  That’s 23% of my time running on a surface that I don’t enjoy, just so that I can get better at running on a surface I don’t really enjoy.

I love running, period.  I love running on roads.  I love running from one town to another, noticing first, the houses getting closer together, then seeing the “reduce speed” sign as the precursor of the town limits sign.  I like convenience stores, fruit stands and water from hoses.  Sometimes I like counting cars, or telephone poles, but most importantly I like “stealing miles”.  Where you get lost in thought, only to “snap out of it” and realize that the last time you were aware of the fact that you were running was a few miles ago.  This never happens for me on trails.  For me, trail running is like playing whack-a-mole, where every root, rock and clump of grass must be accounted for and acknowledged.  It’s like being responsible for a toddler around a campfire.

Sitting around with an ankle that looks like it swallowed a grapefruit, it’s easy to ask myself “why?” The simplest answer is Western States.  Before I envisioned ever wanting to run further than marathon distance, I knew about Western States.  When I missed qualifying for Boston by a minute and 26 seconds, I declared in a semi drunken stupor, “fuck it then, I’ll run Western States instead”. Finally getting in, last year, and then not finishing only made the obsession to get back stronger.  

It’s time to let go.  The quest for Western States is making me select races that I don’t really enjoy, and making me train in ways that I don’t really enjoy.  It’s adding anxiety to something that usually keeps anxiety out of my life, running.  Worst of all, the trail injuries mean “down time”,  something that roads have never done.  I’ve probably been fortunate to escape the over use injuries that many runners deal with.  All of my injuries have been of the fall down go boom variety.

This weekend, I’m going to go scout out the southern section of next Summers Run Across Oregon.  Hopefully, that will take my mind off running until next week and I’ll be able to start training again.  

When you run to solve problems, you have a problem, when not being able to run is your problem. 


  1. Saw your post on the Ultralist-- sorry about your ankle. I know what you mean about trails; half the time I end up hiking because at least then I can look around. I was DFL at the Mt. Hood 50 a few years ago and saw several people fall in the first half.

    I'm in Portland and would love to hear about your route across Oregon as you put it together!

    1. Dates are pretty close to set, July 27 to August 4. Starting at the California border south of Klamath Falls and running up Hwy 97 and then 197 finishing at The Dalles. Average around 35 miles a day, and then a 14 mile "Fun Run" from Dufur to the Washington border on the last day. I should post a first report and map here next week some time....thanks for reading.