Open Letter to Me

“It’s funny how many of the same things that draw people to us, push them away.”

Dear Christian:

Remember Byron’s birthday at Playa Tamarindo in Costa Rica? That day when you sat naked in a tree, tripping balls, surfing crystal clear waves under the bright Central American sun without a care in the world?

Two early twenty-somethings made a pact that day to always live life to the fullest.

Fast forward almost 20 years, and those dense jungles and wave-thick beaches of Costa Rica are now filled with hotels and tourists, and you two “twenty-somethings” are all grow’d up with jobs, family, responsibilities and those things that get you pats on the back from elders, winks from the boss, and a mailbox full of credit card offers.

From time to time you get together with some of your old friends and you share a drink (or 30) and reminisce about what was. You take a sip, hoping to wash away the strong desires to go back to that life of total freedom and reckless abandon – but it doesn’t work.

And HEY, dumbass, that won’t win you those ego-soothing pats on the backs. The bosses will think of you as flippant and immature. The elders will shake their heads.

“What’s wrong with that boy?” will rise as a general sentiment.

Engulfed in Indecision

So here we are Christian.

Eight days away from the start of the Keys 100, and boy have you been a complete neurotic mess.

What are you going to do?

It’s been a hoot watching you pick up the pieces from your last breakdown, train hard as nails, and improve like crazy; but you didn’t know when to stop.

Rest.

Recover.

Grow.

Unable to make rational decisions regarding your training and racing, you literally drove yourself to complete physical shut-down.

You were watching the badasses, and trying to be them.

But you aren’t them.

But you try so hard to convince yourself that you can be, regardless of the reality of your age, your late start, and your genetic makeup and physical potential.

For someone who the working world believes to be so smart, you seemingly have no sense. Or so you’ve been told.

That physical shut-down took you out, dude. Sloggin’ around, barely able to walk, every single muscle in your body sore to the touch. You looked so crazy ridiculous after that CrossFit Challenge when you couldn’t even straighten your arms.

Nice …ape-man.

At least your wife could laugh at you.

Six Miles to Clarity

But this morning, as we ran along, we remembered who we really were. Er, who we really “are”. (you know “we” as in  me and you – this is a letter to you, from me …oh nevermind).

We just don’t always make sense.

We’re a little crazy. A lotta’ irrational.

Chance-y, crazy, kooky …and completely averse to being what people think we should be. Doing what people think we should do.

Is that a problem? yea, probably. But it’s who we are.

We have to live life to it’s fullest in whatever definition we deem.

100 Miles or Bust

And just like that, it was settled.

We know who we are. We know its not normal. We know people will disconnect from us, and Hell, right now people are probably trippin’ on this whole “talking to ourselves” thing – but do we really care? – We don’t need fair-weathered people in our life.

One thing we can promise those in our life is a wild ride. You want safety in a friend, a spouse, or even just an acquaintance? well, they exist out there. In droves. But that ain’t us… er, you.

We’re going to do that Keys 100 race because we feel like we have to. It’s just that simple. The full 100 miles.

That excitement churns inside us. The unknown. What will happen?

Once the concrete decision was made, I felt your sigh of relief. You worried so much about what people might think ‘cuz you can’t really “race” it. You talked a lot of smack when you were feeling good, man. Vogel is laughing at you. You made all those proclamations about never approaching 100s this way again – for just the finish – and here you are, going just for a finish.

But really dude, who really cares? No one cares and you’re completely arrogant in thinking that whatever you are doing in a race has any bearing or consequence in anyone else’s life – again, simply put, no one cares dude, do what you gotta do.

And So We Write

This is the fun part.

This is where we get to share all of our tortured thoughts, and emotional struggles with regards to sport. We can do and say and write whatever we feel and maybe, just maybe there is someone on the other side of the screen that can say, “hey – I feel like that sometimes.”

Or maybe we can spark some thought in others.

Maybe they will reflect on their lives, feel content with who they are, or decisions they wanna make, and jump off that fence they’ve been sitting on for far too long and just go for it.

…and then of course, some will shake their heads at us, perhaps make a snarky comment or two, and move on without being affected one way or another.

And that’s ok, too.

See you muth_ f_ckas in the Florida Keys!

Whatever happens, indecision will not be one of the hurdles, and I know (we know) that we will do whatever it takes, within 32 hours, to ensure that Sunday afternoon, there is a brass parrot holding up our khakis.

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Comments

Nice letter!

Good luck Christian! You know I’ve often thought of what my life would be like had I made different decisions at key points in my younger years. I could have easily ended up becoming an E.O.D. technician, nuclear engineer, astrophysicist, an outdoor guide, adventure race director, etc… I believe everything that happens in life, happens for a purpose, a reason. I also know that I’d be miserable if I couldn’t work and had all the time in the world to train and race. You see, for me at least, it’s balancing the daily work grind with the frequent outdoor adventures as rewards that strike the best balance. I think having to work, having to sit in a cube for hours and hours a day truly make me appreciate the time I have off all the more. Wouldn’t be the same if I just lived in a shack w/o electricity, running water or indoor plumbing deep in the mountains without a care or responsibility in the world. I’d be miserable after a short while… We all need a sense of purpose and self worth in this world.

Looking forward to seeing the parrot next week on this blog. Enjoy every step!

Good luck Christian! Keep after it…..I always thought it just about the finish, minimizing the hurting and enjoying the ride? . . . . don’t tell me your ego tricked you into “racing” these things……100′s are a microcosm for life….the ups and downs (especially the downs) are magnified …..they teach us (well, at least me) we can get through those black holes of lowness and actually be better for them…so enjoy the journey, take in the sites, take in the full range of all you are going to feel and have fun!
Cheers!

Peter

Christian,

Yo brotha, you nailed it. Holla all ya haters, Christian, is getting on his horse and running. Journey to tha max. Livin large with every step in tha keys. Christian, I don’t know if you have time but check out Janelle Monea “Tightrope with leftfoot” on youtube.

In my opinion, which isn’t worth a hoot, you’ve already made it to badass status. Enjoy the ride. I’ll think happy feet thoughts for you.

We have to live life to it’s fullest in whatever definition we deem

Well, CG, You do your damndest to do just that. The problem is that you don’t know when your cup is running over and spilling all over you.

Yeah, it takes brains to be an ultrarunner. Think of the nuclear physicist who is one of the 10 finishers of Barkley, Dr. Horton, famous for his miles, Dr, lisa Bliss, that weird west coast lawyer, your friend AG, and then that crazy computer/internet nerd. Oh, That’s you.

May you find the key to success at your next 100.

Whatever you do, just continue being yourself and having fun.

Hell…YEA!!!!

I’m with Holler, khakis brother? You tryin to look respectable or something? Hope you have a good run out there man, I’ll be thinking of ya.

We’re on the same wavelength Christian – and I don’t mean running. I mean that “accepting yourself, hell being yourself, at the risk of disapproval and rejection”. It took me slightly longer than you to get there, but there’s really no better place to be.

What I’ve found is the more you stay true to yourself, the stronger you become. All that energy you spent “trying” to be something/someone else, now reinforces who you are and you become naturally aligned with that which nourishes you and you can excel at. A positive versus vicious cycle.

I would also agree with Mr. Messerle – comparing yourself to others is a slippery, dangerous, fruitless slope. One of the draws to endurance running for me is passing that threshold where you are truly competing against yourself. Sure there are “winners” at every event, but the battle isn’t fought with them, the real battle happens in our own hearts and souls.

Like you, every run I go on I think the same thing beforehand “What’s going to happen this time”? Will I win, will the trail will? That constant need to push and measure ourselves is the mark of an athlete, a competitor.

Best of luck on the race.

can’t believe i’m writing this but i completely understand. i know you have to do it. i can’t wait to watch you do it. i believe that you would run across the US tomorrow if you didn’t have to work and would complete it without failure. that’s who “ya’ll” are. we’re coming to get you florida keys. love you (ya’ll).

Great stuff. Inspiring, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and see what the hell your made of and sometimes signing up for the race is one of the hardest parts (as I find).

Beat the heat man, have a great 100!

@RunsOnBeer

Great post, love how you worked your way to the inevitable conclusion. Enjoy the Keys!

Christian, I hope you get that brass parrot. But you in khakis? I don’t see it.

Christian, you nailed it. Running can never be about other’s visions of what it should be; we run for ourselves. Your challenges are just that, yours. Your adventures are inspiring to read, and watch. Every one of you that challenge and push yourself beyond what some think you’re capable of inspire. Keep it up and good luck in the Keys!

Well said, Scott Messerle! You are a badass, Christian.

Your blog is inspiring to those of us that sometimes can’t seem to go “all-in”. Happy and healthy running this weekend! [edit: next weekend] Can’t wait to read about your race.

well said.

a more common outlook than you might imagine…

good luck out there…

Hurry down dude The weather is awesome. See you at the packet pick up. We’re getting ready to leave the mainland after lunch at Rositas in Fl city.

To my dear friends, Christian (yes he and you being one in the same but apparently in this post a little split – hopefully not in personalities!) – remember that life is an ultra. There are many approaches to life – some just want to get through without risk or adventure and others seem hell-bent to have it end short and sweet. There are many in-between ways to live but two stand out in regard to the ultra aspect:

1. One is to race as hard as one can – to see how hard you can push, to take it all in and risk great success or great failure.

2. The other is to adjust slightly – still taking risk, still pushing, but with some nod to pace so that there is perhaps less risk of failure though there will still be pain to reach that success.

Neither is a wrong way to go. I still risk and get my teeth kicked in. I recently had a phone call home where I asked, “What is wrong with me?” It was because I still give people the benefit of the doubt and trust they will be fair and honest and do the right thing and be rational…and I am so often disappointed, but I keep giving that benefit to those I meet (at least until I’m gumming my food).

I hope never to stop adventuring and pushing and learning…but because I know I cannot go at the same pace all the time, I try to measure when to push and when to slow…all with an eye on avoiding stopping.

We’ve known of great runners who give a race everything they’ve got – go down in the history and record books – but are pretty much spent. They might jog around a bit after that epic race of theirs, and they will probably give plenty of inspirational talks…but they know their racing days have ended.

And then we know others – like Bill Halm – who has probably never had that record-breaking jaw-dropping race that everyone still talks about 30 or 40 yrs. later. Thing is, he’s still out there, moving at his pace and finishing the course at 83 yrs. old.

It’s up to you to decide which it is that you seek. Running greatness can be defined in different ways. None of it is worth spit, though, if you don’t enjoy the miles along the way.

This may or may not make any sense as I’ve been mostly sleep deprived for that last 2 months. So my apology now if I’m not terribly coherent…

I head out in just about an hour (waiting to pick up a collaborative work of art from my fellow collaborator) and head to Winston Salem for a night’s sleep in a motel. Then a week with my best friend from high school (she’s known me 43 yrs.!). Matt arrives a week from today for our vacation before the mega-drive home. I’ll be back in Hillsboro sometime early June.

I have many thoughts about my experience here to sort out…but I have learned muched, excelled some, and my head is so full of creative ideas that I fear there is a log jam – I get one thing made and more ideas cram themselves into the limited space of my imagination. I will be happy to be home and working in my studio – it will release some of the jam.

I think in some ways you feel the same in regard to miles and times and runs and such.

Breathe…use your senses when running in the wild places…hear the birds, smell the wood, see the bark of the trees you zip past.

I told them when I first got here that I relate better to landscapes than to people sometimes. It is no surprise that the texture of bark plays into my latest work. I am excited about the possibilities.

So should you be. Measure not so much the successes and the failures, but run for the joy of moving across the earth.

laugh freely, walk far, create beauty…
susan

Exciting adventures await!
Good Luck next weekend Christian!

Nice read.

Interesting read – self reflection is always fun (said with some sarcasm in my voice). “You are who you are.”

My best wishes to you on the 100!

Good Luck and See ya there.
You should run with me for a while, so you don’t go out to fast. My last 3 have been between 18 and 19 hours.
Probably right where your hoping to be. If you feel good after 50, than take off.

I would write my standard, “run smart and have fun”, but that’s not you. Go out there and be you and get that brass parrot!

We are MILES apart in our ages and abilities as runners, but this old slow southern gal loves reading whatever ramblings you write. Have FUN at the Keys! –heather

Best of luck to you!

Thanks for the post Christian. I’m heading to the Miwok 100k and needed to read some grounding thoughts. I will think of you during at least one of my miles on Saturday.

“That excitement churns inside us. The unknown. What will happen?”

This is what I’m looking forward to most – the unknown – thank you.

Hey Christian,

Right or wrong (and I don’t know which is which is which most of the time), you sure are fun to watch. I can understand what you speak of, and I wish you the best in the Keys 100… I hope it goes well for you. Have fun out there and listen to that body of yours!

Tiffany

Keep running. Keep writing too. Be safe on U.S.Rt.1.

Christain-

One thing struck me in what you wrote. That you were looking at the bad asses and trying to be them. This sounds like the classic problem to me. You tried to become someone else’s version of a bad ass. You may not have the fastest time or lift the most weight but remember one thing. To those of us who have never tried even half the shit you are doing right now you are a bad ass. You inspired me to get my fat white butt off the couch last summer. No I have taken some stumbles in the past year physically but reading your exploits on facebook inspire me to get up and start over.

Just remember that when you are thinking that you are not one of the bad asses….cause there are plenty of people out here that think you are.

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