|I've always been big, just the sponsorship got small.|
Careless WhispersI was recently called an ultra wanna-be in an acrimonious email exchange. The accusation came about because a disgruntled group-member posted a come-on from The Clymb, which is Mary-Kay Cosmetics for dudes. I busted him, he got bent, and it all went into the weeds from there.
The exchange ended abruptly before I could tell the young hot-head that I would kill to be a wanna-be.
I'm an ultra has-been.
This past year was a yard-sale of health issues, which culminated in a sharp POP coming from my left-calf this past May. I tore something, and it could've been a lot worse. I went from running to a standing stop. Running in any form is off the table until that tear heals, period.
Right now I do a lot of walking, and the diet got leaner because trousers were shrinking. Of course, I blame Obama, global warming, and gay immigrant whales. If I had my gun, none of this would've happened.
Let's review some footage:
Looking Back On The Last Golden AgeBack in 1997, I thought my charmed life in ultras would continue forever. I'd buckled at AC and Leadville, was slotted for a long 1998 summer of training at Wasatch, and finished that in reasonable working order.
After that everything began to slow down. In April '99 I hit bottom—DNFing at Leona Divide, 43 miles. Being passed by people I'd never seen before. Talk about getting served.
I spent the summer of 2000 depressed, and helping a good friend train for his first 100 at Angeles Crest. Running came back slowly. It was good to be out in the San G's for baking hours on end.
In the midst of that summer, I lost a week of my life, and wasn't sure what happened to it. I wasn't even sure if I had taken up smoking again—Pall Mall 100s, straights. Had a memory of getting strange looks from friends saying "hey! you're a runner, why are you smoking?" My recovered memory was "Yeah, go fuck yourself too. I'm smoking, get used to it."
Put in my last ultra in 2002—Jim O'Brien's San Gabriel Mtns 50k. By then I was used up, didn't fucking care about any of it anymore.
The End of the Silver Age
I didn't race another ultra until 2012. Halfway through this passage, I came down with a mold-infection, courtesy of tearing up very ancient carpets in the apartment I lived in. I can still see the Martian red dust boiling out of the disintegrating padding. I was wearing a respirator, but in shorts and a tee-shirt. Shit went in right through my skin. Started turning yellow, my arm-flesh looked like a 70-year old man's. I was being treated by a homeopath/chiro genius who really had game. Gave me medicines that made my breath stink like shit, as I was expelling this crap. Eventually I got over it.
The Bronze Age
Running fell through one set of floors when I simultaneously had a mind-numbing job at a very large non-profit, and was going to art school at night. I'd done this before, but not for three years. Money was real tight, and literally couldn't afford to drive half the time. So I rode a bike, which made school day commutes 25-mile roundtrips. Weekends were spent at the keyboards learning the tao of masks, curves, layers and other Photoshop arcana.
A Brief Glimmer
In February, 2012 I read about the Born To Run Ultras. It was the first ultra in ten years that actually looked interesting. I got a fistful of miles under my belt somehow, and got a finish out of it. I followed it with a near-death experience at the Mt Disappointment 50k. My ungrateful heirs were disappointed at not dividing my effects at the foot of my cross.
Finally, We Get To The Heart Of Dorkness, And Your Point Is What?
I went to the 2013 Born To Run and helped out, walked, and began to be grateful for the what-I've-gots. Drank some good beer, camped out, and began to rethink things thru vertical pain-managment. Then walked some more.
I'm here to tell all of you ungrateful pissant whiners who bitch about your FKTs, DNFs and all that other shit that you are insanely lucky. You have two legs that work. No, you'll never be sponsored. Tough shit. Enjoy yourself. You got to race Western States? Didja finish? Great! You made the 8% that made the cut look good.
And guess what? You'll never know how lucky you were until the day comes that the music stops. Everybody else just keeps right on moving. And then you'll get to discover how you are going to heal yourself. You'll be busy for months, I promise, grateful to be a has-been than a never-was.