It wasn't but 3am in the morning when I woke up. I noticed it right away as what it was. Cold, wet, and slimy with a slight chunkiness that can only be half curdled milk. I recognized the smell immediately and woke up from the sound of a wrenching stomach, my three year old son, vomiting straight into my face.
I didn't run that morning.
The last 18 months have been a lot like that. Shoes, shorts, headlamp all laid out for a run at 430am the next morning, most of the time the first run that week, excited to get out and meet someone, or nobody, for a few simple miles on the trails. Then a late night phone call comes from work that something broke and I have to go in, someone is stalking an employee and I need to go in, someone called off and I need to go in.
Or my son pukes in my face.
No run for me.
The number of balloons at my pity party were starting to become a fire hazard. Yet, at some point, somewhere along the line, running had become so much more than selfish hours gone on the weekends to accomplish a meaningless buckle mission. It'd become my alone time, my time with close friends, my release where I could let loose some of the stress of my job, and get into work with a clearer head. Running became necessary for the benefit of all my staff. Running was necessary for the benefit of my company.
Running has always taken the back seat in the list of priorities in my life. Long ago I promised my wife that running would never negatively affect our life or plans. I'd get up at 3am, drive 2 hours to run on the Mogollon Rim. Run for 8 hours, drive home and go to a birthday party with no complaints. The number of times I've crawled up the Phoenix Children's Museum's tree house after a 20+ mile run, crying hard inside while regretting the $13 in Taco Bell I wish I hadn't spent on the way down from Payson...I'd become like many ultrarunner Mom's and Dad's, a pro at working through and producing insanely long and productive days.
Then I took a job in Tempe. I started in hotels in 2002. January 2nd to be exact. In 2008 I had done just about every job in operations. I interviewed with my COO for an executive position and he asked where I saw myself in a few years.
I told him in his job.
I got the job.
Back in 2002, at 21 years old, I set a goal to be a General Manager before I was 35 years old. I beat that goal by 2 years.
And it nearly broke me. My wife and I had our second child, a baby girl, only 4 days before I took the job. We kicked off the Monster 2 months later, opened the hotel the week after, and almost had a nervous breakdown about two weeks after that. I went to work at 7am and was driving home at 10pm more times than I can count. I worked every day for over 100 straight days. It never really let up and eventually, I finally quit. I quit without even having a job lined up and I didn't even care.
When my wife and I finally agreed it was the best for our family to just move on, a decision that took a long bit of debate, it was a very challenging thing to actually put into words with my boss. Yet after that was over it was more interesting what people would say when I told them I was leaving. Of all the people the only one that really stands out is a guy named Dave I've worked with at various properties for years and years. I'd come to really respect Dave, a hard working man with a mustache you can't grow quite that thick without years of trial and error and a level of dedication you can't find in people under 40. He had a quiet look, a cool head and patience you look up to. One day he was working on our equipment it came up that I was leaving the property in Tempe and he asked me why. I told him that essentially it came down to my family is very young, I never see them and I don't want to see them in 10 years and have had missed this entire stage of their lives. "I can always make more money" I told him...
He was behind the giant washing machine at that point and was looking down as he worked, tools in hand, body mostly covered by the machinery going about his work while this conversation continued. But then he stopped.
He put his tools down, looked up and looked me right in the eyes. His face was sad, a dramatic change from his usual jovial face. He paused for a brief moment before saying, "You know Jeremy...my son is 23 years old now. I worked a lot with him growing up...
...I missed a lot. ....I missed a lot...."
Even as Dave said it he seemed to almost be reeling in the words as he said it. Fully realizing it only now that he really did miss a lot of his kids early years. Any doubt I had of my decision to leave, really was erased at that very moment. I went home that night early and played with my kids all night long.
Running Takes Another Back Seat
I ran Zane Grey as usual in April and finished under 12 hours. Barely. My job in Tempe didn't finish until the week of the race and training wasn't quite what I had usually put in. I missed the Mesquite Canyon 50K for the first time in 5 years and instead put in 7 hours of suffering a few weeks later at Crown King. Nothing felt great going into Zane but its Zane. Feeling great and Zane never go together anyway.
Zane came and went with my brother Noah pulling away with strength after Fish Hatchery. Not a sliver of jealousy or competiveness filled me as he ran up the switchbacks away from me. He earned this one and absolutely crushed that race. Nothing but pride filled me as he pulled away into the pines.
After Zane however, the shoes came off. After taking the month of May off completely from work I was able to take a tremendous opportunity as the GM of Sanctuary. Knowing it would be a massive work load, and it most certainly turned out that way, running again took a big back seat. Yet not until July.
June brought a runners dream. Running Western States.
Ok, pacing Western States. I could write a novel on that place but in the end, it was an incredible opportunity to pace my good friend Jay Danek on his finish into Placer High. Spending the weekend with his wife Traci, and sister and brother in law was so much fun, a memory I'll always remember. We didn't get the overall time Jay and I wanted for him but despite having full on Vietnamese trench foot the last 40 miles, Jay still ran into the finish line.
Mogollon Monster 100 came as it always does in September and we had an incredible year of runners. Full of hardened ultra runners, people who actively searching out that kind of race and that kind of experience. Coming off a tough year with having to cancel the race half way in 2014, getting to see people finish the race again was a redeeming experience and for many, really seem to bring Mogollon into the forefront of their favorite races. Our volunteers once again were simply incredible and down to the simplest of grading systems, nobody died. Success.
After Mogollon I typically disappear into a world of exhaustion for a while and this year was no different. In the midst of a major renovation at work, cleaning up for the race goes on for weeks and after that is done, I don't want to see a single sasquatch ever again. Yet when the race is done I get to run my own things once again. But of course, kids vomit on you, wake up at 5am as you are trying to sneak out the door for a run, and in general act as full on terrorists trying to do whatever is possible to sabotage your free time. So again, running takes its rightful place in the backseat.
With time and age comes more flexibility. Kids sleep in longer, kids need less attention. I got out for a weekend as mentor for Team Red White & Blue veterans trail running camp in October. We had a memorable weekend with vets and civilians alike from the west coast in town to learn about not only trail running, but leadership and community stewardship. We ran all weekend and spent a day on the Mogollon Rim running some of the course. We spent more time out there than planned looking for a few strays that got away, but in the end it was all a stay that we'll all remember.
2016 and beyond...
I've learned as much as anything else that goals are only as important as what you can achieve. Setting huge goals and never attaining them to some would seem to be unrealistic and demoralizing. Others say that if you set goals that you easily achieve you didn't set goals high enough. So there has to be some kind of in between. A goal that you can set and actually achieve, IF, you push hard for it.
I didn't want to just sign up for a lot of races this year for the sake of forcing myself back into the sport. I don't want to put out another sub 10 Zane Grey goal because in all reality, I just don't have the time or drive to make the time, to put in the training I know is necessary to not have full blown organ failure trying to do that pace on that course.
So instead I'm shooting for something in the middle.
Grandpa Jim's 12 hours of Camelback - January 29th - DONE
38 miles and 10K in climbing in 10:21. Wrecked but not broken.
February 13th I'm running the Moab Red Hot 55K in Denver. Just kidding, its in Moab of course, just seeing who's still paying attention...I don't have a lot of goals for this race but after Grandpa Jim's I feel slightly better about pushing it a bit harder in Moab. Prior to last week I hadn't run 20 miles since June 2015. I hadn't run a 50K or longer since Zane Grey in April. My body help up well enough despite a few dizzy spells coming up Cholla on lap six where I was, for the first time I can remember, legitimately wondering if I could make it up without being that guy that falls off the cliff and has to be helicoptered off in a rescue. God that would be embarrassing. So in Moab I have one game plan.
Hammer it. Whatever that means, whatever time that gives me, I'm going to hammer it. That isn't much different than any race plan I have but this year I think, despite a shortage of miles, I can at least do my best to hold on as long as I can, and hopefully beat a few dozen people along the way. One thing I can all but guarantee, if you are in the final half mile of the race and in front of me....I'm going to pass you. Plan on sprinting.
Zane Grey in April and if all goes well, I have some special plans for that race. Then after that who knows? I have a lot of other plans up in the air for races I want to do but more so for events I want to put on, fat ass races/events I want to put together so others can experience areas I know few ever do. There is so much out there I wish I could spend the time experiencing, without ever leaving Arizona. Work of course gets in the way, but someday, someway, I'll find a way to get them all to merge together.
Until then, I hope to be out on the trail more soon. Without the trail everything else isn't quite the same. Too much work and no trail makes work less successful. My kids are growing up and I don't want to miss a second of it. I'll sacrifice those 8 hour Saturdays for a 4 hour Saturday run and being home before my kids wake up so I can spend the whole day with them and my wife.
As much as I love 8 hours in the mountains, I love it even more spending that time in the sandbox with my family. Somehow I have to find a way to get both to work.