Friday, January 17, 2014


I peaked.

I peaked at 24 years and 2 months, on a day I ran with unquenchable anger. That anger is not coming back, and that peak is not coming back.

In August 2012, I won the U.S. Trail 10k National Championships, setting a course record and beating Bobby Mack--U.S. Cross-Country champion and top-20 finisher at World Cross--by 1:20 (in a time that was 4 minutes faster than this year's winner, Mario Mendoza). What the hell? Looking back, I don't know how that happened. I think for a few minutes that day, I hated everyone and everything, including myself. Self hatred is a powerful performance enhancer when climbing a 20% grade.

So, as a runner, it is both factual and fair to say that I peaked. I could win another national championship, and I might. I will not win a world championship. And, either way, it doesn't really matter, does it?

I peaked at 24, and it doesn't matter.

That is a refreshing thought. It certainly removes a lot of self-imposed pressure. Some Most Every single competitive endurance athlete I know is motivated by compulsion. The compulsion to get out on a run, or on a second run, or to eat a salad, or to eat a gallon of EPO. They'll say it's love of the sport, or self-betterment, or even experiencing nature's beauty (and it's almost certainly a bit of those things), but mixed into the noble goals is always a dash of compulsion.

Fuck compulsion.

And while we're at it, fuck being a "competitive endurance athlete."

Trust me, I've peaked at both compulsion and competitiveness. In college, training for duathlons, I used to have the weirdest diet and social life, all in the name of pushing out a few more watts on the next day's bike ride. Have you ever set an alarm at 2 AM to drink a pre-made protein shake? I did. For 2 years. That strangeness definitely got better in law school after I met MD, but then I was back and more compulsive than ever last October (while living 3000 miles away from MD), running 120-mile weeks and aiming for a 4-minute mile.

I'm not that good anyway.

That is not meant as a sad statement. If anything, it's liberating. Galen Rupp ran a 13 minute 5k indoors yesterday. I ain't touching that, and I wouldn't want to live that life anyway. Could I beat him on epic, extremely technical mountain trails? Maybe. But he'll always be a better "runner."

So I have peaked and am not that good anyway.

Fuck compulsion, let's have some adventures.

Athletics is a small part of my life that structures my day, which is the way I want it to be. I want to wake up in the morning next to my partner-in-crime and our puppy, go for a run, or a bike, or a mountain climb, then eat a little too much ice cream, maybe help some people when I can, and do it all over again the next day. And the next year. And onward until the adventures are extreme hammock Olympics with great-grandchildren. From here on out, it's adventuring, with less compulsion and less competitiveness (though those things will always be lurking in the background). From here on out, I hope to have one athletic goal.

I never want to reach my adventure peak.

Today: 14.3 miles on trails. Hip is feeling soooooo good! With (possibly) healing on the horizon, I wanted to write down an exercising manifesto before I get too much better. You all are awesome! Thanks for everything :)


  1. Awesome. Such a great read and outlook. Congrats on getting to this point so early.

    I look forward to following your adventures.

  2. Jaysus. What a post. Masterpiece. Again. Thank you Dave…

  3. Thanks so much Justin, you've been there since the beginning of this weird journey. If I can be half the writer you are, I'd be a happy guy. And half the dog owner. Or a quarter of the dog 5k'er! As Addie gets older, I realize that the time you and your pup threw down is extremely impressive :)

  4. Ahhh Markus, you're awesome, that means a ton. I hope to be pleasantly mediocre from here on out :) Love following your journies!

  5. David - it is rather nutty how well you pay attention on so many topics and people. Impressive. When are you running for office? You got my vote.

    Compulsion is good for adventures too.

    And bullshit that you have reached your competitive peak.

  6. GZ, there is a lot of time in the day when a person (me) is a corporate desk weenie :)

    Also, I did today's 14.3 mile run in dress khakis (it doubles as a commute, and I didn't plan my weekly clothes drop well). That indicates that I am so far past my competitive peak that I can't even see it on the horizon.

    You're the best! I will be running for office in Colorado in 2028, after Megan and I move there for her residency. My platform will be all weed. Literally. I will be standing on a 100% week platform during all campaign stops. My guess is that I'll bypass governor and go to Supreme, Like, Commander Man.

  7. Of course I misspelled weed. Must be all the week I've been smoking.

  8. Wow, Dave, that's a sobering post! You're a thought-provoking fellow, for sure. I suppose the levity with which you describe that peak is a good thing. And, it really is, because, you undoubtedly have so many awesome peaks to summit in the coming years. You'll be able to enjoy the view regardless of the elevation. And, those of us clamoring along the foothills or from different ranges will enjoy your accounts of life from where you are. I hope the hip continues to heal quickly.
    (Did I take the mountain metaphor too far?)

  9. Perfect outlook in my opinion (as a mid-forties father of 2 boys). Life is an adventure. Don't get too caught up in the metrics, just try to enjoy the ride. You've got marriage, travel, kids(?), and a meaningful career ahead of you. Running is just the sauce on top of that giant adventure sundae. Regret on the other hand will make your sundae taste like shit in your forties. :-)

  10. Wow, Ash and Scott combined for an epic metaphor-off that will go down in history. Ash, that is so amazing of you. It's weird, but I feel like you understand me better than almost anyone.

  11. Scott, I never want ice cream to taste like shit. Though, between you and me this deep in the comments, my body is not used to running and I've had a few episodes of spewing "chocolate syrup" over the last week or two. You are awesome, thank you.

  12. I must come up with a metaphor to beat those other metaphors, or else concede my metaphor peak is behind me... nothing. Well crap.

    I was actually thinking about you today, believe it or not. On the trail I and the Sun Beast were running on there are a lot of Strava Segments, and I'm second place in just about all of them. First place is a horse. Seriously, someone is using the garmin with their horse, and uploading the data on Strava. So I was thinking how cool it would be if you were to run these trails (there's a race on them at the end of April!) and knock the horse out of first place.

    The horse's name is Savannah Wind. You could title your victory post, "Breaking Wind."

    You know where they race horses, right? In the HIPpodrome. Ugh, sorry. Too soon?

    Great post, but I wouldn't be surprised if by not trying to be competitive, you end up racing more competitively. Life is weird like that.

  13. I've read this seven times now. Your writing makes me so happy. I love you.

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  15. Megan, I love your rest days ;) You inspired me with all of this (not just the ideas, but to write it down). And you make me comfortable saying it (when this had been a huge part of my identity before I met you). In conclusion, poop.

  16. Josh, that is brilliant. Horse Strava CRs sound so epic. You are a great storyteller. You catapulted yourself into the running for best comment ever :)

  17. Sophia, you look like a nice, trustworthy woman. Here, let me click on your link........OH NO MY COMPUTER, IT IS BURNING.

  18. This is so good-heavy. I'm sincerely grateful that you wrote this out. And now you've got "fuck" in your posts. And we're Facebook friends. 2014=made.

    1. You're the man P. You know how I found your real name? I stalked you. I stalked you mercilessly. I needed to know the man behind the blog, the hero with the humor. In conclusion, you're my internet crush.

  19. You peaked at 10k trail nats and you will peak again, just somewhere else. I find (turning 43 this year) that just when I think I've let the compulsion go, I start on a new adventure and there are new compulsions. So, I embrace the 'competitive endurance athlete' it's part of my nature. I won't win a world championship either but I will continue to challenge myself and at the end of the day with full time work, school and family, that's good enough! Have fun, be healthy, enjoy life and most definitely keep posting to this blog, I enjoy your wit!

  20. You'll win a lot of fucking races and entertain us along the way! PS I'm stoked you don't need surgery! You heal as badass as you run! Keep it up!

  21. David, thank you so much for this post! It really comes at a perfect time for me. I similarly peaked at the Chicago Marathon in 2011 and have been beating myself up for the past year plus thinking I had to get back there, when in reality it's not going to happen. I'd much rather enjoy the journey and cherish those awesome memories than do be a slave to the watch. Thanks so much for the wisdom and great perspective. Can't wait to keep watching your journey as well!

  22. I don't think you peaked yet.