September 21, 2016

2016 and the Need for Speed

It took another year to deal with my physical injuries and major depression. I finally started to run painlessly and consistently in May 2016. On the racing front, my first trail race in over a year will be the 10-mile Silent Trails race in the mountains between Laramie and Cheyenne.

My build-up program consists of ongoing workouts designed to prevent glute injuries, running 5-6 miles every other day on the dirt roads around home, and a weekly long trail run. My body is responding well, so I’m already scheduling several future races--topped off with next summer’s Never Summer 50K (assuming there is one; if not, I’ll do the Bighorn 50K).

But, two challenges: Firstly, I’ve gained 10 pounds over the past year due to medications, resulting in a slower pace. More consistent running and fewer cookies should help. I’m about 50 pounds heavier and a couple of decades older than the average trail runner.

Secondly, I struggle with feeling that I have to beat the majority of runners in races. More specifically, I would rather not race than embarrass myself by finishing in the bottom half.

I’ve always finished in the top half, but given my age and weight and a base trail fitness still under development, I won’t meet my minimum expectation for a while.

Which means I have to either humble myself or not race. Becoming humble is a good character trait. Note: By saying that I have to humble myself, I don’t mean to insult people whose finish times are below the median. It’s more of a competition with myself. It’s a goal I’ve imposed like making straight A’s, earning a superior rating at work, or vainly making people think I’m cool.

Competition vs. Participation

Ryan Hill posted a comment the other day that is revolutionizing my thinking: he said that the original meaning of the word “competition” in Latin is to work toward a common goal together. It’s striving to enjoy the journey toward crossing the finish line--together--with speed being secondary. Of course, for the top 5%, speed may be primary, and that’s noble.
But the rest of us should see the whole experience of grinding toward the finish with others as the primary triumph, with rank being something that we might use to measure our own fitness, effort, strategy, etc. It helps when others (like my loving wife) remind us of this.

So I’m still learning to accept myself as I shoot for goals. Self-acceptance is one of the many treasures that trail racing can unearth for all of us.

“I lift my eyes up unto the mountains; where does my help come from? My help comes from you oh Lord...” Psalm 121

March 4, 2015


So let’s remove the fig leaf. ... 2014 was the worst year of my life, a year of unprecedented loss. No running. No races. The proximal hamstring tendinopathy (where the hamstring tendon attaches to the sitbones) will not be healed enough for running until the summer of 2015. Although I’ve been in physical therapy since the injury occurred in May 2013, the doctors looked at the MRIs and after many exams finally told me last summer that it’s a 2-year injury. This devastated me.

Every single day I dream of running and racing again. I study every book and journal article I can find on rehab and running technique. Every PT exercise, every day, is to get me back into running. This has lasted for almost 2 years. I’ve never gone without running for more than a few months in my entire life until now.

Other losses: Both of my daughters left home for college, leaving the house very empty. A close loved one quickly began deteriorating with early dementia. My best friend at work died suddenly. The administrivia at my federal job intensified more than ever before, taking me away from the kind of work I love and robbing it of meaning.

It was the perfect storm of losses. Severe depression & anxiety were the result.

The struggle became so overwhelming that I left my job of 23 years with the Forest Service, despite the resulting financial pressure. My boss wanted to keep me on leave without pay, but I needed more help. Rooted in both genetics and merciless perfectionism, and crappy self-worth, the psychiatric disorders caused me to withdraw and isolate. I had “lost” my running friends, work friends and church friends. So the day after I quit, I left for a 3-week hospital stay at Meier Clinics in Dallas and was diagnosed with severe MDD and GAD, with PTSD from the loss of running due to the injury.

I’m still grieving the losses and illogically dreading the future, shedding the most real tears since I was a baby. But I have the tools, therapy and meds to help climb out of the pit. I just need to use them and rest. It's quite challenging to just be a "human being" rather than a "human doing." 2015 is a time to redefine. I finally have some traction in my training program where I can slowly step up my training program without pain, for the first time since 2013.

So what of my racing future?

I’m still 100% committed and burning hot to race on the trails. But I’ve finally had to admit that 2015 is a transition year, not a comeback year. Periodization is necessary, but it’s counterintuitive to my perfectionism that sees phasing as a weakness. A transition year is antithetical to a performance-based sense of self-worth. It’s humbling because there’ll be no dramatic breakthrough moments physically or mentally. I must patiently continue to train in the moment.

Transition. Phase-in.There’s nothing wrong with just participating in races, no matter how slow I go. I’m ferociously competitive, mostly with myself--but if that’s all I am, then I’m an empty human. Performance-based addiction--basing my self-worth on performance--will always, always, ultimately lead to a dead-end.

It’s time to trample the fig leaf and heal.

I originally began this blog 3 years ago to inspire, inform and entertain, from the perspective of a non-elite. I just wanted to sharpen my writing skills and have fun. But it evolved into somewhat of a fig leaf. And so over the next year, I’ll begin refining Feral Pursuits to reflect the original purpose better. In other words, not trying to impress anymore, and basing my self-worth on what God says about me.

What of 2015? My main goal is to be in shape for elk season, which is more physically demanding than any trail race. I also signed up for the Bighorn 18M with my wife and nephew but may have to back out if I want to “run” the Skunk Hollow 12K up on Casper Mountain. The Black Squirrel Half Marathon trail race and the Silent Trails 10M are also tentatively on my calendar. It will be very humbling not to run these at full speed, but it’s okay. It’s just okay.

So 2015 = Transition, and 2016 = The Comeback. Ultra trail races are still very much in my future.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading, and shoot me an email.

June 4, 2014

Rehabbing with Wild Turkey

Miserable over not being able to run yet, I did the next best thing: went turkey hunting. I thought my hamstring tendons would pay the price, but a funny thing happened in April, about 8 weeks after the  platelete-rich plasma injections deep into my glutes. My butt actually felt stronger after the first stealth-hike through the steep ponderosa pine canyons. And I didn’t get that deep throb in my calf from sciatic pain either.

When I returned from my first turkey outing in Wyoming and awkwardly fessed up to my PT (Brad Ott) that I’d gone hiking but felt better, he actually surprised me with a prescription of “more turkey hunting.” So I went on a wild-turkey binge in 4 states. Oh yeah.
My third Merriam's turkey of the spring in 3 states.

I feel Dilbert’s pain every time I open Facebook and read about my friends’ excursions.


Perfect turkey country, when you can find the turkeys ...

This thunderchicken sneaked up silently from behind me as I was scratching out yelps to another roosted tom before sunrise.
Unique white flecks in the middle feathers.

I captured this selfie with 2 lovesick strutters just under the trees.


This longbeard came from the South Platte River bottom, an area with a limited number of permits. Unlike the mountains that host the Merriam's subspecies, this flatland riverbottom holds the Rio Grande subspecies, a bit heavier than their cousins. I called this 22-pounder in at 10 a.m.

In order to get away from other hunters, I crossed the South Platte to hunt. When I returned with the turkey on my back, I looked down to see the shadows of 20-pound carp darting near my feet as they spawned.

One of the most beautiful things in the spring woods: the body feathers of the wild tom turkey. A photo can't capture the full glory.


I like early April in Nebraska's Pine Ridge country because the birds gobble like crazy the day after a fresh snow.

Carrie's seventh turkey!

Here's Carrie right after she put the Indian on by crawling up to the edge of a streambottom and dropping this bird as he silently stalked my seductive yelps.

The country in northwest Nebraska is deceptively STEEP, especially when you're willing to go anywhere in pursuit of a gobbler that won't budge.

Grossly beautiful, the bull turkey turns his head red, white and blue during the spring mating season.

SOUTH DAKOTA (southern Black Hills)
Look for it: the turkey track is in the middle of the photo, while on each side of it are the vertical lines in the sand from the turkey dragging his wing tips as he strutted.

Shooting Stars, which emerge early in the spring in South Dakota. There are 14 species in North America.

My first wild morel mushroom. It's smaller than I thought, so I placed my ring next to it for scale.

Every rabid turkey hunter is familiar with this sight: between dark and dawn, when light leaks into the forest and the roosted turkeys start clearing their throats.
I captured this on the last evening in South Dakota, in the Black Hills, where the turkeys were very willing to gobble back at me but I couldn't quite close the deal on these elusive birds.

May 31, 2014

New "Course Record"

All of my kids are valedictorians--gotta be some kind of CR!

Recovering from the PRP injections and a pitiful winter without running have thwarted any meaningful blog posts for a few months -- but I do have a lot to be thankful for: my exceptional daughters, the pride and joy of my life.
First is Hannah, who for the second year in a row volunteered to staff the Ft. Collins Running Club’s Tortoise & Hare races. Through seven monthly races, Hannah steeled herself against average race-time temperatures of less than 10 degrees--and she isn’t even a runner!
Temperatures WAY below freezing greeted runners at almost every T&H race this year. At least they could work up some body heat; these volunteers had to just stand there the whole time. That's Hannah standing in back and RD Nick hunched over. Despite the cold, the series saw a record turnout of runners. Photo courtesy of

Although I didn’t get to run the T&H, I couldn’t resist ice fishing in North Park. Caught my limit in the Delaney Butte lakes and then moved over to Cowdrey Lake, where the rainbows were small but fat and eager.
You forget about the blowing cold at 8,000 feet when the fish start to bite.
The highlight of the spring was my other daughter, Alisha, achieving the honor of Valedictorian in her graduation from Liberty Common High School. Liberty had the number one ACT scores in the state of Colorado and has the top standardized test scores among over a thousand schools in Colorado. And Alisha had the top GPA. After Hannah, Alisha is my second daughter to have attained Valedictorian -- so I’m calling it a “Course Record” because who else has gone 2 for 2 in Valedictorian children?? This will be the only course record I ever set, so I shall brag about it here. 

Principal Bob Schaffer presenting Alisha with the valedictorian medal. Liberty Common High School is a tuition-free, public, parent-run, charter high school chartered by Poudre School District. Photos by Trevon Stoltzfus for The Coloradoan.

A dream come true: Alisha giving her valedictorian speech on graduation day. My thanks go to Liberty for giving my daughter the best classical liberal-arts curriculum in the state.