Letting go of my resentments for Bend, Oregon

Holy shit, I’ve almost been in Corvallis for 5 years. Time has certainly flown by.

Something occurred to me this past weekend while visiting Bend, OR, to train and visit a couple of good friends.  Before I talk about what happened I would like to take the time to describe all of the circumstances that happened, which created several resentments, over the last few years while I called Central Oregon my home.

As I’ve described before I first arrived in Bend, OR in the summer of 1998 to live and train for XC skiing.  After graduating St. Lawrence University in the Spring of 2002 I moved to Bend to begin my life after college.  From 2002 to 2005 I enjoyed every aspect of the Bend lifestyle while having terrific jobs, a great active outdoor lifestyle, and good friends abound.  In 2006 things changed dramatically.

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During a run on Monday morning in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness.  One of Central Oregon’s jewels of trail running

It was around this time that two things happened that would change my life for the next 10 years.  First, I secured a job which would pay me close to quadruple what I was making in my previous job.  Second, I met Lynea.  With these two occurrences happening simultaneously, the innocence of Bend, to me, began to vanish.

Here is a quick overview of what happened to me in those last years while living in Bend:  I lost my identity in seeking and pursuing financial fortune; I got engaged to Lynea (I proposed to her on NYE in New York City while I was hammered); I lost touch with being athletic;  I surrounded myself with people who would support and fuel my love for alcohol and drugs; I went from making a six figure salary to having nothing but my car and a few paintings that I had kept; I was admitted to Sageview Psychiatric Center on two occasions; I was diagnosed with depression; I bought a house, refinanced it beyond my means, and ultimately gave the keys back to the bank and foreclosed; I drove around town drunk and blacked out;  Bend became a haven for Micro-breweries and partying; I started chasing around drug dealers as opposed to guys in spandex riding in a peloton; I gained around 70 lbs of weight; I lost everything financially, morally, emotionally, and physically that I had worked so hard for in the previous several years.  Take note, all of this “happened” to me, therefore making me the victim.  This is an example of my ego taking over.

Needless to say that when I left Bend in December of 2011 I had built several hard-core and raw resentments to the town where I had once thrived by way of lifestyle, innocence, and prosperity.

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A message from Cass, Phoebe, Lisa, and Davis Smith upon my arrival to their house

The past 5 years, while living in Corvallis, I’ve hated going to  visit Bend.  I continued to return on occasion because of the good friends that I had still kept in touch with, but it just wasn’t the same.  Too many things had happened while living there that kept me from being comfortable when visiting. I was letting resentments of the past dictate my present experience.  Over the last 5 years I’ve lost touch with many Bend folks who I still consider as friends.  Ultimately losing touch had nothing to do with them, it had to do with the fact that I could not let go of all of the bullshit that I had experienced and witnessed in Bend.

I hated running there (even in the mountains), I hated driving there, I hated seeing the real estate market creeping back to prosperity (for the fear of missing out), I hated seeing pictures of friends partying on the cycle-pub, I hated the view of the mountains, I hated the landscape, I hated that every block of Bend had a different Bar/Micro-brewery, I hated the fact that people so desperately wanted to move there, I hated most of what Central Oregon had to offer.  Returning to visit Bend became a very sad state of affairs.  My resentments toward the town that I once loved overshadowed everything that makes Bend a fantastic place to be.

Luckily, this weekend, something changed for me.  This past weekend I returned to the Bend area to get some higher altitude running in.  I also had the chance to visit with some very important people in my life.  One, my professional mentor and friend, Davis, and two, one of my best college friends that recently moved there with his family, my boy Benny Hicks.

While running up the base of Broken Top early Saturday morning I had an epiphany that running in Bend is fucking awesome!  What the hell was going through my mind that told me that the running in Central Oregon was sub-par?   Well, I’ll tell you.  My resentments toward running began when my buddy Brian Hetzel used to drag me out of bed and make me go for a run after I had consumed several malt liquor beverages while driving home from work.  I hated it, and therefore related all running in Bend to how miserable I felt when I used to run half-cocked around town and the trails.  It was a truly awful experience.

In terms of people and friends, I used to hate talking about how awesome Bend was.  But this past weekend I had several honest and candid conversations about what Bend is truly like, away from the lens I was used to seeing the town through.  I found myself with some of the most important people in my life, laughing, joking, and chatting just like I had done before I let all hell break loose for myself back in 2006.

During my past visits, while steeped in resentments, I would drive by the house I foreclosed on and remember all of the traumatic and terrible shit that happened with myself, Lynea, and the money that I had gained and lost.  This time I didn’t feel compelled to drive by that house to relive all of the hell that I put myself through  10 years ago.  This time those memories didn’t percolate to the surface for me.

This time, as I drove through Bend, I didn’t dwell on the fact that every corner of town had a micro-brewery.  It is what it is and there is nothing I can do to change it.  What, am I supposed to make a fuss with the city to have less of these bars so that I could feel comfortable visiting?  Absolutely not, I have to come to peace with it.  Yes, I raised hell in many of those places, but that is in the past.  Today I’m no longer attached to that identity.

Thankfully, while travelling  back to Corvallis on Monday morning, I felt as though I finally realized some very important notions for myself:  trail running in Bend is BAD ASS; Lynea and all of the heartache that I experienced with her is in the past; my financial trouble is in the past; I cannot change the town; I cannot be pissed off at the fact the real estate market is booming again and that I’m not a part of it; I cannot hold grudges towards people, places, and things, based on my own shit and life circumstances;  I cannot let all of the things that happened in my life affect my vision of what Bend truly is:  An amazing place, with amazing people, amazing training opportunities, and an amazing community.  While cruising back over Santiam Pass, on my way back to the valley, I was finally able to let go of the past as it relates to Bend.  And the result?  The idea that at some point, in the future, I can absolutely see myself returning to live in Bend, resentment-free.

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“It’s just a run”

“It’s just a run.” – Andrew Miller

A couple of months ago I was with my buddy Andrew during the final days leading up to perhaps one of the biggest and notorious ultra running races in the world, The Western States 100 Endurance Run.   He was in the midst of his final preparations, carving up his running shoes, when Betsy asked him if he was nervous and excited for the race.  He calmly said to Betsy, “it’s just a run.”  Given the circumstances and hype surrounding this race I was blown away at how calm he was.

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Andrew and I minutes before the start of the 2016 Western States 100

Over the past couple of years I’ve had the chance to get to know Andrew.  In many ways he is a friend that helps me to keep the perspective in place for why I run.  He is wise beyond his years and has become a valuable piece to my accountability team.

In 2002, the summer after I graduated St. Lawrence University, I was supremely out of shape.  As a graduation present my father gave me a road bike to help aid in my re-discovery of fitness.  That summer, while living in Bend, OR, I road for countless hours in an attempt to re-engage with my passions for being active outdoors.  My goal that summer was to ride my first century, 100 miles, from Bend up to Mt. Hood, on Route 97.  My buddy Ben was crazy enough to embark on this journey with me.  Somehow, later that August, we completed the 100 mile trek, which became a complete death march.  That experience  was the first time in several years where I felt accomplished.  Ultimately that ride set the tone for many years to come as I had successfully re-engaged with endurance sports.

100 miles is a long fucking way.  Hell, driving for 100 miles is a task in and of itself.  Riding 100 miles on a road bike is even harder.  I’ve ridden dozens of 100 mile rides in the last 15 years, and each time it becomes a humbling and fantastic adventure.  But running for 100 miles, over mountain ranges in the middle of nowhere, are you fucking kidding me?  That is insanity.

Next month, on September 10th, I’m going to once again attempt my first 100 mile trail running race at Pine to Palm 100, in Ashland, OR.  I’ve trained countless hours over the last 9 months to ensure that I am physically ready for the task.  Even more importantly I have adopted several mental practices that I hope to employ on race day, which I hope will help me overcome the tough parts of the course as well as help me keep the perspective as to why I do what I do.  I’ve never been more ready, in both regards, to tackle a feat that is far beyond normal to the casual onlooker.

Normally, my default setting, is to get super hyped up for an event like this.  I’m apt to comb the registration list and dwell on all of the other competitors that will toe the line, asking myself if I’m faster or slower than everyone else.  As a good friend reminded me the other day, I cannot control what happens to others racers, I should just focus on myself.

I’m also susceptible, partly due to my ego, to set unrealistic expectations for what the outcome might be.  Could I pull a top ten? Could I  drop a sub 20:00 hour 100?  Could I this, could I that? The truth is, the furthest I’ve ever run is 64 miles.  I have no idea what will happen from miles 65 to 100.  Zero idea.  I’m heading into the realm of the unknown and I’m excited and nervous as hell to find out what will happen.

For me, I find the most joy in going out for long runs.  I’ve done several efforts in the past 9 months,over 30 miles, topping out at 64.  Left to my own devices, without the guidance of a coach, I would have probably done too many of these efforts.  Each time I complete a run like that I feel at peace, mindful, and accomplished.  The allure to these type of efforts for me is the ability to explore the unknown.  The more I push a training distance the more satisfaction I get in return, not with the distance, but with the exploration into an area where I’ve never been.  These efforts have been my cornerstone, not just for training, but for my recovery process as it relates to life change and the struggles I have  with alcoholism and addiction.

Last year was a different story.  While having my first 100 miler on the horizon (I was training for the same race, Pine to Palm 100, but suffered an injury in the weeks leading up to the race) I sank every bit of my soul into preparation.  I had resigned from my corporate job in June 2015 to focus on training and building my new business, Novo Veritas.  With the new-found freedom, away from corporate life,  I trained like a mad man, running hundreds of miles without the guidance of a coach.  At one point in the training cycle, without any true knowledge of what it takes to race for 100 miles,  I told myself I was going to win my first 100 mile race.  I actually believed that.  My ego told me that I could be like guys such as Geoff Roes, Anton Krupicka, and others, who won their first attempt at the 100 mile distance.  I thought that I was unique and that I deserved a good result because I thought I had trained harder and smarter than everyone else.  When reality struck me over the head, after I suffered an inflamed SI joint, partly from over-training, I quickly realized that I was not ready to even attempt the grueling distance, let alone achieve a certain result.  Last year my ego got the best of me.

This year, with three weeks left to go, I am happy to say that I’m in a different place.  I don’t feel the need to obsess about a particular result.  Yes, I have goals, but those are just bricks in the wall.  Whatever happens that day when I toe the line at Pine to Palm, I’m in a place to anticipate the joy of having the ability to go out for a long run in the woods.  Just like my buddy Andrew said, “it’s just a run.”

As for Andrew’s attempt at the Western States 100?  He won the whole damn thing and in the process, continued to take on the attitude that he was just going for a run that day, doing what he loves most.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Soundtracks to Our Lives

Just for fun and on the lighter side….

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My home away from home, the Dunn Forest, where I keep my second office for writing and getting mental shit done.

Music means the world to me.  At any point in time a tune may come on and evoke old emotions and memories.  I am continually reminded of some of the best times in my life and the songs that were a part of those distinct memories.  Here’s a look back at some of the soundtracks to my life:

Early teens:  It was all about hair-metal, period.  My early teenager years revolved around mainstay bands such as Motley Crue, Guns’N’Roses, Warrant, Poison, Ratt, Cinderalla, and Bon Jovi.  Also included in the mix were more obscure bands like Lillian Axe, Trixter, Winger, Steelheart, Shotgun Messiah, and Slaughter.  If you ever get a chance check out Lillian Axe’s “See you Someday.”  It’s a FUCKING kickass ballad that never seemed to get any traction.  That song always reminds me of late night summer campouts and Navy Seal runs with my boys Matt and Matt.  To this day any song from that period can come on and I’m instantly taken back to the fun and innocence that was had in the 90’s.

Late Teens/High School:  While continuing to respect my obsession with the glamour filled 80’s bands that I had grown to love, a slight adjustment was made when I got to High School at Burke Mtn. Academy.  All of the kids there seemed to be enamored by some dude named Dave that played acoustic guitar with some other guy named Tim Reynolds.  Early on in my tenure at Burke I remember cassette tapes being traded around like baseball cards, certainly I was intrigued to know what all the hype was about.  It was at this point that The Dave Matthews Band made an entrance into my life.  Under the Table and Dreaming had just come out a couple of years prior and after one listen I wanted to hear more.  Fortunately, I was in luck, for that spring of my Junior year at Burke, right around the time when we took our annual class trip, Dave’s “Crash” album hit the airwaves.  Every single song on that album began to take meaning as friends and I would create memories based on his entrancing melodies.  The British Rock scene also made a profound appearance as Ryan Heinz, a native of England, began to bring back CD’s from home to Burke of all sorts of new bands like The Prodigy, The Verve, Blur, and of course, Oasis which to this day still has a profound effect on my memory bank.  In fact, as I’m sitting here writing in the middle of the Dunn Forest I’ve got “What’s the Story Morning Glory” blasting through my MacBook. Ryan also exposed me to a new genre of music that started a movement with what I would listen to for many years to come.  He introduced me to electronic music, most notably Underworld, through their single, featured at the end of the movie Trainspotting, “Born Slippy NUXX.”

College:  The electronic music kept forging its way into my life when I met this skinny little kid from Connecticut, who lived just down the hall from my good friends Jeff and Hillary,  named Kieran.  I didn’t really get to know him until sophomore year when we lived and pledged Phi Kappa Sigma together.  Something about him intrigued me because he was listening to music that no one else seemed to know about:  Trance.  It was also around this time that Moby’s “Play” came out.  Putting Moby together with DJ’s such as Ayla and DJ Keoki began to cement my passion for the early EDM scene.  My most vivid memory of college, in terms of music, is when Kieran and I, along with the rest of our suite mates, were playing frisbee outside of our dorm, blasting the hell out of Moby’s “Bodyrock.”  Every single time I hear that track I am quickly returned to those fantastic and care free times that we experienced together.

Post College to Present:  When Davis Smith hired me out of college to be his protegé at the Inn of the Seventh Mountain in Bend, OR, we travelled a ton together to trade shows and events, promoting the impending renovations that the Inn was about to go through.  One band sums up those road trips and time in my life.  Coldplay’s “Parachutes” and “A Rush of Cold Blood to the Head” were the soundtracks to those years, and the motivation for Davis and I to start a shitty garage band called “Tears for Beers.”  We sucked and it was fucking fun as hell.  During those times the EDM scene had taken a place on the back burner until Kieran, once again, turned me on to acts such as Above and Beyond, Markus Schulz, and Armin Van Buuren, and other prominent trance DJ’s.  I was fortunate enough to catch my first EDM show at NYC’s legendary Pacha nightclub, which has since shut it’s doors. Featured that evening was none other than Armin Van Buuren, and it was fucking amazing (until the time I blacked out and woke up with my face down in the champagne ice bucket). “Big Sky” was the opening track that night.  To this day, when that track comes on I immediately recall the love that I had quickly developed for the EDM scene.

Later in life, when times began to get dark and the alcohol and drugs became more prominent for me, I continued to lean heavily on EDM, constantly going to shows in Portland that featured smaller DJ’s like Ronski Speed, Kohma, Kyau and Albert, and some guy named Gareth Emery, who turned out to be my go-to when shit got really dark for me.  Fortunately, when things began to become brighter, I was still deeply engrossed in Gareth’s music. In fact he’s coming back to Portland this October!  I will certainly fucking be there.

Music still continues to have a profound impact on me to this day.  Last summer a page was turned in many ways, when I saw Motley Crue twice during their last tour.  The last song they played, when Jeff, Lisa, and I saw them in Portland, was fittingly “Home Sweet Home.”  After the show was done it almost felt like it was time to move on from something, I still can’t put my finger on it.  I’ve seen the Crue 17 times in my life and now knowing that I’ll never see them again (until Vince runs out of money) brings things full circle in some regard.

What’s the soundtrack of your life and what memories do those bands and songs evoke?  For me the music will never die and will continue to be an important fabric to my being.

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TransRockiesRun 2016

In 2014 I arrived in Buena Vista, CO, for my second go-around of the TransRockiesRun.  At that point I had been sober for 5 months.  Being back at the event, my first time since 2012, I had severe anxiety around the social aspect of TRR.  The running portion of the race was fine and manageable.  However, after each stage, when it came to socializing and being around tent city, I was a mess.  It may not have seemed that way from the outside, but hell, it was a battle.

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This year I was able to arrive in Colorado early to get used to the elevation.  My friends Hillary and Brian live at 10,500ft, a perfect spot to acclimate. 

Being 5 months sober I was in the midst of trying to sort out how to live without the crutch of alcohol.  Being around people, socializing without that crutch, was extremely hard as I was re-learning how to have a conversation.  It was so easy to be social and confident with the aid of alcohol!  Without it, how the hell was I even going to say hello to someone I didn’t know?

The TransRockiesRun has a special place in my heart.  In 2012, while racing the 6 day stage race with my dear friend Brian Hetzel, I was exposed to the community that exists around the sport of ultra running.  Even though I DNF’d that year, due to a quad injury, I fell in love with the aura and mystique that this seemingly obscure sport provided. After being a part of that week in the Rockies I never looked back.  Ultra-running became my new sport and passion.

TransRockies is known as a running camp for adults.  Runners occasionally like to kick back after each stage and enjoy the scenery with beers in hand, while unwinding from a long day in the mountains.  In 2014, with my alcohol sensors on high, I could pick out what beers people were having from 100 yards away.  I was obsessed with the sight of alcohol, I thought that I was missing out on the fun and camaraderie that runners were building with the comforts of beers.  It drove me nuts.  My solution was to isolate and go to bed as early as possible.  I felt vulnerable and helpless so I did what I did best 2 years ago…I hid.

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The Corvallis crew at TransRockies 2014.  From L to R: Dave, myself, Erica, Taryn, Brian, Laura, and Brandon.  Having my friends around in 2014 made the week much more manageable for me as they helped me feel safe.  

I’m happy to say that I’ve come a long way since the 2014 race.  This year, I am in a different place, eager to experience the event without the fear of being around alcohol.  The challenges that I have are far different from where I was back in 2014. For me, to look back at how things were, and hence the progress that I’ve made, is a gratifying experience.  I find motivation to continue this process of recovery knowing that I’ve come a long way as a person.  When I toe the line next Tuesday for the first stage of TRR, in Buena Vista, I will be focused on one thing: living in the moment in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been.

Let’s lace em up and kick some ass!

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An Emotional Relapse Around Food and Body Weight

I lost my sanity this past Monday.  The issue was not about maintaining sobriety from drugs and alcohol; the insanity came in the form of my continued issues and struggles around my body weight.

Around a month ago I began to work with a friend of mine, who happens to have a PhD in nutrition, to help identify some holes within my daily nutrition regimen.  With the increased training volume that my body was accumulating I wanted to make sure that I was getting the appropriate foods to help make this adventure I’m currently on more sustainable.  From my understanding it’s simple, food is fuel, and if I neglect the intake of proper fuel for replenishment and nourishment then this lifestyle I am creating for myself could suffer from my body beginning to break down and therefore reject any subsequent physical stress that I plan on asking of it.  I am thankful to have this person on my team for I believe in her insight and knowledge when it comes to nutrition. ***This person is my go-to for nutritional advice, in no way does she serve as my therapist.  I have one of those too that helps me work on the core underlying issues around my distorted view of how I see myself***

While still continuing to struggle with the idea of my “ideal” race weight, I hesitantly began to eat more energy dense foods such as whole grains like rice, pasta, oats, etc.  In my mind it was a hard thing to convince myself that I actually needed more carbs to fuel these epic workouts that I was accomplishing and pursuing.  More carbs equals more weight to me.  I had worked furiously over the last two years on getting lighter and leaner; perhaps it was doing more damage than good.  Today, I’m open to accepting the fact that I need more energy dense foods in my life.

Last Monday I broke out the scale, after quitting cold turkey a few weeks prior, to see what the effects were after I had adopted this new methodology of nutritional intake.  Prior to this experiment, back in June, I was hovering around the 152-155lb range.  When I stepped on the scale this time I had shot up to 162.  After seeing the number I fucking freaked the hell out.  The narratives of “you’re fat” started to roll through my head at a fever pitch.  All of the work I had done to get where I am, from a weight standpoint, had been thrown out the window in my mind.  Furthermore, I am heading into the heart of race season for me with TransRockies and Pine to Palm 100 close on the horizon (As a side-note it’s important to reveal that the previous 5 weeks of training had been the largest block of volume I had ever accomplished in my life so my body was literally starving for more food to replenish itself).  This is the time that I wanted to be my leanest, meanest, self.  As Monday progressed, with the new “number” on my mind, I started to question the addition of whole grains, etc, into my daily regimen.  I looked in the mirror trying to figure out where the weight had gone.  Was I getting a belly again?  Was it in my face?  What do other elite runners weigh?  Maybe I should research everyone in the top ultra running ranks to see what they weigh. Do my clothes still fit? What in the fridge can I throw out?  Is eating too much Almond Butter and Honey (my favorite combo) making me fat?  It even got to the point that later that night I asked Betsy to look at my gut to see if I had gained any visible weight.  My actions that day were complete fucking insanity.  I felt like I was having the same reaction to food as I was used to with drugs and alcohol.  When can I get my next drink?  Who’s got the next line of Cocaine?  Who stole my Crown Royal?  From an addiction standpoint perhaps I had transferred my addictive tendencies over to food and body weight.  The anxiety was overwhelming and I could not let it go.

Tuesday I woke up exhausted from the previous days freak-out session.  I had to talk to someone who I trusted about all of this insane behavior.  Luckily I was able to share my experience with 4 folks who have a personal investment in my journey, one of which included my new friend Ray, who very much serves as a spiritual and life mentor for me.  As I spoke to each of these folks I began to feel a sense of embarrassment for my actions during the previous day.  I felt like a shameful little child.

Rather than just whine about how bad I was feeling about myself I detailed the account of the previous days actions and in turn listened intently to their feedback.   This helped immensely and allowed me to re-ascertain my sanity and perspective on what I was doing with my life. I preach and reassure the folks that I work with from a coaching standpoint that progress is not about a number on a scale. It turns out that I needed a dose of my own medicine.  I need to walk the talk.  I had become so focused on a specific number (152-155lb) that I had, once again, lost sight of the purpose of my work and life as a wellness advocate.  Lesson learned (or is being learned and accepted).  As they say in recovery, it’s about progress, not perfection.

So, here I am, on a plane to Colorado to begin the race season at TransRockies, writing about how hard it is to accept that a stronger, healthier (and heavier) body is more important than just being thin and lean.   It’s very difficult for me to comprehend that the extra weight I’m carrying will not slow me down next week as the week-long race gets underway.  This week has gotten easier partly due to my re-engagement with meditation and breathing.  However, there is still work to be done for I would love to let go of the pressure that I create for myself around body weight/image.  I feel like I would become emotionally and mentally lighter.  Once again, a saying from the recovery world comes to mind, take it one day at a time.  That being said it’s critical for me to continue down this journey with key resources at my disposal.  I want to be free of this obsession.

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