Depression: 10 days of hell that must see the light

I’ve spent the last 3 hours going back and forth on whether I should write this post.  Therefore, I’m trusting my gut that says to write and to get this shit out.  Maybe I can help someone who is suffering in silence, or maybe I can continue to help myself.  I really hope for either case.

Lately I’ve been feeling extremely vulnerable and careful in what I post or share to the world.  Perhaps it’s a lack of self-confidence, perhaps not.  Even more I’m feeling a bit of shame as to “my story.”  The current narrative in my head of who I am is the “drunk guy who got sober and runs a lot.”  Clearly, based on that assumption, I’m not in the best state of mind right now and I know I’m just making shit up.  I’m working through dispelling those narratives, however given my present state it is not easy.

On Sunday, September 3rd, I woke up on the very wrong side of the bed.  Looking back, I could feel something coming on so it shouldn’t have been a surprise, based on past history, that what I felt that morning was another dark and depressive episode setting in.  By 5:30AM I knew that I was about to crumble.  It was on.  What I didn’t realize was just how long it would last.  Ten days in and I’m in the exact same place as I was when this episode first begun.  Since exiting Sageview Psychiatric Center in 2008 I have not had this long of an episode.

Throughout that Sunday the depression took a vicious hold on my brain and my body.  It was debilitating.  From a physical standpoint I felt like my feet were encased in concrete, unable to move.  Emotionally I went to a place of unrelenting negativity. Luckily I was fortunate to conjure up the energy to get a run in.  The rest of the day was spent in bed, with my phone off, trying to fend off the demons.

Here’s what the rest of the days have been like:

Every single day I’ve woken up not knowing how the hell I was going to make it through the day.  All I’ve been able to think about is when I can go back to bed. The lens that I’ve been looking through fades back and forth from gray to black.  Nothing is bright and my head feels heavy with doubt. My first instinct each day is to stay in bed and believe that I’m not worthy of having a good day.  Reluctantly I’ve been able to solider on, albeit just for a few hours.

The only thing that I’ve really been able to look forward to is getting a run in, as  I know the endorphins will kick in and I’ll get a brief sense of reprieve.  And it has worked until about 30 minutes afterward.  Then I sink back into a hole, one deeper than what I had first felt in the morning.  From here on out the day remains excruciating.  From the hours of noon on I feel awful.  It’s only when I get  a cup of coffee in me that I get a little energy to get some work done and act in a state of normalcy.  In fact, my attention is needed right now as I have a couple of things in the works that need my presence and forward thinking.  Then, once the caffeine wears off, I’m back into my hole in my darkened bedroom.  Luckily season 4 of the Blacklist and season 7 of Walking Dead (a real feel-good story) made their way on to Netflix this past week.

Sleeping has been one of the only other reprieves that helps me to deal with the pain.  Over the last couple of evenings I’ve found myself sound asleep by 6:30PM, not caring about anything other than escaping the burden of feeling depressed.  I know it’s numbing out.  The way I’ve seen it lately is that it’s better to sleep than to turn to a past numbing device, drinking, which, for this episode, has been a non-option.

Unfortunately, isolation has been my friend, away from people, my phone, and my computer.  During these episodes it takes every ounce of energy to pick up the phone or respond to a text.  I physically cannot do it unless I’m caffeinated or riding  the high of endorphins that linger from the day’s run.  That’s one of the profound and unfortunate effects that depression has on me as it relates to other people.  Radio silence. My friends who are aware of the situation do not like hearing this, and I don’t blame them.  For me, it’s hard to explain what I’m feeling to someone who does not suffer from the same disease.  To take the energy to explain it absolutely fries me, I literally collapse after answering questions of why, how, when, etc, mostly because I really don’t have the answers myself.  This part sucks because I know I have countless people behind me that just want to know that I’m alright, safe from whatever purgatory I put myself into.  I do not know how to manage this part and I’m sorry for having put some friends in particular completely in the dark.  This is not my intent.

The friends that I have who suffer the same disease, at the intensity that I do, have been very helpful.  The advice is the same:  have compassion for yourself, let yourself feel the pain as it will pass, if you want to stay in bed than do it, be in a safe place with safe surroundings, and keep reaching out.  Fuck, the last part is the hardest.  I’m sure there are other bits of wisdom in there, I’m just too foggy to remember them right now.

As I look back at the depressive episodes that I’ve experienced since getting sober I notice the consistent trend that I tend to write about them.  One thing that I work on in therapy is discussing my intention in sharing these stories, the hard shit.  Honestly, at first, being as vulnerable as I was, I know that some of the posts I put out there were based on the impending attention that I’d receive, reinforcing the fact that I was a good person.  But today?  I just want people out there to know that depression, even in dudes, is as real a disease as any and there is no shame in having it or talking about it.  People suffer every single day from it and even consider taking their own lives.  I know this because I was there at one point in my life.  It must see the light!

One fear that I have with my depression is that it will only get worse.   Even if I up and move to another town, which I’ve done in the past to escape demons, depression will still be there.  I could run reckless miles to my heart’s content and it will still be there.  That’s  one reason why I have a very specific accountability team of people to help me through this shit, especially from a professional/medical standpoint.  It’s scary to think where I’d be without these people on my side.

My other fear is that I will be judged by others for sharing this.  But, as my friend Julio reminded me:  who cares what other people think of you, you have a story, you should be proud that you are working on living through it.  He’s right.  It’s just so hard for me to realize that sometimes.

Now, two hours later from when I first sat down to write, describing what it’s like to have this disease does in fact help in the process of living through an episode.  I was incorrect in assuming that it wouldn’t.  Now all there is to do is press the dreaded “post” button.  Here goes nothing…



Timothy Olson’s Run Mindful Retreat

This past weekend I skipped out on the apoca-eclipse chaos in Oregon to travel to Boulder, CO, for Timothy Olson’s Run Mindful Retreat.  For those of you that are not familiar with the sport of ultra-running, Timothy is a legend, one of the best known ultra-runners in the world.  Alongside his wife Krista, Timothy has developed a retreat-style experience for folks who are curious about adding a sense of mindfulness into their daily routines. Timothy has also been a source of inspiration for me as a runner since I began running on trails back in 2012.

Tucked away in Four Mile Canyon, just west of town at the Boulder Adventure Lodge, myself, along with a group of 15 or so, settled in for a few days of running, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness.  The timing of such an experience and adventure could not have been better.


Had to get a picture with Timothy

This weekend was not a running camp in the classic sense, with big miles and big vertical gain.  We didn’t come here to out-do each other in mileage, drop each other on climbs, or set Strava KOM’s (which is nearly impossible in Boulder because of the number of elite  athletes that live here) as is apt to happen at many running-type camps or training weekends.  Sure, running was a major component of the retreat, but it certainly wasn’t everything.  There was so much more, including workshops, content, and conversation about the idea of creating a useful and sustainable mindfulness practice along with the benefits of such a routine.

Since becoming sober, some 3.5 years ago, the practice of meditation and mindfulness has come and gone in spurts.  Perhaps it’s because of my all-or-nothing mentality.  I’ve tried several times to implement a solid meditation practice into my daily routine with varying degrees of success.  Earlier this year I even threw myself into a self-induced 21 day challenge, to try to form and create habits around the idea of mindfulness.  It worked for a while but eventually my mind got the best of me and the habits that I had formed slipped away over time.  By attending this camp, my first organized mindfulness/meditation retreat, I was reminded of the how and why behind the importance of such daily practices, along with their affect and  impact on the vitality of one’s soul.  Certainly, the running component added to my motivation and curiosity.  My soul had been aching for such a practice. I just needed the right time, space, and community to bring it all together.


Summit of Green Mountain looking West into the Colorado Rockies

I’ve got a big race coming up in September, Pine to Palm 100, one that I’ve put 100% of my heart and soul in to preparing for.  Over the past couple of months, as the event draws near, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly more attached to a result, for an event that I haven’t even participated in mind you, which has led me to feel a sense of self-suffocation. This has been my Modus Operandi since X-C ski racing as a kid.  Every single time a race approaches for me that I want to do well at, I become my own worst enemy by focusing on the outcome; the what-if’s, the should’s, and the dreaded notion of destined failure.  Even though I loathe these feelings I have not been able to shake them from my mind for the better part of the last 25 years. Insanity, right?

A big reason for why I chose this retreat, at this particular time, was because I knew, based on my past, that I was going to eventually lead myself down the rabbit hole of thinking about the outcome of said impending race.  In anticipation of Timothy’s camp I was hoping to get the opportunity to trip up the mechanism that is my mind and the ever-present practice of future-tripping which still remains pervasive in my life.  Now that I’m here, I can safely say that my intuition in forecasting the timing of attending this retreat was spot on.  Sometimes my intuition does play in my favor.  Maybe I should learn to trust my gut more.


Royal Arch located right beneath the Flatirons

Here is a snapshot of just a few of my take-aways from the retreat:

– Run from a place of love, gratitude, and compassion, rather than fear and anger.
– While in meditation we use the breathe as an anchor; in running use your footsteps as  an anchor, still keeping in mind the integrity of the breathe.
– Accepting pain – In running, and life, the acceptance of pain can move the process forward of getting through said pain and thriving on the other side.
– Vinyasa Yoga – dude, you know this helps so much, try and get back into it upon returning to Oregon.
– Acceptance is the key to bringing balance to my emotions.
– Managing my reactions to distractions – be aware and observe my emotions but don’t feel the need to react, as I have in the past, based on my judgement of those emotions.

For most of my athletic life I have raced and trained from a place of fear and of not being good enough, fast enough, or elite enough.  I’ve known this about me for a long time.  I wish to try and break that cycle as I can now see the value of taking it back a step and returning to the love of the process.  Sure, I train to compete and the hope to do well, but recently, mostly since I began running, I have tended to push so hard, sometimes above my limits, while being obsessed and attached to a particular result.  Once again, I find this type of mindset unsustainable and unnerving.   After this weekend I have been reminded that there is a way to perhaps change this mentality: Return to the breathe, live in the moment and accept the moment for what it is, right now.


Day 3’s run around Betasso Reserve

I know that being in Boulder this past few days has not cured me of the crazy side to my mind.  I understand that there is no magic bullet or pill that I can take to all of a sudden “achieve” a state of mindfulness.  Perhaps this was the mistake I made earlier this year when attempting to improve my sense of mindfulness.  However, being here, around like-minded people, has truly helped reinforce the fact that if I take what I’ve learned and begin to implement it on a daily basis, that perhaps life can be easier, softer, and a bit more enjoyable.  More than ever I am willing to try.

Today, this new information and sensation is fresh, and I know that I won’t be able to implement everything all once, as much as I’d like to.  That being said I hope to re-visit these notions in a few weeks, after Pine to Palm, to see if I am still fueled and conscious of what I learned this past weekend.  Change is possible, but it’s a process.  And to respect that process can mean that I have to take into account the positive personality traits that have brought me this far.

Talk is one thing…action is another.

Thank you to Timothy, Krista, Bob, Deborah, Keith, Matt, and the RAD crew, Kelly and Morgan, for putting together an unforgettable weekend.

To learn more about Timothy’s Run Mindful Retreat please visit their website:




Transferring Addictions

Last weekend Betsy and I had the opportunity to speak at Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland, OR.  We were honored to be invited into the shop to speak by Hal and Carly Koerner.  Hal has always been a guy that I’ve admired as a runner from afar.  It was pretty cool to be talking at his shop and to have him in the crowd.


Betsy and I with Hal Koerner before our talk at Rogue Valley Runners in Ashland, OR

During our presentation, before we opened it up for questions from the crowd, Betsy asked me a relatively benign question, our normal Modus Operandi, to set the mood and comfort zone for the crowd to feel like they can ask any question of us.  We are both open books.

Betsy asked: “Spence, is all of the running and training you are doing evidence of you transferring addictions?”

During my first year of sobriety I was posed the exact same question in a similar setting at a presentation Betsy and I were hosting at Oregon State University.  In fact, my buddy Josh, was the one who brought it up.  Immediately, I went into defense mode.  Hell no, I wasn’t transferring addictions, I was just using running as a “vehicle for self-discovery.”  At the time I thought the idea of transferring addictions had a negative connotation and I wasn’t able to accept the reality of the truth.  Three years later my position on the topic has changed.

After Betsy asked her question I could not have predicted my response.  I immediately got choked up and broke down.  This was the first time in a public setting that I admitted to transferring addictions. My answer: “Yup, I sure have.”  Throughout the last several months it had become clear that I was in the mode of chasing miles and training at volumes that I just wasn’t physically prepared for, especially given the emotional/personal stress that I was under.  I was displaying the same addictive tendencies that I once had when I was drinking excessively.

So, what is wrong, if anything at all,  with the idea of transferring addictions?  My default setting has always been one of “more is better,” coupled with the idea that I can get obsessive with anything that I take on.  That mentality has indeed worked in my favor from time to time.  Furthermore, why did I get so defensive early on when posed the question?  Perhaps I was in a place that I wasn’t willing to accept the fact that I indeed had an addictive personality.  Maybe I was steeped in a mode of denial.

In recovery I’ve come across many folks, especially athletic-minded types that incorporate exercise into their respective recovery program, who get asked the same question.  More times than not they initially shared the same sentiment that I once held onto,  that there was a negative tone to the idea of transferring addictions.  Why does this have to be the case?

We all go through some sort of process in life.  Being an endurance athlete helps me in maintaining sobriety day-to-day.  Now that I’ve gone through the process of overdoing it, by becoming addicted to training, I once again understand how my addictive tendencies can creep up in other facets of life, not with just drinking and drugs.  Whether or not someone transfers their addictions from drugs and alcohol to exercise, it doesn’t seem to me that this is necessarily a bad thing, as long as we have some sort of governing mechanism to keep us in check.  Today, I have that mechanism in place.  Whether it is in the form of a sponsor, a coach, a therapist, or a mentor, I believe that having some sort of checks and balances in place helps us monitor our addictive tendencies and can help us survive and thrive as we all move forward in life, regardless of the coping strategies we find helpful to employ.

To further understand how I was transferring addictions it helped to hear stories where others in recovery, especially athletes, were using different modes of action and athleticism to perhaps relieve themselves of the impulse to drink.  Although hard to find with a random google search, stories like this are rife across the athletic landscape, especially those that are endurance minded.  I’ve been in touch with several people over the last couple of years who are also trying to understand if the idea of addiction transference is a good or bad thing.  How about this…it’s just a thing, I don’t necessarily believe it has to labelled one way or another.  Let’s put it this way, what is wrong with me going out for a run in the woods for several hours when the alternative is to lock myself in my apartment and drink myself to death?  I know the consequences if I follow the urge to pursue the latter.   Trust me, it’s not pretty.  It would not end well. That being said, it’s now my challenge to myself to keep employing a sense of mindfulness to such athletic alternatives to drugs and alcohol.  Sustainability is a huge key for this mental shift to occur in an appropriate manner.

Today’s takeaway – don’t assume that just because I’m sober I know everything.  I’m still new to this process and if I look back over the last 3 and a half years there is no way I could have predicted the profound mental shifts that have occurred each and every day.




Overtraining: My Story

I absolutely hate to admit this but I am currently in the midst of digging out of a hole from overtraining.  It’s a huge hit to my ego and I’m doing the best I can right now to not react and let me body and mind recover properly so at some point this summer I will have the ability to once again hit the trails and do what I absolutely love.

Over the last several weeks, knowing that I was in a hole, I immediately sought advice and recommendations from several friends, runners, and coaches, explaining my symptoms and looking for answers as to how I could begin to recover.  At first it seemed like I was hopeless, a sure-fire sign that I was immediately taking the worst case scenario and projecting it as my reality; this was my default negative thought-pattern-mind at work.  Now, after some time and proper reflection on the situation I have been able to assess why I am at this place.

Here’s how it went down:

After recovering from an Achilles injury in December I got back to training full steam by mid-January.  Having had time off, 6 weeks total, I was rearing to go, to put in a big base that I could use to propel myself into the summer race season.  As the weeks went by and I slowly increased my volume by 10-15%, it got to the point where I was averaging 115-120 miles per week with over 18-20k of vertical gain, during non-rest weeks.  And the kicker?  I was absolutely flying, experiencing breakthrough workouts seemingly every couple of weeks.  I felt invincible.  Then, in the beginning of April the wheels started falling off.

After putting in an insane 3 week block (360 miles, 60,000ft of vertical gain), I got in the car that following Monday and made the two-day drive to Zion National Park.  Mistake number one.  Having planned a rest week that week, as my focus was crewing for Betsy at the Zion 100 Miler, I did not properly anticipate the stressors that would occur.  First of all, driving that far, without taking stops to stretch out and loosen up by body, I was putting undue stress on my entire system.  The sedentary form of driving is not ideal for letting a body recover in the way that I needed it to.  Secondly, the planning of rest weeks was complete shit on my part.  In order to properly crew for someone racing 100 miles it takes staying up all night to make sure the runner is properly cared for. I didn’t take into account the sleeplessness that would occur. Mistake number two.  Lastly, having barely slept for a couple of days, I began a week-long road trip the day after Zion to drive back home.  Within that trip I ramped the running back up.  That following week was another big one, 120 miles, 22,000ft of gain.  Toward the end of the week, after a 32+ miler to cap it off, things began to get much worse.  The following week, while taking no regard for my lack of rest and recovery, I once again put in a massive week (100+ miles with a shitload of vertical gain).  During that week I began to loath the idea of getting out the door to get in my daily workout. I knew that I was breaking.

Now that I am able to process this experience I have realized that it wasn’t just the running that was causing my breakdown.  Starting in March I was dealing with a good amount of personal stress that was ultimately keeping my fight or flight mechanism (sympathetic system) running full tilt, even during rest weeks.  Basically, because of my elevated emotional stress, my cortisol levels never had the chance to balance out…I was red-lining it with all sorts of stress.  It wasn’t just the running, it was everything that was happening in my life.  Symptoms such as insomnia, deal-legs, and apathy began to creep in mightily.  I was just not recovering, even in weeks that were down weeks in terms of mileage.

After a few weeks of trying to get my body back into balance I toed the line at the McDonald Forest 50k.  From the start I knew something was wrong.  Two minutes into the race my heart rates were nearing LT (lactic threshold).  As hard as I tried I could not keep my heart rate down to a sensible level for racing.  A few miles in, at the top of a 12 minute climb, I was reduced to walking.  Even with my turtle-paced speed my heart rate was CRANKING at 181bpm, 3 beats below my max heart rate. This is NOT what you want to happen.  At that point I pulled the plug on the race which in hindsight was the smartest thing that I could do at the time, even if it was a blow to my ego.   It hit me then and there that I was overtrained, something was severly out of whack,  I just didn’t know how bad my condition was.

In the ultra-running world the prevalence of overtraining was largely brought to light for the mainstream in an article in Outside Magazine called “Running on Empty.”  Check out the article here:  Many of the feelings and symptoms that are discussed in the article rang true for me.  After reading the article for myself I immediately thought the worst.  Perhaps I had dug a deep enough hole where I might have to take a full year off, or even more! I hated that notion and did not accept it one single bit.  Fortunately, after much research and professional consult, I found that I had not gone that far.  The chronic training patterns that I displayed in the winter and spring were luckily not enough to put me over the top and into the blackhole of total burnout.

One article in particular helped me to see that I wasn’t in such a dire situation.  My physiotherapist and gait coach, Joe Uhan, had recently done a piece on overtraining for  The article helped as a guide for me to understand where I was at.  Rather than suffering from full-blown overtraining syndrome (OTS) I noticed that I fell more into the non-functional overreaching category.  Furthermore, with the advice of one well-respected coach in particular, the key to knowing that I wasn’t full-blown OTS was that my sleep patterns had returned and my appetite was voracious.  I found myself not being able to eat enough!  It is my understanding that two major symptoms of OTS are prolonged insomnia and loss of apptite. I’m sure there are others but it was those two in particular that helped me make an semi-accurate assessment of my state.

I have learned several lessons in this process.  One: I need to pay better attention and listen to my body.  Two: I cannot play the “miles” game.  I got addicted (surprise, surprise) to chasing miles and that pattern of behavior helped in my downfall.  Perhaps one day I will return to the high mileage that I was doing earlier in the year, simply because it was fun as hell, it may just be several months before that happens.  Three:  I must not discount how much the emotional stress that I was experiencing factored into my situation.  Four:  I need to re-learn to respect the sport of ultra-running.  I had that respect at one time but I had lost it.  To have success it takes a lot more than just running a bunch of miles. Five: I must learn to detach from certain goals.  I admit it, I was hellbent on returning to Pine to Palm 100 this September to have a breakout race of sorts.  With being so attached to that goal I carried so much internal pressure to succeed.  That pressure created tension and fear of losing (missing out).  That fear turned into a drive for success that just was not sustainable for me. Finally:  I know that I can’t do this alone.  I may be able to coach the hell out of the athletes I work with but when it comes to coaching myself, it just doesn’t work.

As of today I’m on the mend both physically and mentally.  From a personal standpoint the emotional stress that I was dealing with in the winter/spring has begun to diminish.  Physically I’m taking the time to let my body balance itself out.  That being said I’m easing back in to training, taking it one day at a time.  And you know what?  I’m really enjoying it, for the right reasons.  As for my current symptoms I still feel the slight sensation of having “dead-legs.”  Otherwise, things are improving ever so slowly.  Most importantly my resting heart rate has begun to normalize and my motivation is slowly resurfacing. Moving forward, over the next few months I’m going to be doing some good miles in zone 1 (a very chill effort and heart rate). I need to rebuild my system. In terms of fear, I’ve been able to gradually let go of it, knowing  that it was such a prominent factor into causing me to overtrain.  I am very grateful for having learned this.

My hope is that someone out there, somewhere, can relate to this story.   It’s a cautionary tale, one that can hopefully resonate with many of my fellow athletes.  Being overtrained simply sucks, it’s just not worth it. As hard as it is for me to swallow my pride and to admit to all of this, I know it’s for a good reason.

As I further ponder this entry I am reminded that I must check in with myself from time to time and ask the simple question:  Why am I doing this?  Just recently I posed to the athletes that I coach that simple question.  What are your “whys?”  Now, if I am to successfully move forward in my endeavors, I must plan to look into the mirror and honestly ask that of myself.  In just one month, after putting my “whys” on paper, many of my sentiments have changed.  It’s amazing to me what can happen in such a short period of time.


McDonald Forest 7.2k Race Report

The McDonald Forest 50k was yesterday.  This is an event I typically participate in because it’s very well run and VERY near my home.  Plus, the race includes trails that I know like the back of my hand.  That being said I made the tough decision to pull out of the race early (aka, DNF – Did Not Finish).

For me I was using the Mac 50k as a way to check in with myself to see how the increased volume over the last several months was metabolizing in my legs and body.  Tabbed as a C-race (training race) I went into it with what I thought to be very few expectations.  Coming out of it, with a DNF in hand, I was given a much-needed wake up call for several reasons.  I had to get real and honest with myself.

1). Blood-work – just a couple of weeks ago I drew blood, for the first time in years, to see if there were any red flags that needed attention.  Two things popped up that gave me concern.  First, my testosterone levels are significantly below the average for runners.  Secondly, my hematocrit count is low.  My mistake in receiving these results early, before my follow-up appointment with my doctor, was that I did  MY OWN research as to what the results meant.  Bad idea.  Within 5 minutes of reaserching I was convinced that I had the Ryan Hall syndrome with chronic fatigue and anemia. For me, I should’ve waited to go over them with a professional so that I could get an accurate assessment as to what my numbers meant.  Therefore, yesterday, it was in the back of my head that something was drastically wrong with my body.  Luckily my follow-up appointment is the next week so I will have some concrete clarity as to what I need to do, if anything, to manage my numbers.  Lesson learned – don’t get on google with numbers you don’t understand and come to your own diagnosis.  My therapist warned me against this and I didn’t pay attention.

2). Injury – I haven’t been 100% healthy in a few weeks.  Then again, who  really is? I know that in our sport there is a certain level of pain tolerance involved.  However, yesterday, my left knee/calf was being wonky and I made the decision to respect the bigger picture in this venture and call it quits early before I made it worse.  I’m sure I could’ve kept going to get in a solid training run but doing so may have spelled greater injury and un-wanted long-term consequences.

3).  Ego – I thought that I had been doing a good job managing my ego lately but yesterday uncovered a glaring hole in this work.  One mile into the race my friend Cary turned to me and said that we had covered the first mile in roughly 5 minutes and 30 seconds.  “Fuck” I thought.  When the hell did 50k’s become more akin to marathons?  By the way I have never in my life run a 5:30 mile, ever.  Speed like that is not my strength. My ego wouldn’t let go of the faster guys in the front.  Therefore, I suffered.

4). Legs – By the top of the Powderhouse climb my legs were completely thrashed.  As in, I couldn’t move them, at all.  I cannot ever remember having that kind of sensation. My good friend Emily caught up to me at that point and mentioned she was happy to recover on the downhill.  In agreement, while heading down the descent, I literally could not move.  My legs felt like I was running in quicksand.  I had nothing to give.  Maybe it had to do with running the fastest mile of my life within the first mile of the race?  Yes, that played into it and also probably played a part in my further aggravated left leg.  Another cause for this is that I had not yet recovered from the last training block that finished up the week before.

So, what’s next?  For me it starts by reintegrating a sense of mindfulness to help me manage my ego that resurfaced yesterday.  In running out of control, being dictated by other people’s pace, I did not do myself any favors.  I know this for a fact. Next, I need to take care of my body.  This week is all about getting checked out to make sure I’m healthy heading into a huge adventure filled summer in preparation for Pine to Palm 100.  Lastly, I would  like to get an understanding of what my blood-work means, without the guidance of the damn internet.  That is a must.

In the past I would have felt like the world was crashing down on me if I didn’t have a good race.  In that respect I feel that I’ve come a long way as racing is not the only reason why I run, in fact, it’s not even in the top 3 reasons as to why I run.  Every experience at a race, or in life, can be an opportunity to learn about oneself.  I’m glad that I can see this more clearly.  Sure, I was pissed off for a bit.  Luckily, not soon thereafter, I was able to work through the annoyance of not finishing and process what I need to do to get back in the saddle to focus on the things that really matter to me this year.

So the process and journey continues….



Sneak Peek: Excerpt from chapter one of my memoir, My Friend Addiction

Chapter 1: The Road to Nowhere 

November 21st, 2013

Fridays before game days in Corvallis are my favorite. While working at the Hilton, the biggest hotel in Corvallis, I was privy to all of the pre-game action and anticipation for the upcoming football game. UW (University of Washington) was in town the following day to square off against the OSU (Oregon State University) Beavers.  David, my boss, and I had scored sideline tickets through the Beavs director of operations under current coach, Mike Riley. The last two football seasons, largely because of my role as Director of Sales at the Hilton, I had close ties with many of the OSU athletic teams. Having backdoor access to OSU that I did during those years fueled my ego to the fullest. I prided myself off of being known in the hard-to-break circle of coaches, donors, and athletes. I began to believe the assumption that I was pretty goddamned important.

Once my duties were tidied up that day before the game I snuck out the back door of the hotel to start “my weekend.” Football weekends were special to me. They were my reward for working so hard throughout the week. Plus, due to my sales team’s efforts that year, we were crushing our numbers in terms of our budget. So, why not leave a little early to get the party started? I deserved it.

This particular weekend was going to be extra fun and delinquent as I had several friends from Portland and Bend visiting for the game. With the glorious feelings of the impending excess that was about to occur, I quickly made my way to the nearest corner market down Western Ave. After picking a couple of stout IPA’s, I snuck into the yard in back of the store, where the homeless tend to congregate and sleep, found a nice patch of lawn overlooking Reser Stadium, to sit and drink, relishing in the fact of how far up the ladder of importance I had climbed in this little Oregon college town. Once this train of thought had sufficiently fed my ego, I called some friends to meet them out for drinks to continue some well-earned debauchery.

After having drunk myself blind the previous night, I woke up on Saturday morning not having a clue where my car was. Fuck, I must have left it downtown. I threw on my Orange and Black Beavs gear to go retrieve my car and pick up where I had left off the night before. The excitement continued to build as the texts from friends, who were on their way to Corvallis, began to stream in. This was standard operating procedure for most game weekends. Friends plus booze plus football games equaled all of the fun. The only way I could process the excitement was to swing by 7-11 and paper bag an IPA on my way downtown to pick up my ride. I must have looked classy as hell.

Later that afternoon, leading up to kickoff time, I had once again found myself clearly overstepping the bounds of intoxication. I had corralled all of my friends into the parking lot behind my hotel to partake in a hour of Carlos Rossi. I vaguely remember who was actually there; maybe my friends Rob and Mary?  my buddy Cole?  All I did know was that the gallon of wine that I had in my hand had to be finished by kickoff. I was cleverly persistent in making sure that would happen.

As the story goes, once I got into the game, again, being on the sidelines with the team, I began to embarrass the hell out of myself. A friend of mine, who is also in recovery today, recalls that I was being a blithering idiot on the sideline in front of several OSU donors and administrators. Apparently I had trouble standing up straight. My buddy, whom I did not know at the time, had approached the guy, who had originally given me access to the sidelines, to ask who the hell I was. My contact’s response was something like: “He’s just some dude that helps us out at the hotel.”

Apparently it got worse from there. As I found out later, at the end of the first quarter of the game, I had stumbled behind the sidelines and across the field, fortunately keeping out of the field of play, to a set of stairs that led out of the stadium. Apparently I had crawled on my hands and knees up the set of stairs next to the OSU Marching Band and in full view of the entire stadium to try and make a quick exit out of there, hopefully undetected. Epic fail.

Later that night I came to in the front seat of my car having not known how I had gotten there. On top of that, I was in a city park nowhere near where I had left my car before the game. Clearly I had driven in a blackout to my current location. It was 2AM. After clearing the fog from my eyes I noticed that there was still a half of a fifth of whiskey sitting in the passenger seat. Gratefully, I picked up the bottle, drank the rest of its contents and proceeded to once again pass out.

Five hours later I once again woke up. However, this time I was in my own bed. How the fuck had I gotten back? Fortunately I didn’t have time to assess the evening at that point because I had places to be.

That Sunday morning my running team and I were scheduled to pose for a photo shoot on and around the trails in Corvallis for a feature in a local visitors guide. Amazingly I arrived at the shoot in time, having somehow rustled my shoes and running kit together. After about an hour of being photographed, the thick haze of my hangover was beginning to fade. Somehow I was able to jaunt around the trails with my team to capture some iconic shots featuring the lush Corvallis outdoors. Once we wrapped the shoot up, I returned to my car to prep for the days run. With whiskey and wine still flowing in my veins, I completed a solid 20 mile trail run up and down the hills of Corvallis, trying to reflect on what the hell had happened the night before. Oh, and I felt great doing it. At the time I was totally oblivious to the shame and embarrassment that would arrive in just a few months


JSN Mindfulness Project – Day 20: Thanks For Being a Part of the Journey

Day 20:

3:45AM – Coffee/Meditation

Yesterday was all about being in the woods and feeling whatever there was to be felt.  Talk about free therapy…

Perhaps it’s serendipity, perhaps it’s luck. Maybe it was just meant to be.  I started this 20 day mindfulness challenge because I was hurting, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  I couldn’t bear to have the voices in my head take over every moment of my life.  Perhaps I had reached another bottom of sorts, a bottom much different than what I had gone through with drinking, one that has proven more insightful and revealing.  I really didn’t know what would come of this challenge, my only hope was that it would help create new habits around a better sense of mindfulness.


I feel like I’ve just finished a hard 3 week training block of writing…signing off for a bit.  Thanks for letting me share this process.  Peace!

I’ve completely broken down four times in the last four days, full on tears and anxiety.  Once in therapy, twice in “the rooms,” and today during my run.  These episodes seemingly came out of nowhere.  All I’ve been trying to do over the last 20 days is breathe more, feel more, and be present, not necessarily have all-out fucking emotional breakdowns.  But, that is what has happened.  For me, over the last few weeks various wounds have been opened that have exposed things about me that I didn’t previously have any clue about.  Most of my “why’s” in life have been completely upended and challenged. I don’t necessarily know where to go and what to make of it.  When you find out that the way you’ve been living and what you’ve been telling yourself about who you are for the better part of 30 years isn’t necessarily reality, it really fucking hurts.  I’m confused, upset, and angry about things that had once buried deep within my conscious.  Now, they have resurfaced and there is even more major work to be done.

Today I’m not quitting this process of self-discovery.  I’m too deep inside the rabbit hole.  Now I want to push through the other side and have some happiness re-enter my life.  Yes, running for me makes me happy.  But, I want to be around my friends more often, not be on edge all of the time, and I want to have fun in life.  I’m trudging through this fight alone because I choose to.  Only a few people in my life truly understand what I’m going through because they’ve been there and they’ve seen it. I owe my life to these folks.

Moving forward I feel confident knowing that I will be able to continue on this path with a better, more enhanced, sense of mindfulness than what I had before.  The habits are there, now it’s time for me to stick to them in a private and anonymous manner, without the accountability of reporting everyday.  Ultimately, I am only accountable for myself, my mind, my suffering, and my will power to keep pushing.  I have to remember that I do indeed have the power to create my own reality, one that is congruent with who I am, not in the past or in the future, but just today.

Thank you for being part of this little mission of mine. Other than helping myself I do hope that I’ve been able to help someone else out there who shares the same struggles as I.  With that, it’s time to hit the trails and get in some active therapy in the woods.