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March 14, 2008

Running Contradiction

Admin note: today’s post is a brief one, as I’m juggling some other writing commitments this week. Part of it is kind of exciting, which I’ll explain in more detail later. For today, let’s get right to it …

“I have no belief –
But I believe I’m a walking contradiction –
And I ain’t got no right … “
- Green Day, “Walking Contradiction” (click to play – explicit lyrics)

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It’s hard to tell by looking at me – but I’m pretty much a walking contradiction when it comes to my athletic pursuits.

For somebody who usually writes two posts per week on subjects related (however tangentially) to triathlon and ultrarunning, I clam up like a frightened turtle when it comes to actually talking about those topics.

Here’s a case in point: last week, I stopped into our local running store to stock up on some Sport Beans and Nuun caps, which have become staples of my longest training runs. The clerk was a cute, friendly twenty-something year-old girl in cotton tights and a 5K t-shirt. We made a bit of small talk, and as she was running my credit card through the machine, she initiated the following exchange:

Her: So do you have any upcoming races that you’re training for?

Me: Um … I’m just, uh … doing a few trail races this year.

Her: Oh, cool – that sounds like fun.

Me: (long, awkward pause) Um … yeah. Is that ready for me to sign?

And then I took care of my receipt and said goodbye. I’m not exactly Mr Smooth with the ladies nowadays.

I know it seems crazy, but in everyday conversation, I never voluntarily bring up the races I’m doing – and the bigger the event is, the less inclined I am to discuss it at all. I probably skated around the girl’s question for one of the following reasons:

1. I’m very much an introvert, and making small talk of any kind frequently terrifies me.

2. I know a truthful reply will lead to a barrage of follow-up questions that I’m not really eager to answer (see reason #1).

3. I’m afraid of getting the “Oh my God, you’re crazy” reaction from someone who doesn’t know the whole backstory of how I’ve gradually built upon progressive goals to get where I am.

4. I’m not always proud of my athletic exploits, in that I recognize their inherently selfish nature, and understand that the commitment is a hazardous sea to navigate.

Or, on second thought, maybe it’s just that …

5. I’m a borderline sociopath.

I could make a strong argument for any of those choices. The funny part is, each item on the list above would seem to preclude somebody from having a blog – yet here I sit, plunking away my life story for anyone who happens to stop by with the click of a mouse.

Furthermore, in this space, no subject is too trivial, and no conversation too tangential. It’s like my own little Batcave, where the same guy who can’t be bothered to answer questions about upcoming races in person transforms into some kind of caped crusader of trail running (or triathlon, as the case may be). I’m more than happy to talk about my workouts or races or goals, and eager to hear feedback from anyone who’d like to offer it.

And rest assured, you’re going to hear a lot more about Western States in the near future – because that’s one of the side projects I’m working on. With any luck, the posts will come across as something more substantial than the ramblings of a crazy person.

But for obvious reasons, that’s not something I’m prepared to guarantee.


RunBubbaRun 3/14/08, 3:30 AM  

It's hard to explain to people about UltraRunning, I think I tell people I just trail run. Trying to explain all the other stuff, does take alot of effort..

I think the standard remark is always "your crazy" anyways..

David 3/14/08, 4:36 AM  

you're cracking me up. Who'd a thunk you an introvert?

Backofpack 3/14/08, 5:07 AM  

Pretty funny Donald. Does that mean were gonna have trouble making conversation when we meet? Oh, I forgot, I'm bringing Eric along and he can get anyone to talk! Plus me, I'll spill the beans at the first hint of a question. I'll talk about my races (because I can't believe I'm doing them) and Eric's races, and any of my running buddies races, to anyone who is standing there. Even my dog knows about them!

olga 3/14/08, 6:00 AM  

#3 is definitely a problem. You know, I actually think this is WHY we have a blog - because we can talk passionately about things we can't talk in life. Anybody would say I am a social butterfly, but I can't open my mouth in a crowd of more than 3 people. I can be moving from a group of 3 to another group, but not ever talk when it's more at the same time. Although I learned to blurt in the store what my race is and walk away before the "you are crazy" comes:)

rick 3/14/08, 7:07 AM  

Donald, I'm the same way. I got tired of talking about ultras with people who don't do them. I just talk about the tri's instead. I got tired of explaining why, where and when and saying no "there is nothing wrong with me".

You are probably out there running right now since it's a Friday morn, headlamp and all. It's 7am and my ride partner and I agreed to extend the start time of our usual Friday morning ride because it's still dark - daylight savings time. Here's to a good weekend.

stronger 3/14/08, 8:13 AM  

I don't think you are 5 if you recognize 4.

Annette 3/14/08, 10:27 AM  

I've always found writing about things easier than talking about them, too. Especially if they are of a personal or emotional nature.

PreFan1982 3/14/08, 7:18 PM  

HaHa. That sounds like many of my conversations with cute girls in the past few years. My own wife even turned me down for a date the first 4 or 5 times I asked her.
What is the name of the Running Store? I wish we had one nearby in Georgia.
Can't wait to hear about the Western States.

Rainmaker 3/14/08, 7:32 PM  

Funny... I too suck at small talk. Maybe it's all that time spend aimlessly running the roads talking to ourselves that we just have nothing little to say to others.

21stCenturyMom 3/15/08, 10:55 AM  

Interesting. I often forget that the rest of the world finds what we age group athletes do to be remarkable or crazy or really over the top. It isn't a bad idea to lay low about it out in the world at large. No - you are not a sociopath - unless you stop along the trail and torture small animals and since you've never written about that I'm sure you don't!

Sarah 3/16/08, 5:21 PM  

Now I know for sure why I like you. We're more alike than I realized! : )

triguyjt 3/16/08, 9:13 PM  

i refrain from telling people what i train for. most folks who are not into this have this glazee look on their faces.. its hard to explain the why of the what we do..if that makes sense...
of course i'm preaching to the choir.

Anne 3/17/08, 7:18 PM  

Your modesty is a refreshing change, though I've noticed ultrarunners tend to downplay their accomplishments while road racers like the attention.

jeff 3/18/08, 7:33 AM  

you know, the "i don't talk about my races" mantra from a blogger usually comes off as sounding too cool for school.

but not you. having met you, this doesn't strike me as strange. donald, you've got that quiet strength that few people posses. you let your actions do your talking for you, both in your athletic pursuits and in your daily life.

it's like david and goliath. the little guy that wasn't looking for greatness is the one that fells the giant for a weary nation. and when it comes to western states, you need not say a word. we, your nation, know you carry a sling and you're packing some mighty stones.

Collin 3/20/08, 12:32 PM  

I'm the opposite. I talk about it too much and don't post about it enough.

Darrell 4/9/08, 4:38 PM  

I kind of like getting that “Oh my God, you’re crazy” reaction. I wonder what kind of sad psychological mess that makes me?

My Life & Running 5/14/08, 11:18 AM  

I love the allusion to you as Batman! ;)

...ohhhh wow. Please don't let your nonresponsiveness be #5... please just let it be laziness - more effort to explain to a random person than it's worth!

&& really, you're an introvert?? hmmm...

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