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June 14, 2008

New Acquaintances

Western States is right around the corner – which means I’m having trouble putting intact paragraphs together, let alone writing an entirely cohesive post. Accordingly, all I’ve got today are a few loosely organized thoughts related to the upcoming race …

Several years back, I participated in a high school ministry program. One of our coolest activities occurred whenever a senior left the group for college; it was something we called “affirmation bombardment”.

The student sat in a chair in front of the whole group – then one at a time, each person told that kid something he (or she) liked about him (or her). It could be something minor, such as having a nice haircut, but usually the sentiments grew more profound, speaking to the person’s personality and character, and his or her ability to succeed in the larger world after leaving the comforting surroundings of home.

It never failed to be an incredibly uplifting scene – watching some anxious kid preparing for an unimaginable adventure, having his spirits boosted by a group of people who care about him, gaining confidence for the journey ahead. Those nights were my favorite part of the ministry – and they’re a memory that’s been on my mind for the past couple of weeks.

Recently, and with increasing frequency, I’ve been on the receiving end of e-mails and comments with well-wishes for Western States. What’s more, several of them are from random people I’ve never known before, who have approached me on the street, or dropped unexpected e-mails to my inbox. I guess I've never fully appreciated how many people were following this little adventure, either through my Monterey Herald articles, or via this blog.

I’m not sure how everybody’s finding me, but I know one thing: it sure feels nice to know that people are cheering for you. So if you’re one of the folks who has encouraged me with a kind word lately: thanks very much for the affirmation. It will definitely come in handy on June 28th.


Speaking of people coming out of the woodwork … if you ever want to increase traffic to your website, here’s what you do: find some way to get yourself mentioned on Scott Dunlap's blog. He was gracious enough to promote one of my Western States articles last week, and my hit count shot through the roof like Willy Wonka’s Great Glass Elevator. That dude wields some mighty impressive web muscle – he’s the Original Gangster of running bloggers.

I know there are a lot of newcomers who found me from Dunlap’s site, so for their benefit, I thought I should clarify a few pertinent issues:

1) First – you know I’m not nearly as good as Scott, right? I don’t yo-yo with the frontrunners in trail races, and the only time I see the elite runners is when I’m secretly taking their pictures from a distance. I just figured I should lower that bar of expectation right away. Also …

2) The whole ultrarunning vibe you feel here is prominent now, but after Western States is done, it will go back to competing for recognition against triathlon, spelling bees, reality TV, kid stuff, and whatever other nonsense comes to mind. I’m the first one to admit that it gets pretty silly sometimes. But if you'd still like to stick around, I'd love to have you. On that note …

3) Subscription info is on the right sidebar. And if you sign up within the next 30 minutes, I’ll throw in an extra month of posts at no additional charge. Welcome aboard.

This last item relates to something I mentioned in my previous post, about how Western States is consuming my thoughts with nearly every waking minute nowadays. Normally in these circumstances, I do a decent job of maintaining my focus at work, but now that mental compartmentalization is being challenged by, of all things, an interior decorator.

Periodically my company will reassign staff members to different offices based on shifting roles and responsibilities; and occasionally when this happens, the d├ęcor of particular locations will be altered to suit the tastes of the new occupants.

My little corner of middle management recently underwent this sort of makeover - and as a result, this is the painting that greets me every day on the way to my office:

Now … it is just me, or does this lion look strikingly familiar? Does it remind anyone else of the logo for a certain footrace that takes place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the last weekend in June? A footrace that I’m already driving myself crazy thinking about with each passing moment?
I mean … what are the odds that this kind of thing would happen two weeks before my race? There’s got to be some symbolism involved, wouldn’t you say? When the Western States mountain lion shows up unannounced in your place of business, it sure seems like there’s a larger force at work, or some sort of message to be heard – although exactly what that message says, I’m not certain.

I’m also conscious of the fact that after the race is over, when I eventually return to the office, I’ll have to look this lion in the eye and answer for my performance. Furthermore, I’ll most likely be reminded of my participation in Western States for every single day of my employment from this point forward. As if I needed any more pressure.

I’m not sure what story I’ll have to tell once the race is said and done – I just hope it’s one I can be proud of. While the anticipation is killing me, the good news is that I won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

And if you'd like to stick around these parts, you'll find out very shortly thereafter.


Jamie 6/16/08, 2:39 AM  

I hope you can look that lion in the eye and say "got you, sucka!".

Best of luck, Donald. I'm also in WS, perhaps I'll see you out there.

Backofpack 6/16/08, 8:09 AM  

What? You've got a race coming up?

You'll do great Donald - can't wait to read the story. I'm betting it will take several installments to get through it all.

jen 6/16/08, 3:39 PM  

That's almost creepy about the Mountain Lion painting. I'm surprised you haven't noticed all kinds of things with the initials W.S. or the number 100, or the numbers in the date of the race (a la Lost).

It's getting close! :)

Makita 6/17/08, 6:20 AM  

It must be a sign - but like you, I have no clue what it might mean. I'm sure it will come to you as you are out there.

We are all pulling for you! :D

Did you know there is a Masters division Spelling Bee? I skimmed a headline the other day in our paper and thought of you....

21stCenturyMom 6/17/08, 3:08 PM  

Here's your affirmation, Donald. You will run like a mountain lion on race day. That's what it says. I'm sure of it!

mindy 6/17/08, 6:15 PM  

It would be even cooler if the painting was velvet and the lion cried real tears.

Rainmaker 6/17/08, 9:16 PM  

Umm..I'm not sure if I'd be wishing for any lions to show up in my cube anytime soon. That would spell bad news all around. He might eat my granola bars.

David Ray 6/18/08, 5:02 PM  

I like the lion, but I like Flyleaf better. Good song.

No pressure, but I was tagged with the 5 running questions and picked 5 folks to tag. You're one! Congratulations, but no prizes.

Check my blog for details. And feel free to take it or leave it.

rick 6/18/08, 5:59 PM  

Nice. It's meant to be. Last week I was the recipient of a whole lot of affirmation, it's humbling and touching. I think you'll do great and I'm already looking forward to seeing you guys out there on the race course.

kelly 6/19/08, 8:20 AM  

I wish you the best of luck at WS. It will be an awesome experience for sure. Just remember to enjoy every step. You've only got a 100 miles! Eat and drink early and often and don't linger at the aid stations. You will do fine. I will watch for you. I will be running Safety Patrol from Robinson to FH. See you out there.

triguyjt 6/19/08, 10:51 AM  

donald...that is just too crazy, man!!!!

You will be the one to roar at ws100....

Dave 6/19/08, 4:54 PM  

I think I recognize the moutain lion. It looks like the one the Chicago cops got on the northside here. ;)

I am as strange as they get, so I assume you were referring to me as one of the strangers emailing you.

I have enjoyed reading your articles, it has been a fun and less painful way of joining you on our adventure.

You will do great at WS, and I can't wait to hear about it.


Mickey 6/19/08, 8:49 PM  

I am one of the people that oyu talked about early in this post. We have never met and I follow your adventures through you blog posts. As I stated in an earlier comment, I am just starting out in the ultra world and I want you to know that you provide those of us "rookies" with lots of inspiration! we only know you through your written word but can live these tremendous experiences through your eyes. Just like the mountain lion. That is really strange. Almost the same look. Flyleaf was awesome. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about the Western States 100! Go get'em!

Rahn 6/20/08, 4:59 PM  

Cool, you got stalkers!
Well, that's almost what it sounds like.

Good luck with the race.

(And as a side note, I was going to tag you too. So you can consider yourself tagged if you want. But I figured you wouldn't get to anything on the list until after the race...and if you don't want to be tagged, thats fine. Just blame David Ray. He tagged you. He tagged me. I read both your blog. I'm going in circles. aahhh..whatever I'm babbling about can wait.)

Scott Dunlap 8/28/08, 6:48 PM  

22:55 at the Headlands 100? That's fast! I'm not sure if I'm buying that whole "back of the pack" thing. ;-)

Thanks for the blog kudos!


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