The Cup Runneth Over

AJWs TaproomWell, I managed to keep my emotions in check until the end. Then, as I was first saying goodbye and congratulations to Western States President and 10-time finisher John Trent, and then finally saying goodbye to my dear friend and Assistant Race Director Craig Thornley on the Placer High School track, I simply lost it. No other way to say it, I just started sobbing like a baby. Then, as quickly as I could, I ran to my car and drove away.

While I was making my way to Reno last Sunday afternoon I reflected on the weekend and asked myself, “Why have I all of a sudden turned into a puddle of mush? It’s just a race, Andy! Snap out of it.” I even said it out loud to myself.

Of course, the thing is, for me and for many others, it is way more than just a race and that is why my heart was torn asunder as I departed and flew east and back to the rest of my life. The weekend had been filled with indelible memories; running with friends on the Western States trail, sharing my thoughts in two pre-race discussions, getting a glimpse inside the iRunFar.com race coverage machine, spending time with Aid Station captains Bill Plexico, Dennis Zilaff and Larry Roedenbeck at Robinson Flat, Devils Thumb, and the Rucky Chucky River Crossing. Heck, I even had the honor of interviewing the two winners immediately after they had finished. Why, all of a sudden, was I overcome with such deep emotion?

The more I thought about it, the more it started to sink in. As much as I had enjoyed the weekend being part of the race as a spectator and supporter, I had not run. That really hurt. Every June since 2004 (with the exception of 2008 when the race was canceled), I have run Western States and every year I have felt a certain sense of wholeness upon finishing the race. This year, as much as I tried to simply accept the fact that I could not race due to injury and every time I told someone that it was fine to be “taking a year off,” there was a big part inside me who knew that wasn’t true. And, in the end, it made me feel empty inside.

On Saturday evening, I ran up to Robie Point to meet up with the 9th and 10th place male finishers and to jog a few miles in with them. Given my obsession with the top 10 at Western States, I am sure those guys understood why I was doing that. Especially since over the last three years I finished 10th once and 9th twice. Something in me simply wanted to experience a little bit of that top 10 feeling again even though it was Joe’s and Neal’s experience rather than mine. If I couldn’t have the entire experience, I realized I was a bit desperate for a little piece of it.

Once again, running had taught me an important life lesson. This time, it was the rather simple and painful lesson that all good things come to an end and that looking on the bright side of life and maintaining an optimistic attitude when it comes to accepting disappointment does not always do enough to assuage sadness. In the end, my melancholy nature took hold of me as I struggled to come to grips with my own limitations. I admit it, it was not something I wanted to learn in that way. But, in running as in life, most of the best lessons we learn are the ones we didn’t know we needed.

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Standing Stone Brewing CompanyThe week’s Beer of the Week comes from Ashland, OR, home to three cougars. Standing Stone Brewery’s Double IPA is surprisingly smooth and quite a bit less harsh than some other DIPAs. The brewpub at Standing Stone is one of the nicest I know. Next time you’re in Ashland, after you’ve seen some Shakespeare and visited Rogue Valley Runners, stop by Standing Stone, you will not be disappointed.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • Why does Western States… or your favorite race, mean so much to you?
  • What’s a good beer to cry into?

There are 44 comments

  1. Bartman

    Andy,

    Given the events that transpired this past weekend (truly remarkable) and what you witnessed first hand through the eyes of your experience, it is easy to understand your emotions. Thanks for sharing not only your expert analysis during the event but your inner most post race experience as well.

    Thanks,

    Bartman

  2. Phil Jeremy

    Andy, you did a lot of sharing this last weekend, your expertise and knowledge, your enthusiasm and humour, your passion and love for this race and the sport. Its a gift and you have given so much this week that you never could have if you'd been racing. This much atleast we should all be grateful for…..I know Iam. I've never run or seen Western States, maybe never will but thanks to you I kind of feel like I have.

    Thank you.

  3. Fernando N. Baeza

    Andy,

    Hey Andy, thanks for the intimate report. Its not easy admitting so much…I know. But Im sure I speak for everyone in the ultra community, that we certainly appreciate all the hard, committed work it took to be there this past weekend, Bryon and all the irunfar staff included. Mr. Jeremy was correct in saying that even thought you regretted not running the race, you certainly were a part of it all, in more ways than one. I felt like I was there! Youll be out there faster than you know it! You guys at irunfar are awesome! Its certainly great seeing the race through your eyes man, and thanks for sharing.

    Respectfully,

    Fernando N. Baeza

  4. Mike Bailey

    AJW,

    Sometimes in order to experience ALL of a race, we must do more than just run it. There are several 100's where I have worked an aid station, paced slow and fast runners, did trail work, gave advice, and also competed as a runner. I can honestly say that my relationship to the people, course, and runners is deeper from having experienced all facets of the race, and not just the run part. You are a special exception in that even the years you run WS (and finished top 10), you still led discussion panels and volunteered so folks like me could get our first true taste of what you have grown to love since 2004. You'll be back at that chilly Squaw Valley start before you know it, and hopefully so will I. But for now enjoy the view from the other side, because it'll make that next trip around Placer track that much more meaningful.

    -Mike Bailey

  5. Anonymous

    AJW,

    you are not WS 100 and WS 100 is not AJW.

    Hal Koerner has run more than 100 ultras. He has placed TOP 3 in more than 75% of them and it doesn't come out of his key board or mouth every chance he has. Stop being so ego centric, when you are not talking about yourself you are trying to give demeanor lessons.

    1. Anonymous

      Even though I kinda like AJW, I agree 100%. AJW, you need to realize that you aren't WS and WS isn't you. Even though you'd SAY with words you agree with that, deep down I think you believe AJW and WS are one in the same. There are many races that deliver just as good if not better experiences as WS. Please quit with the annoying obsession and with this ridiculously annoying insider joke stuff with Thornley and move on. Also, will you have to stand in line like the rest of us or will your insider pals get you in next year…….?

      1. Jeff

        OK, I never comment on this board but read it all the time (thanks for a great site Bryon!) as well as some other boards…your two posts finally brought me out of lurker mode…it cracks me up that people out there like the two of you who bag on others who blog about WS100 and what they love about it and what it means to them. Just a guess based on what I have read in the past, you guys are both from Colorado and think your mountains are the real mountains and trails, CA is flat, blah blah blah…lame. Seriously, get a life…don't read AJW's blog, and just go and enjoy those 100's that offer just as good an experience and blog about them yourself or don't. I really love trail running and reading about it but this under current of jealously about WS100 and AJW's love for it is really lame. Next thing you will probably start complaining about is the UltraRunner of the year criteria…

        AJW – keep blogging man and look forward to reading about your continued quest next year at WS100. Good luck!

        BTW – Lagunitas IPA has to make the list some day!

            1. Mike Hinterberg

              Stereotypes aren't usually good, but from my viewpoint: lots of Coloradans that I know and run with sure love WS — in no small part due to the enthusiasm of people like AJW — and other trails and races across the state. You can read it in the reports and interviews of the top folks, but I can assure you it's true for the rest of us, too, and you can see it in the lottery entrance numbers.

              All of the running groups I can think of (Ft Collins, Boulder, Denver, Colo Springs, Durango) love to share our favourite trails with anyone…and love to visit CA and share some great trails (and brews) there, too.

              Peace from Colorado…

  6. Patrick

    Hey anonymous I don't think that it ncessary. I haven't detected a hint of conceit in AJW's posts or reporting. He loves a race he didn't get to run, no more, no less. He is just sharing his feelings. Give him a break.

  7. Chris

    AJW, disregard the negative comments by someone named Anonymous. We all have a love for something in our lives similar to your love of WS 100. We feel is becomes part of our soul and our being. I appreciate your candor, humility and honesty. Rock on and don't let the haters get you down!

  8. Justin McMillan

    Hey Anonymous and Anonymous, nobody is forcing you to read the above article, or any other article for that matter. This reminds me of the guy who put down Bryon for writing about his "epic" race experience…if you don't like it then stop reading. I would guess the above posters are probably not alone in their feelings, but they are the only ones with poor enough taste to vent them, in my mostly humble opinion.

    1. Anonymous

      Hey Justin, nobody is forcing you to read my above posting (anonymous 1). If you don't like it stop reading. I did not writte my subjective feelings but the objective facts, poor taste is more like writing about me, myself and I…

  9. Craig Thornley

    AJW,

    Thanks for bringing and sharing your passion for the race to the runners, volunteers, and crews last weekend. The folks at the aid stations you were at were uplifted by your enthusiasm. The runners too.

    To the anonymous above, I hope you (and everybody) find a race (or something else) to love as much as AJW loves WS. And if you choose to share it, I'd love to read it. Also, I think AJW knows as well as the rest of us that WS is way bigger than any of us individually. Finally, if you knew AJW you'd know that he's got a lot going on his life besides WS. He just doesn't write about it in the ultrarunning e-world.

    Craig

  10. Anonymous

    Craig, fair enough but if AJW is dealing w/ some issues right now that may have played on his emotions after the race then he should never have written this article in the first place, cause all it did was make it seem like his emotions were all about WS and how he wasn't there to run it. If that's the case, then he was telling us only half of the story which means he probably shouldn't have told it at all.

  11. Neal Gorman

    It was pretty cool seeing Andy out on the course. I had a crew but Andy still managed to help me at Robison by leading me to my crew and stuffing my pockets with my drop bag items. He took my rainy/wet clothes from me at Devils and re-stuffed them back into my empty drop back so I would be sure to get them at the finish on Sunday. He helped guide me at Forrest Hill, the River crossing and then again after Robie Point. Not to mention the words of encouragement he gave me and others along the way, including at the finish. Homeboy was everywhere. And that was just during the race.

    Andy loves himself. Ok, fine. It’s all good, though, because I think in order to love and want to help others one must first love them self.

  12. Meghan Hicks

    Hi all,

    This article is an inappropriate place to bash AJW's character or to place negative judgements upon what you think his character is. In fact, all deconstructive commentary about any member of this community is unwelcome. Instead, we welcome all thoughts/questions/statements/etceteras, INCLUDING those which are dissenting, that are framed in a constructive and productive manner.

    This is a simple request that we use the same respect-driven discourse here that we would use with these same people in the real world. If you're typing something here that you wouldn't say to someone as you're running down the trail together, try rephrasing your thoughts.

    Thank you,

    Meghan

  13. Bryon Powell

    It is extremely unfortunate that one regular iRunFar commentor and another person who is a public voice within the ultrarunning community have taken to using anonymity to make personal attacks. It's lame enough when random folks anonymously troll. It's a whole 'nother deal entirely for an existing community member to make inflammatory comments anonymously… and this is a case where ownership of one's words is appropriate and, indeed, necessary. Both individuals have previously made positive contributions to the discussions on iRunFar in the past, so I hope they will both will publicly own their words now and in the future.

  14. OOJ

    Great post, reflective of the feelings of many, especially those friends who ran – and ran M and F 10 – this past weekend. Western States is so much more than simply a race. It's a family event. I think that's why all of my burgeoning crew- all twelve of them, from Wisconsin to Colorado- vowed to return next year. States is bigger than just some folks running in the woods. AJW, it was an honor to have you run with me (including friendly jabs) in that last mile. Your joy is contagious. …but I will stomp you next year. :)

  15. jenn

    I think (hope?!) we all have something that becomes a part of us, just as Western States has become a part of AJW. I know I have, and it has enriched my life enormously. But as you said in one of your interviews, and as Mike said above, seeing the other side of that aid station table brings a lot to the overall experience! When you get back out there, I suspect your injury + logistical experiences this year are going to make your race even better. Heal fast, heal well!

  16. Ian Sharman

    AJW, thanks for sharing. It's great to hear about your passion for a subject you care about deeply. Having fought for that M10 last year, I completely get the emotions it brings up and there is something about this race that's special, without a doubt.

  17. John Trent

    AJW, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate the sincere piece that you wrote. More than that, though, I wanted to let you know I was deeply moved to share that moment with you near the track on Sunday. It was a moment where, I think, the past several months of injury, uncertainty, surgery, recovery, progress, more uncertainty, setback, more progress, all built up and spilled over in a way where your emotions were at their most unvarnished. It was only natural to have a moment like that; I can remember a similar moment myself, when, after knee surgery in '07, I paced a friend to the finish in '09, and, thinking that perhaps I would never get to the finish line myself, I proceeded to cry my eyes out. The only way to share your moment was to write it the way you did, in a similarly unvarnished, honest way. I've been a professional writer and journalist for more than 25 years now, and I've also taught writing since 1997. I've always told all of my students, beyond narrative structure and the mechanics of writing, that they'll usually be at their best when they simply write what they know. That's what you always do, and that's what you did here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Good luck on your continued recovery. We look forward to seeing you again on the WS Trail very soon.

  18. pat

    i think the internet is amazing, but i feel like the pendulum has long since swung too far in a rotten direction as far as "commenting" has developed. in the case of most websites, i don't really care. in regards to the websites i like, i trust the admins to edit the comments as freely as they choose. i'm just saying. edit hard.

    good read. great conclusion to your personal story regrading this year's race! thank you!

  19. Marc

    In reading AJW's posts on WS100 this past spring and also listening to him speak before the race, I became very curious at how WS had made such an impact on Mr. AJW's life. He displays his passion in his writing, but man listen to him speak about it. I am inspired by AJW because his passion for WS is exactly what it is all about for me… Friendship, family, community, passion, competitiveness, and hopefully a lot of lighthearted humor… and some beer… Ok, a lot of beer.

    Thank you for your inspiration AJW!

  20. Jacob Rydman

    AJW,

    It was pretty cool seeing the passion you have for running this event, being poured out as a spectator/crew/"pacer":)/finish line MC/etc…..Reminds me of a quote from the movie Prefontaine when Mac Wilkins calls Pre "cocky" and Bill Bowerman replies, "I'd like to bottle that and force-feed it to the rest of you guys." Your passion is contagious; bottle it up and sell it pre-WS in Squaw next summer. Hopefully see you on the startline next June.

  21. run1

    Thanks for another great post Andy. Something I often think about is whether I handle life's setbacks as well as I handle setbacks during a race. The answer is more often than not 'no'. What I think though – and your post highlights this well- is that running sometimes prompts us to question our 'real life' reactions and emotions and compare our 'real life selves' to our 'running selves'. I know that my real self could learn a lot from my running self! Running a race we've spent time and energy preparing for gives us the opportunity to be our very best selves so don't feel too down about being a regular human at times when you don't race! Your posts always remind me to try to make my real self more like my running self so i've got the irunfar AJW Taproom sticker stuck to my training diary – as an extra reminder. Thanks again and all the best for your running.

  22. Stephen

    AJW,

    Your love and enthusiasm for Western States are inspirational. I hope you know how the majority of your readers disagree with the negative comments posted and celebrate your devotion to this race and to the sport.

  23. Yeti

    Man, haters gonna hate. Don't sweat these anonymous turds/trolls/dead-eyed cynics. Thanks for sharing AJW, I admire and respect your passion, the world could use a lot more people like you right now.

    Jeff

  24. Alex from New Haven

    AJW,

    99% of people here and in the sport get it. You're awesome, you're insightful and passionate about the sport. Love your enthusiasm and what you bring to the sport both as a runner and a writer. Keep it up!

    Alex McDaniel

    New Haven, CT

  25. Jamo

    As a spectator, I had a blast going to and fro, and runnin into AJW and Bryon on numerous occasions, and seeing how much effort and fun they were havin. At Foresthill, those two were running into town, and I laughed out loud when AJW proclaimed, "I've never felt this good in this section!", to which Bryon said, "I've never felt this bad!". Being down at Rucky Chucky, seein Bryon in the water, having finally changed out of jeans. Seein them at hwy 49 Crossing, and AJW saying a course record was in the works, since Tim only had to bang out a 1:12, and that was very realistic since he (ajw) was a "slow" guy and had done that numerous times. And, finally, as I was tryin to see Jorge come in one more time and see if he was still all smiles (which he was), and seeing AJW cruise up the street looking for the couple guys behind Jorge for top 10 status. Anyways, great coverage, and heal up soon AJW!

    Cheers!

  26. marco

    Well, A JW, going back to your article, last time I got in was in 2007. I've been volunteering and pacing since until I finally got in this year. This year unfortunately for you the injury you suffered forced you to experience WS100 again from the other side, where many of us have been. Granted, you have earned your continuous top 10. I think this experience this year will make you stronger and give you a completely different frame of reference for next year. It might help you earn your ticket back into WS100. If you thought you love this race next time you get in you will kiss the trail. Good luck in the lottery next year.

  27. Kimmiq

    It's unfortunate that some folks have to criticize in the way of the “anonymi”- whether someone is passionate about WS and what it means to them or passionate about any other race it's great that they take the time to write and blog about it. If the “anonymi” would, I'm sure AJW would commend them rather than criticize them for it.

    A great read as ususal. I hope I get to run WS someday!

    Cheers!

  28. Sophie Speidel

    Andy,

    I'm joining the chorus here in saying thank you for being so candid and vulnerable in AJWs Taproom as you share your reflections on the ultrarunning life. The less than 1% who call themselves Anonymous because they don't have the guts and heart that you display here and on the trail do not represent the ultra community, and I hope they crawl back under the rock from whence they came. The rest of us who choose to read your stuff every week with an open mind and heart DO get it, and as reflected in the comments of support above, appreciate your love for WS as an event, but more importantly, also appreciate the intangible gifts of the event: WS is a place where yours (and other's) children grew up watching their moms/dads struggle, perservere, and do something really hard; it is a place where close friendships are forged and strengthened; and it is a place where runners are drawn to year after year in search of finding themselves and what they are made of. I have only run WS one time but every time you talk about it, your excitement rubs off and I find myself thinking, " hmmm it would be cool to go back again…" Seriously. So, pay no attention to those who don't get it, and keep inspiring those who do!

    As for Bryon's call for sharing a race that means a great deal… I have to say for me it is Hellgate 100k. No glitz, no glamour, just a race where year after year, I keep learning about what I am made of.

    You know what I mean?

  29. Roger Soto

    I really don't see the point of this anonymous comments (though I see that the editor's know who they are, maybe this guys -the anonymous, not the editors- should stand up and say who they are). If I understood smth from AJW various posts this year and the previous years regarding WS is that his MAIN POINT has always been about how this race is greater than any individual, that's why it is so special to him and many others. I really can't see the other meaning in the writtings…

  30. Nick

    Personally, I enjoy AJW's articles and his passion for the sport. It's likely I'll get to run WS as I live over the other side of the world, am damn slow so would never qualify and would only have the money and opportunity to travel this far for a race maybe once or twice, so the lottery gods would have to be in my favour. However, through AJW's posts I feel that I know the race almost better than some I have completed. It's got to the point where I even get excited about WS coverage on twitter, let alone running it!

    I wish there was an AJW for every big US 100 so I could get as good an understanding of the history, feel and race as I get on WS. Keep up the good work.

  31. ultrarunnergirl

    AJW –

    love your Tap Room stuff. As an ultrarunner who will never be in contention for the top 10 of any race, the philosophical musings are one of the main things that keep me coming back to irunfar.com on a regular basis. The passion and love of this sport mean much more to me than times, records, and numbers.

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