Balance

I’ve always been the type of person who puts a large amount of energy into one thing at a time. I’m open to trying new things when I get the chance, but for the most part I tend to have “my thing” at any given time, and that thing tends to take up the majority of my free time.

When I was 19, I read frantically. I probably read more books in a month at that time than I do in a five-year span now. In the height of this phase I remember reading War and Peace in three days. At the time, that just seemed like the logical way to do it, because reading was my thing. Then, when I was 23, I went on my first whitewater rafting trip. Later that year, I bought a raft and spent about 75 days a year on the river for the next few years. After that I was turned on to the joys of mountain biking. Within weeks of my first ride, I owned a $4,000 bike and rode five or six days a week. A few years later, I took up running again for the first time in about a decade and proceeded to put 100 percent of my energy into running for more than five years, taking it so far as to become a “professional” runner.

Geoff Roes - Alaska - balance 1

For most of the past year though I haven’t really had a “thing.” In some ways running is certainly still my thing. A lot of my lifestyle, my community, and my mind is still tied to running, but the reality is that I have only been on about 30 runs in the past 10 months. In this sense, I have certainly felt a little lost in this time, but I have also begun to see the value in not having one thing that takes up so much of my time. Phases of intense focus can be very productive and very satisfying, but when you are, for example, running an average of three hours a day (and many days over five hours) for five straight years, you do end up passing on a lot of other opportunities. I don’t know if I’ll ever run again in the way that I did from 2007 to 2012, but, right now, I’m finding myself very comfortable with a much more relaxed relationship with running, but also with so much extra space in my life to take on new adventures and go on new journeys.

In the past two weeks alone I have gone on two great adventures that I just wouldn’t have done at most points in the previous several years. First a three-day kayak trip and then a six-day boat trip. These both meant little to no running for this duration. This might not sound like much, but this is a compromise that I would not have previously made unless I was injured or recovering from a long race. I’ve missed running in the past 10 days while I’ve been on these other outings, but I’ve also been exposed to some new experiences and seen some things in a slightly different way than I do when running in the mountains every day.

Geoff Roes - Alaska - balance 2

This isn’t to say that I’m no longer interested in running, and that I no longer want to run, but just that I feel myself being a lot more open to putting some energy into some different things, and this feels really exciting. It’s exciting to know that a month or two from now I will likely have encountered some entirely new and exciting experiences that I just would not have had if I were still so focused on one specific thing. It’s late spring in Alaska, a time when there are so many new and interesting opportunities around every corner. I’m excited to see which road my current place in life takes me down.

All of this said, though, a huge part of my heart is still in the mountains, and in exploring the mountains on foot. Tomorrow is supposed to be a wonderful late spring day here in Alaska, complete with nearly 20 hours of daylight, and I feel myself being drawn to the mountains, to explore new ridge lines somewhere in the vast wilderness surrounding me. The difference from the previous several years though, is that I might then spend the next several days to follow doing something entirely new and foreign to me.

Geoff Roes - Alaska - balance 3

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic when in reality I’m just making the best of a bad situation, but, right now, I feel amazingly content with my relationship with running. Certainly, I want and expect my health to continue to get a lot better in the months to come, and when it does I will almost certainly continue to run more regularly (as I have already done in the past six weeks), but I also have come to a place of feeling very content with my running and the way that it fits into my life right now. It’s probably the most balanced that my life has been in a long time, and balance can be a really good thing.

Geoff Roes - Alaska - balance 4

There are 16 comments

  1. JonR

    Great article. With the birth of my first son two years ago and awaiting my second coming this October I have experienced the same shift in focus. I no longer train to race but rather get out just to enjoy myself in what time I have. Taking my activities less seriously has been an easy pill to digest.

  2. steve n

    Agreed, i have also stopped trying to analyze and compare to others, running has become more enjoyable when on my "terms" when i can fit it in and i actually feel fitter running less? finding balance in all aspects of life!

  3. Andreas

    A nice message this is.

    Sometimes its harder done then said, and often one needs something bad to happen to finally find the balance that is needed (like an injury or something similar). Thanks for sharing, Geoff!

  4. André Cruz

    A great message.

    In a diferent way, I tend no to focus so much in only one thing, and sometimes I stop and thing that I should be diferent, but that´s is my way.

    See you.

    Good news coming from Alaska.

    Bye.

  5. Niko

    Geoff, as a former competitive track runner in high school and college, I know the feeling exactly. For 8+ years I dedicated myself to my training. I was in bed by 9, up at 6 to run my first run and then out the door again at 3 for my second. I lived and died by my mileage counts and scheduled runs and workouts. I never would have dreamed of a long vacation that would take me away from running. And then I got sick of it. I quit. For nearly 2 years I just stopped running and explored other avenues. In the past year I've been drawn back to it, but never with the same intensity. I hike, I slackline, I workout at the gym, I canoe, I go on long backpacking trips, I cook, I take days off at a time from running, sometimes weeks, and I enjoy it more than I ever have before. While I will never again touch my collegiate times as a result of this "lack of single-mindedness" I am a far more complete person because of it. I can live with that.

  6. Katioucha

    Nice article Geoff, thanks for sharing. Is the weather ok over there? Here in Kuujjuaq, on the other side of the continent, it’s pretty cold still. We are freezing! Hope to have a little break from snow and enjoy the spring before mosquito season!

    Enjoy the long day energy before winter darkness!

    Katiana

  7. Shelby

    "Maybe I’m being overly optimistic when in reality I’m just making the best of a bad situation…" Sounds to me like you're taking the "opportunities" given through your situation and finding the hidden blessings in them. I don't believe anything in life is neutral — we either improve or decline. You are clearly growing and changing for the better and that's inspiring to me. I hope you glean all the joy from those long days in Alaska and your varied mountain adventures.

    If you make it to Mt Marathon this year, I'll totally give you a cookie… :-)

  8. Anonymous

    For most of my adult life it was the 4 W's — writing, wrestling, women, and work (not necessarily in that order)…then, with 50 looming on the horizon, this crazy running stuff came along and all bets were off, I pretty much parted from the program and now it's about all I can think about!

    Are there morals to these stories? Hard to say, but it sure is interesting, the roads we go down in this life!

    JV in SD

  9. StumpWater

    I can suddenly hear my P&H Cetus MV calling to me from the garage … !

    I'm exactly like you with regard to the "mostly focus on one thing at a time". They used to say people like us "suffer from enthusiasms" … I think nowadays they say we have a *bit* of OCD (smileyface). I'd love to say that I'll regain some broader life-balance soon, but right now it's all work, family, and running.

    SW

  10. Pete

    I see it all the time and I have to believe that ultrarunning attracts a certain type of personality that thrives on non-balance. I won't try to toss in pop psychology babble or buzzwords but you know the person I'm talking about: she/he won't be happy unless there is a daily long run and they've got a full race schedule for the year. When running and also idle, all they can talk about are races, shoes/gear, wicking fabrics, FKTs, vert gain, other runners, and andecdotes from yesterday's run. Try to engage them in non-running discussions and you get a bewildered blank stare, as if you're talking in Swahili. Where's the detox camp for people like this?

    1. JP

      I've never known runners like those that you are describing. Are you talking about people that you know well, or people that you meet during a run or race? If the latter, I think a lot of runners have so much "balance" in their lives (like the people here with little kids, work long hours, etc) that they relish the hour or two every few days that they can immerse themselves in something (else) that they love.

      I know if someone came up to me at a race or a long run in the hills, which I think of as great chances to tune out all of my "balance" and wanted to talk about my work, I'd give them a blank stare. But trust me, I'm interesting as heck.

      Geoff, you are awesome.

  11. Stack

    Geoff… I know I don't know your personal life well but I would argue that it seems like you do have a 'thing'… Family.

    I'm like you (although not quite to the extreme) with my 'things'… It was running, then rugby, then disc golf, then running (far) again but for me it's my wife and son first and foremost now. I know I can be balanced like many other family men ultra runners but I find myself putting off going on runs and other things because I don't want to miss a certain event (even everyday ones like bedtime) with my son… or time with my wife.

    So maybe you do have a 'thing'.. Spending time with Corle and being a Father figure to Elle.

  12. Tony Mollica

    Geoff:

    Good luck in regaining your health to where it won't be a factor in what you choose to do. Sounds like you are having a good time!

    Running is the main focus of my free time. My kids are 24, 21 and 19 and only one of them lives locally. They don't require much of my time any more.I am not anywhere close to being a competitive elite runner. I am just trying to see what I can accomplish in ultra running before I get too old. (I'm 55.)

  13. Roger (Sydney)

    Beautiful photos! Best of luck to keep getting closer to that place in health where everything is a total choice. Speaking only for myself, your achievements in competition as an runner were and remain inspirational and if anybody here still hasn't seen Unbreakable they need to check it out.

  14. rob

    as humans, we find ourselves surrounded by the same scene, and become aware and conscious of it. and we find a need for balance. and it is more than a feeling: it is a holistic certainty that arouses within us. its healthy to change the scene

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