Daring to Dream, Daring to Fail

Those who know me, know that I’ve been fortunate enough to run (and finish) the Western States Endurance Run in […]

By on February 21, 2007 | Comments

Those who know me, know that I’ve been fortunate enough to run (and finish) the Western States Endurance Run in each of the past three years. In 2006, I qualified for and later entered the WS lottery with hopes of once again running from Squaw Valley to Auburn in June 2007. Alas, despite my presence at the lottery drawing, my name was not pulled and I reserved myself to sitting out the 2007 running of Western States… that is until earlier this week.

You see, this winter I entered the Way Too Cool 50k and Miwok 100k, both races in the Montrail Ultra Cup and both races at which the top three men and women qualify to run this year’s Western States. WTC and Miwok traditionally have extraordinary fields and this year is no exception. Knowing my dearth of luck in this year’s WS lottery, some friends jokingly (I think) suggested that I could still qualify for WS at WTC and Miwok. “Yeah, right,” has been my stock answer to these folks. I mean, come on, these are two of the most competitive American trail ultras at less than 100 miles. Little old me can’t hang with the big boys (or girls, for that matter) at this caliber a race. At least that’s what I was telling myself until I received two emails this week from a running buddy with some serious credentials. He didn’t say much and certainly never said that I should or would run top-3 at WTC or Miwok, but he did say I could… which is a whole lot more that I was allowing myself to think.

Do I think it’s likely that I’ll run top-3 at either race? Hell no. Does the schedule give me the best shot at qualifying? No way. Does that matter? Not one bit.

During a training run last night, Montrail-Nathan teammate Sean Andrish responded to a statement about my not being able to run with the big dogs with (and I paraphrase) “Well maybe you could, if you raced more than part of the race.” Oh, how it hurts when your friends nail you with truth… and he had. Those who I talk strategy with know all too well my schpeel about “needing to pace oneself…. running an even race … blah blah blah” – all lots of talk about how I choose to race without dreaming.

Throughout my ultrarunning career, I’ve uniformly chosen to take the conservative route when racing. I go out slow, thereby guaranteeing, or at least better the chances, that I won’t blow up – that I won’t “fail.” With some latent talent and a love of training this strategy has allowed me to place well at many races. What it hasn’t done is let me know how fast I can run. Sure, I’ve run even splits on the front and back halves of 50ks, a 40 miler, and even a 100, but who’s to say I couldn’t have run faster? No one and that’s the problem.

It’s time for me to dream of what might be, rather than plan for what I know I can do. WTC and Miwok are not my “focus” races for the year. I’ve got nothing to lose by leaving it all on the course, even if it’s all gone five or ten miles from the finish. I know I won’t drop out. So what if I’m 10 minutes or an hour off where my conservative race plan would have brought me across the line. Until three men cross the line on May 5th I’ve got a shot to run Western States again this year. Today and tomorrow and the next day, I will dare to dream.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.