Meaning in the Miles

Once again, as May turns to June, I find myself cranking out more mileage than I have at nearly any point in my life just as was the case this time last year. Yes, it does mean that I’m getting ready for a focus race, in this case the Hardrock 100, and, yes, I am enjoying the inherent motion, exploration, beauty, and escape that come with the training, but I’ve also come to find more meaning behind the miles.

Much of my year is a mad scramble traveling between continents to cover races, staying up late to finish editing a book chapter, working around the clock to finish up home repairs, and so on. While those details are particular to me, the hustle and bustle of modern life is something with which most of us are familiar. Sometimes that frenzy, that unending barrage of obligations to which we avail ourselves is overwhelming to the point of affecting our physical or mental well-being. We get sick. We get depressed or anxious. At the least, our busy lives certainly get in the way, directly (lack of time) or indirectly (stress/fatigue/etc.), of our ability to train as runners.

[Now, this certainly isn’t the end of the world. Aside from some derivate communal value from running’s physical health and emotional benefits, running is generally a self-benefiting activity. Fair enough. Still, running is something that most anyone reading this site enjoys and wishes to pursue.]

These past two weeks I’ve indulged myself with many a mile in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains to go with a few good runs in New Mexico. What I’ve come to appreciate this year is that I could only do this sort of training if and when I get the rest of my life in order. I need to have my work obligations under control and maintain a mindset where I can get my still sizeable workload effectively and efficiently done. I need to get enough good sleep to bounce back between many hour outings on consecutive days. I need to have cultivated a less stressful atmosphere and move past stress when it does crop up. The past two years, I’ve done these things with intention such that I could spend a few concentrated weeks focusing on my running.

It’s too early to say for this year, but last year the miles came and went in heaps. There were no injuries nor burnout nor breakdowns. Those successful miles meant I’d made the time to train and, perhaps more important, prioritized the healthy living components necessary to absorb and assimilate that training. No matter how last year’s Hardrock turned out for me, that was a meaningful success.

Now, a year later, with much greater cognizance of this positive meaning behind my miles, I hope I once again use the impetus of a heavy Hardrock training block to prioritize the healthy lifestyle that makes it possible. And, maybe this year, I’ll be able to continue living the meaning behind those miles well past when I (hopefully) kiss a certain rock mid-July.

[Author’s Note: This is the first in what I hope will be a monthly column on iRunFar. For the past few years, I’ve wanted a space to share my own running-related thoughts, whatever they may be, but hadn’t created the time to do so. Much like the piece above, I find that this column represents some indication of success in making my life more manageable and hope that it’s a spur to continue moving in that direction in the future.]

Call for Comments

Do you use running as an impetus to improve other parts of your life? If so, how?


[All photos by Bryon Powell during the first two weeks of his Camp Hardrock 2016.]

Camp Bird Road - Ruby Trust Mine Entrance

Valles Caldera

La Luz Trail

Silverton from Kendall Mountain Rd

The Sultan with Crown of Light

Kendall Gulch

Road 52 toward Storm Peak

Kendall Mountain Rd - Half and Half

There are 14 comments

  1. Sebastian

    Happy to hear you found your balance, for now!! Beautiful pictures of the amazing San Juan mountains. Planning to do some 14ers as well for training purposes? Happy International Running Day.

  2. Greg Veltkamp

    I, as well, will be on the starting line in Silverton in 6 short weeks. My training, however, has taken quite a different turn. 5 week ago, I was diagnosed with a herniated lumbar disc and have been sidelined since. I’ve spent countless hours “training” with physical therapy, acupuncture, and massage, but still am experiencing significant pain and loss of mobility. Last week, I visited a myofascial release therapist to try a different approach and it has indeed given me just that. Through the slow release of the fascial system, I’ve been able to dig deep into physical and emotional issues that have been buried deep, deep for a number of years. I’m getting back in touch with other stressful parts of my life that have been pushed aside in order to create time and space for running and training. For now, this “training” is serving me well and may be just what I need to tackle the mountains and passes of Hardrock. Physical fitness may still be a question come July 15, but emotional fitness will be bedrock solid!

    1. Bryon Powell

      Hey Nathan,
      While I’ve not thought much about my Hardrock 2016 gear choices, that’s probably because they’re relatively set.
      *New Balance 1400v3 (possibly New Balance Vazee Summits if conditions warrant)
      *Mountain Hardwear WayTooCool shirt from 2012
      *New Balance split shorts
      *Drymax Hot Weather socks
      *Montrail Run Like a Girl hat or Mountain Hardware Raffie Fedora depending on weather
      *The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket (waterproof) or Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded Jacket (as appropriate)
      *Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest – V1 with one 20 oz UD bottle with Kicker Valve
      *Suunto Ambit3 Peak
      *Julbo Race or Race 2.0 sunglasses
      *Petzl Nao (second generation)

      More or less everything from last year except for a new waterproof jacket and the option of the Race 2.0 sunglasses (more venting).

      1. Quigley

        Thanks for sharing. Love the gear list. Awesome to be running the big mountains again in racing flats. From your pictures in looks like the Vazee Summits have been warranted in the snowy mountains, or do you use the 1400v3’s with crampons and/or snow shoes. Good luck finding the mental space!

        1. Bryon Powell

          I’ve been staying on the infrequently used, plowed mountain roads around here, so my flats have been fine. I’ve worn the Vazee Summits from time to time for a change or when I do the steep (1,500′ of climb in a mile), snow-free trail above town.

  3. Steve Pero

    Nice photos, Bryon…thanks for the memories and best of luck at the big run!
    Congrats on a fine Jemez 50 run…

    As for running helping other parts of my life, it does for sure. Running gives me the endurance I need to work the fields of our small farm in NH. It helps inspire younger people at work who see this 64 year old guy going out running every day…and I hope it inspires my children and grandchildren to stay fit in any way they can.

  4. Fergus Johnston

    A great article which certainly resonates with a lawyer on the otherside of the Atlantic. Wonderful photos too!

  5. Justin Andrews

    Good to hear you’ve been able to continue getting in a pile of hours/miles on top of all else you got going on, Bryon. I’ve got the ankle/foot that’s not ready yet, it seems, so to the bike and rehab I go. But, alas, at some point this year, I’ll get out for some long ones and get back to racing.

    When I’m not able to train hard, I think it’s easy to stay up late (reference Zach Miller’s interview just posted a couple days ago) and not get the requisite rest that other types of training–a commute bike ride and rehab–could also benefit from. So in this regard, I’d say that hard training helps keep some other components of life in good balance, and spurs healthier diet, too:) But there’s always room for ice cream!

  6. Cory Kohm

    Bryon, you so eloquently put into words one of the secrets to success, achieving and maintaining a healthy, balanced life so that we may focus on our passions and pursue them, whatever they might be. Thank you. It really touches home, as for several years I’ve been struggling to achieve this to the detriment of not only my running but many other more important stuff such as family relationships, etc. Finally this year, uleashed by a move away from the hustle and bustle of Seattle to a small Montana town, my wife and I have found the balance and a fresh vibrancy to all areas of our life together…especially running. I also will toe the line with you in Silverton, and while I am nervous beyond description, I am so super excited about being more prepared than ever – healthy, no burnout, all of it!!

    One question, will you take any type of long pants such as rain shell or ?? Also, given your immediate knowledge of the area conditions via “Camp Hardrock,” how confident are you about wearing a road-treaded shoe? I love the Altra instinct 3.5’s, but wonder if I should use either Lone Peak’s vs Olypmus. Do you know when/if the new Lone Peaks will be available by then, even perhaps to demo?

    Best, and thank you,


    1. Bryon Powell

      So glad you’ve recently found some balance and vibrance. While I didn’t express it, all of the positive changes that benefit my running also benefit my personal relationships, my own general self-perception and self-worth. It’s just that running is an easier measure in monitoring those changes and, perhaps, easier to focus on than, say, the quality of one’s relationships. Thanks for breaking that out.

      Running’s also a good test bed for the reality of needing to be flexible and make changes. I’m still beyond psyched for Hardrock, I’m loving the San Juans, I’m happy, I’m injury free, and had a fantastic road 20 miler on Tuesday… but I haven’t really felt like putting in a big day the past few days. I can accept that. I can adapt my plan to accommodate that. I can even make it a positive. I’ve taken advantage of the extra time the past few days to absolutely crush work, including work that will allow me to run more and be less stressed as my super busy Western States and Hardrock 100 coverage times approach.

      More practically, in general, I don’t plan on bringing long pants along for Hardrock. A big snow year (unlikely this year), tons of rain (more than the usual), or a really cold forecast could see me carrying pants for most of the race. Otherwise, I’ll have a pair of light running pants and either a wind or waterproof pair with my crew and, probably, carry or a wear a light pant at night. (I had to check, but I wore a pair of Montbell UL Windpants at least some of the time between Telluride and Chapman last year. It’s possible I put them on high on Camp Bird Rd before Virginius.)

  7. Ravi

    I find that when I pick a big, hairy and audacious goal in one part of my life (be it career or business related) that the rest of my life gets in order to support it. Looking back, it’s the times in my life when I was pushing to achieve something big that I was happiest overall (and accomplished the most). As I train for my first 100 miler this summer (Silverheels 100 in FairPlay, CO), and wonder if it’s worth “sacrificing” whatever else I could be doing with my time, I remind myself of that!

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