That One Goal

AJW's TaproomAt the 2016 Hardrock 100, co-winners Jason Schlarb and Kilian Jornet had the fastest split of all 114 finishers for the 9.1-mile section between Cunningham Gulch, the race’s final aid station, and the finish line in Silverton, Colorado. They completed that section in 2 hours and 14 minutes. On the other end of the spectrum that weekend was the slowest of the 114 finishers from Cunningham to Silverton, me, in an excruciating and soul-crushing 6:43. Yep, you read that right, 6 hours and 43 minutes to cover 9.1 miles! It was the most difficult thing I have done in my running life.

I have looked back on that day relentlessly over the intervening 18 months and while I have concluded there were several critical mistakes that I made leading up to the race and on race day, I have chosen not to dwell on those. Rather, I made the decision about a month after the race to chalk the errors up to experience, take away whatever education I could, and look ahead to the next time I get to tackle that piece of trail.

Well, as luck would have it, that day is coming in July of 2018 when I return to run Hardrock again.

This is the time of year when many of us look ahead to the new year and set goals, open ourselves up to dreams, and take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Looking at my life with the fresh perspective only a new year brings allows me to reflect and revise and set a course for the year which can perhaps propel me to a place where I have yet to go. In the year ahead, the place that speaks most loudly to me is Cunningham Gulch, deep in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. This place, a deep valley encircled by massive mountains, has become a symbol to me, a symbol of both failure and hope.

In the context of failure and hope, my goal for 2018 is to work hard enough, smart enough, and hopeful enough to arrive at Cunningham Gulch sometime in the morning of July 23rd in one piece, a piece containing a sound mind, a healthy body, and a soaring heart. I want to arrive there and look up at the wall of mountains ahead of me not in fear but in joy. I want to find myself in a state of being that allows me to overcome the demons of 2016 and emerge out the other side stronger, smarter, and better than I was when I got there.

It will not be easy. The darkness of that day in July of 2016 is very real to me and the prospect of failure is every bit as real as the hope for success. As an optimist, of course, I have to believe that I can achieve this goal but only through doing what I know needs to be done, listening intently to my body and the smarter people around me, and seeking answers to the questions I am not quite sure how to ask. Because, if I can be honest, I don’t yet know what the path to meeting this elusive goal looks like. And, in this, I look joyously ahead to a year of running in 2018 which I can only believe will be my best one yet.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Three Notch’d Brewing Company Biggie S’MoresThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Three Notch’d Brewing Company in Charlottesville, Virginia. I visited the brewery this week and enjoyed their incredible Milk Stout Biggie S’Mores. This 8.4 ABV stout, while sweet, is also nicely complex and great with food. While some might call it a dessert beer, I think it’s more versatile than that and well worth a try the next time you can get your hands on a bottle of it.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you have a day from your racing or adventuring that stands out as a difficult moment for you and that shapes your future hopes for yourself in our sport?
  • What elusive goals do you have in running that you are yet to reach?
AJW training in Cunningham Gulch before 2016 Hardrock

AJW training above Cunningham Gulch before the 2016 Hardrock 100. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

AJW and Carson during 2016 Hardrock 100

AJW and his son Carson during on Little Giant, between Cunningham and Silverton, during the 2017 Hardrock 100. Photo courtesy of AJW.