Thursday, January 31, 2013

Connection Isn't a Buzzword: The Lost Art of Respect (and Basic Humanity)

I am 29 years old, and that means a few things.

At one point, I seriously rocked shoulder pads. I have a profound respect for all things 1980. There was a time when Matchbox 20 was my favorite band.  I had to wait until 2006 to see the Cards win a World Championship. Unfortunately, I’ll be 30 in a month in a half.  

And most notably, I went through high school without a cell phone and college without Facebook.

Am I going to go on a rant here?  That is not the intention, but probably yes.  Will I seriously date myself in the process?  In that case, allow me to break out my rickety old man pants. 

This is a photo I took of Dom.
There is a definite situation at hand, and I’d like to sum it all up by stating that people don’t know how to treat people anymore.  And while ultrarunning certainly attracts the exception to that statement and comprise the majority of my friends and acquaintances associated with the sport, the whole thing is growing beyond anyone’s control.  People have actually heard of running 100 miles in the mountains.  People have actually seen pictures of Killian and Tony K or Ellie and Anna in magazines.  And people certainly have something to say about it.

Good. Great.  Awesome, actually!  Opinions are always welcome, different viewpoints are encouraged, and healthy debate is what drives us all towards progress.  But all too often, I encounter legitimate bashing, trashing and smashing, which always elicits the same response from me, “I mean, WHO SAYS THAT?!”

I myself have been a victim of backhanded trash talking online; I’ve been misrepresented, misquoted and misinterpreted.  And while it sucks, it’s nothing compared to what the real stars of our sport are going through.  Have you ever perused the comments on irunfar (before Bryon or Meghan get to them and enforce that shit)?  Worse yet, have you ever heard of letsrun?  It’s insane.  Absolutely insane.

You know what else is insane?  Having a coffee with someone whose nose is buried in their phone the entire time, and possibly even answers a phone call.

You know what else is insane?  Being more concerned about “checking in” to where you are, rather than checking it out.

You know what ELSE is insane?  Finding out your only brother is engaged on Facebook.

Here is my point:

What J Timbs and I are trying to say is, GET OFF YOUR ####ING iPHONE!  No, but what I’m really trying to say is: Ayo, I am a person who exists and has feelings and emotions and appreciates real human connection.  My Facebook contains images of me, not me.  My Twitter handle is only a very millifraction of the thoughts consuming my actual, tangible brain.  My blog is just some shit I wanted to remember and write about. Unless we have physically met, spoken and hugged, you don’t know me.  I don’t know you. But when we do, please realize that you are sharing a moment with me, in real physical form.  Please do not value a photo on Instagram over the minutes of my time I am giving you.  Please join me in living in the moment, rather than documenting it.  Please question me, get to know me, rather than think you have me all figured out based on one sentence you read somewhere online.  Please learn how to be human again.

In your speak, OMG I’m not LOLing here. U srsly need to stop.

Here’s my theory on this:
I am part of a very distinct nano-generation who has gone through the two periods of life most responsible for social development having to complete said development entirely face to face.  Computers weren’t even “a thing” until the end of middle school, and all I really remember about that is breaking a fucking axle when I was trying to ford the river EVERY. TIME.  The internet wasn’t really rocking until high school, and even that was dial-up and everyone knew the CD-Rom encyclopedia you got when you bought a Hewlett-Packard was better for research anyway.  My junior year, I bought a pager so that I could type 55378008 to my friends (hint: look at that upside down); although I soon realized it really just served as a tracking device for my parents.  I got a cell phone for Christmas my senior year, but don’t get too excited.  It’s greatest feature was “Snake.” 

Point is, if you wanted to meet with your friends, you had to get on the phone or (gasp!) walk to their houses and make legitimate plans.  You spent time together.  When you went out, you saved your photos preciously because you only had so many before the film ran out, and it cost money to develop.  You shared time together, rather than sharing the evidence.  You were only friends with people you had legitimately met and had contact with.

Furthermore, if you didn’t like someone, there was a whole host of things you could do to make their life miserable, including, but not limited to:  getting in a fight, TPing their house, passing notes making fun of them or making them sit alone at lunch.  All of these are terrible, no doubt, but the reach only went so far.  There was no, say, network of billions worldwide that could get in on “the fun.”  And if you wanted to say something, for all intents and purposes, you had to say it to their face… or at least to a face that would inevitably tell the intended face.  And you had to use YOUR name and YOUR likeness.  There was no sk8ergrl to hide behind.

I took that neon green Nokia, to which I’d glued little tiny rhinestones to the buttons, off to college with me and it was certainly helpful for making plans and calling home for free.  (Family Plan FTW).  Mind you, you still had to CALL me if you wanted to make plans.  Text messaging was like 20 cents per and there was no way I was paying for that shit.  While I eventually upgraded to a color screen flip variety, I never owned a phone with internet capabilities.  Besides, all I’d use that for would be to check game scores, but instead I just asked someone.  Anyone.  (Gasp!) a stranger.

By senior year, Gmail came out and I was beginning to use that a little more regularly for things beyond school, work and applying for jobs.  It became a legitimate way to inform people of happenings and I was part of many an “email chain.”  Here was born my disdain for the Reply All.  I believe it was this year that I also signed up for a MySpace account, although I had no idea why I was doing it and found the whole thing quite creepy.  Then when Facebook came out only a few months later, my mind was blown.  Why do I need all this shit? 

Subsequently, I went through what is arguably the most important “coming into one’s own” phase of my life, solely interacting with people face to face.  If I didn’t know the answer to something, I asked a person.  I had to leave my room if I wanted to “connect” and “make friends.”  I took a few photos here and there.  I documented things I wanted to remember by hand in a scrapbook.  And the rest of my time was spent living my life.  I never had a smartphone, I never texted, I found the new social networks to be creepy and Chat Rooms were for losers.

Sure, many folks my age have jumped head first into the new age of digital connection and have no qualms nor questions about how the way they behave as a fundamental human being has changed.  Many folks older have done the same.  But I am in a weird place.  On one hand, I love the way Facebook and Twitter and my iPhone and the likes have allowed me to stay in touch with family and friends.  I love the way it allows me to share my passion for ultrarunning with people all over the country.  I love how it helps me get my writing out to the masses.  I honestly have no idea how I ever survived without the Google Maps App.  I work at a digital ad agency, for chrissakes. But on the other hand, it deeply angers me when someone pays more attention to their phone than the person in front of them.  I hate being put on call waiting.  I have a limit on how far our conversation can go via text, and I’ll never understand why when I eventually just call you, you don’t answer and then send me a text asking why I called.  I honestly think about every single image and every single word I tweet, post or otherwise share.  Will someone possibly interpret it the wrong way?  Could it be hurtful or negatively affect someone else?  Is it my best grammar or is it the most effective way to say that?  Why am I even posting this anyway?  I honestly let every single letter and every little pixel sit in the queue before I hit send, and I often edit or delete entirely.  In short, I think about what I’m saying because I deeply understand that once I put it out there, I’m never fully getting it back.  And my reach is now further and deeper than I ever could have imagined. 

The sad part is, I honestly believe that Social Networking has become such an integral part of most of our lives that people don’t even think twice, and they certainly don’t analyze it all the way I have.  While I am appalled at groups of college girls around a table, all on their iPhones, they likely don’t find it rude because it’s just the way things are now.  While I find it horribly strange that the brother of mine shares news of engagement and arrival in St. Louis on Facebook (before calling my dad and I who were waiting at the airport to pick him up), he likely sees it as a great tool for communication.  And for all intents and purposes, it worked, and at the end of the day, my happiness at either situation was not adversely affected.  But my fear is that people are not taking the time to fully understand the implications of their opinions not being shared solely with the person.  When you write on a wall or leave a comment, it’s seen and interpreted by many others.  And it’s documented FOREVER.  If only the entire world had a Bryon and Meghan, but alas, it doesn’t. 

Act accordingly.


If you, yourself, believe that you may have lost a bit of touch with your humanity or need a refresher course on what it means to be a truly good person, I’d invite you to take 19 minutes of your day to listen to this.  It’s Bob Costas’s eulogy at Stan Musial’s funeral, who was not only one of the greatest baseball players to ever live, but considered one of the all time greatest men by those that knew him and the city that loved him deeply.  I love this, in particular:

“(Thanks to Stan) We understood that it’s more important to be appreciated than to be glorified; to be respected than to be celebrated; to be understood and loved than to be idolized; and that friendship is more important than fame.” –Bobby C

In this case, let’s stay in touch on Facebook, please tweet your race updates, we’ll all share beautiful, inspiring photos of mountains we should all climb.  I’ll continue to write this blog, you continue to write yours and comments are always welcome.  Text me, bro.  But for the love of all things holy, look up. 

Understand that it’s more important to be regarded than to be retweeted; to be legitimately well liked rather than “liked”; to go actually hang out than to go viral; and that friendship can never be truly formed by clicking a button.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Brain Used to Hate Me: The Freedom in Confronting Your Own Story

The last time I hooked up with Jimmy’s posse for a syncroblog topic, I talked a lot about losing some things (people, interests, etc.) from my pre-ultrarunning self.  I spoke of the guilt I feel for this and perhaps positioned them as things I miss, and to a certain degree this is fact.  But the truth is, I like myself better this way.  I get more out of life, and the people and opportunities it has created are something I never would have imagined.

There are a lot of great stories out there about how running, and more particularly ultrarunning have saved a lot of great folks from the likes of addiction, depression, unhealthy habits and the works.  For me, the reason why I have the things I mentioned above is because ultrarunning saved me from the worst kind of beast I could ever imagine.


To demonstrate, I give you my own story of how I got into distance running and my best attempt at brevity.

I started running cross-country and track in high school – 4’s and 8’s were my jam; I thought cross-country was WAAAAAY too long.  Five kilometers?!  For the birds.  I suppose it was telling that the one thing I really loved about cross-country were the “nature runs” – days where we ran on trails.  Anyway, eventually the competitiveness and pressure got to me, culminating in being tripped on my last big race my senior year and not going to state.  My world had basically ended, and I now think I have a good reason why – but I’ll save that for the dramatic reveal.  That’s how these blog things work.

For my next trick, I quit running forever – which basically meant that I still ran, but only to make sure I could drink beer and still look good in my sequin half tops (I was on my college dance team – the University of Missouri Golden Girls).  In retrospect, I still looked pretty awful, but I think that was more related to wearing sequins and boots from the 70s.

Eventually, I met a boy, as many of us do in our sororal days, and eventually that boy “broke my heart” –as many of them also do.  Towards the end of that “relationship,” I began searching for something else to make me feel great and wonderful and all of that shit, so naturally, I chose running a marathon.  I’d show him and I’d show everyone.  I’d also pass out on the Katy Trail out in McBaine, due to my lack of knowledge on eating or drinking on a 20 mile run in 105 degree heat and humidity steaming up from the river – but well, that was all part of the process I guess.

A week after the marathon, I was arrested for a DUI.  A few weeks later, I discovered said boy with another girl in his bed.  Within a few weeks of that, I was full on depressed.  There are a million details surrounding that, but they are all inconsequential, considering that I believe I now know why I sought out all of those activities and relationships and the running I had now fully turned to.

The need for validation.

I loved running track, because I loved the way I felt when I won.  When I was “the best” on any given day.  I cracked under that very pressure to be the best when it became quite certain that I wasn’t the “absolute best” and likely never would be.  After that, life became a coping game of discovering that I really wasn’t the best at anything and that all the hard work in the world wasn’t going to change that.  I had believed in my heart that I could be anything, everything, and I was crushed to discover that by comparison, I felt to be nothing.  Of course, I had no idea at the time, but suffice it to say that I had the general feeling of sucking at life.*
*I feel the need to add that this came ENTIRELY from within, and no one else was making me feel this way. I had probably the most supportive parents and family anyone could ask for and a lot of great friends who thought I was perfectly wonderful the way that I was.

Hence came the need to find things to validate me.  To make me feel that I was enough and I was the most desirable in just one aspect of my life.  Just one, dammit.  That was dancing – and I failed.  That was my college boyfriend – and I failed.  So for awhile, I drank to forget.  Mind you, I don’t actually think I drank anymore than any college kid – probably less – but my point is that I don’t really think my penchant for going out and boozing was just to have fun.  In fact, I think there is a much deeper reason why many collegiates party hard, including, but not limited to alcohol, drugs and sex (but not rock and roll – rock and roll is always a good idea) – even though they’d think you were some crazy psych major if you ever mentioned it to them at the time.  Myself included.

At some point along my short stint in depression, but after a long four years of self-hatred and self-doubt,  I came to a realization that to this day I credit as the switch for all future self-discovery.  So much so that I have a tattoo on my right wrist to serve as a constant reminder.  It was simply this:

You always have a choice.  ALWAYS.

What that meant at the time was that I was actively choosing to be miserable.  I had become comfortable playing the victim and was too scared to try anything else, just to likely fail at “being the best” yet again.  Also during this time I started to run a lot more, partly because my driving privileges had been revoked, but mainly because I really, truly loved it.  The farther and harder I went, the more “validated” I felt.  And I now fully understand why.  The goals I was setting were related to me and me alone.  I’ve never run this far before!  I’ve never run this many miles in a week!  I’ve never run up that many hills without walking!  I had no one to compare myself to, and that was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Of course, again, I didn’t know that at the time, which is why I continued to struggle with that lack of true belief in and satisfaction with myself for the next seven years or so.  I moved to Los Angeles and toiled to prove myself as a writer and develop my career in creative advertising.  I had been “one of the best” in my graduating class, but now I was just a small fish in a very, very big pond.  And there were sharks in this pond.  Lots of ‘em.  I didn’t date much, and chalked that up to not being pretty or interesting enough for someone to be interested in.  I was a girl from Missouri in LA, for chrissakes.  I did continue running, however, and really was enjoying this marathon thing.  Being “the best” was so far off my radar that just finishing and improving my time was fulfilling and worthwhile.  In a way, running was what really kept me together and hopeful.

Ah, but eventually, I happened upon something more than a marathon – something farther and harder – and of course, that seemed like the natural progression for my self-worth meter.  An ultramarathon.  I had to try this and I had to complete this.  A 50k, a 50miler… 100 freaking miles!  I did them all, and I felt wonderfully whole upon each finish.  I DID IT.  And that was enough.

The only problem is, that I was kind of good at it.  I was finishing towards the top, and naturally that competitive drive kicked in – if I could be the almost best on my first try, I could definitely be the very best with some more training!  This was wonderful!  I had found my calling.

Unfortunately, now, just doing my best and finishing was no longer enough.  My sophomore race in every distance went exactly horribly.  I finished feeling ashamed and angry at myself, rather than happy and accomplished.  For the next few years, I never really felt satisfied.  These feeling persisted in both my professional and personal life as well.

Until 2012.

I began the year recovering from knee surgery, so being “the best” was again, so far removed from my reality it wasn’t even funny.  That said, I went ahead and signed up for races – mainly because I had entered my name in some lotteries before the surgery – but still, I moved forward with just training the best that I could.  I had missed being physically able to run all day, and the act of simply doing that was enough. Yes, it was enough.  I had grown to love running in the mountains to that degree.

So here’s where I tell you how I had a year of setbacks, but mentally forged on and learned to be okay with that, right?  Well… not exactly.  My first race back was a 50k in March, and I won.  Then I set a 50 mile PR on one of the toughest courses in the country.  There was also a 100 mile PR and a 100 mile win and course record.  In between all of this there was a kidney infection, a calf strain, a bout of giardia and some extreme adrenal fatigue.  So what the freaking freak, right?

Well, if you look back at any of my race reports from last year, you’ll discover a common theme in that dramatic reveal I spoke of (which I’m getting to now, brevity again failed).  In each and every race, I’d only set goals relative to myself.  I approached each and every race as a first, and I ran as if I was alone in the mountains, rather than surrounded by hundreds either in front of or behind me.  I did what I set out to do and I was happy in its truest form.  That brand of validation came from within.  Which I now understand is the only place from which it may truly exist.

Also in 2012, my relationship bloomed into the most wonderful, amazing partnership I’ve ever known.  Whomever “they” are, they say that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else.  While I hate all things cliché, this has become one of the truest things I have ever known.  No other person or thing was ever going to fill that hole I had, and until I patched that shit myself, all I was giving anyone was a broken piece of crap.  Now, I’m literally brimming with love so much so that my hugs can be lethal.  I will literally squeeze the shit out of you.

What’s left is that I feel confident in my friendships.  I feel confident in my career, although I’ll freely admit, I could stand to change some things in 2013 on that front.  My life is not perfect and I’m certainly not the best ultrarunner, copywriter, cook or looking chick on the planet.  But I’ll be damned if I’m not the best I’ve ever been.  And while I have an innate drive to achieve more, which is the very thing that likely caused the previous demise of my own self-worth, I now understand how to harness that power and use it for good rather than evil.  And here’s how I know that at 29 years of age, I finally get it: 

Those wins I spoke of - the days where I was "the best?" 

They didn't feel any different.

This photo represents me escaping the confines of my own twisted and fucked up brain.
(taken by a dude who has experienced this fully)


"History of Jimmy" Lesson - Jimmy Dean Freeman

Ashley Ain't Frontin' - Ashley Walsh

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Math and Goal Setting: Things I am now good at!

According to Dr. Anders Ericsson, it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert at something.1

By my imprecise, handwritten in a notebook calculations, I spent about 642 hours running this year.  At this rate, it will take me 15 full years to get any good at this thing, and since I've only been at it hard for 3 1/2 years plus another few of marathon running and 4 years of high school track and cross-country, I'd figure I have at least another 9-10 years to go.  By contrast, working 40+ hours a week in Advertising has me acing this shit in only 5 years, which means I was an expert over a year ago.  If you are wondering if this fact is effective in getting you a raise, the answer is no.

Ahhhh, a life well spent.

Seriously though, the reason I even bring this up is because everyone is posting all these mileage totals and averages and other such forms of mathematics, and I can no longer hide the fact that I, too, have calculated my shit.  And given that I did this all by hand, including full on long division in my head, I'm quite proud.  Not necessarily of the numbers.  But of my solid scholarly effort.  My pops always said calculators and computers were for the weak.

Put it on Pinterest, bitches.
Truth is, the numbers and trends were pretty much what I expected.  I hit it hard in the first half of the year, racking up a solid 1,700 miles and averaging 14,000 feet of climb per week - even with tapers and recovery weeks factored in.  Given that I was simultaneously rehabbing my knee from surgery, this seems pretty good.  And then the second half of the year hit, which was, how do you say... unimpressive.  Given all the crazy health problems (kidneys, adrenals and a bout of giardia) I was having at the end of the summer/early fall I'm actually surprised I still snuck a few good months and a successful race in there.  Going into that one (OT100), I honestly was concerned about my ability to even run a full 100 miles. As for the numbers,  let's just say that I definitely negative split my year.

That said, here's my favorite stat (because yes, I totally nerded out with an entire notebook filled with raw data at my disposal):  A full month of my year was spent running and cross-training.  I don't know why, but I really like the sound of that.  I'm also NOT going to do the math on working... ugh, yes I am.  It's like three months.  Gross.  Which leads me to wonder, what in the world was I doing those other 8 months?  Eww, probably a lot of it was sleeping.  Like 4 months! Of just lying around doing nothing!  OHMYGOD I NEED TO STOP.

That said, 2012 held some great stuff as well, so I'll spend the next two sentences reflecting on that.  I won a 50k in March that I decided to do the day before with a knee still not fully healed from surgery, I ran a faster time at Miwok than the last time I ran it, despite the fact that it was a harder and longer course and even though I consider it my worst race of the year.  I also ran a 50 mile PR on the hardest course I've ever done (Old Goats), still with a bum knee and only 6 days after running the LA marathon with my dad.  As for the hundos, I got my silver buckle at Western States, breaking 24 hours for the first time, and then won and set a course record at the Ozark Trail 103.1.  There, I actually ran 105 miles, so that is officially the longest I've ever run in one stretch.  Okay, that was actually four sentences.

There was also some great non-performance by me, but still running stuff, like the aforementioned running of the marathon with my old man (his first), the week in Silverton and pacing Dom at Hardrock, finally pacing my girl, Kate, at AC100 like I always was supposed to (damn you Station Fire of 2009!), and pacing my hero, Suzanna, to a course record at Chimera100.  Probably my favorite thing of 2012 though was all the time we spent exploring the Eastern Sierras - including my first Whitney ascent (6 days before Western States) and my first backpacking trip (the Evolution Loop with Dom and Chamoun).  Then there was also the first annual Team RWB Trail Running Camp, which was amazing to be a part of.  To summarize, here are some fun photos of me basking in other people's glory:

Hardrock - photo: Steve Lewis, Durango Herald

Angeles Crest - photo: Silvia Elena Beckmann

Chimera 100 - photo: Dom

Monica's 1st Ultra at TNF50k - photo: someone using my camera

Now comes the part where I tell you about my big goals for 2013 and how excited I am to approach them with great fervor now that the calendar year has risen anew!  But first, a story:

'Twas the night before the new year, and Dom and I were napping in the Volvo.  We planned to rise at 10:45pm for an 11pm departure from Red Box to the top of Mt. Wilson.  The road was iced over, we were wearing a million layers and carrying a large bottle of Chimay and the gate at the observatory would undoubtedly be locked, meaning our location for celebration was uncertain and needing to be determined before the clock struck midnight.  An hour to climb about 1,000 feet in 4.5 miles and deal with all the above seemed reasonable, plus cushion, so at 11:05pm I remained unfazed by Dom's unreadiness to embark.

When we finally left 20 minutes later, I was concerned. We now had 35 minutes to get to the top and my legs were sufficiently wrecked from snowshoeing all day without snowshoes.  Dom attempted to combat this by telling me he thought it was only like 3 miles to the top, which is cute that he thinks I don't understand all the maps I own.  It's also cute that he thinks the experiences of showing up to the starting line of Old Goats this year as the gun was going off or having to literally run to the airport with all my baggage to make our flight to Missouri are forgotten.  I don't let Dom determine departure times, but in this case, he was dead set on finding his headlamp and at the end of the day... ahem, year... my main concern was being together.

Dom's gear choice for fresh, deep powder:  snowshoes
My gear choice for fresh, deep powder:  Z-poles...  for making glitter!

But for now, my main concern was getting my stiff, puffy jacketed ass to the top of that mountain.  When I thought of our new year's celebration together, I had imagined us casually arriving at the summit, popping some champagne and copious amounts of laughter.  Instead, I was sweating through all the layers I was wearing and my legs were on fire. There was copious amounts of swearing.  When we hit the saddle at Mt. Lowe Road, we only had 15 minutes to get to the top.

Should we just wait here at the saddle?
No!   I said I was going to be on the top of this mountain at midnight and I'm not about to stop just because you couldn't find your headlamp WHICH YOU'RE NOT EVEN USING BY THE WAY!

And so we carried on this way, myself in a great deal of pain and even Dom himself not exactly having an easy time.  He encouraged me, I told him I hated him and our romantic New Year's Eve tryst continued blissfully up Mt. Wilson Road.  Three minutes... two... one...

I don't even really recall midnight, as I was too busy trying to breathe.  We'd reached the final turn when the clock ran out and we stopped to acknowledge the moment before walking the final quarter mile to the top. Then my legs gave out and I found myself lying on my back, looking at the icy clear sky and crying.  I'd run as hard as I could, but I didn't make it.  My first goal of the year, and I didn't freaking make it.  Also, I felt like I was going to puke.

Dom thought this all wildly amusing and fun.  He was failing to recognize the horrible omen that had just been cast for 2013, and instead was focusing on getting himself out of trouble for causing the late start and the obvious demise of my year.  Here are a few examples of his failed attempts:

We ran into the New Year!  That's exactly what we wanted to be doing; not standing still!
Running hard is an omen for all the great training ahead!
This is just like Western States!  Robie Point, panda!  Robie Point!

And my personal fave, the ever dramatic:
We are supposed to be uncomfortable because that's how we live our lives.

No Dom, you live in Orange County and I live in Brentwood.  Fucking Brentwood.  We have to find uncomfortable things because our daily lives, by definition, are too comfortable.  That said, running and camping on a 28 degree evening to celebrate New Year's rather than dressed up and drinking at a party in the city was as far as I had hoped to go.

"But we didn't make it to the top!" I pleaded.

And then Dom on the rebuttal, "Well is 2013 the end goal here?  Or are we going to keep going and keep getting faster and stronger for years to come?"

Well.... shit.  That actually makes sense.

Chim-pagne for all people that didn't pass out!
So, as much as I want to sit here and tell you about all my wondrous goals for 2013, I can't.  Because the reality is that my real, true goals extend far beyond this year.  Future shit.  It's intense.  Now, while I obviously have some short-term items on the block this year, my point is that I'm not going to make those singular items my absolute focus.  They're more of a progress meter, and I certainly don't expect to reach my absolute maximum human potential as an ultrarunner this year.  And that's a pretty generally hopeful thing when you think about it.  
Requisite "contemplating future goals" photo
The best thing I learned from the last three years of training is NOT to get all jazz-ma-tazzed and sparkly eyed in January.  Because when I'm behaving like a love-sick schoolgirl, I get CRUSHED like a love-sick schoolgirl.  And no amounts of MASH is gonna fix that shit.*  Point being is that for the last three years I have started a log of my training on January 1st and begun filling it with little scribbles like 27 miles, or 26,000 feet on the week, or fastest split eva!  (I'm just kidding. I don't ever write ever as eva.  Ever.) Then, by oh say, end of February, early March, I start noticing things like, really tired today. SO weird!  or a felt sluggish up the climb or slept 13 hours and ate ALL OF THE THINGS.  By the end of the year, I abandon the log entirely, because I can't bear to look at the breakdown.
*You can still try though.  You're welcome.

Now, maybe it's my old age speaking... I'll be 30 in a few months, so that means I'll be even smarter ... (and also will simultaneously own a house, be out of debt and a mother of two, according to beliefs retained from childhood), but anyway - maybe I'm starting to learn something here.  Could it be that I might have overdone it a bit in those first few months of the year?  Never!  But probably, yes.  So might it be wise to show a little reserve here in the fledgeling days of the new year? And will I actually do that?

Well, that's the plan.  More specifics on that:  a) I actually finished my 2012 log all the way through, and b) I registered for a few early season races.  Now, this makes me entirely uneasy, because I want to feel like I'm on my A game for every race and I can assure you that this will not be the case come February.  BUT, these races will certainly ensure that I don't fall into some psycho ass training block where I derive great joy out of beating myself into submission for two months and then much to my dismay, encounter just that.  Instead, I'll have to remain calm, collected and obey a gradual ramp up to my year.  For example, I only ran 65 miles on the first week of 2013... as opposed to the usual, oh say, 90.  I know that if I jump right into 90+ mile weeks with over 20k of ups, I'll be toast come the Ray Miller 50 miler on February 2nd.  Then I'll also require a longer recovery, taking away from training for The Three Days of Syllamo Stage Race in mid-March, which is supposed to be prime training for Zane Grey 50 miler at the end of April.  And so shall go the rest of the year...  By May and June, 90+ mile and closer to 30k vertical weeks should be more appropriate and a perfect block heading into my favorite race in all the land: the Angeles Crest 100.

Gosh, this all looks so good on paper!
Fig. A

Now, as for the implementation phase, welp, wish me some luck.  So far so good, and we're already 0.019th of the way through the year!  The fortunate news is that if I need some motivation or clarity, I need only look back to this past, largely successful year of wins and PRs and achieving my goals in races. You know why 2012 went so well for me?  Because I was as patient as whatever is the exact opposite of me sitting in traffic on Friday evening. (Fig. A)  Having surgery on my knee lowered my expectations, and as a result, the amount of pressure I put on myself to BE GREAT. RIGHT NOW.  Instead it was all about just being at least a little bit greater than I was before I fell into the yucca.  And not falling into any more yuccas.  To demonstrate, I'd like to show you my aforementioned mathematical skills:

Me > Everyone in the World ≠ The Goal

Me > Old Me = The Goal

Pretty simple, huh?

This should be attainable, considering that I'm starting 2013 off in a much better place than last.  In other words, I can actually run without limping.  I took a good break after Ozark in November, only running when I felt like it and no intense workouts for almost 2 full months.  The result is maintaining a decent base, but kicking shit off uninjured and free of plants, save a little bit of random, non-dibilitating plantar and some purple poodle on my eyelids. (I can still see.  It just looks like I'm wearing pink eyeshadow. Permanently.)  

In summation, my focus for 2013 all goes back to the whole would you rather win one specific race or continue improving at racing in general for years to come?  And since I'm told that the answer cannot be both, I'm going to have to go with B.  Cheers to that.

Enjoying the nose hemorrhage seats for the Rose Bowl

Kicking off the winter training something proper-like

In other news:

Did I forgive Dom for the New Year incident?  Mostly.
Am I at peace with how I spent my midnight?  Now that I can breathe, yes.
Can I inflict the same pain unto Dom which was inflicted unto me?  Unfortunately, no.
But do I know people who can? Absolutely, yes.

Watch yo' back, man.

1. Google it or read the book "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.