Reflections on The Dirty Duel


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This morning I raced in a 5-6K trail run that gave runners two options: "short and brutal" or "longer and a little less brutal." The two options were intended to represent equivalent opportunities. I chose the short course.

I did something I never do before a race: I warmed up. I'm now convinced this is essential--particularly in a 5K race. I ran 25 minutes of trail from 8:00-8:25 prior to the 9:00 a.m. start. I broke a good sweat but wasn't even close to feeling fatigue, just warmed up. The idea (I had read) was to get the heart rate up and prepare the body so that it didn't have to shift through all the warm-up gears during the race. I certainly felt that at the 9:00 gun I could run my faster pace in the first mile without getting way out ahead of my aerobic system.

The race went well. I was second in my 50+ age group, and I felt up to the challenge. I also like the $15 Gazelle gift certificate I won.

Maybe the lingering thoughts I have from the day are about the nature of competition. Competition is an age-old human calling. Some people seem to have the bug more than others. I think I'm kind of in the middle. I like to win; I like the emotional feeling of victory. I guess at some basic level it causes us to feel good about ourselves. And as everyone that has ever competed knows, competition functions on two levels: against the self and against others. It's socially acceptable to compete against the self, a little less so to compete against others--unless you are a gifted athlete, then everyone understands. If not, it appears . . . uh, "competitive" in the pejorative.

The people I run with work hard every week to become better runners. It is fun to see these folks compete and feel good about their accomplishments. Competitive or not, the thing that seemed to bind together the 400-plus runners there today, was the craving for accomplishment and the satisfaction of establishing benchmarks and personal records.

Having endured, feels good. I think that's a big part of why we are there. We all run multiple times each week, but there seems to be some craving to have moments of closing and satisfaction, to tie off a week or a month or several months of running with a permanent record that is archived somewhere on a website, recorded forever in the replicating power of cyberspace. It's less about how fast we run or the finishing place, but more about just pulling together countless running threads into one final event. Then we start again. Our next run is a kind of new beginning that will build over weeks, months (maybe for some even years) and then once again find its satisfaction and ending in some race somewhere.

We wear a clock chip when we run these races. The clock times mean something. They mean more than we might admit and perhaps more than we fully understand.


annedj's picture

Nice blog and good job on your race.

Nicely written, Dan! I'm a middle-of-the-pack runner and always will be as I limit my runs to 1-3 times/week (I enjoy my cross training too much and need to watch my knees). Like you, I think I fit in the middle of the competitive spectrum. When I sign up for most races, I typically "train" for 4-6 weeks prior to the event, but I always have a certain time I want to achieve and usually keep it to myself. It's that sense of accomplishment that I can totally control; I'm the limiting factor to my success ... not like at work or home when you can't control everything (though the Dirty Duel is an exception with the bottle neck on some sections … ahhh, SINGLE track!). I think that is why I “compete.” Congrats again on a well run race!
dan royer's picture

Yes, your sense is like mine here. There's something nice about organizing the daily runs around something, some event. Thanks for creating an account on our site. I know you do marketing for Patagonia, and that marketing reviews or promotions are different from users reviews, but I bet you have a lot to share about running, the business of running, the trail running community in W Mich, or just your own experience with trails. So consider keeping a blog here. I know that readers would value your perspective on this crazy business of running trails.

Thanks, Dan! I created the account not because of my job, but because I wanted to share my personal, not professional, thoughts. That said, if I do have something interesting to share, I will be sure to share it (thanks for the invitation). I failed to mention that I recently signed up for my first 50k, which means I do have to train for more than 6 weeks and run more than 1-2 times per week (I officially picked up the mileage and added back-to-backs this weekend ... man, that's a long time to listen to yourself think. If you saw someone at Seidman on Sunday wearing a goofy hat and running very slowly was me!). Darn you trail runners and ambassadors. Did you have to be such an inspiration? So humble, kind, welcoming and down-to-earth and leading me to believe that I can do it. I am pretty sure I will be one and done, but am grateful I have a few new friends that are joining me on this crazy journey (I did run the Riverbank ...once, and will not do it again. Pavement sucks!).