Zen On Dirt

Fits of Athletic Motivation


After running the Oracle 50k about a month ago and finishing in what I considered a fairly respectable time, I had a fit of what can only be described as Athletic Motivation. I was going to be a ultra runner! I’d learn how to actually descend efficiently and quickly, I’d run hills, I’d figure out how to run a mile faster than eight minutes. I started researching races in the area.

Let’s be a racer again!


Picking our way down Picketpost Mountain. My yearly scramble to see how my membership to Team Vertigo is going.

I have these fits of Motivation occasionally. I find myself wondering if it’s worth focusing on one thing and trying to do it really well and sacrificing in other areas of my life. Or if I’m better off bumbling along as I am now, taking up opportunities as they arise and being fairly to semi-competent at a bunch of things.

At least twice a year, I tell Scott, ‘I’m thinking about doing Tour Divide again,’ and he responds, ‘You just go ahead and keep thinking about it’ knowing full-on well that given 20 minutes, I’ll talk myself out of it.

I’m still in love with the romantic idea of Tour Divide. Less so with the actual nuts and bolts of making a fast ride across the country happen. I think of the prep time that goes into it. I think of the 2-3 weeks out on the route. I think of the recovery afterwards. Plus, those cold mornings. I hate cold mornings. I just hate cold, now that I think of it.


Desert rats in the Superstitions

But back to running…

I found a whole bunch of events that looked fun to do, mostly in the Phoenix area, which is fairly accessible for us. I wrote them down in my Google Calendar, checked registration pages to see how many spots were still available, pondered elevation profiles.


Off the beaten path in the Superstitions. Our “run” was maybe 13% running , 20% scrambling, 15% photos, and the rest hiking. 

And then I turned around to talk to Scott.

‘Hey, when are we going to go down to Patagonia to look at birds?’

‘Can we go to the Chiracahaus to go see those really cool rock formations?’

‘I’d really like to get up to Sedona soon to ride some red rocks and see friends.’

‘Alexis is coming to town in two weeks, we need to be in Tucson then.’

‘I need to set a date to do my Trans-Catalina Running Traverse.’


Route finding on slickrock, high in the Superstitions

And then I turned back around to look at my Google calendar. As of this writing, we have five or so more weeks left in Southern Arizona. I looked at the list of races I had written down, factored in the several days of rest needed before them and the several days of recovery needed after them, and then I look back at my bucket list of adventures I wanted to have with friends and realized that for all practical purposes, there was no having my cake and eating it too.

In the same way that I look at Tour Divide and instead of seeing an opportunity to race my bike down the spine of the continent, I see a summer of missed adventure opportunities, I looked at my calendar of running races in Arizona and saw only missed chances to do fun things with friends during the best months of the year in Tucson.

My Athletic Motivation balloon immediately deflated. I closed the windows with the race registrations.


The Flatiron overlooking Lost Dutchman State Park. Setting up a car shuttle for Scott leads to running from some neat trailheads

And I felt a little bad. Maybe I lack the commitment to focus on anything worthwhile anymore, you know, the whole, ‘If it’s easy, it’s not worth doing’ thing.

But I don’t think so. The whole ‘Be the best you can be’ approach to life just doesn’t work for me any more. I’ll take the ‘be 75% of the best you can be and keep the fun meter pegged at high.’


And if signing up for a race factors into the plan at some point in time, that could be fun too. And I’ll probably finish the race and say, ‘Now if I trained, I could get faster from here.’


I hadn’t seen Danielle since living in Boulder. Such fun to get to reunite in the Arizona desert.

And 20 minutes later, I’ll lose motivation and call a friend up to go adventure running with me.


2 thoughts on “Fits of Athletic Motivation

  1. On a similar though much smaller note, a few years ago a friend almost had me talked into doing an Ironman before the cost changed my mind. We then spent an entire summer with him missing almost every fun thing our group of friends did so he could do his scheduled training. I’ve never been so happy to have not registered for a race.

  2. Pingback: Screw Serious | Zen On Dirt

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