Thursday, January 05, 2006

Reading About Dean, Mr Ultra

I don't get it. I'm 2/3's into the book, a fast read (let's face it we're not talking literary genius here) but I can't seem to understand this drive he has. Or rather, I must honestly say I'm playing armchair psychiatrist and am judging him--and not with the healthy thoughts I think of my fellow running bloggers out there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a runner, I loooove running. Running for me helps me feel more alive and helps me spend the time alone I need with myself. And running the marathon hurt, and you bet I'll do it again. But this......???

" was a gloririous moment nonetheless--I'd just qualified for the Western States 100!
On shaky legs, I stumbled to the finishers' tent and received a ribbon and a few handshakes and slaps on the back. Then I lumbered painfully to my car. When I plopped down on the leather seats, my legs went strangely cold. Something wasn't right. Then, without warning, the quadriceps and calf muscles of both legs seized in wicked cramps. My torso swung violently left, and then wildly back to the right. My legs were pegged to the floorboard, completely rigid. All ten toes were locked in place, forcefully curled against the soles of my shoes. My calf muscles were tight as baseballs, and my thighs were like solid planks of wood. The pain was mind-bending, pounding, entirely owning every drop of me. Sweat poured down my face, and I screamed at the top of my lungs. "

He continues on...finishing the Western States, nine times altogether! And on and on....200-mile runs, a South Pole Marathon and a 300-mile run. I don't mean to diminish what he's accomplished, he truly is an amazing athlete, but this is more than just enjoying and loving to run. Dare I say seems sick!

Throughout the book, he attempts to answer the question he is asked at the beginning of the book by a pizza delivery man who brings him a pizza out on the road...."So Dude, do you mind me asking why you're doing this?" (I have a great visual going on of this pizza guy....far out man!!) And in the end, he answers it (yes I peeked....I'm like with it). And I'm even happy with his final line, I could use it to answer the question myself. But I can't help saying that it all felt wrong to me. That his running was not for the pure love of the sport, there was a deep, dark side to it. An area in his life that needing to be cured, a devastating pain that needed tending. One that could be better accomplished by seeking out a therapist and healing himself. Though, I know I've worked issues out on my runs, but there's more here than that.

Or am I missing something?? And don't tell me I have no right to judge him. We all do that. Screw the politically correct crap. I don't buy into it. We're freaking humans, for God's sake, not machines. (And ya know what....I'm a Jew and I don't need the last two weeks to be referred to as the "Holiday Season" either. Oh Please...I have never been offended by Xmas and never will. pffffft)

So...your thoughts??


Bolder said...

hmmmm... I haven't read the book, but, I know the man for the job... I'll see if I can get the UCMS Commodore to dock in your port...

Comm's said...

I read the book and have followed Dean's progress for awhile. He is an interesting case study.

I think any rational person reads the book and goes, "Whoa!" thats too far out there for me. Even as an endurance athlete I look at that stuff and go, Whoa thats out there.

But deep down, deep down, we all wish we had the fortitude to do it. The ability, as uncanny as it is, whatever it is, to be definitive in an extreme way. His is running.

He admits he is not a very gifted runner. He admits he would never win a marathon. He wasn't even the first person to break running 300 miles, it was Pam Reed, who I appreciate, ripped Dean off. Scott Jurek is the current King of Ultra endurance.

What I think makes Dean so 'Whoa' is that I think he does have some issues that he doesn't talk about, he keeps the true demons locked tight. Let me give you another example of this. Remember Dr. Death, (Kervorkian). Everyone was so motified by his creation and his participation. My mom always looked at him and said, "Look at him, he has some disease or something and is doing this to assage his own pain." Remember he did look like death warmed over.

Anyway, in October Dean ran 350 straight miles in 80 hours. Lately he has seemed much more humble about his running and thats a good thing, it puts the OCD in the closet.

Brooklyn said...

I haven't read his book, but I can't help but thinking, "hey, maybe sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Dirt Runner said...

I read his book in two nights. I enjoyed his journey running the WS100 and Badwater 135. Both of those races are on my list of things to do. The rest of it he could have left out. People who ultras are always searching for something. Most of the time we die trying to find it. As soon as I finished my first marathon I was looking for something else. I thought 26.2 was enough, it's not. I didn't even enjoy the finish. I think when I finally stand before GOD when I die and he says, "you did ok kid" then I will rest. But until then I'm still searching. Both in running and in life.

Susan said...

oh my - I've never red that book. I'll have to get it now after those comments

jeanne said...

hey lora, thanks for your thoughtful comment. and yeah, i agree, this seems a wee bit...obsessive, and yeah the guy is probably workin' out a few probs...

And YES you are allowed to have an opinion! (especially when it agrees with mine. and no i haven't read the book. But that's never stopped me before!)

Lora said...

Thanks all for helping me understand the drive of an Ultra much better. And just an FYI, I reserve the right to maybe one day be one!! ;)

Black Knight said...

Forget him and don't follow his steps or instead of finding that armchair (psychiatrist) we could get a weelchair for our poor legs!

brent d. said...

You left out the most shocking part about how after his legs locked up he got sick, managed to finally open the car door and fell out on his face. That's just crazy.

Right before I pulled up your blog I was actually upstairs looking for my copy because I wanted to reread it. I got an Advanced Copy (I work for a book company) 1.5 years ago and I just got it because it sounded interesting. I had never even heard of ultra running. I was only able to run 1 or 2 miles then and, after I read it... I wanted to run more. I wanted to go further.

Some may say that he was a sellout or that he's got big issues... but I just look at him (and all of these other Ultra Runners) as inspiration. How can I complain and give up after 10 or so miles into my run when there are people out there running 100+ miles.

But... yeah, I think he is a little off his rocker. =)

iliketoast said...

Ultra runners are different and if locking your legs up and falling flat on your face is your thing, then so be it.

When others regularly say I'm nuts for running a marathon or two it makes little difference to me. I do it because it makes me happy.

Sheila said...

I read Dean's book and have read many others by ultrarunners (most recent is "Angeles Crest: A Memoir" by Michael Modzelewski--if you want to see "out there" read that one. I LOVED it). I am fascinated by the levels to which ultrarunners get inside their own heads. It's where I feel I am most of the time, and you know I'm nowhere near Dean's level (yet?).

I think the guy is just making a little money off of his writing. NOBODY who does this stuff can share 100% what goes through their head/why they are doing what they do.

Why does it seem to you to be that he's running away from something? How many people do you know with jobs that are not particularly satisfying, but hey, they pay the bills? Is doing that any more or less psychosocially good or bad? I don't think you can judge it.

The average person hides behind "regular life" and what's expected of them--grow up, get married, have kids, sacrifice for the kids, sacrifice for "the man," get older, out of shape and die while not having lived vigorously. Why is is that we don't ask EVERYMAN "why are you doing what you do?"

Dean is merely living vigorously. There can be pure joy in it. There can be much to discover from it. It's hard to describe it to another person.

I, too, wish to live vigorously, and by doing so, I do not owe any person an explanation of why, nor do I judge myself or anyone else as better or less than me.

No, we are not machines, but we WERE designed for physical activity, much more than most of us do. To be able to celebrate through physical activity every day is a true gift.

I think it's just as cool to want to run farther and farther as it is to be part of a team seeking to "find" the next largest prime number. If you have to ask either type of person what the value is in what they are doing, maybe they can't tell you, but so what?

Shelley said...

Whoa some people might think he's crazy, but what about people who sit at a desk 40hrs/week/52 weeks x 17 years..yeah that's me..35,360hrs sitting behind a desk..that's crazy!!! What he enjoys doing..isn't "that" crazy!!

Jack said...

I may have to get the book, sounds like it would be a good read.