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Category: Road Race

Chronos vs Kairos

Chronos and Kairos are the two Greek gods of time. Everyone’s heard of Chronos, but they might be unaware of Kairos.  Chronos represents clock time, so hours, minutes, and seconds. Kairos is the god of the “critical,” or “opportune” time.  Kairos is about those fleeting moments in which an opportunity must be seized. He is the critical time in which decisions have far-reaching consequences, moments that can change the course of our lives in an instant.

Chronos was a road runner, Kairos was a trail runner.

Chronos and Kairos represent two distinct ways in which we experience time. If you’ve lost track of chronological time, you’ve encountered Kairos. He is present in the “flow” state, when you experience a deep sense of concentration. He is the sensation you get when time seems distorted. You have moments of Kairos-type time as a child when you become engrossed in play, but as we age, we often lose touch with this as we become entrenched in our routines, operating like clockwork. We forget how to play, yet it’s a critical aspect of happiness. Kairos is found in activities that ignite meaning and passion. I didn’t think I understood him until I sat down and really thought about time. I’ve always been aware of the social construct of time as I glance at my wristwatch, which tells me the hour, minute, and second. My early running career was focused almost exclusively on Chronos—always watching the clock and trying to beat my previous times.

While I didn’t experience a mid-life crisis, I would say that I began to think differently about my relationship with time as I approached 40, and I’ll be 43 in a few days. I started to evaluate where I was investing my time, how much I had left, and how it should be spent.

Trail runners vs Road Runners

Racing now is about Kairos—the flow state. I want to lose the sense of Chronos, where hours seem to pass like minutes during an ultra race. That’s a significant reason why I enjoy ultras. To me, it’s play; it’s like being a kid again when the only purpose was play itself. You feel this odd sense of connection while moving through nature. Chronos fades away, and Kairos takes the stage. Ultras tend to be less about your finishing time and more about accomplishing what seems impossible.

The pull to do what’s required vs what’s exciting and new.

Kairos is omnipresent in nature, often found in the novelty of experiences. He could be your newfound friend whom you might meet on a trail you’ve run a hundred times, if only you greet a random stranger. He resides in the breathtaking vistas and landscapes of many ultramarathons, in parks, and along trails in remote locations. It’s not that Chronos isn’t there—because if you’re racing against cutoffs in an ultra, you’re certainly aware of him—but he’s not the star of the show; Kairos is.

I’ll never say, “I don’t have time,” or “I’m too busy.” Instead, I force myself to say, “It’s just not that important to me.” For the things that matter in life, I make it a point to clear my schedule and create time. Recognizing that difference is crucial.

Chronos the Road vs Kairos the Trail

Recognizing the path of Kairos is a deeply personal process. It’s about being attuned to the moments that bring you a sense of joy, fulfillment, and purpose—those instances that make you feel alive and connected to something greater than the daily grind. Here are a few signs and considerations that might indicate you’re on the path of Kairos:

  1. Joy and Passion: When activities or opportunities excite you and ignite a passion within, they’re likely aligned with Kairos. This joy can be a guiding light toward more meaningful experiences.
  2. Flow State: If you find yourself in a state of flow, where time seems to stand still or pass without your notice because you’re so immersed in what you’re doing, you’re experiencing Kairos.
  3. Growth and Challenge: Kairos often lies just beyond your comfort zone. If a path challenges you and promotes growth, it might be the path of Kairos calling you to step forward.
  4. Authenticity: When you’re true to yourself and your values, you’re more likely to encounter Kairos. This means making decisions based on what genuinely matters to you, not what others think should matter.
  5. Mindfulness and Presence: Being fully present in the moment allows you to recognize and seize Kairos opportunities. Mindfulness helps you appreciate the richness of your experiences.
  6. Reflection: Regularly reflecting on your life, your goals, and your happiness can help you identify where Kairos might be found. It’s about understanding what brings you a sense of purpose and making choices that align with that.

I may seem like I hate road running, but I don’t. It’s where I got my start. Don’t take offense if you love the road. I just prefer the deeper sense of adventure found in nature as opposed to the typical big-city marathon or road race. I’m not sure what differentiates most big-city marathons; if you’ve run in one city, they all start to feel the same, but perhaps that’s a closed-minded view. Whatever you choose, be it road or trail, enjoy your journey and take the road less traveled. Be open to new opportunities wherever they may present themselves before it’s too late. Your weekends and vacations are critical because they offer the rare chance to encounter Kairos, the god of meaningful time. Don’t let it slip through your fingers and realize you’ve wasted your life on trivial things. Plan that trip, sign up for that faraway race, and take on that ultra. Do it before it’s too late and time has run its course.

Time has run out…

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Race Report – Leadville 2023

Traveling for a 100-miler was a new experience, and not really sure I enjoyed it all that much.  I wanted to get to Leadville a few days early to acclimate which meant more time away from family.  Our flight out of Philly was delayed 2 hours.  I should have been mindful of when we were landing.  There was road construction on our way to the motel so we didn’t get there until 4 AM EST.  This didn’t help with acclimation as I came in exhausted and sleep-deprived.  The headaches started the next day as I barely got any sleep.

The race is all about getting up and over Hope Pass

This race is all about the altitude.  I know I can do the distance as this would be my 8th 100.  My thought was to get there early to see if I would suffer from altitude sickness.  By getting there early I could get in a few test runs to see how bad it affected performance.  My biggest issue was just an intense headache at night when I lay in bed which made it impossible to sleep.  The two nights before the race I had a combined sleep time of maybe 4 hours.  Pre-race excitement wasn’t helping my cause.  

The low humidity is amazing to run in.  I think it led to fewer shoe changes and blister issues because my feet felt amazing most of the race.  They did get wet in the stream crossing after Twin Lakes 1.

The sun’s intensity in Colorado is something to be aware of.  Make sure you have ample sunscreen or clothing to protect yourself.  I wore a lot of white to help reflect the heat.  I wore white arm sleeves, a white shirt, and a white hat, but I should have had a hat that covered my neck.  Don’t forget to reapply the suntan lotion with all the sweating you will be doing!

My food strategy didn’t work.  I got food fatigue from what I had to eat during the race.  This wasn’t a big deal as I just started taking more from the aid stations.  I stopped grabbing my little prepacked snacks in my drop bags.  I realize I need more diversify what I will be eating for 24-30 hours. 

What went right?

I gave myself mini breaks on the climb to Hope Pass, resting to catch my breath.  The climb was so long that sitting a few times rejuvenated me.

A runner by the name of Sandra was having a bad day.  She actually kind of broke down a bit when she told me that she had done the race over 10 years ago and wanted to see if experience could trump youth.  It didn’t seem like that was going to be the case for her today because it looked like she was going to drop at Winfield (turn around).  She was using “Spring Energy” awesome sauces and it tasted amazing!  She traded a few of them to me and I am grateful she did.  I picked up some chew blocks on the course and they tasted better than what I was eating.  I know this is a crazy statement, but maybe what you train with eating shouldn’t be used on race day.  You kind of want something new and different, I know that is risky but if you have no GI issues I don’t think it’s a problem.

Pacers make all the difference

At 76.2 (Outward Bound 2) as I came into the aid station someone randomly called out, “Hey, would you like a pacer?”.  I said sure, why not.  This is when I met Jeff Spencer, he was a huge boost when I really needed it most.  The only reason he was there was because his original runner had dropped out, Marge Hickman.  Marge Hickman is a fourteen-time finisher of the Leadville Trail 100, a four-time big buckle achiever, holding the record for most finishes by a woman, and was women’s champion in 1985! 

What would I have done differently?

Give yourself the entire day to travel there, I had only given half the day.  Be mindful of when you are landing as you travel for a race because of delays.  

Line up a pacer beforehand!  Pacers are so useful, not sure why I didn’t try to coordinate one for such an important race.  Going forward I should look for opportunities to pace others, I think it’s fun yet I’ve only done it once.

I would have got there way earlier and given myself more time to acclimate.  3 days before the race was not enough.  I also would have picked up the medication for headaches.  Leadville was such a beautiful amazing town that it would be interesting to go back with my family.  

Be FAST at the aid stations.  I was faster than normal, but still not enough.  Even if you spent 5 minutes at each aid station that would be an hour on this course.  Get in, grab food, and stuff your pockets, then eat as you walk.  It will make a huge difference in race time.  

Final Thoughts:

Since this race has been going on so long I met a lot of what I call “faded glory”.  People trying to relive past performances to show they still have it.  To live up to an expectation that is doomed to fail in chasing the performances of our youth.  It made me think about my own trajectory.  20 years from now will I be doing the same thing?  Trying to run races I did 20 years ago and struggling to match performance.  Will I try to redo races from my 30s-40s to see if I am still capable?  I might have hit the highest point in my running career (12,394 elevation), both physically and proverbially.  I might not ever top this, and If I keep going down this path I might be setting myself up for a huge disappointment later in life.  So what do you do?  Transition to inspire others!  At what point do you remove yourself from the game?  I’m not sure but it’s a thought that’s rolling around in my head.  Maybe it’s time for a change?

The course was amazing, the views were like nothing I had ever seen.  The altitude played a huge factor and affected multiple aspects of the race, but I worked through it.  Picking up Jeff as a pacer was a huge boost, from his constant encouragement and overall concern for my well-being it made for a strong finish.  His actions in aid stations helped save the time necessary to secure the buckle so I can’t thank him enough.  

To the crazy kids who choose this as their first 100, I admire you.  I ran into 8 or 9 first-time 100 milers who picked this as their entry into doing 100s.  Personally, that’s not how I operate.  I slowly step my way up, look at the big picture, and take calculated steps to ensure success.  BORING!  I know, right?  I don’t want to wait another year, or 2, or 10 to take another shot at this.  You only get one chance and 100s are so complex.  You need to make sure you do everything to improve your odds of success.  The fact they let in so many first-timers is great, but ask yourself, just because I can, does that mean I should?  Why deal with the distance AND the altitude?  Having knocked out 8 of these races doesn’t make me a pro, it just makes me aware of what can go wrong.  100s mirror life in many ways, but like anything “the first is the worst”, so why make it harder on yourself?  

Maribell puts the medal around my neck.
Merilee told me: “Welcome to the family”

Merilee whispered in my ear as she put the medal around my neck, “Welcome to the family”.  They are building a brand, they want you to have an amazing experience that’s hard to top and they want to hook you early.  Hence no requirement to enter the race.  Maybe that gets some young rockstars, but showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.  I am glad I waited to take on this beast of a race.  It was a long race, but it wasn’t the worst I felt in an ultra.  It was just the closest I ever had to being timed out.  Do whatever you can to eliminate the altitude and I think you will have a greater likelihood of success.  So medication, get there 2 weeks early, or get an altitude tent at home if you have money to spare.

Thank you, Jeff, Dad, and everybody who watched the kids.