The sherpa flags are hung, but the wind isn’t blowing. There is no flapping in the breeze. With a cup in my hand, I drink delicately from the waters of life… but nothing happens. I feel awful, sick to my stomach. I’m covered in mud, grit and soaked with salt saturated sweat. My feet are tired, sore and blistered. My muscles ache.. my mind is numb. I’m still just stuck in an aid station.

All of my life I’ve taken things to the extreme.. and every time I sit and ponder, “Why do I do this?” Why… why anything? Nevermind why… how about who? Who am I? Who I am? I have no friggin idea. Or do I?

I can trace my life back to when I was younger.. when I spent time with my grandfather after kindergarten. Every day we did the same thing. He’d pick me up and I go with him to work or back home for snacks and some time outside. We spend the summer evenings together. Regardless of the weather or any other eliminating factor, every night he would take me out for ice cream. Like clock work, we never missed a date… it was our time together. It’s what we did. At age 14 my grandfather fell ill and it became my job to take care of him no. Instead of him buying me ice cream or toys, I washed him, bathed him, helped with the chores inside and out. I assisted him with his bowel movements, and every night I lifted him from his wheel chair and put him to bed. It was the very least I could do for a man who took such great care of me, my siblings and my cousins. He deserved the respect in return. But what I didn’t know then I half suspect now, that these actions… this willingness to care for one another is part of what makes me who I am today… someone who takes everything to the extreme.

After taking care of my grandfather I moved on to soccer. I had always played, but I never obsessed about it like I had started to in High School. Major League Soccer was the new league on the scene and I was in 100%. I was pen pals with the league commissioner. One year, my mother and step father took me to Florida to an all star game. While sitting in the stands, I looked over and saw Doug Logan, the Commish.. I rose up, walked over and asked him if he had a pen pal in New Hampshire. The man turned, extended his hand and said, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you John.” Just as I had been about my grandfather, I was now in love with soccer. I had the team pennant of every team in the league hanging on my bedroom wall. I had Jerseys for more than half of the league and wore them to school, switching teams on a daily basis. I lived, breathed, played, watched and ate soccer.

After soccer it was Backyard wrestling. I’ve yet to really talk about this on my blog but its true. I was a backyard wrestler for more than 5 years. All that I did for 5 years was talk to my group of buddies about wrestling. Planning our matches, story-lines, and in effect.. planning our friendships out. We practiced together, we wrote together, we laughed together. And once or twice a month we got together on a weekend and had weekend long camp-outs where we kicked the snot out of each other, power-slamming each other to the hard turf, hitting each other with steel chairs, garbage cans, ladders and baseballs bats wrapped in barbed wire. We put tacks into our faces and head.. we bled… we “lived” a wild life. But I was obsessed with wrestling. I owned action figures at 18, I went to all of the local PPV shows, even appearing on TV a few times in the audience. Life was all about wrestling.

After wrestling was done I moved on to hiking… I loved hiking. Being outdoors, fresh air, views, people. It was great. I obsessed about hiking. I hung lists around my room of peaks to bag. I kept tallies, and still do, of how many times I’ve climbed each peak and on which date exactly I had. Which trails I took and from which direction I sumitted in winter months. I even went so far as to making a documentary film about hiking and sold hundreds of DVD copies of the film to raise money for charity. But something happened to me while hiking.. I needed more.. I need to test myself a bit more.. this wasn’t enough. I learned that it wasn’t the hiking that I was obsessing about.. it was the challenge itself. The prospect of pushing myself to inconceivable limits and the idea of proving to others that I can do anything you say that I can’t.

Or was that really what I intended? I started running between peaks.. then running at home. I honestly hate running. I train about as little as anyone I know and manage to do OK as a mid-pack runner. Am I obsessed with running like I was with everything else? No… I’m not. I’m obsessed with pushing the limits.. I’m obsessed with proving to others what I can acomplish.. and I am obsessively scared of rejection… of failure. Despite the many things I have accomplished in my life.. to prove to myself that I CAN ACCOMPLISH anything.. I still can’t help but feel like a total failure. Deep down inside I know that one of the most important things in life, LOVE, is what I mess up the most. I mess it up because like everything else in life.. I become too overly obsessed with it.. and I push people away in the end. I’m my own worst enemy.. sabotaging myself and getting in the way of my own happiness with others.

I am still standing with a great opportunity before me. An opportunity to reshape my life and I am scared to death. For years my life has been pre-planned, laid out in front of me.. the ideas in my head were always in motion. And for the first time I can remember.. I am without a plan. I am scared shitless without it as well. I don’t know where i am going or what I am doing. Who am I though.. who am I? I’m an obsession junky, and I’m stuck in the aid station and I can’t get my ass out of the chair. I just want to love and be loved. I want to care about and be cared about. I want to hug and kiss and all the like. I just want to be.. but some days its just hard. Its hard to even get out of bed… its hard to stand up and face that guy who is looking back at me in the mirror. If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island, what and who would you take with you. I guess right now my answer is.. I’d have to leave myself at home, that guy in the mirror is better obsessing by himself.

(Updated Current Playlist – Right side of site)

You Found Me – The Fray

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5 thoughts

  1. An ultrarunner is never actually stuck at an aid station, it just feels that way sometimes. In the middle of the night at Peachstone Aid Station in Western States 2007, I sat in a chair and stated that I could not go on. I didn’t care if I died in that chair, I was done. The old guy manning the aid station told me “Over the years I’ve seen a lot of people come through here in much worse shape than you and go on to finish. So I know that you can go on.” He was right, I just needed him to tell me that. I was so mentally defeated that I needed someone to look me in the face and tell me I could do it. So I got up and went on and felt a lot better in the morning and did finish. So I’ll pass on that simple advice to you, you really aren’t stuck in that aid station, you can go on.

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  2. I know I have been leaving too many comments here, John, but your recent posts are striking, honest, painful, and beautiful. So I don’t mind seeming like a dumbass jerk with all my comments, it is the least I can do, to let you know that a man who has climbed mountains, completed ultras, and run across whole states, can overcome the storms of his inner landscape. One day, I am not sure when, the storm clouds will pass, and you will get up out of that aid station chair and run out into the world, again….

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  3. Hey John, I know we haven’t necessarily met, though we have a mutual acquiantance in Dan from Breakheart Trail Running blog, I believe you guys met at Wapack, anyway. I feel a sort of kinship with you through this post. All my life people have been telling me I can’t do numerous things. I think my Dad was also a little embarassed by me because he had the “kid that can’t see very well”. My Grandfather was also a driving force for me, he taught me SO much about possibility and the farce of limitations, especially when you have the drive to accomplish something. Sometimes I keep running (in sport and in life) because I want to prove everyone wrong, and sometimes the drive comes in a rage of wanting to tell people to grandly F off. I feel you on the “loving others” aspect, too. I am on the doorstep of my 30th birthday, I am fortunate to have a wife and a couple kids (another thing I was told I would never have because of my eyesight and dependence on others), but because I was never shown how to love when I was growing up, I have problems expressing it to my family, and it is almost uncomfortable to show the unconditional love. Okay, I just unpacked a lot there, but my point is that we keep moving and learning with each step on the journey. The hope is that we keep seeing the things we need to change and proactively attempt to fix them. You are in a good place, you see what you have to work with, and being scared is great because you know you have possibilities and options. Stick with the love and guidance that comes from your heart, from that place deep down inside that pushed you to be that unconditional helper and provider for your grandfather. That is where you’ll find the answers.Anyway, just a few thoughts.Take care!

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  4. You’ve been a nut your entire life! I had my obsessions as well. I hear ya on the not being obsessed with running. I’m not either but I am obsessed with pushing the limits as well. I’ll see you at Massanutten. I’m moving up the wait list quickly. I plan to go sub 30.

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