Sunday, June 15, 2014

Running History Part 1: Austria years 0-12

Long time no blog.  One issue is my running camera has been dysfunctional, and really, no wants to read a blog that just has a bunch of words, but that is exactly what I am going to do today.

A little update on how the running has been going lately:  After Miwok I had a really tough time with deciding where to go with my running.  It seemed that ultra-marathoning was just not working with me and that maybe I should switch it up a little bit, maybe get to some shorter stuff so that I can feel fast and strong again.  This didn't last long though as I started healing mentally from the failure at Miwok.  Pretty soon I was back to dreaming about my next ultra adventure.  I don't know how to really explain why I gravitate towards these races, so let's just assumed that I am hooked.  The running has been exceptional lately.  I am trying a new training plan and am really enjoying the process and feel that it is working so far.  I am exited to see where it brings me.

Since I am just training, I have not felt compelled to share about my running, since it is all about getting it done.  I put the photography to the side for now (thanks to bad camera).  But I still want to contribute to this blog so I am taking a page from another ultra-runners blog that I like and am going to share about my running history and how I got to this point with being "hooked" on ultras.

Austria (0-12)

I was born in Vienna, Austria.  My parents are from Kansas and Missouri and were missionaries in Austria for the first twelve years of my life.  I was a largish baby with an even larger appetite, and quickly grew into a rather fat toddler with pigeon feet and crossed eyes - basically flying under the radar of children with athletic potential.  Corrective shoes and coke bottle thick glasses seemed to fix things a little bit, and it seemed after I hit two years old, my weight shifted from fatness to tallness.  Who knows how these things work?  But then I was a pretty normal, skinny four year old.

I don't have a ton of memories of adventures from these early years in my life, but I do remember playing free, roaming where I wanted and getting into as much trouble as I could handle.  I don't know if it was just the way that kids were raised in Austria at the time or because of a laissez-fair approach that my parents took, but boundaries were almost non-existent from my memories.  I remember exploring the neighborhood, hills, various playgrounds, basically as far as I could go and still feel confident that I could find my way home.  Some of my fondest adventures were escaping into the hills with my best buddy Lauri where we would build forts, set traps (play traps), and do imaginary battles.  Running was playing.

Most of my time in Austria my family lived in a house sort of on the boundary between city and country side in a small town called Pfaffstatten.  I did ride my bike a lot in those days.  That was my principal means of transportation.  I remember spending a lot of time on the bike path that ran along the canal near our house, and venturing up into hills so I could get the thrill of a fast downhill.  In terms of early aerobic development I am sure all of that time on the bike contributed to an early trend in my life towards endurance rather than speed and power.

My lack of speed and power became apparent as soon as I hit school years and we had regular recess and PE classes where the various games or tests were being conducted.  I was always one of the biggest kids in class and fairly athletic, but I would consistently loose in sprints, or in contest of throwing a ball a long ways, or wherever fast twitch muscle fibers might have given me an advantage.  But as soon as we hit the long runs, I was usually unbeatable.  Being fiercely competitive probably contributed to this outcome as when you are young, it is generally a question of will in terms of winning those long races, because few children are trained towards such an event, it is basically who is willing to put up with the most pain to win.  I was competitive to a fault, but that is another story.

A vivid memory I have from my running during those days was when my parents left me in charge of my two younger sisters when they went on a date or something.  I might have been nine or ten (it was different back then, I guess).  They told me that if I had an emergency to get ahold of our friends who lived nearby.  Well, at some point that evening, the three of us were rough-housing, and my youngest sister cracks her head on the corner of a piece of furniture and starts bleeding.  I didn't know what to do, so I tried to get ahold of the friends.  I don't know if I tried to call them, or what the process was, but at some point I decided I needed to go to their house to get help for my sister.

I think they lived maybe half a mile away, but when I took off from our house, I was flying.  I remember basically running as fast as I could and thinking in my head when I might slow down because I was pretty sure I couldn't keep it up.  It must have been the adrenaline or something but to my surprise, it just seemed effortless, I was running at maximum speed and there was no pain.  Long story short, the friend drove me back to our house, did something with my sister (it wasn't such a big deal after all) and everything was fine.

I also remember gym class at the Vienna Christian School when I was in fifth grade.  There was about a 1.5 mile jog (that is as best as I can guess the distance to be) from the school to the track where we did our classes.  Of course it was just supposed to be a warmup or whatever, but the most competitive among us made it our goal to be the first ones to the track.  I remember having some epic battles with this german kid name Mattheus.  The "jog" ends with a quarter mile uphill and I remember trailing just behind Mattheus and then he "trips" and hits the pavement.  I was 100% confident that he faked the whole thing because he knew he couldn't keep it up and would rather fain injury than let me have the satisfaction of passing him.  But I ran right past him, basking in my glory as soon as I hit the track.  He made a big deal out of the fact that I didn't stop to help him... it didn't faze me.

In 1993, when I was twelve years old, our family moved to the US.  I was a skinny, tall kid with decent athletic ability, and a definite competitive streak.  What that would mean for my athletic involvement in Salina, Kansas (population about 45000), was going to be an interesting adventure.  


  1. Awww. I thought you were going to change the blog name to YAFPB (Yet Another Fastpacking Blog). It's great to hear you got your running mojo back. But don't forget; as a fan of Mr. Brewer, we still need to climb Mt Brewer!

  2. Glad to hear you're running well again! Sounds like you were "born to run"!