In these tough times, the sport industry like many others, is being shaken from its roots up and there will be a lot of dead leaves on the ground come fall.
It’s still hard to say which players will still be standing.
Watching closely businesses’s responses, actions and communications, I have come to this conclusion: Just as someone’s true nature shines in times of struggle, it also applies to businesses.
A few examples that made me feel this way are Eddie Bauer making 20,000 masks shifting production in some of their factories.
Kitsbow, a small US apparel brand that shifted their production to making Personal Protective Equipment,
REI which shut down its 162 stores while still paying its employees. “Our decisions are grounded in the belief that there are more important things than business right now”
It’s overwhelming to see such a response from brands in our industry. I haven’t listed them all but if you know of any initiative, please share them, as they deserve to be acknowledged if not rewarded.
Unless you work for a company you created, chances are you won’t agree with all decisions that are made above you.
It’s easy enough – especially for my fellow countrymen from France – to let these differences of opinion get to us, and result in personal frustration, disappointment, disapprobation, and this is your right.
But it remains personal and you have to bear in mind that the people who have created the company you work, the organization you’ve been hired by for a mission are the reason you have a job today. Therefore, even if you may disagree with them, the succession of decision they have made have taken the company where it is today, and if not in bankruptcy, they must have been right in some ways – as long as they are legal…
That being said, if such decisions or company rules are too far from your personal vision of work ethics, remember that you are the only one in control of your working life and you are free to leave at any point! Yes it takes courage and self confidence but this decision remains yours exclusively. Well until you break the company rules and offer yourself a rapid trip to your manager’s and HR office 🙂
Having faced this situation several times recently, I have chosen to focus on another factor entirely: people.
Relationships, partnerships, collaboration are always between people and this is where I believe the true value of a job lays.
I have been delighted to meet new people, reconnect with other and the only thing I hope is to have given and enriched these incredible individual’s lives a much as they have with mine.
So when facing a frustrating situation at work, look whether or not it is related to the people you work with.
If it is, run! If it isn’t then look at what you are gaining from your partners and coworkers because this can’t be taken away by any company rule, contract or decision from above.
Fidelity cards, air miles, personalised discount codes and other VIP accesses are all the things that pop into my mind when I hear the word « privilege ». I am Martin’s marketing influenced brain.
Generally speaking, privileges are all the things, an individual owns, that provide advantages over people who don’t have it.
You can read happiness is a privilege, but I don’t quite agree with it. This is how I feel about the relationship between the two of them :
One’s most valuable privileges are the ingredients of their unique recipe for happiness.
I wanted to explore this word further as I recently realized there was a much deeper meaning to it. I found useful to dissect the meaning of privilege into different types. I’d say levels to be more accurate. I have arbitrary chosen 1, 2 and 3 for the different levels but there is no ranking or importance to be associated with each one. Every individual is unique and different privileges would apply to reach personal happiness.
Level 1 are the ones that are shared by many people. The first of ones is Life with a capital L. We’ve all been given this magical privilege to be alive and spend it amongst other living creatures of all sorts.
There are many more from having a place one can call home, a car, live in a non life threatening environment, or even being healthy. See here that some are much more « important » than other from Maslow’s pyramid standards.
Level 2 are the privileges earned and attributed to your person in particular. A job that fits your expectations, a title, a degree or a status within a community are such examples. It’s through our acts and behaviours that we have earned the privilege to be a president, a village’s chief or a doctor.
Level 3 and last I identified are the privileges rooted within ourselves, whether we like them or not. Like greater intellectual and physical abilities, being spirited, having gone through life changing experiences, having been raised by loving parents, having received an education or grown up in stimulating environment, and every external privileges that had a positive influence on ourselves and created opportunities.
OK, so there are different levels of privileges, Now what? I scratched my head for a while to come to the personal conclusion that there were three steps towards achieving healthy and happy balance of our privileges:
1- Knowing your privileges.
What are the ingredients to your unique recipe? To me the answer is by far the hardest one. It’ll take a lot of thinking and introspection to become fully aware of A/ the privileges that actually matter to you, whether you have them or not and B/ the ones you wouldn’t be bothered living without, and yet you still dedicate some of your time and attention towards them.
They won’t always be the most obvious and I found that asking yourself the question, “how would I feel without this or that?” is a fairly good indicator of how much it contributes to your personal happiness, and whether it’s worth sustaining or not.
I don’t want to sound to radical and one shouldn’t spend their life focusing on protecting their most important privileges but frequent reminders help to keeps us on our sometimes narrow, windy and bumpy path towards happiness.
2 – What’s there and what’s missing
Amongst them, ask yourself which ones you already have and pay great attention to them, until you have nailed what will keep them in a safe place (working hard to keep your job, allocating time for your kids, practicing to become or stay good at something…).
Then come the ones you don’t have yet but believe would make you happier. Get a degree, plan a vacation, spend more time with loved ones who are still close and alive, etc…
The freedom of making an educated decision to turn down a privilege, is a privilege itself. So it’s not always about preserving or going after what we have or want but being selective on which ones matter and letting some go the ones that don’t.
3 – Never take them for granted
The ability to walk, see, speak, hear, walk freely down the streets or having a home to go to are privileges some of us have over millions of people and I believe we don’t work hard enough to preserve them compare to the painful consequences of the loss of one of them. At least I know I didn’t, and that’s what lead me to think and write about it.
Most of us tend to take these privileges for granted, and I’ll use again the most valuable of them : LIFE.
When was the last time you woke up in the morning saying « Fuck yeah I’m alive, let’s get on with today! »? If your answer is « this morning », then you’re one lucky mofo, or maybe you’ve danced with death in your past.
Indeed, I have started to notice that people who have come extremely close from loosing one of their most important privilege, were forced to envision the pain of living without it. After that, they do not only care about this privilege to an unparalleled level, but also fully embrace that privilege daily.
I recently lost a privilege myself, and I’m guilty for loosing it in at least two ways. First I hadn’t identified it as one of the most valuable to me – even though it was pretty damn clear. Second and result of the first, I didn’t protect it enough to preserve it even when I had the chance. Now it’s forever gone and without this ingredient, my happiness has become tasteless.
All I have left is to ensure I don’t accidentally, or out of a bad decision, loose any more of these fundamental ingredients, or the recipe could end up making lethal poison…
A friend told me that sometimes though, you can be well aware of your most important privileges, cherish them vividly, you could still end up loosing one.
Well it turns out to be true and as 2pac was singing, that’s just the way it is. None them will last forever, even the ultimate privilege of life will eventually give up on us.
But don’t get me wrong, all important privileges are most definitely worth fighting for. Because if you do and happen to lose one of them, you’ll be able to let it go with a much lighter heart and no regret. It just was meant to go.
I on the other hand will most likely beat myself up for times ahead for having had underestimated the importance of that one privilege. I have failed to fight hard enough for it, even though it widely contributed to my happiness. Today it’s gone and all what’s left is excruciating pain.
I do regret it bitterly but trying to get a little something positive out of it, I’d say it gave me the opportunity to think about all the above and start identifying which other privileges contribute to enlighten my life. Some were obvious, other became obvious, and some are still to be found. One thing for sure, when the dark days are over, I will pay the greatest attention to the privileges I have left.
[ADDED on 27.08.2016] Video reacp of the edition zero of the race
Gathering with like minded people with the single purpose and to explore new areas was the mindset I had when flying to Madrid, en route to run the Riaño Trail Run.
To animate the starting and finishing lines, nobody better to choose than Depa ! Her also ran a few sections with us and sure was great to reconnect with him shortly after working side by side at commenting UTMB
Rolf taking advantage of an easy pace early on in the first stage – the goal was to run the first 22k all together and unleash the dogs for the final 20k.
One of the many good times was hitting this col after 1400m of climging with the leading pack. Good fun and exciting landscapes.
The organization has done a remarkable job at putting this event together and tokk great advantage of that edition zero to fine tune it for an exciting Edition 1 next year!
I love life. I have always been eager to discover new things, cultures, territories, and perhaps most importantly new playgrounds to quench my thirst for running in the mountains.
This attitude has offered me countless moments of happiness, got me to meet and know many great individuals, some of them I will call friends for the rest of my life.
Like everything balanced, the ups bring downs, and this is what’s fantastic about being the excited person I am. The ups are sky high yet I somehow managed the downs to usually stay relatively shallow. Actually that’s not entirely true. Downs are deep, but I somehow feel good about them, most of the time.
Earlier this summer, i have got back together with one of my first love. The TransRockies Run. Saying it’s a 6 days stage race across trails of the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado wouldn’t even start to describe the live experience offered by this event. 6 days of isolation, together with like minded individual who find it fun to run 23 to 42k a day for 6 days straight, while creating new bonds, friendships and all sorts of intense, spontaneous, unexpected, and for the luckiest of all life long lasting relationships.
As much as I am familiar with banging headaches and painful hangover, I have also experience withdrawal from a drug that is infinitely more powerful than alcohol. Endorphin. As you can imagine, when forced to go back to reality and out daily grind, a strong and vivid feeling of withdrawal did hit me, hard… And it took many days until that bitter sweet taste became fine and found memories that warms my heart and widen my smile as I remember that week.
But deep down I can already feel it, the 2016 TRR edition is coming up, and I’m afraid it will take up all the fun for the next year, to unload it over a single week of pure madness!
I don’t know if I should be scared or excited, but one sure thing, I can’t wait.
It all started with an email from Lauri, president of the International Skyrunning Federation, back in late November about a sky race in Hong Kong early December. Too short notice and other plans already set, I passed but the seed had been planted and my interest kept growing.
I got in touch with Action Asia Events RD Michael Maddess and after being accepted as part of the Elite runners for the Asian Continental Championships in the Sky distance, I helped completing the European squad to come compete with local athletes.
So instead of putting an end to my season after a failed 50miler in San Francisco early December, I stretched it with quality workouts to regain speed and climbing skills. I won’t lie, it was mentally tough to push through an already long season, while dealing with essential personal and professional life changes. But my thirst for adventures was too great, and with the support of family, friends and local runners around annecy, I managed to get the sessions in, stay on top of things and have a decent preparation for the race. I even managed to land one hell of a job, and it surely helped to put things in new perspective.
Fast forward to February 4th. I just landed in Hong Kong for what is my first trip in Asia. Excited and a tad anxious about dealing with a language I knew nothing about, here I was on my usual routine at the airport, getting myself a local SIM card and finding my way to the place I would stay until the race.
Yet, thing turned out to happen way smoothly than I expected as i spotted a young student holding a sing with “Skyrunning Asian Championships”. Next thing I know she welcomes me in perfect English and guides me to a taxi that she would ride with me all the way to my accommodation. During the ride, we chatted and after she delivered all information, image release, schedule for photoshoot and media conference, she even taught me a few words in Cantonese. I seriously felt like James Bond kicking off a mission abroad.
I unpacked and in a now usual routine, I went on for a shake out jogg to map out a personal perception the surroundings and the start that happened to be only a few Ks away.
Later that night, I welcomed my fellow runner and dear friend Luke Nelson as a new room mate. He had been traveling from the other side of the world towards Hong Kong. Good catch up and off for a good night of sleep.
The next day, while most of us were arriving I was invited by Luke to join a Patagonia photoshoot. It was a great opportunity to go check out the part of the 50k race I would miss, and perhaps even more importantly getting to experience Hong Kong from the inside, with locals.
A longer day out there than expected yet worth every minute, led to a proper seafood dinner where we got to pick alive what we would be later be served wonderfully cooked. Awesome.
We came back early to check in into another dorm room with other runners and my fellow Scott Athletes Marco DiGasperi and Elisa Desco. Along came the rest of the Italian mafia with Fulvio Dapit (crazy idea), Stephanie Gimenez (Salomon) and Alexandra (Instinct).
After a short night accommodating with jet lag and intensive snoring (!), Luke and I went for a last run on a local trail that was another preview about what was awaiting us on race day. I felt pretty good on that 30′ run and was excited and eager to compete. A good sign.
The rest of the day was spent on a photoshoot lead by Lloyd Belcher and media interview where I finally got to meet Simon Freeman who’s the man behind the raising running magazine from the UK “Like The Wind”. I also got to catch up with Sho Fujimaki who’s one of the most outdoor popular photographer in Japan and who I had the pleasure to meet several times at international events. Good people, good times, this trip was already a success and I hadn’t even been served with what was going to be hell of a race.
The race went on and it honestly didn’t unfolded quite as planned, actually not at all! I went out too fast, blew up, fell twice, broke my hand held water bottle after the first aid station, cramped and flet sluggish. Put that way, it really sounds bad and yet I had an awesome time.
The course was unbelievable, tough, way tougher than I expected actually, people were all smiling, and as opposed to what happened to a bunch of people, I didn’t get lost. I crossed the finish line exhausted but already hungry for more.
Another sign that confirmed my choice to step down from Ultra to Sky distance in the Skyrunner World Series. You go all out – well I guess I should better learn to pace myself in future races – but I didn’t feel like I damaged my body nearly as much as I used to at the end of ultras.
I’ll need to improve A LOT of things to get better at it, but for now, 7th wasn’t too bad.
The trip carried on just as awesome as it started, with a gathering with athletes and media in the city center, and a night drink and food exploration with a bunch of good friends.
I was never a big fan of that saying. I like to make my own choices and be the only reason for how my life unfolds.
Yet, like I was mentioning in my previous post about change, some things happen whether we plan it or not, whether we want it or not. Sticking to my guns, I wouldn’t bitch about it but try and make the best out of having no job in 2014.
I had money aside from previous activities and was keen to live off of not much at all, but live to the fullest. It was the opportunity to launch my second startup, Twiinkly, and travel the world to race and explore. It’s been good, but money doesn’t grow on trees in my world, and soon enough, I was caught up with having close to no money.
So I started looking for a position around July. But I wasn’t ready to give up my “freedom” for an average job. I don’t do average. If I decide to do, I shoot for the moon. So month went by, seeking for that one position that would fit my ambition, feed my motivation, challenge me and make me work with a like-minded team.
In 6 month, I applied to only 3 jobs that I believed matched my expectations.
I didn’t make it past the first interviews for the first one, and even though I did my best to get it, looking back it wasn’t the best one for my profile. Things happen for a reason?
Late 2014, I applied to two other positions. I didn’t hear back from at all from the first one, although they were the ones who initially reached out to me. Things happen for a reason?
The last one, Global running sports marketing and communication manager at Scott Sports HQ in Switzerland, is now mine. FUCK YEAH!
5 years after the internship I did at this very position, I am back with more experience, more wisdom and eager to work with the new team that was put together to give the running category a whole new dimension. Exciting times ahead and I’m looking forward to working with all of you out there who are or will be involved with Scott running.
In my quest for the moon, I realize now that things didn’t go according to my plans, twice. Yet, I couldn’t have hoped for a better final result.
Two lessons were learned. First, there might be more than one moon in the sky, and the right one for you perhaps isn’t the first you’ll target. If you miss, keep shooting.
Second, things might well happen for a reason after all 🙂
An act or process through which something becomes different.
Whatever that something is, change is triggered by a situation that could not longer last. It can be irreparable, like ageing, self-induced like having children (usually at least…), or undergone like getting fired or dumped.
As much as I like a good routine to be more efficient at fitting everything I have on my plate each day into 24h, I believe change is a good thing. It sure takes a certain state of mind to be positive in a change that may alter the perception of a perfectly good life we lost.
If not perceived as a good thing, then the issue lays in one’s attitude, not in the change itself.
The unknown of something different can be frightening, challenging, unusual and sometimes plain painful, but if there is one thing in this world you can’t change, it is change itself. So roll with it.
I’m not saying it will be easy, I’m not saying it will be quick for that something different to become familiar and confortable. But to make it more bearable, you can embrace it with a positive attitude. Seeing the glass half full can tremendously help to ease the process.
I already hear you thinking, “duh, how do I get positive going from having a job and money to unemployed and broke”. Again, it’s a perception thing. You see it as becoming unemployed, I see it as suddenly having lots of time to enjoy things that don’t change, like friends and family, while looking for another job.
Again, there is nothing you can do about it now (and if there is, better get your ass out there right now!). So it’s no use bitching, for your sake or other’s people sake. Nobody likes whining. This new situation might give you the chance to step back and discover things you can be happy about and you didn’t even know of.
For those who need visual explanation, here is the bitching, and the eye opening. I know ladies, a little push from Ryan Gosling may help, but I have faith in you. And guys… well man up!
Don’t get me wrong though. You can’t go on through life changes and only focus on the good, like a happy child about a fluffy plush, or else you may end up skizo like Charlie Baileygates. No, you can’t just ignore the negative effects of a change and cover it all with positive thoughts and new opportunities.
Negative and resentful feelings will always find a way back to come haunt you, perhaps years later, and make you feel miserable by dragging you down to that life transition you couldn’t fully deal with.
You’ve got to acknowledge the bad, face it, accept it and let it go so one day, it has no more influence on you than one more fly in a cow’s eye. Only then you’ll be entirely light hearted, free to move forward, towards better days.
And if that job or partner was one in a million, then don’t cry because it’s over but smile because it happened. Be grateful for what you were perhaps the only one to be given the chance to experience. So I was told years ago by a younger yet wiser girl than I was. Way wiser she was, and her words still guide my thoughts when looking for peace of mind today.
Here I’m talking about a change from a positive to a perceived negative situation. The other way around is possible too, and as counter intuitive as it seems, might even be easier to “de-shit yourself”, AKA TTD, towards a cleaner state. You can indeed be the source of a negative to positive change, unless of course you are masochist but that would place you in the case above we just dealt with.
I insist on the fact that this one is easier. The definition of change remains valid, and thus means you’re still going to experience different, but this time, it’s because you’re not happy anymore with the something you know, and you decided to take a step forward into the unknown, grab the bull by the horns to better your life. Kudos to you and keep at it.
As much as it is easier psychologically, it’s still a pretty darn hard process. Indeed, we rarely dream of being a little more happy, but more likely super duper happy. So it’s always a huge step to get there, making it a long, windy and bumpy road. Remember that expression “shoot for the moon, and even if you fail you’ll land amongst the stars ? It’s shit.
If you shoot for the moon, it’s because you want the god damn moon, not because you want to be amongst the stars, otherwise you’d shoot for the stars! It’s a door open to failure, like having a plan B.
I value failure a lot as it offers unique life experiences, but that topic would make for a whole different post altogether. My point here is if you have options, in a moment of weakness, you’ll take the easy one, the star one. Yet if you don’t have any option but your goal, then all you’ve got is your focus and determination. You’ll eventually get there, to the moon. Human beings are very sophisticated creatures capable of absolutely amazing things, sadly cursed with an extremely powerful mind. Should that mind get in the way, party is over, it will be the limit.
So to come back to dealing with change – and wrap it up because I’m getting hungry – keep a positive attitude and focus on the new opportunities while dealing with every negative aspects of change. You’ll be over it faster, in style and you’ll get that giddy up back in your step in no time. Note that in that process, relying on genuine friends and family will help you, a lot, as they offer the one thing that don’t change, their love and support.
Soon I’ll tell you about a major change in my life and how I’m planning on dealing with it.
“Only you can control your future.” Dr Seuss
We (people like me) are rational people and we make decision that make sense. Sometimes it hurts, but we have to suck it up because people like us have only one gear in life, forward.
I am questioning a whole lot of things lately and I must admit I’m really confused. If I were to die right now, I would have a lot of regrets about things I haven’t done, missed, didn’t take the time for.
I am chasing big dreams but realise I am doing it at a great cost. Being goal oriented, challenge driven leads to missing out on the now. When goals are reached, quests are achieved, I look for greater ones instead of being satisfied and settle down. Why so?
Have I yet to reach my ultimate goal to be satisfied? What if I don’t? When will I know I need to stop without being frustrated?
I’m nearly 30 years old and despite full dedication and involvement, I personally don’t believe I have achieved anything worth the sacrifices. Yet I will keep trying.
I don’t know what the future holds, and that’s not without little fear that I will try to change my life, reshape it, rethink it so eventually one day, what I’ll have will be enough, and hopefully it won’t be too late so I can then create and focus on what really matters. Family and friends.
“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’re coming from”
Someone famous must have said something similar at some point, and if not, I’m sure Yoda has, so it counts.
Therefore I wouldn’t be able to clearly seek happiness in a near future without looking back at how 2014 unfolded for me. So let’s get to it.
Gotta be honest here, I have had a fucking fantastic year. I traveled to exotic and beautiful places to race on courses even my adventurous mind couldn’t design. New Zealand, Costa Rica, La Palma, Chamonix, Colorado, Montana, Arizona… seriously, who does that??
I’ve also got to know people better who each have enriched my soul for the better. Jo, The Frosties, Matt, Erik and Braz, the Flag crew (Rob and Christina, Shay and Brian, Alicia, Vargo, Paul…), Ethan, Nico, Yo and all the ones I missed.
It was unreal and I am well aware how lucky I am to have experienced so much, been given so much and felt such care and love.
The path within, a bumpy road to happiness.
I also had my fair share of dead ends, doubts, demons to fight, and facts to accept. The way forward requires to be inspired by people, but doesn’t mean you need to chase someone else’s dream.
I have been explained that my personality is to give and assist people in their personal quests, and there I would find happiness. For a challenge driven person like me, it is extremely hard to accept my happiness would only lay in my contribution to other people’s success. I don’t know if this is true or not but it took me a while to understand that one.
I always seek for the best, but for way too long I was seeking to achieve goals perceived by others as the best, and should I reach it, I would receive the ultimate recognition. As much as I must admit it made me feel good to reach a goal and please other people’s expectations almost more than the goal itself, it ultimately didn’t make me truly happy inside.
I understood that other people are other people, and life is way to short to care so much about what they think. I know now that my decisions will be made first and foremost to please the little guy (or little girl) in me. Friends and family will understand or at least accept it, and others… can think whatever makes them happy.
I did take a lot of time to step back and learned things can’t be perfect, all goals can’t be reached, and that’s just fine. Facing reality was sometimes painful but a necessary path for better tomorrows. A better 2015.
A 360° turn. Yes.
Some people will see it as the exact same direction, I beg to differ. A 360° turn allows to look around, learn, catch information and thus offer a different vision of the same direction. Knowledge unveils many details over the perception of the same view.
From a professional standpoint, I sold my first startup (Goodpeoplerun) and created a new one (Twiinkly). New teams were formed and amazing things are being created. I was able to learn from the countless mistakes I made during my first experience as an entrepreneur and put them to good use for Twiinkly. It worked and I’m delighted to share this experience on my free time, with such talented individuals who do share my perception of entrepreneurship and vision for the future, and I hope for years to come.
One of these lessons was to not rely on a startup financially and keep it as a hobby. First application of my new decision making process. Almost all entrepreneurs will say “you need to give it all, and go full time into your project to make it successful”, and my decision goes against this. So be it. If I can live a healthy life, have a job that excites me, I’ll be able to make better quality contribution to that side project.
I look forward to pursuing leads towards very exiting professional opportunities that will unfold within the next few weeks.
UnKnown. And it makes the journey even more exiting.
Bottom line, I reached in 2014 new heights of happiness, and was willing to compromise on other things to get there. I won’t be able to compromise anymore and thus know won’t be able to spend as much time in that blissful happiness in 2015 as I did in 2014. As sad as it sound to have a less bright tomorrow than today, I don’t fear potential withdrawal.
First because you have to be grateful for what you are given, and it was a privilege to experience and most importantly share such incredible and unique moments. Second because I found something much more valuable than intense yet random hits of pure happiness. Run free White Rabbit, I found the way. Wonderland be ready, I’m coming your way and very optimistic about that journey.
I wish you all the best for 2015, and may you find that path and enjoy all the small wins along the way.
I’m moving at a painfully slow pace down one of San Francisco must popular streets for tourists and weirdos alike. Haight street.
I’m carrying over half my weight between a suitcase and a large backpack, and yet, it’s a mental burden that’s truly weighting me down. Yesterday for the first time in 22 years of racing, I DNF’d. That alone would affect me but wouldn’t bring me down. However, being about to fly away from my beloved one and a good life I was getting used to, surely did. All good things must end, as they say. My entire body and soul were screaming in disagreement, aching against an irreparable change coming ahead. LEAVING.
I looked up for synonyms of that term : depart from, go away from, go from, withdraw from, retire from, take oneself off from, exit from, take one’s leave of, pull out of, quit, be gone from, decamp from, disappear from, abandon, vacate, absent oneself from, evacuate.
What an ironic situation I had gotten myself into. I made myself experience twice the pain of having to leave, or quit, two days in a row. First dropping out, and second flying thousand of miles from what had enriched my life for the past two month.
Sometime in early September
Plan was simple, find a place in the world I could call home for two month, to live a « normal » life, train, explore and carry on developing Twiinkly from a distance.
After being accepted into the Blue Spruce circle as one of their own, back in 2012, I had a standing invitation to come back. Good friends, a community of runners as welcoming as talented, Flagstaff it was. And it’s been good, almost too good.
Dry and thin air took a while to get used to but felt incredibly empowering once used to, made cold bearable, and the ever blue and sunny skies tricked my mind into a constant happy state. Weekend exploring the surroundings such as Antelope Canyon and the Wave around Page, the Grand Canyon or Havasupai Falls, daily trips to the magical and warm Sedona, or freezing cold and heart opening Humpfeys were many steps were taken, quick, slow, uneven, small and possibly the biggest one in my life.
Looking back, I was like trapped in wonderland.
Early on December 7th
Eric and I are cruising in the darkness of a too early morning, on our way to the start of the 2014 TNF EC 50 miler. We’re catching the green light to drive through the one way tunnel to the Marin Headlands, we find a parking spot next to the start, the weather is warm and the ground is wet. I’m feeling strong and rested. It’s going to be a good day, or so I thought.
After the lead pack took a start a wee bit too fast for me, I settle back and moved at my own pace up the first hill of the first lap. I’m not moving as quick as I’d want, but I know uphill isn’t my strength, so I’m not worried. First descent back toward the start to close the loop, and I come back right behind the lead pack that has been slowed down by an interesting concept: to ensure that each runner would do 2 laps, volunteers would draw a sharpie tick on our bib number… CHAOS!
Second climb and again, I’m falling behind the lead pack, as expected. The way down allowed me again to catch up and we were out on our third climb of the day. I realize I’m pushing harder, much harder than I did last year on that section. Nothing to worry about, I’m also in a much better shape I was a year ago. On the downhill toward Tennessee Valley, the dense fog makes it hard to see. Somehow I’m caught in a Nike sandwich Alex Varner leading the way and Chris Vargo on my heels, the visibility dropped, we charged.
Perfect transition at the aid station performed by surely one of the most experienced out there: Anna Frost. Empty bottles dropped off, full bottles picked up, salt pills, shot blocs and out I was.
As Chris and I chatted running down the road to the Costal trail, I remember saying “I’m a bit too fast but close to where I want to be”. I must have been right because shortly after I started feeling like absolute crap. I slowed down and my mind was racing even harder than my body. Questions popping about everything going on around me, runners passing me, runners blowing up, I had lost focus on my own race. That moment lasted only 10 minutes or so until I got my shit together and started moving again.
On the downhill to Muir beach, my brother from the US of A Timmy didn’t pass by me, didn’t run by me but literally flew by me! I didn’t realize at the time what should have been a big red flag. First that I was ahead of him at this point, and second that I was being passed on a downhill. Last time Tim and I ran together, I didn’t feel like I was that slow compare to him running downhill.
Bottom line, things had started to go south, but I ignore it and push the flat section on the single track along the road.
I see my crew that’s cheering me on. Second sign auguring bad things ahead, was I had to force myself to smile back at them. I’m usually all smiles.
The hill to cardiac is where I couldn’t fake it anymore. I was stuck, my legs felt like wood, I couldn’t breathe and I again started to ask myself all sorts of questions, and the wrong ones on top of it. What a shame to disappoint. My crew is out there doing their best to help me, how can’t I bring MY best? If I trained so hard and can’t run better than that, what the hell am I doing here? What did I do wrong? Will I get a second wind? I wasn’t allowed to mess up my last race with New Balance whose colors I wanted to carry high and proud one last time.
I kept pushing, saw Rob on the out and back, walking on the flat road section, and greeting me. Dang, it seems he’s having an even worse day than me and yet he’s still smiling. What a champ.
As I arrived down to the next aid station, I wanted to call it a day. But my crew didn’t give up on me that easily, and walked me into continuing. I had reached rock bottom inside, but Anna’s enthusiasm somehow got me back on track and I attacked that hill with everything I had, which wasn’t much to be honest.
Getting closer to the Pantol Ranger station, I bumped into a good friend of mine, Adam Chase who had come to pace another friend Josh Korn.
We chat for a bit, he knows me well so realises quickly I’m not in a good day. He asks me if I fell. I’m not sure what he means, I look at my clean legs and answer unsure, “No, why?”. His smiling face changes into a much more serious and worried one almost instantly, and responded “your nose is bleeding, Martin. If you weren’t aware of it, it’s bad news and you should probably call it a day”. Wise words.
You never want to push a friend into dropping out, unless they’re about to jeopardize their health.
I would eventually pull out at Pantol and catch a ride to Tennessee Valley to catch up with my crew. My stomach cramped when I made eye contact with them as they were there expecting me coming from the trail… I was devastated to have let them down, but was too messed up to be able to let it out. I zoned out, tried to eat something and stood there cheering as runners were passing by.
Later that day, I talked to a bunch of people, and few of them had dropped too, which was a ridiculous relief for me, even though I don’t race according to what other people do, it helped me realise that DNF is part of being competitive. You can have a bad race and decide to push through to cross the finish line and save your self-esteem, sometimes at high costs physically and mentally. Or you can drop out.
I had pushed through twice earlier this year, at the Mont Blanc 80k and two weeks later at Ice Trail Tarentaise. It had affected me so much that I was disgusted with running for the next month an a half. I wasn’t ready to damage myself mentally – and seemingly physically too – more than I already had, for a mediocre result for the energy spent towards that goal. It took me a long time to get over that first DNF, but I still can’t regret that decision.
Live and learn
Only because I knew I had trained consistently, eaten well, slept well, and rested well, I had the arrogance to believe I was guaranteed to have a good one out there. I wasn’t. You can’t take a good day for granted, fact. Tough one, true one.
I learned another lesson the hard way that day. This season has been more about learning from my mistakes than actually performing at the level I believe I could have.
Should I have the time to train decently for the 2015 season, I will stick to technical and tough sub marathon distance races. I want to run fast again, taste blood down my throat, feel the adrenaline pumping in my veins and stop making my body ache for days after a race. My race calendar is done, but is yet to be disclosed.
In the meantime, I’m back at training hard and got back together with my beloved mistress… She makes me hurt so good, we share rough sessions, during which I get at it repeatedly, with high intensity. Dear track I’ve missed you, it’s been too long.
One of the simplest yet wisest things I was ever told from a professional standpoint was “Business is People”. This has happened to be a verifiable fact I experienced almost on a daily basis since. My most interesting and fruitful business encounters have come from informal chats and relationship in the least expected situations.
I have only recently realised that it might be just as simple with friendship and life in general.
Whether they are the quiet neighbour that we have very little interaction with yet have been part of our lives for as long as we remember, or the very intense relationship we have had with someone even if lasted for a short period of time, the total stranger we have a conversation with in a coffee shop and plants an idea in our brain that will last for ever, I truly believe that all people we meet have an impact on our lives.
And since everything is balanced, the more you give and open to people, the more you will receive. I have received so much this past few weeks it’s almost ridiculous.
Find out soon more about two of my most memorable adventures this past month and an upcoming one I’m already delighted about.
However, my preparation up leading to it was far from world class when it came down to my running. I had lost my motivation for running and was still training because I had to, and not because I genuinely wanted to get out there and have fun loading up on endorphins.
So when I got a phone call to do the English comment for the live TV at the UTMB, I accepted not to give up on my however so precious race number for Kima to go and have what sounded like the experience of a lifetime. It was hell of a week leading up to the event and the few days of the actual exceeded my expectations. I’m glad I made that decision.
So here I was, flying to Bozeman, MT, absolutely unfit, having lost that fire that once made me run like a demon. I thus decided to have the most enjoyable experience possible, giving up on a performance approach.
Feeling quite good early on, I figured I’d run fast while I’d have wheels and try to keep it together once that 2 hours mark would hit, turning that run into the longest one in over 3 weeks.
Well, when my wheels feel off, they did. Hard. So my journey in the pain cave started and as expected, it just wasn’t as pleasant.
Things however took an unexpected turn as I fell off the trail after I had managed to go almost all the way down on the other side of Lone Peak. My forefoot kissed a rock for a bit too long, while momentum had me getting closer to the ground.
The always so optimistic runner I am tried to carry on running a bit faster to even my balance and avoid the inevitable. These few more steps only made me gain more momentum, I dived in. Hand and head first, rolled, bounced again and again, until I hit a pine tree 10 feet below. No time to assess the damage, both my legs instantly seized up. I screamed. It stopped. I try to get myself out of that tree. My legs cramped. I screamed again. I would later realise what a trick I must have pulled off to still be alive after such a fall.
I didn’t want to use that fall as an excuse to quit, and after I covered 2 miles to pulling myself back together, got my elbow fixed by a medic on the course, I sucked up the pain and dragged myself to that finish line.
More that finishing the race, I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces and get a full body check to ensure no more damaged had been done.
I ended up being fine, with a bunch of bruises all over by legs, hand, and back. Lucky. Arnaud Tortel did take a close look at me and confirmed I’d be fine. A special Patch on the elbow and should be fine within few days.
As a guest at the Salomon House for the event, it was a privilege and a pleasure to share these moments with top athletes and most importantly getting to spend quality time with people who I considered as friends already, yet whose company hadn’t had the chance to really enjoy.
The competition ended, and it was now time for a special event. An event where chrono and competition gave place to running free and campfires, the SaloMontanaFreedomTour was about to start.
In 22 years of running, this is the first time I have to face it.
Physical injuries are more common in our sport and usually fairly easy to identify and get a remedy for. This one is a different kind.
Whatever I do, I do it with my heart which is I believe how I can give my best. I have always loved running and most likely always will. Yet, after the Skyrunning World Champs 80k in Chamonix in late June, I was spent. Physically and mentally. I was thus looking forward to a short break before race Speedgoat 50k, three weeks later.
Change of plans stopped me from going over to the States and thus tow the line of my first race of the 2014 Skyrunning ultra series. Needing three races to place in the series, I had to fall back on Ice Trail Tarentaise one week earlier. So instead of a 6hrs-ish effort I should have performed at SpeedGoat 50k, I ended up dragging myself close to 9hrs on an unforgiving 65k and 4000m gain through high mountains and deep snowfields, sometimes head comes first !
Stakes of being “frosted” are higher than ever, and I am actually delighted to be spending as much time as I’ll be able to hold on for with such a strong and enthusiast person.
I have been discussing life styles with a wise friend of mine and it only started scratching the surface of such a topic.
We stuck to the nomadic aspect of it, and sure there was already a lot to cover.
What fired up our thoughts was the awareness of being fortunate to have options to travel the world. Not a lot of people get such chance, which is the first reason why we’d feel guilty not to fully embrace it.
It’s amazing at first, new places, new people, new races and challenges. It feels like being a kid in a candy store. Many options to chose from, and the allowance to get at it.
Just like candy eating though, have too much and you get sick of it. Being the family guy I believe I am, the thought of being away from home recently started to creep on me.
Missing out on family and old friends brings me back to reality. The brutal reality that time doesn’t stand still while I enrich my soul from all foreign encounters and feed my thoughts with opportunities and dreams.
Having the immense luck to have had my family together and close since I was born, I have always had this conviction that family will always be there. It’s not. People go and that’s part of life, and our discussion brought light on this simple fact yet critical to acknowledge. Why critical? Because you need to expect it so you won’t be taken by surprise. Live fully and without holding back, but with that fact in mind, so when the inevitable arrives, there will be tears but no regrets.
I will keep traveling as much as I can, especially because I have now built strong relationships with amazing people all around the globe, but I’ll also ensure to take some time off that vagabond life of mine to settle down for a good old chat, a beer, or simply enjoying the presence of my genetic and extended tribe that I’m grateful to still have around.
Keep on the fun and meaningless shenanigans, keep loving each other, don’t hold anything against anyone, because when it’s too late, there is nothing left but regrets.
Zegama is a legendary race that all skyrunner have heard of, if not dreamed about. This year, I had the chance to take part in this special gathering for the first time.
Just like sex, hangovers, love, some things just need to be experienced to be understood and fully appreciated. It doesn’t matter how much people tell you about, and how detailed the descriptions are. Nothing compare to that moment where you find yourself at the core of that experience, and you think to yourself, “oh, that’s what they were talking about”. And then you become that person who tells the story, that again won’t be enough to satisfy new breeds of skyrunners.
As a firm believer that one best enjoy good things when share with others, I spent the weekend with my fellow buddies of the New Balance Team, Seb Buffard, Nico Bouvier-Gaz, Ju Navarro all with their significant other. A quick pit stop at Nico to gather around and off we were, driving down to Zegama in an RV.
The little gang set forth 12k down from Zegama, and after a well earned dinner, we were off to a good night of sleep.
A quick morning jogg with Nico to loosen the legs and it was time to hit Zegama to pick up our numbers and try and become a little familiar with the area. Sadly there was very little chance to get our bearings as a thick layer of clouds had settled on the Aizkorri massif. Oh well, we would see the course soon enough anyway.
As always, it is amazing to catch up with many friends I only get to see during these short migrations periods around major international races. Many of them had flown from all over the world to put their training to use, raise high their team and country colours and measure themselves against the best field there is for that type of event.
I’m getting more and more silent, trying to go in my confort zone and focus on tomorrow’s race. The weather is bad, and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way for my first experience at Zegama. I wanted it to be as hard as it could be. I knew it was going to be a suffer fest no mater what and weather conditions wouldn’t change that, so I might as well wish for the whole package. I’m happy and eager to get at it.
We are bombing down one of the first steep grassy hill of the race. Knowing my lack of uphill training, I had planned to start conservatively to get to let it all out during the second half, mostly downhill.
So there I was around position 80, with a group of 5 other runners, running in a wet and slippery cow field. 4 parallel trenches offer visible yet deadly slippery slopes, and on both sides uneven and almost as slippery grass were the two options we had. Not really sure what to go for, we were moving from one to the other. The comic part of this is that sort of a funky dance takes place at full speed and despite the clear absence of control, none of us showed any will to slow down.
I’m laughing inside at how ridiculous the situation is… but truth be told I’m totally freaked out, how am I going to keep it together till the end.
This is picture of Luis taking a tumble at the end of that same downhill section. It made me appreciate that I was right to question our sanity hammering that very section, if even a true Champion like him could fail to nail it.
The rest of the race went quite well, never really fainted until 8k from the finish, during that long and both fast and muddy downhill. The words I had been told reasoned in my mind “it’s like XC running, if you have a down time, you’ll get passed by lots of runners”. So I look back and sure enough, a group of 3 runners fly past me, followed by another group of 2.
5k from the finish I pulled myself together and made my move. I gave everything I had, caught up with the 2 runners and kept trucking towards the group of 3, that I ket catching glimpses of. 3 more kilometers and they are holding the distance. I can’t seem to gain anymore terrain on them, so there I am, 150m back, going all out and hoping one of them would fall apart. None did.
I finished drained, exhausted, around the 48th place but satisfied to have had the opportunity to experience what Zegama had to offer.
I’m half sat, half laid down on my couch, looking out the window. It’s a fine day out there, perfect weather for a long run in the mountains. Sadly I won’t run for another month.
The pain has become so intense bending my leg, I gave up trying. I stay on the couch and suck it up. Work, emails, social networks, books and movies, at this point I have tried everything to keep mind away from a will to run becoming more oppressing. Will I turn insane?
This is what my leg looked like exactly a year ago. It wasn’t pretty, it was extremely painful. 3 weeks later I was running TransVulacnia, my first 50 miler and what kicked off a successful Skyrunning season.
Injuries are such an interesting state for the runner, here are some facts :
- We know we need running in our lives.
- We know about injuries and have most likely already experienced it.
- 87% of the time (totally made that up) we are the only ones to blame when it happens. We either ran too hard, too far, for too long and sometimes too soon causing the inevitable curse of the injury.
Any rational soul will lose sanity trying to figure out why we do this to ourselves despite our undeniable awareness?
By no means this post will give you an answer on such behaviour, but I have found a few cases where such drawbacks occur and seemed close enough to running to compare them with.
CASE STUDY #1
My first finding lied in economic crisis. I have a masters degree in business so why not try and look at that side of things after all.
DOW JONES during the 1929 industrial crisis
NASDAQ value before and after the “dot com” bubble
After an in depth analysis of some of the main stock market crises of the century (looking at pictures mostly) we can all see they have something in common. But let’s not draw any conclusion too early and carry on with the next examples.
CASE STUDY #2
To keep the youngsters with classic movie references in the loop, here comes my second finding.
Frank, during Mitch house party, lets out the infamous “Frank the Tank” for a glorious come back, an undeniable hight point in Frank’s life (and let’s be honest in American movies history too). A solid built up from the excitement of a first beer bang, to the most legendary solo streaking.
Sadly, the night long uphill trend reverses when he gets picked up by his wife out on a girls night, is made fun of by the girlfriends and ultimately is given the boot by his soon-to-be ex-wife. Massive fall.
CASE STUDY #3
Last reference is a really bad experience, well mostly bad but get funny with time. Getting totally hammered at a party. I hope many of you haven’t experienced this and I suggest you don’t. And for those who have, enjoy the ride back to the point where your memories faded.
You’ve had a long ass week at work or school, but comes the weekend and that massive party everyone has been excited about. As a runner, chances are you are a little competitive. Let’s just remember that for later. You’re out of your weekly duties, catch up with your friends, and gather at one’s flat to “warm up” before heading to the real party.
One song leads to another, one drink to another things get out of control and after the neighbours have come repeatedly to complain about the noise , it’s time to make a move before things go too crazy… Mind you, it’s already too late.
This is what the warm up felt like… yet this is us on the way to the party
Needless to further describe the party, not to spare you the disconcerting details but simply for a serious lack of it, until morning hits… hard. We often, but not restricted to, look like one of the following :
Yes, pretty pathetic.
So how did we get there? How could we be in such a positive, optimistic, ecstatic state one minute and brutally feel like our world has been turned upside down in a matter of hours?
Here is the process that unfolds in the three situations described above : A build up, a peak, a dramatic fall. Each of these dramatic fall was preceded by a long and steady raise, up to an un preceded high point. At this point, we feel unbreakable, invulnerable, we own the world and what another risky investment, a quick nocturne streak, or another drink could do to us ? The answer is : everything.
At this precise point, we still have the choice to step back and be wise, but the voice of reason that could have saved us, is quieted by our inner champ (this is the competitive attitude I was telling you about) who can’t get enough of such a pleasing high.
Back to running.
I believe a big part of the injuries we get as runners is caused by the excitement of hitting a new high in our training and/or performances. We feel great, better than ever sometimes, indestructible, and thus we forget about the basics such as rest, sleep and recovery.
I believe if we are not mentally strong enough to create a voluntary break in our performing upward trend chart, injury will catch up and do it for us. In 95% of the time (another made up stat.) we’ll come out of the injury just fine and will eventually get back to putting one foot in front of the other at an easy, fast and light pace. But in my opinion while these injuries force us step back, think, assess and question things which is really healthy, they certainly are not be the best way to do so, especially for our bodies and long years of running free in the mountains.
To wrap up this reflexion with an open suggestion, if you feel like a million bucks right now, how about cracking open a PBR, put on some good ol’ tunes, chill with your friends and family, sit back, reflect and get back at it a few days later… Stronger!
I’ll leave you to this, my girl is out of town and I have a trader’s party to attend.
I ran today, and I was bitching about it.
I went up a local mountain and faced over 30cm of fresh snow half way up… Not equipped for such conditions, I turned around and kept running down across and over trails that weren’t as covered in snow.
I got lost, hurdle few dozen of tree trunks, crossed countless puddles of mud, fell three times and got pissed at my cardio that kept falling off. Result, I ended up running 2h30 instead of the 3h initially planned.
I think even my mum would give me shit for complaining about such things, so i certainly don’t expect compassion.
Yet, I found in a comment I received from a dear friend a statement that forced me to step back and think for a second: “At least you are running!! Think about all the people who can’t and the times when you were injured”
Valid point that hit me hard. I felt like a whining spoiled little brat and realized how true that statement was.
So true that I wanted to share it with you all. Go get out there and enjoy your runs just because you can, and that alone is a privilege we shouldn’t take for granted.
I’m sitting in the train on my way back to Annecy. I have now tried any possible position and just can’t find the one to put my legs into to lower the throbbing pain that they are inflicting me. Yes I did it again…
I only raced 30 little Ks today and yet I feel more beat up than after a 50 miler. Well perhaps the fact that the race took place on XC slopes and unevenly packed leading to few knee deep sudden steps, falls and swearing… a lot of swearing.
I knew after a 3 weeks break and almost no quality sessions for a month, I wasn’t going to be at 100%. But I clearly had underestimated how such an event would be unforgiving to those like me who wanted to be competitive without the proper level of fitness.
I did not enjoy that race. I lacked velocity and power and thus speed, hurt from start to finish for a merely acceptable result. So why did I part take in this race today?
I got to spend some time with my coach and New Balance France trail running team manager as well as meet one of my fellow NB athlete Julien Navarro (who won the 12k) up in Serre Chevalier. I learned from their talent and shared good time and a few beers, perhaps too many, and surely very little compare to what’s coming ahead this year. Worth every second of pain I’m experiencing right now.
Oh and I also bagged a copious amount of humility, that will come handy to help me push through hard training sessions as the 2014 season is about to get serious.
Hope you too can now and then get much more out of your runs than your endorphin fix and burned calories.
Till next time