Monday, October 12, 2009

What motivates you

"Check yourself before you wreck yourself" or so go the rap lyrics by Ice Cube. We all make bad choices in life at times. Sometimes thats ok, when we acknowledge going in that our motivation is bad or we know that the choice is not good for us and when in general the bad choice is an abberation not the rule. Its not good though when we try and lie to ourselves and say our motivations are good and pure and try and pretend that our bad decisions are actually good ones. It is not healthy when we make bad choices out of physchologically unhealthy places or when the bad choice involves little real choice and is instead motivated by obsession or compulsion. When it comes to training and racing, I am constantly monitoring myself and questioning my own motivations in order to not make bad decisions or decision that are self-destructive of the goals I really do want to accomplish.

With training and racing scheduling it is a battle to find a healthy balance, a balance that is motivated by concrete goals and steers clear of compulsion, ego or other neutrotic and self-defeating motivations. I am motivated to run because I love it. I love challenging myself, I love to push myself. I love the freedom of running. Racing is a fun opportunity to mark in time my progress. Races are a challenge and a goal. When I plan my schedule, I try to not over-race as I want to first and foremost, give myself a chance to actually train for an event. Next, give my body an opportunity to recover. For me racing less means I can race better and faster.

After racing Vermont 50 two weeks ago, I was suppose to follow up with an insane running of another 50miler 6 days later. I couldn't because I was sick. And while I physically could have accomplished the feat if I hadn't been sick, the point of doing the back to back was the two races individually, not the feat of running back to back 50 milers. That is important to point out. I say that because after not being able to run Tussey, I felt a bit bad about myself for not doing the double and I got a (bad) idea in my head that I would run Dick Collins Fire Trails 50 mile this past Saturday. I figured, why not? I was going to run Tussey, so I might as well do a double. The question I should have been asking myself (and a friend did ask me) was why for? I have other goal races coming up and rapidly. Running Dick Collins would have meant more recovery, less time on specific training, possibly hurting myself or pushing myself to hard, possibly being slower for my "A" races. There were plenty of reasons why not, but in my head I couldn't shake the desire to do it. So I decided to make a bad decision. I have wanted to run that race and here was an opportunity to do so. But deep down deciding to do so left me unsettled. Friday night rolls around and I make my pre-race dinner and tuck into bed early, but I couldn't sleep. I was kept awake because I knew that I was trying to lie to myself. I was making a bad decision AND doing it for the wrong reasons while telling myself my choices were good and pure. I was telling myself I was running just to run, but really I was running because not running Tussey, even though I physically couldn't run because I was so sick, bruised my ego. I had decided to do this double and didn't achieve it, I wanted to prove that I could race and win two major 50 milers in a row. Bad motivation. I hadn't planned to do Dick Collins, had done no specific training for it and had been very sick until about 4 days before it. As I lay there, I had to check myself. I had to walk away from my decision. It is hard to do that sometimes. We make a decision, we announce it to the world (or not) and we commit in our heart to doing something, it is hard to turn the tides of a big, firm decision, especially as "too late to change your mind" approaches.

One of the things I really love about personal growth is the ability to read and understand ourselves, to recognize our own bad decisions. In the first stage of personal growth, we often recognize immediately after a bad decision that we made a bad choice. Then, gradually over time, we beging to recognize our behaviour sooner and sooner, until at last we can get to the place where we don't make the bad choice in the first place. A great example of this is when I was going to buy a new VW TDI Jetta Sportwagen this year. I was completely in love with the car, got my name on the list for mine to be built and waited for my name to come up. I got to line jump and put my deposit in earlier than I had expected and my order went to the factory. Now, I didn't need a new car. I own my car outright, it is awesome. There is no good reason other than having a shiny new toy to get a car. But there I went down the road of bad decision. Finally, my car came in and I went to the dealership (driving up from SF to Seattle to get it) to sign the paperwork and get my new car. I was trading in my car and expected that I would at the minimum get blue book for it. When push came to shove, they were willing to give me $6000 less than blue book. It was my wake up call. I didn't need a new car and now I was going to get robbed on my trade-in and end up with a large car payment again! Heck no. I was under alot of pressure from the salesperson and was knee deep, we had worked really hard to get this car for me and all ready for me. But I realized that I was making a bad decision, I was buying a new car because I wanted a shiny distraction. There was no need for me to get the car. So I walked away. I got up from the salesman's desk and walked away. That is like showing up a the startline, hearing the gun go off and turning around and getting back in your car. It is a hard thing to walk away when you are in so deep. But I did it. And I have become more comfortable bailing out before the moment of bad choice impact. Running Dick Collins would have been that impact, so I bailed. I am happy I did. It is a bigger victory for me to be true to myself than it would have been to win a race.

I think it is good to question yourself, your motivation, your emotional health. I think we should never ever be afraid to ask the question of ourselves: What motivates me? What is motivating my decisions? Whether in running, eating, working, relating or life, it is always good to keep a conscious eye on our motivators.


  1. Devon,
    Reading this reminds me why I think you are such an outstanding person. You just know how to keep it real.

    This post spoke to me because I think I've really learned how to ask myself that question over the past year and it is amazing what kind of direction you can get when you are truly honest with yourself.

    We should ALWAYS be questioning our motivations and ALWAYS strive to be honest. Brutally honest!

    Congrats on walking away when it was the right thing to do. It's never easy but nobody said the truth was easy.

    Can't wait to hang out with you soon. :)


  2. I am reading Dave Ramsey like crazy lately. Little to do with running, but lots with the car decision:) Glad you made both of those decisions for yourself.

  3. Nicola GildersleeveOctober 13, 2009 at 7:11 AM

    My boyfriend and I were having a discussion all about decision making today. well, more about MY decision making and none about his haha.

    I have realized what these 'bad decisions' are and am slowly starting to make the wrong desicion less and less. Although, somehow I still do seem to make them. You are right. Eventually, You make the wrong decision enough times, that it gets easier to pick the right one.

    I think one of the hardest things to do is to walk away from something when you have told the world about your decision. When you go ahead and do it, it's not even for you, it's for everyone else you told because your to embarrased to look like you changed your mind.

    Nice blog!

  4. LOVE the Ice Cube motivation! "You Can Do It (Put Your A** Into It" is also surprisingly effective. Example" "Life ain't a track meet/It's a marathon." Doesn't get better than that!

  5. What a great post. I love the way you described personal growth, the stages one goes through. The car, the would have been 'easier' to go through with the decisions you made first, but so much smarter and better in the long run to make the tough decisions, to change your decisions and be able to live with yourself and to be truthful to yourself. That is huge. This is the first post I have read of yours, I will continue to read on. Thanks!

  6. Thanks guys, glad you all enjoyed.

    Amy- I love that Ice Cube song for motivation! Great running song.

    Julie- Welcome, glad you enjoyed the post and I am pleased to hear you will be back. Thank you!

  7. Devon,

    Thanks for your sharing your self reflection in your posts.

    "With training and racing scheduling it is a battle to find a healthy balance, a balance that is motivated by concrete goals and steers clear of compulsion, ego or other neutrotic and self-defeating motivations."

    This is very true.

    I am motivated to run in order to keep physically fit. I am motivated to run on trails in the mountains, because these places are usually beautiful places to be, and because the wilderness is my church, my place of worship.

    The training runs are spiritual meditations for me. The races, a nice place to meet other people like me who share a love of running, the outdoors, and especially the trail.

    Best of luck to you, always. I truly appreciate your thoughtful posts.


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