Sunday, August 23, 2020

Optimism Supernova Engaged

Griaß di, meine Lieben! 

(translation - "good day, my loves!", in our local Tyrol mountain dialect)

I hope this finds you all well, with hearts full of hope that cast spontaneous smiles across your face like comets. I know it is a challenge to be an optimist these days, but you really should be. Gratitude is our superpower! And when faced with the #CoronaTrumpBlackLivesMatterHomeSchoolingForeverZoomIsMyNewOfficeScrewMasksAllRacesCancelled* reality that is today, we should all be ready to full on supernova right now. Collect that energy, meine Lieben, your time is coming! (early November, Americans...don't forget to vote!)

Personally, I am feeling...well, I think "healed" is the right word. Not due to an athletic injury, per se, but more of an overuse injury of the professional kind. You may have heard of it (or unfortunately have experienced it) as "burnout". For me, apparently, that is ~40 consecutive 15+ hour workdays of semi-controlled chaos, with some home schooling and global pandemic to caramelize what little energy is left. It only stopped when my family intervened to tell me you haven't stepped outside in more than a week. What? A week? Me, the guy who fuels up on dirt and mountains? How does this happen?!?

Many reasons. But in retrospect, nearly all self-inflicted. Perhaps it's that Little Engine That Could voice that all of ultrarunners nuture, now looking for outlets in a raceless world. When respected workmates ask for help, it is hard to say no, even when your cup is spilling over like Niagara Falls. And one should never let a good crisis go to waste (as I often say as a manager) and we had plenty of fuel for that fire. Put them together and life balance starts looking less like a scale, and more like a Trebuchet catapult. Luckily I'm living in Europe, where it is strange NOT to take two weeks of vacation in August. When I finally set the "out of office" reply, it felt like staggering across the finish line in a deep fog of exhaustion, swearing it can't really be the end/it's just a mirage/we must keep going, even after you have crossed its pearly gates. 

A few days of sleep, then the family was ready to break out of our castle (dungeon?). It's still tricky to travel beyond Austria and a few neighbouring countries, but Austria remains novel for us, so we were content with a few nights in the big city (Vienna), some local exploring, and a week in the mountains (Kitzbühel). I had no race to train for, given the recent cancellation of the rescheduled Ironman Austria (my last Summer holdout!). But in the Alps, people of all ages are hiking, running, and cycling every day for hours, with a few beer and food stops along the way. It's just how they roll, and a good reminder that one doesn't need a race to smile in the sun and enjoy the splendor. 

I'm back now, recharged and ready. I've blocked out my mornings once more, selfishly claiming back precious daily time in my local mountains. As fate would have it, the adidas Innsbruck Alpine Trailrunning Festival has announced it is still "a go" for September 13th, which means the marathon distance can also count as my virtual Boston Marathon run. Wait...a trail marathon to keep my Boston streak fitting is that?!? I never saw that that coming. What a great story to be captured! 

In my limited (and self-serving) understanding of supernovas, they occur when there is a sudden re-ignition of nuclear fission at the core, caused by excess gravity applied on a star that is losing fuel. Sounds familiar!


Cheers all! - SD

* For the record, this very Germanesque hashtag officially started here. ;-)

Friday, May 01, 2020

Why does running give you a high? Here’s the science (TED) recently published an excerpt from Dr. Kelly McGonigal's new book, The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, about the most recent research on the runners high. I cracked up that I seem to have the most low-brow quote of all time amongst all the scientists:
" Trail runner and triathlete Scott Dunlap sums up his running high this way: “I would equate it to two Red Bulls and vodka, three ibuprofen, plus a $50 winning Lotto ticket in your pocket.” "

That quote was from so long ago! Still, it's fun to see it mixed with all the latest science that helps explain both why we love to run long, and why it connects us together.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hello, I Miss You! Capturing The Feelings of the Corona Crisis...

How are you? I mean, are you doing?

I've said this, and meant it, more in the last two weeks than the previous five years.

And, I miss you. I truly, truly miss you all. It's time that I admit that too.

The things we take for granted, in sudden absence, can have stinging clarity. For me, it is mourning our race calendar, our sports. That schedule that ensured we found each other on a regular cadence.

I find I mourn for the specifics - a starting line to reconnect with my tribe, the unique salty, sunburnt glow that comes from playing all day in nature, and a finish line where shared laughter is the ultimate victory. Not to mention the lazy evening on the couch with our collective feet up, high-fiving across the social channels to the thousands of others in their races.

And I miss hugs. Specifically, those out of the ordinary hugs that we give each other, because we did something extraordinary, together.

We usually bask every weekend in hugs, sweat, and finish lines this time of year...such a given! And now, gone. We can still touch base, but we just can't connect.

For now, anyway.

Our races will return before we know it, our bond greater than ever, and we will appreciate them all the more.

Know that this is inevitable, and let some humor in to keep you company. It's like the whole world got plantar fasciitis at the same time - stay home, don't move, laugh about it when you can. Not sure for how long, weeks for some and months for others, but soon enough, we'll all be back on our feet.

We are DAY 18 on lockdown here in Austria. Nearly three weeks of no schools, offices, restaurants, bars, etc. - just limited breaks to walk the dog and get groceries. Zelda is thrilled to head out for walkies a couple of times a SHE takes US for a walk so WE don't chew the end off of the coffee table.

It seemed crazy when the Austrian government went full lockdown so, watching COVID-19 hit full stride in the USA, I wish more of you had been forced into the same circumstance. From this side of the Atlantic, the US outbreak reminds me of watching a California forest fire heat map in a thunderstorm while the Santa Ana winds are blowing hard (and most Americans are taking selfies next to the glow). Hunker down, people!

Most days we sit and enjoy the quiet, noticing that our planet is thriving outside like never before. No traffic, no planes, no mindless group consumption in pursuit of distraction...there are literally birds and bees (and bunnies) everywhere in our neighbourhood. The Danube river is truly blue, and the flowers just can't wait any longer. The trails are too full for trail running, but I love seeing how the forests help calm these communities in their time of need.

Other days the house feels like Vegas - losing money every minute, cocktails are acceptable at any hour, and nobody has any idea what day it is.

Work has become a fountain of inspiration. My team at adidas Runtastic rushed to get 260+ free workout videos and training plans to the world, and now our morning dashboards show millions of people staying fit during quarantine. All ages, all countries, all fitness levels, and growing like's the biggest rush to athletics I have ever seen in my lifetime. It feels good to provide a little help among the helplessness, and we have more fun stuff coming.

To be honest, I have enjoyed working remotely more than I would have ever guessed. The kids and pets interrupting the online meetings, the wide variety of attics, hallways, kitchens, and bathrooms that are now offices, and the collective unspoken decision to no longer deal with hairstyles. It feels more like family now, and more honest than ever.

Plus the realization of how much time one actually spends on weekly work, packing, parking, waiting, flying, checking in, smalltalk with strangers, hotels, cabs, tracking's like I got a bonus eighth day in the week back, with explicit permission to not wear pants. That day is quickly swallowed up by home schooling, cleaning our own toilets, and conference calls, but still, I'll take that trade.

Fitness-wise, it has been the virtual cycling world of Zwift that has filled the gap for me. I miss the outdoors, but plugging into Zwift keeps me connected to other athletes in real time (and out of the Emergency Room), and we collectively give Corona the finger each night as we bury ourselves in the evening race or ride. I should be in (virtual) Ironman shape by July. ;-)

This has been a tough time for all of us. I do honestly hope that this find you doing well, and seeing the silver lining wherever you can. In truth, it will likely get worse before it gets better, but when it finally gets better, it's going TO BE GREAT!!!

Hang in there, and I'll see you at the starting line soon.

Cheers, ScottD

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Buongiorno! A Morning Run Through Rome...

It was a frosty February morning in Rome, as I repeatedly peeked out of the hotel lobby window in desperate search of a few rays of sunshine gracing the cobblestone streets. I had already mistakenly stepped out pre-sunrise, realizing my error when I instantly burst into full body goosebumps tall enough to make a pufferfish jealous. This was my own fault, of course, having wishfully packed only shorts and t's while glancing at the projected 60+ F degree highs promised by my "smart" phone. But the ultrarunner in me knew better - had this been a race trip, I would have (rightfully) brought the entire gear closet. But family vacations, by design, are often blissfully delusional long before the destination arrives.

The hotel staff suggests 'perhaps one more espresso'? Espresso was invented here, after all, and along with gelato and Aperol spritzers, seems to be a universal Italian cure all for conundrums. The suggestion would normally be awkward to a runner warming up (far too long) in the lobby, but when smothered in copious amounts of Italian generosity spoken in the melodious tempo of their language, it is a sirens song. Mother Nature felt it too, and necessarily broke us all from the spell with her shower of light. The lit windows conjured a joint declaration of "O sole mio! Our day has arrived!", and I headed out the door with a nod, pufferfish bumps and all.

(At the Caffe Greco, where espresso was invented)
The warm colors of Rome could not be contained by Winter's thin veil, blooming in chorus with the sounds and smells of a waking city. My morning run had a mission, as it always does on the first day of family vacation - get a lay of the land, and find some unique venues in between the tourist spots that each family member would enjoy. For my wife, Christi, that would be the alleys full of street art and historic buildings, some uncrowded shopping for local fare thrown in, and perhaps a nice outdoor cafe near a fountain to contemplate the afternoon. For Sophie (13), it would be the best, and fullest, dog parks where the people watching never disappoints. For Quinn (8), a string of gelato shops that would keep her hands sticky and a chocolate smile on her face for most of the day would be nothing short of heaven. And for me? Well, I'm just excited the family sees the morning run as a positive thing. To be instructed to explore at full pace, eyes wide open, is the proverbial icing on the panetonne.

Every route in Rome (or "Rohmmma" as they deliciously say here) is a cornucopia of the marvellous capacity and inspiration of man- and womankind. Running, with its time-distorting meditative metronome, amplifies the appreciation factor.

(The Trevi Fountain)

The Trevi Fountain, for example, is not just the work of art that set the standard for all Vegas hotels, but also marks the geographic point where three aqueducts collectively brought so much fresh water to Rome that it was literally bursting from the ground. Can you imagine, in the year 1629, visiting a city where fresh water, the very essence of life, came naturally to every street corner? It would be the definition of Eden.

(I'm so used to churches these days, I tried to combine its unique chill with the bliss of a trail we all know)

A few km's later, I ran near a school during "kid drop off", and watched the parents all leisurely catch up with each other as the church and school bells rang. So familiar! Gossip sounds much better in Italian though. The many parents with dogs were all headed to the same park, so I followed the parade of leashes to the top of the hill. St. Peters Basilica, the largest church in the world (and quite honestly, the only one you will ever need to visit), stood across the river, fanning in its majesty. To see this citadel in the 1600's, filled with glorious art that transcends all language (and inability to read any), I would be hard to dispute that following this God thing would not have its rewards.

(Some great street art)
A few narrow alleys led me to some amazing graffiti street art, and plopped me out near the Colosseum. Built in 80 AD, Nero's grand stage was a place where Romans could watch the re-enacted battles of Rome for free (thereby controlling the historical narrative) and gladiator fights (the pro athletes of the day), killing thousands of slaves each year for entertainment. The crowd was even allowed to give a thumbs up/thumbs down to determine the fate of those in the arena...that sounds A LOT like Facebook to me, si? ;-)

(At the Colosseum)
A group of runners were headed down to a river path, so I followed them to chart a new way back. "When in Rome...", as they say, " where the Romans do." My previous misconception that there weren't a lot of runners in this city was quickly tossed aside as I joined the masses chugged their way down the car- and scooter-free paths.

(Ummmm, what are you up to Quinny?)

I was blissfully lost in time and place, an ultrarunners favorite state of being. By not thinking too much about that fact, and trusting the intuition of my steps, I found myself at the hotel doorstep again soon enough.

The hotel staff was eager to share an espresso and relive the 25k run with me, no matter how long it took, again catalysing all that is great about this culture. They do enjoy taking a moment to celebrate what the day has brought.

When I lived in the USA, Rome was half a world away. Now that we live in Austria, it's a 90-minute flight, but feels just as foreign and magical once you land. Truly, belissimo!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Well, That Didn't Work

Well, that didn’t work.

I shut down this blog with the best of intentions, truly. A few precious hours regained.

But in the absence of blogging I have found, quite selfishly, that writing is more catholicon than chore. It helps shape the narrative of my overloaded life, rather than add to its burden. The constant search for a story arc is this meditative connective tissue that fuses dreams and reality, and provides much needed agency for humility, courage, and meaning. Plus it helps me find cool new words like “catholicon”. ;-) 

Storytelling is a great personal escape, it turns out. I have so much going on my life – moving to Austria, the family thriving and exploding all at once, embracing my 50’s and its inevitable second half hyperreality, a new continent full of Ironman and ultrarunning events, all while night high diving into a career with adidas - it would be very easy to retreat into the chaos. But in writing the story, one finds meaning. Meaning reinforces purpose, and purpose becomes the supernova that fuels a life well lived.

(Happy 2020, everyone! Ringing in the new decade in Salzburg with Sophie, Christi, and in-laws Brian and Jen)
So here’s the deal, me. We are going to blog. We will make the time to rise above the day-to-day chaos, rediscover the collective humor and adventure around us, and write. We won’t move to distraction platforms (distractforms?) like TikTok or Twitter, and will keep it old school and long form. We will create and capture the stories worth sharing, so they can compound through sharing, inviting others into a world of adventure, fitness, and the transcendence of nature against the daily struggles of life.

Basically, our “mic drop” moment failed. So pick it back up. Ahem!

[clears throat] And here we go….

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