Monday, May 3, 2010

Deep or Wide?

One of the things I have learned about the trail running community is that, for the most part, the runners are somewhat humble. (Except for you Howie ;).

I think one of the reasons for this is the inability for the layman to comprehend what it takes to get through a 50 - 100 miler. We have all heard the

"100 miles? I get tired driving that far"
"How many days do you plan on doing this?"

to name a few.

As a result, I sort of keep it to myself. I guess this blog is a platform to talk about it when I have nobody else who "gets it" close by.

I say "I am a trail runner" or "distance runner" or "adventure runner", but I try to avoid the term "ultra" outside of the circle of those in the know. It is too much of a pain to explain, and often I am defending the sport from a hostile attack, "That is not healthy, or good for you". Sometimes it is met with someone trying to equate what they do to it. (I won't give examples, but some are pretty funny).

Roadies are different. It is all about the PR, the splits, the training, the gaming, etc. Too much stress. Not my cup of tea.

"Tri's" are the best. And yes, I have many friends who are "Tri's" (term trademarked by Todd E). They will probably agree with this. Warning - following sentences are to be read as sarcastic.

"tri's" define themselves by their gear, and if or if they are not an "Ironman". It is always fun to meet one and they introduce themselves as "Ironman". Then there are the groupies oohhing and ahhhing about how someone can swim, then Bike, THEN RUN! What amazing athleticism!

Okay... enough tri trashing. Sorry gang. Feel free to reciprocate.

So, the point of all of this is how my not so close friends don't even know about my "ultra cool bad boy I am soooo tough" lifestyle.

Last week, as the group I was with was winding down from a stressful week, we were chatting about life and what a great team we made. One of my co-workers complimented me on something, but went on so say "just don't be boring". Or something similar to that.





Huh. I have been called many things. Boring was not one I was used to receiving.

I actually took it as a compliment. I knind of knew what they were getting it, and I am happy to be boring vs. the alternative which they had in mind.

But that stuck with me for a few days. And as my mind wandered, it hit me.

Too many people today portray themselves as a "Renaissance Man". In actuality, they are jacks of all trades, masters of none.

I simplified it even more

Mile wide, Inch deep.

This thought was solidified some as I recall conversations with others about home brewing. I meet people all of the time who claim they make their own beer. I think "cool", and start talking to them, discussing our common interest. Most of the time, I quickly find out that they don't brew their own beer. They happened to be, at some time in history, in close proximity to someone brewing beer. As a result, they figured they were a home brewer by means of "being there". Calling themselves a home brewer added to their width, but they only went an inch deep.

Throughout my years as a musician, I have met countless people who claim they play this, that, and the other instrument. I even met a kid once who claimed to "play every instrument". When I asked if he could play the ophicleide, he gave me a blank stare. Upon further review, I found this kid was an inch deep in his talent with each instrument, but people oohed and aahhed at him for each metaphorical width he added to his reperatoire. I can "play" every common wind insturment made today, but saying so would be offensive to those who play those insturments. I play the tuba, and bass trombone, and I am a hack at some others.

I used to be a competitive sailor on big and small boats. Small, one design boats are fun because the skill of the sailor is one of the most important things needed to win. Big boats get fuzzy, especially non-class, non one design. For those of you boat geeks, PHRF or IMS.

Every few years, a rich "adventurer" comes to a famous race, having dumped millions into a boat which should perform well. He hires an expert crew (we all did it for fun), and tries to win a big race. Or, he tries to set some kind of record.

What they are really after, is widening their breadth of "mile wide" or more. These guys go a little deeper than an inch, but they really don't care about the sport. They care care about their egos, or "lagacies".

So after much pondering, I realized that most of my life has been lived 1-2 inches wide, but a mile deep. Dare I say 100 miles deep? Okay, 50 miles, since I am less than 50% on the hundos.

Sometimes I change up what I go deep on, but it is never more than 2 or 3. Right now it is trail running and cooking (i put the beer in that category for now). But... in reality, it goes like this.


Okay, switch the first 2 (it might be switched for me in the near future anyway).

And before you think I am a lush, the brewing is "the art of brewing". It is not the drinking, it is the creation of a great product. It is all of the hard work, study, and know how to create something others like.

I guess God should be above family.

So the big question is....... is this good, bad, or neither?

If our paths cross, and you don't touch any of my "width", I guess I am boring.

Personally, I am fine with it. I find artistry in the things I do.

And the more I think about it, the inch deep runners are the ones who can't comprehend what we do.

I think trail runners/ultra runners are a mile deep by defacto.

Not sure how wide everybody is. (except for BrotherGrub.... he is WIDE)


SteveQ said...

The worst insult I ever received was " you're a dilettante." It hurt like hell because it was true; I could do anything, but nothing particularly well and I've spent a lot of time rectifying that.

I love to tell triathletes that an ironman is an hour of lying down, 5 hours of sitting and then finally you get to run a marathon. They hate that.

I had never heard of an ophicleide. Now THAT's obscure! A friend of mine has a talent for being able to pick up an instrument and be able to play it well within a day. Not great, however... but still better than I ever could.

You're not boring. You're more of a Bell's or Widmer's than a Coors (and that makes me de Dolle's).

Psyche said...

I really enjoy your thoughtful posting and the way you examine complex concepts via 'every day life' happenings. We can all relate to your posts- at least on some level.

It's funny that you mention 'roadies. I've been giving that concept some thought since my marathon. It was such a stress fest prior, then things totally changed when I decided to give up the "race" and help my son finish his first full marathon. Now THAT meant something to me.

I ended up running nearly 30 miles that day and felt unusually proud of that accomplishment- and who cares I was out there for 6 hours? Now, I'm conquering 40 Sunday. The thought of what I'm about to do is scarey and exciting and makes me feel far better about running than I have for the last couple of marathons. Hmm..

BTW, good luck to you Saturday on your 50M. Can't wait to hear about it.

brothergrub said...

You definitely can't afford to be 1 inch Matt while you are trying to be the Fast Matt... Your wife would not be impressed... and you aren't boring as far as you know... although it did take me 3 readings to finish your post as I kept getting drowsy... I wonder if yawn is contagious in the blogosphere?

Helen said...

People will always find others boring if they have zero interest or understanding of what motivates them.

Like you, I tend to have a few interests that I am waaay deep into.

And I say, who cares if my life is boring to others, I'm the only one living it.

But I don't think that deep is necessarily 'better' than wide - it just suits some people/personalities better. For others being able to dip in and out of several interests is what keeps them going.

It's a rare few who are both wide and deep.

But quite a staggering number who think they are.

On the response we get upon mentioning the long distance running...

I never fail to be amused by the many people (mostly here) that immediately launch into their stories of sporting prowess that usually date back to their high school days. Really folks, unless you're 80, if it hasn't happened in recent history it ain't that impressive!

Carl Gammon said...

Matt, very thought provoking post. Dare I say, "deep".

chris mcpeake said...

Man that post was boring and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible... lol

Joe said...

Matt, I'm still reading and enjoying it all (except for the shallow boring stuff). Good luck this weekend. I plan to run 50 miles Friday night at a Relay for Life. My "training" has been hit or miss, just like it was when I focused on LSD, but we'll see if I can drag through the miles.

SteveQ said...

Hmmm. Helen's picking on the people whose glory days are behind them. Maybe if she actually beat someone - anyone, anyone at all - I'd heard of at Miwok I'd agree. The win at Chippewa was nice, beating, um, er, uh...

(insert smug snickering)

senator said...

Nice post. I got seated at a local eating establishment with a bunch of Notre Dame IT people. Their conversation didn't stray far from the latest in video games, or the best porn sites. 10 minutes from the end of the evening they asked what I did for a living ...followed by, "Sounds Boring." I winked and said, "Thank You". Two different worlds. Best of luck chasing the PR at the ICE AGE. Have you picked out a dress yet...just in case?

brothergrub said...

Hey Steve Q - I thought Helen was talking about me... you know I had an era once...

Anonymous said...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of summarize King Solomon; "Vanity, vainty, it is all a chasing after the wind." It's all what we eat, drink, and how we labor.

Ice Age is upon us one race out of an average of 2-3 a year I do. You looked in good spirits tonight. Hang back, take it all in. See your future, be your future. Let the ball come to you. The first one up is the best one dressed. Pressure is a priveledge, champions adjust. Regardless of how any of us do, BrotherGrub will still love us...even though we never had an era.

Paint King

Anonymous said...

"I think trail runners/ultra runners are a mile deep by defacto."

I find that most people who trail run or trail ride are more into it for the fun rather than the ego. I'm constantly amazed at the number of coworkers/friends that see a need to impress other people for no good reason.

I run, I ride, I do a bit of submission wrestling, I lift weights, I play with my kettlebells, and I love spending time with my family. It's never going to be about the splits, the gear, the time, or the distance.

It's always going to be about the fun and feeling good.

Now I can't wait to go run tomorrow.

Your okay for a filthy @fitter.