Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Through Death, Comes Life

I've had numerous months to reflect on my 2013 Western States debacle. What I did wrong, what I've learned, and what I can apply moving forward. And herein lies the problem: ME.

At the beginning of 2013, very little in my life mattered more to me than running Western States. I finally earned the opportunity at Waldo and I was gonna go for broke in my attempt to showcase my abilities and mental toughness on one of biggest stages we have in our niche sport. Therefore, I poured countless hours, days, and months into myself. It was intoxicating. I pushed and pushed myself - on the track, on the roads, in the mountains - and developed a fitness I'd never had before. A gear I'd always strived for. Weapons in my arsenal that I knew would enhance my chances for a high-placing.

And, sadly, I showcased this all during Western States Training Camp in late-May.  Joe and I - staying at Carol Hewitt's in Michigan Bluff for the week - put in 198 miles in 6 days with well-over 50,000' of vertical gain. We set FKT's in the canyons, cut sub-3min 1k repeats on the track, and for myself, ran a sub-2:10 Cal Street split - at the end of Camp, at the end of a 48mi run. I felt strong and I was ready.

Or, so I thought.......

As both Joe and I will attest to, we left our race in those Canyons, at Placer High School Track, and at the River Crossing. We "spent" the huge bankroll we had amassed over the previous months, at Training Camp. Therefore - running a massive deficit - we had very little to spend when it truly mattered.

Not only that - and as I have alluded to - my priorities got completely out of whack - spiritually, maritally, and vocationally. Thankfully, I have an incredibly patient, loving, and understanding wife who knew how bad I wanted to "throw down" at 'States. However, I neglected the things that matter most in life: the relationships that matter most in my life.  My relationship with God, my wife, and the William Jessup University XC/Track team. I put those on the "back burner" and pressed on with my goals, my ambitions, my purpose. Though unconsciously, but expectantly, running Western States became sort of an identity. In that season of my life, honestly, it's what I lived for. I couldn't get my mind off of it, I couldn't wait to train for it, and I couldn't live without it (ok, a little extreme, but you get the point).

And, then, as you know, it all came crumbling down.

All the time, effort, sacrifice, and I had nothing to show for it. Ultimately, in terms of what really matters here on earth, it all meant nothing. In the following days after my DNF, I laid in bed and two things struck me: 1. You can spend a considerable amount of time; shoot, even a lifetime, focusing your time and energy on things that ultimately don't matter in this world. Temporal things. 2. I had to take the focus off myself. I was the problem. That's hard to admit because often we look inside ourselves for the answer, the solution, but fail to realize that often, the more we focus on ourselves (aka the problem), the unhappier we become. Often, the solution is to focus on others. This act of humility can open our hearts and minds to not only give, but be more open to receive. When we are so FULL of ourselves, there isn't much room TO BE FILLED.

With that said, there were people I neglected that I needed to spend a season of my life focusing all my time and energy on. Here's what that looked like practically:

--From July to mid-October, I essentially didn't run. I did some things here and there, but overall, running was not my focus. I set it aside and knew there were more important things to focus on.

Here's what I focused on: My relationship with God, my wife, friends, my co-workers, and the WJU Cross-Country team. Whatever time and energy I would normally spend on myself running, I spent on others.  Being emptied, God was able to fill me in order to give to others. I tried to love my wife to an even higher degree, something I think she really appreciated (as we were getting ready to have a baby!). I checked in with co-workers "annoyingly" often and invited them over for dinner, listened to their "boy problems" and helped them however I could. I spent a ridiculous amount of time with the WJU XC team, pouring into those guys with the heart and desire to see them mature in their faith, as runners, and as men.

I gave and gave and gave. Sometimes, I'd hit a wall and need "me time" in order to be refilled, but thankfully, more often than not, I found a groove and enjoyed pouring the gifts, talents, and abilities I have for the betterment of others.  And, what I found through all this, was that I was growing a ton. My wife noticed it immediately. I'm so thankful I know a God, who, looked down on me, laying in the bushes at mi85 of Western States - broken beyond repair, defeated - yet, unknowingly to me, He knew I was right where I needed to be, humbled and open to what he wanted to do in me and through me, moving forward.

What did the fruit of all this look like?

- A closeness and deeper love with God and my wife Sara.
- Changed lives in the workplace, co-workers taking brave steps to take ownership of their lives and acting to solve their own life problems.
- The WJU XC team winning Cal-Pac championships for the 3rd consecutive year in a row amidst the deepest and toughest competition the conference has ever seen.
- The XC guys telling me that this season was by far the most enjoyable and one in which they felt the most spiritually challenged and encouraged. It was the closest they've ever felt as brothers and as a team.

Oh yeah, and one more added bonus to the mix:

Sadie May Rydman. Born: November 8, 2013 @ 10:21pm. 6lbs, 14oz, 20"

As I've come to realize, absolutely nothing in life can and will prepare you for that moment when your child is born into the world. And, you can't begin to fathom how much you will LOVE that little one. It's beyond comprehension. #SADEZLOVE !!

In closing, I certainly "died" out on that course back in June. But what has been birthed and what has come to life, I wouldn't change. As I wrote in my race report, I knew I needed to be humbled, I needed to "die". Now, seeing the fruit of all that, it completely makes sense. God knew what he was doing. He, once again, delivered me from myself and opened my heart and eyes to those around me. Looking ahead to 2014, I still have that urge and desire to compete, to push myself. I would love to go back to Western States and do it right. And that's the key: DO. IT. RIGHT. -- Priorities in line, relationships in balance, smart training, and smart execution.

Here's what I got so far for a '14 schedule:

-- Feb: American Canyon Ultra 50k
-- Mar: Way Too Cool 50k
-- Apr: Lake Sonoma 50m
-- June: Western States 100 or San Diego 100
-- Aug: Squamish 50m
-- Aug --> Nov: WJU XC

I know I've been off the radar for awhile. I needed to be. However, I've been running for about a month now. It feels great. Looking forward to reconnecting with the ultrarunning community and everyone at various races and events -- getting out on the trails and sharing life. Above all, though, I hope you get to meet my daughter!


  1. Jacob

    What an incredible lesson you've allowed yourself to be taught. You're right; He knew exactly what you needed at Mile 85 and He got your attention at that point. Really excited to see you move forward with the right perspective on running and life itself. I believe He's got your best days in front of you!

    Keep being salt and light, pal. He's using that for good....

  2. Praying for continued success for you and for your family. They have a great man leading them. Congrats on the birth of your little one. Many joys ahead.

  3. Great post Jacob. I haven't seen you around town lately but will hopefully run into you some time and meet your beautiful daughter. Congratulations on her birth. I'm out on the D.O. Track in the spring when you want to do some repeats. God bless you and your family. Run strong, be healthy, and know that God has blessed you!

  4. Best ultra post. It seems in finding balance, you found love, joy, & peace.

  5. Its great to see you have your priorities straight