Dark times are not unusual – or even rare in any of our worlds. We all confront them – on virtually every front – the training front, the racing front, the home front, the work front. The real challenge lies in how we face those inevitable dark times and deal with them. For us, we choose to face them head on, and simply – though not always easily – Suffer Better.
Nothing happens in an instant, but you surely know that. Things build, stir, ferment and even fester until the pain – physical and/or emotional – is enough to force us into realizing it’s there and figure out how to deal with it. Sometimes that realization comes too late, and damage is done. Sometimes we catch it in time. For us, we each came at it, or it came to us, from different places and through different circumstances. And, naturally, we each saw it through a different lens, and still do, but we arrived at similar places with comparable attitudes and that led us to here.
For Bob, rising star in the ultra running world, president/CEO of a very cool young company, married to the “perfect” girl and father to a gorgeous 5-year old girl, the shit was hitting the fan. It was, as Bob describes it, a perfect storm of personal, professional, and emotional wars. Fighting to save his company, something he’d poured heart, soul and mind into for the last 4 years– battling unhappy investors and intransigent board members, desperately seeking workable alternatives, dedicated to saving the jobs of his valued team – he spent virtually every waking hour exploring potential opportunities and new financing options. No way could he imagine it going down the drain, though the circling had begun. Life on the home front was no different. Challenges and struggles, knowing you love someone but not seeing eye to eye. We’ve all been there. Focused on protecting the little one – utterly selfless, both of them, while also selfishly realizing it can’t go on. Shouldn’t go on. The trails offered solace – quietude for reflection and as clear a thought as he could get. A place to let it go, blow off steam, think, and gain some much-needed clarity.
In the midst of it all, at the Leadville Marathon, the first of five events in the annual Leadman competition, Bob dug, as he can, deeper than many and finished with an uncanny kick. Over those last oxygen-free miles, he passed a number of top tier runners, finishing strong and in the top 4 or 5. A friend, crossing the line not far behind, asked Bob the simple question – “holy shit, dude, how do you do that?” Bob’s simple answer – “I suffer better.” And so he did. Bob’s gone on to win that Leadman competition and placed second too, along with 3 other Leadville finishes, a top three in the Grand Traverse, and a ton of other endurance events that test one’s mettle.
Peter, in a different place – but facing his own challenges – kids growing and leaving the nest, a so-called career going nowhere way too fast, and a highly competitive runner – a 2nd and 4th at Leadville, 4-time winner and original course record holder at the Collegiate Peaks 50 – facing that proverbial twilight; not getting faster, in fact the opposite, and a string of injuries that were cutting into the man he thought he was and still wanted to be. Damn. Fifty wasn’t proving to be the Golden Years at all – plagued with doubts, frustrations and, yes, some pain, Peter was suddenly rethinking things. Questioning. Now what?
A well-executed back surgery had gotten Peter back on the trails, and the arrival of Hoka’s on the shoe front provided much-needed pillows for longer runs. The smile was beginning to rise again. The career thing wasn’t such an easy fix – a former teacher, teacher of teachers, lawyer, Peter desperately wanted that meaningful something that satisfied both heart and brain, and even put a little money in the bank. Like Bob, nothing soothed the soul or quieted the angry spirits like a long run on the nearby trails. Suddenly everything seemed clear – the what, how and why. But that was changing, all too fast.
Friends for a lot of years and running buddies, too. You know what those are like; the guy you call when you have this wild hair for some crazy adventure – the one you call knowing not only that he’ll be up for it, but also because you know you two are compatible for the long hours of running headed your way. Rim-to-rim-to-rim. The Four Pass Loop. Fourteeners. Someone who appreciates the adventure, the effort and the camaraderie. Those folks are rare. And special.
Bob reaches out with an idea. Peter’s on board, of course. There’s something there in the suffer better thing, they think. An attitude, a mantra – something that others experience too, no doubt. A rallying cry. There’s more though. Realizing how fortunate they are – despite the struggles – to have what they have, to do what they do, and that too many others are less fortunate, they know that they have to give back too. It has to be about more than just pushing yourself to get faster, stronger. You should give your all and you should give back. That became what’s known as The 110. A little spin on that “give 110%” thing: Since you can’t really give 110%. But you definitely can give your all and give back. The 110 is the Suffer Better take on that. It all made sense. So they create a few Ts, share the story. People get it, like it. They develop a so-called plan, build a website, buy a few more Ts and put it out there for real. What started as an internal mantra to finish strong had become a movement, and a community, which grows everyday. Pretty cool, really, thanks to everyone out there.