Chase Parnell

Ultra Runner - Writer

Training and Parenthood: I can see where this is headed…

It’s 11:45pm and I can smell the baby puke on my shirt. I’d take it off but I’m too tired. And this isn’t the cute milky spit-up variety; this was full of acid. My 19 month old son, Dash, just filled up his crib with it. My wife Nikki and I heard the gagging and then the liquid flow as we sprinted into his room in a panic. Dash has never thrown up like that before. Never.

The questions race: Did he swallow something? I read an article recently about two kids that died when they swallowed one of those tiny circular batteries. Crap. Or was it something we ate tonight? What did we eat? Anything new? Have we not been cleaning his bottle enough lately? Or maybe it was the vaccines he got three days ago. I always hear people ranting about how immunizations are the devil incarnate. I don’t believe those people. Ugh.

We swooped him up, stripped him down, bathed him, changed his sheets, put him back down, and tip-toed out. Three minutes later, there he blows again! After round two we are finally in bed and it seems like he’s done for the night.

I’m racing the Smith Rock Ascent 50k in 36 hours.

Right now I could care less about the race. I haven’t even bought gels yet. I looked at the course for the first time today. My training was stunted, abbreviated, fragmented, shameful really.

During Dash’s episode I told myself I was just going to skip the race. People will understand, I got a sick baby at home. A consolatory word will follow and I can feel okay about sleeping in Saturday morning.

I’m worried its only going to get worse.

I know some guys and gals that pull it off. Those role models that we all strive to be. It does seem like a lot of ultra runners have families and juggle everything with ease. I know some elites that wipe butts on the regular and still slay on the trails. But in reality, I think they are the exception, not the rule. More fall victim to Mom and Dad bod syndrome and slowly slip out of the sport. I’m sort of worried I’m next.

I don’t want to be. I want to maintain. I want to slay. To work, to parent, to train, to do it all. But sometimes, sometimes like now, I just don’t want the pressure. I have enough on my plate as it is, right?!?!

“Wrong!” Says Jeff Browning, Rod Bien, Tim Olson, and Jason Schlarb – all professionals with more than one mouth to feed. All professionals that know about bath time, diaper duty, stroller issues, car seat crumbs, and milk for days.

“Wrong!” Says Jenn Benna, Liza Howard, Magda, and many more moms who are kicking ass and taking names.

I know that right now – when I’m fried and wafting vomit – probably isn’t the best time to even be thinking, let alone writing about this stuff. But it has been on my mind a lot since we had Dash. How much do I sacrifice to continue to train at a high level? What type of toll is it having on my relationship with my wife and son? But on the flip side, will my son be proud of me when he grows up knowing that I run 100s? Or will he not care? Will he instead wish he had those extra four hours with me every weekend? Am I a better man because I run? Would I be grouchy if I didn’t run? Would I be passive aggressive or full of contempt if I hung up the racing shoes? I don’t know. I’ve been training for something or other for so long that I can’t even imagine living without it.

Finish line of Run Rabbit Run 100.

This isn’t a cry for help. I’m not looking for an excuse to stop training hard. I’m trying to figure out the balance. I do know that I don’t remember the last time I went off into the mountains without at least a little twinge of guilt. I do know that I think about my son when I’m on sketchy terrain and worried about falling.

I love my wife and Dash with an almost scary desperation. They are my whole world.

Yet still there’s running. I love to run…



  1. I can relate to a lot of what you have talked about here. My kid is 8 months old. So I am pretty new to this dad/runner thing. It totally changes life a ridiculous amount, but I like you am still pushing forward somehow. I think the thing you said that resonates the most is the guilt for going in the mountains. For me there is very little guilt for doing regular “weekday” type training runs from home that take between 60-120 min. I don’t drive anywhere and it doesn’t seem to be a huge burden. But I do feel a significant amount of guilt when I want to go out for longer stuff, more of the 4-8 hour variety. I really haven’t do nearly as much of this type of thing since our boy was born. I think that maybe letting some of those days go, and being ok with training a bit different might make pressing on possible. Who knows, maybe you find new ways of training that actually make you better…..Anyways, I really like this article. Hope to meet you at a race sometime down the road. RG

    • chaseparnell

      May 12, 2017 at 8:37 am

      Thanks Ryan. Your thought pattern is spot on with mine. I can sneak away early or during nap time for a run from the house and feel okay. But coming home at 2pm on a saturday after a 45 minute drive to the TH, a 6 hour run, and a drive home really stretches things. It does help a ton that my wife is a runner too and as people say, “she gets it.” This whole thing just adds a new layer of complexity. I trained my ass off for Bighorn 100 last year. We had a new born, my wife supported me and picked up the slack, and then I DNF’d! It was such a blow. It’s like, if we are going to ask people to make sacrifices for us, the least we can do is perform! Or is that just added pressure? Ha. It’s nuts. I can’t imagine life without running … 100s are the pinnacle for me and they require a lot of time. We’ll see what happens I guess. I think the fire is still there … just have to figure out the process. Best of luck in your pursuits with parenthood and running. You seem to handling it well thus far! I’m sure I’ll run into you somewhere now that we live in Bend.

  2. It’s great to hear this from a dad. There’s a lot of these types of posts (and rightfully so!) from moms, but I wonder sometimes if us dads need to be honest about the grind of work/parenting/running/ as well. It can be really exhausting and difficult! Hang in there. Been there as well.

    • chaseparnell

      May 12, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Thanks Joel. It is a total grind. I think the toughest part would be transitioning into running as purely a hobby. I am a competitive person and I’m driven mainly by trying to achieve big things at races. I mean, I don’t think I’d ever be the type to run 25 miles a week, do a couple long runs, and hop in ultras just for fun. I want to stay really fit and race. But as life gets crazier and obligations become more real, maybe that transition to hobbiest is where I’ll eventually land. And maybe that’s okay. But I don’t want to let go of those dreams either…i.e. good finishes at HR, UTMB, Western, etc., etc. I’m hoping my 30s, despite it all, are fruitful running years. We’ll see.

  3. Great stuff Chase. I’ve found this:
    to be a lifesaver. I’d be really impressed if any 16 month old has logged more miles in this than my son has. Won’t work on all trails of course, but it’s pretty gnarly and definitely amps up the workout. Best of luck!

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