Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Year In Review

Before writing this post, I read my 2011 Year In Review again. What a year that was! I had breakout performances all over the place and raced like crazy. This year was an attempt to build on that and take on the new challenge of running 100 miles. While I would never call 2012 a failure, I would say that it was a struggle to build on the success of 2011. The one thing that I did right was enjoying some adventures that I would not have attempted 2 or 3 years ago. As I began discussing in my posts after Leadville, I think the one thing I did wrong was allowing my mind to focus solely on mileage and vertical totals. As a result, I don't think I am as fit right now as I was in 2011. I plan to race a little bit more in 2013.

Before sharing my memories of 2012, I will throw out some stats to wow you (ok, maybe not):
  • About 2400 miles run (a small step back from 2011, mostly from missing half of August and all of September to injury)
  • 270K of vertical, about a 40% increase year over year
  • A PR in the 100 mile distance (26:45, my first attempt), marathon (3:13), and half marathon (1:31). 
  • I "only" competed in 4 races (Leadville 100, San Juan Solstice 50, Colorado Marathon, and Platte River Half Marathon)
  • I ran 20 miles or more twenty-four times, 30miles or more seven times, and 50 miles or more three times. Lots and lots of long slow runs.
Nothing that really blows an "elite" ultrarunner away, but I am proud of it. I am constantly toying with the limits of *my* body and the limits of the tolerance of my family. And frankly, I am not a huge believer that big miles equals big success. The amount of miles you run should be appropriate for the length of the race, your natural ability, and your running history. Can anything really prepare your for 100 miles? But, I digress...

Frozen Front Range Marathon

Running with the Boulder Peaks behind me

I kicked off the year right with a great Fat Ass run with Sherpa John in January. This was an attempt to hit 6 of the biggest peaks in the Boulder, CO area. It was one of the biggest vertical days I had ever done (almost 7K of vertical) and I was sore for days. It was an awesome time and I hope to go back for the event again this year.

Colorado Marathon

Unfinished Business

Anyone that follows this blog knows that I had a horrendous experience at the Las Vegas RnR Marathon in December of 2011. Frankly, I wasn't really sure I wanted to do the Colorado Marathon all the way up until race week. I signed up shortly before it filled mostly because I was hoping to make things right from Vegas. It turned out to be an incredible race and I more than erased any lingering doubts about my speed. I will contend that I probably left a BQ on the table that day. Instead, I chose to run a conservative first half, allowing me to finish incredibly strong and have a positive memory of the race. My five fastest miles in that race where miles 19 (up hill), 23, 24, 25, and 26. The last four are after the course "flattens out". Someday I will attempt to BQ, but I don't know when that day will be.

Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim

Descending the North Kaibib Trail of the Grand Canyon

Ascending the South Kaibib Trail of the Grand Canyon in 100+ degrees

Sherpa John on top of a giant rock pillar along the North Kaibib Trail

In February, I reached out to Sherpa John after discovering that a R2R2R adventure was in his thoughts. He immediately took me up on the offer to tag along and just like that a plan was hatched. This remains the most incredible adventure that I have done to date (with the LT100 a close second). I had been to the Grand Canyon before and, like most people, I simply stood on the rim and took photos. It is indescribable how awesome it was to see the canyon from within. I learned a ton about ultra running and taking care of my body that day. The day did not go exactly as I had hoped, but we still had an amazing time. I want to return and do at least a R2R with my kids someday.

San Juan Solstice 50

An early summit during the SJS50, elevation 13,000 feet

Joining my family at the 40 mile aid station of SJS50

Feeling happy after a massive rally from a major bonk

San Juan was supposed to be a 50 mile training run for Leadville. Accordingly, we planned to take it easy. Instead, I wound up experiencing the most amazing bonk of my life. Man did that rattle my confidence in the notion that I understood the ultra distance. Wow. I simply don't train enough at altitude to seriously race an event like this (about one third of this race is run close 13,000 feet). Instead of a race, it probably more appropriately called a mountain adventure. Lake City is simply amazing and the San Juan mountains are widely regarded as some of the prettiest in all of Colorado. Honestly, the race was stinking hard. So hard that I doubted I would ever do it again. Unexplainably, this new race in the San Juans has recently started creeping into my imagination... Maybe!

Leadville 100

The top of Hope Pass (12,600'), mile 45 of the Leadville Trail 100
Descending Hope Pass... just wow! 
Photo taken by my pacer on the return climb up Hope Pass

Coming into Twin Lake at mile 64 after a double crossing of Hope Pass
Refueling at May Queen (mile 88) at 3:15 in the morning of day 2
Ah, the finish line. I was too tired to be emotional.
This photo sums up what I will best remember about that day.
Tony and his cousin JD after a long, tough night.

The Leadville Trail 100 was all I hoped for and more. Sure I wish I had run faster. And, yeah I was a bit disappointed to be injured the week of the race. But this was my inaugural 100. And I like to believe that the memories made that day will be life long for everyone that contributed to making it happen for me. One of the best moments was talking with my sister (and crew chief) on Sunday after the race, both of us extremely sleep deprived after being awake for nearly 40 hours. I was totally captivated hearing how the race unfolded from her perspective: where she was during the day, who she was with, the things they thought and felt at those moments, etc... And I will always remember how she got choked up trying to talk with me at May Queen (mile 88, pictured above). That must have been the point when she allowed herself to believe that I was going to finish. I probably would have started crying had I not been so delirious and high on Red Bull. Words cannot express how much I appreciate the sacrifices that everyone made for me that day.

The second to last picture above is one of my favorites: me and my crew. Almost my whole crew -- Jen had returned to Denver, Jon was outside the frame, and my wife was taking the picture. I was truly amazed at how much my kids enjoyed the experience. They got up at 2:30 in the morning to watch me at the start line!!! Wow.

And I have to say a few words about my buddy Tony (last photo). I don't think he trained as hard as he would have liked. And he had his share of struggles that day. But it was so impressive to see him finish. His determination and unwillingness to quit is what makes ultra running a great sport -- an example of people dreaming big and pushing themselves to the limit.

What's in store for 2013? 

I have published a tentative list of events for 2013. The only thing written in ink at this point is the Old Pueblo 50 in March. There is too much momentum behind the Leadville Silver Rush 50 to imagine that not happening. Beyond that, I am not sure what is in-store quite yet. I have a couple of thing hanging out there that could change the entire course of the year for me. In general terms, I am likely to continue mountain and ultra running. It is unlikely I will do a 100 miler. Beyond that, there a lots of options still in play. I expect a plan will come together quite quickly in the first few weeks of 2013.

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