Saturday, December 12, 2015

Preliminary 2016 Thoughts

It is the time of year to reflect on the year gone-by and start thinking about the next one. This year was quite a bit different for me than the others; I have become acutely aware of time, both of its passing and how precious little I have left to enjoy some things. In 2015, my mom passed away, my wife turned forty, and my daughter entered her second year of high school. I very suddenly feel old! Strangely, I never felt fitter (or healthier) in my life and I had a tremendous year racing. The lotteries came and went without my name being called. I wasn't torn up about that as I had very low expectations. Truthfully, I was more bummed for some of my friends that were left out. Fortune shined on me in 2015 and I got into Western States 100. Given the ultrarunning landscape, the fact that I got to run either Hardrock or Western States in my lifetime is pretty cool and I'll have no regrets if this journey ends without another. After my run on Wednesday, I wrote the following on Strava:

"Routines. They are great for having structure and comfort and making sense of a crazy world with endless possibilities. But do they hold us back when we become slaves to our routines? I love running as motivation to stay fit and setting goals and challenges for myself. I love running 100s for the adventure -- so much happens in those days. But, is this routine of being on the lottery treadmill really holding me back from doing other things (not just running related things either)? It is particularly hard for me because I got my day in the sun. With odds at about 1-5%, the fact that I got to run WS or HR at all is pretty cool (and, I nailed it too!). What to do? That's question I am trying to answer in the next 3 weeks. It is a back and forth tussle..."

While I absolutely love ultra running and mountain running, it takes a big toll. I've spent more than 450 hours training in 2015 and that doesn't count any recovery work, cross training, or commute time to and from trails. It is undoubtedly a huge aspect of my life. There is a constant tug when I weigh that against family time, particularly in years like 2015 where I raced in May and October (November, really) causing me to train nearly all year long. Being "in training" for nine months out of the year is mentally taxing and unfair to my family. I run pretty much year round, but training is different -- it implies a sense of priority over other things and requires a high-level of discipline and sacrifice.

Where am I going with this all this babble? Well, the first thing is that I need to mix up the routine. It has been 8,000 miles and 850K of vertical gain (161 vertical miles!!!) since I last properly trained for a marathon. I am overdue. The effort to train for a marathon is hard, but it isn't as time consuming as an ultramarathon. And, I think maybe it will help me rebalance my body from the constant sub-MAF efforts and granny-gears over the past three season. I have been pretty fortunate to not suffer injuries in the past two years, but I still feel like mixing it up is a good thing for me. And, it takes pressure off  to hit trails in Winter. I enjoy a bit of Winter trail running, but not when I am prepping for a hundred miler in rain, snow and mud (like I did most of this past Winter/Spring). Trail running really gets fun about May, conveniently when I'll be finishing up with the Colorado Marathon. That is where this was going, by the way, I'll be running the Colorado Marathon in May with hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. While I get a few extra minutes since I'll be forty for Boston 2017, 3:15 is still a stout standard. I have beaten that standard, but it will have been four years ago by the time I try again.

The million dollar question is what to do after May? The first thing I know for sure is that I need to find a little more balance through the summer months. It is looking like I'll do a September hundred miler (either Bear or Run Rabbit Run), mostly just to keep myself lottery eligible for years to come. As hard as it will be for me, the primary goal will be to do the minimum amount of training I can do to be effectively trained for the event and finish. I don't plan to PR or even "race". Rather, I'd like to do the best I can to enjoy the experience (is that possible?!) and keep a consistent effort, maybe learn a few more things. That is a psychologically dangerous approach to a race, but I think I have enough experience now to navigate those traps.

Well, that's enough dribble for now. Here's to the last few weeks of 2015 and an amazing 2016!

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