Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Year in Review

Writing one of these is always a little hard because there are lots of ways to look at the same picture. After reading this incredible post by Joe Grant, I've decided to look at the positives, big and small.
"At first, when I process the past year’s events, I immediately jump to the bigger picture, of performances and race results, of what I did or did not produce, and I am dissatisfied. I want more, I want better, and I compare myself vainly. What I fail to acknowledge, with deeper, more astute observation is the quality of the experiences I have had, which is where their depth and meaningfulness truly take shape." -- Joe Grant
Running is an individual sport and it is easy to get caught feeling insecure or unworthy... the clock doesn't lie. I think the issue is compounded by the fact that you start off climbing a steep curve, getting faster, learning more, and generally just eager to do it all. Then, at some point, the race performances plateau and the goals start to dwindle. It becomes much harder to find success and to be satisfied with results. Former NFL players and coaches often speak of how the loses hurt more than the wins satisfy them, particularly as their career winds down. Running has a parallel where you invest yourself so much in a race and it is over in a fraction of the time it took to get there. The highs only last a few days or a week and the lows seem to last for months. But, if we step back and analyze the place running occupies in our lives, it is so much easier to find the good. With this in mind, I analyze my 2014.

At the beginning of 2014, I wasn't sure what my year would look like having had surgery in August of 2013. If you had asked me back then, running at all would have made a successful year. And boy did it turn out better than that. First, I crushed all my expectations at Quad Rock 25. I am still astounded thinking about that day because I didn't feel prepared at all. And, that course just doesn't suit me all that well -- tons of vertical and technical trail. I felt so strong the last half of that race. Finishing a race strong, regardless of the distance, is one of the purest joys of running. That sense of feeling prepared and that you have run the perfect race is easy to soak in. I have had that feeling only three or four times and it brings me a deep sense of accomplishment for all the effort put into a goal.

In June, I surpassed my 50 mile goal time. That was my primary race goal to accomplish in 2014. There are so many emotions thinking about that day. The primary thing is satisfaction, knowing that my own confidence in myself was justified.  Thanks to Jon, I took a big leap and started way faster than I thought I could maintain. I once again finished the race so strong and feeling like I could run forever that day. But, I am also grateful to all my friends that ran that day and the role each of them played in helping me get to that point. And, I am grateful to my family that continues to support more my racing adventures. We had a BBQ at my house that evening and celebrated as a group, which was quite fitting. It was really a celebration of the group of guys I run with and the things we have accomplished together.

Cruisin' Early at North Fork 50, on my way to 4th place!

I won't lie, I was disappointed with my performance at the Bear 100. It wasn't hard to predict that it would be a tough day, in hindsight anyway. I wasn't fully prepared for that race and insanely hard race day conditions only made a good performance less likely. More importantly, I lost my perspective and love of what I was doing. It is a privilege to run, something I often forget. And, I trail run to be out in nature and for the adventure. The Bear delivered plenty of both that day. One of my lasting memories of that day -- other than mud -- is my buddy Steve high-fiving and fist bumping people as he ran to the finish. He found joy in the beauty of the accomplishment. It was really special to line up that day with two good friends. And, I take great pride in the fact that we all three finished in the worst year of that race (50% DNF rate). Another lasting memory of that day was being paced for 50 LONG miles in horrible conditions by Chuck. If you know Chuck, he hates to be cold. But he had a steely resolve that day and refused to let me quit.

The Three Amigos for Bear 100.

It was a real pleasure to watch many of my friends continue to take on new challenges. I like to believe I have touched all their lives in some way and I know they have all touched me. Each race has a unique story and group of guys that made that day special. That is the real reason I run. Even if 2015 only gives me more of that, it will be a good year.

In my running goals for 2014, I mentioned wanting to be kinder to myself and that is an area that I made some strides, but still an area I can continue to improve. I have an idea about what perfect training looks like and I don't always deal well with interruptions and changing conditions. I must say, it is hard to do this day in an age when you see so much information on the Internet. It is impossible not to compare yourself or somehow feel like you are falling behind even when not running is truly the right thing to do. In fact, some elite runners, like Rob Krar, prefer to keep their training private for this reason. I just need to get over it... I need to find flow in training and racing. If I am to tame the 100 mile distance, I must find more patience and presence in the moment.

2015 hasn't even started, but it has the makings of an epic year. Thanks to good fortune in the WS100 lottery, my buddy Steve and I both got into the race. Steve lives in Arizona, but somehow our trail running "careers" have been inter-twined for 3 years now. I think I have contributed a lot to his success through traditional coaching aspects -- plans, specificity, nutrition, etc... And he has taught me a lot -- and continues to do so -- about perspective and enjoyment. It is fitting we will be lining up together that day. There are a lot of days between June 27th and now, but I am confident I am meant to be there. I will be ready and what ensues will be one hell of a ride.

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