Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year In Review

Wow, a Year End post can take so many different directions. Like many runners, I tend to focus on the stats and the work that I accumulate over the year.  (It really is impressive what a person can accomplish if they apply consistency and discipline to anything in their life...) I'll get to the stats, but I think I'll start this post with the things I am thankful for:

Health.  Running has always been about getting healthy for me. I've now gone 2 years without an injury that required any meaningful time-off or attention.  I am quite proud of that.  Some of that is due to the slower paced nature of trail ultrarunning -- my focus the past 2 years. But, trail running also comes with tremendous amounts of vertical gain, which can cause injury in excess. In addition to physical health, I am happy with my metabolic health. Two years on LCHF and I have never felt better: I've barely been sick. My blood pressure is lower. I sleep better. I am running better. My body composition is leaner.

Friends. Running has also become a large part of my social life -- how can it not when you devote 12 hours a week to something? I am so thankful for my group of running friends that help to keep me motivated and show up to support me on my crazy adventures. The social aspects of running come with some challenges, like any social circle, but it is a very positive influence in my life overall. Some of the biggest highlights of 2015 were seeing my friends have success -- Chuck destroying Leadville and Jon nailing his first 100. I guess I like to think I had something to do with helping them succeed...

Racing. I enjoy racing as a way to test my limits, test the things I learn and want to implement along the way, and really just to add adventure to my life. 2015 was incredible as far as races go, by far my best year racing trail ultras. Of course, it will always be remembered for Western States, but 8th and 9th place finishes at Javelina and Bear Chase 50k respectively is also an accomplishment I am quite proud of.

Now for some stats.... I finished with PRs in mileage (2852) and vertical gain (300k), both are 10-15% improvements on previous PRs. I don't train to accumulate stats; in fact, I believe in doing the minimum necessary to be prepared for racing. And, I believe in being a complete athlete, which means time in the gym and sometimes pushes running to the back-burner. Nonetheless, this year was a big year in stats, primarily because I raced on both ends of the calendar (D30 in May and Javelina on October/November). Interestingly, I accumulated another 350 miles and 30K of vertical gain walking, mostly with my spoiled dog! I have never tracked that before, so it was kind of fun to see how that turned out.

2016 is still a bit up in the air. I am committed to the Colorado Marathon and actually quite nervous about it. The primary motivation is break out of the ultrarunning mindset a bit and re-develop some of the systems I've neglected by doing so many slow, heart-rate-driven miles. That's exactly what scares me, the unsureness of how quickly those systems can come back. The last time I raced a marathon, I was on a streak of 5 straight marathon PRs. Now I am coming off a 4 year break.

Beyond that, things are very much up in the air. I've struggled to find the motivation to do a 100, but I need to requalify for both Western States and Hardrock. I never thought I'd do Hardrock, but it is slowly emerging as a potential endpoint to this crazy ultrarunning life. I am basically considering every race other than Leadville at this point.

No matter what I do, I am positive it will be fun and full of adventure. Thanks to all of you that were a part of my 2016. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't include my family and say thank you to them for all of their support. Hopefully I contributed something positive to your journey as well.

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!