I’m currently 9 days into my forced 21 day December off-season and all of the niggles, aches, and pains of the training and racing season are disappearing nicely. I’ve been enjoying eating some extra dessert, having extra time with the family, and simply not stressing about my training schedule for the first time in months. Instead, I’m obsessing over potential race calendars for 2019 and remembering my accomplishments and goals of the previous year. In short, it’s a perfect time to sit down and write a year end reflection.
Things I’m Proud of From 2018
Miles and Vert
I ran my first trail race in the fall of 2014, so I consider 2018 to be the end of my fourth full “season” of running, and I’m calling it the best one yet. I ran the most mileage I have ever done in a calendar year, clocking in at almost 1400 miles. More importantly I cracked 200,000 feet of vertical elevation gain for the first time ever which feels like a big accomplishment. I ran it mostly injury free, with a couple weeks of ITBS that I fought in March (and then quickly recovered from as I changed my running gait.
Running with Friends
Even more importantly than laying down the miles and piling up the vert, I had a wonderful social year running as well. My original impetus for jumping into this crazy sport was primarily as a way to isolate myself and spend long periods of time alone in the hills and mountains. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a long run all by myself, but I think I easily ran more miles in 2018 with other runners than I ever have before. Coupled with lots of personal work I have been doing (non-related to running), I have succeeded in breaking out of my shell and meeting and running with a wide array of folks. It’s made the time go fast and I have met some truly awesome people (and new friends!) along the way.
My Race Calendar
I finished every single race that I entered this year, and things never really came entirely off the rails:
March: Marin Ultra Challenge 50k
April: Canyons 100k
August: Castle Peak 100k
October: Overlook Endurance Runs 50 Miler
November: Pacing and Crewing he Rio Del Lago 100
November: Joshua Tree Fatass 50k
I’m proud not only of the solid list of races above but the diversity that is represented. I have to say that Castle Peak was my favorite race of the year, with its stunning scenery, constant challenge, and crazy Palisades traverse.
|Picking up my wife as a pacer during Castle Peak literally made my day|
Pacers are People Too
I feel like I delved deeper into the lore and knowledge of ultra-running this year by using a pacer for my first time ever (twice actually, at Castle Peak and Overlook) and by pacing my good friend to a 4th place, sub 18 hour finish at RDL. Pacing seems to be the perfect equalizer for my wife and I – she can hop in and join me the final 20% of a long mountain ultra and provide me with the mental injection of strength that I need. As a bonus we can cruise the trails together and reminisce about all the quality mountain time we used to have together before we had kids. 🙂
Pacing and crewing at RDL was an eye-opening experience as well. I have not yet run a 100 miler, but I feel like I am ready after spending the whole day out on the course as crew. I have now seen how a 100 mile push unfolds, from dawn to night, and got to tap into the special strength and willpower it takes to keep going and really push yourself to the end. Pacing was incredible fun, and I got to work out my night-running system as well in a relatively low-pressure environment.
|The JTFAFK was such an epic day of desert running|
The Joshua Tree Fatass 50k
Finally, I am super proud of “pulling off” the Joshua Tree Fatass 50k after Thanksgiving. While in the end there was only one other runner that came out to join me, it was a vision of a trail I have been holding in my head for years and it all went off smoothly and without a hitch for a wonderful jaunt across the desert. The runner that did join me was an old high-school friend of my wife’s, so we re-kindled a friendship from decades ago as he laid down his longest distance run ever. My goal for the 2019 edition is to get 10 people on the start line Saturday November 30th – mark your calendars now!!
Goals for Next Year
It wouldn’t be a year in review without a look to what’s ahead of me in 2019. I can honestly say that the stoke is HIGH for next year! My body feels great and I feel like I’m heading into the year with lots of momentum. I put together a lot more pieces of the ultra-running puzzle last year and I can’t wait to carry those successes into the future.
Something Old and Something New
For my “old” races I’m hitting up some of the classics again in the Spring – hopefully the Marin Ultra Challenge 50k, as I can never spend enough time running around the Marin Headlands. And I will be lining up at the Canyons 100k start line in Foresthill for the third year in a row this year with my sights set on a Western lottery ticket.
|The Gran Trail Courmeyer 105k is calling my name|
A European Trail Race
We will be spending the whole summer in France (and a huge chunk in the trail running mecca of Chamonix!) so there is a good chance there will be some exciting happenings going on there! My number one goal is to do a race or event in the Alps, both for the course but also so I can get the feel of what it’s like to run a European race. I am seriously eyeing the Gran Trail Courmeyer 100k, a stout alpine effort that will take me all over the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Pending my entry in the UTMB 2019 lottery (yikes!) I will sign up for this beast and get it on my calendar!
Tackle the 100 Mile distance
It’s time. I have tried to be very patient with my entry into this sport as I know that I want to do it for a long period of my life. I listened to cautionary tales from my mentor about all the people he has seen rise to glory and fall out just as quickly from overuse, injury, or burn-out. I have waited and built base miles while also figuring out the tougher mental pieces of the game. I’m ready in 2019 to attempt the next step up.
I’ve got three possible 100s on my radar right now. The safe and local choice would be the Rio del Lago 100 where I could likely have a crew, pacer, and know the entirety of the course already. A bit of a reach would be the new Tahoe Rim 100 race in October that Epic Endurance Events is talking about organizing. And a full-on destination race would be the IMTUF 100 in Idaho, of which I have heard amazing stories about and am attracted to the back-country, low-key scene and feel.
Keep it Fun and Keep it Social
I have had so much fun running this year that I can’t wait to keep it going into the next. I also realize that the fun has not just come from running, but with being a part of the community. I want to keep it fun and keep it community oriented in 2019.
Initial ideas for this are to volunteer for at least one event or race. This is a bit tricky with little kids at home, but I think it’s important to keep the scene going and support the other members of our tribe. I would like to host the Joshua Tree Fatass 50k again this year, and hopefully get more runners out there to experience that amazing trail (as well as the Subaru trunk full of snacks at the 30k mark!). I’d like to keep running with the East Bay Quadbanger Squad as we have had some killer discussions during our semi-weekly slogs up to Vollmer Peak. And finally I’d like to keep my Tuesday Track sessions at the high school going, maybe even rope in some other teachers that want to do some reps after a long day of work. It’s been a great motivating factor to getting me through the day and I know that I am connecting with colleagues in an authentic manner.
|It’s the friends that keep me coming back for more|
That’s all I’ve got for 2018. I’ve got about 12 more days in my forced rest and then I hope to get back into it come January for another amazing year!