Monday, January 8, 2018

2017 Running Year in Review

Well, most of 2017 was not that great as far as running goes. I ended 2016 with a DNF at Javelina, then had some achilles issues, and I was so burnt out on running that I backed out of Desert Solstice and announced on FaceBook that I was retiring from racing (something that I still get hassled about).

At that point, I was still first alternate for the National 24 Hour Team and that gave me just enough motivation to keep trying. So after a really low mileage November, I started logging some miles again, setting my sights on the Riverbank 24 Hour race at the end of February.

That race was pretty ugly. By about 75 miles in, I knew I was done, but hung in to complete 100. This certainly did not help my mental state, but given my stubbornness, I decided to register for the Run4Water 24 Hour race 5 weeks later. The results here were the same. I flopped big time and just hung in to complete another 100 miler.

I had now been dropped down to 3rd alternate and my morale was rock bottom. My initial reaction when I got the official news was “hell no, I’m not traveling to Belfast as an alternate”. I was looking to my wife for a bit of sane confirmation, but her reaction was “well, could we make it into a nice vacation?” Not what I was expecting. After a bit of discussion and confirming friends to take care of our daughters, we pulled the plug and decided to go.

This was one of the best decisions I made all year. The race experience was pretty awesome. I went in with no real expectations but I managed to squeeze out a 148 mile PR despite having stomach issues for the last 5 hours. Running alongside the greatest ultra runners in the world felt great, and though I knew I would never have a chance of winning, I realized that I belonged there just as much as any other runners. And, if I ever put together a perfect race, I could place at a pretty respectable level in the field. I wound up finishing 31st male and 4th US male. The rest of the time was an incredible trip around Ireland with my wife.

Coming back from Belfast, I was re-energized. I did not get into the Leadville lottery, so I paced my friend Katrin and had a blast experiencing the race from a different perspective. I didn’t have any major races planned until the North Coast 24 Hour National Championships. I probably went in a little too cocky, fell apart due to the heat and only hung in at the end so I could claim some prize money to pay for the trip.

My morale was taking a beating again so I decided rather last minute to go down to Arizona and have some fun at the Javelina Jundred, which was the start of my troubles the previous year. I really wanted to just take it easy, have a fun race, and enjoy the party atmosphere. But, as usual, my competitiveness took over. I started out a bit too fast, but unlike the previous year, I was able to keep things in control and only lost a little time on the 3rd loop. I came back pretty strong and finished in just over 18 hours, beating my previous best by almost a full hour. The 10th place finish was also a nice reward. This was just the boost I needed.

1 ½ months later, I headed back to Phoenix for the Desert Solstice. The field was intimidating and my UltraSIgnup ranking was way near the bottom, but I felt like I should be able to hang with the top runners for 24 hours. The weather initially looked perfect (60’s and cloudy) but wound up degrading to mid 70’s and cloudless. I felt fine during the heat of the day, but given how others suffered, I may have been slowed a bit also.

I started way in the back of the pack and very, very slowly made my way up. Though I suffered a bit of a low point after 50 miles, I kept a pretty consistent pace and hit 100 miles in 6th place. With a couple of runners dropping at 100 and a couple more soon after, I found myself in 3rd and slowly eating back laps from the leaders. I kept calm and didn’t take over the lead until about 21 ½ hours in. I had hopes of 155, then 153, then 151, but managed to eek out 150.275 miles. A new PR, and a win at a highly respectable race. More importantly, I was able to complete all 24 hours without any significant issues - blisters, stomach, hydration, etc.

Well, to end the year (and begin 2018), I signed up for the Snowdrop 55 hour race. I kinda promised myself I wouldn’t attempt a 48 hour until I felt like I had a handle on the 24 hour. I signed up for this one in November, knowing that I had one more chance (Desert Solstice) to figure out the 24 hour. Luckily I did.

I went into Snowdrop with only 3 weeks to recover from the 24 hour PR at Desert Solstice. I like to think I’m pretty good at recovery, but this just wasn’t enough after the harshest abuse my body has ever been subjected to. I miraculously stayed ahead of Joe Fejes and Bob Hearn and won the prize for hitting the 100 mile mark first, but I only squeezed out a total of 151 miles before I called it. Nevertheless, Snowdrop was one of my all time favorite events, ever. The runners and organizers were just awesome.

Though I only had 3 good races all year, 2017 had some pretty special highlights, including a total of 3,840 miles and 17 races (8 ultras). I’m hoping to build upon the mileage and experience to make 2018 even better.

1 comment:

  1. Happy to hear you enjoyed Snowdrop! Best wishes for a great year in 2018!!