Friday, December 21, 2018

2018 Running Year in Review

Well, 2018 did not go nearly as well as I had hoped, especially after a decent 2017.

In 2017, despite stomach issues for the last 5 hours, I was able to PR with 148 miles at the 24 Hour World Championships in Belfast.  A few months later, I ran a smart race at Javelina, finishing in the top 10 and missing 18 hours by just a couple of minutes. Six weeks later, I ran an almost perfect pace at Desert Solstice to win it with another PR of over 150 miles.  Then, I finished the year (literally on the last day) with a bit of a disappointing run at Snowdrop, but given that it was only 3 weeks after DS and I still won $500, it did not sting too much.

Then came 2018.  Things looked pretty good at first.  I ran Coldwater in January and started out with 3 ½ perfectly paced laps, on track for a 17:30 trail PR.  Unfortunately, with only 30 miles to go, nature called and I didn’t watch where I stepped off the trail. After 15 minutes of pulling hair-thin cactus needles out of my shoe, my momentum was gone.  I still finished 2nd, with a decent time of 18:51, but it was the first of the “missed it by that much” races that would plague my year.

Two weeks later, I had a good day at the Super Half (½ marathon) in Colorado Springs, despite an unexpected change in the weather that resulted in frozen arms and useless hand stumps.  A few weeks after that, I headed to Nashville for the Run 4 Water 24 hour race. I started off too fast given my weight and fitness level and with the bout of torrential rain in the middle of the night, I called it quits at 100 miles.

After almost two months of no races, I ran the Rattler Trail 50K in Colorado Springs on a cold day with a thin layer of slippery snow on the ground.  My time was not spectacular, but I felt like I paced myself perfectly, running the second of the two loops 9 minutes faster than the first.

I went into the 24 Hours of Palmer Lake with a little bit of momentum, only a week later.  Unfortunately, some early snow, sloppy mud, and inexplicable sleepiness overnight limited my outing to 103 miles, though I did enjoy talking to Pete Kostelnik who casually set a new course record.

A week later came the Cheyenne Mountain 50K.  Despite what I thought was a reasonable pace on the first loop, I fell apart in the second and slowed down by 26 minutes.  Not the moral booster that I wanted heading out to D3 a couple of weeks later. Despite decent weather and what I considered a smart starting pace, I just didn’t have it in me and finished a distant 2nd with only 116 miles.

A week after the D3 disappointment, I lined up at the start of the Colfax Marathon, the race that started my running “career” back in 2009.  A week after running 116, and with 35 miles of training in between, I had no real expectations. I started out smart, let the 3:15 pacer fade into the distance and listened to my body.  I caught back up to that pacer in the final mile and finished in a bit under 3:15. Not exciting for many of my fellow competitors, but given the circumstances, I was pretty happy.

Two weeks after Colfax, I ran a decent 50 miler at North Fork and only missed my goal by about 14 minutes.  Another two weeks flew by and I was up in Leadville for my first attempt at their marathon, which tops out at Mosquito Pass at over 13,000’.  My climbing was pitifully slow. I felt great on the downhills and made up quite a bit of time and positions, even finishing off with sub-7 and sub-6 minute miles wasn’t enough to help my 5:05 overall time.  The only reason I had entered the race was to try to earn a spot to the Leadville 100. I never thought a 26th place finish in my age group would do it, but so few runners stuck around long enough that I got the copper coin!

One week later, literally at the last minute, I got bumped up from the waitlist for the San Juan Solstice, another race that I had never run before.  Another smart start, but when I hit the first major downhill, where I should have flown by so many runners, I just didn’t have the legs. By the second big climb, I was feeling strong again and slowly reeling others in.  I then had a great time on the rolling terrain above treeline and having an absolute blast. That didn’t last long. The last 15 miles of the race, many of which were downhill, were agonizingly slow. My right hip was hurting, the soles of my feet felt raw, and I was walking downhills that I should have been flying sub-7 minute miles on.  San Juan was a huge downer for me. I feel like the race is perfectly suited for my strengths and yet I struggled to barely finish in the top ⅓.

I picked myself up by the bootstraps, spent even more time at high altitude, and two weeks later I was back in Leadville for the Silver Rush.  Another smart start, letting everyone pass in the first 10 uphill miles. I had speed on the downhills and felt great with the altitude. I still didn’t have the climbing strength that I wanted, but nowhere near as bad as at the Leadville Marathon.  Taking chances, as I usually do, with no shirt, and no gear, I got caught in a pretty serious downpour/hailstorm over the last 6 miles but kept plodding through the flooded course. With about a mile to go, I lost steam as I got to within a couple of hundred feet of the finish line, as the course frustratingly wound around.  I should have finished 2nd or 3rd in my age group, but settled for 4th, as I had no steam (or willpower) at the end. It was a decent time and I even won another copper coin, which I could have used for 2019, but I turned it down as I had recently registered for a 6 day race for the following year.

A few weeks after the SIlver Rush, I entered the Pikes Peak Ultra - a 50 miler right in my own backyard.  Another smart start and some decent pacing, but I lost steam again from about mile 30 to 40. I finished pretty strong, but with a much slower time than I had hoped.

Three weeks later, I headed to Leadville for the 3rd time this summer, for the Leadville 100.  I did not make it too widely known, but one of my big goals for the year was to break Michael Wardian’s record for the combined Leadville 100 and Pikes Peak Marathon.  I had done even more altitude training but was not feeling overly optimistic given my lackluster results.

I really focused on running smart, and I succeeded for quite a while.  Despite the course having been lengthened by about 1.5 miles, I was ahead of my 2016 PR all the way.  Even coming back over Hope Pass without a pacer, I was making good time. I got back to Outward Bound still feeling well and picked up an unexpected pacer.  As we chatted, he soon informed me that he had paced Wardian the previous year when he set the record - what a small world it truly is. I kept running well to Powerline, and climbed decently, though not as strong as in 2016.  My decent was also not as fast. Then, from Mayqueen to the finish, I just didn’t have any climbing power. I lost all the time I had gained earlier, and then some. 20:18 is a very good time and I was still a minute ahead of Wardian’s pace, but I was disappointed in not being able to keep up my pace to the end.

After a tiring drive down to Manitou, interrupted by a 45 minute nap, I stood at the startline of the Pikes Peak Marathon.  I still felt that I had a great shot at the record, but that feeling slowly dissipated as I struggled from the start and watched so many runners pass on by.

I finally made the top and was still half a minute ahead of Wardian, but I knew he had a great decent, and I just didn’t have the legs.  I totally gave up and was tempted to abandon the race altogether. Most of the return was a struggle to even jog when I should have been flying.  I had hit rock bottom, again. It was only over the last few miles that I felt like myself again and ran like I should have all along. Too little, too late.  Though I was only the third person ever to run the double, I had failed in my attempt for the record. Worse yet, was the knowledge that I would have been physically able to do it.  I know I will never run a 2:30 marathon, but this, this I could and should have done. That stung.

I had an awesome experience pacing the 4 hour group at the ADT Marathon 2 weeks later.  This is one of my favorite things each year. Though I always end with a single runner, I love being able to share my experience with the group early on.

Three more weeks and I was off to Cleveland for the 24 Hour National Championships.  With Olivier running, I knew my only shot at a win was if he failed. Not only did he not fail, but he reset the age group record with an awesome 161.5 miles.  I, on the other hand, went in still suffering from the flu that my daughter graciously shared with me. Despite a slow start and decent weather, I struggled and called it quits after 103 miles.  Though this was one of the few occasions that I could blame someone else for my failure (my daughter), it hit me pretty hard. It wasn;t just a physical failure, I was failing mentally, more and more.  I just couldn’t get excited and motivated like I used to.

I hoped Javelina would turn things around for me.  It’s such a great party atmosphere and I had real hopes of besting my 2017 PR.  Another smart start, but by the end of the second lap, I was slowing down. The 3rd lap was painfully slow, as it had been 2 years earlier.  I was so mentally done. By the time I finished the 3rd lap, and my race, I rushed to my phone and sent out a message requesting to withdraw from the 6 Days in the Dome Redux the following year.  I knew there was no way I could motivate myself to wake up and run day after day, when I couldn’t even push myself through 100 miles.

I finished off the year with Desert Solstice, the race that put an exclamation point to the end of my great 2017 season.  I knew this year would be different as I barely did any running in the past couple of months. I still hoped to run a slow, but respectable 100 miles and enjoy the show as so many others went for records.  The first 50 miles felt pretty good with my measured pace, but I couldn’t even keep that up for the next 50. I kept slowing down and struggled to hit the 100 mile mark. What a way to end the year.

I still managed to run over 3,000 miles, though I was on track to hit 4,000.  I ran 25 races, including 14 ultras (half of them 100 milers). And despite my disappointments, I had a 2nd place finish at Coldwater and was only the 3rd person to run the Leadville/Pikes Peak double. But it’s not really about the results.  It’s about feeling like I gave it my best and ran a smart race, for the entire race. I just haven’t felt that this past year and it simply isn’t fun anymore. I’m just burnt out. I want to spend more time with my family and I also want to refocus on my other passion - woodworking (Adrian's Woods).

I’ve been suffering from a lack of motivation/willpower pretty much all year.  I put on lots of miles early one but never had a single whole race that I really felt good about.  Until this fall, I had gone 22 months without more than a week off of running - not since the end of 2016 when I “retired”.  Given all the flack that I got after that, I am not retiring now. Just taking an extended hiatus from trying to be “competitive”.