I’ve never written down my goals nor do I typically abide by the calendar goal setting process. I’m normally more fluid, setting short and long term goals and adjusting however necessary. With two toddlers at home, I’ve learned it’s better to be flexible and never lose sight of what really matters. I’ve also noticed a pattern with the past three years: set first half goals, drift a bit, then scramble and do some last minute races. This year included a last minute 50 miler in late November and then an “easy” 40 mile Fat Ass in late December. I burn a lot of matches at home when I spring races on Nicole so maybe this year I’ll be more disciplined towards a plan. Before I lay this out, I have to recap a bit on 2018. This is going to sting.
I failed. I got stronger. I have a hard time acknowledging failure when looking at the year on the whole. Maybe folks disagree but I don’t care. I set two goals at the start of 2018:
- Redemption at SJS 50 or sub 13 hours given my 14 hour death march the prior year. I finished in 12h 20m and nearly 2 hours better than 2017! As excited as I was about the time improvement, I really hurt at the end. The last 10 miles were rough and the days following were quite painful. It was clear that I was getting stronger but my body was breaking down. I need to write this down to ensure I don’t forget but I barely slept the night after the race. I was super dehydrated, both Achilles were on fire, quads were hurting, and I generally felt like I got hit by a truck. The day after a race is my favorite litmus test for training. In this case, I over trained. Things hurt before the race and not shocking, things hurt more after the race. I remember watching a 4th of July parade 10 days after the race and I was still banged up. I’m rambling now but the point is this, I exceeded my goal at a cost that I really didn’t understand at the time. Nor have I really learned my lesson. Oh well…
- Complete my first 100. I eventually decided on Hot TWOT which is a very aggressive first hundred mile race. 112 miles, 30k feet of vertical gain, unsupported, and generally very technical terrain. I wrote extensively about my DNF here which I still debate with myself as to how this outcome happened. I’ve landed on two things:
- I dug myself into a hole physically. August and September training was riddled with injuries. I ignored my body and ran more miles than any other months of the year. I remember starting a 28 mile training run in late August and eating dirt (technical term for falling) 100 yards into the run. I fell again at mile 10. I then ran a 40 mile race two weeks later. So yah, I was hurting before I started my first 100 and I repeatedly lied to myself in hopes of a better outcome.
- I mentally quit on the second loop which led to a nap in my car before going back out for the third loop. I started the fourth loop but turned around a few miles up the mountain. I flat out quit. I have to stomach this and move on but it’s a tough pill to swallow. I stubbornly went out a month later and did a hard 50 miler with the sole purpose of suffering. I wanted to grind one aid station to the next to improve my mental approach towards ultra running. I could barely walk the two days after 50 miles of mud but was glad I put in the work. This sounds a bit psychotic because, well, it is. That’s part of the beauty of this sport. It will beat you down repeatedly but also encourage you to get back up and get stronger.
- Listen and Less. I like the way this sounds but the goal is to listen to my body, do less when warranted, and get back to healthy running. The kind of running when you’re not wondering what will hurt tomorrow or if you’ll be limping around the office all day. I look at all the injuries from last year and realize I really drifted away from strength training. I really dislike going to the gym when I could be running. The gym is crowded, gross, and extremely uninspiring (flexes bicep, checks self in mirror). There are ways to get stronger without a gym but I was at my best when dedicating 1-2 days per week to the gym. I re-started this approach in November and can already feel the difference in my body. I don’t care if this means less miles as I’d rather enjoy the fewer miles than suffer through more. And frankly, the goal shouldn’t be about hitting an arbitrary mileage target. The goal is to have fun, challenge yourself, and finish races feeling human.
- TWOT Revenge. Stupid is as stupid does. I don’t think I have enough time to make big enough improvements but I can get healthy while keeping my body tuned for higher mileage. I plan to put down a training block in January (I did a gradual block in December) and see if I can get strong enough to take a crack at 4 loops in early February. There are some early signs that this might be achievable, most recently the 40 mile Fat Ass I ran on Dec 29th. My body is responding to the added strength training and my confidence is starting to return. I also got some sweet camping gear from Santa so clearly I need to put it to use.
- Throwdown at SJS 50. This has me really excited. I want to run sub 12h. This will require a lot of calculations to look at my splits from last year and see where I can improve. With the TWOT in early February, I’ll have time to recover and put down 2 good training months in April and May. Nicole and I are talking about spending two weeks in Colorado this June (her family lives there so more practical than it sounds) so I’m hoping to get a solid week at altitude prior to the race. And I’m hoping the added ultra race experience since last year’s SJS will payoff.
- Bear Down. The Bear 100 looks perfect. Late September, big climbs, gorgeous views, Utah, Idaho, and plenty of support that will be very different from the lonely TWOT adventure. This does mean a big training block in August, one of the worst running months of the year in my opinion. It’s hot, humid, and typically nasty. One of these days I’ll learn.
The year looks similar to last with a focus on getting healthy, improving from last year’s results, and then putting it all together for The Bear. I’m not looking too much beyond Sept/Oct for a lot of reasons. I’m hoping to spend more time with the boys and supporting their activities where
running racing will take a natural backseat. But I want to get that 100 first.