2020 was never going to be easy. Jake was 3 months old when we said farewell to 2019. We planned for 3 kids in pre-school which meant a lot of logistics and financial gymnastics. And if juggling the kids and sleepless nights with baby Jake weren’t enough, we were preparing for our move to Seattle sometime in March. I told myself to let running be a distance third behind family and work. I told myself to put racing on hold and give more time for the family while we adjust. The plan was in motion, including a house hunting trip to Seattle in early January, and then 2020 revealed its colors. The move was delayed, the kids were home for months on end, we were generally quarantining and limiting interactions to a few neighbors. We dug our heels in and made it all work, but none of it easy. In strange way, the pandemic didn’t change my running goals as much as reinforce the need to put family and health above all else. As I reflect on the year, I have so much to take away and want to gather my thoughts in a good old fashion Good, Bad, Ugly, retro.
“If you want to be a great runner, you need to run”– Mike Wardian
I ran 221 days in 2018 and 222 days in 2019. How’s that for consistency?! With factors mentioned above, I set a goal to run more days and challenge myself to run more without necessarily adding more overall miles on the body. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that running favors frequency and consistency, so whether it was banging out a quick four miles or hammering a longer run, I wanted to up my frequency in 2020. And I did! A crude breakdown below which netted out to 280 days of running (or walking) and averaged out to 5.4 days per week with many of those non mileage days doing strength training.
I also gave myself all sorts of grace to not expect pretty training charts of build-build-build-recover. I embraced the ugliness that comes with having three young kids and a demanding job. It took me awhile to see this but only three weeks under 25 miles! And it was very rare to go more than 2 days without some type of time on my feet. I know a week off would do me some good but counted in this analysis are the many 4-5 mile power walks I did as a way to recover but also get time of my feet.
I shouldn’t be surprised but I ran more miles than any prior year even that was not quite the goal. Since tracking my runs starting in 2015, I’ve run more miles each year. This makes sense given I went from 1-2 marathons a year to many marathons to ultra marathons to more ultras. It’s only a surprise because I didn’t race after Belmonte in early March. I tend to race 400-500 miles based on 2018 and 2019 and assumed the lack of races would lead to less miles. But the upside is less time tapering and less time recovering. And I still found ways to get in the long runs, but they were all solo, unsupported adventures. Which leads me to…
The highlight of 2020 is the ~75 mile solo adventure I did in the Cascades. I started at Stevens Pass near Skyomish, WA and ran the entire PCT Section J down to Snoqualmie Pass. This was quite an adventure, starting at noon on a Friday and finishing at 9am the next day. Epic climbs, multiple bear encounters, and not a single human encountered for 70 of the 75 miles. All would have been perfect if not for the blood level chafing that was bad at mile 30 and utterly destructive by mile 50. I ended up walking a good bit of the last 25 miles. Woof.
With so much negativity in the world right now, I’m hard pressed to be overly critical of the year. But I have some lingering thoughts:
For the first time since 2016, I didn’t set a new distance PR. I’ve always taken pride in tackling new distances to ensure I’m pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I love learning how my body responds to the longer distances and love learning how my body responds the day after. I suppose this was coming eventually as I’m not pursuing distances beyond ~100.
I didn’t get as much vert as I wanted. This was somewhat intentional but there’s a lot of FUD compounding in my head on whether time away from the mountains will translate to success in 2021. Looking to past years, I had 14 days in 2018 with 5k feet of gain or more. Some of these were races but a lot of these were solo loops on The Wild Oak Trail. That number dropped to 10 in 2019 and then 8 in 2020. Much of the decline was from our move to Seattle. Gone are the days of disappearing to the Wild Oak Trail for a day. Or gone are the days of meeting VHTRC friends anywhere along Route 81 to get in some good climbing. Sure the Cascades are in my backyard but 3 kids, recently moved, no family within 3k miles, a pandemic, you get the picture. And I’m doing a lot more road running in recent months which is hard on the body for different reasons but indexes towards a lot less climbing. Womp womp.
I’m tired. I know I bring this upon myself and Jake will eventually sleep through the night but I’m “feeling it” as 2020 comes to an end. I have a rough sense of some big runs for 2021 but I might give myself some grace to really rest. I also say this every year soooooo…
I made a very poor attempt at four loops on the Wild Oak Trail back in late February. I really regret this because the Wild Oak Trail deserves better. The small team that organizes the race and gives their weekend away deserves better. For that, I’m very sorry and very grateful that my TWOT family knows how important this goal is for me and is willing to support me on good and bad days.
It was setup to be perfect. My good friend Erick and I were going to battle 112 miles together and finally achieve the goal I first attempted in Oct 2018. But I quickly learned at the start of loop 2 that my heart wasn’t in it and unfortunately neither was Erick’s.
We had an easy, almost effortless first loop. I can confidently say it was one of the few times I’ve finished a 28 mile loop and continuing on didn’t feel impossible. All seemed well to bang out more loops. Erick and I gathered our gear, restocked our supplies and headed back out for loop two. Somewhere, in those tiny moments between loops, you realize how much lies ahead and it weighs heavy on your mind; 84 more miles, 24k feet of climbing, dropping temperatures, and endless solitude even if Erick was with me. We were silent for the 7 miles up to Little Bald. Erick pulled ahead and shuffled into Camp Todd 10 minutes ahead of me. I was moving slow, things hurt, and I just didn’t want to suffer on the Wild Oak Trail anymore. We both quit. He tried to rally us but my heart wasn’t in it.
Sure, I had lots of collateral damage from the last months of 2019 capped off with Devil Dog 100 in December. And sure, I did ~70 miles at Hot Twot before blowing out my ankle, leading to a 5 mile death march to Camp Todd. I just wasn’t ready mentally.
So I start 2021 similar to 2020, still chasing four loops on the Wild Oak Trail. Never give up, never, ever give up.
A few pics from the year.