Friday, December 27, 2013

Having fun!

Picture it. The reddish soil of Palo Duro Canyon. 2008. It was then and there, about 5 years ago, that I ran my first ultramarathon and my first trail run. I had never run a trail before. The description said "99% dirt trails on the floor of the canyon" with a photo of a wide open trail. How hard could it be? What were all of the things people were wearing on their shoes? Oh, we need a flashlight? Anyone have an extra? People are carrying water - in backpacks with straws? Is there not any water along the way? Yes, these were just some of the questions that I had throughout the day - including - what did I get myself into? Followed later by - what did I do to my knee?

It's funny to think about how it all started. How naive I was. How a 50K seemed so far to run. How little I knew about running, and how little I knew about my limits and what I could accomplish with focus and determination. How excited I was to discover a whole new world I never knew existed. How hooked I had become with just run race - one trail experience. I hobbled around for a month with IT band issues aggravated by running on the uneven surface after Palo Duro. But this didn't deter me from wanting to get back out and run another trail. The one marathon I had previously run ended up being the only marathon distance race to this day I've completed. I was hooked on ultradistance.

My running has progressed considerably in the last five years. From showing up unprepared to having a closet full of a supplies and a myriad of bags and cases to tote to races. From one pair of shoes to a closet full. From one 50K medal to multiple 100 mile buckles. From saying "I think I can" to "I know I can." My running is less about "how far I just ran" and more about "how much fun I just had." That pretty much sums up my running in 2013. Fun.

This year I explored some unbelievable places with awesome people. Some highlights were running the Grand Canyon R2R2R with friends from Utah and seeing the canyon in ways few people every get to experience. Pacing my buddy Howard Mayson to his first 100 mile finish above the red sandstone cliffs at Bryce Canyon. Walking down Main St in Leadville, CO and completing the "race across the sky" for my 5th 100 mile finish. Running the Zion Traverse.

Each of these runs produced memories I'll have forever. I took away experiences, learned things from friends, and learned things about myself. I tweaked nutrition and shed pounds and found that a leaner, meaner me produced faster times with similar effort. I continued to be amazed at the selfless attitude of other runners that will give up their time and energy to help me achieve a goal. I'm much better at focusing on my running attitude, knowing that my apptitude will follow with discipline. Most of all, I had a blast.

Just as 2013 was an improvement over 2012, good things are in store for 2014. Acceptance into the Western States 100 opens up the door for a potential UltraRunning Grand Slam which includes four hundreds: Western States, Vermont, Leadville, and Wasatch. Of course there has to be some good prep runs leading up to those such as Bandera 100K and Moab 100. Although some of these are tough runs, and there will be some unhappy times during some of the races for sure, and although I want to finish all of them with great times, first and foremost I want to have a good time. Afterall, 100 miles is a long ways to run when you aren't having fun, right? I also look forward to supporting other runners at the aid stations, at the finish, or helping them get to the finish just as so many people have helped me along the way.

Gotta run have fun!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Western States 100 Lottery

Just after my name was drawn. Whoop!

It's been almost a week since I watched the Western States Lottery on the internet and saw my name pulled from the metal hopper - 45th out of 270 drawn. I'm still not sure it's 100% sunk in that I'm actually going to get to run - evidenced by the fact that I've checked the official 2014 entrants list multiple times just to verify and have regularly checked email waiting for some type of welcome/confirmation email (did receive the receipt that the registration fee had been processed though - that day!)

I read about the WS100 from Dean Karnazes' Ultramarathon Man. I knew it was something I had to one day attempt - and gained my first entry in 2009 when I had barely run a qualifier - Palo Duro 50 mile in 10:44 with the specific goal of entering the lottery. I thought I was pretty cool. Apparently I also thought I was lucky because I was pretty sure I'd get in that year. I didn't. Talk about being bummed out. I remember wondering what I would do with my running - what races would I run to pass the time until the next lottery? What other races were there besides THAT one? I felt like I was in a holding pattern. 

I fumbled around with mostly local races but took a stab at a couple of 50K's in the mountains out west because c'mon - I had run a 50 mile race before so a 50K was a training run. Kindergarten. I ran the Jemez 50 mile in NM but dropped down to the 50K midway through the race and later that summer ran the Speedgoat 50K in Utah and received the dead last award for the last finisher. These two races taught me very quickly to respect both the terrain and the distance. Western States was three times as long. Confidence and ego put in-check. 

The 2nd WS100 lottery came and went - I didn't get picked again - and I found other races to focus my attention on. I was sort of over it. I started running more races in the mountains. I started working harder in gym - focusing on really building up my legs which I never thought I really needed to do since I ran so much. Remember, I could run 50 miles. Oooh. I started having a lot more fun by enjoying awesome scenery and meeting new people that shared the same passion. I stopped focusing on always having to force myself to do better from race to race to race - and let my running take a natural upward progression rather than a forced one. I stopped going off of a pre-determined training regiment, and started going off of feel. I started understanding that running was so much larger and more rewarding than one race, and that my calendar year didn't have to be from the 2nd Sat in Dec to the 2nd Sat in Dec.

The last few years I've had some amazing experiences. Zion 100, Bryce 100, Leadville 100, Pony Express 100, Zion Traverse, Grand Canyon R2R2R to name a few. My times have gradually gotten faster. I've learned to run smarter races. I've learned to tweak and fine tune my strategy and listen to my body during races to improve my chances of finishing. I understand how to work through lows and push forward. I know how to pare down my drop bags so they're necessities and not security blankets. And most importantly I realize that I'm not the runner now that I was 4 years ago that thought he could run 100 miles; I'm smarter, stronger, and better prepared to tackle the challenge now.

Sometimes fate has a funny way of giving us what we want, when we need it, and when we're ready for it. I wonder what path my running would have taken if I had gotten into WS100 four years ago. Would I have finished? Would I have had a good time? Would I have learned all of the things about myself and my running that I've discovered? Would I still be having fun? Although there's no way of knowing - I do know that my experience in June is far more likely to go well than it would have several years back. Four years ago I simply wasn't ready. I wasn't ready physically. I wasn't ready mentally. My running wasn't ready for that step. But now. Now is a different story and I plan on seizing it. Confidence.

"Here I go it's my shot. Feet fail me not. This maybe the only opportunity that I've got!"  Eminem