Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Brilliant and Tough Year in Review

Defining rigorous goals in times that should never allow it can be both frustrating and fulfilling. I'm one to set my targets high, higher than should be allowed. So, I have had to be comfortable with failure knowing that 50% completion can sometimes be considered success.

I have a tough job that puts demands on me. I have a long commute. And I have a family, where I intend to be an active participant. After all these things, plus some sleep and relaxation, I have to find time to train.

After 2012, where I met "some" of my goals, I put a big one on the table. I wanted to complete a tough 50k. I didn't wait to see if I could get there; I put my money down early and got it on the calendar. 

Everything building up to this August race was training. Everything after has been recovery (though not much was needed). I knew what was in-store for in 2013 outside running, so I made it okay to have my one "A" race... my one big goal. 

So here is my running year in review. While the the apex is a few months back, the year had a surprisingly large number of high points, ones that ultimately made my first 50k finish look small in comparison.
  • January - I was selected to join Altra as a brand ambassador. I loved the shoes but found joining the team of inspiring runners was what really pushed me to train and perform as I headed into spring. I've enjoyed being a part of this family immensely, and have been happy to promote them to anyone who will hear me. I continue to believe that they make the best shoes on the market. Case in point is that I have gotten through 2013 completely injury free. I believe that the shoes have had something to do with this.
  • February - My family moved into our new home. It meant a longer commute, but finally put me closer to the "country." Not the Northeast Kingdom I'm used to, but I had a nice big home, some land, and more than enough trail heads within a few miles of my front door.
  • March - My wife gave birth to our second boy, little Marcus. He has filled out our family perfectly. Nothing more needs to be said about that.
  • April - Ran the NJ Half Marathon with my best friend. He came all the way from Argentina to do this one with me. I'm not great on the road, with the sustained, rhythmic pounding, but after a completely hectic start line situation, we finished strong along the seashore with a respectable time.
  • May - Finally found that with our move, I could get some trail training in. It gave me more confidence that the tough 50k coming up just might be doable. My commute was killing me, and finding the time to train was nearly impossible, but I found a way to make it work (sometimes at 4am). I saw a lot of sunrises.
  • June - Raced a short 10k trail race on my home trails and came in 7th. It was blazing hot which did me a lot of favors. I paced the first few miles well and passed a bunch on the biggest uphill. Hammered it home and gained just a little more confidence.
  • July - What should have been my heaviest training month provided the greatest mental anguish. With a young family, I had to make choices that pushed my training down the priority list. I kept at it when I could but really suffered internally. It forced me to question what I was capable of. Finally, towards the end of the month, I forced myself to hit the treadmill for a 2 1/2 run. This mill sits in my basement and forces me to stare at a wall 2 feet away. I told myself that if I could get through this mentally, I could get through much more while distracted in the woods.
  • August - That Night I Dreamt of Rocks. I got through my race. It had its suffering but the feeling after was fantastic. Immediately after, I started thinking about the next big challenge. Mentally, I signed up for the Vermont 50 in 2014. 
  • September - While I didn't stop running after the 50k, I did loosen the routine a bit. Eventually, this got me into the cycle of putting running way down the list. As September went on, my mileage dropped. I started thinking about little "micro adventures", little projects that would give me reason enough for getting out. I started thinking about a trail running club. 
  • October - Creeping along but I really started to feel that I had lost my momentum. I decided to start a running club for folks that like to get out in Watchung Reservation. With a few long(ish) runs on the calendar, I at least knew that I was keeping the base miles and it was really nice to run with other trail runners. Seeing that I would be living here for years to come, I felt that I might as well work to build a community of like-minded runners. So far, so good.
  • November - With a good bit of a fall cold wiping me out for two weeks, I went into a rough, quick 6 mile trail race (NJ HashAThon) completely unprepared. Found that the base lives on even when you are not consistently putting in the miles. It was only six, but I got through it quicker than I thought I would and enjoyed myself out there. One of the best trail races I've seen for crowd attendance and support. It's always nice to get cow bells in the middle of a climb. This will definitely be on my yearly calendar, and I look forward to eventually running it with my boys. The rest of November was a wash with little training. I went into December knowing that I had to change things.
  • After really struggling with motivational issues, I decided to go into December on a run streak. Bad weather wouldn't stop me because I had the treadmill in the basement. At least 1 mile a day was my goal, and I kept at it for 22 days. As I got into the holidays, I just got tired. Knowing that I had a race coming on January 4th, I decided to throw in the towel, comfortable knowing that I could get out there day after day if I had to.
Now, after surviving and tough but fulfilling year, I start to think about my goals for 2014. As I stated at the beginning, aim big and be happy with small successes.
  • A 50 miler run quickly. This will probably take two 50k's as training races, but I'm looking to finish the Vermont 50 in September.
  • I would like to complete a timed race, probably starting with a 6 or 12 hour race. Running with the Devil provides the perfect mix of climbing in a timed event. 
  • Hoping to race some trails in a different country. If we get to southern Italy this year, that would be the perfect place. We'll see.
  • Last but not least, I need to continue to work to find the appropriate level of balance in my family life and training. Always a struggle, I need to find ways to work around the family better, and involve them in the process whenever possible.
Otherwise, a good 2013. It will only get better in 2014.

This one is for my wife. Not red haired,
but there in spirit (i.e. fiery)