This is the time of year that I take a little time and look back on what I accomplished and what I fell short of accomplishing. When it comes to running and athletic performance, I’m pretty satisfied with how 2019 played out.
At 51 years old and being fairly new to endurance events I probably set bars too high for myself. My diet isn’t what it should be and training can get out of whack but overall, I put in the effort and find that the results match what I was able to put in. I’m a back of the pack runner, I rarely outrun anyone but I’ll out suffer most people.
My 2019 opened with some big goals, some scary races and some trepidation but I took them on one at a time and had a blast with each of them. In February I flew to Huntsville, Tx. to try my legs at Rocky Raccoon 100mile. I was warned about the weather, the terrain, the hidden tree roots and the alligators and wild pigs before I left so of course, I was excited to see them all! Turns out the weather was pretty good but I was wildly unprepared and made bad decision after bad decision. I didn’t get enough miles in leading to the event. I went alone, no crew and no pacer to help with gear and the miles. I decided I’d rent a van in Houston and sleep in it in the campground where the event was held. In the end, those were just bad decisions that I learned from. I got very little rest, wasn’t prepared to run and just couldn’t get my head in it from the start. In the end, it was a medical reason that got me pulled from the course 40 miles in. I loved the adventure though and vowed to return. I was disappointed that I never saw an alligator or wild pig but I found plenty of those stupid hidden tree roots.
The next major adventure was a Badwater event called Salton Sea. It was an 81 mile adventure from Salton Sea to Palomar Mountain in San Diego County. The description made the event sound horrible, just like I like them! It was a team event so I assembled a motley team of three and we headed for the California Desert. As all Badwater events, SS is a self crew event and I’d learned from Rocky Raccoon. We had a crew of three that could handle anything. That race went from uphill road running in triple digit heat to an 8 mile section of trail with 4,000’ of climb and one angry rattle snake and then back to the road for the final 50k and an 11 mile mountain climb finish in rainy 40 degree weather. It was an adventure, a struggle and a blast. Team Goat Tough finished, we were DFL but we finished and a full 1/3 of the starting teams didn’t make it to the finish line. I learned a lot during that race, I loved and hated it and I learned so much about myself. The added twist of running with two other people for that long made a challenge that few runners ever experience. I highly suggest it.
I ran a series of smaller races, did some OCR events and just had fun in general throughout the rest of the year leading to the Fall. I had two races I was looking forward to, Back on the Ranch and the SLO Ultra. Unfortunately they were within a couple weeks of each other. I felt good during Back on the Ranch and finished third overall there with 110 miles. It was nice and flat(ish) and that’s what I’d been training on. I was optimistic that I felt pretty good a week after the race and was really looking forward to doing some climbing at Lopez Lake for the SLO Ultra. I’d signed up for both of the trail run days, taken the trailer and camped at the campground and was excited. I love hills, I love to climb and I love the views when I get to the tops. Knowing the RACE SLO crew like I do though, I knew they’d take full advantage of every climb at the place and they did not disappoint.
A little history of my experience with RACE SLO and their events; my only road marathon ever was the SLO Marathon, I’ll never do another one! That race introduced me to the SLO Ultra though and I decided I’d try my legs at a trail marathon. It was in Wild Cherry Canyon, had epic climbs and incredible scenery and let us run in places inaccessible the rest of the year. I fell on mile 3 and bruised my kneecap (stress fracture by the end of the race) but I absolutely loved trail running. I was totally hooked. The next year I came back and did the 50 miler, my first non OCR Ultra marathon. It was all over for me then, I was hooked. When I heard the SLO Ultra had been moved to Lopez Lake I was stoked, I LOVE that area and the hills are steep and tall! Sadly, the Ultra wasn’t in the cards for me this year as my legs hadn’t come back enough from the previous race and I had to drop at about mile 20. Upside, I got a cool boat ride on Lopez Lake! I opted out of running Sunday and instead got to take the microphone and do some MC and start line work for the Race SLO Tribe. It was a blast seeing all the runners with the excitement in their eyes. Ok, I won’t lie some had sheer terror in their eyes, and they should have! That course was one of the best laid out courses I’d ever seen. It was sick climb followed by crazy descent and then back up the next mountain only to descend again. If there was a flat spot to be had, the trail crew avoided it! I absolutely LOVED that course.
The other part about this time of year is projection. Looking at a calendar, choosing races and trying to make the pieces fit. For me, 2020 will be a series of adventures with some fun races thrown in. I’m headed to Phoenix, AZ to run Across The Years to bring in 2020. I plan to run 100 miles on a very flat one mile loop around the Dodgers Spring Training facility. I had Rocky Raccoon on the schedule but have postponed that for 2021 because another adventure has my attention.
At the end of April, I’m headed to the Grand Canyon to do a Double Cross, aka Rim to Rim to Rim. It’s not an official race but a group of us are planning to run from the South Rim of the canyon to the North Rim and then back to the South. It’s only about 48 miles but comes with over 20k feet of elevation change.
I’m looking at another challenge in July that would be my ultimate test and trying to work out the logistics of that one. It would be a journey from the lowest place on the western hemisphere to the highest, a distance of 146 miles.
Of course, the SLO Ultra is on my radar again, I have some unfinished miles for that course and plan on getting those climbs in!
Throw in some Tough Mudder events, Born To Run and maybe another 100 miler someplace and I have lofty goals for 2020. Will I achieve them all? Probably not, things happen in life. But I know that if I don’t set the goal I’ll never achieve it.
So for those that set goals, what are they for 2020? A dream written down becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.