Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Reflecting on 2014

This past weekend, I spoke at a local Air Force Base (Westover) about how to achieve your goals and prepare for success.  Preparing for this talk, I spent plenty of time reflecting on the successes that Brian and I have had in the past year - while it's hard to summarize an entire year in a few paragraphs, it is helpful to reflect on the successes. 

Brian had another amazing year - he seems to have figured out how to run an amazing 100-miler, but I guess by running 4 this year he had plenty of practice. 

He started his 100-mile season with a 2nd place finish at Massanutten Mountain 100.  He then achieved a goal/dream of his over the last several years, getting the course record at Vermont 100 - he finished in a smokin' 14:47, breaking the previously stout record by about 5 minutes.  Having missed the record by less than a minute in 2012, this race equaled redemption.

(Brian, running strong at Massanutten)

We then flew to Europe, as Brian ran against the best at UTMB, and surprised almost everyone but himself by finishing 19th and under 24 hours.  Especially epic was how his race rolled out - from running in 120th place, and wanting to drop out at mile 20...to surging in the 2nd half, and consistently moving up to crack the top 20. 

(Brian, slapping hands as he finished UTMB)
His UTMB race gave him so much confidence that he decided to jump into Grindstone 100.  He was a bit worn down from all of his racing, and had a similar race to UTMB - with starting in the evening, in the rain, and being unsure if he would finish...but ultimately he stayed strong and moving into 2nd place, running stronger after it stopped raining and the sun came up.  Amazing how even a struggling Brian seems to equal a solid 100-mile performance.

(Brian, on his way to winning Leatherwood 50)

Of course, there were numerous 'shorter races' (which Brian now defines as anything shorter than a 100-miler).  He seems to have found his rhythm with the 100-mile races, but enjoys ultras and trails of all lengths.  Apparently, the ultra community recognizes his success - he was voted 6th in the UltraRunner of the Year voting this year!  (His Vermont 100 course record was also voted the 8th best performance of the year.)

(A determined Brian takes down the course record at Vermont 100)

For me, the year seemed varied - I had amazing high points, and incredibly disastrous experiences.  Maybe I tried to push the limits a bit too much?  Maybe I wasn't as focused this year?  I don't know - either way, it lead to a frustrating year at times.  However, taking over the helm for the Vermont 100 has proven to be the biggest success for the year, and interacting with future participants has been the greatest reward so far.

(Training run with Kristina at Bear Mountain)
I had a few surprises during 2014, including winning my first ultra of the year at Leatherwood 50 Mile, nearly setting a course record while out on a "training run" with Kristina Folcik at TNF Bear Mountain 50k, earning a bronze medal at the US 50 Mile Trail Champs, and proving that perhaps I am a mountain runner by breaking 1:30 at Mount Washington.  I also had a ton of fun while running epic trail routes such as the Presidential Traverse FKT with Kelsey Allen and the Pemi Loop with Kristina Folcik. 

(Pushing hard to finish under 1:30 at Mt. Washington)

However, I had some struggles also.  I proved that I melt in the heat, while shuffling to a finish unseasonably warm days at Bull Run Run and Vermont 50.  I gasped for air when I attempted to run a race at altitude without acclimating at all, finishing 6th at the US 50k Trail Championships.  I was humbled by the European race scene when I ran the UT4M.

(Enjoying a beer with volunteer and friend Kenny during the Vermont 100)
The biggest emotions of the year for us, however, are both connected with Vermont.  I ran Vermont 100 for the last time in the foreseeable future, as I transitioned from participant to Race Director of that event.  I enjoyed the experience, running with a bib that read 'Future RD', and challenging myself to high five every volunteer along the way.  It was a joyous day, but bittersweet as I crossed the line for the last time and received my VT100 buckle.  Unfortunately, the biggest challenge of the year occurred when we unexpectedly lost our friend Chad Denning in September; a fellow trail runner, someone who shared our passion for the outdoors, and who had paced Brian in several Vermont races. 

(Brian and I, holding hand as we finish Grindstone together)

We hope that 2015 will bring happy and healthy times, as we continue to learn and grow on the trails!