Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 In Review

Throwing down at Ice Age, beside Max King (Montrail), #2 Ultra Runner or the Year.  Photo by John Zinzow, former IA50 RD
Statistics is something I am drawn to.  For practical purposes it is a quick way to evaluate something.  In grad school I learned that having measurable outcomes is necessary for all programs.  While I butted heads with this idea at first, I understand its importance.  I still think it is important to just "feel" something however, so in many life endeavors, I don't bother with the measurable's but go with "gut" decisions.  In running, I'm trying to adjust to going on feel more so than being so data and stats driven.  Sometimes, the best is not always the most.  More miles doesn't necessarily mean being more fit or a stronger runner.

As 2014 closes out, I sit and evaluate a years worth of miles, races, and training.  I think it is important to spend time reflecting on the past before moving forward with new endeavors.  It is no different with running.  The end of the year is a good time to reflect on the years training in order to adjust and hopefully improve on the upcoming year.  The constant idea that I've been keen to keep in mind as I begin training for a new years worth of races is, "It is not about how many miles, but what kind of miles."  Staying fresh and sharp with lower volume but more quality miles is going to be important for sustained participation in ultras.  
A DNF at Cayuga Trails doesn't take away the experience had.  photo by Ron Heerkens Jr.
For the most part, 2014 was a successful year.  I could consider this my personal most successful year in terms of competing.  After some time off from running in December of 2013, I started training in the new year with one goal in mind:  qualifying for Western States at the Ice Age 50 MUC race and then running Western States 100.  I started off with a nice win at the Terrapin Mountain 50k and then nailed what is probably my best 50 miler at the Ice Age 50.  I PR'd in the 50k by 30 minutes within the 50 miles and became only the 9th person in the 32 year history of the race to break 6 hours.  Even though I had such a great race, I missed that Western States spot by finishing just 92 seconds behind 3rd place.  This threw off my summer plans but it gave me a chance to run the Grindstone 100 in October, my first mountain 100 miler, where I finished 3rd place.  Two weeks later I gutted out a solid marathon time, all things considered, and that capped my year of racing.  I did't race often, but I had fun at all the races, even the DNF at Cayuga Trail 50 a month after Ice Age.    

2014 also brought lots of other great memories away from competing.  In January I founded Southeastern Ohio Trail Runners (SEOTR), which produced an opportunity for a great memory in April when I directed my first race, the Iron Furnace Trail Run.  Race Directing was so much fun and it is going to be something I continue for a long time, with many plans for future races, including the 2nd annual IFTR in April 2015.  In May, I earned a Masters Degree in Outdoor Recreation and Education from Ohio University.  After graduating, Bobbi and I spend over 5 weeks driving and exploring the American West during the summer, which included stops at the Western States 100 and Hardrock 100, giving a surplus of inspiration to run mountain 100 milers.  Later that summer, Bobbi and I found out we were expecting our first child, which has been the greatest blessing of 2014!  And that blessing will flow into 2015 when we welcome our little girl into the world in late April!  
Bobbi finishing the Iron Furnace Trail Run and me welcoming her to the finish as the Race Director!
I wouldn't have had such a satisfying year without all the support from my family and friends, especially my wife Bobbi who has become quite the ultra crewess in the two and a half years we've been married.  It is truly awesome to have the love and support from everyone around me.  And there is constant inspiration as trail running grows in Southeastern Ohio,especially with the emergence and growth of SEOTR and the Iron Furnace Trail Run and more planned trail races.  I've probably shared more trail runs in 2014 with new people than I had in all past years combined.  Good vibes with good people on good trails.


Stats are still something that I enjoy tracking, so here are some numbers to end the 2014 year:

Yearly Mileages (since I started logging everyday Jan. 1, 2007)
  • 2007:  2,334 miles
  • 2008:  2,884 miles
  • 2009:  3,458 miles
  • 2010:  5,157 miles
  • 2011:  4,530 miles
  • 2012:  2,682 miles
  • 2013:  2,898 miles
  • 2014:  3,968 miles
Total in 8 years = 27,912 miles

Racing Numbers
  • 220.5 miles raced in 2014
  • 1 100 miler, 1 50 miler, 1 50k, 1 marathon, 1 5 miler, 3 5k's
  • 1 50 mile DNF
  • Ultra finishes:  1st place, 4th place, 3rd place, DNF

Other Running Numbers from 2014
  • 238, 396 ft. of elevation gain from May (when I got a GPS watch) to end of year.
  • 580hr. 25min. of time running
  • 10.87 miles average per day
  • 1.59 hours of running per day
  • 54 days of 0 miles
  • 12.75 miles per day of running
  • 1.86 hours per day running
  • 16 weeks of 100+ miles

Lifetime Running Numbers (8 years)
  • 27, 912 miles
  • 9.56 miles per day
  • 419 days of 0 miles
  • 11.16 miles per day running
  • 130 races total (800 meters to 100 miles)
  • 42 5k's
  • 29 8k's
  • 12 ultra marathons

My #Strava Story - a cool video stat recap (May to December)

Onward to 2015 - Happy Trails!

Cayuga Trails 50.  photo by Joe Viger

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Returning to the Forest

Looking West from the top of Copperhead Fire Tower
It's where it all began.  On one Wednesday afternoon in the Fall 6 years ago, Keegan Rathkamp, team captain on the cross country team, introduced me to the trails at the Shawnee State Forest.  In my running log from 9/10/2008, I wrote:
Sweet run today. Keegan and I went out to the forest to get a long run in on trails. It was my first time out there and I loved it. I want to run those trails everyday now. It is so peaceful!
This day was one of the most influential days of my life and the introduction from Keegan to the trails at the Shawnee State Forest easily affects who I am today.  From my sophomore year in college to now, I have visited and revisited this forest dozens and dozens of times for a multitude of reasons - adventure, training, solitude, with friends...  Even now living over 2 hours away from the Shawnee Forest, I make it a point to return as often as possible for re-connection with the land and trails that I grew to know and love so well.

The forest started out as an escape from the city.  The standard 8-mile loop around Portsmouth was getting old.  My back hurt a lot, the streets were littered with trash, people harassed us, sounds and cars everywhere.  The weekly (and sometimes more) drive of just 15 minutes to the Shawnee State Forest was our escape.  Wednesday Trail Tradition.  Running on the trails took the pressure away.  School and even training was an afterthought for the 2-3 hours in the forest.  It was normally a small group of guys, three or four of us at a time.  Miles were slow, the trails are rugged and steep, narrow, often overgrown.  But it was our escape from the city.

The forest became my training grounds.  During the last two years of college, the forest didn't take on a new meaning, but a bigger meaning.  It was still the escape I searched for in the year prior, but now it was where I trained, and it was my thing.  My personal bests improved rapidly my junior year in the 8k and on the track later in the spring.  I spent the summer before my senior year working at the golf course adjacent from the forest, and the 2-3 trail runs per week became 6-7 trail runs per week.  Now after 2 years of consistent training on trails, I saw even larger improvements in cross country races during my last season.

The forest is the source of exploration.  Although I went to the forest to run, I was attracted to the mystery of what was hidden beyond the next bend in the trail.  There was over 63,000 acres of forest, and over 200 miles of singletrack trails, doubletrack trails, bridle trails, and forest roads to discover.  Over the course of three years I drove every car accessible road there was and tried to run as many different routes as I could find.  The forest became a place to connect with the land and trails were a portal for this discovery.  I felt like a part-owner of the land, because I invested time and energy into being with it, engulfed in getting to know it.  Still today, I feel like the Shawnee State Forest is mine.

The forest created a wilderness philosophy.  This single moment of introduction to trail running and the Shawnee Forest is what drove me to go to graduate school and earn a masters in Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Issues such as logging and recreation management was experienced in large part because I ran through it.  I had a daily front-row seat to the devastation of logging taking place in the forest.  A perspective that normally only the workers would see from high on the bulldozer seat.  I remember many evenings, after the smoke cleared from the workday, I could run through the clear-cut areas, feeling the dirt, and feeling the hurt.  I was especially devastated two summers after I graduated from college on a weekend visit to the forest after discovering someone made the management decision to bulldoze the popular 40 mile singletrack backpack trail.  The trail is now slowly healing, but it will never return to how it was.  So the forest became a place that I formed thoughts and ideas.  A desire to protect.

The forest is where I became an ultra trail runner.  Trail running at the forest for the first time impacted my life in many ways but it led to a desire to start ultramarathon running.  It was a natural progression into ultra trail running.  I first fell in love with the trails.  I wanted to see more and more trails and the only logical and most efficient way for me to discover more trails was to run more miles on trails.  So it was fitting that I discovered ultra running as I began to research information online about trails.  That is how I found and started ultra running.  Before I ever ran an official ultra marathon event, I ran a 40 mile trail run with two of my best friends at the Shawnee Forest.  I then started entering ultras immediately after my college cross country competition.
Keegan (right) and I on a 40 mile trail run - overlooking logging affects.

This past weekend I met with a group of 11 guys for a trail run at the Shawnee State Forest.  We ran 20 miles and enjoyed a peaceful winter dusting of snow along the trail.  Trips like these revitalize me and I am always overwhelmed with memories and inspiration by being in the forest again.  It had only been about 3 months since I was last at the forest, but I always feel like it has been too long.  Although my trips aren't as frequent as they were in college, I still feel a connection with the land and trails.  There was a 1 mile section from last Saturday's run where I had run ahead of the group a little and was locked into the sweet rhythm of the trail.  I felt the "flow."  It was like I had ran this trail everyday for the last month, and knew every rock and root and dip.  In some way, I think my subconscious did remember this section of trail to every degree.

The Shawnee State Forest will continue to impact my life.  It has left a permanent mark on my personality and I am grateful for knowing it.

Happy Trails


Looking at the start of a special Bridle Trail #5 in spring.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lottery Season

Although the ultimate day of giving and receiving is upon us, a more pressing date on my mind is December 6th, when the Western States and Hardrock lotteries take place.  On this day, I'll be a wishful thinker hoping 1 of my 9 little tickets is drawn from one (or both :/) of the lottery baskets I'm in.  Okay, so I may only have 8 out of the 6,601 Western States tickets with my name on it - they say I have a 32.2% chance of getting drawn but I look at my odds as being much lower, but 8 is more than the 4 tickets I had in the lottery last year.  I didn't even do the math on the Hardrock lottery because I am just one name on one ticket out the of 1,146 "never" category entrants, some who have 64 or more tickets.  Hardrock does not look promising but there is at least some small percentage for my name being drawn.  "So, you're telling me a chance."

At any rate, if I get into one of these races, it will be my focus race in 2015.  Western States has been a dream for many years now and twice I've narrowly missed a spot via one of the Montrail Ultra Cup qualifying races.  I more than likely will not attempt another MUC race to gain entry if I am not chosen in the lottery.  So to fill my 2015 schedule I've decided to attempt a few of the races in what I consider a new and improved U.S. Sky Runner Series.  The first two races in the series are actually within driving distance from where I live in Ohio, still 8 hours and 6 hours, but it beats the cost of traveling West for the others.  And hopefully I will make arrangements to be in Flagstaff for the series finale.

Pending on a lottery selection for a summer 100, the two opening Sky Runner races would be good tune up races in the training schedule.  So my schedule is semi-crafted to look like this:
March 15:  The Georgian Death Race - 68 miles
May 31:  Quest for the Crest 50k
June 27:  Western States 100 (lottery hopeful) (not drawn)
July 10:  Hardrock 100 (lottery hopeful) (not drawn)
June  19:  Bighorn 100 or Mohican 100
Oct. 3:  Flagstaff Sky Race 55k

This looks like a good schedule and with one more race  is about the max amount of ultra's that I like to do in a years time.  I'll have to find a summer 100 to do if not selected for WS or HR.  I'll be 5 months of no racing leading into March but I don't feel there is a need at this point to pound out a dozen ultra's - maybe someday.
Here's to a good and successful Lottery Season!

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