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A look back, a look ahead

To say that my running rebounded in 2019 from the previous year is an understatement. It was a year of achieving firsts, overcoming challenges and growing as a runner, thanks to a new coach.

I started 2019 with a mix of uncertainty and excitement. Would I rebound from a year in which unplanned surgery derailed my running? Could I build on my gains in the final five months of 2018 to have a strong 2019?

My goal race for the first half of the year would be my first 100K at the Ultra Race of Champions (UROC), a race I deferred from the previous year due to emergency abdominal surgery just days before I was to toe the line.

But first I had to complete my last long training run, or as some like to call it, the Boston Marathon. My first Boston lined up nicely with UROC, just under four weeks before the mountainous 100K. The training for and completion of a hilly marathon was a good setup for UROC.

I had an absolute blast at Boston, reveling in what had been a long-held goal for me. I crossed the finish line in 3:40something. But my time did not matter. I was there to enjoy the experience, stay healthy and recover to take on my greatest challenge to date: the 100K.

Redemption at UROC

Training for a race with roughly 9,000 feet of elevation gain and descent is complicated by living essentially at sea level in a very flat area. The UROC trails also featured typical eastern U.S. rocky sections that also are uncommon in the areas where I train the most.

But so be it: I don’t pick races because they are easy; instead I choose them to set challenges and keep redefining what is possible.

UROC was definitely a tough race. I kept pushing forward, even though the rain that greeted me on a long dark section of pavement heading back to the start-finish area. (The course is almost entirely trail but the Blue Ridge Highway is used to connect sections of trail near the start and finish of the race.)

As I edged closer to the finish line, I knew that once again I redefined what is possible. It was a year later than originally intended but the goal was met.

One of my goals in completing the 100K was to determine whether I would be able to manage the next significant challenge, a 100-miler. With my UROC buckle in hand, I knew my next training block would culminate with a 100-miler. But it would not just be any 100-miler. It had to be one that would enable me to start qualifying for the next big epic challenge: the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run in California.

First step toward Western States

Western States is steeped in history, which is why it is on the bucket lists of so many ultra runners. It generally takes five or six years of qualifying annually before a runner is selected to the race that goes from the Squaw Valley ski resort to the track at Placer High School, 100 miles away.

But first I needed to complete one of the qualifying races by Nov. 3 in order to have any shot (1.3 percent chance) of being selected for the 2020 Western States. So I chose the Rio Del Lago 100-miler, which includes some of the Western States course. It also happened to be held the weekend of Nov. 2-3, so I had no room for error.

Rio was an amazing experience. And as I wrote afterward, I would not have finished without the help of my crew and pacers – two of the three I had not met before that weekend. I am so grateful for the awesome trail and ultra running community.

A glance back and a look ahead

Overall, I nearly doubled my mileage going from 1,022 miles in 2018 to 2,116 last year. For additional context, previously I ended up in the 1,400- to 1,500-mile range for an annual total. I never set mileage goals but it’s definitely a positive trend that I was able to build more consistency and speed under the tutelage of Coach David Roche, who I started working with in July.

While I find joy in the progress, on the trails and the feeling that running gives me, I do also gauge myself by results and how I fared with my annual goals. Here’s how I fared last year and what I am aiming for in 2020:

Assessing goals from 2019

Finish my first 100K: Achieved and also finished my first 100-miler.

Be competitive in races, notably a timed event over the summer: Incomplete. I did well in some races though I elected to defer the timed event to this year.

Stay healthy throughout the year: Injuries did not hinder my progress, especially when considering my surge in mileage.

Guide my coaching clients to their goals: So proud of all my athletes for the goals the crushed.

2020 races and goals

Run coaching: Lead my clients to achieve their goals, while being happy and healthy runners.

Half Marathon Trail Race in Indianapolis: Improve on my time from a few years ago, be competitive and finish top 10.

Bel Monte 50K: Improve on my time from three years ago, be competitive and finish top 10.

Zion 100K: I haven’t established a time goal yet but the most important outcome from this race is to get my qualifier for Western States by finishing under 19 hours.

8-Hour Dream Endurance Race in Indianapolis: Run at least 50 miles and be competitive.

Hungerford Trail Marathon: Be competitive and stay healthy for my yet-to-be-announced goal race for the fall. Stay tuned.

Those are the only races I am currently committed to but there will definitely be more added to the list.

Wishing you the best in your quest to make your 2020 epic!

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