As I reflect on my 2015 race season, it was… a strange one. I lumped my entire year’s effort into 3 ultras across 8 weeks. It came and went in a flash. I’ve never trained harder and delivered more than this year. I accomplished more in those eight weeks from June-August than I would have ever dreamt possible several years ago, tackling some legitimately hard races/runs, but – in one way or another – failing at each of them. Spectacular failures, though, so there’s that at least. I’ve never gained so much from, or been so proud of, accomplishing so ‘little’.
- DNF’d Manitou’s Revenge (under somewhat extenuating circumstances, hypothermic at mile 44, having covered roughly +/-30k’ of elevation change in 18 hours).
- Managed an official finish at my 2nd Escarpment Trail Run, but missed the 6 hour cut-off to qualify for 2016 entry by :10.
- Got lost and had to bail on my Cranberry Lake 50 FKT attempt, still managing a 10+ hour/38+ mile solo adventure through the Adirondack wilderness.
Oddly enough, despite my “failures” being harder than anything I’ve ever done before, I’m no longer qualified for much. Badly wanted to enter Beast 100 Miler this coming January, but… no longer have a qualifying race on the books. Escarpment Trail Run? I’ll have to run another qualifier. It’s a strange space to be in. (Although, through some strange fluke in the cosmos, I’m already qualified – by one week – to enter Grindstone 100 next fall. So that’s good. )
Nevertheless, these are “failures” that I’m very proud of. This summer’s races pushed me like never before and changed me deeply. They made me a different runner… a different person. More so in my psyche than anything else. I feel like I’m now heading into next year as a legitimate ultra runner. I’ve done 17 of these ultra things now and am starting to glimpse what I might be capable of. I like that.
There are now 100’s on my radar. Earlier this year I had no itch to try a hundred. None at all. I swore up and down that I’d never run a hundo. I’d get done with a 50 miler, see the carnage, and have no desire to go back out and put myself through that again. And then Manitou’s happened. I ran for 19 hours (the equivalent of 70-80 “normal” trail miles). And felt relatively ok afterwards. It was all just too tantalizingly close to 100 mile territory to not go back out and see what I’m made of. I suppose it’s time to give it a shot. I have no doubt I’m capable of it. If anything, I’m actually somewhat afraid to discover that a.) I enjoy them, and b.) I might be good at them. Especially the hard ones. Guess we’ll find out.
2016 RACES are still tentative, but, for now, the plan is as follows:
– JANUARY: Pacing Sean Storie at Beast of Burden Winter 100 Miler, Lockport, NY
– MARCH: Solo 100k (details to be announced)
– JUNE: Manitou’s Revenge Mountain Ultra (54 miles), Catskill Mountains, NY
– AUGUST: Twisted Branch Trail Ultra (100 kilometers), Finger Lakes, NY
– OCTOBER: Grindstone 100 Mountain Ultra (100 miles), Swoope, VA
I certainly have my work cut out for me to make 2016 happen, and I’m already training for it. After 12 weeks of low-mileage, active recovery, I’m back on it. As I type this, I’ve clocked just over 1,100 miles on the year. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, except that it includes over +/-400k’ of elevation change. I’ll have to up that ante to meet next year’s goals. But I’ve never felt more confident in my ability to do so. I’m embracing the challenge.
(Cover Image: Catskill Trails, October 2015.)