On the last day of 2015, I ran 22 miles by myself. Needless to say, I had plenty of time to think and reflect on my year of running. I have no idea how many miles or hours I ran because I generally avoided formal training and tracking in an effort to be more intuitive about my running. For 2016, I am planning on being more structured and am committed to logging my runs on Strava.
At the beginning of the year, I decided my goal was to get on the podium at an ultra. In March, I won the Run Through Time trail marathon in Salida. That was wild! Since it’s a marathon, and not technically an ultra, it didn’t meet my ultra podium goal, but I was super stoked on my race and got a major confidence boost from the win. In April, I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50k in DC. I was in 4th place for most of the race and ended up passing a woman to get into 3rd with less than 10 miles to go. As soon as I was 3rd woman, I became a competitor like I’ve never been before. There was absolutely no way I was being passed and I finished feeling really strong. It was an awesome experience getting to share the podium with Dan (2nd overall) and in the presence of friends.
I hate to say that I peaked for the year in April, but I did. Next up on the calendar after DC was the Steamboat Marathon in June. Man, I wanted to love that race but I had a pretty rotten experience and swore off road marathons forever. Looking back now, I realize that I was in shape to run well (I wanted to run around 3:30), but as I did a lot of training on trails, my legs weren’t ready for the beating of running on concrete for three hours and forty minutes. That combined with the very real dehydration I experienced during the race led to a prolonged recovery period after the marathon. For the rest of June and then July as well, I pretty much ran short and easy or not at all. It was the low of my year, for sure. I lost all of the confidence that I had built up and had to remind myself repeatedly to give myself a break and that it would all come back to me.
In August, I finally started feeling like myself on the trails again. I was hoping to be in really great shape for the Steamboat Stinger trail marathon in August then the North Face Endurance Challenge marathon relay in Park City in September, but just didn’t have the time to get there after my summer hiatus. I dropped down to the half marathon at Stinger and really surprised myself by having a great day. I had absolutely no expectations, as I hadn’t been running much, and started way slower than I normally would have. That ended up being a great strategy and I got stronger with every mile, finishing much better than I could have ever hoped. That race gave me a little bit of my confidence back. Though I was on the upswing, I still wasn’t in my best shape going into the North Face relay, but I showed up with Robyn as my teammate excited to race as hard as I could on the day. We had a blast and the race got me fired up to continue training.
This year of running was more than just racing, though. We ran many, many miles with friends, at and outside of November Project. We spectated the epic Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado in July. And in the fall, I crossed off a major bucket-list running item by running the Four Pass Loop with Dan in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area in Aspen, Colorado. This is a 27ish mile trek with around 8,000ish feet of gain that people often do in 2-3 days of backpacking, and we did it in 9 hours. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but a truly amazing experience I can’t wait to have again!
Sometime during the fall, I decided on the Moab Red Hot 55k on February 13th as my next A race and started training in October. I’m pumped for this race and have some big goals. My ‘dream big’ goal is top 5 women and/or finishing in 5:30. It will be the furthest I’ve ever run and the race gets great competition and I know anything can happen, so I’m trying to prepare myself as best as possible for whatever the day brings. Stay tuned.
Throughout the year, I also ran in some fun shorter races, including a fun cross country race with friends, O2x mountain challenge, a 5k/10k double in Estes Park (won both races!), the NP5280 Sunrise 6k (x3), a random 14k in Sydney, Australia, and a 10k on a freezing cold day in City Park. I’m pretty sure I hit PRs in 5k, 10k (and 6k and 14k) this year, without really trying so that’s pretty cool too.
Looking toward 2016, I’m really excited about running. Now that Dan and I live in Golden, we literally have trails outside our door and that accessibility is a game-changer. I feel called to the trails and I want to continue to get stronger by exploring them. Though I don’t think Dan truly believes that I’ve sworn off road marathons, I feel that my strengths lie in racing trails rather than roads. I don’t think I’m built to ever be a super speedy runner, but I’m durable as shit, which serves me well on the trails. Plus, there’s just no joy that compares to running trails. I’ve never been a very graceful (see above, durable as shit) and I’m certainly not a good dancer, but when I’m running downhill on a technical trail, I feel like I’m dancing and it almost feels like art, rather than the science of physical exertion.
It’s been great to reflect on the year and look forward to the next one too. As Dan and I get married in 2016, I think it will be important to carry over this theme of balance I’ve practiced with my running. Can’t wait to see what all is in store!