Krissy and I celebrating our FKT at the Grand Canyon
This time last year, I was gearing up at my first attempt at making the Olympic Trials qualifying standards. I decided at the end of 2010 to shift my focus towards that goal and for the first time in my running career really see how fast I could be if I focused on running the marathon. I had never really given the marathon my full attention and had never really put all of myself into it. I ran my first marathon in 2005 and by August 2006, I ran my first ultra and was hooked. From then on, the marathon was just a training distance, an afterthought. Yes, I PR'd a few more times at the marathon distance, getting down to 2:49 at the end of 2008, but I categorized myself as an ultrarunner. That is where my heart was.
I got into ultrarunning because I wanted to get away from my running being dictated by time, pace, and the constant pursuit of PRs. I didn't get into running for that reason and I didn't want to cultivate that part of my running. I run because I like to challenge myself, I like the adventure, I like the journey. Ultrarunning is a great way to explore those aspects. I hadn't ever considered that I could race marathons hard and retain that. I entered last year with a bit of trepidation, scared that the marathon training and the pursuit of the OT qualifier would change me as a runner and not for the better. I didn't want to become type A about my training.
My first attempt at the qualifier at Houston didn't work out like I had hoped but it served as the perfect catalyst for more clearly understand myself as I pursued this goal. I realized that it had to be more to me than just pursuing a time goal; it had to be about the spirit of adventure of pursuing such a goal. I found a way to retain who I am as a runner and why I run.
Adventure: Can I battle through a 100k race 2 weeks after a DNF/food poisoning?
Go to the well, have the well be dry and keep going?
Ultimately, last year was a great adventure and exploration of seeing what my body could do as I pointed it towards getting as fast as I could in the marathon. Last year was also an adventure because I did this and still ran four 100k races, set a Fastest Known Time at the Grand Canyon R2R2R with krissy and spent the better part of the summer training with and then pacing Nathan for Hardrock 100. I didn't just spend the year obsessing over January 14th and my progress towards that. I work best in short training cycles of 8-9 weeks and this year have discovered what really works for me in terms of developing as a runner. The adventure has been within, exploring what my body can do at the speed end of the spectrum instead of the endurance end. I have discovered some cool things along the way, such as my ability to run uphill has improved extremely though the amount of time I spend on the skill has drastically decreased. My endurance hasn't waned and I am starting to learn how to race a marathon, which is such a different feeling than an ultra. Instead of trying to stay comfortable for as long as possible, I am trying to figure out how to run "eyeballs out" for as long as I can. I have challenged myself to confront my limits and have been pleasantly surprised to find that I have only begun to scratch the surface. The past year has brought me to a place where I am unafraid to be who I am as a runner. I am a hybrid runner. I run on trails and roads, I run marathons and ultras. I love it all and have finally been able to empower myself to follow my heart in choosing races instead of trying to fit in or be someone I am not. Over the past year, I have stoked and cultivated my curiosity and sense of adventure. Nearly every race that I have succeeded at, I have toed the line with one thought "I have no idea how this will go". Run at 100k National Championship 3 weeks after making my OT qualifier? Adventure. Finishing UROC 100k two weeks after DNF at World 100k and food poisoning? A Journey. Race NYC marathon two weeks after deciding NOT to race JFK 50 miler and after a 35 mile training run? Curiosity.
I know have 3 days and 19 hours until I toe the line in Houston for the 2012 Olympic Trials. My recovery went quickly after NYC marathon, my month of December had some fantastic training, but it also had some really bad days and a cold lodged itself in my system last week that has yet to shake. It has been both good and bad, but that means I am back to the same place mentally: curious. I have been through the thought process of what a bad race would mean, I have shredded up time goals and ideas of what pace I might go out at. I am holding on to the sense of adventure and wondering, "what can I do with this race?" For me the most important part of any adventure is being present for it, soaking it all up and smiling through the obstacles that will undoubtable arrive. I don't think I have to state that I want to have a great race, I believe that is self evident. On Saturday I will race with curiosity, wonderment and a spirit of adventure, chasing after the best that I can be. I for one am excited to see what I discover.