I had high hopes coming into 2011. I made huge strides in my training, drastically altered my diet, and loaded my race schedule. I was looking to have the best year yet in my relatively short running career, and despite some failed goals and a lackluster second half, I believe I did just that. I started off slow, building my base mileage for the first few months and trying out some new strategies. I didn't race until early Spring, giving myself plenty of time to prepare for the arduous schedule I had set for myself.
My first challenge was in March at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. I had not run any long distances in preparation, with an ill-conceived disrespect of the distance. In my mind, I thought endurance was all about the runner's mentality, speed was what training produced. While this is true to a certain extent, the logic betrayed me. I ended up running a time that I was neither ashamed of or proud of.
Just two weeks later I would be running another marathon in Xenia, Ohio... not enough time to correct myself completely, but to make progress. I was faster, but still not where I wanted to be. To be completely honest, Xenia never mattered to me, I was focused on my first ultra of the year.
Three weeks after Xenia, I would return to South Western Ohio to see if I could break my 50K PR... the distance I had, up to that point, the least experience at. A rainy Spring forced the race to to be rerouted to a flat alternative. The new course, though not completely flooded like the original, probably had the most mud I have ever had to deal with during a race. The conditions slowed me down, but not enough to stop me from shattering my PR by nearly 30 minutes. I had a blast running that race and it gave me confidence heading into the rest of my schedule.
The first weekend of May I was set to run another 50K, this time in much better conditions, albeit in a much more challenging terrain. It was the Capon Valley 50K in West Virginia. I was not ready for a course this difficult, plain and simple. The hills were steep, the descents were borderline un-runnable, giving a sensation of falling off a cliff face, and the rest of the features came quickly and often. This is hands down the hardest course I have ever run. I was in the best shape I have ever been in for this race and it broke me off. The trip to West Virginia for the race though, has everything to do with the forming of my relationship with Mikayla. Great weekend, absurdly difficult race.
Just a week after Capon Valley I was going to Pittsburgh for the 3rd year straight, not sure what to expect of myself. It was the first marathon of the year that I could really say I was prepared for. My strategy for the race paid off big... in defiance of the rain, what was probably a mild case of hyponatremia, and of some late energy drop-offs, I had a new PR. While I didn't qualify for Boston, or even come close to it, I am a hell of a lot closer than I was before. Pittsburgh will always be an important race to me, it's the city I most closely associate with as being "home" and it was my very first marathon back in 2009.
Next up was the second Memorial Day effort. Just like the year before, the entire idea seemed impossible, but somehow Huffman and the others pulled it off, making it an even bigger success than last year! I didn't play as big of a role as I had hoped I could, but to even be able to run a single mile of that distance would have been an honor. Next year is going to be nuts... stand by for epic.
With Spring turning to Summer I had my biggest challenge coming up quick. The trail that started it all... the reason I run, my holy grail. I had dropped out after just a 19-mile effort in the 2010 installment of the Laurel Ultra... my first ever DNF. This year I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and there was no way I would choose to drop out. Mikayla joined me on the trip after I convinced her to run the race too. The time spent with her that weekend unregrettably shadows over a finish that I am more proud of than any before or since. I finished in 17th place with a time of 17:47:17, on a relatively unmerciful 77-mile run.
Mid-June saw me working a lot of long hours for Jon and Lauren, the trade-off was that I wasn't running a whole lot. Laurel was always such a big deal to me that I think after I finished, I didn't care as much about the rest of the year... looking at every race after June, it certainly wouldn't be hard to come to that conclusion. I did not start at Dawg Gone 50M, at Burning River 100M, at the YUTC 50K... three races in a row... two of which I was almost ensured of new PR's at and the 100-mile being my first ever attempt.
While I do regret not running some of these races, and for my lackluster performances at the races I did run, 2011 would have been a booming success to me if only it had been 6-months long. I started running again, sort of, just in time to run a terrible marathon in Columbus. I was on a PR pace till the half way point, but my head wouldn't let my legs take me any further. I finished, but with my worst time to date for that distance.
A week later I would have yet another DNS for the Marine Corps Marathon. Now I was just focusing on one last race for the year... the Bigfoot 50K. All I was looking for was a finish. Instead, I walked away with a good story and a valid reason to drop. Mikayla probably wishes she hadn't tried to run Bigfoot, but I'll quote Gretzky and say, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I'd rather fail than be timid, when it comes down to it, I think Mikayla would say the same.
So here we are... already into 2012 with only retrospectives to contribute to the year prior. So here are some stats... not all of which I am proud of, but I like numbers.
Races Attempted: 9
Races Finished: 8
Race Make-Up: 4 Marathons (Shamrock, Xenia, Pittsburgh, Columbus)
2 50K's (Tie-Dye, Capon Valley)
1 77-Miler (Laurel)
1 8K (Shamrock)
Current PR: 8K: Shamrock 2011 34:41
Marathon: Pittsburgh 2011 3:28:24
50K: Tie-Dye 2011 5:23:57
50M: Masochist 2009 10:07:35
77M: Laurel 2011 17:47:17