I remember back to 2010 and thought of that as my breakout year. It was the first year I ran a 100k and 100 miler. It was the year I achieved my goal of a new FKT on the Utah Triple Crown (it's been beat three times since). And it was the year that Scott and I did something no one had ever done, linked all three backcountry trails in Bryce Canyon as a run. Then 2011 came around and I reached a new level. I won my first 100 miler (Laramie 100), then went sub-20 hours in my third ever 100 miler (Pony Express 100). I thought for sure that I had broken out. Now that 2012 is nearly over I've finally come to the realization that I don't have a 'break-out' moment, that everything I've achieved this year was done so by gradually building one piece upon another and that ultimately my success is associated with two things . . . . which I won't mention until the end of this post. For now, a look back.
In January I was approached by a friend and co-founder of Altra Zero Drop footwear, Jeremy Howlett, with an opportunity to act in a series of parody webisodes as part of a psuedo-superhero duo called the Altramaniacs whose purpose was to spread the Altra Zero Drop love. We had a good six months of fun making video segments and attending several events all over Utah. And while the funding ran out to keep the series alive, the Altramaniacs live on and I continue to see people 'Like' the Facebook page and videos. It is pretty cool.
My first focused race of the year was the Red Mountain 50k, a local secret down in St George. The race, half on dirt roads and half on pavement is fast for the distance, with only 1500 ft vertical gain and probably around 2500 of vertical loss. For some reason I didn't really consider my abilities and set a goal to try and run a 4 hour 50k. I had no idea if I could do it, but was amazed to be able to cross the finish line in 4:02:02 and in 2nd place.
Following that race, even though I was doing some pretty awesome adventure runs with my friends, such as Antelope Island and the Wedge, my real focus turned towards attempting something no one had ever done before, a double crossing of the Zion Traverse - 48 miles across the entire Zion National Park . . . and then back again for a total of 96-98 miles and 20,000 ft of vert.That run turned out to be tougher than any 100 mile race I've done to date and was probably the most satisfying thing I did all year.
I spent the rest of the summer ramping up for my big race of the year, the Wasatch 100. As part of that training I hosted the Quest for Kings Marathon for it's fourth year. This year I didn't have a kid in the hospital and I got to attend and what a treat it was. We had about 15 people show up, mostly at different times, and everyone killed it. It was an amazing weekend with perfect weather, great trail conditions, and amazing friends.
Then Wasatch. What a race that was. To keep it short, I ran solid until mile 25 then did my normal breakdown until mile 42. It was those miles that cost me my sub-24. Someday I'll learn how to not go through that for that long. I won't bother explaining, but it happens in every race. After mile 42 I bounced back and killed it all the way to mile 75 where I promptly lost all my mojo. I still ran strong into the finish, but there were about 12 miles that I would have liked to have gone a little faster than I did. Crossing that finish line in 24:25:26 was incredible though. And then to enjoy spending the rest of the day watching all of my friends come in was absolutely the icing on the cake.
Recovery sucks. It takes longer than I like it to, especially now that I'm, well, let's say 'not young'. So going into the Antelope Island 100k in early November fully recovered but probably a little under-trained was a reality I had to accept. Yet even then I set some lofty goals for myself - go sub-10 hours and try and do something I had never truly tried to do before, race for the win. Well, my chance at 1st was gone in the first 15 miles and the middle of the race was a complete mental and physical disaster for me, but I was still able to achieve my ultimate goal of going under 10 hours in a final time of 9:54:36ish which was also good enough for 2nd place and the fourth fastest time ever on the course.
So that's what it's come down to. Since then I've done some incredible runs - Mount Olympus West Slabs, South Thunder Mountain, and Mount Olympus in under 2 hours RT. Throw in a few other fun-runs with friends and it has been a pretty awesome way to cap off the year. So I'll go back and answer what I think are the two reasons for my continued improvement and success. It's simple: 1. I continue to push myself while maintaining one single focus, Having Fun. 2. My friends and family. It is my friends that make all of my runs what they are - play. And my family is who gives me the strength to continue every time I want to quit. It's the thought of my wife and that she knows the only way I could feel disappointment in myself is if I give up. So I keep running as fast as I feel I can at that moment. And I Refuse to Quit. Always Refuse to Quit.