Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Year In Reflection

by Craig

Like taking any mirror selfie, writing a year-end report always comes out better in my head than on paper. Thinking back now it’s easy to hold on to all of the disappointing results and allow them to weigh on my confidence going into 2014. But the optimist and core ultrarunner in me is still always looking forward and I know that everything I went through this year will be for my benefit next year. So this report will be focused on the amazing and not the disappointing.

2012 was a very successful and quite selfish year for me. I knew as I was going through it and at the end much of my year had been spent wrangling many of my friends into tagging along or crewing/pacing me on several of my personal adventures. I made a commitment to make 2013 more focused on my friends’ accomplishments and less on my own. I’d like to believe I did a pretty good job of it, but there is still a part of me that knows I could have done more.

In January a very tiny person came into my life. For being so small Jennilyn is a giant in determination, running ability, and suffering. She can also be a little mean. In only a few runs she was a central spoke in our community wheel of runners and quickly bounced to the top of “I’m going to lead the way in making everyone suffer at my amusement”. Needless to say she was immediately one of my best friends. Jennilyn is a very focused runner with grandiose goals that she often keeps close to her chest. She does this because running, for her, is very personal, and her goals and successes are also deeply personal. She has very little interest in being in the limelight. Just ask her to interview on camera and you’ll know what I mean.

Jennilyn came to me twice this year to help her achieve two big goals. The first was her attempt to become the first woman to run the Utah Triple Crown. A course that was well within her abilities, I was invited along more as tour guide and videographer, than to offer any real support. What transpired was my fourth time doing the Triple Crown, the two of us laughing and chatting for hours on end, and even getting a little scared of the weather descending South King’s. She went on to put up a monster time and set a standard that will be tough to beat. It was truly an honor for me to be there and witness how strong she is in the mountains, especially on technical terrain.

Later in the year she asked if I’d like to tag along and pace/crew her on her attempt to set a women’s FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the 100 mile long White Rim trail of Canyonlands National Park. As is my way, I asked if I could just pace her the whole 100 miles, to which she graciously agreed. She ended up being my anchor for that run for more than 65 miles before I was able to be of any real benefit to her. I dealt with stomach issues for over 30 miles. Luckily, as is my way, I fully rallied that last 20 miles and was even able to really help her the last 15 or so. Her time of 21:54:30 will be a tough standard to beat, I can tell you that. Ultimately, I'm grateful to have been there to witness her first 100 and set a new FKT.

I’m not sure I can recall how many times Matt Williams has dropped everything to crew, pace, or just show up to a race or adventure run in support of me. He’s probably invested more money in my running success than he has in his own. Without a doubt he is the most selfless person I know. I committed to him that if I ran a respectable enough time at Buffalo Run 100 in March that I’d pace him at the Bryce 100, line-to-line. What would transpire would define who I really wanted to become as a runner and set the standard for the outright best moment of running for me in my entire life. It would take nothing short of a miraculous adventure with close friends to beat what happened at Bryce.

If you haven’t read the race report, understand that what me, Matt, Scott, and Josh did at Bryce was monumental. Running 100 miles, line-to-line, together is nearly a statistical impossibility. Our goal going in was to run together for as long as possible and then spread out as people got tired and needed to fall off the pace. My personal commitment was to stick with Matt the entire way, as it would be his first 100 miler. To none of our surprise we were all still together at mile 33. And then still together at the turn-around at mile 50. I remember coming out of the aid station at Pink Cliffs (mile 55) telling the boys that unless something major happened to one of us that we’d go the full distance together, something that still seemed impossible at the time. Finally, at Blubber Fork (mile 75) we knew we had it in the bag. Fast or slow, walking or running, we would go the full distance together. We crossed the line, hand in hand, and all fell into tears with the joy of our accomplishment.

Bryce 100 redefined me as a runner. Because of that running with friends and being a part of their accomplishments became more important to me than my own. Sure, I’m still driven to run fast and test myself, but none of those accomplishments, whether in the past or the future, will hold as much value for me as simply the time I get to spend in the mountains or desert with my friends. Our collective success is what matters to me now. We don’t have to be running together to share it, we simply need to be there for each other, to support each other, for it to hold such great value. And going forward, I know that my failures in running and racing will always be less important than watching the successes of my friends. With that lesson now firmly embedded in my running character I look forward to 2014 with all the optimism in the world.

Let’s go get it Wranglers!!!

Thank you to my sponsors who have been more than gracious to me this year. 
Altra Zero Drop shoes - by far the best running shoe ever made.
Ultraspire - hydration at its absolute best.
Gnarly Nutrition - electrolyte drink additive and recovery powder that is sent from the running Gods. 


Jennilyn said...

if you think you've seen mean.... you haven't, yet. MWAHAHAHA! I hope that was scary.
As far as a year in review, you forgot a few things:
PR on your 50 mile, on a harder course (7:50)
PR on your 100 mile, also on a harder course (18:58)
4 100 mile finishes, all 28 hours or less
PR's on several peaks
Training at higher mileages than previous years

...Did I leave anything out? Ah yes, you were graced with the best pacer a couple of times too. It was a great year, in its own way. Happy 2014!

Cory Reese said...

I vividly remember seeing you guys cruise through Bryce 100 like a thing of beauty.

Quite the amazing year you have had. Congrats!

Jen said...

What a great recap of your year, Craig (and Jennilyn)! I don't think you can underestimate the value of surrounding yourself with good people. You, this Wrangler group you created, and good friends I met this year have inspired me to reach beyond what I ever thought was possible. I'd need my own blog post just to scratch the surface. Thank you for being such an inspiration and rock solid individual.

Christie said...

Great post. I only know the part of you, you post on the FRB blog - but you seem like such a genuine, good-hearted person. Inspiration for sure! Great year.

Scott Wesemann said...

What I liked most about your 2013: Your shorts got shorter. Thanks for hanging back with us at Bryce and making it one of the best experiences of my life. I can't wait to see what you do it 2014.