Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Glance Back While Planning Ahead

As I sat down to plan out my running schedule for 2014, I struggled to grasp and accept the idea that the 2013 season was over. There were so many emotions that went into this last year. Heartaches and struggles as well as successes and accomplishments were so much more abundant and profound this season. So what started as a post about the new year and new goals, is going to be a look back at the great season that 2013 was for me.

I consider this last year my defining year in running. Not because the races that I competed in or the adventures that I was a part of defined my career as a runner. But because I was finally able to define what kind of runner I am.

Up until this year, I found myself to be a rather mediocre road runner. With marathon PR’s just under 3 hours and half PR’s just under 1:20, it was time for me to start really focusing on speed if I want to “go anywhere” in running. Even though I started to see the benefits of my focus, running didn’t get any better for me. It wasn’t until I met up with Craig Lloyd and Mark Kruezer that things started to fall into place. Through them, I found the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers... who I instantly felt akin to.

It started on a cold February morning when Craig somehow convinced me that I should run my 20 miler with them on an icy trail. Of course I showed up without a pack, no micro spikes and no headlamp. It was the most difficult and uncomfortable 20 miles I’ve ever run. But by the end of that run, I was hopeful that I would be invited on more of these adventures. Thankfully the gang thought I was cool enough and I was welcomed with open arms.

I noticed that I was focusing less and less on the road and had been training more and more in the mountains. Going fast quit becoming the goal and focus. It was replaced with having fun and being out on trails. I almost felt a relief after a successful 3rd place finish and another 3 hour marathon at the Ogden Marathon because that meant that I could finally completely let go of what little grasp I had left.

The vision I had for the year finally came into focus just a few weeks after Ogden. With beat up legs, I was coaxed (it really doesn’t take much, apparently) into a last minute 100k race at the Bryce 100. I don’t know what it was that made me sign up for this race with just a day’s notice and knowing that I was completely untrained… especially since I was still hobbling from the marathon not even two weeks earlier.

That day, that race and on those trails, I learned who I was as a runner. It took 65 miles of SUFFERING, almost 18 hours of pain, and a pretty good sunburn to help me understand that I would rather suffer for that long on the trails than suffer 3 hours on the road. As Mark likes to say, “[I] had a different look in my eyes from that day on”. I had grown up that day. A LOT. I would consider it my aboriginal walk-about.

Thanks to New Balance, I was offered a spot in the Leadville 100 and had something in the Ultra world that I could now start to focus on. Once I recovered from Bryce, the next two months were about getting in long days on the trails and running to the tops of things. So many fun adventures ensued! Brighton Marathon, Millcreek Overnighter, Pie ‘n’ Beer (which I turned into a 50k), King’s Peak Marathon, and even my own 50k on the BST with a few peaks thrown in.

Leadville was a special day for me. Definitely the highlight of the I have my own race-day philosophies and will one day possibly try to explain them when I can find such words. But mainly not approaching that race with ANY expectations or real concrete goals is what made it so much fun and successful. That, and the fact that I was crewed by my father and wife and was paced by two of my favorite running friends, Leslie and Bob. Crossing that finish line meant so much to me and I’m glad I was able to spend it with those closest to me.

It sounds obscured, but that one singular step over the finish line changed me forever.

After my selfish summer and once Leadville was done, I decided to repay the favor for a little while and had a blast pacing Leslie at UROC 100k (where she destroyed it!) and supported tons of friends and even got to pace Scott Wesemann, with what I consider the most impressive finish, at Wasatch 100 this year.

I thought my season had ended with Leadville and was just having some fun on peaks. I was, again, talked into a last minute 100k at Antelope Island. I went out just to have fun and was able to compete with fellow Altra Footwear runner Damian Stoy. We had a fun day running together and I was very happy to end the season with a second place finish.

I was able to play around for the week after the race on a few peaks with some friends, including two first time peaks on Lone Peak and Olympus. Unfortunately, an injury that I incurred at Antelope Island went into full blown status and I was forced to take the rest of the year fairly easy.

The frustration that I thought would come never did. I know it sounds cliché but, honestly, I was just so happy to be a part of such a great community and so grateful for the year I had, that it didn't matter to me. Besides, I got to spend some much needed time with family, loved ones, and bowls of ice cream.

I wish that life had a rear view mirror so I can keep my focus on what’s to come, while occasionally looking back and seeing where the trip has already taken me. 


Jen said...

What a great write-up, Zac! My 2013 paralleled yours in that it was the year I made great friends who helped me find my niche. Each one has contributed in their own way, yourself included. It's been fun to watch you grow as a runner and competitor.

jun said...

This is really fantastic. You had a phenomenol year and deserved everything you earned.

Sam said...

I've enjoyed running with you. Thanks for the inspirational post. I hope that when I grow up I can be just like you. :) See ya on the trails.

Scott Wesemann said...

I was very impressed with how much work you put in before Leadville. Thank you for everything at Wasatch. Without you and Rob my race would have ended at Brighton.

Cory Reese said...

Awesome recap. I had the very same experience when I met trails. I felt like I was finally home.

Hope you have a seriously epic 2014!

Jennilyn said...

love it. so glad to have the opportunity to meet and run with you this year. can't wait to see what you do this year, I'm sure it'll be phenomenal. :)