Photo courtesy of Andrew King - D4 Productions

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 - Year in Review

The picture above pretty much sums up my year but I'll get back to that in a minute. First I want to thank all the people in my life that have helped, inspired, influenced, harassed, kicked, punched, loved, or supported me in one way or another during 2008. I don't need to name names because you know who you are - Thank you! You have made a better version of me.

In spite of what you see on my training blog - running is not who I am, it's what I do. My life is my family, my job, and my friends with running sprinkled over the top. Running just happens to be the endless supply of nitrous oxide for a smooth running engine.

The 2008 year really started back in December of 2007. I had taken two complete months off in 2007 to recover from an Achilles injury that happened in August. It's the first time in 5 years that I had taken that much time off so I really didn't expect too much for the coming year. But I still had goals I wanted: 1. PR at WTC 2. Get a PR in 50 myles 3. Break 30 hours at HR 4. Complete the Kokopelli trail 5. Compete in a stage race. Here's how the year turned out:

Moab Red Hot 50K+ - 4.30
I started the year at the Red Hot Moab 50K+ in February as a temperature check and it turned out better than I had hoped. With two months worth of training and no more than 60 myles in one week I turned in a decent time. With the friends, family and spectacular scenery it was a great way to start the year.

Way Too Cool 50K - 3.45
Next was Way Too Cool 50K in March, which I've done for the past 3 years now and consider it the kick off to the year. I got a PR by 7 minutes but still couldn't break the top 10 - can you say "stacked"? All of my speed work for the year was done in February to get ready for WTC. This was the first time at this race I didn't bonk and actual past several people in the last 6 myles. In previous years I was the one being past. At this point in the year I started to become hopeful for the year

American River 50 mile - 6.24
In April I went back to Auburn to run the American River 50 mile just to get a PR - this time I cracked the top ten and got a PR. I knew it was gonna be a fast race with the likes of Krupicka and Pacheco. Anton killed it in 5.48 and a couple other were under 6 hours - WOW! The last 3 myles of this course is straight up from the river to Auburn so it makes those times that much more impressive. I finished strong but had to hike up the hill and couldn't close in on the guy who was 30 seconds in front of me. I probably won't go back to this race since I would rather do WTC every year and they are in the same area.

Collegiate Peaks 50 mile - 7.26
Then 3 weeks later I went back to Collegiate Peaks 50 mile and actually won - I was surprised! I ran this race my first year of ultra running and clocked a 7.55. It's a two loop course in opposite directions so you can see where you're at as far as placement. Although it's really hard to tell because they run a 25 mile as well. I came through the first loop in 3.26 and I thought that was a little fast so I slowed up. But it was too late, wheels started coming off around mile 39 and really had to grit my teeth to finish. But a PR on that course - I'll take it!

Desert RATS 150 mile stage race - 22.50
June brought a whole new experience for me - I decided to run a 150 mile stage race in the Desert! I'm not good in the heat but I've always wanted to run the Kokopelli trail from end to end so this is how I did it. I also wanted to do a stage race so this was the natural choice. Well organized event - but grueling! The heat hovered around 100 each day and most of you know I don't do well in the heat but I managed on this one. Some of the most spectacular scenery in the world! The staff was amazing - transported our stuff, set up our tents, cooked us hot meals every night... what more could you ask for in the desert? How 'bout amazing people! The other runners and bikers were all great people and I forged many lifelong friendships that I will never forget. I mean who could forget the big pink Italian? He did this race to raise money for orphans back home in Italy and he struggled mightily every day - but he finished for the orphans! Each person had a story to tell and I was intrigued to hear them all! Allen Belshaw and I did most of our running together and helped each other when we could but the 1st prize to get under 24 hours was $1000. At some point strategy took hold and Allen proved to be the stronger, smarter runner and went home with $1000. But since Allen and I had battled day in and day out, Reid (RD) ponied up a free entry for me next year - we'll see.

Hard Rock 100 mile - 29.50
Next up the mighty Hard Rock - 3rd time is a charm. Only 3 weeks after the desert race. My goal for the previous two times was to get under 30 hours as it had only been done by a 1/2 a dozen or so people - finally 29.50. Only to be out done by 6 and 1/2 hours by Kyle Skaggs! Kyle gets my vote for UR performance of the year! Under 24 hours at HR has never been done and it's quite possible that only a couple people in the world could do it. Hard Rock was certainly the highlight of my year and my running career. And the picture above is me finishing HR with my hands to heaven saying "thank you, thank you - I can't believe it!" The one thing about this race that made it special for me was that I had both sides of my family there supporting me - my wife and kids, my parents, my in-laws, and friends. And I will never forget coming into Cunningham aid station after a long hard night cresting the ridge hearing my family cheer and scream for me - real emotional for me! The last time they saw me was 10 PM the night before and I was bonking hard getting ready to go over Handies alone. They had no idea what kind of shape they would see me in - I had past several people in the night and was bearing down on Ricky Denesik. I had come back from the dead and felt good! I will also never forget finishing with my son Jaxon who said (as he started to cry) "Dad I am so proud you" Damn near crumpled me! To this day as I run those sounds and images motivate me! I could have finished the year then and been content but I still had a couple more races lined up.

Mtn. RATS 75 mile stage race - 10.54
After two 100+ mile races in 6 weeks I had no expectations for this next race. 3 weeks after HR I competed in another stage race in Steamboat Springs - Mtn. RATS (sister to Desert RATS). Unlike Desert RATS where everything was transported for us - At Mtn. RATS we had to carry everything on our back. It quickly turned into a calorie counting strategy. Go with less calories for weight or more calories to recover each day. The minimum calories was 5000 for the trip - and some were AT 5000. I chose 6500 and still came home with a couple bars and gel packs. Allen and I did battle again and ran most of the race together. On the second to last day I mustered up some strength and pulled away and only won by a few scant minutes. But again - friendships forged on the trails! We had a great group and would do it again with those people - my friends!

Leadville 100 mile - 20.29
Last on the calender was Leadville. Since I didn't get into Wasatch this year I wanted to go back to Leadville to try and get under 20 hours. Even with the effort two weeks before at Mtn. RATS and HR 3 weeks before that I was still hopeful of a decent race. I had been pleased the way I was finishing races and I knew I finished Leadville in 2006 poorly. I made it to Winfield in 8.46, which was a little fast but I didn't think too much of it. I came back down the road leading the race and my crew past me and my father in law yelled out "Seize this moment!". It gave me a little extra gas to try and get over Hope pass but sure enough the wheels came off going back up over Hope (exact place as last time). The weather had been terrible all day and the trails were just nasty going down hope so I didn't think under 20 was in the cards for me. I picked up Aric Manning at Twin Lakes and he motivated me all the way to the Fish Hatchery. I had a little more hope of catching people but the legs didn't respond anymore. I was slow the last 25 myles but couldn't do anything about it. I was happy with the time - PR for 100 myles. Don't know that I'll ever go back to Leadville though....

So in the end I had a year in running that I will never forget - achieved my goals all the while my wife and family supported me! And that is key - the WIFE AND FAMILY SUPPORT! Thank you again and I love you all! I could not or would not do this without you. I have high hopes for 2009! I will post later this month about my race schedule and goals that I want to achieve. Before I close I have to give special thanks to Aric Manning for heading up the Pearl Izumi-Smith team, he scarifies job and family time for our best interest in the team - Thank you!
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