Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: The Year I Said Yes To Big Things

The true competitive runner, simmering in his own existential juices, endured his melancholia the only way he knew how: gently, together with those few others who also endured it; yet very much alone. He ran because it grounded him in the basics. There was both life and death in it; it was unadulterated by media hype, trivial cares, political meddling. He suspected it kept him from that most real variety of schizophrenia that the republic was then sprouting like mushrooms on a stump. Running to him was real, the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free. -John L. Parker, Jr.

2016 began with a few races on the calendar, all with the intention of preparing for the BIG RACE in September. I knew I needed to get used to living in the pain cave and make friends with every demon that wanted to stop me in my tracks. That meant a lot of miles, a lot of time on my feet, and a lot of bibs to keep me accountable. 

Though I follow no formal training plan and prefer to live and run as free from a schedule as possible, I do love looking at data. 

Running cumulative data:
 Fitbit data (because I average 10,000 steps/5 miles at work on top of running!):

But, as much as I adore data, I like photos even better! I will always have the memories swirling around somewhere in my head, but the pictures help conjure up the stories associated with each race.

My 2016 running recap:

In January, I started the year with the GUTS Fatass 50K. 6 loops of 5ish miles in Sweetwater Creek Park. There usually aren't any photographers for fatass races (re: free) so here's a pic of me drinking a beer right after the race:

5:22:34, 2nd female, 7th OA

A couple of weeks later, Adam and I flew to Miami to visit his family. We walked the 5K with his brother and dad while my sister-in-law ran ahead in preparation for an upcoming half-marathon.

The next day, I met up with JJ, my sister-from-another-mister-internet-BFF for a little runpartying along the streets of downtown Miami. I was a couple of weeks out from my 50K and she had been sidelined by injury. So we took shots of beer, danced with bands, and basically caused a ruckus for 26.2 miles:
3:55:12, 137th female, 798th OA

In February, Adam and I headed west to watch the Olympic Marathon Trials (!!!!!) in Los Angeles. Sitting on the curb within range of touching my sheroes and heroes was the ultimate in runner geekdom.
Galen Rupp
Shalane and Amy

Hanging out with some of my favorites at Bangle's house was on par with watching the trials. We ran hard and partied harder.

Caitlin was aiming for a sub-4 marathon and/or PR. JJ and I agreed to be the pace team. Despite the heat, hills, and shots of Fireball, we somehow managed to get her across the finish line with her second fastest marathon time ever. I consider it a win:
4:07:01, 823rd female, 3339th OA

In March, Adam and I headed to Myrtle Beach for a short overnight trip. I had won an entry to the Myrtle Beach Marathon and squeezed it into my calendar. It was the first time I was running a road marathon by myself in 2016 and I decided to see what the body could handle.
3:22:14, 10th female, 120th OA

April is BOSTON MONTH and I was raring to go with 6 more weeks of training under my belt. I actually did a bit of speed work and marathon paced workouts. It was a warm day and I held close to my goal until the Newton Hills chewed me up. But people, it is Boston. A course PR and crossing the finish line of the most prestigious road marathon is about as good as it gets.

3:20:59, 780th female, 5182nd OA

In May, Steve mentioned to me a gnarly little race in Indiana that he was running. I managed to coordinate the weekend off and found myself toeing the line of my second 50 miler. It was rainy, muddy, and almost 10,000 feet of elevation gain. But I had so much fun running, camping, and road-tripping that it was easily one of my favorites of the year!

10:53:35, 3rd female, 12th OA

In June, I found a race that I could get a little night running practice in before my overnight attempt in July. The Midsummer's Night Dream Ultra was a 6 hour race that started at 9pm. Unfortunately, it was terribly humid, in the mid-80's all night, and I couldn't get my nutrition/hydration correct. I felt miserable the entire race. Which sucks because I won. I'm only smiling in the picture because I was done: 

37.2 miles, 1st female, 1st OA

In July, I was nervous and excited to tackle 12 hours at Merrill's Mile. The longest time I had ever run before was at Gnaw Bone and I didn't want to assume anything about how it would feel; especially during an overnight race. Steve drove to Atlanta to hang out for a few days and run this crazy race with me. My goal was to hit 100K (62 miles). I ended up with a 50 mile PR (8:07:23), an instant 100K PR (10:29:45), and finished with 68.67 miles in 12 hours.
68.67 miles, 1st female, 1st OA

A couple of weeks later in July, someone had this crazy idea to run a midnight marathon in Tennessee. On race day, Hal, Dan, and I all discovered the race was actually at 1 a.m. EST. And starting temps were in the 80's. It was basically a repeat of June's race. I did a cartwheel over the finish line. My stomach was a wreck for 24 hours. 

I'm in the middle, standing to the right of the tallest guy in the photo, with a black sports bra and yellow visor.

3:49:32, 5th female, 17th OA

The road trip to the middle of Livingston (??!), Tennessee in the middle of the night was worth the insanity.

In August, I hadn't really been looking or planning anything. It was the last big month of buildup before BIG ONE. I decided on the last weekend of the month to bring my gear to work and beg off a bib number for the Yeti Snakebite 50K. I honestly didn't think I was going to get to run because the thing was sold out. But the RD is super cool and handed me a bib. Uh...guess I'm running a 50K. I had zero taper, was coming off a 65 mile week, and had worked all day.

Whatever. I made an awesome new friend, forded a river 3 times, and played in the woods all night.

6:36:57, 4th female, 23rd OA

September, September, September. All the miles and races had been leading up to the BIG ONE. The good news was the I felt extremely prepared and extraordinarily excited. Jenster, Steve, and Angie were going to be there experiencing the same ups and downs. The bad news was the summer was not quite over come race day and temperatures soared near 90. But I stuck with a generalized game plan of super easy pacing all day. My patience paid off and I hit the tracker with 100.7 miles at 4:33 a.m., an instant 100 mile PR of 20:33:00.
109.866 miles, 1st female, 2nd OA

In October, once I recovered from the immense brain fog, I decided it would be cool to have a marathon or longer distance each month of the year. I ran a couple of easy weeks and felt actually pretty normal considering the physical toll it took running 100+ miles. Then my Achilles started to feel swollen and painful. I backed off a few days at a time, but the window to run 26.2 in October started to close. It wasn't a very smart decision at the time, but my friend Matt (who I met at the Yeti Snakebite) helped procure a bib for me at the Greenville Marathon about a week before the race. I decided to do it in a donut costume. 50% because I knew I would have an excuse to run slower, 50% because I had to run a race in costume before (just a tutu, not the same). Somehow, the marathon cured me? It's so not recommended, but seriously, I haven't had any Achilles pain since...
3:55:30, 14th female, 94th OA

24 hours passed after the October race and I decided to sign up for Savannah the following weekend. I signed up so late that there weren't really many viable hotel options so I decided to just camp on Tybee Island. Hal decided to do the half and we made a road trip of it. I truly was just going to see where the morning took me. The 100 miler, the Achilles thing, the donut marathon the weekend before.... my expectation was just to finish in one piece. But as the miles clicked off, I started to feel ah-mazing. The momentum kept up all the way to the finish line and I found myself with a 2018 BQ!
3:28:04, 13th female, 79th OA

In December, there is Rehoboth. It has been so good to me. I was hungry for a marathon PR--after all, it had been since the last Rehoboth that I had earned a 26.2 PR. I took it out hard and fast and bonked so hard in the end that I lost my 3rd female position in the last half mile. But, I earned a new PR and am proudly under 3:20!
3:19:22, 4th female, 52nd OA

I normally work over Thanksgiving and Christmas and like to take the few days surrounding New Year's off. So I started checking out options and decided to race this past weekend. It was the first year of the Resolution Run, a timed fatass race in Greenville. Matt met up with me at the exact moment the race began and we trudged through about 22ish miles together. It was hillier than any timed race I've ever done (totaled 2500' in elevation) I wasn't feeling it for the first 22 miles. I sat around in funkytown for about 3.5 hours. Finally, something snapped (I give kudos to the magical Sprite) and I pounded out the last 14 miles feeling remarkably well. 
 36 miles, 1st female, 2nd OA

As I sit here and type up the summary of my version of a monster year, I am most aware of the people that have made these snippets of my life possible. Without these friendships and positive peer pressure, I would never have attempted 90% of this craziness. The more I adventure and break out of my comfort zone, the more I want to keep going. To those who have encouraged me along the way, thank you, thank you, thank you.

As for 2017, I am leaving this as a little reminder for myself (and maybe you too?). I wrote it the week of Hinson Lake and surprisingly, it makes sense.
Let's go do bigger things!

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