I started writing one of those obligatory, “Moments of 2016” posts. I don’t think the world needs another post touting the speed of Jim Walmsley or Zach Miller’s insane North Face 50 finish. Not to diminish the amount of respect I have for both of those runners, but I feel like far more qualified writers and professionals have said all that needs to be said on those great moments of 2016. I decided to pick one thing that stood out to me in the running world and write about it, because it’s something I often think about when I’m about to get on the trail or when I’m dogging a run.
Jeff “Bronco Billy” Browning’s double of Western States and Hardrock stands out as a moment where my jaw dropped in awe and admiration. I followed, as many other aspiring ultra runners did, through iRunFar’s excellent coverage of both races. Many people, and I don’t think they meant anything mean spirited by it, were dismissive when I said in the chat section that Jeff was the dark horse of both races. What I had behind my comments was his HURT 100 victory much earlier in 2016, and how I’d read and heard in interview how dialed in his nutrition was. Hearing him talk in interviews about how well his body responded to OFM (optimized fat metabolism). While the diet may not be for me, it was great to hear how well Jeff responded to it and how if fueled his HURT 100 win. I love hearing stories about nutrition being at the forefront of performance and recovery.
The man runs smart. If you spend just five minutes listening to an interview with him, you will leave a more intelligent runner. I have no doubt that his mental plays just as much of a role in his victories as his physical. Plus, he’s 45-years-old, runs a full-time business, coaches, and has a family. There’s not really any excuse I could ever make for myself by not getting out there when I think about how much time management must play a role in Jeff’s day-to-day. For 2016, I don’t really think there is anything that stands out to me as remarkable as Jeff’s Western States/Hardrock Double Record. You can (and should) watch Matt Trappe’s excellent film about it here. Mr. Browning, I tip my hat to you and say I’m excited to see what you do in 2017 and beyond.
Personally, I was able to hit a big milestone in 2016. I undertook training for my first marathon. I wasn’t sure whether it would be a trail or road marathon, but once I moved the latter half of my training to the trail, there was no going back. In hindsight, I wished I had dedicated at least one day of training a week to doing speed work on the road. I used a pretty cookie-cutter training plan, but overall, it worked fine.
The biggest lesson I learned came from injury. Not injury from overtraining, but injury from not watching my step and tripping over a tree root on the Wildwood during one of my long runs. It was one of my early runs in a pair of Altra Olympus 2.0’s, and the extra cushioning was still something I was getting used to, coming off my beloved Altra Lone Peak 2.5’s (RIP). I stumbled and fell pretty hard, right on my ribs, causing either a small crack or a bruise. Luckily, I was on the latter part of a 22-mile long run, so I called my wife to let her know I’d be walking most of the remaining 6-miles and not to expect me home for a while. I tried to trot through a few of those miles, but I could tell the damage was done. Two days later, the doctor confirmed that about all I could do over the next week or so was light walking and try not to do anything too strenuous.
I should have listened to the doctor. No, I didn’t heed his advice about light walking and continue on with my training plan. Actually, I did something much worse, I sat on the couch and watched Netflix for two weeks during the free time I usually devoted to running. It was a pity party in the most glorious fashion of apathy. I was bummed that I couldn’t run, so I just said “Fuck it” and turned into a couch potato. Surely you don’t need me to tell you that is not the best way to make lemonade out of injury lemons. When I finally felt pain free, I tried to pick up my training right where I left off. Not smart.
It didn’t become apparent to me how simplistic and un-smart picking up on a training plan with mileage as high as 45-50 mile weeks going from zero miles and a bag of Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pretzels -per day was until the day came to run my marathon distance. I’d love to tell you that my first marathon was peaches and smiles, but it was not. I pushed way, way too hard in the beginning and through all of the climbs, and by mile 19, I was bonking hard. My nutrition had been poorly planned as well. I thought a couple Clif Bar Shot Bloks would get me through the run. No, not so, especially not with the climbs and I had in front of me, both out and back. The last 7-miles were absolute hell. By the time I was finished, I thought I was going to puke up vital organs. This was not at all how I imagined my first marathon to go.
After a few weeks of reflection and easing back into my maintenance runs, the specter of my poor marathon performance was gone. I was enjoying running for running’s sake. I set some new goals and took the lessons I learned through my struggles as a way to compromise my ambitions with the realities and responsibilities of my life. Toward the end of summer 2016, I purchased Krissy Moehl’s book and decided to implement her training plan for my first 50-miler. Unfortunately, life threw some life stuff my way, and I had to come to terms with the fact I would not be able to realistically begin working toward that goal in the fall of 2016.
So here I am, at the end of 2016. I’m pouring over Krissy’s book, Jason Koop’s Training Essentials For Ultrarunning, and the plan I recently purchased through Sage Canaday and Sandi Nypaver’s Sage Running (psst…they’re having a sale right now to ring in New Year’s); trying to create something that will work toward a 50 mile distance. There are no races I’m entered in at the moment and my ideal would be to do this self-supported, on the Wildwood Trail sometime in spring/early summer. We’ll see what happens and hopefully a great deal of it will be documented right here.
Happy New Year’s, everyone! I hope this post finds you happy and healthy, ready to start off 2017 with blue skies ahead of the gray.