This year marked the first time in at least four or five years in which my body was on average throughout the year stronger and more capable than it was the previous year. Part of this was simply a function of how weak and unhealthy my body was for the second half of 2012 and all of 2013, but at any rate it feels nice to look back upon a year in which I can most definitely say that I am stronger and healthier than I was the previous year. From a running standpoint, I still have a long way to go before I feel like I can truly push myself with any kind of regularity, but it certainly feels nice to look back on 2014 and realize just how many vibrant and distinct running-related experiences I was fortunate enough to be a part of. Here’s a brief look at my 2014 running high points:
I actually ran a couple races in 2014. In January, I competed in the Sourdough Snowshoe Race in Colorado, and then just a few weeks later, I took part in the Moab Red Hot 33k. It was fun to dip my toes back in the racing aspect of the sport. I thoroughly enjoyed each of these events, and would highly recommend both of them to anyone, but when my early-season racing binge was over, my main takeaway was that I don’t really want to dabble in racing again until I feel like I can push myself regularly for six-plus weeks in training without any major setbacks. Racing is fun, but it seems to have a lot more purpose when I actually feel like I’ve trained for the event. Lesson learned.
Just before moving back to Alaska to live full time, I took one last trip from Colorado to Utah in which I got out on a few memorable runs, but none of them as much so as my ascent of Mount Hillers in the Henry Mountains. This was really much more of a vertical-mile scramble than a run, but it was the first rugged, completely-off-trail, big-mountain run that I had done in nearly a year, and I loved it. It got my excitement for being in the mountains back up about as much as any one single run can do.
For the fourth year in a row, my summer of running was highlighted by the sessions of Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp. This year seemed somehow even more magical and satisfying than the previous years. Sharing the mountain landscapes around Juneau with dozens of avid runners, most of whom have never been to Alaska at all, has a way of making things so simple and yet so satisfying. Doing three or four sessions of camp makes it hard for me to feel like I have much of a summer to do my own thing, but it sure has a way of getting me stoked about running in general.
Another thing that really stands out from the summer months are the seven or eight nights I spent out in the mountains on fastpacking trips. As an avid runner who has also spent hundreds of nights out backpacking over the years, it has been really fun to learn the art of combining the two. I still feel like I’ve only dabbled in fastpacking, but it certainly seems to be one of those things that becomes more and more appealing the more I do it. My hope/plan for 2015: to spend at least twice as much time out on overnight ‘runs.’
One silver lining to my poor health has been that I have been fortunate enough to be involved in racing in ways other than as a racer. In September I did a whirlwind trip in which I was closely involved in three different races in eight days. It started with pacing a friend at the Wasatch 100 in which I learned the potential of turning things around by just keeping going. At mile 40, he was in serious trouble and I didn’t think he had a chance of finishing, but he just kept moving, and to my surprise I learned of his finish the next day as I manned an aid station at the UROC 100k in Colorado. After several years of relying on aid-station volunteers to help with my needs at races, it felt great to be on the other side of the table, doing my small part to help racers make their way to the finish. From Colorado, I made my way up to Montana for The Rut 50k where I was lucky enough to have an inside look at everything that goes into putting on a weekend of world-class mountain races. Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe do an amazing job of putting on an event that I think is one of the best in the country. I’ve had a few different race ideas bouncing around in my mind for several years now, and it was nice to learn some of the basics of what goes into organizing a race.
I returned to Juneau in late September thinking my year in running was more or less over. Autumn here is generally horrible weather and the mountains start getting buried in deep, soft snow which makes running nearly impossible by early October. Everything seemed to be headed this way for a few weeks but then it shifted to unseasonably warm, dry, calm weather which has essentially persisted for three months now. October and November ended up being the most satisfying two months of running that I have had in at least a few years. I was getting out several days a week, exploring new places, with several great people. Running felt exciting and effortless (mentally) in a way that I had almost forgot existed. We never really had much of a summer in Alaska this year (weather-wise), but as always seems to be the case, we were re-paid for our persistence with an idyllic and gentle autumn. I made certain to take advantage of this gift.
2014 in Summary
I certainly have a very different relationship with running than I had a few years ago, but I continue to be amazed by how much health, nourishment, satisfaction, and wisdom I get out of such a simple activity. I still find myself struggling almost daily to make sense of myself as a runner, and to understand my future as a runner, but 2014 was most certainly a year in which I gained a lot of clarity and wisdom in these regards. I really look forward to using the things I learned in 2014 as a foundation for 2015 and beyond. I certainly never saw any of the things that I have had to go through as a result of my health coming, but it’s been challenging, valuable, and fun in a strange way to figure out how to move through all of this. Happy New Year to everyone, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts here in 2015.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What were some of the highlights of your 2014?
- What did you learn this year that you’re going to apply to you 2015 in running?