2013 Year Review

Had 2013 ended two months ago, this would have been an incredibly different review. I guess you could say, from a competitive standpoint, I “back-loaded” 2013. There were plenty of peaks and valleys throughout all of which I can say I learned a lot from.

In January, I competed in the Icebreaker Indoor Marathon at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee. It was the starting point for the speedwork training block I had planned, which was intended to prepare me optimally for the Mad City 100k. Given that it was the entry point to speed—meaning I hadn't done any speedwork leading up to it—I was very pleased with my 2:31:30 time.

Despite the season, I felt like I got a lot of quality speedwork in throughout the winter months. My workouts were tailored for Mad City, which is a relatively flat, paved course. But when I made the mistake of not registering early enough, I felt as if my training direction was off. I was able to register for the Ice Age 50 Mile, but I hadn't done any Ice Age Trail–specific workouts, so I felt unprepared. I hoped the road speedwork would transfer, but on race day it became obvious that I didn't have the skills I needed to race optimally at IA50. I finished third with a time of 6:08:45, approximately three minutes slower than last year.

My recovery was promising, and with a new goal of racing the Burning River 100 Mile in late July, I immediately jumped at the chance to compete in the Kettle 100k (three weeks after IA50). I had a nagging case of tendonitis behind my knee, which sidelined me the days leading up to and after the race. However, I managed to win and come away with the 100k course record. Definitely a motivating event leading into Burning River.

When Burning River finally arrived, I was excited. I truly felt like it was the first race of the season I was legitimately prepared for. But things went downhill fast; I was not prepared for the weather (it rained for over 50 miles), and I was ultimately DQ’d at mile 93 for missing an aid station back at mile 70.

It was now past mid-year, and I hadn't really nailed a race yet. At this point the previous year, I had three ultra wins and had completed my first 100-miler. I was already signed up for the Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile, but beyond that I was unsure if I was going to compete in any more ultras in 2013.

In mid-August I moved to Madison to begin my new teaching job at Clark Street Community School. Met with a much better training environment, I was really getting excited about Tussey. The thought even crossed my mind about trying to get into Desert Solstice if Tussey went well. I was completely uncommitted at this point, and I was equally as prepared to shut it down after Tussey if I felt tired or in the need of an early off season.

Tussey came, and I competed well. I was happy with my time and second place finish, but something didn't quite feel right. Almost as if I hadn't quite nailed the course. I felt like I had raced as well as I could have on that day, but it didn't feel like one of those races where everything just went right.

My recovery was by far the quickest to date. By mid-week I felt like I hadn't even raced. I had toyed with the idea of racing back-to-back-to-back weekends at the 50-mile distance, just to see how fast I could recover. And when I started feeling really good only a few days after Tussey, I decided to wait a week and then try to break 5:20 at the Chicago Lakefront 50 Mile.

The Chicago Lakefront went better than I could have imagined. Not only did I break 5:20, but I wound up running a 5:12:36, which turned out to be the sixth fastest American 50-mile time—and the fastest one run in North America in nearly 33 years! I was stoked! The next weekend, while I was on my way to the Team RWB running camp, Nick Curry of Aravaipa Running contacted me with an invitation to race at Desert Solstice. As I had not yet reached out the Desert Solstice crew, I took this as a sign that I should go.

I had little time to prepare (about 5 weeks), so I squeezed in a 17-mile track workout and a few other speed sessions before a shortened taper. I went into Desert Solstice with the mindset that if I had just run a 5:12 fifty miler, I should be able to comfortably get through the first half of the 100-mile in 5:50. With such a start, I thought I would have a good look at the American Record for 100 miles, which was 11:59:28 at the time.

Saturday, December 14, could not have gone any better. I was able to break the American 100-mile record by finishing in 11:47:21, and also pick up the World Record for longest distance run in 12 hours by covering 101.66 miles. Given the relatively short notice for even competing at Desert Solstice, I was thrilled!

By the end of the year I was completely humbled to be named the sixth Ultra Runner of the Year, and have my Desert Solstice performance be voted Ultra Performance of the Year. I have dreamed of running a UPOY caliber race, but never imagined it would happen in 2013.

I guess the biggest thing I learned this year was to learn from individual races, but not overthink them. In October, based on my earlier performance, I had little to no reason to believe I would end the year the way I did. My biggest takeaway for 2014 will be to reflect, make adjustments, and move on.