Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016 in review: I did more than surviving...

What a strange year, with some contrast with the previous fantastic ones I had from a running standpoint lately. I still managed to meet quite a few milestones which many would die for. Although ultra running is a hobby so not worth dying for... That very same contradiction was quite puzzling from me this year. On one hand, since I started running seriously after moving to the US 18 years ago, I felt compelled to use this activity to test and push my limits. Including the physiological ones related to aging. On the other, it looks scary when you venture one step beyond your limit. Now, as we often say, ultra running is a big experiment and no watch or device can (yet...) determine this limit. So, while I couldn't really see it coming, I believe that going 100.1% after that M50-54 American Record in March is what triggered the stroke. Very thankfully a minor and transient one, phew! Like I had admitted that 2:37 was my limit for the marathon (@39 in Chicago), I have to process that 3:18 is going to be my PR on the 50K. And setting it up @52 is already quite damn cool.

With this dramatic intro, albeit not a scoop for you amazing regular readers of my blog, let's be positive and start with what worked quite well in spite of this bumpy start.

  1. First and foremost, well, this has still been quite a great year. After the TIA incident, the doctors wouldn't offer much of an opinion about my running so, after a 2-week break, I decided to resume physical activities albeit moderately first. Still, resuming competition with a 50-miler trail race, American River! And, while I had to force myself to take it easy, I was very pleased to not only finish but just concede one spot on the M50-59 podium, and to no other than the legendary Tim Twietmeyer.
  2. I'm very proud to still have logged 3,261 miles total, which correspond to my goal or obsession of averaging 100 km/week over the year (including a few weeks off to rest, recover or heal from injuries). This hasn't been easy, and has required a final 51-mile push on the very last 366th day of that leap year, but it was worth the effort and focus from a satisfaction standpoint. Even if this look like peanuts compare to Catra Corbett's 5,000+ miles or Mike Wardian's mega racing regimen (47 races).
  3. Again, given the circumstances, finishing the year with 2 Age Group National Titles (50K Road and 50K Trail) is still something. And I'm still very proud of improving this 32-old M50-54 50K Road American Record with a new PR. Of course, all the credit will go to Rich Hanna who ran 25 seconds faster than that at Jed Smith but, in the meantime and at the time I write this review, I'm enjoying getting listed as pending in this list of records.
Here is the 2016 update of my gauge dashboard:

And the alternate original format:

A few mentions in Ultra Running Magazine's 2016 year in review section, although I'm missing the 100-mile, 100K and 24-hour sections this year.

 Two interesting rankings not differentiating between flat and hilly courses (and mine were flat...):

What didn't do as well as previous years on the other hand?

  1. First, the level of engagement and intensity had to be revised and decreased, and it wasn't a pleasant thought or decision. I had big expectations to participate into as many National Championships as possible, work travel schedule allowing, but ended up in entering only 3 this year (50K Road, 50K Trail, 24-hour Road) instead of the 5 or 6 I was hoping for.
  2. After the TIA, I had also promised not to push too much, especially in competition so, when things went a little South at Miwok 100K, Tahoe Rim Trail 100-mile and Quad Dipsea, I DNF'ed way too easily. Of course a bit of regret in retrospective but it feels like what I had to do anyway given the circumstances and context. Looking forward to regaining some mental strength in particular, while gaining the wisdom to always keep it in check with my health. Hum, with more than 44,000 miles in my log and having competed in 136 ultras, I was hoping to have figured this dilemma out but, the more I think about it, the more I find this struggle to be integral part of our ultra running sport. Certainly, from all I can see on Facebook in particular, I'm not the only one to playing at or with the edge of this subtle balance...
  3. Beyond the TIA, the sesamoiditis after the 24-hour Nationals was another unnerving setback. Thankfully, though, it wasn't a stress fracture which could have side lined me for many more than just 6 weeks this Fall. I will write more about the second one in a few weeks but I think the key lessons here for me are to (a) not overdo the 100 km/week average (I was 400 km ahead of schedule after the run) and (b) not overextend the mileage of my shoes.
  4. With 2 running breaks, I had hard time keeping up with the weekly pace on my blog (50 instead of 52 posts), really struggling writing about running when I can't run...

With that, after being super close to the symbolic 90% ranking on UltraSignup (89.91% as I recall), I lost almost a percentage point by the end of the year (89.13), yikes! Although the results of CTR's New Year One Day have not been uploaded yet, a 100% there should help a little.

When it comes to reviews, there is a lot to be said about my pessimistic bias of focusing on the empty part of the glass. To summarize 2016 from a running standpoint, I'd say that I was thirsty and had a big glass in mind and that glass ended up 80% full. Which is, again, quite something to be glad about. In addition to being fully alive to enjoy what's most important: family, friends and life!

All the best to you for this new 2017. Hoping that you can pursue your own passions, in particular running for those into it, and that the World still moves forward overall despite the setbacks which receive so much publicity in this age of social media. If not always Farther and Faster, at least Forward!

No comments: