Friday, February 9, 2018

A Brief Look Back at 2017

I realized it's been awhile since I've posted anything the on the ol' weblog. Here's a brief summary of the races and places I visited throughout 2017.

Winter Chill 5k. PC: Ian Golden.
It was a year of ups and downs and highs and lows in terms of running. I started off the year getting over a bout of Achilles tendinosis that I'd acquired after trying to return too quickly from the Oil Creek 100 in October 2016. I mostly took it easy throughout January, running lower mileage and dabbling in snowshoe running. The Finger Lakes Runners Club Winter Chill Series, comprised of a low-key 5k every Sunday in January, served as a way to get some speed back after losing fitness due to the injury.

The quality mileage and gradual ramp-up paid off. I signed up for the Cast-a-Shadow 6-Hour Snowshoe Race in early February, but it became a regular trail run when the park didn't get enough snow for snowshoes. I managed 37.5 miles
on the 2.5-mile loop course—more than I'd hoped for, and good enough for my first ever top-three finish. I followed that up three weeks later with a marathon PR, by over four minutes, at the HMRRC Winter Marathon in Albany. This really got my confidence up, as I hadn't trained specifically a road marathon in over two years. I ran the first 20 miles at a comfortably-hard pace, then upped thee ante over the last 10k to secure the PR.

Fast forward a couple of months to April, where things really started to get busy. Adam and I returned to the Springletrack Fat-Ass. The course was shortened to 20 miles after a wildfire forced some major trail closures. Just as well, since most of the course was covered in snow and the scrambles were too icy to negotiate without a legit risk of death. The following weekend I ran Ithaca's skunk Cabbage Half Marathon for
the fifth, and then went back to the Breakneck Point 42k a week later. I got thoroughly crushed at Breakneck in 2016, and 2017 was no different. Between slicing my hand open at mile 4 and going an hour without water late in the race, I was just happy to avoid a DNF. I was hoping to run Breakneck in the low 6 hours but finished in 7:05.

In late April I ran a relay for the first time, circling Seneca Lake with my six teammates at the Seneca7. My three relay legs served as quality mileage, and I had a great time spending the day with Hayley and our friends. The race always sells out in minutes, so we were lucky to get the team entered again for 2018.

Next up was the Thom B 52k at Hammond Hill in May. I decided to race this one hard, since we were leaving for a week-long vacation soon after and I figured I'd recover during the downtime. I ran almost 40 minutes faster than my last time at the Thom B, three years earlier. It was a close race for the second and third spots. I was only a minute behind Mike Welden for second place, although I didn't know it at the time, and the fourth place guy was only two and a half minutes behind me.

At Mount St. Helens.
A few days later, Hayley and I flew out to Seattle to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest. I won't go into all the details of the trip. I did get to run in some pretty cool places—a lakeside bike path in Seattle, a trail run at Carkeek Park in Seattle, and a river walk and two trail runs at Forest Park in Portland, OR. We also did a few small hikes—one near the visitors center at Mount St. Helens National Monument, and another to Multnomah Falls in northwest Oregon. Multnomah Falls is one of many waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which is basically the Ithaca-area state parks on steroids. We also took a trip out to the Pacific Ocean and drove a bit on Route 101, the Pacific Coast Scenic Highway. All that, plus copious amounts of eating, made for some good times out west!

Multnomah Falls, OR.
I met Brian Morrison at his store, Fleet Feet Seattle.

We returned to New York a few weeks before the Cayuga Trails 50, my first of two "A" races for the year. Based on my performance over the first five months of the year, I knew I'd finally break 10 hours at Cayuga, but the question was: by how much? The three-hour time difference between west coast and east coast messed with my body, and I was only able to get in one more longish run before Cayuga. Then I found out that Ian had made some course changes, and the race would be more difficult than before. Finishing times were slower all around, but I executed well, had a good run, and managed a 9:48.

Three weeks later, I ran the inaugural Many on the Genny 40-miler—a monstrous loop around Letchworth State Park. The first half went smoothly, aside from getting lost, and the second half destroyed me physically and mentally. I finished the race but had a lousy day. I've already signed up for 2018 to get redemption.

Less than a week after MOTG, I was out flagging the Finger Lakes 50s course. By this time, it was too late before I realized I'd been over-racing and over-training. It was on this course marking run that an overuse injury really began to make itself known. Soon after, I was diagnosed with a femoral stress fracture, putting my second "A" goal—the Eastern States 100—in serious jeopardy.

The injury was probably the lowest point I ever had in my running "career." I'd been training for Eastern since January, and now it looked like I'd have no choice but to take a DNS. I didn't run throughout most of July, and substituted my running time with cycling, strength training, and stand-up paddle boarding. It was the best time of the year to get outdoors, and I was miserable. Finally, in late July, I was cleared by my doctor to run the race. The pain was gone, but I was still paranoid about permanently damaging my body. I took another week off, then progressed to some easy runs. I managed to get in one 19-mile run before Eastern.
Paddling on First Lake, near Old Forge, NY.
I was undertrained, but the stress fracture was apparently fully healed. I parted with my original goal of 26 hours at ES100 and swore I'd walk it in for a 36-hour finish if that's what it took. I managed to just barely crack 30 hours, which was great considering the race's historically high drop rate. The stress fracture never returned.

Following Eastern States, I took a lot of downtime to ensure a full recovery. In October I paced Adam through the Cat's Tail Trail Marathon—a rugged mountain run through the Catskills High Peaks region. My legs were back to feeling like normal, so I belatedly entered the Mendon Trail Runs 50k, just outside of Rochester. I overestimated my fitness and underestimated the course difficulty, running half an hour slower than I'd hoped. I still managed a 50k PR and another third place finish though, so I was happy with it.

Hayley got me a Kokopelli Emoticake for my birthday!
Happy to join congressional candidate Ian Golden on a local leg
of his 400+ mile run across the NY23 district.
Midway through the Mendon Ponds 50k. PC: Paul Schwartz.
Mendon was my last real race of 2017. In mid-November, I began an organized training plan I'd developed based on the book Training Essentials for Ultrarunning, by coach Jason Koop. Using the book as a guide, I created a 14-week plan leading up to the Beast of Burden 50 in February. I'll write in more detail about the book and the training plan in a later blog post. Basically, Coach Koop is a proponent of using periodized training to maximize aerobic function and improve all-around endurance. I first went through a six-week phase involving a lot of high intensity hill repeats, and am currently finishing up another six-week phase of steady pacing over longer distances.

During the early part of the training plan, I did jump into the #TrailRoc 0-Degree WTF trail race and came away with the overall win. I was about 30 minutes slower than the typical men's top time, and it was my first time winning anything. The win gave me some momentum heading into 2018.

I hope you had a wonderful 2017. Happy trails in the new year!

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