clockwise from top left: Orchard Hill Assault; Domnarski Farm; Loon Mt.; Ragged Mt. (next 4 photos including one with dad); Loon; Loon w/ Michaela (center).
In the last few years I've assumed that if I worked really really hard I could do everything I've put on my plate, concurrently: get a PhD, become a scientist/academic, keep multiple teaching jobs, and continue running and biking at my limit. For the most part I've gotten away with this. But there's a cost to living like that, and that bill came due recently as I had a weekend-long freakout and then decided that I should back off sometimes. So, for as long as I'm this overcommitted, my racing season needs to be shorter and carefully calibrated to fall during a less-crazy time of year. Summer is that time and thankfully the competing I like to do now occurs from May-September. And it is making me more fully appreciate the indulgence and privilege of taking entire days or weekends to flog myself in the company of excellent people, usually in excellent locations.
I met my basic goals for 2018:
Goal 1: Retain some competence in short distance, uphill mountain running. Loon hosted the USA mountain running championships again (as in 2014 and 2016) and I ran pretty much the same as I have 4 other times there. I was happy to hold my ground at Loon this year- I didn't focus as much on this kind of racing as I did the previous 4 years because my training also had to accomodate goals 2 and 3.
Goal 2: Learn how to race 50k. To train for this I focused more on long runs, working up to 22-26 fairly aggressive miles on my favorite local mountain. I was well trained for the distance by August. So, with buddy and longtime running partner Matteo Tigre Jesus, and Dad as crew, I ran the USA 50k trail championships at the Ragged Mountain 50k in August. It was 34 miles actually. This varied course was a great intro to ultra-distance running: 5 miles roads, then jeep trail and some dirt roads, and increasingly-technical singletrack with some pretty gnarly mountain summits. I respected the hell out of the distance and started very conseratively, cranking up the effort at mile 10 and again at 15 and 20. But I never hit any sort of limit other than being skill-limited on a few mountain summit descents, and I finished feeling GOOD (?!?), in 9th place. Buoyed by this, and lulled into a false sense that I had figured out 50k racing in my first attempt, I ran the Pisgah 50k five weeks later (just yesterday). Matteo Tigre again joined and, like Ragged, we ran stride for stride for 16 miles. This course is more consistently challenging, with lots of "slow" trails- soft, twisty, loamy, and of course rocky/rooty, trails requiring lots of user input and quick direction changes. We were confident from our Ragged experience so we ignored the warm and muggy weather and ran the first half assertively, on pace for a 3:52 finish. This would put us in good company, not far off the storied performances from past years on this course, and I wanted to lay down just such a performance. Anyway, unlike Ragged where I left Matteo at 16 miles, this time he left me. I felt dehydration and heat stress setting in and I started to fall apart. This was despite drinking lots of fluids-- though certainly not as much as I could have (and apparently should have). This culminated in a full-on implosion by mile 20 and I spent 10 miles shuffling and muttering, with a few brief moments of crying, muscles seizing up, and my winter ankle injury came back as well when I hit a rock the wrong way. Dammit it was miserable. I decided that finishing at all would be a good learning experience so I went through hell for almost 2 hours...very slowly. To give an idea how much I blew up: Matteo put 13 minutes on me in the last 5.5 miles. He won in a stellar 4:05, which in 80 humid degrees is a monster performance. It's fun to see how good he has already become at long races. The first woman, whom we passed at mile 12, caught me around 28 and came within seconds of the course record. I finished 3rd overall, 2nd male, despite the implosion.
Goal 3: Get more competitive on the mountain bike. I raced my bike 5 times- I'd planned 7 but skipped the last 2 due to my schedule difficulties. In short, I can race near the top of Cat 1, or mid pack to rear-pack in Open/Pro, depending on the course. I'm happy with that for now and I know there's room to move up more (especially if I bike more than twice a week). It's probably more than a runner could hope for really, so I'm quite happy with the level I was able to compete at this year on the bike.
So, training for these 3 disciplines together seems to work for me, and more importantly I love this mix. I'll probably keep this formula for the next few years. Like almost every successive year, this year of competing was even more fun and fulfilling than the last. I'm grateful for the friends I get to compete with, to my wife for supporting these silly endeavors, and for these opportunities to push my limits in the New England woods!
Thanks also to my teams-- acidotic RACING and Laughing Dog Bicycles for supporting my habit.
Loon Mountain Race/USA and North American Mountain Running Championships, 19th
Ragged Mountain 50k/USA 50k Trail Championships, 9th
Pisgah Mountain 50k- 3rd
Race Results-Mountain Biking
Orchard Hill Assault, 7th overall Cat 1
Coyote Hill Classic, 2/2 Pro/Open
Treasure Valley Rally, 5th Cat 1 19-39, 10th overall Cat 1
Domnarski Farm, 2nd Cat 1 30-39, 3rd overall Cat 1
Bike for Bovines, 8/10 Pro/Open