December 15, 2008

The Year That Was...

As I sit here in mid December, counting down the days until the big visit from 'The Fat Man', and counting up on the numbers I see while standing on a scale myself, I figure it's time to take a second and reflect upon that year that was. I fully intended to do exactly this last season, but it somehow eluded me.

Heading into 2008 I had planned to do my first ever 100k run, that being Miwok in San Fransisco. I was also looking forward to competing in the seven day mountain bike stage race known as B.C. Bike Race at the end of June, and to finish off the season my A.R. team were looking to compete in Quebec, in Ian Adamson's new expedition-stage race called 'Terra Traverse'.

I made it through Miwok, DNF'ed B.C. Bike Race with injuries, and Terra Traverse was canceled. As I sit here closing in on 2009 however, it is with my first ever 100k, 50 mile and 100 mile running events under my belt, and I have a new found, or should I say rekindled, passion for ultra distance running. I also managed to enhance my racing resume by doubling my ultra experience. Although I am currently enjoying the festive season to the fullest extent, I simply cannot wait to start hammering out the miles in training come Jan. Western States and Trans Rockies (remember, for a 100 discount on this race just drop me a line!) are just two of the big confirmed events for next season, and it will take running specific training the likes that I have never pursued to ensure decent results at both of these races!

The Year In 'quickish' Review:

Jan 1st: 1st place in the Fat Ass 50k and 'freeze your ass off swim'. Of course this is a hang over run, and with just 2.5hr of sleep I was happy just to make the start line on time!

Jan 19th and Feb 2nd:
5th and then 4th place in two of local 'Yeti' 10k snowshoe races. I ended up skipping out on the rest of the snowshoe season and immediately following the Feb 2nd event I was completely unable to run, with a dual calf injury, for six full weeks!

Mar 15th: 10th place, Chuckanut 50k in Bellingham, Washington. After literally getting back onto my feet for the first time since early Feb, just five days before the race, I intended to simply try and finish the event. I nearly dropped on three separate occasions and was absolutely ecstatic to pull out a top ten finish.

April 5th: 2nd, Diez Vista 50k, Port Moody BC. I only learned that I was in this race ten days prior and with Miwok coming up fast I competed on full 20+hr week of training. This course tore me apart a few years prior and I was happy to finally get my revenge on it!

April 26th: 1st, Suburban Rush, Sprint Adventure Race, Port Moody BC. Todd and I extend our AR winning streak to six. It felt great to race with my teammate again!

May 3rd: 12th Miwok 100k, the big one! My goal race for the first portion of the season. I headed into it with so much uncertainty about how it would go. A huge chunk of my training was still being done on the bike as my calves just didn't want to fully recover from Feb. Twenty five km into the race and I thought my calves were shutting down on me during a flatter portion of the run, but being a huge goal race I didn't care if it crippled me! Thankfully it subsided and I was happily running strong and steady in 8th place late in the race. I could see 7th and 6th on the open sections of trail. Then at about the 80k mark, I blew a turn and took a 5k detour! I managed to get back on track, but had dropped to 12th place, which I managed to sustain until the finish line. A ton of positives to take away from the race...and just a wee bit of frustration, that seven months later still lingers!

May 10th: 2nd, Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race, Squamish BC. Although you would think that Todd and I would be happy with 2nd, we were the defending champs, and Miwok or not, I felt strong and we were simply outclassed during the biking sections by the eventual winners.

June 7th-8th: I flew down to Wisconsin and helped pace my best bud Luke Laga to his first ever 100 mile finish, in his first attempt...and just his second ever ultra!! The Kettle Moraine 100 had the craziest weather in the races history and I had the chance to run 53 miles (the third longest run of my life) with my best friend, through torrential monsoon type rains. Luke finished 24th overall, and nearly 100 runners dropped out, which was about a 25% finisher rate!! THIS, was one of the highlights of the year for me!

June 14th:
DNF, Test Of Metal 67km Mtn Bike Race, Squamish BC. The biggest mtn bike race in Canada, selling out in minutes at over 800 riders! About an hour in and I was very literally rammed off of a trail. While rag dolling down an embankment I broke my finger and contused my quad. I climbed back onto my bike to try and continue but my right let would not bend enough to complete a single pedal stroke. My day was over, and BC Bike Race was just two weeks away.

June 28th - July 4th: DNF, BC Bike Race, Seven Day Staged Mtn Bike Race, BC. I could not ride my bike at all for the two weeks leading up to this race and I told my teammate Todd to find a new partner. In the end I showed up and gave it my all, but the broken finger lead to a blistered hand, an additional crash, and a hematoma on my hip! I made it 4.5/7 days, and 2.5 days on a hematoma'ed hip, but in the end I threw in the towel as it was impossible for me to stay competitive within the race and I was questioning possible long term damage in simply trying to finish. In fact, just three weeks ago in late Nov my massage therapist found some deep lingering scar tissue from this specific crash and I nearly wept like a baby when she hit it!

THE GOOD NEWS. Having not run at all since Kettle Moraine my calves were finally 100% healthy for the first time all season.

THE BAD NEWS. I hit a serious emotional low after back to back DNF's, especially in two races that meant so much to me. I could hardly walk for days afterwards, yet decided that I was going to do everything possible to run my first ever 100 miler in just five weeks time. The next week was very painful, and very slow, but by the second week I realized I might have a shot at getting there healthy and ready.

July 26th: Circumnavigation of Mt Saint Helens. Along with Tom Craik (happy Tom!), Duncan Coo, and Geoff Palmer, we completed what would go down as another top highlight of the year for me. The trail is somewhere between 35-50k, no one seems to be quite sure, and although it took us 12hr it was the most beautiful 12hr run of my entire life!!

Aug 9th:
1st, Stormy 100 Miler, Squamish BC. I honestly did not realize how much I had emotionally riding on this race until it was over. The back to back DNF's were still very fresh in my mind and I had promised myself that I'd crawl to the line if I had to. The race started at noon, so the entire second lap was in the dark, I had some stomach issues which lead to 13 bathroom breaks, and of course I fought the demons of doubt on numerous occasions, but in the end I hit all of my pre-race goals. 1) Finish, 2) Win 3) Course Record 4) Sub 18hr.

Aug 16th:
Golden Ears Adventure Run, with my girlfriend Jackie. She had finished 4th in the 50 miler the previous weekend and we both thought we were good to go. In the end I hobbled back to the car after a 25km, up n down, yet beautifully scenic mountain run. I had unknowingly injured myself during Stormy and it was just starting to set in...but at least Roxy was happy!

Sept 13th: 1st, Cle Elum 50k, Washington State. I had been diagnosed with a weak glute med muscle that was causing significant knee pain since Stormy. My longest run was just over an hour. If Jackie had not registered as well I probably would have skipped the race all together. I started, but with questions as to if I'd be able to finish. In the end I felt zero knee pain and was again surprised and ecstatic to pull out a win!
(Photo Credit, Glen Tachiyama)
Sept 27th: 1st, Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race, Cumberland BC. I knew that if I competed at Cle Elum then I'd be racing three big events in four weekends. My nerves were getting the better of me before this one and I was stressing out my teammate Todd in the process. My knee pain was back in my pre-race run...yet again I manged to race pretty much pain free...maybe nerves, maybe adrenaline, maybe I'm nuts...but Todd and I put together one of our strongest races to date and we ended up winning by nearly thirty full minutes!

Oct 4th: 2nd, Run For The Toad 50k, Paris Ontario. Thanks to Montrail, and of course George and Peggy of RFTT, three team Montrail-Mountain Hardware members, Ellie Greenwood, Rune Melcher, and myself had an incredibly weekend in Ont. Again, I was happy to hold onto 2nd place for this one and was looking forward to a few days of rest after a solid month of racing. The highlight though, was catching up with some good friends that I had not seen in years, and no I'm not from Ontario!

Oct 19th: Howe Sound Crest Trail Adventure Run. Finishing a close second to Mt Saint Helens in terms of pure uninterupted beauty, I ran the HSCT with my girlfriend Jackie and friends Ken Legg, Adrian Rothwell, Ellie Greenwood and of course Roxy and Tundra. It only measures 30k in distance but is a highly technical and difficult mountainous route, we completed it in 7.5hr with a detoured scramble up 'The West Lion'.

Nov 1st: 2nd, Mountain Masochist 50 Miler, Lynchburg Virginia. Western States has always been on my radar yet it conflicts with some big expedition adventure races every year. By this point in the season I could already see that 09 was going to consist of a pretty strong focus on ultra running, so I flew down to try and snag a top three finish, and the highly coveted auto-entry into Western. I raced smart yet did not feel properly rested for this one, and around the half way point I was questioning my taper strategy. It was my first ever 50 mile race, and 5th longest run of my life, so maybe I just need to toughen up a bit! In the end a few fast guys dropped out and I snuck into 2nd and grabbed an entry into the WS100 run in June 2009!!

And with that...I hit the beers, nachos, and yam fries, and kissed my 2008 race season good bye. It's amazing how quickly things can change, life of course goes without saying, but also racing and racing goals. I entered 08 having run just eight ultras in my four years of racing, and almost all were 50k races. Now I am sitting on 16 ultras and firmly have my sights set upon June 27th, and the starting line for Western 09. This will prove to be the most competitive Western ever run, and indeed one of the most competitive 100 milers ever run. It will be an honor and a privledge to line up against some of the sports absolute best in California next year, and if I can train smart, hard, and injury free leading up to the race, then who knows, I might just end up with a decent result at that race too.

On top of an incredible race season there was of course some epic ski touring days last winter, a sweet surf trip to Tofino in August, and endless miles of beautiful terrain covered while playing and training along the way. 2008 would rank right up there amongst the best years of my life, and I fully intend to duplicate and even improve upon that in 2009. It's never easy to find the right balance in life, but we are all solely responsible for the decisions we make and the paths we choose to follow.

"Remember, tomorrow is promised to no one." Walter Payton

A HUGE shout out to my incredible sponsors for a wonderful year, thanks so much!
-Mind Over Mountain Adventure Racing
-Helly Hansen
-Princeton Tec
-Carbo Pro
-Rudy Project

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope Santa is good to you!!

GR, and Roxy


Corrina Hill said...

Gary - your adventures are inspiring and love the pics of Roxy. I have been following this blog on occasion throughout the year (after doing a race you organized in Squamish last year) particularly when I needed a little kick in the pants to get moving! Becoming pregnant and having a baby in November had pushed away any running goals I had for 2008 but with the practise at sleep deprivation, I'm thinking maybe my next goal should be some sort of adventure race. Merry Christmas to you and Roxy.

Anonymous said...

I'm always happy, Gary! Thanks for the mention, but more importantly, thanks for the inspiration.


garobbins said...

Corri, congrats on the newborn! I certainly remember you guys when I was hosting my snowshoe event last year, good to hear from you again! Just to put the seed in your of two co-ed, Mind Over Mountain Adventure'd both love it!!

Tom, I know you're always happy, makes me sick actually! Always appreciate the feedback as well!


Leslie said...

Hot damn, that's a helluva' year! And me thinks we have waaaay too much in common G.R. I'll see you at T.R next year, fer sures. You should think about coming and doing the Diablo 50 Miler as a "training run" for Western. It's a great little race. I've convinced my husband and a few others to join me...bwaa-ha-ha.
Congrats on your epic year and I am already looking forward to the next!

garobbins said...

Yeah, outside of the Banff connection there's a lot of common ground there...looking forward to finally meeting you, at TR at the very latest!!
Diablo looks very interesting, but I was also leaning toward the orientation run camp the week afterwards on the WS course...decisions, decisions?? Always good to have another race to consider!

Anonymous said...

You are a dirt mention of our SUPER important race........The Chachies would be livid!!!!!

garobbins said...

Yeah, I realized that GLARING oversight shortly after I sincerest apologies to all of 'The Chachies' and to the Haney To Harrison road race. It was certainly the highlight of Nov 8th!