Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In Retrospect - Why 2013 Was A Defining Year For My Running

I love a good story. The way that a simple tale, with simple characters, can draw you in and affect you so deeply that one can't help but retell it for years to come, embellishing here and there to polish the lore with an eternal quality. A good story bursts out of your heart like a song, shaped with words and images to be as loud as thunder, as bold as love, as delicate as a midnight kiss. A good story is immortal.

This is why I enjoy the annual ritual of new year's retrospect, looking back at a year of hopes, dreams, and adventure to craft a worthy synopsis. 2013 felt like an epic year, but why was it an epic year? The blog usually fights me on this; whereas its autobiographical nature is helpful in setting goals, it confuses my well-developed selective memory that instantly and conveniently rewrites my goals as soon as they slip from reality's futile grasp. But 2013...holy cow, 2013. It will most certainly be a defining year in my 10+ years of running. Despite missing nearly every running goal I set, it was the unexpected that brought fun and adventure, and set a whole new high water mark for how this sport can fill my soul. 

On paper, the year was kind of a bummer. On five occasions I came up one spot short of my goal, whether it was to score a single Skyrunning Series point by getting Top 50 at the Mont Blanc Marathon (58th), Matterhorn Ultraks (53rd), or Pikes Peak (51st), make the Top 5 for the combined Boston/Big Sur marathons (6th), make the Top 10 overall at the USATF 50-mile trail championships at the Nueces 50m (11th), or win the Masters at the USATF 50-mile road championships at Tussey Mountainback (2nd by 2 minutes). I guess it's good to set goals slightly out of your reach, but c'mon, couldn't I hit just one?!?

This was a tough year physically too, and I'm not just saying that because I have a robo-titanium collarbone installed at the moment. It seemed like my body was taking punches all year long. I took a knock on the head in Texas in March, cracked some ribs in Zermatt in September, needed an IV at the finish of Pikes Peak, and broke my collarbone in a bike crash in December. Thanks to injury, I had to cruise the Ironman Lake Tahoe and Silver State 50m rather than compete. I also had three DNS' due to sickness (Miwok, Bootlegger, and TNF50). Geez, Louise! Although a few injuries are to be expected, it felt like one injury will still lingering with the onset of the next. And I am no spring chicken these days!

(I got to know the med tents pretty well this year)
But then there were the upside surprises. 

Two unexpected PR's in the Marathon (2:44) and 50-mile (6:35). A 3rd at a very strong Fort Ord 50k, 6th overall at both the Oakland Marathon and Tussey Mountainback 50-mile. A finish at the crazy Ironman Lake Tahoe, which quickly ranked as the hardest Ironman ever, and the first (and hopefully last) sub-freezing swim I'll ever do. Any one of these accomplishments are worth cheering, particularly for a mid-40's dude like myself, but what I really appreciate is that all of them were surprises...most of those races were supposed to be "tweeners", not really goal races.

2013 was likely one of the best spectator years ever as well, whether it was following Ian Sharman and Nick Clark in their epic battle for the Grand Slam, watching Rory Bosio redefine what is possible at UTMB, Pam Smith and Zach Bitter with their world records, two sub-12 hour 100-mile finishes, watching my inov-8 teammate Alex Nichols keep the USA on the Skyrunner podium, FKT records galore, you name it. A great year to be a trail running fan! I felt it was a powerful backdrop to see our sport have such a defining year.

And then there's Boston. Ah, Bahston. It's hard to put into words what it's like to go from the glow of a marathon PR to the shock and devastation of experiencing a terrorist bombing up close, then knowing I'll never think of this race again without hearing the screams and sounds of that day. In fact, I didn't get any sleep at all until I got back on the starting line at the Presidio 10m (3rd) and the Big Sur Marathon (24th) later that week. Thanks to the love and passion of the running community, I got back on my feet quickly, and those races will eternally have a healing quality to me. The whole experience was shocking, but ultimately deepened my connection with the sport and was very rewarding.

(From the peaks of Chamonix)

(Team inov-8 rocks Pikes Peak!)

(Racing in Zermatt)
Then I soon found out how big that running community was. The global reach of the Mt. Blanc Marathon in Chamonix, the mountain people of the inaugural Matterhorn Ultraks in Zermatt, and joining Team inov-8 and historic runners from around the world for a stellar performance at Pikes Peak. The pictures, the people, the mountains...all simply breathtaking. I can't even read my Facebook news feed anymore with all the foreign languages from my new international running pals, but can sense exactly what they are saying since we are all cut from the same cloth (lycra?). The cup of my soul overfilled with each adventure, and helped me appreciate the little victories in life, whether that's getting our youngest out of diapers, celebrating 20 years of marriage with my amazing wife, or having my 7-year-old join me for our first ever 4-miler

(My girls, Quinn and Sophie Jane)
My life mantra has always been "live life to have good stories". 2013 definitely fit the bill, and is a good reminder that good stories abound even when your goals don't line up. I'm quickly learning the secret to a lifetime of good stories is simple - invite adventure and friendship into your life, relish in the ups and the downs, and be present in every moment. 

And, oh yeah, bring a camera!

Happy New Year, everyone. Let's see what 2014 has in store for us...

Cheers, SD

Friday, December 27, 2013

All I Want for Christmas is a New Collarbone, a New Collarbone, a New Collarbone...

As if 2013 wasn't exciting enough, I literally ended the year with a "bang"...a front flat on my road bike when descending down Carmel Valley Road, which sent me over the handlebars and bouncing down the pavement. Damage assessment - plenty of road rash, and a collarbone broken in three places. Oops.

(...After! Looks like that thing in Agents of Shield, no?)
I opted for surgery to get everything realigned...the sight of the tenting bone spur and the free-floating piece was a tad overwhelming. Luckily mending this crumple-zone of the torso is a routine procedure (if not a cycling rite of passage) and I'm already back to the critical stage of holding a beer. Going to have to take it easy for a few weeks, but should be back soon enough.

(Day after surgery, trying to make road rash and internal bleeding look cool)
My running muscles and joints came out unscathed, and the now-crushed helmet saved my noggin yet again (#5!). It could have been so much worse...I guess I got a lucky break! (ha, ha) And a perfectly good excuse to sit down with the family and embrace the time we have with a deep appreciation for our health.

I hope you and yours are having a great holiday, and wish you a happy new year. I'll see you soon on the trails again!

Cheers, SD

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Scenes from the Woodside Ramble 50k (photos by Sophie)

(Your photographer and commenter for today, Sophie Jane!)
My 7-year-old daughter Sophie took to the trails this morning with a camera in hand, while runners of the Woodside Ramble 50k by Inside Trail Racing came up the hill. She says you can all share her photos, so enjoy!

It has been fun taking a break from training for a few weeks after a DNS at The North Face 50m. I had really hoped to toe the line, but the body (and family's bodies) just weren't at 100%. I hope those who ran had a great time!

(It's super cold in the park until the sun comes to visit)

(First runners crest the climb)

(Vignette filters can hide thumbs that sneak into the photo...oops!)
(Black and makes the bark stand out)
(Daddy sneaks a photo of his friend and ITR teammate Chris Eide, who has huge muscles!)

You can refocus a Lytro picture by clicking on the thing you want it to focus on. Try the hairy moss! Or try holding down your mouse click and drawing a circle to change the perspective.

(Orange makes photos easier)

Daddy likes to play with the slo-mo feature on his iPhone.

(I bet these trees have been here, like, forever)

(This is what people look like when I forget to step off the trail)

(This guy said good morning! I remember)

(Oops...I took too long)

(A hat is a smart thing to wear because you can always take it off)

Check out the spider web on the moss (just click on it).

(Be sure to step off the trail when taking pictures)

(This guy took the corner so fast, he almost fell off the side. It looked fun!)

(Look close and you'll see the runner in Daddy's phone too)

(She has an awesome smile!)

(Daddy said this girl always smiles at every race, no matter what the weather or how long it is)

(This photo is fun because he is actually flying - both feet are off the ground!)

(This guy was super nice!)

(I like how this one turned out since she is smiling and still going uphill)

(We heard these guys laughing way down the trail, and just had to get a photo)

(Daddy said this is Jill Homer who does the Iditerod in Alaska on her bike...so the dogs pull a bike? I want to see that)

(Look Daddy, more clown shoes!)

(Daddy taught me to say GOOD JOB as loud as possible, which makes the runner look up and smile, and then you take your photo)

(This guy was fast! I almost missed him)

(The Skyline Trail at the top of Huddart is fun because there are so many places to see trails from across the valleys)

(She was happy to have some downhill)

(He looks so small compared to the trees!)

(The best smiles were at the top of the climb...I think they were happy for some downhill)

(Downhill is the most fun after all)

Thanks for checking out my pictures!

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Santa Barbara Turkey Trot 4-Miler...with Sophie!

I had a new running partner for the annual Santa Barbara 4-Miler Turkey Trot this year...Sophie, my 7-year-old daughter! Despite having only run a mile once before, she said she was game this year. I thought I was going to burst with excitement. I have always wondered when and how one of my girls might join in for a race, and all it took was the promise of free powdered doughnuts!

(Sophie is ready to run!)
We started off with a few sprinkles of rain as a record 700 runners filled Hollister Avenue to get their Trot on. The Turkey Trot is quickly becoming a national phenomenon, topping out at 800,000 participants last year (25,000 in San Jose, CA alone) and possibly crossing 1 million this year. The SB Turkey Trot was no exception, already 7-8 times bigger than my first running over a decade ago. But thanks to a nervous Sophie at my side, it felt like my first! She took the rain in stride, using it as an excuse to wear as much pink as possible.

(Sophie joins the fun! Check out those inov-8 x-talons...size 2!)
Running beside Sophie was such a joy, and if I smiled any harder I was likely going to break my face. Such a thrill! We jogged along at a steady pace, enjoying the costumes around us, and took our first walk break at mile 1. A 10:30 min/mile...I was so impressed! By mile 2, she had shed nearly all of her clothes (making Daddy the sherpa) and took to the trails aside the bike path. "Trails feel faster, Daddy". Chip off the ole block, I tell ya. 

(Turkey hats rule!)
(Sophie sheds a layer and takes to the trails!)
(Thank you, thank you, thank you photo gods for this one - grandparents, prints are on their way!)
By mile 3, Sophie was a panting mess, but pressed on, determined not to be last. She swore she would never do this again, and I told her that all runners say that at least once in every race and forget all the hard parts immediately after crossing the finish line. Once she smelled the doughnuts, she sprinted to the finish and right on through to the snack line. I think she ate three before taking a breath, and the powdered sugar soon covered her face like a culinary explosion. She dropped a handful of sweat-sticky doughnuts into my palms, and we plopped down and easily negated all the calorie burn of our 53 minute 4-miler with a blur of NOM-NOM-NOM.

(Hooray for Sophie!)
(Doughnuts never tasted so good)
By the time we headed to the car, Sophie was already talking about coming back next year. She busted up laughing and said "you're right, Daddy! I have already forgotten all the hard parts. That's so cool." I think she's hooked!

Papa (my Dad) said it best...I've got maybe 12 years tops before Sophie Jane leaves me in the dust. A little more than a decade before she desperately asks me to take down this post so sports journalists and would-be boyfriends stop linking to it and making jokes about powdered doughnuts (never!). I sigh knowing I likely have less than two years before holding hands with Daddy on walk breaks isn't cool anymore. As eager as I am to see how she blossoms, my heart already clutches fiercely at these fleeting moments. I guess that's what parenting is all about. 

...and we'll keep our eyes on Quinn for the kids race next year! ;-)

(A very stylish 3-year-old Quinn chills with Martha - you're next, kid!)
(Toddlers take on the kids race!)
Happy Thanksgiving, all!

- SD