Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016...A Year of Reflection and Personal Growth

As the last few sunsets of 2016 take their final soaring plunge into the Pacific, I am humbled and grateful to look back on another crazy year. Epic running and career adventures, a happy and healthy family, stumbles in both running and my personal life, and more surprises than a schizophrenic magician. It has prompted a lot more reflection and personal growth than most years, rooted even more frequently in quiet moments in the forests and mountains. It was a good year to slow down, and slow down is exactly what I did.

(Working at the 420 Games, ha, ha)
Then again, when January starts out like mine did, you really only can slow down. My career experiment in the cannabis industry turned out to be (in retrospect, unsurprisingly) complicated and time consuming. I had hoped for "Wild West" in this newly legal industry, but it turned out to be more "Westworld" (with a lot more lawyers). More than enough stories and celebrity run-in's to keep future running chatter going for miles, that's for sure. I did also enjoy running in a pot leaf costume as part of my job, and my 15-year-old self was quite proud of my 46-year-old self. But my 46-year-old self was already wondering if this career experiment could ever be scrubbed off my LinkedIn profile no matter what fortunes were made.

(Lance Armstrong and me at the MUC - he did really well, 4:19)
A winter trail race with my friend, Lance Armstrong, turned into an explosion of hate messages and shocking assaults that were, quite frankly, personally devastating. I had expected a few people to have issue with him participating in organized sport, but I tell ya, what I saw on my end was simply stunning. Perhaps it was an early sign of the Trump era getting revved up, or it was "too soon" for the Armstrong return to sport. I did my best to stay strong and neutral, but in the end the wrath was enough to turn off the Interwebs for a while (sorry blog readers). The stress fueled the running fire though, so I wasn't surprised to clock a new marathon PR (2:43) at the beginning of the year, and had a good showing at the Marin Ultra Challenge 50k (4:09, and yes, I beat Lance, but not by much!).

(Phew! Finally got one!)
The Spring and Summer found me easing into the right pace, largely in preparation for Western States in late June (7-time lottery loser, so better get that buckle!). A return to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland with my family in August also had me eager to get my climbing skills in order. It's funny how these big goals/trips can help you sort out other big questions in your life, and it didn't take long for me to turn in my resignation at work to be ready for the big summer. I cruised through the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge, ran The Dipsea after making a promise to my dying Great Uncle, then took a new role at a more traditional Silicon Valley start up (if there is such a thing). I did manage to get that silver buckle at States (23:42) thanks to being relaxed, getting a week to chill with my awesome mother-in-law in Tahoe, and having a world class crew.  Switzerland, and a brief race at Sierre-Zinal, was all about a love of the mountains. Watching the Rio Olympics on TV was also inspiring, as was all the outstanding performances in ultra races that came across that Twitter feed.

(My 50-lb shoulder pack, aka 5-year-old Quinn, and Christi join me for a hike in Switzerland)
My mindset was different by August. Dramatically different, in fact. What really helped was practicing "Shinrun-Yoku" on my long runs - a combination of trail running and Shinrin-Yoku, the Japanese method of meditating in the forest. Basically, I would run to a place deep in the forest, then sit and meditate for 10-30 minutes, then run back. Historically I haven't been one to meditate regularly (can't clear the head), but the Shinrin-Yoku method really took it to a new level (just fill your head with what your senses pick up in the forest around you). That powerful. Letting nature resume around me, pulling me into an ecosystem that typically scatters as I run by. Grasping Mother Nature at a universal level, and taking that feeling into my day-to-day presence.

(Don't run, just sit!)
I sought even more focus, and the more I did, the less numb I felt. I sold off my most prize material possessions (car, motorcycle, wines, electronics, etc.) and it felt great. A friend told me how good it felt to take a break from drinking alcohol, so I quit all vices for 40 longest stretch in over 30 years. Turns out, you sleep better and your poop looks awesome. And champagne now tastes like it is sprinkled with fairy dust.

I was most pleased to be present as my kids went off to school (5-year-old Quinn now in kindergarten, 10-year-old Sophie in 5th grade) and I could internalize how incredible those little bursts of maturity are when they start the school year. Christi has been simply amazing with them, and they read and socialize like total pros. No little runners yet, but the weekly 2-mile hike to the Mountain House restaurant has become a mainstay.

I got back into racing for the fun of it by Fall, and when I stopped looking at my watch, everything seemed to click. I had my fastest time yet at the Headlands 50k, then won the Half Moon Bay Marathon overall, and later won the Red Rocks Trail Marathon. I also had a blast watching others play in the rain at the Whistle Punk Half and Lake Padden Half. In all cases, the real joy was sharing the outdoors with family, friends, and fellow runners. I had come full circle. The year ended with over 400,000' of vertical on Strava, a solid 15% more than any year I can recall.

(Posing with "big check" and big wave pioneer Jeff Clarke at the HMB Marathon)
So as 2017 approaches, I am enthusiastic and optimistic, and I am present. My apologies to those whom I lost contact with when turning down the social media, and I hope to see you again soon. I am eager to get more into the grass roots events and reconnect, and promise to take it slower this year (just a few fast races to anchor my training). I am grateful my family is healthy, my Brilliant coworkers are ambitious and fun, my friends seek out adventure in all parts of their lives, and the forest and mountains remain an endless supply of serenity. I hope you are well, and taking a few moments to enjoy each breath.

I hope to see you out on the trails. Happy new year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Scenes from the 2016 ITR Woodside Ramble (Trail Half Marathon, 35k, 50k)

Inside Trail Racing put on their annual winter version of the Woodside Ramble, and Quinn and I got a few pictures of runners braving the mid-30 degree cold on our morning hike. Enjoy!

BTW, Inside Trail has an amazing roster of events for 2017 - be sure to get a few on your calendar!

(5-year-old Quinn, your photographer today! She's even styling the Western States 100 hat)

(and cowbell ringer...)

(Jessi sighting!!!)

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