Saturday, January 1, 2022

Another year down -- 2021

Running-wise, 2021 was a pretty big year for me. So I wanted to take some time to reflect on how the year went, and what I look forward to in 2022.

2021 Accomplishments, TLDR Edition:
✅ Lose my mind from sleep deprivation at a Backyard
✅ Kick ass and have fun at Black Hills 100 with my nemesis
✅ Watch people suffer at The JIM
✅ Lose to Harvey Lewis at Big's
✅ Impress an old dude who wears flannel shirts
✅ Impress another old dude who lives in Virginia
✅ Get embarrassed by Andersen at Hellgate
✅ Start a sports drink company (…Another, really? Are you sure that's a good idea?) in the hopes of experiencing crippling bankruptcy in the near future
✅ Fail to hit 2600 miles in a year, for the billionth year in a row

More than anything 2021 was a year of almost-injuries. Post-Hellgate 2020, I developed peroneal/ankle problems and took it easy the first 2 months of the year. Then I got back at it in March only to jack up my MCL on some gnarly SDR™ trail in the middle of the night. The middle of the year was fine. Then there was the infamous knee problem at Big's. And finally, messing up my "bad" hip just before Hellgate. All in all, I probably had 14+ "down weeks" of crap mileage due to these random problems. Luckily, some of that well aligned with post-race recovery. But still, there was a lot of lost time, most of which could've been avoided if I simply stretched and did yoga.

Racing this year was fairly low-key, and I really enjoyed it. I had my first-ever Missouri ultra at the Berryman 50 back in May that I used as a tune-up long run before Capital Backyard. It was nice to finally meet some local runners after 2 years of living in STL, and I'm excited to become more active in the local scene, in the land of painfully flat and runnable races.

The backyards I ran this year were, simply, incredible. I had a gut feeling I'd be pretty good at a race style that rewards patience, easy effort, and the ability to go long stretches without sleeping. But at Capital, I far exceeded my expectations. It was an amazing experience getting the chance to go back to DC and see so many Happy Trails folks and test my limits. Towards the end, the race was a crazy sleep-deprived roller coaster, but I learned a lot about how to manage that style of race, and I learned how hard it is to succeed at that race format while attempting to go it alone.

Big's was hard to put into words. 1% of me walked away bummed that my knee just wasn't having it towards the end. But the other 99% was filled with gratitude -- for the experience, for my body's ability to do something that had never been done before, but most of all for the support both at the race (JACK!, Andrew, Katie) and from everyone that followed along. I can't wait to experience it all again next year.

Hellgate simply is what it is. After 7 straight years of running it, Hellgate has become embedded into the annual calendar, a certain kind of holiday, one that can be frustrating at times, but mostly joy-filled. Hanging out with folks at Camp Bethel, especially after the race, is my absolute favorite thing to do in the sport of running. #HellgateDeepInMyHeart

That said, my favorite running memory in 2021 was the Black Hills 100. I signed up out of spite right after Hellgate 2020, with a goal to ruin John Andersen's day. It turned into a week-long family road trip, and one of the best race experiences I've ever had. John and I ran practically every step of that race together. And, if I might brag for a moment, we put on a friggin clinic in patient running. I've never had a pacer, or paced anyone, in a race before. And while we've shared literally hundreds of miles racing each other over the years, getting the chance to run Start to Finish with my "nemesis" is something I'll never forget. It was like a chill 108 mile training run, with a dash of frantic stress thrown in as we desperately tried to secure podium positions for coveted Bison Skull trophies.

On top of that, Kristin and I have started a company, Long Haul Sports. After a year+ of tinkering and testing a sports drink formula designed specifically for endurance athletes, we decided to take the plunge. We started accepting a limited amount of pre-orders just before Thanksgiving. Our garage is currently filled to the brim with machinery, packaging, ingredients, etc. We move into our manufacturing space in January, and then we'll truly set out on this crazy little business idea, building up inventory, taking orders, making deliveries, and trying not to go bankrupt! All in addition to raising 2 young kids, our other full-time jobs, and feeble attempts at training. It's gonna be a lot of work, but I keep reminding myself that if John Andersen could do all that with Crozet Running, then how hard could it really be, right?

So after much / some / a little reflection, here's what I'm looking forward to in 2022:
  • More St. Louis ultrarunning engagement
  • Hellbender 100 and Bighorn 100, complete with VHTRC reunions
  • 100+ hours at Big's
  • A lot more stretching
  • A lot less sleep (so long 9hr nights)
  • A super secret running endeavor
  • The JIM
  • Living up to my potential at Hellgate
  • Hopefully making it back to Capital Backyard, but definitely not to run
  • Growing back my 7 missing toenails
  • Supporting local races and awesome athletes with Long Haul
  • Not going bankrupt

Cheers to everyone in 2022. May we all be blessed with abundant free time to continuously explore endless miles of steep, technical trails!

My favorite non-race moment of 2021 ... feeling like I was going to get blown off a crazy steep ridge on Oahu.