Hard to believe that another year is pretty much in the books. I always enjoy to reflect back on the years events and "remember" the lessons learned and celebrate the successes one last time before shutting the door on the year. My focus this year was simple - to improve my general trail running ability and run better at Massanutten. I am still relatively new to trail ultrarunning having started back in August 2006 but I still feel like I should be improving, and I am.
My first race of the year was a road marathon in February. I trained hard through January focusing on speed and tempo workouts. I have never run a fast marathon (and with a PR of 3:33 most would argue I still haven't) and wanted to see how much I could improve over my PR (was 3:48). I was pleased but the biggest win for me was finding how the speed/tempo workouts really helped augment my training. I now include some form of speed/tempo work in my training every week except for during recovery/rest weeks.
I ran a less than stellar 50 mile race at the Bel Monte Endurance Run in March. I tweaked my ankle pretty bad in the run but even without that, I just didn't have it. The course was rugged and I chalked up the death march to a 12:20 finish as mental training for Massanutten. Fortunately, the ankle healed completely within a couple of weeks.
Massanutten loomed large in May and I went in to the race physically and mentally ready. The course conditions were sloppy and wet but I battled through it and ended up improving my time by 3.5 hours, clocking a 31:34! I kind of imploded a little bit at the end due to some IT band issues but was thrilled with the result. I definitely can run the course faster, I just need to keep coming back and applying the previous years lessons.
I next ran the Laurel Valley Run in August. Laurel Valley is a run of about 35 miles with about 8,000 feet of gain on the very scenic Foothills Trail. LV is tough because it is unsupported and in South Carolina in August! You carry all of your calories and drink from the many streams on the course. The temperature and humidity can be brutal but we were treated to highs in the mid-80s this year so the event was much more enjoyable. I ran a solid race in 8:06, which was a significant improvement over the prior year. The temps helped but mostly it was I was able to run every downhill and had a solid climbing pace on the uphills - an area that has plagued me before.
My last race was the GEER 100K up in Virginia. I should have only run the 50K but was too stubborn to drop down. The course was very wet and I was definitely under prepared. My quads were shot at 25 miles. I lumbered on a finished about an hour slower than usual. It was a lot of fun nonetheless. I had a heel injury for all of October and most of November but have managed to heal up and have clocked in a couple of 30 to 40 mile weeks. I will close out the year as a pace group leader for the Thunder Road marathon in Charlotte. I am running the 4 hour group and am using it as a nice medium long training run.
I am excited for what 2009 brings for my running. I am psyched to be part of the Wasatch Speedgoat Mountain Racing Team for next year. My schedule is still taking shape with definite plans for the Mount Mitchell Challenge 40 Miler and the Umstead 100. I also entered the Massanutten 100 lottery this morning and will know about that in a couple of weeks. I hope to do a western race next year and have my sights set on Tahoe Rim, Leadville or Cascade Crest. Although, the "Hundred in the Hood" out in Oregon looks pretty appealing also. Any readers who have a suggestion are free to add them in the comments section. I also hope to volunteer at Hardrock. This is a race I want to do someday and it is about time I got out that way and check things out.
Overall 2008 has been a good year for me running wise. Other than the heel injury, I had no big problems and I finished every race I started. I am having tons of fun with trail ultras and hope to continue with this sport well into "old" age. I am excited for 2009 and hope that everyoine has a good December.