Monday, November 24, 2014

Looking Back on 2014

With 2014 coming to a close, it's a good time to look back on the year, using the "good, bad and ugly" format.

The Good:
HR Backcountry Wilderness 1/2 Marathon.
Photo by Chris Boyack.
Interestingly, my most satisfying race was my last race this year--the Highlands Ranch Backcountry Wilderness 1/2 Marathon held earlier this month. On a very hilly trail course with over 1,600 feet of climbing, I finished 12th out of 701 finishers with a 1:34. Had it been a fast road half, I believe I could have gone sub 1:23--it was just one of those great days. I felt super strong from start to finish, paced it just right (especially in the opening miles), absolutely hammered the downs, and finished exceptionally well. It was a great finish to an otherwise so-so year of running.

The North Fork 50K, where I finished fourth overall, was my second most satisfying race. The field for this race wasn't that strong, but it nonetheless felt good to snag another top-five especially when it came as a training run. Despite hot conditions, I was very strong in this race, clicking off the miles in a metronomic fashion but never really feeling "fast."

I'm also proud of my 18:34 at the Scream Scram 5K last month. At age 41, it feels good to bang out 5Ks at sub-6-minute pace while running at 5,300 feet above seal level. At sea level on a good day, I'm very confident I can still go sub-18.

Finally, though I was shooting for another sub-3, I'm proud of my 3:04 at the Colorado Marathon in early May, earning early entry into Boston. Even though I'm not going to Boston next April, I always like to stay qualified for Boston. Maybe it's a pride thing. A lot of people say the Colorado Marathon is an "easy" course. Yes, it does involve a lot of downs, but those last nine miles will definitely keep you honest. In my case, I didn't pace this race very well and simply lost some steam in the last few miles.

The Bad:
The Leadville Trail Marathon was a miserable experience. I really hate it when courses get changed. In the case of this year's race, admittedly they had to tweak the course as a significant portion in the middle was still buried with snow (reportedly over six feet of snow). Coming into this race, I was a bit tired from training and just basically plodded along, never really finding much enjoyment out of the experience. The altitude was also getting to me (a theme that would carry over to the 100). It was fairly disappointing coming in over five hours when the year before I killed it with a 4:19.

The Ugly:
Puking over 50 times, including a fainting episode at Twin Lakes inbound (mile 60), my experience at this year's Leadville Trail 100 was the epitome of ugly. It is still amazing to me that I even finished this race, much less snagged another big buckle. The altitude, muscle cramping and poor nutrition simply kicked my butt. Little did I realize when crossing the finish line with a disappointing 24:09 that this would probably be my last LT100. Due to the new lottery system, which I take issue with, 2014 was indeed likely my last LT100. All in all, it was probably my ugliest finish in a 100-miler, but at least I finished. So long, Leadville.

So, there you have it--2014. Considering my notorious bad luck in even years, 2014 wasn't too bad but it wasn't great, either. I'm getting older but I feel like I've been smart about things and am aging well. For example, in 2004, I ran my first marathon in 3:22. In 2005, I ran two 3:08 marathons, qualifying for Boston each time, and a few years later finally got down below three hours for a few races. Today, at age 41, I'm a 3:04 marathoner--faster than when I got into long-distance running at age 31. While it's fair to say I may have lost a step or two due to Father Time, I can still run pretty well. And I think that comes down to smart training and avoidance of over-racing over the years. I did over-race one year (2009) and paid for it dearly in 2010 when I was seriously injured. Never again.

With lots of luck in odd years, I am excited about 2015! The year's race schedule will be built around either the Bighorn 100 or Western States 100--depends on if I get lucky and am drawn for WS (not counting on it--my odds are like 9%).

In case you're wondering what the deal is with my good luck in odd years and bad luck in even years, here you go (2004-2006 don't count):

2007: Finished 6th at Burning River 100
2008: Knee blew up at Mohican; lost lead and barely finished 4th overall
2009: Won Mohican; 131 miles at the North Coast 24-Hour; best year ever
2010: Barely finished Leadville under 25 hours; serious case of plantar fasciitis
2011: Set current PR at Leadville (22:35)
2012: DNF'd at Leadville with a knee injury; worst year ever
2013: 22:40 at Leadville 100; 4:19 at Leadville Marathon
2014: Barely finished Leadville due to stomach issues

Chime in with thoughts on your race year!


  1. "The Leadville Trail Marathon was a miserable experience." Amen brother... that was my least favorite day of the year too.

    1. Yeah, something about that course and day just didn't sit well with me. While it's vert likely I don't ever return to the LT100, I can see myself doing the LT Marathon a few more times--but only the original course.

  2. As a group, we had a tremendous day at NF50. Congrats on a strong year Wyatt. The fun part about this journey is to never stop exploring and learning, and it sure seems like you did that in 2014!

    1. Thanks, AJ. Yes, as a group we did kill it at North Fork--especially you and Chuck. You had a great year and I'm inspired by your commitment to better nutrition and smarter approaches. It's good to call you a friend.

  3. I'm also less than thrilled with the new LT100 lottery system. I was hoping this year would be my first 100 there, but now I'm not sure I'll enter. It's such a big decision to leave up to chance! Maybe RRR100 instead..

    I hope you received good news about Western States!