Saturday, January 24, 2015

Back at it With a Motivating, Fear-Type Emotion: 2015 Prospects

I'm back at this jogging thing again, and 2015 shows some promise. I've hopped on this new (but not new) uphill skiing bandwagon. Maybe it's not new, but I care about it now, so it must not have existed before. School has certainly cut into mountain time since the break's end, but as usual, it will stabilize once I learn what I can get away with. Trips to the gym have been frequent. I'm unaware of my actual body composition, but tipping the scales at 160lbs is the norm these days. Thanks, second puberty.

Hiking with friends with a knack for capturing moments is nice.
Fitting some climbing skins to make Mike's old skis suitable for uphill travel. Also purchased these to keep using alpine bindings.

The only ski-worthy snow in the area is on the groomers at the Arizona Snowbowl. Beautiful views and some hard-earned vertical. 
Fatness aside, I've decided to face a running demon from a few years ago and run an actual road marathon. The last road marathon run in earnest was Grand Rapids in 2010. I was reasonably fit, but came down with some pretty gnarly stomach issues the day before in the form of what I assume was gas station hot dog-induced food poisoning. A 2:57 with 4 or 5 stops in the humid plastic toilets was all I could muster that day, and it hurt. My vision was stifled and I was dizzy upon finishing, and I was in and out of the bathroom constantly for days afterward. Let's hope a little more wisdom and a little less invasive bacteria will grace me next weekend at the Sedona Marathon. It's hilly, but should be a good opportunity to run hard, which is something I'm actively trying to seek out. Trying to avoid the trap of delaying effort, I'd like to not think about races after this one. Shrugging and saying "this is just a training run for the next race" takes away from the special moment that exists when we participate in an event. All races are training for the next race, just as all experiences in life make us who we are when we approach the next one. The pounding of the roads and the repetitive, constant pace is the antithesis of trail running from a physical standpoint, but the mental state of putting in constant effort in spite of discomfort has a pleasant feeling of universality. Track workouts with the Team Run Flagstaff group have helped increase the turnover and get me some time below race pace, as have a few tempo runs in the 20-100 minute range. Race day is upon me, so I'll do the best with what I've got.
The marathon is a distance I've revered more than others. I attribute this to it being more objectively measured than an ultra. With all of the variables like terrain, weather, nutrition, elevation gain/loss on trails, we're able to hide our relative performances from the masses. If you aren't on a particular trail ultra course on a particular day, saying whether a time is fast or slow involves an increased amount of bullshit. Road races are more standardized leave less to hide behind. For those of us that care, there are even qualifying times for races like Boston and New York to shoot for. Either way, runners know what a good marathon time is, and what isn't. Something about bearing myself for the world to see is intimidating, yet simultaneously liberating. I have an image or reputation as a runner, but I'm not really even that good. This will at least provide some semblance of accuracy in measure.
Not a likely PR course, but I'm still looking.
Since ultras fill up quickly (and expensively, in most cases) some forethought is required. I've been a little quiet about it because I can't seem to find a way to promote a brand on social media that isn't, well, slimy, but I'm excited to be an ambassador for Ultra Adventures, LLC this season. This involves me promoting and writing about my experiences at their races, as well as spreading the word in my community. Their emphasis on the community aspect of distance running and their zero-waste approach is something I unabashedly support. Since they are helping me afford to participate in my favorite pastime, I'm looking for ways to do my part and help them get the most of their investment in me. Here's a video preview of the Grand Circle Trail Series:

Clearly, these are some beautiful places to see on foot. I'll be doing at least two of their events this year, starting with the Antelope Canyon 50 miler on February 21. The others are up in the air as far as expenses and availability for travel go, but the Tushars 93k (maybe 100 mile?) looks so beautiful that I find myself fantasizing about it. The Grand Canyon race is another that is close to home and will be sure to provide a wonderful experience. I'm at the will of the nursing school and money gods for the time being, but time will tell and a man can dream. 

I haven't forgotten about Zane Grey, and feel a great deal of excitement about getting back on the Highline Trail again. These events should get me back into a racing groove and feeling ready to take the technical, undulating mountain trails.

With a few gaps yet to be filled in, I could potentially have a race of some sort each month. That allows for plenty of recovery of my legs, academic life, and bank account. I haven't posted since Thanksgiving, so the disjointed nature of this post leaves a little to be desired. More reflection might be good for me, so I'll try a little more of my old habit of mulling things over in an unnecessarily verbose way.