Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jay Aldous - Year in Review

“You don’t seem to running much anymore” more was the comment. When I replied, “not true,” the response was “Oh, I just haven’t seen many posts.” While the posts this year have been limited, the running has not. It’s been a remarkable year of running that has included being able to run in 18 different countries, trudges to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mt. Fuji, and four races ranging from 50K to 166k.

Crazy Desert 50K
My first race of the year was the Crazy Desert 50K in San Angelo, Texas. I was looking for an early season tune-up run with ambitions to go sub 4:00. I was pleased with the effort, which was good enough for first, but finished in an ‘o so close’ 4:01.

100 Miles of Istria - Motovan Aid Station
In April I returned to run the 100 miles of Istria trail race. This race, which crosses the Istrian peninsula in Croatia, is one of my favorites. The course, race organization and volunteers make this in my view one of the ‘must run’ 100 mile trail races. Two years ago I was able to win, last year I dropped at 85 miles, and this year I felt compelled to return both to redeem myself for last year’s drop as well as run with a number of Croatian and Italian runners that I have met since living in Italy. While it wasn’t my best day, I was able beat my previous time and place 3rd.

Mt. Kilimanjaro
In June I ran to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. I’ve wanted to do this for a number of years and when a work trip took me to Kenya I knew it was my opportunity. I had ambitions to break Simon Mtuy’s self-supported FKT of 9:21. It took me 9:22. Darn! Running at 16,000+ feet was an amazing experience. I‘ve always sensed I was good at altitude. This run validated it.

Start of UTMB
During June and July I prepared for UTMB. I traveled to Chamonix on a number of occasions and was able to complete two preview/training circuits on the UTMB course. I enjoyed the long days of running followed by good food, conversation and companionship in the refugi along the way. I had ambitions to complete the course in under 26 hours, but after wilting in the heat and running out of gas on the final two climbs I finished in 27:04. While my time was not what I had hoped for, I was still pleased to have placed first in the V2 category.

Mount Fuji
In early September work took me to Tokyo and I seized the opportunity to run to the top of Mt. Fuji. This is another run I have wanted to do for some time and thoroughly enjoyed this remarkable Japanese cultural experience.

My final race of the year was the Desert Solstice invitational event where I wanted to set a new world best 100 mile 55+ age performance. I went into the race confident I could easily beat the existing mark of 14:15, but the day did not come together for me. My time of 14:37 was good enough for a new American 55+ 100 mile mark and I was able to set a new 55+ American mark for 100k along the way. Cleary some unfinished business in 2017??

Desert Solstice
So what does 2017 bring? I went through the fall ritual of applying for Western States and Hardrock in the hopes that some day I will be able to run these races. But no luck for 2017. One of the reasons I enjoy racing in Europe is that I am largely exempt from participating in lotteries because of my ITRA cotation. Yet, I have not registered for any events given that my work will reassign me early in the year and do not yet know where I will be living. Possibilities range from Geneva, Switzerland (great for trail running) to Freetown, Sierra Leone (not so good), and several other possibilities in Africa and Asia. By the time I know my new terra firma, I will have missed the closing dates for most of the big European races such as UTMB and TDG. The upside is that I will be somewhere new and will be able to experience a new trail running scene and races. And, there is the 100-mile age group record that will require a trip to an IAU certified course sometime, somewhere during the year. No doubt 2017 will be another exciting year of running!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rest and Recovery, and 2016 in Review.

2016 has been an interesting year in the running segment of my life.  I was weight-listed to run the Barkley Marathons in early 2016, then trained like I was in. I waited patiently for the list to move, and luckily, with a couple weeks to go, moved onto the unfortunate list of 40 who were to start the race.  Little did I realize how much Barkley would sap me. Physically, I over did it.  The demanding schedule of a young family, a full time job and other life responsibilities meant that the back to back to back days of tons of vert were only accomplished by giving up precious hours of sleep. Not a great recipe for peak physical preparedness.

Heading up Rat Jaw with Ty Draney
PC: Leon Lutz

And 1 1/2 laps into Barkley my knee (possibly as a result of over training and not enough recovery) decided it was done.  Mentally, I was fried.  I didn't realize just how much mental energy I was wasting worrying about the unknowns that Barkley presented.  What will the terrain be like, will I be able to navigate, can I keep up with a veteran and remember the course, what will the weather be like, do I have the right nutrition and equipment, will I actually get off the weight-list?  The mental stress was relentless, and taxing.

I took the rest of April and most of May off, going for a run if I felt like it, more often than not just going for a mellow hike.  I organized a monthly neighborhood hiking group, hitting Mt Van Cott, Mt Wire, Grandeur Peak and Red Pine Lake over the summer months.

Grandeur Peak
With the Valley View Neighborhood Hikers

During these outings,  I started thinking about races again, but every time I started to formulate a plan on how to get back into it, I just couldn't find "it".  I started the Millwood 100 in early July, and after just 20 miles, I was already a few hours behind my anticipated splits. With no desire to suffer for the next 30-40 hours,  I pulled the plug.  I managed to run a decent Speedgoat 50K, followed by a solid Vaquero Loco 50K a couple weeks later, but then lost the drive again.

Vaquero Loco 50K
Corral Lake with Greg Norrander
Planning to run the Uinta Highline trail in early August, I fizzled in my half-hearted attempts to coordinate logistics, and opted for a leisurely and thoroughly enjoyable exploration of a few of the 13,000 ft peaks in the Uintas, along with some fantastic fishing in Cliff Lake, Dead Horse Lake and the West Fork of Blacks Fork river.

Wasatch Peak
High Uintas Wilderness
Tiger Trout
Dead Horse Lake-High Uintas Wilderness

I had a great time exploring some new hiking trails in Acadia National Park with my family.

Precipice Trail
Acadia National Park

And finally, after struggling with daily self-motivation sessions to train for and run the Mogollon Monster, a tough 100 mile Hardrock qualifier in Arizona, I decided 2016 was done as far as racing goes.  And I have enjoyed every moment spent outside since then.  I switched modes from "training" to "enjoying" and more often than not, when I was on a trail, I had my binoculars and/or bow and arrow in hand and was moving slower than I had in years.

Wasatch Mountains
Late Season Archery Elk hunt.
I stopped to soak up the sights, I paused to explore the rustlings around me.  I listened to bull elk bugling at each other (and occasionally at me).

This bull gave me the slip over and over again

I renewed friendships that had lain fallow while I concentrated on "fast and far."

Best 25-year High School Reunion ever.
with Drew Cooper and John Ballou
I slept more (occasionally). I was resting, I was recovering physically and mentally, I was rejuvenating.  What will 2017 bring?  I don't know.  The only certainty is that life will continue to get busier as we add Kiddo #5 to our growing family in the Spring.  I'd like to say that I will run a few races.  Maybe I'll even get psyched enough to run a 100 again (THAT hasn't happened since I finished the Bear in 2013).

I do know that whatever I end up doing, I'll take the time to Enjoy, Rest and Recover.