2016 – A Year In Review

I’m writing this while I come to terms that I will be scratching the Taipei Marathon. My biggest goal for the year, set sometime in June, was to have a break-out marathon. I ran plenty of races, but my nightly rituals on the riverside revolved around this idea of a sub-3-hour marathon. Now, with my puppet string cut (my adductor muscle having a pretty nasty tear) and the echoes of this decision ringing the back of my head for weeks, I finally decided to scrap it. Pack it up. Toss it in the trash. Hit refresh and go for it again next year.

That isn’t to say that 2016 wasn’t a freaking fantastic year. So let’s focus on the positives.

November of 2015 I signed up for my first ultramarathon: Translantau 50k. This was completely uncharted territory for both me and my good friend, Rob. I learned a lot, specifically that I’m not too bad at ultras. We started the race well behind 50th place intent on just finishing and in the end both of us placed in the top 20, myself coming in at 8th. I thought it would be painful. I thought I would hate it. But when my wobbling legs jumped the tape on that beach in Lantau Island, Hong Kong and I was able to turn around and gaze back at the 100s upon 100s of people who were yet to arrive, something clicked in my mind. I knew I needed to get registered for more, and get training.

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And I did.

2016 rolled in with a 6th at the Sun Moon Lake Marathon, covered in snow and drenched in rain.

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Immediately this led to a big second place at the 21k on the hilly course of the Pinglin Ultimate Marathon along Rob again.

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Just a short two weeks after that I was able to pull off what still stands as my half marathon PR at a race just around the corner (after rolling out of bed and having breakfast I walked to the start line) coming in at a hot and spicy 1:21:34, less than half a second faster than a friend of mine.

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Following this race, I felt unstoppable. I began joining Petr on more long runs and catering my training around this newfound love called ultramarathoning. My weekly kilometers bumped from the mid-40s to the 60s, then to the 80s and 90s. A solid battle with a long-time foe, Chen ended with me behind him at Explore Your Backyard, then soon after, beating him as well as his course record at The Beast Trail.

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In my second ultra of the year, The Beast Runners and I traveled to the Yilan 50k. Here I went pound for pound against local legend Chou Pin Chi, overtaking him at the end of a sweltering climb-fest. I ran it in for second place, behind teammate and race organizer Petr.

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With this performance, I solidified my seat on the podium and created an expectation for myself that would require a severe effort to satisfy. I won Ultra Maokong 50k by an hour and twenty minutes.

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Then turned around and high-tailed to Vietnam Mountain Marathon 70k to square off with a French runner, ringing in at second place behind him by minutes but holding off third place by an hour.

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Again, I stepped up the training. 70k weeks including at least 2000 meters of climbing were the bare minimum. Weekly long distance slow runs, trail runs, speed work and tempo runs balanced my diet. I tried for a 5-8% increase weekly, focusing on getting my tempo speed to drop to a level where a 2:59:59 marathon looks realistic.

That’s when Formosa Trail 65k came long. This race boasts a daunting 3600m of climbing on almost completely single track. Feeling the artifacts of my marathon training, I noticed a twinge in my groin area (and not just from excitement) in the day before the race. I limped down the stairs feeling something really not quite right, but with my past few races and reputation, I knew anything below first would ensure humiliation. Maybe not in the expectations of others, but in the expectations that I was making for myself. Lining up my pacing in an effort I felt would ensure a win and a decent course record, I came in first with 35 minutes to spare ahead of an American girl, but one hour and twenty minutes ahead of the next man.

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Even as I laid down in the sun hiding from the photographers and crowd, I felt my right leg unable to lift. The next two days I chalked it up to soreness and did my best to waddle with dignity.

In the days following, my running went from aches to shocking pains. Two runs were cut short and walked home with my tail between my legs. Two different 5-day breaks were met with runs that resembled those when I first became injured. And that’s where I sit today.

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My Strava “this year goal” was to run 2016 miles (3,244 km) in 2016, but sits at this moment with a black box and the words “50 km behind pace” where it will probably stand as the New Year rings in unless I’m able to clock 190 km in 2 weeks.

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So what’s in store for 2017?

I’m re-setting my Strava goal. Of course, next year it will be set to 2017 miles in 2017.

Tarawera Ultramarathon in February, an opportunity provided by Runivore to run their 85k course. As soon as possible, I will slowly ease the training back on to prepare for that.

Korea 50k in April. A summit of elite runners will toe the line in a fast course and I hope will be a solid performance on an international scale.

Another damn marathon. I don’t know if I’ll register and wait for Taipei Marathon again. I may find an early fall marathon and re-focus my efforts on that 3:00 mark.

Revamp my training to include consistent diversity. Is that an oxymoron? I hope to incorporate the use of peak weeks, strength weeks and speed weeks to cater to fewer races with better performances. The constant tapering up and down of smaller events just leads to breaks in training and overstrain during the races themselves.

One thing that is glaringly obvious is that this IS my first year. As it turns out, marathons will probably be around next year, and 5 years from now, and even after my grandkids are born. I don’t need to have my peak performance now. What I need is to get healthy again and remind myself that running is not for cheap trophies and ITRA rankings. It’s for those chilling moments as you sit on the hill and enjoy being completely beside yourself and your health, and that feeling of thankfulness that comes from accomplishing something incredible.

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