Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013: What a (Helluva) Year

Scrap metal at it's finest!
I hang my medals on my closet doorknob until the last day of the year.  I then take each one, remember the day,
then put them in a large Ziplock and away in a box and start over.  Repeat each year.  The Mt. Evans rock (bottom center) and the age group mining pan win from Leadville - those will hang on my dresser mirror (along with my Boston medals).
If there is one thing I learned about myself in 2013 it's that I can do a shitload of really, really hard stuff...and, believe it or not, I'm not going to die. 

I know that sounds like I'm being a little melodramatic, and to a small extent I am, but up until I ran Leadville Silver Rush 50 in July and then 5 weeks later the Pikes Peak Marathon - two races that have been high on my list of races to run - I pretty much thought those types of things were for die-hard ultra trail-y types of people. I'm just a normal person, I can't do stuff like that.  Good Lord, it took me 4 registrations of the Pikes Peak Marathon over the course of 20 years (how many dollars lost?) before I actually had the courage to do this race this year.

Fear.  It constrained me for decades.  Tethered me to my past.  Forced me inside my comfort zone and at times, stopped me dead in my tracks and render me useless.

I think a lot of folks believe I ran the Leadville 50 because I turned 50.  A mile for each year - how cool is that?  While this is pretty cool, and does have a nice ring to it, it wasn't the true underlying reason.  I guess there could be plenty of smaller whys, but in my heart, I just felt it was time I just faced down my fears of the unknown and tackled these races that I have always admired from afar, but could never bring myself to do.  I spent 2012 trying to reestablish myself as a runner after the foot from hell fiasco and I just couldn't find the love that I knew was buried inside.  I ran a couple marathons - and felt no connection to them.  I raced several half marathons and none of them were even close to my abilities.  I threw in several other races because, well, just because.  I didn't really care about any of them, I had no attachment, and thus the training for them was non-existent...I just didn't love running much anymore and I wondered if my days of racing were completely over.  Was this all there was for me?  Just endless sucky road races where I got exponentially slower each year I grow older?  Gah, it wasn't even fun anymore.  I needed a change of scenery.  Literally.

I needed Leadville!!!!!

Since the day I registered for the Leadville Silver Rush 50-miler in late February (and a couple months before), I had one focus for 2013 and one focus only: train for the damn thing.  I can’t remember a day I slept past 5:30 AM.  I was typically in bed by 9:00 or 9:30 and up at 4:00 to drive countless hours to squeeze in 5-6 hours of running on trails that I had no idea where they lead.  

While I certainly trained hard for my road marathons in the past (some of them, anyway), I don’t know that the same level of drive was there as when I trained for Leadville, and I know the amount of time spent didn't even come close to the same.  Leadville was a huge unknown to me - a world I knew very little about.  I was a road and track junkie for 37 years.  Trails?  How does klutzoid me run on dirt and rock without falling (I learned you don't :))?   How do I run 50 miles - all at one time - when my longest run has ever only been 26.2 (Okay, 27 if you count Carlsbad Marathon when I made a wrong turn with the half marathoners and had to go back)?  I get lost on a 400m track, how the heck I am to navigate my weary body around on a 3' wide patch of dirt when race course markers are only positioned maybe every mile?  And the clincher...what if I can't finish what I start?  Egads!  The old adage of biting off more than I can chew really matters to me.

I hired an ultra coach (well, coaches - plural - if I'm truthful).  I spent countless hours in my car driving to the trails so I could get my weak climbing ass stronger.  I registered for countless races to use as training.  I spent days away from home at my aunt's condo in Breckenridge, a town nestled high in the Rockies, where I could get plenty of less oxygen into my lungs.  I got lost on trails in Leadville and had a complete tear-ridden melt-down when I got turned around and had no clue how to get back to my car.  Six weeks later, I fell hard on some other trails in Leadville and pulled a rib muscle; I was by myself and laid flat on the ground for a solid 15 minutes because it hurt so much to breathe when I moved.  It took me 2 hours to walk 2 miles, via a shortcut I prayed endlessly would lead me to my car (miraculously, it did).

Add in real-life stuff like work and just trying in general to not become some dirty, stinky-ass, half-stranger to your family, and some weeks became quite the juggling act.  I’d like to think I made it through without putting running first but more often than not, in reality, training for an ultra is a fairly selfish act.  If I was going to do it right (as in, if I was going to train at a level that would actually prepare me for the race), then I was going to have to make some sacrifices in other parts of my life. Truly, the running part of training for a 50 mile race is easy (and really fun).  It’s the logistics of putting in the time that’s hard.  All that mattered was the next step, the next stride to Leadville and my kids were left without me a lot.  Lucky for me, I have an understanding and supportive family who have always known how much running means to me….I think when they were little they assumed that the amount of running that their parents do is par for the course for ALL parents.  But my kids believed in me, in my quest, and I all I can do is hope that they take something deeper away from what it is I do out there when their own lives hit a snafu.

Anyway.... in the end, when I stood on the start line of Leadville, I felt an enormous sense of tranquility that I'd never experienced in a race before.  My work was done.  My fears were gone.  Yes, I CAN do the things these uber ultra trail-y runners do.  And I DIDN'T die!  I was now one of them.  

And I loved every second of it.

I guess it's the catch-22 of being a grown-up, simultaneously wanting certain things but being scared to death of them at the same time.  We have to own those fears and realize that until we are brave enough to acknowledge the desire, and fight like mad to get it, we will never ever have the opportunity to see it blossom in our lives.

I know it's just running, just a mere hobby.  I'm not a paid athlete nor heading to the Olympics.  I know that Leadville mining pan age group trophy in my bedroom and my name in Colorado Magazine's "Fastest Runners of the Year" aren't the most important things in the world, but they are tangible reminders of those hours, and the miles, I spent on those trails.  They remind me that yes, yes I can do these really hard ultra trail-y god, dreams really can come true. 

2013: it was a helluva year; the memories will forever be stored in my heart!  I know I won't be racing as much this year as I did in 2013 due to financial and logistical matters, and simply because I just want to spend more time with my kids before they venture out into the big ole world, but I do know that whatever I do in 2014, it's going to be pretty dang scary!  I can't wait.

2013 Numbers:
Mileage: 2103.22 miles 
Vertical: 144,038'
Races: 23 (two of those were pacing my friend, Katie)
     50-miler:  1 (Leadville, duh)
     50k:  2 (my first time at this distance)
     Marathons: 3 (two trail, one being Pikes Peak Marathon - got that monkey off my back)
     33k:  1 (trail)
     25k:  1 (trail)
     14.5 miler: 1 (Mt. Evans Ascent)
     Half Marathon:  7 (2 trail, the rest road)
     7k:  1
     4-miler:  1
     5k:  3
     Half Ironman Triathlon:  1
     Sprint Triathlon: 1
Race mileage: 391.95 miles (running, not included are the bike and swim from tris)
Race vertical: 42,931'

14-ers climbed: 9 (raced two: Mt. Evan and Pikes Peak) first flipagram.  I had a blast making it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved digging through all my memories making it (don't worry, it's only 30 seconds)...

Happy New Year, my friends.  As always, it has been a pleasure sharing the miles with you!


Adrienne said...

Wow! Glad I read this first thing this morning! Overcoming the past and getting past fears is exactly wha tI needed to read.

I know they say in Ironman you get to brag for the rest of your life, um. in your case I hope you're a cat.... ;)

Here's to a badass 2014!

Robin said...

What a great post and what a great year you've had. It's been amazing taking the journey with you. I'm doing my first 50 miler this year as well, in May, and hope to share your feelings. I'm sure I will, how can you not. All the best for 2014. (Cool about the fastest runner mention in the magazine to boot).

ShutUpandRun said...

I love this for so many reasons - mostly that you found your love of running again. What you did required determination and guts...and ended up being life changing. What a helluva year you truly have had!

sllygrl said...

OHH I LOVE THIS! Such an awesome year for you (even though there were some icky things in the middle) the result was still so much more than many could ask for. It was such a pleasure to 'meet' you this year. I hope in 2014 you and I finally get to run together and not just talk about it....


One Crazy Penguin said...

You're kind of an awesome bad case you didn't know. I'm so happy that 2013 was so big for you :) 2014 may not have as much racing, but I'm sure it will be just as awesome!

Cory Reese said...

You, my friend, are an awesome writer. You perfectly summarized the dedication it takes to finish an ultra and the balancing act involved in having a life also.

I'm so impressed with everything you accomplished throughout the year. I'm glad 2013 was the year we got to finally meet each other.

Here's to an awesome 2014!!!

Kate Geisen said...

This is such a great post since I got to follow along as you tackled both the injury AND this amazing year! There's something so invigorating and exciting about tackling something that feels above your pay grade. And the way you succeeded at them, well, seriously impressive. And I so hear you about the struggle to be a family member AND prepare to meet your goals. So hard to balance. Thank goodness your kids get it!

Kathy said...

Love this SO MUCH!!! I can not tell you enough how much crewing you through that 50 miler meant to me. It was a mind blowing weekend fora ll of us. You make me smile, you make me proud. And we are way past due for some time on wheels … before the next snow sticks for a while. Love ya, lady!!

SupermomE12 said...

You are super awesome. :) Love this post and what a killer year you had. MUCH to be proud of. Big hugs!! Happy new Year!!!

David @Captain Speedypants said...

Wow, such an amazing year. Glad you were able to accomplish so much. I'm going to have to dig through your blog archive to read more of your races now. :)

saundra said...

Great post, as always.

Happy New Year, Jill. May your 2014 be as awesome and inspiring as 2013.

Char said...

I loved reading this. What a triumphant post!! That's the great thing about running - it can make you face your fears to realise that you can do so much more than you ever dreamed. Happy New Year! I can't wait to hear what you'll get up to in 2014

ajh said...

Move over Super Kate and share the platform with Super Jill! Wow! I knew you did awesome things this year but reading them all in one post is so awe inspiring. You are right - it needs to be fun and for some strange reason tris are doing that for me and I have my own fear with that damn swimming part each and every time but man I do love it. Back to you!!! If I was listed as Colorado's (Vermonts) fastest runners in print I would make it into my Christmas card and mail it to all my friends, and casual acquaintances and people I might know some day. YOU GO GIRL!

Mike said...

Absolutely love this post! What an awesome year you had going after and accomplishing some big goals. I'm really happy for you Jill.

Gracie said...

You ran these races with so much assurance and success, that I (as a newish runner) thought you were a long-time ultra runner with many trail miles and medals under your belt. I'd never know until now that these races intimidated you! You have a calm and logical way to tackle training for and racing them that seemed very pro, like you'd been at this for years.

Jenny said...

What a year it was! You accomplished so much and have so many things to be proud of! I'm so glad I was able to be part of a tiny bit of it - even if you did try to kill me with heat exhaustion and treacherous mountain descents. Then again, I think both the race and the hike were my idea. ;) Hee! Many congrats on a fabulous 2013 and here's to an adventurous 2014!

Kandi said...

That's a lot of medals! You had a fantastic year and it sounds like you learned a lot about yourself!

Keeley said...

Holy cow, lady! What a stinkin' fabulous year! What an inspiration you are. May 2014 rock your world - in a good way. =)

Brian Walls said...

What a great year!!! Always knew you could do an ultra! You coached me through my first and kept saying you could never do something like that. :) Very Proud Of You!

Terzah said...

I'm late as usual to your post and, also as usual, enjoyed it so much (and I watched the Flipagram again). I'm so glad that "13" was your lucky number in so many spectacular ways, and I hope to share in your next adventures. Crew for life, right? Congratulations again, Ms. Jill.

Teamarcia said...

Why does it take me a flipping week to see your posts?? Forgive me, Louise is getting slow(er)! It was SUCH a thrill to see you thrive and flourish and do all the things you thought you couldn't do (but the rest of us knew darn well you COULD)! One helluva year indeed! I am honored to be a tiny crumb of it on the Leadville adventure. That is a lifetime highlight for me for sure. Here's to more scary stuff in 2014! xoxo

Kiki said...

You are inspiring! Congrats on an amazing year and let's go slay some more monsters in the future:)

Liz said...

Wow, some incredible acheivements in 2013! Well done, a fantastic year for you. :)

Black Knight said...

A great 2013. I have never run all those races in one year. Congrats.
Beautiful Flipagram with a nice song and wonderful images but for you it would me more appropriated "Born to run".

Anonymous said...

dearest Jillie. This post made me cry. I followed you all through the _()*(*&(&*^ foot debacle, I know how tough 2012 was and to see this - THIS! - this facing your fear and doing it. And not just doing it - OWNING it! You are amazing and inspiring. If I am just a teensie bit like you at 50 I will be happy. Keep on inspiring girlfriend. You're amazing. I love you xxx

HalfCrazed Runner said...

Very inspiring! Great post!

Christi said...

First, I miss you like hell Jill! We had such great rides on those Castle Rock roads.

Second, you are freakin' awesome! The words you wrote about fear are so right. I will come back to this post over and over again as I tackle the training for my first full IM.

Third, I wish you and your family the best in the coming year. Have a great one, my friend!

Raina R. said...

2013 was one heck of a year for you, Jill. So much happened. I can't believe you really did all those races?! 2 50ks I don't even remember! The 50 miler I do- but didn't put it together with the age 50 thing.

Enjoy the time with the boys. I think they will remember you when they hit a bump in the road- and remember that their mom had no quit in her.

I don't know how you did it, but I love the flipagram :)

lindsay said...

I'm so glad you found your groove! I got kind of tired of hearing all those complaints... ;) 50-miles, still impressive! And CO's fastest! Toot Toot! You don't need my McDonald's afterall....

Also. I've been feeling dumb lately for keeping all my medals/awards. I mean... I don't do anything with most of them! I totally get saving the big ones/certain races, but I don't know what to do with the random other ones. Apparently you just hoard! ;)

You know I love ya Jill. Happy New Year!

Paul Rodman said...

Zingo post! Great photos!
Wow, a lot of miles and racing miles!
A great year for you, I hope more new adventures
ahead for you!


Johann said...

You had an amazing year for sure. Was your turn. 2014 will be the same but this time I will have a great one as well. All the best for the year ahead!

Katie said...

Congrats on a great Leadville finish! And wow, you race a lot. I do maybe 6 races a year, though I run hard year round and was surprised to see that I had run over 2700 miles! Anyway, I love your post on conquering fear. I think a lot of people avoid trying new things because they're afraid of failure. Happy New Year!

bobbi said...

I have read this post thru so many times - how is it that I never commented??

You are such a huge inspiration to me - not sure if you know that, but it's true. I love your perspective and your drive and your humbleness. Keep being you - I hope 2014 is an AMAZING year for you!

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