The year 2008 treated me well on the running front--so sorry to see it go! After the injury travails of 2007, I felt fortunate to stay healthy. That was my single biggest accomplishment of the year, in fact. Not a single visit to the physical therapists--after spending more time in than out of PT in '07 (nothing personal, my dear friend PTs, but I prefer to see you on social occasions only!).
Why? I guess I was "due" a good year. Thanks, running gods! But also I think I played it pretty smart in terms of cross-training, off or low periods after major races, and just building up a certain base of time on my feet that carried me through the year. Packed in the quality mega-long runs getting ready for those 100s, for sure. But didn't just pack in miles for miles sake, and even backed off the back to backers I used to swear by. Got back into the yoga later in the year, too, and definitely want to keep that up.
Maybe more *is* actually more, when it comes to ultras! I was healthier with the "ultra a month" plan than in previous years with races more spaced out. 9 ultra starts, 8 finishes, plus the other shorter stuff. The key was, I think, to have some as just organized training runs without serious time goals, and others as "A races" I could taper for and recover from. Worked out well, so more of that to come in '09!
The other thing I'm happy about was pushing the envelope with new challenges. "Limits off," my new heart rate watch flashed as it beeped at me in Mexico a few days before the Izta race. Still can't figure out what that means as I hadn't programmed in any limits, but I like to think that's a good mantra to follow--keep pushing those limits, stay out of that comfort zone! This year it was proving to myself I could hang in there for 100 miles just three months after the 2nd Bighorn fiasco. And the SkyMarathon and the challenge of racing at altitude. Let's see what new challenges '09 will bring!
Performance-wise, the second half of the year was definitely better than the first. The only one that stands out as a decent effort in the first half was really the Bear Mountain race. Bighorn was a learning experience (again!), and I was definitely on a better pace than in '07, but probably needed to start out slower so I could sustain better. Altitude is a sneaky devil. But things got much better from Catoctin in early August onward! Montana de Oro, Iroquois, Mountain Masochist, etc. Reduced weight, different blister prevention strategies, learning to run lighter with a handheld, adding in those marathon-pace longer tempo runs....but most of all, something just "clicked" somewhere along the way in terms of having more of a positive "can-do" attitude. Hard to explain. But wish I could bottle it, whatever it is, and keep it! Not sell it, just keep it!
Most of all, I've really got to be grateful for all the incredible places I got to run on trails this year. The snowy peaks and beatiful valleys of Jemez and Bighorn. The incredible coastal mountains of Montana de Oro. The hot desert training run in Canyonlands and the "grizzly alert" run early one morning at Glacier, with bear spray at ready and shouts of "hey bear" around every corner. Beach runs in Acapulco and Florida. The wonderful up and down trails in Santa Fe. The rocky forests of Bear Mountain/Harriman and Catoctin. Some great runs in all seasons, solo or with friends like Garth, at the Palisades and Harriman. It really was a special year in terms of experiencing beatiful places, seeing wildlife, taking in breathtaking vistas, just soaking it all up. It would be pretty hard to top the breadth and diversity of ecosystems and climates I got to run in this year. Hmmm....maybe rain forest and arctic tundra were missing, but that's about it!
Just remembering it all re-affirms my love for trail running, and the desire to get out there and experience even more next year. And while I'm at it, push back a few more limits! But--you know me--carefully, with calculation, deliberately. Don't put your full weight on it before you've got a secure handhold, as they say!