Is it really over? What happened to 2011?
It's getting harder to differentiate the passing years, to me it still feels like 2010, I guess putting everything down in writing helps remember all those events and adventures. Personally, this year began a little rocky, so I channeled all of my energy into running (of course), and found myself pushing the physical limits and testing my mental toughness. Beyond that, a few more unexpected surprises unfolded as the year progressed and most of my immediate family visited the valley of the sun for the first time.
Shall we start with the running? I ran two of the Arizona series Xterra races early in the year as part of my training regimen for the upcoming ultras I signed up for in March and April. Placing top ten in both events was a good start and certainly a confidence boost heading into my biggest challenge yet, running 50 miles! A few short weeks later I was standing at the starting line of the Old Pueblo 50 Mile Endurance Run in Southern Arizona, ready to take on my longest run to date. Then came Zane Grey. Regarded as the toughest, roughest 50 mile trail race in the country, it held up to it's reputation, at least for me it did. Never before was I concerned about actually being able to "finish" a race. I almost didn't. Finishing that run was a major accomplishment, and having the opportunity to compete against some of the country's best ultra-runners was quite memorable.
There was no time to ride that high any longer, another opportunity arose that changed my focus for the remainder of the year. More on that later. The month of April stood out in my mind for a couple of reasons; finishing Zane Grey was a big one, and the rim-to-river trek in the Grand Canyon with Bob and Mark was surely one of the best weekend trips in a long time. To top it off, I met Brittney. Then summer rolled around and it was hot, really hot! We had nearly 40 days over 110 degrees, so weekend trips up North were a must.
It started with a large group outing to Fossil Springs in June, followed by kayaking at Watson Lake and Walnut Canyon in July, rafting the Salt River, and finally a camping trip up Mount Lemmon in October (October is still considered Summer here), which was a blast! Oh, and did I mention plenty of time at the pool?
I accepted a scholarship to run cross country for a junior college here in Phoenix for the fall semester of 2011. Hesitant at first, I decided to put ultra running aside for the time being to race against athletes 10 years younger than myself. I enjoyed the competition, yet one thing is for sure, racing is a entirely different experience when everyone is fast! The highlight of the season came in October during the Mt SAC invite, where we faced off against several West Coast teams. I put everything I had into this race, leaving nothing on the table. I battled my way into an 11th place finish on one of the fastest, most brutal cross country courses in the nation. My best race of the year was also my undoing, leaving me sidelined with a season-ending hip injury.
Several weeks of uncertainty, and a lot of discomfort in my hip prevented me from doing the things I love to do. Although, I did have a great deal of support and discovered something I enjoy almost as much as running...sleeping in! Thanksgiving weekend was great, and the trip to San Francisco (see earlier post) with Brittney turned out to be one of my favorite vacations ever! The holidays are always nice in Phoenix, especially now that I am back on my feet and running with my friends. Total mileage on the year was a little less than the last, only logging 1,601 miles and approximately 260,000 feet of elevation. Next year will be different, I am aiming for 3,000 total miles in order to be more successful running the ultra distances. Let's see how it goes!