In only my sixth full year of running (for the sake of running), 2009 has easily been my biggest, most successful and most satisfying. Prior to this year, I had only once experienced the satisfaction of being the first to cross the finish line of a race (Heart Center of the Rockies 10k, '08). This year alone I won a total of seven races, easily beating any and all expectations I had going into the year, so I think it would be fair to label 2009 as something of a break-out year for myself (at the tender age of 34/35). A full break down of my finishing positions in the 23 races (416 miles) I ran go as follows:
Much of my competitive success this year has come from running in smaller fields against local runners, but even admitting that, I'll give myself some credit for being consistent across a broad range of distances, while also maintaining a consistently decent level of fitness throughout the year - meaning that when fields were weak I could capitalize.
I am well aware of where I stand in the grand scheme of things on the running hierarchy (especially on roads, where there is no hiding from the black and white of finishing times), but being able to race at the head of a field, no matter its size or talent, has added a new level of fun to the process for me.
Some runners compete almost exclusively against the clock, and that is fine, but truth be told I much prefer the heat of battle than I do the satisfaction of a new PR. With that in mind, I look forward to continuing a few rivalries that have developed this year and last, while also stirring up a few more. In addition, I am anxious to run a few races again in 2010 that I felt went sub-optimally for me in '09, the most notable of which is the race on Manitou's Big Hill - this time up and down.
With regards to times, I set a bunch of new personal records this year, some by hefty margins - suggesting that I am still on the steep section of the improvement curve (for now) - although I suspect the curve will begin to level off in 2010, but I do hope that I have a couple more years of continued improvement before age begins the slowing process regardless of the effort I put into training. Here are the personal records I achieved this year:
5k: 17:19 (split for the 10k at Harrietsham in December. I consider this to be at least 40 seconds soft).
4 mile: 22:00 (Thanksgiving Day Run).
10k: 34:48 (Harrietsham 10k in December. A reasonably solid PR, although it was run on the back end of back-to-back 100-mile weeks).
Marathon: 2:43:35 (Dublin).
50 mile: 7:03 (Collegiate Peaks).
** I didn't win a single one of the races I PR'd at.
My half marathon PR was set three of four years ago in the 1:23 range, so that is a target for 2010, as is my 5k PR which I hope to bring down to 16:30 or lower in the first half of 2010. I would also like to find a fast 50 miler to run (maybe AR50) to set a PR there. Other than that, my races were largely at altitude and on mountainous singletrack courses, where the only real measure is previous course-and-distance times. Those races that I did run for a second time this year were all considerably faster than previous efforts.
At times this year, I have felt a bit short changed at getting into the sport so far advanced into my prime competitive years, but then I think back to the fun I had playing rugby and other team sports as a kid, and I realize that I probably wouldn't change a thing - other than the hatred I had for running as a training tool, and a few years in my middle 20s where I achieved little to speak of with regards to health and fitness. I also try to remind myslef as frequently as possible to quit whining and understand how fortunate I am to even have the freedom, health and desire to get out and do what I do on a daily basis.
I plan to train hard in 2010 to continue to make the most of the time I do have left to run to my body's full potential. As such I have set some pretty lofty goals for 2010, which I won't go into here, but suffice to say that Bandera is one of a few stepping stones towards the goals I have set.
Thanks to all who have offered advice, encouragement (here or elsewhere), company on the trail, inspiration and laughs over the course of the year. Running is a solo endeavor, but I find it to be a whole lot more fun when shared with good friends - old and new alike.
See you on the trail ....