Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011

Time to reflect!

It’s been a hard year of running for me, as I never really seemed to put things together, due to hip and hamstring issues.  I might be getting old.  If so, I’ve always said the joy of getting old will be figuring out how to manage such things.  I will always find a way to get outside, and am thankful for every opportunity.

But then again, I didn’t give myself much rest, and there were a few points in the year where I ran ok, by my limited and very personal standards. AND, I did more long races this year than ever before--—15 in all, and that doesn’t count non-events, which are often more interesting anyway. Too many events maybe, and too long. But the offerings are so good in the Pacific NW, so what do you do?

So, I will say, emphatically, IT WAS A GREAT YEAR, despite the injuries. Many thanks to my great friends, who help me get out there, keep me inspired, and made it so. 

AND NOW, introducing my top ten list for the last year--

10.   Vancouver Fat Ass 50k.  This will get a laugh from Rich if he reads it, but this really was a great day, touring Stanley Park, Pacific Spirit Park, and along the Vancouver waterfront, with perhaps the best weather the event has seen in nearly 20 years.  We ran awful—truth, we walked--but the skies were clear, the mountains were out.  We got an early start on the year and day, driving north before the sunrise, and then getting lost in Vancouver, and then hanging out afterwards with the great peeps of Club Fatass.

9.   Maple Pass.  This is a relatively simple hike, near Washington Pass in the North Cascades National Park.  Maybe 8 miles.  Joined by Deb, we stomped around in the snow on cliffs above Lake Ann, and caught the famed larches at their golden peak.  One of the best places to see larches, I’m told—and I’ve always wanted to be here at the right time.  This year I finally was.

8.   Lost Lake 50k+.  My third year now running this Alvin special (with all the more thanks to Skagit Runners, including Terry, Shawna, Joe, and Kevin.)  This is old fashioned ultrarunning in the Chuckanuts—small crowd, big hills.  Rich and I took off at the early start and were leading for a few minutes.  It was epic.  Rainy day, and one very muddy climb on the backside of the lake.  Didn’t race well, but ate well afterwards.  Thanks friends.

7.   Seattle Arboretum.  Some runs just turn out special.  They don’t have start lines, finish lines, or times.  One day, early in the year, I did my old training run near the University District in Seattle.  I ran this run most days when I was in school, and finally returned, more than a decade later.  It was like meeting an old friend.

6.   Deception Pass 50k.  This was the race I really shouldn’t have ran.  My leg hurt.  I was maybe an hour slower than what I would’ve been earlier in the year.  But the course!!  Beautiful!  Cliffs, bluffs, bridges, saltwater, sand, old growth…all thirty minutes away from my doorstep.  Had to do it. 

5.   Sauk Mountain.  Another perfect day in the right spot.  Stomping knee deep in fresh snow, just east of Concrete.  Clear day, views of the San Juans Islands in the far distance.  8 eagles circling above me, as if I were a meal in the making.  Mountain all to myself, the Skagit River valley below.

4.   Gorge Waterfalls 50k.  Probably the most gorgeous 50k event I’ve ever done, with so many, waterfalls, gushing, full-tilt, and views of the Columbia Gorge from cliffs.  I didn’t really start running seriously until mile 15, because every turn had a cliff or waterfall I had to stop, gawk, and photograph.  We actually ran behind one waterfall. Giddyup. 

3.   Knee Knackering 30m.  This North Vancouver tour of the Baden Powell has a lot of tradition and love from the Vancouver running community.  I’ve wanted to do it for years, and finally got around to it.  I ran on a bad ankle, which was just silly, but still worth it.  This course is tough.  Great hanging out with Mike, Marlis and Steve beforehand.

2.   Bull Run Run 50m.  One of the older 50 milers around, put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club. Blue v. Gray. The trail takes you through patches of Virginia bluebells, across the first battlefield of the Civil War, and into some classic hardwoods forest.  Running through the woods, I heard the crack of muzzleloaders in the field nearby. The aid station around mile 31 had pizza. Muddy this year. My sister and her soon-to-be husband came out and supported me.

1.   Annapurna Circuit.  Some call it the greatest trek in the world. I don't know about that, but it was a special time. I have wanted to do this for 15 years, and for once, I made a dream come true. And with friends! Seth, Rich and I spent roughly 11 days circling through the Himalayas in Nepal. Our high point was nearly 18,000 feet, but it was the rivers and gorges, the suspension bridges, and the people, villages, and religion that made the adventure. Not much running, but truly an amazing time on trail.

There isn't a lot of science to the list--just my favorite memories. The list leaves off many other remarkable days.  My 4th White River 50m, which I ran horribly. After Knee Knacker, I've never been the same. My favorite race, the Baker Lake 50k, 36 hours after flying over the North Pole from Nepal. Also not a good showing. That was so hard I sort of want to forget it, but not really. 

There was the slow meander up Park Butte in the snow, and the early snow trip to Big Beaver Valley. For good measure, I include a pic above of a trip to Sahale Arm in the North Cascades. Described by some as a holy place.  I like it. Then the road runs, like R&R Seattle Marathon (crowds) and the Seattle Marathon (9th in a row, second worst weather year I can remember). The timed runs-- Watershed Preserve (12 hours) and Invest in Youth Run (6 hours). If I had a wait list, Orcas Island would  probably be first in line--yet another amazing Rainshadow production.

Now, for 2012. Already thinking, planning.  The songs may change, but the band will stay the same.  I'm not sure what the year will hold, running or otherwise, but I am hopeful. 

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