Some time, late in 2011 when I was feeling really good about my running progress, I decided to set a big goal for 2012. I wanted to become a runner, not just someone who runs. In order to do that, I needed to run more yes; but I also needed to get more out of my running. I needed more enjoyment, more therapy, more epiphanies from my runs. I needed to get out of the mindset that running was just a form of exercise—a means to justify eating whatever it was that I wanted to eat. I needed running to be sewn into the fabric of Mac; I needed us to become inseparable. So I set a big running goal for 2012. I was going to run 12 races in 2012. One every month for 12 months without fail. The following is a list of the races that I ran last year and very brief description of each one. If the summaries bore you, skip to the end to see if the 12 races helped to accomplish my goal.
January: Cascade Half Marathon–1:42:48 (PR) Freezing cold, snowy, and windy. All thoughts of a PR were thrown out the window when I saw the weather in the morning. 4 miles in I decided that I wouldn’t let the weather control my race, picked up the pace and PR’d by over 3 minutes. A great way to start the year.
February: Hagg Lake 25K–2:29This race is appropriately called “Hagg Mud”. Slippery, sloppy, slogging around the lake was the order of the day. There was so much mud that each shoe probably weighed twice as much by the end of the day. This was one of Pam’s first trail races ever (maybe even THE first). My only goal for the day was to beat her time which was 2:30 something. Mission accomplished.
March: Buck Mountain Mud Slinger 6.8 Miler–1:10 This was one of my favorite races of the year. Run on a very tough route through Silver Falls State Park, Buck Mountain was my second snowy race of the year. There was up to a foot of snow in some places (the sloppy, wet, Western Oregon snow) and the rest of the course was covered with shin deep mud. I had a blast!
April: Peterson Ridge 40 Miler–7:08PRR was my second focus race of the year. I trained long and hard for this day. And I trained well. Long runs on trails, check. Training runs that were hillier than the actual race, check. Practice nutrition strategies on long runs, check. Memorizing the course before the race, big fat fail! My goal for the day was to break 7:00. I WAS having the perfect day through mile 22 or so. Hydration, nutrition, and pacing were all perfect and I was on track to come way closer to 6 hours than 7—until I made a wrong turn, ran an extra 3.5 miles, and waited to be driven back to the spot on course where I made the wrong turn. I still finished in 7:08 and in my defense, the turn sign that I missed was being blocked by a huge cheering section and there were no course marshalls telling us to turn. Several 40 mile racers made the same mistake that day. I will be back to get my revenge on PRR.
May: Trail Factor 50K–5:28 (PR)This was not a focus race, but I had another awesome day on the trails. I love running in Forest Park but hardly ever make the drive to do so. I figured a race would be a great way to force myself up there. Ran by myself most of the day, had a good finishing 10K and set one of two 50K trail PRs on the year.
June: Cape Mountain 10 Miler–1:38:30 Cape Mountain is a small, locally run race down in Florence, OR. The climbs are pretty tough, but the scenery at the top is beautiful and totally worth the effort to get up there. Ran this race with my newest friend, Dennis. My wife has her claws in him now so I can’t keep up with him anymore, but I’m sure this was just the first of many races to run with Dennis.
July: Butte to Butte 10K–43:49 (PR) I hadn’t run a road 10K since my first ever race when I was still a heavy dude so a PR was inevitable. But Butte To Butte is a tough course, with the first mile straight up a steep hill. I was happy with my overall pace of 7:04 on the day. Gloria and I pushed each other all morning, racing each other from start to finish with several lead changes throughout the course. We crossed the finish line together, but her chip time was 2 seconds faster than mine…darn it!
August: Haulen’ Aspen Trail Marathon– 4:05 I signed up for this race pretty late because I didn’t have an August race yet. So why not just run a marathon, right? I wanted this to be a training run for September’s race which was my next focus race for the year. Also, I’d never run a trail marathon before. 13.1 miles straight up on lots of forest service and jeep roads in 2:09. Then 13.1 miles straight down on sweet single-track mountain bike trails in 1:56. I was really happy with my efforts on the day, especially with the huge negative split. But next year I’ll have someone drop me off at the top and just run the single track home. I don’t like running on gravel roads…at all!
September: MRTR 50K–5:17 (PR) MRTR was my last focus race of the year. I’d run it before, back in 2010 as my first Ultra and had my lunch handed to me in a big way. I finished hunched over and green in the face, thinking I’d never want to run again. This year was much different and I went in with really lofty goals of breaking 5:00. Looking back, even on a perfect day I’m not sure I have 5 hours in me on that course. Even though the grade is suitable for fast running, the terrain is just way more technical than I’m used to running. Ran this race with Dennis also and had a blast. Felt pretty good most of the day, with only a few low points that I worked through. Finished with a 50K trail PR of 5:17. I love this race and will run it again some day.
October: MacDonald Forest 5K–26:30 (Age group win!) I was supposed to run the Condor 25K earlier in October, but this slowed me down a bit. So I scrambled to find a race at the last minute and this was what surfaced. This was the JV race on the day, but I wasn’t in any shape to run hard for the 15K. So yeah, I wimped out a bit. But I got my first age group win ever and a free pair of socks that says “1st place” on them. I won’t tell you how many people were in my age group. Just go on thinking how good I am ok? Please?
November: Silver Falls Half Marathon–1:48 Silver Falls Half was probably my best performance of the year. I ran well all day long and got stronger as the race progressed. My garmin died during the 1st third so had to run by feel and maybe this led me to pushing myself harder on the day? In any case, I finished very close to the top 10% of the field which is a stellar performance for me—usually I’m in the top 33% or so. It was one of those days where everything just felt good and I came away from the day feeling like, “yeah, I’m a runner!”
December: Sheburg Falls Trail Run 6.8–1:03I was really proud of the way I was running at the end of the year. Even though I didn’t have a ton of motivation to race towards the end, I had my two best finishes in my last two events. This makes me proud of the work that I put in last year. I finished very close to the top 10% here as well and ran strong on a VERY tough course where runners had to pull themselves up by the ferns and blackberry bushes on the sides of the trail because it was so muddy and slippery. All in all I was very happy with the day.
So, did I accomplish my goal?
By the end of the year, I was a tired man. Many people race more than me, my wife included. I’m not sure how they do it. And lots of runners run more miles than me—a big week for me is 50 miles and I’ve only hit 60 once.
But I have no problems saying that I am now a runner and I don’t think anyone would argue with me. I learned a lot about myself out on the trails this past year. I love to run. When I’m not running, I’m thinking about it. When I am running I’m thinking about how I can be better at it. I struggled during several of my races and dug deep to finish strong. My biggest epiphany of the year came during a low point where I was thinking about quitting (during Peterson Ridge). I suddenly was reminded that I chose to put myself through the suffering of running 40 miles and that I should welcome the challenge and embrace the difficulties faced during such a day and use them to become a better person. Someone who’s more mentally tough, who won’t back down, who never will give up.
These are lessons that I (and all of us) can use in all aspects of life. I will use the knowledge acquired from running to reassure myself that I will never go back to being Obesemacdaddy and that I will forever more be fitmacdaddy!
So yes, running and I ARE inseparable; running is sewn into the fabric of who I am.
I AM A RUNNER.