Thursday, January 9, 2014

Year in Review (2013)

2010: 1249.7 miles, 274:08 hours, ? vertical feet
2011: 1796.4 miles, 356:47 hours, 227,206 vertical feet
2012: 1804.7 miles, 352:10 hours, 254,368 vertical feet
2013: 1896.9 miles, 364:18 hours, 276,823 vertical feet

Last year was by far my most consistent, high performing, and enjoyable year of running yet. I feel truly fortunate to have had such a successful year-- setting PRs at so many races.

If I had to pick one adjective to describe my results in 2013, I would probably have to go with "surprising".

My training goals for the year were very modest-- conservative, even. Just don't get injured. Ethan was just an infant, and I had no idea how I was going to be able to get out for any long runs while juggling two young kids. I planned to log more miles during the week on shorter runs because I feared that I wouldn't be able to consistently get out on the weekends. I cut back on my racing, sticking only to the closest races to minimize my travel time. There was no big, new race on the horizon to motivate me. Every race I ran, I had run before. I just planned to try to balance running and life in a sustainable way, keep a flexible schedule, and maybe train and race a bit smarter than I had before.

And what happened? Somehow, with just 12 extra hours of training over the course of the entire year, I big buckled at Leadville, set six separate PRs, and improved my finishing times by over 10%.

Wow. Somehow the minor adjustments I made during my training had a huge, unexpected impact. I still can't quite believe it. 

Historical performance data  for the races I commonly run. Pay attention to the far right column.
What did I do differently this year? Lots of little things, I think.

  1. Consistency. Even though my total miles didn't radically increase, I trained almost every single day. That meant more shorter runs during the week. The meant 3-mile runs around the block in the dark after I put the kids to bed. That meant hitting the bike trainer for 30 minutes if the weather was horrible. I managed to get some exercise almost every day.
  2. Consistency. Even though I ran zero back-to-back longs runs, I ran at least one ~20 mile run every week from March to August. In total, I ran seven more long runs than I did in 2012. I have no idea how I managed to do that. Luck, an understanding wife, and a lot of babysitters, I guess! Thank you!
  3. Consistency. I didn't taper significantly for any of my non-focus races. I tried to keep my weekly numbers from see-sawing like they did last year. Sometime around June, I set a 50 mile, 10,000 feet of vertical weekly minimum and stuck to it. (This is one of the reasons I logged more long runs.)
  4. Consistency. My training and racing were never derailed by a significant injury. No ITBS. Plenty of stretching, resistance band strengthening, and foam rolling.
  5. Quality. I didn't do any of the speed work that I tentatively planned to at the beginning of the year, but I hit the hills hard during the summer-- especially during the week. I would play games where I'd try to get more elevation which each midweek run starting with ~700 ft on Monday and ending with ~1,300 ft on Friday. I kept raising the elevation gain on my long runs throughout my training.
  6. Lower body weight. At 6'5", I've always been a pretty skinny guy and I've never really had to worry about my weight. But, somehow-- I think due to my more consistent training-- I found myself weighing around 8 lbs lighter than I had in previous years, dropping to 170ish from 178ish. The only major dietary change that I can think of is that I ate slightly fewer calories for lunch. More salads. Fewer chips.
  7. Liquid nutrition. I ran all my races solely consuming a homemade maltodextrin-based energy drink. The longer the race, the bigger the impact. While I still made plenty of in-race nutrition/hydration mistakes, I did much, much better than I have in previous years. It's so nice to have your fitness be your limiting factor-- not your stomach. I don't think there's anything particularly magical about what I drank, just that I was finally able to get ~300 calories/hour.
  8. Less time spent at aid stations. This mostly applies to the 100, but also to the 50. I was in and out of aid stations way faster than I have in the past-- sometimes skipping them entirely. This strategy easily saved me an hour during the 100 and is the only reason I big buckled.
  9. Montrail FluidFlexes. 9 oz per shoe. Plenty of cushion. They rock.
  10. More experience. In many ways all these changes are due to my growing experience as a long distance runner. So much of running is an exercise in self awareness and self diagnosis-- especially at the ultra distance. What's the right level of effort? How is running 50 miles supposed to feel? What is natural fatigue vs. low-energy due to lack of calories? Why am I dizzy? Why do I have a side stitch? Should I drink more? Should I drink less? Where the hell is the finish line?
2013 went so well that beginning another year of training is a little daunting. There is no way I'm going to match last year's improvements! Yet I'm excited. There's still plenty of room for improvement. There are always new things to learn.

I post my training data not to satisfy my ego, but in hopes that it might help someone else with their training in some small way. Each of our situations is unique, but I think we can all learn from each other. I know I have benefited greatly from reading other runners' race reports and training blogs.

Here's to 2014!


My weekly mileage for 2013 (up until Leadville).
My weekly vertical for 2013 (up until Leadville)
Green = long run, Bold = race, Yellow = bike (1 mi/10 min), Blue = snowshoe/ski.


  1. A grand year for you, indeed! I enjoy your training postings...makes me realize I need to get a LOT more vertical in this year. :)

    I look forward to your progress in 2014 and maybe we'll be able to hook up when I make it up to train in Leadville this summer.

    Happy 2014!

    1. Thanks, Jill! It'd be great to meet up next year-- either in Leadville or I think we're both running the Quad Rock 50?