2011 Reflections

When looking back at 2011, a few things stand out as memorable lessons that I’ll carry into the future.  Here are a few thoughts:

SportsmanshipLast February, the Leadville 100 closed registration in what was an unprecedented early sell out of the event.  Since I hadn’t had the opportunity to put my name in the hat, I was immediately struck with panic that I would not be allowed in.  I expressed my anxiety to pretty much anyone who would listen and was pretty resigned to the fact that I’d have to find a different late summer race to aim towards.  Just as I was beginning to accept that I would not run Leadville 2011, I got copied on an email string between Duncan Callahan and LT100 Registration Manager, Shannon Gibson.  Without my asking, the defending champion had reached out to the race organizers to secure me a special consideration entry into the race.  Duncan knew I’d be one of his main contenders and still made the unsolicited effort to get me in.  I was floored by this exhibition of class and sportsmanship.

Of course, I did run Leadville 2011 and managed to have what was probably the greatest race of my life.  Before the shotgun sounded though – when we were all nervously clustered at the start line – I had another very special exchange with Duncan that is one of my greatest memories from my short career in ultramarathon racing.  Wearing the #1 and #3 bibs respectively, Duncan and I hugged and he encouraged me to believe that I could win in a short but honest and deliberate pep talk.   As simple as it was, coming from the defending champion and a fellow favored competitor, it was quite memorable for me.  At the end of the day, these two examples are the perfect encapsulation of our running community as a whole.  Supportive, helpful, gracious, and beautiful.

HeartI never ran competitively growing up.  Since I’ve never been coached, my evolution as an athlete has been an intensely personal learning experience.  Everyday I run by feel and everyday I get to know myself a little more acutely.  One thing that has recently caught my full attention is the feeling of strength or weakness in my physical heart.  In ultra racing, muscle fatigue is all too familiar.  In the hours and days that follow a race, you often hear endless complaints about painful quads, hammies, feet, etc. without much mention of  deeper, more internal fatigue.  I’ve found that my heart is an incredible indicator of my body’s relative health during training, racing, and recovery.  I’ve never worn a pulse monitor or even measured my resting heart rate, but I feel I’ve developed a vivid awareness of my heart and what it’s prepared to handle.  I’ve come to allow this awareness to become the coach I’ve never had, and use it to guide my training everyday.  Of course, one’s heart rate is intimately correlated with breathing, so I’ve also been experimenting with my breathing when the perceived effort of my heart seems to be at an imbalance with my pace.  Training with awareness to those small details has brought my body and mind into an unprecedented mutual understanding.

Killer InstinctI don’t have it.  Even in the couple races I have managed to win, I never really felt confident in my prospects for victory.  Not allowing for the possibility of victory is a mental obstacle that obviously holds back any serious athlete.  Developing confidence in my own abilities will be crucial to get where I want to go in this sport.

WinterI had a conversation with Rickey Gates recently about training through the winter in Aspen.  He argued that winter training at 8,000 feet makes you a tougher person but not necessarily a faster runner.  I can’t say I disagree.  Routes become a lot more contrived as asphalt becomes the most practical surface and the cold, short days don’t illicit a lot of inspiration.  Rickey has, at least temporarily, relocated to the Bay Area where he probably gets to shred pristine single track everyday of the year.  Still though, I love nothing more than a lonely pre-dawn jog on a frozen, silent Rocky Mountain morning.  Winter training in Aspen is amazing even if it means I  go through a lot of batteries and have significantly more laundry to do at the end of the week.

Just Jogging - Following the TNF 50 in San Francisco last month was awe inspiring and indicative of the paradigm shift occurring in our sport.  Watching Mike Wolfe and Dakota Jones sustain 7:30 miles over 50+ miles with 10,000+ feet of climbing was just silly.  It was these performances that convinced me that the “just jogging” training program would no longer be sufficient for races under 100 miles.  I don’t know how yet, but I anticipate incorporating at least a little bit more hard/fast running into my routine in 2012.

Farming FitnessI have a good buddy and coworker who is an avid crossfitter and gym rat.  He goes through two cycles in his training: “cultivating mass” and “harvesting mass”.  The cultivation involves putting on weight and building serious muscle while the harvest involves leaning down and allowing the cultivated mass to announce its presence (getting ripped).  I love this metaphor and find it very applicable to running training cycles.  The cultivation of fitness obviously happens during training blocks of massive volume and the harvest becomes the taper for and execution of a goal race.  I’ve been cultivating for a couple months now.  It’s time to harvest the fitness.

Here’s to a successful 2012! Fire it up.

 

 

14 Responses

  1. nickp

    Hope you start the new year off right next weekend in TX! Go grab your spot for the track meet…

    December 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    • dylan

      Thanks buddy. Gonna try my darndest.

      December 31, 2011 at 4:04 pm

  2. Scott

    Fitness Farming has been a very important concept for me. Not only because of what each stage stands for, but for the fact that there are two distinct phases of training in my routine. Knowing each phase well and eating and training according to meeting the very different goals of both the “cultivating” and “harvesting” phases I am able to perform better at both of them. Although cultivating is quite a bit more enjoyable than harvesting. Good luck with your fitness farming D-Bo, it’s time for you to harvest for Jan. 7th.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    • dylan

      Crabwalking all over fools!

      December 31, 2011 at 4:05 pm

  3. Sweet post Dylan.

    PS – you need a new background before your sponsors see this.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    • dylan

      Ha! You’re right, but I love that photo. Hopefully we’ll run into each other soon, George.

      December 31, 2011 at 4:06 pm

  4. Neal Gorman

    Dylan,

    Good post. You have loads of potential. Work on that post race stomach though, okay? : )

    I know I will see you in Squaw.

    Late!
    Neal

    December 30, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    • dylan

      Thanks Neal! I’ll be in squaw either way. The only question is whether its as a racer or spectator. Look forward to seeing you there.

      December 31, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  5. kimberly Bowman

    Can’t wait to cheer you on in 2012.
    Happy New Year……Lots of Love..

    December 31, 2011 at 5:38 am

    • dylan

      Love ya Kimmy! Come visit me for your BDay.

      December 31, 2011 at 4:09 pm

  6. Shred-Bo, show the Texans what you are made of!

    “While most are dreaming of success, winners wake-up and work hard to achieve it.”

    January 6, 2012 at 8:34 pm

  7. Mike Alfred

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my heart after a hard race effort in May of last year that basically knocked me out of serious competition for the following 7 months. Your post is the first thing I’ve read that has accurately put in to words something that I’ve thought about only in abstract terms. Congrats on a great year and I look forward to reading more thoughtful posts like this in 2012.

    January 10, 2012 at 4:09 am

    • dylan

      Thanks Mike! Yeah, its hard to really notice heart fatigue as opposed to every other muscle because it doesn’t actually “hurt.” It really is a great indicator of what your body is willing and able to handle though. Thanks for reading, I appreciate the kind words!

      January 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm

  8. Pingback: RunTheUltras » Competition is Heating Up, For Everyone

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