2014: A (probably) Disrespectful Retrospective

Thursday, January 08, 2015

I’m rather late in getting this year-end post out, but I regret nothing. Between TNF and now, I’ve done no hard running. It’s been great. All recovery/endurance runs per Koop’s instructions. Christmas and New Year’s were fun, as Rachelle was here for a couple of weeks. We built a LEGO Death Star.




12 building hours later.

We also spent Christmas at my parents’ house and New Year’s at The Deuce (can’t get enough). Between the two, we ventured up to Mt. Baker (45 mins east of Bellingham, WA), to meet up with some of her friends from Vancouver who rented a house. I didn’t run a step during the 4 days we were in Baker, which was pre-planned, but also fortuitous, as the day before our departure, I slipped in some mud about a mile into my run and slammed my left foot against a tree trunk lying along the trail. I ran the remaining 7 miles in moderate discomfort, but was concerned I’d broken at least one toe, as my foot looked like this that evening:

12-26-2014 Toe Stub

Toejammed but not quite broken. No, my foot is not pretty. I know that.

Thankfully, the swelling and discoloration decreased pretty quickly and I was able to resume running last Wednesday, right on schedule, with relatively little discomfort (it’s now basically back at 100%). In the meantime, however, I managed to pick up a lovely little illness that saw me sleep 31 of the 33 hours between Monday night and Wednesday morning. This setback forced me to postpone my plans to start my workouts for 2015 on Tuesday, but I’m feeling almost 100% today and will start up tomorrow. Time for some VO2 max-type stuff. Anything but tempo 😛

Anyways, enough with the chit chat. Similar to last year, here are some highlights, lowlights, and lessons learned from 2014 (in no particular order):

  1. I like ultras even more than I did a year ago. I’m not sure what my favorite distance is, because I’m still relatively new (plus I haven’t yet raced the 100k distance), but I can’t wait to race more and find out.
  1. If I want to improve at the longer distances, I need to race more of them. This might seem obvious, but it’s still good to hold one’s self accountable by writing it down as a reminder. Nutrition, motivation, pacing, and training all need to be honed even more specifically for the longer races and any sort of gap in preparation will becoming glaringly evident in the later miles.
  1. The Nike Trail Team. Getting to run for Nike is a huge honor. The team members never cease to amaze and inspire, our manager Pat is the man, and the company is more supportive than I thought possible. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity and can’t wait for 2015 to unfold. Big things are in store.
XC-style start at an ultra (credit: unknown).

XC-style start at an ultra (credit: unknown).

  1. 6th straight fastest time at Dipsea. This year saw the additions of Galen and Rickey to the invitational field, and I certainly had my work cut out for me. I think my past experience may have been the only difference in recapturing that honor this year, as it was both of their first times running the race, and anyone who’s run it can tell you there’s a big learning curve.
Top 4 at Dipsea 2014

Top 4 at Dipsea 2014

  1. 7th at Western States. This finish is probably the one of which I am proudest. I trained hard (albeit somewhat blindly), ran hard, and it paid off. Surely some luck was in there to contribute, but I don’t think you get any of the luck if you don’t put in the hard work first. I will never forget coming on to the track in Auburn and rounding the final bend.
The finish line was most welcome at this point. (credit: Matt Trappe)

The finish line was most welcome at this point. (credit: Matt Trappe)

  1. People are everything. Crew members, teammates, friends, volunteers, and even strangers – everyone plays a role. Let’s dive deeper…

a. Crew members: My crew from Western States sticks out the most to me this year. Rachelle, Vargo, and Magda all selflessly volunteered to do a pretty thankless job, namely, getting me to run 100 miles. Rachelle did an amazing job getting everything I needed, being wherever I needed her to be, and putting up with more than her share of petulance along the way from yours truly (“No, this ice pack is too big!”). Vargo and Magda put up with my surliness and gel-induced peaks/troughs as I was dealing with my IT band/knee pain in the 2nd half of the race, but never let me falter and kept me moving towards the finish. Thank you. This experience truly showed me how a good crew can make a race and I’m beyond excited to have 2/3 of it back in place for WS 2015.

team varner 1

Best. Crew. Ever.

b. Teammates: As I already said, being on the Nike team is fantastic. The support we receive from Nike is phenomenal, but the teammates are what really give it a spirit. It’s reminiscent of being back on a college team, with stupid inside jokes, off-color humor, basically everything except the communal showers. It keeps competition fun.

Nike train on Old Mine (that's Zach's left elbow) (credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

Nike train on Old Mine (that’s Zach’s left elbow) (credit: iRunFar/Bryon Powell)

c. Friends: Similar to crew, they provide unfaltering support, although less cajoling is usually involved. One of my favorite moments of the year came just after crossing the finish line at Lake Sonoma, when I got one of the best hugs ever from Jorge, during which Matt Laye came up and said that I’d gotten a spot to Western. So here’s to the friends I’ve made, ones I’ve become closer with, and ones I’m yet to meet. Hard to believe a year ago, the #TamBros were barely a thing.

Hugs. Hugs for everyone.(credit: Tanner Johnson)

Hugs. Hugs for everyone.(credit: Tanner Johnson)

TamBros at #TheDeuce (credit: I don't remember).

TamBros at #TheDeuce. Thank goodness that beard on the right is gone.

d. Volunteers: More of the most selfless people you’ll meet. They choose to spend their day handing out electrolytes, salt, and various snack foods to runners in all manners of spirits. Race directors and racers alike rely on them for free, mostly cheerful labor and our sport wouldn’t be possible without their generosity.

e. Strangers: Generally, stranger danger is a good term to stick to, but sometimes it isn’t true. Volunteers are often strangers, for example. So are the thousands of people who line the streets/trails of a major (ultra)marathon to cheer for the runners. They provide an unending source of energy to the participants and can make a world of difference.

  1. Undoubtedly, I experienced some of the lowest lows I’ve ever had while racing this year. At Lake Sonoma, the last 8-10 miles were interminable. I was in new territory and had no idea what to expect and it was rough. That prepared me somewhat for that I found at Western, but it was nowhere near enough, as at times it felt as though I would be running forever. I never thought of stopping, but it did seem as if I would never reach the finish line. The recovery time post-Western was also a low point, because although I was not “injured” per se, it certainly seemed like it, as my knees hurt and I was unable to run as I wanted to. Long after the fatigue was gone, my IT bands still refused to cooperate, and I realized I have a lot of learning to do about recovery.
Remember: Recovery isn't all bad.

Remember: Recovery isn’t all bad.

Edit: 9. Being named male rookie of the year by AJW and finding myself at #10 on the UROY list are hugely unexpected honors. I’ve got big shoes/expectations to fill in 2015, and will do my very best to do so.

Finally, some stats from 2014:

Total Miles: 4,001 (Strava has more, but I round my spreadsheet down)

Miles Raced: 409.4

Highest Week: 124 (Western States week)

Days off: 50 (compared to 12 last year)

Weekly Average: 77.8

Daily Average: 12.7

Feet climbed: 436,934

Tam Summits: 21

Lifetime total (that I know of): 27,008

Here are a few charts for the stat people out there:

Yearly Totals Miles by Month Annual Mileage Totals Miles Raced

I think that’s about it. Cheers if you’ve read this whole thing, and here’s to a most excellent 2015. Best of luck with your upcoming races and maybe I’ll see you out there. Speaking of races, here’s my tentative 2015 schedule:

April 11 – Lake Sonoma 50

April 20 – Boston Marathon

May 2 – Canyons 100k

June 27 – Western States 100

August 28 – CCC

About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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3 Responses to 2014: A (probably) Disrespectful Retrospective

  1. Pingback: Daily News, Fri, Jan 9

  2. Enjoyed reading your thoughtful, modest, and data-filled post. Best wishes for your 2015 race goals!

  3. Pingback: 2015: A year in review | And miles to go before I eat…

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