2017 Recap, 2018 Goals

2017 Recap

Onward! And upward? Or maybe sideways at least?

I don’t know that I’ll be able to top this one in 2018. Photo: Thomas Gathnam

As far as racing goes, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to top 2017. After working towards a number of goals for the past few years, they all seemed to converge at once. I raced at Kona (and had a pretty good race to boot). I started the year with my first overall win in any race of any form since Kindergarten (TWOT 100), and then I finished the year with another, actually getting to break the tape for the first time (Lookout Mountain 50 Miler).

Kona was a pretty incredible experience, even if the big crowds and hype isn’t really my scene.
TWOT was exactly my kind of scene: low key with a small group of great people. Photo: John Daniel

Two of my races ended up resulting in national championships (Miami Man Triathlon and Lookout Mountain 50 Miler). They’re really titles in name only, as I wasn’t actually competing against all the best in the nation, but maybe they can at least cover for those state titles I never could get in high school.

Despite a bike wreck and some clerical issues, the USAT Long Course National Championship was a great experience, and I came away as the top amateur and top American. Photo: Kristin Simpson
I had been aiming for this for two years, and after nearly getting derailed the week of the race I can’t think of a better way to have closed out the year. Photo: Jessi Kelly

Then of course there was Barkley. Barkley was my Super Bowl. My World Series, World Cup, green jacket, ok you get the idea. It had been my focus for years, and most other races I had done were merely training for Barkley. Finishing was an achievement for me that I really don’t know if I’ll ever surpass athletically.

Sometimes pictures really do speak 1,000 words, and this photo makes me feel my experience more than anything I could ever say. Photo: Alexis Berg

More than that, though, the journey to finishing Barkley taught me invaluable lessons that extend well past the bounds of athletic achievements that are admittedly somewhat arbitrary and in the big picture rather inconsequential. I came away a stronger, smarter, and better person from the experience (which would have been true even without the finish), and that ability to take on and reach goals with seemingly assured failure will apply to pursuits in all areas of my life.

Forgetting pants and working in a bike kit and dress shirt on the first day your new cohort of interns starts might seem like an inevitable failure, but we pulled through on that one and had a great summer. Photo: Michael Brett

In addition to the unbelievable support I received from my wife and family, I was also fortunate to become more a part of the ultrarunning community: some of the most supportive, giving, and fun people there are. I’ve made incredible friendships with people who have done amazing things, and essentially everyone I’ve met is someone I would enjoy hanging out with.

People like this are what makes ultrarunning even better than the mountains and forests alone. Photo: Kendra Miller

I was able to find a similar group of people with Team Every Man Jack, and enjoy the benefits of teammates who truly want everyone to achieve the best result they’re capable of. In the meantime I got to learn, oftentimes the hard way, how to navigate the world of social media and sponsorships.

Looking forward to another great year of racing with these guys. Photo: Talbot Cox

2017 Results

Date Race Place Time
Dec 16, 2017 Lookout Mountain 50 Miler 1 7:27
Nov 12, 2017 Long Course National Championship 2 4:23
Oct 14, 2017 Kona Ironman World Championship 60 9:13
Sep 10, 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championship 99 4:25
Jul 23, 2017 Ironman Lake Placid 18 9:25
Jun 18, 2017 Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 5 4:45
May 21, 2017 Columbia Triathlon
Apr 1, 2017 Barkley Marathons 1 59:30
Feb 10, 2017 TWOT 100 1 26:35 (CR)

 

2018 Goals

So where does that leave me for 2018? That’s a good question. I’m down in San Antonio right now, with my first race of the year tomorrow at Bandera 100K. I’m honestly just here to get a Western States and Spartathlon qualifier, and don’t really have any intention of doing much more at this one. Even if I did, there a good number of people here a good deal faster than me (men and women) and I hear there are zero briar patches or hills so steep you can reach straight forward and touch them where I can make up ground on those people.

I will be back at TWOT 100 in February, with the goal of lowering my course record to sub 24 hours. It’s a pretty big stretch goal, but it’s one I’m excited about and right there in my zone of difficulty that will keep me motivated. And it also has those steep hills I need. And I’m out of prize apple butter.

Need more apple butter. Photo: Antoinette Landragin

I’d also like to go for a few fastest known times this winter, possibly the Maryland 4 State Challenge and/or the Benton MacKaye Trail. Those will be pretty dependent on weather, family plans, and work, though.

In April I’m doing the London Marathon, which will actually be my first marathon not dressed in costume in nearly four years. I’m excited to see what I can do now, but at the same time I’m not going to build my training around that.

The last time I ran a serious, standalone marathon was the 2014 Mohawk Hudson River Marathon. Photo: Gary Kelly

Then, my final season of competitive triathlon begins. After this year, I’m going to ultras full time. There are a lot of ultra goals I have that would happen during what has been my triathlon season. I also feel like there won’t be much left for me to pursue in terms of goals in triathlon, at least not enough to get me to keep subjecting myself to swimming. Doing different triathlons doesn’t excite me the same way that doing different ultras does. The races just don’t, and can’t, have the same level of uniqueness.

Ironman Lake Placid was an awesome, scenic course. But for me it still can’t approach the beauty of the trails. Photo: Patrick Kelly

With this being my last year of triathlon, though, I want to make sure I come out of it knowing that I reached my potential, and being completely satisfied with the efforts I put in to it. So throughout these next few months I’m going to try to do something that I haven’t done the past few years: continue to work on my bike and swim.

I’ve already joined a Masters swimming group, and have continued to do my bike commutes the last couple of months. Last year I was 2 minutes off my age group podium at Kona, after coming out of the water in 854th place. Originally I only planned on doing Kona that once, but now the goal is to go back one more time and see what I can do if I learn how to swim and strengthen my bike a bit.

Hopefully I can make it back here and next time only a few hundred or so of these people will come out of the water ahead of me. Photo: Talbot Cox

I’ll be going for an early season Kona Qualifier at IM Boulder at the beginning of June, a time at which in years past I would have only recently gotten back in the pool and on the bike after dedicating the winter to Barkley training. If I don’t qualify at Boulder I’ll probably take one more shot at a later season race.

In the middle of the season I have the awesome opportunity to go represent Team USA at the amateur Long Course World Championships in Denmark. I’m pretty excited about putting on the Team USA kit and seeing what I can do.

Then after Kona (if I make it there), I might do one final “victory lap” in triathlon by grabbing my pro card and racing as a pro at one last race. It’s one of those things that would be cool to look back on when I’m 85, and I don’t want to be disappointed at having the opportunity and not ever taking it.

Then, then I burn my goggles and wetsuit. Ok no, I’ll probably at least sell the wetsuit. And I might do a recreational triathlon here and there in the future, but I’m definitely never training for the swim again. Maybe I’ll do an occasional competitive duathlon (if I can find one that’s long enough) as I do enjoy biking and feel like I can keep up my fitness there without it adversely affecting my ultra training.

Unless I’m here to play Marco Polo or Sharks and Minnows with my kids, in about 10 months I’m done with you pool.

But otherwise, it will be all ultras all the time. I’m already excited about some of the ideas I have for 2019. A lot can happen in a year, though, and who even knows where I’ll be at the time. So for now, those will just remain as ideas lurking in the back of my mind.

Good luck to everyone with your 2018 goals! Reach far, don’t be afraid of failure, and enjoy the experience not just the outcome. Even if 2018 race goals aren’t reached, the pursuit of them should leave you better from it come 2019, and that should be the main goal above all.

As for me, I truly might not be able to top my personal 2017 outcomes, but I can guarantee at least two things: 1) I will continue to push my boundaries and never regress in terms of challenges and continuous improvement, and 2) I will seek to help others reach their goals, as the sum of outcomes across many will always be able to exceed anyone’s individual outcomes.

Current Confirmed 2018 Schedule

Date Race
Jan 6, 2018 Bandera 100K
Feb 17, 2018 TWOT 100M
Apr 22, 2018 London Marathon
May 19, 2018 General Smallwood Triathlon
Jun 10, 2018 Ironman Boulder
Jun 24, 2018 Columbia Triathlon
Jul 14, 2018 ITU Long Course World Championship

 

16 thoughts on “2017 Recap, 2018 Goals

  • January 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm
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    love that pic from the office 🙂 I’ve been commuting for about 5 years now and it’s my one and constant fear: did I pack the office clothes? no occasion to take such a pic so far…

    I like reading your posts (I mean I like the way you write) and am learning a lot from them. congrats on your results and experiences this year and enjoy 2018!

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    • January 5, 2018 at 9:28 pm
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      Thank you, I’m glad you like reading them and get some good takeaways from them! The day after that mishap in the office I got pants, shoes, and a belt that always remain at the office under all circumstances along with my emergency underwear, socks, and shirts. Never again!

      Reply
  • January 5, 2018 at 3:38 pm
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    Thanks so much for sharing. It was a great year for you. I hope this year brings you the success you hope to achieve.

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  • January 5, 2018 at 3:41 pm
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    Good luck for your events this year. You should come to Australia and do some of our events eg UTA, Sri Chinmoy Canberra Ultra and the GNW100km or 100miles. Great location for a family holiday

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    • January 5, 2018 at 9:31 pm
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      Half of our company is located in Adelaide, and I have loved my visits down there (none in the past 2 years, though). I’m sure one day I’ll make it back down there with the family and sneak a race in.

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      • January 7, 2018 at 8:31 pm
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        We also have a race in early December that goes from the beach to the highest mountain. It called Coast to Kosci (C2K) and it’s 245km. I’ll crew for you if you come.

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        • January 7, 2018 at 9:54 pm
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          Thanks, looks like a great race! Doubt I’ll be in Australia or in shape for 245km in December, though. Will keep it in mind if that changes, though!

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  • January 5, 2018 at 4:24 pm
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    Been following your twitter/blog since I also qualified at IMMD in 2016. I did not have a remarkable day in Kona but understand wanting another shot at it. I also raced Miamiman and will see you in Denmark! Congrats on a fantastic season, it’s been fun to follow along!

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    • January 5, 2018 at 9:37 pm
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      Fixed the year for you (kind of odd it lets me edit other people’s comments, but I guess useful for something like this). I think you were at my table at the IMMD awards banquet. Sorry to hear about your race in Kona, but sometimes there are just off days. Looking forward to seeing you in Denmark, and hoping you crush it there!

      Reply
  • January 6, 2018 at 9:12 pm
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    Quality training without real passion can be pretty hard, I hope your swimming comes together okay for Kona.

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    • January 7, 2018 at 5:41 pm
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      Passion is in the outcome. I don’t think anyone really enjoys intervals or hours of repeats on a tiny hill either, but you do what you have to do to achieve the outcomes you want to achieve (and that applies well beyond sports).

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  • April 9, 2018 at 12:56 pm
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    Probably a bit late but, Thank You for the way you write about your experiences and probably motivate a lot of people by that. As a noob in ultrarunning (more like crazy fast hiking) I stole your wish for 2018: “Reach far, don’t be afraid of failure, and enjoy the experience not just the outcome.”
    My “far” is a very different kind of “far” to your “far” (and slower and shorter) but I reached, failed, learned and enjoyed the experience of getting better the next time.
    Thx again and all the best to you.
    Dirk

    Reply
    • April 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm
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      Thank you Dirk, that’s awesome to hear! And it sounds like you’re off to a great year. Focusing on your own personal goals actually came up in a conversation today, and here’s what I said then:

      anyone who is in this sport to compare their “toughness” to others rather than to themselves is in it for the wrong reason. ‘I need to do this to show so and so how tough I am’ is never going to get someone as far as ‘I need to do this to prove to myself what I’m capable of.’ Do what you enjoy and what you feel provides you with the best measuring stick for yourself.

      Best of luck with the rest of the year and enjoy the progress!

      Reply

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