2019: A 1/2 year review

On this day 3 years ago I decided to be a runner.  I started with a half mile run and with a goal of a 2,190 mile run (Appalachian Trail).  I mean, if a journey of a 1,000 miles starts with a single step, than a journey of 2,000 miles starts with a half mile, right?  I figured it would take 10 years of training to be ready for the AT.  This is my 10 year master plan and the first half of year 3 has been pretty rad. 

1st Run.jpg

1,350 miles isn’t a lot of miles for a competitive ultra-runner to log in the first half a year.  Miles have been lower to spend additional time recovering from racing so many FKT’s, ultra-marathons and long distance adventure races.  But man, the places these legs have taken me the first 6 months of 2019.

50 states & 16 countries run, 7 FKT’s broken, 6 national parks run, 3 logistically complicated speed records set, 2 ultra-marathon race wins & 1 continent traversed.  I’ve also broken 2 ribs, torn cartilage, ruptured blood vessels, sprained multiple joints, battled heat stroke, smashed my face up and taken so many ice baths to reduce swelling that I no longer flinch or hesitate when entering the ice. 

My 2019 litmus test is National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. If something would help my resume for that nomination, I do it. If it doesn’t, I don’t. I made a spreadsheet. I’m roughly on pace if I can knock out a few more FKT’s and get my summer race win over the next 6 weeks. Nolan’s looms in the distance.

My 2019 litmus test is National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. If something would help my resume for that nomination, I do it. If it doesn’t, I don’t. I made a spreadsheet. I’m roughly on pace if I can knock out a few more FKT’s and get my summer race win over the next 6 weeks. Nolan’s looms in the distance.

Since it would be impossible to write an accurate review of the past 6 months with anything short of a book… here are my 10 favorite photos from the first half of my year (caption included for each photo for the sake of additional context).

Deep Freeze FKT: The 28 mile ‘Adventure Hiking Trail’ on the Ohio/Kentucky border is one of the most gnarly trails I’ve run. It was nearly zero degrees, the trails goes directly up the bluffs, it was awesome. The speed record was previously held by Troy Shellhamer who won the inaugural Tunnel Hill 100. I started off frustrated with un-runnable sections, getting off course twice and complications from the freezing temperatures (frozen feet, fingers and water lines). But once I let go of expectations and just ran, I was able to enjoy the beauty of this untamed land. It ended up being possibly my favorite run ever.

Deep Freeze FKT: The 28 mile ‘Adventure Hiking Trail’ on the Ohio/Kentucky border is one of the most gnarly trails I’ve run. It was nearly zero degrees, the trails goes directly up the bluffs, it was awesome. The speed record was previously held by Troy Shellhamer who won the inaugural Tunnel Hill 100. I started off frustrated with un-runnable sections, getting off course twice and complications from the freezing temperatures (frozen feet, fingers and water lines). But once I let go of expectations and just ran, I was able to enjoy the beauty of this untamed land. It ended up being possibly my favorite run ever.

The North Rim: The Grand Canyon’s Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim has become an annual pilgrimage each January. This year I took a few friends and we crossed the canyon in 2 feet of snow. Caleb’s brilliant take on a Simpson’s episode was the turning point in my decision to shift from races to FKT’s and leaving behind the comfort of a high paying salaried job with nice benefits for the ultimate freedom and adventure of the great unknown. Who are you trying to impress? The people who matter or the weirdo’s at the worm store?

The North Rim: The Grand Canyon’s Rim-2-Rim-2-Rim has become an annual pilgrimage each January. This year I took a few friends and we crossed the canyon in 2 feet of snow. Caleb’s brilliant take on a Simpson’s episode was the turning point in my decision to shift from races to FKT’s and leaving behind the comfort of a high paying salaried job with nice benefits for the ultimate freedom and adventure of the great unknown. Who are you trying to impress? The people who matter or the weirdo’s at the worm store?

Canyonlands Fog: The FKT attempt on the Syncline Trail in Canyonlands National Park proved that all is fair in love, war and FKT’s. The previous record was absolutely smashed the day before I made my attempt. While I was able to run the fastest clockwise loop ever, I still fell a few minutes short of Liam’s time from only 24 hours previous. There is no second place in FKT’s. There is ony the knowledge you threw down the best you could, left nothing on the course and the experience of these epic places. There is no failure in these places. Trophies rust, records are broken and muscles atrophy… but the experience is forever.

Canyonlands Fog: The FKT attempt on the Syncline Trail in Canyonlands National Park proved that all is fair in love, war and FKT’s. The previous record was absolutely smashed the day before I made my attempt. While I was able to run the fastest clockwise loop ever, I still fell a few minutes short of Liam’s time from only 24 hours previous. There is no second place in FKT’s. There is ony the knowledge you threw down the best you could, left nothing on the course and the experience of these epic places. There is no failure in these places. Trophies rust, records are broken and muscles atrophy… but the experience is forever.

Carolina Climbing: The Black Mountain Crest Trail is the highest elevation trail of any east of the Mississippi River. It’s a gnarly trail so technical there are fixed ropes. My motto for this year has been “every second counts” and it was never more evident than when I broke the ascent record by 3 seconds. I broke 2 ribs on the descent as I ran out of control down the mountain on my way to breaking the round trip FKT by over 15 minutes. I’m not elite and I never will be but this FKT proved I can compete and was a huge confidence booster. This record will always have a special place in my heart as 6 years ago it’s where I rekindled my love the outdoors which eventually led to ultra/trail running.

Carolina Climbing: The Black Mountain Crest Trail is the highest elevation trail of any east of the Mississippi River. It’s a gnarly trail so technical there are fixed ropes. My motto for this year has been “every second counts” and it was never more evident than when I broke the ascent record by 3 seconds. I broke 2 ribs on the descent as I ran out of control down the mountain on my way to breaking the round trip FKT by over 15 minutes. I’m not elite and I never will be but this FKT proved I can compete and was a huge confidence booster. This record will always have a special place in my heart as 6 years ago it’s where I rekindled my love the outdoors which eventually led to ultra/trail running.

The Starting Line: The 2019 Get Lucky 50k started just before dawn on a freezing and perfect day. The starting line “corral” was the board walk along the lake. I love the start of races. There is always so much hope, adrenaline and energy. I came away with my spring ultra-win goal as well as a torn meniscus and 10 days off running. All things in balance as they should be.

The Starting Line: The 2019 Get Lucky 50k started just before dawn on a freezing and perfect day. The starting line “corral” was the board walk along the lake. I love the start of races. There is always so much hope, adrenaline and energy. I came away with my spring ultra-win goal as well as a torn meniscus and 10 days off running. All things in balance as they should be.

Bus Stop Devastation: Running trans-continent across the country of Panama in the 90+ degree heat and humidity was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I tried to hit time goals instead off paying attention to how much the heat/humidity was breaking me down. I had scraped snow of my windshield on the way to the airport. I love this photo. I love it because it shows the brokeness that succesful photos seemingly ignore. Some see success and assume it comes easily or naturally. It comes at a price few are willing to pay.

Bus Stop Devastation: Running trans-continent across the country of Panama in the 90+ degree heat and humidity was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I tried to hit time goals instead off paying attention to how much the heat/humidity was breaking me down. I had scraped snow of my windshield on the way to the airport. I love this photo. I love it because it shows the brokeness that succesful photos seemingly ignore. Some see success and assume it comes easily or naturally. It comes at a price few are willing to pay.

3:59am: Running in a record 13 countries in one day wasn’t necessarily a special athletic feat but it was easily the most complicated and logistically difficult endeavor of my life. From spending hours reading rental car contracts to make sure they were allowed in every country to planning the routes in unknown territory, this was a bear. When we somehow arrived in the Netherlands at 3:54am after a series of crazy setbacks, I ran a 5 min/mile to get a mile in each country in under 24 hours. I had one minute alone in the Dutch night to soak in that moment. It was my favorite moment of the year so far.

3:59am: Running in a record 13 countries in one day wasn’t necessarily a special athletic feat but it was easily the most complicated and logistically difficult endeavor of my life. From spending hours reading rental car contracts to make sure they were allowed in every country to planning the routes in unknown territory, this was a bear. When we somehow arrived in the Netherlands at 3:54am after a series of crazy setbacks, I ran a 5 min/mile to get a mile in each country in under 24 hours. I had one minute alone in the Dutch night to soak in that moment. It was my favorite moment of the year so far.

Kentucky Mountain Sunset: Running in a record 18 states in one day was an epic experience and whirlwind. While the “athletic achievement” wasn’t necessarily special, the pushing for 24 straight hours to finish just a few minutes before the clock struck 24 hours was epic. Most epic was Coree joining us after I randomly DM’ed him from the Outback Steakhouse bar while drinking a Diet Coke and eating a mashed potato as my weird form of self-care.

Kentucky Mountain Sunset: Running in a record 18 states in one day was an epic experience and whirlwind. While the “athletic achievement” wasn’t necessarily special, the pushing for 24 straight hours to finish just a few minutes before the clock struck 24 hours was epic. Most epic was Coree joining us after I randomly DM’ed him from the Outback Steakhouse bar while drinking a Diet Coke and eating a mashed potato as my weird form of self-care.

Sunrise in Pinckney: The Pinckney State Park has been my nemesis the past year. From having to drop out of the Run Woodstock 50 miler due to RD error to two failed attempts in the previous 5 weeks on the Potawatomi Trail, I just couldn’t get a win on these trails. This sunrise over the lake was spectacular. The conditions were perfect. I attacked the trail and true to the old saying… 4th time was the charm.

Sunrise in Pinckney: The Pinckney State Park has been my nemesis the past year. From having to drop out of the Run Woodstock 50 miler due to RD error to two failed attempts in the previous 5 weeks on the Potawatomi Trail, I just couldn’t get a win on these trails. This sunrise over the lake was spectacular. The conditions were perfect. I attacked the trail and true to the old saying… 4th time was the charm.

Racing the thunderstorms in Montana: For years I’ve been planning the “50 states 5k” adventure to break the speed record for visiting all 50 states while also running a 5k in each state. I broke the record for most miles run a week (156.9 miles in 6 days), dealt with excessive heat, massive sleep deprivation and the stress of nearly having the whole trip blow up in my face over cancelled flights to the starting line. But in the end, it was executed in spite of obstacles and the dream was realized. This photo encapsultes the entire experiece. The storms were coming but we always fought to stay ahead of them.

Racing the thunderstorms in Montana: For years I’ve been planning the “50 states 5k” adventure to break the speed record for visiting all 50 states while also running a 5k in each state. I broke the record for most miles run a week (156.9 miles in 6 days), dealt with excessive heat, massive sleep deprivation and the stress of nearly having the whole trip blow up in my face over cancelled flights to the starting line. But in the end, it was executed in spite of obstacles and the dream was realized. This photo encapsultes the entire experiece. The storms were coming but we always fought to stay ahead of them.

1/2 half of 2019 statistics:

1,361 - Total miles run
10 - States I’ve run at least 26.2 miles in
50 - States I’ve run at least 3.1 miles in
16 - Countries I’ve run at least 1 mile in
7 - Established FKT’s broken this year (most ever in 1 year)
2 - Ultra-Marathon wins