Now I've run my last race for the year, I thought I'd quickly sum up some of the highlights.
Last weekend I was meant to run the PCTR Rodeo Beach 50k, but about halfway through (when walking up yet another hill), I realised that my legs just weren't trained well enough for the hills and finishing would have just left me a bit crippled during the week. So I stopped at 30k having got some good flat and downhill practice in and having realised that zero hill training outside of races is a bad idea and will be remedied.
So, what were the best bits of 2010 (I'm going to exclude my wedding and stick to races or the list would be too long, too personal and even less interesting for anyone except myself)?
Well, it was basically a successful year. The main target was to break 6h at Comrades, and 6h01m may seem like a failure, but I ran near to a perfect race on the day and am very happy with how I kept shifting to a higher gear to finish strongly. I want to keep a streak going there for as long as possible since I love it, so it's a shame it takes about 40 hours to get to.
My next biggest highlight would be the number of really enjoyable runs I had, with several great events that felt easy and had me smiling the whole way through (not even a hint of a grimace). In particular, Two Oceans, Boston and Miwok spring to mind.
One thing I didn't expect on moving to the Bay Area was to find a gem of a race series in the Pacific Coast Trail Runs. These always have a great atmosphere for beginners to elites, as well as showcasing some spectacular scenery. I've been able to meet the local running community through these runs and I definitely like it.
There are too many other races to mention, but Western States was the other main event for the year. It was both a great experience and slightly overhyped but there's no doubt that the battle at the front of the men's race was something which will go down in history. I'm really looking forward to running it in 2011, possibly even more than 2010, especially now I know what I'm letting myself in for.
I've got a lot of great memories from 2010 on the trails and roads so I hope 2011 can live up to it. Unless I get injured, it should. A few other recommendations for ultrarunners are below, since these produced moments which brought home what a cool sport ultrarunning is:
1. Do some kind of Fat/Mad/Bad Ass race in the New Year. There are loads around and are so relaxed and so a perfect way to start 2011.
2. Finishing up the Eiffel Tower made the Eco Trail de Paris really worth entering. I think there'll be plenty of Serpie vests at the 2011 version.
3. Run one of the South African major ultras at some point in your life. Two Oceans is prettier and has the bonus of a trip to beautiful Cape Town, but Comrades is the daddy. Bigger, harder, older and basically more epic. I'm so glad I got to do both this year, however, it's too far to fit them both in every year so I'll have to wait for another chance to run Two Oceans again. And when I do, I'll be really excited about it. There's something special about a country that venerates ultrarunning above shorter distances.
4. Do a triple marathon or other multi-day race since there's no better way to get an instant 'we're all in it together' atmosphere. In the UK, the VOTwo events are perfect (Jurassic Coast and Atlantic Coast come highly recommended). But the best one has to be the Transalpine 8-dayer (and so I'd love to try the Trans Rockies 6-dayer too) and I'm gutted to have missed it this year. Luckily for Californians, Tahoe has options with PCTR organising some new stuff (including a 2-dayer) as well as the classic Tahoe triple on the roads. Or there's the numerous Marathon des Sables-type events in deserts around the world. But in general, these are some of the best events around and don't need to break the bank (except the desert races).
5. Run in the Marin Headlands. There are so many races there and many are extremely competitive, especially Miwok 100k and TNF Endurance Challenge Championship 50-miler. PCTR has loads of runs there too, and these have the benefit of not requiring lotteries to enter (like Miwok) and not always being in December (like TNFEC). On a clear day, there's probably nowhere I'd rather do a training run and even in the rain, it's hard not to smile even on the umpteenth huge hill.
Merry Christmas and good luck in 2011 with whatever your running goals are.