Saturday, 27 December 2014


Each year I always aim to explore new parts of the running world as well as enjoying favorite races like they're old friends. I expect the highlights to be the races where things work out perfectly but that's generally not the case.

Although I did have fun at the races I focused on (Rocky Raccoon 100, Western States 100 and Leadville Trail 100), the highlights of the year were very different. The first of these was running the Grand Canyon Rim 2 Rim 2 Rim with Sean Meissner, one of the most beautiful runs I've been on. Much as many ultra runners focus on races, I think the biggest benefit of getting fitter is that it makes epic long runs possible, delving deep into remote locations. That includes a lot of summits of my local hill, Mt Diablo.

The Big Ditch in a more relaxed fashion.

A couple of years ago I ran the 40-mile route around Mt Hood in Oregon with friends and this was equally as fun so that style of run is something I want to do more of when I move back to Oregon next year (a few other items on the to do list include circumnavigating the Three Sisters, climbing Mts Hood, Rainier and Shasta, running portions of the Oregonian section of the Pacific Crest Trail and a couple of other ideas much farther afield).

Back to 2014, the two most enjoyable races were extremely competitive events where I chose to just enjoy the experience rather than push as hard as I could. I've done that plenty of times at smaller, local races but never at major competitions. These races were Lake Sonoma 50  and Comrades in South Africa. Again, part of the fun was having the fitness to be able to run well but holding back to avoid the pain and suffering associated with a maximum effort. In particular, Comrades was most enjoyable for seeing Ellie Greenwood (who I started coaching a few months earlier) win from the best seat in the house - running around the same pace to see her take the lead and run around the stadium while the crowd went wild for her win. Even though I love Comrades and have always given it my all, having some very rewarding hard runs, this one where the glory was all Ellie's was so much better.

Congratulating Ellie at the finish of Comrades before she was whisked off for TV interviews.

Then the other highlights of the year include summiting some of California's and Colorado's 14ers in the US. There's something truly inspiring about reaching high places and I've never been anywhere more beautiful than the Himalayas (back in 2008) so the High Sierra and various parts of the Rockies were perfect playgrounds. Mt Whitney was very busy but still worth seeing since it deserves the attention. I even met a friend at the summit by coincidence (Chikara Omine), despite it being in the middle of a wilderness area and an 11-mile hike to get to the top.

Mt Whitney at 14,500ft - the highest point in the US outside Alaska.

More of Whitney and the High Sierras.
Colorado was a little too fun and I ended up going up a few too many mountains right before Leadville, but wouldn't change that in hindsight. My biggest week of vertical in the entire year was the first week I spent in Colorado at the start of August. The difference between the hordes at Whitney and the sparse hikers on the Rocky Mountain trails was a welcome surprise and in many ways I'd have preferred to keep doing that rather than racing Leadville and wrecking my legs for a few weeks! Below are a few shots with my favorite being the San Juans and Mt Sneffels (I especially liked it for the link via the name to Jules Vernes' Journey to the Center of the Earth).

View of Twin Lakes (on the Leadville course) from Mt Elbert

Mt Sherman

View from Mt Massive...possibly of Mt Elbert (I can't quite tell)

The mountains above Telluride, CO

Mt Sneffels - unbelievably beautiful (and my current desktop background)

The Leadville beer mile with my crew
So the year was more than I could have hoped for or expected because there was so much I didn't think I'd experience. That's the aim for every year if I'm truly honest and it's those unscripted moments that mean the most.

Even the last few months of the year worked out surprisingly well given I picked up a foot fracture on Mt Whitney back in July and spend most of the time off running post-August. The final races of the inaugural US Skyrunner Series kept me sane and it was a pleasure to see the first year go so well and be received by runners very positively. Directing the Series is fun but next year I'll be running many of the events myself, giving the perfect excuse to run in the mountains all across the US. Hope to see many of you out there too.

Runners on the final section of the ascent of Lone Peak at the RUT  in Montana (around 11,000ft)

Jeremy Wolf near the highest point at the Flagstaff Sky Run 55k (around 11,500ft)

Happy New Year and here's to a spectacular 2015! Give yourself goals but allow freedom to experience the unexpected too.

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