For Ultra Runner Andy Pearson, it’s been one crazy year out on the trails—in the mountains, through the forests, across the deserts, through the snow, across the Europe. It was a year filled with many, many highs and a fair amount of lows too.
So, in order to get your heads right for a big 2014, here's big lessons learned in 2013:
by Ultra Runner Andy Pearson
Run with people who push you.
I was lucky enough to fall into a great group of friends with the Coyotes. Early on in the year I started running Tuesday mornings with a smaller group and becoming close with them. Each morning I would learn from their experience, listen to their advice and just try to keep up. It really was the most important thing for my training all year, and I’m incredibly indebted to them for it.
Speed work, do it.
I learned the importance of speed work in dramatic fashion at Pine to Palm, squeaking across the finish in under 20 hours by mere seconds. My kick started 15 miles prior at a flat-out sprint. That was 100% speed work.
Set stupid goals.
Along the same lines, in my three big finishes this year, I set stupid goals for myself towards the end of the race. There was no way I thought I could make it in under 8 hours at Ray Miller, 18 at Zion or 20 at P2P. But I committed to them and just went for it. Doing so, I learned I have a pretty mean kick if I go for it. Thanks, OCD!
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.
I learned at races like Ray Miller and Zion just how much consistency can play into performance. Always eat. Always drink
. No matter what. I didn’t adhere to this at Bryce, and I paid for it.
Tapering is real. And it works.
Immediately before both Zion and P2P—my two best races all year—I was on vacation. Not only did I not run much, I over indulged on yummy food and drinks. I was worried about racing after slacking so hard, but in both cases I went into the races really rested and relaxed. (And honestly I probably had a little extra fat to tap into during the race). While I won’t vacation before every race next year, I’m going to get serious about having a full taper from now on.
Put your phone away.
I took a nasty spill in June that set me back for a while, all because I was running with my phone out. Ultimately it made me miss Leadville this year. A total bummer. Since then, I’ve stopped bringing my phone on runs. It’s just not worth it. Unless you know there’s going to be an awesome sunrise. Then, you know, at least stop for a second to snap the picture.
Know when to quit.
Bryce was no fun from the start. I could barely breathe, and the race only devolved from there. I usually tell people that running ultras is just about being more stubborn than other people for a longer period of time. But at Bryce I learned when it’s OK to say enough is enough. It didn’t feel like a good thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.
Pacing is an amazing gift. Some of my fondest memories from the entire year are the hours I spent on trails pacing friends or being paced myself. Pacing is just about the most selfless thing you can do for someone. It’s a wonderful feeling to both give and receiving it. I want to do much more of it next year.
Injuries suck. I don’t know what more to say. I’ve dealt with four different injuries this year and am still trying hard to come back from the latest. The only things I’ve learned so far is to seek the advice of someone smarter than you as fast as you possibly can and return to running as slowly as you possibly can. Also, I need to cross-train more. Hello, yoga.
Always choose adventure. When I quit my job and started running the Camino across Spain I had a vague notion of what I was doing. As bummed as I am that it ended early, the adventure was like no other. Those eight days I spent running halfway across Spain will never be replicated (unless I attempt it again). There’s life outside of racing and training. There’s a third aspect to running that we should all focus on more: adventuring. The more I run, the more I want to start running on my own terms. There’s a deeper satisfaction you get when you do it yourself.
Running actually has very little to do with running. We call it running, but it’s more about fellowship with friends, a deep appreciation of the truly awesome world we’ve been blessed with and constant striving to become a better human being. That’s why I ran in 2013.
Hope you had as remarkable a 2013 as I did. Here’s to one of the best years of my life and to an even better one next year.