What a year 2015 was, and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. It was always going to be hard to surpass the high of a World Championship medal, or the excitement of my first research publication that came in 2014…and I didn’t. Yet, I still finished 2015 more satisfied than I began it.
Spending the first half of the year sidelined with injury provided an opportunity for reflection and despite curtailing my ambitions for the year, it also helped place them in perspective. Although I could only hike for many months, I was loving the refreshing change of pace. While I still love the challenge of an intimidating goal and I am still super competitive, it was a reminder that it is the day-to-day lifestyle that I love the most; the inner peace that time along in the bush brings, the friendships forged on the trails, the mediative experience of endurance training and the sense of accomplishment that a good session brings.
As many people do when injured, I found myself wondering if I could ever return to my former level of fitness. Watching Blake’s and Scotty’s amazing runs at the Buffalo Stampede Marathon and TNF100 (now UTA) respectively had me both elated for them, while also downright panicked for myself. How could I ever get to that level when I had to be careful not to walk too far?!?! But this was good. It forced me to stop worrying about anyone else was doing – it was pointless – and just focus on enjoying my own time in the mountains.
I finished my Bachelor of Physics at UQ with Class I honours, and didn’t even have time to attend my graduation before I flew over to Europe for a month in the Alps. This was exactly what I needed both physically and mentally. The many hours of hiking each day slowly brought back strength to my legs and injured foot, while clearing my mind in the process. This was what it’s all about…no thoughts of time, distance or elevation, just pure exploration. It was also a reminder that I am still truly a novice in the mountains, without the climbing experience to summit many of the glorious peaks that I visited. I left excited for the challenge of developing those skills and feeling ready to return to “normal life” back home.
Of course, “normal life” is always changing, and within days of returning I started my PhD in theoretical physics at UQ, and moved into a nearby apartment with some fellow PhD candidates. With my foot feeling strong once again, I was able to starting running more and more each week. The Coastal High 50 was its first real test, and was ultimately the sign (for me) that I could start to prepare for the Hounslow Classic without constant fear of it breaking down again. After a careful build up, Hounslow was ultimately one of several good races in short succession. I was loving the feeling of racing once again, both from the perspective of being able to push myself in a variety of beautiful locations, and from connecting more to the ANZ trail running community. Ultimately I feel that I may have gotten over eager, trying to race the Mount Donna Buang VK just one week after the Sky Rock n’ Run Marathon, but I standby my decision, having thoroughly enjoyed both experiences and having plenty of time to rest afterwards.
So what will 2016 hold for me? While it is impossible to see the future, I do already have much of the first half of the year planned out. After taking part in the 6ft Track Marathon training camp (to be held in the Blue Mountains in mid-January) I will be kicking of my 2016 races with my first 100km since the 2014 TNF100 at the stunning Ultra Easy in Wanaka. Keeping on the theme of Skyrunning ANZ races, I’ll be doing the Hilary 34km in February and then looking for redemption (from 2014) at the Buffalo Stampede Ultramarathon in April. I simply can’t keep away from UTA (there’s just so much to love about it), so I’ve entered the 50km (in May) this year. Then the Mt Difficult Ascent Marathon (in June) will be my final race before the ultimate focus of the year, the Skyrunning World Championships Ultramarathon held in Spain at the Buff Epic Trail in July. While I have a lot emotionally invested in this race, I hope I can keep the perspective that I learnt this year. I do have plans, but no commitments, for the later part of 2016, so I won’t go putting anything in writing about that just yet 😉
So I am thoroughly looking forward to 2016. The places I’ll see, the time I’ll spend with friends and family, the things I’ll learn, the mountains I’ll climb, the challenges I’ll face and the trails I’ll run (the list keep going).
Bring it on =)