I've been wavering back and forth between posting this or just keeping it to myself, but I've decided to go ahead and throw it out there. Mostly this is just a personal thing, a mindset really, and something that Geoff commented on his 2008 season. Not that I view this coming season in the same way, but perhaps on a far smaller scale.
The past 5-6 months I've been more and more committed to the belief that I have an untapped potential that I think will begin to unfold in the next year or two. Hellgate certainly brought a lot of that out in me, and even Steamboat to some degree. I realize that the base of my running career is extremely small, and that as it has increased I've been able to see marketed gains in both performance and endurance. I beleive that I still have a long way to go, but I've started to feel the hunger of competition grow in ways I've never really thought I'd get to, and especially not this quickly.
In my short history I've always been an above average athlete, though this athletic talent was always channeled towards team sports, specifically baseball. It wasn't until I developed a focus and a desire to get better (about 14/15 for me) that I was able to really make strides and become a great player. While I wasn't the best, I was able to turn myself into a pretty decent D2 hitter and an ABCA Division II All-West Reigion player. Apart from perhaps those years from 14-17 where I played essentially year round on various teams, the past year has produced the most focused athletic training that I've ever done. As I observe others in the ultrarunning world, most have a far longer history of running, especially in the upper tiers. The one thing I do have on my side is a bit of time; I just turned 26 on 12/31 (I really started running around 23-24). I'd like to think that by the time I'm 30 I could be winning or finishing on the podium in many races. Perhaps that is a stretch, perhaps not.
I think that there are some people out there who do not want to attempt to find the best possible versions of themselves for fear that they might not live up to what they thought they "could" be. It's easier to be able to say "I could have done this or that" than it is to say "I wasn't able to do that even though I tried." I want to be able to say the latter if what I'm shooting for doesn't work out. I look at Steamboat as an example of what didn't work out, I went for it, made some bad decisions, and paid for it. I can, however, say that I wasn't afraid to fail. It sucks, but I'm ok with that.
Initially at Hellgate I was mostly reserved, and it wasn't until about 50K that I decided to really hang it out on the line. Perhaps that was smart, but at the point, I had no idea if I could withstand the last 20 miles. The craziest thing about the finish of that race; I was running up the road to the line thinking to myself, "I could still run more if I had to." I was tired, but not fully finished racing. That thought, and the 30 caffinated gels I ate had me wired until about 11pm that night after not sleeping the night before.
When I look at this season, I think I can place well in almost every race I intend to run. While I'm unsure of what I can do at Way Too Cool, I believe I can win in Wyoming, and I'll comment on the rest of the summer later. I'm also looking at the courses in a far different manner then I did a year ago. As I look at WTC, I look directly to 28K and see an opportunity to attack the course. In the past, I've looked at areas where I would struggle and view the rest of the course as simply something to get through. Now I see things differently, and I look at the course in a manner of "what do I need to do so that when I hit 28K I can really turn it on and catch some people?"
In any case, I beleive that I am stronger runner than I currently am, or I at least have the potential to be. I beleive that I can show up to many races with a shot to contend for a top spot as ludacris as that may sound to some. I'm ready for competition, and I'm hungry for the next level.
I believe the key to attaining whatever success may come in my future (or not) lies in a focused approach to this season and the next few years. This entails (but is not limited to) a focused goal in training, proper planning of races, proper planning for rest, and the ability to keep the desire to get better in the front of my mind.
I'm not going to be in top form come March, but maybe perhaps I'll be able to peak sometime say in August... maybe...