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So that’s why you’ve got to try – 2022 in Review

November 30, 2022

I’m looking down at the smooth, flat tow path and thinking to myself, “I should be running. I should be eating this path up.” But I’m not, I’ve been reduced to a walk. It’s frustrating, but I’m not overly rattled and that gets me thinking, “do I still care enough about racing?”

That path was the Chesapeake & Ohio tow path along the Potomac river and I was racing the JFK50 Mile, America’s oldest ultramarathon on Nov 19th. I walked about 10k before I got to the aid station at mile 39 (63k) where I officially dropped out and got a ride back to the start. Averaging about 10 minutes per kilometre during that final 10k I had a lot of time for contemplation.

One thing that I thought about a lot was how much I still care about competition. Shouldn’t I be really upset about dropping out of a race that I thought I’d be competitive in? Maybe I just have more balance and perspective in my life now and these things don’t upset me? And it wasn’t like I was giving in because of normal racing discomfort, the pain radiating from my pubic bone was intense and disconcerting.


This is how my 2022 races ended up:

Feb 12 – Black Canyon 100k (DNF @ 80k) – Overconfident I’d handle this race and I fell apart before 70k.

Mar 27 – Around the Bay 30k (2nd place) – Training run. I did a 65k run 9 days prior.

Apr 23 – Canyons 100k (15th) – Went as well as I expected for the first 75k, worst than I expected last 10k.

May 27 – Sulphur Springs 50k (2nd) – Training run. I ran 115k over 3 days with the race on the middle day.

Jun 25 – Western States 100 mile (25th) – Went well for 125k, finished with a 30k hike.

Sep 11 – Whistler Alpine Meadows 50k (DNF @ 40k) – Uphill was great, downhill destroyed me and I fell and hurt my foot.

Nov 19 – JFK 50 mile (DNF @ 63k) – Was feeling great until osteitis pubis flared up. Unsure if I would have held on well.

I managed to finish the year without a single race performance that I’m proud of. And yet I’m content because I took a shot, had amazing experiences and learned a ton.

I was really curious to test myself out in some big races in 2022 after dabbling in two ultras in 2021 and with Stoked Oats giving me a sponsored entry to Western States I wanted some experience on similar courses. Hence why I went to Black Canyon 100k (net downhill and hot) and Canyons 100k (run on much of the same course as WS).

I was really excited and curious for Western States but not necessarily confident. When I lined up I wasn’t bullish about hitting my top 10 goal but optimistic I could pull it off if things worked out perfectly (and things never go perfectly in an ultra). I put myself in a position to finish in the top 10 through 50k but I also held back after 100k to make sure I finished. It’s a good thing I held back a bit because I ended up hiking most of the last 30k, it could have been worse. WS was an amazing experience and I was stoked (see what I did there?) that I was able to run fairly well for 125k and get the belt buckle.

Duncan Canyon aid station. I wore Salomon Ultra Glides for my first 4 ultras this year.
Photo by crew member Alex MacLean.
Somewhere around Cal 2 on the WS course. I swapped into a new pair of Ultra Glides halfway through the race. Photo by pacer Cal Neff.

I didn’t put any races on the calendar for 2.5 months after WS to make sure I recovered well. After 19.5 hours on the Western States course the prospect of racing for 5-6 hours seemed manageable. Although I still had doubts of whether I could run strong after 4 hours or if my legs could withstand serious downhills.

On Sept 11th I raced Whistler Alpine Meadows 50k. I was looking forward to a net uphill course but quite nervous about the big downhill. I was feeling great 14k into the race and then the downhill came (see pic below). I was terribly slow down the few steep sections but moved fairly well for longer than I ever have on a downhill. Towards the last 4k of the downhill I fell and hit the top of my foot on a rock. After that my adductors started to seize and I slowed down considerably and a bunch of runners passed me. And then my adductors completely seized and I had to stop a few times. I was looking forward to the next big uphill but by then my foot was throbbing and I dropped out at 40k.

Yeah, that downhill.

After WAM my next big effort was an FKT attempt on the 75k La Cloche trail in Killarney Park in late September. I ran the loop last year and had such an amazing experience I knew I had to come back. I ran quite slowly last year (10.5 hours) as I struggled one the technicality. I really like this loop because it’s hilly, with 2800m of elevation gain/loss, but no single downhill is too long.

One year later I was really curious to measure my improvement on the same loop. Right off the bat I could tell I was running much quicker and was way more relaxed than last year. Unfortunately I got turned around at 47km and back-tracked 3km. The cool part is that at 47km I was one hour faster than the year before! Once I realised my mistake and knew the FKT was unlikely I lost motivation and jogged it in, taking a short-cut. I didn’t want to risk needing lots of recovery for an 81k run on a 75k loop 7 weeks ahead of JFK.

The adventure and beauty of this loop will keep me coming back whether I’m chasing an FKT or simply hiking.

About 43km into the La Cloche trail.

My last race was the JFK 50 mile in Maryland on Nov 19. I was fitter than I had been all year and was confident I would handle the course. There are only about 17k of single track over the 80k course and only about 5-6k of that is quite technical (by my standards). There is one long downhill at 23k into the race and after that it’s completely flat for 42k and then rolling country roads for the last 13k. I knew I’d lose time on the technical Appalachian Trail to the top runners but figured I would pull many of them back. By halfway I had pulled in many runners, was running in the top 6 and on pace for my 5:40 goal time. My osteitis pubis started flaring up after 2.5 hours of running, it really slowed me down by 3 hours and 10 minutes and left me walking by 3 hours and 50 minutes. I know without my injury JFK was going to get really tough for me, I just would like to know how rough. Hopefully I’ll find out next year.

Towards the end of the Appalachian Trail on the JFK course. I ran WAM and JFK in the Salomon Pulsar Soft Ground.
Photo by Paul Encarcion.


WAM, La Cloche and JFK all were a lot of fun and I witnessed glimpses of improvement but they all left me wondering how I would have done towards the end. Not knowing what I can accomplish in races over 4hrs and my current injury have shaped my race plans for 2023.

First, I have to get over this injury.

I had similar pelvis pain back in 2014. I ran 2:13 at the 2014 London marathon and subsequently had to take 3.5 months off because I had torn my ab off my pubic bone. From 2010 to 2016 that 2:13 was my slowest non-championship marathon. The biggest difference between that injury and my current injury is that my current injury doesn’t hurt until I run long. My 2014 injury would hurt immediately upon running. After I took two months off in 2014 and went on a test run I knew within 30 seconds that I needed more rest. Whereas now I could go and run an hour and not feel any discomfort. So I won’t know if I should rest more until I get to the point I can run long and hard.

My theory is that my tight adductors are the culprit. I basically stopped stretching my adductors in April as not stretching cleared up any pain I had with my adductors. Since then I’ve probably been tighter than usual and that tightness, along with running a lot, slowly aggravated my pubic symphysis. In the past few months I would feel discomfort on some long runs but it was never debilitating and I thought it was something that was going to adapt with each long effort. Instead it got worse over time because it wasn’t simply a muscle breaking down.

I have a feeling that I could be running a little right now and still resolve this injury with physiotherapy but I want to play it safe and not have an extended break from running next year.

My plan is to take a total of 6 weeks off of running in hopes that my body will heal up. I’ll try and stay somewhat fit on the indoor bike and double down on rehab exercises and physiotherapy. If I ran this December I’d easily surpass 6000km for the year but I’ll have to be content with 5598km. This is the second year in a row that I ran the most elevation in a year, 2022 saw 115,555m. Mind you it was only until July of 2021 that I started focusing on running much vertical.

I originally wanted to race Around The Bay 30k in March 2023 but that plan also involved base running throughout December. I’ll have to see how I’m going in February to make that call.

Instead of travelling to a race in April or May I am going to keep it local and most likely start off with some sort of long test run. I don’t need to travel and be away from my family to realise I can’t run well over a 50k race. I’d rather figure that out on my own and if all goes well then I’ll plan some key races.

In 2023 I am going to focus on shorter races and perhaps ultras between 50 and 80k. If I ever get a handle on those then I’ll consider racing 100k and 100 miles again. I’ve also been itching to race an uphill race like a VK and want to try that in 2023.


To answer my first question of this blog… Yes, I do still care about racing. I believe I still have some good performances and after a year like 2022 I’m as motivated as ever to prove that to myself. I had enough feedback in training to know I was in decent shape this fall.

The other thing about racing is that I like exploring new places and connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. I had a blast in the early kilometres of JFK chatting with Jacob, Garrett, Sam, Reid, Andrew and Brandon. The community and camaraderie at trail races is inspiring.

The evening after JFK I had a beer with two runners who have run JFK 23 times and 24 times each. Irish Joe and Paul didn’t race JFK this year, they came down to cheer on runners and connect with the JFK running community. Sharing old race stories was fun, these guys have done some really interesting races. It definitely inspired me to keep chasing cool adventures.


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