The 2019 edition of the Black Squirrel Half is five days away. In 2015 I finished in 2:23:24. In 2018, 2:26:04. I'm aiming for a personal best in 2019 and am optimistic about it because I'm a better runner than in 2015 and in better shape. I'm lighter, I'm stronger. I've put in some solid miles during July and August, done more workouts than I did in the past summers. Unlike last summer, where I spent multiple weeks before the race on vacation at sea level, this year I have spent two weeks hiking and running at 8000 feet and higher.
Having turned 50, I'm in a new age group this year. I finished 30th in the group of 40-49 year-old men last year. The same time would have put me 8th in the 50-59 year male group. To finish in the top five this year I will probably have to finish in 2 hours and 10 minutes, 13 minutes faster than in 2015. That's a minute per mile faster, a big leap. However, I have increased my cadence, my speed on flat trails, my downhill confidence, and have been blowing up my previous best times on the climbs. If I get enough rest this week and summon enough determination on Saturday... we'll see. No matter what, I'm planning to have a good time, and enjoy hanging out with friends afterwards.