In my nearly three years I have been blogging, I end February the same way — I talk about how great it was. But in those two Februarys, there’s been a key element missing: a good January. When preparing for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March, I’ve only put together two good solid months to start the year, and that came before I started blogging. So while a great February is good in words, it hasn’t translated well to race day. Yes, I’ve been satisfied overall with my races, but in the end I’ve been somewhat disappointed too. February is key to having Shamrock go well; two good months though set me up for the rest of the year. And in 2007 — the year of my marathon — things for the most part went well until the very end of the year. That includes the PR in Shamrock.
I know that’s a drawn-out way to explain how I feel at the end of this month, but things are just different these days. Oddly enough, I’m not overly focused on the Shamrock Half — that race is just part of what I hope to be my best running year yet. At the end of 2009 there was a lot of talk from me and others on making 2010 the best year ever from many standpoints, and so far not many people are actually following through. The New Year hype got a lot of people like usual, but not me.
Following running more than 75 miles in January, I followed February up with 92.5 miles. My mileage for the year is more than 30 miles more than this point last year. More importantly though is the quality of these miles. I had four double-digit runs around hilly Bedford, all in a pace around 9 minutes a mile. I’ve had some faster shorter runs than usual too. I’ve kept things mixed up, rather than stale one-pace-only runs, which is the trap I have fallen into in recent years.
Also this month I’ve had to battle the elements — cold, snow. sleet, rain, wind … ice-covered sidewalks have made many runs a battle. This will very likely be one of the top 5 coldest Februarys around here. At least the weather has been consistent, but I’m pretty tired of it. I keep thinking that if I can do this well when it’s this cold, imagine how great it will be once it’s warmer.
As I look ahead, I have some changes coming for March. With my diet, there are some things I need to do to lose more weight. Things have been up and down all year, but I’m now at just a little more than 4 pounds down for the year. At this pace, I would be where I want to be by the summer, but I need to do more in the next few weeks. I’ll save that for another post. I also know I need to get back into cross training. That will happen, but I’m just pumped about where my running is right now. I also plan to do the 100 push-ups challenge sometime. My elbow gave me some trouble earlier this month and I decided then to just hold off on this program until I get over that disappointment. I need to do that when it feels new again. The try, re-try pattern is frustrating, so I just wanted to back away for a while.
While things are going great right now, I know I need to not settle on things. I need to continue to run harder, stronger and longer. There is no such thing as being too focused when it comes to running and my health. January and February have only been a good start to what I think is unlimited potential.
I finally updated the tab at the top of this blog to record my 2009 miles, and I changed the name of the tab from “Monthly Miles” to “Mileage.” When it comes to miles, it was a year I’d rather forget, but it was important to me to make sure I recorded it properly. I’d regret it later if I didn’t.
That being said, I’m not comparing 2010 to 2009 at all. The training log, which wasn’t very well kept anyway, is hitting the trash can after I click “publish.” And if I ever find my 2008 calendar, that will go in the trash too. It’s time for a fresh start for me with running and working out. It’s important to remember my past and remember the lessons I’ve learned, but it’s time for the reminders of things that didn’t work to be gone.
So farewell, again, 2009. 2010 is going to be different.
Since the year is almost over, I thought I’d give you a special treat – a look back at the top 5 most read posts of the year. This is all about you, my loyal readers. I can’t make this stuff up. Only WordPress can. And apparently, you like what other people have to say (see Nos. 2 and 3 below), but I don’t really mind.
#5 – I am a marathoner and On the way to 100 push-ups
Technically my post from 2007 after the Richmond Marathon is the No. 5 most-read post this year. It’s not surprising since this has a link in my “About me” section, and I’ve linked to it several other times in other posts. It’s just kind of funny to me that a two-year-old post gets enough page views to be in the top 5.
As for my top 5 new posts this year, a post about my 100 push-ups journey takes this spot. A journey I have yet to complete for various reasons. Bring on 2010.
#4 – Stung in the eye
I would expect nothing less for this post to be here because people like to read about gross things. Three months later, I still cringe when I think about how it felt for a bug to get stuck in my eye. Next summer I will certainly be running more in sunglasses or clear lenses at night.
#3 – Are we really born to run? She says YES!
This was my first guest post of the year from one of my favorite bloggers out there. Go check out that post if you haven’t and click on a link to Michelle’s blog to read about her journey to 1,000 miles this year. It’s enough to make that a private goal for me next year. (Wait … I guess that might not be private now.)
#2 – But I did it anyway
More proof that you like other people, this was also from a guest blogger. Not that I mind – the few guest bloggers I’ve had have been great, and this one is from an ultra-runner who also coaches endurance athletes. Check it out for some inspiration.
#1 – A death near the finish line
This post is far and away the No. 1 post for the year, but it’s not a cause for celebration. This was about my experience as I neared the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Labor Day weekend. If you go back and reread that post, you’ll see that something is being planned to honor the runner who died that weekend.
Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog this year. Although I hinted at some changes a couple of weeks ago, I will be keeping this URL and name of the blog. While I want to make some changes in 2010, moving this blog isn’t something I need to do right now.
At this time of the year, I’m in a reflective mood, but I want to do my best to avoid a big year-end round-up post. They really don’t do anything for me. So instead of recapping my year sometime between now and Dec. 31, I’d rather do some Top 5 lists – Top 5 Moments of the Year, Top 5 of the Decade, Top 5 Posts You Read, etc., etc. And I certainly don’t want to jam into one big long post that you’re not going to read anyway because, well, it would be a long post. Long posts are for long races or when there’s a hodgepodge of things to write about.
I’ll start this year-end series of posts with my Top 5 Running Moments of the Year.
#5 – What’s up Doc?
After the weekends of No. 1 and No. 2 on my list below, I was hurt. And I just couldn’t take the pain in my foot anymore. So I finally went to the doctor – my first trip ever due to running issues. I ended up skipping out on future visits, but that one trip saved me from future issues. I’ll never again mess around when something bothers me for more than a week or so.
#4 – Stung in the Eye
No one said that this list had to be top 5 “best” running moments of the year – just “moments.” And for several moments a few months ago, I seriously thought a bug in my eye had permanently damaged my eyesight. While it’s funny now (and to some people it was funny then), my eye hurts just thinking about that moment. My summer running will never be the same. And, at least right now, that post from a bug getting in my eye is one of my most read posts of the year. I’m sure you’ll help keep it in the Top 5 for the next couple of weeks.
#3 – A Return to Bedford
I’m nowhere close to where I want to be right now when it comes to fitness, yet just two weeks ago I set a course record in the Peaks of Otter Christmas Classic 5k in Bedford. Sure, a lot has changed since 2005 when I last did that race, but a course record is a course record no matter how many times an event has happened. And of the 13 5ks I’ve done since 2004, this was my fourth fastest. I still have a lot of work to do, though, to get close to my 2007 PR of 22:42.
#2 – The Unexpected PR
A week after my No. 1 highlight below, I ran the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k. Two races in two weeks? Sure, no problem I thought. I would just go out and run the 10k easily. I would run it to be a part of the Lynchburg College alumni who were running; I would run it to just do two races in a row; I’d run it because I had organized a group of employees at then-Christian Children’s Fund (now ChildFund International) to form a team. It was the least selfish races ever – and to my surprise I set a PR by 21 seconds.
#1 – Shamrock III
It what seems like forever ago, I trained and ran a half marathon less than five months after becoming a father. That experience alone tops any PR to date and rivals the feeling I had when completing my first marathon. I ran that race to prove to myself and to others that there are no excuses when it comes to running a big race.
At this time of the year there is a lot of reflection going on in the world. For many runners, this is a time to not only look back, but to look ahead as well. For me, this December feels a lot like many previous Decembers — I want to reflect a little bit, but I want to move forward. In fact, I want to move forward in a bad, bad way.
This year in running has actually been very good to me — as a new father a year ago at this time, I had no idea what 2009 would bring. I never imagined I would have set any PRs, but I have; I never thought I would run two half marathons and feel great about them both, but I have. It’s been awesome.
In the same breath though, I’m ready to start 2010 completely fresh. You won’t see me do a big year in review this year (I’ll still done some reflecting posts, but nothing like usual). I didn’t hit my goals like I wanted, mainly due to injuries back in the spring, but at the same time I set goals without putting meaning behind them. They were too broad — they were based on mileage. Goals need to be more specific — such as a certain time in a race, or doing some sort of streak (like a certain number of days in a row of running, not something in my birthday suit). My goals were safe and predictable. I need crazy goals that are borderline unrealistic, but achievable. I set goals not to be disappointed, but I’ve realized that it’s OK to fall a little short as long as I give it my all.
So call me crazy, but I’m ready to throw my old calendars out with my training logs. While I won’t get rid of my tab on this blog detailing my past, my old training log books aren’t helpful anymore. Since my first marathon two-plus years ago, nothing has worked like I want it to. I’m referring back to old plans that failed me. I’m doing too much comparing of a certain month of a year to the previous year, and it’s not working.
It’s time for a new approach to my running, how I train and how I track it. There’s also the part of me that wants to lose 10-15 pounds and get back to where I was when I did my very first race. I’m not sure why I don’t talk about that more, but I need to. I think it’s time to. It helps me hold myself accountable. I’m even considering changing the name of this blog — while I like “Running … Because I Can,” there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel right anymore.
I’m taking this month to figure out what to do with all this. I might have it figured out a few minutes after I posted this … it might take a few days … it might take until Dec. 31 … but I need this time to figure it out. Any suggestions, as always, are welcome.
Cold rain. A few snowflakes mixed in. No watch. But I’m happy to have a 5k under my belt 400-plus days later.
But I did it … I think. “It” is setting a course record for the Christmas Classic. Unfortunately there was no clock at the finish line and I somehow left my watch at home. I overheard someone in front of me say they were just a little more than 24 minutes, so I’m pretty sure I beat my 2004 time of 24:51. Official results have not been posted yet. I know I easily beat 2005′s time of 26:51. It’s nice to get older and get faster in a race, but honestly I know I can do faster. I won’t beat myself up, but if I could knock off 10 pounds I could knock off another minute or so of my 5ks.
Anyway, this was a crazy day to run outside. The temperature when I woke up was 40, but that gradually dropped in the morning. And it was raining. As the race ended, a few huge snowflakes were mixing in, but it rained the whole 3.1 miles. I don’t really have too much to say about the race — I did what I could, but I couldn’t push it very hard in the last half mile, which is pretty much uphill. My shoes were water-logged and my toes were getting numb. And I was cold. I just couldn’t push myself through that today.
This is a great way to close off the crazy running year of 2009. Had injuries not slowed me down in the spring, it’s hard to tell where I would be right now. But I can’t dwell on that — I can only look forward. Ending on a high note like this certainly helps.
On a side note, it did snow today … in the mountains. Here’s proof from a visit to the Peaks of Otter this afternoon:
When it comes to running, October 2009 stands out in my mind as the lowest of the low in my almost six years of running. My few injuries are an exception. I wasn’t injured in October. I was full of excuses. Sure, moving doesn’t make life easy, but in hindsight, why is my workout log completely blank from Oct. 7-12?
I also fell completely off the 100 push-ups wagon, but at the same time I’m reaping the rewards of the program. Moving boxes and furniture in the past few weeks have been much easier than a couple of years ago when I moved. But this is a program I want to finish — I just don’t know when. Tonight, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I dropped down and did 33. I guess I could say I’m 33 percent of the way there. Oddly enough, 33 is what I maxed at in week 4 (after 85 push-ups).
But what do I do? The 100 push-ups Web site actually recommends that I start on week 3 if I do more than 20 in my initial test. Although it wasn’t an “initial” test, I think going back to week 3 is a good idea. That might help me get past week 4 that I never got through after two attempts. But honestly, moving got in the way then and it may get in the way in the next few weeks, but no matter what this is making me a stronger person. I may take a lot longer than some people, but I’m determined to get to 100.
So as I get the 100 push-ups program jump started, I am also determined to get my running back in order too. Tonight I kicked the month off with a 3.6 mile run that included Bedford’s loop. My dog, who usually only runs for a couple of miles or so, joined me. I’m pretty sure it was his longest run ever. It was a nice, cold, full moon run, complete with street lights.
I need these runs and I need these runs to regain my consistency. I need these runs to do well in a couple of small races before the end of the year. I need these runs for next year. I’m starting over, somewhat. I don’t feel like I’m out of shape by any means, but like much of the way the rest of this year has been, I’m not where I want to be with anything — with speed, with weight, with just being happy with running.
It (re)starts now. I’m done with my excuses.
Often after a race I find myself in the strangest of moods. A runner’s high is great. It’s unexplainable to anyone who doesn’t run. Coming down off that high, though, is tough. Yesterday wasn’t so bad. I came back home energized, ready to sign up for another race, ready to make plans for next year, ready to just keep going. Since I didn’t run too hard, I wanted the “what’s next” part of running to be right now. It can sort of happen like that, but like a year ago at this time, I’m finding that I don’t really want “what’s next” to be a half marathon. At least this year I want to run; last year at this time I was tired of running.
So today I’ve really come crashing down off my weekend experience. While a few weeks ago I was ready to not do the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half again I realize that this is very much a “vacation race.” I had a lot of fun just getting away, hanging out with my 10-month-old son on the beach, eating dinner each night with my mom and stepdad — but it felt like it was a day too short. I wish I would’ve taken a longer stroll on the beach with my wife the last night there; I wanted my son to play in the sand for another half hour on Sunday. I didn’t want to work today and rainy weather didn’t help. I wanted to stay home and plan … I wanted to plan my now-annual Shamrock Half Marathon trip; I wanted to plan next Labor Day weekend at the beach again. I wanted “what’s next” to be right now.
But I can’t rush these things. I have a real world to get back to and I have some work to do with my running besides just wanting to race. I don’t want to run for the sake of running, which has sort of happened this summer. So as far as what’s next, a big focus for me has to do with not worrying about racing. Yet at the same time for me to improve my running in these “big” events, I have to race in something. Nothing beats the experience of running with large groups of people.
So for right now, my running is going back to basics. I want to get faster — I want to get back to my sub 8-minute mile race paces from 2007. In order to do that I need to do speed work. So starting next week at least once a week, one day of running will be devoted to speed – intervals, fartleks, tempo runs. Something other than my current one-speed pace. I am not going to do a “big” fall race, meaning the Richmond Half Marathon is out. However, that weekend (Nov. 14) also has an 8k that I plan on doing. I’d like my “long” runs to be in the 5-6 mile range this fall, so a mid-November almost 5-miler would be ideal. That gives me two months to work on my speed issues and to attempt a PR at that distance. A turkey trot in Ohio is likely later that month and maybe, just maybe, I’ll return to my roots in Bedford for the Christmas Classic that I’ve done a few times.
That pretty much leads me into next year. I mentioned the new Blue Ridge Marathon several weeks ago, but that event is out. It’s too costly for me to commit to right now. Plus that course is the toughest course I’ve ever seen. And, quite honestly, the marathon itch still isn’t there for me. My main goal is to set a PR in the half marathon and, to me, there’s no better course to do it on than one I’ve already done three times — the Shamrock Half Marathon in March.
A lot of runners like to travel to different cities for events. I often get that desire from time to time, but at this point in my life I’m starting to enjoy this tradition. The trip to Virginia Beach in March these past few years have been a lot of fun. While it’s cold, it’s an awesome time to go when not many tourists are around. Everything is still open, just minus the people. And after two years in a row of being at the beach on Labor Day, I’m pretty sure that next year I’d like to do it a third time. And since race entries do nothing but go up throughout the year, there’s no better time than now to plan out 2010.
If I’m going to have a tradition with running then two half marathons a year in two completely different times of the year in one great place only two hours from home is a nice tradition to have.
Goal #1: Beat last year’s time. Check.
Goal #2: Beat two hours. Check.
Goal #3: Weather permitting, be close to 1:50. Uh, no check.
With very little speed work this summer, I knew heading into today’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon that I probably wouldn’t do any better than 9-minute miles, but it doesn’t hurt to wish, right? Usually for a race report I go mile by mile and recap different thoughts that occurred along the way. Today, though, there really isn’t much need.
It was a good consistent long run. All but one mile was slower than 8:45 and all but one mile was faster than 9:15. Final time: 1:59:18. That’s nearly 7 minutes better than last year’s heat debacle, so I’m very happy with that. A course record is always nice. But a mile into today’s race I knew there would be no extra pushing. At least not a lot of extra pushing. There were moments today in which I tried to go a little faster, but it just wasn’t going to happen. And I wasn’t about to go over the edge to do it. About half way through the race, my goal became simple – beat 2 hours. I knew if I kept the pace I was on I would do it within a minute or two.
The weather today was considerably better than last year, but there were parts of the course that were pretty hot in the direct sunlight. Then there were other parts that actually felt cool. All in all it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either … it was just a good day to have a nice long run in Virginia Beach.
Today’s race concludes the way my summer has gone — slow and steady. As far as what’s next, that’s another post for another day. Right now I am content with celebrating my seventh half marathon in two and a half years. No matter what my time, there’s nothing better than crossing a finishing line and doing what so many people don’t get a chance to experience.
This weekend marks the unofficial end of summer — a pretty bizarre but consistent summer for me when it comes to running. When training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon got under way in June, I got sick; then it seemed like I just couldn’t get things going; and then I strung together a couple of good weeks of running in July to finally make me feel better about things.
But a week from now when I start the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, I don’t have any lofty expectations. Overall, my running miles are less than where I was last year at this time, but when comparing the two previous months before a race, I’m about 10 miles or so ahead of where I was earlier this year for the Shamrock Half. I went into that race with no expectations either and ended up walking away having one of the most satisfying experiences ever. I’ve also had three runs of 10 or more miles this month, much better than my one 10-miler in February. Cross training, even just a little bit, has been an added bonus as well.
My goals for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half have not changed from a couple of weeks ago — if the weather is nice, I’d like to be around 1:50. If it’s humid like last year, I’d like to break 2 hours. With very little speed work this summer and no other races since late March, my eventual goal of breaking my half marathon PR will wait.
* * *
My long run yesterday was quite brutal – 10 miles in some of the most humid conditions this summer. It felt like I jumped in a pool and then tried to run in water-logged clothes. It would have been better running in the rain.
Like I mentioned above, this was my third 10-miler of the month. While I’d like my overall mileage to be higher for the month (around 70 miles), these long runs have left me feeling great. These runs have been the best long runs in quite some time.
Despite missing out on speed and some mileage, one great thing about this summer has been finding my consistency again. It’s been missing for a while.