I’ve learned from my history … I am not repeating my previous horrible Aprils.
- April 2008: Faced with foot problems, I ran just a little more than 30 miles total with 6.2 coming in one race.
- April 2009: I was happy to take a “rest month.” I logged a little more than 30 miles. Two weeks later I was at the doctor finally figuring out what was wrong with my feet.
But honestly, I have headed into those two Aprils ready to take a break after doing the Shamrock Half. This year is different — I want to keep pushing and build on the momentum of that race. I’ve never, ever, ever capitalized on my training before. I train for ONE race and I’m done. Well enough of that.
That’s why this month I am committed to running every day in the month no matter what. Yes, my health comes first, but it’s going to take something crazy to pull me off the road.
But there’s been something nagging at me for a while with wanting to do more than streak. I love racing and better yet I love a good challenge. So thanks to various factors, I am going to be running the Blue Ridge Half Marathon on the Parkway in Roanoke on April 24. It promises to be one of the most challenging races I have ever done with a total elevation gain of nearly 1,400 feet and a total elevation gain/loss of nearly 2,800 feet. Check out the course map and elevation change here. Basically it’s all uphill for more than 5 miles before coming back down.
For more information on this race, visit www.blueridgemarathon.com. Details are also on Facebook; you can also get updates on Twitter by following @BRM26pt2. If this sounds familiar to you, I did write about this on my blog back in July, but there’s been so much change in my life since then that I had ruled out doing the full marathon a long time ago and had pretty much ruled out doing the half considering it was so close to Shamrock. But things change …
So, April, take that.
It’s nothing unusual to think about what’s next after a big race, especially one as satisfying as this one. But I already know what’s next — the Richmond Marathon. At least that’s what I signed up for four months ago. After setting a PR in a half marathon, I’m still on Cloud 9 with my speed at a long distance.
While I’m celebrating my success, there’s part of me that knows I can go faster. I know that getting in the 1:30s is very much reality — shaving just three minutes off my time puts me at 1:39. Is it worth it training for a marathon? In 2007 when I had some of my best running going on, I was training for the marathon … after that though, I was filled with a whole lot of disappointment.
For now, I’m not making any decisions. I just know that right now I can capitalize on what three great months of training has already done for me. Waiting until November for the next “big” event just seems weird. Community races in between will be nice and I have some times I’d love to beat … but I love the half marathon.
Anyway, here some more thoughts following this past weekend’s Shamrock Half Marathon …
* I am the owner of a Power Balance wristband. Take a look at the website for yourself. In looking up things on the Internet, some say it’s a scam. I say it works. If it’s just a mental thing, so be it.
* I bought a new pair of Brooks Ravenna even though I don’t need them for a while. They were 20 percent off and I saved about $5 from what I paid for online earlier this winter. The nice thing is I’m set for shoes until mid-summer probably. I hope longer — these shoes tend to have a good life on them more than other shoes have worked for me. I’ve stayed injury free since I switched to these, so no reason to change.
Speaking of being injury free, a little more than a year ago I went to the doctor about my lingering foot problems that started at the end of 2007 (after the, um, marathon). After wearing a special insole for a couple of months and then switching to nothing at all, my feet haven’t bothered me much. I’m not putting anything else into my shoes again. I didn’t have any problems for a long time, and then for some reason I put gel insoles in. While it was initially comfortable, they haven’t really “worked.” And by “worked,” I’m not really sure what good they do anyway. It’s a personal thing, I think.
* The Shamrock event expo is great. After some issues with it in my first Shamrock in 2007, they’ve made drastic changes to the layout of the floor plans and picking up the race number and T-shirt. It’s been mostly flawless ever since. The Virginia Beach Convention Center in general is just a good place for a race expo — even as much as I’ve complained about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half event, the expo is always great there.
* The Shamrock Half Marathon is the first event that I’ve done four years in a row. I have also done the Bedford Christmas Classic four times, but one of those events was a 10k. It’s pretty cool to look at my race times since 2004 and scroll to the end and see this:
1:42.52, March 2010 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:44:23, March 2007 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:46:53, August 2007 – Lynchburg Half Marathon
1:49:07, March 2008 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:49:30, March 2009 – Shamrock Half Marathon
1:55:28, August 2006 – Lynchburg Half Marathon
1:59:19, September 2009 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
2:06:16, August 2008 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
All four of the Shamrocks are in the 1:40s. It’s kind of weird to think that I beat last year’s time by almost 7 minutes. It’s also very satisfying to know that I’ve done eight half marathons since 2006.
* Lastly I wanted to give a big thanks to the Shamrock organizers, the hundreds of volunteers, the sponsors and all the people who lined the course this weekend. This is always a special event no matter what the time was on the course and each year it seems to get better.
So this photo above sums up my fourth Shamrock Half Marathon. Finding the words to describe how I feel, though, are still hard to find. Today was far and away the best I have ever felt during any race.
Back in 2007 when I first ran this race, I set a time that was pretty unexpected for me — 1:44.23. Ever since that race, I have wanted to beat that time. But in the half marathons I’ve done since then — in particular Shamrock II and Shamrock III — my training certainly wasn’t on a level to beat that time. This year, though, has been different. I have documented my training pretty well this winter — from a crazy mountain run to really test my endurance, to much more hilly runs and many consecutive weeks with 10 mile runs.
I knew heading into today that my endurance was probably the best it’s been in three years. I just didn’t know if my speed could match it. Fortunately today I ran with my friend Travis, who I’ve been running with all winter. (He also ran part of this race with me in 2008.) When we were standing at the start line in the cool breeze we were talking about how nice it felt compared to all the crazy runs we’ve done this winter. Today, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was a huge reward for putting up with snow and cold and wind and rain for many of our runs.
When the race got under way we took off and never really looked back. We hit the first mile in 8:02 — 30-40 seconds faster than each of the past two years. I thought we were a bit fast, but everything felt great. No reason to slow down if I felt that good. I didn’t hit my watch at mile two, but the next two miles were in 15:29. Did we really speed up that much? And was I really feeling that great?
As the race made the turn onto Shore Drive and headed “uphill” things kept rolling along. I put “uphill” in quotes because after training on so many hills, this was nothing. Travis even asked if we were going downhill. The times looked like it — mile 4 was in 7:42; mile 5 was in 7:46. When we hit mile 6 in 7:54 and hit the halfway point, I knew the PR was in sight. I also knew that beating it with ease was a reality, but I had to stick with it. I refused to let my watch say anything slower than an 8-minute pace.
So, I didn’t. Mile 7 was in 7:51; mile 8 was 7:52. Somewhere around here is where Travis started lagging behind just a bit. I turned around and he told me to go. Honestly I wanted to stop and do this whole thing with him, but we have an agreement with our runs that if either wants to go faster, then to do it. Plus his goals were slightly different than mine. So after hitting mile 9 in 7:59, I kept in my head to beat my PR by a minute or so. I knew I could probably beat it by 2 minutes if I picked it up and got back into the 7:40s, but I couldn’t quite do it.
Mile 10 was 7:51; mile 11 was in 7:59, oh-so close to what I didn’t want to do. It kind of made me mad that I had slowed down like that, so I kicked up just a bit for the final two miles — 7:45, 7:49 and 44 seconds for the last tenth of a mile.
My official chip time was 1:42.52. That’s 91 seconds faster than my 2007 time. I wouldn’t quite call that shattering my PR, but it felt fantastic. All I wanted to do was beat that time, even it was just by a second. (Travis finished in 1:44.06, beating his PR by 8 minutes from two years ago.)
Tonight, about 11 hours after finishing, I feel amazing. While I’m tired, I’m not crazy sore like I usually am after a half marathon. I can walk normally; I can get up off the couch with no trouble. Simply put, I don’t feel like I need to take a break. I know that I will and I know that my body needs some down time, but I’m more eager than ever to face the rest of the year. This is the best way imaginable to start 2010.
I have a lot more to talk about concerning the weekend and the great expo and the purchases I made, but I’ll save all those thoughts for other posts this week. For now, I just want to sit back and enjoy this for a couple of more hours.
Thanks to everyone out there who has supported me during this training session, especially to my wife, Christina, for those free Wednesday nights and to my mom for listening out for my son on night’s Christina wasn’t around.
Last week I got into a brief argument on Twitter that this is not the end of the decade, so why are news stories saying such things? Well, debate all you want – maybe there was no year “0,” but that was 2,000-plus years ago. I didn’t celebrate the end of the 1980s at the end of 1990 or the end of the ’90s at the end of 2000. So this decade, to me, is ending. If you want to celebrate it next year, then go for it. Just don’t invite me to your party at the end of 2020 to celebrate the end of the ’10s. To me this decade began Jan. 1, 2000, and ends in about two weeks. A decade is a period 10 years – you can’t deny the definition of the word.
Anyway, enough of that rant. It’s time to reflect. When looking back on this past decade of my life, it’s easy to say that my adventure into adulthood has been full of changes. I’ve graduated college, gotten married, changed cities a few times, had a son, bought a couple of houses and started running after a long layoff. To have a “Top 5 Running-related Moments of the 2000s” is kind of weird since I’ve only been running since 2004, but running helps define who I am today. It’s important to me to highlight the top events since this adventure began. It’ll help lead me into the next 10 years.
#5 – My first race
After getting married in 2004, I had to do something to keep me motivated so I signed up for the four-miler in Lynchburg that was part of the Virginia Ten Miler event. I’ll never forget standing at that starting line being so nervous. I had those weird thoughts of finishing last or falling down or something crazy like that. What happened, though, was this amazing feeling of accomplishment at the end of the race. It was almost overwhelming. Most importantly, it kept me going. Forty races later, I’m still running.
#4 – The right gear
Getting properly fitted for shoes, getting a Garmin, discovering non-cotton attire and getting an iPod – all these rolled into one at various points in the past six years – have transformed my running experience.
#3 – 13.1 as a father
I revisited this post earlier this year in my top highlights from the year, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be on this list too. In fact, I debated whether or not it should be No. 2 or No. 3. The feeling of just doing that race so soon after my son was born is still indescribable.
#1 – Jan. 1, 2004
A hike up to Crabtree Falls in Nelson County was the beginning of this journey. While I had a goal to lose weight for my wedding, this picture of me changed everything. It could be the most important picture of my life. I saw it and knew I had to change. Little did I know how much change it would bring, but I’m so glad it did. This photo helps remind me of where I came from and where I never want to be again.
For six years of running, it’s hard to pick a top five. I wrestled with certain things to put in here, such as starting this blog. I started as “Running in Lynchburg” in the spring of 2007 to document my Richmond Marathon training. Blogging is right up there with gear — it’s helped keep me motivated in the past few years.
This year alone has been full of memorable moments, but I didn’t want immediate hindsight to play a role in this list. It’s hard … very hard … to keep “Stung in the eye” off this list. To me, though, the decade list was more about my accomplishments rather than the negative things. Moments like the Virginia Ten Miler and my first Shamrock Half Marathon that happened before my blogging days were great, but didn’t quite make it to the top 5.
All in all my running experience since 2004 has been great. I’m looking forward to what this next decade has to offer …
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.
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:
A couple of months or so ago, I said that in 2010 I would run the Shamrock Half Marathon again. But after unexpectedly getting a new job and all that, I didn’t know if I would do it again. Last night, though, I signed up for it. There’s part of me that knows I would have missed doing it if I skipped it and there’s also a part of me that knows that a good Shamrock Half will set me up for successful Richmond Marathon training later in the year.
Plus I feel like I have a lot to prove to myself over the next three and a half months. I have that infamous 10 pounds I want to lose, plus I really want to set a PR in this event. While my No. 1 goal will be to run my race to the best of my ability, I will keep a big focus on getting faster this winter. I’ll worry about focusing on the PR the closer the event gets here.
Speaking of 2010, I doubt that I’ll run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half again. While the timing is good with training for the marathon, the money to travel to Virginia Beach twice in one year just isn’t worth it. Now that I’m back in the Lynchburg area, I’ll likely focus on many smaller races that I used to run. I had fun here a few years ago with these races and they’re a lot of cheaper. I’ll spend less money running a few races here vs. traveling on Labor Day weekend. There’s actually a half marathon in Lynchburg in August that I’ll likely do.
The Bedford Christmas Classic is this weekend, the fourth time I have done this event. It’ll briefly overtake Shamrock as the event I’ve done the most. Oddly enough, though, I’ve never blogged about this specific race since the other three events (twice as a 5k and once as a 10k) occurred before my blogging days. The forecast right now looks, well, a lot like Christmas. It’s looking like rain will turn to snow that day with temperatures falling during the day, but around here I’ve learned not to pay much attention to the forecast. Either way, I’ll be unprepared for any of those conditions, including really cold, so I’m just planning to go with the flow.
Travis and I ran the course the other night and I finished in just a little more than 25 minutes, which is actually in between my previous two 5k race times, so I’m confident I can set my course record. I felt like I could knock a couple of minutes off that time in a race. But we’ll have to see how I feel and how the weather plays out. Right now I’m still feeling tired from my Thanksgiving trip — there’s been very little down time since then. I’m hoping tonight though to get some extra rest.
The greatest feeling in the world with running is beating a goal. Today all I wanted to do was run a couple of 8-minute miles and finish around 16 minutes in the 2-mile Turkey Trot in Warren, Ohio. Since I haven’t really done much speed work lately and the fact that I haven’t done all that much running since the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, I didn’t know what my body would do beyond a mile if I pushed it. The other night my friend Travis and I ran a 7:33 mile as part of a 5-mile run, but I really wondered if I could sustain that for two miles.
Turns out, I can. Today I finished in 14:54.7, a 7:27 pace. In fact, I was actually about 20 seconds faster than that, but since this was not timed with a chip from the beginning, that little bit of extra effort wasn’t “official.” This race did use chips to record the finishers, but there was not a chip timing mat at the beginning. With 1,200 people, and many people starting at the front that shouldn’t have been, a chip mat at the beginning would have been nice to record the times more accurately. Not that I’m complaining — this was actually a very well organized race and all for a good cause. And the long-sleeved shirt is nice too.
Anyway, this short race felt great. It was a nice, cool, somewhat damp start to the day with temperatures in the low 40s. It was actually raining when I warmed up for a mile, making me want to just go into my car, drive back to my in-laws’ house and go to bed. And after yesterday’s awful car ride, I was just exhausted. But I did it, and I’m so happy with the results. In addition to being happy with my time, I was 127th out of more than 1,200 runners and walkers and finished 6th in my age group out of 34.
The real question I have now is can I sustain a pace like that for next week’s 5k? And can I sustain that pace and improve on it this winter to have good races next year? I certainly hope so.
Earlier this year when I ran two races two weeks in a row, I walked away satisfied, but hurt. So now I’m doing it again, but it’s a far cry from a half marathon and a 10k back to back. Instead it’s a 2 miler and a 5k.
Next week I am heading to Ohio to visit the in-laws for Thanksgiving. It’s the second time I’ve been there for Thanksgiving and it will mark the second time that I’m doing the local turkey trot there. I’ve entered the 2-mile race to give myself a speed test. There is a 5-mile race too, but I don’t quite feel up to running 5 miles fast right now. I’m sure I could do OK, but it probably wouldn’t be a boost to my confidence. Four years ago I ran this race in 16:18 in some crazy pouring down snow and extreme cold. It was wild, but fun. This year it’s looking like it’ll be fairly cool in the low 40s with a chance of rain.
I’m pretty sure I can pump out two miles in about an 8-minute pace, so I’m aiming to break that “record” for that distance.
On Dec. 5 I am making the return to the Bedford Christmas Classic, a race I have done three times — two 5ks and a now defunct 10k — before my blogging days. The course is simple — Bedford, Va.’s loop. But it’s not easy. The first mile and a half isn’t bad — it’s mostly downhill. After that a big hill smacks you in your face and separates the field. Every year I’ve done this race it’s been cold — low to mid-30s — but I’ve had fun at each one. My 5k times were 24:51 when I first started running in 2004 and 26:51 the following year when I had let myself get out of shape a little bit. It was that race that kind of sparked me to get in better shape and run the Virginia Ten Miler the following year.
Right now, even though I know I’m not in the shape I’d like to be, I would love to go out and set a course record and PR for a 5k in my 30s (24:45). Now that I’ve been back in Bedford for almost a month and ran the loop several times, I think I can do it. I’ve been running faster by default with Duke and a couple of times with my friend Travis, so I think in race conditions I can step it up. I’ll see how next week goes with the 2-miler first. I need to pass that test before jumping too far ahead.
No matter what, though, it’s nice to be signed up for these community races. In an odd twist with my 5k experience, when I run the race on Dec. 5, that will be my first 5k since last October — more than 400 days. And in looking back at my post, that race was my first 5k in 420 days. I guarantee I’ll run another 5k before March 2011.
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.