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March: A new racing year begins

This past weekend’s Shamrock Half Marathon was truly the end of a great year. (See below or click here in case you missed the race report.) Last year’s race — held on March 17 — was the beginning of something great for me. I ran a long-distance race without getting hurt, so I did what I said I would do — sign up for the Richmond Marathon. Thus began this blog and eight months of being focused on the end result — finishing 26.2 miles. Before that journey even ended, I signed up for the 2008 Shamrock Half. So since November, I’ve spent four months — some of it injured — focused on that race. So on March 16, everything seemed like it came full circle. In a way, it feels like my running year began March 17, 2007, and ended on March 16, 2008. Now I’m back to a new year.

Just as I did a year ago, I wanted to get through the Shamrock before determining what I would do the rest of the year. It’s a good race to do — it keeps me off my ass in the winter and keeps me moving even when I’d rather curl up by a fire. It helps build a good base without feeling exhausted afterward. And that’s one reason why I’ve come to like half marathons, especially after having the experience of a marathon. It’s half the soreness, half the distance for long runs and half as much stress leading up to it.

As I’ve already declared, I’m not running a marathon this year. After my right foot hurt in December and early January, and with my left foot bothering me during the recent race, adding 10 to 15 miles a week on to what is comfortable to me isn’t something I want to do again this year. There’s part of me that wants to bounce right back and tackle another half marathon – like Charlottesville at the end of April. Another part of me was ready to continue training and run a spring marathon. Unfortunately, I need to rest my foot, so it’s best if I stick to my plan of two “big” races a year.

After spending the weekend at Virginia Beach, I realized that it would be a ton of fun to take part in a “big” event there when there are actually a lot of people around and when it’s warm enough to get in the ocean. It’s close enough to be “local” — all I need is two hours to get there along with patience to get through the tunnel on Interstate 64, and less than a tank of gas. And for two years now, all I’ve been hearing is how great this race and race weekend is …. so, I signed up for the Rock and Roll Half Marathon, which will be held Aug. 31. The “Rock and Roll” name has built a good reputation in recent years, and I’ve never heard anything negative about the one in Virginia Beach.

The timing of it is great. It’s really before the peak of what’s known as “race season,” so if I want to do a “big” race in the fall — like the return of the Richmond Half Marathon — there’s plenty of recovery time built in without losing any endurance. There are also a ton of shorter races around Richmond during the summer that’ll help in speed training.

As for what’ll happen between now and the end of August, I’m really setting my sights on making this year the best ever again. In June I’ll be entering a new age bracket in races as I hit 30, so there’s no better time than now to step it up. In less than three weeks, I have the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, which has become one of the largest road races in the U.S. This year more than 31,000 people have registered — in its first race nine years ago, only 2,000 people participated. My goal for that is to have fun and to raise money for the VCU Massey Cancer Center (click here to donate). Right now my focus is to not be injured, so how fast I am that day will depend on how the recovery goes in the next week or so. This spring and summer, though, I really want to set PRs in the shorter distances. I haven’t done a 5k since August, but I’ve got a decent streak going on. My last three 5ks dating back to November 2006 have been a PR: 23:49, 23:03 and 22:42. While setting a PR is my overall goal, I would love to break 22 minutes.

As far as 10ks go, actually running that distance would be good experience. My PR is 48:32 in December 2006 on a hilly course, and I’ve only done three 10ks ever with one being a cross-country style race. My goal for now is to break the 48-minute mark in a 10k. As for the half-marathon, I have the 1:44.23 still looking straight at me. I won’t get into it too much, but 1,000 miles at the end of the fiscal year (July ’07 through June ’08) and/or the end of the calendar year would be an added bonus, but not a priority.

I hope to continue mixing up the distances — I think doing multiple distances for races helps in the big picture. There’s also a track series in the summer that I hope to participate in a few times. On top of all this is the one thing I’ve always struggled with: cross training. With a home gym that hasn’t gotten much use and the cheapness of bikes at Target, there really isn’t much excuse for me I guess. I need to add more cross training, especially right now when I’m in post-race mode with a sore foot.

Of course, all of these goals depend on staying injury free, something that hasn’t gone so well this year. By focusing on a half marathon, I’m not too worried about “life getting in the way,” and I don’t think anything could be as bad as moving cities like last year.

I’m ready for what this year will bring me, and I look forward to having you along for the ride.

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