Monday, February 20, 2017

My 2016 Quest Recap

The Bad News:  I did not keep up this blog at all.

The Good News: I achieved my goal!

I want to take a few minutes to recap all that happened since my last update -- it was a lot!  First, thank you to each one of you who supported me on this quest, several of you have reached out over the last few months to make sure I was still going due to my blog silence and let me know you were looking forward to making a donation to the Seacoast Community School, and that is great.  It was that which got me through many difficult times and pushed me to complete my quest for 500 miles.

The day after my last post, I participated in my first half-marathon, The Great Bay Half Marathon.  I had signed up on a whim the previous October because it was an early-bird special and had an option of dropping down to a 5K if I needed to.  Most of the feedback I received was surprise that this would be the course I chose for my first long race, it is known as being pretty tough as it has 5 pretty big climbs. I made the classic rookie mistake going out way too fast.  I ran the first 6 miles in just under an hour, which was near my personal best 10K (6.2 miles) of 59:30 (10 minute a mile pace).  So in a 13.1 mile race, I ran the first 6 miles faster than I had ever run 6 miles before save for one time.  I slowed way down and ran the next two mile at a more reasonable 11 minute a mile pace, but at the 8 mile mark I hit a pretty big wall and the next 5 miles were really difficult.  I heaved to the finish line, clocking my last 2 miles in at over 13 minutes each.  Suffice it to say, I was hurting, but was also really excited.  I had set a goal of running faster than 2 hours 20 minutes, and despite being way ahead of that pace at the 8 mile mark, did not come close. Regardless, I felt very accomplished, it was exciting.

Great Bay Half Marathon:

After this race, Spring and summer were coming and I was finishing up the Will Run for Beer Series (the Great Bay Half was a part of that) and starting the Seacoast Road Race Series (The same series that started me running in 2015).  I was running regularly in the early morning before work in Boston and was looking forward to some fast times.  I was also planning on running some races with Miles in the running stroller.  I set some goals for myself, mostly modest, those were:

1) Run a faster time at each race I had run the year before.
2) Set a personal record for both the 5K (27:07) and the 10K (59:40).  
3) Have a more successful Half Marathon.

I did not think the first goal would be too tough, except for possibly runs I did pushing Miles in a stroller. I was also pretty confident I would set a PR in the 5K, but was not sure about the 10K as I greatly exceeded my expectations when I set my PR at the New Year's run.  It would also be tough to not have a more successful half marathon, but based on my 5K experience from last year I was not going to take it for granted.

The start of the Seacoast Race Series was the New Hampshire Children's Museum 5K, the first race I had ever entered the year before.  I went into the race deciding I was going to run fast and thought I might have a chance to run faster than 28 minutes on this challenging and hilly course.  It was a beautiful day, and I really felt a sense of purpose out there, wanting to show myself how far I had come.  I ran the first mile in just over 8 minutes, which put me way ahead of pace to not only break 28 minutes but my PR, when I hit the 2 mile mark I was at under 17 minutes, meaning that I need to run at 9 minutes a mile to break my PR.  I was really hurting, but pushed through and clocked a PR at 26:15.  Almost a 1 minute improvement over my best 5K ever and a full five and half minutes faster than my first race the year before. I was more proud of this than my half marathon and it propelled me over the next month of running often and running fast.

The next two races I did were 5Ks and in both I pushed Miles in a stroller and in both Lauren also ran.  It was awesome going as a family and running together.  In both I broke 30 minutes, which is always my primary goal when pushing the stroller.  The second was the Red Hook 5K, the 2nd race I ran last year and the one that went really poorly for me.  Joining us at the race were my friends TJ and Cassandra who were visiting from Texas.  This was TJ's first ever 5K, and despite him doing minimal training, I only ran about 30 seconds faster than him, an impressive first race for him.

After that was the peak of my running for the year.  In back to back weeks, I ran my two best races of the year.  The first was a 5K at the Exeter Hospital (and the 2nd to last race in the Will Run for Beer series).  It was a raining and humid day, not a great day to push a run, but I took off and could not believe my time at the 2 mile mark, I was at 16:30, by far my fastest 2 miles ever and better yet I was feeling good.  I rounded the corner to the entrance where Miles was born and crossed the finish line in 25:54.  After I ran so well at the Children's Museum Race, I thought my next chance to PR would be the same race I had done it the year before.  One week later, I ran the Market Square Day 10K, a race I almost quit a year before.  This time, I went out fast trying to beat my PR. I almost went out too fast (ran the first 5K in just over 27 minutes) as I had to walk a little bit during the final mile, but I easily beat my PR coming in at 56:26.

I was running so well having already met my PR goal and knowing I would meet my "run all the same races faster goal" that I set a new goal of trying to run the Great Bay 5K, a mostly downhill race I ran in 27:07 the year before even with some walking, in under 25 minutes -- a time I never thought was possible was now my goal.

Three days later, everything changed.  I was playing in an Ultimate Frisbee league and went to change directions while sprinting and had one of those non-contact scary injuries where you hear a pop and face-plant into the ground. Luckily I knew right away it was not an ACL or something like that, as it was a familiar injury -- I had torn my calf (an injury I suffered skiing several years ago ... although this was a different part of the calf).  Two days after my injury I was in a walking boot and unable to walk without it for some time and ended up wearing it for 5 weeks.  This caused me to miss one race I had signed up for and thought I might miss another, but did manage to run the York Days 5K, while pushing Miles 10 days after getting out of the boot and amazingly I narrowly ran faster than I had the year before -- testimony to how far I had come as a runner.  At this point my physical therapist was only allowing me to run every 3rd day, but was impressed by how well I was doing, so after a month of limited running, I was back.

At this point, I had missed most of February with an injured knee and several unrunnable cold days, and had completely missed 5 weeks in June and July with an additional 2 weeks of very limited running.   This put my goal of 500 miles in great jeopardy.  When August Started I had run 244 miles, less than half of my goal with only 5 months to go.  However, I also knew that if I just did not get injured again, I had a pretty good chance as those 244 miles game in about 5 months of non-injured time.

When I was cleared to return to full running in August, I knew I had to make up a lot of ground and tried to run as often as possible, ending the month with almost 66 miles, the most I ran in any month and was feeling good about reaching 500 miles.  Then the next hurdle arrived, while I was finishing up an important career deadline at work in early September (which caused me to skip a few runs I would have normally done) a person at work abruptly quit and I had to step up and teach his class, a class that started at 8:15am.  I logged most of my miles over 2016 running in Boston before work, which usually consisted of me starting at about 6:45 and ending around 7:30 or 7:45, then showering and eating breakfast so I could be in my office by 9am.  Teaching at 8:15 meant that if there was bad traffic I would not have time to run and when I did get in on time, I would never be able to extend a run much past 4 miles. However, I kept at it, rather than running twice a week at 5 or 6 miles each, I would do 3 times a week at 3 or 4 (of if I got up a little earlier, I could squeeze in 5).   I also ran a 5 mile road race to support the Newington NH Elementary School, a race I had run the year before.  I set a goal of 45 minutes, but did not meet the goal as I finished in 48:10, which was still 5 minutes faster than the year before, continuing toward my goal.  This race made it clear my injury had set me back more than I thought, if this race had been before my injury I would have easily run it faster than 45 minutes.

As October came around, I had my last scheduled race towards the end of the month, the 5k I had set the 25 minute goal for before my injury.  I was still going to work to toward that, but knew it was likely not possible, but I was hopeful that I could at set a new PR.  In the meantime, I still had the bad taste of my first half marathon being so difficult and wanted to have a better experience.  So, somewhat on a whim, I signed up for the LOCO Half Marathon 2 days before the race.  I showed up in a Dikembe Mutombo jersey and did much better than I would have imagined as I had not specifically trained for it or run anything over 10 miles since my injury.  I ran the first 6.5 miles and then interval run the next 4.  In the final two and a half miles I experienced severe cramping, something I had heard others complain about but had not every had to deal with.  I was tough, but I powered through and finished in 2:14:22, blowing away my goal time of going under 2:20:00 and beating my previous half marathon by almost 10 minutes.  My time was a pace of 10:16 per mile and based on the amount of cramping I experienced I think if I train properly I can average under 10 minutes per mile.

One week later, was the mostly downhill 5K that I had been eyeing all year.  The half-marathon took a lot out of me and I did not run at all during the week.  I showed up aiming to set a new PR and deciding to go as fast as I could in hopes of having a shot at the 25 minute 5K (8:06 pace) .  I ran the first mile in 7:50, the fastest I had ever run a mile in a 5K, but when I hit the 2nd mile marker I was at 16:24, which was a pace of 8:12, and I knew then I would not be able to run the last 1.1 miles in eight and a half minutes (especially because the only uphill part in the entire race is in mile 3). So, I slowed down slightly and set my sights on beating my PR of 25:54, after going out so fast I was really struggling, but made sure to not stop and when I crossed the finish line, I had finished in 25:46, my second ever sub 26 minute 5K and a PR.

In November, I ran a Turkey Trot 10K, and made the mistake of not knowing it was not chip-timed, so I am not sure what my time was, as I started at the back of the pack thinking I had a timing chip, but this was a no frills race and it was all done with a camera on the finishing clock.  I did well, running it in under an hour, my GPS watch had me at 57:40, not far off my best ever 10K.

Finally I entered December needing nearly 52 miles to meet my goal.  I had only done that twice before and this was going to be difficult with the 8am class, the end of the semester grading crunch and less running conducive weather.  Do to these factors, I only ran under 15 miles in the first 18 days, meaning that after December 18th, I still needed 37 miles.  December 19th was final exam day, and was the first day without regular classes, so I ran over 8 miles that morning to try and get back on track.  When I told Lauren how close I was (but still seemingly far), she really pushed me to run and on the 21st and 23rd I ran 7 miles each, leaving me with only 14 miles to go, and 7 days to do it.  These days included Christmas, a day of flying to see my family in Texas and 2 days in Texas, but I knew I just had to find 2 days to run 7 miles.  I planned on those days being the 26th and 28th and if need be I could do a short run in Texas; however, on Christmas I got sick and was in bad shape the 25th, 26th and 27th.  If I was not so close, there is no way I would have run on the 28th, but I had a meeting in Boston, so I got up and set out to run 3 or 4 miles, and pushed myself for 7, leaving 7 miles with 3 days, 1 of those days being a day of travel with no chance to run.  So, on December 31st, while visiting family, we all went to  a park, and I ran 7 miles, to hit that magical 500 (and my Mom ran 5 miles too!).  As part of that last run, I checked out the new RGV Toros Soccer stadium as they were building it, a fun way to end the year.

All in all, I am thrilled I did this and am very proud of myself.  I know there is no way I would have gotten to 500 if not for this quest.  The injuries, work issues and scheduling meant I had to find times to do it, but now I know it can be done.  We are almost 2 months into 2017 now, and my goal for 2017 is 1,000 kilometers (622 miles), which is going to be extra hard since any day know we will have a newborn.  Once it gets warmer, I will plan to get Miles out of the house a lot on runs and hope he can do some kids runs with me this year as well.  Thus far I am not quite on pace for 1000 km, but am doing well and am ahead of last years pace.  I am keeping track on the same googles document if you ever want to check in on me:

Congrats if you read this whole thing!  

Final Running Totals For Each Month:

January:  46
February: 7.5
March: 63.9
April: 41
May: 45.9
June: 24.7
July: 14.7
August: 65.7
September: 43.8
October: 47.4
November: 47.8
December: 51.7

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A tale of two months

I have been pretty bad about keeping this updated, but have been good about keeping up my running!  I have also been updating my run on a Google-Sheet consistently, which you can follow here: link.

Anyway, here is a quick overview of what has happened since my last update.   I ended January similarly to how it had gone when I updated at three weeks, with consistent runs throughout the week and I ended the month with just shy of 46 miles run which put me well ahead of my mile-per-day goal also ahead of my ultimate goal of 500 miles, as 46 miles per month would mean I would end with about 550 miles.   However, things took a turn for the worst in the month of February, it started with a bout of food-poisoning which put me out of commission for a couple days and then another 4 or 5 days of no-running.   This was followed by some of the coldest days in New England over the last 50 years.  We saw temperatures below zero with high winds causing wind chills of -40 and these days corresponded with the days that I have time to run.  So, after almost 2 weeks of no running, I finally got out for an early morning run in Boston around the Prudential Center (a route I posted in my last blog post), I went for 4.26 miles, but hurt my knee about a mile in (and stupidly kept going for 3 more miles), by the time I was done my knee was throbbing and after I cooled down found it hard to walk.   After a couple of days, my knee felt fine, but decided to not push it, so I took a week off.   One week later, I went out to run again (with a knee brace on) and re-injured my knee about 2.5 miles into a planned 5 mile run -- this time I turned back and ended my run at 3.21 miles as I mostly walked the last half mile.    That was the last time I ran in February as I decided to take 2 weeks off to rest my knee this time.    That is just under 46 miles in January and just over 7 in February, meaning that after 2 months I had logged 53 miles, putting me under my mile-per-day pace and way off my goal of 500 miles.

After a miserable February, I knew that I had to turn things around quick before my year-pace fell too far behind, so on March 3rd I completed a 5.5 mile run with a brace and ended without pain.  I rest for a few days and then on March 7th took that and started my climb back to 500 miles -- running with a brace for the next 2 or 3 weeks.   I ran 2 mornings a week and 1 or 2 evenings a week trying to put as many miles behind me as possible.   I want to point out 3 particular runs in the month.  The first is that I have expanded my Prudential Center route by going to the Boston Common and then crossing over Storrow Drive and running by the Charles river.  I had always seen people running between Storrow and the Charles, but had never incorporated into my routes because it does not allow me to easily turn off and cut a run short -- that has now changed as I really enjoy this run.  Below is the first time I did it, but have done similar routes that are 5 and 6 miles as well.  The part in question is at the top (you know .... by the river):

The next run I want to mention is the 603 Running Club's Hampton Pub Run (603 is the only area code in the state of NH in case you did not know).  I have done the Portsmouth Pub-Run a few times but had never done Hampton.   I really like this run and the group that runs is small and very friendly, plus it starts and ends at Smuttynose, one of my favorite breweries.     It is a beautiful run that crosses a river twice - once through a covered bridge and goes through a farm.  I would recommend it.  So I am hoping to do this run more often:

Last, I did a run on something called the "Rail Trail", a trail that follows some railroad tracks that go back to the mid 1800's and have not been in use for almost 50 years, so the state used the rails "right of way" to transform it into running and biking trails.  So you can run across NH on these trails with very little interference from roads and cars.  I went on a run on a portion of this trail with a group of friends who were going to go 3.5, 8.5 and 12 miles.   The plan was to run 6 miles out and 6 miles back.  At the 3.5 mark there was a road that some parked on, so some just ran to that road and did 3.5.  My plan was to run the 6 miles out and then do the 2.5 back to that other road and get a ride to my car.  This would have been my longest run ever (beating a run last year of 7.5 miles); however, at the 7.5 mile mark the person who was going to give me a ride realized she had dropped her car key and lost it, so I ended up doing the full 12.   It was a great accomplishment for me and really helped me get my pace up.    When March ended I had run just under 64 miles.   Seven miles versus 64, truly a tale of 2 months.

April is off to a more typical start (more similar to January), I am back over my mile-per-day pace, but am still behind my 500 mile goal.  As of this posting, I am on pace for 460 miles.  However, I am signed up to run my first ever Half-Marathon tomorrow -- the Great Bay Half Marathon and if I complete it, then I will be back on pace for 500 miles.

I promise my next post will no be in 6 weeks.   I will have a full update of my run in the half marathon tomorrow, good or bad, as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Three Week Update

It has been 3 weeks and I am off to a good start.   January has been cold in New England, but I have gotten out and put down some miles.   On January 1, I ran in the 35th Annual Hangover Classic 10K in Salisbury Massachusetts (right on the NH/MA border).   I had only run a 10K one time previously, it is the time I mention in my intro post and my time then was 1:10:52.  For this race I set a goal of finishing in 1:05:00 and to not do any walking for the first 4 miles and exceeded my goal by running the entire race and finishing in 59:40.  Previously, I had only finished a 5K in under 30 minutes 3 times and had never run over 4 miles non-stop, so this was truly a wonderful was to start this quest.   The only bummer about the race is that the course was really boring.  It was right along the beach (not on the sand but on the road), so it was flat and the weather was wonderful as it was 40 degrees, but it was basically 3 miles up and 3 miles back:

Not interesting at all.   It was also a bit of a lonely race as their are options for both 5K and 10K and most of the runners who run at my pace, turned around after a 1.5 miles to do the 5K and I was near the back of the 10K runners.   So boring up and back and not a lot of casual runners makes this a race I am not sure I would do again.

To date, that is the only road race I have run, events like this are few in the winter months in New England; however, I have been making an effort to run at work.   I have managed to get out 4 times.  The first 3 times were days I went to work (I work in Boston in case you did not know) when classes were not in session, so I was able to run in the late morning with the sun out.  That was nice as the cold was not quite as bitter; however on one of the days there were 25 mph winds, so go into that up some of the streets was really tough (and cold).   It is interesting how different runs go depending on the weather, below are maps of two of my runs which were basically the loop (with the 2nd loop having 2 changes that added 1.5 miles, but still ran over most of the same 5 miles as the top one).  In the top one, I ran at 10am, the sun was out and it was in the low 30s with no wind, which are actually really nice conditions to run it.   I set out to run about 5 miles, I it was one of my most successful non-race runs I have ever had.  Other than a couple 2-5 second pauses at 2 or 3 intersections I ran the entire 5 miles and felt great the entire time, it was one of the easiest runs I have been on and am confident I could have run another 2 or 3 miles at a similar pace.  The 2nd map was from 2 days ago and is the coldest day I have ever run in, I am not sure what the temp was when I started, but when I ended over an hour later, the sun had come up and it was 19 with a windchill below 0.   I set out to run the exact same 5 mile loop as the first map and 5 minutes in, I was miserable and thought I would shorten the run to 2 or 2.5 miles; however, when I hit the first mile (according to the map that is 10:13 in), I had really warmed up and thought 3 or 4 miles was doable.  When I got to mile 2, I was completely warm and made a decision to take advantage of feeling warm and try and put in as many miles as possible, so I took a different route back and ended up at 6.5.   However, if you look at my pace, and how long I ran each mile, they were really different runs.  

I have 3 basic loops I run at work, the loop above is one that starts at my school, goes down and around the medical district (down riverway and the either right though by the hospitals [top map] or further down and back up Huntington ave which goes by 2 or 3 hospitals, and a couple of colleges (Mass Art and Mass Pharm) and then runs by Northeastern University and the Museum of Fine Arts, up past the Prudential Center turns at the Library and come back down through Back Bay (where the marathon ends) and then turns and goes by Fenway Park and back to work.   I have only been running this loop this year because it goes by so many popular places that the sidewalks are mostly clear of ice (I did run on an icy morning and it was not fun, but this loop gave me about 85% clear sidewalks).

Over the 21 days this post covers, I was able to go out for 5 runs for a total of 27.2 miles (an average of 5.44 miles per run).   I think this is what my runs will look like for the next 6-8 weeks as getting out to run in these weather conditions is really tough, so we I go out I want to try and log as many miles as I can, it is the only way I have a chance to hit that 500 miles for the year.

All 5 of my runs have been in Massachusetts, so I have yet to hit up the roads in New Hampshire, so I think I might try and do that later today.

Thanks for reading and if you are supporting my running pledge drive thank you so much for that too.  If you have not pledged and want to know more, just read my first post and you can pledge by using the links on the right.   So far, I have received almost $1.75 in pledges which is really amazing.   Thank you thank you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What is this all about?

Going into 2015 I had never completed a run of more than 1.75 miles in my life.  With my busy work schedule and a new baby, I was finding it hard to find time to exercise and it was showing, so on a whim in April, I decided to sign up for 3 upcoming road races.   I rolled up to The Children's Museum of New Hampshire 5K​ in early May with no training, no plan, and no music and was wearing a $20 pair of shoes and a Clyde Drexler basketball jersey and slogged through the 3.1 miles.  I can honestly say that if I had not already paid for the other two races, I would have quit right there, but I had paid for them, so I went and ran those as well, both of which went worse than the first race.  In fact, one was the Market Square Day 10k and at mile 4 almost stopped and walked the rest, but pushed through and finished.   I decided I did not want to go out on such a low note, so I signed up for another race, it went better and I then started to run a little more.  Towards the end of the year, I started to run before work and now can run 3 miles without stopping, which is something I was not sure was possible for me after those first few races.

In addition to running in 2015, I also increased the amount of work I was doing as a member of the board of directors for the Seacoast Community School​ (SCS) a local early childhood education (ECE) center in Portsmouth that serves children from 6 weeks old to 12 years old (mostly 6 weeks through Pre-K).  I am a big advocate for ECE opportunities, and think it is a vital in countless ways, not the least in our math and science education in this country.    These opportunities are especially limited in the state of New Hampshire, where day long kindergarten is not something that exists statewide (yes, you read that right).  The SCS is accredited by The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)​, this accreditation is a very high bar, and of all centers that care for infants in the area (dozens) only 3 have this accreditation that among other things ensures an early learning curriculum for all ages.   If you have children then you know that any childcare, not to mention high quality care that includes ECE opportunities, is VERY expensive and families with financial need are priced out.  At SCS is it in the schools mission and vision to provide these opportunities to all families and they work to do this by subsidizing tuition for families with a financial need.  Some of this is paid for through grants or with some funds from the state, but for the most part, it is charitable donations that help fund this program.

This is where you come in and where this post will hopefully start to make sense.  

I would like to run with a purpose in 2016 and have set a goal to run, on average, at least a mile per day and weather/injury dependent have an ultimate goal of running 500+ miles over the course of the year.   I am asking you to pledge to donate to SCS for every mile I run this year.   You can pledge 1 cent, and if I get through my goal you would be donating around $5 at the end of the year, or you can pledge more and donate more.  Pledge whatever you can afford and if you want you can pledge for other things too like me completing a half marathon or hitting a certain number of miles in a certain month, or anything really.  Get creative and give my runs some additional purpose.

If you would like to pledge, here is the link:

Thank you very much for reading and have a happy new year!