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