Change of Pace: My 2015 Running Recap

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When this year began, one question I never thought I’d ask myself is, how do I keep wind-driven snow from stinging my eyeballs?* Yet here we are.

Holed up in my new Chicago suburb home, I’m writing this running retrospective 1,750 miles from where I wrote the last one (Scottsdale, Ariz.). I felt every bit of that distance, literally and figuratively, on the morning of the eyeball-stinging snow, considering about this time last year I was enjoying some fairly fantastic runs in the sun (though the temps in the two places were similar!).

I could make more out of the distance between my two homes, but I won’t. Truth is, I’m doing OK in my short time in Chicagoland. And I have running to thank for it. Not long after I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about running streaks, I started a streak for real. Logging at least a mile a day—for 97 days, as of this morning—has been one constant to get me through the turbulence of a cross-country relocation.

Whereas 2014 was perfectly “fine,” 2015 was the best year of my running life. Here are a few reasons why.

Change 1. After years of dedicated work toward half-marathons and full marathons, I trained exclusively for a 5K, in May. Following a speedwork-heavy regimen, I blew away my goal (hello, 21:10 PR!). The delightful byproduct was a base of strength and speed that transformed my running ever since.

Change 2. I joined a running club, RunEatTweetAZ. The people I met on the group runs and online added a social dimension to running that I was missing. My only regret was not being involved longer. (Unless they’re interested in chartering a club in Chicago’s northern suburbs.)

Change 3. I switched training plans. A cross-promotional email from Runkeeper prompted me to try out MyAsics. Initially the program struck me as soft—it wasn’t nearly as intense as my previous plan. But therein lies the beauty! After following three programs (one 5K and two halfs), I had three shattered PRs to show for it. Best of all, the absence of all-out intensity inherent in MyAsics got me to fall in love with running.

So yeah, 2015 offered upticks in almost every facet of my running. Here’s a look at the numbers.


1,239

Total miles run (more than double last year)


167

Miles run in October (most)


97

Consecutive days with at least a mile run (current streak)


91

Degrees F of hottest run (several in June–August in Arizona)


50

Miles run in March (least)


23

Degrees F of coldest run (Dec. 19 in Illinois)


8:14

Average pace per mile (38 seconds faster than last year)


8

5K races run


6

States with at least a mile run (Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon)


4

Race PRs (13.1m, 15K, 4.2m, 5K)


3

Half-marathon PRs (January, July, November)
Virtual races run


2

Ragnars run (Del Sol Relay in February, McDowell Mountain Trail in November)


0

Injuries (again!)


*Seriously, if you know how to keep wind-driven snow from stinging your eyeballs, do tell.

One Last Run on the Streets Where I Live

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I figure I’ve logged more than 2,000 miles on the roads and trails around my neighborhood over the last three years. Hundreds of runs begun from the same corner down the street from my house. It’s boring, but I love it. It’s comfortable, like a favorite pair of running shoes.

That corner is the spot where at times I really didn’t want to start a run, and it’s the spot where at others I really didn’t want to stop. I’ve struggled for so many of those miles, and yet I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I sorted out a lot of things, just me and my thoughts. I’ve notched more PRs than I can count. It’s on these streets where I truly fell in love with running.

Today, as my stuff is being boxed up and we’re preparing to leave this place, I ran my last loop through the streets where I live. It’s time to find a new route.

 

10 Rules for Running a Virtual Race

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Virtual races are a thing. Have you heard? And they’re becoming more and more of a thing. Recently I completed my first, a half-marathon. So I’m an expert, obviously.

For my virtual race, I paid my money, I trained, I ran my race, I got a medal. Sounds exactly like a traditional race, right? In many ways it is, and in many ways it isn’t.

One big plus is that for many virtual events you can run your race when it’s convenient for you. Don’t like getting up at 3:45 a.m. to schlep to the start line? You don’t have to! Are you booked solid for the weekend? Run it the next one—or even during the week.

On the flip side, a big drawback is with no actual, concrete start, you run the risk of putting it off or skipping it entirely. They’re shipping the medal to you anyway, right?

My virtual race experience was good. In fact, I’m already signed up for another one in a few months. I’ve yet to hear any horror stories—people paying their money but never getting what’s coming to them from the race organizer, that sort of thing. That doesn’t mean the horror stories aren’t out there. (If you know of one, please let me know!)

To get the most out of your virtual race,
consider these 10 rules

1. Ask yourself why you’re signing up. Like a traditional race, the virtual race might support a cause that speaks to you. Or maybe you were sold on a super-cool medal. So, what has you sending in your money to participate? There are no right or wrong answers here. Whatever the reason, you’ll want to have it in mind as you toe the virtual start line.

2. Check out the race organizer. Caveat emptor, people. Before you register, look into the company putting on the virtual race. Does it seem sketchy or legit? Trust your instincts. If you know of any friends who’ve run the same or similar virtual, ask them about their experience.

3. Follow the race rules. The point of a virtual race is you run a set distance on a set day (sometimes they give you a couple weeks or a month to complete it). So be true to yourself and run that set distance on that set day (or week or month). If something comes up, try to do it when you can.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’m not talking about Shot Bloks. If the virtual race offers a 5K, a 10K and a half-marathon, for example, and you’re thinking about the half, maybe step down and go with the 10K. Unless you really want to push yourself, or you’d be going 10 or more miles in training anyway, you might find the shorter distance more enjoyable.

5. Give it a race effort. Spectators and runners. Music blaring on the PA. An energetic announcer shouting unintelligible encouragement. You will not find any of these things to get you amped up for your virtual race. So what can you do? Give yourself race-day goosebumps. Try to visualize your own scene. It also helps to have your motivation in mind, why you signed up in the first place. It will get you through any rough patch on your run.

6. Stick to your race plan. If you have a few traditional races under your belt, you probably have a plan to execute when you get to the starting line. Your approach to the virtual race should be no different. How fast will you start and for how far? When will you pick up the pace? What will you do if things don’t go as planned? Resist the temptation to change things up.

7. Run a familiar route. I see this as an extension of the “don’t try anything new on race day” rule. For my virtual, I so badly wanted to NOT do the same ol’ trek around my neighborhood. But a virtual race, like a traditional one, is not the time to explore or experiment. If you really want to simulate race conditions, you’ll want to be focused on executing your race plan, not worried whether you’re getting off course or you’ve gone too far (or not far enough).

8. Scout your location. If you’re doing your virtual race at a park, make sure you know about the hours and any parking restrictions. Also, search online to ensure there isn’t an organized race or another big event happening at the same time as your virtual race. (Thanks to my friends Jenny and Andrea for this rule.)

9. Carry water and nutrition. There are no aid stations on the course, of course, unless you’ve REALLY planned out your virtual race and will hit up all the neighborhood lemonade stands. You’ll need to have everything on your person, or swing by the car or the house or a convenience store for refreshment.

10. Have someone track you. If you’re treating this like a race, you’ll be pushing yourself more than usual, and so you’ll run the extra risk of running into trouble. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and for how long, especially if you’re heading out on your own.

Bouncing Back From a Demoralizing Run

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This isn’t a how-to. This is a help-please! A desperate plea to the runners of the world.

I have a 10K race coming up a week from today. In fact, by this point I’ll be home and cleaned up and chilling on the couch. I thought I would be ready by now. But I am not ready. Not even close. I’m sure of that now, after this morning’s disaster of a run.

Instead of settling into a comfortable pace for one last long(ish) run, I struggled and had to stop to walk. Eight times. I even cut my distance short. At least by now I know when I’ve had enough.

Instead of feeling primed and powerful and ready to take on this 10K, I’m feeing like a failure. I’m floundering. Flustered.

So I ask you, oh wise ones of the internets, a week from my race, what should I do?

  • Do I hit the roads hard this week to try to make up for my lackluster long run?
  • Do I take the week off and rest up?
  • Do I carry on as planned and shoot for my original goal?
  • Do I pull up the reins and run a slow race, so long as I can actually run the whole thing and maybe even enjoy it?
  • Do I step down to the 5K?

I’m Not Very Fast (So Say ‘Serious’ Runners)

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This month I finished my second 5K summer series. In the last race, I missed a PR by 36 seconds! So you could say I was feeling pretty good about myself. Oh, but not today.

No, today, because I was feeling so good about myself, I searched for what people consider a “serious” 5K time. I had in my head 25 minutes, which I can do (I hesitate to say easily) just about every time I toe the starting line these days. Boy, was I wrong, according to “serious” runners on the internets.

The “serious” runners think that any 5K over 20 minutes is not serious. That serious runners could cover 5,000 meters in 20 minutes as a warm-up nursing an injury on an off month. Never mind that I may never get to that easiest of thresholdshealthy, in the best shape of my lifeno matter how much I train.

I’m sure these “serious” runners would prefer that I join the Clydesdales.

See, there is talk among these “serious” runners that seriousness is a result of effort. Because I haven’t broken 20 minutes, naturally I’m just not trying hard enough. Maybe that’s it, “serious” runners. Or maybe it’s genetics.

At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds on a good day, I’m not built like a runner. I’m more like Jimmy Graham than Galen Rupp. I would venture to say the Saints tight end can’t run a 5K in 20 minutes, either.

Look, guy, let’s not be so negative.

Deep breath. After grinding my teeth a bit, I turned my frown upside down by thinking about how far I’ve come in 5K Land. In 2004 I finished my first one in 28:20, after kinda-sorta training on the treadmill for all of eight days. I remember feeling this monumental sense of accomplishmentand also rewarding myself with utter laziness for the rest of the weekend. I ran another race in 2007 (29:26) and another in 2008 (33:49) before finally cracking the 25-minute mark in 2010, when I caught the running bug.

Continue reading “I’m Not Very Fast (So Say ‘Serious’ Runners)”

I Had a Dream (About Running)

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This week I had an elaborate dream involving me running a 5k race. (I was getting ready to run one this weekend.) I was late to get there and missed the bib pickup period, so they gave me a 3-year-old’s time chip and sent me on my way. (I have a 3-year-old.) Soon enough, well-meaning volunteers were chasing me through the course to give me a bib, and when they were successful, I struggled mightily, fumbling as I went, to pin said bib to my shirt without slowing down or stopping. The course was in a mall, and because I was so far behind, I never knew where I should be running amid all the shoppers. (Not my first dream where I was running in a mall.) Although my pace was good, I never did catch up with the pack. The end.

OK, psych pros, unpack this one for me.

» What About You?
Do you ever have dreams about running? Tell me about them!

9 Numbers That Defined My Year in Running

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This is my 2013 retrospective. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Oh, 2013, you were a beauty. My family and I were tremendously blessed with health, stability and security. I loved watching my toddler start to turn into a little man. My wife and I found out that our family would grow again, by one, in 2014.

2013, you were also one for the record books. I ran hundreds of miles training for races in five different distances, and I was surprised to realize I bested my time in all of them in the last 12 months!

To see my number of PRs, and other stats, check out my list below.

627

  • Total miles run

98

  • Miles run in January (most)

17

  • Miles run in September (least)

8:58

  • Average pace per mile (Nike+ calls it “fast & furious”)

7

  • Medals earned

5

2

1

  • Marathon run
  • 15k race run
  • 4.2m race run (third consecutive Pat’s Run)
  • 4m race run

0

  • Injuries

With 2013 in the books, I hope you have a happy new (running) year!

» What About You?
Do you have any 2013 numbers you’re particularly proud of? Do you have any running goals for 2014?

Who Doesn’t Love Unexpected Race Bling?

Who Doesn’t Love Unexpected Race Bling?

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I left the Arizona Road Racers’ I-Did-A-Run (get it?) 5K last weekend with a giveaway protein shake in hand and mixed emotions in my head:

Meh …

  • To realize too late that I’d started out too fast.
  • To recall wondering when the next water station was, because it sure was hot out there.
  • To know by mile 2 that there was no way I was finishing strong.
  • To think that I probably could have, should have trained more.

Grateful …

  • To know that I’m able to run 3.1 miles at all, especially without keeling over.
  • To see a few of my co-workers in a (relatively) relaxed, nonwork setting.
  • To hang out with my dad, who got up at o-dark-hundred to see me compete in this modest little race.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that I happened to be the fastest 34- to 39-year-old in the field that day.

Continue reading “Who Doesn’t Love Unexpected Race Bling?”

Gonna Make You Sweat: My First Arizona Road Racers Summer Series

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I’m as fit as I’ve ever been in August.

This revelation came the day that I finished the last of five races in the Arizona Road Racers Summer Series, “the Valley’s one and only summer race series.” Included were four 5Ks and one 4-miler, spanning May 25 to Aug. 11.

I signed up thinking it was a great way to stay active during the summer, when I usually join the rest of the Phoenicians under a collective rock. Most important, my continued training would take me through my 20-year high school reunion at the end of July. (Read: I’d be in the peak physical condition requisite for gloating around my classmates.)

It all seemed simple enough.

In fact, coming off my best season of running yet—during which I set PRs at 5k, 4.2 miles (Pat’s Run), 15k, half-marathon and marathon—I set some fairly simple, yet aggressive goals.

Continue reading “Gonna Make You Sweat: My First Arizona Road Racers Summer Series”