Change of Pace: My 2015 Running Recap

2015_review

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.

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.

The Hills Are Alive! My Hillsboro, Oregon, Bald Peak Half Review

The Hills Are Alive! My Hillsboro, Oregon, Bald Peak Half Review

Bald peak Half Marathon-2014

The moment I signed up for this race, it went straight to my head. And not in a good way.

The Bald Peak Half worked out well for a family trip in the area—and oh, when did I turn into the guy who says, “Dear friend, I’ll be in your locality. Perchance I’ll run a 13.1-mile race!”?—and I have to admit, I didn’t look much at the course or other details before I sent in my money.

In my defense, unlike the bigger distance races I’ve run, for this modest little event there wasn’t much detail to be found. With fewer than 300 total finishers in the previous two runnings, the data were sparse. I searched online for anyone who tracked the course, and found at least one. (Thanks, krushgrapz.) It was then my jaw hit my keyboard.

I obsessed over this “hilly half” for the next three months.

The prospect of 1,800 feet of elevation gain (not a typo)800 in the first 2 miles and 300 in the last half-mile (also not typos)had me looking around my flat Phoenix-area surroundings and wondering how I would ever get ready for the hills of Hillsboro.

bald_peak_elevation

Using MapMyRun’s Climb Ratings, I was able to look for local runs of 3-ish miles with crazy elevation gains. A trend emerged: summit hikes. Gulp. It took me weeks to work up the nerve to get out there. My trail of choice was the Quartz Ridge Trail, not too far from Piestewa Peak. I could hit it on my way to work in the morning and clean up at the office. I did it three times (4, 6 and 3 miles) in the three weeks leading up to my Oregon trip.

Continue reading “The Hills Are Alive! My Hillsboro, Oregon, Bald Peak Half Review”

Is There Any Cure for My Half-Maranoia?

picard_maranoia

Maranoia (n.): Fear of something going wrong (illness, injury, etc.) in the weeks before a marathon.

I came across this fabulous “new-to-me” word this week. Best I can tell, credit goes to tweeters Runner’s World (@runnersworld) and Will Britt (@WillOnTheRun). (Good stuff, RW and WB!)

Maranoia—or more specifically, half-maranoia—perfectly sums up my last week or so, and the last week or so before all my races running up to this one.

The week before a half or a full, I am certain I’ll come down with a chest cold or turn my ankle stepping off a curb, thereby wrecking all my hard work over the previous 10 to 14 weeks. Every cough, every sniffle, every hitch in my hip is a sure sign of doom.

None of these things has happened yet, of course (please, please, please give me a pass, oh running gods). But it hasn’t stopped me from being, well, maranoid.

Is there any cure for my maranoia? So far, not yet. I do take extra precautions to avoid sickness (read: I become a hand-washing freak) and otherwise try not to do anything stupid (like not pulling my hamstring playing softball). But, overall, I live my life as close as I can to normal and try not to go too much out of my mind about the race.

No, not that maranoia

It should be said that “maranoia” has a second meaning, referring to reefer-induced delusions, and there is a book about the same abject subject. Instead of getting you to NOT think about it, I’m going to leave you with something that lodges it firmly in your brain. You’re welcome.

In the tune of “Smoke Two Joints” by Sublime
I run two miles in the morning,
I run two miles at night.
I run two miles in the afternoon.
It makes me feel all right.
I run two miles in time of peace,
And two in time of war.
I run two miles before I run two miles,
And then I run two more.

4 Reasons Why I Love Final Race Instructions

email

I’m a rule follower. If you have rules or instructions or directions for me, I will adhere to them as best I can. It’s a very exciting life I lead, I know.

So when I get an email from the organizers of a race with the subject line Confirmation Sheet & Final Information or Final Race Instructions, you can bet I’m all over it like a guy who loves instructions maybe more than is healthy for him.

Last week, I got THE EMAIL for my next race. (Along with spam-levels of correspondence pertaining to upgrades and special offers and a dozen other new ways I can spend my money. But that’s a post for another day.)

The much-anticipated email contained FOUR KEY ELEMENTS that are instrumental to my race experience. Continue reading “4 Reasons Why I Love Final Race Instructions”

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?

Good Vibes from a Good Run

112113_run

This morning, I had a good run. It didn’t strike me just how much a good run affects my day until I sat down to write this piece. Today, even without that realization, I had pep in my step and a hunger in my belly. (Literally, as in I can’t eat enough food!)

I’m shooting for 8:15 miles for my Thursday tempo runs, and today I nailed it. I’ve only done that a few times for my tempo runs since I started training almost two months ago. If you don’t run, it’s difficult to describe the feeling of meeting a running goal. If you do run, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Nice, right?

6_miles_1121

^ I seem to always start off herky-jerky as I settle into a comfortable pace. By mile 4, I was in a groove.

Anyway, studies have shown that running and other exercise is good for the brain. After a good run—heck, after a bad run—my brain takes a bath in endorphins and other feel-good hormones. Accomplishing a goal during said run (like meeting a certain pace) is icing on the physiological cake.

Plus, it’s such a pleasant change from a few weeks ago, when I was struggling to meet my new, aggressive goals while training for a faster half-marathon finish. I’m not struggling any more! It seems I’ve turned a corner.

That feels good.

I missed my target for Thursday’s 5-mile tempo run by 15 seconds per mile. That’s quite a bit IMO, but I’m calling it a victory. Here’s why.

  • I pushed through, even though everything in my body said stop (not even halfway!). I still don’t know how I managed to persevere, but I did.
  • As it became clear that I wouldn’t have enough in my tank, my mind drifted to Saturday’s 10-miler and how I could possibly finish that if I was already struggling so much with 5. I stopped that train of thought in its tracks. One thing at a time. I would deal with Saturday’s run on Saturday.

Now, to get ready for those 10 miles.

Maybe My Half-Marathon Goal Is Too Aggressive

Maybe My Half-Marathon Goal Is Too Aggressive

question

What is this parasitic blob that has taken up residence in my head?

Ooooh, yeah. It’s doubt. Hello, old friend.

I’d been riding my runner’s high for about seven months, right up until week 1 of my new half-marathon training regimen. In March, I turned in a fantastic race in Washington, D.C., finishing the half in 1:55 after training to break 2:00. I wanted more.

Heck, if I could break 2:00 by five minutes, why couldn’t I break 1:55 by five minutes?

I’ll tell you why: To shave 10 minutes off a half-marathon is to shave 46 seconds off each mile. And lemme tell you, it’s hard. At least for these legs.

Finish time Pace per mile
2:00 9:10
1:55 8:47
1:50 8:24

It took me two years to break 2:00, and that whole time I trained for right around 9:00 miles. These days, to get in under 1:50, I’m training for 8:30 miles—I know 8:30 gives me a 1:51 finish, not 1:50, but I’m expecting to surprise myself.

Well, here’s a surprise: 8:30, at least so far, has proved nearly impossible.

Continue reading “Maybe My Half-Marathon Goal Is Too Aggressive”

Opening Day: 3 Reasons Why I’m Super-Excited for Running Season to Start

Opening Day: 3 Reasons Why I’m Super-Excited for Running Season to Start

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Tuesday can’t get here soon enough.

That morning—opening day, if you will, for my running season—I begin a 10-week training program for my next half-marathon. Although I ran more this summer than ever before, I’ve taken a break in the last few weeks, running some but resting mostly. I’m jonessing, man!

I’ve even penned the start of a ditty to commemorate. (Apologies to baseball’s slightly more popular ballad.) Feel free to sing aloud.

Take me out to the surface streets.
Take me out to the trails.

How do I love opening day? Let me count the ways.

Continue reading “Opening Day: 3 Reasons Why I’m Super-Excited for Running Season to Start”