And What a Year It Was – 2013 by the miles and milestones.

It’s a prerequisite in the running blogosphere to write end of year reviews, so here goes! I normally hate on these things and poke fun at them, but I have to be the cliché one this year. 2013 really was something extraordinary, full of ups and downs and totally amazing. I’ve gone chronologically with the recap after scrapping my original plan of listing everything by importance and significance.

January
I got settled into life in Massachusetts by running a 5 Mile race on the first! Found a fantastic Wednesday night run group (Way up there on the ranking by importance list, btw) Made some excellent new friends. Saw my first professional runners up close in the indoor circuit. I took some time off to prepare for the next marathon cycle. Signed up for my first ultra (promptly bailed on it when the time came though and ran my fastest road marathon yet)

February
I bought my first race flats. Started training for spring marathon. I met and fell for a wonderful girl. I fell in love with running all over again too as I ran 212 miles in the month. Ran a 20 mile race in ice and sleet on an island and made many trips to NH. Got lost on a long run… ended up running 27 miles that day, oops. Saw the Lumineers for the second time and they were even better!!

March
Continued a high weekly mileage volume and started the month off with a super-fast 3 mile race, also truly learned the joy of running with someone else, many times over. I did ignore some nagging injuries that should have been dealt with (It wasn’t all fun this year 😦 ) I did finish in 2nd place in a ¼ marathon on a challenging course. I spent a lot of time in prayer and reading the Bible, as well.

April
How can I even recap April with any proper justice, it certainly deserves a post of its own, I will simply make an attempt. The month started with the welcome warmth of spring and boundless joy on every run. I started making a better work of my recovery sessions and running my ‘easy runs’ at an easier pace and managed my longest training run yet, a 50k training run. April 15th 2013 will not easily be forgotten, nor should it. As evidenced by being the most searched for thing on Google this past year, the whole country took it as a shock, tragedy and horror. I watched the marathon from the halfway point and still vividly remember the events of that day and nearly every detail, I’ll leave that for some other time though. Between sustaining my first 60+ mile weeks I also saw The Milk Carton Kids in April, second time and just as good!

May
Marathon madness for me! I ran Sugarloaf marathon and came away with a 6th overall and a big shiny new personal best as well as a nifty ceramic plate for taking first in age group! The last few weeks of training were typically underwhelming, but the race went well and I was very happy with the result. Vacationed in Maine and NH and had a blast. The month did end with a mutual breakup… and thus my summer began, full of questions and learning.

June
This will be the shortest recap as June was indeed the most boring month of the year for me. I started the month with a much needed multi-day hike with some good friends. I selected a fall marathon, chose a new training plan and started training. I did do a lot of reading, running/coaching focused and otherwise. The One Run for Boston came through on a muggy June 30th and was an excellent experience, full of positivity and resilience!

July
Started the month with injuries and the dreaded visit to a Dr. I only needed a week off  though and was able to rebound fairly quick. Saw the Bosstones! Ran a fast half-marathon on a very hot day and came in 2nd overall! In keeping with the year theme, the half-marathon was a PR, too. I really started using the adaptive running style advocated by Brad Hudson of the Performance Training Group and enjoyed a relaxed but focused training period.

August
Learned to embrace running in heat, no really, I didn’t hate every single run this summer. I had a good guy’s weekend in Portsmouth with K-West and Shirley Temple, always a highlight. Hit my “older 20’s” officially and instantly felt older. I finally bought a Garmin, life changing! Ran another half-marathon as a spec test for my fall race and came away with a big PR on a course with 2k’ of elevation gain! I finished the month with an epic quest for Heady Topper all over VT. Mmm… Heady Topper…

September
INJURIES! My first real injury and subsequent recovery time happened in September. Remember that lack of rest and proper recovery I mentioned back in March? No? Well, at any rate, my hip had been a problem off and on all year and it finally flared up so bad that I needed a couple weeks off completely and a few good ART sessions. Got in about a week of easy running again by the end of the month to prep for a now goal-less fall marathon. I learned the joys of proper recovery and back up races, too.

October
I ran a 2:54:30 marathon in some rain after a week and a half of training coming off injury. Got beat by my friend and still managed 7th place though. All sorts of lessons were learned on that one, most importantly, how to run a marathon just for fun and finishing. I made good memories all month with good running friends and non-running friends. I worked back up to full training, safely. In October I started seriously considering a move out to Oregon and spent lots of time and prayer on the idea, I also decided to book a trip out there. My good friend, Sam came out to Oregon with me and we spent a week at his brother’s house in The Yaak, Montana, too. The trip cemented my interest in moving west and though it hasn’t come to fruition yet, I’m anxiously searching for a job in Bend, OR. I learned the joy of running at higher elevation and with bear spray in my hand when I was out west and saw a million amazing and beautiful things.

November
The month started with my back-up fall marathon. The course was absolutely brutal and the weather tried to best the course’s hills for brutality. I ran out of gas worse than I ever have at 20 miles and had to grit my way to the end, my pace was all over the place due to the elevation changes. I was able to stay within 2 minutes of my PR and did not lose heart, just realized that my goals were not accurate for the course and based on my fitness level. I took a short break after the race and did some hiking and relaxing. I ran my first indoor track workouts and first track workouts with a group, something I will always look forward to now! Bounced back fast from the marathon and was able to get back to 50 a week for the second half of the month. Finished the month by Turkey Trotting across some icy fields.

December
Continued to hit 50 a week and finished a strong month of Thursday night track sessions with Greater Lowell Road Runners. I was able to get a huge PR in the 5k after all the track work and strong base building! Kept my eye loosely fixed on my mileage goal for the year that had seemed so out of reach post-injury, but now appeared reachable. On December 16th I started my training for Boston Marathon and consequently kicked off my fundraising for World Vision. I finished the year with a couple 60 mile weeks and no injuries to report. Crushed the mileage goal for the year by 47 miles, 2347! I’ve now gained 800 miles a year since I started running in late 2010!

 

I’m sure I’ve missed thousands of awesome, terrible and surprising; boring, fun and memorable happenings. This year was just too much to process at times, but so worth it for the lessons learned. As I wind this post down with Norah Jones quietly cooing on the speakers, I start thinking again of all the amazing things that 2014 will bring. I could not be more excited for this year to begin and though I’ve said that every year for a while, it’s still the truth. The west coast beckons, Boston Marathon awaits and many, many miles of running must be covered. BRING IT ON!

Big props in 2013 go out to my friends and family, both new and old; you helped get me through some very tough times and were a big part of all the good times. The shoes of the year were New Balance for racing/speed-work and Mizuno on the easy runs. Garmin came into my life and helped me with mileage and pacing. Chocolate milk and cottage cheese were the go to post run recovery foods until lactose intolerance barged into my body. Chicken was the go to food, usually in burrito or taco casings and I can’t count the number of new IPA’s that were tried. Well, that about wraps up the shout-outs and honorable mentions, so I bid you goodbye and goodnight, 2013.

Fresh Slate on Training

I’d love to use this post to explain how my next training plan will utilize core/upper body, speedwork and tempo runs to perfectly balance my distance training, when paired with adequate rest days and good nutrition. I have a significant problem to resolve first however…

I still need to determine what that training plan is!!     HELP!?

Historically I have followed two different plans in my marathon training, plans sourced on coolrunning.com or more recently a guide based off the recommendations in the back of Brad Hudson’s book, Run Faster. I have never been invested enough in the past to seek out a coach or some kind of interactive training, but I want to build of the past efforts and improve every year! 2013 was the first year that I did not meet the marathon goals I had set for myself and I want to make sure that in Boston next April I will be putting the best possible me on the starting line. I do not blame my training plans for the goals unmet this past year. I have spent some serious time analyzing this past year and recognized what I can change to give myself a better chance at hitting those goals next year. I’m sure I will end up writing a year end recap in the next couple of weeks here, where I will elaborate further on this past year and what happened, both negative and positive.

As for this coming race cycle, I would like to have a solid base of 18 weeks dedicated training, which means I need to start on Monday, December 16th. Before I start training again I will have already put in 2 30 mile recovery weeks and 4 solid weeks of 50 miles avg. including track workouts. This will certainly be the most prepared I’ve ever been physically before starting and so far I’m feeling pretty healthy, too. I’ve been trying not to overdo it, while still maintaining a decent mileage and having fun!

Anyhow, if you are reading this and can put me in the direction of some great training or coaching, I will entertain any new options at this point. I do have the Brad Hudson plan to fall back on as I did not quite give it a fair shake last time through, due to a late start and injuries. I still came within a few minutes of my goal time, despite the setbacks, but as a life long second guesser I feel that I must at least seek out some other options. I would love to find a coach or join one of the great local clubs (I’ve been doing track workouts with Greater Lowell Road Runners, shout-out to a very fun group!) but with my dream of moving out to Oregon still very much alive, I feel that it would not behoove me at this juncture to tie myself down here in MA.

I’ve made no attempt in the past couple weeks to write up anything and feel that laziness and TV are to blame. I have a ton of thoughts swirling around, but have been sucked in to Netflix. I promise to myself that I will get active again with my writing and start working on the book ideas that have been nagging me for awhile. (ha ha, yeah right) I’ll start with regular blog entries, maybe.

Workout of the post – 12 mile tempo run from a couple days ago. It felt great to have the mid 6:20’s rolling off while still being able to chat. http://connect.garmin.com/activity/411999529#.Up66f_XacIw.wordpress

On Vacation

This post is brought to the internet from somewhere deep in the woods of northwest Montana. I’m currently enjoying my last night in Montana before driving back to Portland, OR for the flight east tomorrow night. Vacation started off with a drive from Portland to Bend and a couple days scouting out my potential future hometown. I absolutely loved Bend, everything about it, from the running trails, to the restaurants, to the houses and shops. The flora and fauna in the central Oregon high desert plains are obviously quite different than the northeast, but down in Bend the trees are plentiful and the river is beautiful. I’m excited to see where my current job goes, as there is a lot up in the air, but I’m going to keep looking for opportunities in Bend in the meantime.

From Bend the trip proceeded to the Yaak River Valley in northwest Montana, where I’ve been staying with friends since last Thursday. This has certainly been the most relaxing part of the trip, enjoying home cooked meals and spending time with a family that exemplifies love and hard work. The mountains in Montana are as big as the sky here and the rivers trees and open spaces are just as vast. I am daily impressed with the amazing scenery, epic vistas in Glacier National Park and the mountains just outside the pop up camper I’ve been sleeping in. My training has been slightly curtailed due to the cold weather and hilly terrain, but I’ve only completely skipped one run. Just one run in the past week+ has been below 3k’ elevation and though they say that you don’t feel the effects of higher altitude until 5k feet, this has certainly been more aggressive on my lungs than most sea level runs. I think the combination of traveling, freezing temps and increased elevation are to blame, more than the individual issues. My speedwork and tempo runs have felt it the most, all have been slightly above the paces I was shooting for. I have only trimmed less than 10 miles out of my plan, so I still have high hopes for the race on Sunday. I’m not quite sure what to expect as I have been told that the course is hilly and did miss that time from injury over the past couple months. I currently feel great and still would like to PR even if don’t come close to my 2:40:xx goal time. Barring some unforeseen extreme weather or injury I will be expecting to finish under 3 hours for the third time this year, something I never thought possible one year ago.

Special shout-out to the 2012 VW Jetta rental we’ve been cruising in, it’s taken us through off-roading in Oregon and over a 6500′ pass in 6″ deep snow with close to 2400 miles of reliable motoring. (fingers crossed for tomorrows trip)

Returning From Injury – Stronger! (mentally and physically)

I’ve had a serious lack of inspiration in blogging lately and not due to lack of worthy content. I’ve been training to the point of excellent sleep due to exhaustion this entire week. Full training schedule and cold nights have turned me into a real sleeper again. But between the sleep, running and vacation planning, I’ve become a full time slacker on the blog.

The return from an injury break has been an emotional one, full of ups and a few downs. I feel like every workout has been part of a long slow crawl out of a pit full of snakes, the pit from Indiana Jones, to be specific. I’ve seen a light at the end of the tunnel since the first time I saw a Dr. about this issue, just over a month ago, but that has not made the recovery an easier task physically. The loss of fitness from the zero training period made a serious dent in my current ability.
To give some background, since I don’t think I’ve mentioned what exactly happened, I’ll list a brief history. I started experiencing some serious pain and tightness in my right hip after a long training run at the beginning of September. This spread quickly to my knee and iliotibial band and I foolishly tried to keep training through it, even when the pain did not subside. Eventually my knee became too stiff to even run on and I finally broke down and saw someone. The Dr. told me that on top of the 4 days I had already taken off, I needed at least another week with NO running to let the hip flexor muscles relax as they were flared up something awful. Ten days of rest and a return trip to the Dr. later and I could carefully start running again. I put 29 miles in the first week back and followed that up with a week of nearly full training, but at scaled back paces and slightly shorter distances. I’ve now put 165 miles on the legs since getting the all clear to run again, three+ weeks ago. I feel nearly healthy again, but I still feel like my fitness level is back to where it was in mid summer, just not feeling fast anymore! I am focusing on the positives, because to do anything else is a selfish outlook on the wonderful health God has blessed me with thus far. I had a minor injury and I learned heaps about proper recovery and when to take it easy and when to take a break. My fall marathon goal was ambitious, at best, and at worst, unrealistic, but I was training for it optimistically anyway. Now the pressure is off from that goal, I have one more marathon this year and I’m just about to start my taper for that race. It will be a fun race no matter what, because being able to run at all is what I am appreciating right now.

Tune in to my next post in a couple days, where I hope to put some thoughts down about a impending vacation to Portland, Bend, Montana and all over Idaho and Washington. I’ll soon be running on the west coast, using up most of my vacation time and forgetting taper madness in the mountains!
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 Last but not least, GO SOX! World Series bound! I’ll be tuning in from the west coast!