Tag Archives: races

New Year, New Perspective, New Peace

2014 was an amazing year for me as an athlete. If you would have told me 4 years ago that I’d be running marathons and writing about it, I would have laughed at you, and then pointed my finger at you and laughed some more. But here I am.

I was always the geek in high school. More worried about getting good grades, copy editing the school newspaper and getting to drama guild rehearsal on time than any type of sports. It wasn’t until later in life that I found my athletic competitive side. I compete with myself the worst. 2014 is evidence. If I go back just a bit to 2013, the year I ran my first half marathon, I can find my starting point. I ran my first 13.1 in 2 hours 16 minutes. Not bad for a newbie. I signed up for the Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas later that year, with a kinda-sorta goal of finishing under 2 hours. Not impossible, but I didn’t truly understand the training needed to get there. I didn’t hit my goal. I finished in 2 hours 12 minutes. I was mad. Pissed off, ticked, you name it. Angry mad at myself. This is where I let my competitive side take over. I wanted that sub-2 hour half. Bad. I signed up for an April half marathon, and started training my ass off over Christmas week. I blew my goal away by finishing in 1 hour 55 minutes, setting a new Personal Record by 17 minutes. That was huge. I felt great! In my euphoria, I dove right into my next challenge (competitive side really burning high now) and signed up for my first marathon.

I set myself an aggressive goal to finish my first marathon in 4 hours. I figured if I could do a half in 1:55, that a 4 hour marathon was possible. I set my training plan and started training my ass off again. It was a hot and humid summer to train over. But I did it. Every day I got up and reminded myself that I had committed to running this marathon, both mentally, and by paying the entry fee. I was going to go make a good showing of it.

And this is where I fell down. Training for a marathon is no joke. I was running 5 days a week, and at peak, 50 miles a week. This takes a LOT of time. And effort. Add on top of that the fact that I’m a busy career man, with a challenging job during the day, and putting the finishing touches on raising a 17-year old girl to be a responsible adult, and an attentive husband to my stellar wife. That is a LOT to expect of anyone. But I did it. And what I found at the end was ugly.

I got to the point where I was dreading the run. Not another run on another hot day. I was so mentally exhausted that I kept questioning why I was doing this at all. Who was I trying to prove something to? I was physically exhausted most of the time as well. My training was aggressive to try and get me into shape to achieve my aggressive goal. But my 42-year-old body, while in pretty good shape, was having a hard time rising to the occasion. I realized I hated this. Hated it bad. I didn’t want to run anymore. It was all just too much. But my sense of duty that I committed to this race would not let me stop. So I didn’t.

I ran my marathon. I felt pretty good on race day, and mostly throughout the race. I was not in the right mental place to finish strong. I was mentally tired, and part of me just wanted to get it over with so I could get on with my life. My pace really suffered in the final 10K, as most first timers do, and I finished in 4 hours 33 minutes. Which, in retrospect, is a stellar time for a first-time marathoner in his 40’s. I finished on my own power. I should be more proud of the achievement. But whenever I think about it, all I can think about is how badly I felt at the end of all of that training.

I took most of the month of November off from running. I needed the break. Yeah I packed on a few pounds after being so active and then not. But it’s okay. I sort of started back running a little bit in December, but not much.

At the end of December, I ran one of my favorite runs, the Kris Kringle 5 miler. I hadn’t been out for a while and was certainly not in peak shape, but I went out and just ran. And I loved it. There was no pressure for a finish time or a PR. No mental grief over some expectation of performance. I just ran. And that’s when it hit me. This is how my running should be. It should be joyous that I have the strength to run, that I am able to run. I do so much love to run. Anything that detracts me from that feeling of joy in motion is bad, and I need to stay away from it.

So my goals for 2015 are to simply let go of any expectation of performance and just enjoy the crap out of my running. I’m already signed up for 7 5K’s, 1 10K, and 2 half marathons before the end of July. I don’t care how I finish. I’m just going to go and run them. And enjoy the crap out of each one. Because I can run, and I love to run. I’m going to focus more on cross training, and try to exercise something every day, because a stronger me will naturally become a faster, fitter me without having to pressure myself into some artificial goal. It will be what it is, and I’m going to be happy with it. So far, so good. I’ve been working out at something nearly every day, and am still feeling the love.

What are your goals for 2015? Have you ever felt this way about your training? How do you find “the happy” in each day’s run?

Winter Blues

This has been a rough Winter so far for the North Eastern United States. We’ve had lots of snow and ice storms on a pretty regular tempo throughout the season (actually it started early this year) and we are not in sight of the finish line just yet.

Yuck!

Yuck!

So how does a runner keep up with training during weather like this? Short answer: I’m not really sure. I’m only in my second year of calling myself a runner, and last Winter we barely had any snow at all so I was able to run outside for nearly the entire season. So I am far from an expert, but I can share how I am trying to keep up with everything.

1. Just get out and do it. When there is not snow covering the roads and sidewalks, I force myself to go outside and run. I invested in a couple sets of good running thermals, which I talked about in detail last Winter, and put on another layer or two depending on the temperature and just go do it. I’m typically chilly for the first mile, but after that, it usually isn’t bad at all. In fact, I rather like running in the cold. It is easier for me than running in the hot, humid Summers we usually have around here. I don’t get overheated, the air is crisp and clean, and there is usually no one else crazy enough to be outside running, so I have the sidewalks and paths to myself.

2. Sign up for a race! This is one of my favorite tricks. If I put money down on a race entry fee, I’m going to get up and go to the race. The Winter races around where I live are always a lot of fun and have really good numbers of people show up. Go and get your run on with some fellow running nuts!

The Frosty Finish Line!

The Frosty Finish Line!

3. Either find a gym nearby or invest in a treadmill for your home. I bit the bullet this year and bought a treadmill. I plan on doing a Tech Review post on it soon, so I won’t belabor the details of which one and what it does just yet, but I have it in the basement and it has been a savior to my training plan (my wife’s, too!) This Winter has just been so bad that running outside has regularly been impossible. There are some really great treadmill training programs out there, and pointers on how to make sure your treadmill workout is as effective as going outside is. ย Yes the treadmill can get monotonous. Yes the treadmill can get boring. The trick for me is finding something to occupy my mind other than staring at the progress statistics on the treadmill screen. My best trick is putting my iPad up on the treadmill console and streaming a Netflix movie or TV show to watch while I run. I find that I get absorbed into the story and forget (to an extent) about my progress.

So that’s it. No magic tricks, nothing exceptionally out of the ordinary here. I’m keeping my head down and getting in as much training as I can, still keeping my eye on that April Half-Marathon I’ve signed up for (see? money is a powerful motivator!) I’m just as sick of Winter as the next person, and am looking forward to Spring and more sunshine just like everyone else.

How are you making it through the Winter? Do you train? Or Hibernate? Do you have any tricks to share on staying motivated during the cold months? I’d love to hear from you.

2013 Kris Kringle 5 miler

This has been my last race of the year for 2 years now. I’m kind of fond of it, despite how much this race tends to suck. Last year, this was my first time doing a 5 mile distance. I had only done 5K’s up until then. And for the 2012 race, it snowed quite a bit the day before the race, and much of the Kringle was run on a snow-packed trail. I thought 2012 sucked.

That was until the 2013 race. This year, instead of snow, we were graced with just-slightly-above freezing temperatures and a steady, soaking rain. Runners are a stalwart lot, however, and the crowd seemed undaunted.

Just a tad less than 600 runners showed up to race in the cold December rain

Just a tad less than 500 runners showed up to race in the cold December rain

I’m not one to complain. I learned during my years in the U.S. Air Force that people are waterproof. But I really, really dislike being wet. Just a preference thing. I bundled up as best I could.

Multiple layers to combat both cold and rain, but not turn myself into a furnace during the race.

Multiple layers to combat both cold and rain, but not turn myself into a furnace during the race.

When the race started just after 11am, it was 38 degrees Farenheit ( a tad over 3 degrees Celsius) and the rain was coming down light but steady. Just enough to get everything nice and wet.

Runners starting to gather in the cold rain

Runners starting to gather in the cold rain

Waiting at the starting line as the rest of the runners make their wet way

Waiting at the starting line as the rest of the runners make their wet way

I’ve been running 5 miles as my go-to distance lately as I’m ramping up for my spring race goal, so I wasn’t worried about making it to the finish line this year because of the distance. The conditions, however, really gave me a challenge this time:

  1. About 15 minutes in my iPhone did a panic shut down. I think it must have gotten moist in my “waterproof media pocket”. But this left me with no RunKeeper stats, and no music for the whole race. Not unbearable, but different from my normal. Not good for race day.
  2. Did I mention that I really dislike being wet? Bad military training memories. I got soaked. My older and well-traveled rain coat I was wearing totally failed me. I was soaked all the way through everything I was wearing on top. I would have been way more comfortable if my rain coat had worked.
  3. My running shoes are not waterproof. Puddle after icy puddle I stepped in bathed my feet in their frigid wetness. My toes started going numb just before mile marker 4. They didn’t get really bad because I kept moving, but each puddle made it a bit more miserable for my toes.

Okay. Enough whining. Here’s the stuff I really love about this race, no matter what the conditions are:

  1. You get a hoodie instead of a race shirt. I love seeing the older ones appear on race day, and really enjoy wearing mine throughout the colder months.
  2. The race starts out flat, but within 5 minutes goes up a really challenging hill. I train hills all the time, and just love leaving people in the dust as I power up the big hill. It gives me a real boost.
  3. It is the last race of the year. It is awesome to cap out the year’s races with a good distance like this.
  4. Even though it is after Christmas, the festivities continue for a bit. I love seeing the costumes and jingle bells out one more time for the season.
  5. I improved my time a little over 7 minutes from last year. 2012 time was 54 minutes. 2013 time was 46 minutes. Yay!

This really is a great race, and despite my grumbling about the conditions each year, it is a good challenge. There certainly are times when you have to dig down deep and get your mind over the matter. And as my training instructors in the Air Force used to say, “People are waterproof as long as they keep their mouths shut.” ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you like to wrap up your racing year?

 

 

 

 

Run Santa Run 5K

This past Saturday, December 14th, 2013, I finally made it out to West Reading to run the “Run Santa Run 5K”. I wanted to do the race last year, but already had a race scheduled for Sunday and was really unsure about running a race two days in a row. This year is a different year.

We started in front of my favorite running store, A Running Start, in West Reading, PA. The store is small but fabulous. The staff are all avid runners and can steer you to the right gear. They are also huge supporters of our local running club, the Pagoda Pacers (of which I’m also a member). Everyone racing was unsure if we were going to race at all because of an impeding snow storm. We lucked out that the meteorologists were wrong and the storm didn’t really start until well after the race was done.

The race started on time in the frigid cold. My intrepid wife, Gia, has been joining me for races this winter. I love doing this stuff together.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

Waiting in the starting line for the gun. Brrr.

I’ve done a few other 5K races in the West Reading area, and remember it as being a little hilly. In case you were wondering, it still is. ๐Ÿ™‚

There were over 600 Santas out there on Saturday. It was a really great race. West Reading is very charming, and there is really no better way to see it than out and around on foot.

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

Waiting near the finish line for Gia to arrive. Run, Santa! Run!

 

We both turned in respectable times. I came it at 26:54 and Gia got 33:31. Not a record for me, but I’m happy with it. Gia’s been training up for the last 6 weeks or so, and I’m really proud of how well she’s doing.

I’m already looking forward to next year! Do you have a favorite holiday run?