As 2011 comes to a close and I begin to reflect, I can't stop smiling ear to ear. 2011 was a year of PRs and without a doubt, my most successful since I started running.
Certainly, the highlight of 2011 was running in my first ultra in May, the Mind the Ducks 12 Hour. I did some of the most intense training I had ever done in months leading up to the ultra. I was averaging about 20 to 25 miles during the weekdays and 20+ mile long runs on the weekends.
Since most of my long runs were near the marathon distance, I decided to use marathons as part of my training. I figured I might as well have the on course aid/support instead of running solo. To my surprise, I found 5 marathons within the span of 6 weeks that were all very close to me.
So, in late February, I kicked off my "training run" marathons running in my club's annual marathon. Then, in March, I ran in a marathon every weekend. I had a blast running in each event! Some were big cities races, like the National Marathon in DC. Others were small town races (my personal favorite) like the Lower Potomac River Marathon in Piney Point, Maryland.
I'm always amazed with how quickly our bodies adapt to the stresses we introduce to it. Each time I toed the start line, my body felt fresh and ready to take on the distance. That gave me a lot of much needed confidence going into my first ultra. Below were my times from the marathons.
2/20/11 - GW Birthday Marathon - 3:57:41 (PR)
3/06/11 - B&A Trail* Marathon - 4:05:06
3/13/11 - Lower Potomac River Marathon - 4:01:58
3/20/11 - Shamrock Marathon - 3:54:20 (reset PR)
3/26/11 - National Marathon - 3:55:59
*The trail was a paved bike trail.
April was a taper month. No races...just easy training runs in the beautiful spring weather. As the day of my ultra drew closer, there was a mix of excitement and fear. Running into the unknown is scary as much as it is a thrill for me. Having said that, my first ultra was an amazing experience! Over the course of the 12 hours, I covered 59.5 miles! I couldn't believe it! If you would like to read about it, check out my race recap blog: Mind the Ducks 12 Hour.
A month after my ultra, I ran in my first trail marathon. The day before the race, I got to meet one of my running idols, Dean Karnazes! The trail marathon was a very humbling experience for me. I had not trained much on trails leading up to the race, but I figured my road marathon conditioning would be sufficient. Boy was I wrong. The course chewed me up and spit me out (luckily near the finish line!). Trail running is a totally different beast and I learned that the hard way. Following my trail marathon, I toned down my training.
During the mid-summer heat of July, for reasons beyond me, I thought it would be "fun" to run in a 6 hour ultra in Annapolis, MD. I have one word for how that race went: disastrous. 3 hours in, I was 5 pounds under my start weight. The concerned looks I was getting from the medics at the aid tent were not very reassuring for me. While I was still within the tolerances of acceptable weight loss, I was on the verge of being pulled out of the race by the officials. Before I let that happen, I went over to the starters table and voluntarily dropped out. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one.
As summer turned to fall, I began to focus on my goal of PRing at the Marine Corps Marathon in late October. About a month prior to the MCM, I ran in the Woodrow Wilson Half Marathon, resetting my half marathon PR by almost 2 minutes!
The MCM is a great event and I was excited to run in my "home" marathon. I had a race plan going in and stuck to it. 3 hours 49 minutes and 10 seconds later I crossed the finish line, shaving 5 minutes off my previous PR!
After the MCM, it was off to sunny Southern California in November to try my hands, errr feet, at another trail marathon on Catalina Island. In preparation for this race, I did a lot of trail running out in the gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (I highly recommend checking that area out if you live nearby). On race day, the running gods had other plans. During the overnight hours, a heavy rain storm hit Catalina Island, flooding most of the course. For safety reasons, the race director changed the course which meant this race became about a 60% road - 40% trail race. It was a shame that I didn't get to run the official race course, but better to change the course then to cancel the race completely.
Over Thanksgiving, I traveled to my hometown of Newburgh, IN and ran in a Turkey Trot 5K. Two good friends of mine joined me, both first time 5Kers. Having the company was nice and it was great to see my friends run in their first 5K!
To cap off my 2011 running season, I ran in a 10K put on by my running club. The race went well and I locked up my last PR of the year, running a 43:52. The real highlight for this race was that I finished in the top ten overall and won my age group! It had been years since my last age group win, so I was pumped!
Looking ahead to 2012, my race calendar is filling up fast! I can't wait to get the new year kicked off!
Happy New Year and Happy Running!