Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Running Highlights

I reached out to runners on Twitter and asked them to share their running highlight(s) from the year. Below are their inspirational responses. Looks like everyone had a great year! Here's to another good one in 2014!

I completed my 6th and 7th marathons.  Ran a marathon with my aunt and cousin (their firsts), and ran Nikewomen's Half Marathon in San Francisco with Team Turtlez.
Elizabeth, @turtlegirl00

My highlight was definitely the half/full combo I did back in May. Ran the Cap City half, then did the Flying Pig full the next day. However, there is a second highlight: doing the Detroit half with my wife in October. We had the exact same start and finish time.

I've had a good year. 2013 was my first "post ultra marathoning" year, where I've gone back to focusing on improving myself at the 5k to 13.1 mile distances before moving back up to the longer events. It took me 55 weeks to get back to my pre-ultramarathon 5k pace and I ended up with a new 5k PR of 17:41! I also broke my old half marathon PR by three minutes along the way with a 1:23. 2013 may also be my highest mileage year ever, with about 2500 total!

Our happy and healthy girl joined us on July 23rd. I am easing back into running but I feel strong and happy. I am thankful to be able to run again even if only for short distances. My highlight this year has been every single run as I just keep getting better. If I had to pick one it would have been last week when I braved the cold with what little fitting gear I had and went outside. I ran through the neighborhood and looked at all the Christmas lights. My lungs burned the whole run and my legs ached the next day but I really felt like a runner again.
Kourtney, @KourtBranagan

My 2013 running highlight is probably cheesy, but I ran Boston, which was impossible for me to even imagine when I started running in 2009. 2 marathons and 3 years later I started adding speed work and qualified with a 3:32. Being in Boston this Spring with all these amazingly dedicated runners was an experience I'll never forget! It was also the hardest race experience I ever had with limited hill training in cold, flat Chicago. It was the most mentally challenging and physically challenging race I've done. I had to force myself not to walk the entire last 6 miles, which ended up being critical to me finishing well before the bombings.
Jessica, @BibRave

2013 was actually a pretty big running year for me (two half marathons, two full marathons, two ultra marathons). I ran the Boston Marathon in (a few seconds over) three hours and, more importantly, escaped the bombings with my family and friends unscathed. I also completed my first two 50-mile trail ultra marathons, and the second one I came in first place overall! This was incredibly exciting for me, as I'd never won a race of any kind before. Launching was a huge running event for me and my wife. With SO MANY races these days, we really wanted to give runners a voice when it comes to race feedback. Seeing reviews come rolling in has been really exciting, and we're stoked for 2014!
Tim, @BibRave

Throwing out my run streak. Since taking one day off a week (and more time off if I'm sick or feeling an injury sneak up on me), I've noticed a dramatic improvement in my times and overall mental health. Training smart and avoiding burn out has made me wonder why I even considered a run streak in the first place! 
Jamie, @DCRunster

My running highlight from 2013 was the Philadelphia Marathon. I have run more than thirty half marathons since 2007 but just started tackling the full distance in the last year. The Philadelphia Marathon was my second marathon and now I am hooked on this longer distance. I have run so many half marathons that I can do them in my sleep with zero training. I am not saying they are easy, I am just saying that they are no longer challenging. The full distance is very challenging because I am one of those people who dislikes training but who LOVES racing. So I race almost every weekend from spring to late fall. As a result, I don’t spend much time training because I am taking a (brief) recovery from whatever weekend event I did. The full marathon distance is challenging because the last 10K is difficult...just like the last 5K of a half marathon used to be. I love that feeling of being challenged and trying to get my race times down. I cut off 20 minutes from my first marathon so I am making progress! 
Jasica, @JasciaRed

I tried (and completed) the three way challenge at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati. I ran the 10K immediately followed by the 5K on Saturday and got up and ran the half on Sunday. I was in only my 4th year of running and doing multiple, back to back events was definitely a different challenge than the full marathon I ran the previous spring. Some of the difficult elements were - pacing, not just for the immediate event but keeping in mind there would be another. Ending the 10K and not getting cold while getting back around to the 5K start. Replenishing was a big one! What to eat and drink and when so that I'd be fueled and hydrated for the current and upcoming events.
Kathleen, @Katrobbr

My running highlight would be running my third marathon (Des Moines Marathon) at goal pace and getting a PR of 4:18. This was the first time I trained with speed in mind and not just worrying about getting the miles in. I finished over an hour earlier than my very first marathon last fall in Wichita!
DeEtta, @DeEttaLBohling  

My 2013 was highlighted by running my local marathon and the Marine Corp Marathon.  I ran my local marathon in a huge PR for the course and a personal PR by a few minutes. My favorite thing about running this marathon is that I get to do it in front of my wife and kids. Marine Corp was so much fun. We took my father-in-law since he is a former marine. We visited so many places that I was glad he got to see and experience. It was a tough training cycle and I had some injury issues with my hip. The race wasn't great for me personally but I got to enjoy seeing DC and experiencing the sights during the race. Getting my race medal from a marine at the finish was first class. I was so proud to be an American. The final highlight to the year was running the local YMCA Turkey Trot with my kids. My 6 year old daughter and I ran the 1 mile.  She was as excited as was I. Running has taught me so many things and I can't wait to teach her along the way. We ran the whole race and had fun! My 10 year old son and I ran the 5K.  It was so cold that morning but it was a great way to start off our thanksgiving.
Chuck, @clswannie

My BIGGEST highlight was running my first half marathon. Of course it wasn't just any marathon, it was the Disney Princess Half. On a more serious note. When I was 15, I was told never to run again. I was a sprinter at the time and loving it. Then issues with my leg arose and I was told to 'hang up' my running shoes and pick a new hobby. Please, like running is a hobby. Obviously the doctors weren't runners. Anyway, I still ran when I could but not very long distances. Then I found out about the Disney races in 2012 and immediately registered for the Princess Half Marathon. Being a huge Disney fan, it was kind of a no brainer for me. I trained for a year, working my way up from running 1 mile to the full 13.1, and finally, at 5:45am that February morning, I ran with 15,000 of my closest female friends. All the support from everyone along the route was amazing - especially for that early in the morning! - and the best part was how I felt at the finish line. I was a smiling fiend. I couldn't help myself. I did what a lot of people told me I couldn't do and I felt great. Probably the best part about the whole race? Getting a hug from Minnie at the finish line!

I would have to say that the most major thing that happened to me this year, running-wise was my first 10K in June in Grand Forks, ND.  At the time, it was the longest run I'd ever done, and I did it alone.  My friend had just started running again and ran the 5K, but I was shuffling along for 6.2 miles by myself.  The weather was miserable, windy and rainy - the canopy covering the after-race lunch nearly blew over before the race even started.  But, as happens, half a mile in, I was fine.  Great in fact.  The race wound through some really pretty residential streets, probably the wealthiest, quietest area of town, and then down the trail by the river.  The wind and rain died down about a quarter of the way through, and I was able to do the whole thing without walking once.  In fact, the only time I really had to fight the wind was during the last tenth of a mile, as I raced back to the finish line.
Margie, @margie311

My running highlight from 2013 is finishing my first - and my second - marathon! My first will always be a highlight of my running journey as I ran it at Walt Disney World in honor of my grandfather who passed away. It was hot, but I pushed through and finished with a smile on my face! My second marathon was special as I ran in my home state of Michigan underneath the beautiful fall leaves. I worked hard for that 51 minute PR!
Megan, @Megan_Biller

My running highlights for 2013 were The Boston Marathon and discovering trail running. First off, let me start with Boston. This was special for several reasons. My childhood was spent in Boston during the 1970's. My love for running was not evident while I was growing up and did not appear for nearly 35 years. I did, however, acquire a love for The Boston Red Sox and the great city of Boston. Kind of special that it all came to a head this year for many fine folks who share similar loves. It was a short trip that was made even more strange with all that happened. But, I will be back in 2014 to enjoy and create more memories. The discovery of trail running made an impact on my running year. Although I have yet to run a trail race, I did find a unique place to get away, take it slow, save my legs, and begin to meet a brand new kind of people. I believe this friendship will continue to blossom. The slower pace.  The shade. The natural beauty. The workout. All are reasons I am so glad to say, yes, I am a trail runner. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

6 years ago today

The other day I came across something I wrote back on December 24, 2007. It was weeks before my first marathon and I was sharing my thoughts on how running had impacted my life. It was cool to relive some of the emotions I felt then and I thought I would share a small part of that post here. It's clear to me from the words I wrote then that this was the turning point in my running life.

The human body is an amazing machine and sitting on the couch and letting it go to waste is a terrible thing. Funny thing is, a year and half ago I was doing exactly that...sitting on my ass, eating whatever I wanted, drinking whatever I wanted, and for icing on the cake, I was smoker. Then, last summer, when I stepped on the scale and saw that I was 210 pounds, I realized I needed to make some changes to my lifestyle. In July of 2006, I quit smoking, which I found surprisingly easy to do. Then, in the fall I joined my school's crew club. Outside of crew, I slowly picked up running and started entering 5K races in the spring. Soon, I began to enjoy the aspects of running far more than crew, so I quit and fully committed myself to running. Long story short, here I am, 3 weeks away from my first of what I hope to be many marathons! I've lost 30 pounds and I'm in the best shape of my life. Most importantly, I feel the best I've ever felt in I don't know how many years, physically and mentally.

I'm starting to enjoy long distance running and I see this as something I'm going to do for the rest of my life. I like seeing how far I can push the limits of human endurance. I have all these wild ambitions that I'm not even gonna get into cause people would start to think I really am crazy. Hopefully, I will be able to achieve them someday! 

6 years later, running has become such a passion of mine. I've run further than I ever thought was possible in some of the most gorgeous places in the US. Along the way, I've met so many inspirational people. Their stories have fueled my own desire to better myself. I'm grateful for every step I take and try my best not to take anything for granted. Running is a journey that has no finish line, which is good, because I never want it to end.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Running Year Review: 2013 (In Pictures)

Another fun year of running has come to a close. Instead of blabbing about my year, I thought it would be fun to share it in pictures. So, without further adieu...

Ice formed on my water pack hose at the Icy-8 hour ultra. 
A fun race that lived up to its name! 40 miles in 7:32:36.
Valentines Day 5K with friends.
Became an Ambassador for Nuun! RnR DC Half.
New Jersey 100 Mile.  Me at mile 50. Ended up dropping out at mile 70 because I was frozen to the core. Hoping to finish my second 100 mile attempt in June!
Course was a little muddy for the 100 miler
Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run with friends

Flying Pig Marathon. Definitely one of my favorite races of 2013. Highly recommend it!
Maine Coast Marathon. Small marathon just south of Portland. Was a lot of fun!
The North Face Half Marathon DC with friends.
Bastille Day 4 Miler with DC Road Runners
The North Face Georgia Marathon with my friend Cathy. I was also a North Face blogger for this event.
Wineglass Marathon
Ragnar Trail AZ with Team Nuun. So much fun!
Team Nuun
Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis. PR'd - 3:42:48
Veteran's Day 50K
Rolled across the finish line. PR'd - 5:13:47
Turkey Trot 5K with friends.
Capped off my year running at The North Face 50 Mile in San Francisco. Awesome race!
2014 promises to be another fun year for me. I recently found out that I will be continuing my partnership with Nuun Hydration as an Ambassador, so I'm looking forward to working with them again. I will be blogging for The North Face again at one of their 2014 Endurance Challenge events.  I've also dipped my toes into writing and will be contributing articles to Trail and Ultra Running in the new year. Be on the lookout for my first published article soon! Be sure to browse their site, too. Pretty cool content.

Training for my next 100 mile attempt starts in January. I'm going to be running the Bryce 100 in Utah in June. I'm certainly not doing myself any favors of guaranteeing a finish at this race, as the course looks pretty killer. But, I look forward to the challenge as well as the beauty I will get to see! 

I hope you all had great a 2013! I wish you a safe and wonderful holiday and a strong 2014 running season!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Race Recap: The North Face Championship 50 Mile - San Francisco

Note to readers: LONG post. Grab a beer before you start reading.

"I finally feel like myself." That's what I said to my friend Cathy right before the start of my 50 mile journey through the Marin Headlands in Northern California. Leading up to this race, I was a nervous wreck. I wasn't nervous because I didn't feel prepared. I was ready. I had put in 3 hard months of training to make sure of it. I wasn't nervous because of the distance. I had been beyond the 50 mile mark twice in my crazy running life. I was nervous because this was going to be the hardest course I've ever run on. 10,000 feet of climbing. 10,00 feet of descending. Aka, The Quad Destroyer (for me, at least).

But, once I had all my running gear on and was making my way to start line, my attitude changed. I was no longer nervous. I was calm. Confident. Determined.

Marin Headlands in the distance

Course profile
At 5am, me and about 400 other kickass runners set off into the darkness. For the moment, all we could see was what our headlamps illuminated ahead. Yet, we knew that once the sun came up, we would be treated to some awesome sights.

Pre race 
I settled into a comfortable pace and focused only on reaching the first aid station, which was a little under 6 miles away. Thinking of only 6 miles to go instead of 50 did wonders for me mentally. It was a technique I used for the duration of the race. All I cared about was getting to next aid station.

As I headed out of Tennessee Valley (Aid Station 2), I no longer needed my headlamp. After a short climb, the trail dropped steeply down into a valley along the coastline, known as Pirates Cove. Seeing the vast Pacific and hearing the waves crashing into the seawalls was awesome. The trail along this section was pretty technical, so I couldn't look for too long, unless I wanted to face plant into the trail.

Once I made it to Muir Beach (Aid Station 3), I had about a half marathon under my belt. I was feeling strong, but knew that the next 15 miles or so would be the hardest part of the course for me. From Muir Beach, it was a steady 1,500 foot climb to the next aid station, appropriately named, Cardiac.

The stretch of trail from Muir to Cardiac was fantastic. While I had to walk most of it, the views kept on getting better the higher I got. The sun was now out in full force and the visibility was unlimited. If I looked left, I could see the Pacific. If looked ahead, I could see the runners in front of me snaking their way up the trail. To my right I could see the peaks and valleys of the headlands. If I looked behind, I could see the trail I covered, which make me think, "Wow, have I really climbed that much?"
Climb up to Cardiac (Photo Credit: The North Face ECS)
I was happy to reach Cardiac because that is where my drop bag was. I looked forward to ditching my shirt for a nice, dry one. I took my time at this aid station. I even sat a for minute or two to rest. I made sure to refill my water pack and restock my Gu and Picky Bars stash. I also carried a 20 ounce bottle that I would put my Nuun tablets in.

Once I left Cardiac, the trail took me into a heavily wooded area that was absolutely gorgeous. A few rays of sunshine were able to sneak their way through the tree branches, illuminating the moisture that was hanging in the air. It was hard for me to believe that I was running in such a beautiful place.

After reaching McKennan Gulch (Aid Station 5), I was starting to hit a wall. From McKennan Gulch, it was very steep 1,800 foot decent to the next aid station, Stinson Beach. The decent to Stinson really jacked up my quads. If I have a running weakness, it's running downhill. I'm horrible at it. It was something I worked on during my training, but I'm far from perfecting it. Once I made it to Stinson Beach I felt like shit...not the way I wanted to feel a little over halfway into the race. To make matters worse, it was another steep climb out of Stinson back to Cardiac.

It was during this portion of the race that I started to question if I would be able to finish. My legs felt so depleted. "How can I run for another 20 miles feeling like this? I'll never make it back." I'm usually pretty good at keeping negative thoughts like these away, but I was hurting bad and it was hard to ignore them.

It was a slow, SLOW climb back to Cardiac. It was only a 3 mile stretch, but it probably took me an hour to get there and I don't recall running much during this part. I was relieved when I finally reached Cardiac, but I thought I was in big trouble. I still had 20 miles of climbing and descending to go and I felt pretty shitty. I took my time again at Cardiac. Every aid station had nice, hot chicken broth and I helped myself to two cups. While it might not sound too tasty, during a race it is euphoric. I remember hearing one race volunteer say that they are no longer going to call it chicken broth, because nobody running this race was chicken.

Leaving Cardiac, I thought I was destined for a long struggle back to the finish line. However, about a mile out from the aid station, I started to knock down my wall. I felt the strength returning to my legs. The length of my stride began to increase. I was bouncing back and I couldn't believe it. The run from Cardiac to Old Inn (Aid Station 8) was probably the most enjoyable part of the race for me. Upon reaching Old Inn, I downed a couple cups of electrolytes, ate a handful of M&Ms, and continued on my way. I had about 13 miles to go and I was feeling great!

From Old Inn it was another 3.5 miles back to the Muir Beach aid station. This section of the course was probably the flattest and I was able to put in some strong miles. I flew into the Muir aid station and took a short break to get some food in me. I overheard one of the volunteers say that we had another steep climb ahead, but not to let it discourage us. When I left Muir I had just 10 miles left. I could start counting down the miles on my hands!

The climb out of Muir was definitely steep, about 1,000 feet. But, the trail offered amazing views of the Pacific. Upon reaching the top of this climb, it was fun descent back into Tennessee Valley. I was still feeling strong.

When I reached the Tennessee Valley aid station, Cathy joined in to pace me to the finish line. All that stood between Tennessee Valley and the finish was 6 miles and one last climb. As Cathy and I headed out I told her that I hope she didn't mind walking the hills, because running them wasn't an option for me.
Stretch of trail between Tennessee Valley and the final aid station. (Photo Credit: The North Face ECS)
Once we got to mile 47, it was all downhill to the finish. I pushed myself as hard as could in the final miles. I ran my last two miles in 10:10 and 9:37, respectively. Having Cathy's company was much appreciated. We cracked jokes and chatted with the runners around us. The last few miles of race reminded me why I love trail running so much.
Last downhill on the course. This trail brought me home. (Photo Credit: The North Face ECS)
As Cathy and I neared the finish, I told her I was gonna hand her my pack. A month ago, I had rolled across the finish line of my 50K and I wanted to do it again. Finish line in view, I tossed her my pack. I stopped just short of the finish line, dropped to my knees, and gracefully rolled across. Race done! What an epic journey! Race time, 12:00:32. Whew!

For years, I've flipped through running magazines and seen pictures of runners running in scenic places. I always wondered when I would get the chance to be the runner in those photos. Today, I no longer have to wonder. The beauty that was around me during all 50 miles is hard to describe. I decided to run without my phone, so I unfortunately don't have any pictures from the course to share. However, it was probably best I didn't have my phone, cause I might still be out there on the course taking pictures!

I've never been disappointed with any North Face Endurance Challenge race I've participated in. I still haven't done their New York or Wisconsin event, but I'm pretty sure that this course is their most scenic. I highly recommend any of their events, with strong emphasis on this race if you want to challenge yourself and see some of the most beautiful sights you will ever see!

Garmin Upload

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Running Shoes

The last 3 weeks have been quite a whirlwind for me. Lots of traveling and lots of running. November was all about getting in some key long runs before I entered my taper for The North Face 50 Miler this weekend in San Francisco.

Following the 50K I did a few weeks ago, I headed out to Philly with some friends to run in the Philly Marathon. I had never run Philly, but heard good things about it. I had no time goal for this race. I just wanted to get out there, log some miles and enjoy the marathon. In my opinion, the course was so-so. I will say, the first half was good. I would recommend the half to anyone. However, for the full, the second half was one huge out and back, something I'm not a fan of. While the scenery was pretty, it's tough to have something like that the last 13 miles of a marathon. Don't get me wrong though, the race staff did a great job and it was a very well managed race. However, it would be hard for me to sign up for the full in the future, unless they redesigned the course.

Following Philly, I headed to Boston for a business trip. While the biz trip was blah, the runs I went on at night were amazing. One night a ran through Harvard and along the Charles River. Another night and ran through Boston and retraced the last mile or so of the Boston Marathon course. I stopped a few times along Bolyston Street to take some pictures. It was bitterly cold both nights I went running and I was in heaven. Love me some cold runs. What a great city Boston is to run!
The weekend before Thanksgiving I was finally around to join my running club for a Saturday morning run. It was good to catch up with many running friends I hadn't seen in over a month. The next day I ran in a 5K hosted by my friend, Michael Wardian. Michael had just come off a 3rd place finish at the JFK 50 Mile the day before, but unless you knew, you wouldn't of been able to tell. He always looks so fresh. I don't know how he does it. The 5K was a lot of fun, albeit pretty cold and windy. Mike won and I finished 13th overall and 2nd in my AG, so I'll take it!

Then, like many runners across the country on Thanksgiving Day, I ran in a turkey trot. I was in my hometown for Thanksgiving, so a few of my friends joined me as well. Now, whether they wanted to hang with me or not at the race was another question, as I was dressed in a head-to-toe turkey costume. Gobble, gobble. I had never run in a costume before and it was loads of fun. Many runners got a kick outta me wearing such a ridiculous outfit and some even wanted their picture with me. The last 100 yards of the race was an all out sprint between me and a friend determined not to lose to a turkey. Turkey won. Mwahahaha!
After the race I did what every turkey does, grab some Starbucks.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend I decided to go for a trail run in the Hoosier National Forest. It was an absolutely perfect day for a trail run and I was loving it until I rolled my right ankle 3 miles or so from my car. I rolled it pretty good, but thankfully I was able to run/walk back to my car. It definitely swelled up, but it seems to be getting better as the days go by. Hopefully it will be good to go for Saturday. Fingers crossed!
Speaking of Saturday, I cannot wait to get out to San Francisco! I've never been and I look forward to checking out the sights. This race is gonna be stacked with some of the best ultrarunners in the business. On the women's side you've got Rory Bosio (2013 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc Champ), Ashley Arnold (2013 Leadville 100 Champ) and Emelie Forsberg (2013 UROC 100K Champ), to name a few. On the men's side, there's Dakota Jones, Max King, Rob Krar, and many more phenomenal male runners. To get to participate in a race with so many runners I look up to is pretty awesome.
The race course looks wicked. I'd be lying if I didn't say it's scaring the shit out of me, but I think a course like this is suppose to. It's gonna chew me up and I can only hope it spits me out near the finish line! Minus my ankle, I have a lot of confidence going into the race. My fall training went well and I feel prepared. I just need to run my race, take care of myself, and get to the finish. Follow me along on my weekend adventures on Twitter. I'll be using #westcoast50.