Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Year in Review

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Dickens’ tale of London and Paris pre-French Revolution sums up my year pretty well. Like last year and in 2007, I recorded personal bests in every race distance I ran - from 3,000 meters to 10 miles. This past spring I was 29, about to turn 30, and things ahead looked promising. The coming fall I had a goal of taking 2 minutes off my half marathon best, but more importantly, after a 2+ year hiatus, I would run the marathon again and attack each of the ‘thon’s 26.2 miles with all my gusto.

Just days before turning 30, I recorded a 30:56 road 10k PR (4:59 pace) and I felt confident I’d be able to run a 50:30 effort (or faster?) at the Broad Street 10 Miler the following weekend. But then, I turned 30…and that’s when all the trouble began.

The Broad Street Run was held on a warm, humid Sunday. After running a 4:55 first mile, my pace began to slack and I could tell that this wasn’t going to be a PR day. Bodies fell and melted into the asphalt all around me - like popsicles over a flame. My splits worsened and, when I doubled down, my splits only got slower. For the first 15 years of my running career, through my teens and all through my 20s, I had yet to drop out of a race, but alone, somewhere between mile 6 and 7, I did just that. I had done the unthinkable. I walked off the course and asked someone on the sidewalk how I could get to the subway. I did end up “finishing” the race, but I consider this a drop out since I clearly gave up. That being said, I thought it was probably a good move since PRing was unthinkable given the weather conditions and the reason I came to Philly was to do just that – PR.

Above me, in the green grassy heavens, the great running god shook his head in sadness and I bowed my head in shame. I had taken advantage of my gift…and now I would pay...

After I wrapped up my spring season, I was set to do some work travel and take a much-needed break from racing. By July I hoped to be back up and running in an effort to build a solid base for a September half marathon and an October marathon. But, by the time July rolled around, something seemed wrong. At first I thought the feeling in my right quad and hamstring was “getting back into shape” pain so I continued to grind through 100+ degree days while bumping the miles and continuing the workouts. Then, on July 11, my entire leg seized up on Zoo Hill near the prairie dogs. It was at the end of an 86-mile week and I wouldn’t run any mileage like that again for a long time. I took some time off and began to nix races scheduled during my short summer season, but the pain persisted. I took more time off and nixed more races. I retreated further and further away from fitness. I stopped doing workouts altogether and soon was doing a shoestring running routine with a goal of nixing the injury, while maintaining some form of fitness in an attempt to get to Chicago in PR form. But, this wasn’t working. I enlisted the help of Sarah Buckheit, essentially a professional stretcher, who told me I had an assortment of leg issues, but she wasn’t sure if any of these might be the real problem. Or whether something else was causing these issues…

I wept and looked up at the great running god for some sign of encouragement, but he only sighed and turned his head. Then, an MRI confirmed I had two stress fractures. I was done.

And with that, I turned to the pool. It’s hard to say how much water running helped me stay in shape, but it certainly kept my mind occupied and it filled the vacuum to a degree. These were the darkest of days and I spent a lot of time pondering my future. Would I EVER return? Was I done? Never! I upticked my cadence in the pool and frothed at the mouth like a sick, yet hungry, fox. I drove my knees towards the heavens and clenched my paws and swore I’d come back better than ever.

As the sun sets on 2010, I'm still uncertain about what will become of my injury. Mario's report isn't very encouraging and his issues mirror mine to a "T". I have seriously thought about retiring (meaning an end to competitive racing, not necessarily running), but then what would I do? I belong on the roads and on the trails. I have a gift - I must stick with it and I must give it another go. To quote Pre "to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift", or more simply put, mediocrity is for cowards.

Highlight from 2010:

Somewhere between mile 6 and 7 at Cherry Blossom
Bert had pulled away from me just after mile 5 (25:22) and things looked grim. He also pulled away like this in 2009 and I wasn’t able to cover the move. But, by mile 6.5 or so, I had rallied back to life and proceeded to walk him down over the course of the next 2 miles with the help of frienemy Aaron Church. Together our trio shook the Moroccan and literally beat each other to pieces over the final mile of the race. Although I lost the 3-man battle, we all ducked under 51 minutes as a result of working together. This had been my goal. I am more proud of the fact I came back to life after being left for dead.

Lessons Learned/Things to Note from 2010:

I do believe that in order to be the best you can be in this sport you need to run as much as your body is capable of running. I skirted this line in 2010 – running a fantastic spring before succumbing to months of injury. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t have done anything different. This is an important point. When I’m old and grey, I will remember being fit, having a good time and of course the PRs. Race each race as if it is your last, because it very might be.

I credit all my success to the Georgetown Running Company and the endless stable (Copyright Patrick Reaves) of training partners I have associated with this outfit. A special shout out to Dirk de Heer, whose optimism enables you to do magical things, and to Karl Dusen who lives less than a half mile away and joins me on almost every run through the worst Mother Nature can throw at you. Of course there are many more and their names can be found buried in this blog and I owe all of them thanks. I seriously couldn't have done any of this without you. The GRC now “stables” some 35+ runners.

Training partners are huge especially on workout days. During a lull in the middle of Snowpacolypse last winter, I ran 20:07 for a 4-mile tempo (likely a PR at the time) on an out-and-back section of Beach Drive on an icey street while cars whipped by...all the while chasing Karl and Dirk. There is no way I would have been able to do this solo. My mile repeats on the track during winter and early spring were huge confidence boosters. Again, this was all a result of chasing those faster than me.

Go to races with those you train with. This makes it more of a shared mission and helps solidify the personal goal.

It’s sometimes nice to run solo to collect your thoughts and be at peace. I rarely do this anymore, but I should make time for it still. Always run solo after workouts.

I have no finishing kick. It’s very rare for me to come out on top at the end of a sprint (Cherry Blossom, Pikes Peek). I had 51-second 400m speed in high school, but I can’t seem to muster that anymore. Maybe I need to do more strides…? Maybe I am just old.

For the 4th spring in a row, I’ve run PRs, but my autumn seasons continue to be dismal. This is the 3rd fall in a row in which I haven’t run well. I have great winters training/spring racing, but not so great summer/falls.

I ran 100 days straight without a day off. I also took 50 straight days off.

In 2009 I ran 15 races, in 2010 I ran only 6. However these 6 were within 4 months.

I feel as if I am very good at getting myself to the starting line fit, rested and with a sound mind. I feel as if I don’t always do this pre-workouts.

When in full training mode, I force myself to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night and I have a pretty sound running (and life) schedule each day/week. A schedule is key.

For me, and I noticed this in 2009 too, I can only race so many races during a season before feeling burned out. This number seems to be about 5 or 6.

Each year Washington DC is getting more competitive in terms of racing. One day while I was bored, I reviewed old WRR End of the Year rankings (late ‘90s, early 2000s). Today, the racing scene is far more competitive. So competitive, that I finished 3rd at a corporate race I ran as a workout.

Since turning 30 in May, I've yet to compete in a race.

My goals, written in December 2009, were:

“(to) run a 5k in 14:45, Cherry Blossom in 50:59 & be top local finisher, Pikes Peek in 30:59 and Broad Street in 50:30.”

I damn near hit those marks in the races I ran. My actual 2010 race results are below:

1/16 - UMD 3K - 8:41.47* (6 second PR)
3/6 - Van Metre 5 - 24:47* (25 second PR)
3/14 - Shamrock 5k - 14:48* (10 second road PR)
3/26 - NC State 5,000m - 14:46.3* (21 second track PR)
4/11 - Cherry Blossom 10M - 50:56* (19 second 10m PR, 33 sec CB PR)
4/25 - Pike's Peek 10K - 30:56* (26 second PR)

Here's to 2011...


DM said...

Excellent post.

Wayne said...

It is posts and blogs like this that motivate the hell out of me! All the best for a better and healthy running year!

KLIM said...

Thanks Wayne, I appreciate the feedback. Happy racing to you in 2011.

And thanks to you Dix. We had some good runs in 2010...