Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2012: Year in Review

In the years leading up to when I got injured, in the summer of 2010, I set personal bests in every distance from 3k to half marathon. Each spring - 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 - I'd lower my time in each distance that I had set the year before. It proved I was training properly and training with the right people and, at the very least, it was certainly motivating.

All that changed once I got injured. I went from essentially PRing every race to running sub-par times from yesteryear. Once I FINALLY seemed to be getting somewhere, I'd have a setback of sorts, usually related to my injury. It was increasingly frustrating.

2010 became an injury year.

2011 was suppose to be a comeback year, but I raced only 3 times (2 x 5k and a mile) and again had another injury setback). It wasn't until December of that year that I was finally able to get in solid training again, but then in January, I went to East Africa and ran just three or four times over the course of 20 days.

I began to build up in February with my eye on Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, a Red Fox-endorsed race that's gone well for me in year's past. I thought I was in 52:00 shape, and went through 5 miles in 25:45 or so, but the wheels came off, and came off hard(!), at 7 miles. It was a brutal reminder of the work I still needed to do in order to truly come back. The next month at Pikes Peek 10k, the wheels fell off again, but this time, not quite as bad. The mileage I was running was slowly getting me back into shape, but I still had a problem. In 2010, when I was in the best shape of my life, I was in 14:45 5k shape. Now, at best, I was in 15:15-15:20 shape. I had to get faster, not simply stronger, but every time I took to the track with the team to work on my speed, I'd have near setbacks as a result of running fast on ovals. Frustrated, I took to running hard in the woods and slowly re-introduced the track back into my running world. 

The year began to turn in my favor at the USATF Half Marathon Champs in Duluth, Minnesota in June. Although the time wasn't what I was looking for (1:09:19), it was, in fact, a PR and I had run the race smart - my last mile was my fastest.

I had a 3 week down period in late summer while traveling, but returned to training with guns blazing once I got back to Washington. With Army Ten Miler as my goal race, before switching gears and training exclusively for the USATF Club Cross Country Champs, I decided to execute a Canova-style approach to training. Each week, while adding in extra miles, I'd run a hard effort that gradually increased the distance I was racing/running, while continuing the same effort speed. For instance, in early September I ran 15:45 for 5k, two weeks later I ran that same pace for 8k, a week or so later I ran 20:25 for 4 miles in a workout on the roads, then a week before the race I ran 14:59 for 3 miles over roads...and by the time I got to Army (51:57), I was splitting those marks in the middle of the race. 

From late October through December, I concentrated on getting strong. 10,000 meters over grass would demand no less, but I also planned to return, after an almost 5-year hiatus, to the marathon in January. Training for each race was remarkably similar. The long intervals over grass only helped my endurance. Hard 15-20 milers out in Poolesville gave me strength on the grassy inclines of Lexington. Track workouts, also, got easier and easier (and I no longer struggled with leg issues); I hit times in these workouts that were reminiscent of spring 2010 - that's what I wanted to see!

Although it might not seem very impressive (at least compared to marks I've run in the spring), this past fall has been the best fall race/training season of my life.

Running aside, I've done some pretty cool things this past year: traveled to Africa with Emily and lived in a rural village for two weeks, went white water rafting on the Nile (Uganda), went on Safari in the Masai Mara (Kenya/Tanzania), chased king salmon in helicopters, planes and air boats throughout Alaska's interior, drove across America, I bought a new home and for the past few months I've been writing a book. 

Running weaves a thread through all of this, the good and the bad, and helps me balance my life. It puts things into perspective, though I honestly don't quite know how it does that, but after a run my mind is clear and I find purpose. Whether running solo through the woods in a place I've never been before or will ever be again or amongst the kicking legs of my compatriots during a Wednesday night workout, I'm blessed to be able to get my run in that day. A special shout out to my teammates in the Georgetown Running Club, I'm thankful to have so many talented and hard-working friends. This journey would be a lot harder without their help. 

As 2013 begins I am, without doubt, in the best distance shape of my life. Now, with less than 3 weeks to go before the Phoenix Marathon, it's all about staying healthy. As each week passes, I'm getting more and more confident in my fitness and soon the taper will begin.

Looking past 26.2 miles, I have my eyes set on just 10. Before I retire from running, I want to break 50 minutes. As far as I know, there are only a couple places to do that.

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