My running goal for 2013 was to reach 365 total miles. In a year with no scheduled race training, the challenge was to make myself get out enough to average a mile a day, even without the incentive of a “Race Day” circled on the calendar. (I did wind up running a race a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t the kind that required weeks of highly-structured training for what I wanted to get out of it.)
Here’s how the last few weeks of December shook out:
The weekend after the Ohio Outside Trail Series race, I did two four-mile road loops. The following weekend, we had bizarre warm & wet weather: Steady rain and the necessity of Christmas shopping kept me from running on Saturday, but I got lucky with a late Sunday morning where the sky was mixed, but things stayed dry and about 60 degrees during my run, which I stretched to six miles. That left me with seven miles to go before the end of the month.
I did four miles on the road Thursday, Dec. 26, and on Saturday the 28th, we had sun and a high in the mid-40s, and my youngest brother finally had the chance to come join me at Quail Hollow for a trail run.
We hit the three-mile mark – and my goal for the year – around 11:35 a.m. (My official Forerunner total, which includes all the extra fractions of a mile from the year, is actually almost 366 miles. Just a bit of cushion.)
A few more notes/stats on the year:
- I ran all but January in my new shoes, after retiring my first real pair.
- I ran 96 days, which means I averaged just about 3.8 miles per run.
- I was most active in August (42 miles on 11 days), in large part to make up for a weak July, when I ran just 17 miles over 5 days.
- My longest run was 8.25 miles, back on April 21. Five other days (March 31, April 7, Aug. 10, Oct. 20 and Nov. 3), I passed the seven-mile mark. One of those was a 7.5-miler that was almost entirely trail.
- I didn’t manage to get in any double-digit mileage runs, since I didn’t have any long races to prep for. Whatever my running goal is in 2014, I’d like to crack the ten-mile barrier at least a few times, if not regularly.
- I’m glad I finally decided to give trail running a serious shot. While I still put in most of my miles on the road, I really enjoyed my time in the woods and the meadows and the swamplands. Maybe I’ll set a trail mileage goal for 2014, since I’m hoping to return to the Ohio Outside series in the fall.
Given the rollercoaster we’ve ridden in our house this year, I’m happy that I managed to hit my target, even if it was less ambitious in some respects than what I was shooting for the past few years.
Still: I ran new paths and new roads; I ran a lot of streets that I’ve driven on – or past – for much of my life and saw how different they are on foot; I fell way behind my goal and scraped to make up the miles (this was a big personal hurdle); and I made more than a few spur-of-the-moment turns, not all of which turned out to be wise, but every one of which I’m glad I took.
Like a Spin̈al Tap amplifier, my streak of running at least one race per year now Goes To Eleven.
When I started out this year by setting my goal of 365 total miles, I thought for sure that somewhere along the way I’d be training for another race which would make that goal pretty easy. Then I lost a big chunk of summer, and found that I didn’t want my 10-year race streak to end.
I started trail running on September first, really liked it, and mixed it regularly into my schedule. And a day after turning 43, I registered for the final race in this year’s Ohio Outside Trail Series.
So last Saturday, Dec. 7, I bundled up and drove to the Munroe Falls Metro Park, arriving just after 8 a.m. for the 8:30 race. It was 22 degrees, but not too windy. A good layer of snow & ice on the ground. By the time I checked in, returned my race goodies to the car, and used the restroom, I only had to stand around for maybe six or seven minutes before the race, which was good.
I had been dealing with a hot throat and clogged sinuses for a couple days, but it was just a cold – not flu – and dammit, I paid for this race, so I was going to run it. And it’s been my experience that the effort of running clears my head, and can usually push aside minor illnesses for awhile.
There were fewer than 200 runners taking part in this 4.7 mile run, but even so, things were crowded on the trail for most of the first mile. It was odd, at the start, hearing the muffled footsteps of runners on snow-covered grass instead of pavement, but once we got into the woods, I felt very much at home.
I’m glad I did as much trail running as I did at Quail Hollow, because it prepared me for the reality of slower times compared with road running, and for the climbs and descents, and the focus and energy and effort it takes. I wish I’d spent more time in the woods, in fact.
Based on the course photos and the trail description, I was expecting a wider and more level run – but the mostly narrow two-lap loop was very reminiscent of the wooded trails of Quail Hollow, with hills and drops and uneven footing. All the stuff I kind of love about trail running. What was different today was the snow and ice, which factored into the running mostly on the downhill stretches, since it kept me from freewheeling.
The temperature was also a factor in my lung power, and kept me slower than I can manage on the roads – but again, I’d anticipated that.
I did manage a nice kick toward the end – helped by about a two-tenths stretch on a park road during the final seven-tenths of the race – sprinting past a guy with whom I’d been swapping spots over the final mile and a half or so. When he crossed the finish line shortly after me, he tapped me on the shoulder and said “Nice finish.”
Here’s my Garmin data from the race:
My official time was actually 47:57 – I forgot to stop my Forerunner when I hit the finish mark, which is why the results above are slightly more – which put me in 80th place out of 159 runners. (Which, of course, made me think I could have worked a little harder and passed the woman who finished two seconds ahead of me, which would have put me in the top half. Dang.)
Despite being nowhere near placing, and with an average pace of 10:19, I’m really glad I did this run, and I think next year I’ll see if I can get my brother Adam to run all three with me. In the meantime, I’ll work to wrap up my goal of 365 this year, put in more time on the trails, and enjoy a frosty beverage or three in this:
Speaking of that Running 2013 goal, with the race behind me, here’s the recap for the two previous weeks:
Week 48 – Two nearly identical four-mile road runs Nov. 30 and Dec. 1: Same route, same overall 9-minute pace. For no discernible reason, I felt better after the second one, though.
Week 49 – 4.7 miles on Saturday, Dec. 7, as detailed above. After I got home from the race, I stopped being in denial about the cold I was nursing, and I didn’t run any more.
That brings me to 344.2 miles. As of today (Tuesday, Dec. 10), there are 21 days left in the year for me to run 21 miles – which would put me just one-fifth of a mile over my goal.
My last two weekends of running have been all over the map, literally and figuratively: I’ve been struggling with my lung power, and having trouble tackling runs in more than relatively short bursts. I don’t know if it’s been the cold weather or what, but I have really felt winded.
So: Saturday, Nov. 16 – Four trail miles at Quail Hollow, mid-30s, temperature wise. Just before the mile-and-a-half mark, I found myself in unmarked territory and had to stop and get my bearings – and wound up doubling back anyway. (I hadn’t actually left park territory, but I was out on the fringes near one of the bordering roads.) I’d done a 9:05 first mile, which is pretty quick for my trail runs, and it hit me hard enough that I needed to take a break after mile two. Things didn’t get easier: I needed two more breaks over the last two miles and never regained any speed.
Sunday the 17th – my 43rd birthday – I thought I’d better try to address this whole breathing thing and do some speedwork: Four decent quarter-mile runs, where my per-mile pace worked out to 5:52, 5:55, 6:15, and 7:00. My total running time was something around 6:20, with about a 2-minute break between each run. Then I did a 2.6-mile jog (10:02 pace). The extra tenth of a mile was because I remembered my last mileage total ended in a .9.
Monday, Nov. 18, I registered for the Dec. 7 Ohio Outdoor Series Trail Run.
Saturday, Nov. 23: Temperatures in the high 20s. Sunny and windy. I hit the roads near the house for what turned out to be another stuttering sort of morning, but I probably set myself up for that by pushing myself to a 7:39 first mile. A two-minute rest, and then I jogged two more 1.5-mile stretches (9:26 and 10:22) with another brief rest in the middle.
And then I missed Sunday the 24th – I wimped out, because it was below 20 degrees and windy, and while I have the gear for cold-weather running, I just couldn’t bring myself to go out there and put my lungs through it.
Which means my mileage total is now 331.5 – and today is the 330th day of the year.
I’m hopeful that the weather – and my lungs – will cooperate enough that I can get in some good extra miles over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and get back into some decent long stretches without feeling so beat.
It was sunny and in the mid-30s on Sunday, Nov. 3. I had skipped the cold and wet day before, knowing this was going to be a decent day. I plotted a new loop – 7.25 miles, out onto some new roads.
A really hilly stretch in miles 4-6 took a toll, and I slowed up pretty significantly in the last half, but let myself focus on enjoying the run and taking in the distance. Average pace: 9:43.
Saturday, Nov. 9, another gray and mid-30s day. Four pretty steady road miles: 8:46; 8:50; 9:06; and 8:39.
Sunday the 10th, was gray and cold again, but much, much windier – which made it a great day to be in the Quail Hollow woods. 3.5 miles, 9:36 pace.
On the year: 319.9 (know, I know – I’d have added another tenth if I’d realized that was going to happen). Today is the 316th day of the year, so I’m right where I need to be.
Three-and-a-half trail miles on Saturday, Oct. 26, and four road miles on Sunday the 27th.
Cold enough both days to warrant long pants, a sweatshirt, hat and gloves, but not nearly enough to get out the long-sleeved Under Armour shirt.
I ran in the woods on Saturday because even though it was 37 and sunny, it was really windy. Being in the trees made a huge difference. I pushed through two decent miles, just over nine minutes each, but really hit a wall toward the end of mile three, so even though I had been wanting to bank some extra distance, I settled for 3.5.
Sunday was similar, temperature- and sky-wise, but with very little breeze, so I did a casual four-mile loop, during which I spent a good amount of time juggling some writing ideas, getting super-excited about them, and trying to run faster while speaking the ideas out loud to myself so I wouldn’t forget them when I got home.
Miles on the year: 305.15. Today (10/30) is Day 303.
Two three-and-a-half mile runs this week – so I didn’t make up any of my 2.7-mile deficit, but I did enjoy myself.
I went out for another trail run at Quail Hollow on Saturday, just after 9 a.m. Covered some of the same wooded trails as last weekend, but in the opposite direction. Then explored some new territory in another part of the park, running the sedge marsh and meadowlands trails. In a few spots, these were a little more difficult to follow, and at one point, my pace slowed nearly to a walk, since the planked walkway across a swamp was almost completely overgrown by the grasses alongside.
I encountered a few other runners, and some people walking their dogs, and it was a great morning to be out on the paths. Found a few short but challenging climbs, and inadvertently turned myself onto the mountain bike trail for a bit, too. (Despite the number of cyclists I saw getting ready to ride upon my arrival that morning, I didn’t actually see any out on the trail.)
As before, I felt like I got a really good workout even though my pace is nowhere near what it is on the road: a 9:10 first mile, 9:16 second, and a 10:13 third. (That’s the mile which included the partially-obstructed walkway.) The last half mile covered pavement, so I managed to pull my overall pace back to 9:23 by pushing a little at the end.
While I’m really digging the trail run, I wanted to push my lungs and speed a little bit on Sunday, so I did a 3.5 mile road loop a little after 7 a.m. Gorgeous morning, pink sunrise. Felt good with an 8:18 first mile, felt better with an 8:13 second mile. Had to work for my 8:18 third mile, but for the last half mile, I averaged a 7:25 pace, which pulled my overall pace down to 8:08.
And I’m very pleasantly surprised to learn that looking at my year to date, that’s the best pace I’ve done for 3.5 miles yet. Progress has snuck up on me.
Three consecutive days this week, with more of a focus on picking up my pace.
Friday morning June 21 I did an even three and, inspired by my 7:53 first mile – which felt really good – I decided to push for sub-eights the whole way, and managed to get faster as I went: 7:51 and 7:50 in miles two and three. First time I’ve done three miles in under 24 minutes in quite awhile.
Saturday, I felt like continuing the speed work, so my brother and I did some .29-mile “dashes” with 90-second breaks in between. I was working on these a few summers back, and had gotten to the point, I think, where I could do 7 or 8 of them and keep my time in the 1:30 to 1:45 range.
We did a 1:40, a 1:37, a 1:43, and a 1:45. And I was really, really hitting the wall on that last one, so that was it for the day. (I had serious numbjelly legs – we were going to do an easy mile cool-down jog, but I got about a dozen steps in and said, “Nope.”)
For perspective compared with my usual pace, those times equate to a per-mile range of 5:43 to 6:08. Much faster than I typically run any distance. It’s certainly not a pace I expect to sustain, but I do remember that working these into my running schedule really made an impact in terms of how I felt during longer runs.
So: 1.16 miles, and not much time spent on the clock, but whew – that was a workout.
Sunday morning was muggy and 70 degrees before 7 a.m. I did the 3.15-mile loop solo, and really just wanted to keep myself moving, so I took it easy to the tune of an 8:44 overall pace, although I needed a push at the end, since I was averaging just over nine minutes with a half-mile to go.
178.17 miles on the year, and Sunday was Day 174, so my “speed day” added a mile to my cushion distance.
You know what? I don’t have the energy to do the Turtle Sport screen caps right now, but the long story short is that as of today – the 168th day of 2013 – I’ve put in 170.86 miles, so I’m still just a shade under three miles ahead of my goal to average seven miles a week.
A quick breakdown of weeks 22-24:
May 31 – 3.16 miles, 8:25 average. Pretty steady the whole way.
June 2 – 4 miles, 8:35 average. Again, fairly casual, although the final mile was my fastest, at 8:17.
June 8 – 4 miles, 8:10 average. There we go: Best 4-miler of the year so far. Managed an 8:03 in both of the first two miles, and finished strong with a 7:55 final mile which includes a good climb. Mile three was where I caught my breath and slowed up to 8:42.
June 9 – 3 miles, 7:59 average. First sub-eight 3-miler of the year, going 7:54, 8:15, and 7:51.
June 14 – 3.5 miles, 8:32 average. Ran with my brother, and we talked the whole way, not even going full-out during the long downhill at the end of mile one. Mile two was – oddly – our fastest, at 8:12.
June 17 – 3.27 miles, 7:58 average. Yes, I pulled up about a quarter-mile short on this one. Having not run last Saturday when it was cool and dry and gorgeous, I instead waited until tonight after work, when it was warm and sticky. Still, when I saw that I’d done a 7:47 first mile, I decided to see if I could keep the sub-eight pace going. I did – barely. Mile two was a 7:59, and mile three was an 8:09. I managed to get another quarter mile still keeping my overall pace below the eight-minute mark, so I decided to call that fair progress from eight days prior.
How great were our seats at last night’s Indians/Nationals game? We sat next to this guy. I remember going to games at Old Municipal Stadium as a kid, seeing John Adams out in the bleachers – so far off that the sound of his drumbeats reaching our ears was out of sync with his rising and falling mallets.
So not only were our seats amazing, but we got a flat-out gorgeous Ohio summer night, one dollar hot dogs, and a bottom-of-the-ninth beat-the-throw-to-the-plate Indians win.
One of the fun things about winter in Ohio is that after a couple weeks of temperatures in the teens and low 20s (Fahrenheit), a weekend like this one – when the wind has gone someplace else and the temperature gets up into the low 40s – is an engraved invitation to go outside.
I did late afternoon runs on both Saturday and Sunday, letting the day warm up before heading out.
Saturday was sunny.
That strange little flyaway at the end – and the one-second “break time” – is the result of me accidentally re-starting the timer while sitting in my office. This was the first run in the new shoes on mostly clear and dry pavement. Still getting used to the firmer soles – they seem a little noiser when I’m charging downhill; feels a little more difficult to run “light-foot,” for lack of a better term. Another decent first mile followed by a slowdown over the second and third, and a pour-it-on final half. Finished one second under thirty minutes to average 8:33.
Sunday was cloudy, but still temperate and calm. I did a slower first mile, but I’m proud of this run because my time is much more stead throughout Three consecutive weeks, I’ve done this loop every Saturday and Sunday, and this is the first time I’ve been below a nine-minute pace for each mile.
Mileage for the year, 41 days in:
Still ahead of my goal, but I haven’t added any cushion the last few weeks. As I kind of figured would be the case, I feel nicely settled into this loop: As much as the variety of routes is a major reason I enjoy running outside, when I’m managing a minimum mileage, I’m content to keep running this loop and trying to improve my time until spring arrives.