When I was in elementary school, my friend Mike and I pitched a small orange tent in my backyard and camped out one night. I’m sure we stayed up late talking about Star Wars or playing cards by flashlight or something.
I woke up in the gray light before sunrise, surprised by how many birds were singing. It was a little chilly, with mist hanging over the cornfield behind the house.
We’d brought my dad’s old Boy Scout cooking set and some stuff for breakfast – although we were only a couple dozen steps from the house, at most – and I poured myself a bowl of Apple Jacks.
I went for a run before sunup today. The smell and feel of the air, the chattering of birds, and the color of the sky brought that long ago morning almost back to reality.
In terms of quantity, I had kind of a lousy year in 2013: I only finished 11 books, and five of those (marked with asterisks below) were re-reads.
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
- Star Wars: Scoundrels – Timothy Zahn
- Await Your Reply – Dan Chaon
- Han Solo at Stars’ End – Brian Daley*
- Han Solo’s Revenge – Brian Daley*
- Codex Born – Jim C. Hines
- Beyond the Blue Event Horizon – Frederick Pohl
- The Ghost Brigades – John Scalzi*
- The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
- Maus I: My Father Bleeds History – Art Spiegelman*
- Anathem – Neal Stephenson*
On the other hand: Quality. I really enjoyed all of them, and my six first-time reads were a nice mix of popcorn fun, mind-bending, gut-punching, and thought-provoking.
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.
Yet again, I found myself needing to tackle a week in a day, which didn’t go so well for me in Week 41.
This time, I decided I’d rather try my longest trail run by far and not worry about my time, so long as I just kept moving above a walk.
Gorgeous, sunny morning it was, and just below 50F, so I wore my shorts and a long-sleeved shirt.
I covered 7.5 miles – all but a quarter-mile of it off-pavement – and experienced pretty much all the environments of Quail Hollow State Park, finding myself taking a few new paths and way out in suprising parts of the park I hadn’t really come near before. The fastest mile I did was my first – 9:03 – and my slowest was Mile 7, at 11:48 (which included a lot of climbing). I only paused twice – once to get my bearings, and once to figure out how to get across a rain-swollen creek.
For the first time in awhile, I got post-run soreness in my legs the next day, but it was well worth it.
Miles on the year: 297.65. Monday (the close of my running week) was day 294, so I’m right in the zone.
I wrote a little bit about the memory trips of my October 6 run, but didn’t address any of the details as far as my running record goes, so…
Saturday Oct. 5 was really busy, and I didn’t get a chance to run, so I figured I’d go out and do a seven-miler on Sunday the 6th and not worry about pacing.
I don’t know whether it was because it was warm for October (around 70F), or the hills in the first few miles, or the fact that it had been almost two months since I’d gone any distance longer than 4.5 miles, but it was a real struggle, and I actually stopped to walk for two minutes, just past the halfway point. (I didn’t count the distance walked toward my to3.5tal.) Knowing that I was going for a longer run, I deliberately kept things easy to start, running an 8:42 pace for the first two-and-a-half miles, which took me out into some rural territory. Then a series of hills hit me. I still managed an 8:50 for mile three, but next six tenths of a mile took me 5:52, and that’s when I realized I was going to need a break.
It helped, but the next 3.4 were a real slog, and my slowest stretch in a long, long time, averaging 10:04.
3.5 uneventful road miles on Friday, Oct. 11: 8:35, 8:20, 8:45, and a 3:53 push the last half mile that got my average pace down to 8:25.
Saturday I hit Quail Hollow for a trail run. I really enjoyed it, but I want to do another post about some of the thoughts on it, and keep this one just to the data points: I averaged 9:26 – which is ballpark for what I manage on the trails – and wrapped it up at 3.25 miles for a couple reasons. First: It was a good stopping point, and I was fairly bushed. Second, I figured that if I left myself a quarter-mile short for the week, it would motivate me to go out the next day, resulting in extra mileage, since I’m never going out for a quarter-miler. If I put the shoes on, I’m always doing at least two miles.
Sunday the 12th: Four miles on the pavement. Perfect overcast morning for it, and I felt really good: 8:32, 8:37, 8:29 for miles 1-3, and a 7:42 for mile four. Average pace was 8:19.
Total miles on the year: 290.15. Monday the 14th is day 287, so I’m back on track!
Twice during my late-morning run, the smell of fall triggered wholly-unexpected, decades-old memories.
It was overcast when I set out, and even though it seemed warm for October, something the clouds and the bit of swirling breeze threw me back to freshman year at Bowling Green.
In particular, it felt – just for a second – like a late afternoon walk across campus, after the last class of the day. Golden hour, that: day’s big obligations tackled, dinner coming up, maybe I’ve got freshman play rehearsal that night, or maybe it’s just hanging out with friends, listening to music and goofing around. Maybe we’re going along with Jen to one of the performances she attends for her music appreciation courses. Maybe it’s Tuesday and The Wonder Years is on. Maybe we’ll go down to the fast-food place in the basement of our dorm for late-night Heath blizzards and onion rings.
A couple miles later, the wind was less present, and there was a kind of stillness along a stretch where some woods nudged right up to the road’s edge. The shaded, slightly damp air from the woods and the first fallen leaves put into my head the surprising image of the woods behind St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Canton, where I went to preschool and kindergarten.
Down behind the playground, there was a small woods where we were allowed to go during recess. A simple, dark green, triangular treehouse was in there, reached by a set of two-by-fours nailed to the tree. My best friend at the time lived just down the street from the church, and one day, he and his older brother and I walked over to play in the treehouse, but we were asked to leave by one of the teachers, since we weren’t actually attending school that day.
It was a hard run today, but worth it for those moments.
Road run on Saturday, Sept. 28. Four miles, average pace 8:31. Even though I’ve done this distance slightly faster this year, this one felt good because I kept things pretty steady: 8:41, 8:31, 8:39, and 8:15. Fastest mile at the end, with a decently-maintained acceleration over the last quarter mile.
Sunday afternoon was perfect for a Quail Hollow trail run: Overcast and in the low 70s. And since I started and finished at one of the mountain bike access points (photo above), this 3.1-miler was my first 100% trail run: No pavement at all.
I really liked this one: Several different environments to pass through, and I found my way to the loop which had eluded me a couple weeks ago.
Also, I paused the Garmin and stopped for a minute deep in the woods when a huge red-tailed hawk swooped across the path right in front of me and came to rest on a low branch nearby. I just had to see if I could get a closer look. The thing was just magnificent.
And I shared a funny moment with a family hiking with their kids, inadvertently scaring the bejeezus out of one of the moms when I came up behind them on the trail. I was deliberately making noise, too – heavy footfalls, exaggerated throat-clearings and the like – but they still didn’t hear me catching up to them. Poor woman turned sideways to slip past a branch, saw me about 10 feet behind them and freaked out – loudly – for a half-second before catching her breath and bursting into laughter.
Averaged 9:14 for the run, with no stretches of pavement to let me open things up, so I felt good about that.
7.1 miles for the week. Total to date: 272.4. October 1 is the 274th day of the year.