Hello again, poor neglected blog.
Yesterday, as The Lady and I were on the road to Lewiston, MI for the new year, a friend of ours posted some thought-provoking conversational fodder that included the following:
Thinking about it for more than two seconds yielded a longer response than could fit in a tweet, so I decided to dust off the ol’ blag and blabber about my highs and lows of 2013. A year-in-review without the annoying tagline, if you will.
Let’s get the depressing stuff over with first, shall we?
Lows of 2013
Frankly, there were a lot. 2013 was a difficult year in a lot of ways, but it was probably reflected most poignantly in my running.
IT band injury in late April, sidelining me for the Pittsburgh half marathon. I had just PR’d in a 10K the day after running 15 miles. Training was going unbelievably well. My speed and endurance were going through the roof. But right at the start of peak week, my IT band suddenly screamed bloody murder. Exacerbating the problem was my own inexperience: muscle injuries, which I’m used to, are very different from IT band injuries, which I’d never had before. Consequently, I took the only approach I knew and treated it like a muscle injury. Ultimately, I was forced to drop out of the Pittsburgh half and a very likely sub-1:40 achievement.
Backward progress in half marathon and marathon goal times. Due to a combination of travel and injury, I was only able to run a single half marathon this year (Air Force), and due to the following item, I was not able to PR or come anywhere close to my goal time. Similarly, though I technically achieved a marathon PR by 9 seconds, it was a full 17 minutes past my B-goal, 32 minutes past my A-goal. This was not my year for longer distances.
Work stress in the fall. This had far-reaching effects, but my running is probably what suffered the most. Every run for the 4-6 weeks spanning half of August and most of September felt hard, grindy, and not the least bit enjoyable. Physical symptoms included a constant feeling of exhaustion and being run-down, and my quads in particular had that growing-pains feeling. Mental symptoms included a lack of motivation, decreased desire to run, and a not-terribly-optimistic outlook on my own abilities. I started hitting an upswing as the stress abated in late September, just in time for the Air Force half marathon, but this item was probably the single most damaging obstacle to my running progress. This knocked me around physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Highs of 2013
Again, frankly, there weren’t many. But there were some resolutely bright spots that more than bear mentioning.
Sub-6 minute mile. It may seem small; after all, it only lasted all of 5 minutes and 58 seconds relative to the entire year around it. But twice near the end of two previous training cycles I’ve felt worthy of attempting it, and twice before I’ve missed by, quite literally, 1 or 2 seconds. Not this year. I nailed it, with a few seconds to spare.
5K and 10K PRs. I’m now as close as I’ve ever been to breaking the magical 20-minute 5K barrier, set with a 20:26 PR while in Knoxville (and recovering from my aforementioned IT band injury, I might add). Furthermore, smack in the middle of a subpar fall running season and the day after a 14-mile long run, I nevertheless set a 10K PR of 42:47 at the Pittsburgh Great Race. Amusing anecdote: while I was a seeded runner for the race, I had more or less written off the race as a potential PR and elected to start way in the back with The Lady and some friends of ours, resulting in a much, much slower first mile than I would have otherwise had at the front of the pack. Still managed to PR; a very bright spot, indeed!
MCM improvement. Despite my disappointment with my overall Marine Corps Marathon performance, I would be remiss not to mention how it was an improvement in every possible way over my Philly marathon performance from the previous year. No, I didn’t get anywhere near my A or B goals, but everything else that went into running a marathon improved considerably. My first 20 miles were excellent, even finishing the first 13.1 miles in under 2 hours; I was mentally sharp and focused; I hadn’t seriously injured myself two weeks out; even when I hit the wall at mile 20, I was still having fun and enjoying the event; I didn’t chide or beat myself up. And technically, MCM was a PR by 9 seconds.
Holiday run streak. This is still blowing my mind with its awesomeness. What started off as a way to unwind from the stress of final exams and to dampen the effects of holiday junk food has become a means to, almost without trying, set a 30+ mile weekly running base and skip over the 100-mile marker in a single month. There was a small adjustment period, but I’m now officially hooked. The Lady and I have already discussed continuing the streak for as long as we can. The only downside is running outdoors in single digit winter weather. Eek.
I suppose this leads rather organically into what my plans for 2014 might be. Wonder no more, dear readers!
Goals for 2014
This is going to be a packed year: I’m marrying my best friend, defending my thesis, and hopefully starting a new and kickass job. Consequently, I’ve made the executive decision not to run a marathon. Or at least, I have made no concrete plans to run one in 2014; the logistics of it are simply too complicated (this could be its own blog post). With that in mind, I present the following goals.
Avoid the meltdowns. High stress is going to continue to be a part of my job for at least the next 9 months, and while I’m doing my best to mitigate its effects, it’s still going to be something I have to face. That said, if stress is impeding a training run for whatever reason, my recourse should be to pull back, mentally and physically, rather than to keep pushing. I already tried the latter this year; doesn’t really work.
5K, 10K, and half marathon PRs. Pretty straightforward. A sub-20 5K would be fantastic. A 10K right around 42 minutes would be awesome. And a half marathon under 1:40 would be amazing, 1:35 would be epic.
Run streak and cross-training. I definitely want to keep the run streak going for as long as I can. December proved really neat in maintaining the run streak and lifting weights 3-4 times each week; I felt and noticed rapid changes that would absolutely improve my overall fitness and training.
1,120 miles. I beat 2012’s mileage total of 1,062 in 2013 with 1,119; a full 57 miles more. I’d love to break 2013’s total again next year!
I hope everyone has a very happy, fruitful, and mileage-filled 2014!