Saturday, December 31, 2011

’11 Year in review mirror

Not sure how long this "year in the review" will be. I even had thoughts of skipping it, but in each of the past three years the reflection helped with the planning for the year to come. Thus, the writing started with a single word, then a sentence, then a paragraph, and before I knew it; it was done. Besides one needs a little reflection because reflection is good for the running soul.

I often tell people that I rarely repeat the same mistakes. However, being human means we all find ways to create new mistakes. We are an ever learning species.

'10 saw me sign up for the Boston Marathon for the first time. This meant the spring of '11 would be spent in preparation for it.

At first, my training plan put together this aggressive racing schedule leading up to Boston. Plenty of 8k through ½ marathon races would be used to harden the lungs, heart, and legs.

For a reason that I cannot seem to recall now, I reversed course and spent the "Spring" logging tons of miles, lots of tempo runs, and intervals.

Boston arrived and I spent the morning huddled in a tiny tent talking to Nathan and Mike for the better part of 2 hours. By race time, I was ready to go.

The gun sounded and I lost track of Nathan and Mike in the crowed. Hitting the first in just over 6 minutes, I was only looking forward.

Looking forward, falling forward, hearing the screams at Wesley College, feeling the agony of spent legs crawling up heart break hill, my legs finally cried "uncle" on the downhill side.

22 miles were completed but that was as far as my left hamstring had agreed to go. A cramp occurred so I slowed.

Those last 4 miles were as tough as any that I had ever run or so I thought. Nathan passed me about mile 25. I was expecting to see Mike any second.

Finally came the finish line and cheering people and my first Boston Marathon was under my belt. Definitely this was a memory that I will treasure forever. Boston turns out for the runners like no city that I have ever encountered.

Fast forward through some Duathlons and Biathlons which I for whatever the reason didn't seem to enjoy as much this year. Maybe I am ready to try a Triathlon instead. The thought does seem to intrigue me.

With the Belmont 5k came a win. Winning a race always creates a special memory no matter the size field or the quality of the competition. For on this particular day you were the fastest person on that course. No one can ever take that away from you.

Summer rolled in along with the summer heat. Summer track started and an opportunity to run another marathon.

For many years, the Hatfield and McCoy summertime marathon had been held in mid June and had always caught my attention.

I throw in a few long runs and a few hard workouts and signed up. Believing one is ready and knowing one is ready are definitely two different mental states.

Hanging out at the prerace dinner the night before, a familiar face walked up – Bobby Aswell. To be on honest, I wasn't too surprised. Bobby runs marathons like I run recovery runs – almost every day.

Race morning was decent. The temperature was about mid 60s at 7AM.

The first couple miles were downhill and felt really easy. Then the climbing started. The road went up and up. Up to this point, this was probably the steepest and longest hill that I have climbed in race and definitely in a marathon.

Going down the other side wasn't any easier. The road was just as steep and the pounding into the quads was unrelenting.

By the time, the ½ marathon point came, I was already looking for the finish line. And, the course didn't get any easier.

The road narrowed to a cart path and then disappeared into a rutted out trail. Then, the course opened back on to a golf course and crossed a swinging bridge. The rains came with just enough water to wet everything down making for a nice sauna when the sun came out. And come out it did. I was drinking at every aid station and still felt like I was running in a furnace.

Miles 20 to 26 were a complete haze. There was this long hill that wasn't on the profile at 24 miles. This mile was probably in excess of 8+ minutes. I don't really know. Like I said, this was a hazy period of time for me.

I thought about quitting but there was no one to help. I thought about walking but it would only take longer to reach the finish.

Finally, I turned the corner and crossed the finish line. The hallucinations must have set in for when I saw the temperature on the local bank's sign, I couldn't believe it. Ugh, no wonder I was suffocating in the heat. The sign displayed something like 92 degrees.

An older lady asked me if I needed help to which I replied "Yes, I need a place to set down and cool off".

Two hours passed while they tried to stuff me with water and Powerade. It didn't work and all came up. I mean I felt awful. I couldn't even stand up. That is when the doctor came over and said "let's give him an IV". This was the first IV that I have ever had. Man, did it help. 2 IV bags went into my arm and within 20 minutes, I felt great.

This was also the point where I vowed to never run another summertime marathon.

The month of June also saw me do a cycling TT at Charlotte Motor speedway and complete the entire summer track series.

July rolled around and my bucket list needed to check off a couple of items: The Bear and The Scream.

First was The Bear. We started at foot of Grand Father Mt. and ran to the top. Up and up we went. I never ran a mile faster than 7:15. There was a point where I looked up the Mt. and saw Mike running a couple of switch backs ahead. When I completed the final switch back, the climb up the finish line was maybe the worst of all. Stepping across the finish line, I went from trying to run to walking without any effort at all.

My goal was to break 40 minutes and to get a cup. Both were accomplished.

Next up was The Scream. Race morning was cool and with a slight drizzle. My legs were heavy at the start but after 2 miles Mike and I were still together. Then, the downhill section started and I started throwing all kinds of crazy surges at Mike. One mile we hit 5:21. Mike can run those miles but I cannot. He put a nice little gap on me during miles 6 – 11 but I like to think that I was pulling back some time over those last 2 miles. We only finished about 40 seconds apart.

Two low points were hit at Blue Points 5k and cycling Team Time Trial. At Blue Points I just couldn't get going. My legs just would not turn over. At the cycling team time trial, Justin, Meredith, and Jeremy were my teammates.

I knew Meredith and Justin were good. I learned how good they were and how old it made me feel.

Tour De Elvis saw me have a little bounce back with a mid 17s. The Greek fest 5k saw a little more with a 17:16.

Coming off these two races I was looking forward to the Charleston Distance Run. The Charleston Distance run was race that I did several times when I lived in West Virginia. It was one of the biggest races around and one that everyone looked forward to running each fall.

This would be my first attempt in many years to run it.

Megan, Jinnie, and Stan had been talked into running it with me. Funny scene happened as we drove over the course the day before. The Distance run has this hill called "Capital Punishment Hill". The hill is probably a mile to a mile and ¾ long. One would think Megan had never seen a hill before because she curled up in this little ball staring up the hill from inside the car.

Race morning the temperature was anything but cool. Warm and humid conditions were not the makings for great race conditions.

I was ill prepared for this race and was struggling long before we returned the flats of down town Charleston.

The last 6 miles were in the "get to the finish" mode. Looking back now, the time really wasn't that bad considering the heat and humidity.

After the distance run, my ramp up to OBX was to start.

Megan and I were doing a workout at Mc Alpine. The last interval was a mile repeat. I finished it off in something like 5:48 but I felt a tweak in my hamstring. Tweaks happen all the time and I didn't think too much more about it.

A few days later my hamstring was really tight but I raced on it anyway. By the next week it was really impacting my running. I could not do anything hard without pain, but I raced twice the following weekend.

For the next couple of weeks, I tried to do some workouts but mainly I just ran on it. I was practically living with an ice bag attached to it.

Then I tried to do the Salem Lake 30k. This was an experience in misery because I couldn't really run. Heavy rains poured before during and afterward which made the course a muddy mess.

Another week off, then I crafted a plan of racing short races on Saturday and running easy miles the rest of the time. I was holding out hope it would improve enough by OBX.

Hindsight tells me that I should have just rested it right from the start. I didn't.

OBX, I was took some Advil and ran 10 miles pretty hard. Then I slowly spiraled downward to the finish. Megan had a great race and Mike, while being sick, turned in a gutsy performance and beat me to the finish by 7 seconds.

Running OBX didn't seem to hurt my hamstring too much but clearly it didn't help it any.

My final race of the year would be the holiday half marathon in Huntersville, NC. I am still not sure why I signed up for it because I struggled from about 3 miles onward. For the next week, I was left icing my hamstring and nursing some really bad blisters.

'11 saw me do some 25 running races, 4 cycling time trials, 4 duathlons/biathlons, and reach the 4000 mile plateau in early December. Through these many races, most of my time seemed to be spent having more valleys than peaks this year. The good news is that my hamstring is on the mend. My blisters are healing.

As I look head into '12 and ponder what the New Year holds. I know my '11 season was a season of a few good races but lots of struggles. Getting older hasn't helped but something else I realized. Back in '07, I ran 3407 miles and completed in 34 running races. I seem to be racing just as much. However, the extra mileage has not produced the rewards that one might expect. I literally ran 2 extra months of mileage in a 12 month period this year.

So for now, I will set here and gaze into my crystal ball looking for images to guide me back to good running form in '12.


Sharing one thought at time,


The Cool Down Runner



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