Thanks for visiting my blog. This is where I document and share all of my running adventures with my friends and fellow runners. The good, the bad, and the unquestionably painful. All for your entertainment! Enjoy!

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in Review!!!

2011 was my first full year of running, and quite frankly, I was a bit of a pig about it. I ran races that I probably had no business running and I did it all in an injury inducing time frame...minus the injuries. In all seriousness, I never honestly believed I would accomplish everything on my wish list for 2011. I vowed to run hard until I couldn't take it any longer, or until I was too broke down and injured to continue. But that time never came...so I just ran.

2011 BLING!!!!

I was able to enjoy some truly epic experiences this year, all of which I shared with my wife and many of our running friends. This sport has an almost magical way of bonding people together and I have developed friendships this year that I know will last a lifetime.

I had no particular goals in mind when I began the year. I just wanted to run "MORE". During my running journey this year, I realized I have developed a rather solid distaste for road races, especially road marathons. I also learned that I don't like triathlons. Not triathlons really...just competitive biking and swimming. I also learned that I have a decent knack for running great distances and that I tend to recover very quickly.

All of these lessons will be used for shaping my 2012 race plan. Good stuff!

I still have one more run to complete for 2011, but I have compiled my statistics assuming that last run will be 5 miles long (I'm planning for 10). My 2011 numbers came out like this....

All Running:
Total Miles for 2011 = 2572
Avg. Miles per day = 7.05 (365 Days)
Total Running Days = 330
Total Rest Days = 35
Avg. Miles per Run Day = 7.79

All Racing:
Total Races Ran = 41
Total Miles Raced = 1117
Avg. Distance Raced = 27.24
Total Marathons = 11
Total Ultras  = 13
Total PR's = 22

I'm a numbers guy, so I find those stats interesting. The most interesting thing to me is my average distance raced. Despite having several short races on my calendar, I still managed to keep the average above the marathon distance.

I think a quick recap and summary of the races is appropriate...

1/7/11- My year started off with the Disney race weekend. I ran the 5K on Friday, the Half Marathon on Saturday, and the Full Marathon on Sunday. I was drawn to this because at the time, it sounded pretty bad ass. And I had never done any back to back races in the past, so I thought it would be worth a shot.

1/30/11- Next on my list was the ING Miami Marathon. Why? I have no idea...Not a great race, not a bad one either.

2/12/11- The Dances with Dirt 50K was my second ultra ever and I really enjoyed this race. I ran it in 5:11 and that 50K PR still stands today. I suspect that's a result of running in Florida versus up north.

2/20/11- The Fort Lauderdale A1A Marathon. This race kinda sucked...it was HOT and run mostly on the highway without any cover. Not a fun day...but I finished feeling good!

3/6/11- The Hooters to Hooters Half Marathon was a blast! Free beer and wings at the finish. You can't beat that. I ran this race with Jo and we both had a great time.

3/19/11- HAT 50K is a somewhat difficult race. It's very popular in the region and it fills up quickly. This was my most challenging race up to that point and it punished me.

4/9/11- The Garden Spot Village Marathon is run in Amish country in Lancaster County PA. and is a pretty cool, low key race. But it's very hilly. I had fun with it, but it was a challenge.

4/23/11- The Mount Penn Mudfest is a challenging 15K trail race. It was cold and raining this year, but I loved it. Jo and I both ran and had a great time with great friends!

4/30/11- The Delaware Trail Triple Crown Marathon is a beautiful race and my first trail marathon. I enjoyed the race and venue so much, I'll probably keep coming back every year. A very good event!

5/7/11- The Frederick Half Marathon was a fun race that Jo and I ran together. It's her hometown, so she was excited to be running this event. She set a PR that day and it still stands. This was also the first race in the Maryland Double. By running Frederick and Baltimore, we got extra swag!

5/14/11- The Dark and Dirty 6.66 mile trail race is run at night. It was raining and nasty out, but we had a great time. The beer stop at the 4.5 mile mark always cheers us up!

5/15/11- I ran the Bob Potts Marathon the day after Dark and Dirty. This meant we had to leave the race in Reading at 11:00 at night, drive to York, get to bed, and wake up 3 hours later to run this marathon. That would have made for a marginal race by itself, but on top of all that, it's really just a crappy race. It's a very boring out and back on a "rail-to-trail" project, very flat, and very mind numbing. Just my opinion...

5/22/11- The Dirty German 50 Mile trail race was my first attempt at running beyond the 50K. I really enjoyed this race and think it was a perfect selection for my first 50. (Me and my buddy Derek Schultz)

5/29/11- I ran the Charlie Horse Half Marathon. This is a trail race. A difficult, wet, muddy, trail race. I was devoured by deer flies, ran too hard, and lost 2 toenails. So yeah...it was a pretty awesome race!

6/4/11- The Naples Tri was the first of 4 that were on my race schedule. Jo and I both did this event and it was her first triathlon. We both had a great time and finished well. I was super proud of her for doing this race!

6/11/11- A week after the Naples Tri, I was back in PA and ready to tackle the most challenging race of my life. The Laurel Highlands 77 Mile Trail Race. This event stands out as the coolest race I have ever run on the east coast as still among my favorites. I loved this event, but it was truly brutal. An epic race!

6/25/11- The Philly Tri was triathlon #2 on my 2011 schedule. It was a fun race, except for swimming in one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

6/26/11- The day after the Philly Tri, I ran the Half Sour, Half Kraut Marathon. This was a mildly entertaining event, but not one that I will likely do again.

7/2/11- We camped out in the woods in New York for the Finger Lakes 50 Mile Trail Race. We were joined by several friends that were also running this race. Finger Lakes is a pretty challenging course, but I really enjoyed it. I will most likely return n 2012.

7/10/11- The Double Trouble 15K trail race was a lot of fun. I ran very easy during this race because my upcoming races dictated cautious behavior. This is fun event, made better by all our friends that were there that day!

7/17/11- The Leadville 50 had my stomach in knots! This race is at high altitude and has a lot of ascent! I was running it as part of my scouting mission for the 100. I loved this race and the course is totally amazing. I will be back!

7/23/11- The New Jersey State Tri was #3 of 4 for the year. I had a lot of fun with this race, but began to realize these triathlons were little more than a distraction.

7/30/11- The Catoctin 50K is a stupid race. It's designed to be stupid.

8/7/11- The NYC Tri is my final taste of this sport. It's a very cool race, but triathlons are just not my thing. Jo and I spent the weekend in Manhattan and really enjoyed the experience.

8/20/11- The Leadville 100 was my first 100 mile race. What can I say about an event like this? It was amazing! It still stands as the coolest thing I have ever done and I can't wait to get back. It's such an epic race.

9/4/11- Labor Pains was my first ultra in 2010 and it was a life changing experience. So I returned this year and ran all day with great friends. I love this race and I love the entire experience.

9/17/11- Revenge of the Penguins is a 20 mile race on dirt and gravel roads. I ran this race hard and had a great time.

9/18/11- Jo joined me to run the Philly Rock and Roll Half. Despite running a hard 20 miler the day before, I set a new PR and had fun.

9/24/11- I ran the Trails for Tails 40 Mile trail race with my buddy Paul Peters. We had a great day of running. Paul finished in 2nd overall and I was 5th! A fun, low key race!

9/25/11- The day after Trails for Tails, I joined my buddy Leon to run the Conestoga 10 mile trail race. This race is billed as the "toughest 10 miler". It is tough. And it should be billed as "A pretty damn tough hike", cuz that's what it really is. I didn't have fun during the race, but loved spending time with a great friend.

10/2/11- The Blues Cruise 50K is a great local ultra. I ran hard in hopes of breaking my 50K PR from the Dances with Dirt race, but I fell short. But I still had a blast!

10/8/11- I ran the Festival of Leaves 5K with my wife, her mother, sister and 2 nieces. It was a lot of fun to share that with all of them, and surprisingly I took and AG award.

10/15/11- I ran the Baltimore Marathon as a matter of revenge. It was my first ever marathon and it almost killed me in 2010. So I came back, ran hard, and set a new marathon PR. Good times! Jo ran the Half as well.

10/16/11- After finishing Baltimore, we drove to Syracuse NY and I ran the Empire State Marathon. Because of my hard race the day before, I ran easy and just enjoyed the run. It was a fun race!

10/23/11- I ran the Tussey Mountainback 50 and really enjoyed it. The scenery is beautiful and the race is well managed. It was a great time, and new 50M PR!

10/30/11- Gettysburg Blue and Grey Half Marathon happened to fall the day after an unusually early snowfall. The race was bitterly cold. Jo and I both ran it, enjoyed it, but didn't stick around long after we finished. But it is a cool race.

11/12/11- I ran the Javelina Jundred down in Arizona as my 2nd 100 mile race. This race was a great time! The course isn't overly challenging, but still far from easy. While it isn't as epic as Leadville, it is a pretty awesome event! I finished well under 24 hours, which awarded me the "BIG" buckle at the finish!

11/20/11- I ran the Philly Marathon only because its a "hometown" race. By now, I knew I was going to stop running road marathons and wanted to do this event before that happened. It was a fun race and I'm happy I did it. But I won't be doing it again.

12/4/11- The Pam Beach Marathon was my final race for 2011. I ran this race last year and wanted to run it again because it was small, low key, and had a beautiful course. I ran my guts out and scored a new PR. A great way to end the year!

2011 was an amazing year! I learned a lot about running, I spent a lot of great time with Jo, and I made a ton of great friends in the process. It was a life changing journey and I wouldn't change a thing.

2012 is going to an amazing ride!

Happy Trails!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The End of an Amazing Year of Racing...Palm Beach Marathon

Jo and I traveled to Southern Florida for the Palm Beach Marathon in West Palm Beach. I had ran this race last year and enjoyed it enough to return, and to encourage Jo to run the course too.

(photo disclaimer*the gels appearing in this picture are not mine, nor did I take this picture. I am in no way responsible for the contents in said picture.)

This was my final race of 2011 and I was eager to wrap up my year and get some rest before the 2012 season starts (in one month). This was my 41st race this year and my11th marathon. This is one of 24 races that I ran in 2011 that is at the marathon distance or greater. I have had a fantastic year, covering a lot of miles in some amazing events. Except Catoctin and Conestoga. Those races suck and I never should have done them.

Enough about that though, because I intend to write a "year in review" blog at the end of December...it will be a MUST READ, that's my promise!

I really didn't have any expectations for this race. I just intended to run it and see how things unfolded. My biggest worry was the weather, because I've been running in the cold for a while now and the forecast was suggesting temperatures in the 70's. Even when I'm acclimated, 75 degrees makes for a crappy marathon. But aside from that, I really didn't have a care in the world.

Being so in tune with my body, I was sure to baby it the night before the race so it would be in prime shape to run this distance hard.

I ate almost this entire thing...this is exactly why I run!

I washed it down with at least 6 beers. I debated also eating a full plate of wings, because they're really my fuel of choice, but I was having trouble finding the room in my belly.

This race includes a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, and a marathon relay race. Yeah....a relay...because there weren't already enough options I guess.

By most standards, this is a small event, drawing about 4000 runners for all events. This is also one of the reasons I enjoy this race. The roads are very wide and with fewer runners, we thin out pretty fast, so unlike the Philly Marathon, we didn't have that "Mosh Pit Marathon Action" for the first 8 miles. This is quite refreshing.

Jo and I before the race...As you can see from the picture, I chose to run in my Javelina Jundred race shirt. In my mind, I like to think it intimidates other runners. I have no evidence that this tactic works, but it makes me feel like a bad ass, so I roll with it.

As you can see from Jo's hair, the wind was blowing HARD before, and during the race. It was mostly a side wind while we were running, but it added a level of difficulty to the race.

Jo and I lined up and got ready for the start. I stepped up in front of the 8 Minute per Mile group, and Jo headed back a little further. At 6:45, we were off!

The sun was just coming up over the Atlantic when we started. It was a pretty pleasant run for the first 3 miles and I began to overheat. I slowed down enough to pull my shirt off and tuck it into the back of my shorts. I realized right away that this would effect the intimidating powers of my race shirt, but I really had no choice. I was pretty damn hot! But fortunately, I was still wearing my Leadville visor, so I'm pretty sure it was obvious that I was NOT a runner to mess with.

I was clicking off some pretty strong split times. At mile 7, the heat began to really get to me. I soaked myself with water at the aid stations and drank Gatorade heavily. I fought the elements as best I could, but it was rough coming from weather in the 30's and having to run hard in this weather.

At mile 20, I noticed that I had crushed my previous 20 mile record. For whatever reason, this is the mile marker that I always pay the most attention to. I can usually gauge my race based on how long it took me to get to 20 miles. It was at this point that I started to take this race seriously. I realized I had a great opportunity to not only PR, but PR in a big way. But a lot can happen in the last 6 miles.

I continued to feel pretty strong after the 20 mile mark. But right as I passed the 23 mile sign, I started to feel terrible. I wanted this race to be over so badly, that I just focused on running as hard as I could. I was gutting it out with everything in me.

I have run a lot of hard races and I've faced a few serious challenges, but I had NEVER made the sounds that were now coming out of my body. I was emitting some grunting noise between breaths and doing something that could have been mistaken for speaking in tongues. It was really odd, and it was really freaking me out. But I kept powering on...and I was passing runners. This was the first time in my life that I thought I might actually collapse at the finish line, like all those guys I've made fun of in the past. This was a real concern. Losing my faculties at the end of a race is not cool. Not cool at all.

Jo finished her race in 2:39:xx, so I knew she would be waiting for me, but was also worried that she might not be expecting me this early. Which might not be a bad thing, especially if I fall down and crap my running shorts at the finish line. I don't need a picture of that. Nobody does. But...as always, there she was, waiting for me at the finish line!

Here I come!

You can click on this picture to verify, but I'm actually smiling as I cross the finish line.

This is a finish line pose that I learned from Hal Koerner.

My finish time was right at 3:34. That was a full 10 minutes off my PR from the Baltimore Marathon in October. I was elated! Especially because I had no expectations for this race and had spent no time preparing for it. That explains the stupid grin in these photos!

I had blasted passed the last two water stops on the course and was dying of thirst. I was also hungry...I didn't fuel with anything during the race except a few small cups of Gatorade.

Jo and I right after I finished. My smile is gone now. Not because I'm not happy, but because I have 3 chocolate chip cookies crammed into my mouth. 

I enjoyed this race and was thrilled with a new PR, but this event meant more to me than the race itself. It was the culmination of my year. This was a year packed with ridiculous races, especially for somebody with my very limited running experience. I somehow avoided injury all year. On top of that, I got stronger and faster as I worked through my race schedule. To be absolutely honest, I never really thought I could pull this off. But here I am at the end of it, stronger, faster, and healthy enough to run any race, at any distance, whenever I want.

This was a fitting end to a fantastic year!

Happy Trails my friends!