2016 Year in Review

Looking back at the blog over the past few years the posts have become fewer and further between. But the year in review has been a mainstay since the beginning so I might as well keep it going.
This year was a tale of two halves. The first half of the year was a continuation of final 6 months of 2015. High mileage, some great workouts, and high level of fitness. The shift was the start of August. I started teaching at a new school that starts at 7:05 and is 35 minutes away, as opposed to 15. So my morning runs have taken a huge hit. I was still able to run every day, but not at the level that I was running at before.
The big plus for me this year, was it was the most days I have run in a year. 365. Since it was a leap year I ran 365 out of 366. March 29th was the only day I missed. I had a little flare up in my lower back so took a day off. It was also my highest mileage year ever. I ran 3,618 miles this year. I basically ran 2,000 miles from January 1st through July 1st, and then 1,600 miles the rest of the year.
I didn’t race very much. I ran a handful of local 5Ks. I think I ran 4 competitive races, a mile, a 5K, and 2 10Ks. One of those two 10Ks resulted in a PR. It was my first 10K on the track and it was 20 degrees and sideways snow. It was a blast, and I was in pretty good shape at the time. I think with better weather I could have gone faster. But a PR was probably the competitive racing highlight of the year. 33:12.
Looking forward to 2017, I was able to start to get my lazy bones out of bed a little earlier towards the end of the semester, so I am hopeful that I can keep that routine up and actually get back into decent shape this spring. The only thing I have on the calendar for this year is the Ice Breakers Indoor Marathon in January. I am running on a relay team. After that I am thinking about possibly a return to the track for another crack at the 10K, or maybe a late spring or early summer half marathon.
With life being what it is and races becoming more and more scare on my calendar, I was thinking about some other goals for this year. I think I would like to (within reason due to injury/sickness) try to run every day this year, and also run at least one sub 5:00 mile every month. Maybe even make it a challenge, anyone want to join me in the #12sub5in17? Is that hashtag to confusing, you have a better idea? Anyway, good luck on the roads and trails in the new year.

Running Update

Running update.

When I first started this blog, I was single, looking for a full time job, and was a volunteer assistant coach. I am now married with two kids, a head coach and full time teacher (for the time being). That means some stuff gets pushed to the back burner, namely blog posting. I think I am averaging maybe two blog posts a year since Q was born.

The other thing that has slowly been pushed back is racing. I used to race 10, 11, 12 times a year. I don’t anymore, I know race maybe 4 or 5 times a year. My running goals seem to now be make sure I am in good enough shape to pace workouts (when needed) with our varsity guys and then have consistent training.

I am not a big running streak guy, I think a streak for streak sake is not something I think is helpful to run fast, which to me is my goal for running. That being said with my lack of racing I have slowly turned into a pseudo-streak guy. Last year I hit a streak of 188 days. This year I had a streak going of 233 days until I broke it last week. I had been feeling fine and not really seen any reason for a day off during the streak until last Saturday. I bent down to pick up my bag at our track meet and my back seized up, it has been sore ever since. I ran on it for a few days, but it didn’t seem to get better, so I took a day off. I think I could have physically handled running on it, but part of me wanted to be mentally tough enough to take a day off. I think I had become to driven by the streak and not by wanted to get faster, so it was more a move to reconnect with the reason (at least, the reason I tell myself) that I run, to run fast. So I took the day off. 233 days straight, I ran 2,546 miles in those days (almost 11 a day).

I think it helped to be able to reconnect with wanted to run fast because I knew I had a chance to race today. I had emailed a local college coach about running unattached in their 10K. I hadn’t run a 10K at all in about 3 years, and never on the track before today. I had grand plans to really train with some specific 10K work and be ready to run really fast…but of course life happened I basically ran workouts with the team and got in some easy running on my own, that combined with not doing a workout for about a week and half because of my back did not fill me with tons of confidence going into the race. Initially the race was supposed to be the final event of the track meet, scheduled to run about 6 pm. We were going to head up to my parents the boys and my wife would eat dinner with them and then head over to the race. Until, I received an email last night letting me know the race had been moved to 8:30 this morning.

I got up there solo and warmed up, it was cold. 30, snow and 15-20 MPH wind. Perfect cross country weather, not great for track. As I was finishing my warm up, I got word that the rest of the meet was cancelled, but they would still run the 10K. It was me and 7 other guys (3 unattached and 4 college guys). The race basically became a tempo run, I knew I wasn’t in great 10K shape, so I tried to stay controlled through the first part and then just couldn’t break that rhythm. Every 400 split was between 79-80.xx. My 1600 splits were (5:20.5, 5:22.2, 5:19.1, 5:19.5. 5:20.3, 5:20.8, and then closed in 73.4). Since I haven’t raced a 10K in a few years it still results in a PR 33:16. But certainly not what I thought I would run leading into it a few weeks ago.

I think now the plan will be back to training with the guys and get them ready to run fast at the end of the season. I will probably hop into one of the open races at the state meet Friday night (possibly the 3200 and go for a sub 9:30, or go for the sub 4:30).

Run Streak

As of today I have tied my longest consecutive days run streak. I have run at least 4 miles for the last 188 days. I had a streak of 188 that ended last January, in that streak I ran a total of 1,526 miles over that stretch. For my current streak, through 188 days run I have run 2,050 miles. So not only am I getting my run in everyday, but doing it at a quality level. The streak itself is not really a goal, but rather a by product of trying to maintain a level of consistency. In the next few weeks I am going to attempt to run some 10K specific work to prep for a crack at a fast race in April and a chance for this big aerobic base to pay off.

2015 Year in Review

2015 Running Year in Review:

This past year was another year in my progression as a runner. The more I learn about running, training, etc. the more I come to understand how true the words of Bruce Denton are in Once a Runner, “The Secret is there is no secret.” The key to continued success as a runner is about consistent training, day after day, week after week, year after year. The trial of miles, the miles of trials. This year was another 12 months to add to my training block.

January of 2015 brought with it a great change in my life with the birth of our second son, as I get older life gets more hectic and brings with it new priorities. With work, coaching, and now two boys at home hard training and racing certainly took a back seat on many occasions. This past year, I raced fewer times than I have in any year since I began racing. In total I think I ran 9 races (2 mile races, a 2 mile, a 3 mile, and 5 5Ks).

As a result of racing less, most of my “goals” became consistency. I think the cool thing about racing less and logging more (and more consistent) mileage is the races that I did run tended to be on average much more successful. I think I certainly lost a little in terms of racing sharpness, but gained in heavy volumes of training.

Here are some numbers on the running that I did this past year:

Total miles run 3,524 (over 300 more than last year)

353 out of 365 days I ran

Did not miss a day after August 8th

I ended the year with 21 straight weeks over 70 miles, and 29 of the last 30

The second half of the year (July 1st on) I ran 1973 miles (10.8 a day)

I did run one PR this year, in the mile. I ran 4:31. It was quite a shock to me as the goal going into the race was to break 4:40. I closed that race in 2:12 (which also maybe an 800 PR). Now I have hopes of a sub 4:30 mile in the future.

A few other highlights from my running:

Getting to take E on his first stroller run, he had a huge smile and was giggling the entire time. As a plus it’s much easier to push a 10 month old than it is a 3 year old.

Not to be out done by his younger brother Q has taken to running lots of races. We constantly run from the bedroom, down the hall, into the living room, around the ottoman and back. Of course we have to set up some hurdles and do “drills” before we race. Q has also recently added “running” on the treadmill. He feels comfortable at 2.5 mph. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I ran the Footlocker Midwest Open race. It was a blast, cross country is really lots of fun. Throw the times out the window and just compete over hill and dale. I wish there were more opportunities to run XC races around here.

The XC team I coach did qualify for the state finals for the second straight year and finished 20th place, it was the highest team finish in school history. A nice end to their running legacy, as the school will close this year due to financial problems. On a related note if you know anyone who needs a social science teacher who can coach XC and track, I’m there man.

I got very into podcasts this year. A few of my current favorites are Steve Magness and John Marcus’s podcast, Jay Johnson’s Run Faster Podcast, and The Coach Ben Rosario Show. I subscribe to all three and they are loaded with great running information. With enjoying them so much I decided to start my own, so I have been interviewing local high school coaches, there have been 3 episodes so far, with hopefully many more to come. If you want to take a listen: here you go.

Looking ahead to 2016 I have a few different ideas bouncing around in my head. The most immediate goal is to run a fast 10K. I think I have a target race at a local college track meet. The goal is to run the women’s Olympic A standard for the 10K, with most of my training geared towards running 32:00. I know I have a huge base from the last 8 months, now it’s a matter of getting race ready. I think the focus will be on longer tempo efforts. That coupled with shorter faster stuff that I will most certainly be doing with the track team should set me up well for success.

I do have thoughts of maybe giving the marathon another go. Probably not this year, but maybe next. If I ran Chicago 2017 that would be the 10 year anniversary of my first marathon. So maybe a 2017 Chicago and then a 2018 Boston.

Hopefully everyone had a safe and happy new year, and best of luck on the roads, track and trials this coming year.

Less is worse

The second half of last year was an incredibly consistent stretch of healthy running for me. For about 7 months leading up to our second child being born I was averaging 70 miles a week. I was in great shape, getting fit, setting some high goals and achieving them.
The last 6 weeks priorities have been switched, running has taken a backseat to most things (which is fine, there are things in my life much more important than running right now). However, what I find to be very frustrating is that as a result of running less I am now dealing with an injury. For the first time since last spring I am battling to stay running healthy. I thinks it’s interesting that in the last few years the only times I have been injured is when I have cut back on my running.
I am not exactly sure what is wrong with my foot. I think it is either planter fasciitis or a sprained toe. I am taking some days off to see if it gets better. Trying to ice and rest. Hopefully I will be healthy soon.
I guess my question is, does this happen to other people? When you run less do you get injured more?

2014 The Year in Running

This year was a great year for me with respect to running and the running community.  It was a year of PRs, breakthroughs, and great moments.  Let me start with my own favorite running related moment of the year.  This year after the last race of the IHSA state cross country finals as the guys on the team were cooling down Q insisted on running the course and “breaking the tape.”  So we did, we set off from the southeast corner of Detweiller Park, we picked up the course along the highway and proceeded to run almost an entire loop of the park (we cut the corner on the north end of the park, Q was only 2 and half at the time).  As we ran a few teams ran past us on their own cool down.  The boys of Neuqua state with QValley ran past, with their top runner pointing out that Q was doing a great job of running the tangents (he was actually taking an angle to stomp on some leaves, but no one needs to know that).  Then the boys from Hoffman Estates ran by, they asked if he was getting ready for a future state championship race, to which I replied that Q was prepping to win the state title in 2027 (as a sophomore).  It was so wonderful for me to get to share in a moment on pretty sacred running ground in Illinois with my son who was loving every minute of it.  We were a little slow getting to the finishing line and it was already taken down by the time we got there, so there was no tape for Q to break, but he still picked up the pace to cross what had been the finish line.

Backtracking a few hours before that moment is another highlight of the year for me.  This season for the first time in school history the Lincoln Way North boys cross country team qualified for the state finals.  It was a historic year for the team, tremendous improvement from top to bottom.  You can check out more on the season those guys had on their team website www.runlwn.com.

For my own personal running it was a great year as well.  If you read my goals for the year that I wrote at the beginning of the year, one of the big things I wanted to do was increase my mileage.  I was able to do that, and I think it really allowed me to take yet another step in my own training.  Last week I joined some former athletes I coached and their buddies for a long run (all in their early 20s) as we ran one of them told a story where he said “I mean, she was older, like, 31.”  I was able to set 3 PRs this year (5K, 8K, and Half Marathon), which is really something considering the fact that I am older, like, 31.

The last two years I have had a goal race that lined up with the end of XC season, and after that I have created somewhat arbitrary goals to obtain to keep my running going.  Last year it was a running streak (at least 4 a day for 188 days).  This year in early November I crunched some numbers and realized that even though I had a minor injury set back in July, I could run an average of 10 miles a day from July 1st through the end of the year.  This morning, I ran 11 miles during my workout and that put me at 1,840 miles from July first through December 31st.  184 days, 1,840 miles.  I think I missed 5 days of running during that span (3 in July due to a foot issue), but other than those few missed days I have been incredibly consistent in the last 6 months.  Before this year I had never run a month with over 300 miles (I ran 300 once in 2009).  During the last 6 months, I have run 4 months over 300.

With the bump in training I have been contemplating a jump to the marathon again.  I still am not ready to commit the time to train for one, but was able to run two half marathons this year (Fox Valley Half 2nd place, and Naperville Half 1st place).  Both of them brought some good and bad, but great learning for a longer race.  I don’t think a marathon will be in the cards for 2015, but possibly for early 2016.

One of the other cool running experiences this year, my cousin got married in Breckenridge this summer, so we spent 5Untitled1 days in the mountains.  It was some tough running, but also pretty awesome.  Getting to run at 10,000 feet through technical trails in the mountains was really cool.  Something I wish I could do more of when I get chances in the future.  Maybe a destination race and do some legit trail races.

The year in running by the numbers:

Races run: 9

Races won: 6

PRs: 3 (5K: 15:24, 8K: 25:56, 13.1: 1:13:59)

Miles run: 3,209 (my previous high year was 2009 when I ran 2,727 miles.  Almost 500 more this year)

I hope 2014 was a great year for you.  We will see you on the roads in 2015.

Guess the mileage, baby or guess the mileage baby.

As I was running the other day, I was thinking about our soon to be expanding family. For those who don’t know what I talking about, my wife is due with our second child on January 12th. Less than a month away. I was thinking about a lot of things that need to happen in the next month before the baby gets here. But then I also then started about thinking running (that tends to happen in my brain). So naturally the two ideas merged into one. Which leads to this “contest.” Instead of a guess what day, or the weight, or the gender of the baby contest, what if I were to do a guess how many miles I run before the baby is born. The rules are simple, guess how many miles I am going to run between right now (December 16th) and the time the baby is born.

For those who want to make a more educated guess here are some things that may be helpful. For the last few months I have been averaging about 70 miles a week. I have a slightly nagging right hip flexor right now. I have no races on the horizon. My longer runs are usually Saturdays or Sundays. I sometimes take a cut back day either Monday or Tuesday.

Make your guess in the comments below. I don’t think there will be a prize, just the pride in knowing you are the best at this game.

Naperville Half Marathon Race Report

I have gotten away from writing these, but today was a rather strange race so I wanted to share the story on here.

Leading into this race I have been viewing it as my goal race for the fall, however with coaching being what it is, my training has been more suited for a 3 mile race on grass than a 13 mile race on the roads.  Saturday was a long day with the state XC meet.  I didn’t alter my coaching at all, I spent the race sprinting around Detweiller Park from point to point to see my guys and cheer them on.  As we stopped for Culvers on the way home I started too really reconsider how hard I will be able to go for the half the next day.  All that too say, I adjusted my aggressive race plan to something a little more conservative at the start and then see how I will as I go.

The conditions were perfect, beautiful morning, great (new) course, and solid competition.  I went out under control and quickly a pack of 4 formed.  We stuck together for about 2.5 miles then it was just down to 2 of us.  We stuck together through 6.  Mile splits (from Garmin auto-lap): 5:48, 5:34, 5:36, 5:35, 5:37, 5:35.  Right before mile 7, I put in a slight surge and started to open a gap into first place.  I felt a little separation so I decided I had to continue to press.  5:33.   I hit a bad patch during mile 8 (5:47), but was able to recover and get moving again.  I really felt great at this point.  Smooth, controlled running.  5:32, 5:25.  I hit 10 miles in 56:23 (a new 10 mile PR).  I started to do some math in my head.  “I feel really good right now, if I can run 16:35 for the last 5K, I can be under 1:13.  At this point I was really dropping the hammer.  At one point during that mile my Garmin had me at 5:15.  I was flying.  One of the lead bikes told me I had about a 250 meter lead.  I felt great…until I didn’t.  Just before the 11 mile mark something happened…

A little background, for those unfamiliar with me from 2009 to 2011 I had some really bad anxiety issues.  It was often connected to running.  I would get a racing heart (feeling like having a heart attack), my arms would go numb, and I would feel light headed like I was going to pass out.  It was a tough challenge that I faced, but ultimately with professional help was able to figure out ways to deal with it so it would not interfere with my life in the way that it had been.

An anxiety attack happened.  My legs started to feel a little heavy and like that: lighted headed, numb arms, racing heart.  The thoughts in my head “oh, no, not now.”  I almost stopped and walked, I slowed once to try to right the ship, after about a minute of slow jogging, and I thought I would try to get moving again.  I tried, no luck, still struggling.  At this point I am audible talking to myself (I am sure I looked perfectly sane, leading a race, shuffle jogging and sternly talking to myself).  My mind is racing, “You’re ok, no you’re not, lay down, give up, you have to stop, you are in trouble, talk to someone, slow down.”  I turned and looked over my shoulder, second place was right behind me.  “Oh, crap, I can’t go, I am going to lose this race, my wife and son are watching me fall apart, I can’t bare having to see people and be embarrassed that it was not a physical reason I lost, it was all mental.  I have to try to pick it up again, hopefully I will feel better.”  And I did feel better, not right away, but I started moving.  I hit mile 12, finally (6:05).  And as quickly as anxiety struck, it was gone.  I felt great again.  I was slowing picking it up, and was flying again.  I came through a gauntlet of noise with about 3/4s of a mile to go, “I got this!”  I continue to pick it up, mile 13 (5:19), and then sprint finish.  The classic high five from Naperville’s amazing Mayor Pradel.  I see the clock and have renewed drive, I can go sub 1:14.  Cross the line in first, 1:13:59.  A 15 second PR and a second consecutive Naperville Half Marathon victory.

A strange race, one that I am still not sure how I feel about.  I am glad to have the PR, I am glad to have fought off the anxiety, but I wish I could have fought it off sooner and run a faster time.

2014 Goals: Ten is the new Eight

As 2013 came to a close my running streak really drove my motivation. No races on the horizon, no specific training taking place. Looking back at my training log, after the Naperville Half I ran 4 harder efforts (one of them being a race), everything else was just easy distance running. Typically my normal mid-week easy day has been 7-8 miles, towards the end of last year I started going 9-10 on those days. That is the first thing I want to change this year. I want to maintain my consistency in training, but also bump my mileage slightly, keep workouts the same, keep long runs the same, but just adding those two miles on easy days. That alone will add 6-8 miles a week. That added mileage leads into my major goal for the year. So instead of weeks of 50-56, I will hopefully run weeks of 56-64.

Working backwards, my first focus for the year is going to be this fall. I am not sure yet what distance I want to race. It’s either going to be a full or half marathon. After Naperville I am confident that I could run faster in the half, but it has also got me thinking more about the full marathon. I had previously sworn off the marathon, because it’s the worst, and I am the worst at it. But after taking about 2 years (so far) away from the distance I have slowly forgotten my sworn hatred of the race. Whichever distance I choose, I am very much looking forward to having a huge summer, taking time to get very race specific with my training (which I didn’t really do for Naperville). I can also spend the spring continuing to build base for the distance.

As far as time goals for the race. If it is the half, I would like to run under 1:13:00. For the marathon (if I do attempt it), since my biggest problem has been my inability to focus on running for that long, my plan right now is if I just hammer it then I don’t have to focus for that long. So my goal is to try to run something in the 2:40-50 range. Just get out and get comfortable about 6:00-20 and click them off, that pace has become pretty reasonable for me in long runs (up to 15) so why not build that foundation and race at it. I think physically I can do it; it’s just a matter of mentally being able to do it. With a summer of building towards attempting that I think I can do it.

The goal race for the fall is going to be the Fox Valley Marathon/Half Marathon. That way I don’t have to decide on a full or half right away (they have a flex option with registration).

For the spring my goal race (as on now) is going to be the Shamrock Shuffle. I haven’t run this race in a few years, and I believe I can get into the elite corral, so might as well go for it. I will gear my harder sessions this spring towards speed and try to run something pretty quick at Shamrock and then maybe find a 5K and 10K to run 3 PRs this spring.

That’s the tentative plan for 2014. What do you have in store for your running in 2014?

The end of the run streak

I am not a big run streak guy.  My goal with running is to race as fast as I can, and running streak for streak’s sake don’t mix with that idea.  You need to train smart to run fast, when you need recovery you take it.  That being said after coming off a foot injury last summer the days of running started to add up, first 25, then 50 then 100, all running at least 4 miles.  And then it just continued.  I have run at least 4 miles for the last 188 days.  A total of 1,526 miles since July 2 ( an average of 8.12 per day).  I made sure to continue to train smart, if I needed a down day I would go on an easy 4 miler to recover.  My body however had not told me yet that it needs a complete day off…until today.  About a week ago my son got a flu.  I tried my best to tell myself I wasn’t getting it, but try as I did, I got it.  So after some consideration today I realized missing one run to allow my body to fully focus on fighting off illness will be better off in the long run that turning my running streak into 189 days.  In some ways I am disappointed, it was a cool thing I had going but I am also excited now to be able to focus on my upcoming goals.  The streak was good to bridge my gap of motivation from the Naperville Half through the start of spring racing season and for that I am glad, but ultimately I am now excited about getting back after to to train to run fast this spring.