2013 Year in Review

When thinking about this past year it seemed to break down into the three clearly distinct segments.  The early part of the year was all about fast running…until the middle of the year was injury plagued, and finally the later part of the year was a return to fitness.

If you remember from last year’s post of my upcoming goals, the plan was a fast 5K early summer and then a slow build to a good half marathon in the fall.  The year started off great.  I had a great late fall (’12) and started the year with a PR in the mile.  Followed up by my season debut in the 5K only 4 seconds off my PR, I thought my plans were going to pan out perfectly.  I used the late part of the track season to hone my speed.  I was ready, goal race was 3 weeks out.  I was running one of my final pace specific workouts on the track, when I ran into the worst plantar fasciitis pain I have ever dealt with.  I have had some PF issues in the past, but not like this.  It popped up out of nowhere, I could barely walk.  I hobbled off the track nervous what this would mean for my goal race.

What it did mean?  Three weeks of no running.  (Technically I ran after a week, but it was 5 minutes before I realized that was a mistake and stopped).  I was patient and waited until I was feeling pain free, and then proceeded to very slowly return to running.  The first few times out it was 15 minutes, then 20, then 30, then back to somewhat of normal running.  Four weeks back I ran a 5K (it was not a great idea) but gave me a good indication of how much fitness I had lost.  I ran over 2 minutes slower in that 5K than I did in a race two months prior.  I had some serious doubts that I would be able to reach my goal of a fast half marathon in the fall.  My goal race pace was 5 seconds faster per mile for a half than I ran for that return 5K.  Slowly but sure I got back to work.  Continued to build, get my speed and strength back, but most importantly I got consistent.  The secret is there is no secret.  Just getting the work done on a regular basis.

Naperville Half Victory

As I type this I am in the midst of my longest running streak ever.  The last day I did not run at least 4 miles was July 1st.  That consistency has been key for me to find success this fall.  I have been smart about it, I have made sure to take easy days.  Let my body recover when it needs it.

Like I said the fall goal was a fast half marathon.  I thought early in the year 72 minutes would be possible, after injury it looked like something between 73 and 75 was more realistic.  I had plans of being very specific to half marathon training to prep myself.  But plans changed a little.  Late summer I took over as the head cross country coach at a different school in the district.  A change I was very excited about.  But it meant much more of my time spent coaching, and with a little guy at home most of my running became training to run a 3 mile race on grass.  I ran most of the works with the team, and then would do a longer tempo run on the weekend.  That was my half marathon training.  Ultimately I was extremely proud of how my fall goal half marathon went.  I ran 1:14:14 and won the inaugural Naperville Half Marathon.ays as often as I need, but still have been able to log the miles.

Me and Alan Webb

And that would have been my running year…but a late addition to my running year was the USATF Club Nationals.   It was an awesome weekend.  Getting to hang with some great people, see wonderful Bend, OR, getting to run the toughest race I have ever run, and then partying Picky Style with everyone from the race (including many a pro runner).
Overall of it was a great year.  I know having consistent training the last few years has enabled me to continue to improve as a runner.  I have been able to PR year after year.  I think that the biggest take away from this year however, has been having confidence to come back from a tougher injury where I lost so much of what I had worked for.

The year by the numbers:

Races run: 11

Races won: 6

Miles run: 2,500 and counting (should end the year at about 2,600)

PRs set: 2 (mile: 4:40, half marathon 1:14:14)

I hope 2013 was a great year for you as well.  We will see you on the roads in 2014.

Naperville Half Marathon

Q with medalAs I said in my last post from mid-summer, I was coming into this race with a long build up after a long layoff due to injury.  And as I alluded to it was going to be a busy fall.  Life very much happened this fall.  I am now the head cross country coach at a school I do not teach at, we also just bought a new house (one that needs A LOT of work), and all that with a 19th month old running wild every day.  I had pretty grand plans of really specifically training for the half marathon distance; lots of over distance runs, lots of longer tempo runs and long intervals…none of that happened.  Instead I trained with the cross country team.  If my goal race was a 3 mile race on grass I would have been extremely confident…it wasn’t, I wasn’t.

Based on what I had been doing I thought going in I could run anywhere between 1:13 and 1:16.  I wanted to make sure to go out under control.  I wasn’t sure who would be running in the race.  The gun went off and within the first half mile I was alone in the front.  I made sure to stay under control.  The plan was to go out in 5:45ish for the first few miles.  I held back and felt like I was just cruising along.  My first two miles were my slowest 5:50, 5:46.  After the first two miles I settled into a nice comfortable rhythm clicking off 5:35-:42s for the rest of the race.

A couple of in race highlights.  This was the first time in a longer race I was able to acknowledge that I was simply going through a bad patch and I could relax and press through it.  I hit a tough spot at about 7.5 and then at about 9.  Both times I had to fight it, but was able to work through it and continue to press on.

The fan support on the course was incredible, the first 9 miles were constantly lined with fans cheering the whole way, Naperville came out to support this inaugural race.  But my favorite part of the course, at roughly 9.5 I came through a gauntlet of fans, through a neighborhood lined with fans (included a lady who cheered “Go, Baby, Go” to me, it was awkward), and then I hit the DuPage river trail.  The trail was EMPTY.  I literally went from being surrounded by people to being totally alone.  And it. was. awesome.  I was able to really refocus on what I was doing.  It made it feel like a great workout, I was just cruising along on a tempo run.  I hit the 10 mile mark in 56:46 (a 10 mile PR), and then the plan was to try to bring it home strong for the last 5K.  And despite a tough mile 12, I was able to close it out in 17:28 for my last 5K.  Hitting the finish line in 1:14:14, good for a (2:52) big PR.

Overall I am extremely pleased with this race.  A big PR, probably the biggest win of my running career, and just a great experience.  The fan support, the fact that is was live-streaming online and my family could watch most of the race, and that my XC guys showed up to cheer me on (right at mile 12 when I was struggling (a great pick me up).

Thanks for all the kind words and support from friends and family.

Here are the splits:

Mile Time
1 5:50
2 5:46
3 5:39
4 5:42
5 5:35
6 5:37
7 5:37
8 5:42
9 5:33
10 5:40
11 5:36
12 5:42
13 5:32
.1 :29

The Return of the Fitness

On May 14th I was pacing a workout as the track team was getting in their final preparation for the sectional track meet.  On the last lap, of the last rep of the workout I felt a sudden and stabbing pain in the bottom of my left foot.  It was unlike anything I had felt before.  I have had some PF issues in the past, but this felt different.  That night when Q woke up crying (as usual) I went to get out of bed and went to put some weight on my foot, and it could not handle any, I fell to the ground in pain.  I was unable to run for about three weeks.  I got some amazing work done by my PT, who I highly recommend, and was able to start lightly running again by the start of June.

The return to running was a strange one.  Before hurting my foot I was in arguably the best shape of my life.  I had opened the spring racing season with a 5K within 4 seconds of my PR.  I was running workouts I had never run before.  I thought I was primed for a great year.  My plans for the Naperville Half in November I was looking at running something in the 72 minute range.  Now coming back to running I was nervous that was all going to go up in smoke.  The first few weeks were nothing but easy running; it felt like I was straining to just run what used to be an easy jog pace for me.  But I kept at it, first week back 34 miles, second week back 37, third week back 43, 45 (first double digit run back), 45, 54, 55, this past week 60.  Slowly but surely I am getting back into shape.

The third week back I attempted to run a race.  I had been a part of couch to 5K type program through the church we go to, I loved getting to help new runners.  The goal race for the group was my third week back, I normally would not have run it, but I felt compelled.  It was not pretty.  I struggled my way through running almost 2 minutes slower than I had only two months prior.  Two weeks later I raced again, the Freedom Four in Glen Ellyn is a 4th of July tradition, so I felt some obligation to do so.  I was not overly optimistic about this race, considering two weeks before I had struggled for 3 miles, and this was to be 4 miles over much MUCH hillier terrain.  I was pleasantly surprised when I ran 10 seconds per mile faster for the 4 mile race than I had in the 3 mile race two weeks before.  I was getting faster, but still not even in the same ballpark as I was before.

While the first four weeks of returning to running was mostly easy running and then a few races, the last four have resulted in a build-up of mileage and some hard work I am starting to gain some confidence that I might still be able to get back into shape for the Naperville Half.  I killed my first real long run last weekend and had a great tempo effort today.  As of a month ago looking at the idea of running between 5:30-40 for 13.1 miles was daunting, now it’s becoming more realistic.  I know now I just need to keep doing things the right way and building the strength and speed again.  It’s a slow process but I have 3 plus months to do it.  (Coincidently the goal race is the day after state cross country, so the team and myself will both be shooting for the same weekend to hit one out of the park).

I am looking forward to late August for my next race, probably a 10K to really see where my fitness is at.

The next step is going to be navigating what might be one of the busier falls that I have ever had…more on that next post.

Boston Strong

I love the idea of the marathon…I hate the actual marathon itself.  After last January’s Houston marathon, which was another example of why I am clearly not a marathon runner I publicly vowed to not run a marathon for the next few years.  I planned on picking shorter races and trying to peak for them.  I have already knocked 41 seconds off my 5K PR in that time.  And hope to take even more time off this spring.  During this process I have stood strong with my avoidance of marathon running…that is until a few weeks ago.  I received an email with next year’s school calendar.  Our spring break is late and falls during the Boston marathon.  That got the ball rolling a little.  Beth, Q and I could spend 4 or 5 days in Boston.  I could actually enjoying being there this time for the marathon (unlike 2010).  Seeing that calendar I was starting to consider it…then last Monday happened.  Now I really want to run Boston.  I don’t really want to run a marathon, but I want to run Boston, next year.  Hearing Obama’s speech on Thursday, I was excited just thinking about it.  The problem is I don’t have a current BQ (Houston was too long ago).  So for me to actually run Boston I would have to run 2 marathons in a time period where I had planned on running none.  The first thought I had was that I could run one in mid December and just add a touch more volume to my half marathon training this fall (I am planning to race the Naperville Half in November) and just hope that can get me fit enough to run a BQ.  At this point I think the emotions are raw and the excitement to be in Boston next year is high, so I need to take some time to think it through, but next year’s race is not something I want to miss out on.

Skechers Go Run 2 Review

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Go Run 2

About a year a half ago I became aware of the performance line of running shoes from Skechers.  The Go Run from Skechers was a great debut (you can read more of my thoughts on the shoe here).  Skechers updated the Go Run, with the Go Run 2.  I think Skechers did some really smart things with the updates to the Go Run series.  The first (and most noticeable  update is the structure of the sole of the shoe.  The previous model felt like it had no heel, when standing you literally felt like you were rocking forward and back  It was wonderfull to run in, really forced you to land mid-foot, but standing in them was always a little awkward.  The 2’s have solved this problem, it no longer has the rocker feel, but still is only a 4mm drop.  The result is a shoe that still feels comfortable to stand or walk in, but also has the same great feel to run in.  The out-soul itself is slightly different too with some reinforced lugs on the bottom for more durability on the sole.  I was able to get about 250 miles out of the original Go Runs, I am currently at 200 miles in my Go Run 2s and they are still going strong, I would guess I am going get to get about 350 out of them, if not a little more.  A third update that I have noticed is that material for the upper breaths a lot better than the first Go Runs.  My feet tended to get sweatier than normal in the original Go Runs (a detail, I am sure you are excited about hearing), but in the 2’s I have had no such problem.  Those are the 3 most glaring differences from the previous model.  The rest of the key features of the Go Run series are very present.  It is an extremely light and flexible shoe.  You can feel your foot contact the ground, and are able to feel your foot when running with the roomy toe-box.  Despite being a really light and flexible shoe the out-sole material is extremely soft and has a really nice combination of cushion but is also still pretty response for fast running.  Overall I think the Go Run 2 is wonderful shoe.  It would be perfect as a trainer for someone who likes a light, flexible shoe that is low to the ground, as a shoe for someone looking to transition to more mid-foot running, or as a racing flat for someone who likes a little more shoe to race in.

Running Goals for 2013

I figured I might as well make my goals for 2013 official…blog official…runjeff.com official.  So here goes.

The nice thing about my goals is they tend to break up nicely I have a goal race (distance) for the spring and early summer and then I have a goal race for the late fall that I can work towards.  Thus peaking twice this year (and Salazar says that is the best way to approach things).

As quite a surprise to me I ran a big PR in the 5K at the end of 2012.  And since then my confidence has been through the roof.  I would like to run a fast mile next week (hopefully I can bounce back from a bout with the flu earlier this week), but I know feel confident that I can run at paces I previously thought unattainable (like sub 5 for example).  So my first goal for 2013 is to attempt to hit the IAAF A standard in the 5000 for women.  The time is 15:18 (4:56 pace).  I think my plan will be to take some attempts late spring on the track and then early summer as well.  Attempting to peak at the same track meet I did last year in early June.  The B goal is to run anything under 15:30 (sub 5 pace for 5K).

My second goal is yet to be determined on time, but the distance is going to be a half marathon…for right now I would say anything under 75 minutes.  But it will be to run a fast half marathon.  I think I am going to take a crack at a slightly longer distance again and run the Naperville Half.

Obviously I would like to defend my Run3 title and run some of my favorite local road races.  But those are the two ideas I will be keying in on this year.

What are you looking to do in 2013?

2012 Year in Review

It has been a strange year of running for me.  The wonderful changes in my life have meant adjustments had to be made to my running.  In March our amazing little boy Quinton was born.  It has changed my outlook on all things in life, but with this being a blog about running it has changed that as well.  So what did my year look like from a running perspective?  First to the numbers:

Miles run roughly 2,500 and counting
Races run 15 (8 5Ks, 2 8Ks, 4 10Ks, 1 Marathon)
Races won 7 (4 5Ks, 3 10Ks)
PRs set 4 (5K 15:38, 8K 26:51, 10K 33:40, Marathon 3:03:52)
Pairs of shoes gone through 6

Highlights of the year:

My race of the year.  Elmhurst Turkey Trot.  The details, a 17 second PR in the 5K.  And more importantly this now sets my sights on even faster times (4:30 mile, 15:29 5K).  Read more about it here.

Shoe of the year.  Skechers GoRun.  If you haven’t given them a try, you should.  If you are looking for a lightweight shoe for workouts, it’s a perfect fit.  If you want something more minimal for training, it’s a perfect fit.  If you want something that is soft but also responsive, it’s a perfect fit.  Here is a more in depth review.

Big Running Decision of the year.  My plan as of now is to not run a marathon for a while, 3, 4, 5 years at least.  I am just not very good at them, so I am going to focus on what I am good at, and enjoy doing.   I still want to run sub 3, and Boston…but that is going to have to wait until I am good and ready.  I love not only racing short stuff but training for it as well.  My body just seems to respond better to that type of intensity.

Pro race of the year.  Tough call between Olympic 10,000 and Olympic 800.  But I am going with the 800.  When everyone in the races but one person sets a PR and the race is not rabbited, something must be special…oh and a new WR.  Enjoy.

Non-pro race of the year.  IHSA 3A girls state XC.  My parents neighbor brought the individual title to my alma mater in course record SMASHING fashion.  Breaking the old course record by 18 seconds.  16:02 is pretty impressive time for 3 miles!

Running Tweet of the Year.  Comes from Brooks and Team Minnesota runner Andrew Carlson “@ACarlson701 Decided to practice peeing my pants on my run tonight in case that situation occurs in the marathon. Not the best idea in 3degree weather.”  https://twitter.com/ACarlson701

Question of the Year.  Which will happen first Quinton being taller than his mom, or Quinton beating his dad head to head in a 5K?

Non-running, but still cardio based event of the year.  Getting to be the Golden Snitch at school’s first ever Quidditch intramural championship.  I looked great (and fast) in gold.  This was the time that mile repeats really paid off!

Non-running victory of the year.  Winning the teacher dance competition at the homecoming pep rally.  My worm is still second to none!

Training Partner of the Year.  Although I have loved the new group I am running with on Saturday mornings, and I look forward to that helping my training into the new year.  This category was the easiest choice of the year.  It’s Quinton.  Ever since he has been able to hold up his upper body so he can ride in the jogger while I run we have been having a blast together going for runs.  Beth can attest to the fact that I have been excitedly talking about this since she was preggers.  The day finally came this November when he was ready to roll.  I couldn’t have been more excited.  I am looking forward to some good training runs with Q this summer, it will only be moImagere fun once he can talk and realizes that the cover on the jogger is see-through so he an see a sweaty dad whenever he wants.

Finals thoughts:

Based on this year I am starting to think that I will never get “Old Man Strength.”  I thought it would come with being a dad, but I am still as weak as ever…however I have set PRs in 2 distances since becoming a dad…so maybe my version of OMS is Old Man Speed.  Here is hoping that that continues into the new year when I try to set even more PRs.

I hope you have had a wonderful both running and non-running 2012.

Have a happy and healthy holiday season!

See you on the roads (trails, and tracks) in 2013.

What’s Next?

So for the past year or so my goal has been to run a sub 16 minute 5K.  I planned my spring and summer training around a race in early June.  I ran 16:10 on a hot night on the track.  I knew after that race I could do it, but just needed a chance to get it done.  I decided this fall to try to peak for an 8K, with running two 5Ks in leading up to the race to get some speed in.  The first of the two 5Ks is a very hilly course that I knew I wouldn’t run sub 16.  The second race I had never done before and planned on trying to see what I could do to test my fitness.  On a day that I overlooked and trained through I closed in under 5:00 minutes for my last mile in route to 15:55 and my first sub 16 minute race.  As is my tradition, when I break through a time barrier, my next race at that distance I crush the previous time, as was the case yesterday when I ran a 17 second PR en route to a 15:38.  I opened in 4:51 and felt comfortable.  Now I find myself wondering what is next?

I intentionally did not register for the Boston Marathon this coming spring, I wanted to focus on shorter stuff.  At the time I was still longing for a sub 16, so I thought I would take a few cracks at it on the track at some local college meets.  Now I have broken the barrier, and still want some more.  After what I was able to accomplish yesterday, I am thinking the next goal is sub 15:30, aka sub 5:00 pace for 5K.  It took me four years of high school running to break the 5:00 barrier for 1600 meters.  Now it looks like 10 years later my goal is to run that pace for 3400 more meters.

Confidence is a funny thing.  Had you told me I could run a 4:51 opening mile and still hold it together for 2 more miles a week ago I would have thought you to be crazy, now I think that I can run that opening time and keep at that pace.  Once you break through a time barrier the confidence just floods over you.

For now, I will take a few days off after the end of a long racing fall, and then start to gear up for this winter/spring of track season.

What about you?  What are your upcoming goals?  What races have given you the confidence you can do things you never thought possible?

Training Partner Wanted

Running Times magazine has a piece it is currently running on “running partners,” it is a compilation of 10 different stories and runners takes on their own or the joys of having a running partner.  You should read it (for my Iowa friends, check out story #8).  It is a very well placed article for me, as I have been thinking a lot lately about having someone to run with.

http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=27004&CategoryID=&PageNum=1
My wife and I moved 30 minutes south so I could be closer to work (it’s a very welcome change) about a year ago.  Before we moved I ran with a group off and on, I realize now how much I miss that.  There is really something special about having people with the same mentality who are able to push you and hold you accountable.

I found myself reading the aforementioned article yesterday before cross country practice.  I should mention as an aside I do have the cross country team to run with, but I never put in long runs with them or hard efforts with them (and those to me are the days having a running partner are most crucial).  Back to practice, yesterday we did a two person team relay where you and your partner alternated running a mile at race pace for a total of 8 miles as a team (so basically 4 x mile with roughly 5-8 minutes rest).  While I was technically running my own pace and by myself, I ran much faster during that workout than had I done the same workout on my own, just having people to catch and pass or to be around as I was running made all the difference in the world.  Even though I felt like garbage I still ran fast through out the workout (ok, not the 3rd rep).  After the workout my desire for a running partner was now intensified.  Just having the other people around to push you is such a key factor.

So the question is where do I find said running partner?  My schedule dictates early (5:00 am) running and Sunday long runs…so my top choice of #GranatoRacing is out, at least until cross country is over.  So where do I go to look, do I post a personal ad?  Do I just Facebook stalk people that I have raced against who I know live in the area and are slightly faster than me (and hope they don’t go back and read old blog posts after we become best friends)?  So I guess I will just post my ad here and hope for the best, all applicants welcome.

Male seeking running partner.  Non-smoker, non-drinker, short short wearing, obsessively competitive, 16 minute 5K a must.  Prefers conversation topics of running, sports, literature, and TV on the run.  Looking for someone to run with 3-4 days a week, including 2 hard efforts and one long run (on Sundays usually 90 minutes).  I do have access to a 200 meter indoor track for winter speed sessions.  I prefer early morning.  I like to do my intervals on Tuesdays or Wednesday and Tempos on Friday, but would be willing to be flexible with that.  I like the Wetmore philosophy of hammering the long runs, usually finishing the last 2-3 miles at 10K to HM pace.

Maybe I have created a person who I want to run with who doesn’t exist…but if you do please contact me!

Reflections from the Run

What a difference two years make.  As I ran this morning I was reflecting on where I was at two years ago.  It was this same Sunday in 2010 that I ran the Chicago Half Marathon.  Maybe one I my worst races ever.  I had recently developed some anxiety responses to running.  It took me out of most that spring and late summer I had just started to return to consistent training.  I had plans of running the Chicago Marathon that fall, and the Chicago Half was going to give me a sense of my fitness level.  It was a pretty nice day for racing that Sunday in 2010.  I wanted run under control with 6:15-6:20 range…and I did for 8 miles then to keep that pace became a struggle, and I ran my last two miles in 6:32, 6:34.  As I crossed the line I was completely exhausted.  It was the worst I felt after a race in a long time, and I did not even run fast.  As I sat drinking water at the finish line the icing on the top of a terrible day happened, I had another full blown anxiety attack.  I spent a solid 15 minutes in the medical tent and then was in an ambulance ready to go to the hospital when it finally passed.  Until this morning it had been a long time since I thought about that race.  But as I was running this perfect fall morning I was reminded that it was in fact two years ago today.  In that time I have gotten a much better handle on the anxiety, I have been running more or less consistently injury free for 16 months (knock on wood), and as a results of that consistency my running is at a place that I don’t know if I would have ever imagined.  Today I ran 13 miles (roughly the same distance as the dread half mentioned previously) at a pace of about 5 seconds per mile on average faster than a race two years ago.  My last two miles in the race 6:32, 6:34…today on my easy distance run they were 5:55 and 5:18 (so I pushed it a little, I was feeling good 🙂 ).  In the time since the dreaded half I have gotten faster, stronger and more confident including PRs in 5K, 10K, and marathon.

I was talking to the girls on the cross country team the other day, and was reminded of the words of Bruce Denton, “the secret is, there is no secret.”  To be a good runner, to reach your maximum potential, you do the right things day in and day out for a long period of time.  You work hard and you push yourself.  You train smart, and you train consistently.  The more you do that, the more confident you get and the better results you have.  That’s what I have been doing and plan to keep doing in route to new faster goals.