2014 in Review, and My Running (and Non-Running) Goals for 2015!

New Years Eve Run

We are almost at the start of the new year, so I wanted to wrap up my year and running and also look ahead to 2015. I almost wrote this up a couple of weeks ago … but I couldn’t manage to not have proper accounting of my running right up until the end of the year! So here goes …

To get started … what WERE my 2014 running goals?:
Run more than 2500 miles
Run at least 2 Marathons and 1 Half-Marathon
Run an Ultra-Marathon
Set a PR in either Marathon or Half-Marathon
Put in time on the trails

Yeah … so, um … considering I ran exactly ONE race – and it was a 5K, we can guess how three of the five goals ended up! But honestly I don’t think that reflects the reality of my year in running, so let’s get started with THAT!

It is amazing to be sitting at the end of another year (my third) spent as a long distance runner – and I am fast approaching my ’26th Runner-versary’ in February. It is pretty mind boggling! It is fun looking back over the last year to all of the stuff that has gone on in my running life and reflect on what I want for the coming year. I have enjoyed reading so many posts from others and wanted to share my own. I went into details about much of the year in this post, so my 2014 summary will be quick.

Here are a few highlights of 2014:
Start and Finish the year healthy and injury free – After a great 2012, during 2013 I came to the realization that for me the most important thing was just plain running – not a pace, a distance, not even ever running Boston … just being able to get up tomorrow and go for a run. And as you’ll read below … I did. And I stayed healthy from -20F temperatures to 50 mile weekends and beyond!
I ran over 3000 miles … again! – I noted back around Thanksgiving that I was breaking 3000 miles before the start of December. I tallied up my totals through the last full week of the year (ending on Saturday the 27th) and I broke 3250 miles!
More that 300 running days – As I noted a couple of times, I never intended a running streak, but I always run Monday – Friday unless I really need a day off, and if Lisa is working Saturday and/or Sunday I will run then as well. And so more than a few times I found myself running 21+ straight days, 48/49 days, and so on. Overall it came up to 312 days … or not enough rest days, really.
Major PR at a 5K – by Thanksgiving I assumed this would be a no-race year … then I got signed up for the charity run ‘Selfless Elf 5K’. Even better, it was set up for both runners and walkers and had a very organized start so I could go out running strong from the start. I ended up with a 7:21 pace for a 22:48 total. For me … that was just amazing! What a great close to the year!

Here is the chart of my miles:
Miles FY 2014

So what about 2015? Here are five goals for my running in 2015:
Start and Finish the year healthy and injury free – Yeah, this is pretty much going to be my #1 goal from now on.
Run more than 2500 miles – Why not more after two years of 3000+? Because I want to feel like I can focus more on things like trails, speedwork, track time, and so on.
Run at least 2 races – one short, one long – I loved running the 5K, but totally love the half-marathon and full marathon, have never run a 10K and would like to do the Corning GlassFest 5 Miler in May again (did it in 2012). Why only two? Between one kid graduating and then heading off to college, and the other doing college search this summer … I assume I am booked that weekend.
Set a PR in something – I really don’t care which race, nor do I care by how much. The 5K PR will be a challenge, the rest I think are in reach.
Put in time on the trails – While I have dropped the Ultra for 2015, I really enjoyed my trail time this year and want to do even more of it next year.

Of course, there is another huge victory for 2014 (and 2013) that I plan to continue in 2015:

I maintained my weight without unhealthy eating habits or restriction.

Throughout 2014 I maintained my focus on ‘food as fuel’, eating real and whole foods, a very balanced diet, three meals per day … and no restricting. Even the week and couple of long weekends of college search vacation I never freaked out when I wasn’t exercising … I just kept a healthy perspective.

I also did a lot of cooking new meals, with some being well received and others … not. We worked on a Paleo diet for Lisa for a while, which had mixed results due to allergies but helped in terms of a reset. As we closed the year I think the goal for next year is ‘balance’ … which I am working on.

And YES I have my weight as an entirely separate class … which should be obvious to anyone who has followed the blog.

So what about everything else? Here are five personal non-running goals for 2015: By personal I mean not things like repainting the ceiling in the dining room and so on. But about myself.
Music – I am finishing up making my basement studio sustainable over this break, and I really want to take time in the coming year (much more than in 2014, which I would call a ‘year of noodling’) to truly get back to composing and playing at a higher level again.
Programming – just before the holiday break I needed to do something that required me to write my own code, using the ‘C-like’ statistical programming language ‘R’. I got it done, but considering I was writing entire code-bases to run lab instruments I designed back in the 90s and early 2000s … I was less than impressed with the atrophy of my skills.
Focus on the Family – I am proud of my 2014 in this area … and my goal for the coming year is for my family to know every day that they are loved and special through my words and actions.
Reading – Reading rather than blogging/video games before bed is a good choice for me … and I want to be make most nights about reading this coming year. My goal is not extreme – one book per month.
Cooking – As I said my personal health goal is ‘balance’ for 2015, but I want to extend that to the family – we are really omnivores with healthy tendencies … we don’t need a ‘diet cult’ to improve our lives, and this year I want to expand our palette without going too far ‘out there’.

I have no intention of doing NaNoWriMo this year, but am not closed to it. I want to focus on narrower goals to ensure success. I have set up some quarterly goals to check against, and if I am blogging I will share them here. As for blogging … I have no set plans one way or the other. I love this community and general and the people who will read this in particular, love reading your posts and your comments here. So I am not shutting down as some have chosen to do, I just have no specific plans.

I am going to close with the same picture I used last year because it is perfect – me at the end of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Marathon 2013 in compression shorts with my #1 supporter and love of my life!

Post Marathon with Lisa

Running Holiday Games, Three Gifts and a Thought

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Hi everyone! Hope everyone who got a long weekend for the Christmas holiday had a great and relaxing time, and those who (like me) get even more time make the most of that! Just a quick few things today …

Running Holiday Games

As I have done a fair amount of miles – just over 23 on Christmas Eve, more than 10 the day after Christmas and about the same on Saturday. All of those were mid-day runs, so I got to get a good look around, and I just found it interesting. I typically run the same half-dozen or so routes, so I get accustomed to the sights. I don’t know about anyone else, but when things change – I tend to notice!

– Loads of out of state plates … family all over.
– I miss when their younger daughter was in high school and they put out the big inflatable dreidel an menorah.
– On their phone … on their phone … eating … actually paying attention … on phone …
– Gone for the holidays again, wonder where their families are located?
– Love seeing four generations out together.
– Hey – isn’t that ___’s daughter? Wonder how she’s doing at ___ (small Corning world when this is more than one!)
– They’re gone … wonder if their daughter had the baby?
– Is he actually old enough to be driving?
– Interesting they put up so many decorations and are gone all of Christmas week.
– Biking around Christmas … such gorgeous weather.
– Two people I work with – one is Jewish, the other Hindu … and they have Christmas decorations up for the kids – a reminder of my ‘two Christmas’ theory!
– Loads of cars yesterday, all gone today – wonder where they headed?
– He/She looks so fast but I am catching up to them … this HAS been a good year for me.

Have you been out and about and noticing all of the little things in your area?

Three Gifts

My Christmas list was pretty short – wardrobe replacement. Changing shape means that clothes no longer fit, and at this point I want stuff that fits rather than stuff that is too large. Which means a great new set of awesome clothes and an upcoming trip to the clothing charity donation drop. But I got three really cool running-related gifts I wanted to share:

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Brooks Glove/Mitten Set – I constantly complain about how cold my hands get … so I was thrilled that my boys ordered me a 3-in-1 glove/mitten set. The liners have a fleece interior and are pretty warm themselves, but then the mittens have a wind-block exterior to keep my hands warm and protected. This is just awesome and exactly what I needed!

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Frozen Band-Aids ‘for the nip-nops’ – OK, this just totally cracked me up! You really don’t think ‘bloody nipples’ unless you are a male distance runner – or a family member of a male distance runner! So opening this package … priceless!

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A Supportive Family – This was taken at the Woodhouse pub in Corning, which is really close to the skating rink where we just did a family skating outing. Over the last nearly 3 years of me being a dedicate long distance runner my family dealt with my new focus as it helped with health and weight and fitness, then became weary of how much of an impact it occasionally had, and in the past year it has become part of our lives.

And as the gifts above indicate, along with their concern about me ‘getting in my run’ … they really get it. Running is part of me, and therefore is a part of them – but like anything else, it is just a ‘thing’, and therefore when it seems to be pushing too high in my mind I can count on them to call me out on my BS. And that is part of being a supportive family – being there behind each other, but also providing a reality check when needed.

A Thought

Earlier this year I wrote about running from the perspective of the runner, and also the non-running family member. As I noted at the time, the feedback I got about the first one was it was a bit ‘tone deaf’ with respect to non-runners.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I read a post that has stuck with me, because it is a long post that is stunning in the extent that it is reactionary … to the point of saying of non-runners “they don’t understand what happiness really is.” Which is just plain scary. I’m not linking – I left a comment on how unhealthy I found the attitudes presented (not to mention the ‘hive mind’ replies), and that is good enough.

But reading that brought me a realization: if you re-read the post substituting the word ‘Vicodin’ for running you would be concerned for the life of the writer. Running can be an incredibly healthy practice – I am thankful every day that I can get up and go out running for about as many miles as I want with almost no repercussions. But it can be a substitute for dealing with reality, an escape from life and responsibilities, and can even become an unhealthy pursuit when taken to the extreme. Which left me with a thought:

If you have immersed yourself so deeply in something that you are skipping time with family, friends, work events, things you used to enjoy, obligations, think only of that thing, ascribe to it qualities greater than it can possibly deliver, and of those who question your newfound obsession you instantly assume nefarious intentions and doubt that they ‘know what happiness is’ … you might have a problem.

Happy Monday!

A Quick Look Back at 2014 in Running

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I had been planning a ‘year in review’ post which will come at the year end, but the other day Amanda at Miss Zippy challenged everyone to do a quick ‘how was your year in running’ post … so here it goes!

Before I answer her questions, I look at the year in a few ways:
– I started the year and ended the year healthy and without injury.
– I ran more miles this year than any other year … again. In fact, since I ‘got serious’ about running in April 2012 I have run well over 8000 miles. (whew!)
– I didn’t run a marathon, half-marathon or ultra … all of which I planned but scheduling, activities with the kids, and family vacations all are higher priority. The final chance at a half was Nov 2nd … and I was sick!
– Unlike 2013, work has had me local all year (5 miles from home!) – Yay for family time!
– I think I became a Saucony lover this year between the Kinvara 4, Virrata 2 and especially the Kinvara 5.

Best race experience? That is easy – I only ran ONE race. But still the ‘Selfless Elf 5K’ was an amazing race because I ran it full of fun and joy, and also got my fastest recorded pace … like, ever. 7:21/mile … I still can’t associate those numbers with ME.

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Best run? 2014 was an odd year because I ran pretty much alone all year, and almost always on the same half-dozen routes. But there were two runs that stand out – the 5K and my first run on the Catharine Valley Trail. The 5K I mentioned above, but I will still go back to the first trail run for me this year. It was a goal to hit the trails more … and I only did a few, and they were on ‘groomed’ trails so it wasn’t too hard. But when I did it, the 12 miles on the Catharine Valley trail were just perfect – I appreciated the change and the trails were awesome!

Best new piece of gear? I would have to go with the Garmin VivoSmart. I get notifications on my wrist (which stopped being useful once the average daily run temperature dropped below 25F last month), so I can see what is coming in. I also get daily tracking, and the ‘goal’ increases based on you surpassing it … so now I am pressed harder and harder to make the goal. Review coming soon 🙂 Also loved? The Magellan Echo and Garmin Forerunner 15. So no matter what it is something on my wrist!

Best piece of running advice you received? It was a question from last year, : ‘where do you see yourself as a runner in 5, 10 and 20 years.’ My answer is that in 2014 I crossed the 25 year mark as a runner, starting in 1989 at nearly 400lbs. In 25 years I will be 73 – and I would love if I could still be showing up to run local 5K events and maybe even longer wherever we are then! That self-advice put all of my other goals in perspective.

Most inspirational runner? Tough call, so I am naming two:

Danielle the T-Rex Runner. Here is a woman who has struggled with eating disorders that were literally destroying her, has other health issues she has shared, ended up with surgery last year on her digestive track … and again this year had surgery on her back … and has just run her second marathon within a month.

Laura Parson from TheGlutenFreeTreadmill: Laura has picked up her life after dealing with some awful treatment at her previous job, is pursuing a doctorate in women’s studies in North Dakota, and has taken her passion as an ultra-runner and turned it into a quest that will have her running across the country next summer. That’s right … running. across. the. country. As in San Francisco to NYC. All to support RAINN and an awareness of violence against women. Amazing and inspirational.

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? (same as last year, boring I know – but it is my mantra). Nothing about running matters more to me than getting up tomorrow for my 5+ mile run.

How was YOUR year in running?

Why Not Everyone Should Run a Marathon

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The other day one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa at Running Out of Wine, posted about “Why Everyone Should Run A Marathon” … and since I was apparently feeling rather contrary, I had to disagree – at least in part. Not that I don’t LOVE the marathon and running long distances … just that I think it isn’t for everyone – not even all runners.

Actually one of the motivations for me to write about this and take an opposing view was that I felt like “everyone else is falling over themselves to agree”, and typically that means either an obvious truth or a bad case of ‘hive mind’. And apologies to the commenters, but I think it is the latter. As runners we so often just can’t see outside of our bizarre little cult! More on that later …

Anyway let’s jump right into things!

How I Agree:

Lisa made some really good points about the process – here are just a couple:

3. You will learn to push through when things hurt or get hard.
5. You will overcome self-doubt time and time again.

These are things I agree with, along with much of the basic reasoning she stated, and think that stepping outside your comfort zone is important, as is pushing yourself (basically the same thing) … and also setting and working towards audacious goals.

Where I Become Unsure:

2. The process takes a whole lot of dedication.

I loved this article about marathon running and what happens to you:

In the weeks leading up to the race, you will undoubtedly find yourself in the pub on a Friday night, talking to a friend with intense zeal about how you “really need to work on speeding up your splits”, or you’ve “been experimenting with a combination of electrolytes and gels”. STOP. Take a breath. Go and take a long, hard look in the mirror. And ask yourself why you have turned into a wanker.

That cracks me up, but the reality is that things like putting in a couple of 20 mile runs takes TIME. If you are working full time, are in a relationship, have pets and/or kids … then it is no longer about just YOU. Suddenly there are multiple people involved – and the ‘required dedication’ goes beyond you. Again, more on that in a bit …

How I DISagree: Here are 10 reasons you should NOT run a marathon:

1. You just aren’t THAT into running: if you managed one 5K on a ‘Couch to 5K’ program and thought it was OK, but suddenly have loads of people saying ‘you HAVE to run a marathon now!’ … and all you can think is ‘ugh, I thought I was done!’. Then you get registered and take a look at a training plan and realize ‘this sucks … I HATE running!’

2. You can’t afford to pay your rent: marathons are EXPENSIVE. In general you can plan at least $100 for registration alone. And unless it is local, plan extra money for food and travel and someplace to stay. Also plan to add money to your weekly grocery bill for the added fuel you’ll need … as well as new running shoes, more clothes, higher laundry expenses, and …well, if you get really into it the costs can quickly spiral out of control!

3. You can’t or won’t allocate the training time: maybe you have a job with long hours and a longer commute, maybe you’re in a new relationship, maybe you are addicted to Skyrim or Minecraft or quilting or origami or whatever … regardless the reason, unless you can plan to set aside at least a dozen hours a week strictly for running – as well as added time for stretching, icing, rolling and whatever else you need – you might be training for an injury rather than a race!

4. You have been injured running before: if you know anyone who has been injured in the past, you know that once your body is weakened in a certain spot it is more likely to get re-injured in that same spot. The saying I heard ages ago “bad breath can be cured with a Tic-Tac, bad knees are for life” comes to mind.

Also, unless you have experience or a coach or fitness partners it can be nearly impossible to find that line between GOOD pushing and BAD pushing. Another old saying “turn the screw until it snaps, then back off a half-turn” … translates pretty much into ‘keep pushing until you have a stress fracture … then back off’.

5. Your primary goal for running is weight loss: sure you MIGHT lose weight training for a marathon – but really only if you are very much overweight. The reality is that once you are close to your ‘correct’ weight (whatever THAT is) you are at least as likely to GAIN weight as to lose it. And for many … that is a total cause to freak out!

6. It will deplete your immune system: regular exercise helps keep you healthy. But like a few other things on this list, once you go past the 10 or so mile point and particularly up to the 20+ mile level for marathons, you are depleting your immune system. THIS is why rest and recovery are so important … and why with a busy non-marathon schedule it is so easy to end up sick and subsequently injured.

7. Your REAL goal is to go faster or do shorter distances: we have been sold on believing that races are progressive – a 10K is ‘better’ than 5K, half-marathon is more ‘real’ than 10K … and marathon is the pinnacle (ultras are just for crazy people 🙂 ). News Flash: It is NONSENSE! No race or distance is ‘better’ than the others – they are all different. What you need for each one is different and as we are all different people some of us will excel at shorter, faster races while others can plod along forever.

8. Because everyone else is doing it: good old peer pressure! I’ve known people who have done some running even though it wasn’t their thing, just because someone else was – one even tried to train for a race because they are very competitive with their significant other! Marathon training is a significant commitment that should really be internally motivated.

9. You Just Want to BQ!: this might seem weird, but I have heard and read about people who really weren’t runners but who were motivated to try to push for a marathon based solely on the Boston Marathon … and this goes all the way back to the 80s! The problem is that with THAT as a singular goal, unless you have significant natural running skill, you are likely in for a much longer and harder path than you imagined. And if you tick off any of the OTHER items on the list … maybe you should start with a 5K or 10K and see if you catch the ‘running bug’.

10. Your Heart isn’t healthy enough: we all know that exercise is good for your cardio-vascular system. But we have also learned that distance running such as marathons can damage your heart a little bit, especially if you have not put in the time to build up your fitness level. It is another good reason to know your risk factors and get yourself checked out before embarking on something like marathon training.

OK, so given that I do at least one run longer than a half-marathon most weeks all year long, and this summer seemed to have a 20+ miler at least every other week … I might sound like a hypocrite. But here’s the thing – I LOVE running, and for me running and marathoning have been some of the greatest things in my life. Running has been a constant companion for nearly 26 years, and I hope to still be running in another 26 years!

But perhaps the BIGGEST reason why not everyone should run a marathon is that they haven’t considered the impact that marathon training can have on their lives and relationships.

Understanding The Context of Your Running – It is NOT All About You!

Last May I posted about ‘Helping Your Non-Running Family Understand’ … and the swift, strong and negative reaction from non-runners in my real and virtual life led to me posting ‘The Other Side of the Finish Line’. The bottom line is this – these things are never so simple as they seem, and individual activities really don’t exist for anyone with attachments and responsibilities outside of themselves (which is pretty much everyone to varying degrees … and those with significant others and kids even more so).

There is a term used mostly jokingly called a ‘running widow’, basically talking about the impact of long training seasons on pretty much everything else in life. It wasn’t something I was really aware of for most of my life … until last year. During 2012 I was losing weight, on a great pursuit of getting fit and healthy and eventually running a marathon. Lisa was the most supportive person in the world, but worried about my restricted eating and constantly told me to ‘not do something stupid’. That is because she is smart – I WAS being stupid.

But in 2013 I was traveling a lot for work to Kentucky (pretty Mon-Fri much every week for 6 months), and also ran two marathons and a half marathon. It was a bit much, really – but again, my family was there for me every step of the way. But another thing I did in 2013 was to start taking rest days whenever Lisa and I both had a day off. And into this year Lisa would still feel odd when her schedule changed and we’d be together and it was obvious I had planned a long run – and to be fair it took me some time to let go of all of that – and talking it through with her (surprise – it all comes back to fear of getting fat again!).

Last year I also came across a couple of blog posts about the potential for training (running, triathlon, etc) to ruin your relationship, here and here. There was also an article in the Wall Street Journal back in 2011 on the subject.

I had thought about this more than a few times this year as I was reading about training, and also when I felt pressure that I HAD to go out for a run, or comments from friends or family or the boys. I am definitely fortunate to have moderating forces in my life to ‘keep me real’. Not that I am saying I see too much ‘not real’ on the internet … well, I guess I actually am.

A couple of other links to ‘running widow’ posts I’ve stashed in a couple of drafts over the last year or so (I’ve told you guys I am a ‘draft junkie’!) – The Running Widow, Losing a Spouse to His Hobby, The Non-Running Spouse, Confessions of a Running Widow, It’s Me or the London Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon Leads to Divorce … and OH so many more! Here are a few quotes:

… He was taking this running far more serious than I ever wanted to and at that moment, I remember looking at him and saying “I am done running with you. You just sucked all of the fun out of this.” And that is the day when I became a “running widow”.

It’s a common affliction, being a widow to a spouse’s hobby. My father was a golf fanatic and as a result, my mother was a golf widow, and I grew up a golf orphan. …

… These people, they are driven. You don’t try to shape the experience. You just accept them and support them and get out of their way, because they’re going to run. They’ll find the hour. They’ll work it in however they have to. You can stay in bed.

So if you read on and are nodding in agreement or perhaps sympathy then the chances are, you too are a Running Widow. And a Running Widow knows that the support doesn’t start and end on race day, but somehow (and none of us can exactly pin point when it happened) you turned into a one woman cheer squad/ exercise nutrition expert/cook/chauffeur/masseuse and nurse.

Now don’t get me wrong, you may like running. Indeed I am quite partial to jog along the beach on a sunny morning, and have even been known to take part in City2Surf, voluntarily. But a Running Widow knows another world of running. It isn’t a charity fun run, or just a way of keeping fit, it’s a world with words like Hoka, Garmin, S-Labs, Kilian, Skins and Glide, and where the North Face isn’t just somewhere you shop for a ski jacket. …

… Sporting widowhood spans all disciplines, from golf to football, but marathon running is by far the most all-consuming. It seems that jogging 30 to 55 miles a week is fundamentally incompatible with socialising, dating and basic conversation – unless, of course, it’s to do with the marathon. And I’m not the only one who’s struggling to cope. …

… Marriages across this great nation are being torn asunder due to excessive exercise.

Experts are calling it “exercise divorce.” The out-of-shape partner left on the sidelines calls it irreconcilable differences with someone devoted first and foremost to a great set of calves and the daily endorphine rush. …

Nicole wrote a great post (that referenced a great post from Michele that I couldn’t find anymore) called “Does life get in the way of running? Or running in the way of life?” … and it fully addresses the reality of the challenges of trying to have a full life AND be fully engaged with marathon training. Spoiler alert: it is NOT easy!

And that is OK – and the struggle those ladies express is natural and felt by many people trying to juggle too much and adding yet another demanding activity to the pile. THAT is not the problem … the problem is when you DON’T ask yourself that question … when you start saying “I have a long run, guess missing that dance recital is OK”, and of course your kids will say ‘sure, it is fine’. And then it gets easier … and easier … and suddenly you are easily missing birthdays, anniversaries, school events – and pretty much deserting your life FOR A HOBBY.

Am I making too big a deal of this? Probably – we are all a product of our likes and interests, and in a relationship we have interests that overlap, those that conflict and still others that are separate. But there is a significant difference between a 5K and a marathon in terms of the scope and time and length of training investment. If you are not in it together … then it is something that is between you. That doesn’t mean it is – it is just something you need to deal with, otherwise it can become a serious issue as noted in many places around the internet.

Just as divorce and breakups and other problems can lead someone to pursue a marathon … so too can the pursuit of a marathon lead to problems in relationships that you weren’t expecting.

What are YOUR thoughts on all of this?

Selfless Elf 5K Race Summary! 22:48 total, 7:21/mile, 7 Minute PR!

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While I was all ready to have a faceless 2014, an opportunity came up to run an inaugural 5K charity race that Lisa had heard about. She had hoped we both could do it, but her work schedule wouldn’t allow for it … so I signed up on my own!

Downtown Corning holds a Sparkle festival each year as the culmination of a week of holiday events starting with the tree lighting at the Centerway. This year they added a 5K, sponsored by Wegman’s and benefitting the Food Bank of the Southern Tier (our local food pantry). And when Wegman’s ‘sponsored it’, it wasn’t just the usual ‘throw a few dollars’ at it … they paid for everything so that all money collected went to the charity!

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Aside from registering for the race which also got you a shirt and socks, they were selling elf ears and jingle bracelets with all of THAT money going to charity – so we bought two each. Above is a picture of all my gear laid out – and Lisa wore her ears and bracelet to work. This is what I looked like all decked out to go:

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For a bit of history, I have run THREE 5K races, all in 2012:
– My first was a 32:02 … but a HUGE personal victory!
– My second was two weeks later and 29.46, which stands as my PR
– My third was two more weeks later, and it was over 90F, and I still broke 30 minutes with 29:51

I have expressed my ‘fear’ of the 5K – it is more of a sprint than an endurance challenge. I was all nerves getting ready to go. But in my head I had three goals:
C goal: beat my PR
B goal: break 25 minutes
A goal: hit 8 minute/mile average
A+ goal: while breaking 8min/mile, why not break 24 minutes?!?

Honestly if I broke 25 minutes I would have been ecstatic – everything else was ‘gravy’. Also honestly, if I did NOT break 25 minutes I’d have been disappointed … which was definitely part of my fear.

The race start was at the Corning High School stadium, but finished in downtown Corning at the Centerway. So I parked over in the garage by the finish (brought my badge because it is normally restricted access) and walked back over the bridge. Since we’d been to that stadium many times (marching band competitions, also for the GlassFest 5 miler) – I assumed things would be open so I could use the rest room before the start. Nope. Ugh – fortunately it wasn’t urgent!

Here is a picture I took waiting at the start – I didn’t notice at the time, but the guy in the sweatshirt moved right in front as I gook the shot … there was a guy dressed like ‘Buddy the Elf’ from the movie Elf that I was trying to get in the frame.

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I lined up a bit back from the start – I didn’t want to be TOO far back, but also wanted to let the ‘speedy elves’, as the announcer called them, go out first. I did a selfie to show how the crowd was starting to assemble. There ended up being more than 750 people registered – they accepted registrations for 750 and let people pay $20 at the race to join in with a tag.

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Here is the course map:

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It was a bit of a weird course, and totally depended on the volunteers! You might notice that the course took us to the same intersections more than once – which gets confusing unless you have someone directing you! Fortunately there were volunteers all over the course!

I went out strong, wearing my Garmin to help keep track of my pace and make sure I didn’t lag at all. I was asking people fairly consistently, and for the first quarter mile or so had the usual congestion – but people were actually pretty good about lining up according to their intended run/walk status. The biggest issue for me were the groups who were several across and not really pushing the pace – or getting out of the way!

While I knew I was doing more than a casual pace, it also wasn’t a hard pace – I wasn’t sprinting, and it felt like a pretty sustainable pace. When I heard the first mile go off I was a bit surprised – I thought I’d gone further and just missed the chime. I definitely slowed a bit then, but kicked myself in the butt and got moving again.

There were a bunch of times I wish I had more pictures – the outfits were great! I was just past the two mile mark when a couple of really young kids blew by me – it is just always awesome for me to see kids who aren’t even teenagers running so gracefully and effortlessly, chatting as they went.

I was worried about doing the underpass and heading over the bridge if I would sustain things – but I did! As I was crossing the pedestrian bridge I passed someone who looked familiar … who then just edged me at the finish. You can see his name listed above mine on the results below – it ended up being the boys middle school history teacher (and advisor for some activities and all around great guy). We chatted for a bit and it was nice to catch up on kids and life.

I grabbed a picture of the finish time board – I had no idea how quickly they would get things online (answer was very quickly!) The placement had no meaning at that point as it had to do with how many were finished when they printed.

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When I approached the finish line the ‘minute’ numbers were obscured, so I had no clue on my time until I was within about 10 meters of the finish. When I saw 22 minutes? I couldn’t believe it! I was going to easily break 23 minutes … who WAS this guy running this race? A 7:21 pace? I NEVER do that! That is a *7* Minute PR!

I came in #77 out of 692 recorded finishers (they had to close the course at 5PM to kick off Sparkle), 49th man, 11th in my age group (the winner was in my age group as well!).

I am terribly proud of myself – no humble-brag here, I have cut 3 minutes per mile off my first 5K pace, and my per mile pace is about 50% lower than what I first recorded back in April 2012 (my first GPS run ever). I couldn’t be happier – and I have gotten some amazing comments on Facebook and Instagram from all of my awesome friends!

It is also a reminder that to paraphrase Tip O’Neill “all achievements are personal”.

Let’s Talk About Runderwear … for Men!

OK, let's all pretend that this is my body, mkay?

Let’s all pretend that this is my body, mmmkay?

It has been nearly a year since I wrote about whether or not men should cover up their running tights, getting into numerous aspects of consideration. And suddenly … here we are back in the early days of winter, with a couple dozen sub-freezing mornings and even a couple of sub-zero wind-chills already behind us. And my post from last year is getting more attention, but this year … I am prepared!

There are plenty of posts around about runderwear for women, but not really so much for men. There are plenty of resources about running shorts, but not so much about what to wear under your shorts or tights.

Fortunately there are some companies – Under Armor, Roadrunner Sports, Brooks and Runderwear among others who make boxers (and briefs) specifically for male runners … and a couple of them are specifically wind blocking!

Assumption #0 – you have decided you want to wear something under your shorts/tights for reasons of comfort, coverage or wind protection. If not, um – you’re fine as you are!

Here are things I considered buying some runderwear for myself:

1. Comfort – this was a key reason for me to look for something new: using compression shorts last year ‘worked’ but was far from optimal, as they were really meant as external shorts.

2. Fit – You are wearing something underneath *tights* … does this really require further explanation? Seriously – ill-fitting runderwear is like the worst chafing of your life just waiting to happen. Fortunately most of these things are very fitted and compressive and snug. But part of this is getting the right size – too small and they are uncomfortable … too large and you are back to chafing.

3. Tech fabric – Also because you are wearing a double layer of clothing next to your skin, it ends up being critical to get that sweat layer away as quickly as possible. Because the moisture will gather up and cause rashes and chafing – so you need a tech fabric that will deal with the moisture.

4. Breathability – This is a bit weird, but basically you want to remain warm but not overheat; to block the wind while allowing some natural radiative cooling. My heavier tights are the Under Armor Extreme Coldgear Infrared, which reflect heat back inward from the surface. So I want my base layer to provide just that – an added layer. And based on what I have read about the heavier runderwear, they are also quite breathable.

5. Wind Blocking – I didn’t end up going with the heavy duty wind blocking shorts as they seemed much thicker and I was looking for a very thin set of runderwear. But I loved reading about some of the heavier versions and might check them out. Pretty much anything with a ‘double-fabric front’ is going to provide a decent amount of wind blockage, which for me proved perfect even on sub-zero wind chill mornings. For colder weather, heavier winds, there are stronger specific wind-blocking models.

5. Price – I saw some sets of shorts up to $60 each. Um, no. Most of what I looked at was about $20 per pair, and I was able to get a 2-pack of Brooks runderwear on sale for $25 (can’t find an online link) , and after a bunch of wearing they have proven their worth!

So there you have it – we are entering the running tights season, but there is no reason to suffer wind chill below the belt, nor any reason to wear bulky shorts over your tights! Runderwear is affordable and will keep you protected, provide added warmth without chafing, and is easy to wash and quick to dry. Check it out!

So guys – how about it … runderwear?

30 Days of Gratitude – Day #20, Another Year of 3000+ Running Miles

gratitude

Continuing with my 30 Days of Gratitude, I am thankful for the joy of all those boring miles I run!

Day #20 – As I have said – BORING!

One of my earliest blog posts from over a year ago was called “Mostly the Miles are Just Boring” (I did a ‘from the archives post here), where I talked about my thoughts about blogging:

Back when I started this blog I was conflicted – I was planning to talk about running and ‘healthy living’, but wasn’t planning a hardcore running or foodie blog. At the time the blogs I most enjoyed were ones written by runners with more to discuss than just running.

At this point I have stopped doing weekly summaries, occasionally do monthly summaries, and generally just keep track quarterly. I do like looking back over time and see how I have been feeling and what I have been doing in terms of runs and running. And of course I love getting comments and feedback and getting to read others’ insights.

Oh, and this:

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I mean, because hugs are always good, right? Even sweaty, gross, post-run hugs! 🙂

Most of all … I just love running. Not racing, ‘training’, talking about running … just getting out and running. Not running FOR something, TOWARDS something, or whatever … just running.

And this week I have once again passed 3000 miles for the year!

I really thought that last year with 3150 miles (2012 was just under 2000 in 9 months) would be my peak, but this year I managed to keep up my mileage all summer in spite of not doing ‘doubles’ and never running on a day Lisa and I were both off from work.

But this past week I was reading comments on a running forum, I was reading some posts that were criticizing some running bloggers … and in particular a theme emerged about miles – that they need to have a PURPOSE, work towards an OUTCOME. Basically three opinions were formed in the comments:
– You should be getting much faster
– You should be building endurance to run longer distances without crashing
– Or … WTF, knock that crap off running those useless miles!

I can see their point – assuming we each only have so many running miles in our legs, why not put them to specific use? And it was pretty clear that the people with very strong opinions were young (20s or maybe early 30s), race-centric and very competitive. So the idea of ‘junk miles’ is clearly unappealing to that crowd. In that ‘junk miles’ post I had the following thoughts:

There are also three REALLY good reasons to focus on maximizing your training efficiency in fewer miles : injury, burnout and frustration.

If you are injury prone, or recovering while training for a new event, every mile can make you more prone to getting injured. And if you are getting stuck in a rut of doing the same thing again and again, chances are you aren’t improving and might be getting burned out and lose interest in your training. None of this is good.

So my advice would be to ditch someone else’s definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ miles, figure out based on your own personal experience what YOUR balance of ‘quality vs. quantity’, and develop your own optimal training plan … regardless of how someone else would judge it.

And for me … even as we had three days with air temperatures in the ‘teens’ this week including a sub-zero wind chill day, and once I got myself properly bundled up – I was happy to get out and run my miles. Yes, I am still doing a minimum of 7.5 miles per day, generally 6 days per week, long runs on the weekends and so on. And I still love running – it is not work, not a chore … and that is part of the reason I never consider myself ‘training’, because that sounds hard! I’d rather spend my weekends on an 18 mile fun run with hill repeats than on TRAINING …

How do you feel about reading running-specific blogs? Do you feel miles must have a ‘purpose’?

Um, yeah … you’ve probably never heard THIS one before (based on the number of Run ### Run blogs, anyway … )