Every year on December 31, I like to look back on my running year and add up the miles, crunch some numbers, look at the stats and jot down some notes about the experiences that running gave me.
Also every year I seem to proclaim that it was the best year ever for me. 2015 is no exception.
I set an unintentional goal at the start of 2015. I say it was unintentional because I decided to run on January 1, 2015. A short and easy three mile treadmill run. It was uneventful, really. But I had purposely avoided running on January 1 in previous years to avoid trying to start a running streak. Well, I ran again on January 2, and then again on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. The running streak was on!
I really just wanted to see how long I could do it, knowing from my past that I would probably need a day off to heal from overdoing it, or just a mental break from the running routine. Life gets in the way – vacations, sickness, bad weather, family responsibilities, etc. – all could have derailed a year long running streak. But I was finding routine in this streak. I came home from work at noon and went for a run. Wake up the next day and repeat. The goal of making it 365 days in a row seemed doable. I decided that while most “streakers” attempt at least one daily mile, I would try to do at least two. Because I am a gunner.
A couple of threats to completing the streak popped up. I tried to slalom water ski while on summer vacation in Minocqua, Wisconsin.
I tried to get up on one ski and pulled the upper right quad slightly. Shook it off and then decided that I would just drop a ski instead. Well, that trick ended with a pulled left hamstring. Fortunately, I had already run that day, but the following day it was sore. I attempted a really slow jog down the Bearskin Trail and started feeling pretty good. My marathon training plan had me running 12 miles, but I decided that would be too ambitious, since we were packing up and heading home that morning. After about a mile, I made one longer than average stride to miss a bad spot on the trail, and it was then I felt it go south. I turned around and started to limp back home. I was able to shuffle after about 5 minutes of walking and was happy to finish with a 2 mile run. The following day was a long car ride back home from vacation, and after getting home I was able to shuffle through a 3 miler. It took a little longer to no longer feel the hamstring pull, but after about two weeks it was feeling pretty good.
The other threat was catching a stomach bug late October. Although I wasn’t vomiting, I did have spells of nausea, and lots of the other stuff. I started feeling mobile around late afternoon and decided to attempt a couple miles on the treadmill. I got through one mile in 10:50, and just did not have any energy left. One of the hardest miles I can ever remember running. I went upstairs and took a 30 minute, hot and steamy shower. So the illness didn’t end the streak, but my goal of at least two miles a day would be dashed.
The last possible unknown in attempting the streak was lurking after the Chicago Marathon. In the past, I usually took off about 3 days from running post-marathon, mainly to heal, but also because I was sore and it usually hurt just to move. This year that would not be an option. I ran the marathon, made sure I ate a lot of protein post-race, and did some muscle massaging with my roller, and hit the trail for two miles on Monday afternoon. Surprisingly, although very stiff, I wasn’t doing too bad. Until I got to the small little hills – downhills in particular were brutal! But I got my two miles in, with three the next day, and I was back to the 7 miles and more by Wednesday.
After the marathon, I didn’t really see anything in my way of completing the streak through December 31. I just kept putting in end of year taper mileage and having fun. But another aspect popped up – I could see that my annual mileage total might hit the 2,000 mark. That was
unbelievable to me. 2,000 in one year had been unthinkable. I guess all those two milers I ran instead of taking an off day added up and made a difference. So now the goal was 2K! And I hit it in late November. Now, with a month to go, I had 2,100 miles in my sights! In the last couple of weeks, I could see that it would take some 8 and 10 mile runs to get there, but it wasn’t a problem. December had been an unusually warm and running friendly month weather-wise, and I felt pretty good for running all year long. In the last week, the RUSH fan in me took over and I planned my runs to hit that magical number of 2112. With a four mile run on December 31, I held the Red Star proudly high in hand.
With all of the focus on the streak, and then the final year-end tally, I can’t forget how awesome of a running year this was. I kept thinking that the streak might have an adverse effect on performance. Boy, was I wrong! Distance-wise, the streak paid off. I set a marathon personal record, as well as a PR in the half-marathon. Not by a little, but I really smashed those marks – the half by about 3 minutes and the marathon by a whopping 10 minutes.
CHICAGO MARATHON RACE RECAP
Other than the streak, my “A” race was once again the Chicago Marathon and the focus for most of the summer. This time I decided to mix it up and get serious and find a decent training plan. I found one that really interested me from the race site itself, a 16-week training plan by Nike+. It was a good mix of training – tempo, speed-work, distance and recovery weeks. I had my son, who is a NCAA DIII XC runner at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa look it over, and he made some nice alterations and a plan of his own based on it. I took his advice under consideration and away I went. The big difference from this plan and my previous training attempts was that it had lots of longer distance long runs. Mostly 12, 14, 16, 18, and 20 mile runs. It became apparent that it was serious about logging long miles. I think that was a vital aspect to my performance in the race.
The race was predicted to be a warm one, with some wind. Although I opted to run in a singlet, I kept it tucked in and donned some arm warmers for the early morning start and tossed them later into the race.
The plan was simple, run 8 minute per mile splits until I hit the halfway point, and then pick it up ever so slowly with negative splits for the back half. I would hit the aid stations for water, and I took a salt tablet before the race and every hour into the run. I also had a belt full of GU, downing a packet every ½ hour.
The plan was going very well, and when I got to the 13.1mile mark, I decided not to push the pace until about mile 16 or so. It was starting to warm up. When I got to 16, I still felt as good as I did at mile 6, but I decided to extend that negative split push until mile 20 to hopefully avoid the dreaded wall. At 20, I made the decision to start picking it up. But what seemed like I was going faster, was just me thinking the effort was increasing my pace. It wasn’t. It was just taking more effort to maintain the 8 minute miles! I got to mile 23, and with a 5K to go, I GU’d again and started the straight line march back to the finish line. Somewhere with less than 2 to go, I saw my wife and the kids and shook my head. I was hitting the wall. Really the wall was hitting me. The wind that had been forecasted all day was now a headwind making my effort of finishing strong extremely hard! But somehow I found the determination to just keep passing people and get to the end.
I had been checking my watch pretty closely those last three miles. When I got to mile 25, I figured my sub-3:30 marathon, Boston Qualifier was on pretty solid ground. The emotions hit me hard when I crossed the line in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 19 seconds. A BQ by 1 minute 41 seconds, and a personal record by 10 minutes! I was very thankful for the streak, the plan, and the ability to finally get that Boston Marathon qualifying time and have a race of a lifetime. I honestly believe that with a better weather day, I could have been 3:25 or even 3:23.
Outside of running, my triathlon buddies once again had another great year. I could finish dead last and still have a great time, because triathlon has become more of a gift of spending time with my friends enjoying pushing ourselves.
– LEON’S WORLDS FASTEST TRIATHLON
Dave, John, Alex and I took on Leon’s Worlds Fastest Triathlon in Hammond, IN in early June. It seemed like a good idea at the time. The race had been a USA Triathlon national qualifier, and we were kind of hoping for the same this year. But they hosted the military championships instead. The race was interesting! We arrived to see that the forecast for the day was strong thunderstorms. As we waited to get in the water, the promised storms hit, and the race was delayed. After they rolled through, we were told that the race was now a shortened sprint. We were told that the road used for the Olympic bike course was underwater, but we had the feeling that the delay of the race start was pushing up against turning the roads back over to the City of Hammond. I for one was happy. The swim was okay, but I really didn’t put in much swim training leading up to the race. I kind of paid for that mistake. The bike and run were interesting. A complete downpour throughout both made for a crazy ride and run. Heading east on the bike I was easily hitting 25 mph, but heading back it was more like 15 mph! Dave and John had built a big lead over me in the swim and bike, but I made an effort to chase them down. I caught John about a mile into the run and I could see Dave ahead of me after about 2.5 miles into the 5K. I pushed hard, and I was really at the Z4 redline when I had just about 200 yards to go. He turned and saw me, then he beat me down with a kick that I no longer had. I finished a couple of seconds behind him, but I still had to hand it to him. Great job racing.
– LIFETIME TRI CHICAGO
This year, good friends Jeff and Jill joined us at Chicago. We all did the Olympic distance and had a great day. I ended up besting everyone except Alex, of course. But it was very good to see Jill giving triathlon a try, and especially Jeff overcoming some anxiety about the swim to essentially become a very good triathlete.
– ITU CHICAGO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS & OPEN AGE GROUP TRI
September came and Dave, John, Jeff and I did the ITU in Chicago. It was a repeat of last year, and we really enjoyed it the year before. This year was the World ITU Championships and I expected it to be crazy. In reality, it didn’t seem as well run as the year before. Race morning was weather affected and they shortened the swim to essentially a sprint distance. The rest of the race went off as planned. Good racing by all four of us, but this time I came out on top. It was on the last lap of the 10K run that I caught Dave and beat him to the finish. I may have an edge at the Olympic distance, but it’s just a matter of time before those guys catch up with me.
SCHAUMBURG TURKEY TROT HALF MARATHON
I finished the year with a great half marathon in Schaumburg after Thanksgiving. I have done this race before, and like the forest preserve setting and the generally flat and fast course. I felt emboldened by my marathon PR, so I decided that I might set out on a 7:15 minute/mile pace. There was a pace group at that split time, so I thought I would hang with them, but it took me 6:40 and 6:50 minute miles for the first two miles to catch up! I ran with them for about two miles when I realized that I felt stronger than 7:15’s and slowly pushed ahead. I ended the day with 7:04 pace average and a PR of 1:32:36. I’m starting to like the half marathon distance.
So, that pretty much sums up the year. Started with a streak as a goal, ended up setting personal bests in number of runs/hours/miles in a calendar year, and set two PR’s in the half and full marathon distance. 2015 was a GREAT year!
Goals for 2016? Well, the “A” race has already been set. Team Dave, John, Chris, Alex and Jeff, now known as the “GUNNERS” will head to Lake Placid, New York for Ironman Lake Placid in late July. I am really looking forward to the fun times training and racing with my fellow Gunners in 2016!
RACES IN 2105
5/4 – St. Mary’s School Titan Dash 5K – 20:48 – 6:41 ave. pace – 5th Overall!
5/7 – Leon’s Triathlon – 1:04:57 – Dave outkicked me at the end
6/17 – Short Run on a Long Day – 20:43 – 2nd in A/G, 22nd O/A
8/30 – Lifetime Tri Chicago – 2:35:28
9/19 – ITU Chicago – 2:17:40 – First place Gunner
10/11 – Chicago Marathon – 3:28:19 – PR, 3921 O/A
11/28 – Schaumburg Turkey Trot Half Marathon – 1:32:36 – PR, 67th O/A
Swim/Bike/Run Totals for 2015
Swim: 34,400 total yards
Bike: 1,379 total miles
Run: 365 runs – 2112 total miles – 8:12 mins/mile average