I Didn’t Run 25 Races This Year

2017 has not been my year.

After accomplishing everything that I set out to do in 2016, this year has been a major let down. No PRs, a steep decline in running mileage, running only 22 races and now another injury.

Running has literally become a pain in my ass.

My last blog post after the marathon in May described an injury that I had that submarined that race for me. After a few weeks of rest and recovery and massage, it still wasn’t going away. I made my way to a physical therapist and he helped me figure out my issue (hip flexor strain), figure out how to get it back right and prevent it from coming back, and introduced some other strength training exercises that I could add to my normal routine.

It took a while but I was finally back to feeling like myself. I even was able to knock out a solid time at the Rock ‘n Roll Vegas Half Marathon. Not long after that, I put in a great effort at the Troy Turkey Trot 10K and I thought great. I’m back. Let’s get going.

Then, on a random 5 miler, I felt a twinge of discomfort in my outer hip, on the same side as my previous issue. After I stopped running that day it felt fine. The next day I went on a hilly run near a farm brewery and all of a sudden that outer hip pain was deep in my butt and lower back.

I have been rolling it, stretching it, icing it, and ibuprofening it. All to no avail. So, I’m back to PT next week and not running all right now.

So, no. 2017 hasn’t been the best year for my running life. But then again.

I’ve met so many new friends and been on so many fun adventures that I wouldn’t trade it for a brand new hip. I’ve enjoyed my running this year and while the last six months have been frustrating, it’s taught me a lot about me. And I’ll take that with me into 2018 to be an even better runner and person as I approach a new age group.

But don’t doubt the comeback. It’s coming again. Trust.

Until next time, keep on runnin’.

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Marathon #3 and What’s Next

The road leading to packet pickup and the ski area.

Before I even toed the starting line in Carrabassett Valley to take on the Sugarloaf Marathon, I knew I wasn’t going to have it that day. 

It’s a pretty strange feeling and one that I’ve never had to deal with up to this point. There have been races where I knew I wasn’t going to put all my effort into it and take it easy. There have been races where I knew I wasn’t racing for a best time. No. This was different. 

In the first 15 weeks of training, everything felt right. I introduced speed workouts into my routine. Running hills and tempo and on a track became part of the way I operated. Following a Hal Higdon marathon plan, I was on track to take another 6 plus minutes off of my New Jersey Marathon time and come in at or under 3:30. The long runs felt difficult but not overwhelming. 

With only one 20 miler left and then tapering down, I felt unstoppable. Everything felt good and my body was taking everything in stride. 

The view after my 20 mile run in Lake Placid. 

Each and every spring my high school friends and I head to Lake Placid for a weekend of fun and catching up. This is not an unfamiliar place to me to put in miles. I did it the previous year before Marathon #2. But never 20 miles. And never those hills. I didn’t think anything of it at that time. The marathon I was going to run was hilly so, it made sense to run a hilly 20 miles. 

Unfortunately I think it did more harm than good. I came away from that run and that weekend feeling a solid pain in my left groin that no amount of yoga or ibuprofen would shake. As I tapered it felt better, but never felt right. 

The morning of the race I felt okay but nervous. It was pretty chilly at the start, at or around 40 degrees. I like a colder start, but that means taking longer for the muscles and my body to warm up. It took 3 miles to get all of the feeling going in my toes and by that time the pain in my groin started up. 

Another mistake I made was probably underfueling. I should have taken more chews with me but that’s something I know now. By the time I finished, hitting the wall pretty hard at 21, my whole lower body was on fire and my right calf was spasming the entire last mile plus. I thought of quitting several times, hell, I almost didn’t go. 

Coming in hot to the finish. 

I was happy to be done and finished. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful course and I enjoyed my time there. I made a few new friends, saw a few familiar faces. 

But Marathon #3 made me realize a few things: 

  • I have taken on far too much, far too often when it comes to running. I need to take a break or I’ll breakdown. 
  • Running a marathon is the most inspiring and humbling thing you can do. It’s going to be a while before I do another one. I’m not close to qualifying for Boston and I won’t be until I get older. So I’m putting those on the back burner for a while and focusing on halves and other races I enjoy. 
  • I need to get back on my bike. I think I was a much better runner when I was varying my workouts from just running. I don’t need to run 6 days a week to get faster. 

Not sure if smiling or grimacing. 

So that’s where we’re at. I have taken almost a full week before I got to running again, but I have a Ragnar next weekend to get done. After that, it’ll be 20-25 miles a week and taking my time to feel better. 

Ouch. 

A few side stories that I will remember most from this race:

  • I drove through Vermont and New Hampshire to get to Maine. It was beautiful and amazing and I saw two moose. This country of ours has so much to give if you just look around. 
  • The place I stayed was called the Adaptive Outrood Recreation Center. It’s a not for profit business that helps disabled people enjoy the outdoors. It’s an amazing place and the couple who built it are some the best people I’ve met. 
  • The morning of the race I waited with about 20ish other runners for a shuttle that never came. Luckily, I didn’t listen to my mom and got in the car with a stranger. The running community is awesome. We made it to the start line with plenty of time to warm up and do other business. 
  • Driving nearly 7 hours after a marathon is ill advised but at least I got to meet up with friends and celebrate with beers and a burger. Friendship!
  • While the marathon itself is a negative as far as hills, you just don’t realize how much going downhill saps your legs as much as going up. A hard lesson learned on my quads. 

The medal the day after. 

So that’s it for now. I’ll be sure to write a few more times over the summer but I’ll be enjoying my recovery and getting ready for a few halves including one in Vegas!

Until next time keep on runnin’. 

I Missed a Milestone

Me kissing goodbye to age 33.

In the first few months of 2017 I have been a bit preoccupied. I turned 34 a few weeks ago. I am 11 or so weeks into my training for my third marathon (yes, I am actually following a training program this time!) There have been some big changes at work and a few other elements of life that I’d rather not delve into in this format. 

When I initially started this blog it was to make sure that I stayed on course to complete the goal I had set out to do. It also was an outlet to get more information from other runners and hopefully share some of my mistakes so that others could learn. After knocking out 28 races in 2014, I decided to stick with writing because it was something I was really enjoying. After 25 races in 2015 and another 26 last year, I have continued to blog here and there to share stories and read others. 

At the beginning of this year I knew that I was inching closer to 100 career races. I hadn’t really kept track of the years before 2014. I had done a handful in 2013 and a few in 2012. Heck, there was even that one from 2009 that I dabbled in before finding my way to running a few years later. 


See. Now you remember. Unfortunately, I just didn’t keep up with how many races I did before 2014, until today. Before my ten mile run, I was looking back on some past performances as I have the Delmar Dash five mile run tomorrow, one of my earliest races. 

As I typically do, I often got lost down a tangent and was quickly googling results from previous years. During my run, my mind wandered and did addition as to which races I did and counted or did and forgotten about. When I got back, I put pen to paper and added it all up. 

On March 4th, I did the Have a Heart Half Marathon for a second year in a row. And as it turns out, it was my 100th race. Would I have liked my marathon this year to have been that milestone? Sure. But it wasn’t to be. I was so caught up in the present and the future that I wasn’t counting my past. I suppose that’s not a terrible thing. 

My father and sister with me after the Firecracker 4 in July 2016.


It’s okay once in a while to get caught up in what you’re doing now and making plans for the future. It’s the only way to move on, but over the last five years of running and races, I know that I have learned so much and continue learn from those past mistakes. Each mile is a lesson, each lesson a journey. I’m proud of the 100 races I have run and the people I have run with in them and the people who have supported me in more ways than they’ll admit to or ever know. And I’m even more looking forward to 100 more. Wherever and whenever they happen. 

101 comes tomorrow. I’ll try to keep better count from now on. 

2016: A Year in Review

 

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a blog in months. It wasn’t intentional as I have been running strong throughout the summer and fall and into the winter. It just was one of those inspiration things. There are always plenty of topics in my head to write about weekly or monthly or what have you, but I just haven’t found the time or the inspiration to take it on recently. I’m going to try to make that change in the new year. 

But before we get running into 2017, let’s take a look at what I accomplished in 2016. 


2016 was another busy year of racing, notching another 26 different ones under my belt. From 5Ks to marathons, I had quite the variety of racing this year. The most races, I believe, were half marathons of which I ran 6. Now that I’m counting, I also ran six 5Ks but didn’t run one until September this year! 

I set PRs in the 5K (finally broke 21 minutes), 15K, Half marathon (by two seconds), and the full 26.2 by nearly 7 minutes. I missed my 10K PR by 2 or 3 seconds. Overall, is say that I had a pretty successful racing year. 

2016 was also the year I “ran the year”, which means I broke 2016 miles on the year. Which seemed impossible before I actually did it. I didn’t even think it was something to do until I hit 1,000 before July and thought “why not?”. I hit 2,016 on Christmas Eve with my dad which was pretty cool. 


The thing I’m proudest of this year though is that I made it through the entire year injury free and making and maintaining so many running friendships. That’s what makes this whole endeavor worth it. The human element. While I do sometimes have to put other relationships on hold or prioritize some of them differently, I like to think that I’m not sacrificing anyone for running. But it is also something I want to be better at in 2017 as well. 


2017. Wow. I’m getting old. What do I want to accomplish this year? Well, I think I mostly want another injury free year (don’t we all) and to continue to progress in my runs and get better every day. I don’t have any goals or goal races lined up yet. I think I want to do another spring marathon but I’m not sure which. Some friends are doing Boston and some are doing New Jersey again. While I had a good time in New Jersey, I want to try and do a different marathon each time I do one. Right now I’ve been looking at and researching on the Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine. That looks like a fun and fast course, but I’d be lone wolfing it. So we’ll see. 

2017 will be the year we return to running the Ragnar ultra. This time in Pennsylvania if all goes to plan. It’ll be fun to get the gang back together and be out on a beautiful, well supported course with lots of food and fun. 

I’m a planner so I know that there will be races I will run like the Boilermaker or the Firecracker 4 and some others, but as of right now I don’t have any set plans and I’m okay with that. Who knows. Maybe I’ll hit 2017 miles next year. Or maybe I’ll scale way back and do more hiking. Either way I know that I’ll be enjoying what I’m doing and taking it one step at a time. That’s all we can ask of ourselves right?


Until next time, keep on runnin’. Oh. And happy new year!

The Peak to Brew Disaster (#notragnar)


This is how our relay adventure started, like the two before with smiles and pink shirts. This group of friends (family really) has run some very tough miles together. We’ve done two ultra relays together, being Ragnar Adirondacks and Ragnar Cape Cod. We crushed both. We were ready for our 2016 version. 

Initially, we had signed up for a Vermont relay in the Green Mountains in June. That race was unfortunately cancelled and we had to scramble for one that fit all of our crazy schedules and still be fun. After much discussion and research we decided on Peak to Brew. A run from Whiteface Mountain to the Saranac Brewery. It sounded wonderful. It wasn’t. 

It was similar to a Ragnar in that it was a relay. That’s about where the congruity ended. This was longer, harder, less organized, and terribly supported. A group of trained monkeys likely would have been better at running this shit show. I’ll get into all of it soon, but the disaster didn’t start with the race. 

We needed to be in Lake Placid for 8 pm to get our packets, eat, check into the hotel, and rest up. All was going to plan until about 20 miles into the trip up I87 the van lost gas power and we ended up on the side of the road. The left side. In rush hour traffic. 65 miles per hour was the limit and it’s never followed. 


I ended up in the back of a trooper car for the first time ever. They dropped four of us at a Panera bread and the other two headed down to get the replacement vehicle. A few hours behind schedule, we hit the road back up north but now had to be at Whiteface early to get our stuff. 

The gang was tired and hungry so we thought the hotel bar would be fine. Except they ran out of burgers so they shut down the entire kitchen. Undeterred we headed 10 miles away to find a place, eat food, grab a beer and then finally get some sleep. We tried to check into the hotel, but there wasn’t anyone there. Our keys were just sitting in the unlocked rooms. Perfect. 


This is the view from the first leg that Matt got to run totally down hill. Everything was great. We were really off and running. Everything was going relatively smoothly the first few turns. The weather was steamy, damn near oppressive, but manageable. Or so we thought. 


I was moving and grooving through my legs, but the miles, hills, and heat were wearing on some of the team. Mostly because their long legs that day were in the blazing hot sun. You can’t control weather. No one can. But you can control your response to the weather. What was the race organizers response? Nothing. Just a text to stay hydrated, which they didn’t help us out with at all. No leg that I saw had any water stations on it at all. None of the major exchanges through 24 had actual food. Just bananas. Which is just bananas. 

24 legs in and we were exhausted, hungry, and way behind schedule. We asked what we could do to catch up and were told to skip legs, double up legs, and send runners out sooner to try and finish eventually. Since there was no food, as promised, at exchange 24 we decided to take a break and find some food and then reassess. 

Except we’re in Old Forge at 2 am and there is nothing open. Even the convenience store that had hot food at some point in its career had all of the hot food stuff ripped out for a redesign or something. We were out of luck and out of patience. And then the power went out in the store and we were really over it. Oh. And when we left exchange 24 we saw a bear. We texted the race director but they never responded or sent anything out. 

With zero options within an hour of where we were, I suggested we drive to my hometown where there was a 24 hour Denny’s and then crash at my parents house for a few hours. So that’s what we did. We went to a Denny’s at 4 am and then crashed for five hours. 

Once we felt like it was time to go, we decided to do just the last six legs split amongst us to try and get done and then get to Turning Stone for food and fun. What’s it they say about best laid plans?

Jay and Patti were to do the first 6 miles and Bill was going to do the “Honey Badger” leg which was 10.5 miles. He took off not long after Jay and Patti did so that we could get it done in a decent time. After Jay and Patti finished, we found Bill and gave him some support. Jay hopped out and was going to join Bill for a bit. His leg was not fun. Hills on hills on hills. I got dropped off ahead to do the 6.9 leg and maybe another. Matt and Kim were going to do the last leg or at least part of it to cross the finish line. 

I told my team to come find me around five miles of my leg so I could get water because it was brutal out. I was making due, but my team was nowhere to be found. They had gone back to support and pick up Bill and Jay. I had finished the 6.9 with a few minutes to spare before they arrived. And Jay and Bill still hadn’t finished. I switched shirts and got a water and decided to be dropped off at the 4 mile leg to meet them at the beginning of the last leg. 

That four miles would end up being almost the death of me. There was no race support and my team didn’t show up for 20 minutes after I finished. And I walked a bit of it too. I was done. But I didn’t know how done. While waiting for my team, the storm started to roll in and lightning could be seen from everywhere. But there were people still getting started on their last legs. It was a terrible decision. 

After I got picked up, the storms really came, for both me and the race. 


The rain came so hard and fast that no one ran the last leg and we actually picked up people from another team to save them. It was not good. 

We found our way to the finish line, got our medals, and bailed. I was in a bad way and I knew it. I couldn’t get rehydrated because I was nauseous as hell and nothing felt comfortable. Eventually I vomited out all of the water I did drink and felt better immediately. That was short lived. We made our way to the hotel. It didn’t have power because of the storm. Showers were taken by iPhone flashlight and we were going to go to the casino buffet for dinner. I didn’t make it there. Instead, I went to the Emergency Room and my dinner was four bags of IV fluid. 


It was not ideal. Everyone else got the chance to go and eat but that was shortlived because the casino lost power too. Matt and Jay had come with me to the ER but I told them to go eat. I was in the hospital for about four hours because they thought my kidneys were shutting down. Luckily I made pee and was able to go. 

We decided that we were just going to head back to Albany and cancel the hotel. We were done with the weekend. So we came back. At like 3 am and I was so happy to be done and in my own bed. 

There were other crazy things that happened that only you’d believe in a movie but I have to keep some to myself. All told, I ran just under 32 miles and almost had my body shut down. 

This has gone on long enough but I want to give pointers to relay organizers:

  • If you’re going to have people run hundreds of miles in 90 degree weather and high humidity, have water stops. It’s dangerous not to. You can’t tell people to leapfrog or go ahead and then have zero support. Period. 
  • You have to have food. Period. Bananas aren’t good enough.  We were halfway done and there were no nutrition options. 
  • If you’re going to run a race in the Adirondacks, you need to have safety precautions that aren’t mass texts when most of the places we ran had zero cell service. 
  • Ultra teams are people too. We need the race to support us more because we don’t have the time to find food. It has to be there for us to buy. Especially if you’re running us where everything is closed at 11 pm. 
  • You have to have medical personnel at points on the race. Especially at the end. Beer is good and music is fun but medical and water was needed but nowhere to be found. 
  • There was no one at the finish line directing anything. No announcer, no volunteers, no organization. It was awful. 

I’m sure there is more to complain about but I’m still reeling from the rest of the stuff. So, I learned a tough lesson and it cost me $200 bucks. But we’ll definitely never do that race again. But there’s a Ragnar in Pennsylvania in June. So we’ll likely do that. Just never not a Ragnar again. 

A Half Marathon that was then wasn’t then was and other sordid tales

Since the last time I wrote a bunch has happened and some didn’t. Where to start? 

Let’s start with a half marathon called “Race the Lake” in Cooperstown. My friend and Ragnar teammate Matt was doing this as a part of his one half marathon every month for the whole year. I decided I’d tag along and see where my fitness was after the New Jersey full. 

I drove us out early that morning, we grabbed our bibs and got on the trolley (yes a legit trolley) to head to the start line. It was a point to point race that would race around Otsego Lake in Cooperstown. There were storms in the forecast but the marathoners started an hour before us so we got ready.  I got my stretch and warm up mile in. It was starting to sprinkle at that point. They did the national anthem shortly after and it was pouring at that point. By then I had accepted my fate as another soggy race, but was determined to take it on. As we walked to go to the start line, lightning struck and we were told to get back on the trolleys or head under a building across the street. 

Matt and I got separated at this point and I was making fast friends with two girls in college and some others. We waited nearly an hour before they called the race and began to pull marathoners from the course. I was going to run that day no matter what and the girls were also interested. So, we ran the race anyway despite multiple attempts at people trying to pull us from the course. 

Since it wasn’t a race and the course was very hilly I decided early to take it easy. The only problem was Matt was already on his way back to the car. I made him wait for me to finish. In retrospect, I felt a little guilty. But I had fun with it. Sorry Matt. 

It poured off and on during the race. The girls ran ahead of me and I never caught up but I wasn’t trying to. They ended up getting lost. I was the first to arrive. So I think I won the race. Some marathoners even absconded the rules and finished. No medals but they did it through awful conditions. 

I got an email saying we could get a refund. I won’t hold my breath. 


The runners who ran anyway. Soaked. 

Since then I haven’t done much in the ways of racing. I did the workforce challenge a few weeks after the marathon and before the half that wasn’t. I did pretty well there. 


Those shirts were wayyyyy bright. 

I also did an 8 mile race but only used it as a speed workout and didn’t really race. My body has been having a few issues here and there since the marathon. Nothing that I think is significant, but enough to have some caution. 


I think that I didn’t really give myself enough time to recover after the marathon and I’m paying for it now. I’ve dropped from over 40 miles a week to just over 30 a week in hopes that helps a bit. I also tweaked something in my left hip/hamstring lifting a few weeks ago too. Just a few bumps and bruises here and there. 

The only reason I’m nervous is that I have two races in 6 days coming up this next week and I’d love to crush both. But, I will have to play it smart and easy. 

The other issue I’m having is with my eating. To wit, I am doing it too much. I downloaded an app to count calories to make sure I’m not going too crazy with it. Also, I’m a little lazy so maybe I won’t eat more if I have to log it. We’ll see. 


I got to be this close to Mumford & Sons a couple weeks ago as well. Even though I almost had a mental breakdown trying to get there. 

Other than that I have a few other blog posts brewing and I’m going to try to get better at being more consistent with my writing. July is going to be crazy busy but I promise to write more soonish. 

Until then, keep on runnin’. 

The New Jersey Marathon and the Aftermath

Some of the tulips in Washington Park in Albany, NY. 

It’s been a little over three weeks since I hit the highway south from Albany, NY and settled into a La Quinta in Oceanport, NJ to take on 26.2 miles of the Garden State. As I have taken the time to recover from the race, I’ve also taken some time to reflect in my 2nd marathon, for which I had settled on a goal of just beating my time from the first one in October 2014. 

The time to beat was 3:43. I thought it to be a reasonable quest because for as well as I did on my first ever marathon, I crashed hard at mile 21 and did not even come close to doing well with my in race nutrition. Armed with a much better mileage base and a better sense of what I would need to avoid the dreaded “wall”, I was pretty confident I could do well. 

The forecast in the days leading up to the race had changed several times, fluctuating between overcast and sun, dry to rainy. I stopped checking, though, because whatever the weather gods were bringing, I was ready for. With the chance of the rain, I bought Glide, to help prevent blisters and any other maladies that could befall me in that weather. I had never used it before, but let’s just say it worked as well as could be expected. 

With the race taking place on Sunday, I travelled down to NJ solo on Saturday afternoon. It was a nice drive as the weather on that day was wonderful. I checked into the hotel, got myself settled in, and then headed to the expo. There, I checked out the course maps, got my bib and shirt, and perused some other booths. I’m not big on expos really, but that’s mostly because there are far too many people for my liking. 

After the expo I headed to Chipotle (yes, I know what you’re thinking) and got my tried and true dinner of rice and chicken (nothing else). Luckily for me it was the weekend of the NFL draft, Red Sox baseball, and lots of other distracting television options for my pleasure. 

While a bunch of my friends were running this race, I was very much on my own. And that’s perfectly fine by me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my running buddies and all the miles we put down together, but only one person is dragging me through that finish line. Lone wolf mode activated.

With a start time of 7:30, I was up at 5 to eat and get ready for the race. I ate my banana, Greek yogurt, and granola bar while hydrating frequently. The start line was only .7 miles from my hotel, so I felt like walking over would be the best for my body and a warm up. 

I dropped off my bag, used the bathroom, and before I knew it was in my section ready to rock. It was about this time it started to sprinkle. While it wasn’t cold, the rain and slight wind made it feel that way. The rain started when we did and never stopped until well after I did. 

My goal was to run the first few miles around 8:20-8:25 and then get faster as the race wore on. This was much different than my race strategy the first time around. I went out much too fast in 2014 and I didn’t want to make that same mistake. Basically, I wanted to run consistent splits and check where I was every few miles as far as how I felt.  

I’m a Cliff Shots chews kind of guy and I brought two and a half sleeves with me. My plan was to take two every 3 to 4 miles for the first 15 miles or so and then increase the frequency to every 2 or so miles. I was not letting the wall beat me this time. 

Here are my splits from the race: 8:14, 8:07, 8:15, 8:07, 8:11, 8:11, 8:07, 8:10, 8:08, 8:15, 8:06, 8:13, 8:12, 8:10, 8:10, 8:08, 8:01, 8:05, 8:10, 8:16, 8:17, 8:05, 8:13, 8:28, 8:23, 8:13, 3:33 (.45 miles). 


As you can see I was pretty consistent up until miles 24 and 25 but got back to in in the final mile and change. 24 and 25 were slightly uphill and my quads were feeling it. Everything else felt pretty good, all things considered. I crossed at 3:36:42 by my watch, a PR by nearly 7 minutes. I was ecstatic. 

During the race there were a lot of fun signs, people cheering, and more. The weather was not fun, the scenery would have been better on a nicer day, and the post race options left a little to be desired. I ran in to some friends (who passed me in the last mile) afterwards. 


We made plans to meet up later and eat everything. My one goal after the race was pizza and chocolate milk. Both of those were satisfied much later, but it was also worth the wait. 


We also had some drinks to celebrate so many PRs! It was a great race despite the weather and while my mind was contemplating what the actual hell I was doing this for again during those miles, afterwards I was already thinking about which one I want to do next. 

I’m not sure I would do this particular marathon again. It wasn’t the weather that soured me, but the course itself had many turns and twists. I would do the half though. If I think about it, my next marathon would probably be in a different state. I don’t think I could do all 50, but why not run the country and see what I can see. 

Since the marathon, it’s been pretty business as usual. Long runs are shorter, but my mileage isn’t down too much. I’ve recovered well enough to take part in the corporate challenge and beat my previous year time by a handful of seconds. 

Well that seems to be about the sum of it. Spring and sweaty season is here and I’ve got many races to get ready for. I’ll try to be better about writing about them. 

Until next time, keep on runnin’!