This year started on a high note: two January PRs.
The first one, by almost four minutes, came in early January at the Rogue Distance Festival 10K. I’d had a severe asthma attack the night before and temps were below freezing at race time, but I ran well and finished strong with the help of several Rogues. Two weeks later at the 3M Half Marathon (also in freezing temps) I smashed my PR by almost ten minutes, and I finished nearly an hour ahead of the previous year’s disastrous race. J surprised me by flying in from D.C. to pace me the last two miles, and it worked!
By April, though, race weather gets unpredictable. I signed up for the Austin 10/20, figuring it’d be a good 10-mile training race if nothing else. But race morning was cool, and I had a chance to PR. Although I had PR’d by about seven minutes the previous October, I’d missed my 10-miler goal by thirty seconds, and this race gave me a chance to get there. Thanks to my friend S who paced me the whole way, I not only got back that :30 but PR’d by almost four minutes.
A week later, I had some sort of knee situation at the Capitol 10K and had to walk most of it. Blah. But it’s a fun race for people-watching, so there was that.
But hey, redemption was right around the corner! We’d signed up for a local 5K just for the hell of it, and when we woke up to cool temps, I decided to race it. I PR’d by about 30 seconds–six minutes per mile faster than my (mostly walking) Cap 10K pace, and my first race in which my overall pace dropped into the 10s.
Because 2016 was full of ups and downs, of course I struggled at my next race, this time a half-marathon on Memorial Day weekend in Medina, Ohio. The weather was warm and humid, and despite the amazing company and the well-organized race, I did not run well. It was a fun weekend though, and I have no regrets.
Despite my semi-setback in Medina, I wanted to celebrate my string of PRs and strong races the first half of the year, especially after coming back from injury the year before. So for my birthday, I got a tattoo in the shape of a triskelion, a symbol meaning forward progress, perseverance, and achievement. Six months later, I still love it.
The summer was milder than usual, but still hot. I plodded along, knowing I had a fall goal. We traveled a bit-in July I ran in Tulsa, St. Louis, Chicago, Bloomington IL, and Little Rock.
We were home for a week, then headed to South Padre Island for a few days at the beach. Running in South Texas was a lot more difficult than running in the Midwest! But I knew October and the Army Ten-Miler would arrive before I knew it, and I needed to keep working if I wanted that thirty seconds back.
Our final summer adventure was the Galveston Sand Crab 5K, our (somewhat) annual tradition on the beach. This year, we dodged rain pretty much all weekend, which actually cooled things off and made the race a little easier.
As the summer wound down, so did Rogue’s retail store in Cedar Park. We had to come to terms with a huge change, and it wasn’t easy. We had several running “field trips” in August, while waiting for the new location to be ready. And once the change happened, in early September, we had to adjust to new routes, new everything. For someone who doesn’t like change, I was facing a lot of it at once and struggled with it a bit. Eventually things settled down, though, at least a little.
Another new thing for me? Starting to write for Texas Running Post. I’ve got my own little corner where I contribute race reports and other thoughts on running in Austin and Texas. I’ve tried to write articles separate from my blog posts, although a couple of times they’ve overlapped. It’s been fun, and I hope to continue writing in the coming year.
Throughout September, I ran hills every Thursday to prepare for the final hill of the Army Ten-Miler. It was a tough task in the heat, but again I thought if I could push through it now, the October equivalent in Washington D.C. would feel easier.
The first test came with the ’80s 8K the first week in October. It was only a week before ATM so I knew I wouldn’t race it hard. But last year it was the first cool-weather race of the year, and therefore a good test of my real fitness. This year it was harder than it should have been, and it shook my confidence a little even though I finished within a minute of last year’s time.
And then it was Redemption Time in D.C.. Since missing my 2015 goal by thirty seconds, I’d obsessed over it all year. I’d worked hard since then–but was it enough? Yes, yes it was. I beat it by a minute and a half. Even though it wasn’t a PR, it was close-and because I ran 10.1 miles compared to the 10/20’s even 10.0, my ATM pace was actually faster for ten miles. And I found out later in the fall that the 2017 race conflicts with a home Texas football game, so I’m doubly-glad I slayed this dragon in 2016.
Speaking of slaying , November became a double-edged sword. I ran decently at the Run for the Water (faster than the previous year, anyway, even though it felt harder) and ran a would-be PR at the Run with the Heroes 5K the following week. The course was short, though, so I didn’t want to count it as an official 5K PR even though it was more than a minute faster than the 5K I ran back in May. But six days later, I turned in a legit 5K PR at the Shiner Beer Run in Shiner, Texas. This means that for my last three 5Ks now, my overall pace has been in the 10s. I can’t sustain that for longer distances, but when I think back to my first 5K five years ago, which I finished in about 45 minutes, I’m pleased with my progress.
But as 2016 has shown, for every upside there’s an equal an opposite downside. And that pendulum swung back for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. I struggled with my breathing and it was a tough race, but we finished in just over an hour. Not terrible, considering the crowds and my breathing issues, but not my best.
Unfortunately, this was only the beginning. The following Saturday, I felt a weird twinge in my left upper calf/behind my knee/maybe IT band, so we cut our run a little short. I spent a lot of time foam rolling and taking it easy-after the Great IT Band Incident of 2014, I wanted no part of an injury repeat and took a conservative approach.
Which didn’t work.
I had on-again, off-again pain the following week. It was okay for the Trail of Lights Fun Run, but got progressively worse after that.
Since December 3, I might have run ten miles total. I’ve gone to two sports massage therapists, my sports doctor, and even had an MRI. The good news is there’s no ligament or muscle damage, so it’s not a life-altering injury. But tell that to my knee, which stubbornly insists on hurting when I run. I can walk, I can do Fitness Blender workouts, I can do everything with no pain. Except run.
So while 2016 started off with PRs and triumph, it’s winding down with uncertainty. I’m supposed to run the Austin Half Marathon on February 19 (the 3M half conflicts with my NJHS trip to Washington, D.C. so I transferred my registration to Austin) but the longer this goes on, the more concerned I get. I ran the 2015 3M half undertrained and barely recovered from injury, and it was miserable–I probably should not have done it, and it has me questioning whether 13.1 miles seven weeks from now is a realistic goal.
I’m trying to maintain my fitness with core and cardio workouts plus long-distance cycling, and I’m trying to hold onto some optimism. If nothing else, this year has shown me I can bounce back from adversity–it’s not quick and it’s not easy, but it’s possible.
Like many others, I am looking forward to seeing 2016 in my rear-view mirror. It certainly had its share of positives, but the year’s gloomy ending has me longing for a fresh start in January.
Happy New Year, y’all!