Running Review 2015


This was the first year in well over a decade that I had a real drive to push myself running. I thought it might be interesting to walk back through the year to review how things went, along of course with plans for next year to build off the progress made.

In the Fall of 2014, I started to run with the Thursday group at Run On Hudson Valley. It was my first experience running at night, as well as running regularly with a group. Then it started to get cold. I asked for and received a running jacket for Christmas. For the first time, I was planning on running throughout the winter, regardless of weather or daylight. I actually found the cold weather to be a fun challenge, in contrast to the battle with heat during the summer months which I dreaded.

Aside from the regularity of a weekly 5 mile run that the group brought, I lucked out with it being a good group of people that are quick to provide encouragement and good advice. My year would not have been remotely as productive or fun without them.

Off to the Races

I ended up running two unplanned 5K's, which served as bookends for the year. In between I participated in my first beer mile (ug!) and first race longer than a 10K. I also ran the 10K in my town for the 7th time. My primary goal for the year was to get a new PR in said 10K.

The first race was the Freezer 5K put on by the Taconic Road Runners Club; it's a loop through FDR Park with a solid hill and rolling terrain. I had only heard about the race a week or so before, so it was just a “fun run” for me to see where I was at. I ended up with an 8 minute split, which felt fine at the time. And now I had another knit hat (yay for race swag) for running in cold weather.

My next race was in early summer: the dreaded Beer Mile, again hosted by the Taconics at FDR Park. I started out fine, but the last beer was a struggle and basically doubled my time (just shy of 18 minutes). On the bright side, I didn't get sick!

A couple weeks later was my first planned “real” race, the 8 mile Putnam County Classic. It loops around Mahopac Lake and is a nice rolling course with one large hill near the beginning of the race. I was actually more concerned with hot and muggy weather than I was with the distance, as the race was held on July 4th. However, it has an early start and we lucked out with below average temperature (even if it was a little humid, it was manageable). I started out strong, felt my hamstring tighten up and eased back for the middle miles, before feeling good towards the end and running fast on the flat/downhill stretch to close it out. The race ends on a partial lap of the high school track, where I caught and passed a 70+ year old guy (and he was 2nd in his age group, amazing). My splits were 8:38, which resulted in a new minor PR for the 10K portion of the run. I felt good about the race, but knew I could go faster if not for the injury.

In the Fall is the local race I run most years, the Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger 10K. Since the course goes within 100 yards of my house, I often run parts of it just through my normal running routine. Of course, in the run up to the race I also ran the course itself, literally backwards and forwards; it's a hilly course, so taking the opposite route is helpful in working different elevation changes. For the first time in recent memory, I actually ran almost the entire race with a friend (normally I race solo, or at best stay with someone for the first mile or so). We normally run together Thursdays, so it worked out well. Lauren ended up placing for her age group (as did two others from our group who finished ahead of us), while I easily set a new PR with a 7:52 pace (about 6 minutes faster than my previous PR). In an uncanny contrast to the 8 miler, a 13 year old kid out sprinted me in the final yards of the race.

The last race of the year was another local one, the fairly new Cortlandt 5K. While I hadn't done explicit training for it, I had completed some speed work for the previous race. I decided to open it up in order to see how fast I could run. I was helped by the fact it was a flat there-and-back course (and the weather was perfect). I ended up running a 7:18 pace and finished 8th overall, and 2nd in my age group for my first running award in well over a decade.

Up and Down Training

My training throughout the year varied in quality and quantity. The two biggest negative factors were my health and summer heat/humidity. However, I was able to motivate well and push through minor injuries while training for my two longer races.

In early February my back acted up and I didn't run for a couple weeks. In April I tripped during a group run and bruised a rib, knocking me out of action for a few weeks. By June I was back to full strength, but then strained my right groin while crossing the street after a group run. Thankfully it was just minor and didn't impact running. I was able to up my mileage and broke 10 miles for the first time ever. After straining my hamstring in the 8 miler, I decided to take it easy for most of July. I still ran, but only twice a week or so and at a slow pace.

In August, the heat killed me, figuratively speaking in case you believe in ghosts or my AI programming abilities. I had been hoping to increase the volume and intensity of my training to prep for the 10K, but the heat and humidity was pretty horrid well into September. Thankfully it did eventually subside and September ended up being my strongest month. I set a new distance PR with an 11 mile run. In October I primarily focused on speed, hills, and runs around 6 miles. I did a self-timed mile at the local high school track for a in-recent-memory PR of 6:51. I'm guessing in a race scenario I could be closer to 6-6:30, but who knows.

After the successful 10K race, I decided to make a trek up to Lake Minnewaska. I used to go there often when I was younger, so it was fun going back and hitting trails I had never been on before. I ended up going a bit further than I planned, but also set a PR in elevation gain (1,043 ft, according to gps) so that was a nice by-product.

Once I did the last 5K, the rest of the year was just running for fun. I found that I didn't really have an interest in short runs any more. I decided I wanted to try to get up to 14 miles by the end of the year. I pushed the pace on one long run and ended up with a new PR of 12 miles; I felt great, until the final mile. It was a slog.

Someone in our running group (I believe Elliot) had the idea of doing a half marathon run down to the Yonkers Brewery. We ended up recruiting a sizable group of people and made our way down there via road and light trails (primarily the Old Croton Aqueduct trail). I felt good through most of it, but again started to flag after mile 11 or so. The trails were covered in leaves and the sun was shining directly in our eyes for the most part, so virtually everyone had minor stumbles, stubbed toes, and near falls at some point. A few folks hit the deck, but no major injuries. I came close to taking a header down a hill into some trees, but thankfully caught myself (which of course strained something that I wouldn't feel until post-run). One of the guys heard of my plan to hit 14 miles by the end of the year and ran with me as we looped around the small park near the river for the extra mileage. In one fell swoop, my first half marathon distance and my goal of 14 miles.

I've taken it easy since then; my legs were more or less shot for a few days after the run (muscles, joints, tendons… you name it, it was sore and creaking). My torso is still recovering in fits and spurts; not so much pain as an annoyance, but without any “need” I've decided not to push it. So I'll close out the year with a whimper, but I really don't mind since I hit all of my goals and then some.

Future Plans

Assuming I can start running at full strength in January, I plan to run my first half marathon race in early 2016. At present I'm leaning towards the Celebrate Life Half Marathon, although the Sleepy Hollow half is an option as well (or perhaps a fallback in case of training/injury setbacks). As part of the training for that, I'd like to push my mileage higher so that a half is not as much of a shock to the system (similar to how a 10K has little to no impact now). Of course, my body may have other ideas. Until I see how things go I have no inclination to try a full marathon, but ask me again in 4 months and it might be a very different answer.

Aside from that, I'll be playing a wait-and-see approach to races. I lean towards my almost-annual participation in the local 10K, but since there are other races that same weekend I might try something different this year. We'll see.

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