2017 Goals

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When it comes to running, the crazy things that I do are carefully planned out. No last-minute craziness here! Two years ago I set my running goals in time format: I wanted to be able to run distances that I had already run, just faster. In 2015 I set new PRs at the 5k, 10 mile, half and marathon distances, while running 237 miles further than I did in 2014. In 2016 I set out to focus more on long run training in order to tackle my first ultramarathon. My last long run before the ultra was Space Coast Marathon, where I PR’ed by 12 minutes and was able to do it with a negative split. While a successful 50-miler was the big goal for the year, I believe the marathon PR was a bonus and a direct result of the many 26-mile-plus long runs that I wrote into my training plan.

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What are your goals?

So what could I possibly have planned for 2017? I have three goals for the upcoming year, and for those who have called me crazy in the past, you’ll likely need that word three more times before you’re done reading. Santa didn’t bring much in the line of material gifts this year, but he left me a full dose of lunacy!

First up is a goal that I will start on January 7th and complete on February 5th. I am currently a member of the Half Fanatics (Saturn level) and a member of the Marathon Maniacs (Bronze level), and qualified for both simultaneously, giving me Double Agent status, level one of ten. I accomplished this two years ago by running 3 marathons and 4 half marathons in the same 90-day period. Back to my goal… I am going to be moving up to Double Agent level 3 and moving from Bronze to Gold as a Marathon Maniac by running 4 marathons and 4 half marathons within 30 days. I’ll be running the Disney Half and Full marathons (Goofy Challenge), Best Damn Race Jacksonville half, Shark Bite half, Clearwater Distance Classic marathon, Celebration marathon, Best Damn Race Safety Harbor half, and Tallahassee marathon within those 30 days.

That’s just goal #1 – there are still 11 months left in the year!

Goal #2: The race director for the Daytona 100 and Daytona 50 has announced a sister race in northern Michigan in June and I plan to do two things I have never done before. I will be going to Michigan and I’ll be running the Lighthouse 100 mile race. My goal is to finish the 100 miles of this race within the cutoff time of 30 hours. I’d love to bring that time down, but given the struggles that I faced near the end of the 50-miler earlier this month, and the fact that the Lighthouse 100 has “rolling hills” (where the Daytona 100 had max elevation of about 15 feet above sea level), I’m setting the goal 6 months out as finishing all 100 miles within the 30 hour limit. Also, at this point I have no idea if I will have a crew or will be running solo. Doing it solo will no doubt slow me down a great deal.

Have you called me crazy yet? But wait, there’s more!

Goal #3: Six months to the day after I run my second ultra and first 100-miler I’m going to run another 100-miler. I’m returning to the Daytona 100, this time to run the full 100 miles rather than the 50. Ok, so where’s the goal? In Michigan in June I plan to finish; in Florida in December I plan to finish in under 24 hours. I’m upping my finish time goal by a full six hours in six months. I plan on using the Michigan race as a learning tool to be better prepared and better trained by December.

Goal-setting is a good way for me to get the process started toward improvement. What keeps me on track is the accountability that involves my friends, family, and fellow runners. Even if you don’t know what it takes to prepare for a 100-mile race, I’ll bet you know what an excuse sounds like. If I’m throwing out excuses instead of miles, please feel free to mention it to me, however you see fit! I’m not setting big goals to try to be better than anyone, with the exception of who I am today, and that doesn’t sound crazy at all.

 

Racing season is coming to a close

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As much of the northern half of the country is looking forward to the warmer weather and the beginning of racing season, highlighted with next Monday’s Boston Marathon, those of us in the sunshine state are saying goodbye to racing season. Yes, there are a few races available May through September, but not many comparatively, especially if you’re looking for distances from half marathon through ultra. Overnight lows of 70 degrees-plus for 3-4 months straight pretty much eliminate the possibility of long, competitive runs.

As I look back on the past six months I see a number of highlights, and overall a season that I am happy with. My first race of the season was the Marine Corps Half Marathon in Jacksonville, FL where I posted my current PR for the 13.1 distance. I had set a goal time of 1:45 but finished in 1:48:19, beating my previous PR by just 38 seconds. Still, it’s a PR and a great start to the season.

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Marine Corps Half finish line

October’s other race was my second running of the Lighthouse Loop Half in Port Orange, FL. Severe anxiety and stress joined me at the starting line that morning, and after three miles at a pace that would have given me that 1:45 time my heart rate was over 185. I backed it down, took some walk breaks, and finished in 1:59:00.

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Lighthouse Loop Half bling!

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Space Shuttle medal #2 from Space Coast marathon

Thanksgiving weekend I ran my fourth marathon and grabbed my second PR on the Space Coast Marathon course (first was my first ever marathon, but still). I bettered my 2014 time by 16 minutes, but still did not have a good handle on the 26.2 distance. Even with 20 and 22 mile training runs, getting past 17 miles in the race is something I struggle with, and have always gone to walk/run by that point, if not before. Goal number one for the remainder of 2016 is to become better at the 20 to 26 mile distance. I will run a marathon without stopping to walk. If I can’t then that 50-mile race will be a long December day.

 

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Finishing marathon #5 in Cape Coral

2 weeks later I drove to Cape Coral, FL for another marathon, hoping for the nice cool weather we had race morning the previous year. At the start of the race it was 66 degrees, but by the finish we were in the low 80s. This definitely did not feel like December! The paramedics were treating runners just past the finish line by the time I got there. Again my first 17 miles went pretty well, but at that point I switched to a 1/1 walk/run and finished in 4:50.

 

 

 

 

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Disney bling! Everyone needs some of this.

January brought me two races, both at Disney World and both in the same weekend. I elected to “only” do the Goofy Challenge this year, where last year I finished the Dopey Challenge. My plan was to run a steady half between 9:30 and 10:00 per mile in order to save something for the full the next day. Mission accomplished on the half (2:07:14) with very even splits. The full, however was the most difficult of the six marathons that I’ve done. On that race day the run/walk intervals started as we were leaving Animal Kingdom, or around mile 13.5 for those of you not lucky enough to have run this course. Goal time: 4:30, actual time: 4:57. Still, it’s six marathons attempted and six completed.

KIMG0763February brought me a couple of races, starting with Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, FL. Beautiful morning for a race and I finished about 66 seconds behind my 13.1 PR. Happy day! The next day I ran a virtual 10k with a couple of friends. We completed our 6.2 miles at Disney’s Boardwalk area (hotel area between Hollywood Studios and Epcot). The pace was nice and easy which was fine with me!

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Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

Two more races during March: First was Best Damn Race Orlando half marathon which I ran with a friend. She was recovering from strep throat so the goal was to finish. Mission accomplished. Later in March I ran my first relay event – the Sarasota Half with another friend. I was somewhat disappointed with my time for the 6.9 miles that I completed, but I achieved two PR’s that day. My first relay half (automatic PR) was done in 1:57:08. I also achieved a heart rate PR – when we sprinted for the finish I hit 196 bpm, breaking my assumed max HR of 192.

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Sarasota Half Relay with my teammate Krissy

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UCF Storm the Campus AG award plus U, C, and F medals

April will finish with 3 races, although only one is complete. The third annual Storm the Campus 10 miler was my 50th race since my first race on November 1, 2013. I was trying to break 1:20 for ten miles, but finished in 1:22:20, good enough for second place in my AG. Races 2 and 3 for the month will be this weekend as RunDisney heads back to the parks in Orlando for the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side weekend. I’ll be running the 10k on Saturday and the half on Sunday. Can’t wait to run in the parks again!

After the Star Wars races this weekend I’ll be doing 6 weeks of heart rate training, where none of my runs will take me above 140 bpm. I’ll also be increasing my weekly mileage slightly from about 33 to around 40. After that I’ll continue to increase my weekly mileage and my long runs throughout the summer, peaking at 58 miles per week in 4 runs per week by mid-November. After a 3 week taper I’m running my first ultra, a 50-mile oceanside run from St. Augustine to Ponce Inlet on the east coast of Florida. Yes, I have a goal time already for this and no, I’m not ready to share it yet, but you can bet it’s not what you’d expect for a first time ultramarathoner.

Best of luck to all of you as you enter your racing or training season. There are plenty of PR’s still to be had out there – grab yours!

 

March Recap

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The month of March was less than eventful, but it continued my streak of months with at least 100 miles run, so we’ll call it a win. I finished the month with only 19 days in which I ran and 110 miles, making it my 13th month in a row over the century mark. That is an achievement that I am quite proud of because it indicates two key elements that are necessary in order to improve: Consistency and remaining healthy.

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Finishing Best Damn Race Orlando with Joy

In the first part of the month I was in two races, both half marathons. The first I ran with a friend and we just enjoyed the race and the time spent together talking. The second half was actually a relay where Krissy ran the first 10k before I ran about 6.8. We then ran the last tenth of a mile together, finishing in about 1:57.

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Krissy and I finishing the Sarasota Half Relay with big air!

The remainder of my miles were done training style, including the two weeks that I tried out the heart rate training. I chose to stop the heart rate training so I could get a couple of higher intensity runs in before my race on April 3rd. Initially I was seeing some great improvements with the heart rate training, but then I saw things getting slightly worse and started looking for reasons for both. The one factor that I believe had the most effect on my heart rate numbers was the weather. Cooler runs (20-25 degrees) lined up with my best heart rates and the warmer runs lined up with the higher numbers. I still believe that there is improvement to be had and by the time I return to the HR training in three weeks our weather will be steady enough that there won’t be any threat of cooler weather.

Plans for April include a little speed work in the first two weeks so I can chase a 10k PR at Disney, running the 10k and half on Star Wars weekend, and then saying goodbye to racing for a few months and focus on distance training. I’ll start with 6 weeks of HR training and then I’ll start building up to high mileage weeks as part of marathon (November) and ultra (December) training. It’s just about time to get really comfortable being uncomfortable. Thanks for reading. I’ll be posting my Storm the Campus recap as soon as the photos become available.

2015 is running away

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The end of the year brings a time for reflection and for those of us that set goals, a chance to compare actual events to the goals we have set. Although there was much improvement in my training and running overall, few of my goals were achieved. My racing was nearly cut in half from 2014 as I dropped from 28 races to 15, including the 4 races in 4 days known as Dopey Challenge. Even with this I still feel like 2015 was a strong year for me.

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“C” finisher medal and AG award

A year ago I set several goals for myself and I’m not really sure how I planned to achieve them all, but I did manage to get some of them. My 5k goal for the year was 22:00. On July 4th I ran my only 5k for time and finished in 22:04. Pretty close to goal, but not quite. My 10-mile race goal was 1:20:00 and I finished the Storm the Campus 10 miler at UCF in 1:20:54. Again, really close. Placing 3rd in my AG took the bite out of that one at least. My 10k goal for 2015 was 47:00. The only 10k that I did was part of the Dopey Challenge last January and I was not running for time. I did, however, use the 10k distance for tempo runs on the treadmill several times over the summer, where I beat 47:00 three times with my best being 45:02. My half and full goals were set at 1:40 and 4:00 respectively (and I was really pushing for a BQ time) and it’s safe to say that those goals will stay in tact until I can reach them. I did set new PRs in both distances in 2015 with the Marine Corps Half Marathon completed in 1:48:19 (38 second PR) and the Space Coast Marathon done in 4:31:38 (PR by 16:01) .

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Six medals for completing Dopey!

I also set a goal to run 1600 miles in 2015. I finished the year with 1523 miles, 77 short of my goal. I started the year off with some injuries and exhaustion due to over-training and racing too much, so I was forced to take some time off to heal. Either way, 1523 miles is a number that I’m happy with. It’s almost 20% higher than 2014’s 1285 miles and I ran fewer days in 2015 than the prior year so my mileage per day was up by 25%. I also improved my consistency by staying over 100 miles for 11 months this year, including the past 10. Let’s keep that going!

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Another running venture that deserves mention is the fact that I worked with a coach for a couple of months. Sort of. I hired a coach and occasionally heard from her but the whole thing was a disaster. Eventually I found out that there was a personal issue that started at the same time I hired her, which led to the communication breakdown. In addition, I made improvements in the area of cross-training, but not nearly to the level that I had targeted. I have been going to a gym since April, though the frequency of those visits has dropped off in the past two months since I’ve been in taper and recovery mode almost nonstop.

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I also wanted to mention two highlights from today’s final run of the year. First, after a mile of warm-up I did an all out sprint for a quarter mile. I did this last New Year’s Eve as well, with a time of 88 seconds. Today’s time was 79 seconds with a peak pace of 4:40/mile. If only I could hold that pace! Near the end of my cool down miles I ran past a house that I’ve run past probably close to 200 times. This time there was a 30-ish year-old man at the end of his driveway who started cheering for me like I was in a race. He said, “Right on! Keep going! I’m so proud of you every time I see you run by here! Hi-five! Alright!!” He hi-fived me, I thanked him, and proceeded on with a little extra pep in my step. I have no idea who he is, but he made my day.

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As for 2016 goals, I haven’t decided on much yet, other than continuing to chase the time goals that I have for different race lengths. I have a new strategy for my next marathon training cycle, where I am going to attempt to solve the heart rate issues first and then work on getting faster and better at handling distance. A new training program means I don’t know what to expect for total miles for the year, though I would like to be able to surpass this year’s total.

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Time to get 2016 started!

The wall

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Typically for runners the wall is a bad thing. Dreaded even. In this case, the wall is an actual wall located in a room in my house. This wall has been the home of my race medals and a few dozen thumbtacks used to hold them onto the wall. As of today there is not a thumbtack in the wall.

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The wall before Christmas

My daughter came up with the idea that a proper medal holder would look better and would be more appropriate. She got some help from my dad and stepmother and ordered a medal holder specifically to hold my RunDisney medals since Disney has been a special place to me for about 35 years. When Christmas Day came and I opened the gift from my daughter I was truly surprised and felt that now these medals that I worked so hard for could finally be displayed in a proper manner. I had previously displayed the RunDisney medals across the top row of my wall, but this Disney-themed display unit was going to look much better.

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Disney-themed medal holder ready for some bling!

A few minutes after I opened my daughter’s gift, my dad handed me another package to open. Before I could start removing the wrapping paper he started explaining that there’s an interesting story that goes with this gift. Now I’m scared, especially with my dad. Once the package was open I saw another medal display unit which read “Always earned, never given.” Before I started running I was familiar with this phrase but never paid much attention to it. After the amount of effort I put into learning to run, getting faster, going further, and reaching goals, I have learned the value in this phrase.

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Another medal holder. Is this a hint?

Remember that story that dad had for me? Apparently he had ordered this for me (playing on my daughter’s idea) and it arrived bent (at about a 30 degree angle) due to some mishandling by the delivery folks. Dad called the company and explained what had happened, emailed them a couple of pictures, and they sent a replacement right out. They told him not to worry about the damaged one because they would collect the damages from the carrier. So dad got to work and got the steel holder about 90% of the way back to its original shape. He gave me the damaged piece and told me that if I could finish straightening it then I could have an extra one. I knew someday that having a rubber mallet would come in handy!! Challenge accepted.

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Disney medals

 

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Medals from UCF, Best Damn Races, Space Coast Marathons, and Final Mile events

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The rest of my race and virtual race medals

The wall is now complete and neatly houses almost 50 medals from 5k, 10k, a5k, 10 mile, half marathon, and marathon races, multi-race challenges, virtual races, and an age-group award that was a medal. If I figure out a way to do it I may add my finishers crown and four other age group awards to this wall somehow. I just have to figure out how to do it.

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The wall has been properly decorated

 

 

 

Don’t do this during a race

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There is definitely a learning curve when someone decides to take the plunge and start racing. There really are a lot of things that you need to learn in order to make the most of your experience, and in some cases, make it through the race. For example, I had been a runner for just a couple of months when I ran my first half marathon. I had never run more than 10k, and I had only done that twice (once was the day before the half). I remember asking my friend Steph about the concept of eating while running, how to do it, what food would be available, if I should stop to take in the food, etc. Of course, this conversation took place in the starting corral so my options were limited.

If you’re not familiar with the answers to these questions then you may not know about a handful of other topics that I witnessed during my marathon a week ago. They may seem so obvious to an experienced racer that these items might get overlooked when a veteran gives a few tips to a new runner. For example, be aware of where you’re going on the course. I’ve run 44 races and have yet to find one that is without a challenge or fifty within the course itself. Some have you going on and off of sidewalks, running on the road and then on a trail, running alongside traffic, or even running on 100 year old brick streets in downtown Orlando. In last weekend’s race there were 30-inch tall orange cones set up about 100 feet apart which were meant to mark the left edge of the racing lane. At least one runner didn’t see one of these cones, ran into it, and was knocked to the ground. She was about a tenth of a mile into the race with several hundred racers behind her. Luckily she was not seriously hurt and was able to keep going. Tip: Look where you’re going!

Three other things that I noticed during this race were all done by the same runner. “Jerry” went out pretty quick, though the first time I saw him was when I passed him around the 1.5 mile point when he slowed to a walk to catch his breath. He soon passed me back. Then I passed him again. I didn’t catch him every time he walked, but I did pass him for good around mile 4. It was the eighth time that I passed him. I’m hoping that this was a new racer mistake and not his racing style. He finished his half in just under 10:00/mile pace and the reason I know this is because he wore his bib on his butt (mistake #2). Most racers that you pass (or pass you), you never know their number because they wear their bib so it is visible from the front. This is so racers can be identified in race and finish line photos. Unless someone was taking pictures of Jerry’s butt, all of his free race photos will remain unidentified.

Jerry’s third mistake happened at a water stop. He grabbed a cup of water from one of the volunteers and quickly drank it without stopping then crumpled up the cup. He held onto the cup until he reached a trash can set up by the volunteers, then threw the cup on the ground right next to the can. Really? It wasn’t like he missed, he practically laid the cup on the ground next to the can. Please remember that these races would not happen if it wasn’t for the volunteers that support them. We don’t need to make their jobs any harder.

The final tip that I have for you also deals with the water stops. In any race longer than 10k you should be hydrating during the race. If you can’t run and drink at the same time then walk for 15 seconds and drink. Last week’s race was very hot and humid with temps in the lower 80s by the time I finished, and half of the marathoners were still on the course when I finished. Right at the finish line I saw paramedics working on someone who had finished just before me. I’m guessing it was some form of heat exhaustion just because of the weather. Even if it wasn’t, the reminder is a good one: consume fluids while you’re running long distance.

What other things have you seen runners do during a race that are easily avoidable mistakes?

Race Recap: BDR Cape Coral

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So I completed a marathon just two weeks prior to attempting the Best Damn Race Cape Coral full marathon. Does that mean there was not enough recovery time to expect a good performance out of myself? In and of itself I don’t believe the timing was very much of a limiting factor. After all I had been training between 40 and 50 miles per week quite a bit during this cycle in order to prepare myself for this very situation. My legs and my mind were in a good place as I started my three hour journey to the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral area and I felt confident. The one thing that had me concerned was the weather forecast: 68 and humid for the start of the race. Not what I was hoping for.

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Maybe a little noisy but restful sleep!

The drive was uneventful and packet pickup was easy as could be. Considering the issues that I have had lately with my heart rate, I took the stress-free process so far as a good sign as I relaxed in my hotel room. I usually have difficulty sleeping the night before a race due to anxiety, so I thought I would download an app to monitor my restlessness – maybe this information would assist my doctor in some way. Surprise! I slept like a baby. Maybe better.

Most important, I woke up feeling fresh and ready to go. I got ready, had something to eat, grabbed my gear and headed out to the race site. After I arrived there was an hour until the start of the race – plenty of time to get mentally prepared and get a half mile warm-up run in. My heart rate looked good on the warm-up so I had another reason to feel good about this race. I grabbed my Generation U-Can 30 minutes before the start and headed to the start area pretty pumped about the possibilities.

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The marathon and half marathon started at the same time since the full was two loops of the half course. There were about 635 people doing the half and only 167 that completed the full so the crowd wasn’t overwhelming by any means. Still, there was an issue right after the start that nearly cost one runner her whole race. Orange cones were set up on the dotted white lines between lanes of the first road we ran on. A woman running next to me didn’t see one of the cones, tripped over it, and landed hard on the road. Luckily no one stepped on her and she was able to continue, but for the next mile I saw other runners picking up these cones and throwing them into the median so no one else would run into them. With all of the commotion I lost concentration on what I was doing for a few minutes and ended up running the first mile about 45 seconds faster than I had planned. This brought my heart rate up higher than I was happy with, which stirred up the anxiety and the endless cycle. Here we go again.

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I was having difficulty slowing myself down for quite a while. It felt like I was taking shorter strides and people were passing me but my PAG (Pace according to Garmin) was only slowing by a few seconds per mile. I decided to keep my eyes on John, the 4:00 pacer, and make sure that he was pulling away from me. This worked eventually, but it took until the 6th mile for me to slow to a 9:37 pace, while my goal was 9:45. Through the first five miles my heart rate had peaked at 172 and I averaged 168 on mile 5. I should not be working my heart that hard at that pace. Even though the doctor and the ER team found nothing wrong with me after multiple tests, I know that something isn’t right.

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Back to the race… miles 6-10 were nice and smooth, between 9:30 and 9:45 with my heart rate holding steady at 165-166 for five miles. From 11-17 my pace was between 9:41 and 10:12 but my heart rate took off, landing at 182 for the 17th mile. I forced myself to run another half mile but I was feeling it in my legs and the bottoms of my feet so I knew it was time to walk for a minute or two. I made it to 2:49 of the race before I took a walk break. Although I have gone longer in training runs, this was further than I had gone without stopping in my previous four marathons. Besides the fatigue and the heart rate issues I was also starting to feel the effects of the heat. Yes, that dreaded December heat. Remember the 68 degree start-time temp? By the time I finished the race the temperature was up in the low 80s and the course had very little shade after 9am.

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For the second half of mile 18, all of 19, and the start of 20 I attempted to run as much of the time as I could but was getting frustrated with the amount of walking that I was doing. Early in the 20th mile I started alternating 1 minute of running with 1 minute of walking. This seemed to be working well and it kept me a little more positive about the situation, even though I was getting slower and slower. Mile 20: 12:47. Mile 21: 14:08. Then 13:52, 13:59, 14:28, 14:48, and 15:21. Even at these paces I was still in the 176-180 bpm range every mile from 20 on.

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Positive takeaway: I never gave up. I never considered giving up. I did seriously question my desire to ever run a race longer than a half marathon again, though. If I can’t get the heart rate issue under control is there really any point? The jury is still out on that one. Something has changed because I did not have these issues while training during the summer. My next doctor’s appointment is in 3 weeks. We’ll see what I can learn there.

By the numbers:

10k split: 59:05       13.1 split: 2:05:16      19.3 miles: 3:13:55       Finish: 4:50:17

Overall 80th/167       Male finisher 51/98      Age group: 4/10

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