2013 Year in Review

2013YIRAnother holiday season has come and gone, and it’s time to cast an eye over my achievement throughout the last twelve months. After the personal successes of the previous year, I entered 2013 with high hopes for myself and some lofty ambitions. Unfortunately, things did not work out as planned and instead of celebrating personal records and marathon completions, I dealt with recurring injury problems and an ongoing lack of motivation.

Just like last year, the point of this review is not to rehash my success or failures in each individual event, but to look at the bigger picture and try to learn something from the past year that helps me in the next one.

My goals for the year were:

  • Finish 9 NYRR races & qualify for the 2014 NYC Marathon
  • Set a Half-Marathon PR
  • Run my first NYC Marathon
  • Run a race in under 8:00 per mile
  • Avoid serious injury
  • Don’t let running interfere with my wedding

Of the six goals I set out for myself at the start of the year, I managed to achieve a few of them. Most important of all, was ensuring that running did not conflict in any way with my wedding plans. And I’m happy to report that everything went off without a hitch. The wedding was fantastic, the honeymoon a dream, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the first seven months of what I hope is a long and happy union.

In terms of running, the year had it’s share of us and downs. Things started out well, as I carried my good form and conditioning into the first few weeks and set two personal records over the 10K and 4M distances. The second of those runs had an additional dimension of success in that I completed the distance in an average time under eight minutes a mile.

From there however, things went downhill. For the first time ever, I abandoned a race and karma seems to have continually kicked me in the arse for that failure all year. Perhaps I had developed a sense of invincibility after making such stellar progress, or else it was the lack of real goals after completing my first marathon. Whatever the reason, my motivation took a nosedive after the DNF and I struggled through the remainder of the year. I barely managed to get in shape for any of the half marathons I miraculously completed. My knee condition stopped getting worse but never really got better either, and I started to use lame reasons for avoiding runs and workouts.

There were two highlights during the remainder of the year. The first was the Fifth Avenue Mile, which I finally fit into my schedule. I hadn’t done any specific training for the event, but still managed to complete the distance in a time of 6:45. The experience was entirely different to the traditional 4/5/6.1 mile race and is something I will aim for again in 2014.

The second highlight and the years best achievement was a shared one – completing the Philadelphia Half Marathon with my sister and brother-in-law. Recent converts to running, they decided to give it a go following some encouragement from myself and decent performances in local races. That the three of us crossed the finish line at all was a fantastic achievement.┬áThat the three of us crossed the finish within a couple of minutes of each other was remarkable.

I continue to read a lot of running related material, picking up useful nuggets of information on products and training habits where I can. I have started to compile them into notes and am creating a set of workouts using the Garmin training tools that come with their Connect application.

As far as the coming year, I would like to get back to my form of 2012. To do that, I need to put in the training time across multiple disciplines (speed, hills, stamina, etc.) and that is heavily dependent on my knee holding up. Over training may certainly be the cause of my problems, so hopefully the reduction in workload and introduction of cycling and swimming will help to maintain my fitness while simultaneously reducing the stress on my joints. In terms of times, I would like to do a half in 1:45, run a 4 miler in under 30 minutes and a 10K in under 50 minutes. The other focus area is the social aspect; meeting more runners and learning from their experiences. That starts with getting involved in group runs with the North Brooklyn Runners. I’ve threatened this for a while, so hopefully this is the year I can make it happen.

2012 Year In Review

2012As I have had some downtime over the last couple of weeks, I have been enjoying the holidays and giving my body a break from this running business. Getting away from it all for a few days has provided me the opportunity to reflect on the past year and on all that I have achieved. The point of this review is not to recount my performance in each race – that’s been done in detail already. The point is to take a more holistic view of my performance in relation to my goals and objectives, and think about where I can do better next year. I’ll admit that, over the past twelve months, I have far exceeded any expectations I had going into this endeavor. When I first started running I thought I would struggle to reach a point where I actually enjoyed the activity. Although I still dread the early morning runs and sometimes struggle with heavy legs, I look forward to most of my runs; the long and short training runs act as a form of meditation, whereas the races themselves feed my need for competition and achievement.

Going back to the start of the year, I set myself a few goals:

  • Finish 9 NYRR races & qualify for the 2013 NYC Marathon
  • Run a Half-Marathon in under 2 hours
  • Run a Marathon in under 4 hours
  • Run a race in under 8:00 per mile
  • Avoid serious injury

Of the five goals I set out for myself at the start of the year, I managed to achieve four of them. In my mind that was pretty remarkable, especially in the context of where I was physically just 18 – 24 months ago. It wasn’t that long ago that the thought of running scared me (I imagined with horror all my wobbly bits, well wobbling!). The first few months at the gym were filled with shame as I wore the results of my over-eating and general laziness for all to see. However, I slowly started to see some changes and in time I was able to run further and faster. At the same time, my clothes started to feel a little looser and I became more comfortable in my own skin. Skip forward a year and the changes in me were much more evident. I was ready to take my running to the streets to really see what I could.

Over the course of the year I registered for 14-15 NYRR races at a cost of $540, all marathon qualifiers. As it turns out, I actually only ran the required nine because of scheduling issues and injury. For the coming year, I will be more selective with the races I sign up for. This year promises to be a busy one, so it’s important I keep in mind the commitment I made to Jess way back at the beginning and make sure that running doesn’t take over my life and dictate my schedule.

I originally planned to run a half-marathon last year, but ended up running three. Each one was a fantastic experience and if I’m being honest, I have to admit that it’s probably my favorite distance. The half-marathon is a real test of both speed and endurance and I enjoy the mental and physical challenge it provides. A friend of mine who also runs mentioned recently that he has a half-marathon personal best of 1:36 – a full 12 minutes better than mine, so I’m looking to continue improving my own time in this distance and hopefully taking a crack at that record by the end of the year. In terms of the marathon, I’m not going to rehash my Philadelphia mistakes, but I am planning to compete in just one this year because of the training commitment required. I qualified for the NYC Marathon in November through the 9+1 program and will make sure to take all my supplements as I look to finish in under four hours this time around.

Average pace is a tricky thing to aim for because different race distances require different levels of effort. However, my first ever race saw me finish with an 8:13 per mile average in just under 4 miles so it wasn’t a stretch to imagine getting under the 8:00 minute mile barrier. At least that’s what I thought. There were times where I really struggled and it was only at the very end of the year, as I peaked from my marathon training that I started to put in the performances necessary to take me under that eight minute mile pace. Now that I managed to break it, my next target is 7:30 per mile!

I read a lot of running materials, whether it’s books, blogs, or magazines. One of the comments that kept coming up was the inevitability of injuries. Apparently it happens to everyone, and although we can take preventative measures to limit their impact, eventually the strain will catch up. Sad to say, it happened to me this past year. Luckily the tendonitis was not extreme and a month’s rest helped my knee recover. I have to be conscious of mixing weights and stretches into my routine to prevent a recurrence and ensure my leg muscles remain strong enough to withstand the constant stress. Despite the injury, I am pretty lucky that it was not serious and so, I hope to continue that trend me monitoring my body and making sure I eat, stretch, and vary my workouts to provide a solid foundation for the next twelve months.

As far as the coming year, my goals have not changed all that much except in my finish times. However, I have added one new one to the list. I’m getting married in May, so the goal is to make sure that running does not interfere with my wedding. I’m pretty sure I can do it – I just have to avoid scheduling any big races or intense training for the weeks leading up to and after the wedding and honeymoon.