Last year, 2016, is the year I started blogging. It was the year I started using Instagram and Twitter more consistently, primarily to track obscure running events with little coverage, to interact more with other runners and dreamers, and to make strides in developing my own content. I had some great opportunities with work which allowed me valuable professional growth. My wife and I moved from one community to another in New Mexico.
Annie and I also did some wonderful traveling in 2016, highlighted by a camping trip in Colorado where we camped in the great outdoors in five different national and state parks, attended my 10 year college reunion in Colorado Springs, and visited my 92 year old Grandmother in Flagstaff, Arizona.
I gained new appreciation for being able to run, when a knee injury which forced me to stop running for two months. Being injured pushed me to prioritize strength training to aid recovery and injury prevention.
I became a better athlete in the process. I was able to come back and finish my first ultra race at the end of the year.
Even with the injury, I ended up racing five times in 2016.
3M Half Marathon, Austin, TX
January – 1:18:17, 24th overall out of 5300, 9th in age group.
The 3M Half Marathon is an extremely fast event which is an ideal precursor for locals gearing up for the Austin Marathon a month later. Going under 1:20 in the half marathon was a long standing goal for me, and all of my training for the previous year was geared to breaking that threshold. The stars aligned at 3M as I had a net-downhill course on a cool Texas morning with a quality running field, so I felt propelled to go for it. I managed to finish with my overall average pace under 6:00/mile, and I felt really motivated about the year ahead, but perhaps a little too motivated. After 3M, I probably tried to rush things by training for a full marathon in less than three months as a precursor to running a summer 50K, but invariably I hit a brick wall in the form of neurosis and patella tendonosis in my right shin and knee respectively. Accepting injury was tough, but I learned a new routine of incorporating cross training into my daily practice and eventually I was able to run again by the summer.
Santa Fe Thunder Half Marathon, NM
September – 1:27:09, 23rd overall out of 1372, 3rd in age group
The Santa Fe Thunder is one of Santa Fe’s largest running events and it’s headlined by the appearance of African athletes who train in the area. As this was my return to racing, I had no plans to run fast. My goal was to run comfortably and finish healthy. This race worked well as a comeback because it’s completely downhill after the first two uphill miles. I matched my pace with another trail runner who was making his own post-injury comeback, and I felt really comfortable holding a 6:30-6:45 conversational pace. Early in the race I wanted to go faster, but the other runner helped me stay restrained. At the nine mile point I decided to throttle up and chase down any runner within my line of vision. At the end of a long distance race this is the best kind of feeling, when you feel good enough to hunt down the runners in front of you.
Sandia Shadows Trail 10K, Albuquerque, NM
October – 49:52, 10th overall out of 126, 2nd in age group.
I was in third place at the half way point, and then I took a wrong turn! The 10K happens to be the event that has eluded me. I have been lost on multiple 10Ks and once I started late because of poor time zone considerations (I forgot the clock jumped ahead during my drive to the starting line). At Sandia, I turned off course along with the second place runner ahead of me. Upon calling out to him that I think we went off course, I realized that the runner in front of me was from Japan and didn’t speak or understand English. I continued to the finish and probably ran closer to seven miles. Nevertheless, this was a training run for me to get used to racing on trails again. On another note, Sandia Shadows is a rare trail event coordinated by the solid RunFit program which organizes community running events almost every week in Albuquerque.
Desert Dash Trail Half Marathon, Las Cruces, NM
November – 1:22:11; Course Record, 1st overall out of 126.
This is a really beautiful event organized by the Asombro Institute for Science Education in the Chihuahuan Nature Park adjacent to Las Cruces. I treated this as a training event, effectively a tempo run on trails and a chance to practice hydrating/eating ahead of my big race at North Face. I often start half marathons at restrained effort to get warmed up and then figure out a rhythm. Once we hit single track after the second mile, I moved into first place which I held for a couple miles and then swapped with Miguel Perez, a really accomplished runner who I had heard of but never met. We stayed together to the halfway point, and then upon turning onto a straight out/back section, I ran ahead and found a pace which I held till the finish line. The idea of winning spurred me to run the second half with increased effort and I had no idea that I would be going for a course record in the process.
The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K, San Francisco, CA
December – 5:19:32, 36th overall out of 505
I recently published three posts describing the experience of my first ultra. Big picture, I am really happy and I feel blessed to have finished the year completing an event which I had been dreaming about for so long.
Goals for 2017
Thinking ahead to 2017, here is a quick lowdown of my major running goals…
- Train consistently (run at least 2000 miles this year, maintain a weekly average above 50 miles/week, rest/cross train on days I plan to rest/cross train). In 2016, I ran 967.8 miles, I maintained a weekly average of about 30 miles/week, I generally rested 2-3 days per week, and almost every week some of these days were unplanned. I also had to take a two month hiatus from any kind of running because of injury. At the end of this past year, I recognized the power of consistent effort and came to realize that results do not materialize for anyone in the short term, no matter their level of talent. I want to race at a higher level, and to get there I need to be consistent with my training over time.
- Finish a road marathon in negative splits. The last time I ran a road marathon was in 2007 at the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. In that race I was able to pull off a Boston qualifier which feels bizarre since my last 10 miles was a death grind. I absolutely want to qualify for Boston and at this point in my life I actually want to race at Boston, but I really want to figure out how to race strong in longer distances without fading in the second half. Thus I want to race the second half at a faster pace. I plan to race two full road marathons this year and the first is going to be the Austin Marathon which is six weeks away.
- Begin working with a running coach. I have worked with coaches before with positive results. Unfortunately, I haven’t developed a long lasting partnership with a coach, and I believe an effective coaching relationship should be long-term. At this point I’m designing my own training plans, and this works great with making training work alongside my busy schedule. However, I think I will benefit from astute insight for figuring out how to tackle greater challenges, and the perspective of a knowledgeable person who can help me over a period of years.
- Posture myself for longer ultras in 2018. This year I don’t plan to run anything longer than 60km, but in 2018 I really hope to race a 50 mile event. The 50 mile distance is a much truer ultra distance than 50-60km and really the next level for me in terms of doing something new and challenging. Plus to have any aspirations of attending big level races, like CCC in France or the epic 100 mile races, 50 miles is the next logical stepping stone. One school of thought says I should just race 50 miles this year since I already completed a 50K. In my opinion, to give the longer ultras my best effort, I still need to figure out how to optimally race the marathon and 50K, and that’s why they are going to be my primary focus this year.