Sunday, December 29, 2019

Check out my first blog post 785 days!

Time for the year-end review; and this time, bonus years! 2017-2019, all rolled into one. Now I don’t have to listen to any more comments around the dinner table at holidays about how I don’t write any more. To be honest, I spent plenty of time writing since my last post on November 5, 2017. If you’d like to read some of it, head over here.


Not a whole lot to say about 2017 that wasn’t said then. I ended the year by dropping out of the Marine Corps Marathon—my first DNF. I took time off for the rest of the year, running less than two dozen times before the year ended. The end.


We moved to Earlysville in March. I thought I’d be able to run out here, but it turns out I need to be physically fit in order to be mentally fit enough to run repeats in cult de sacs. I messed around for a while, never gaining fitness, until the summer when I finally started to run with some regularity. I participated in the United Ways Relay at Albemarle High School, a 4x800 meter relay carnival. Without looking it up, I recall that the warm-up was my longest run in a while, followed immediately by the cool down, which was much longer. I was gassed afterwards.

I started a new job in July (still with Albemarle County Public Schools) and successfully proposed for my capstone in September, which slowed my running back down again. The fall and winter were spent writing and researching, and I kept on not running. Right before Thanksgiving, I joined a cult, F3. On Monday mornings for a while, I was going to Hollymead Elementary school at 5:30 AM to do push-ups, bear crawls, and carry around cinder blocks. It was nice to have some “fellowship” when I was at the low point of my fitness, especially considering the stuff we were working on wasn’t stuff that I was particularly good at even when I was in good running shape.

In December, I participated in the Bill Steers Men’s 4 Miler. It was rock bottom for me, a real wake-up call. I was barely able to break 24-minutes for the four miles, lost to Matt, Shawn and Stew, and almost lost to John and Mateo. It was a lot of fun and reminded me of how much I love running races, but man, it was a disaster. Nonetheless, it got me motivated for 2019.


The thing about being at rock bottom is that you have no where to go but up. Barely able to make it four miles in six-minute pace, I decided that I needed to run ten miles faster. The plan was to run the New Year’s Day race in Free Union, the Haven 8K, and then the Charlottesville 10 Miler. Each race would be faster. I was going to go to cult meetings on Mondays and Thursdays (a new running-focused cult meeting), run on Wednesdays with the Dad Running Club (we reunited), and do a longer run on either Saturday or Sunday, but run both days. Tuesday and Friday I’d take off.

January 1 started off right at the Free Union Footrace. Barely under 18 minutes but a solid effort. I finished third after going through the mile in maybe 5th? 1st place was a very talented D3 runner visiting his girlfriend and Peyton got 2nd. I went out too fast but held on without dying too hard.

I got my long runs up to 15-17 miles leading up to the Haven 8k, where I improved my place to 2nd behind Thomas. I was running behind Ann for the first mile, and honestly worried that Laura was going to beat me during the last mile. She was closing on me, partially because I was dying and partially because a car almost hit me as I went into an intersection that was poorly guarded by a volunteer.

The week between the Haven and the Charlottesville 10 Miler, I went out to Green Springs and threw down a 19+ mile long run. It was the most fun I’d had all year long. I wish that I could do it each week. I don’t think it had much of an impact one me as I went to the 10 Miler and accomplished my goal of breaking 60 minutes. I got 20th place and ran 58:41. It’s probably the slowest I’ve ever run for 10 miles (except for Hartwood days). It was tough, but I was happy to accomplish my goal. After that, the spring racing season was over and it was back to low miles and writing like a machine. I had a deadline to make.

I finished writing in the spring and successfully defended in May, less than two weeks shy of the deadline to graduate that month, but that didn’t matter. The degree was conferred at the defense, according to my committee. I spent the day celebrating and went to the beach for Memorial Day weekend carefree for the first time in years!

Summer Racing Season

I started off the summer running the Bruce Barnes Mile. I’d heard it was fast but had no clue how fast it would be. Sean ran like 3:52 there before, and Alec has run 4:03, each of which is insane. The week of, I went to the track to attempt some 400s at five-minute pace and felt optimistic about my chances. The race was faster than I could have thought. I wanted to go out in 72 with the pack, but instead hit a 67 and was in 5th place! Thomas was way ahead and I just decided to stay in the game as long as I could since I’d already gone in head first. I ended up going 67, 2:16, 3:23, 4:31 to get passed at the line by a kid half my age. But again, so much fun.

Two weeks later, I was back at the United Ways Relay. I thought I’d do better than last time, but it didn’t go much better. We had a rag-tag group after several people were injured or had to stay with their dog because it bit another dog, but in the end, the ladies ran faster than I did. And one of those ladies was pregnant! Stew crushed it though, running something like a 58 for his first lap.
I spent the end of June trying to decide what to do on July 4, whether to race in Fredericksburg or Charlottesville. I think I made the right choice not going after the white whale, as Tim ran very fast there and I ran very slowly here. I got 2nd at the Kiwanis 5K at Hollymead after going out way too hard behind a dude in compression shorts and no shirt. He was on the track team at Penn and looked much younger and fitter. But I ran much faster than I had in January, so that was a win. If I’d gone out more slowly, I might have been able to get under seventeen minutes, but I didn’t and it was hot.

Things were going pretty well though. I decided that I was going to run the half-marathon in Richmond, and was using the summer months to get fit. I also committed to running with the Charlottesville F3 team for the Colonial 200, a relay race from Preddy Creek Park in Albemarle to Jamestown Beach in Williamsburg. But one morning at the track, I pulled my hamstring and then pulled the plug on Richmond. Then, at the beginning of September, a week before the relay, I hurt myself again at F3, doing mountain climbers of all things. It was sore that day, but really manifested the next morning in the midst of a nineteen mile long run that I quit after ten miles.

Gloom Horn Explosion

I ran two times between that and the relay, and thought I’d be able to make it through. My first leg was 8 miles in Fluvanna. Fifteen minutes in, I heard a pop in my calf. I hobbled the rest of the way through (in 6:32 pace) and then put my leg on ice for as long as I could. I was supposed to run a longer leg for my second turn, but my van made some accommodations for me and I bumped down to 3.8 miles in Hanover. That run was even more painful than the one where my leg popped, as my form was a mess and I hobbled around in the dark for a half-hour. But I went as hard as I could, running 9:07, 7:49, 6:59 and 7:22 pace starting at 10:23 PM. Spooky.

Back on the ice, we went to a hotel near the Diamond and slept for about 15 minutes before we had to head off to start the last round of legs for Van #2. I was first up. We’d been studying the rules and my plan to was to start, and if I needed to drop out, someone from Van #1 (Wolverine) would finish for me since no one in my van would be able to without cheating. I took it out in what felt like a very slow pace, and tried to focus on getting my form as close to normal as possible. I ended up finish the whole leg, as I never felt like it was going to get worse than it already was. That nine-mile leg through Charles City started in the dark but finished in day-light. I found a cell phone which I later recycled for like $20 at a kiosk at the mall.

We ended up winning the whole race by something close to two hours, I think. They stagger it so that the fastest team starts last, which was us, and we passed our first team on the 10th leg (I ran leg #9). There was a team that was running fast and started earlier than us, but despite how much we worried about it, we were never really in danger. I had grand aspirations of live blogging during the race or taking a GoPro and recording all our wacky hijinks, but the injury a week out really put a damper on my mood. Matt asked me last week if I looked back on the experience fondly, which I do, and I’d like to do it again next year if I can.

When it was over, I took off two weeks completely. Then I ran one mile and felt pain, took off two more days, ran another mile, and called the doctor. I was diagnosed with “Tennis Leg,” which is apparently a real thing. Bob Wilder told me to take another two weeks off but that I could cross train. One day I went to aqua jog, but that hurt too, and another day, I rode my bike while the DRC ran, which was just a nuisance. I started my return with a week of walk-jogs, and then after 2 weeks, ran 4 miles and was told by my watch to take 3 days recovery for 7:19 pace. Pathetic!

Fall racing season

I stuck to running for a while after F3 seemed to keep me in the injury cycle (no way I can pretend that it is F3’s fault). Since I wasn’t going to run Richmond, I signed up for the inaugural County/City Connecting Communities 5K at Hollymead, a race for which I served on the organizing committee. It was free and I knew that Stew wasn’t able to run, so I thought I had a chance to win. Van #2 swept the top two spots, as I wore a t-shirt to hide my fat from the cold (it was REALLY cold and windy). I ran much slower than I did on July 4, but that makes a lot of sense when you consider how little I’d been running again.

One week later I went to my favorite race of the year, the Wattey. This is a two-mile cross-country race at Panorama Farms, running the same loop as the kids run for the Ragged Mountain Cup. It’s the one time a year that I put on spikes and really make myself suffer. It was cold again, and there was some humidity in the air as they were calling for rain, but the weather was all-in-all more pleasant than it was the week before. I saw Andy before the race, so I knew that I had no shot of winning like I had last week. Honestly, the fact that I even though I could win real races this fall just shows how delusional I am. I ended up running pretty well, despite how slow it was. Andy went out hard running away from a recent WAHS grad, Tommy. An older guy and two other kids also went out ahead of me. It was only two miles, but there was a lot of time to think. The older guy came back after 800, and I was sitting behind these two kids at the mile. Going through in 5:45, I laughed and said out loud to them, “didn’t it seem faster than that?”

I moved past them quickly and saw Tommy coming back hard on the long hill that is the regular course’s starting straight. I gave it everything that I had to catch him over that last mile, but coming down the finish straight, I knew I didn’t have it and shut it down, as you can see.

Last but not least was the Earlysville Turkey Trot. I was again delusional in thinking that I might win this race, even though I caught a cold from running around in the wet grass at Panorama a few days before. Spoiler alert, I didn’t win, I got 4th and ran slower than I had at Hollymead two weeks before. But I think the course at Hollymead is short and the course in Earlysville is long. My pace was faster on Turkey Day. They had a race within the race, where Ann Dunn got a head start while dressed as a turkey, and you’d get a special prize if you beat her. I didn’t know about this beforehand, thus I didn’t warn KC and the boys. So I needed to make sure that I was ahead of her before I got to my street so they didn’t think I was losing to a turkey (Henry has never let it go that I lost to a monkey chasing a banana at Marine Corps.) I ran the tangents and tried to be smart about it, but I was still toast for the last mile.

Wrapping up

I managed to write all of this about a year where I didn’t even run 1600 miles. Even though the training wasn’t there, I still participated in 10 races and had a lot of run at each one. I’ve gotten injured a hand full of times from pushing when I shouldn’t have or doing something stupid (like falling down the stairs). Eight months ago, I was planning to run a half marathon in the fall and then a marathon this coming spring. I didn’t run the half and I’m definitely not running a full any time soon. 2020 is going to be a down year for running, as we’re expecting two additional members of the family in January, and I’m not talking about puppies. I'm running the January 1 5K in Free Union again, but beyond that, you will have to check back in a year to see if I go running again.

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