In November of 2012, I decided I was going to start running … and I made a handful of halting little tries. On and off throughout December, mostly walking, I think I wound up with 18 total miles in 6 weeks. But, I had registered for a 5K in March of 2013 and, struggle to move though I might, I made my mind hold on to the goal.
On January 1, 2013, in the middle of the afternoon, I drove to a local trail and ran a bit over a mile-and-a-half out and turned around and ran back – 3.1 miles. I mention the afternoon because that’s why I was on the trail instead of the road; running in the daytime was something I didn’t do much because I was embarrassed to be seen. That “baseline 5K” took me 49 minutes and 30 seconds, for a 15:43 / mile pace.
But I did it. And it felt good. And it made me start thinking that I could do it. And so, on January 3rd, I got up at 5am, bundled up, walked out of the house, and made it about half a mile before the cold drove me back in. Epic fail. But I went back out on the 4th, and then the 5th, and then the 6th. Eventually it became a habit, and then a bunch of goals … and it has since become, if not a passion, at least a hobby.
The rest is history.
In 2013, I went for a run 181 times, for a total of 679.7 miles – an average of 3.75 miles per run. I ran in 11 races, including a 4K, five 5Ks, two 10Ks, a 15K, a half marathon, and a Ragnar. I ran races in Central Park in the snow, on the beach in Los Angeles, on the runway of JFK airport in Queens, through the countryside of southeast Tennessee, and down the boardwalk of Virginia Beach. I’ve done training runs at the beach at the Hamptons on Long Island, down Duke of Glouchester Street in Colonial Williamsburg (dodging horse *ahem* piles the whole way), and in rural Arkansas. My 5K PR is now 31 minutes and 15 seconds – a full 18 minutes (18 minutes!) faster than that January 1 baseline.
And I lost 38.4 pounds. I went from an XXL (and sometimes XXXL) shirt to an XL … 48 inch (and sometimes 50) pants to 42 inch (and sometimes 40). From the last hole on my belt to the first hole on my belt. Well north to well south of 300 pounds.
2014 is going to bring bigger and better things – I’m putting pen to that paper now – but I believe that New Year’s Eve, and this week between Christmas and New Year, is a time to reflect on the past year. Upon reflection, I’m proud of this one.
So, this week happened to include a major holiday. A major holiday typically marked by things like big meals. And candy. So much candy.
Weekly Gain / (Loss): 1.0 pounds
Total Gain / (Loss): (52.6 pounds)
Weekly Mileage: 22.37
And, given the aforementioned major holiday, this was not a surprise. Any gain is always a disappointment, but I’m not devastated here, because I somewhat expected it. I am clearly on a plateau – I’ve been basically the same weight, plus or minus 2 or 3 pounds, since the end of July, so five months now. That’s mostly a food phenomenon, and I know it. BUT – we’re through the holidays now, which makes keeping the eating under control easier … and the mileage is getting ready to ramp up. So I’m optimistic.
On a positive note, that was a new record for my weekly mileage. I also set a record for longest ever run – 14 miles this morning. Overall, I was very happy with the run – the half marathon split would have been a PR by nearly 15 minutes – but the last mile was a shuffle. What that run did for me was demonstrate two things: 1.) how much stronger I am than I was, and 2.) how far I have to go. After mile 14, the thought of going another 12 (point 2) seems … out of reach. Gotta keep working.
The mileage officially starts ramping up now – barring injury or something crazy, I’ll be doing 30 mile weeks within a month. Coupled with a re-doubled focus on food intake, and I’m thinking that I can get some momentum going on the weight loss – which will make those miles seem easier.
Incidentally – I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of guy – but look for a goals-type post coming up. A preview – regular blogging is a goal.
I’m not going to call this week good, but it also wasn’t bad. Let’s just go with “not bad”.
Weekly Gain / (Loss): (0.4 pounds)
Total Gain / (Loss): (53.6 pounds)
Weekly Mileage: 20.3
I’m going to start posting mileage now, too. Part of the point of all of this is to generate a touch of accountability to the 5 of you that are regularly seeing this (also – hi!), and that should extend to the mileage as well.
This week involved work travel for me, which is always a very dangerous thing. For whatever reason, leaving for a trip has always felt like “no rules” time for me, and I struggle to turn that off even for very short business trips. Also, on these trips I’m not always in control of food selection, so that hurts, too.
And this week was Cincinnati, so … Skyline Chili, yes. Montgomery Inn, yes. (Pro-tip – when they come around and offer to put the bib on you, let them.) Unobstructed access to chocolate in the meeting room, yes. BUT – salad in the airport coming back, also yes. Running my miles (even though I had to use a treadmill), yes. And generally not screwing up too badly – yes.
So I lost a touch of weight this week, which was good. This upcoming week, which of course includes Christmas, will also be challenging, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself. One of the reasons that we do all of this is so that we can enjoy ourselves on Christmas. And I intend to enjoy myself, and re-double efforts with food after the holiday.
12-mile run for the long run, and overall it felt very good. I was in a good mental place for the distance, which helps – because after awhile that just becomes a mental exercise. If you’ve done a swift burst of math, you’ll notice that this week I only ran 8 miles outside of my long run – and those would have been the treadmill sessions. Thursday and Friday, when I was scheduled to do another 3 or 4 miles, just didn’t happen. I’ve got to stop letting those fall through the cracks.
Mileage is ramping now – 14 miles scheduled for next weekend, 15 the weekend after that. So it begins.
Six times. In the last just over a year of running, I’ve been required (or at least made the decision) to run on a treadmill just six times.
Those include the last two days.
Seriously – I don’t know how people do it. If all of my miles had to be run like the 5 miles I ran today or the 3 I ran yesterday, I’d have quit months ago. Give me the fresh air and the scenery and, you know, real movement.
New York Road Runner’s races have always intimidated me. Based on what you see online, as well as what I saw when I visited as a spectator, this seems like an elite group of runners. So I’ve been reluctant to register for an NYRR race, if for no other reason than that I felt like I had to lose some more weight and get faster before I wouldn’t stick out. This one, however, just called to me, for several reasons. First – I needed a December race and this fit one of the only open time slots. Second – relatively rare distance, so automatic PR. Third – Central Park in December. So … I registered.
Controversy at the start. The weather, it was not so great. The temps were in the mid- to upper -20s, and up to 3” of snow was being forecast in the area for Saturday. However, and this was how I made my personal call, the snow was not supposed to really start in earnest until late morning or early afternoon. Well, the weather people got that wrong – about the time the race started, the snow started going strong. Many people felt that the combination of the temperatures and the snow should have led the NYRR to call off (or at least postpone) the race, or declare it a “fun run.”
The NYRR has a program for its members called the 9+1 program – if a member registers for and runs 9 qualifying NYRR races throughout the year, they get a guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon. The Ted Corbitt Classic 15K is the last 9+1 qualifying race of the year, and many people counted on it to complete those requirements. Now, if the NYRR decides to cancel the race or call it a “fun run,” those that were registered for it didn’t need to actually run it to get their 9+1 credit. However, the decision was made to run this as a scored race as planned – and some folks who had to commute down to NYC to make it (like, for instance, me – though I wasn’t meeting any requirements) were pretty upset. They believed that it was unsafe to travel and the NYRR should have called it.
For my part, I had exactly zero problems commuting. Metro North is a beautiful thing. It was, however, holy balls cold. In order to minimize the time I was required to kill outside, I went into the city and picked up my bib on Friday afternoon – and I was glad I did. People everywhere.
We got lined up in our starting corrals, heard a couple of words from the President of the NYRR, the Star Spangled Banner, and we’re off. Those of us near the back had to wait about 5 minutes to get to the starting line, but the crowds thinned out pretty quickly – I had no problem running whatever pace I wanted. Because late arrivers and late registrants had to start at the back of the line, there were several people blowing by me at the beginning. It was not easy to keep it in check and start at an appropriate pace.
My overall impression throughout the race, and particularly in the early going, is that I wasn’t prepared. My two recent down weeks are still lingering. I also made some pretty basic mistakes. I had my usual pre-race oatmeal, but that wound up being nearly three and a half hours before I started running, so was probably gone. I didn’t eat anything after that, and probably didn’t have enough water. I also only brought one gel, when I routinely eat two and sometimes three of them on runs this long. I was basically running on a low fuel tank the whole time, and my energy levels made that very clear. After the race was over I got very light-headed, and had to sit for some time. If we’re thinking of races like this as practice for the marathon or other longer distances, I learned some very valuable lessons.
I also made the mistake of not adequately, um, eliminating prior to the race. #1 AND #2. Let us just say things got uncomfortable and move on from here.
Having said all of that, the run itself was quite gorgeous. The course is two loops around Central Park, starting at 102nd Street on the east side, crossing over and running down the west side, and then doing one loop at 72nd Street and then the other farther down, near 59th Street. That’s a pretty dramatic course under normal circumstances – Strawberry Fields, the Columbus Statue, the Fred Lebow Statue, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, etc. and etc.
Now add snow. It was beautiful.
Central Park is known for rolling hills, which I overall found to not be too bad. The only one that was rough was coming up the east side, between the 72nd Street traverse and the Met. I remember on the first loop thinking how much that hill was going to suck on the second loop. And I was right. But it is clearly a known commodity, because there were several people and groups lined up from the bottom to the top, encouraging us to “keep pushing up this hill.” Those people were great. They helped. And I gutted out that hill (and the last two miles, really) without ever walking. It was a great feeling to top out and know that I’d done that without walking – I’d conquered it, physically AND mentally.
I ran this at an 11:47 / mile pace, which is slower than I would have liked but really all I could expect given the last month of training. My finish was way near the bottom – out of 4,280 finishers, only about 260 finished behind me – which does prove out the theory that the people that run these things in NYC are no joke. This probably wasn’t helped by the weather, either – the people that came out to this one were the people that were willing to run in that weather. I’ve got to believe that will skew the finish times faster.
Methinks I’m now over my fear of the NYRR, so we’ll see what is out there going forward. I’ll certainly have this one on the list going forward – I hope I get to do it again next year.
– At 3.22 miles on my watch (and about 8.5 miles for them) – the leaders lapped us. Even knowing they got a 5 minute or so head start as we were making our way down the corrals – holy crap. No, seriously – holy crap. By the time I got done running they were somewhere having brunch.
– Running in the snow is peaceful and beautiful when it is a gentle, straight down snow or when the wind is relatively low and coming from behind you. When it is blowing in your face? Not so much.
– Really disappointed in how poorly I handled the fueling situation. That was just a very preventable problem, and I won’t make that mistake again.
– Really happy, though, with my last two miles (including that big hill) – those miles were more mental than they were physical, and I was proud of having toughed it out. Turning the corner to see the finish line was glorious, though.
– In my head, I’d expected a nice, peaceful subway ride up to 103rd Street from Grand Central, and a slightly snowy but mostly solitary stroll from the subway station over to the park. I have no idea where I got that silly idea, but, yeah, I was wrong. The 6-train was PACKED with runners. Bibs and running shoes everywhere. And it was worse going back the other way. I guess I’m a romantic – but my romanticism got shat upon this go ‘round.
– Based on my watch, my time at the 10K split would have knocked between three and four minutes off of my 10K PR. NYRR doesn’t do an official 10K split, though, so it doesn’t count. Feels good to know that I’m steadily improving.
– NYRR doesn’t really do SWAG – it keeps costs down for the races, which is part of their mission. All I got for this one was a long-sleeved cotton shirt. However, it was a very nice long-sleeved cotton shirt, with understated logos and sponsor logos. Also, it turns out I’m a big fan of bibs that are custom for individual races – colors and race names. I keep a scrapbook of my bibs, and the custom ones are so much more interesting to see.
– That was December’s race, which means the streak is up to 10 months. January, February, March, and April have also been registered for, so … onward!
– Next Race – Frosty 5k, Guilford, Connecticut … January 1.
It is amazing how getting back at it makes a huge and immediate difference. In the last two weeks I’ve gotten back almost everything I had lost … and if this upcoming week is simply the exact same as this one then I’ll be at my low weight again and right back on track.
So … this is going to be another good week. Traveling for work this week, which is typically difficult for me to manage, particularly with food. But there is no time like now to figure it out, is there?
Long run this week was a race, the Ted Corbitt Classic 15K in Central Park. The short version is that it was a snowy race and the park was beautiful. I’ll post a race report at some point this week.
(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it. I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date. This was a good 5K, in Bethlehem, PA. This report was written in September, 2013. This is also the last “make-up” race report – anything posted after this one will be new stuff…)
So, I hadn’t run a 5K since early May, which was still relatively early in my running “career” … or at least in the sense that my mileage has dramatically increased since then. I was looking forward to this one, then, because it was pretty much a certain PR, in what was expected to be ideal conditions for a 5K.
There were probably in the neighborhood of 800 runners total at the race, which includes the folks that ran the 10K. It was, as expected, a beautiful morning, with a start/finish area near a stream underneath a huge, arching bridge … just a nice way to start a fall morning. Temps were a bit warmer than I would have thought – probably upper 50s / lower 60s, but once the sun came up the day warmed up well into the 70s.
Thanks for coming, national anthem, 3-2-1, gun. Lots of walkers, and there hadn’t been any discussion for them about lining up at the back and staying to the right, so the start was a bit of chaos. About the time that lined out we headed uphill for our only real climb, and then looped back around near the start line. At about a mile and a quarter, we went off onto a crushed gravel trail, and I was quite happy at the 5K / 10K split to be making the turn back to the start. Not that I didn’t feel good, just that I was running at a pace that was quite unsustainable for much more than the 5K. I wound up on a bit of an island for the last mile or so – nobody really in contact behind me, and the people in front of me quite aways up there. I almost reeled one of them in, but just ran out of course.
So the goal had been to try and really push throughout the race, and that’s what happened. I deliberately haven’t been listing my actual times on these reports, but this time it is relevant to the story – I finished in almost exactly 31 minutes (official results not yet posted – this is my Forerunner), which knocked 6 full minutes (six!)(count ‘em!) off of my previous PR. My stated goal was what I felt to be an almost inevitable 35 minutes, with my “outside chance” goal of 33 minutes being my real hope. At around mile 2 I knew I was going to be able to get to that, and the question was whether I’d have enough of a kick to push 30 minutes – the holy grail of fat guy 5K goals. Didn’t quite get there, but I am very happy with this race.
– I registered for this one back in January, as part of my “register for the whole season at once” strategy for making sure I’d be prepared for the Ragnar. As a result, I was bib #2. More than one person noticed.
– Also, I didn’t realize that this race was part of a bigger event – the Celtic Classic is one of the largest Celtic heritage festivals in the country. The national championship Highland Games were there (and watching those guys throw the hammers was amazing), and we got to watch the parade with all of the pipe bands. My two-year old was completely enthralled. By the end of the day my legs were screaming at me, but it was an awfully good day.
– Met an interesting guy while we were waiting for the start – he lives fairly close to me, and is on his third time running through the country. He’d already done a marathon and a half-marathon in all 50 states, and was working his way through again running 10Ks – this was Pennsylvania. Fascinating guy to talk with – he’d started running in the 80s as a coping mechanism when he quit smoking, and it just never stopped.
– As happy as I was with my time, it didn’t take long to get humbled. I went and got my water and cookie, and just about the time I got back to cheer for more finishers … the 10K winners came through. Like 5 or 6 minutes behind me. They did 100% more distance in less than 20% more time. Yikes – I gotta keep working. 30 minute 5K or bust.
– Interesting swag – cotton shirt with the same logo this race has had for several years, the standard local coupons, pens, candy, used deck of playing cards from the local casino, and a light bulb (?).
– I’d already had September covered for the monthly streak, so I’m still at 7. I am officially registered for races in each month between now and March, and I’ve already got April and May picked out – so unless something happens, it’ll get to 15. As always, nobody is threatened by this at all.
I knew I was having a good week, but this is ridiculous – and teaches me a lesson. First, as always, the numbers:
One Week Gain / (Loss): (6.4 pounds)
Total Gain / (Loss): (50.8 pounds)
As I wrote in last week’s weigh-in, I rededicated myself to tracking my Weight Watcher’s points this week – and I was able to do that. Didn’t even use my “bonus” 49 weekly points. But then I also hit the streets hard running again this week, too. I did miss one little 2 mile run, on the cold and rainy Friday morning, but I’m not going to beat myself up about that.
This morning I officially got right back on the marathon training schedule and did my scheduled 10-miler. This was only the third time I’ve gone at least this far – and the other two were the half-marathon and the long run in preparation for the half-marathon. My run overall was strong-ish, especially considering that I’ve basically taken a month off. There is no way I can expect to come back and run these miles fast – I just have to be prepared to ease into them. And that, in general happened today. I did not negative split this one like I have some of my long runs in the past, but my two strongest miles based on time (as well as perception as I was running) were mile 4 and mile 8. So … I’ll absolutely take it.
So here’s what I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks: be skeptical about the scale. I just don’t think I lost over 6 legitimate pounds of fat this week. This was about water retention primarily, with some timing thrown in. Not that I hadn’t gained weight, just that if I can knock 6 pounds off all at once then it wasn’t exactly hard-to-reach fat, was it?
That also means that I really hadn’t gained 10 pounds over the last 4 weeks, either. Yes, if I hadn’t taken the right steps, then that would have become permanent. But if I just went by the scale, I’d have thought I was failing miserably and been tempted to give it up … at least until after the holidays. Instead, I put my head back down and had an amazing week. There is a lesson in that. If only I could articulate it.
Next weekend is the 15K in Central Park, which I’m now much more optimistic about. In the meantime – 6 pounds! Yay!
(I’m a member of the Running Fools board over on The Motley Fool, and when I started running again they were the ones I went to to talk about it. I’ve made it a point to do race reports after my events … and I’m going to be posting those throwback reports here to get us up-to-date. This was my first half marathon, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This report was written in September, 2013.)
And the longer version isn’t all that different from the short version – it was a miserably hot and humid day. They’re reporting that one person died (though that wasn’t necessarily the heat … it happened at the first mile marker and there was a lot of blood, apparently) and thirteen people had to be taken to the hospital with things like dehydration, heat stroke, etc. A week ago they were forecasting a high of 80, and it wound up being more like 90 and brutal humidity. Yeah.
My training, I think, was spot on. My really long run was a negative split 11-miler two weeks before the race. My taper went as planned, and I felt strong. I had the traditional pasta carbo-load the night before, and my traditional race morning breakfast of steel-cut oats. I couldn’t have done anything differently … I believe that.
The race started “right,” too. Miles 1, 2, & 3 were all the exact same pace and were exactly my goal pace. Mile 4 was only 10 seconds slower, but that was the mile where we had the hill. And mile 5 was about 45 seconds slower, but that was the first water stop that I actually used (I was carrying a water bottle so skipped the first handful of stops). So, through mile 5, my times reflect that my race strategy was going perfectly.
And then I completely melted down in Mile 6, and ran that mile and each subsequent mile nearly 2 minutes per mile slower than my goal pace. Holy crap. It was at the 10k split that I knew my “outside chance” goal was off the table, and by Mile 9 I knew my stated race goal was a goner. I and the people around me were like the walking dead at that point, shuffling through as best we could. By the time we got to the boardwalk for the last mile to the finish we were mostly only running when we saw photographers or because it just seemed like we should have.
I’d expected a total zoo in the chute after the finish line, but it wasn’t so bad – tons of people and tons of help. I almost passed out at one point before I got some food in me. But, well, I did it. I found out my chip time when I had it engraved on the back of my medal – which is something I felt I should do for my first half-marathon – and I wound up being just under 10 minutes slower than my stated goal time. But some friends I was running the race with confirmed what Kevin said in the link above – EVERYBODY runs this thing 15 – 30 minutes slower than they normally would. Which means I’m ecstatic about my finish.
Now for a bit of the personal before my usual notes – in April of 2012 I saw one of those pictures that you read about where I didn’t recognize myself, I’d gotten so fat. I stepped on a scale and the number scared me to death, and I signed up for Weight Watchers that week. I lost 35 pounds pretty quickly, but after a difficult summer gained 20 of it back just as quickly. I was in a funk and didn’t know what to do about it. And then a friend emailed me and told me about this Ragnar Relay he had just run and how much fun it was … and suggested that I might want to do it. And when I asked him if he thought I could, he said 100% and then said one of the more important things anybody has ever said to me. He said “and when you do, you’ll be one of the select few people who are able to say they actually followed through.” The running got me out of my funk, and since April of 2012 I have lost 55 pounds and completed a half-marathon that sent people to the hospital. And in October I’m going to run that Ragnar and follow through.
And it feels good.
– I either overestimated how much entertainment there was going to be on the course or underestimated how important my iPod is to my training – because I missed it badly. I listen to audiobooks, not music, so it is merely a distraction and not an adrenaline boost – but there were times I could have used the distraction. I now have to determine whether I want to stop using it during my training or go ahead and use it during all future races.
– Even though I’ve spent years down there and I know it, it is always jarring to be reminded how much of a military town Virginia Beach is. The absolute best were the Navy guys at the Mile 5 water stop singing Anchors Aweigh – absolutely incredible. And there was also the man (and his daughters) running in honor of his son and carrying an American Flag through the race. To Kevin and all of the others on this board that have served or are serving – thank you for your sacrifice and your service.
– That was the last time I’ll ever run in that pair of shoes – which is the only one I’ve had since I started back up. 415 miles on those shoes, which means 415 miles since last November. In the grand scheme of things that is a relatively small number. But two years ago it might as well have been 4 million.
– I took nearly twice the GU that I normally do and it didn’t even move the needle. Did I mention it was hot and humid?
– Of course, because this was a Rock ‘n’ Roll event, holy crap there was a lot of support. The race swag was cool, and this was my first race expo. Which I enjoyed a rather lot. I am irrationally excited to be in legitimate possession of a 13.1 sticker.
– Having Frank Shorter at the start line was more motivational to me than I thought it would be. Seriously – there was an Olympic Gold Medalist right there. Smiling at us.
– Seven months in a row running a race, with races scheduled for October, November, and December. I’ll get to 10, at which point, all bets are off.
– I am officially announcing that I have signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in March. It’s not that I’m partial to the Rock ‘n’ Roll folks, but more that the timing and the location worked with my calendar. My long runs are going to have to hurt less than that half did for me to stay excited about that distance.
– Next race: Celtic Classic 5k … and I intend to improve my 5k PR by several minutes. Seriously – I’m going to try and bomb this one.