Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A year of running in review

2013, you have been AWESOME. This has honestly been one of the best years of my life. There have been so many good things that have happened throughout the year that it would take days of typing to capture it all. So let's keep it relatively simple by highlighting one of my favorite subjects: running.

As you may recall, I challenged myself to run 31 5k races this year. I really dedicated myself to running this year because I wanted to see what kind of success I could have if I focused just on running. Let's take a peek back at the action.
Scarborough Frozen 5k

January (1)
#1: Scarborough Frozen 5k. It was the first month of the year, so that must mean there was plenty of time to spare. I only needed to average 2.5 races per month throughout the year, so what's the hurry? It was January, and it was cold. So really there was no hurry.

February (0)
My January attitude trickled into February. There was plenty of time, so why freeze my ass off running when I could freeze my ass off while ice fishing with friends? Or better yet, why not just stay inside? I'm not really sure what I did, but running races wasn't it.

March (2)
With the weather warming a bit and 5ks becoming a little more plentiful, I decided to get running. I also started marathon training towards the end of the month. 
#2: The Irish Road Rover 5k: The first race I'd done in awhile that had a decent hill. The run up Munjoy Hill crushed me as I felt heavy and slow. Other people must have felt the same way because I still won my age group. Definitely wasn't pretty.
#3: The Great Scot Trot 5k: A 5k to support the Bonny Eagle High School cross-country team. Flat out-and-back course that saw me beating the brother of an old high school nemesis. Also got the age group win. Take the victories when you can get 'em.

April (1)
#4: Save Our Swinging Bridge 5k: This was a fun race in Topsham, Maine. We ran over a historic swinging bridge and looped through some neighborhoods. The prizes consisted of gift cards to local places which was really nice.

May (5)
Patriot 5k. On the right, with cheese.
This is where things start to pick up. I'm in the middle of marathon training so my fitness is getting much better. Tessa also started working for a new company that conveniently had a corporate track team, which would allow me to relive the glory days of old. The track meets started in June, but there was a fundraiser 5k in May.
#5: ERA for MDA 5k: A fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association put on by my Dad's company. Nice and flat out and back course along the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine.
#6: Sea Dog Mother's Day 5k: The first race of the year that had plenty of excellent competition. Pleased with my 17:09 as it was closer to the 17-minute barrier.
#7: Patriot 5k: One of my all-time favorite races. It takes place in Gray, Maine right in the middle of
track season. There is always a great turnout of kids I coach, their parents, and people from the Gray community. The course is relatively flat and loops around Crystal Lake. Good stuff.
#8: Maine Corporate Track Association 5k: The fundraiser for the corporate track program. Got to meet my coach and future teammates while running a 17:03, which was my fastest time to date.
#9: Back Cove Series, Week 1: During the summer, there is a weekly race around the Back Cove in Portland. It runs 14 weeks and only costs $20 for the entire series. Definitely a no-brainer as I try to run 31 5ks this year.

June (2)
#10: Back Cove Series, Week 2: Never fast on the dirt path, but a good way to "practice."
#11: Sea Dog Father's Day 5k: Same course as the Mother's Day race in May but for prostate cancer instead. These are fun races as you finish inside the Portland Sea Dog's Stadium.

July (4)
#12: Back Cove Series, Week 6: The one and only of these weekly races I won this summer, in large part due to all the "studs" taking the day off for the following day's Fourth of July races.
#13: Back Cove Series, Week 9: Not much to report here. Same ole' same ole.
#14: Maine Corporate Track Association State Meet: The 5k was the first event of the day, and I intended to run it relatively easy. But I was challenged so the effort was a good one in the early morning heat. I finished the day running the 800m, 1600m, and various distance medley relays. Maybe the most fun I've ever had racing as the team was incredible in so many ways. Not to mention we took home the corporate state championship!
#15 Back Cove Series, Week 10: Four days after the state meet, this was more of a recovery run of sorts.

August (4)
#16: Back Cove Series, Week 11: Not much to report other than the Back Bay was getting a little boring.
#17: Back Cove Series, Week 12: A tempo-paced run getting me ready for the next 5k...
#18: Breakaway 5k: You can read the race report here, but this was the race I finally broke the 17-minute barrier in 16:58. Just an awesome race.
#19: Back Cove Series, Week 14: The last week of the Back Cove Series. I finished 5th overall in the standings, meaning I had the 5th fastest average time (minimum 6 races). Glad that this was the last one of these races for awhile, but it also meant summer was soon over.

September (3)
Susan G. Komen 5k. Bibbed and ready to go
#20: Susan G. Komen 5k: I was very fortunate to run a few free races this year, and this was one of
them. Tessa's work paid my entrance fee (how did that work, anyways?) and I was very grateful. This was an extremely flat and fast and 5k that saw me run the first mile in 5:03, which was wayyyyy too fast. I managed the second mile okay but died during the third mile. Got a little carried away during that pancake-flat first mile. Tessa also ran it and ran a PR!
#21: Mustang 5k: This was to support the Massabesic High School cross-country team. It was also the day before the Trail to Ale 10k, so I decided as we went through the first mile that the effort wouldn't be all out.
#22: Tim's Run: This was on a beautiful and sunny late September day on a course that was flat and fast. Problem was, according to my Garmin, the course was 3.2 and not 3.1. Didn't help that the Sebago Brewfest was the day before, so pizza and beer were still kinda fresh in the belly...

October (3)
Reiche International 5k
October was probably the greatest month of running I have ever had in my life. First, and most importantly, the Gray-New Gloucester boys cross-country team I help coach qualified for the state meet for the first time since 1994. They went on to finish 5th in the state in Class B in what was just a remarkable season. Second, each 5k I ran this month I won. And third, I ran the third and fifth fastest times I've ever run 
#23: Bug Light 5k: The final event of the Maine corporate track season. Took home the win for Team Unum and ran a personal third-best 16:59. Couldn't have asked for a better race in South Portland.
#24: Reiche International 5k: Put on by some amazing people and friends at the YMCA. They asked
if I would run it if they covered the cost. I argued that I'd be happy to pay but they went ahead and registered me. A modest course with a nice climb at the 2 mile mark. Not only did I win the race, but took home some unbelievable prizes. Definitely will do this one again.
#25: Spooky 5k: A lot of people dressed up for this casual 5k, but I did not. This race was also the day after the boys qualified for states. Quite a weekend!

November (4)
Bayside Trail 5k. Hair dyed blonde from states!
#26: Bayside Trail 5k: The first race I ever ran with my dog, Lucy. I do a fair amount of fall, winter,
and spring running with her, but had never done a race with her before. I figured what the hell and signed us up. She usually bonks around mile 2 of our runs, but she managed to gut out the dog-victory and won herself and Tessa's dog a gift card to Planet Dog.
#27: Billerica Turkey Trot for Education 5k: I had every intention of keeping the 5ks in Maine, but this particular weekend just didn't have much to offer and it was starting to get down to the wire, so Tessa and I headed to Billerica for my first out-of-state race since high school. I nabbed 4th overall on the Garmin-read 3.2 mile course. If it wasn't for the extra .1 mile, I have little doubt my PR of 16:58 would have fallen.
#28: Maine Track Club Turkey Trot: One of the coldest races I've ever run. The wind was absolutely brutal. Every time we crested a hill it was like running into an icy wind tunnel. Not fun.
#29: Gasping Gobbler 5k: On Thanksgiving, I have to give thanks to a new PR! Who knew you could PR after sitting in a tree stand for a week while deer hunting. I came through in a surprising 16:57 and won an apple pie in the process. November is a great month for racing.

December (2)
Portland Brewer's Holiday Dash. It was snowy!
#30: Portland Brewer's 5k Holiday Dash: Well, this was certainly one I'll never forget. I spent the
prior week vacationing in 85-degree Cancun only to return home to 10-degree weather and a snowstorm. The race was held without fail as Maine endured its first snowstorm of the winter. We "raced" along an unplowed Eastern Trail in Portland, running most of the way through shin-deep snow and the occasional knee-deep snow drift. I didn't even wear a watch because, well, it really wouldn't have mattered. I slipped and skated my way to a 5th place finish in 28-something minutes. Brutal.
#31: Polar Bear Dip and Dash: Here it is, 31 out of 31. This was a
Polar Bear Dip and Dash. 31 down, 0 to go.
cold, icy, slippery run around Back Cove in Portland that finished at the East End Beach where the truly hearty could jump into the ocean after finishing. Race-time temp was right around 5 degrees, so I graciously passed on the "dip" part of this race. My number one fan Tessa came to watch, freeze, and get some great pictures of #31.

What a crazy year! Thinking back to all the races I ran this year, I can't help but think of how much I've learned about running and racing. I met a lot of people and made some new friends along the way, and learned some tricks of the trade that I can't wait to work on in 2014.

As for the challenge itself, I couldn't be happier I did it. There was a time in mid-July, while racing the Back Cove Series, that I started thinking how I didn't want to do this anymore. I wasn't even halfway through the challenge, meaning I was going to have to do what I had already done plus some if I was to complete this by the end of the year. But I stuck it out and got a huge boost during the Breakaway 5k in August, when I broke the 17-minute barrier for the first time ever. It was game on after that!

Here are a few stats:
-Total races this year: 31 5ks, a marathon, a half marathon, and a 10k, along with various shorter distances during track season.
-Fastest and slowest 5k: 16:57 at the Gasping Gobbler and 28:17 at the Portland Brewers Holiday Dash.
-Total money spent on 5ks: $404.68 (a far cry from the $800 I had predicted)
-Total in prizes (gift cards, money, etc): $345+. The "+" would be food and other goods such as the baguette and calendar I won at the Reiche International 5k. Came fairly close to breaking even...not bad!
-Most expensive 5k: $35 for the Polar Bear Dip and Dash.
-Least expensive 5k: Other than the very generous "free" entries and the one-time $20 Back Cove Series payment, it was the $10 MECTA 5k in May.

Well there ya have it. The next planned race is the Irish Road Rover in March of 2014. Until then, I plan to get lots of rest, get stronger, and enjoy some downtime from running. As for goals for 2014, I'd like to run 16:45 or better in the 5k, run sub 4:40 in the mile during track season, and build a stronger core.

What are your goals for 2014?

Happy New Year!

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