Striding Through

Because a life well lived always finds the right pace

2009 In Review

I haven’t gotten a chance, until now, to really take a look back on what type of year 2009 was for this runner. It’s been a roller-coaster, that’s for sure…started off with a bang, then got quickly derailed by injury and recovery, yet finished strongly. Most importantly I’ve learned a lot that will help me be better this year.

January – I entered the year with two different targets in mind. One was the Boston Marathon in April, which would be my first Boston. The other was a target showed up in late December 2008, the USATF Masters Indoor Championship meet in Landover, MD in March, where I would run in the 3000 meter. For the most part I kept Boston in mind as the primary goal and really stepped up the mileage to get ready for it. But I also did a lot of speedwork and took advantage of the Potomac Valley Track Club’s indoor meet series in Arlington. I ran the 3000m in the first of these and put down an 11:09 – not bad but I knew I could do better. Later in the month I got a 5:30 mile time, just a second off my PR.

February – This was a very busy month indeed. Up first was the USATF Cross Country championships, also in Maryland, where I was part of the DC Roadrunners masters team. That was one tough 8k race and against some very good competition, I got my head handed to me. But it was well worth the experience. Getting to see some top flight runners, like Meb Keflezighi, in the elite races didn’t hurt, either. The very next day, I dragged myself to the last PVTC indoor meet of the season, and somehow managed a 3000m in 11:09. Based on that result I felt pretty sure I could break 11 minutes for 3000m at the USATF meet in March. Finally there was the RRCA Club Challenge 10-miler in Columbia, MD. Again I was running for DCRRC – and again I had a tough day, very tough indeed. I felt terrible from the beginning, because the previous night’s dinner wasn’t agreeing with me. Let’s just say I made it across the line just in time to, um, get rid of it. My place and my time (67:32) were both substantially diminished from the previous year’s performance at this race.

March – Here’s where I really started to lock in the big targets, mixing in both short hard speed workouts with long runs of over 20 miles. It was all coming together nicely.  Then came the USATF indoor meet. I came into it rested and ready, and I nailed that 3000m time, in 10:36, even better than I thought I would do! Then the next day I got up early and headed down to RFK Stadium for the National Marathon, which I did as my final long training run before Boston. I ran a 3:35 and barely broke a sweat.

April – The momentum seemed to keep right on rolling early in the month as I did a final 10k time trial on the track in 38:56. Boy was I ready to roll at Boston, I thought. But then disaster struck, for the second year in a row at that. The day after Easter Sunday, one week before Boston, on a routine trail run, I started feeling an intense pain in my lower leg. At first I feared a stress fracture but it turned out to be a soft tissue injury: not enough to keep me out of Boston as the previous year’s groin injury had done. But it clearly turned my race strategy into “just survive and finish” which I did in 3:41. And then it was shutdown time.

May – There’s not much to say here. I couldn’t run, but after a week or two I was at least able to get in the pool and swim. On Memorial Day I tried a little trot of maybe 2 miles and it went OK. But wow, had I lost conditioning.

June/July – I spent these months rehabilitating and ramping back up. I had to take it slowly, first doing a lot of mixed running and walking while my heart rates recovered to their old levels.  By late July I was feeling more like my old self. I hadn’t done much speedwork but felt like it was time to get out and race again, just to see where I was.

August – I started the month off with my first race since Boston, the Friends of the W&OD 10k in Vienna, VA. I had very low expectations on the performance after such a long layoff, plus it was hot. Under the circumstances the 42:59 result was just fine with me. I rode my bike to and from the race to make it a brick workout. The rest of August was pretty active and results quickly started to pick up.  I had a nice 5k result (19:43) three days after the 10k, then later in the month, I ran a 4.5 mile trail (30:57) race to tune up for the month’s final race, the USATF 10k Trail Championship in Laurel Springs, NC. Befitting a race of this caliber the course was brutally challenging, basically climbing a mountain at 18% grade, four times.  It’s probably the hardest race I’ve ever had to do at any distance. But it was fun and I promised myself this would not be my last trail race.

September – By now I was back on course with my training. With no fall marathons planned, I felt free to really work on shorter distances, which I did starting with 5k races.  I also started a string of age group award finishes at this distance, placing third at the National Press Club 5k (19:35) and then first at New Orleans Rebirth 5k in Alexandria, VA despite running only 20:02 that day. Then it was off to Miami for some vacation – and some very warm runs on the beach.

Displaying my medal after a great Army Ten Miler!October – In early October it was time for my first big fall target race, the Army Ten Miler. When it finally came, I was ready. I had a great day and nailed a new PR of 66:28.  Then I added yet another age group award finish at 5k, this time a second place, at the Great Pumpkin 5k in Reston, where I ran my best 5k time of the season, 19:22. I finished off the month with one more trail race, the Black Hill Trail 10k in Montgomery County. The course wasn’t as tough as the USATF course in North Carolina but it was no pushover. I was happy to come in with a respectable 45:36. After that it was time to train hard and get locked in for the last of the fall targets, Philadelphia in November. I ended the month with a 20-mile training run, my longest run of any kind since Boston.

November – I continued working really hard throughout the month, focusing on training and not racing. Around mid-month I started to feel a little fatigue but I pushed through until it was time for a 10-day taper prior to the Philadelphia Half Marathon, where my goal was straightforward: break 90 minutes and thereby earn qualification to the 2010 New York City Marathon. As race day approached I was nervous; one hand I knew I could do it, but I kept wondering if something would go wrong again, like it did before Boston. But I stayed healthy this time and when race day came, I was up to the task. I ran ahead of the 3-hour marathon pacer for the first 11 miles, and then broke away for a ferocious finish in 1:29:09. I had done it!  I finished off the month with one more race, just for fun, a high school reunion race over Thanksgiving Weekend in New Jersey. Still tired from Philly, I ran 20:13 for 5k and – you guessed it – won another award, this time for finishing top 5 overall.

December – After a very busy fall I decided to step back a bit in December, and give myself a break before training for Boston would start again on New Year’s Day. Then I got hit with a bad cold, and a couple of long nights at the office, which ensured my mileage would be low. Still, I managed to get some racing in anyway. First there was the club’s annual Christmas relay where a teammate and I each ran 10×400, relay-style (i.e., rest while your teammate runs). I put down some strong splits despite not doing any speed training this month, topping out with a 79-second quarter for my last one. Then on New Year’s Eve, I ran the Fairfax Four Miler in a cold, driving rainstorm over slick, icy roads. Despite the conditions I earned myself one final PR for the year, a 25:27.

All in all, it was a pretty good year despite the injury setback:

  • 2 marathon finishes
  • 4 5k award finishes
  • new PRs at 3000m, 4 miles, 10 miles and half-marathon
  • 2 10k trail race finishes

With 2010 now underway I think I’ve learned a lot from 2009 and am approaching this year’s Boston with, hopefully, a little more balanced approach. There’s no track target this time so all my training can focus on what I need to do to be ready in April and that helps (I’ll have more on training in a later post). Meanwhile I’m excited about the prospects ahead and also for representing Team in Training this spring. Well, with all that riding on my training, it’s time to stop blogging for today so I can get ready to run!


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