When I look back on 2012, it wasn’t about training, racing, or hitting running goals (although I did a lot of that). A lot of major life changes happened this year. But this blog is for running, so here it goes:
I had picked up my training following my first half marathon (Hamptons) in the previous fall with a goal to run the Manhattan Half in Janaury. I undertrained for this race and as I tapered a major snowstorm rolled into New York. NYRR prepared to cancel the race, but instead decided to host it as an unscored marathon qualifier. I was relieved and ran with a couple hundred thick-blooded runners as the snow piled up under our feet. I ran without a watch so I don’t know my time, but I’m sure it took me over 2 hours.
My only real goal for the rest of the year was to qualify for the 2013 NYC Marathon through NYRR’s 9+1 program. I unreasonably assumed that I would get “really fast” as a result of running 8 more short distances throughout the year. I ran on the treadmill at Dodge at Columbia most of February My running log shows I ran only a couple times a week, all under 5 miles.
In March I thought I’d get my act together and race a 5k to see where I was at. I ran the Red Hook Crit in Brooklyn at night and had the most fantastic time. This was an “underground” race but it had timing mats and a certified course. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the major clubs were all there, as well as what seemed like every subelite runner in New York. Exceeding my wildest hopes for myself, I ran 23:10 and puked all over the finish line. The best part was the probably once-in-a-lifetime experience of being lapped by the 27 people who finished in <16:00, including the five who finished in <15:00. Imagine for a second that you’re me, running at your absolute fastest lung-screaming pace, becoming gradually aware of the footsteps of a pack of people rapidly gaining on you. They were running nearly twice as fast as me and passed me in an instant. I’ve never felt so in awe of another person’s physicality as I was then.
On a high from my 5k and inspired by my brush with super-human runners, I kicked up my training for two May races I was really excited about: my first 10k and the Brooklyn Half. I also dusted off my fixed gear bike, sold it on Craigslist, and bought my roommate’s late-80’s Italian steel racing bike. *Foreshadowing*
I became obsessed with my new bike. I spent a few weeks replacing its parts and getting it serviced before riding it everywhere, all the time. It was much faster than my fixed gear, and a smoother ride, too. I bought a Brooks saddle for it. I ran the UAE Healthy Kidney 10k tentatively in 55:05 (I wasn’t sure about my pacing), and the next week ran the Brooklyn Half in 1:57, a 9-minute PR, at the same pace. The Brooklyn Half’s first half was super fun: curiously, we ran downhill the entire time, even though the route took us around and through Prospect Park. I spent the first half trying to map the park in my head and figure out how that was possible, and crashed during the second half. I undertrained and I knew it. I still PR’d by accident, basically.
I volunteered as a bike marshal for a NYRR 4-miler in early June. I’m convinced this is one of the best volunteer gigs at NYRR. I got to wear a whistle and clear the route in Central Park before the race, and ride just behind the timing truck at the front while the race was going on.
The next day my bike’s back wheel and Campy groupset got stolen when I was at a Game of Thrones finale party. The downside to having an older bike is that it’s pretty hard to find certain parts. I was bidding on ebay and calculating shipping times, hoping everything would arrive in time for a New York bucket list thing, a 100-mile bike ride from Brooklyn to Montauk. My bike shop generously loaned me a Lotus for the ride, but my parts came just in time. It was a perfect day, the pie was as great as everyone said it would be, and we hit up Blue Point Brewery on our way there. The route was gorgeous.
I ran the Mini for a 2-minute 10k PR (having learned a few things about 10k pacing from the UAE 10k the previous month), followed by the LGBQT Pride 5M and the Achilles 5M in the same weekend. All three races were special and inspiring in different ways, and I felt so grateful for the good people of the New York running community.
In sticky, humid July I ran my last three NYRR qualifying races: the Queens 10k, which was dangerously hot, even with sprinklers and hoses turned on for all of the runners, the CPC Run for Central Park 4M, and the Run to Breathe 10k. By then I knew this race in Central Park would be my last race in New York until the 2013 marathon, so I wanted to PR. I definitely hadn’t put in the training to feel confident I could accomplish one, so I relied on visualizations of myself triumphantly charging toward my first marathon finish to squeak out a 7-second 10k PR.
I spent all the rest of my time biking everywhere, and to the beach most weekends. I can’t overstate how much time I spent on that bike. I logged over 5 times as many miles in summer 2012 as I did the summer before. It was totally awesome.
I spent most of August not running, wrapping up my job, packing up my things, and doing one last farewell tour of New York. I received confirmation that I had qualified for the marathon, which felt great.
We moved to Chicago and I cried a lot. I took my legs out for a few runs in my new neighborhood. In a fit of over-eager and misdirected enthusiasm months earlier, I had registered for the Chicago Half Marathon. It was taking place just a few days after we arrived in Chicago, and the day before I started my new job. I got rid of that bib as quickly as possible, somewhat sadly. It looked like it would have been a really fun and fast race, and I mentally added it to my list in 2013. I continued to mostly not run this month and rode my bike around instead.
Toward the end of October I started to feel more settled, and Got Real With Myself about running and racing and potential spring 2013 goals. Like many other runners with internet access, I spent October watching bloggers gear up for fall marathons. My excitement hit a fever pitch toward the end of the month when I realized thiat this would be the very last fall before I’m initiated in the club for marathon finishers. I read about marathon training and physiology. I realized that if I cared at all about my marathon time (which I do) a serious spring training cycle would really put me at an advantage come summer.
So I joined a gym and started running again. It was embarrassing and painful to face how slow I’d gotten, but that’s how starting something always is. I broke out a new pair of shoes and did my thing. I was running indoors most of the time, but on weekends I’d get outdoors and explore my neighborhood.
In all, I put in ten weeks of “pre-base” training, getting most of my speed back and working up to about 20+ miles per week. Where 2012 started with a total lack of running discipline (which was fine with me) it ended with a shift in my priorities and a re-commitment to improving my running. Reviewing this year and all of my data was really helpful. I realize I accomplished what I did this summer on haphazard, unstructured training, and I’m psyched to see what might happen when I’m actually following an 18-week training plan.