2016 Running & Triathlon in Review

Going into this year, I knew it would be big. I signed up for my first Ironman just 11 days before the year began, but even with that on my mind as the calendar turned, I still never could have predicted the year I'd have.

My two big races of 2016 were to be the Big Sur Marathon in April and Ironman North Carolina in October. I spent the winter preparing for Big Surr and all was going well - I even PRed in the half marathon by almost a minute - until, almost literally overnight, I developed a foot injury that left me unable to walk for a couple weeks and unable to run for a couple months. I canceled my Big Sur plans and as the weeks of no running went on, I started to wonder how, or if at all, I was going to be able to make it through the 26.2 run of an Ironman. 

While I wasn't running I was swimming, biking, and supplementing my run miles on the elliptical. After almost two months and a couple of unsuccessful short run attempts, my physical therapist gave me her blessing to try to ease back into running. I actually just recently found the note from that appointment, with my prescription to try a 15-minute run 10 days after my appointment, and I laughed out loud to myself when I read it. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but I remember how anxious I was in those ten days and how nervous I was lacing up my shoes when the day finally came. FIFTEEN whole minutes. Was it even possible?! That first run back, I could tell that something was still definitely off. Not painful per se, just...off, and it felt off for more runs than not for a while. But as long as I wasn't in pain, I kept running.

Those couple months without running turned out to be a blessing in disguise. They allowed me to focus on finishing my engineering degree, moving and starting a new job, and working on my weakest triathlon discipline: the bike. While I didn't train as much as I had hoped (see: finishing my degree, moving, and starting a new job), I was able to nearly double my distance PR when I completed my first century (100-mile) ride in May!

In June I began my official, 20-week journey of hardcore training leading up to IMNC. To be honest, the months of June-October are a big swirly mess in my brain. Life was hectic - it was summertime, I was trying to adjust to a completely new and different life in the city, and Ironman training just magnified all of the normal struggles. But, somehow, I made it to North Carolina and through the 84.6 miles that were given to me in just over 9 hours. Given that I completed 56 miles fewer than what I had trained and always planned for, crossing the finish line was definitely not the experience I'd been expecting, but it was one I'm happy to have had nonetheless. 

I took a little bit of a break after IMNC, and for the last couple months of this year I've been enjoying a more relaxed training schedule. I have some big plans for next year (more to come on that soon!) so I'm getting back into the swing of a training routine, but compared to Ironman training, what I'm doing now feels like a breeze. Of course I have some rough days, but I've tried some new things and am figuring out what does and doesn't work for me, so for the most part I've really enjoyed my workouts these last couple months. 

But enough talk. Let's look at the numbers.



Swimming was a lot tougher for me than it has ever been before since I had to join a new pool that's much more crowded than what I was used to. Really, the hardest part of this year wasn't that I was regularly swimming farther and longer than I ever had before; the hardest part was sharing my lane with other people. That's embarassing to admit, but my pool anxiety was crazy this year and I definitely missed some workouts because of it, so I'm glad with the amount of swimming I did do - which was by far the most I've ever done in a year, by almost twice as much from previous years.

Biking is a similar story...it has always been the weakest link for me in triathlon, and there were many times in training I wondered what in the world possessed me to sign up for a race that required spending 4, 5, 6, 7 hours on my bike every weekend. I had hoped that the increased volume would somehow make me fall more in love with cycling, but the truth is that it didn't. I only hate it slightly less than I used to and still think it's ridiculously hard - and for that reason, I am ridiculously proud that I cycled over 2500 miles this year! I completed a couple of 70-80 mile rides, two 90-mile rides, one 100-mile ride, and one 110-mile ride, with a couple handfuls of 40-60 mile rides peppered in there. That's some serious mileage for me, especially since coming into this year my longest ride was 56 miles and I'd only ever ridden more than 40 miles a handful of times.

My running this year was very up and down due to my injury, and I am just so thankful to end the year injury-free. I think it's normal for us runners to always have something that just doesn't feel quite right and I definitely have my share of those, but nothing serious or that has prevented me from pounding the pavement since my comeback in May. I've been focusing mostly on running recently, and am ending my year with over 1000 miles for the third year in a row, and only about 60 miles fewer than I ran last year (my highest year ever). Considering that in March I wasn't sure if I would make it any further than the 350ish miles I'd already run in 2016, and that I ran about 3 miles total from late March to mid-May (that dip in the graph is pretty striking!), I'm really happy with where I ended up.

IMNC was such a huge part of this year that I feel like I should have some grand statement to make about it, but to tell you the truth, I just...don't. Finding out that the course wasn't a full 140.6 miles just 4 days before I was scheduled to complete it was a huge blow and I can never fix that. Some days I look back on this year, on all that I accomplished through training and even on the race day I was given, and I feel such incredible pride that I did all of those things. But other days I think back and I feel that sucker punch feeling in my gut all over again, and I just can't help but feel sad over how unfair it is. This year was my iron year. I trained for a full Ironman just like everyone else who did on this year, and I showed up ready to take on 140.6 miles just like everyone else who did one this year, but, through no fault of my own, I only got to complete 84.6 miles. Yes, I can (and will) complete a full Ironman, but it won't be the same. I'll never get another first and that's something that I'm still having some trouble dealing with.

But looking at those numbers, I come to two conclusions: 1) I worked my ass off this year and 2) I have so much more room to grow next year. Bring it on, 2017.

3 comments :

  1. honestly, swimming with other people in a lane is 99% the reason i stopped swimming like 2 years ago when KC tried to re-teach me (i know how to swim, just not.. you know.. properly). the other 1% was that the pool wasn't convenient. now we have a pool at our gym, i am slightly possibly maybe considering it again, but... i don't want to share a lane.
    i am still sad/mad for your ironman and how it all panned out, but i can only hope that next year's makes up for it. 2016 was a busy year for you, with lots of ups and downs - here's to 2017!

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  2. I love seeing the little spike back up after your hiatus from running in the spring! You still got in SO many miles even with your injury. With the two biggest races of the year, not panning out as you had expected when the year started, you accomplished so, so much!

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  3. It's hard to believe everything that happened this year, happened this year! I completely forgot about your injury being so close to IMNC and the reason behind the Big Sur cancellation. It feels like spring was a lifetime ago. I ran the NJ Half a few days after what would have been Big Sur, a few weeks after what should have been us running Cherry Blossom together, and it all feels like another life. Wow. Anyway...
    I know what you mean about not getting another first, and that part drawing back from the IMNC experience. I don't have a mirror example of my own, but I get it. Something about things being firsts, being the initial cumulation of everything that led up to it... we're people to whom circumstances and context matter, so naturally an incident like Ironmanish is never going to feel quite right. I'm still so proud of you and all you accomplished this year, and how high you're setting your sights for next year. It's going to be a big and awesome one, and I can't wait to see you through it!

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