Year of Running: 2017

I have recapped my year or running I think every year since I started blogging, and even though we're almost 1/12 of the way into 2018, I figured it was better late than never to recap 2017. I saw this format on another blog (my new coach's actually - yes I have a coach now and yes that's kind of weird and no I don't want to talk about right now and yes I realize that not talking about it makes it a bigger deal than it needs to be but whatever) and really liked it. Sometimes I like to rehash every little detail of every race and sometimes I don't. These are fairly short and to the point and just kind of a quick summary about what I learned from each one - and I'm really trying to take each lesson to heart this time!

1. Tidewater Striders 15-Miler (January 28) - Don't decide 3 miles into a 15-miler to try to hang on for dear life to PR your half marathon. It won't work.

2. Tidewater Striders 20-Miler (February 18) - Just because you don't hit your target in training doesn't mean you can't hit it on race day. I treated this as a dress rehearsal for the Shamrock Marathon and the fact that I finished about 5 minutes slower than I'd need to cover 20 miles on the real race day to meet my goal really rattled me. From that point on I was convinced my goal was just out of reach and couldn't come up with any scenario or strategy in which I could hit it. It felt good to run my fastest 20-miler ever, but still frustrating feeling like I wasn't quite where I needed to be.


3. Rock n Roll DC Half Marathon (March 11) - There is something magical about a first half marathon! This was my cousin's first and we ran the whole thing together. It was such a fun time and let me relive some of those first half experiences.

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4. Shamrock Marathon (March 19) - Holy crap, it IS possible to negative split a marathon! Despite the wind, rain, and cold, my training prevailed and I ran my first sub-4 marathon.


5. Crystal City 5k Fridays (April 21) - 5ks might be the worst race distance ever. So painful. My first 5k in almost 2 years and I went out way too fast, died a little bit in the middle (I walked a water stop and I think took 2 more breaks during those 3.1 miles), and somehow still PRed by about 45 seconds. The end result was awesome, but how I got there left a LOT to be desired.


6. Kinetic Half Iron Distance Triathlon (May 13) - There are a lot of kinks to work out during the first race of the season! My "prep" for this race was such a cluster. Also that a mid-May race could mean 80 degrees or it could mean 50 degrees and feel even colder because of rain.

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7. Rock n Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon (September 3) - Again, first half marathons are fun...but they are less fun in the heat and humidity of the summer. I ran this with my brother-in-law for his first half marathon and fought for every step. It was a rough day but I was really happy for both of us that we finished sub-2.


8. Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City (September 17) - The second tri of the seaon can also have a lot of kinks to work out. This went a little better than Kinetic, except that I thought I lost my swim cap and had to sprint to find help when I was supposed to be getting my wetsuit on and getting in the water...only to realize I had it the whole time.


9. Ironman Louisville (October 15) - The red carpet is just as magical as I always dreamed it would be. I have already talked about it a bunch in my last post and will talk about it even more below, but even though so many things were different than I ever expected them to be, at the end of the day finishing all 140.6 miles was everything I ever dreamed and more.


10. Wicked 10k (October 28) - The first race after a big/goal race is a rollercoaster of fun! It was so hard but my legs just wanted to MOVE and I was just really happy and excited. This race is one of my favorites of the whole year, and this year was extra fun and special.


11. Turkey Trot (November 23) - You can bring your A game to a ~50-person, super casual, not-even-timed 5k run mostly by families, and you'll still lose to two middle schoolers.


12. City of Oaks Half Marathon (November 5) - Um, it's not a full Ironman, but you still need to bring nutrition. That Raleigh is freaking HILLY and even though I have run this race 4 out of the last 5 years I still manage to forget that fact every year until I'm out on the course. Also that it's possible to run a course PR even when I feel like crap and spend part of mile 5 in the porta-potty.


13. Kiawah Half Marathon (December 9) - That a race that people LOVE and rave about just might not be the race for you. I have a recap of this race that I need to post, but it was just not my race and not my day. I have heard SO many good things about this race and even the 3 other people I ran it with loved it, but it was not a good one for me at all and I really wasn't a fan. Not the best way to end my year of racing, especially since it had been going so well until Louisville!


And because I can't resist an overview of the year as a whole - especially because it was so much more than just those 12 races - my final numbers for the year:


73 miles swimming
A slight increase from last year (+3 miles), largely because of the fact that I actually swam once a week through the winter. My first triathlon of the season was earlier than I've ever had one (May) and longer than my first race of the season usually is (a 70.3 rather than a sprint or Olympic), so I had to make sure I spent some quality time in the pool in the colder months rather than waiting until April or so like I normally do. The main reason I actually made it to the pool at the beginning of the year was because I joined a tri club that met on Friday mornings a 6am to swim. Although I ended up finding out that training with a club just isn't for me, I'm glad I had that push to get in the pool when I otherwise wouldn't have (my success rate for getting myself to the pool for solo workouts is probably around 50%-60%).

My swim times definitely improved while I was swimming with the group, which I'd hoped would translate into faster swims once I really got into try season, but it didn't quite pan out that way. I found that I plateaued pretty early at shorter distances, and once I got up to longer distances I fell back into paces I've been swimming for a couple years now. My swimming during Ironman training wasn't as consistent as it was last year, so perhaps if I'd kept it up and been a little more diligent about it, I would have seen more success.

2,314 miles biking
I biked almost 400 miles fewer than I did last year, although I didn't count any of my spin classes toward my mileage total this year (I think I might have last year), and my speed was most definitely slower so I think I probably logged a similar amount of time, even if the distance doesn't show it. 

This year I finally got it. If you know me personally or have been following my triathlon journey for a while, you're probably well aware that cycling is my least favorite discipline. I started cycling in 2012 and started triathlon in 2013, and I spent like 98% that time biking on flat and/or straight bike trails. It was always so boring and so torturous and the main reason I was never sure I could even complete a 70.3, let alone a full Ironman.

At the beginning of this year my friend Carl convinced/kind of duped me into signing up for a 102-mile bike ride called Mountains of Misery, which sounds like the last thing I would ever want to do. I was reluctant and scared, but I knew that getting through it could potentially boost my cycling confidence, especially for the hilly bike course of Ironman Louisville - and did it ever! I started actively seeking out hills and even mountains to train on to prepare for MoM and, shockingly, I had fun doing it. 

I rode in some of the most gorgeous places this year and took on challenges I never thought possible. In addition to MoM, I completed other very hilly (and scenic!) bike rides in Loudoun County, VA, Culpeper,VA, and Lancaster County, PA. Even though I wasn't (and still am not) fast, I finally learned to love cycling. It's still my least favorite discipline, but only by a little bit now instead of by a lot.  By the time I got on the bike at Ironman Louisville in the fall, I felt genuine relief at how prepared I was for the Kentucky hills.  Even with slower, fewer miles this year, it doesn't matter to me one bit - this was the first year where the numbers don't even begin to tell my cycling story. It ended up being one of my greatest treasures of 2017.

1,247 miles running
This was my fourth year in a row running over 1,000 miles for the year, but my highest ever yearly mileage (previous highest was 1,120 miles in 2014)! This isn't the first time I've run two marathons in a year, but it is the first time I've run two at different times of the year, meaning I couldn't piggyback off my training for the first one for the second one, so I guess it makes sense! I spent the first few months of the year training for a marathon and then trained for another marathon through the summer months. 

This was also the first time since 2015 that I wasn't injured at any point throughout the year, which helped majorly contribute to total mileage (I calculate that I missed out of ~200 miles of running last year because of my foot injury from March-May, so I think last year's mileage would have been in the same ballpark as this year's if that hadn't happened). I had to stop one long run in January after a couple miles because my shin was bothering me, and I may have missed one short or mid-distance run in early fall because of a brief piriformis issue, but I think that was it in terms of injury. Such a relief after a 2-month injury last year!

Although I ran quite a few races this year, the only ones I raced were a 5k and a marathon, and I PRed in both of them! The 5k PR was a bit of a surprise (and reminded me why I don't run them very often - I paced myself horribly, and it was very painful), but the marathon was something I worked really hard for. I trained all through the winter with the goal of coming in under 4 hours, and I finished in 3:58 (almost a 20-minute PR). More importantly, I finally ran a well-executed marathon where I felt great (as great as one can feel running 26.2 miles) and in control for nearly the entire race. I even managed to negative split the race and run the second half 2 minutes faster than the first half, something I never dreamed I'd be able to pull off. 

Ironman Louisville
I did so many things this year in training and racing and I have so many experiences that I look fondly on or am proud of, but Ironman Louisville was and will always be the shining star of 2017. The one big highlight of this year is that it's the one when I became an Ironman. 

This is the only race I've ever done that I can say I sometimes physically ache to be able to do over again, in the best way possible. It was truly a race experience unlike any I've ever had. I think it was so unique because it was the first time I had ever spent literally an entire day devoted to a race. I woke up at 4am to get ready, I started the race at 8am, I finished at 9:30pm, and I spent another 3 hours waiting for my dad and my friends to finish and cheering on the last finishers. It was unreal and sometimes it feels like it was all a dream and I just wish I could relive it over and over and over again - wind, rain, and all.

I posted this caption on Instagram after I finished

There have been thousands of days I've wondered what this day would look like. When would it be? Where would it be? What would the weather be like? What would the swim be like? What would the bike be like? What would the run be like? What would it feel like to cover 140.6 miles? What would this moment feel like?
Today was the day all my questions were answered.

and it could not have been more authentic. That realization ran through my mind all day - how many times had I thought about this day? How many times had I tried to picture it? Every little thing I noticed as I was out on the course, every aspect of the day, it was like this blurry picture I've had this whole time that just kept coming more and more into focus. It was almost a relief to get to the end and finally see the whole picture for the first time. The lyrics from this Bright Eyes song, "From a Balance Beam," kept popping into my head:

And we won't have to worry no more
no we won't have to wonder again
about how this song or story ends
about how this song and story will end.

After what happened with IMNC and becoming almost paranoid that this just wasn't meant to be for me, that, for whatever reason, I just might not ever get to do a full Ironman, it is such a deeply fulfilling feeling to know that I will never, ever have to wonder "What if?" again. 

Hearing the, "You are an Ironman!" announcement as every finisher crossed the finish line, as if on a loop, still plays in my head over and over. It's amazing how much one day can define a person, can define a life. Finishing Ironman Louisville won't be the highlight of my life forever, I'm sure of it, but it will always be the brightest moment of my 2017 and it's an experience I will treasure forever.

What's next...is still TBD. I started 2018 with a lot of ideas and plans for this spring and this year, but they have already been rapidly changing (part of the impetus of my seeking out the coach that I'm not talking about now) and I'm honestly not exactly sure what's next. I think I'll be taking some steps back and am almost certain that my totals at the end of 2018 won't even be close to what they were last year, and I'm okay with that. I'm excited about what I think is coming and eager to share it once I figure it out!

2 comments :

  1. What a great year you had! So many PRs and accomplishments! Congrats!

    I think it's a good idea to scale back after such a breakthrough year. Setting so many PRs and seeing your potential makes you really want to do so much more, but it gets hard to keep pushing yourself and being a workhorse like that. You worked really hard this year, I think your body and mind deserve a bit of a break!

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  2. I, for one, am so impressed that you were able to do SO MUCH and not get injured. I'm sure having part of that SO MUCH be triathlon training helps in that department, since that allows cross training to be part of your actual training, but regardless, getting through all of that without hurting yourself is very admirable!

    The part about running a well-executed race: man, do I feel that. If you had told me when I crossed the start line of the Chicago Marathon this past fall that I would be elated (still today! Almost four full months after the fact!) to finish with a completely middle-of-the-road-for-me time, I would've laughed in your face (or, more likely, rolled my eyes so hard they fell out of my head). But it's true! I am more proud of my 2017 Chicago Marathon than any other race I've run up to this point, including my marathon PR, because I ran it WELL. And man, to me, that was SO MUCH more satisfying than running it fast.


    I've thought a lot about hiring a coach. I've never actually pulled the trigger on it, because every time I look into I get I get so overwhelmed by everything that I just give up, but as someone who has tried to self-coach for...basically ever, I often wonder how much I could benefit from having someone who actually knows what they're doing put together a plan for me...or, at the very least, be there to support me through the process, especially when I'm freaking out about my paces/missed runs/my abilities in general.

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