Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011: The Running Year in Review

Last December, I did a "Year in Review" post. Since it was one of the first posts on this blog, it didn't really have a lot of context, but it was fun for me to look back on an exciting year of running. While 2011 isn't quite ready to bite the dust, Running Year 2011 came to an end, for all practical purposes, upon completion of the Celtic Solstice 5-Mile on Saturday.

I didn't race at all in January, but it was still a good month of running for me. I was in the thick of training for my first marathon, racking up the base miles at lunch or after work, surviving the long runs through the hills of Timonium, Maryland, and ignoring track workouts. I ran a beautiful 16 miles at Loch Raven and a personal-best 17.5 on a brutally freezing morning, even by my cold-loving standards, in Timonium. Everything was going fine -- I knew I was one of the slower people in the Charm City Run training group but I ground out the miles and looked to be right on track in my training.

Until January 30, when I experienced my first real running injury...

For me, February was spent in an often-frustrating recovery from a knee injury, which on January 30 had stopped me 13-miles into an 18-miler with sharp pain in my left knee. I've never torn any knee ligaments (knock on wood) or had a serious knee injury, so of course I panicked and went to the walk-in orthopedic clinic the next day. Diagnosis: IT Band Syndrome.

(Look at all that cartilage!)

The treatment was heavy doses of ibuprofen to knock the swelling down, a regimen of PT exercises, and stretching before and after every run. It was a setback, for those first two weeks I needed two full days of recovery after every run. At the end of two weeks, I seemed to turn a corner, I was able to run 12 miles, but I was frustrated and behind schedule.

In hindsight, I think my recovery was actually very quick, which I credit to Dr. Bucks at Wellspan Orthopedics and my PTs, Nicole and Laura, at Wellspan Rehab. I am glad I went to the doctor's office right away rather than trying to tough it out, but because my recovery went pretty quickly, I suspect that despite being in so much pain that I thought I may have torn something, that my ITBS wasn't actually the worst case ever.

I did well in the 2nd-half of February, with lunchtime 8-milers and gradually increasing long runs, including a 14-miler around Inner Harbor on the windiest day ever. I felt like the knee was starting to be strong enough, I just had to run more often to get my conditioning back.

The month ended on a great running notes for both Chris and I. She completed her first half marathon, the Disney Princes Half:

On our last morning in Florida, I ran a personal best 18 miles around the Coronado Springs and All-Star Resorts. Maybe I had a chance at this marathon thing after all...

March was my first experience with tapering, shortening runs to help rest for the marathon. I also ran my first races of the year in March, a nice & easy 5K at Kelly Shamrock at Inner Harbor, followed by some post-race partying with our friend Ada and her crewmates in the Baltimore Dragon Boat Racing Club.

A week later, I ran my first marathon, the 2011 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, which I've gone on about at such great length here, here, and here, that I'll not spend much time on it in this post. It was 4:58, a little slower than I hoped, but I still consider it to have been a good experience.

I spent April recovering, running without goals or putting much pressure on myself. I ran two races, putting down a fast time at the inaugural Northeastern Honor Bus 5K just a few minutes from home in Mt. Wolf, and participating in my first obstacle race, Mud Chasers, in Sparks, Maryland. It was fun, but I'm happy to stick to road races.

I also got back on my bike for the first time in a decade. Nice!

May was a fun month of racing. I ran in four races in May, including a tough weekend where I ran the Preakness 5K and the Bob Potts 5K on back-to-back days, making the tactical mistake of trying for (and failing to get) a PR in the tougher Preakness race, which included a lap around the sand of the racetrack.

Later in the month, on a day when I really didn't feel like I had a good race in me, I took my only legit age-group medal to date, placing third at the inaugural HACC Dash 5K (a race I found out about the day before) with my second-best 5K time ever. Derek, a friend from college, won our age group and placed 7th overall.

I felt like I was kind of stuck in a 7-8 mile rut at the end of May, so to try to get myself back on track with longer runs, I signed up for a 9-mile "Tour de Memorials" run on Memorial Day. It turned out to be one of the hottest, most humid, and unenjoyable runs of the year. (Not because of the event, it was just such Brian-unfriendly weather)

June, July, and August were my best mileage months of the year, but as the weather got hotter, my races became less frequent.

In June, my only race was the Dreaded Druid Hills 10K in Baltimore, which proved to be very enjoyable and challenging, but not quite up to its terrifying reputation.

Another good month of base miles, and it would have been even better if the heat and humidity hadn't crossed the line from oppressive to truly dangerous in the second half of the month and if I hadn't run the Harrisburg Mile. Not only was the race mileage itself short, I tapered a bit for it because I'd set an aggressive goal for myself. I didn't meet my sub six-minute mile goal, but it was still the fastest, hottest mile I've ever run.

August I didn't run any races in August, but I started to get back to into a pattern of 13-14 mile long runs in preparation for the Philly Marathon. I also went on a very scenic run around Montreal while on vacation.

September & October
September was a tough month of running, as the heat and humidity refused to abate. A 17-miler in deathly humidity was my best run, but I also had my second-fastest 13.1 ever on one of the rare cold days of the month. In October, I continued to hit my long runs, with 18, 19, and 20-milers, but as work got busier and busier, my mid-week base miles were harder to come by, which I'm sure came back to haunt me on race day.

Philadelphia Marathon. My second marathon, beaten to bloody death on this blog.

Just trying to hang in there in one of the busiest work months ever, in addition to the holidays. Our last race of the year was the Celtic Solstice 5-Mile, which went very well. Overall, it seems like I'm kind of dragging through December. I'm getting my runs in, but having some trouble with my shins and calves on many of my runs and with a few exceptions (luckily one of them was Celtic Solstice) I'm just feeling like my energy level is kind of low. I'm feeling like a little R&R is in order, and luckily, that's just what's in store for week between Christmas and New Years, during which I'll get a few runs in but probably nothing over three miles and definitely nothing fast...except for maybe a set of 800s :-)

In conclusion, this was probably my best year of racing ever. I achieved new PRs in the 10K and mile, ran several good 5Ks, and completed my first-two marathons. I also earned over 870 donuts. I've eaten quite a few donuts this year, but nowhere close to 877. This is going to be a fun end of December for the donut industry. I'd like to thank Chris, my running friends both new and old, and all my readers, for the encouragement and advice they've given me over the past year. Thanks for reading!

Here's hoping 2012 is even better. Let the PRs fall!


  1. You had a great year too! Comparing yours to mine only made me realize that I blew a lot of money on races... Here's to an even better year ahead of us!

  2. Yeah, us too! Of course the big expenditure was weekend trips to FL, VA Beach, and Philly. Most of the 5Ks weren't too bad.

  3. sorry you had some knee issues in the beginning of the year, but great job on your marathon finish!