2011 Year in Review

2011 has been a very interesting year for me as a runner.  A lot of ups, a handful of downs, but more than anything, another year filled with learning.

The year started pretty slowly as I was recovering from a knee injury sustained during my run at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, but I was feeling better and had started training for the 2011 Flying Pig Marathon in earnest.  While Cincinnati isn’t known for having brutal winters, January and February were pretty tough.  Lots of snow and lots of ice.  But training went pretty well.  At the end of February, I had a great time running with 11 other runners at the Ragnar Relay in Del Sol, Arizona, and surprised myself by turning in 3 consecutive legs averaging under 8:00 minute miles.  That little confidence boost lead me to give myself a bit of a fitness test in March by running the Cincinnati Heart Half Marathon to a PR:  1:42:43.

When May rolled around I felt ready to tackle the Flying Pig.  Everything in my training lead me to believe a sub-4:00 race was more than doable.  In the end, that race left me face down in the gravel after mile the 16 mark, and with a huge question mark about my health.  Things turned out OK, though, and I got the go ahead to continue running, with a strict proviso that I pay keen attention to my hydration levels.  Much to the dismay of my entire family, I made the decision to turn around a week later and run the Toronto Good Life Marathon.  My reasons were many, and although I was a bit afraid too, I’m glad I made the decision to do it.  I finished in just over 4 hours:  4:00:40.

I spent the summer training for the fall marathon I had on my schedule:  the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.  While I had turned in a solid performance in Toronto, I knew I had a better time in me, so I got to work trying to make that happen.  At the beginning of the MCM training cycle, I made to the decision to try something new with my training and signed up with coaching from the Hanson-Brooks Distance Project.  I worked directly with Luke Humphrey, who is running in the Olympic Trials Marathon in just a few weeks.  Their thinking on marathon training plans are a bit different from most, but honestly, that’s what I wanted.

By late summer, I knew I was improving.  Double digit tempo runs no longer scared me, and my strength and speed runs were solid as well.  My peak mileage got up to about 60 miles per week and I was handling it well.  I went into the race feeling pretty confident.  My goal was to run a 3:45:00 and I ended up bettering that by 3 minutes:  3:42:00, an 18 minute PR!  I also got to run with a bunch of great people, many of whom I had met in person at the Ragnar race in February.  Getting to meet a bunch of people I had only known online was an incredible treat as well.

A smile at the finish of the Marine Corps Marathon

This last part of the year has been spent recovering a little bit from a wonky hip, but it’s mostly been spent setting my goals for 2012.  I’ll get to that in a post in a few days.

I’ve learned a ton this year and look forward to more of the same next year.