Dec 29

My Year in Running: 2017 Edition

Runner with arms open wide

Richmond Marathon photo by Caitlyn Kovalkoski

There’s about a week left in 2017, and I’m taking a bit of a break from running to give myself a chance to rest and recover from what has been a fantabulous year of running. I’ve hit all of my goals and then some. I’m between training cycles right now, and I’m feeling both a little worn down and a couple niggles in various places. I’ve decided that now is a good time not to press my luck.

As for this evening, I have run 2249 miles since January 1, 2017. I’m really proud of this, less because of the number of miles, and more because of what it represents: a year of more or less healthy training. In 2017, I have run 4 countries: the US, Cuba, Canada, and the Netherlands. I ran in several cities: Spartanburg, Santa Clara, Trinidad, Havana, Phoenix, Columbia (SC), Hilton Head, Charleston, Asheville, Victoria, Ocean City, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Amsterdam, Williamsport, and Myrtle Beach, and Richmond, and Chattanooga. Only 10 of these miles were treadmill miles. Some of them were run in the rain. A few in the snow. Many, many of them were run in ridiculous humidity and very warm temperatures.

I have run ten races (the Phoenix Women’s Half-Marathon, Run-Hard Columbia Half-Marathon, the Cooper River Bridge Run 10K, The Biltmore 15K, Grayson Highland’s Half-Marathon, Tread Nightly Half-Marathon, Tread Brightly  4-Miler; The Myrtle Beach Mini-Marathon, the Richmond Marathon, and the Spartanburg GHS Turkey Trot 8K). I only DNS’ed one of them (The Run for the Grasshopper 5K, but this was because I was stuck in Miami on a layover). I PR’ed at 5 of them (Phoenix, Columbia, Cooper River, Biltmore, and Richmond), and I earned a 12 minute BQ, which means that if I can stay healthy, I will run Boston in 2019.

Even better than running fast times, I’ve made some good friends and gotten to reconnect with others.

Best race experience: I had several. I think I might choose Phoenix because that race was everything. It was my first race back from the running hiatus that was Fall 2016. I wasn’t sure what I was capable of. I had been through an emotional roller coaster of a fall, and then I traveled to Cuba where I ran a lot but also was felled by a nasty stomach virus that tied my GI tract into knots for a good two weeks. But that weekend, which was a huge Oiselle meet-up, reunited me with some of my favorite Volée teammates, women who have become close friends over the last few years, some in person, and others online. I also got to meet new teammates. And the race itself was a combination of 5K, 10K, and 13.1, and it was an out-and-back, which means that I got to see tons of my teammates on the course, no matter which distance they chose. Not only that, but I ran the first of two PR’s in the half-marathon this year. The last two miles were really tough, but I was able to get ugly, in part thanks to wing-woman, Feather Stephens, who paced me to the finish! After I had finished, I had to honor of repaying the favor with my friend and teammate Dawn, who had also run the half-marathon, but who had been battling an injury that flared up at mile 10. Hearing that we still had a teammate on the course, I realized that it was Dawn and ran the course back about a mile to find her and keep her company as she finished her journey. Dawn and I have known each other online for a decade, but we had not met in person until that morning. It was great to finally hang out in real life, if briefly. 

Best run: In a year of mostly terrific running, my best run was Richmond. I finally ran the marathon that I knew I could, and not only that, but I ran a 9 minute PR, even with a pit stop at mile 20. Given that my previous personal best was on the notoriously difficult Big Sur course and was also my very first marathon, I knew that I should be able to run a faster time. I knew that I should be able to qualify for Boston. But knowing that you should be able to do something and actually doing that thing are not the same. I had a really solid training cycle, and I knew that there would be a lot of my Oiselle teammates there (though I didn’t see any of them on the course until I got to the amazing Cowbell Corner). It was really cold that day, but it was sunny and beautiful, and Richmond is a really pretty city, especially in the fall with all the autumn leaves.

Worst runWilliamsport. I was supposed to run 16 miles with 8 at marathon pace, but by the end of mile two–not even through my warm up, I was a wreck. I’m not entirely sure what the problem was, but I was almost in tears. After taking a moment (and a gel), I decided to try to run some more but to scrap the tempo. I got the miles in, but it was a really hard day, and by the end, my hip hurt. I’m proud to have gotten through the run and took a few days off to collect myself before moving forward.

Best new piece of running gear: Garmin Fenix 5S. There’s nothing that it can’t do, and it’s a beauty to boot. Finally, I can wear a RoadID badge on the band, so even though the watch is big (and my wrist is small), my arm feels a lot less cluttered. Love. Love. Love.

Best running advice you’ve received this year:  “The scientific term for ‘choking,’ is ‘choking.'” From Matt Fitzgerald’s How Bad Do You Want ItMaybe that’s not advice exactly, but it makes me laugh a little on the inside every time. But seriously, Fitzgerald’s book is full of great advice for endurance athletes, and I listened to it multiple times this year. I listened to it first this summer, and then again in the car on the way to Richmond.

Most inspirational runner: Shalane. No Question.

Running with arms outstretched

Myrtle Beach Mini Photo by MyEPEvents

Favorite picture from a run or race this year: See left. This is from the Myrtle Beach Mini in October around mile 11. I was pretty much alone on the course at this point, and I was having a great morning.

Race experience you would repeat in a heartbeat: Pacing my friend Jenny for the last 10 miles of the Chattanooga 100 miler. We didn’t run very fast, but I was so honored to share part of this journey with her, and the course, what I cold see of it before it got dark, was beautiful!

If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be? F*ck Yes!

Here’s to 2018! If it is half the year that 2017 has turned out to be, I can’t wait.

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