Looking back on the year in races

With 2013 winding its way down, I’ve been reflecting on the races in which I’ve participated during it.

Bottom line: this year was a good year of racing for me.

While my road race times did sort of trail off near the end of the year, that was the only negative I experienced in 2013. And, if anything, it can be looked at as a positive, as it’s shown me that I need to adjust to the ever-lengthening racing seasons I’m on the path to continually building for myself.

Overall, this was a very positive year for my running and fitness. I learned way more about training, performance, and nutrition than I’ve ever known, but more than that: I applied that knowledge and I saw results.

Looking back, 2012 was my first year really getting serious with my diet and fitness—especially running. This year I got even more serious. Thanks in large part to Stephanie, my diet is much cleaner than it’s ever been. On top of that, 2013 saw me not only add more events—and more types of events—to my calendar, but it also saw me learn how to focus better leading into a race, and it saw my overall race results improve as well.

In 2012, I ran five 5Ks. One was in the 23-minute range, one was in the 22-minute range, and three were in the 21-minute range. This year I upped my 5K total to six (that is, if you include the one 5K that was actually 3.25 miles, not 3.1), and finished sub-21 for four of them (20:12, 20:41, 20:41, and 20:53), sub-22 for the Thanksgiving run, and then 22:14 for that 3.25-mile “5K” (that’s equivalent to 5K pace of 21:15).

The Thanksgiving race was the only 5K I finished with a pace over 7 minutes per mile (7:02). In 2012, I finished only one race with a sub-7-min/mile pace.

In March I also ran my first distance longer than 5K: a St. Patrick’s Day-themed “lucky” 7K (4.3 miles). It was my first race of the year, and up to that point was the coldest race I ever ran. I also was majorly slowed down by a very crowded start line—probably more crowded than any race I’ve ever run. My finishing pace of 7:19/mile was a little slower than I’d hoped, but considering the conditions, I wasn’t too upset.

My only other footrace of the year was my miler—my first ever 1-mile race—in June. Considering one of my initial goals when I started training last year was to run a fast mile, I was pretty excited to discover this race. It gave me something to shoot for, instead of practicing my mile with no mile-long event where I could put my training to the test. I finished in 5:52, which I was pleased with since my goal at the time was simply to finish sub-6, due to some debilitating foot cramping in the days leading up the race.

The mile is the only distance I’ve finished a practice run in faster than I’ve finished a race. I’d like to get some more milers under my belt so I can understand how to pace myself better for those shorter, faster races. I know of about four of them within a respectable driving distance from me that I may try to run in next summer. Hopefully I can run in at least a couple of them so I can gain that experience and finish even faster.

With all that said, if you break down the numbers, here’s how my road races compare between 2012 and 2013:

2012: 5 races, 15.50 miles, 1:51:03 total time, 7:10/mile pace
2013: 8 races, 24.05 miles, 2:44:11 total time, 6:50/mile pace

Without even addressing the pace, I feel like those numbers probably look pathetic to serious, hardcore runners. Of course, I tend to view serious, hardcore runners as distance runners and/or runners who participate in way more races than I do. I don’t typically rack up a lot of mileage, even during a normal week of training. My 2012 race mileage is barely longer than a half-marathon, and even after adding three more races in 2013, my total race mileage for this year is still less than a full marathon.

But I did get faster—by 20 seconds per mile!—while adding more events and total mileage. My overall pace for my entire 2013 race season (again: 6:50/mile) was faster than my fastest pace for any single race in 2012 (6:53/mile). That’s what I’m happy with. You can’t go wrong with improvement.

Now, not only did I add more types of footraces to my calendar in 2013, but I added more types of, simply, races to my calendar as well.

Of course I’m referring to the stair climbs.

I didn’t even know this was a thing until January when the family of a woman I know who had rehabbed from some strokes and an aneurysm in 2012 at the Rehabilitation Institute Of Chicago (RIC) mentioned wanting to get a team together for November’s SkyRise Chicago at the Willis (Sears) Tower. SkyRise benefits the RIC, and it was out of the family’s gratefulness for the work RIC did that they talked about getting a team together. I expressed my interest and began training on the 13 stories of stairs at my work immediately, even though registration didn’t open up until June.

Right after this came up, Stephanie told me she’d heard about a stair climb at Milwaukee’s US Bank Center in March. So we signed up and did that.

I loved it pretty much right away. Stephanie had mixed feelings. However, we continued training and after we both went on to complete SkyRise in respectable times, Stephanie was also all in. Shortly after that, we discovered another climb at Milwaukee’s US Bank Center less than two weeks after SkyRise. So then we signed up and did that one as well.

Even though it was a different set-up for the event put on by a different organization, it was the same set of stairs we climbed in March. And we both beat our times from March. Again: you can’t go wrong with improvement. We also both took home age group awards. It was a great feeling, and we’re both looking forward to doing more of these tower races (as long as we can afford the registration and fundraising costs, of course).

Across my three stair races, here are my totals: 197 stories (4,177 steps) climbed in 35:41.

For those being my first three stair races, I’m pretty excited to see what I can do in future stair races. Hopefully I can make a similar improvement between my first and second years of stair racing that I did between my first and second years of road racing. Even if that level of improvement isn’t reasonable, it doesn’t matter because I’m still excited and looking forward to learning even more and putting in the work to become better.

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4 comments

  1. i am a little confused… are you saying that in all of 2013 you haven’t even run a whole 26 miles? even including training runs? or do you just mean in the races you’ve done?

    1. Just races. Between speed work & “long runs” (long for me, anyway), I run usually 8 to 11 miles per week to train.

      1. oh! that makes way more sense… although, long runs at a moderate pace help a lot with speed. food for thought. ever since reading your blog I’ve been rolling the miler over and over in my head. when it gets warm out again I’m going to see how fast I can run a mile. I’ve never really cared before. 😉

  2. Josh,
    This is a very interesting and well written article. I am proud of your accomplishments. Keep up the good work!

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