2012 RUNNING YEAR IN REVIEW
2012 was my best year of running yet! 2011 had also been an excellent running year. I worked very hard over that summer, and brought my weight down from 180 lbs to 168 lbs, and ran the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon in September 2011. Even though I did not run very well in that marathon (3:55), I had built a great mileage base leading up to it, and used that to fuel an awesome 2011 fall racing season. In November 2011, I ran an 18:43 5k at the Running With the Saints 5k in Manassas, in which I won my age group. A week later, I set a PR at the Richmond Half Marathon, running a 1:27:11. Then one week after that, I ran a 38:39 at the Cranberry Crawl 10k in Washington DC, again winning my age group, and breaking 40 minutes in a 10k for the first time since 2007. Then, six days after the Cranberry Crawl, I ran the West Vincent Turkey Trot 5k, near my parents' house in Pennsylvania. I actually finished first overall in that race! That was the first time I had won a race since I was in high school. Finally, one week later, I ran the Hot Chocolate 15k in DC, and set a 15k PR with a 59:41. I was really "hitting my stride"! What a great "run"! Ok, enough terrible puns for now. 2011 was great, but I was still hoping to continue improving in 2012.
January - JFK 20k - Carderock, MD
|C&O Canal Towpath - Carderock|
One interesting thing about his race was that it had actually snowed about 2 inches the night before and into that morning. I had only paid $5 to enter this race, so I was seriously considering just bagging it. But I checked the roads in the morning, and they appeared to be safe to drive on, so I went to the race. While the asphalt roads were clear, the dirt trail was anything but! It was covered in 2 inches of fresh, slippery snow. This would be an interesting race indeed. I was not really planning on "racing" this run, and was just going to treat it like a slightly up-tempo long run. I was just coming off a very busy fall racing season, and just looking to build up mileage and prepare for my spring racing season at this point. Even if I wasn't seriously racing though, I figured that $5 for a prepared long run with the course marked, and all the water stops out there for you, and a group of people to run with and keep you motivated was not a bad deal.
I started off conservatively. It was tough sledding on the trail. Every time you planted your feet, they sunk into the snow which slowed you down. And then when you pushed off, it was slippery and hard to gain traction and push off effectively. You really had to work much harder than usual to hold a pace under these conditions than if you were to run on an asphalt surface on a nice, cool spring day for example. I picked up the pace a bit in the 2nd mile, and then settled into a comfortable rhythm. It was quite scenic and peaceful out on the trail, with the river and all the fresh snow. I ended up running a 1:28:27 (7:06/mile pace), and finishing 10th place overall (2012 JFK 20K Race Results!). I never really pushed myself very hard during the race. I felt like I easily could have dropped down under 7-minute pace if I had wanted to. But again, I was really just doing this as a workout, so I wasn't looking to over-do it. But I was pleased that I was able to maintain a decent pace in such challenging conditions.
January - High Cloud Snapple Half Marathon - Carderock, MD
|C&O Canal Towpath|
February - Krispy Kreme Challenge - Raleigh, NC
|Krispy Kreme Store - Raleigh, NC|
The race course starts on NC State's campus, and goes 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme store. There you must consume a box of one dozen glazed doughnuts, and then run 2.5 miles back to the finish - all in under 1 hour.
|The "mashing" technique|
March - Gainesville Middle School 5k - Gainesville, VA
This was basically my first race of 2012. Even though it was technically my 4th race of the year, this was the first one where I actually planned on giving a maximum effort - no doughnuts today. I ran this race back in 2010, and finished 3rd overall. My right shoelace came untied 1.5 miles into that race, and I decided to just run with it rather than stop to tie it. I was in 6th place when the shoe came untied, and actually moved all the way up to 3rd place by the end of the race, so I guess my "strategy" worked. Maybe I should run all my races with shoes untied?
|3rd Place Overall - Woo hoo!|
April - Cherry Blossom 10 Miler
This is probably my favorite race to run in the Washington DC area. It is always held on the first Sunday in April, right when we are usually emerging from the cold, winter weather, and transitioning into the spring. The course is flat, fast, and scenic. You run by several famous monuments, and also get to see thousands of pretty pink cherry blossom trees in full bloom. My wife and I have run this race every year since we moved here, and this was our 4th time. The first time, in 2009, I ran a 1:32. I was not in great shape at that point, and didn't really run it all out anyway. The next year, I made a huge jump to 1:14. In 2011, I finally broke 1:10, with a new 10-mile PR of 1:08:17. This year, I knew that I could crush my PR. Race time projections I had looked up on MacMillan's Race Calculator (MacMillan's Race Calculator) were promising.
|Cherry Blossom Trees at the Tidal Basin|
This was perhaps my best performance in any race this year. I ran strong, smart, and steady throughout. My mile splits were 6:16, 6:20, 6:13, 5:57, 6:14, 6:15, 6:19, 6:20, 6:15, and a 6:05 on the final mile. I was very encouraged that I was able to run that last mile so strong. My feet were a bit sore the day after the race, but I felt fine soon enough. I think I will stick to 10k and shorter with my racing flats from now on though. Another positive thing about this race is it gave me hope that I could likely run a much faster half-marathon and marathon than I had previously thought possible..
April - Brambleton Ribbon Run 10k - Ashburn, VA
|4th place overall, 2nd place in my age group!|
Unfortunately, I had a long day at school the day before this race. We do a big project every year called the Bill Project in my classes. The final day of it is called the Congressional Simulation where the students all come together and pretend to be Congressmen - present bills, debate them, vote on them, etc. It is a fun project, but on that last day, you miss your planning period, and are very busy, walking around, monitoring everything, and on your feet literally ALL DAY. It's actually kind of just like a regular day of teaching, except on steroids. So, I was already sort of tired out from that. Then I got home, ready to kick up my feet and finally relax - until my wife reminded me that we had tickets to a concert that night at Club Iota in Arlington - which does not have any seats! This was not looking good. We got home from the concert a little after midnight. I stretched a little bit and then went to bed around 1 a.m. The race was beginning in just 7 hours!
This race course begins in the Brambleton Town Center in Ashburn. It is a 5k/10k loop course. So, for the 10k, you just run the loop twice. About 400 meters into the race, you turn out of the Town Center and begin climbing a pretty substantial hill. It is not incredibly steep, but it is probably about 800 meters long. And if you are running the 10k, you have to run it twice! Other than that, the course is actually very flat and fast though. Well, I ran a strong race, and was 3rd place overall for most of the first loop. One runner passed me on the second loop, and I got close to him at some points, but couldn't ever generate enough speed to pass him. I finished in 38:24 (6:10/mile pace), taking 4th place overall out of 289 runners, and earned 2nd place in my age group! (2012 Brambleton Ribbon Run 10k Results!) I didn't win a gift card, but they actually gave out really nice trophies, which was cool. I kind of wish I had run the 5k instead though, because the winning time was only 18:25. I probably would have finished 1st overall if I had run the 5k! Oftentimes at 5k/10k races, the 5k is far less competitive, and a good opportunity to scoop up some awards against easier competition. After the race, I went home to finally get some much needed rest!
April - Ashburn Village 10k - Ashburn, VA
|2nd place overall!|
This race came just one week after the Brambleton Ribbon Run 10k. I again was hoping to break 38 minutes. This race was also a 5k/10k, and last year I had actually run the 5k. I remembered it as being reasonably flat, and a decent course to go after a fast time. One thing I unfortunately did not account for is that the 10k course splits off after about 1 mile and goes a different route, where there actually are several challenging hills to slow you down. It was sort of rainy and muggy outside the day of this race too, which did not help.
|The awards ceremony|
April - Run for Shelter 10k, Alexandria VA
|Heading for the finish line of the Run for Shelter 10k|
One last chance to break 38 minutes this spring. The course was a simple out-and-back entirely on Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria. Several different races actually use this same course throughout the year. I enjoy running this course because I actually used to live in an apartment on Eisenhower Avenue, and I used to run up and down this road frequently. It is sort of like a "home course" for me.
This is a very flat and fast course - the only minor exception is when you cross the bridge over I-95. Unfortunately, I did a really fast 6x800 workout on the track on Wednesday, and my hamstrings were still sore and tired. I also was a bit fatigued because this was the 3rd consecutive 10k I had raced in three consecutive weeks - not a great idea if you are looking for a fast time. I still managed to finish in 38:23 (6:10/mile pace), and took 9th overall out of 375 runners. (Run for Shelter Race Results!) It was frustrating not to break 38 minutes again, but I will keep trying. Still, it was a very respectable 10k time, and I did finish ahead of ALOT of people - 366 to be exact. It was also my 4th consecutive race with a top-10 finish!
I recently read two excellent books by former US Olympian Pete Pfitzinger, called Road Racing for Serious Runners and Advanced Marathoning One thing I learned from the books is that it takes a while - 8 to 10 days to be exact - to actually see the benefit from a hard workout. This is why it is not a good idea to, let's say, run a really fast 6x800 workout three days before a race. Your body needs time to supercompensate - or, recover from training and adapt to a higher level of fitness. Pfitzinger writes that "8 to 10 days is generally an adequate amount of time to recover from and reap the rewards of most hard training sessions. Given that any one workout provides only a small fitness benefit - less than 1 percent - but that a workout can cause severe short-term fatigue, it is wise to err on the side of caution and allow enough time to fully recover from training before a race... Although you won't see the benefits of this week's workout in this weekend's race, if you do the workout early enough in the week, you should recover sufficiently for it not to have a detrimental effect on your race performance." He suggests allowing 4 days between tempo runs or long runs and a race. VO2 Max workouts should be completed no less than 5 days before a race. But as I mentioned above, basically any hard workout (long run, lactate threshold, VO2 max) that you do within 8-10 days of a race, will not actually help you improve your performance in that particular race.
May - Dog Jog 5k - Downingtown, PA
|Me and my awesome mom|
I went out pretty fast, but I was still only in 3rd place. I checked my watch to find that I was running about a 5:30 pace, and realized that I probably could not run much faster, especially if I were to maintain it for 3.1 miles. I guess winning the race was not in the cards for today. Eventually I dropped into 4th place. The course was very challenging. It was on a trail for a bit, then a lot of it was on grass, and even when it went onto roads, there were several significant hills. Still, I finished 4th place overall in 18:50 (6:04/mile pace) and won my age group! (2012 Dog Jog Results) My finishing time of 18:50 would have beaten last year's winning time by more than a full minute! But this year, it was only good enough for 4th place. Oh well, sometimes racing is partially about luck and who does (or doesn't) show up. But I was still happy to run well, win my age group, and to get to spend time with my mom.
May - Kelley Cares 5k - Alexandria, VA
|First place in 30-39 age group!|
I started off somewhat conservatively this race with a 5:47 first mile, and kept my mile splits pretty even throughout. My finishing time was 18:12 (5:51/mile pace), good for 6th place overall out of 701 runners, and 1st in my age group! (2012 Kelley Cares 5k Results!) It was very cool to finish so high in such a large race. I remember, just before the race started, looking behind me and seeing the massive crowd of people. It's amazing to think that I was 6th out of such a huge group! This was probably one of the best races I ran in 2012. I ran smart and tough, and felt strong during the race, but also felt like I had given it everything I had by the time I hit the finish line.
June - Herndon Festival 5k - Herndon, VA
This was the 3rd consecutive year I have run this race. I finished in the top 10 overall in both 2010 and 2011, so I had high expectations coming in. I was hoping to be in the low 18s or maybe even break 18 minutes.
The first mile is mostly downhill, so I started off with a fast 5:36 mile, and settled into 3rd place, although there was one runner right behind me. The second mile begins with a substantial uphill climb, which really tired me out after such a quick start. Then, a little before the 2 mile mark, I unfortunately went the wrong way! The race is a 5k/10k, and the courses are different, so you have to pay attention. Luckily, a volunteer yelled to me that I was going the wrong way for the 5k, and I was able to turn around. Even though the gaffe only probably cost me about 10 seconds, the 4th place runner, who was not far behind me, had overtaken 3rd place by the time I got back onto the course. I worked hard to make up the ground during the last mile, but couldn't catch him, and finished 4th place overall out of 484 runners in 18:50 (6:03/mile pace) (Herndon Festival 5k Race Results)....or so I thought....
|We both won awards! Go Team Novotni!|
June - Child Rescue Center 5k - Sterling, VA
This was my final race of the spring season. I figured I would take one more shot at breaking 18 minutes in the 5k. I also had checked out the results from previous years, and saw that I had a good chance to win, or at least finish pretty high.
Once I arrived at the race, I immediately dismissed my goal of breaking 18 minutes. For a warm-up, I generally run the first half-mile or mile of the course, and then turn around and run back. Well, the first half-mile of this course was directly up a very steep hill! This would be an interesting race!
|2nd Place Overall! Yay!!!|
July - Historic Beaufort 5k - Beaufort, NC
1994 - 1 mile - 1st place (15-19)
1995 - 1 mile - 1st place OVERALL
1996 - 1 mile - 1st place (15-19)
1997 - 1 mile - 1st place (15-19)
1998 - 1 mile - 1st place (20-29)
1999 - 1 mile - 1st place (20-29)
2004 - 1 mile - 1st place (20-29)
2007 - 10k - 1st place (25-29), 8th overall
2011 - 5k - 1st place (30-34), 6th overall
2012 - 5k - 1st place (30-34) , 6th overall
It was extremely hot and humid for the 2012 race. Although it was "only" 85 degrees, the "feels like" temperature was 91 degrees that morning due to the extreme humidity. I found an interesting website that basically tells you what time you would have run a race in if the temperature had been different. (Temperature Time Conversion Calculator) So, for example, if I would normally run an 18:00 5k in ideal 60 degree weather, that would turn into an 18:48 if I ran the same race in 90 degree weather. Sounds about right to me. So, my goal was set - breaking 19 minutes! The 5k is an out and back course, and there was a lot of wind blowing in your face after you turn around to finish the 2nd half of the race. Overall, not an ideal day to run!
|Start of the Beaufort 5k. I got quite a "jump" on the field :)|
July - Vibha Dream Mile 5k - Fairfax, VA
(Race Results!) I was happy with the effort overall. However, this was a very strange - and somewhat disorganized - race, and I will probably not run it again.
This was the only month of 2012 where I didn't do any races! Although I was steadily improving with my Pete Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning training plan.
September - International Peace Half-Marathon - Washington, DC
I was still closely following my Pete Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning training plan. This week, the plan called for a 16 mile run with 12 of those miles at marathon race pace. I was hoping to run the Philadelphia Marathon in 3:00, so my marathon pace was about 6:50/mile. This means that my goal was to finish this race in roughly 1:30, and hopefully do so without feeling too strained or tired along the way. Now, the plan only called for 12 miles at race pace, and this race was 13.1, so I wasn't sure exactly what to do. I thought maybe I could run the first mile easy as a warm-up and then pick up the pace. But the race was on a narrow trail, so it would be difficult to pass so many people once I sped up. I also thought about just running 12 miles at that pace, and then shutting it down for the last mile, and jogging in to the finish. I also thought about just running the full 13.1 and not worrying about it. I mean, it's only 1 extra mile. What's the difference? I figured I would start off at my pace and just see how it went along the way.
|Adidas Adizero Adios|
This was the first time I wore my new Adidas Adizero Adios shoes, and they felt great. They are racing flats built for longer races - 10 miles and above. They are only 7.9 oz, and the last three people to set a World Record in the marathon have actually worn the Adios.
|Ridiculously Photogenic Running Guy|
|3rd place overall - Hooray! Accepting my|
award here - a gift certificate to Georgetown
|Georgetown Running Company|
For finishing 3rd place, I won a gift certificate to Georgetown Running Company. We don't go to Georgetown often, so we decided to just walk up to the store (which was only about a half mile away) and use the gift certificate right then. I got a snappy new pair of running shorts!
Walking back to the car, we also
passed Georgetown Cupcake (http://www.georgetowncupcake.com/), which is featured on the TV show DC Cupcake - and, unbelievably, there was hardly any line! We couldn't resist, and went in for some cupcakes to help us "re-fuel" from the half-marathon. YUM!! What a fun day!
September - Clarendon Day 5k - Arlington, VA
|Finish of the Clarendon Day 5k|
I ran my 1st mile in 5:32. Wow! The 2nd mile was a 5:38, and at that point I figured I had my sub-18 minute 5k in the bag. I didn't realize how much I slowed down on the 3rd mile though, and ended up running a 5:59 (although I know I was working hard because my average heart rate during that 3rd mile was 185). As I was nearing the finish line, the race clock was in the 17:50s, so I thought I had it! I slowed down a bit, and crossed the finish line as the clock read 17:57. But then I looked at my watch and it said 18:02! The official results which came out later also said I ran an 18:02. The stupid race clock was wrong! If only I hadn't slowed down at the end! I also registered 3.14 miles (instead of 3.10) on my watch, which slowed down my time a bit too. Oh well. Still, I was happy with my 18:02, which is the fastest 5k I have ever run since I was in high school. I also finished 22nd place overall out of 1100 runners, which was impressive. Clarendon Day 5k Results I wish I had broken 18 minutes, but I guess I can focus on 5ks again after the marathon is over, perhaps in the spring season.
October - Wilson Bridge Half Marathon - Washington, DC
|Race Shirt and bib number|
So, I settled on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half-Marathon, which was recently rated as one of the 27 best half-marathons in the U.S. by Runner's World magazine. It begins at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate in Alexandria. You run down George Washington Parkway along the Potomac River for the first 8 miles or so. Then you cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the river and into National Harbor for the final few miles. It is a pretty fast course except for a big hill around mile 12. There was some rain that morning, and it was a bit windy. Conditions were not ideal, but I was determined. I ended up running a great race! Here were my mile splits:
1 - 6:19
2 - 6:26
4 - 6:27
5 - 6:29
6 - 6:21
7 - 6:30
8 - 6:31
9 - 6:40
10 - 6:25
11 - 6:24
12 - 6:44 (big hill!)
13 - 6:08
final 0.24 - 1:30 (6:15 pace)
I crushed my old PR by almost 2 minutes with a time of 1:25:33 (6:33/mile pace)!! I finished 50th place out of 2,351 runners. (Race Results) I actually wanted to run about 5 seconds per mile faster, but my pace just felt right for that day. I felt like if I ran much faster early on, I would have just crashed in the last few miles. But I was very excited about my new half marathon PR! I am also excited to run another half-marathon at some point, as I am pretty sure that with some tapering (remember, this was in the middle of marathon training), I could knock another minute or two off that time pretty easily.
October - The Duane Novotni 10k
This week called for an 8k to 15k tune-up race. There weren't really any 10k (or 8k or 15k) races within any reasonable distance of my house this weekend. So, I decided to just run a 10k by myself. There is a loop near my house that is about 2 miles, which I run some of my lactate threshold runs on. I decided to just do that loop 3 times, plus whatever it took until my Garmin watch hit 6.2 miles. I ran a 37:49 (6:04/mile pace), which is a new 10k PR for me. I am not sure if it actually counts as a PR though, because it was not in a race. Hopefully I can break 38 minutes in an actual race soon too. It seems like it should be even easier to do if I had some competition pushing me and wasn't running by myself like today. But either way, it was a great workout and test leading up to the marathon, which showed that I am right on track to accomplish my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
November - Jug Bay Run for Wildlife 10k - Upper Marlboro, MD
|1,000 foot long wooden bridge along the race course|
|1st Place Age Group Award!!|
So, I did not break 38 minutes, as I was hoping. But it was still a solid performance, and a fun day overall. And I can always take another shot at a 10k in the spring. This was my first time doing this race, and I would recommend it to others - as long as they are not faster than me and in my age group.
November - Philadelphia Marathon
|Hey, check it out - I'm famous! What thoughtful co-workers!|
It was frustrating to get sick right before the race (and of course, my cold went away just a few days after the race..grrr!) , but I was still very proud of my performance. My wife, Michelle, also finished her first ever marathon that day in a very impressive 4:38. After I finished, I actually jogged back to the 25 mile mark, found Michelle, and then ran with her for the last 1.2 miles back to the finish. So, I guess I actually ran closer to 30 miles total that day! It was an awesome day for both of us.
December - Christmas Caper 10k - Washington, DC
This was the first post-marathon race for my wife and I. The race is a 5k/10k which runs around Hains Point in DC. It is completely flat and usually very fast. However, it was extremely windy and cold this time! I finished in 39:04 (6:18/mile pace) - and took 7th place overall! (2012 Christmas Caper 10k Results) However, I ran the exact same course last November about 20 seconds faster. The wind definitely slowed me down today. At times, it felt like I was running in place while fighting against the wind gusts. I think I was probably still experiencing a bit of post-marathon malaise too. My legs still felt somewhat sluggish. I think it is time to take a break from racing, go into winter mileage buildup/maintenance and get ready for some serious spring racing. Still, finishing 7th overall is nothing to sneeze at, and it was nice to get in a good workout right before all the Christmas parties and calories begin!
|Duane's Medal Tree!|
December - Ringing in Hope 10k
Ok, one more race in 2012! This race was on December 31, so it would definitely be my last of the year. This was the same course as the Brambleton Ribbon Run that I did back in April.
I ran a 39:42 (6:24/mile pace) and finished 7th overall out of 526 runners. (2012 Ringing in Hope 10k Results) This was about a minute and a half slower that my time from April. Again, I don't think I am in peak racing form at the moment. Time to focus on building up some easier mileage over the winter, before kicking back into some serious training and racing for the spring So, I will probably take a short break from serious racing for now. But I can't stay away for too long! My next big race will probably be the Gainesville 5k in March. And my wife and I got into Cherry Blossom again, for the 5th year in a row! So, those are the two main races I am focused on for now.
Overall, 2012 was an outstanding year for running - definitely my best. I set an "adult" PR in the 5k (Can't compare to high school - not fair!). I also set a PR in the 10k, 10-mile, half-marathon, and marathon. I basically set a PR in every single distance that I raced in 2012! Now, just like at the end of 2011, the question becomes - how can I top that?! Can I continue to improve? What do I need to do to improve?
Sometimes, in watching sports, you see athletes who have one great season, and then just can't ever seem to repeat that level of success again. I think part of the reason is that they become satisfied. They think they have "arrived" and that all the hard work is done. With this attitude in mind, they stop doing the things - both major things and minor things - that made them successful in the first place. The athletes who repeat their success year after year, are never satisfied. They know what they need to do to be successful, and have the determination to continue doing it. I hope to continue putting in the work needed to be successful in 2013. Sometimes the workouts can be hard, but I think it all pays off on race day. It is a great feeling to stand on a starting line of a race, look around at a crowd of several hundred people, and know that you are likely more prepared for what is about to happen than all but a few of them. That is what drives me in those hard workouts - the VO2 max workouts, the lactate threshold runs, the long runs. It is what drives me to wake up early in the summer to beat the heat and run, to bundle up and brave the cold for a winter run. With that in mind, I expect 2013 will be another fantastic year for running!