Saturday, January 26, 2013

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
My first race of 2012 was the JFK 20k (12.4 miles) on the C&O Canal Towpath in Carderock, MD. I really love this trail, and do many of my long runs on it during marathon training. The trail actually begins right in the heart of bustling Georgetown and runs all the way up to Cumberland, MD. It connects to another trail there, which you could actually follow all the way to Pittsburgh if you were so inclined.  The trail is mostly a packed dirt/rock/gravel surface, and it runs along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Potomac River.  This race started not in Georgetown, but in Carderock, MD, which is actually where I usually begin most of my runs on this trail - Carderock is less traffic-y to get to, and has free and plentiful parking, unlike Georgetown. 

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
This was another race on the C&O Canal Towpath, and another race that I was just running as a workout.  It was a little easier running the course without the 2 inches of snow.  One interesting thing about this half marathon, though, was that it was not actually a half marathon. It was an out-and-back course, and upon arriving at the turn around point, I glanced at my watch and noticed that I had only run 6 miles! This meant that the race would only be 12 miles, not a half marathon - which should be 13.1 miles for any running novices who may not be aware of that fact! I finished in 1:27:20 (7:05/mile pace).  However, I did not stop at the finish line. I ran straight through the finish line, past the volunteers handing out medals and water, and was determined to run the final 1.1 miles which I had planned on running that day!  A woman who had finished just behind me, noticed that I was continuing to run, and called out, "Hey! Are you going the last 1.1?"  I laughed and replied that I was and that she should join me.  So we ran the last part of the "race" together around the Carderock Recreation Area roads and parking lots, until my watch hit 13.1 miles.  It ended up being a good workout for me, although it was frustrating that they did not mark the course correctly.

February - Krispy Kreme Challenge - Raleigh, NC

Krispy Kreme Store - Raleigh, NC
This was another "non-race" race for me.  I had been wanting to run the Krispy Kreme Challenge ever since seeing it featured on ESPN back in 2009.  I was actually signed up to do it with a friend back in 2010, but we had a major snowstorm that weekend, and could not make it.  So, this was finally my chance.

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
Well, I took off fast from the start, and made it to Krispy Kreme in no time. They had tables lined up with thousands of boxes each containing a dozen doughnuts.  You take a box into the doughnut consumption area, and have to finish it before you continue running the final 2.5 miles of the race.  I had a strategy going in, that I would use my hands to compress 3 doughnuts together into 1, so it didn't mentally seem like quite so much (see picture on left). Then, it would only seem like I was eating 4 donuts total, instead of 12.  Well, the first 3 hit me like a rock. I finished them, but knew that I was in trouble. I mashed the next three together, and it took some time, but I got those down too.  My strategy had also been to eat them FAST, before my stomach had a chance to feel full, but I was just not able to do it.  I started on my next set of  3, and was really struggling now. I finally finished that set, but literally could not eat another bite without throwing up. So, I regrettably gave up on the last three doughnuts and started "running" again.  In case you were curious, running immediately after eating 9 Krispy Kreme doughnuts is inadvisable.  I threw up on the way back, but did eventually reach the finish line in just over one hour total.  The finishing area was COVERED with "vomit bombs."  They all looked exactly the same too, just like a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, all mashed up. I almost threw up again at the finish line while walking past all the vomit bombs. Even though I did not actually complete the "challenge", it was a crazy, fun event to do, and a good story.

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!
This year's race was actually on St. Patrick's Day, and it had a very odd start. The course begins with 2 laps on the Gainesville Middle School track.  I started off quickly, taking over 1st place, but the problem was that on the 2nd lap, I was running into the back of people who were walking (or running slowly).  Luckily the course veered off onto the roads after that.  I felt really strong, and held first place for the first mile or so, but later dropped into 2nd and then 3rd place. I took 2nd place back for a bit, and we went back and forth a couple of times. I made one last effort to catch him at the end, but just couldn't make up the ground, and settled for a very impressive 3rd place overall finish out of 329 runners, in 17:32. (Race Results!)  The course was only 3 miles though, so my 5k time would have been roughly 18:10 (about 5:50/mile) if they had measured the course correctly.  I won a very nice plaque and a gift card to The Running Store,  which is also located in Gainesville. I really enjoy getting gift certificates at races.  They are so much more practical than all those silly medals and trophies.  My spring racing season was off to an excellent start!

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
It was a perfect day to run - nice, cool, and cloudy.  We had had a very mild winter, so ironically the cherry blossoms had already bloomed and mostly died by the day of the Cherry Blossom Race.  I opted to run in my racing flats. I have never run anything longer than 10k in my racing flats, so was a bit nervous about it.  I since have purchased Adidas Adizero Adios, which are racing flats built more for the 10 mile through marathon racing distances.  I felt great in the race, and ran a new 10-mile PR of 1:03:19 (6:19/mile pace)!  I finished 316th place out of 17,000 runners, and was 274th amongst males. (Race Results!)  Considering that the race field included elite runners from all over the world - Kenya, Ethiopia, etc., I was very proud of my placing.

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!
Coming off an excellent Cherry Blossom Race and 10-mile PR, I was excited to run this 10k two weeks later. I was hoping to break 38 minutes and set a new 10k PR too.

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
There was not a lot of competition for me at this race.  There was one runner who went way out in front from the beginning, and I settled into second place.  No one ever really got very close to me after that, and I finished 2nd place overall in 39:00 (6:16/mile pace).  (2012 Ashburn Village 10k Results!) My wife, who had run the 5k and already finished, got a really good finish line photo (above).  For finishing 2nd overall, I won another nice trophy and a $50 Giant gift card - Woo hoo! But just like my last race, I wish I had run the 5k instead.  The winning time in the 5k was only 21:51.  I could have run that backwards, blindfolded, and in my sleep! Well OK, maybe not all three of those things at the same time. I think I might have been able to win it though if I was only running backwards, but not blindfolded or sleeping.   At this point, I had finished 3rd, 4th, and 2nd overall respectively in my last 3 races! I was on quite a "run."

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 was never really planning on running this race. I was getting ready to head up to PA to visit my parents for Mother's Day weekend. Earlier in the week, just out of curiosity, I checked the web to see if there were any races around my parents' house that weekend. It turns out, there was a 5k, at Downingtown High School, just about 15 minutes away from their house. I looked into it a bit further, and checked the results from 2011. The winning time was only 19:54!  'I could beat that time EASY!!' I cockily thought to myself.  So, we arrived in PA on Friday night, and went to the race early on Saturday morning. My mom even came to watch the race - what a great mom! I have great parents who have made a huge effort to see many of my races since high school. They even flew all the way to Florida just to watch me run a marathon one time! 

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 had had enough of 10ks - it was getting too warm anyway - and was looking for a fast 5k course this weekend.  I checked the Kelley Cares 5k course online - and saw that it started at George Washington Middle School and ran through a pretty flat area of Alexandria.

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!
I was very pleased to have knocked almost a full minute off of my 2011 time on this course, but when the results were posted, it said I was 5th place! I know that I actually finished 4th because I could see everyone who was ahead of me for the entire race. When you are that far up in a race, you certainly would notice if anyone passes you.  It's not like you have to count a lot of people to figure it out.  It turns out that there was a "mystery runner" who somehow had not only "passed" me, but also "passed" the guy in front of me to move into 3rd place overall!  What I think happened, is that the runner who "finished 3rd" actually cut off part of the course - there is somewhere that you can do this (either accidentally or intentionally) - and got ahead of me and the real 3rd place finisher.  Even worse, this cheater was actually in my age group too, so it caused me to finish 2nd in my age group instead of first! Luckily the prize was only a gold or silver medal, so it didn't really matter that they didn't give me first place. Now, if there had been a gift certificate involved, I might have needed to create a disturbance! But despite this minor nuisance, it was a very fun day. My wife also ran the race, and she won 2nd place in her age group too! (see picture on left) Several people I teach with also ran the race and we all got to go out to breakfast together afterwards. This is a decent race overall, and I will likely continue to run it. I think if don't go out so fast next time, run my miles a little more even, and don't make any wrong turns, I have a good chance of breaking 18 next year.

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!!!
I started off quickly, but also conservatively.  I knew better than to burn all of my energy on that first hill.  Better to hang back a bit, and then explode coming over the top of the hill into the rest of the course. One runner looked very strong and went way out in front. Two other runners foolishly charged up the hill ahead of me at the start.  I hung back in 4th place over the hill.  Around the one mile mark, one guy who had charged up the hill looked like he was dying, so I blew by him.  Then about a quarter mile later, I caught up with the other hill-charger. He didn't look quite as bad, but I also could tell that there was no way he could match my speed the rest of the way. I dropped him, and surged ahead into 2nd place.  The first place runner was way out ahead. I saw him once at the beginning of the 3rd mile, but that was it.  Now I was comfortably in 2nd place, and no one was really pushing me from behind either. It became mentally difficult to continue to run all-out when I knew that I would finish 2nd place basically no matter what I did.  I cruised in for a 19:01 finish, taking 2nd place overall! (CRC Benefit 5k Race Results!) My finishing time was not great, but on such a challenging course, and without any real competition pushing me, I will take it.  It was nice to finish so high, but at the same time, but I also realized that it was time to take a break from "serious" racing for a bit.  Now, I would just focus on building up some mileage through the summer to gear up for the fall racing season.


I signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon!  I really was not satisfied with my 3:55 last year, and knew I could do much better.  So, I decided to try again this fall.  Still, I was looking for some ideas about how to train more effectively and specifically for a marathon. Luckily I found a blog by Tyler Pake around this time. (  Tyler is an outstanding runner - and blogger - who actually gave me the idea for this blog.  He has run the Boston Marathon several times, so I was able to get some training ideas from his blog.  He recommended a book called Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger.  The book offers several training plans.  I ended up settling on the 18-week, maximum 55 miles/week plan.  The plan emphasizes a lot of lactate threshold runs early on, which I had not previously done. As you get closer to the marathon, it emphasizes more VO2 max workouts, which I was doing somewhat. After reading his book though, I did realize that I had not really been doing some of my VO2 max workouts correctly.  I should have been focusing on longer intervals, like 1000s, 1200s, and 1600s, instead of so many 400s and 800s.  I also should have been taking a shorter rest between intervals - only about 50 to 90% of the time of the interval itself.  I liked the plan because it called for two 8k-15k tune up races leading up to the marathon. One thing I don't like about marathons is that they take so long to train for, and you are not really able to race much during the training usually.  Then if you have a bad day at the marathon, you end up feeling like it was somewhat of a waste.  But with this training plan, I would be able to run a couple of fast races leading up to the marathon, and maybe even sneak in a half marathon PR too!

July - Historic Beaufort 5k - Beaufort, NC

The Beaufort Road Race and I go way back. It was actually the very first road race I ever ran, back in 1994.  I won my age group in the mile that year, got a trophy, and I was hooked!  The race offers a 1 mile race, a 5k, and a 10k distance. I have actually won my age group (or won overall) every single year I have run the race - all 10 times!  Here are my results for each year I have competed in the race.

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 :)
I went out strong in the first mile, and was running with a lead pack of about 5 runners through the first mile.  After mile 1, a few runners surged ahead.  I eventually settled into 5th place.  One person passed me who I thought might be in my age group (it turned out he was!) around mile 2.  I surged ahead and took the lead back.  A different person passed me in the last half mile, but he was a teenager, so I didn't really care very much - as it would not effect my age group standing.  I ended up finishing 6th place overall out of 358 runners with an 18:56 (6:05/mile pace), and took 1st place in my age group!  (2012 Beaufort 5k Race Results)  Despite the extreme weather, I knocked 26 seconds off my time from last year!  I also was pleased to see that the ages of the 5 guys who finished ahead of me were 22, 20, 24, 16, and 17 respectively (I am 33!).  Overall, I was very happy with the effort (which was equivalent to an 18:02 under ideal conditions), and with winning my age group for the 10th TIME IN A ROW!

July - Vibha Dream Mile 5k - Fairfax, VA

My wife's parents were visiting during the week of this race.  Her mom is a very good runner and tri-athlete, so we decided they might enjoy running a race. And there was a 5k very close to our house that weekend.  I had just run the Beaufort 5k a week earlier, and was not really in my peak racing season anyway, so I was not planning on giving a full effort in this race.  I even did a 10 mile run the day before this race. I viewed this as less of a race and more of a "family bonding experience."  I ran pretty steady but hard throughout and finished in 18:53 (6:04/mile) and placed 9th overall out of 280 runners. (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
I started off quickly and not many people went with me.  One guy ran way out ahead. Another runner came up alongside me for a bit. I talked to him, and told him I was planning on running exactly 1:30 today, although I was capable of running much faster. He said he was planning on running faster than 1:30, and went ahead of me. So, I was alone in 3rd place overall.  I felt GREAT during this race.  Everything felt easy and comfortable.  I wore a heart rate monitor, and my heart rate stayed below my lactate threshold rate (171 bpm) for almost the entire race.  It was out and back, so I saw my wife on the way back. She said I looked like I wasn't even trying! She thought that all the other runners probably wanted to punch me!  She also said that I reminded her of "ridiculously photogenic running guy." (See picture on right)  This was a race photo from some guy who was running a 10k race.  Runners, almost to a man, would agree that they generally look awful in race photos - especially if they are running correctly. This photo ended up going viral because it was so hilarious that he could look so "photogenic" in a race picture.

3rd place overall - Hooray! Accepting my
award here - a gift certificate to Georgetown
Running Company.

So, back to the race! I was getting close to mile 12 and trying to decide what to do - since I was only supposed to run 12 miles at marathon pace. I still felt comfortable, and finally decided that it would be silly to slow down for the last mile, so I didn't, and cruised in for a 3rd place overall finish! I only beat the 4th place finisher by about 6 seconds, so I am glad that I did not slow down on that last mile.  I would have finished slightly under 1:30, but the course was marked a bit long. I ran 1:30:33 (6:54/mile pace) and finished 3rd place overall(2012 International Peace Half Marathon Race Results!)

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!

Georgetown Cupcake...YUM!

Walking back to the car, we also
passed Georgetown Cupcake (, 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 was looking at my Advanced Marathoning training plan, and realized that it didn't have any 5k races scheduled.  I still wanted to try to break 18 minutes, and decided this would probably be my last opportunity to go for it before the marathon got too close.  The Clarendon Day 5k seemed like an excellent race to go for it!  The course has a lot of downhill and flat stretches, although it is uphill at the end.  Some of the downhills are pretty steep though, and I usually end up "braking" a bit, and taking short, choppy steps on these. Guess I am afraid of tumbling down the hills - like Jack and Jill.

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
My Pete Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning training plan called for an 8k-15k tune up race this weekend.  A half-marathon was too long, but I was certain I could improve on my PR of 1:27:11, which I set in the Richmond Half Marathon last year, and I really wanted to run one!

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
This was my final tune-up race before the Philadelphia Marathon.  The Pete Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning called for an 8k-10k tune-up race two weeks before your goal marathon, so this race worked perfectly.  I was hoping to break 38 minutes in this race.  The course starts out on a park road, and is flat in the beginning.  There are two hills along the way - but it is an out-and-back course, so then it really becomes 4 hills.  About 2 miles of the course is also run on a packed rocky/gravel trail. You also run over a 1,000 foot long wooden bridge, which passes over some wetlands at one point.  Overall, the course is not really slow, but not really fast either.  There are definitely better courses to run if you are looking for a PR, but it is pretty fair overall.  It is also scenic, running along the banks of the Patuxent River, following a "driving tour" route through a wildlife preserve area.  I guess runners are a pretty wild bunch. So, we fit right in! 

1st Place Age Group Award!!
I started off strong with a 5:56 first mile.  Then I settled into a more even pace and ran 6:08 and 6:03 for the next two miles.  But after the turn around, the gravel trail and the hills started to get to me and slow me down some.  I ran the fourth mile in 6:12, followed by a 6:19, and a 6:15 on the last mile.  I finished the final .27 miles at a 6:01 pace, which was encouraging.  My finishing time was 38:35 (6:09/mile pace), good for 6th place overall, and 1st place in my age group! (2012 Jug Bay 10k Race Results!)  I won a gift certificate to a local restaurant, and a free canoe or kayak rental to use at Patuxent River Park.  This will make for a nice spring "date day" with my wife once the weather warms back up some.  We could go for a nice, scenic canoe ride on the Patuxent River, and then out for a (mostly) free yummy rib dinner.

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!
The marathon was finally here. Unfortunately, I got a bad cold about a week and a half before the race.  I had a lot of throat/chest congestion, coughing, runny nose, etc.  I started to feel slightly better as the race got closer - thanks in part to some antibiotics and Mucinex D, but I was definitely not nearly 100% by race day.  I even thought about just not running the race, but ultimately decided that it was best to just go through with it.  I was planning on running with the 3:00 pace group, but due to my illness, went more conservative and decided to run with the 3:05 pace group for the first half and then just see what I could do in the second half, maybe negative split it, and qualify for Boston.  I ran the first half in 1:32:29 (right on pace for my 3:05), and I fought to stay on pace all the way through mile 22.  But my heart rate was skyrocketing, I was quickly accumulating lactic acid in my leg muscles.  My heart rate was into VO2 max range - up in the 180s.  Mile 23 was 7:57, and mile 24 was 8:15.  My pace was slowing down and my HR was still up in the 180s.  This is where I realized that Boston qualifying was not going to happen today.  I was now behind the pace, and there was no way that I was going to speed up and run 6:30 pace over the next two miles when I was already working at my maximum heart rate just to maintain 8:00 mile pace! So, I started walking during the 25th mile.  I knew I was not qualifying for Boston, but I also knew that even if I walked the entire last 2.2 miles, I would still crush my old PR of 3:34.  I wasn't really sure how long I planned on walking for. I drank some Gatorade as I walked, and started to feel a bit better.  I kept walking even longer though, not sure how my legs would feel when I started running again.  I probably walked for a good half to 3/4 of a mile.  When I started running again, I was surprised. I actually didn't feel that bad at all! Man, I should have started running sooner! Oh well.  I finished pretty strong, running the 26th mile in 8:08, and the final stretch at a 6:46 pace. If I hadn't walked at all,  I estimate that I would have finished right around 3:10.  But again, if I wasn't going to finish under 3:05, I didn't much care whether my time was 3:10 or 3:15, especially when I already had a big PR in the bag.  I finished in 3:15:17 (7:27/mile pace), setting a new PR by almost 19 minutes!

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!


  1. Congratulations on a great year! Impressive marathon PR! I'm glad my blog and training tips helped you improve. That's hardcore you did the Krispy Kreame Challenge. I haven't done it and I can't imagine running 2 miles, eating 12 doughnuts, and running 2 more miles. I'd puke all over the place haha.

  2. Thank you very much Tyler! You have been a big help. Yeah, Krispy Kreme Challenge was pretty insane. It was fun, but I don't think I will be doing that one ever again!