Friday, December 31, 2010

Recounting the Miles of 2010

Greetings from Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO.  Ok, I’m actually snug in my house in northern Virginia right now, but I took one last peek at my training log this morning and one stat jumped out that normally doesn’t catch my eye: the yearly mileage.  My attention usually goes right to the weekly/monthly tallies, but I’ve never bothered to take a look at the accumulation of all those miles.  My 2010 total is: 1548.6 mi.  If I ran west from house, Colorado is where I'd end up.
I wish I could add another four and change to that tonight at the Fairfax Four Miler, but unfortunately, I’m on the shelf with a knee injury (a topic for another, broodier blog).  But it got me nostalgic to think about where all those miles took me throughout the past 11 months and 30 days.
The beginning of the year started with many snowy/slushy miles, slogging my way through Snowmageddon, Snopocalypse, and the other monster storms that came through the D.C. area.  I probably logged a quarter of those 1500+ miles on a four mile loop around the neighborhood across the street, since they apparently got preferential treatment from the snowplows.  It became my own Groundhog day, going round and round under the gray, cold sky, dodging cars and black ice, day in and day out.
But once the thaw came, 26.2 of those miles went to my first Boston Marathon and carried me from the leafy streets of Hopkinton to the avenues leading to the Prudential building.
Spring miles carved through single-track trails along the Potomac, where I earned my first bee sting (around mile 8 of the Northface Endurance Challenge Half Marathon) and got more familiar with a pack of nettle bushes than I ever care to again.  My right side still tingles at the thought.
The summer brought tortuous miles in the humidity that reduced me to a sweaty, staggering walk and taught me new appreciation for Saturday long runs at 7:00 a.m.  Suffering in the heat, however, sharpened my resolve and helped me earn lactic-acid-bound miles around the track.
And following an afternoon thunderstorm that ratcheted up the humidity so much so that the steam rising from the pavement made the route seem like it was on fire, I met my new running partner whom I covered numerous miles with in the wee hours of the mornings.
The changing leaves also brought a new adventure: the Ragnar Relay.  Though I took on just 22 miles of my team’s total (we covered just over 200 together), I learned to run up mountains in 90 degree heat, friendships can be born and strengthened when you spend more than 30 hours in a van with the same people, it’s possible to sleep on a soccer field for two hours and feel totally refreshed, and, perhaps most importantly, beef jerky can be better than sex.
The fall also brought a staggering PR spree, revealing just how sharp those torturous summer miles had made the sword.  A 17:11 5K two weeks before the Army Ten Miler, and a 59:41 Army Ten Miler time.  
While these miles aren’t reflected in my log, I biked all of my wife’s long run miles with her for 18 weeks leading up to her Philadelphia Marathon PR, an experience I wouldn’t trade, nor did I anticipate to be as rewarding.
And I’ve enjoyed races with friends who previously didn’t run or race, such as my friend Sarah, who is my Ragnar co-captain and took on the Backyard Burn Series and is running her first Half Marathon in March.  And my mother-in-law, who when she heard we were running a turkey trot, said, “I want to do it with you guys.”  So, three hours and a shopping cart full of new running gear later, she was primed to run.  She ran her first race with my wife the next morning.
Lastly, in the past few weeks, I learned that sometimes you just have to chuck the training program and get back to the roots of why we run: because we love it.  And so I let out from the back door and just listened to my feet pound the pavement and my breath chuff in and out.
2010 has brought me more than just worn shoes and PRs, but also new friends, deeper relationships, and the knowledge that physically (and mentally) I can endure a hell of a lot.
Here’s to a 2011 where you find yourself healthy, fleet of feet, and passing the miles with those you love.  Happy New Year!

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