For the first time since I started running, I didn’t run more miles this year than I did last year. Of course, last year I ran three marathons, and this year I only ran one. But I have put in 1631 miles (with probably 5 miles to go before New Year’s Eve), which came within about a 65 miles of last year’s total, so I guess that’s still an accomplishment.
2016 will go down in my personal history as the year I ran the Boston Marathon. I ran it, and it almost broke me. It was my slowest marathon, even slower than my first one. I got terrible cramps, had to walk a good bit, and decided that I couldn’t face another marathon for at least a year. Despite all that, it was a great day. The Boston Marathon experience is just unbeatable.
Along with finally experiencing the Boston Marathon, I got to run in some amazing places. Nikki and I spent about ten days on Maui in May, which led to some pretty cool runs. We went on a (failed) run in a eucalyptus forest in upcountry Maui, I ran in a downpour in “dry” south Maui, and I explored the roads south of Hana. Over the summer, I went on a couple of great runs in the hills of West Virginia, both of which you’ll see in my list of epic runs, below. Duke and I even got in a nice run around a lake in upstate New York on the way to WV. Finally, right at the end of the year, I got to explore the Capitol basin and waterfront in Olympia, WA on a pre-dawn run.
I ran some fun races, with a marathon, a 5K, two 10Ks, and four half marathons. After Boston, I got some redemption at my fifth James Joyce Ramble 10K. I had vowed not to run any hot weather races, but I made an exception for the hot and sunny BAA 10K in June. In the fall, I ran four back-to-back half marathons: the BAA half and Narragansett half (where Nikkki also ran the 5K) in October, the Chilly Fattman half in Newton in November, and the Happy Holidays half marathon and 2.62 mile race up in Gloucester in early December. For good measure, I jumped into the Superhero 5K in Cambridge with Nikki. Along the way, I set three personal records, in the 5K, 10K, and half marathon.
Duke still accompanies me on a five mile offleash trail run every Friday when the snow isn’t too deep. I mention that strictly to have an excuse to include this picture of him posing along the trail one fall Friday. We see plenty of deer, hordes of turkeys, and lots of wood ducks along the Neponset in the right season. We’ve actually seen far more coyotes this year than I’m completely comfortable with. Speaking of wildlife, one morning I stopped for water near the Bromley Heath projects, and got to watch a redtailed hawk chase a squirrel all around a park, going over and under benches, through some steps, and under a stage. I can only assume that the hawk wasn’t too hungry, because at one point the two animals perched on the back of the same bench within a foot of each other. And while I was on Maui, I ran into a ringneck pheasant and a pair of wild piglets one morning. Duke wasn’t there for that part, of course.
After such a busy year, especially my four fall half marathons, I was left feeling pretty beaten up. After the final half, I took a solid two weeks off from running. When I picked it back up last week, I felt pretty good. Hopefully that good feeling will continue, as I start eyeing the spring race calendar and set a training plan.
- Boston Marathon: I may have had a bad race (hot, cramps, slowest marathon I’ve ever run), but the Boston Marathon experience is unbeatable. Thousands of spectators cheering, screaming your name. Excellent volunteers. Epic course. I even ran into a bunch of my coworkers in the last few miles. I wrote a full race recap; check it out if you’re interested.
- James Joyce Ramble 10K: This was the fifth year I ran the James Joyce. It’s a scenic course, with an almost excessive number of water stations (good practice taking water, if you’re about to run your first marathon), good volunteer support, and a festive atmosphere at the finish area. It’s also the week after the Boston Marathon, yet I somehow managed to set a PR.
- Happy Holidays Half Marathon and 2.62 Mile Race: This is a back-to-back challenge. First, you run a tenth of a marathon (2.62 miles), then you run a half marathon. This was my last race of the season, and I was hurting, but in the past the short race has been a good warm up for the half. This time, I knew within a few miles that I wasn’t having a good race. Stuck with my running buddy Derek for maybe six miles, than had him go for it while I fell back. He hit a new PR, while I took in the seaside Gloucester scenery for a slower finish.
- January 3: I broke out of my usual rut with this run. I went out through the trails at Paul’s Bridge/Fowl Meadows, ran up the shoulder of Great Blue Hill, then on trails around Ponkapoag Pond and Houghton’s Pond, and on roads back to the house. I ran into one of my gym buddies, an old guy named Art, on the dam at Ponkapoag.
February 20: Before I even knew I was running Boston, I was helping Nikki’s charity team train. Our first time running together, we ran the Newton Hills. The second time out, we all met up at Back Bay, ran out the Southwest Corridor, did a lap around Franklin Park, then came back through the Emerald Necklace. At the end of our agreed run, Derek and I decided to put in a few more miles along the Esplanade. When I realized that I was about to miss my train home, we really picked up the pace. I made the train with a minute to spare, completely out of breath.
July 1: While on vacation in West Virginia, I took Duke on a fun little trail run just over the state line in Maryland. There’s a spot that my father always liked to hike in where a power line passes through the state forest. We ran mostly out-and-back, with a couple of little side trips. Up and down the hills, crossed a couple of streams, found a bus in the woods, and got hopelessly mired in a bog at one point. Duke wore a GoPro for this run, and you can see a five minute edit below.
- July 3: On that same trip to West Virginia, I ran a big loop around my little town, starting out through Maryland, then back through West Virginia on a series of dirt roads. I ran past a 19th century gristmill, along my old school bus route, and past my great-great-grandmother’s homestead. Right around mile 14, I treed a bear. It was right along the road when I popped up over a hill, and it ran about 50 feet up the hillside above the road, then climbed a tall tree. I backed off and waited a few minutes, and it climbed back down and continued up the hill. Pretty cool.
September 18: Nikki and I spent a weekend near Portland for a friend’s wedding. I took it easy at the reception, then got up early and went for a long run along Old Orchard Beach. It was too chilly to swim, but the beach views were beautiful, and there were lots of old roller coasters and boardwalk areas to check out. I managed to pick up a bike path that brought me most of the way back. It was interesting to note how different the water was in different towns. The tap water from the hotel in Saco was disgusting. So was the water I picked up along the beach in Scarborough. However, I filled up again along the bike path in Old Orchard Beach at mile 15 or so, and that water tasted just fine.
- April 18: Yes, I’m going to call the Boston Marathon a failure. Despite how awesome the experience itself is, as a race, my day was an epic fail. You can read my full race report, but believe me when I tell you that I had a bad day. It was 75 degrees when I started, after snow just days before, and I sweated like crazy. Starting right after I crested Heartbreak Hill, I got terrible leg cramps and had to walk a good bit.
May 6: Nikki and I went to Maui for about ten days in May. On the first morning, we got up early, went up to the top of Haleakala for sunrise, then came down to Makawao for some breakfast. We then made our way to Makawao State Forest for a run. It was a beautiful eucalyptus forest with red dirt paths, which is heavily used by mountain bikers and dog walkers. I had planned a six mile loop, while Nikki was planning to go out and back for about 3 miles. I’d catch up with her on the way back, and we’d finish together. When we got there, the trail went straight up the mountain. Nikki took the right fork, I took the left, and we planned to meet at the end. We both immediately lost cell service. It wasn’t hot, but it was exceptionally humid. After gaining over 500 feet in the first mile and a half, I was out of breath and dripping with sweat. I decided to give up and go back. Luckily Nikki did, too, because I couldn’t find a way to contact her, and was worried that we’d be wandering around trying to find each other all day. We got more snacks from the bakery, went to the beach, and gave up on running for the day.
- November 2: I started out for a run that was planned for 9 miles, but knew immediately that I was too sore to pull that off. Made a 4 mile loop out of it to keep from wasting the day entirely.
- November 16: Another last minute failure… I had planned an 8 miler, and the legs didn’t agree. I was limping pretty badly, and decided not to push it. Two miles? Sure.
- November 20: You might be seeing a pattern here. November was not a good month for me. I set up a four-pack of half marathons for myself… Two in October, one in November, and one in December. Plus a 5K. As I was getting close to the end of that series, my body was in revolt. I pulled my groin in early October, and it was still hurt in late November, plus my knees were getting sore from compensating for it. I headed out for a long run on November 20. I had planned for 18 miles, but gave myself an option to cut across and turn it into a 14 miler if I was feeling rough. When I got to the decision point, I thought I was feeling better than 14, but worse than 18. I took a quick look at a map, and there seemed to be a way to split the difference. However, as I went on, it became clear that I had misjudged. My shortened 18 miler actually worked out to 19 miles. And to top it all off, I fell right around 15 miles and re-pulled my groin and banged up my knee a good bit. And it was also really cold!
Garmin Fenix 3: My Fenix 2 ran into issues just before we were flying off to Maui this spring. Instead of getting it replaced, I paid Garmin the difference to get their new hotness. Color screen, smartwatch support, third party apps… this thing is high tech. And it also tracks my swims in the pool or the ocean, my runs, my heartrate and cadence, and any hikes or bike rides I go on. Even though my non-optical heartrate model is over a year old, I think this is still one of the top GPS watches on the market.
- SaltStick Fast Chews: After struggling with severe cramps in the Boston Marathon this year, and similar but not quite as bad cramps in two other recent marathons, I have been trying to work on my electrolyte balance a little bit. I drink buckets of water on long runs when it’s hot, so I’m trying to offset that with more salts. I’ve tried several drink mixes, but these little chewable tablets are the easiest solution.
Asics ASX Dry Tank: Last year, I embraced the running visor. This year, it was tank tops. Less fabric means less heat, and this particular tank is a little longer over the waist and very soft to the touch, while still breathing well.
- Asics Fujitrail 2-in-1 shorts: I like 2-in-1 style shorts that have an integrated compression liner. No worrying about underwear, but more comfortable than a brief style liner. This pair has a phone pocket, loops and pockets for gels and trash, and a few other stash pockets. Perfect for self-supported long runs.
- Cree LED flashlight: This is a handy little flashlight that I use for a lot more than running. It has a sturdy metal body, fits in the palm of your hand, and casts a lot of light from a single AA battery. On days when I know I’ll be out before dawn, especially if the sidewalks aren’t great, I’ll carry this thing in strobe mode to make myself more visible. Once the sun is up, I can pop it in a pocket.
- Oh No, Ross and Carrie: The ultimate show for skeptics! The hosts test the claims of religion, spirituality, and pseudoscience. Along the way, they’ve joined both the Mormon church and Scientology, undergone ear candling and colon cleansing, and tried ouija boards and exorcisms. As they say, “We show up, so you don’t have to.”
- Our National Conversation About Conversations About Race: As a white guy who mostly hangs around with other white guys, I’m always looking for different perspectives on race. This is a show with a diverse panel of hosts who thoughtfully discuss the news and pop culture through the lens of race.
- Presidential: In the run up to this year’s election, the Washington Post ran a podcast series where they profiled every president. It was a lot of fun for a history buff, even though I haven’t been able to listen to the final episode just yet.
- Witch Hunt: Speaking of history, this show examines the Salem witch hysteria in historic detail.
- HUB History: We can’t let all this mention of history podcasts pass by without mentioning HUB History. This is a cool show that tells lesser known stories from Boston’s history. And of course the cohosts are awesome. That’s right, Nikki and I started a podcast!
You know the old joke… “How can you tell that someone ran a marathon? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” So I try not to brag. In fact, I rarely mention when I run a race. But since I ran Boston and can’t shut up about it, indulge me a little more. I’m pretty proud of this little collection. #notsohumblebrag #bling