Saturday, March 1, 2014

10 Years of Road Racing....

Ever since college, I've been a runner.  Well not exactly consecutively.  In high school / early college I was a smoker.  Not a hard core one, but maybe 5 - 8 cigarettes a day.  Certainly, enough to be addicted to them and enough to making quitting tough.

I finally got sick and tired of getting colds and sinus infections.  I was also constantly ridiculed for being out of shape.  I remember playing outdoor games and running 50 yards and being winded and sucking wind.  I had quit many times, only to pick it up again when life got tough.

I finally kicked the habit mostly for good in my later years of college.  I started running to get myself in shape.  I also did a life overhaul and fixed up my diet -- going from Oreo's and Cokes to stuff you'd find only at Whole Foods.  I started to lift weights and soon was running 3 - 8 miles in a shot.

I didn't know jack about running and I was on the hook for my own shoes.  Being a poor college student I probably put a 1000 miles on a pair before getting injured.  I got a bad case of runner's knee and even after a month of rest, if I went out for a run I'd get debilitating knee pain.  I remember looking at the Nike's and seeing how worn and lopsided they were and I couldn't believe I had run in them for as long as I had.  One thing I've learned about running: keep your shoes fresh!

I do like the fit of Nike's but anytime I wear them I get knee pain.  I am a New Balance guy or a Brooks guy these days.

I took a several year hiatus from running and picked up smoking again.  Again, I'd smoke for a few months and then get sick again. I'd quit for a while and then another life event would happen and I'd buddy up to the Marlboro man.  It wasn't until 1997 that I finally put the smokes down for good.

I had been dabbling with the smokes again then and life was getting complicated: I was getting married and coming on board with 2 step-children, I was buying a house and I had just started a new job.  Talk about a bunch of big life events coming together all at once.

So one night while sitting in my Palatine Illinois apartment, I decided to go out for a run.  Maybe my knee was better.  That one night I did about 2 miles without any problems.  No knee pain, and best of all, I felt fantastic.

That started the addiction....

From 1997 - 2004 I ran recreationally.  Every few days I'd log a few miles.  Sometimes, when the mood struck me, I ran long.  I remember running 18 miles once (from McHenry Illinois to Woodstock via Bull Valley Road).  I never raced, although I fantasized about running a marathon... but I didn't know much about it.

In 2004 a chance conversation in the locker room with a friend of mine led me to my first race.  He wanted me to run the Lake In The Hills "Run Thru the Hills Race"  I wasn't terribly interested but I humored him and said, "sure I'll do it" figuring to blow him off.  A few days later he handed me a race entry and said "see ya there"  Ugh, I had to do something social....

I figured since I ran a lot that I could easily "win" a 10K.  Nobody ran as much as me (famous last words).

As the name of the race indicates that race is a hilly race.  I wound up running it in about 49-51 minutes.  I had no idea about pacing and I dragged my sorry butt to the finish line -- completely gassed.  It was amazing to see all the different types of runners.  There were 100s of other runners there and I got a t-shirt, a pancake breakfast.  I was bummed I didn't win anything, but I suddenly realized there was more to running than just going out and jogging X miles.  Needless to say my interest was piqued.

My next race was another 5K in Crystal Lake that I decided to do on a whim.  I am pretty sure it was the Crystal Lake Health Bridge 5K.  I wound up running it in the low 22's.  What made this race memorable was that I placed in my age group and won something.  There's nothing like standing in a crowd after a race wondering if you won anything and to hear your name as winning in your age division.  Now I was really hooked.

Throughout 2004 and on I have raced.  Up until about 2008 I was racing way more than I should and often placing in my age division, winning some sort of swag.  It wasn't unusual for me to be doing a 5K or 10K  nearly every weekend.  I've literally raced in hundreds of races.  You can see many of them on my Athlinks page.  I want to say that Athlinks has recorded about 85% of my races, so there are many out there unaccounted for.

In 2009 when I turned 40, though, the age group wins started to dry up.  For some reason, in Illinois, the 40 year old age division is one of the toughest.  At this point, I did switch over to running distance events -- I became a half marathon junkie just as that race type exploded.  I also started running 1 - 2 marathons a year...  I still thoroughly enjoy the half marathon, as it is still an accomplishment yet far less demanding physically.

I think I hit my peak in 2007 and after that point, my times took a turn for the worse.  It sucks to get older and while I never amounted to a huge threat to winning races, I always made a good showing for myself.  I've come in second overall in a few races, but never first.

I do think my best times are behind me, but you never know.  I put in WAY more miles than I did when I first started (probably twice as much) and I now have some structure to my training, but you really can't outrun Father Time.

Roughly speaking here are my PRs:

  • 5K - 20:10
  • 10K - 41:20
  • 5M - 33:20
  • 10M - 1:11
  • Half Marathon: 1:31
  • Marathon: 3:38

I still jump into races, but these days I don't race nearly as much as I used to.  If the race is fairly cheap, fits into my training regime, and close by, I'll do it on a whim.  I am not a big fan of "entertainment" races.  Color runs, Electric Runs and Undie Runs are great introductions to people new to running, but for me, I prefer a solid road race.  I do like to go to destination races though.  And if there is a race in Nevada, I am game.

To commemorate 10 years of racing and nearly two decades of running, I've taken pictures of all the swag I've won.  Each one has a story and a memory associated with it.  Even some of the medals from 2004 I can clearly remember the course, the people there and roughly what time I got.  Some are age group awards and some are simply finishers medals.  But I still treasure each one of them.  Hopefully someone remembers to bury me with them when my days are over....

Enjoy the photos:

Some plaques from the Wauconda-fest races

We started to put the medals in a display case....

The red / black ribbon is a 3rd place age group award at the Rockford Illinois Half Marathon. Quite a feat considering the size and depth of that race.

I always like the "Bear" race and I miss the Tyranena Race (they don't have many beer runs in Utah)

Long Beach Half Marathon medal and the Green Bay Half Marathon (2009)

The Woodstock Illinois race always had good awards

I came in 3rd overall (left trophy) at the Coto de Caza Half Marathon. Tough race. 

The Utah Midnight Run have strobe lights.

One of my favorites. The Summerlin Half Marathon finisher's medal

The DinoHalf Stegosaurus Half Marathon Finisher medal.

Age group award for the Handcart Half Marathon. It is a belt buckle. High-quality too.

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