What. A. Year.
With Christmas and the New Year closing in, I figured this seemed like a good time to fire off a recap of 2018. Yes, there’s still 2.5 weeks of December left, but the race season is over (will I be running a 5k on New Year’s Eve? Yes.) and this seemed like a better time to post this bad boy.
This past year was bananas. I experienced some of my highest highs and lowest lows of my running life, all within the year. I set multiple PRs and multiple PWs.
As you can imagine, this is going to be a long, long, long post. So buckle up and enjoy!
This was a disgustingly cold winter in the Midwest. But January (technically late December) began my march to my 2018 goal race: the Ice Age 50. Training for my first 50 meant lots of miles and long runs in super cold weather.
Naturally, January included a race. The F3 Half and 5k is run at the end of January, and offered a great chance to test my 5k speed at this juncture. I notched an 18:50, which was good enough for 5th overall. That also turned out to be my fastest 5k of the entire year.
Cold was the continued story of February. The racing got going with our first Performance Running Outfitters race of the year. This one was at the Steve Cullen 8k in Wauwatosa, WI. Up this this point, every time I had run an 8k, I had run a PR. The chilly day in February was no different as I set a new 8k PR, and more importantly we dominated the team competition.
At the end of February, I escaped the Midwest for a weekend to head down to Texas for the Cowtown Marathon. The plan was to use this mostly as my first super long run of the Ice Age training cycle, and race if I felt good. Turns out, trying new shoes, glasses, pre-race, and in-race nutrition is not a good plan. Whoops. But I still ran a respectable time, and finished in the top 50.
March is when I did a dumb thing and the wheels slowly began to fall off. I took literally zero time off after the Cowtown, as I had to gear back up for the Music City Trail Ultra. In 2017, I ran my 50k PR and placed 5th at this gnarly race; so improvement was on my mind. Most of my runs in early March felt very poor, especially a cold 20 miler the week before.
The MCTU…did not go well. I felt like garbage; and that, combined with poor fueling and dehydration, led to a DNF. After that, I took a little time off although I was still signed up to run the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago.
This was a race I signed up purely to enjoy. I didn’t look at my watch once, and ran at a comfortably hard pace. Turns out, I landed only a few seconds shy of a PR in the 8k.
The month started out so well. I signed up for the 5k race as a part of the Trailbreaker Marathon weekend. On another frigid morning, I picked up the overall win! The time wasn’t the most impressive 5k you’ll ever see, but a win is a win.
However, a couple days after the Trailbreaker, I came down with the flu. I recovered quick enough, and resumed running in time for the sloppy, cold, and windy Run from the Taxman 20k. This race is run at Lapham Peak in WI, and it’s such a brutal course. Four loops in the cold and mud. An 8th place finish was solid, and I left feeling happy about my effort.
The following week, I tweaked a muscle in my ribs, which made breathing quite the chore. Soon after, I developed a cough and started feeling less than great. I did something I never do and went to go see a doctor. She told me it was likely residual from being sick the other week, and that I was fine (Spoiler Alert: I wasn’t).
Let’s also take a moment here to remember that the Ice Age 50 was the first weekend in May. Meaning that April was crunch time for mileage.
All that, and I continued to get worse. I took some serious time off, and when I did run it wasn’t pretty. Coughing during running, and an overall feeling of death. Literally, I could barely run 3 miles, and when I did I would lay on the floor of my apartment for about 45 minutes to recover afterwards. But the doctor said I was fine, so the stubborn runner in me continued to run.
The end of April brought about the Ravenswood 5k, which I was talked into/coerced by certain members of team BibRave (read: Jessica Murphy). Still, I was excited about the day. It was perfect 5k weather, I was feeling improved (I thought), and I’d be taking in the Brewers game at Wrigley in the afternoon. And then I ran my slowest 5k post HS and felt as awful as you would expect.
I took the rest of April off in hopes of resetting.
And that bring us here. My coach firmly believed that my fatigue and problems were caused by low Iron, which would make sense. Except for that cough of death and on and off fever I was experiencing.
The plan was to restart running on May 1. And so I did, with a run that felt worse than any before it. But I thought “I’m just out of shape and not used to summer weather.” Wrong.
The next day, I was mentally ready for an easy 5 miles. This would be the day I was back. It turned out to be the day I ran for One Block, coughed up blood, and drove myself to the ER.
Turns out, this guy ran for about a month (including the Ravenswood 5k) with pneumonia. Turns out, you have it pretty bad when the block of bacteria actually shows up on the X-Ray and the doctors comment on how dense it is. But at least I didn’t have low iron??
Obviously, I took some time off here; 10 days to be exact. But then it was back to it. Oh and no, I didn’t try to run the Ice Age 50 only 5 days after my trip to the ER.
Naturally, I had signed up to run the Green Bay Half, since my Dad was doing the Full. Could I recover in time to run and finish? The answer, in my mind, was a yes as long as I took it easy. Let’s keep in mind that this was literally 7 days after my first run back. But easy does it, and I meandered to a 1:50 finish, which was the plan going in.
And then I got a little carried away with getting my fitness back. Oh, a 10 miler in Chicago the next weekend? My 10 Mile PR is super soft, and I figured it was attainable. Three weeks post pneumonia and a hot day? No bueno. But May did bring one of my favorite training runs with a few of the other BibRave folks on an absurdly hot Sunday.
Let the summer of racing begin!! Only two days into June it was time to toe the line for the Humboldt Mile. While training for Lincoln in 2017, I notched an unofficial 4:59 on the track, but I wanted an official mile time. This didn’t go awesome, which is to be expected when you get out too quick in a mile (yes that’s possible). But still technically a Mile PR…since I didn’t have one before.
The next day it was the Run for the Zoo 10k. This was another one I figured to run as a comfortably hard effort, and I did just that. A solid 41:39 was a good welcome back to respectable racing.
And then it was time for the best weekend of the year. Relay Iowa. 339 miles across the state with little sleep, blistering heat, and lots of alcohol. What a time.
I finished off June with a 5k trail race with my Dad, in the aptly named Father’s Day run. The mud was something, as was the humidity. I knew it would be a run by effort race, and that’s exactly what it was.
Overall, my training was picking back up in June, but it was still very much touch and go. Especially on longer runs
Early July brought stifling heat and another PRO race opportunity. This time at the Firecracker 4 in Hales Corners. My 4 Mile PR was also super soft (since it was on trails), so this was a good opportunity to get that and test my speed. It didn’t go well. Yes, I ran a PR, but I also ran my last mile a minute slower than my first. Bad pacing y’all.
Three days later, it was time for the Country Possum Chase 10k in White Lake, WI. It was a perfect morning for a run, and I snuck out a 6th place finish and a sub 40 10k. It was definitely a much needed boost after a poor Firecracker run.
The highlight of July (and the summer) though was the Under Armour Copper Mountain 50k. Easily the longest run since my attempt at MCTU, and at altitude. Needless to say I was worried about this one. But it was an absolutely amazing weekend. Amazing. I met some more BibRave runners, met some famous runners, and got to spend time in Colorado. What more could you want?
The rest of July was spent getting my base mileage back up as we neared peak Chicago Marathon training time.
The first day of August brought a race. Prowl the Peak was a night trail race on a Wednesday. Night trails you ask? The course is a cross country ski course that had some lights. It had been a while since I had been buried by legit high school runners, so I got to re-experience that.
Two days later was time for my first Beer Mile. In short, I ran fast, chugged slow, and didn’t puke. It was an awesome evening with friends, but it certainly contributed to a shortened long hangover run in the morning.
August is also normally the time for my favorite race: the Gopher to Badger. Last year I ran a PR in the Half here, so I was excited to get back. This year wasn’t as good. I made some fueling mistakes and struggled my way to my slowest time on the course.
I continued to attempt to get quality long runs in, but that was going OK at best. And that was a slight problem, since the end of August brought another challenge.
The Under Armour Killington 50k, the second leg of the mountain series. This. Was. Hard. Holy smokes. I know with the start/finish at the same spot what hills go up must come back down. But this race seemed like we were going up the whole way. In the 50k we climbed both Killington Peak and Pico Peak. Brutal.
One week after Killington, I made my way back to Iowa for the Madrid Milers 15. I’ve never raced this, but instead use it as a long run with friends. Even still, I was able to secure my third consecutive age group victory.
Two days later, I tried my hand at the Fling Mile just down the road in Naperville. A race I could walk to? Perfect. The race was billed as flat and fast, but it was more of up a hill, turnaround, and back down the hill. My legs were decidedly not ready for speed less than 10 days after Killington.
But the Fling was a turning point in my Chicago training. For some reason, my brain clicked that with another 20 miler, I would have my distance more than set. I just needed to work on speed. From here, my training really picked up for the marathon.
The rest of September (aka Peak month) was spent getting two 20s in, and working on some MP and speed workouts. Everything was starting to click for me.
That brought about my last test before the marathon: the Brewers 10k. Last time I ran the Half here injured, so I was excited to see what I could do in the 10k. This race distance is my favorite, and the weather was shaping up to be perfect for a fast race. And it was. I hammered down a 38:26, about a minute PR, and finished 3rd overall in a competitive field.
The rest of the month was spent tapering, and getting some easy miles around Chicago and Wisconsin.
The Chicago Marathon arrived, and I was ready to go. Training had been great, and the weather wasn’t awful. And when the race came…I didn’t have my A game. I still ran a PR, so it’s hard to be too disappointed. But it still bothers me after such a good training cycle.
Two weeks after Chicago, taking off and some light miles, I ran my first (only?) Spartan race. My upper body has never been so ruined, and it was quite the humbling experience.
Annnnd after that I promptly came down with strep throat. This time, I actually went to the doctor to get some proper recovery. I signed up fairly late for the Halloween Hustle, which was my first ever age group win back in 2014. After being sick, it wasn’t pretty, but I still ran a sub 20 time, which I’ll take.
Obviously this month was highlighted by the New York City Marathon. I got the opportunity to run NYC offered to me in September, and how could I say no? I knew after Chicago (and then strep) it might not be pretty, but it was never supposed to be a fast race for me. The experience, and weekend in general, was incredible. Absolutely incredible. From the crowds, to the other runners, to the city itself. I also got to see a few Insta runner friends, which was a nice bonus to the trip.
Looking through my runs, I ran more than it felt like in November. But nothing too serious nor fast. On Thanksgiving I did the obligatory Turkey Trot, which went decidedly OK. For the first time, I didn’t run a PR at the race, but it was the most even I’ve ever run it. So pros and cons, right?
December was/is fraught with a lack of motivation. With nothing looming on my plate, and colder months ahead, my motivation and mojo is fairly low.
I did start the month with a solid Half (actually my fastest of 2018) at the Last Call, but other than that December hasn’t produced a whole lot. As I mentioned, I’ll likely tackle a 5k at the end of the month, but otherwise it’ll be a training month for me.
I’ll also go over 1,500 miles on the year. Far from my highest, but with the Spring going as it did, I won’t complain one bit.
Overall, it was an amazing 2018. Great travel and experiences, and I got to meet tons of other amazing runners. My bank account would probably prefer if I traveled less…but oh well.
Best Race Experience – New York City Marathon – This was a toss up between NYC and Copper Mountain. I picked NYC simply because of what it is. The world’s largest marathon that goes through New York City. The crowds, the experience, and everything about this race was insanely amazing. Would I do it again? Maybe someday, but I don’t know if I would enjoy it as much.
Worst Race Experience – Ravenswood 5k – Nothing against the race, it was incredibly well organized. But running with pneumonia didn’t make for a good experience.
Best Swag – The Cowtown – This was an easy pick. We got two shirts from the Cowtown, and arguably my favorite marathon medal. Plus, if the shirt isn’t for you, the gear for purchase is crazy cheap at the expo.
Hottest Race – Firecracker 4 – When the temperature has already hit 90 for race start, you know you’re in for a warm one. Throw in the humidity, and this was a steamy race. Not the time to go out way too fast, yet that’s what I did.
Coldest Race – Trailbreaker 5k – I think this was the coldest. The Cullen 8k also had single digit temps to start, but with the wind at the Trailbreaker, I have to give this the nod as the coldest race I did in 2018.
Best Race – Brewers 10k – This race was my peak performance in 2018. Any time you feel fantastic and nail a huge PR on the same day, it has to be up there. I mentioned that the 10k is my favorite distance, and that’s mostly because I have the most confidence there. Not the flattest course either, but this was my best race both mentally and physically of 2018.
Worst Race – Gopher to Badger – This was a toss up between G2B and the MCTU. I picked Gopher since I kind of screwed myself by not eating breakfast, and then completely lost mental focus when I knew things were going south.
2018 PRs: 1 mile (5:24), Beer Mile (9:19), 4 mile (25:58), 8k (31:48), 10k (38:26), 20k (1:53:33), Marathon (3:08:25)
2018 PWs: 1 mile (5:45), 5k post HS (22:38), 10 Mile (1:14:32), Half (1:50:47), Marathon (3:42:29), 50k…twice (7:17:56)
So what’s on tap for 2019?
I was recently asked this by a friend, and I said that I didn’t really know. That’s not 100% true, but I definitely have less plans than I regularly do at this juncture.
At this point, I have exactly four things that are for sure. The Pettit Indoor Half in January where I’ll likely go for a PR if/when my training picks back up. The MCTU, which will be quite the redemption run. The Milwaukee Marathon, where I’ll be pacing 1:50 for the Half.
Until now, I haven’t told anyone I signed up for this. But the culmination, and goal race, of 2019 is set to be the Marquette 50. That 50 miler is somewhat of unfinished business for me after this past year, and I had the opportunity to get into this race. Assuming I don’t get pneumonia again, this should go well.
You’ll notice that I don’t even have a 2019 marathon on my calendar. And I probably won’t until I see how I feel after Marquette. I’ve got some ideas about late Fall/early Winter races, but I’ll just have to wait for those.