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2009, The Year in Review

Every year I send out a Holiday/End of Year Letter. Here are the highlights of our year!

It was the year of many home improvements. We got new carpet, a new floor and a sliding glass door in the kitchen. 2009 will ultimately go down as The Year of the Termites. After I noticed a crack in the dining room corner, my husband and his son tore out the dining room wall and corner. They rebuilt it themselves. We seized the opportunity to have much-needed siding and new windows installed. The house looks incredible! Now if we can just get the drywall hung . . .

We celebrated our first anniversary last March. We managed to squeeze in two trips to Colorado and my determined husband learned to ski quite well.

In our second year of gardening, we grew a Stupice heirloom that produced copious amounts of seriously delicious tomatoes. Our habaƱero did handsomely. We grew lots of garlic. We also grew our first pumpkin, watermelons, muskmelon and butternut squash, though none were impressive. Tragically, we have a black thumb concerning the one vegetable we love most: spinach. We learned a lot and I'm already plotting ways to expand the garden for next summer. We also had a share in a CSA. Getting different vegetables each week forced me to branch out in my cooking. I loved the challenge.

In June, we ran the Highlands Sky 40 Miler in West Virginia. I highly recommend this beautiful and rugged ultra.

We flew back to Kansas in July for my 20-year high school reunion. Eek! It was fun reconnecting with old friends.

We also bought a new Honda Element - the perfect vehicle for two trail runners!

We both had a good year of running. We ran a few new races including Highlands Sky 40 Miler in West Virginia and some shorter road races for a change. I managed to run Personal Record times at Bull Run 50 Miler, Women’s Half Trail Marathon, The Big Schloss 50k, as well as a 10k and a 5 Mile Turkey Trot. My husband set PRs at the 10K and 5 Miler and he can still beat me at all distances longer than the 100-yard dash.

New adventures in 2009: We took some basic climbing skills classes and we were hooked. Now we belong to a climbing gym and go every week. We enjoy our newfound form of cross training.

In sad news, my cat Buster went to the great mousing grounds in the sky in November. He was with me for fourteen years. We miss him and his antics around the house. My cat CousCous meows a lot more now. She misses her brother.

We're currently gearing up for the training runs we put on in the Massanutten Mountains during the winter and early spring. The logistics are all new as the race course has changed.

We are both very happy to be employed in this recession.

In the coming year, we hope to put a few finishing touches on our kitchen, tackle the bathrooms, run many trails, PR a few races, and enjoy time with good friends and family.

Hope 2010 brings new challenges and good things your way!

Becoming A Better Runner

I'm a runner. I came to running late, after college, for vanity's sake. I've never been particularly fast. I started running because aerobics and machines bored me, and because I didn't have to go to the gym to do it. I liked running because it was hard. I loved the calmness that came as a byproduct of running. I ran because I didn't have to do a lot of planning ahead. I could just run out my door and go as fast or as far as I wanted.

I flew by the seat of my pants, with no training plan. I signed up for my first 5k after some convincing by my cousin and uncle. I did almost all of my training on the treadmill. I never ran more than 3.1 miles. I was incredulous to discover, mid-race, that we had to run up Capitol Hill. How could they have a hill on a race course?!?

My first marathon, ten years ago, was a run/walk slog culminating in a 5:15 finish. I didn't do speedwork, tempo runs or hill repeats and I couldn't make heads nor tails out of Ed Eyestone's Runner's World column. I just loved being in motion in the early morning sunshine. I loved the suffering that made me prove what I was made of every time I did a long run. I loved the post-run naps. I even loved the resulting soreness.  It all made me feel alive.

It has taken years of running experience, miles and training, but I'm getting better and I'm getting faster! How?

. I've been running more consistently. Despite being an "ultrarunner" since 2003, sometimes I only ran twice a week. I've hooked up with a friend and we run twice a week at lunchtime. I've been running four or five days a week. I find the more often I run, the quicker I ease into a rhythm and the more often I want to run. Newton's First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.

. Many of the ultrarunners I hang around are speedy. Running with them (albeit way behind them) forces me to increase my speed. It also raises the bar of what I see as possible. Hanging on with them for even a couple of miles boosts my confidence. Running with faster friends ensures that you never get complacent!

. I've had goals before, the difference this time is that I've set short-term, small-scale goals, then followed each up with another. After years of training for one big marathon or multiple ultra distances, I signed up for some shorter road races. I trained for speed rather than solely for endurance. While I could have trained with more specificity, I focused on what was doable and that worked for me. It paid off in several PRs. A couple fell easily because they were so old, but the rest were hard-won.

2009 Race PRs
Bull Run Run 50 Miler, April 11:13:50 a 31 minute improvement!
Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, May  2:01:27 I was happy - this was two weeks after my 50 miler!
Women's Trail Half Marathon, September  2:12:56 Shaved 19 minutes off this baby, felt strong the whole race
The Big Schloss 50K, September  7:55 27 minute PR, chilly damp temps and wind kept me moving on the ridges!
Veterans Day 10K, November  49:52 A PR of 3 minutes 28 seconds. This was hard-won!
Alexandria Turkey Trot 5 Miler, November 39:42 Old PR: 48:05, 1999. It's been a few years!

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my return to road racing. I'm encouraged that a little more effort in my training paid off in a big way. I'm really excited to think I can see even further improvement with a little more training specificity.
While my true love is trail running, I now appreciate the shorter distances on pavement. I'm looking forward to 2010!