Middle of the Pack Runner

It’s been a few weeks since I posted – I’ve been going on this post intermittently now in that time. I wanted to write something that gave the full overview of how I got started in this (seemingly to some) psychotic running year that I’ve decided to take on filling many of my weekends. I got a little carried away, so if you’re just curious as to how my first two races have gone, feel free to skip to the end..

In all honesty, I really started three years ago, in late 2019, early 2020, I got a text from one of my cousins asking if I would be interested in running a marathon with her as she was moving back to the area and was trying to get back into it. I had never really done any running before, especially not in a group setting; and thinking back on my running experience prior to then, I don’t think I’d ever done anything over 6 miles – In High School I was a Swimmer, and Tennis player. While both had their training days with some extra running, it was nothing drastic.

When I was in college I’d done a Spartan Sprint my Freshman Year, and would occasionally go for runs down the Niagara Gorge or path that runs along the Niagara River that could be followed from numerous parks along Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, or teed up to the Erie Canal Towpath, though even that I’d bike more often than anything else. Hitting the pool, or the weight room was more often my way to workout, while both are good, I didn’t necessarily have the best cardio stamina. When I was home for breaks I’d go for the occasional run around town – I very vividly remember forgetting my running shoes in my dorm and deciding that going for a 5 km run Easter morning in Converse Allstars was a great idea (PSA: it wasn’t – I spent two weeks recovering). So, what did I answer when she asked? Well, that was the year that I decided that I was going to start taking my fitness seriously after taking a desk job, and was going to the gym at 4 AM everyday for an hour before work, and had kept it up the last six months. I decided that it would be fantastic to take on a new challenge, so I said yes and signed up. From reading above, it may seem like I gave it some second thought, but truthfully I was signed up within about 10 minutes of the initial question.

March hits, and the world seemingly shuts its collective doors. Bars, Restaurants, Businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ are shut down… this includes Gyms… you hit a Walmart, or any other store that happens to carry fitness equipment, and they’re sold out, in fact some of those stores continue to be sold out of certain equipment three years later.. What’s the best way to keep active when you can do the workouts you were into? Running, Biking, and bodyweight exercises. I started by getting really into biking, in fact I was also signed up to do the Ride for Roswell 40 Mile Route, as well as the Tour de Cure Buffalo 60 mile route. I put some heavy miles on that year, continued my fundraising for both of these activities that had both gone virtual, and decided that I would complete one 100 mile ride on a Saturday – I had my wife drop me off in Rochester and pick me up in Buffalo 8 hours later. That first year I made it 83 miles, but due to some trail rerouting and being on a bike that was FAR too small for me, I called a quits at an easy to access park just North of Buffalo.

I wanted to do it again but hit the full route this time, so I paused my training and that December I ordered a proper road bike… which was backordered about six to eight months. This is where the drive to run started. I still trained on my old bike, but it just wasn’t the higher mileage I was putting in. I really shifted to running as my day to day activity – it wasn’t crazy mileage or anything, if I capped 30 miles, that was a really heavy week, realistically, I was probably only hitting 10 or 15. Doing anywhere from 3 to 5 miles a couple times a week, and followed by bodyweight exercises (or laundry soap weights), the punching bag in the basement, or a cardio VR workout. All the other stuff was good, none of it hit quite the same as running. I started to slowly ramp up my distance, truthfully, still staying within the 20 mile per week guide on the heavy weeks. I completed this ride again the following summer, but had shifted my interest (like the ADD hobbyist that I am).

As the gyms slowly reopened, some faster than others, I started to phase back in some true strength and conditioning workouts and scaled back the running from what I had ramped up to, hitting between 5 and 10 miles per week. Rochester was back on in 2021, unfortunately however the full Marathon didn’t come back, only the half. I’d still never run a half and my deferred registration was still valid for that race, so I decided to run it. I trained minimally for that race, but still wanted to complete it. I had no idea what a good goal would be; the previous November I’d run the distance of a half around town and hit 2:27, so I shot for 2:20-2:30. I wound up finishing in a little over 1:58 – I was happy with my time, and asked what I could do if I trained?

I made a goal in 2022 of hitting the 3 major city runs in our area, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, however for Buffalo, I was going to do the Full Marathon. I don’t have anything drawn out to write here for this training piece because, well, I didn’t train enough. Sure, I added in some longer runs over the course of the year, around six to eight miles occasionally, but that was it, weekly mileage was still hovering at 20 or so. Syracuse was in March, six months after my first ever half in Rochester, and through the dead of winter I’d put some outdoor miles on occasionally, but I hated training on the dreadmill, so I added extra leg workouts in and said good enough. Race day came, and surprisingly this routine got me down to the high 1:56’s – I was floored at the end of this race though. Leg workouts are great for strength, but do very little for your cardio conditioning, and I realized that this could be a problem as there were now only two months until my first Full Marathon.

I started adding in additional runs each week, still keeping the low mileage though. My routines weren’t much more than adding in some cycling and some swimming, keeping the additional strength training, and tossing in a 1-2 mile sprint warm up on the treadmill… next thing I knew it was here. I felt great through the first half, that was familiar territory – I’d only completed two halfs up until this point… a total of 26.2 miles of racing, everything after the 13.1 and 26.2 route split was going to be new territory for me. I was ready to go at race day – my wife dropped me off about 45 mins before the starting gun was to go off, leaving me some time to figure out where to be and what I needed to do. It was hard to miss the start line, so I got over to the city hall area, did some quick warm up jogs and some stretching, and was ready to go… next thing I knew we were starting. I felt great through that first 13.1, my first two miles were in the high 8 min/low 9 min paces. I decided to keep it in the 9’s for the balance of the 13.1 too (with the exception of the line for the restroom around mile 7, which was about a 2 min wait) – actually staying and chatting with the pacer for a good chunk who had some good pointers for training down the line, and suggestions for other Marathons to run.

I reached the fork for the half and full runners and I still felt good at the pace I was going, but the sun was starting to get more intense after 9am, and what started as a cool morning was warming up very quickly. I hit my first wall at Mile 15 – that lasted until Mile 17 where I happened to pickup a new conversation with a guy from Baltimore running his first marathon too. He did a little more training than I, but not a ton. We stuck together through Mile 20, but when 21 hit, I was in the hurt locker – there was no way I was quitting, but I did take it down to a 13:30-ish pace… I was well enough ahead of the DNF bus and had some extra time to make it to the finish line if I just kept going. I kept that pace through Mile 25, and was able to rally a bit through Mile 26, getting back down to a 10:19, but that was all I could muster and held that for the last .2 to cross the finish line in a bit over 4:30. What mattered to me was that I made it across the finish line.

On the way home I said that it was fun, but likely something I’d never do it again, it was a one time thing to do as a challenge… 48 hours later, registration opened for 2023, and I immediately signed up.

I completed a few little 5k events through the year, Buffalo Bills 50 Yard Finish, Sabres Fan Fest 5k, Independence Day 5k, Tunnels to Towers 9/11 Memorial 5k, all with varied success, and then moved on to Rochester’s Half Marathon at the end of September – this time I knew the course and had a lot more running under my belt, I was sure that I could beat my Syracuse time… I was wrong. I was slower by about 5 minutes, and unfortunately didn’t even crack 2 hours. I don’t know what it was, distraction, lack of proper nutrition, or what have you, but I didn’t do very well.

And with that roundabout reflection on my 2020 through last year we come to the end of April, where I’ve set two new PRs in my first two races of the season. Syracuse was the first one of the year, hitting a 1:56:22, which I initially thought that I’d never cracked 1:58 and swore I shaved 2 mins off my to-date PR, but really only took took about 20 seconds off – time off is still time off though, and I was happy with that!

Flower City Challenge was the following Sunday however, and that’s when the fun began – I treated it like a casual Sunday long run with a lot more people, and water on my route.. In a rare turn, I didn’t strike up a conversation with someone next to me, and just kept to it.. Despite rolling my ankle on cobblestone, making a pit stop at mile 7, and just not quite feeling it at the start (I did once I got going, but getting there just felt like a challenge), this time I really did shave almost two minutes off, hitting 1:54:35!

The Buffalo Bills Stair Climb is this week, so after a week off it’s on to something a little different this weekend, and then there’s two weeks until the full!

2023 Event List (Result)

• Syracuse Half Marathon (1:56:22)

• Flower City Half Marathon (1:54:35)

• Buffalo Bills Climb for Air (TBD)

• Buffalo Marathon (TBD)

• Local 5k (TBD)

• Local 5k (TBD)

• Ironman 70.3 (TBD)

• Tunnels to Towers 9/11 5k (TBD)

• Rochester Half Marathon (TBD)


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