Part 3 of a series...
2009 was another in a consecutive series of big years of change for me. In fact, until I went back and really gave the year a good look in review it is only in retrospect do I really give this year of my life the respect it deserves. I opened the year around 233 lbs and coming off a good year for me with regard to weight loss and PR's. 2009 seemed positioned for a lot of hope in my eyes--I am glad to say that it did not disappoint me in that regard, although the events of that year proceeded in ways I would not have envisioned at the year's beginning.
The year's races begin in mid-January with the Houston Half Marathon. I ran 2:37:16 and, while this is not a PR, it represent an improvement of over 10 minutes from the previous year and I was happy with that outcome. My thanks to Heather for the photo!
Two weeks later was my first 5K of the year. I ran a 35:22 at the Bill Crews Remission Run. I had a good run in pretty cool weather, though I could not do my best for not feeling fully recovered at this point--recovery is still something of a mystery to me at this point, although a mystery I am trying to figure out. Perhaps the truth is that I enjoy running these events so much that I want to do them all!
Two weeks later I am in Austin for the Austin Half Marathon, an event I decided to do for the opportunity to enjoy this race with friends. I ended up finishing in 2:40:16, which was 3:57 slower than the easier course in Houston last month. Overall, I had hoped for a faster time but I was satisfied with my effort. One interesting thing about this race is that it is the only road event I have done where I have gotten blisters. Anyway, I had a great time at this event regardless of anything else. This photo shows myself, previously mentioned Heather and Cassie prior to the start of the Austin race.
March and April bring a few more 5K races. This time I am ready for each and work hard at giving my best effort. In March I ran my third Spring Fever 5K in a time of 31:09, cutting 2:10 off of last year's PR time (not to mention comparing it to 2007's time of 38:45). In April I ran a new local race, the Muddy Trails 5K. As implied in the name much of this race is run on trails (although not really muddy) and I ran in a time of 30:20 for another new 5K PR time! However, I can't properly write about the events of the Muddy Trails 5K without the proper context. About 2 weeks before the Muddy Trails 5K my daughter was involved in a terrible auto collision that just rocked the stability of my family's world. While my daughter was largely unhurt, her good friend and passenger Allison was knocked out and never regained consciousness before being removed from life support. It is something that still rattles me to my core and I expect that it always will. You can read about that story at this blog post. Perhaps it was fitting, and helped with the mental recovery, that Allison's father and brother also ran in the Muddy Trails event and I was able to enjoy this day with some of her family that attended the event.
In the meantime, my training had been shifting over the last few months. I had registered for the CB&I triathlon, local to my neighborhood of The Woodlands, Texas, and I was on target for my completing my first triathlon.
While I looked forward to this triathlon, I also feared the event in the sense that I was about to do something that was unknown to me. In the end I took a deep breath, entered the water with my swim wave and then did what I set out to do. I even beat my personal goals for each of the 500 meter swim, 15 mile bike and 5K run events. My stated goal for the race was to be under 2 hours, and I had really hoped to beat 1:50:00. In the end, my official finishing time was 1:43:54.5; perhaps more importantly, I walked away from that first triathlon looking forward to my next one!
The rest of May 2009 was busy with events as well. The week following the CB&I triathlon I made a late decision to enter a local YMCA 5K trail run. It was your typical south Texas hot and humid weather, and I was sweating long before the race ever started. I was a bit disappointed with my results at the time (34:21) as it was about 30 seconds slower than the 5K at the end of the previous week's triathlon. However, it also was not a fair comparison of races, not to mention that I really did not plan to do this race until a day or two before. Two weeks later I did the Hog's Hunt 25K trail run at Huntsville State Park. This is basically the spring version of the Rocky Raccoon 25K I did in the past 2 fall seasons. This ended up being a race where I got off to a good start, maintaining a sub-13 minute per mile pace through the first 10 miles. However, after that I had several problems. These included a water-only aid station without water when I was just running out of water in the bottle I carried with me. Fortunately, there was a full aid station less than 2 miles ahead and I took it easy in that distance to try to avoid dehydration. About half a mile after I was refueled, I began to have cramping issues which stayed with me for most of the rest of the race, which I think were caused by dehydration. I finally got past these cramps with about a mile remaining in the race, which I finished in 3:38:09. In spite of my issues of that day, I still had a new 25K trail race PR.
June 2009 brings with it my second triathlon, the Y Freedom Tri. This turned out to be a great race experience for me. My race went pretty much as I would have expected, allowing for the warm weather; although the race experience also also had some surprises such as a better than expected swim and receiving a frozen towel at the end of the race. In the end, this race cemented my desire to continue doing triathlons as I began to look forward to a late August Olympic distance triathlon.
However, I had a lot of summer training to do as preparation for my fall schedule, which was going to become more full of races than I would have even expected at this point.
My next race was the late August Clear Lake Olympic distance triathlon. This race was easily my worst triathlon experience. I cut open the sole of my right foot in two places because of sharp underwater rocks that were not cleared out by the race crews. I experienced two flat tires that cost me a lot of time. Perhaps worst was that after all that, my finishing time (4:29:00) was not officially captured by the timing system. On the other hand, I learned a few hard lessons about determination, including that no race course will beat me if I just keep moving forward. It was shortly after this race that I bought my new road bike and started increasing my training towards a new goal of completing a half Ironman triathlon in October.
As October rolled around I was nursing a nagging thigh/hamstring injury that was just about healed up--although it was not so bad that I had to stop my training. On October 13 I ran the Ten for Texas 10 mile race, repeating the event from two years earlier.
This race is a fantastic local event that I enjoy tremendously. Even taking an easier approach this year to ensure I don't re-injure my hamstring and allowing that I had a half Ironman race in 7 days, I still ran to a 3+ minute PR time of 1:57:54. The next week was one of basic preparation as I looked forward to the Austin Longhorn 70.3 Triathlon. This was a great race experience for me even though it was a difficult race overall.
I stayed with friends for this weekend and learned a lot just by being around more experienced triathletes. Race day came and went with varying degrees of success. My swim and run times were each a little longer than my goal times, but my bike was faster by a larger margin. In the end I finished in 7:58:38 on a tough, warm day, just ahead of my modest 8:00:00 goal time.
At this point I could have rested following a busy and successful year, however I had other plans. Three weeks after the half Ironman race I was in San Antonio for the Rock n Roll Marathon. I had intended to cut the race down to a half marathon (at a Rock n Roll event you can do this just by running the half course and they will adjust your registration for you after the fact), however I was feeling good at the split point around the 9 mile mark and I decided to go the full distance. I had a progressively tough time on the second half of the course, and ultimately finished in 6:11:36 for my first marathon finish. I learned a few more lessons about needing to give myself more recovery time between races, but I was also glad to have completed my first marathon.
I was back in Austin three weeks after the SA RnR marathon for the Decker Challenge half marathon. It was a cold race, and the slightly below freezing temperatures with a light misting rain were a stark change from the races I experienced in recent months. However, it was still a good day (in fact it was my birthday!) and I felt up to trying to keep a solid pace for the day. This was likely the toughest course I had run for a half marathon--and certainly the hilliest--but the day went well and by the 10K mark I knew I was on a PR pace, at least as long as I did not start to tire too much. By mile 10 I realize that a new PR is likely, and with a solid finish I complete the race in 2:31:24, trimming over 2 1/2 minutes off my previous best time for a half marathon.
So sums up a rather busy and successful year. By year's end I had gained confidence as a runner and budding triathlete, though more importantly my hard-fought athletic successes brought with them the weight loss I had been looking for as I ended the year at 211 lbs (losing 22 lbs this year) and having me feeling that I had indeed reclaimed some of my lost health of year's past. I felt short of some of my quantifiable goals for the year (sub 30 minute 5K, sub 2:30 half marathon, getting under 210 lbs) but I only barely missed those 3, and what I gained during the year was of much greater value to me.
If anything I hoped and expected the stage was set for a bigger year in 2010.