The Super-Duper-Year-End Review a.k.a. 2012 in a Nutshell

Looking back on 2012, I'll be honest, it was not my favorite.   I won't go into the personal details here, but it will suffice to say that I will say goodbye to 2012 with pleasure.  

Running-related, here's the good:

Favorite Races of 2012--Top Three

1.  My favorite race of 2012 was the Oak Barrel Half Marathon in April.  Around Thursday of that week, a friend decided she could not use her bib and wanted to sell it.   I had no plans to run this race, but I jumped on that opportunity.   (I know this is questionable ethically, but the bib was paid for and I made sure to write MY info on it in case of emergency and agreed that I would not sue the race directors even if harm came to me since I had not signed the waiver......)   It was a cool 35 degrees race morning and I went into it with no expectations.  I did, however, want to see if I could make it up Whiskey Hill without walking.  I ran slow and easy the first four miles, including up and over Whiskey Hill.  I began to speed up after the hill and ran my fastest 2nd half of a half-marathon of all time.   I felt WONDERFUL and ran every single step.  (It helped that the 2nd half is all downhill.)   I should run more half-marathons that way--- go in relaxed, no expectations, take it easy the first four miles, then speed up.   I "let the day come to me," so to speak.   I wish I felt that JOY AND HAPPINESS in all of my races.

2.  My second best race was the Kentucky Derby Marathon, also in April.   I ran easy the first half and hard the second half.   During the first 8 miles, I thought I was just having an ok day, but as time went on, I felt stronger and stronger.  My fastest mile of the day was mile 25.   What a GREAT day!  I had to work hard, but I PR'd by 9 minutes.  It was such a nice feeling to read the splits I'd written on my arm to make my 4:39 time goal and discover I was ahead of that time goal the whole way.  I finished in 4:36, three minutes faster than my A. goal.    

3.  Tie:  A very good race was the Land Between the Lakes Trail 23K in March.   I enjoyed this race and made a friend on the course.  I ran somewhat cautiously, and missed my time goal by about 3 minutes.  I felt strong on the trail (no trips or ankle rolls or falls!) and finished strong, however.   Another good race was the Bear Crawl 5K.   I got up the morning of the race and decided to drive to Mount Juliet, TN to run this race, not knowing a soul in Mount Juliet, and again--with no expectations.   I ran as fast as I could for the day and did my best.  I was 11 seconds off a PR and won 2nd in my age group.  It was worth the trip!

Not-So-Favorite Races of 2012--Top Three

1.  The Frostbite Half Marathon in February.   It was an ugly course with a windchill of 13 and ridiculously strong winds.  My body wouldn't go as fast as I wanted it to go.  Lots of negative self talk as I got left behind by my training buddy, who was having a great day.   Also lots of walking. There was a period where it snowed, and that made it somewhat lovely for about 90 seconds.  Then it was miserable again.   I felt like my face was going to fall off in the final stretch on an open highway with those winds. 

2. Run Under the Stars 10-hour Endurance Race.   The name says it all.  (ha ha)  Not really, the fact that it was a night race, an ultramarathon, and went on for 10 hours really did not influence this race being on the bad list.  What did affect it was simple:  MY SHOES.  Or, more specifically, my FEET.   I had bought a new pair of Brooks shoes the same size as my prior ones, but kept getting blisters in them.  I tried several different kinds of socks to no avail.   I assumed it was heat and humidity related.  For the ultra, I stupidly took those shoes and two other back up pairs.   I used tons of Body Glide and started the race.  I ran round and round a 1/2 mile track.  I was actually getting a little bored by mile 3.   I had talked and talked with my training buddy through our spring training and I think we were out of things to say.   There were 99 other folks there, but they weren't talking to me.  By mile 7, I had blisters.  By mile 13, I could no longer wear any of the three pairs of shoes I had brought.  My feet were covered with blisters and all my toenails felt bruised.  Every single step was painful.   My feet had swollen (since it was a night race, I carb loaded, and had a lot of sports drink with sodium so as not to DIE) and I had started in slightly-too-small shoes.   It wasn't until I put on my friend James's man shoes that I was able to run somewhat comfortably.  It was a long night.  I just circled the track mostly alone in the darkness.  I finished my first 50K with my knees and ankles holding up well.  My endurance even held up well, but my spirit was sort of broken.  I suffered (honestly, needlessly) and felt like I didn't get anywhere despite sixty-three laps around a track.   And I thought, "What does this even prove?"   It was months before I made peace with it and put my 50K sticker on my car. 

3.  Franklin Classic 10K on Labor Day.  I really enjoyed this race the year before, but this time, it was terrible.  When I opened the door at my friend Rhonda's house at about 6 that morning, you could cut the air with a knife, it was so humid.  It was supposed to rain, but the drops never came and the air just sat heavy all around us.  Breathing was a chore.  Running AND breathing at the same time were challenging.   Humidity really, really affects me.  I couldn't even get to goal pace in mile 1.  By mile 2, I gave up and called it a training run.   I tried to stay positive, but it was hard.  I finished about 3 minutes slower than the year before.  Three minutes!  In a 10K!

Most Epic Event of 2012--A Combination of Good, Bad, and Ugly

And finally, the most EPIC race experience of 2012 had to be the Flying Monkey Marathon.   I registered for the lottery on a whim and was shocked when I got in.  I was already burned out when I started training for this.  But this isn't a marathon you can just wing.  (ha ha, I made a pun--unintentionally)  You have to train.  On hills.  So, that's what I spent the fall doing.  I ran a lot of hills.  I ran a lot of long, slow runs.  I ran so many hills, my left knee and right ankle hurt almost constantly.   I got to the race start with butterflies in my stomach.  I tackled the hills as best I could.  Then, at mile 10.5, I FELL on a random downhill.   I'm pretty sure I stepped on the edge of some broken pavement or a pothole.   I rolled my left ankle (the good one) and landed hard on my right knee and wrist.  I got up bleeding in three places and kept going.  I tried to laugh it off.   I limped the first half mile, then tentatively began to run again.   My wrist was hurting more than the ankle.  I thought the wrist was broken.  It swelled immediately.  The ankle finally went somewhat numb, and I continued to run the relentless hills.    I finished that damn race, and the 2nd 13.1 was only 3 minutes slower than the first 13.1.  I was proud of my 5:03.  I feel like I had a sub-5 hour Monkey in me. 

The aftermath of the Monkey is what makes it less of a "win" and more of a "loss" though.   In the six weeks since the monkey, my wrist has healed.  Both ankle and wrist were sprained (I had many xrays).  However, the ankle has not healed.  In fact, not a day has passed without some pain--whether that is just walking across the floor, down stairs, or trying to run.  I've only run successfully a handful of times.  I feel like I have lost speed, endurance, motivation, and some heart.   I feel like I'm starting back at square one.  

This photo reminds me of my experiences at both RUTS and the Flying Monkey.  I perservered, but it was not exactly one of those "empowering moments."

So, that's 2012 in a nutshell.   I have already registered for the LBL Trail 23K again, RUTS in June again (I'm going to have FUN this time!), and I'm strangely considering both the Frostbite Half (new course this year!) and Flying Monkey again.   The Flying Monkey is more about redemption than anything. 

Hello, 2013!!