Two-week countdown begins

My mind is ready to do 26.2 miles again; my body needs rest.

I wrote that last year a couple of weeks before the Baltimore Marathon. It rings so true today.

My last double-digit training run of this cycle came and went without any bad happening, nor was it that great. It was just a slow long run on tired legs.

Book-ending a seven-day span with long runs -- the Runner's World Half on Sunday and 12 miles today -- was tough. It's not that I haven't done that before, but the marathon-paced effort on Sunday finally caught up to me today.

Today's run aside, I feel better prepared for this year's Richmond Marathon than I have in my 3 previous marathons. With more miles at or faster than my goal pace, I'm not going out there and just seeing what happens. There's a better plan in place for race day than usual.

All that's left is 2 more weeks ...

2012 Richmond Marathon training logo

2011: Top 5 running moments

These past couple of weeks have been fun reflecting on what happened in 2011. Today I bring you the last of my lists with my top running moments of the year. Narrowing down the top 5 running moments of the year is hard, but honestly anything longer than that is boring and diluted. Anything beyond 5 is like having honorable mentions, which I will not do. This list is completely different from my top 5 racing moments of 2011 – this list is more broad and not necessarily as focused on one specific moment.

5. Monument Avenue 10k While this was my No. 1 racing moment this year, it's definitely not the top running moment. It was huge though, but from an overall perspective it wasn't as important to me as other things on this list. Gradually building my mileage in the first quarter of the year, getting back to the start line and then setting a PR, though, still make this a great moment.

4. The Holiday Run Streak In a few months, perhaps this will be higher on the list; it's actually tough for me to include this here as it's happening now with another day to go. That said, my running streak through Jan. 1 is teaching me a lot about running for the sake of running. It's fun to just go out and run with training pretty far from my mind. I've run in the rain, in the wind, in awkwardly warm December weather, through neighborhoods brightly lit by Christmas lights; and included a few races to close out the year.

3. "Most ever" moments It's important to me to not confuse "most ever" with "best ever." When it comes to this year, I won't touch the "best ever" phrase. I'll just use "best so far." And with that nod comes many "most ever" moments this year -- most weekly mileage (41.5 from Sept. 5-11); most ever miles in a month (135 in August and September); most ever mileage in a year (1,040.4); most ever races (13); and most ever consecutive races (4 in 4 weeks) are the highlights.

2. Watching my son race I’ve learned a lot this year about running by watching my son. He has fun; he notices things like barns off in the distance in a race; and he runs just to run. If you don’t have kids, I highly suggest that you watch a kids race. Not the one with 10 or 11 year olds – the real kids race where everyone is under 5 years old. You’ll learn a lot.

1. Baltimore Marathon This “moment” isn’t about that specific October day – it’s about the rush of signing up in April with no idea whether I could run anything beyond 6 miles; the gradual buildup of mileage through June; training through summer and early fall; not feeling 100% on race day; crossing the finish line itself; and being injury free after.

Baltimore Marathon finisher certificate

As for what's coming in 2012? I'm not making a schedule for the year like many bloggers are doing -- I have my focus on the Shamrock Half in March and I may still do a spring marathon. The Richmond Marathon will definitely be huge in November, but I'm not really thinking that far ahead now. Besides, what's the fun in telling you what I have up my sleeve?

2011: 5 things I did differently

My friend Jeremy (Train to Tri) asked me in a comment recently what I felt like I did differently to stay injury free during Baltimore Marathon training. When I think about this year and what went well, I like to think that the combination of what I did differently worked. Here are 5 things – in no particular order – I did that I think have contributed to my well-being this year. Epsom salt baths I think I started doing a salt bath once I got to 16 miles for the long run. They’re so relaxing and always left me feeling refreshed. I would usually do one the night after a long run and then occasionally during the week. For those screaming at me to do ice baths, I tried it once and couldn’t bring myself to do another one. Maybe next year. Scream away.

running, differenceRunning faster Getting quicker was not high on my priorities this year, but speed, as well as drastically improving my race times, was definitely a big factor in making this year a different year. And in this last month as I run in a non-training mind frame, I'm only getting faster without intentionally running faster.

Rotating shoes I’ve been a big fan of rotating shoes since I started that in early 2010. This summer I added in another pair to the mix and now rotate two pairs of Brooks Ravenna and one pair of Brooks Ghost 3, which is nearing the end of its life. In addition to alternating shoes when running, I also alternate what I wear to work from a brown casual pair to a pair of New Balance to a couple of pairs of retired running shoes. I think all these combinations have kept my legs and joints from another repetition-type injury.

Walking at work I don't talk nearly enough about this, but the job I started in the spring has a great workout program. I generally add a couple of walking miles a day to the time on my feet Monday-Friday. That extra movement, especially on days that I feel sluggish or sore, has been key. That said, if I ever change jobs, I will insist that I be allowed walking time.

Better training log While I was training for Baltimore, I utilized a Google Documents spreadsheet to closely monitor my weekly mileage, as well as my cumulative mileage and how it compared to what I did in 2010 when training for the Richmond Marathon. That led me to always know where I stood with my mileage at any given time. I'll admit at times it make me obsess a bit more about things than I normally would have, but I intend on refining the process in 2012.

As I look ahead to 2012, I'm looking forward to trying even more new things and improving on what I've already done differently. Things such as cross training, which I did a lot of in 2011, need to take more priority, as do losing 10 pounds that I never seem to try hard enough to lose. For now, though, I'm looking forward to these last few days of the year.

Image: digitalart /

2011: Top 5 racing moments

Some of my top racing moments of 2011 may not show up in a later post with top running moments of the year. The Baltimore Marathon, for example, was definitely one of the biggest highlights for me -- ever -- but from a racing perspective, it's not my No. 1 moment of the year.

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