Halfway through 2016 and it’s time to look back and realize what I’ve accomplished and where I am at as a runner. I think sometimes as people we get so caught up in hitting our exact goals that we lose sight of everything else that we are accomplishing as a person. This year so far is a good indication of that for me. My goal when this year started was to run a Personal Best at every distance from 1 mile to Marathon (not every but the ones run more frequently). So far I have only knocked out 10M and Half Marathon, but I am really close for 5k, 8k, and 10k and if all goes well a fall marathon. But if I just look at it like that I haven’t accomplished a ton yet this year however 2016 has been the most consistent year to date of my life. Coming from a runner who used to live in a world of inconsistency. In 2016 so far I have run 7 sub 17 minute 5k’s, to date in my entire life I have only run 5 and only been under 16 once. Until this year I had only broken 60 minutes in the 10 mile 3 times, this year I have done it 5 times. I have won more races this year than I have in my entire career combined (not counting high school dual meets). Earlier this year I received my first ever cash award from a race and quickly went over to the Falls Road Running store to spend it all like a kid in a candy shop. While I have not achieved some of the major accomplishments I have wanted this year I have been so consistent race in and race out and that is nothing to lose sight of.
When I think about what I have accomplished this year, it’s pretty amazing that at 34 I am finally becoming the runner I should have been in college. A consistent runner who doesn’t blow up or let his mind get him off task (focusing is not my strong point, oh look a blue car). I used to be called a practice champ many times by teammates, because I could put down really good workouts but when race day came I was constantly defeated by myself and sometimes my opponents. I remember my earliest example of this was my Senior Year in High School when I was the leading 1600m runner in my county going into conferences. I had run a 4:29 earlier in the year and in my first ever interview when asked about my strategy I made mention how I sat back 700m, and pushed the next 500m and then just held off any competitors. Well come conferences I tried to use the same strategy again and had become over confident, so most of my competitors I guess read the same article and all started their moves right before me and broke me. I ended up running almost 5:00 minutes that day and taking dead last. It had nothing to do with my fitness it was fine I was just mentally beaten by myself and competitors. This continued in college, even though I got in better shape I became a hit or miss type runner. I’d hit with a big PR 5k 15:52, 10k 33:13 and follow that up with many 35-36 minute 10k’s, or 17:15 5k’s. I just always defeated myself when the race got tough or didn’t go my way (Kelly might say I act the same way when things in my life don’t go my way…). But in 2016 even when races end up getting away from me or not going as I anticipated, I still have been able to run well. And I think it just goes to show that as I have grown as a person these last 12-16 years it has also reflected in my running to help me do things I thought I’d never do again. Race in and out I can't make sure things go as I want them to, but I can make sure I still run well and don't let that mentally defeat me.
So when I think about 2016, and while I didn’t hit my goal at Pittsburgh, and still haven’t broken 16 in the 5k, this year has been my most consistent year of my life. I have been able to go out and even on rough days like Pittsburgh or the Crab Run 5k, where I just didn’t have it, I still ran PR’s or solid times. And it’s that perspective that I think is important for me and all of us to focus on at times. All the good that is coming from all these results this year is only making me a stronger runner for the future. I am raising my ceiling as I keep improving my fitness and am gaining confidence as I go. Many people asked me this year, “Why are you racing so much Nick?” I usually joke back that since my wife is pregnant I need to win to save up, or get in all my races before I have my first child. But truthfully, this year racing has been an utter joy for me. It’s kept me motivated since early March to get out and grind each week. And each race is used for an entirely different reason. Sometimes as a workout, sometimes as an all out effort, or on the rare occasion as a way to sober up after my birthday! A friend once told me she races to stay in shape, which I thought was a completely ridiculous concept and probably said something rude back to her when she told me it. But in 2016, the motivation and fun I am getting from racing I can’t replace with any workout. I missed most of my 20’s with running and didn’t race at all since college so this year is kind of finding that joy with running in a new way. Meeting tons of friends at races, and mixing it up with some competitors while working hard, it’s been a great year so far. I am a firm believer that racing to stay in shape can work if you are smart about it and for me in 2016 it has been an experience I have lacked in previous years but has kept me going strong.
Long story short, I think from putting in a really solid early year base (Jan/Feb/Mar) I have been able to keep at it since then and keep my fitness really high for me. The past few years, I would only race if I felt I was 100% rested, had some taper days and thought I could PR. I think that lead me to miss many potential races where I could have run really solid or even personal bests, because I was just scared of failing. But we will never know what our result could have been if we don’t line up and go for it. We fail every time we don’t actually try. In 2016 I have made it a habit of going for it and seeing what happens. Some results this year have been completely unexpected (Tim Kennard 10 Miler) but if I waited for the exact right moment I would have never ran that PR. That said at some point I think in late July I’ll slow this train down for a bit, hit recharge and go after a really exciting fall. But I don’t want to ever skip opportunities because I think I might fail again.
Last few races:
Crab Run 5k – 16:55 4th Overall
BRRC Meet of Miles – 4:46 5th Overall
Pikesville 5k – 16:36 – 2nd Overall
As always some photo's from my past couple weeks and one extra special non-running one.