RACE: Algonquin 50k (Race Recap)

Fifteen days before the inaugural Algonquin 50k, I clicked the seemingly glowing “Register” button on UltraSignup.com– the go-to race website for ultra-marathons– any race longer than 26.2 miles.

I had a goal to run my first 50k in 2017, but didn’t think I’d be crossing one off my list so early on in the year. When other plans for the weekend of February 10th cleared up, though, I decided to go all in and commit to 31+ miles across Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Fortunately, a few friends from November Project were also running it– though they’d been registered for months– so I grabbed a spot on the team and in their car.

The morning of Saturday, February 11th, I woke up at 2:40 a.m. before getting picked up by said friends and embarking on the long drive east.

When we finally arrived at the campground of the Pocomoke River State Park, we went to the bathroom, picked up our race packets, and then went to the bathroom again.

In little time, we had our bibs on and waited in the warm car before it was time to start. Eventually, that time came, and we were off.

Because this was my first race of more than 26.2 miles, my only goal was to finish, so I took it easy.

Miles No. 0-9 (8:38/mi, 8:45, 9:08, 8:46, 8:38, 8:31, 8:25, 9:40, 8:45)
While I wanted to take it easy, save my strength, and avoid hurting myself out of the gate, I also got in a nice groove running with a pack of others for the first quarter or so of the race. There was little (read: no) elevation throughout the entire course, but mud and lake-sized puddles did present some challenges. For the most part, things were smooth sailing as I reached the first aid station at which I decided to stop.

Miles No. 10-16 (11:12, 8:45, 8:31, 9:13, 9:08, 10:45, 14:20)
At my first stop, I grabbed some M&Ms, pretzels, and licorice. I was running with my Osprey Rev 6 hydration backpack, filled with Nuun, so I didn’t need to take any fluids in. One of the volunteers noticed I was trying to take off my windbreaker jacket and asked if I wanted her to hold it for the rest of the race. I thought that was a good idea and took off my backpack to remove the jacket. She must’ve seen that as a sign that I also wanted to give her the backpack because she grabbed for it and– not thinking clearly at all— I gave it to her.

I grabbed a piece of potato from the food table and went on my way. It wasn’t until a quarter-of-a-mile later that I realized what I did: I left my backpack, with my iPhone, Nuun, and other valuables. I could have returned back to the aid station to grab everything, but I felt compelled to move forward and do it all natural. I would be one with the course and utilize the aid stations’ offerings. Looking back, this was really stupid and a huge gamble.

I continued onwards, mostly on my own, before getting in a groove with another small group of runners– one of which was another Nuun ambassador. We ran together for a while, but at Mile No. 15 my stomach started getting angry. Fortunately a bit after the next aid station were a stable of portopotties, so I found the first available unit and took care of business.

About 10 minutes later, I was feeling better than ever, and way lighter on my feet!

Miles No. 17-25 (8:13, 8:37, 8:25, 8:40, 8:50, 8:36, 8:54, 8:38, 11:13)
Look at those splits! We hit the turnaround point, and I was passing people left and right. I ran all sub-9:00 miles until the next aid station at Mile No. 25.

Miles No. 26-29 (9:27, 8:51, 8:41, 11:00)
The course continued back towards the start and, sure I was getting tired, but not as tired as many other runners in front of me. I noticed that I passed quite a few people on the back-half of the run. At Mile No. 29 I took my time loading up on liquids and food. Never before did I think a whole potato covered in salt was appetizing. Never before did I run a 50k race, though. It was so good that I’d have another at the next stop.

Miles No. 30-32.3 (9:19, 9:05, 8:40, 7:35)
The final few miles certainly dragged on– and the surprise extra 1.3 miles left me feeling frustrated that I had more to run. Eventually the course left the trails and found its way back to the road where we started. I meandered closer and closer to the campground where I could hear the race director announcing runners’ names as they crossed the finish line. I passed one more person as I ran the final stretch.

After crossing the finish line at 4:58:54, I accepted my homemade ALQ50k mug and met up with my friends, who had finished in third and seventh place. My sub-5:00 time was good enough from 12th overall. I wonder how I would’ve fared if I didn’t spend so much time in the bathroom…

Race Results

Time: 4:58:54
Pace: 9:15
Overall: 12/113 
Gender: 12/74

Oh, one more thing. Speaking of my second-half surge. At the halfway mark, I was in 25th place. I finished in 12th. I passed 13 runners over the final half. I never do that well on the second half of a race, maybe I should stop in bathrooms more often!

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2016: In Case You Missed It

While politics and celebrity deaths make 2016 an absolute depression of a year, I can rest my head high on the tiniest iota of consolation through the running I did over the past 365 days. I’m not going to write a haiku like I did for 2015, but I would like to succinctly review some of the highlights in hopes that I can cheer myself up a bit and ring in the new year with some more positive juju. Here are 12 run-on sentences to wrap up the year that wouldn’t die.

After being sidelined with ITBS issues to start January, I recovered with just enough time to run the Charleston Marathon, set a new PR, and eat a Cinnabon at the airport.

I managed to bruise the crap out of my toe while jumping at a trampoline park in February and ended up taking more time off to heal.

By March, I was trying out new orthotics and taking weekly visits to the physical therapist to shock my flat feet back into shape.

Slowly I started running again in April and, again, miraculously had just enough consistency to prepare for the Coastal Delaware Marathon, where I set a new PR, and then downed a giant milkshake.

Knowing that I should take it easy, I decided to run every day in May, all while ranking my top-31 cereals, and I also organized a group run just to get a humongous ice cream sandwich.

Not to be outdone, I joined in on the second-annual Monument-to-Monument run, a 38-mile group run from Baltimore’s Washington Monument to Washington, D.C.’s Washington Monument in June.

A surprisingly decent year of running.

A surprisingly decent year of running.

July wasn’t that bad because I ran in my first beer mile, placed top-3 in my age group in a 5k, and vacationed in Florida, where I enjoyed some very sweaty speed-training.

Next, in August, we visited friends in Denver and I ran in the Pikes Peak Marathon, where I got super high– with elevation gain.

To change up the pace, September was relatively uneventful in terms of my running, but I managed not to hurt myself and my wife and I ran our first anniversary half marathon together, maybe that’ll be a new tradition?

We cheered on runners in the Baltimore Marathon in October and I placed first in my age group in the Oktoberfest 5k.

With a mostly healthy training cycle under my belt, I finally hit my sub-3:30 goal at the City of Oaks Marathon in November, then I proceeded to stuff my face with cereal and other tasty treats for the rest of the month before ending it by coordinating the inaugural Tofurky Four-Miler and eating a lot of donuts.

By the end of the year in December, I ran with November Project at the annual City Glow event, finished second overall in a local 5k, and began running consistently with friends new and old via #TrackTuesday and the Faster Bastards.

So, there you have it; 2016 reads pretty well when I outline all of the highlights together. If only everything else going on was as positive…

It’s important, though, to always make the best of a crummy situation, so now, more than ever, we should take pride in the positive and work to change whatever we can for the better. With that, I’ll bid farewell to 2016. Here’s to making 2017 better.

RACE: 2016 City of Oaks Marathon (Race Recap)

Race

Hooray, daylight savings time! With an extra hour of sleep, waking up for a marathon on Sunday morning wasn’t tough at all. I proceeded with my go-to race day motions that I’ve learned to follow through the years:

  1. Wake up to the tune of some epic song (e.g. Hans Zimmer’s “Flight”)
  2. Go to the bathroom and brush my teeth
  3. Get dressed
  4. Drink coffee
  5. Eat PBBJ sandwich
  6. Pace until it’s time to go

A superb substitute to my go-to Royal Farms race day coffee.

Knowing that the Raleigh-Durham area didn’t have a Royal Farms to which I could grab my usual 24 ounce dark coffee, we brought down a substitute that I had been toying with during my training schedule. Califa Farms’ Double Espresso Iced Coffee with Almond Milk seemed to do the trick, so down the hatch it went. I followed that with my usual PBBJ on sandwich thin and a glass of water with cherry limeade energy nuun. I was caffeinated, hydrated, and ready to go.

Eventually the rest of the team (Mrs. CR and our friends were running the 10k and half marathon distances) was ready to go and out the door we went. It was pretty chilly, probably about 40 degrees, but I knew it wasn’t going to be warm, so I was mentally prepared for it.

After a pretty quick drive downtown, Mrs. CR and I hopped out of the car right by the start line while the rest of the team looked to find a parking spot nearby. We quickly got in line for the bathrooms, which had not yet become crowded. After our first on-site bathroom break, we walked towards the start line and ran into some old November Project- Baltimore friends who now lived in North Carolina.

#NP_BAL past and present

#NP_BAL past and present

Naturally, we hugged, exchanged race strategies for the day, and took some pictures. Soon after, the rest of our team joined our huddle, which was helping to keep us a few degrees warmer.

A couple more pictures taken and one more bathroom break, and it was time to head to the start line. I bid farewell to the gang and found my place in front of the 3:30 pacers. The national anthem was played and we were off. Time to have some fun?

The Start

“Don’t start too fast. Don’t start too fast. Don’t start too fast. Oops.

Miles No. 1-3 (6:57/mile, 7:24, 7:24)

My A-Goal for the year was sub-3:30. That meant 3:29:59 would’ve been a huge success. In two other marathons in 2015, I went out too fast only to flame out somewhere along the second half. To try and prevent this, I had purchased and trained with the Garmin Forerunner235 GPS watch, which could be programmed to beep at you if you ran too fast and/or too slow based on customizable paces.

For this race, I set the beeps to occur at anything faster than 7:30 and anything slower than 7:50. The first three miles, which took runners east across NC State University’s campus and towards downtown Raleigh, were full of beeps.

Miles No. 4-9 (7:33, 7:28, 7:40, 7:35, 7:40, 7:41)

OK, I was getting into my groove. Perhaps it was because we faced a few 3-6% grade inclines over the next few miles  or perhaps it was because I knew I couldn’t sustain my sub-7:30/mile pace, but I was clocking off pace miles as we turned west and ran through some quaint, but otherwise unmemorable, neighborhoods. I opened my first Clif shot gel at around mile No. 8, but because I struggled to rip it open, I didn’t end up consuming it until Mile No. 8.5 or 9.

Miles No. 10-11 (7:29, 7:27)

Eh, these miles were filed back into the too-fast bucket, but I just couldn’t help myself. We ran through the main entrance to Meredith College and continued northwest toward what I knew would be a debilitating second-half of the course.

Miles No. 12-15 (7:36, 7:41, 7:42, 7:35)

As we followed the course up the “out” of the approximately 14-mile out-and-back, we ran down a serious downhill that I knew would bite me in the butt on the return. Unlike a lot of other runners I know, I do not like downhill running; it’s still awkward for me and I feel like I’m constantly running out of form. I think I look like a rag doll, flailing its arms and legs all the way down the hill. Eventually, though, the downhill stopped. Somewhere during this stretch, I saw the lead pack of runners making their return trip back towards the finish. I’ll always get inspiration from those guys and girls who can run sub-3:00 marathons.

Miles No. 16-18 (7:41, 7:46, 7:54)

We continued running out before turning around at the 17.6ish mile-marker. I definitely felt gassed, but I wonder how much of it was from the mental torture of knowing we’d have to retrace our steps back home. Or, perhaps, it was because I knew the hills were coming.

Miles No. 19-22 (8:06, 7:46, 7:59, 8:23)

My first plus-8:00 mile was probably due to me getting incorrectly routed along the marathon relay exchange before quickly and frustratedly finding the right lane to continue on the course. It wasn’t a big mix-up, but it did result in me having to cross through a line of spectators and walk, if for only a moment, across some grass and curbs. My second plus-8:00 mile, though, was definitely because of the hills. You see, starting back at Mile No. 20 or so, we began to climb up one of the hills which I so awkwardly flung myself down on the way out. According to the official course map, it was a 3% incline, but I’d have to say it felt way worse because I had already run 20+ miles that morning.

It didn't look too bad prior to the race, but this elevation profile proved to be a helluva challenge.

It didn’t look too bad prior to the race, but this elevation profile proved to be a helluva challenge.

Miles No. 23-25 (8:31, 9:24, 8:56)

Oh, jeez: were the wheels finally coming off the wagon? As we continued up a gradual, but still challenging hill, I knew the worst was not yet behind us: one more serious climb remained. I wanted to walk up the final hill– a 6% climb– so badly, but I wasn’t sure that if I did, I’d be able to regain any semblance of speed and run the remainder of the race. Thus, I slowly ran, more like briskly trudged, up the hill and panted my way to the top. I did manage to pass a few other marathon runners, who decided to opt for a walking break, so that was rewarding. Finally, I made it to the top of the hill and claimed a moral victory. It was literally all downhill/flat from here.

The inner celebration lasted only a moment, though, because as I began to pick up the pace again, my left calf and right and left quads started seizing up. It was cramp time. My muscles involuntarily began calling it quits and I was forced to stop in my tracks. I yelled out some combination of curse words and tried moving my feet again as if I was just restarting my computer whenever something goes wrong. Pretending nothing is wrong has proven to be the only way to get through a serious bout of muscle cramps at Mile No. 24.5 of a marathon.

Once I veered around what would’ve been a disastrous roadblock, I moved forward, though at a slower pace than before. My watch was beeping non-stop, but it felt like there was little I could do to silence it.

I started crunching the numbers in my head and gave way to the tiniest of smiles knowing that, if I really needed to, I could walk a bit and still manage a sub-3:30.

With the Independence Day theme tune in my head, I marched toward my goal of sub-3:30.

The Finish (8:46, 8:33)

I didn’t walk, but I did run more slowly. As the Independence Day theme song played through my ear buds, I marched towards the finish line. I knew Mrs. CR and co. would be stationed somewhere along the final stretch and right before crossing the line, I saw them and gave as enthusiastic a nod as I could given the circumstances. Crossing the finish line, the clock read 3:26:xx. VICTORY!

Race Results

Time: 3:26:38
Pace: 7:53
Overall: 45/509
Gender: 38/345
Division: 9/58

Post-Race

A volunteer handed me a medal that, like always, got stuck around my headphones, and then I grabbed a bottle of water. I kept moving a bit more as I saw the gang coming towards me to share congratulations. I couldn’t fight the urge to just sit any longer and gave in. It was worth it.

Beating your A-Goal by 3:22 warrants a quick sitting break in the grass.

Beating your A-Goal by 3:22 warrants a quick sitting break in the grass.

Eventually, I got back up again and I waddled with the group back to the car. We all showered and packed up and before Mrs. CR and I drove back north to Baltimore, we all enjoyed drinks and pizza at the fantasmical Ponysaurus Brewing Co.

On our drive back home, we passed by every Bojangles we saw. No biscuit-induced constipation this time around!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RACE: 2016 City of Oaks Marathon (Training & Pre-Race)

Attempt No. 3 of the year for a sub-3:30 marathon. The 2016 City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, North Carolina would be my last full, so it was time to go all out.

Race Training

With incomplete training cycles for the Charleston and Coastal Delaware marathons, I tried my darnedest this fall to stay healthy and avoid tweaking my sensitive IT bands.

Because I had those two marathons under my belt all by the end of the spring, and the Pikes Peak Marathon done in August, my schedule for City of Oaks was abbreviated, at 10 weeks long.

Most weeks were between 35 and 50 miles and included an assortment of workouts to keep on my toes like hill workouts, interval gauntlets, and pace and tempo runs. I also had my Wednesday November Project mornings to ensure my body was always working.

I also had long runs of 10-20 miles and– because I had previously been burned my walls at around the 18-20 mile mark, added in an extra 20-miler to build up the legs a bit more.

Through all of this, I managed not to hurt myself, so I was already one step ahead of myself heading into taper town. Oh, and during my taper I ran in a 5k, where I PR’d and earned the top spot in my age group. Oops.

Pre-Race

This whole “let’s do each marathon in a different state” thing is beginning to rack up my odometer.

Mrs. CR and I drove down to Durham on the Friday night before the race. We didn’t hit much traffic, but were eager to stop by the time we hit southern Virginia. We were hungry and ready for a bathroom break; Bojangles was our answer.

Seeing as I needed to carboload, I placed a pretty ambitious order with a couple biscuits that seemed filled with calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. But hey, gotta fuel up, right?

For one night, it was-- indeed, BoTime!

For one night, it was– indeed, BoTime!

We devoured everything back on the road, but I quickly regretted each and every bite. From the VA/NC border all the way to our friends’ house in Durham, my stomach was the battleground of World War III. Miraculously, I survived the drive and the pain subsided, but it would be some time before I’d be able to, errr, get rid of that Friday night dinner.

Squad squad squad squad.

Squad squad squad squad.

Saturday morning, we went for an easy shake-out run, had breakfast, picked up coffee, and then headed to the expo. There, we filled our reusable grocery bags with as much free stuff as we could find before driving to downtown Durham for a bite to eat and some sights to see.

I had a veggie burger, sweet potato fries, and a couple beers (and probably a pitcher of water, too). We walked around the stadium of the minor league Durham Bulls and before we knew it, were at the grocery store to grab some munchies for Saturday night.

A couple hours and a few bags of Chex Mix later, I was pooped– although I hadn’t since Friday afternoon– and ready for bed. I laid out my clothes, finalized my playlist, and then– of course– laid in bed while playing with Instagram. Eventually, though, I fell asleep with dreams of a sub-3:30 finish.

  • “A” Goal: Finish sub-3:30 (sub-8:00 minute/miles)
  • “B” Goal: Finish with a PR, sub-3:31 (sub-8:04)
  • “C” Goal: Finish the race, preferably smiling.
I lost my blue Ciele hat, so it was time to THINK PINK with Mrs. CRs cap.

I lost my blue Ciele hat, so it was time to THINK PINK with Mrs. CRs cap.

RACE: 2016 Oktoberfest 5k

When I was putting together my training schedule for my next marathon—next Sunday’s City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, North Carolina—I, like many other runners, dreaded the final few weeks of training that focused on fewer miles and more rest. The recovery serves its purpose, though, and is designed to give one fresh legs leading up to the marathon.

I couldn’t help myself, however, when I decided to shift goals in a local 5k this past Saturday; changing from a fun run with a bunch of friends to a competitive 5k with a new PR in mind.

After this summer’s Pikesville 5k, where I set a new PR and managed to place third in my age group, I learned I still have a lot to work on in regards to pacing and racing smart, though I also found that I’m capable of pushing myself harder than I thought possible—especially when the lead runners are really going, too. In the Pikesville 5k, former Baltimore Marathon champ Dave Berdan led the pack and helped me to a 6:01 first mile and a 19:50 finish.

As Saturday’s Oktoberfest 5k—sponsored by Charm City Run and Frisco Tap House—grew closer, I figured it was worth a shot to put my pace to the test again and see if I could hit the next gear.

After a Friday night with one or two pumpkin ales—gosh, I love the fall—I laid out my running clothes for the race. I knew it was going to be cold Saturday morning, but I wanted to run pretty bare as next week was the marathon and I needed to be prepared for sub-45-degree temperatures to start things off.

With each race, I get a little better at taking flat-runner pictures.

With each race, I get a little better at taking flat-runner pictures.

I experienced pretty typical pre-race sleep patterns Friday night into Saturday, but eventually managed to fall asleep before waking up 10 minutes before my alarm was to go off. One Royal Farms coffee and several pump-up songs later, and we were off to nearby Columbia. The 5k was point to point—with the start at Charm City Run being about 1.3 miles away from the finish at Frisco Tap House—so we parked at the finish and jogged to the starting line. There were a handful of other like-minded runners who also already had their bibs on as they ran alongside us to Charm City Run.

Eventually we made it to the store, met up with our friends also running in the race, and killed some time in Starbucks before making our way back outside to stretch and get used to the weather; it wasn’t absolutely freezing, but it was also not comfortable. It didn’t help that I was wearing a singlet and 7-inch shorts, so I didn’t have a lot of coverage. Between the cold air from the wind and the cold stares from other runners who thought I was crazy for my choice of apparel, I had no choice but to own my decision.

Our 5k squad

Our 5k squad

It was both encouraging and discouraging to finally see a few other runners in similar clothes make their way to the start area. Though it made me feel more at ease that I wasn’t the only wacko to voluntarily freeze to death, it meant that there were more people who stood a chance—probably better than I—at running fast. But then again, it meant I’d have someone(s) to chase.

The organizers got on the microphone and told everyone to assemble by the start, so I took my position in the second row of runners—behind the other singlet-wearing jocks. Just like that, the organizer said, “runners on your marks, get set, go,” and we were off. I should have known there wasn’t a timing mat—because I didn’t see one—but I never put it together.

Though I lost a second or so with the rolling start, I very quickly gained time back as the course started off on an easy downhill and the lead pack must’ve been pushing a 5:30 pace. I tried to not chase them, but I got too excited—sounds familiar, right?—and found myself right among the top seven or eight guys.

Towards the end of the first downhill, I noticed my watch hadn’t started properly, so I had to fiddle with that while making sure I didn’t trip over my feet to get it started.

The course leveled out, and then took its runners over some rolling hills, and before the first mile-marker, the front male was off—a clear 30-seconds-per-mile faster than the rest of us.

A little after mile No. 1, my watch beeped that I hit my first mile in a time of 5:48. In the moment, I registered that was fast—the fastest I’ve ever run a mile—but I didn’t have enough time to really absorb what it meant beyond the fact that such a first mile would put me in contention for a competitive finish if I maintained some energy. That turned out to be a big “if.”

I was soon huffing and puffing right behind four or five runners as we took some more rolling hills, ran under a bridge, and hit an out-and-back turnaround.  I was hurting, but I guess the beauty was that it wouldn’t last too much longer. I might’ve been passed by one runner before the second marker, but everyone was still relatively close together.

We hit mile No. 2, and then I hit my second delayed mile in 6:16—still fast, very fast, but clearly a drop-off after my first turbo mile. I can’t really remember much else during this stretch beyond some more climbs, maybe of 30 feet or so—which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it certainly felt like a lot.

Finally, it was time for the last mile. I could feel the energy leaking out of me with each stride and exhausted breath, but the thought that it was almost over and that I had a chance to place or set a new PR pushed me to at least run as hard as I could in the moment, although it was proving to be slower than those around me.

The group that I had been right behind started to distance themselves and I could sense one runner coming up on me as the course took us up a brutal incline that really slowed my pace during the climb. After I slogged through it, I gave all I had and continued pushing through a neighborhood before making a turn and setting my sights for the third mile marker and volunteers indicated the final stretch.

I could tell there was someone gaining on me, so I did a quick look back to see the challenger had plenty of grey hairs—suggesting he wasn’t in my age group. Not that I had a choice in the matter, but I let him pass and just focused on running onward, closer to the finish. We made our final turn into the tap house parking lot and I crossed the finish line. I stopped my watch, grabbed a bottle of water from a volunteer, and—before sucking wind for about 10 minutes—tried to count how many runners finished ahead of me. I counted fewer than 10, but my brain wasn’t working and the curb just looked so comfortable.

I sat down, tried not to pass out, and watched other runners—including my friends and Mrs. Cereal Runner—finish. Together, some of us went back to the end of the course to jog in some of our other friends. After we were all together, we waited in line for some beer—it was an Oktoberfest 5k, after all—and then I noticed they posted the results up on the wall. I jumped out of line, jogged over to the results, did a quick scan, and then jogged back.

Everyone knew I did well because apparently I had an ear-to-ear smile on my face. It turns out I finished in 19:07, good for a 43-second personal record, seventh overall, and first in the male 20-29 age group. I felt like a champion for a few minutes before I then started downplaying my run, saying that I could’ve done better if I paced myself. It’s probably true.

We got our beer, from the local Push Brewing Company, and waited for the awards. I happily skipped up to the awards table when they announced my name and graciously accepted my prize: a nice pint glass with the tap house logo and an “Award Winner” seal.

Of course I didn't have much of an appetite when there were free beers and pretzels for the taking.

Of course I didn’t have much of an appetite when there were free beers and pretzels for the taking.

Mrs. Cereal Runner wouldn’t let me pour my beer into my new favorite glass, but I still managed to take some pictures with it and the food and drink spread of the morning.

Eventually, it was time to head out, and just like that it was back to recovery mode. In eight days, I’d be running the City of Oaks Marathon.

It's obvious that I'm new to the whole "winning" thing because I still look like a noob when it comes to taking pictures with prizes.

It’s obvious that I’m new to the whole “winning” thing because I still look like a noob when it comes to taking pictures with prizes.

Four Years and Eight Marathons Ago

Four years ago, on October 13, 2012, I ran my first-ever marathon. You can read through the recap here, but spoiler alert: it went pretty darn well all things considered.

Running in a pair of the timeless Vibram FiveFinger shoes, I finished in 3:55:59, reaching my super secret A-Goal of sub-4:00. It’s pretty crazy to think that four years later, I’ve run a total of eight marathons and I’m fast-approaching 26.2-miler No. 9: next month’s City of Oaks Marathon in Raleigh, NC.

baltimoremarathonfinishedIn the seven marathons I’ve completed since Baltimore in 2012, I’ve moved my PR up by about 25 minutes. Looking back, I would’ve liked to see a better progression, but I’m confident that I can use what I learned through those race experiences to continue to finesse my marathon time closer and closer to that holy grail BQ time. I’m not saying I’ll PR and BQ in my next marathon– in fact I’m positive I won’t– but I like the downward pattern I’ve created in my marathons that weren’t hindered by injury (e.g. during Philadelphia and leading up to Disney) or circumstances (i.e. I wasn’t going to PR during Pikes Peak– which was up and down a mountain, and I also wasn’t going to PR during Cleveland– which I ran/walked with Mrs. Cereal Runner).

Of the remaining races, here are my finishing times:

  • Oct. 13, 2012: Baltimore Marathon (3:55:59)
  • Mar. 22, 2015: Shamrock Marathon (3:42:54)
  • Jan. 16, 2016: Charleston Marathon (3:37:16)
  • Apr. 23, 2016, Coastal Delaware Marathon (3:31:03)

I improved my PR by 13:05, then by 5:38, and most recently by 6:13.

My goal for the City of Oaks Marathon of sub-3:30 requires a PR of just one minute and 4 seconds. Looking back on where I started and the slow-but-steady progress I’ve made over four years, I think I have a shot.

Happy Baltimore Running Festival Weekend!