Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Running Review

It was not my most impressive year for personal records (PRs) or total mileage, but it will still go down as one of my most fulfilling years. I did a race / vacation with my wife, made some new running friends and discovered some fantastic trails. Here are some of the highlights.

Running Some Numbers

Total Mileage: 2,179 (3,506 km)
Average run: 7.8 miles
Hours spent running: 366
Average Miles / Week: 43
Average Pace on my normal runs*: 7:46

Running Shoes

Due to some support from the Boulder Track Club and winning a race, I got to try some new running shoes this year. I have pretty flexible feet and so I am fortunate to be able to run in most anything. With that said, I found some winners and one less impressive shoe this year.

I really wanted to like the New Balance 110’s. They are $50 which is pretty cheap for a retail price. They are a good shoe, but they are a little too minimalist to me (I prefer not to feel every rock that I step on) and other friends who used them found they fell apart a little sooner than most other shoes. I also found that running through the snow in these shoes froze my feet. I probably will not get this one again.

My favorite shoe of this year was the Asics Fuji Trainer II. It is lightweight, has good traction and has soles that protect my feet sufficiently from Bouder’s trails. I also like the pouch where you can tuck laces into. A close runner-up were the Montrail Fluid Flex shoes. Also lightweight and well padded. I sometimes had trouble keeping the laces tied although I think tucking them in has solved this. I give them a second to the Fuji Trainer II only because I like the traction on the Fuji Trainers better.


I cut back on my racing a little this year. For the past few years I averaged a race a month. Parenthood and other priorities cut this down to seven races this year. However, what I lost in quantity I maintained in quality. I have already written about my favorite race, the CabotTrail Relay, but it also turned out to be my best race of the year**. A close second (in terms of how I ran) was the Keystone Half-Marathon – my one victory of the year (for which I got my favorite running shoes of the year).

Then there were races that will have a special place not because of my performance, but because of the experience. The Rockin’ K TrailMarathon was special because my wife came along and it was a great family trip. We found a gem of a dinner in the middle-of-nowhere Kansas (which won Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF) and visited a nearby state park. Then there was the WildWest Relay where I organized a team from my company (plus a few friends). While it was no Cabot, it was a great time.

Favorite New Trails
I also consider this the year that I discovered trail running. It’s strange that it took me so long to discover trails in Boulder – I guess I had always been a road runner by training and mindset. But I finally decided to explore this amazing trail system that was accessible a mere half-mile from my doorstep. I also joined the Boulder Track Club’s Mountain, Ultra and Trail (MUT) team which introduced me to a whole new mindset of running and a whole new set of friends.

My favorite runs (trails, loops, etc.) of 2013 were:

1. The Greenbriar Loop – while the Greenbriar Trail is less than half of this loop, it is, for me, the centerpiece. It has meadows, single track, views and an easy climb. I ran some variation of this loop more than any other. It is an everyday loop. It has some elevation gain – but not too much. It has a mix of single-track, bike paths, dirt roads and pavement. It can be done as a seven or eight-mile loop which meant it could either be an easy day or I could go for a short run after with my wife or our dog. It was a good loop to do after a hard tempo run, a long workout or when I just was just wanted to let my mind wander.

Greenbriar Loop (8-mile variation)
2. Shanahan Ridge Loop – this was my go-to medium-hard climb that I could do as a normal run. It is a steep enough climb to give a good workout, but not so steep that you cannot run it. It is flexible in that, from my house, it could be a 7.5, 8, 9.5 or 10-mile loop.
Shanahan Figure 8
3. Dowdy Draw Trails – my favorite long run by far was working over to the Dowdy Draw Trailhead and running the Spring Brook – Goshawk Ridge – Old Mesa Trail. You had stunning views, beautiful meadows and fun climbs. The section where you descend Goshawk Ridge and go into Eldorado Canyon is my favorite stretch of trail in Boulder.


Starting our family will be an interesting variable to running in 2014. I suspect that my son, the Bob and the bike path that runs near our house will get to know each other well. I look forward to helping  my wife train for another half-marathon. I look forward to exploring new trails and doing new races. I look forward to many more good times.

*excluding speedworks, races and long runs
** I’ll get into how I determined that in a piece I am working on for next year.

Friday, December 27, 2013


At some point every runner tries to justify why they run. Sometimes the question is asked by friends or family. Sometimes you ask yourself this question when you find yourself cold and wet halfway through a 20-mile run.

Why I run was recently brought into focus by two events that wrecked my December training schedule. The first was, as best the doctors could tell, some form of walking pneumonia. I have been hit harder for shorter periods of time by a good flu or cold, but this one made the idea of running laughable for more than a week. I was fortunate in that it was not very contagious and that I recovered in time for the second big training disruptor – the birth of our first child. Now, having a child has not meant no running, but I have been running less as I try to balance my runs with doing my share of diaper changing and keeping up the house (and not even to a particularly high standard). I will be forgoing my favorite race, the Cabot Trail Relay, this year and it is hard to make group tempo runs and speedworks that start at 6:45 A.M. on five cumulative hours of interrupted sleep (I know this does not sound bad to some people, but I have gotten used to seven or eight hours).

And yet, in spite of not doing a speedwork for over a month and knowing that my leg-speed is a few notches off my peak, I am thoroughly enjoying my six-mile runs. So on one of my runs this week I contemplated what is it that makes my runs so rewarding.

I feel that it is first important to look at the secondary reasons. First, I enjoy being in shape. It’s fun to see the look on the nurse’s face when I go in for a check-up and they see that my resting pulse is below 50. Second, I like beating people in races. If you and I are toe-to-toe with a half-mile to go, I am going to try to out-kick you and expect the same from you. I like not having to worry about what I eat. I try to eat less meat, more vegetables and choose less processed foods. But I also do not worry about having the occasional burger or beer(s).

As near as I can pinpoint, I run because I feel immense joy. If you want to look at this on a purely scientific basis, you could chalk it up to endorphins, vitamin D (from the 300 days of sun that we get here on Colorado’s Front Range) and other internal reward mechanisms. I prefer to call it joy.

Admittedly, I do not always feel this joy immediately when I first get out of bed, but it gets me out of bed because I know that it will be there a mile into the run. And there are some days when things just do not click or it is 35 °F, windy and raining and I find myself under-dressed halfway into the run. But when I get back and think of what I made it through the joy is there.

I feel this joy throughout the run and often throughout the day when I look back on the run. I think of seeing the sun light up Green and Bear peak a bright pink-red. I think of running through the trees of the Mesa Trail. I am a better person when I run. My wife has come to recognize this and will now tell me to go on a run if I miss a few days and am getting cranky.

 So there you have it. Perhaps I got a bit deep in my cup with this one, but if I cannot discuss joy around the holidays I do not know when I could. It is time to rest up for tomorrow’s run.