End of Year Recap (2013)

If 2012 was the year of speed, where I lit up the race circuit with as many PRs as I could, then 2013 was the year of distance.  Despite a few new personal bests, what highlighted the year were my adventures past the 26.2-mile threshold and the brutal weekends that I had to put in to visit the great unknown with as few detours as possible into agony and self-hatred.  It all started with a suggestion from my running hetero-lifemate Otter, which I first thought was in jest.

A 50-miler?  Was a hallucinogen somehow warping a “K” into the word “miles”?  Had Otter lost his mind?  How the hell were we going to do that?  The ultramarathon had the same veil of mystery that the marathon had for me four years ago, so that prickly feeling in my stomach had returned.  Almost because of that trepidation, I decided to go for it.  It reminded me of what it was like to view the mountain and commit to climbing it.  The challenge itself and the overwhelming, almost dizzying heights is what drew me to add my name to the Ice Age Trail 50k and the North Country Run 50-miler.  To paraphrase the overused but still effective words of George Mallory, we do these things because they are there, because we can do them.

… or at least try.


But first, let’s do the usual numbers dance.  Although I spilled paint all over the map last year by filling in twelve states, I wasn’t as irresponsible with my body and budget this time around.  In the last twelve months, I filled in seven new states, four of which I had never visited ever for any reason.  I completed the west coast with Washington and Oregon, dotted the west with Utah, added Kansas and Louisiana to the map, completed the South with North Carolina and added some Northeast real estate by running in Pennsylvania.  Illinois also ceased to be the only state in which I’ve run both a half and a full marathon, now in the esteemed company of Florida and Wisconsin.

Race Stats

Half Marathons Run: 4*
Fastest: 1:31:13 (NC Half Marathon)
Slowest: 3:06:42 (Cerros de Escazú 21k)

*This tally includes one trail 25k, which, because of a poorly marked course, ended up being just over 14 miles.

Marathons Run: 6**
Fastest: 3:23:12 (Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans Marathon) PR
Slowest: 3:56:41 (Leavenworth Oktoberfest Marathon)

**If you include ultras, this number is 7.  If you’re feeling merciful and add the DNF from the North Country Run, where I technically ran more than a marathon, it’s 8.

Number of fellow runners: 101,000+
Largest race: 33,219 runners (Shamrock Shuffle)
Smallest race: 142 runners (Lakeside Festival 5k)

Mileage Stats

Miles Run: 1,626 (new record, previously held by 2012: 1,366)
Average Pace: 8:21
Race Miles Run: 296.9
Average Race Pace: 9:24

And the newest stat, which I find intriguing, is how many miles I ran on the treadmill this year.  That total is 272, which is worth noting because the total amount of treadmill miles I logged in the four years between 2009 and 2012 was 304.  So in this year alone, I almost doubled my lifetime miles on the machine.  Does this mean I’m becoming a bit picky with the weather?  Or perhaps I’m being more strategic with my workouts.  Regardless, I had to point out my nascent love affair with the hamster wheel.

0324_nc-half-marathon 07Although the numbers speak for themselves, I’d be remiss if I didn’t gush about the impact the year has had on me.  The signature event for 2013 was the North Country Run 50-miler.  I changed the way I ran, focusing very intently on going long and recovering more quickly.  I spent my entire summer pushing my weekly mileage totals, routinely breaking distance records.  Prior to this year, I had never run more than 142 miles in a month.  In March I ran 178, a record which was decimated in July, where I logged 223.5 miles.  I was up early on almost every Saturday and Sunday, running back-to-back long runs not limited to the reliably sunny and humid Chicago 0414_cerrosdeescazu 11lakefront path.  My travels took me to Ocean City, New Jersey, where a 5 AM run on the boardwalk was the only way to avoid the 100-degree scorchers.  I visited Miami and took my ultra-training to the Rickenbacker Causeway, where I would be lacquered in a thick layer of sweat just two miles in.  I ran 15 miles along the San Francisco coastline and on the Golden Gate Bridge just three hours after landing in the Bay Area at 2 AM … and then I ran 20 miles the next morning while my friends nursed hangovers at the hotel.

My entire running schedule was built around it, with every 0420_1_garminmarathon 62other race handpicked to serve a purpose.  I learned to eat while on the run at the Garmin Marathon, battled the trail elements at the Paleozoic 25k and Cerros de Escazú 21k.  I happily logged miles at the Walt Disney World Marathon and then test-ran my ultra preparedness at the Ice Age Trail 50k, my first venture past 26.2 miles.  Every race run in the first eight months of the year had some component that I was either testing or validating.

In other words, I was dead serious about this race.

0511_iceage50k 04But then, for lack of more eloquent phrasing, shit happened.  Two weeks before the race, I was hit by an unexpected pain in my left knee.  Despite employing every preventative measure I could think of, by mile 14 of the year’s headline race I was hurting.  Every system was firing on all cylinders, rallying with me in hopes of obviating the hot pain shooting from my knee, but it wasn’t enough.  Just shy of 40 miles, I decided it would be dangerous to continue.

The decision hurt at the time.  I’m the kind of person that likes to make his commitments public because I don’t 0824_northcountryrun 12like letting people down (who does, right?).  So the inevitable series of explanations that followed kept my shoulders closer to the ground than I like.  But six weeks later, my decision to call it quits bore fruit.  In my first ever trip to the Pacific Northwest, I ran two marathons back to back and both under four hours.  As if to prove that everything was still fine, I ran just shy of my PR in Philadelphia just a month later.

So really, there was a lot to learn this year.  I was faced with the unfortunate reality that life doesn’t always unfurl as intended.  But the pain I suffered in my left knee was leavenworth-marathon-05insignificant compared to actual hardship.  Although it is easy to feel like the world has betrayed us whenever race plans go awry, we have to step back and realize what a privileged complaint that is.  If this is what’s making us upset and monopolizing our grievances against the universe, then we need to pause and take a deep breath.  There are other races out there, and not all of them involve running.

About a month ago, my uncle passed away from complications stemming from a malignant brain tumor.  His wife, my aunt, is my godmother and his children grew portland-marathon-group-pictureup with me.  Although he and I didn’t have a uniquely close relationship, his sudden departure was agonizing.  He was in Miami with us when his oldest daughter and I ran the half marathon in 2010 and 2011.  So I felt that it would be fitting to dedicate my 20th marathon to him.  While I haven’t yet finalized my resolutions for next year, it will start with my first ever charity marathon.  As of this writing, I’ve already reached my fundraising goal.

2014 will be about many things.  It will be about remembrance, vindication and fortitude.  It will be about improving what is working, fixing what is holding us back moab-trail-half-marathon-groupand changing focus on what matters.  At this time last year, I didn’t think I could possibly top 2012’s excitement and thrill.  But somehow, I managed to do it.  Even though I wasn’t completely successful, I felt more alive this year as I scurried up wooded trails, scorched over flat pavement and clambered up sandstone cliffs.  Perhaps facing defeat gave each finish line an extra jolt of satisfaction.  I always assumed that I would finish every race no matter what, but that hubris was put to the test in August and I’ve taken the harsh lesson to heart.

And so, with a thick mix of emotions, I bid farewell to 2013.  As the pictures on the side suggest, it was an excellent year for my feet and my heart and I look forward to every starting line 2014 will offer me.  From old friends to new companions, there was no shortage of good company as I tackled the year’s challenges.  There aren’t many people who use running as a means to stay in touch, but I’m glad and honored to be one of them.


About Dan
Running a marathon in all 50 states because there's no better way to explore the world around you than on your own two feet, for as long as you can, until you hate yourself and everything around you. Then you stop, get a medal, and start over.

24 Responses to End of Year Recap (2013)

  1. Pingback: Race Schedule & Results | Dan's Marathon

  2. What a brilliant year! I love how you can map your runs by State; that would be a little wonky if I did that here in the UK! I guess I could map Europe instead. 😉 I wish you a brilliant year in 2014!

    • Dan says:

      Thanks! But couldn’t you do it with the different “regions” of the UK? Scotland, Wales, NE, NW, West Midlands, etc? Or is that not a thing?

      A happy 2014 to you as well!

  3. Yes! Congrats on a great 2013, Dan. Thanks for sharing all your stories and if there is ever a doubt (there won’t be, but hypothetically speaking) regarding what all this running is about just look at these pictures again. All those smiles! You can’t buy that kind of happiness. Onwards and upwards in 2014!!!

    • Dan says:

      That’s a very good observation, Jeff. I never sulk in pre- or post-race pictures — it’s always a damn good time, even if I feel like dying. Glad to know you’re still running and writing through 2014!

  4. Amy says:

    Congratulations on a very successful running year! I’ve enjoyed following along with your travels, and watching you get faster and wiser while even squeezing in a picture with a running icon. Cheers to 2014! New Mexico looks about due!

  5. Laszlo says:

    Wow, what a year you had! The individual race recaps are great reading, but when you summarize all of them in one post and adding up all the numbers, it is just great.
    The charity run is such a great tribute that you chose. It seems that you have a special year coming up here.
    Congratulations for your 2013 accomplishments and I wish you an even more amazing year in 2014! 🙂

    • Dan says:

      Thanks for the kind words Laszlo. 2014 is shaping up to be quite the year for running – and by that, I mean that I will be running a lot in 2014, which by definition means it’s going to be a great year altogether. Congratulations on becoming a marathoner last year and all the best with all your forthcoming challenges.

  6. glenn says:

    Through celebration and tribulation, you are a source of inspiration, American Dand Stand. I appreciate that you’re putting the perspective you gained this year to good use. To keep you going and encouraging others to do the same. That maturity and drive are the marks of a good person.

    Congratulations on a wholly successful (even though it may not feel like it) 2013. May the wind be at your back and the finish lines be in your sights for 2104.

    • Dan says:

      There are plenty of starting lines to come, Glenn the Mouth of Madness. And speaking of madness, I hope that you rethink your “no marathons in 2014” pledge, or at least find yourself in that same lunatic headspace that leads one to go for all 26.2 miles. You may not have found the perfect training plan yet, but how else will you do that without abandoning restraint and just going for it?

      Much love in 2014 — thanks for sticking around with my writing.

  7. Jen says:

    Great write-up as always, Dan. Sounds (and looks) like you’ve had a fantastic year. I especially liked and related to this sentence:
    “Although it is easy to feel like the world has betrayed us whenever race plans go awry, we have to step back and realize what a privileged complaint that is.”

    Happy New Year!

    • Dan says:

      Thanks Jen! I appreciate your thoughts as always and look forward to reading your blog as you check off your 2014 goals (including that elusive Garmin-less race). Onwards!

  8. Mike says:

    If your running adventures of the past 12 months were half as enjoyable to live through as they were to read about, then 2013 was a year well lived. Certainly one of the highlights of my year was meeting you and Otter in Portland, even though you were already nursing a running hangover from your marathon in Washington the day before. Hopefully we can do that again one day soon (minus the warm-up marathon).

    Very sorry to hear about your uncle – I absolutely empathize. I’ll be rooting for you even harder than usual in Miami, and no matter how strong your performance or how fast your finish time, you’ll already have started off 2014 with a personal best.

    I guess running beauty is in the eye of the beholder… whereas your own lasting memories of 2013 seem to revolve largely around the saga of North Country, I remember your year first and foremost (aside from Portland) for your scorching PR in New Orleans – a singular performance, and one that I’ll be targeting myself in 2014. That “PR” stamp looks mighty fine there among your race stats, don’t you think?

    Congrats on another memorable year of running and writing, on another giant step toward TransAmerica running domination, and on a year-end perspective that takes a thoughtful step beyond the usual blogger rehashing of “In January I _____, in February I _____, in March I _____ “. Continued success with all that you do in 2014, running or otherwise. And here’s to shit always happening, because we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Dan says:

      I will admit that lately, whenever I sit to write down a post or a race recap, I try to stay away from the linear narrative structure. I tried to steer away from that with this post as well with mixed results — glad you enjoyed it.

      It’s been a pleasure sharing stories with you this year, Mike, and given how crazy envious I am of your 2014 schedule, I can confidently say that you can count on my thoughts becoming a hallmark of your stories. That said, you could probably write about a dinky, neighborhood 5k and you’ll find enough insight and life lessons from it to merit a well-written homage … and a response from me in the process.

      All the best in 2014, good sir.

  9. Devil's Chasin Me says:

    Great year, sir!

  10. Awesome year! Can’t wait to see how 2014 goes!

  11. Jessica says:

    Great year for you! I kind of fell off the map, but am jumping back in with Arkansas the same weekend you’re in Miami. Hoping to get a few more in this year – grad school budget doesn’t allow for such travel and expenses and I’m insanely jealous of your ability to do so! Slow and steady I’ll get there though. Looking forward to following ya!

    • Dan says:

      Glad to see you back online! You were one of the first bloggers that I found who was on a similar quest as me, so I’m glad to see you haven’t given up the dream — just re-prioritized 🙂

      Happy New Year!

  12. Well done! You really kicked the road’s butt this year!

  13. Pingback: End of Year Recap (2014) | Dan's Marathon

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