Joe’s 2015 running year in review

Bunny ears at the Hop Hop 5K. Even when I was racing hard, I still made a point of having fun!

When you’ve been running and racing for over 35 years, sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation and inspiration to keep at it with the same intensity. So for 2015, I needed a new and unique goal. I decided to go after my race count record of 84 races in a calendar year.

I knew it was possible to break the record with careful planning, creative scheduling, and enough luck to avoid major injuries. Surprisingly, I began the year with only one race on New Year’s Day, the Clark County Running Club’s Hangover Run. I had run as many as four races on January 1st in the past, but I knew I didn’t have to go overboard on the first day.

I began the year with a full, but sane schedule, and by the end of January I had 11 races under my belt. Six more in February, and eight in March, and I was off to a solid start. Part of the fun of running so many races is simply looking at the race calendar and realizing you can! Finding accommodating start times and figuring out the logistics of getting to two or more races in the same day is almost as much fun (and as challenging) as running the races themselves.

Some events offer more than one race, and encourage runners to participate in some or all of them. On March 11th, for example, I ran Double Dog Dare U Events’ Double Five Challenge, which consisted of three races in one: A 5-miler, followed immediately by a 5k. The combined 8.1 miles also had its own results. If that wasn’t enough, as soon as I finished the Double Five I drove down to Corvallis for the Corvallis 5k at noon. Careful perusal of the race schedule allowed me to run four races that day!

Track meets like the Hayward Classic also helped to quickly increase the race count, with multiple races around the red oval on the same day. The Clark County Running Club’s Wednesday evening races (and a couple on Thursday) filled the mid-week gap, and added 11 more races to my total (it also helped that the CCRC races were free with your $10 annual membership! I ran 10 more CCRC races on weekends).

Running so many races so close together wasn’t easy. The toughest “double” of the year came on April 19th, when the scheduling gods lured me into a 5K / half marathon combo. The Race For The Roses 5K took off at 7:30a in downtown Portland, and as soon as I crossed the finish mat I made a beeline to my car and drove up the Gorge to North Bonneville, WA for the Birds Of Prey Half at 10:00a. For some reason (I can’t quite put my finger on it) I ran out of steam almost completely around the 7-mile mark, and walked/jogged the rest of the race on fumes. (Not training for the 13.1-mile distance may have had a little to do with it too) 😉

But most of the time I was no worse than tired. My times surely suffered on the tail end of some of the longer weekends, but I never bonked as bad as Birds Of Prey at any other event. OK, now that I think about it, the Bowerman 5k on the evening of August 15th was no picnic either, but it WAS my third race of the day (and second within a couple hours).

Some of the field at the conclusion of the Masters Mile at the Flotrack Throwdown on August 8th, my record-breaking 85th race of 2015.

I was kind of surprised how quickly my record came within reach. I ran my 85th and record-breaking race on the evening of August 8th at the Masters Mile, part of the Flotrack Throw Down track meet at Duniway Park. It was my second race of the day, having run the Garlic Festival 5k in North Plains that morning to tie the record.

Amazingly, after 12 races in August, I only ran two in September and three in October, partly due to a strong and nagging head cold. I rounded out the year with four more races in November, and three in December for a final total of 103. (In a nice coincidence, my final race of the year was a CCRC race on the same course as my first race.) Whew! I will let this record stand for the foreseeable future 😉

Some of the stats and highlights of my running year:

Biggest month: April, with 15 races.

Biggest week: June 17-21, with seven races.

Favorite race: There are so many to choose from (duh!), but I think the one I had the most fun at was the Oregon Trail Game 5K in Oregon City on July 25th. A unique event that combined a conventional footrace on a tough course with an on-the-fly version of the old Oregon Trail computer game. You got race results AND game results based on your decision making during the race. (Incidentally, this is also the race where I got talked into becoming a volunteer assistant middle school cross country coach!)

Best new event: A three-way tie between the Oregon Trail Game 5K, Salem’s High Street Hustle, and The Double Five Challenge.

Favorite race shirt: A two-way tie between the Britt Woods Firehouse Run and Run Like Hell. Both shirts have great bold graphics and fonts, and include both the year and the location, important details often overlooked.

Favorite finisher’s medal: Among many great medals, the Gorgeous Relay medal stands out: It is large, colorful, a mix of different materials, and captures the essence of the event with it’s translucent image of Multnomah Falls. Ironically, I didn’t count the Gorgeous Relay as a “race” because no results are recorded for this fun event, but it was still a big highlight of my running year.

Favorite award: Another three-way tie between the Hayward Classic Age Graded Mile (because of what it represents and because I was surprised to win it – see below), the Oregon Trail Game 5k, and the Catherine Creek Classic handmade wooden plaque.

Most memorable race: Again, a lot of races stood out for me this year, but the one I will probably remember the most was the Run Like Hell 5K. I actually took the time to plan ahead and come up with a costume for the “Under The Big Top” theme. (I was a scary clown – I know for some that’s redundant, but by most accounts I was TRULY scary!) 😉 This was the first real race I’ve run in a full costume, and the opportunity to run hard, entertain the crowd, and simultaneously draw attention to myself while remaining anonymous was a lot of fun! Some of my favorite race (and post-race) photos of the year were taken at Run Like Hell too.

Finishing the Run Like Hell 5K in my scary clown costume.

Best road trip: A journey to southern Oregon for the Britt Woods Firehouse Run in Jacksonville, followed by a quick return to the Portland area for the Twilight 5K at Vancouver Lake that evening.

Biggest inspiration: Again, it’s a three-way tie (indecision is one of my best traits). Carol Craig has overcome a number of physical setbacks and walks an insane amount in training and in races, always with a positive spirit. Teresa Wymetalek runs a lot of relays… on two-person teams! I was totally knackered on my second leg of the Gorgeous Relay, and I was on a full 6-person team; Teresa ran six legs, with only one leg to rest in between! And Marilyn Tycer inspires just by showing up, with her upbeat presence and creative costumes. So whenever I feel merely tired or sorry for myself as I start to fade in a race, I just have to remember these awesome and amazing women and stop my whining.

A “Joe sandwich” with two of my biggest inspirations (and photobomber extraordinaire, Howard Fan) at the Portlandia Mock Marathon in August.

Most successful race: The Hayward Classic Age-Graded Mile. This is an event where the winner is the runner with the best age-graded time, based on age and gender charts, rather than raw time. So an 80-year-old woman could beat the rest of the field in any given year, based on her effort. I was the first to cross the line, but then, I was also the youngest competitor in the field. I was sure that at least a couple of the amazing athletes out there that day would beat me soundly in the age-grading, but when they announced the winner I was surprised to hear my name. It was a shock and a great honor to win that race among such a great field of “seasoned” athletes.

But really, the best part of running so many races was seeing my running friends so frequently. I also got to run four relays with some great teammates. And being part of a great group of Run Oregon bloggers was another highlight. 2015 will be hard to top!

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