All and all, it has been a great and successful year in running. Except for a minor set-back in the early summer, this year I continued to built experience and endurance. It is time to look back:

Winter 2011

The winter started off very snowy. Going back to my logs, many times I had to brave the elements by running during a storm or right afterward when the roads and trails were quite slick. There is something about running in a snowstorm that brings me great joy. My mileage was rather low; about 25 miles or so each week. There was a break in the weather in late January and picked up some more road miles. Looking back, I noticed that I suffered a lot of little yet annoying aliments that affected my performance. A tight IT band one week, a sore thigh muscle the next, and so on. It is interesting since come late summer and fall, I was running a lot more and totally pain-free. During a long run on January 30, I got a “flat tire” during a run. The pain in my legs was enough that I had to stop. It was one of just two times that I had to stop during the run. In this instance, left thigh pain and shin splints did me in during a run down Sylvan Hills. It turned out the shoes I ran in – Brooks Ghost – didn’t give me the support I needed on that long run. After adding a foam lift under the heel, the shoe then felt better on a long run. However, I would never run a long run of more than 7 miles in these shoes again.

Snowfest Race in Mifflinburg, PA

I participated in my first race of the year on February 13th. “The Snow Fest” trail race was a great time despite the crusty surface and not having any idea when or where you would break through. I placed 25th out of 110 who finished. That weekend I also decided on my race plan for the first half of the year: 3/19 – Irish Heritage 10k, 4/2 – Night Flight 10k, 4/23 – Yough River 10k, 5/16 – Pittsburgh Marathon Relay, 6/4 – Rothrock Challenge 30k. The next day I started training, hoping to do the Irish Hertiage 10k in under 55 minutes. I upped my mileage and started some speed and pace intervals in the middle of the week. By late February, the weather cleared with no major snows for the rest of the season.

Spring 2011

At the Irish Hertiage 10k race in Tyrone on March 19, I crushed my 55 minute goal and ended up running at 46 minutes, 36 seconds – a new personal record! Two weeks later I traveled north to Mifflinburg to participate in the Night Flight Trail Race 10k. I had tremendous fun participating in my first ever nighttime trail race. It was a blast and I had a lot of fun running through the woods at night and getting muddy. I finished 6th overall and 2nd in my age group at 50 minutes and 31 seconds.

I continued with my spring training, doing more trail running than ever before and upping my mileage from 25 to 30 then 35 by the end of the spring. It was at this time I managed to get in touch with Matt Lindsey, a local trail and ultra runner, who led me on some runs up on Wopsy in preparation for upcoming races like Rothrock. Spring also meant wet weather. It become one of the wettest seasons in recent memory. If it wasn’t raining, it was either muddy or sloppy on the trails and road.

Approaching Shadyside on Penn Street in the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay

May 15th was the Pittsburgh Marathon Relay. Our reply team, Allegheny Ridge Lightning Bolts came in #31 out of 536 teams in the mixed male and female relay teams at the Pittsburgh Marathon!
Official Chip time: 3 hours, 33 minutes and 57 minutes.
Leg 1: Nicole Durez 5.4 miles. 48m:48s. 9:02 per mile pace.
Leg 2: Karin Vasil 4.8 miles. 45m:36s. 9:30 per mile pace.
Leg 3: Ben Mazur 4.8 miles. 38m:46s. 8:04 per mile pace.
(I continued on to the end 16.22 miles 2h16m32s. 8:25 per mile pace.)
Leg 4: Ethan Imhoff 6.2 miles. 40m:01s. 6:27 per mile pace.
(Ethan continued on to the end 11.2 miles 1h20m48s. 7:12 per mile pace.)
Leg 5: Steve McKnight 5 miles. 40m:47s. 8:09 per mile pace.

As for me I did leg 3 as my official run and then continued to the finish line for a total of 16.22 miles. I did fine on the climb out of the Southside to Oakland and Shandyside. I started to slow down after Shadyside especially after the exchange then really started to take it easy through Homewood, Highland Park, East Liberty. I started to pick up the pace after Friendship and into Bloomfield. I really stepped it on the downhill from Bloomfield to the Downtown, over the bridge and to the finish line near Heinz Field. You can see my run via Runkeeper.
http://runkeeper.com/user/BenMazur/activity/35588734

The Collapse

After the marathon reply I started to train exclusively on trails to prepare for Rothrock. Rothrock is an 18 mile race with 4200 feet in elevation climb and I knew I had to train hard in order to do well. Then came Memorial Day weekend which was a week before Rothrock. I should have took a taper week but I pushed myself too far. The last few Memorial Day weekends, the Stangl Family would invite me to the hunting cabin not too far from Alan Seeger Natural Area. Because it is one of the most scenic natural areas around, I felt compelled to run as much on these trails as much as possible. The first day I took a hard and wet run from Alan Seeger to the top of Greenwood Tower and down the backside on Ross Trail. The next day I started again at Alan Seeger, ran up an extremely rocky Mid-State Trail through Detwiller Natural Area, to above Penn Roosevelt State Park and along Grass Mountain back to Alan Seeger. I have to admit that it was one of the most beautiful trail runs I ever been on but it was also one of the most physically challenging. I could feel my thigh muscles pull and stretch as I tried to clamor over the slippery rocks. I knew I pulled something. On Memorial Day, I could hardly walk, let alone run. It turned out that I over-trained and pushed myself beyond the limit. I had pulled my left hamstring and also developed runners knee. I canceled my plan to run at Rothrock and it would be 22 days until I would run again. It would not be until July 3rd before I would hit the trails.

Summer 2011

My recovery was slow but steady. I started running again on June 21st and ended with a 15 mile week. I also started running with a knee band on my left leg to help me with my sensitive runners knee. I would run with the knee band for most of the summer. The summer was very hot with some days the temperature reaching over 100F. Those days I had to actually postpone my runs until as late as 11pm. July 30th marked my return to racing in the Run With the Deer Flies 15k in Yellow Creek State Park. The race offered fast trails and rolling terrain. I felt pretty good and managed to finish 10th overall and first in my age class. 1h 34m 38.

Through most of the summer, I was plagued with a slight left thigh pain. Then on August 7th I slipped on a log at Greensprings Trail on Wospy, giving me a bruised face, black eye and again slightly pulling my left thigh. I would bare through the leg problem until late August when I switched from the New Balance 1064’s to the Saucony ProGrid Ride 4. After that day, I would no longer have any major issues with my leg for the rest of the summer and fall. My runs also improved after beginning a “lactic acid flush run” the day after my long run of the week. This would be a very easy paced run of about 20% of the distance of my run the day before. It is just enough to remove the lactic acid built up in my legs and would set myself up for more stronger runs later in the week. I also started a gym membership to build a stronger core and back.

August 30th came the wildest race of the season with the Dam Scramble near Curwensville. Imagine a race course they blazed that morning and that gives you a sense what the race is all about. (Read my race report). I finished 7th overall and again first in my age group at 2 hours 2 minutes and 40 seconds in this 11-mile race.

On September 11, I had the honor to participate in the 9-11 Run in Shanksville and run with many of the family members who lost loved ones on Flight 93 10 years ago. I would conclude the summer with the Dam Half Marathon Trail Race at R.B. Winter State Park on Sept. 18th Finished 2hr 16m 17s. (See my previous blog post)

Fall 2011

After The Dam Half, I re-focused my training toward some faster road races like the Hollidaysburg Fall Races and the Nittany Valley Half Marathon in December. I jumped from running five days a week to six days, making great increases in weekly distances and quickening my pace. October 1st came the Hollidaysburg Races. I opted to do the 10k instead of the half since I was still recovering from the Dam Half two weeks earlier. I pretty much “put a brick on the gas pedal” as I ran much faster than my pre-race estimate and broke a personal record. (See blog entry)

The Large Pair of Scissors I Made

The last week of October I would come down with a nasty bout of bronchitis and had to skip a few days from running, only logging 15 miles that week. Toward the end of that week I would still participate in the Freedom Halloween Races during a freak snowstorm on October 29th. Even despite my bronchitis, through windswept snow, and running with a giant pair of cardboard scissors on my back (I was the only one to wear a costume) I still managed to place first in the 5k event. (See previous entry for more.)

November marked my biggest running month thus far with me tallying anywhere between 40 and 55 miles of running a week. An unusually warm November allowed me to clock these long runs. The finale of the running year came on December 2nd with the Nittany Valley Half Marathon. Even though I ran 30 seconds slower than my projected finish, it was a very good run and I did the best I could and still enough to run with a new personal record. (See blog entry)

The Altoona Running Yahoo Group after the Nittany Valley Half-Marathon

2012?

After Nittany Valley, I took a week off as I plan for the upcoming year. I will reveal some of those plans in my next posting.