Who is Ted?

I'm the father of two beautiful daughters and an amazing wife. For fun, I enjoy the long hours of seemingly endless suffering that endurance sports (mostly running, cycling and triathlon)provide. During my "down time" I'm an avid beer snob and self-described gourmet chef (in other words I like to burn things on a stove or grill).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

"20" (and the week in training 12 23 12)

Pre-run pose (photo by Liliana)
During the last several weeks, I've been reading as much as I can about ultra marathons and trail running.  In addition to scouring the internet and finding sites like trailrunnernation.com , I've read a couple of different books including Neal Jamison's Running Through the Wall  (which includes several essays by a variety of ultrarunners) and Relentless Forward Progress by Byron Powell.  I'm learning "on the run" so to speak and I'm trying to incorporate these ideas into my training as I go.   One of the biggest challenges has been getting the longer runs accomplished during a busy work week.  As a result I've generally been doing a "shorter" long run on Saturday, followed by a long run on Sunday.  Since we are on vacation these two weeks, it has been somewhat easier to accomplish longer runs, but it's still a bit of a challenge.  I'm also still very interested in doing a fair amount of cross training to save my legs a little bit of the strain from running.  The other factor has been the cold weather.  Last Thursday, I was out the door at 5 a.m. for a very cold run (more on that in a moment).
5 mile loop
The end of this week found us in the mountains at my parents place.  Their home sits along a dirt road in the mountains at an elevation of approximately 8400 ft.  The area has many short, narrow, and hilly roads that are perfect for simulating the fire roads of the CPTR.  I've been anxious to get some running in at altitude with some real hills since that hasn't been much of an option in Pueblo.  After researching some options for different routes, I selected a 5 mile loop that included a good mixture of uphill and downhill running.  This would allow me to have an "aid station" every few miles as well as the option of stopping after 5, 10, or 15 miles.  My hope however, was to get a full 20 mile run completed.  I'm pleased to say that I managed to do so.  The loop option also seemed to be the "safest" option at this point.  I was tempted to do one longer loop of 20 miles but it would have put me on some roads and trails with which I wasn't as familiar.  
A little before noon on Saturday, my wife and I set out for some easy running.  We bundled up in anticipation of the twenty to thirty degree weather that awaited us.  Thankfully, the weather was ideal for running, and I probably overdressed a little bit, but after my "chilly" run earlier in the week, I wasn't going to take any chances (The best new addition to my running wardrobe are the gigantic ski mittens that I've kept up here.  Those suckers will be returning home with me this time around!).
Downhill section makes for easy running!
My lovely wife ran the first loop with me which was great.  A few years back, she would have balked at running in the cold weather, but she has done enough running in the winter now to appreciate it more.  One of the things that I've come to accept as part of longer trail running is the idea that it is okay, in fact necessary, to walk from time to time.  I would estimate that during this particular run, I walked at least 5 to 6 miles. Walking and a slower pace speaks to the social aspect of trail running and the fact you should be able to run at a pace that allows for conversation throughout.    During the first loop we did just that, walking at times and chatting the whole way.  But after 5 miles, she was headed inside and I was out for loop #2.
The second loop passed much like the first.  In fact, each of the first two loops took about 63 minutes, which is a touch over a 12 minute pace per mile (although they varied from 9 minutes to 16 minutes depending on the terrain).  I could have run each a little faster, but I was trying to stay mindful of my heart rate which induced me to pause throughout the the run.  HR training is certainly a different animal at altitude as I couldn't tackle any of the hills without quickly reaching my aerobic threshold. The loop that I was running had a lot of variety and broke down as follows:
Mile 1: The first half of this mile is mostly steep uphill, the second half is mostly downhill with just a few risers.
Mile 2: Starts with a moderate uphill of about a quarter mile, and then is almost entirely downhill.
Mile 3:  Much like the first mile with mostly uphill and then downhill the rest of the way.
Mile 4: Almost entirely downhill and fairly steep.
Mile 5: Almost entirely uphill, though gradual (a lot of walking in this stretch).
Dashing through the snow!
After 2 hours I returned to the start of the loop to find a water bottle and a note written in the snow.  Before she had gone inside, I'd asked Melisa to set these out for me as I was carrying no hydration or nutrition.  I quickly drank a little of the water and set out for loop #3.  I decided at the onset of this loop that I would take it very easy and try to save enough energy so that I would have something left to complete a fourth loop.  I was decidedly slower, but it was enjoyable to take my time and enjoy some of the scenery.  Knowing when to slow down is an important skill  to develop when running for distance as opposed to time.  When running a "loop" course like this, it's easy  to fixate on how the each loop compares to another, but that can cause one to lose sight of the true goal, which is actually about increasing the time and distance running.
Running a "loop" course also has a "psychological" component.  For example, during the first loop it seemed unreal to think that I would actually be passing by the same place at least three more times for the next several hours.  Later, just as I was close to completing the second loop, it was difficult to imagine that I was not quite halfway finished even though I'd already been running for two hours.  The third and fourth loops were a little easier because I knew that I was on the shorter side and had run further than I had left.  In fact, the fourth loop was in some ways the easiest and most enjoyable to do because I knew I would head inside once I had finished.
Still another challenge with running loops is that you pass by the "stopping" point several times, unlike a single loop or an out and back course.  The CPTR is a two-loop course that includes the option of changing from a 50 mile into a 25 mile if the runner chooses.  In my mind that is a blessing, but also a curse.  I think it will be important to feel especially strong at the turnaround point, knowing that there's the sanctioned option of shortening the run by half.  After 5+ hours of running, it will surely be tempting to call it a day.  As I get further into my training, I plan on doing a longer run that includes a turnaround point like this, for the sole purpose of practicing the willpower it will take to keep going.
The snow on the trail was never too deep and was hard packed in most spots.  I'm sure I lost a little bit of traction on some of the steeper hills, but it didn't detract from the run.
Notes in the snow at the "aid station."  I wrote 1-2-3 as I finished each lap.
The last loop of the day (#4) passed quickly and I did my best to run as much of it as I could.  Then sun was starting to fall behind the hills and the temperature got noticeably chillier.   By the time I finished I was well over four hours (4:21:57)which is closer to my marathon time than a twenty mile run.   I frequently hit my aerobic threshold even when going downhill, but it never got to crazy high levels.  I also did this run without any nutrition and I'd say that is probably something that I won't repeat.  I think that about 3 hours is the limit for running without any kind of nutrition and while I do feel that my nutrition needs have changed somewhat since I began Maffetone training a couple of months ago, I need to start integrating eating into my running routine.
Brooks Ghost V
I also did something that I normally wouldn't have done which was to run the entire 20 miles in a new pair of shoes.  On the way to the mountains I stopped and picked up a new pair of shoes that provided a little more cushioning than what I've been used to.  I wanted some shoes that provided extra cushioning given the time I'm spending on my feet.  My initial plan was to run the first 5 in new shoes and then switch to my older pair.  However, after the  first five miles, the new shoes felt just fine.  Same thing after I hit 10 miles.  After that, I kind of forgot about it all together and in fact, I didn't feel a blister or hot spot the entire time, so I just left them on.

Although I was quite tired when all was said and done, but recovery has been positive this morning.  I'm not overly sore or tired although I'm going to resist the urge to run today (a day of rest is in order).  I may try for some X-country skiing tomorrow morning if I can.  Seems like a good way to end the year!

This twenty mile run caps off my week.  Normally I would do my long run on Sunday but I was too eager to wait this week.  I'm now beginning a "down week" meaning fewer miles and which will conclude with  MAF Test #2 at the track provided that the weather is somewhat cooperative.  It has been a productive month of running for me, and the most that I've done in a long time (maybe ever in fact).  When all is said and done, I will have completed a hundred miles further this year than I did in 2011.  The numbers are still low by most standards, but it works for me.

This is how my week in training breaks down:

Sunday December 23, 2012: This was my long for the week of 16.64 miles.  I ran for an hour and then took a walk break of 5 minutes and repeated this three times.  Overall I felt pretty good during the run, but recovery was an issue.  At about 14 miles or so, my left leg was bothering me.  My plantars fasciitis was acting up (which usually doesn't happen during a run) and this was impacting my running form.  I began to feel a slight sting in my upper hamstring and was worried about pulling a muscle.  This set me to thinking if it wasn't time to get some new shoes with a little more cushioning and support.  I know that there are different theories about minimal shoes, etc., but my experience to date has been that for longer distances, I do better with more cushioning.

19 miles and still smiling (sort of!)
Wednesday December 26, 2012: After messing with a few flat tires, I managed to get a ride of an hour and twenty minutes on the trainer at a fairly steady pace.   Besides, I had recorded Battle Los Angeles, and I had to see the exciting conclusion.  I felt pretty good the entire time, and I believe the break of a couple of days from running also helped.

Thursday December 27, 2012: I went for a run at 5 a.m. this morning and it was an absolutely freezing outside.  I can't remember a time when I've been so cold.  I managed to get 10 miles in, but it was nothing but suffering!  I think that the temperature was about 2 degrees the whole time.  I had also read about increasing the frequency of walk breaks to a 5:1 ration (5 minutes of running, 1 minute of walking) and I wanted to see what this was like.  It was so cold that I don't know what to think of it at this point.  I'm looking forward to a run in warmer conditions to see how it goes.  I don't know how realistic that will be during the CPTR as I will have to respond more to the changing terrain, but I think it's still worth trying a few more times.

Friday December 28, 2012: 30 minutes of alternating core work and weights.  I'm going to work up to doing this a couple of times a week.

Saturday December 29, 2012: Twenty mile long run (see above).

For the week I wound up with a total of 46.64 miles of running (this due to the fact that I did my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday).  My total for the month comes in at 117 miles which is an average of just under 30 miles/ week.  Here's a few final snaps from the camera of the scenery during the long run on Saturday:


Looking back down the first half of the hill on Shawnee Road.

Aspen grove between Creedmore Lakes Road and Tiny Bob Road.

The gradual uphill at the bottom of Lone Pine Drive



Saturday, December 22, 2012

The week in training . . .12 16 12

Another week down.  Another week closer to the fifty.  This was also the last week before a two week vacation commences.  During the next two weeks, I'll continue with my training and even get in a few trail runs at a higher altitude.  This was a good week for training in spite of being quite busy with work.  I managed to get a couple of quality runs in and I'm finding that these generally occur on the weekends when I have a little more time.  Here's a summary of the week.

Sunday December 16th, 2012: Out the door early again.  A few minutes after five and I'm out on the street, running through the dark with only my  headlamp to illuminate a small sphere on the ground in front.  And it's cold.  Very, very cold.  Normally on a run, I warm up after about 15 to 20 minutes, but that isn't the case today.  After an hour I take my first walking break of five minutes.  I try to keep a brisk walking pace, and the five minutes goes quickly.  I start up again and after another 30 minutes or so of running, the sun finally breaks the horizon completely.  The temperature rises and I'm feeling even better.  My pace ranges between about 10:45 to 12:00 per mile at a bpm of 139-145 throughout the run.  I'm in the zone for the last 5 miles and feeling great.  Felt like I would have been good for another couple of hours.  Total run time: about 3 hours.  Mileage: 15 miles.

Tuesday December 18th, 2012: When I got home from work I put about 40 minutes in downstairs doing weights and core exercises.  I'm including some lunges, dumbbell squats, and calf raises with dumbbells for my legs.  I ended with about 5-10 minutes of yoga.

Thursday December 19th, 2012: With the bike trainer all set, I flipped through the channels and noticed that Battle Los Angeles  was just starting.  Nothing like a low-quality movie to watch while training.  About 30 minutes into a good ride, just as I was getting into the movie,  I could feel the back wheel jumping a little bit.  I've ridden enough to know what the problem was.  A flat tire! Damn.

Saturday December 21st, 2012: Today was a short run of 8.67 miles.   I waited until about 8:30 to head out the door and it was worth it in terms of temperature.  The weather was absolutely beautiful this morning.  I elected to do a two loop run, first clockwise, then counter clockwise, just  like the CPTR.  Only difference was that each loop this morning was less than one-fifth the distance of CPTR. Ha!  I wound up a little short of the 90 minutes I'd planned.  Total run time: 1:23:54.

Tomorrow I'll be up again (early) and I'm planning on a little over three hours of running before Mass.  


Sunday, December 16, 2012

The week in training . . . 12 09 12

Each week I'm going to try and highlight my training as I work towards the Collegiate Peaks 50 mile run next May.  I do keep a training log over at Beginner Triathlete and in January it will mark the beginning of my 4th year of logging data there.  While my BT postings are more data oriented, these postings will serve to be more anecdotal.  I especially want to highlight the psychological aspects of this endeavor, in addition to getting the numbers in.  So without any further ado . . . here goes.

Sunday December 9, 2012:  It was probably only the mixture of enthusiasm and excitement that got me out of bed and out the door by 5:45.  As I looked out the window, I found myself peering through the dark at the first real snowstorm in Pueblo this year.  Nevertheless, I bundled up and set out the door for a long run.  The streets held that unique silence that only results from the combination of snowfall, darkness, and the fact that the majority of the city was still slumbering early on a Sunday morning.  Underfoot, the snow was wet and and sticky.   When I chose to run on the empty street instead of the sidewalk, it would start to cling to the soles of my shoes, and after a few strides, I would have to drag my feet in order to wipe them off.  However, after the first 3 miles or so, I moved onto the dirt trails at the north edge of town, and this got better.  Unfortunately, running in 3-4 inches of snow during a white out does a number on depth perception, so I found myself stumbling quite a bit.  Nevertheless, I managed to run a little over 12 miles through the storm in just under two and a half hours.  Not a bad start to the week.

Wednesday December 12, 2012:  This is one of the busiest weeks of the year at work.  Between concerts, meetings and other happenings, it always feels like the big squeeze before the holidays.  On top of that I'd had a stressful day and I was tired when I walked in the door.  Still, I knew I had to get on the bike and get something done.  I'd taken two days off so it was time to go, but more importantly, the stress of the last few days was dragging me down.  While Melisa went to do some holiday shopping before dinner, I got on the trainer, tuned into "Border Wars" and managed a whopping 30 minutes at a very moderate pace.  Something's better than nothing, but this was not a great workout.  Maybe just a little below mediocre.  Still, I've done enough workouts in my life to know that they can't all be gems.

Friday December 14, 2012: On Friday mornings for the last couple of weeks, I've found myself awake a little after 4 a.m.  On this day, I laid in bed listening to a podcast until about 5 a.m.  Then it was up and out the door for a short run before work.  I managed a little over 4 miles during the 45 minute run.  I'm starting to get used to running in the dark now.   I always run with my headlamp, my reflective running vest, and usually a flashlight.  Friday is also Starbucks day at our household, which is always a favorite!

Saturday December 15, 2012:  I treated myself this morning and slept until about 6:30.  My plan today was for a 90 minute run, which I decided to do at the maximum aerobic rate below threshold.  I had a great run and managed to get nearly 9 miles during the hour and half.  Afterwards, I was a little sore, but we had a long day of shopping planned.   Before bed, I took a few Advil and got to sleep early in anticipation of a long run early the next morning before Mass.  

Back to back long runs will be a strategy that I use on the weekends during this training.  The idea is to get the legs accustomed to running when tired.  I will slowly be building the amount of time that I run each weekend.  Right now I'm at a 90 minute run on Saturday followed by a 180 minute run on Sunday.  Eventually I will expand this to where I'm running about two and a half hours for the first run, followed by up to 5 or 6 hours on the following day.  Tomorrow I plan on running three hours.  I'm also going to force myself to incorporate a couple of walking breaks into the run, so I can get used to that.  

Something else that has been different on these longer runs is that I'm currently not taking nutrition or hydration when I run.  I was nervous about this at first, but because my pace is so slow, and I've been teaching my body to metabolize fat for energy more efficiently, it has not been a problem at all.  For warmer weather, I will definitely be adding hydration, but I'm going to hold off on the nutrition for a while.  Eventually I will do a long run where I'll bring some nutrition along, but I won't use it until I absolutely need it. 

I consider that there is a huge mental aspect to being able to run 50 miles and I'm finding it helpful to think about the race in terms of time instead of distance covered, and I think this will be key to running the ultra.  Next week I'll write more about how I'm approaching the psychology of ultra-running, which may be just as important as the physical.
  • Total time running:  4hrs, 41 min
  • Total Miles biked: 30 min
  • Workouts that I missed:  No core or weight training this week.  Something I'll have to stop skipping. 
  • Beers sampled:  
    • Noche Buena- an old favorite from Mexico.
    •  O'dells 90 shilling- quickly become my favorite go to beer.
    •  Winona's Big Brown Beer- the owner of Shamrock Brewing must be a fan of Primus.
    • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale- with the Shrimp and Bacon Club at Cheesecake Factory
So that's my week in training.  Sometime at the end of the coming week, I will post round two which will include another long run, some cycle training, and who knows what else. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

. . .five-oh . . .

A few weeks ago, while perusing the "inter-webs,"  I came across a race scheduled for early May that I'd not heard of before, although it's been around for several years.  Something about it stuck with me, and after frequent visits to the site, as well as reading multiple race reports from the past few years, as well as a YouTube video or two, I signed up.  So, on  May 4, 2012, I will run the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 50 in Buena Vista, Colorado.  The fifty mile event consists of two loops of twenty-five miles each.  The first loop is run clockwise, and then it is run again in a counter-clockwise direction.
 As with any new undertaking, I'm both excited and nervous about the event, but mostly excited (I'm sure the nerves will kick in as the race gets closer).  I've been reading every article on ultra running and trail running (the two are very connected as most ultras are on trails), to get up to speed on this new challenge.  From what I can gather, there are some key points to remember in order to put together a successful training plan and execute an effective race.
Just like in marathon training, the cornerstone of successful ultra training is the Long Run.  The long run just happens to be a bit further.  Many of the plans I've seen also suggest doing a couple of longer runs on back to back days to simulate the "tired" feeling that the legs will experience during an ultra.  For the immediate future, I will plan on doing a long run on Friday morning before work, followed by an extra-long run on Saturday.  This means no sleeping in for me for the foreseeable future.  I hope to do most of my longer runs early in the morning so as not to interfere with family time during the day.
Another key factor in ultra running is walking.  Unlike a lot of marathons and other races, walking is pretty much de rigueur for an ultra distance race like this.  In fact, part of my strategy will be to walk much of the steeper parts of the race.  Because of the varied terrain, it's impossible to have a set pace to follow throughout the race.  The key is to keep pushing forward, taking walking breaks when necessary. 
The elevation profile demonstrates many opportunities to practice "walking."
Similar to triathlon, nutrition is another element of the ultra.  I anticipate that the race will take me anywhere from 9 to 12 hours (12 is the cutoff in fact).  That means I will be eating and drinking throughout the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner (well OK, it won't be three squares).  A big part of my training will be learning to eat and drink while on long runs.  I hear good things about Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches!  I will likely try some other things too.  During the HITS 70.3 Triathlon last summer, I did experience some trouble with feeling nauseous during the race, so this is an area I will have to work on.  My hope is that I can get to where I can consume just about any type of nutrition without it wreaking havoc on my stomach.  During HITS, I discovered that the de-fizzed Coke was very effective in helping my stomach, and I was pleased to see that this will be offered at aid stations throughout the course.
Weather is another factor unique to ultras.  While many road races boast "rain or shine," this is almost always the case with trail runs.  What makes this more significant is that the race takes place in the mountains which means that weather conditions are subject to both greater extremes and more variety.  It will likely be well below 32 degrees at the start of the race, and if it's a nice day, it may be into the 70's by the afternoon.  If the weather is extremely hot or cold, then it will be an opportunity to reassess goals and determine what to do.  This will also impact the gear that I bring.  Runners are allowed to have a "drop bag" at the 25 mile turnaround so I can use that to stash anything I might need.  Anything else will have to be carried for at least 25 miles.  That means I will be looking into some lighter weight shirts and jackets to wear for this event.
Takes as long to watch as a Marathon and may in fact be more painful!
At the heart of the ultra (as well as many other endurance events) is the battle between mind and body.  It is accepted that during an ultra, a runner will experience several peaks and valleys in terms of emotions and the will to go on.  The body and mind will conspire to "convince" the runner that it would be best to stop this nonsense, go home, and rest.  It is the duty of the "spirit" to persuade the runner to keep moving forward.  In my previous experience with Marathons, the psychology of the thing was always the most formidable part.  Standing at the start of the first two races, I was filled with anxiety about whether or not I could actually finish.  The distance intimidated.  Yet each time I ran, I managed to finish.  In preparing to do my third marathon last May, I took a different perspective to running the marathon.  Since my goal was just wanting to finish, I was able to relax and not worry about times, etc.  Instead of thinking about having to run 26.2 miles, I thought about it as just a part of my morning.  Running for a few hours before lunch was all.  Hell, sitting through an Oliver Stone movie takes nearly as long!  This relaxed point of view will be my approach to the ultra.  Instead of fifty miles, I'll remember that it's less than four half-marathons.  It's just a long hike on a Saturday.  Nothing to sneeze at, but not insurmountable.  After all, there are thousands of people that complete an ultra distance race every year.  Besides, it's not like I'm doing a 100 miler.  Those folks are crazy!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Maffetone Test #1

http://philmaffetone.com/180formula.cfm
 After last weekend's Rock Canyon Half-Marathon, today it was time to conduct my first official Maffetone test.  I've been running and riding a little more in November and early December, so today I wanted to get a measure of my fitness at this point.  The graphs below represent my weekly mileage totals (Running and Biking) for Late September/ October compared to November/ December.  Here is October:
October Distance Totals
 And here's what the last 4-5 weeks (November/ December) have looked like:
November Distance Totals
 The purpose of today's test was to begin creating a series of benchmarks for comparison throughout the course of heart rate training.  I will repeat this test again in about a month, hoping for a day with similar conditions.  As my heart rate training progresses in the next several weeks, I should see a drop in the overall pace per mile at the same heart rate. 
December 8, 2012
The Maffetone Test consists of a warm-up, a five mile measured run at just below aerobic threshold (between 139-144 in my case), and a cool-down.  As with any experiment, the key to a successful  comparison lies in keeping the variables as consistent as possible for each test.  The most important variable is a consistent running environment.  For my purposes, that meant running on the track at a nearby high school.  I used the run over (about 1.5 to 2 miles) for the warm-up and used the post-test return as my cool-down.  I ran at about 1:30 in the afternoon and the temperature was in the low to mid-fifties with very light winds. 
To make testing easier, I set the HR alerts on the Garmin so that I would have a gentle reminder if I let my heart rate dip too far below aerobic threshold or if I let it climb too far above .  After hearing a few alarms during the run, I noted that the tone of the alarm would change to indicate whether it was too high or too low.   A nice feature which meant that I didn't necessarily have to be looking at the watch the whole time (I did anyway, but it's nice to know I wouldn't have too!). Throughout the test my average heart rate stayed pretty steady, averaging between 140-142 beats per minute.  I thought it would be harder to maintain a consistent rate, but it was much easier than I thought.  I also set the Garmin to automatically record my mile splits.  This kept me from forgetting to hit the lap button or from losing track of which lap I was on over the course of 20 laps around the track.
Here are the results from the test:
Results from the 5 recorded miles of the Maffetone Test
So here's hoping for at least one sunny day in early to mid-January so I can get out and check my progress.  I don't know if I'll see a huge difference in my times, but it will be interesting to see what happens.  I will continue to increase the volume of training that I'm doing (more on that later), so I will have plenty of opportunities to work on building my aerobic engine.
Final Results from today:
Miles run: 8.42
Total Time: 1:26:13
Maffetone Test Mileage: 5 miles
Maffetone Test Time: 46:28
Average Heart Rate: 141
Average Mean Pace: 9:18
Median Pace (Mile 3): 9:22
Median HR (Mile 3): 141
Time of Day: 1:30 p.m.
Temperature: 51 degrees
Brooks Shorts, T-shirt, Mizuno Wave Precision 12, Tifosi Sunglasses, Road ID

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2012 Rock Canyon Half Marathon Race Report

The RCHM runs along the Nature Center Bike Path from City Park to the bottom of the Reservoir and back.
 Don't let the title of this post fool you.  I am writing a Race report, because technically, this was a race.  That said, I did not "race" today in any traditional sense of the term.  This is because I have been working on the Maffetone training method which requires that I keep my heart rate (bpm) below a certain aerobic threshold (in my case around 140).  Today that was quite a challenge, but I managed to do just that for the most part.  The race also set the stage for continued training and endurance development during the next 3 months.  I felt great the entire race, and I know I'm ready to start slowing extending the amount of time that I'm out running in the coming weeks.  It's been a while since I've done this format for a race report, but I'm going to do it as a top-five countdown.
A look at my HR throughout the race. 
#5- A new personal record (sort of): Note that it says personal record, not personal best.  In fact today was the slowest half marathon I have ever done.  In a funny way, it was rather difficult to do this.  There were numerous times where I would have liked to just take off, and pick up the pace, and at times I had to check myself as I would notice both pace and heart rate creeping upwards.  I've set a goal to just go out and enjoy a race in the past, but I usually wind up chucking that approach and racing anyway.  But today it was kind of cool that I didn't.  Here's hoping all of my restraint on the trail today, will pay dividends down the road in a few months.  The other thing about running slower was that I really enjoyed the run and relished in each moment of it.  Usually towards the end of a race, I start to count down the miles and tell myself that there's only a few more to go.  I start to focus more and more on getting to the finish line.  That wasn't the case  today.  I just kind of rolled along through the each of the miles and before I knew it, the race was almost done.
Garmin Training Center Data
#4- A well run event:  On the way to the race this morning, I figured out that this was the fourth time that I've run this half-marathon. It also happened to be my third half-marathon this year.  The mark of a well-organized race is probably that you don't even really think about race organization before, during, or after the race.  That's how it was today.  I didn't think about the quality of the event, the course, the aid stations, etc, because they were all done well and with no complications.  I've done about a dozen events this year, and been in attendance at two others, and this one was among the top three as far as organization goes.
#3- Extra energy:  Today when I finished the race, I felt absolutely fine.  I'm a little sleepy now, but I think that might have more to do with the 2 beers (Belgian Black Porter, very good!) that I enjoyed at Shamrock's post-race with my Irish Biscuits.  I had so much energy in fact, that when I got home, I took my "new" bike down to the store to buy groceries for dinner.  It's nice to run an event like this and not feel so completely spent at the end that there's no energy for anything else!  I'm looking forward to "stretching" my endurance in the next few weeks as I contemplate the CPTR for May (more on that idea later).
#2- Camaraderie:  I normally don't take a race to be a fully social event, and I've gone to so many races by myself that I often don't interact with many of my fellow runners. Today, as I was taking my time, I had many opportunities to visit with other runners.  I was also able to do a lot of "people-watching" which is always entertaining at a race.   Even better, there were six of us from the family that ran today, plus many friends and acquaintances.  Pretty cool to see how many folks we know that embrace the running lifestyle!
Finisher's Medal
 #1- The Weather:   This was the best part of the race simply for the fact that conditions for this race were absolutely miserable a year ago.  I normally wouldn't rank weather as my #1,  but in 2011, the weather was literally the "polar" opposite of today.  Last December we ran with temperatures in the upper teens to low twenties and a brisk wind that was saturated with snow which blew sideways across the race for nearly the entire time.  Much more of an ordeal.  There are times when a snow-filled run can't be beat and it certainly makes one feel like a bit of a bad-ass to be out in the elements, but the contrast today was nice too.  It was a great treat to be out there today in warm weather, running in shorts and a t-shirt to boot!
This was a great way to start the month of December off and I look forward to doing this race again (although I don't know if it will be next year or not?).

Final Results: Closer to the back of the pack but still ahead of the nearly 6 billion people on earth that didn't even show up to run today.