2023 was a good year for running. I ran 18 races this year, three more than last year, and the most since the start of the pandemic. I ran two marathons, a large number of trail races, and half of these events were over 15 kilometers or longer.
The highlight of the year was obviously the Buffalo Marathon where I ran the distance in my quickest time ever and made a 13 minute improvement upon my PR.
I finally ran in the Boilermaker, but my favorite new race for the year was Many Lite in Letchworth. This was a great trail race with wonderful scenery at a fantastic distance.
Hopefully 2024 brings more of the same. I am already looking at running three marathons next year, so it is already shaping up to be a fast and busy year.
For the second year in a row, I ran the It’s a Wonderful Run 5k in Seneca Falls. I finished in 28:20, which is an ok time as this event is more of a party than a race.
The weather was very good for the race (and unseasonable warm for December), which actually left me a little disappointed that I was two minutes behind my time from last year. Perhaps running with a strand of Christmas lights around my neck made me less aerodynamic.
This was probably my last race of the year, hopefully I find something to run in January.
On Thanksgiving morning I ran the Turkey Trot for the 12th time, finishing the five mile course in 41:44. This was a little slower than I have ran this course in years past, but not too far off my typical pace.
The weather was fairly good this year, and with Brittany running alongside me, I felt pretty good for the first two miles. After that I began to slow down a little bit as I am apparently incapable of running anything quicker than my half marathon pace. Toward the end we were running into a rather significant headwind, but that was more annoying than something that was actively slowing me down.
This weekend I ran the Dirt Cheap Stage race in Mendon Ponds Park. This event consists of three races over the course of three days, all running through the woods. Between some favorable weather, and my training going well I put up some quick times, completing each stage of the race quicker than every year I have run the event except for 2016.
The friday night race is really just a prelude to the rest of the weekend, but this 3 mile race is tougher (and longer) than your typical 5k. I finished in 36:53 which was a little bit quicker than last year. I got a little bit of a late start to the race which meant that it was starting to get dark by the second half of the race which put me at a little bit of a disadvantage. Still the weather was nice, I felt good, and I was able to move onto the next day of running.
On saturday morning I ran the second leg of the race in 48:39 which is my second fastest time for this leg in the seven years that I have run this race. I felt good running on the trails and fell into an easy pace. Despite this run being shorter than most of the trail races I have done recently I wasn’t really able to push myself into a quicker speed for the final mile and instead just benefited from my steady pace remaining steady.
On the final leg of the race I got off to a bit of a slow start as my legs felt a bit heavy. Knowing that I had done well the previous two days I wanted to keep going strong, but the many hills on the first 5 miles of the course were really starting to get to me. In the middle of the course it gets relatively flat for a mile or two, and I really found my legs in this stretch. I settled into a good pace, and felt solid for the rest of the run. I did my best to push hard to the finish, and completed the third leg in 1:55:04, a little over a minute and a half quicker than last year.
My next race is the Buffalo Turkey Trot which is the race that I have run more than any others over the years.
I have no idea on how to pace myself for these shorter races, so I decided to just take off at my top speed and hold onto that pace for as long as possible. I feel like I held onto that for around 1.8 miles before slowing down to something more comfortable for the final 1.3 to the finish line.
On sunday morning I ran Many Lite, a 21 mile race along the trails of Letchworth State Park. I completed the course in 4:26:24 as the 49th finisher, feeling far better than I did after running Wineglass two weeks ago.
The course was a real mix of environments, with some parts being steep technical trails, a few stretches of paved roads, some running through the woods, a number of gradual trails, a surprisingly large number of stairs, and everything in between. I enjoyed the variety of the route, but as I am less familiar with the west side of the park it left me without a clue as to how to pace myself. The weather was rainy and a little cold, but I find that preferable to running in the heat, and the trails drained very well so there was only a little bit of mud.
Coming off of a disappointing marathon I was slightly worried about this race. However by mile 15 even after all of the stairs and technical trails I was feeling far better than I did at the same point after running the paved route of the wineglass marathon. Overall it has become clear that the heat is by far a bigger obstacle for me than literal mountains as the 2400 feet of elevation did less to wear me down than a sunny day.
Twenty one miles is an odd distance to run because while it is a huge accomplishment on its own, I reached the finish line thinking it might be nice to run another five miles so I could tell everyone I had completed another marathon. At the same time, had this course been advertised as a marathon distance I highly doubt that I would have even registered for the event.
On Sunday morning I ran the Wineglass marathon in Corning. I finished with at time of 5:06:09 which makes it my slowest marathon since 2019.
With my limited training, and the expected high temperatures I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to best my PR time from Buffalo in May. Still I wanted to have a plan that would at least allow me to have a pretty decent run, so I planned to run with the 4:20 pace group. At the start of the run, things pretty much went to plan. I ran the first half of the race in 2:09:42 and stayed with the 4:20 pace setter all the way to mile 15.
By the eleventh mile I was hurting and knew that I wasn’t going to be able to stick with that pace all the way to mile twenty (let alone to the finish line), but without an alternative strategy decided to just keep up for as long as I could. While my training had been slightly lackluster, the real issue in this race with the sun and the heat. The course doesn’t offer too much shade and was about 30 degrees warmer than I would have liked.
After falling off the pace, I lost a minute or two to stop at a bathroom but pushed ahead with a decent run until mile 19. From there on it became a real struggle to drag myself to the finish line, and after mile 21 I had run out of water and began to become dehydrated.
My next race is going to be shorter (and hopefully in cooler weather).
On sunday morning I ran the Unlimited Breadsticks Trail Half Marathon for the second year in a row. I finished the course in 2:27:35, which is 14 minutes quicker than last year. While it did rain some during the race, the ground stayed dry enough to allow me to keep a consistent pace.
Trail conditions were much improved from last year, so I had actually been hoping for a greater improvement to my time than what I got, but I suppose that my time isn’t bad for a trail half considering the hills and slightly long distance. Still it was an advantage in having done the race once before. It allowed me to have some idea of how much progress I had made, and when there was a large hill around the corner.
On tuesday night I ran the Run Our Trail race in Mendon Ponds Park. I finished the 4 mile race in 42:10 to finish 33rd overall.
The course was unique compared to my many previous runs in this park, but as with any run in Mendon Ponds none of it was flat. Despite the many hills, the two sections that slowed me down the most were actually a pair of very steep downhills that I couldn’t find a good way to traverse. The rain started at the same time as the race meaning that while the course was not too muddy, it was slick.
My previous five races have now all been on different days of the week.
On Thursday night I ran a 5k Cross Country race at Cobbs Hill park. I finished with a time of 25:13 which was quick enough to secure 20th place. While this is not a fast overall time for a 5k, it is over three minutes quicker than I did on the same course last year.
When running a race this short it is always tempting to go at an all out 100% pace, but this course is hilly enough for that to be a mistake. Still with the opening mile mostly flat I felt like I got off to a quick start before slowing down on the long steep climb up the hill. After that the course has some fun trails, but given the distance there remains so much pressure to keep going quick. Overall a significant improvement from last year, so hopefully things keep going that way in the fall.
On wednesday night I ran the Dirt Cheap Trail Race at Black Creek Park in Chili. I finished the course in 43:18 although given how different the course was from previous years, I don’t have much to compare that time to. Compared to the crowd I was rather fast, finishing 34th overall, and in the top 20 percentile.
While the course felt shorter than previous years it was a fun course, with lots of single track trails. While it was nice that most of the course was in the shade, it was still a very warm night to run. Still it was fun to get out there as this was my first mid-week race in a very long time.
On Sunday I ran the Boilermaker 15k in Utica for the first time. I finished in 1:23:28 which felt like a good pace even if it is a distance that I don’t get to run too often.
Running races two days in a row seemed a bit silly, but knowing that the Boilermaker had a bit of a reputation for being a party it was easy to go in without too many expectations. However the weather was favorable for a run, so once I got going I decided to really chase down the miles and put up a fast time.
The first mile was crowded as this is a race with thousands of runners, but that can be useful in preventing me from starting too fast. I had been warned about the hill at mile three (which kept going into mile four), but after running trails the day before it didn’t seem so bad.
The race had the largest number of water stops that I have ever seen. While it is unusual for me to take fluids on courses shorter than a half marathon, the frequent stops were useful for keeping down my core temperature as I would splash some water on my head and fill my pockets with ice.
Overall it was a very enjoyable race, and makes me think that I need to find more opportunities to run the 15k distance.
On saturday morning I ran the 0SPF trail half marathon for the second year in a row. I finished the race in 2:55:23 which is almost 15 minutes quicker than last year.
We had really good weather for the race, and I started off at what felt like a quick pace. While almost none of the course is flat, I was attacking the hills fairly well, and didn’t walk any of them until the two big ones right before the turn around. I reached the half way point in 1:23:38, five minutes ahead of last year’s pace. The way back was harder as I was really feeling the hills, but overall my endurance is better than it was a year ago. The finish line snuck up on me, but I reached the end feeling good.
Coming into race day I actually wasn’t all too confident. I felt like my training had gone better last fall, and my longest training run was only around 15 miles. However, my last few races had come back with surprisingly quick times that were showing year over year improvements. Having a good number of marathons under my belt (and this being my eighth time on this particular course), I at least knew that I would finish without it being a complete disaster.
My plan for the race was to stick with the 4:20 pace group, and this actually panned out for the first two miles. Then I stopped for a drink, lost sight of the pacer and started going a bit quick. At the 5k turn around I was at 29:52 and saw that I was already half way to the next faster pace group. I kept slowly passing people and reached the 10k mark in 58:44.
Around mile 9 I caught up to the 4:10 pace group and decided to stop pushing my luck and just stay with them for as long as I could. The fact that my legs felt good enough that I could have pushed ahead was an encouraging sign, but I knew it was best to save some energy for the second half of the race. I was still with this group by the half way point, so I finished the first half in 2:05.
At each water stop I was pausing to take fluids and then catching up to the pacer, and with how easily I was able to catch back up I knew that my legs (and lungs) were feeling good and by the time I was at mile 15 I knew that there was a real good possibility that I would be setting a PR that day. Traditionally mile 17 through Delaware Park has been one of the hardest stretches for me to run, but I got through this section feeling great, and even ran the small hill after the 30k mark which I am not sure I have ever done in the many times I have previously ran this course.
I reached the 30k mark at 2:56:13 and which had me still with the pace group (although technically on track for a 4:08 finish). After mile 20 though things started hurting, and coming out of the mile 21 water stop I no longer had the push to catch back up to the pacer.
The next four miles were the hardest part of the course for me as I slowed to a run/walk pace. I knew that I almost assuredly had a PR and was pushing the best that I could to finish as quickly as possible. It was easier than normal to not get demoralized over this stretch as I knew how well my run was going.
Just before making the final turn onto Delaware the 4:20 pacer caught up to me, which was close enough to the finish to have already secured the PR, but with just 1.3 miles to go (and much of it downhill) I wanted to try and stick with him until the finish. It started off pretty well, but I couldn’t quite keep up once the downhill flattened out in the final half mile. Still I didn’t walk at all during this final stretch and had enough differential with chip time to get a time under 4:20 anyhow.
I am absolutely thrilled to have done so well, and while I am not yet signed up for any races in June, I am really glad to be feeling fast again.
On Sunday morning I ran the Vale of Three Falls 10k in Letchworth State Park. I finished the race in 53:54 which wouldn’t be a super fast time on a flat course, but with these hills it is something I am very happy with. This time is a course PR for me and an eight minute improvement over last year, and placed me 16th overall in the race.
Every time I run this race, I always forget how long the initial downhill is, as it goes for a full mile and a half for a very quick start (and a challenging finish). I felt ok throughout the first half of the race, and pushed up the turn around hill and ran the second half fairly steady.
The final climb to the finish was tough, but I found another runner to race against which helped push me to the finish. Unlike years in the past I completed the course without slowing to a walk (even when it might have made sense on the hills). While I didn’t feel particularly quick it is hard to argue with the results given the significant improvement from last year.
My next race is the Buffalo Marathon next sunday. My training feels a little behind, but I plan on going out with the 4:20 pace group and making the most of things.
On Sunday morning I ran the Medved Madness 13 mile trail race in Mendon Ponds Park. This was my first time running this race, and I finished the course in 2:14:41 which is not too bad of a pace for trails.
While it was my first time in this race, most of the trails in Mendon Ponds are very familiar to me. The start of the course was running a portion of the dirt cheap stage race in reverse, with the second mile having some of the worst mud on the whole course. We then started running through the east side of the park, which is more dry but also has some of the steepest hills.
At mile seven I was almost trampled by a herd of deer.
The southern portion of the course runs through the sections of Mendon Ponds that I am the least familiar with, and turned out to be relatively flat. While Mendon Ponds is always mud and hills, there turned out to be slightly less of both than I initially expected on this course.
My biggest mistake in this race was to not carry any water. This was starting to catch up with me on the final two miles of the race, but I managed to push through. I ran the whole course only walking the very steepest of the hills, and felt pretty good for what was my first trail race of the year.
My next race is the Vale of Three Falls 10k in Letchworth Park two weeks from now.
On Sunday morning I ran the Flower City Half Marathon for the eighth time. This year I finished with a time of 1:55:34 which is my best time in this distance since 2018.
I felt pretty good at the start of the race, and kept my starting pace for the first four miles. There were no pace groups or split times this year, so I didn’t have much to go off of, but it felt fairly quick. While I slowed down a little after that I kept moving well, and didn’t significantly slow down once I reached the hills at the course’s half way point. Once I got to mile eight, I knew that the trickiest bits of the course were behind me and at the very least the run wasn’t going to fall apart. By mile eleven my legs were starting to burn, but I was close enough to the finish that I knew I could push through.
My next races will not be until May, leading up to the Buffalo Marathon at the end of the month.
On Saturday morning I ran the 5 mile Running of the Green in 40:06. This was slightly slower than my five mile race in January, but this was still a time that I was happy with as it was over seven minutes quicker than the same race last year.
I ran the first mile of this race in 7:30, but had slowed down to an 8 min/mile average by the time I reached mile four. I then really pushed to hold onto the eight minute pace leader for the final mile and to finish with an 8:01 overall pace. The course had gotten a lot of snow the night before, but was melted just enough to not really impact my run. Hopefully this is my last race in the snow until after Thanksgiving.
With the yearly racing schedule kicking off this weekend with the Running of the Green, here is a look at my initial plans for a race calendar this year. My actual schedule feels uncertain as ever, but here is a look at where things stand today.
On Saturday Morning I ran the Freezeroo 5 mile race in Victor. I finished the race in 38:19 which is a full minute quicker than I ran the same distance at the Turkey Trot two months ago.
The first quarter mile of the race was mostly ice, which resulted in me getting off to a slow and cautious start. However, the course cleared up after that with some hills making the opening mile by far the most challenging of the course. By the midpoint of the race I had settled into an easy pace, and while I spent the final mile pushing to do my best, I was honestly surprised that my time was as good as it was.
My next race will not be until after I get back from Grand Cayman.
I ran 15 races this year, and while that is still significantly short of what I was running before the pandemic, it is almost as much as the past two years combined. I ran multiplemarathons this year for the first time since 2019, and ran a number of new and interesting courses.
Of the six trail runs that I did this year, five of them were 10+ miles, and four of them were courses that I have never ran before.
On Saturday I ran the It’s A Wonderful Run 5k in Bedford Falls Seneca Falls. This was my first time doing this Christmas themed run.
I completed the course in 25:42 which considering all the stops that were made to take shots of fireball is actually a pretty quick time. Given the crowds and the weather it probably would have been tricky to challenge my time from October, so this race turning into a drinking event was probably the right call.
This is almost certainly my last race of the year, and perhaps even the last race until St. Patrick’s Day.
On Thanksgiving morning I ran the Buffalo Turkey Trot for the first time since 2019. I finished the five mile course in 39:21 which is my fastest time on this course since my PR in 2015, which was only a minute quicker.
This was my 11th time running in what is the country’s oldest race so I know the course well. Yet it is always hard to find your pace when there are constantly slower runners ahead of you, and faster runners behind you. Still things went really well with my per mile pace only 4 seconds slower than the shorter 5k I ran a month ago.
This weekend the Dirt Cheap Trail Race Series had me running the trails of Mendon Ponds three days in a row. This was my sixth time running this three day event, and the second fastest that I have been.
The friday 5k has always been more of a warm-up for the rest of the weekend rather than I race I really push myself on, and this year wasn’t any different. I finished in a slightly disappointing 37 minutes which feels slow even for trails. The friday portion of the race either got moved to earlier in the day, or to before daylight savings time because it was actually bright out at the start. Given the staggered start format most runners started (and often even finished) before I got going so the trail felt a little quiet at times. Still I got this stage completed, and still managed to finish in the top half of the field.
On day two I ran the 5.5 mile course in 51:04 a significantly quicker pace than the night before. In many ways this was the driest, most ideal conditions that I have ever seen for Mendon Ponds, and that helped contribute to my quick run, but I also improved relative to the field with a finish in the top third.
By sunday morning an overnight storm had taken away the mercifully dry and mud free trails from the day before, but I actually had my best run of the weekend. I finished the 11 mile trail run in 1:56:47, coming in under two hours for just the second time out of all my years running this race.
I felt like I got off to a steady pace for sunday’s run. The first section probably has the most elevation, and while free of mud it wasn’t as dry as it normally is. I found myself going back and forth with a lot of runners through here as we had different strengths going up or down the hills. The Northern section of the run is as flat as this course gets, and while I tried to be fast here I actually felt like I was falling behind the other runners. The final portion of the run brings back the hills, and I slipped and cut open my knee on one of the steeper downhills. This didn’t actually slow me down that much, and I found myself really trying to push the pace again on the final mile of the course.
This was probably my final trail race of the year, and my next race will be my long awaited return to the Buffalo Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.
On Saturday morning I ran the Scare Brain Cancer Away 5K in East Rochester. I finished the race in 24:12 which is my fastest 5k time in over four years. This quick time placed me 54th out of 433 runners in the race.
The decision to run this race was made at the last minute, but the course is flat and the weather was great. I ran the first mile in 7:30 which felt surprisingly good for how few short races I have run recently. The next two miles were close to the same pace with mile 2 at 7:59 and final 1.1 miles at a 7:55/mile equivelent. It felt really good to put up a solid time at a distance that I don’t really train for.