Zac Hester, Kansas City Marathon (Half)

Here we are! Another year, a lot more running, swimming, and some cycling.

2014 involved a lot of learning about myself and my habits. It challenged me to push hard, and build the mental rigidity necessary to be a solid endurance athlete. I was able to put myself into a really nice routine, and it paid off. That being said, 2015 was even more "educational" than 2014.

Early in the year, I read Born to Run. If you're a runner, or even thinking about possibly running, this book is a life-changer. I 100% agree with the premise: humans are uniquely evolved to be running machines. It's in our DNA. It's who we are. If your ancestors weren't runners, you wouldn't exist. Stop blaming your knees, back problems, or blisters. You're probably just doing it wrong, and need to run like we did 20,000 years ago. Go have some fun, and just run because it's awesome!

After that, I read Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. It's a pretty great story, and while I didn't relate to his background, the idea of a vegan ultra-marathoner got me started down a bit of a dietary detour that didn't work out very well. I tried to switch more of my diet over to unprocessed, non-animal food. Prior to that, I was eating a pretty low volume of food, and usually kept myself at a calorie deficit (until the Christmas of 2014 which wiped out a lot of my positive dietary habits, and still causes me issues to this day).

This lead to a really unstable diet that involved too much "filler" (low-density vegetables and unprocessed food). I didn't realize I was hurting myself until about six months later when I finally decided to address some ongoing gastrointestinal problems. I had to return to the basics. I definitely eat a lot more vegetables than I did before, but I'm also actively balancing that with higher-density food sources (nuts, cooked whole grains, and a reasonable--but vastly reduced--amount of meat).

I also discovered that I am developing an increasing sensitivity to dairy products which is a pretty big psychological hit (I like creamy things). But, hey, no animal on earth has any nutritional use for milk after the (human equivalent) age of two. Why do humans think we're that different? I'm pretty sure the only reason dairy is in our modern diet is purely for macro-economical reasons.

Next up, I started reading Joe Friel's The Triathlete's Training Bible. While the book contains a lot of basic nuts-and-bolts-style "how-tos" about training, he includes enough theory and explanation to help me make sense out of how I can train better. I would also posit that this book would be helpful for anyone pursuing endurance training, not just triathletes. This book inspired me to do more high-intensity work (running and cycling intervals and pool-style swim sessions). I've noticed a lot of fitness and comfort benefits from this new training bias.

The other thing that I took away is the importance of rest. I noticed positive results when I conscientiously decided to take a rest day, or just sit down a little more at work (I like to stand at my adjustable desk). I'm a big fan of including rest in a training schedule.

I haven't fully started a solid periodization plan (which is the whole point of the book), but I hope to set some goals this year. Once I do that, I can use this program to get me there.

Highlights and Other Notes

Towards the end of 2014 and early 2015, I was fighting a little IT band syndrome, and generally not doing too great on keeping my legs healthy. I tried some yoga workouts (offered at my workplace), and they completely turned me around. The workouts were canceled, but I try to maintain the basic stretching and core fitness regimen I learned. It has made me much stronger and more resilient. I seem to recover from workouts faster, and I'm 100% injury-free (from training) this year.

I unexpectedly set my half-marathon personal record (1:36:31). I went into the race feeling tired and heavy. But, I kept finding myself behind people with ear buds. It upset me to see so many people who wanted to "tune out" the running. I made it my personal mission to pass all those people. I thought I would hit the end of my energy well before the finish line, but somehow I kept it up, and ended up with a 7:16 minutes/mile average pace (148th out of 4,556 runners, 21st place in my division of 314). Incidentally, I also ran my fastest 5k (21:07) during that run.

I broke a rib later in the year, and that set me back a bit. It hurt to breath, so I had to slow down my running a tad to minimize deep, quick inhales.

Also, this was the first year of our (hopefully) annual Thanksgiving 5k. There are a lot of 5k runs in the area on Thanksgiving day. It's a great excused to get up, and get outside on an otherwise lazy day, so I wanted to do one with the whole family. Well, guess what? It's over $100 to get my family through an official 5k! We decided to do our own. We had a lot of fun! William and Zoe both ran most of the way, and I was surprised at how much Zoe got into it, and kept a rather blistering pace for her 5-year-old legs! I hope this becomes a regular thing. Next year, I'm making number bibs.

Events in 2015

Totals for 2015

I changed the way I tracked commuting this year. The number of activities is increased by about 70 (one or two new activities were added each week so I could tally miles/time). But, the distance and time spent now more accurately reflects what I accomplished. The change over year numbers include totals due to commuting in 2014.

This was the first year I wore a fitness tracking device (the Forerunner 920XT) for nearly the entire year (I lost a week due to getting the watch replaced). That means, I'll be putting calorie and steps in these year-end reports going forward.