2015 Recap and Looking to 2016

2015 Recap

2015 was an incredibly mixed year for me.

To start the year, Amanda and I were very deep in our home-based business. We were literally working every single evening until very late. We were in a pretty stressful living situation after Las Vegas and I didn’t make running and workout a priority. I gained a bunch of weight and generally lost all gains from 2014. The first part of the year was pretty damn terrible.

On the other hand, it was absolutely the best year I’ve had running in a very long time. Or, rather, half a year.

I ran two races in the first seven months of the year. The first was the Spartan Race Charlotte Sprint. The second was the Rugged Maniac North Carolina.

The Charlotte Sprint was, if not competitive, a really good time. Amanda and I ran together and had a couple of cool pictures. She actually finished ahead of me! Amanda ended up finishing in the top 12% of all women and came in to the race completely cold and untrained.

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Amanda and I were going to run the Rugged Maniac, but that ended up being the X-Con weekend, as well. We had already paid for it, so I ended up running it with Megan Mesco, one of my co-workers. We ended up just enjoying the course and not pushing super hard.

At Finish

Megan and I after the Rugged Maniac!

At the end of May and June, I got two of my biggest breaks.

The first was my HYLETE sponsorship. I applied to be on their compete team and was accepted.

The second was my Legend Race sponsorship. Both of these were huge. I set myself to getting back to the type of shape I was in when I was running at Emory & Henry College.

First up was my Spartan Wintergreen Super. I ended up running in the top 17% of all entrants. The ski slopes really killed me and I ended up not running as well as I would have liked.

Ryan Fire Jump 1

In September, I ran well at the Legend Race but still knew I was just scratching the surface as to the running I could do. I finished fourth, but after leading for a solid part of the race, I nonetheless came away feeling disappointed.

Amanda and Ryan After Race

October saw three races, including my first half marathon! I had an absolute blast at this race. I ended up running well faster than my “A” goal in this race. I’m targeting sub 1:30:00 for 2016 in the half, which will come out to something like 6:57 per mile.

PicStitch

I also ran Chauncey’s Night 5K and the TrueMudd 5K in October.Chauncey’s Night 5K saw me win my age group and run my first sub 20:00 5K in a long time. An affirmation that I was getting back into better shape.

Ryan and Amanda After Race

November and December were rockstar months for me. I increased my mileage and finally started seeing some really good runs in.

My 2015 Carolina Sprint was the best Spartan Race I’ve ever ran, and I know that I have a ton of room to improve upon that performance, as well. Just critically thinking about how I raced I know I could have snatched another 5-6 minutes, easily, off of the time. I also know if I can hit obstacles without having to burpee, I could take another significant chunk of time off.

Ryan Barbed 2

I also really enjoyed the Carolina Beast with Amanda. We ran that together, and some of it in the dark, and really just had an amazing time.

Ryan Amanda Finish

The second half of the year was simply amazing, and I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings. With that being said…

2016 Goals

Looking into 2016, I have a number of goals that I want to hit.

  1. 2016 Miles Ran.
    1. In 2016, I want to run 2016 miles. I’m pre-planning all of my runs for the year, and will have my calendar complete by the end of January.
  2. Podium a Spartan Race
    1. This is probably the largest stretch goal I have. I’m very quickly learning where I can cut time on Spartan Races, and I think that there is an outside shot that I can podium a race.
  3. Top 50 United States Male Elite Racers Point Series
    1. I definitely think that this is attainable. I’ve been researching the results from the top 50 men, and I think that it’s attainable. I’m comparing times and seeing where those 45-50 places finished in each of their races.
  4. Podium Battlefrog Xtreme Charlotte.
    1. My stretch goal is to win this. At the very least, I want to be in the top three. If I do well here, it is going to impact how I train and what races I prepare for in 2017.
  5. Run a sub 1:30 half-marathon
    1. I have five half-marathons on my calendar. I want to run a sub 1:30 at the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon. I think that it is in my wheelhouse and attainable.
  6. Increase my social media presence.
    1. Towards the end of the year, I created my Ryan Bowyer – Elite OCR Athlete facebook page. I’m looking forward to working on that page. As my results continue to improve, I am going to hopefully have a much stronger page.

It’s a lot of goals, but they all build on one another. As I continue to prepare and train, they should start coming together.

Here’s to 2016. It’s going to be my best yet.

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Rivertown Reindeer Dash – Age Group Victory and 5th Overall

Pre-Race

This was going to be the last race of the year for me, so I wanted to go ahead and race well.

Reindeer-Race-Logo-1

This is a smaller race, with approximately 300 runners. Looking at the registrants, there were only two in my age group, so once again my goal was to win the age group.

Race

The gun is off and we go up a steady incline for almost the entire first mile. One of my favorite things about a smaller race like this is seeing all of the little kids go out super fast. For the first 100 meters or so, I’m in like 20th place and there are a good 10 kids no older than 15 in front of me.

We go through the first mile and I’m sitting in third place. The guy that ends up winning the race goes through the first mile in something like 4:55, so I was never really close. Immediately behind me are two guys and they end up catching me in the second mile. We run together until there is approximately 1700 meters or so left, just before the 2 mile mark. I end up losing steam and getting passed into fifth. I’m able to hold on to fifth place and an age group win.

Post-Race

We wait around for the awards ceremony as the race organization was super quick with getting results up. I knew that I had won my age group and was exciting to get my award!

Champion

In review, it was a good end to my 2015 racing schedule. I was glad to finish well, get another age group victory, and see my progress during the year. I definitely improved, but still have quite a long ways to go before I am able to run like I want.

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Reebok Spartan Race Carolina Sprint – 3rd in Age Group And Qualified for OCR World Championships!

Pre-Race

The 2015 Reebok Spartan Race Carolina Sprint was my target race for the 2015 Obstacle Course Racing season. I was incredibly excited to run this race. I had ran the Spartan Beast the day before, but wanted to really rock this one, so I had ran with Amanda the day before.

It was even colder this morning than it was the morning before. We’re talking the port-o-pottys had frozen cleaner on them cold.

Amanda and I had an interaction I’ll never forget. She was exhausted from the day before and she doesn’t do cold very well. It’s one of the reasons that I think she’ll end up crewing me if I do WTM instead of racing in it herself.

Anyways, during the entire ride there, she was going back and forth as to whether or not she wanted to run. We were walking up and I was getting ready to go in to the festival area and Amanda had a look of pure fear when we were talking about the first water section from the previous day. Words don’t really do justice to the look that she gave me that morning. It’s one that I’ll never forget and had never seen before. She said that she didn’t want to disappoint me, and I told her that there wasn’t any disappoint at all. We asked about the deferment policy and I went into the festival area after Amanda wished me luck.

The Race

The race started well. A couple of guys went out super quick but I got them back pretty quickly. The same water and mud of the first mile went by super quickly. I was running in fourth place in the heat through a mile. No burpees yet and it was cold.

I come to a sludge and mud pit almost immediately after a mile in. I’m moving through it, and mud comes up into my eye. And it hurts. I can’t open my eye. I literally stop and try to spit on my hand to get the mud out. Doesn’t work. I spend 15 seconds or so while walking and then end up ripping my contact out. Yikes.

The worst part is that I’m still seeing a huge haze of brown over my eye. I’m still having a tough time keeping my eye open as it wants to stay shut on me. I’m trying to wipe my hands off as I’m running, spitting on them, and trying to make the eye feel better.

This continues throughout the race.

I come up to the sandbag carry. One area of growth here is I’m going to attempt to run with sandbag to try and save some more time. Move through that and use the water to wipe off my hand and continue to try to fix my eye.

Ryan Sandbag 2

I get back to the festival area. Jump up over the inverted wall quickly, climb the rope, and I’m off to the traverse wall. I get 2/3 of the way through and fall. First burpees of the event.

I keep moving, go and memorize my memory test again, hit the barbed wire crawl, the logs, and I hit the memory test. It ended up being a fast race.

Ryan Barbed 2

I run to the tyrolean traverse and sprint to the spear throw. I’ve really grown to like the traverse. I take a moment, collect myself, and throw it. I baaaaarely miss it, and crank out my 30 burpees. I sprint to the slip wall and then try to get through the rig. I fail the rig and crank out my last 30 burpees. I cross the finish line sub one hour and have ran my best Spartan Race to date.

Overall Placing: 22 of  2,260

Male: 22 of 1,433

Age Group: 3 of 282

Post-Race Thoughts:

This race was huge for me. I absolutely ran the best I’ve ever ran at a Spartan Race and still had a lot left to give in regards to running. I’ve still been holding back to ensure that I don’t crash but I haven’t been pushing enough in these OCRs. I know that I can go out and race more like I do in a 5K. I’ve gotten in significantly better shape and can run much quicker.

Ryan Victory Wall 1

My obstacles are going much better. The training is going well. I need to continue to work on the Platinum Rig, and I’ve got a training plan for that.

I ended up hitting the medical tent on the way out and got my eye flushed as it was still bothering me. I finished that up and headed to the car to see what Amanda wanted to do about racing. Ultimately, she ended up wanting to race as it was significantly warmer at 10:00 AM than it had been at 8:00 AM and she ended up racing well again that day.

Overall, I absolutely love this race. It was a huge race for me. I learned so much going into 2016 about where I am in regards to my fitness. I’ll share my goals in the upcoming 2015 review.

As always, many thanks to LEGEND RACE for being a fantastic sponsor.

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Reebok Spartan Race Carolina Beast

Pre-Race

The Reebok Spartan Race Carolina Beast returned to Carolina Adventure World this past November. It marked my second beast but as with last year, it didn’t look like I would be racing this one. Rather, I would just be doing it to complete the 2015 Trifecta.

Spartan Race Logo

In an effort to save some money, Amanda and I decided to volunteer for this race and then run in the volunteer heat later in the day. I also wanted to be as fresh as possible the next day while also ensuring that I got the 2015 Trifecta. I had made it known that the Sunday Sprint was my 2015 target race, and I really wanted to run well at it. It would also be a cool opportunity to run with Amanda. So, with all of these factors, we decided to see the volunteer experience and rock out the volunteer heat.

Volunteering

We actually enjoyed volunteering. We were stationed at the start line assisting runners with hydration – really, we were just filling water cups. We had a great time, though, and ended up figuring out some pretty efficient ways to ensure that we had enough water cups without actually doing a ton of work.

The first part of the morning was really, really cold. We’re talking below freezing cold. We’re talking the water was freezing in the cups cold. As soon as the sun came up, this got significantly better. Overall, it was pretty cool and I think that we’re considering doing it again. For $14, you really can’t beat the price.

While volunteering, we met a young man named Alan. We talked a lot during the morning about our experiences with OCR, my sponsorship with Legend Race, and just what we were hoping to get out of the experience. This was going to be Alan’s first trifecta and his goal was just to finish.  With about an hour left in our shift, Alan asked if he could run with us. We absolutely said yes. I told him not to let us slow him down. He assured that we wouldn’t. Spoiler – we ran the whole way together and it was actually a really good experience.

Ryan Amanda Alan Finish

Myself, Amanda, and Alan.

 

The Race

Amanda and I started and prepped for the 12.7 mile race.

This had an interesting start. Less than 150 meters into the race,  you went straight into water. And it was cold. The emcee kept telling people to keep moving forward. While volunteering, we kept watching people get to the water and literally stop. Super funny.

Throughout the rest of the early parts of the race, we came across typical Spartan obstacles. A-Frame. Rope Climb. Traverse Wall.

The rope climb was interesting because there wasn’t water you had to jump in first.

There were also two barbed wire crawls. The first wasn’t muddy at all. The second, at the same location as last years, more than made up for that as it was crazy muddy and swampy.

Ryan Barbed 2

This is the only photo taken of my face during the race. Red shirt.

 

 

One of the new things for this race was that it was the first time I have encountered the Memory Test. Mike-0255877. We had said that we wouldn’t try to say ours out loud. There was a kid that we passed that was constantly saying his out loud. I wanted to punch him and we picked up our pace to get through that part of the course quicker.

One of the best parts of this race for me was that I didn’t have to set the bucket down in the bucket brigade. Getting better there.

Amanda and I have near perfected her getting over the walls. We don’t even have to talk about it anymore. I will just run to the wall, bend over, and she’ll place both feet on my back. I will then literally just stand up. She’ll grab the wall and get over. I will run to the other side to help her down. She’ll keep running while I do I mine and then I’ll catch up to her. It’s a pretty efficient system that we’ve got figured out.

The sun ended up going down with us still having approximately an hour left on the course. This led to one of my most favorite running experiences, ever. Amanda and I got to race with our head-lamps.

We passed so many people who were moving exceptionally slow because they didn’t have a head-lamp. It was also super swampy during this part. But we were flying through this part. It was a ton of fun and we both really enjoyed this part of the race. The only downfall was that Amanda got pretty cold.

Because we started so late, there weren’t a ton of photos that were taken of us.

Amanda ended up racing well. When I run with her, it is certainly about her time versus me getting through the course quickly. That’s for my Spartan Sprint.

Amanda’s stats:

Top 22% of her age group.

Top 19% of all women.

Top 37% overall.

Not bad.

Post-Race:

We immediately got our photo taken and then hit the car. Amanda was super cold and we wanted to get some food to prepare for the next day. We were in and out and didn’t even rinse off after the race. We had another race to prepare for the next day.

Ryan Amanda Finish

Amanda and I Post-Race! I really enjoy our headlamps.

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TrueMudd Obstacle Course – Second Overall Place

Pre-Race

The TrueMuddTrueMudd is a local 5K obstacle course race that I wanted to try. Fred Augustine, owner of Legend Race, had sent me some information about this race, and I wanted to give it a go. Initially, this race was supposed to be three weeks earlier, but due to the “1000 year storm” it was postponed as the entire course was under water.

I had just raced Chauncey’s 5K the evening before and my legs were shot. I had won my age group and finished 11th of 545ish runners. These included some of the local stalwarts, some members of the local championship winning high school cross country, etc. So to run back to back races that morning had left my legs pretty tired.

It’s also cold this morning – a solid 35 degrees or so.

Looking around, I figured that I would be able to either win or place second. There was only one guy that I was worried about.

The Race:

This OCR is one that involved more swimming than anything I’ve encountered before. There was also the thickest mud I’ve ever encountered.

The gun was off and I’m finding myself in second. We come to the first obstacle, monkey bars, and both he and I are through them. We run for 100 meters or so and come to a jump.

Ever since hearing about the guy that died at the Tough Mudder, I’ve been super concerned with large jumps. So I stand there. I watch the guy that’s winning jump in and surface. There is a volunteer at the jump and I look at him and ask, “if I don’t come back up, are you coming in after me?” He assures me that he is. And I jump.

And holy shit. You want to talk about the coldest I’ve ever been. I come up and my entire body is struggling. I doggy-paddle the 10-15 yards over to the bank while cursing at myself.

At this point, 3 or 4 minutes into the race, I know I’m not going to win. I take a look behind me, and there’s no one there. This early on, and I know I’m going to finish second.

We go through normal obstacles – a couple of walls, a tyrolean traverse, cargo nuts, rope climb, 15 foot ladder walls, etc. Nothing out of the ordinary, until the ½ mile long mud pit/water obstacle. Again – with the water. Holy cow.

There is a log carry, mud pits that were incredibly difficult to get out of, and then the slide.

Slide1

The Slide

The slide was probably the coolest part. A huge slide into the water. You got some major air.

RyanSlide1

My Major Air

I crossed the line in second, got my medal, gave it to Judy, and then immediately started jogging back for Amanda. I caught her with about a half mile to go.

Post Race:

Overall, it was a fun experience. I’m glad that I was able to get the patch. However, this may not be a race that we come back to. I think that I could cut 15 minutes off of my time.

Amanda also ended up finishing second overall woman, which was pretty exciting. She did an awesome job, especially after having raced the evening before.

RA2

Amanda and I post race!

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Chauncey’s 5K – 1st Place Age Group

Pre-Race:

Chauncey’s 5K is a race that I always want to do well in. It is a race that is held by Coastal Carolina University, and this happens to be my employer. A lot of my coworkers come out to run (this time there were 5 of 14 that are my direct peers, my direct supervisor, and my supervisor’s supervisor all ran), and as my Nohari’s Window suggests, I am pretty open about my extracurricular activities. I won my age group last year, and was pretty open about wanting to win it again this year.

Chaunceys-Night-5k-2015

Chauncey’s Night 5K

Amanda’s aunt, Judy, was also present for this race as she was visiting. This was the first race that she had been able to see, so I know that Amanda was also hoping to do well.

The course is somewhat of a loop in the road around the University, so I run it regularly and know the course.

The Race:

The gun is off, and people are moving very quickly. I went through the first mile in 5:52, and thought, “holy hell. This is fast.” Through the first mile, I was in 7th or so. At one point I moved up to 5th, but ended up getting passed.

For about a mile, I was in second in my age group, behind one of our graduate student RAs. He got a 15 second or so lead on me, but I ended up realing him in and finishing approximately 14 seconds ahead of him.

Ryan and Amanda After Race

Amanda and I after the race! This also has my first place age group award!

Post Race:

I had a pretty cool moment post-race. I was walking with Amanda and I heard, “Ryan?!” I turned around met a guy, Charlie, who had actually been reading my blog. If I remember correctly, he said that Chauncey’s Night 5K last year was the first race he had ever done and he was back this year. We chatted for a while, connected, and I told him about OCR and encouraged him to give it a go. I hope that Charlie reads this and connects with me again!

The Age Group placement reward was a piece of the teal turf from CCU’s recently renovated football stadium, which was pretty cool.

Amanda and I hung out a bit, collected our stuff, and then left. Overall, another good experience.

Statistics:

Age Group (25-29): 1 of 14

Male: 11 of 195

Overall: 11 of 545

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First Half Marathon – Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon 10/18/2015

Pre-Race

This was my first half-marathon. While I had ran 13.1-plus numerous times during my training in high school and college, I had never actually raced the distance.

Since coming back earlier this year, the most I had run leading up to the half marathon was only 6 miles. As a result, I was unsure how I was going to do in this race. I was excited, but really wasn’t sure.

Amanda and I rode down with a co-worker of mine, who had actually encouraged us to sign up for it. Initially I was hesitant due to my inexperience in the distance, but ultimately signed up and am very thankful we did.

Going into the race, I eventually decided on my A, B, and C goals. C was simply to finish. I was 99% sure that I would accomplish at least one goal. B was to finish in under 2 hours. This came out to just over a 9:00 minute mile. Again – I was almost positive that I would be able to accomplish this goal, but I wanted a B goal that was in reach. My A goal was to finish in under 1:45.

It was also a cold 39 degrees at the start – super cold for Myrtle Beach.

Pre-Race

Myself, Amanda, and Megan, the co-worker who got Amanda and I to sign up!

A quick con – the bathroom situation was pretty dismal. I was lucky to have gotten to use the facilities immediately prior to the race.

Race

We were off! Again, in keeping with the theme, I wasn’t quite sure how to race this half marathon, so I started towards the back of the 8:00 minute per mile to 9:00 minute per mile groups. The gun was off and I quickly found myself catching up with the 8:00 pacer. I decided .25 miles in to stay with the pacer for as long as I could. If I was able to hang with the pacer, I figured that I would be able to get my A goal and a number of 8:00 minute miles would get me closer to the 2 hour goal. I figured that if I could run 5 miles at 8, even if I didn’t have the endurance to keep that up, I would only have to run 8 miles in 80 minutes, which was a 10 minute mile. Right there at 2 hours.

Our pacer was a friendly and talkative guy. A number of us interacted with him through the first few miles, which absolutely flew by. The mile markers kept coming quickly. 3 miles in. Feeling good. 4 miles in. Feeling good. In fact, one guy with an awesome hat, who I ended up seeing right at the finish line, and I kept slowly inching forward and having to reel ourselves back in with the pacer. During this time, we had been talking about the races we ran, and I mentioned that it was my first half marathon. The guy with the awesome hat looked at me and said, “Oh, so you’re one of those guys.”

In the third and fourth miles, I kept thinking about how I wanted to race. I was feeling shockingly good. So much so that with 10 miles to go, I had decided that with 5 miles left, if I was still feeling good, I would leave the pacer. At 4 miles, that was still the plan. However, at 5 miles, I decided that I wanted to really try to run the remaining 8 miles and power out some miles.

I put the second headphone in, changed the Spotify station to my running playlist, and began to race. Between miles 5 and 10, I averaged just under 7:15 per mile. I was reeling in runners and passed approximately 50 runners over those miles and was not passed by anyone.

Mile 10 hit and I was feeling as good as you could after racing 10 miles at sub 7:45 pace. But at this point, I was really beginning to look for those mile markers. Whereas they before they were coming earlier than I expected, I began looking for them and thinking that I missed them, only to see them a minute or so later.

Mile 11 hit and I hit a wall. I really started to struggle. My lower back really began to hurt and I slowed considerably. I wasn’t quite sure what my time was as I didn’t have my GPS watch. A guy came up on my right and passed me and I decided to try to run with him. He was pushing out at 6:15 or so pace, and I was able to keep up with him for 3 or 4 tenths of a mile. We passed quite a few people, only for them to pass me after I was unable to keep up with 6:15 guy.

Ultimately, the guy with the awesome hat ended up catching me with about 600 meters to go. He was moving quite quickly. He came up and said, “Let’s go rookie. Let’s run this out together.” I gasped, “Alright. But I went too early.” He ended up sprinting ahead of me and finishing about 20 seconds ahead. I finished with a gun time of 1:41:40 and a chip time of 1:41:26, good enough for 7:44 per mile. This was well ahead of both my A and B goals, and I have a new benchmark.

Post Race

As is everything with Myrtle Beach, the post-race celebration was loud and fun. Plus, take a look at these medals. They are huge and add a pretty neat element to our racing display. Really, part of the reason why I wanted to race this event was for this medal. Super cool.

MEdal Image 2

Such a beautiful place to run and an awesome medal.

There was music, free beer (all you cared to drink), and a lot going on. We stayed for the awards ceremony as I was interested to see how close I was. I ended up finishing 10th out of 90 in my age group, 115th out of approximately 900 in gender, and 143rd overall out of 2600 total entrants. I was very pleased with this. I was approximately 10 minutes of age-group placing, which is completely doable in the future if I train and log more miles.

Medal Image

I’m writing this less than a week and a half out of the race and have already signed Amanda and I up for the one next year. I truly enjoyed the distance and the experience and am excited to run the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon again next year.

Post Race

Amanda and I post-race! We had a blast and loved the experience!

Gear:

I ended up using my Reebok Compression, HYLETE Shorts, UnderArmour Top, and racing compression socks.

I went with the HYLETE shorts because of the zip pockets on both sides. I was able to keep my phone, a car key, and a gel without ever really knowing they were there. They totally kept them stable for me during the entire run and I absolutely love them. Really, my favorite work-out shorts ever. They were also light enough and right above the knee that I didn’t feel like they ever slowed me down.

One place where I can update my gear is in the shoes – I need to get a racing half marathon shoe instead of my trainers. I’ll definitely be looking at updating this.

Overall, I definitely rate this experience as a 9.5 out of 10.

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