A New Year & New Goals

Welcome to 2016!

2015 was an exciting year, running my first Boston Marathon and then following it up like a ridiculous person with another marathon barely 5 weeks later. While enjoyable, it did set me back a bit in regards to how my knees felt and slowed me down a bit more than I was expecting. Luckily, with no other races planned I kept it light until the end of September with a half marathon. Then I kept with the time off.

Well the madness of the end of the year is gone and I’m back at it. No races on the schedule and nothing planned besides adding exercise back into my routine, including regular strength training and more variety of activities like hiking.

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Starting Goals in 2014

2014-Numbers-free-Happy-2014-New-Year-Image-WallpaperFirst post of the new year, yay! Figure it’s only appropriate to broach a few of the topics I hope to tackle this year as an athlete and casual blogger.

I would like to note that I refuse to call these resolutions. Mostly because I feel like people make new year resolutions either drunk or with the knowledge that they’ll never fully commit to making it happen. So instead these are goals.

These are things I plan to accomplish {goals are partially about how you frame them in my mind: not ‘wish’ or ‘want’ which is intangible, but an active word like ‘plan’}. All are long term and some will be creating the standard of ‘habit’ instead of ‘occasional’ action. They are also in no particular order to complete.

Run injury free.

This seems obvious, but is harder to maintain than it seems. Luckily 2013 went fantastically in regards to a lack of injury. Yes I am always dealing with the issues in regards to my knees (more like a medical condition than an on-going injury) so this is more not getting hurt in a way that takes me out of the running game.

Incorporate strength training as part of my routine.

Last year when I was moderately doing strength training my running showed improvements. Having a stronger body in areas I was previously weak, like my arms and core, seems to have a positive effect on my running ability. Besides, I just want to be healthier and stronger all around (and able to do better at a Tough Mudder). So I want this to become as natural to my routine as the running is.

Be spontaneous.

With such tunnel vision in 2013 on racing the Marine Corps Marathon, I really threw away several chances to just go out and race with friends. It’s those events that I may not have committed to until the night before, which is something I strategically avoided last year. But I remember the fun of just randomly choosing to do a race within days of it. So in 2014, I’d like to be a bit more spontaneous about jumping into events. Without anything giant on my calender past February, I think this one will be relatively easy to accomplish.

Cross train.

With no crazy marathons coming up, there is no reason to feel guilty for substituting a run with a ride. Ideally I’d like to have double days where I run and ride (and in the warmer temps, swim). For 2014, I’ll build my ability to cross train which may just lead to my first triathlon.

Go out of my comfort zone.

I took a huge leap out of that zone by tackling marathons. Now that I’ve got 2 under my belt, I’d like to continue to challenge myself in more than just chasing PRs. This may mean tackling sports or events I’ve never done before (hint: triathlon). Eventually I’d like to try an ultra (50K and nothing longer!) though that may be saved for later. Already started in 2014 with my first Ragnar Relay in early February and a potential challenge event at Gasparilla.

Post more that isn’t just training or race recaps.

Yeahhhh, this is my weak point. I go through stages of having ideas for general topics. Then nothing unless it’s about a race or something specific in training. So I’m going to try and be better this year about writing down topic ideas as well as discussing a bit more of the above listed items. To prove I’m at least trying.

That pretty much covers my main areas to tackle. Though I will add as a wishlist sort of thing that I totally want a GoPro camera so I can make videos relating to sports. It would be mad fun. But as much as I want it, I’ll usually spend that money on running shoes or a race entry…

The Post-Race Void

It’s interesting that we spend all those months of training looking forward to THE Race (caps intended). Especially as the mileage ramps up and the event itself is so close, yet still not quite there, where we want it to happen only so we can spend less time training. Finally, the weekend arrives and all the excitement is focused on having a good time and a great race.

Then suddenly, it’s done. The training is over. No more rearranging our days to get all the miles in. No more planning weekends around long runs. No more intensive mental preparations to make this race the one we’ll always remember (though truthfully, we’ll remember every single one).

You take the few days after off. Instead of running, they’re spent recapping with friends, responding to posts of congratulations, putting up pictures of our triumph, and basking in the glow of achievement. Then it’s time to reverse taper back into a semi-regular schedule. Training no longer, simply running because it’s what we enjoy.

End_of_the_Road_Wallpaper_y3v85Yet even then, it feels like there’s a hole. A gap in our existence. Without another big race on the horizon, we lack the purpose of the past many months. An empty void in our lives. A beautiful void (we’ve been waiting for this moment, for the training and the race to be done), but a void nonetheless. And it feels weird. I think “shouldn’t I be training for something? and “shouldn’t my days be consumed with my workouts and the end goal of a race?” It’s hard to re-adjust to the mentality where my life isn’t all consumed by this event somewhere in the near future that’s steadily getting closer, while never being quite close enough.

It seems weird, but I especially feel bereft after completing the Marine Corps Marathon. I met my goal! Not only did I break the time I set for myself of 3:40 so long ago, I went a step further and ran a Boston Qualifier time. While I did not believe I would never run one, I also didn’t really expect it to happen so soon. I sort of expected more years building up my race experience and improving my training before it happened. Now, I simply have to wait until next fall when registration for 2015 opens.

Luckily, not all is an empty void in my future. I’ve plans for a half marathon just before Thanksgiving. There’s high hopes in my mind coming off this marathon that I can go on to PR my half marathon time as well. Plus, somewhere in the next 2 months I hope to run a 5K as well in the hopes of another PR. (All that success going to my head.)

While that void has been in my mind, it’s been good to get back out and just run. Plus having smaller events and goals to run towards is helping me keep from becoming completely distracted.

Tips: One Workout A Training Plan Does Not Make

This is probably THE concept that I struggled with the most while training for my first marathon. It was easy when I didn’t know what to expect to just assume that a bad workout could have a serious effect on my race performance. Of course, ignoring that it was 4 months of training.

Lesson learned: take the bad with the good.

In the grander scheme of things, a couple of bad workouts across a 4+ month training plan is not going to stop you from doing well on race day. It’s a mental battle you have to win. Sometimes there’s just bad days and miserable runs. There are too many ways that the preparation, the workout, and the recovery can go wrong.

I bring this up because a recent workout for me was just horrible. I felt miserable, the miles were a struggle, and my legs were tired. The tired legs I expected, but wanting to stop before I even really started was not. It can be hard when a big race is looming to just let go and say “I’ll try again tomorrow.” But sometimes that is the best thing you can do.

So this time around I have learned. I know better. I’ll try my best to complete my workouts – but if the variables just aren’t lining up one particular day I’ll cut it short. It can be more detrimental to force yourself through a bad workout & ultimately result in a longer recovery than to skip it. If you cut one short, it’s fine. Add a mile or two of the ones missed to other workouts when appropriate. Maybe rearrange your days that week so you can try that particular workout again. And other times you can just write that workout off as “it just didn’t happen.”

courageKeep in mind – this doesn’t mean make lame excuses for skipping workouts just because you’re feeling lazy. This is for the days when your mental or physical health will suffer more if you force yourself than if you miss it. And yes, the guilt can do you in sometimes.

A few workouts, spread across several hundred and a few months, will not seriously affect your ability to accomplish race goals. Now skipping 3 whole weeks of training might.

So don’t be afraid to change things up – to modify your days. Don’t guilt yourself into doing a workout that you know is going to hurt more than it helps. And remember that you can always make it up later when you are more physically and mentally prepared to take on this challenge.

Positive Motivation

(Fair warning, this will be a long post.)

With 7 weeks and counting to race day, now is when I need positive motivation the most. I’ve just run my highest mileage month ever (August for 231 miles). In the next 5 weeks of training before I taper, I’ll run my highest mileage week (ever) as well. The workouts are getting longer and mentally tougher. It’s now that I must hold strongest to my determination because it’s this training that will help me travel the path I want. So here’s a mix of sayings and images from around the ‘net that harden my resolve, give me the strength to endure, and motivate me to reach my goals.

accomplishment

Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.

dowhatpeoplesayyoucant

I AM A RUNNER because I know that despite my best efforts, I will always want more from myself. I will always want to know my limits so that I can exceed them.

I AM A RUNNER because I run. Not because I run fast. Not because I run far.

I AM A RUNNER because I say I am. And no one can tell me I’m not.

– John Bingham

baconstation

No one is born a perfect runner. And none of us will become one. But through incremental steps, we can become better runners. And that’s the beauty of our sport: There are no shortcuts, nothing is given to us; we earn every mile, and we earn every result.

– Peter Magill

perserverance

After enough miles, over enough runs and enough years, I realized: No matter what, no matter when, or where, or why, I can find my shoes and go for a run and things will get better. And that realization? Just knowing that? It made things better.

– Mark Remy (So I Went For A Run)

slaydragons

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

– Mark Twain

marathon

Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest.

– Haruki Murakami

BE7xyxXCQAA_M6f

That’s what running does to lives. It’s not just exercise. It’s not just achievement. It’s a daily discipline that has nothing to do with speed, weight, social status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, where you live, what car you drive, or whether anyone anywhere loves you. It’s about the slow and painful process of being the best you can be. That’s why the first step out the door is always so hard. That’s when we choose between settling for average and being a superhero version of ourselves.

– Martin Dugard (To Be A Runner)
motivation

The more I run, the more I love my body. Not because it is perfect, far from it, but because with every mile it is proving to me that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible.

earned

I have learned that there is no failure in running, or in life, as long as you keep moving. It’s not about speed and gold medals. It’s about refusing to be stopped.

– Amby Burfoot

happiness

The Marathon is not about the race, it’s about commitment…It’s not about instant gratification, it’s about endurance. It’s not about the thrill, it’s about passion. To run a marathon, you need to not only commit to the sport, you need to commit to yourself. In short, to run a marathon, you need to be a runner.

my gym

Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.

– Julie Isphording

runn

Speed Work

So I’ve been talking the last few months about how I need to start adding in speed work, but haven’t actually done it. Well, now I’m 3 weeks in with 1-2 speed workouts a week. I try to split them up, one on Monday and the other on Thursday, so that my tougher workouts are spread across the week (Saturdays are long run days).

?????????????????Here’s the two speed workouts I prefer.

Tempo Run (Monday):

Mondays are all about the tempo run. Tempo runs are about maintaining a specific and more importantly consistent pace. Distances and paces will vary. Some will tell you do it at a ‘comfortably hard’ pace – where you could ask a running partner if the pace is okay but could not keep up conversation. Others will give you a time goal.

In my case, I do a mix of both. When I’m not training towards anything in particular I have traditionally gone by the ‘comfortably hard’ measurement. Right now I do have a goal in mind. As such I’ve set myself a goal pace to run this race at. Hopefully my logic here will make sense. Since my interval workouts will target the ability to have bursts of speed I’ve decided my tempos will be all about that consistent pace. And since my plan is related towards the end goal of a marathon, I’m pacing myself at slightly fast 8:00 miles. (As a note: if I ran that pace for a marathon I’d finish around 3:30. My current half marathon PR averages a 7:35 pace.)

To start it’s a pretty short workout. I’m doing 5 miles: one mile warm-up, three miles at pace, and then one mile cool down. My goal over the next few months is to slowly increase the distance—upping the miles so that I’ll be doing more at pace. Eventually something like a 10-12 mile workout with 8-10 miles at pace. While hoping this will rub off on me for the actual race, I’m more focused on it helping me get back into pacing myself properly (because right now I’m generally all over the place).

Want to read a little more about tempos? Check out this Running Times article with the basics or this Competitor article talking about different types for different training.

Interval Work (Thursday):

Out of habit from running with a group that usually does interval work on Thursdays, it’s now my preferred day as well. Just fits well with the schedule. Now I generally prefer doing these workouts at a track because the distances are easily measurable and do not require checking my Garmin every 30 seconds. I know there are downsides considered with the action of running in the same direction that can cause imbalance in your muscles, but I haven’t had too much trouble.

My usual interval workout involves 800m repeats. I start with a 1 mile warm-up (NEVER neglect your warm-ups and cool downs, they are so important to help keep from hurting yourself) before jumping into the repeats. Then it’s 800 repeat, 1/4 mile (or 400m or 1 lap on a track) at an easy jog,  800 repeat, etc. After the last repeat, I’ll close out the workout with at least a 1 mile cool down. Sometimes I’ll do a little more for mileage or if my muscles are still a bit tight.

If it’s a race week, I’ll traditionally cut back to 400m repeats and no more than 4. If I’m feeling adventurous I may do longer repeats than 800m, but 800s are my default (look up Yasso 800s if you get a chance). When not in training, a usual interval workout will be 4x800m and about 5 miles long. As training progress for the marathon, I’ll slowly be upping the repeats to finish at 10 total 800s (the last 2 workouts before taper).

Besides having a set distance, interval workouts also have a set speed. My goal right now is to average 3:30 per 800m repeat or the equivalent of a 7:00 mile pace. I also attempt to progressively get faster through a workout. While training for my first marathon I regularly finished my last repeat at 3:25 or faster. My goal is to attempt to do the same this time; train my body to be faster at the end than the beginning.

Interval workouts are great for two reasons. For one your teaching your legs the feeling of a faster pace/turnover than most of your other training will do. The second, assuming you work to get faster with each repeat, is the idea of finishing strong. Teaching your body to give more when it’s tired than when it’s first starting and full of energy.

So that’s about it. Just a quick little chat covering the speed workouts that make up my conditioning right now.

Race Goals

While I definitely believe in the idea of running a race for the sake of just doing a race, I also think having goals for a particular race is good. So I’d like to list my goals, in order of priority, for the Marine Corps Marathon. Setting them now—so far in advance—gives me ample time to pursue them.

1. Finish!

More than any other goal, I think every marathon is about crossing the finish line. 26.2 miles is no joke. Before you look at places or times (unless you’re an elite athlete) I believe your primary target should be making it to the end. While we may do some crazy things as distance runners, prepping in an awesome manner does us no good if we end up with a DNF.

2. Beat my PR (currently 3:50:41)

Of course, since this is no longer my first marathon I actually have a time I can attempt to beat. While I love the idea of doing your first race in a distance so there’s no possibility to compare yourself to the past, it’s still a great thing to train against. The MCM course will be much more difficult due to the terrain. However, being in a different region and time of year, I’m hoping weather conditions will aid my target of beating that PR. And since I know how I trained and raced last time, I can aim to beat it. In my opinion, your best rival will always be yourself.

3. Sub-3:40

This may be pushing it a bit, but I gotta have some kind of crazy high goal to aim towards (assuming I complete the other 2 first). While that 10 minute difference between the PR and this target seems far, across a marathon distance it calculates to cutting less than 30 seconds off each mile time. Again, crazy sounding if you look at shorter distances but it’s manageable over a marathon. The average pace over the full distance would be about 8:23 per mile. Before I hit the wall around mile 20/21, I was averaging about 8:35 for the Miami Marathon. In my mind, that says it’s completely doable.

There they be, my goals. I won’t let doubts plague me. I am only as strong as I believe myself to be. And I believe I am strong enough to reach them. So I leave you with this and hope you take inspiration from it the same way I do.

chasing