Room to Grow

2016 was a marvelous year for me as a runner. I ran farther and more frequently than I ever have in my life. I ran faster than I have run in over a decade. I became a marathoner and an ultramarathoner.

While 2016 was marvelous, 2017 has the potential to be even better. I don’t like to set running goals for the entire year, because I know they can change based on my own personal whims. Maybe I won’t feel like running a certain race or focusing on a certain distance. I thought at the beginning of last year I would PR at the Park Point 5 Miler, and I ended up choosing not to run the race, instead focusing on a marathon I ended up not running. Although I don’t want to set goals for the year, I do have some general principles I’d like to follow.

In 2016, I ran 228 times for 1537 miles, or thereabouts. My GPS watch isn’t always very accurate. My average pace over all of that was 16:38, which is better than I expected. It’s partially better than I expected because originally when I was working on my spreadsheet, I had entered a time wrong. Instead of 0:59:31, it said 59:31:00. So originally my average pace for the year was 18:54. Good thing I double-checked.

Since I ran 228 times, that means I didn’t run 136 times. That equates to about 2.6 days off per week, but that’s not really how it worked out. I had several long stretches without running, largely due to illness or due to mental fatigue/laziness.

I raced 9 times, did not start twice, and had no DNFs. I am actually surprised at how few races I did – even if I had run all of them, that’s still only 11 races. I lowered my 5K time three times this year, culminating with a 29:21 PR at the Jingle Bell 5K, finally completing one of my major goals (a sub-30 5K). Both DNSs were due to lack of sleep.

I spent a lot of money on running last year. I don’t really know how much, but it was a lot for a hobby that seems so minimalist. My treadmill broke. I went through I think 5 pairs of shoes. I ate a lot of gels. I found an electrolyte tab I like.

When I think about what I’d like to achieve in 2017, I have some fairly simple ideas. I’d like to run more miles. 2000 seems like a nice round number. If I don’t run 2000 miles in 2017, I won’t be sad. If I run fewer miles than in 2016, I’ll most likely be disappointed (who knows, maybe something fabulous will arise that will take my attention away from running?).

I’d like to have fewer rest days. Not by a lot, though. 37% of my days in 2016 were rest days, I’d like to bring that down to about 30%. I’d like to minimize unplanned extended breaks (defined as 7+ days) from running. I want to be able to add in planned extended breaks (like after a goal race). I’d like to say I’d have no unplanned extended breaks, but work travel sometimes pops up, and I don’t always have the time or energy to exercise while traveling. And of course I get sick sometimes.

On that note, I’d like to avoid getting sick. My extended breaks from running due to illness are all due to respiratory illnesses. I don’t really know how to fix that beyond getting adequate sleep, eating well, and washing my hands a lot. I already wash my hands, but the other two I can work on. I started using a generic immune-boosting effervescent tab after long runs or on days I feel more run down. I’m trying to eat better. We’ll see. Most of my one-off days due to illness are from stomach issues (which are generally minor/overblown by me). Eating better will help with that, although generally I end up missing a planned rest day rather than adding an additional rest day when those problems arise.

I’d like to run faster. Responsibly and sustainably. That’s probably going to happen naturally, since I won’t be hindered by such strict heart rate zones. I still plan to run easy most of the time.

I’d also like to be smart about how I spend my money. I’m going to try tracking my running-related expenses this year. I like making spreadsheets so this should be no problem. The only things I won’t track are gas (too much of a pain to figure out mileage) and food that isn’t running-specific (i.e. I will track gels but not bananas, electrolyte tabs but not delicious nectar of the gods vanilla Cokes). The actual transaction also has to occur in this year, so the jacket and running tights I ordered with my holiday gift cards don’t count, even though I don’t have them yet, because they were ordered in 2016. And they need to hurry the f up and get here, because it is gonna be cold.

As for specific goals, I like to stick to setting them by season. Naturally I have races picked out for the whole year, but I did that last year too, and then I changed things up quite a bit. I’ll set my spring (well, spring and late winter) goals in February or March. My goal right now is just surviving January.

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