Looking Back at 2017

It’s the new year, and that means I can arbitrarily look at a 365 day snapshot of my training and assess it. I looked back on 2016 around this time last year, believe it or not.

In 2017, I ran 1706 miles in 234 days, at an average pace of 14:06. That’s a pretty big improvement over 2016’s 1537 miles in 228 days, at an average pace of 16:38. In 9 of 12 months, I ran more miles than I did in the corresponding month in 2016. The big outlier there was June, when I took a bunch of time off after FANS, and therefore ran 83 fewer miles than I had in 2016. I’ve probably run more road workouts than I did 2016, which accounts for some of the increase in the overall pace, but I’m also just faster. Hooray!

I took 131 rest days this year, only 5 fewer than I did in 2016. One of my goals for 2017 was to reduce my rest days a lot, and to minimize unplanned extended breaks, and I don’t really think I succeeded at that, although I did take several planned breaks that were longer (my vacation to the East Coast, my 2 week break in early December), so maybe I succeeded a little bit. I’m definitely going to try to sprinkle more planned breaks into my training in 2018, for sure.

I raced 13 times, including one race I didn’t finish and one race that felt like I didn’t finish, and I had one race I didn’t start (I think, maybe there was another one). I didn’t solve my Race Eve sleeping problems. I bought a new treadmill and several new pairs of shoes. I failed to track my running-related spending, as I’d planned.

I set a goal to run more miles than 2016, hopefully 2000. I didn’t run 2000, but I’m not really concerned about that. Maybe I’ll make it in 2018. Maybe I won’t, but I do want to best my 2017 total.

Looking ahead to 2018, I will leave my more specific goals for each season, so I won’t have any performance-related goals until March. My year long goals are usually more abstract, more philosophical, nothing that can be achieved in a single day. Of course I already mentioned continuing to take deliberate rest breaks and to run more miles than I did in 2017. I hope to hit the 1000 mile mark sooner than I did in ’17 (31 July).

I want to go outside every day, with intention. Of course the word intention sounds like very “woo woo” self help planner culture b.s., but I don’t know how else to put it concisely. I want to go outside for the purpose of spending time outside, not just as a means to get in my car and go to work. Even if it’s just a couple minutes outside in the yard with my cats. Naturally, outdoor running will fulfill this goal, too.

I need to turn strength training into a habit. That doesn’t mean an intense lifting program several day a week, but I need to stop going weeks on end without doing so much as a push-up. I’ve said “I should do more strength training” in far too many race reports. It’s time to really work on my core and leg strength in a committed way.

I do want to try tracking my spending again. That doesn’t sound very forceful, but I’d like to get a better handle on what this pastime costs me.

I want to spend more time with other runners, whether that’s more volunteer time, or actually participating in a group run, or joining a running gym (which I am considering doing in a few months). I need more running friends, more familiar faces at the starting line and the finish line.

I’ve got other, more interesting things in mind for each season, but I never really know too far in advance where my running journey is going to take me, and I like it that way.

Advertisements

Fall Running Goals: 2017 Revisited

Fall ends very early in Duluth, so even though we’ve not reached the winter solstice, I’m ready to close the book on the season.

I won’t be setting any goals for “winter” (December-February), because I don’t really race then. I’ll set my year-long goals in January, and then do seasonal goals for spring, summer, and fall. I know some people need that next race on the calendar to get themselves psyched up, but I feel great about not having any running obligations, and I’m glad to have a break from race fees!

My fall running goals were as follows:

  1. Course personal best at WD50K.
    I didn’t finish, so I’m starting off well here.
  2. Set another marathon PR.
    I didn’t start the Birkie, so I didn’t set a marathon PR. I finished the Fall Back Blast in 15:55, a pace nearly a minute faster than my marathon PR pace from July.
  3. Run all the remaining segments of the Superior Hiking Trail between Duluth and Two Harbors.
    I completed all the segments except the long one from Lake County Demonstration Forest to Reeves Road. Bummer, but I didn’t have the time nor the energy for a 22 mile run, and couldn’t make it work to run with a friend and coordinate parking.
  4. Take 2 weeks off deliberately.
    In progress. I’m four days in and have a cold already. Huzzah.

That was a pretty poor showing (25%!), but at the same time, I still set an overall 50K PR, I ran a lot of fun new segments of the Superior Hiking Trail, and I am enjoying my time off during a really annoying cold snap. I had plenty to enjoy about my fall season, even if I didn’t achieve many of my goals. It’s about the journey, not the destination.

Summer Running Goals: 2017

Gotta get these done before the weekend. “Summer” running goals are things I want to accomplish between June and August.

  1. Reach a personal best in distance.
    Bring it on, FANS. I’m hoping to see huge increase over 50km this weekend.
  2. PR at the marathon distance.
    My current marathon PR is 8:23:29, set last year at the Moose Mountain Marathon. While I expect to set an unofficial PR this coming weekend at FANS (and set an unofficial PR at CM50K of some unknown time under 8 hours), I’m looking to set an official PR at the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon in July. Since I DNSd that race last year, just getting to the finish line is a small victory.
  3. Run from home to my dad’s place on Pike Lake.
    It’ll be a fun adventure. I just have to plan a route that keeps me off the highway.
  4. Run from Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock Lighthouse.
    This one is a holdover from last year. It seems like a good idea for a long run (an out and back is the most likely way I’ll achieve this, due to my lone wolf nature).

As for my spring running goals, let’s evaluate.

  1. Race a distance I have not raced before.
    I raced the Hot Dash 10 Mile in March and loved it!
  2. Run a race where I’m not sure I can make the cutoff.
    I raced the Chippewa Moraine 50K in April and finished 2:31 before the cutoff, after missing the intermediate cutoff but being allowed to continue.
  3. PR at the 50K distance.
    I dropped my PR from 10:25:37 to 8:57:29! Granted, CM50K was an easier course than Wild Duluth, but I’m taking some of that credit for myself.
  4. Help my team for Be The Match 5K raise $2000.
    I really flopped on this front. My mom and I raised over $1100 (probably more like $1200 as we had a couple make general donations), which is neither a fundraising PR nor anywhere near my stretch goal. Yuck.
  5. Improve my time at Superior 25K.
    I ran 45 minutes better than last year. Check check.

Spring Running Goals: 2017

As I alluded to last week, I set my goals for “spring” (let’s call that March-May).

  1. Race a distance I have not raced before.
    This will probably be a 10K or a 10 miler, in March.
  2. Run a race where I’m not sure I can make the cutoff.
    I have a fear of getting swept, so I’ve always signed up for races with extremely generous cutoffs (either walk/runs, or trail races where there are longer distances). I’m going to want to run those longer distances one day, so I’m going to need to face my fear eventually. Chippewa Moraine 50K, with a 4 hour cutoff at the halfway point, and a 9 hour overall cutoff, will be my first chance to face my fear.
  3. PR at the 50K distance.
    My PR is 10:25, so it’s PR or bust at CM50K.
  4. Help my team for Be The Match 5K raise $2000.
    Last year we raised $1286.66, so $2000 would be a huge PR!
  5. Improve my time at Superior 25K.
    Last year was rough, because it was so hot. I am hoping for cooler weather, or if not cooler weather, then better coping skills.

The most ambitious of the goals might be the fundraising goal. Maybe this year someone other than my mom and me will solicit donations. The rest are pretty conservative, but since spring running up here is so unpredictable, sometimes even conservative goals are hard to achieve (see: Superior 25K).

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.

Process-Based Goals

In my previous post, I wrote about my focus for the rest of my Moose Mountain Marathon training: to run in a more engaged way, instead of settling back and running a too-slow pace because it feels “easy.” Running “engaged” to me doesn’t mean running hard all the time. Like I said, I’ve found many times that I thought I was running at a decent clip, only to look down and see I’m running a 19 or 20 minute pace (on trails). I’ve found that by altering my form, I can run faster while still maintaining an aerobic heart rate (if that’s the plan for the workout), but I tend to settle into a form that lends itself to slower-paced running, when I’m not engaged.

Then on Tuesday, I read an article on I Run Far by Joe Uhan about setting process goals rather than outcome goals. It sounded exactly like what I was talking about.

“A process goal is a subjective, qualitative measure of how something is done, rather than how much or how fast. Examples of process goals might include how a run feels (the goal to ‘find ease’) or how the body moves (biomechanical goals such as ‘quick feet, strong arms, and forward lean’). Sometimes the processes are analog: ‘go run’ or ‘go to sleep now.’ But built into each process goal is both an execution–do or do not–and a feel.”

In my first paragraph I described a biomechanical process goal without realizing I was. People set process goals for races a lot, without realizing it. Usually those process goals are “finish smiling” or “finish strong” or something similar. However, those process goals are often B or C or Z goals, with an outcome-based A goal (finish under X hours, set a PR, finish in the top 10/top 3/etc.). And the process goals aren’t taken as seriously, or are there as an afterthought but would be considered a failure. I mean, would anyone ever set a goal of finishing, say, a 100 mile race under 24 hours, and then be happy with a 36:59:59 finish as long as they were smiling? Probably not unless they had some kind of beatific transformation while out on the trails. Which we all do, don’t we? But not to that extent.

I don’t know if I can ever really eliminate outcome-based goals from my running strategies. I like focusing on hitting times. I don’t worry too much about placing because it’s unrealistic for me. I like to see how my placing has improved in 5Ks, but that has as much to do with the makeup of the race entrants as it does about my abilities as a runner. I also like the certainty of knowing I hit those goals. How do I know if I’ve achieved a process-based goal? It’s a feeling. Yesterday, I ran 7 miles on the Superior Hiking Trail, starting at Twin Ponds and running toward Enger/Piedmont/out that general way. It was pretty hot, probably still in the high 80s F, when I started, and I felt a bit funky for the first mile or two, but I really tried to stay engaged on the flats, downhills, and gentle uphills. I ended up with a much better pace than the last time I’d run a similar course, and a much better pace than I normally hit on Superior Hiking Trail runs. Granted, I also had a much higher average heart rate than I have had on some of those runs, but it was hot and I was also powering up the hills. There were also times when I did notice myself settling in or running lazily. And there were times when I wasn’t letting my heart rate recover enough and should have slowed down, but continued to push. So does that mean I made my goal or not? I felt like I did. So I did. Participation trophy, please.

I’m interested in seeing what else I can learn from the rest of the columns on this topic (the article was part 1 of I think 3?), and how my training and racing will be affected by what I discover.

Summer Running Goals 2

Last year’s goals are here. I didn’t achieve too many of them.

This year, I’ve broadened my focus a bit, and it’s not just about running in state parks. Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Run a <30 5K
  • Run across the Bong Bridge
  • Become a marathoner
  • Recon every section of the Moose Mountain Marathon
  • Volunteer at an aid station
  • Traverse the entire Lakewalk in one run
  • Run from Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock

This is a nice mix of goals, I think. Last year’s goal list was focused solely on places to run, most of which required significant driving distances. There’s more variety to this year’s list, which I think will make it more achievable.

I had to get this post out quickly as my first sub-30 attempt is in just a few days. If I don’t make it then, I will have to try another race in August. That also means finding another race in August that will work. I’m already signed up for two marathons and a volunteering stint, so I basically have to show up and do what I’m supposed to and I can tick off those other goals. The rest are all about timing and planning.