I waited until January before setting my goals for 2015, because I didn’t know if I would come out of Across the Years with an injury. Going into the race, I had some slightly inflamed muscles in my left leg. After the race, my left leg was no worse. I don’t have any new issues other than blisters. Now I’m much more confident that I’ll be able to do the races that I scheduled for January and February. I’m also finally in a position to set goals for the new year.
Most of my goals have to do with my performance in individual races or over-arching goals, like running marathons in every state. Before I talk about races, I have some goals for my training.
Improve Hamstring Flexibility – For the past few years, I’ve had chronically tight hamstrings. I’ve had several pulled hamstrings. I’m pretty good at doing enough stretching to recover from each injury, but then I hit a plateau. Aside from the injuries, it’s been holding back my training. To get back to where I was a few years ago, I need to work on improving my flexibility, so I can train hard and race hard without constantly being at risk of a pulled hamstring.
Speed Work – I’ve done almost no speed work for the past two years. This is related to my hamstring issues. I can’t run all out without injuring myself. I need to make progress on my hamstrings first. When I can do speed work without hurting myself, I need make this a regular part of my training. Four years ago, I was running most of my marathons in the 3:05 – 3:15 range. I won’t get back to that level without regular speed work.
Increase My Mileage – I’ve never been a high mileage runner who does 100 mile training weeks. Last year, I ramped up my mileage over the second half of the year. I also got more consistent, running at least 50 miles a week for 25 consecutive weeks. My mileage dipped as I started resting up for Across the Years. I’ll start 2015 slowly, but when I’m ready, I’d like to pick up where I left off last year. Last year, I finished the year with 2,851 miles. This year, I’d like to run at least 3,000 miles for the first time.
Before each race, I set goals for that race. For most of them, I wait until it’s close to the race before assessing what type of goal is realistic. I usually have a few races that are more important to me. These are races that I focus on during my training. I refer to these as my “A” races, and I usually set goals for them months in advance. I haven’t planned my whole race schedule for 2015, but so far, I’ve identified two “A” races – Comrades and Bighorn Mountain. I may add others as I flesh out the rest of my schedule.
Comrades Marathon (up) – Last year I did the Comrades Marathon in the downhill direction. This year, I’m going back to South Africa to do the race in the uphill direction. This is a hilly road ultra that’s about 55 miles. There are different medals you can earn, depending on how quickly you finish. Last year, I earned a Bill Rowan medal on the “down” course by finishing in 8:50:00. (The cut-off for the Bill Rowan medal is nine hours.) My goal for this year is to earn a Bill Rowan medal on the “up” course.
Bighorn Mountain 100 – My toughest race of the year will be the Bighorn Mountain 100. This race has a 34 hour time limit because of the difficulty. Last year I had a DNF on this course. I was on a reasonable pace and felt good, but my race ended suddenly when I slipped on a rock and fell into a stream. I’m going back this year to try again. My only goal is to finish within the cut-off, but that’s plenty difficult.
Qualify for Boston – I’ve already qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon, but I’d like to get a faster qualifying time. My best qualifier so far is 3:21:46, which is 8:14 under the qualifying standard for my age group. At the very least, I’d like to run 3:20, which would be a BQ-10. Ideally, I’d like to run 3:10, which would be a BQ-20. A time under 3:10 would probably also be fast enough to get me into the first wave. This is a case where I know my goal, but not the race where I’ll do it. Last year, I had my fastest time at the Rockies Marathon in Colorado. I may do that race again, but it’s unclear if I’ll be ready to go for a fast time there. I may be doing a tough trail race the week before.
One type of over-arching goal is based on how many total marathons or ultras I run, whether it’s my lifetime total or my total for the year. This year, I have two goals for total races.
300 Lifetime Marathons – I’ve met several prolific marathon runners, who have run 300 or more marathons in their lifetimes. The first was Burt Carlson. I think the second was Tom Adair. There’s a group in Japan that maintains a list of every runner in the world who has run at least 300 marathons. I’ll never run as many races as Larry Macon or Jim Simpson, but I’d like to run enough to get my name on that list. Including ultras, I’ve already run 255 marathons. To reach 300, I just need 45 more. That’s a goal I can reach in 2015.
52 Marathons in 2015 – Since I need 45 to get to 300, why not do seven more? Why 52? That’s an average of one a week. I ran 53 marathons or ultras in 2013. I also did 53 in 2014. This year, I’m going for the threepeat.
New Races, New Places
My race schedule is always a mix of the new and the familiar. When I pick a race I haven’t done before, it’s usually so I can have a new race experience or visit a new destination. Sometimes new races fit a pattern. I have two goals in that category. These are both goals I’ve been working on for a while. Neither is something I’ll finish this year. I’m looking to keep making progress.
Minnesota Races – I have a lifetime goal of running every marathon in Minnesota. It’s not easy, because the list keeps growing. Last year, I ran two Minnesota marathons that I had never done before. This year, I’ll probably add two more. I’ve tentatively picked the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon and the Dick Beardsley Marathon.
New Countries – In 2010, I ran my first two international marathons. Since then, I’ve run marathons in at least two new countries each year. Last year, I added five new countries. I also joined a club called Marathon Globetrotters. Members of this club share the goal of running marathons in several different countries. This goal doesn’t have a fixed finish line. So far, I’ve scheduled two international races for 2015, but they’re both races I’ve done before. I’d like to do at least two more that are in countries I’ve never visited.
Diversify My Races
I occasionally do ultras, but I mostly run marathons. In particular, I mostly do road marathons. That’s my comfort zone. A few years ago, I discovered that I’ve mostly been doing races that are fairly flat. I wasn’t seeking out flat races. It just worked out that most the races that sounded appealing happened to have flat courses. Partly that has do to with the destinations I’ve been choosing. Partly it has to do with race organizers providing what the running community wants. Most medium-sized to large races have courses that aren’t too difficult. I got pretty good at running consistently fast times in flat road marathons. Then I discovered that I suck at pretty much everything else. I need to step outside my comfort zone.
Trail Races – I suck at trails. I don’t do enough trail running in training. Because I do so many races, they’ve become a large component of my training. One way to get better on trails is to do more trail races. Another is to do more training on trails. I tend to adapt my day-to-day training runs to prepare me for upcoming races. If I have more trail races on my calendar, it’ll also motivate me to hit the trails in training.
Hills – Last year, I made some improvement in this area. I’d like to continue making progress. It’s not too hard to find training routes with hills, but my training is driven by my races. If I want to get better on hills, I need to schedule fewer flat races and more hilly races.
Stop and Smell the Roses
I’m old school. I started racing when it was all about running fast. Back then, your first marathon was about finishing, your second was about setting a new PR, and your third was about qualifying for Boston. I still focus mostly on my times. Sometimes that gets in the way of other aspects of the race experience.
Take Pictures – I often do destination races, and I’ll take pictures while I’m sightseeing. Often, there are sightseeing opportunities during races, but I seldom take pictures during a race. Mostly, that’s because I’m trying to run fast. I don’t want to stop to take pictures, because it takes time. Also, carrying a camera means carrying extra weight. Yes, I worry about half a pound slowing me down. There will always be races where I’m racing for a fast time. When I’m willing to be a few minutes slower, I should carry a camera.
Talk to Other Runners – I socialize with other runners before and after races, but seldom during a race. This also has to do with not wanting to slow down. Also, it’s hard to carry on a conversation while running at a fast pace. As with taking pictures, I should really look for more opportunities to either run with friends or make new friends along the course.