Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Plans for the Rest of the Year

I’ve been asked more than once why I don’t simply take a break from racing until my injuries heal.  I would if I didn’t already have races scheduled.  I first realized I was injured in early May.  Every race I’ve done since then was already scheduled before then.  I entered the races, booked hotels, and paid for flights.

Most of the hotel reservations could be cancelled, but a few had non-refundable deposits.  Flights can be cancelled, but there’s a $150 change fee ($250 for international flights).  Also, you have to book another flight, and it has to be within a year of the time you booked your original ticket.  Since I booked some of these flights early in the year, it’s unlikely that I could have booked enough new trips to use all the credits.  We’re talking about a lot of flights.  Most likely, cancelling all my races would have meant losing thousands of dollars of travel expenses.

Initially, I cancelled one trip.  I was able to use that credit for another race, so I only lost $150 plus my entry fee.  My next race was drivable.  I started the race, but bailed when my leg started to hurt.  That cost me an entry fee and one hotel night.

My next race after that was the Comrades Marathon.  That was an international trip with flights booked on two different airlines.  It was also a one-time opportunity.  I ran the Comrades “down” course last year.  If I ran the “up” course this year, I would get my “back-to-back” medal.  If I didn’t do it this year, I would never get another chance.  Even though I wasn’t 100 percent healed, I still ran that race.  I was going to finish if I had to crawl.

After that there were a few races I could have cancelled, but there was always at least one race coming up that I couldn’t even think about cancelling.  For example, one of my July races was the Swissalpine K78.  That’s another expensive international trip that I wasn’t going to cancel.

It didn’t make sense to skip some races, but not others.  It wouldn’t do me much good to keep getting 80-90 percent healed, only to set myself back again.  I did that a few times in May and June.  Then I realized I wouldn’t have time to completely heal, so I drew a line in the sand.  I wasn’t scheduling any new races, but I was going to finish all the races that were already booked.

I didn’t add any new races to my schedule until August 1st.  That was the day registration opened for the Harpeth Hill Flying Monkey Marathon.  The timing was right for this to be my 300th marathon.  I want my 300th marathon to be a memorable event, and this is bucket list race that I’ve never done.  I only had a one week window to register for the race.

That brings me to my goals for the rest of the year.  Earlier this year, I posted a list of goals for 2015.  Some of those have been blown away by my injuries, but others are still achievable.  Among them are three long-term goals that are closely related.

The first of those is reaching 300 lifetime marathons.  This has been a long-term goal for many years.  Long before I joined Marathon Maniacs, I had met a few prolific runners like Burt Carlson and Tom Adair.  They’ve each run over 300 marathons, and it always struck me as a career milestone.

Later, I learned about the World Megamarathon Ranking.  This is a list of all runners in the world who have done at least 300 marathons.  There are currently 104 North American runners on the list.  A few have more than 1,000 marathons.  I don’t expect to climb very high on the list, but I’d like to at least get my name onto this list.

So far this year, I’ve run 29 marathons or ultras.  I need 16 more to reach 300 lifetime marathons.  That would give me 45 for the year.  That puts me within striking distance of two other goals.

Since 2010, I’ve been a member of Marathon Maniacs, and this club has become a big part of my life.  Indeed, it’s become a big part of my identity as a runner.  In 2012, I reached the club’s Titanium level by running marathons in 30 different states or countries within one year.  You don’t need to re-qualify each year, but in 2013, I challenged myself to meet a different criterion for Titanium by running 52 marathons within a year.  I ended that year with 53.  Last year, I also did 53.

Beyond Titanium, there’s a Marathon Maniacs Hall of Fame.  There are four ways to qualify.  One is to run 333 lifetime marathons.  If I kept doing 50+ marathons a year, I’d get there sometime next year.  I never planned to keep doing this every year, however.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve felt like my body has been telling me to cut back.  So has my wallet.  So has Deb.  I figured I’d have one more Titanium year and then cut back to something like every other weekend.  At that rate, reaching 333 wouldn’t happen until sometime in 2017.

Another Hall of Fame criterion is to run 51 or more marathons in three consecutive years.  I had 53 in 2013 and 53 in 2014.  If I do at least 51 this year, I’ll qualify by the end of the year.  For me, this is the quickest path to qualification.

Beyond that, if I could do just one more race, I’d have my fourth straight Titanium year.  That was my thinking at the start of the year.  As it turns out, I’ve already scheduled races in 31 different states or countries.  I need to schedule a few more races to get to 51, so I could end up running in as many as 34 different states or countries.  That would give me my fourth straight Titanium year, even if didn’t do a 52nd race.

So there you have it.  That’s why I’m determined to stick to my schedule, even though I’m injured.  I want to do my 300th marathon at the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey in November.  Then I want to do six more races this year to qualify for the Hall of Fame.  Then, ideally, I’ll do one more to get to 52.  That last race, however, is optional.  I might call it quits at 51.  It depends how bad my legs are and how much time I think I’ll need to heal when all this is done.

After Flying Monkey, I plan to do the Seattle Quadzilla over Thanksgiving weekend.  I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but that’ll give me races 46-49 for the year.  I haven’t scheduled any December races yet, but if I do one a week, I could reach 51 by the second weekend in December.

Before my injury, I had already scheduled two races for 2016.  Both are in February.  If I wrap up my 2015 race schedule in mid-December, I can give myself nine weeks to heal before the Los Angeles Marathon.  Even if I did one more race, I would still have eight weeks to heal.  I think that’s enough, but I might need all eight weeks.

That’s the plan.  I’ll race every weekend until I reach all my goals for the year, two of which are career goals.  Then I’ll take an 8-9 week break to heal.  It won’t be easy.  Even if my only goal is to finish each race, I still expect it to get increasingly difficult.  This is like one long marathon.  Every week I need to make forward progress.

In pursuit of these goals, I’ve had to sacrifice quality for quantity.  Since turning 45, I’ve tried to qualify for Boston at every opportunity.  I probably won’t have another qualifier this year.  For the past four years, I’ve made the Best Frequent Marathoners list.  I probably won’t this year.  I’m doing a lot of races, but I’m no longer running faster than average times.

When I eventually heal, I’ll be out of shape.  For years, I was already in pretty good shape and just had to stay in shape.  Training from scratch is a lot harder.  I don’t know how long it will take me to get back to where I was.  I also don’t know how long it will be before I can entertain thoughts of doing a 100 mile race.  Races like Bighorn Mountain and Western States are going to be out of reach for the foreseeable future.


  1. Oof, I haven't had an injury like that but Adam is down with a knee injury and I know how hard it is for him not to run. Hopefully the recovery and getting back in shape will be easier than you think! I have frequently been surprised by how quickly I've gotten back into marathons after a long time off.

    1. This week I'm trying out KT tape. I'm hoping that helps me continue racing without doing more damage.