Happy New Year!
For me, 2016 will be a “rebuilding” year. I won’t do many races. Mostly I want to get healthy and get back in shape. The rest of my goals reflect a certain amount of optimism. I’m hoping to get back into training and racing, but I really don’t know how much progress I can make in one year. If I don’t get healthy, I won’t get back in shape. If I don’t get back in shape, some of the other goals won’t happen.
Heal from groin strain – Last May I suffered a groin strain in my right leg. I had other injuries, but this is the one that hasn’t healed yet. Groin strains normally take six to eight weeks to heal. Mine (initially) wasn’t too bad, so I was looking at a recover time closer to six weeks. I never gave myself enough time to heal until recently. Now it’s worse. I’m probably looking at eight weeks. It might take longer. This goal takes precedence over everything else on this list.
Improve circulation in my legs – Last summer, I started to notice some issues with my legs. They get really stiff during the night. They also get stiff if I sit too long. I eventually realized it was a problem with circulation in my legs. It didn’t become an issue until I stopped doing daily runs. I’m hopeful the issue will go away when I’m able to run as much as I did before. If not, I’ll have to see a doctor to determine what else can be done. If I can cure it with exercise, I’d like to explore that avenue first. Of course, I can’t run much until the groin strain heals.
Eat heathier foods – For the last 15 years, I’ve been controlling my cholesterol through diet and exercise. Over the last seven or eight months, I haven’t paid as much attention to my eating habits. Not getting as much exercise made it harder to control my weight. Then I got discouraged. I need to pay more attention to what I eat. In particular, I need to cut back on saturated fats, so my cholesterol doesn’t get too high.
Lose weight – Besides watching what types of food I eat, I also have to watch how much I eat. Since early May, I’ve gained five pounds. I was already carrying five extra pounds. Now it’s ten. You might not notice it looking at me, but that’s enough extra weight to have an adverse effect on my cholesterol. It’s also going to make it harder to get back in shape. Right now, there are other things holding me back more. Eventually, however, those extra pounds will make it harder to bring my marathon times back down to where they were.
Stop taking Benadryl – For years, I’ve been taking Benadryl. I don’t have allergies; I take it to make me drowsy, so I can sleep. I could write a whole book about my struggles with insomnia, but that’s a subject for another day. I’d like to stop taking Benadryl, but I’ve become dependent on it. If I don’t take it, I’m awake all night. I’m trying to wean myself off it gradually by cutting the pills in half and taking a half pill each night. So far, that seems to be working. I’ve yet to get a full night’s sleep, but I’m getting enough sleep to get by.
Getting Back in Shape
Get back into regular training – I used to run five days a week. Most of my runs were at least 10 miles. I often did cross-training workouts on the days I didn’t run. I need to eventually get back to my previous training habits. I need to run more if I’m ever going to run faster. I need to run more so I can improve my circulation. I need to run more so I can get enough exercise to lose weight.
Pick up the pace – I used to run marathons at an average pace of eight minutes per mile or faster. I used to do most of my training at a slightly faster pace. I used to do ten mile tempo runs at 6:45 or faster. Since October, my average pace in races has been 13 minutes per mile. My pace in training runs – when I did them at all – wasn’t much faster. Before I can hope to improve my marathon times, I need to pick up the pace on my training runs. For now, I’m held back by fear. I know if I don’t hold back, I’ll make my leg worse. I have to heal first. Then I need to work my ass off. I’ve run too slow for too long. My work is cut out for me.
Bring my marathon times back under four hours – If I can do everything else above, I should see improvement in my marathon times. I don’t know how long it will take, but breaking four hours will be a big milestone.
Qualify for Boston – If I can get under four hours, the next big goal will be qualifying for Boston. In 2017, I’ll be in a new age group. To qualify, I’ll need to finish a marathon in 3:40. To actually get into Boston, I’ll probably have to be a few minutes faster. I’ve yet to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon. Registration will start sometime in September. If I can’t run a qualifying time by then, my streak of consecutive Boston Marathons will end. If I heal quickly, train hard, and lose weight, maybe I can do it. It’s possible, but only in a best-case scenario.
World Marathon Majors
Berlin Marathon – The Berlin Marathon is the only one of the World Marathon Majors that I haven’t run. For the second straight year, I put my name in the lottery. This year, my name was drawn. The race isn’t until the last weekend in September. Hopefully that’s enough time to get in shape. I’d love to qualify for Boston there. I’ve already run qualifying times in London, Boston, New York, and Tokyo. That might not be realistic, but it gives me extra motivation.
Chicago Marathon – I ran the Chicago Marathon in 1999, but I have two reasons for wanting to go back. First, the World Marathon Majors weren’t established until 2006. If I want a World Marathon Majors completion certificate, I would need to do Chicago again. Also, I haven’t qualified for Boston there. If I can qualify in Berlin, I would want to also qualify in Chicago. Then I’d have BQs in all six majors. Again, that might not be realistic, but it’s a goal.
New Races, New Places
Minnesota Races – I still have a lifetime goal of running every marathon in Minnesota. Excluding ultras, there are still six Minnesota marathons I haven’t done. Because of schedule conflicts, I can’t possibly do them all this year. I’d like to do at least two. The Med City Marathon will most likely be one of them. After dropping out halfway through last year’s race, I feel I have unfinished business there.
New Countries – I may not do many races this year, but I still want to explore different countries. I want to run marathons in at least two new countries. If so, it would mean at least three international trips. I’m already signed up for the Berlin Marathon, but Germany won’t be a new country. I ran the Einstein Marathon a few years ago.
A few goals are conspicuous by their absence. I don’t plan to do any 100 mile races in 2016. In particular, I don’t plan to make another attempt at the Bighorn Mountain 100. I also don’t plan to do any races that are qualifiers for the Western States 100.
Western States has been on my bucket list for a long time. I had a DNF there in 2012. I made some stupid decisions during that race, but I also wasn’t ready. I’d like to try again, but only if I’m ready. Two years ago, I made an attempt at the Bighorn Mountain 100. In its own way, Bighorn Mountain is every bit as tough as Western States. This time I was ready, but I had a bad break. I was making good progress until I slipped on a wet rock during the night and fell into a stream. This year, I just wasn’t in the same shape. I also wasn’t healthy. I’d like to try again, but I need to be ready.
Now that I’ve finished a second circuit of 50 states, I can’t help but notice I’ve already run a third marathon in 41 states. Will I repeat the other nine? Maybe, but not this year.
Last year, I was already thinking about completing a second circuit of sub-4 marathons in all 50 states. I know of only one person who has done that. I only need Utah, Alaska and Hawaii. I lost an opportunity to get Utah when I cancelled plans to run the Ogden Marathon last May. Three months later, I had a near miss in Alaska. By the time I traveled to Hawaii, breaking four hours wasn’t a realistic goal. I did well to break 5:30. I’d like to pursue this goal, but it’s silly to even talk about it when I can’t run a four hour marathon.
Am I giving up on these goals? No. Not forever. I just won’t pursue them in 2016. If all goes well, I’ll pursue these goals in future years. I’m just not ready to think about them yet.
Something else is missing. I didn’t set any goal for the number of marathons I run this year. After running 53, 53 and 51 marathons in the past three years, I’m ready to cut back. I made that decision long before my groin strain in May. I could already tell I was pushing my body too hard. I’ve also been spending too much time away from home. For that matter, I’ve been spending too much money on travel and races. Deb wants me to cut back to one race per month. I was thinking more along the lines of two races per month. This year, it’s likely to be closer to one. So far, I’ve only entered five races in 2016. Two of those races are in February. I entered those two before I was injured. Otherwise, I’d probably wait until March or April.