Saturday, January 1, 2022

My Goals for 2022

Last year was a rebuilding year.  This year will also be a rebuilding year.  My goals for this year are so similar to last year that I could’ve reposted last year’s goals and nobody would know the difference.  I took the time to write a new set of goals for 2022, but they’re going to look awfully familiar.

Heal from Injuries

I’m currently healing from two injuries.  The first is a knee injury that’s plagued me for more than a year.  The other is a lower back injury that first started bothering me in late November.

Let’s start with the knee injury.  A year ago, I couldn’t walk up or down stairs without feeling soreness in my right knee.  Running, even for short distances made it worse.

I’ve been rehabbing that knee for more than a knee.  One of the exercises that’s been helping is single-leg leg extensions.  When I starting doing those last summer, I was only using 10 pounds.  Now, I’m using 35 pounds, and I’m continuing to increase the weight in small increments.

Most days, I can walk up and down stairs without any discomfort.  If I run a marathon, I’ll have discomfort in my right knee the next time I walk up steps, but it’ll be back to feeling normal within 24 hours.

Obviously, I’d like to get back to never feeling discomfort in that knee.  I’ve made a lot of progress, but I’m not quite there yet.

The other injury is my lower back.  I haven’t had an MRI, but it’s most likely a disk protrusion in the lumbar region.  It feels similar to an injury I had in the same area last May.  Sometimes, I feel soreness near the site of the injury.  Other times, I’ll feel minor discomfort closer to my hip.  I think the hip discomfort is actually a nerve impingement.

Last summer, I had to take it easy for about a month, but the injury healed with rest and PT.  This time, I’ve tried to take it easy, but I was already signed up for a couple races.  Running two marathons before healing probably set me back.  Going forward, I’ll continue to run the races I’ve already entered, but I won’t sign up for any more races until my back has healed.  Ideally, I like to run about two marathons per month.  For the next four months, I’m signed up for one marathon per month.  For now, I’ll stick to that.

My first goal for 2022 is to heal completely from both of these injuries.  Until I do, I’ll have to hold back on my training.  In the short term, I’ll get out of shape, but if I can get healthy, I can eventually get back in shape.

Get Back in Shape

One of my goals last year was to rebuild my mileage base.  I’d still like to do that, but I know I won’t get back to pre-injury mileage levels in just one year.  Even if I could, building my mileage is just a means to an end.  The end goal is to get back in shape.

Goals should be well-defined.  Ideally, they should have objective criteria, and they should be measurable.  For running, I’m going to define “getting back in shape” as being able to run a marathon fast enough to qualify for Boston, without resorting to running a race with a downhill course.  For race-walking, I, going to define it as finishing a marathon in less than five hours.

Get Back to a Lean Weight

Whenever I’m forced to cut back on training, I gain weight.  These past several weeks have been no exception.  I haven’t gained a lot of weight, but it’s enough to make a difference in my marathon times.  To get back into shape, I’ll need to lose that weight.

Last year, I managed to lose weight, even while I was taking a break from running.  I know that’s possible.  I also know it won’t be easy.  In the short term, my priority will be to stop gaining weight.  Losing the weight I’ve already gained will be more important when I’m back to doing serious marathon training.

Strike a Balance Between Running and Race-walking

Three times I’ve switched to race-walking when an injury forced me to take a break from running.  Each time, I returned to running when I was healthy enough.  This year, I’d like to train for both running and race-walking.  That’s going to mean splitting my training time between the two.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll devote equal time to each.

I’ve found that race-walking is excellent cross-training for running.  I’ve had good results running marathons when most of my training was race-walking.  It doesn’t work the other way.  Running doesn’t prepare you for race-walking.

Getting in shape for running is largely a matter of improving your aerobic fitness.  Technique, for the most part, comes naturally.  Getting in shape for race-walking also requires aerobic fitness, but there’s no substitute for working on technique.  It doesn’t just take fitness.  It takes practice.

I could probably prepare for both running and walking by alternating between running workouts and race-walking workouts.  While that would work, it’s not necessarily optimal.  I’ve learned from experience that race-walking isn’t as hard in your body.  I’ve never built my running mileage beyond 70 miles a week for very long before getting injured.  I’ve built my walking mileage as high as 140 miles per week without getting injured.  For that reason, I suspect the optimal mix involves more walking than running.

I don’t expect to find the optimal mix, but my goal is to develop a training schedule that prepares me for both.

Run Some International Races

In 2020, I was signed up for nine international races, but I only ran one.  I had to cancel all my other trips, because of COVID-19.  I haven’t traveled outside the U.S. since then, but I’m cautiously optimistic I’ll be able to do that this year.  I’ve already book one international trip, and I’m hoping to add more.  That’ll depend not only on my health, but also on the pandemic.  If things get worse, we could see new restrictions on international travel.

Compete at a National Level in Race-Walking

As a runner, I focus almost exclusively on marathons and ultras.  As a race-walker, I sometimes compete at shorter distances.  Last year, I did the 5,000 meter race-walk event at the Minnesota Senior games, and I qualified for nationals.

I’ve already signed up to compete in both the 1,500 and 5,000 meter events at the National Senior Games.  I’ve never done a race as short as 1,500 meters, so I don’t have high expectations for that distance.  In the 5,000 meter race, I want to be competitive.

What does it mean to be competitive?  I don’t think I have any chance of winning the race, but I might have a realistic chance of placing in the top three.  It all depends on how quickly I recover from my lower back injury and how hard I can train without re-injuring my back.  Without knowing, I’m going to set a range of goals.

One of the first running books I ever read was The New Competitive Runner’s Handbook.  The authors of that book advocated setting three goals for each race.  The first goal, which they called the attainable goal, is one that you know is within your abilities, but which would nevertheless take some effort.  The next goal is called the challenging goal.  This is a goal that you may or may not be capable of doing.  The third goal is called the ultimate goal.  This is a “shoot for the moon” goal.  It might not be realistic, but it’s something you can reach for if you’re having a surprisingly good race.

After reviewing results from recent years, it looks like my time from the Minnesota Senior Games would probably be good enough for third or fourth place in the National Senior Games.  If I was healthy and could keep building on last year, I think I would have a realistic chance of placing in the top three.  I’m not currently healthy, so it’s unclear if I can get back to where I was last summer.  Without knowing, I’m making a top three finish my “challenging” goal.

For my “attainable” goal, I’m setting my sights on placing in the top eight.  Why eight?  That how deep the awards go.

For my “ultimate” goal, I’m setting my sights on breaking 30 minutes.  To do that, I’ll have to be faster than last year.  That might not be realistic when you consider that I’m not currently healthy enough to begin training, and I may have to hold back to keep from injuring myself.  It’s worth noting that I’ve broken 30 minutes at this distance once before.  It’s also worth noting that I did that when I was 30 years old.  I’m 60 now.  Can I compete with my 30-year old self?  Maybe, but I doubt it.

Of all of my goals for 2022, this one is the most tenuous.

Make Progress on My 4th (and 5th) Circuit of 50 States

I’ve run (or walked) at least three marathons or ultras in every state.  I’ve completed at least four marathons or ultras in 49 states.  To complete a fourth circuit of 50 states, I need to finish another marathon in 11 states.

My long-term goal is to eventually finish five circuits of 50 states.  I’ve already finished five or more marathons or ultras in 27 of them.  That leaves 23 states when I need at least one more marathon to complete this goal.

There was a time when I raced through goals like this one as quickly as I could.  Now I’m a little more patient.  Running marathons is a lifestyle, and I expect to keep doing it as long as I can.  I’m not in a rush to complete this goal, but I want to keep making progress.  In 2022, I’d like at least one third of my marathons to be in states I need to complete a fourth or fifth circuit.  If, for example, I run 24 marathons in 2022, eight of them should be in states that I still need.

Here’s a map of my progress so far.

No comments:

Post a Comment