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Setting Running Goals: Shorter and Faster for 2014

Posted on March 11 2014

SU12KR1066_1For the past several years I’ve been in marathon mode. I don’t know exactly why or how it happened, but I fell into the trap of feeling like I needed to run a marathon (or three) every year. To be honest, ever since qualifying for Boston back in 2011 I haven’t really enjoyed the marathon very much. I’m not sure if I’ve fallen out of love with training for and running long races, or if life and circumstance have simply conspired to make doing so exceedingly challenging, but I’m feeling a need for change. .

I need to start loving my training again. Notice I said training and not running. I still love running, but for the past 9 months or so I’ve been running solely for fun and without any real direction. Aside from the Vermont City Marathon last May, a 4 mile race on July 4 in Maine (in which I won my age group), and a brutal trail 5K later that month in Craftsbury (in which I walked, a lot), I haven’t raced much in the past 18 months.

My running this winter has been erratic. I’ve run consistently despite the brutal weather, and I even managed to get my mileage up for a few weeks in January, but February was a mess of snowstorms, impassable sidewalks, and unsafe roads lined with giant snow banks. On top of that I managed to throw my lower back out for the 4th time in the past five or so years mid-month (by pushing a piece of wood with my foot, go figure…). So yeah, February sucked.

I ended the month of February with a trip to Florida. My back was feeling better and I managed some decent runs around the Disney property. I also walked a ton around the parks, I’d guess I tallied 50-60 miles walking and running combined over the 9 days I was there. Running in the warmth of Florida reminded me that Spring is coming (said in my best Eddard Stark voice; I’m ignoring the big snowstorm coming Wednesday night, let’s just pretend that’s not going to happen…). It reminded me that runs would soon not require 15 minutes of prep to bundle up in order to stay warm. It reminded me that I have about 10 pairs of road shoes that need to get reviewed, so I had better start upping my mileage. It reminded me that race season is around the corner.

One of the topics that we discussed at the Craftsbury Running Camps last summer was how to identify the type of runner you are. Lynn Jennings talked about how she knew that she was meant for the track and XC, whereas her contemporary Joan Benoit Samuelson wound up excelling at the marathon. It’s partly about knowing in which races you are most competitive, but also knowing the type of training that you enjoy. I’ve thought a lot about this since last summer, and even chatted with Lynn for a bit about my own running. I’ve come to realize that I really enjoy speedwork. I like hill repeats. I like the track. I like a max of about 12 miles for a long run. I don’t like running 15+ miles by myself on roads, at least not at this point in my life. I overperform in shorter races, and underperform in longer races. I think my body is built for racing short and fast.

When I think back to the most fun I’ve had in training, it was probably during summer 2012 in the lead-up to the Smuttynose Half Marathon. Caleb Masland coached me during that time, and I set monthly mileage PRs in both July and August that year. I ran a lot, I ran hard, and I had a blast. But I never ran longer than about 14 miles. And I wound up setting a huge PR at Smuttynose in a race where everything clicked (photo at the top of this post is from that race). It almost felt easy. It was probably the most fit I’ve ever been, and I long to get back to that.

So, last week I shot Caleb and email and told him I was ready to get back to it. My goals are to run hard and have fun, and to not run a marathon. I plan to start by focusing on the 5K. I have a long-standing PR at the 5K distance that needs to fall, and I’d like to do it before I turn 40 in November. I’ll stick with short and fast through the summer, then maybe a half marathon in the Fall if I feel a desire to go longer. No marathon for me this year.

Caleb sent me my first weekly training schedule on Saturday, here’s what it looks like for the week (I plan to shuffle the workouts/days a bit, for example I did Wednesday’s workout today since I ran with a co-worker. It’ll take a few weeks for Caleb and I to best assign workout types to particular days ):

  • Monday: 3 miles easy; 5 x 15 seconds strides after the run (walking recovery in between strides)
  • Tuesday: 3 miles easy. TKD at the gym.
  • Wednesday: 4 miles easy
  • Thursday: OFF from running
  • Friday: 4 miles easy, then 5 x 10 seconds hill repeats (hard effort up, jog back down, rest 10-15 seconds, repeat)
  • Saturday: 3 miles easy
  • Sunday: Longer run for the week, 7 miles

Looking at this schedule makes me smile, and that tells me it’s the right menu for me. It’s only 24 miles this week, but we’ll build on that going forward. I miss strides, I miss hill repeats, I miss the track. I’m excited to get started!

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