WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR BRAND NEW YEAR?

01.11.2017
Start of the First Half Half Marathon

Start of the First Half Half Marathon

OK, so 2017 isn’t absolutely brand new anymore, but I’ve been busy. That includes running a bit, visiting with some of the kids and one of the grandsons and even officially getting a year older.

[I kind of love having a really early January birthday. Keeps it simple when wondering what age group I’m in for any given year. This year doesn’t matter, but when I switch age categories, it is just sooooo easy. Unless I do some kind of New Year’s resolution run, I’m pretty much in the same age group for the whole year. I keep silly amounts of statistics on my running, racing and performance, so it is quite nice to have any given calendar year and any given age coincide almost perfectly.] But, I digress.

This post really isn’t about me except as it applies to me as a part of this group we call runners and as an example regarding the importance of planning that we do.

I am a firm believer that all runners need a plan for the year if they want it to be fun and productive, and especially, ‘injury free’. My own last year turned out to be a little too free-form and got a bit out of hand.

Lead Women - Boston Marathon 2009 - Being Fierce

Lead Women – Boston Marathon 2009 – Being Fierce

In my humble opinion, it doesn’t matter if you are running at a highly competitive level, are just planning to run a few races (mostly for fun) or something in between. In my experience, even when racing ‘for fun’, the race mentality can take over, and planned  or not, there is a tendency to push at least a little. We obviously need to be ready for a competitive season, but we also need sufficient training to ensure that even those ‘fun’ races ARE indeed fun and not a source of sorrow.

Planning seems to be the key. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this subject, but I feel it is worth repeating. Context is everything, whether it involves being highly competitive or not, running 5Ks or marathons, or even hitting the track. You need to train for what you will do in terms of racing. If the goal(s) is long (ultras, marathon or half marathon), you need a longer build-up and certain kinds of training to ensure a sound performance. By ‘sound performance’ I include a wide range of actual outcomes. Even if you just want to participate, you still need to do enough training to run safely, finish happy and uninjured. It goes without saying that if the goal is a PB, the training is what will get you there. You must plan for the training as well as the racing.

Diane Palmason - 200m on track - Running in the Zone contributor, getting it done!

Diane Palmason – 200m on track – Running in the Zone contributor, getting it done!

I have some friends that run a lot of races and others that run a lot, but race sparingly. It is still necessary to build the races into the training. And, from the particular perspective of a ‘seasoned’ runner, this must include sufficient recovery time. Hey folks, there is a reason that the world’s best marathoners only run a couple of marathons a year. The largest number of races of any kind that I’ve done in a single year is 19. Back closer to when I started in the late 1980s I may have done more, but probably not, or certainly not a lot more (earliest records are a bit incomplete). I know a fellow who often runs at least two races in a weekend and when track season is on, will log 2-3 in an evening meet. Naturally, these are all relatively short distances. Since I’ve known him, I believe 10K is the longest he has raced.

Bob Dolphin Maniac #32 in his 300th Marathon - now at about 500

Bob Dolphin Maniac #32 in his 300th Marathon – now at about 500 and another RITZ Contributor

At the other end of the scale are the Marathon Maniacs. The most marathons I ever personally did in a calendar year was 7, but that extended to 9 in the associated 12 month period. Most Maniacs aren’t claiming speed or BQ times. The goal is completing the races, lots of them. Still, THAT is a very real goal AND it needs the appropriate planning and training. Most Maniacs (or Half Fanatics for that matter) going for a lot of races in a relatively short time, use the last race as the ‘long (training) run’ for the next and just cycle from one race to the next with a bit of recovery, some easy runs and then the next race. It works, too. Well, as long as you don’t suddenly decide you can do volume AND performance. I’m not saying that Marathon Maniacs are all just plodding through the events to get to a finish line. Some are turning in quite fine times, but probably not the best times they could with a different approach/goal. I’m also not saying they are always doing volume. Sometimes we diminish the number and go for the result in just a couple of races in the year. It all comes down to your plan.

It is probably kind of obvious that if you have a serious intention of either speed OR volume, you need to define it before you start and then build around it. I usually try to do just that, but last year I somehow seem to have messed that up a little (I think I believed I was reducing the intensity of my running by letting things come as they may). I have never been so tired at the end of a year of running. It has caused me to do some major reflecting on the whole idea of planning the year ahead for myself and is the inspiration for this blog post.

Since this blog is generally for the ‘seasoned’ runner, another wrinkle (if you’ll excuse the expression) is that any plan needs to recognize that as we become more and more seasoned, there must be some respect for the absolute amount of running done and within that total, the ratio of training to racing. Should you now be poised to learn the magic answer to this difficult balancing act?

NO. I don’t have the answers for anyone else. Based on the past year, I may not even have the answer for myself!

What I can do is to try to ask the ‘question’ in such a way that you find your own way to your own answer. It is going to be different for everyone anyway. I think the only real advice I can give is that you should take time with it and define carefully, those things that are important to you. For instance, if the goal for the year is a BQ marathon, you need to select the right race at the right time and put in both the training and foundation races (5K, 10K maybe a well timed Half) to get there.  Once you have some defined goals and a plan, you should try to stick with it as much as possible re things within your control, or you might find yourself like me in 2016, showing up for what is an important race to you, too tired to do it well.

Judi Cumming on el Camino, somewhere in the heart of Spain.

Judi Cumming on el Camino, somewhere in the heart of Spain.

The astute reader, well maybe almost any reader who hasn’t nodded off by now, will notice that I drifted into talking about a level of performance racing. Although the approach might be different, the general principles still apply to fun races and easy recreational running. I always believe you must ‘respect the distance’. Naturally, the longer the race the more critical that becomes. In other words, prepare properly for whatever you intend to do. My wife has done a couple of long segments of el Camino de Santiago. For those who aren’t familiar with “The Camino” it is a pilgrimage walk. The first time she went, it was the classic route through Spain as featured in the movie, The Way (as in The Way of Saint James). The second route started in France (near Lyon) and finished at the starting point of the first trek. Plus or minus, each segment is about 750km. On average, she and her small group covered 23km/day. One of the things she noticed was that in general and when it happened, it was the young people who had the greatest difficulty. Upon reflection, she concluded it was because they felt that being young and fit it was no big deal to walk 20-25km/day, when you have all day to do it. That is probably true if you are talking about ONE day. It is not true if you are talking day after day for some 30-35 days. Respect the distance! Do the training.

Even if  you are talking about a fun family outing at a 5K or 10K, a little preparation goes a long way. Here in Vancouver, we have the Sun Run 10K. Sports Med BC puts on a clinic called InTraining. I was involved for five years as a Leader and Clinic Coordinator. It is a 13 week program designed to help you learn to run (or walk or walk/run) 10K (at any speed that suits you). It is hugely successful, but please note, it is THIRTEEN (13) weeks, training 3 days per week). The focus is to help any given person complete the distance, happily and without injury. Pace? That is up to the individual. THIRTEEN WEEKS.

Finishing my very FIRST First Half! February 2016

Finishing my very FIRST First Half! February 2016

With any luck and a certain amount of perseverance, I will actually heed my own advice in 2017. At the moment, I’m still struggling with the big goals on which I’ll build my year. Until I decide on that, it is hard to pick specific races and hard to define appropriate training. For the next 3-4 weeks I am held captive (a good thing) by my role as a pace group leader for the Forerunners clinic leading up to the Pacific Road Runners’ First Half Half Marathon. I’m not running the First Half this year, but the training program is a kind of ‘place keeper’ that should let me do whatever I want as things move past race day. Once the First Half is done, the target of the program at Forerunners switches to the BMO Vancouver Marathon (and half marathon) in May. At the moment, it doesn’t look like there are any marathoners in my pace group, but that could still change. Probably not, based on previous experience. One of my own possible races under consideration is another marathon (Eugene) right in line with the Clinic schedule. So, I may wind up training for a marathon with or without others in my pace group.

The point is that I’ve got about 15 things whirling about in my mind and if I’m actually going to build a sound plan for myself, that list MUST narrow down. Other than to state that I feel I have some big personal decisions to make regarding my future as a runner, I won’t go on in detail about my thoughts related to my own running in 2017 and beyond. I bring all of this up because there is a pretty good chance I’m not the only one at or near a personal turning point. There is no question that things can change for better or worse, so a plan is only a plan. You make it. You try to follow it. BUT, you need to be ready to have it change if something comes up (and I don’t mean you suddenly find a new race).

Running with #1 Grandson at Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (8K) - Oct 2016

Running with #1 Grandson at Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon (8K) – Oct 2016

One of my personal decisions revolves around new experiences vs tried and true events I’ve done before. While actually writing this post, I confirmed some race plans involving my daughter and the grandson I’ve started racing with over the last couple of years. That nails down some important anchor points for me and to my own surprise, has clarified some near term potentials for racing even though the race we talked about is way off in October.

I think that for a good race plan, you need to take time to build it around your aspirations and abilities, not to mention the available time you have to devote to it. Needless to say, a really seasoned athlete like me is less encumbered by little things like work, new babies and such! That CAN be a double edged sword though where it comes to execution of the plan. In the days when I had to fit my running into a pretty busy schedule it was easier to say I AM going to run today at 6am and that’s it. Now, as a retired person, it is pretty tempting and easy to say “It’s raining, hard; no need for me to run now. I’ll go later”. Generally, that works fine, but sometimes the day just seems to get away and the run doesn’t happen. Doesn’t occur often, but I’ve noticed that I do have to watch it. Maybe I better stick one of my birthday cards up on the wall somewhere. It says: Ignore the RAIN. Look for the RAINBOW! Interestingly, and maybe even significantly, it came from some runner friends.

I suppose a piece on planning would be incomplete if one did not slip in something about “Plan your work and Work your plan.” No matter how cliché or trite that may be, it is still very good advice. It is particularly good if you are just starting (though not many reading Running in the Zone probably fit that profile), or starting again. It can be hard to remember that to be effective, your training program must be steady and continue toward whatever  you have chosen to do.

Negril 2011 - Gratuitous photo from Jamaica, but a memory of the marathon that wasn't in the year of injury.

Negril 2011 – Gratuitous photo from Jamaica, but a memory of the marathon that wasn’t in the year of injury. The green ribbon signifies 10K not the marathon I intended to do.

Finally, it would be wrong not to mention the need to respect serious unplanned interruptions. You never know when life is going to come and throw something at you and it may not have anything to do with running. You CAN adjust your goals and plans. It is allowed. In fact, it is recommended when something major comes along. The first thing that comes to mind for most of us is an injury, and there is no doubt that can be a biggie. In 2011 I lost most of a year by not respecting an early in the season injury and finishing the Eugene Marathon anyway. But, there are lots of other things that can come along. Ill health is one. The new job or new baby I mentioned above, or maybe a promotion/move are others. If you have some big running goal but you suddenly can’t do the training, you may want to postpone that race (the distance) for a bit, or even to the next year (if your goal is event specific). I find that doing a race I have not trained properly for and coming up short is far more disappointing than knowing I have done my very best, even if the outcome is less than I hoped it might be. Things like unexpected heat can throw your plans. There is nothing you can do about it when it happens. If you are well trained and do the best  you can on the day, the time is not that important. I’ll just leave it there, because I think most runners know exactly what I mean.

So, I think that is it for now. Time for me to get back to making my personal plan for 2017. Hopefully, I’ve helped a few others to get started on their own plans.

Happy 2017, and Good Running to all!

 

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