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Dreaming Big

March 2, 2013
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Most people post their end-of-year posts at the end of the calendar year, but that doesn’t work for me. Most of the time, my training period wraps around the end of the year, with goal races in the early months of the year. In the last few years, my training season really has finished after the 30 hard miles at Gasparilla. The end of that event marks the completion of all my goal races for the season, the start of my off-season rest period, and the realigning of some goals based on my race performance across the fall and winter.

How did training go this season?

Most years, I have a few goals. I generally aim to set a PR at each distance, and set specific weekly, monthly, and yearly mileage goals. This year, I threw all that out the window. I wanted to stay healthy,and though when the year started I dreamed of running a fast half marathon, I willingly sacrificed that goal when offered the chance to race a fast marathon.

So, in the end, that was my distilled goal for this training season: to lower my marathon PR. Specifically, my goal was to come in under 4:15. My dream, stretch goal was 4:10. That meant a 20-minute improvement from my first attempt at the distance, so I thought it was an ambitious push.

As it turns out, I came in four minutes under my “ambitious” goal, exhausted but feeling like if I’d paced myself better, had more mental toughness, and been more experienced at racing 26.2, I could have come close to breaking four hours. In other words, I not only crushed my very focused goal of improving at the marathon, but came away with new goals.

Above getting to rewrite my new personal best at 26.2, though, I think this season taught me to refocus. I may never again focus on mileage as a goal, at least not in this phase of my life. Right now, my goals are all about speed and enjoyment, and focusing on high mileage gets in the way of that.

What are the goals for the next 12 months?

This question gets tricky because 12 months is a long time, but it would be untrue to say that I haven’t started to plan, along with Fern, some races and goal times, even into the fall and winter.

Little G and I met with Fern earlier today, to thank her again for her constant help, her effective coaching, and her good-humored pushing. While at Gasparilla, we bought her a headband with the phrase “You Can, and You Will,” which so well expresses the way she coaches us. She believed in my 4:06 well before I did, and the times she’s throwing out at me in every other distance seem far fetched, but I’m willing to do the work to see results.

With that in mind, we’re all in agreement that a decent break is in order, and are not planning to run for at least another week. Fern is encouraging us to bike or spin, do some yoga or Pilates, or anything else that keeps us active but off our legs, which have been taxed enough in the last month. Starting in mid-March, we’ll return to training. We’ve already circled a few races on the calendar, and we’re being more ambitious this year: we’re hoping to race a 5k in the summer, a half in the fall, and a marathon in the winter.

Fern also took stock of our on-course race photos from both Tallahassee and Gasparilla to analyze our form, especially the ways it deteriorates as we get tired. This was especially obvious at Gasparilla, where our pictures at the 8k, the last race of the weekend, after 25 hard miles, show us running dead tired. As always, the first thing I noticed about my stride is my horrific heel-strike, but Fern is far more concerned about our upper body carriage and making sure we have no hip rotation, even in the last miles. With that in mind, she is starting us out on a simple strengthening program to work our trapezius, our glutes, our hip flexors, and our ankles. The exercises won’t take long, but they’ll ensure we keep it together during the last miles of a tough race.

As we begin training again, with new goals before us, it’s exciting to begin to think of what might be possible. I’m ready to dream again, and to dream big.

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