Putting the numbers into perspective

So many numbers.

I’m constantly yelling at myself to stop worrying about the damn numbers so much.

• Ignore the number on the scale and just get healthier.

• Ignore the numbers on your watch and just run.

• Ignore the numbers in your running log and on your Strava page, and just do what is necessary to be a better runner.

•Ignore all those numbers everyone else post, their pace, their mileage, their race times. It doesn’t fucking matter.

Yet I couldn’t stop myself from looking at my mileage for 2018. We are two and half days days from 2019 and I was curious where I stood compared to 2017, and for that matter 2016. Each of those years are tremendously different, which I’ll write about in a bit, but I was curious how this year stacks up.

• 2018: 1,404 miles, and counting.

 2017: 1,391 miles.

• 2016: 2,114

Like I said, those years are significantly different.

In 2016, I was mostly healthy and had two really good training blocks, preparing for the Kennebec River Rail Trail Half Marathon and the Maine Marathon.

In 2017, I was off to a really good start training for the Mid Winter Classic and the Sugarloaf Marathon, then I injured my hamstring, lowered my mileage in the summer to try to get healthy, and finally was forced to take two months off because of my bum knees.

This year, I changed my stride and basically started from scratch, slowly working my way back to regular consistent mileage. I also dealt with the fear of doing too much and going back on the shelf.

Taking a look at these numbers has reminded me why it is important not to blindly place too much stock in them. Looking at my mileage this year and comparing it to 2016, on the surface it looks like a huge disappointment, but it really isn’t. In January I was working my way through Couch to 5K as I tried to gain back some fitness and learn my new running form. Now in December, I’m running five or six days a week and I’m logging between 30-40 miles per week. That’s forward progress. That is momentum. That makes those 1,404 (and counting) miles this year a success.

I set a bunch of goals for myself for 2019, a few of them based around numbers. My new goal for 2019 is to not get too wrapped up in them. The idea is to do the work I need to do to become a better runner. To get stronger and faster, healthier and happier. The numbers will be a guide, but not the end all be all. They won’t determine whether or not my year was a success. Whether I do the work to feel good and have fun doing the work will determine if it was a good year or not.

Of course, I will still track everything and still obsesses over the numbers on my watch, and the numbers on the scale, because old habits are hard to break and I’m stubborn. Maybe that’s another goal I need to work on in 2019.

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Taking stock, setting goals

Out with the old Batman, in with the new.

Every December I take some time to set up my training log for the upcoming year. In an empty notebook, usually with a menacing drawing of Batman on the cover, I’ll create an index, set up pages to track my monthly/yearly mileage, to record all the races I ran that year, and for my goals for the upcoming year.

When I’m setting up that new log, I will also look back in my current log to see how things have gone for the past 11 1/2 months, and how I did on my goals for the current year.

I recently sat down and went through this process for 2019. My goals for 2018 were pretty casual, while my goals for 2019 are pretty specific and pretty lofty. Let’s take a look.

2018 to 2019. Setting goals.

In 2018, I set four goals for myself:

  1. Master mid-foot running form.
  2. Build my body into a runner’s body (PT/strength at least four times a week).
  3. Lose 20 pounds.
  4. JUST FUCKING RUN.

I’m not going to say I completely failed on all of those goals, but I wasn’t exactly super successful.

  1. My form is still very much a work in progress, but it is much more efficient than it used to be.
  2. I’ve had stretches of good habits, but my body is still soft and not nearly as strong as it should be.
  3. Not even close. I’m hovering around 180 now, which is right where I started the year, and pretty much where I started 2017. 2 and 3 need to be priorities.
  4. I have run plenty and enjoyed many of those miles, so that is a huge win.

My goals for 2019 build off some of those goals I set for myself in 2019. They also revolve around the races I have on my schedule. Most importantly, those goals are effort to push myself harder, to push myself to take training and my health more seriously.

  1. 3:47.
  2. Sub 1:45 half marathon
  3. Sub 23 minutes 5K
  4. Lose 20 pounds
  5. 50-mile week
  6. 200-mile month

Each one of those goals is tangible and, with the right amount of discipline and hard work, very reachable. Here’s my thinking behind each of them.

  1. As I wrote in my last post, this has been my goal for 5 years. I am actually aiming higher than that (3:40), but ultimately, 3:47 is my goal for the Chicago Marathon.
  2. My half marathon PR is 1:41:51. As I build myself back from last year’s injury mishaps, I can’t fathom running that fast. In my goal race for 2018, I ran 1:48:25. I can fathom running three-plus minutes faster.
  3. I broke 24 minutes in the 5K a few times this summer with very little speed training. Just getting back to training and running higher mileage, I think I can easily shave a minute off that time.
  4. It’s not all about the weight, though I’d be lying if I didn’t say that pillow above my belt didn’t bother the shit out of me. Those 20 pounds I want to lose are tied to my shitty diet. I snack way too much and my meals are too often the easiest thing to fix, which means sandwiches or frozen pizza. If I can finally tighten that up, and get into a better strength training routine, the weight will come off no problem and my knees will be grateful.
  5. I’ve hit 40 miles a few times this year. 50 miles just means I’m working harder toward my goals and feeling good about running. To get my body strong enough so my knees can take that sort of pounding, well, that would be the ultimate win.
  6. See No. 5.

I’m not necessarily a believer in New Year’s resolutions because WHY WAIT? I’ve already started some of the work toward my 2019 goals, but I am allowing myself to hit the reset button on Jan. 1. I’m not going to let my goals prevent me from enjoying the holidays and all the food and beverages that come with it. Jan. 1 is just another day, but it seems like a good time to buckle down and truly get to work on these lofty, for me, goals for 2019.

When I look back next December, I want to feel like I gave those goals my best effort possible. If I don’t reach them all, that’s OK, as long as I put in the work.

Aiming higher

Earlier this year, learning to run again, taking steps toward reaching that big goal

If you read this blog on a regular basis (when I’m posting on a regular basis, that is) or we have talked at all about running, you probably know that I have one goal that stands above all others. I have had a ton of goals in my 7 1/2 years of running, many I’ve reached, many I’m still chasing, but one holds more significance than the others. 

I have been chasing this one particular goal for more than five years and when I take my next swing at it, it will be six years and about a week old.

In the hours after jogging my first marathon, I set my sights on running 26.2 miles an hour faster than I just had. Finishing the Smuttynose Marathon on Oct. 6, 2013 in 4 hours, 47 minutes felt like a huge accomplishment, and for a guy who was in the process of losing more than 50 pounds and had been running for a little more than a year and a half, it was a huge accomplishment. However, I knew I was capable of much more.

On the car ride back to Maine, my goal of running a 3:47 marathon was born. In the five-plus years since I set that goal, I’ve taken four swings at accomplishing it. 

  1. I ran 3:56:55 at the 2014 Chicago Marathon.
  2. I jacked up my hamstring training for the 2015 Maine Marathon and had to skip the race. 
  3. I ran 3:50:12 at the Maine Marathon, crashing in the last 3-5 miles.
  4. I tweaked my hamstring training for the 2017 Sugarloaf Marathon, then suffered through a 4:12:05 on race day.

I’m taking another swing at that goal in 2019 when I run the Chicago Marathon. If I can get myself in shape to run that 3:47 on Oct. 13, my year of running will be a success. If I don’t run that fast, the race, and the year, can still be a success, but finally erasing 3:47 off that chalk board that hangs in my bedroom would make it a killer day. 

So why, all of the sudden, am I setting my sights even higher?

As I set goals for the 2019 race season and wrap my brain around exactly what I’m going to have to do to get ready for Chicago, I do want to aim higher. 3:47 is a good goal because it has significance, but I feel if I put my mind to it, I’m capable of more.

That’s a strange thing to say, since I’ve been chasing that goal for so long, but I also feel like in each of those training cycles I’ve left something on the table.

• In 2014, I had no idea what I was doing training for or running a marathon.

• In 2015, I was stupid and didn’t care for my body.

• In 2016, I ran more than I ever have, but I didn’t do enough other stuff to get myself ready to run a good marathon.

• In 2017, I didn’t learn my lesson and I wasn’t strong enough mentally to push myself through all the hurt. 

I talk a lot about wanting to get to the next level, wanting to do the work it takes to be a better runner, wanting to stop settling and actually believe in myself enough to chase bigger and faster things. 

Which is why my ‘A’ goal for the Chicago Marathon is to run 3:40. Like I said, 3:47 would be awesome, but I want more, and I want to stop settling and start working harder and smarter. 

I ran 3:50 at the Maine Marathon in 2016. This was heart of my training. I saw this yesterday and said, “holy shit.”

It’s kind of funny I’m throwing this out there right now, because my confidence isn’t exactly sky high. As I said in my last post, I was looking back at my mileage from the summer of 2016 and I’m overwhelmed. Running 50-plus miles a week seems so daunting right now, especially with the way my legs felt after an hour and half on the roads yesterday, which put me at just over 35 miles for the week (I’m a little bit sick, though, which may have something to do with being so sore). 

Training to run a 3:40 marathon seems crazy to me right now. Shit, training for a 3:47 marathon seems crazy. It seems way over my head and the thought of all that work gives me a panic attack. 

Yeah, so what? 

Where I’m at right now isn’t where I will be in Oct. 2019. My lack of overall fitness shouldn’t stop me from making the effort to get into the best shape possible, it should encourage me to start doing the work. To really focus on those habits and routines I keep talking about. To figure out what I’m going to do for a training plan (I really think I need to hire a coach, again). To start convincing myself I’m capable of way more than I believe I am. 

So yeah, I have a lot of work to do. I want to do the work. I want to cross off some of those goals, especially that big one that I’ve been chasing for so long. 

Let’s do this.

Operation: Chicago 3.0

I went to bed Monday night, thinking about new plans. My original plan was to run the Chicago Marathon in October. I signed up for the lottery. I booked a hotel. I was all set to go. 

But I was convinced when I went to bed Monday night, I would spend all day Tuesday checking my email, wondering if my name was drawn for the Chicago Marathon, and what I would do when it wasn’t. I was already researching if I could cancel my hotel room and getting annoyed because there is a cancellation fee. I was ready, when I found out I didn’t get picked for Chicago, to sign up for the Maine Marathon. 

I had plans, and I had backup plans. 

The whole thing was stupid and a waste of time. 

It was a waste of time because at 9:41 a.m. Tuesday morning I received an email informing me I had been selected for the Chicago Marathon. It was also a waste of time because I spent energy worrying about something I had no control over. I put my name in the lottery, there was nothing else I could. I’m not fastest enough to have an automatic qualifier and I haven’t run Chicago enough to get in as a legacy runner. I also missed the chance to sign up for a charity team, so the lottery was my only chance. Either I would get picked or I wouldn’t, no sense getting worked up about it.

I’m trying to not get too worked up about it now that I’m in, either. The race is 10 months away, there is plenty of time to get worked up about it. I have other things to focus on, other races to prepare for before I have to dive headfirst into a marathon cycle.

That being said, when it is time to dive into that marathon cycle, sometime in late June or early July, I want to be ready to get after it. I was flipping through my training log from the summer of 2016, when I was training for the Maine Marathon, and I was floored to see how far away from that type of work I am right now. From the first week of April until the first week of October (Maine Marathon week) in 2016 I had three weeks of less than 40 miles. Many of those weeks were over 50 miles. I have hit 40 miles in a week once since my knees put me on the shelf last October. Actually, I rarely touched 40 miles after I tweaked my hamstring training for the Sugarloaf Marathon last May. 

Operation: Chicago 2.0 when I ran 3:56 in 2014.. Operation: Chicago 1.0 was a baseball trip in 2003 and it was epic.

In other words, it takes a lot of work to train for a marathon and I actually need to do a lot of work to be ready to do that work if I am going to have the race I want to have when I make my second trip to Chicago for the marathon.

That work got underway when Fleet Feet’s Mid Winter Classic class started last week. I’m happy to have a plan to keep me on track, especially in the cold ass weather and the holiday season. I’m slowly, and hopefully smartly, working my way back to a level of fitness I haven’t had in a long time. My goal is to get back to that point I was in 2016 when I ran the best marathon of my life, and to push way past that.

I have a pretty lofty goal for Chicago, which I’m not ready to share yet (though if you follow my Instagram story, I made reference to it there). It might be way out of my wheelhouse, but for too long I haven’t allowed myself to believe I’m capable of more and it is holding me back. In 2019 my No. 1 goal is to believe in myself and challenge myself to do things and go places I never thought possible. It is going to take a lot of work and a lot of discipline, something I am sorely lacking at times, but it’s time to invest in me. It’s time to stop holding back, and being lazy, and not fucking going for it. 

It’s time to stop wasting energy on stuff I can’t control and get ready to go get it in October. 

Because Operation: Chicago 3.0 is happening. 

Creating better habits and routines

Drive to the gym, run from the gym, end the run at the gym, go in the gym to do strength work, drive home. 

I spent yesterday pissing and moaning about how lazy I am, and how that negatively impacts my ability to reach my goals. Go back and read about it, if you want to see what it is like when I lecture myself. 

Today, I’m trying to actually do something about it. I drove to the gym and jogged 5 miles from there, then went inside to stretch and do a little physical therapy/strength work. It seems silly to drive a few miles down the road, then get out of my car and go for a run, but the idea is to create habits. If I drive to the gym and run from the gym, I’ll likely go inside the gym and do a some of that other stuff I need to do. If I run from home and end my run at home, I’m likely to walk in the house, grab a water and a snack, then get distracted by my computer, my TV or one of the cats. 

Standing at work is one of those habits that I need to get to stick.

Like I wrote yesterday, my goal for the rest of 2018 is to create better habits. If that means driving to the gym to get in my miles so I will then go into the gym and do some strength work, then that is what I’ll do. If it means setting an alarm so I will be reminded to stand up at work, then I’ll set an alarm to remind myself to get off my ass and standup. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m seriously considering it. I can’t standup for my whole shift because … well because I’m lazy and my back can’t handle it. (See, I need to get stronger). 

It’s a start. It’s not enough, but it is a start. I don’t know the trick to getting these routines to stick, but I need to start somewhere. I sat down today and booked lodging for two of my goal races (one I’m in, one I’m still awaiting word on), and if I’m going to spend that much money on entry fees, hotels and travel, I damn well want to be prepared to run well. The trips will be fun regardless, and they should be because that’s the point, but they’ll be a heck of a lot more fun if I crush the shit of those races. 

Now the challenge is to get these habits to stick and to create more habits to continue to improve. Changing my routine in the morning to start the day with physical therapy rather than social media and TV would be a good one. Setting a goal for the number of pushups I want to do every day and just knocking a few out when the coffee is brewing or I have an extra minute or two at work would also be a good one (I already get strange looks from the folks at work, so who cares?) Avoiding late-night, post-work snacks, and getting to bed and to sleep as early as possible, is another good one. Having one beer at the pub run instead of two … yeah, that’s another good one.

Anything and everything I can do to get myself into better shape I will consider. 

Enough starts and stops

I’m a slacker in the weight room. It shows. And it has to stop.

I’ve been lying to myself.

For weeks, maybe months, I’ve been telling myself I’m ready to really start training again. To move past just running and start working toward goals.

Following a plan.

Strength training.

Doing speed work.

Adding on mileage. 

Yet … I haven’t really gotten started. 

Oh, sure, I have moments of where I do the right things. I had three weeks at the end of October and the start of November where I did a couple of speed sessions a week and a long run on the weekends. I’ll have a string of three or four days in a row of doing physical therapy/strength work. I’ll actually get on the foam roller and stretch after I run from time to time. 

But nothing sticks. 

I was thinking about it this morning, as I sat in bed watching YouTube and scrolling through social media, instead of doing my physical therapy or getting out the door for a run. “Why am I just sitting here? It’s already 9:30, I should get my shit together and get to work.” 

“Stop lying to yourself that you are ready to work hard and train, because clearly, you mentally aren’t.” 

(Yes, I do talk to myself. It’s totally normal, right?)

I eventually got off the bed and spent an hour and 15 minutes splashing around in the pouring rain. 8 miles later, I felt like I had accomplished something, but I also felt like I am so far behind where I should be, where I want to be. 

I have some pretty big goals for 2019. I’m thinking I’d like to PR in the half marathon, at New York or later in the year, and I would like to finally put 3:47 in my rearview. I need to work a lot harder than I am right now, or than I ever have to even come close to those goals. I need better routines. I need to work with a purpose. I need to get stronger, faster and healthier. 

Maybe if I stopped taking selfies at the gym and actually accomplished something I’d be faster.

In other words, I need to do the things I am constantly saying I need to do, but not actually doing. I’m sure I could look back through the history of this blog and find 20 or more post about this very topic. I know I need to do better to be the runner I want to be, but honestly, I just kind of coast along. 

I’m not sure how to change my approach, to break my lazy tendencies and to get myself to do more than just coast. Maybe I need to go back to working with a coach. Maybe I need to schedule myself to be at the gym at a certain time or commit to run with friends, so I have no choice but to show up. Figuring out my insomnia would sure help. It would be a lot easier to get going in the morning if I woke up refreshed, rather than groggy and tired because I tossed and turned most of the night (waking up in a full on panic attack Friday night because I was having a nightmare didn’t help me get going Saturday morning, that’s for damn sure). 

My goal for the rest of 2018 is to figure out my routines, to get myself into better habits, and to begin doing the work I need to do to reach those big goals I have for myself in 2019. I’ve lost enough time to injury and coasting in the last two years, it’s time to flip the switch and actually get to work. It’s time to stop lying to myself about wanting to do the work and actually convince myself to do the work. 

Looking forward to New York, and more

New York shenanigans circa 2011. I don’t recognize that guy. 

From 2001 to 2013, I spent St. Patrick’s Day weekend in New York City. For the first 10 years of those trips, I walked around the city, overweight and out of shape, wondering where I was going to get my next beer and where I could get the best burger. Then, I started running and the highlight of those trips were the miles I logged in Central Park. 

I’ll return to New York for St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2019 and I’ll log miles all over the city. 

Late Wednesday night, after refreshing my web browser about 95 times, I saw I had been selected in the lottery for the New York City Half Marathon. The race will take place on the morning of Sunday, March 17, which also happens to be my 45th birthday.

Happy birthday to me.

I’m really looking forward to getting a different look at New York City. Running through Times Square, without all the cars screaming down the street, horns blaring, breaks squealing, will surely be an incredible experience. 

With the news that I was accepted into this race, my 2019 race schedule is starting to take shape. I have two goal races already on the schedule – the Mid-Winter Classic 10 Miler and the NYC Half – and I’m awaiting word on what would be the biggest goal race of the year – the Chicago Marathon. I’ll learn on Dec. 11 if I have been selected in that lottery and if I’m not, I’ll try to join a charity team so I can toe the line for Operation: Chicago 3.0 on Oct. 13. 

Now, I need to get to work getting into shape. I had three really good weeks of training after the MDI Half Marathon, then things slowed down when I ran the Turkey Trot 5K and the weather turned to shit. This week has been better and next week I’ll start training with a group for the 10-miler, so hopefully I’ll get some good forward momentum going. 

I’m starting to set some goals for 2019 and starting to figure out what I need to do to reach those goals.  

My first goal is to create better habits. I need to do a better job of getting myself going in the morning to not only get my miles in, but to do my warmup and drills pre-run, to stretch post run, and to do physical therapy every day. I need to get in the habit of doing core and strength work a couple times (or more) a week.

With better habits, I’m hoping reaching my second goal will be a little bit easier. I’ve been hovering between 180-185 pounds for much of the last year and I’m figuring out to run the type of races I want to run, I need to lose some weight. I have done my best racing when I weighed between 165-170. It won’t be easy, with all the holiday food I’m sure to be around, but I would love to toe the line in New York in that range. Improving my diet and my training habits will help me reach that race weight. 

I’ve been thinking about time goals for Mid-Winter, NYC and Chicago. I’m hoping to run 1:20ish at Mid-Winter, but I have no idea what to shoot for at New York. I’m kind of eying 1:45, but I’ll give that some more thought. For Chicago, or whatever marathon I run, the goal is always 3:47 until I break 3:47, but I’d like to think with a good year of training I can go even faster than that. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself on that one, I have to make sure my knees will let me run the type of mileage I need to to run that kind of race. 

I’m not going to over think it yet. I mostly enjoy running right now, when my insomnia allows me a decent night of sleep, so I want to keep that momentum going. As we get closer to the New Year, I’ll start to hammer those habits and try not to eat too many Christmas cookies or meat pies.

I haven’t had too many running highlights in 2017 and 2018. I’m hoping the NYC half is just one of many in 2019.