Another year over, and what have you done?

Not much, frankly. At least, that’s how it feels.

I haven’t posted nearly as many updates here as I’d wanted to over the course of the year, though I’d say that’s probably because I really didn’t have much of anything to post about until the last few months.

And the past few months have been the most insane months, professionally, of my life. So my running has nonetheless been at a kind of treading-water standstill until I can get things under some modicum of control.

My year-over-year running stats aren’t terribly impressive, though I am glad I crossed the almighty 1000-mile mark. Still, didn’t come close to the monstrous 2014 (I have no idea how I did that; I had a freaking wedding, a dissertation defense, and a relocation that year).

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I’m convinced that Garmin changed how their software computes elevation gain from GPS data somewhere in 2012-2013 and again 2014-2015, because seriously, wtf.

This year has been frustrating. I was really hoping it’d be a comeback year for me after last year’s extremely lackluster and injury-prone antics, but that was derailed early on by an injury that just wouldn’t go away, and then further put on hold by a professional life that rode burnout for a couple months. The month-by-month breakdown throws this into sharp relief:

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Take a look at the last few months of 2015, and the first few months of 2016, in comparison to the rest of 2016 (from May onwards): they’re night and freakin’ day.

(This month has been a little weird with travel, sickness, and general burnout recovery, but I’m hoping I can ramp things up in the next 10 days and still hit 100 miles)

October’s Ath Half was a wake-up call that my body has been responding to the training without my consciously realizing it–that I’m slowly getting stronger even if I don’t really feel that way. So now, I want to see if I can start to capitalize on that.

Obviously that would take the form of more frequent structured workouts (I currently do…ZERO!) in the form of speed work at the track and tempo runs. Additionally, I’d like to maintain the current level of weight-training (sessions with Matt are pretty awesome) and hopefully throw in some more cross-training (yoga, erg, cycling).

Of course, this is all going to depend on what my spring shapes up to be. Right now, I’m slated to teach yet another brand-new course, so at least initially that’s going to take up all my time and energy. But since it’s only one course, as opposed to the two from this past fall, I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t be such a time sink.

The Lady will be going for her next BQ attempt–Glass City in April–and I’m toying with the idea of hiring her coach to be mine as well. I really want to get back on the horse, and I think adding some structure and accountability to someone other than myself will be the best way to do it. I’m just not sure what form that should take:

  • Should I go for the sub-1:40 half marathon? I’ve been in that hunt for almost 5 years, and achieving that would feel really freaking good.
  • Should I go for the sub-4 hour marathon? I’m still convinced my current 4:17 is a soft PR, and with the right training it could tumble.

The half obviously is more conducive to someone with a tight work schedule, but in some ways I feel like the full would be less stressful and a good way to get my mental game back on track as well as my physical game.

Feel free to leave any feedback on this 🙂

Happy holidays!

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On to 2016!

So, what are your new year’s resolutions?

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I have a few, though they all ultimately converge on one single, broad resolution: get back into the thick of things.

I spent the better part of 2015 with an extremely finicky metatarsal, resulting in my lowest annual running mileage to date (since I started keeping track, at least): 1,018 miles. I’m glad I got over 1,000, but it’s quite a bit less than 2014’s monster 1600+. And that mileage came with a wedding, a thesis defense, and a cross-regional move! 2015, what’s your excuse?

…oh right. Injury. Ahem.

So like I was saying: getting back on that running train is my #1 goal. More specifically, though, there are a couple other milestones I want to hit.

  • 1500+ miles. I miss the uber mileage, I really do. Notching my first 200-mile month was awesome, to say the least. I’d like to hit that again this year if I can, but more importantly I want to get back into consistent high mileage.
  • Sub-1:40 half marathon. It’s been on my mind ever since break 1:45 back in early 2012; numerous setbacks since then have kept this goal on the back burner, but it’s simmered there. Boiled. Came close to exploding when I hit 1:41 practically on the nose in 2014. Due to injury this past year, my best half performance was a 1:49–made more impressive by the fact that all I did to train was bike obscene distances–but with Mark as my coach for the Albany half in March, I’m confident this is a very real possibility.
  • Race weight. The holiday season is great for visiting family, not so great if you’re trying to maintain a race weight. I’m not picky, but I do recognize that I can run faster when I’m not carrying extra pounds around. 210lbs is my goal; definitely achievable.
  • Bench press. An injury I haven’t discussed here: sometime in the latter part of 2015, I injured my left shoulder. Still not sure how, but suffice to say it was pretty bad: a good month of complete and total rest had to go by before I could start PT-type exercises, and only recently have I been able to really hit the strength training again. My bench press is about as low as I can ever remember–I just did 4×10 of 135lbs this very morning, which is along the lines of what I did as a freshman in high school–so I’d like to get back into fighting form there as well. I’m well on my way, but I want to get back to the 225lbs reps of a year ago.
  • Blogging! Oh man did blogging take a backseat as last fall went on. All told, I managed a paltry 31 blog posts across 3 blogs; 19 of those on this one. Over a whole year. That’s pretty sad! So I’m changing things up a bit this year: this blog will still be here, and I’ll keep using to discuss my running / athletic escapades, but I’m closing up shop at my other two blogs and consolidating them in a new github-based static blog: http://magsol.github.io/ . I’m still getting it up and running but I made great strides over the holiday break; it’s just about done. I figure between two blogs I can manage a more respectable update frequency.

And remember: don’t hate on the resolutioners in the gym. We were all there once as workout newbies. Encourage them to stick it out beyond January!

Any interesting running goals / resolutions for 2016?

Rebooting and restarting

This hasn’t exactly been a banner year for me with running.

Most of it is due to one big factor I don’t really have much control over: injury (metatarsalgia). That’s come under a bit more control lately, as I received the first of two sets of custom orthotics a few weeks back and can already tell they’re helping redistribute weight where it’s supposed to be and allowing the irritated joints to actually start healing.

That being said, I’m still injured, and my running mileage is still in the tank. I’ve logged barely 950 miles this year; I may yet break 1000, but I’m on track to set the lowest annual mileage since I started tracking it on Garmin Connect.

Of course, the flip side of the injury is the innumerable personal records I’ve set in cycling. This year alone, I’ve logged more cycling workouts, more cycling mileage, and simply more time on the bike than 2011-2014 combined. I have nearly 650 miles on the bike this year, and really that’s all been in the last 6 months. Not too shabby!

All this is to say: I’m hungry to get back into the mix.

The Lady ran an incredible marathon (go read about it!) under the direction of her coach. Given her goal of catching the unicorn this spring, there is absolutely no way I can expect her to help me get back on my feet with running. But I’ve been out of the game so long, I can tell my mental acumen is not nearly where it once was; while I’m still not 100% physically, my biggest weakness is far more mental than physical right now.

As such, I’ll also be hiring The Lady’s coach; not to catch a unicorn, but to get me back into fighting form. I’m going to need someone to help me set goals and to keep running when I want to quit. My mental game was my greatest Achilles’ heel even before I was injured; it’s likely a veritable sea monster now, and I’ll need help taming it once more.

Yes, I netted a sub-1:50 half marathon at Chickamauga last month, despite being injured and running a grand total of 90 miles over all of September, October, and November combined (including the race itself). I even managed to feel phenomenal while doing it. But while it’s pretty thrilling to be able to hit sub-1:50 while subsisting purely on long bike rides (50-mile rides are not trivial, bee tee dubs), it’s fleeting. It doesn’t stick with me. It doesn’t stoke the fire in my belly. The thought of a sub-1:50 half marathon is fun, but doesn’t make me bolt out of bed.

The thought of a sub-1:35 half, on the other hand, most certainly does.

I want to run with reckless abandon again. I want to race a half marathon, putting my heart and soul into it; feeling like I’m tearing to shreds in the final miles and the only thing holding it all together is sheer force of will. I want to race a full marathon, gritting my teeth through the final 10K while stubbornly putting one foot in front of the other in a staunch refusal to accept anything less than my first sub-4hour finish. I want to haul ass while feeling like death warmed up, confident that nothing and no one could coax a single rate constant’s worth more ATP reactions out of my muscles at this moment than I am right now.

I’m ready to get back to work.

Highs and Lows of 2013

Hello again, poor neglected blog.

Yesterday, as The Lady and I were on the road to Lewiston, MI for the new year, a friend of ours posted some thought-provoking conversational fodder that included the following:

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Thinking about it for more than two seconds yielded a longer response than could fit in a tweet, so I decided to dust off the ol’ blag and blabber about my highs and lows of 2013. A year-in-review without the annoying tagline, if you will.

Let’s get the depressing stuff over with first, shall we?

Lows of 2013

Frankly, there were a lot. 2013 was a difficult year in a lot of ways, but it was probably reflected most poignantly in my running.

IT band injury in late April, sidelining me for the Pittsburgh half marathon. I had just PR’d in a 10K the day after running 15 miles. Training was going unbelievably well. My speed and endurance were going through the roof. But right at the start of peak week, my IT band suddenly screamed bloody murder. Exacerbating the problem was my own inexperience: muscle injuries, which I’m used to, are very different from IT band injuries, which I’d never had before. Consequently, I took the only approach I knew and treated it like a muscle injury. Ultimately, I was forced to drop out of the Pittsburgh half and a very likely sub-1:40 achievement.

Backward progress in half marathon and marathon goal times. Due to a combination of travel and injury, I was only able to run a single half marathon this year (Air Force), and due to the following item, I was not able to PR or come anywhere close to my goal time. Similarly, though I technically achieved a marathon PR by 9 seconds, it was a full 17 minutes past my B-goal, 32 minutes past my A-goal. This was not my year for longer distances.

Work stress in the fall. This had far-reaching effects, but my running is probably what suffered the most. Every run for the 4-6 weeks spanning half of August and most of September felt hard, grindy, and not the least bit enjoyable. Physical symptoms included a constant feeling of exhaustion and being run-down, and my quads in particular had that growing-pains feeling. Mental symptoms included a lack of motivation, decreased desire to run, and a not-terribly-optimistic outlook on my own abilities. I started hitting an upswing as the stress abated in late September, just in time for the Air Force half marathon, but this item was probably the single most damaging obstacle to my running progress. This knocked me around physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Highs of 2013

Again, frankly, there weren’t many. But there were some resolutely bright spots that more than bear mentioning.

Sub-6 minute mile. It may seem small; after all, it only lasted all of 5 minutes and 58 seconds relative to the entire year around it. But twice near the end of two previous training cycles I’ve felt worthy of attempting it, and twice before I’ve missed by, quite literally, 1 or 2 seconds. Not this year. I nailed it, with a few seconds to spare.

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5K and 10K PRs. I’m now as close as I’ve ever been to breaking the magical 20-minute 5K barrier, set with a 20:26 PR while in Knoxville (and recovering from my aforementioned IT band injury, I might add). Furthermore, smack in the middle of a subpar fall running season and the day after a 14-mile long run, I nevertheless set a 10K PR of 42:47 at the Pittsburgh Great Race. Amusing anecdote: while I was a seeded runner for the race, I had more or less written off the race as a potential PR and elected to start way in the back with The Lady and some friends of ours, resulting in a much, much slower first mile than I would have otherwise had at the front of the pack. Still managed to PR; a very bright spot, indeed!

MCM improvement. Despite my disappointment with my overall Marine Corps Marathon performance, I would be remiss not to mention how it was an improvement in every possible way over my Philly marathon performance from the previous year. No, I didn’t get anywhere near my A or B goals, but everything else that went into running a marathon improved considerably. My first 20 miles were excellent, even finishing the first 13.1 miles in under 2 hours; I was mentally sharp and focused; I hadn’t seriously injured myself two weeks out; even when I hit the wall at mile 20, I was still having fun and enjoying the event; I didn’t chide or beat myself up. And technically, MCM was a PR by 9 seconds.

Holiday run streak. This is still blowing my mind with its awesomeness. What started off as a way to unwind from the stress of final exams and to dampen the effects of holiday junk food has become a means to, almost without trying, set a 30+ mile weekly running base and skip over the 100-mile marker in a single month. There was a small adjustment period, but I’m now officially hooked. The Lady and I have already discussed continuing the streak for as long as we can. The only downside is running outdoors in single digit winter weather. Eek.

I suppose this leads rather organically into what my plans for 2014 might be. Wonder no more, dear readers!

Goals for 2014

This is going to be a packed year: I’m marrying my best friend, defending my thesis, and hopefully starting a new and kickass job. Consequently, I’ve made the executive decision not to run a marathon. Or at least, I have made no concrete plans to run one in 2014; the logistics of it are simply too complicated (this could be its own blog post). With that in mind, I present the following goals.

Avoid the meltdowns. High stress is going to continue to be a part of my job for at least the next 9 months, and while I’m doing my best to mitigate its effects, it’s still going to be something I have to face. That said, if stress is impeding a training run for whatever reason, my recourse should be to pull back, mentally and physically, rather than to keep pushing. I already tried the latter this year; doesn’t really work.

5K, 10K, and half marathon PRs. Pretty straightforward. A sub-20 5K would be fantastic. A 10K right around 42 minutes would be awesome. And a half marathon under 1:40 would be amazing, 1:35 would be epic.

Run streak and cross-training. I definitely want to keep the run streak going for as long as I can. December proved really neat in maintaining the run streak and lifting weights 3-4 times each week; I felt and noticed rapid changes that would absolutely improve my overall fitness and training.

1,120 miles. I beat 2012’s mileage total of 1,062 in 2013 with 1,119; a full 57 miles more. I’d love to break 2013’s total again next year!

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I hope everyone has a very happy, fruitful, and mileage-filled 2014!