At the end of December and early January, I felt like everyone around me was focused on New Year’s resolutions more than usual. Or maybe I was just paying attention to how people wanted to change and deep down inside I wanted to as well. I just wasn’t as vocal about it.
And who could blame me? When it comes to running, I honestly was ready to let loose. I wanted to do so many things to have a great rest of the winter, but after two years of on and off injuries and some downright laziness, I had some self doubt that I just didn’t express for everyone to see. Quite honestly, the first few months of this year were a make or break point for me. I either succeeded or failed. There would be no gray areas — I did not want to settle for mediocre.
That dedication to changing myself with running has helped me overall as a person. I feel better about everything. And if just a few more things can fall into place personally in the next few months, I feel like this year will be the best year ever in so many ways.
With my running, it all started with a run in the rain and then a few days later running in the mountains. If I could do that with very little training, I felt like I could do anything. So in the first quarter of the year, I haven’t told myself “no” with anything. I’ve become a “yes” man for the most part and not let excuses get the best of me.
I’m ending the first quarter with 257.8 miles — far and away the most I’ve ever done in the first quarter of the year. It makes my 1,000 miles goal seem much more realistic than just putting it out there at the beginning of the year. Since I haven’t come close to 1,000 since 2007, making that statement on Jan. 1 didn’t make any sense; that’s why I waited so long. I’m over my fear of injuries and it’s time to focus on this big-picture goal.
As I look ahead to the next three months of the year, my goals are simple: run every day in the month of April; run at least one 5k (I’m signed up for one on April 17); and stay above the 1,000-mile pace. Everything else is bonus.
Somewhere last year I stopped caring about how many miles I ran. They become unimportant. While I wanted to focus on quality, I got away from realizing how important quantity is. And yes, quantity is important. It’s important for my motivation; it’s important to build a base for marathon training later this year; it’s important because I like running again.
Every runner is different, but I think a lot of people will agree with me that mileage really is just more than a number. With tonight’s 4.1-mile run, I am already at 1/3 of the miles I ran for all of last year. How could 201.3 miles 67 days into the year not give me a crazy confidence boost? That’s a pace of more than 1,000 miles for year … perhaps a goal I’ll soon make official.
Beyond the miles is the fact that many of my runs have been great this year. My pace is better and more consistent; I intentionally run bigger hills again; and, as I’ve already said, I like running again. I like it.
In my nearly three years I have been blogging, I end February the same way — I talk about how great it was. But in those two Februarys, there’s been a key element missing: a good January. When preparing for the Shamrock Half Marathon in March, I’ve only put together two good solid months to start the year, and that came before I started blogging. So while a great February is good in words, it hasn’t translated well to race day. Yes, I’ve been satisfied overall with my races, but in the end I’ve been somewhat disappointed too. February is key to having Shamrock go well; two good months though set me up for the rest of the year. And in 2007 — the year of my marathon — things for the most part went well until the very end of the year. That includes the PR in Shamrock.
I know that’s a drawn-out way to explain how I feel at the end of this month, but things are just different these days. Oddly enough, I’m not overly focused on the Shamrock Half — that race is just part of what I hope to be my best running year yet. At the end of 2009 there was a lot of talk from me and others on making 2010 the best year ever from many standpoints, and so far not many people are actually following through. The New Year hype got a lot of people like usual, but not me.
Following running more than 75 miles in January, I followed February up with 92.5 miles. My mileage for the year is more than 30 miles more than this point last year. More importantly though is the quality of these miles. I had four double-digit runs around hilly Bedford, all in a pace around 9 minutes a mile. I’ve had some faster shorter runs than usual too. I’ve kept things mixed up, rather than stale one-pace-only runs, which is the trap I have fallen into in recent years.
Also this month I’ve had to battle the elements — cold, snow. sleet, rain, wind … ice-covered sidewalks have made many runs a battle. This will very likely be one of the top 5 coldest Februarys around here. At least the weather has been consistent, but I’m pretty tired of it. I keep thinking that if I can do this well when it’s this cold, imagine how great it will be once it’s warmer.
As I look ahead, I have some changes coming for March. With my diet, there are some things I need to do to lose more weight. Things have been up and down all year, but I’m now at just a little more than 4 pounds down for the year. At this pace, I would be where I want to be by the summer, but I need to do more in the next few weeks. I’ll save that for another post. I also know I need to get back into cross training. That will happen, but I’m just pumped about where my running is right now. I also plan to do the 100 push-ups challenge sometime. My elbow gave me some trouble earlier this month and I decided then to just hold off on this program until I get over that disappointment. I need to do that when it feels new again. The try, re-try pattern is frustrating, so I just wanted to back away for a while.
While things are going great right now, I know I need to not settle on things. I need to continue to run harder, stronger and longer. There is no such thing as being too focused when it comes to running and my health. January and February have only been a good start to what I think is unlimited potential.
One of the unfortunate parts of moving and being in limbo with a few things is the fact I don’t have access to a gym. That’s really not a huge problem considering I never used a gym until October 2008, but I realize now how much I enjoyed being a member of one. Especially now. All this complaining I’ve done in the past decade of not having snows is catching up to me — we’ve had two big winter storms here this season and tonight it’s sleeting and snowing. And this weekend there’s something in the forecast. I won’t speculate too much, but SOMEBODY IS LYING. The weather guys aren’t saying what the rumor mill is saying. This happened last weekend and the rumor mill was right.
Anyway, last night I tried to go out to get something in and it just didn’t work. What little of the sidewalks were scraped were icy. The main road was fine, but it was too dark to run on that for too long. The nearby side roads were poor shape too. So after nearly falling a few times, I hung it up after 2 miles. The risk of serious injury wasn’t worth it.
So right now I’m in a mind frame of just getting something in whenever I can this week. I have what looks like two good days ahead of me and I plan to take full advantage of that. I’m a snow-lover and running in the snow is a ton of fun, but I’m ready for spring.
Somewhere along the way in my blogging I stopped doing some sort of monthly reflection. And now that I’m back in full training mode, I think I’ve done myself a disservice doing that. Even in a down time, I think I should take a look back at the previous four plus weeks to look at the lessons learned, enjoy my successes one more time, figure out what went wrong and then forge ahead.
That being said, this January has been one of the craziest months I’ve experienced in a long time for many different reasons. It didn’t start well at all — I had a horrible cold and didn’t get in my first run until Jan. 4 — all of two miles. My big goal for the month was to do 31 exercises in 31 days — “31 in 31” as I called it — but that kind of fell apart after my big mountain run and was pretty beat up for a few days. However, I think it failed for more reasons than that — I didn’t plan well enough for it. Next time I try to do something like that, I have to plan it out better. Poor planning leads to poor results and I honestly did a poor job with that.
For a while this month, I was rolling along with the 100 push-ups program, but after falling in the mountains, my elbow was pretty sore for a few days, so I decided to take a week off with that. Things feel better now, so I hope that in February I can finally roll along with the program again. January surely wasn’t a complete disaster with this though — I did 591 push-ups overall.
January’s biggest highlight has been with my running. When Jan. 1 hit, I decided that it was time to move on from the previous two years. For me 2010 was a complete new start and that there was no need to compare this year to previous years. It’s not the easiest thing to do that, but I’ve pretty much have. It’s quite liberating to look ahead instead of looking behind. I think a once-a-month reflection, and a big once-a-year review, is enough.
So with running, I can simply look at my mileage — 75.3 — and be happy with that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled about passing 75 miles for the first month of the year. But those 75-plus miles have been through a bad cold, through cold weather, in shorts, in pants, in rain, in some pretty decent weather, through ice over a mountain and in the past two days through snow. I’ve done things I had no idea I could do, and I’ve done many things I simply wouldn’t normally do. Yesterday’s 2.5-mile run through snow and temperatures in the mid-teens put the icing on the cake for this month.
The next time I’m ready to make an excuse, all I have to do is look back at January 2010 to know that no excuse is good enough. It’s hard to believe all this has happened in the span of 31 days … here’s to the next 334 being just as great.
Here are a few photos from yesterday’s snow run. By the time it was over, we were just shy of another foot of snow.
I hate the word “diet.” Better yet I hate adjectives that go along with diet – low-carb, South Beach, Atkins, Taco Bell. So let me put this out there – I’m not going on a diet. That implies that at some point in time I change my eating habits and go back to eating what I want once I get to a certain weight. That doesn’t work. However, in order to lose weight, my portions and calorie intake have to change for a certain amount of time for the pounds to come off. Exercise alone will not work.
I’m not happy with my weight. On Jan. 1 the scale read 5 pounds more than a year ago. While I had plans in my head to lose weight, those extra few pounds put those plans into motion. For me, it means going back to what I did six years ago to lose 40 pounds – I have to be strict about what I put in my body for a few months. Otherwise I’ll keep eating the same old bad stuff. While I’ll continue running, my weight will otherwise not shift more than 5 pounds. Now that I’ve gone through several years of training for races and seeing what my body can do, I feel ready for this challenge of losing weight and training at the same time.
While it’s easy to eat what I want during the higher mileage weeks of training, this time around is different. I shouldn’t weigh more than 190 pounds, but I can’t seem to get under than number. In fact, I want to get to 180 pounds and then stay in the 180-185 range. Not 185-190 …and certainly not 190-195, which I’ve been in for quite some time.
So to start this process of losing weight I am making changes that worked for me back then. You can call it a diet if you want, but to me it’s a lifestyle change. This time around it’s a matter of returning to the lifestyle of eating that was working just fine a few years ago, but I’ve let a lot slip, obviously. So today I create my “no” list, and I create “cheat” Fridays. This means I have certain foods that I will not eat, and on Fridays I will let myself enjoy SOME of them. Even Bob on “The Biggest Loser” has said that it’s important to let yourself indulge once a week. I’d go crazy if I didn’t. And at some point once I get to where I want to be, it’ll be normal for me to not eat certain foods so often. I think that’s the problem with me right now – I let foods like pizza and french fries become a “normal” food in recent months. And candy shouldn’t be a regular thing.
So here is what is on my “no” list right now with some explanation.
* French fries: this includes all variations of french fries. This means sweet potato fries, cheese fries and Chick-fil-A fries. I have voided fries before, only to say that sweet potato fries were OK and that the word “cheese” made it different. My hope is that if I limit them to once a month, if that, that they’ll become good again. Now they just taste like they tasted when I was a teen – normal and bland.
* Some pizza: this is a touchy subject because I have “carb-loaded” with pizza before. And pizza is a perfectly fine food when made right. So the time has come to actually eat pizza that has some nutritional value to it. So pizzas with toppings such as regular pepperoni and sausage are out. Frozen pizzas are out. For this “no” item, it’s more of a matter of what can I do to make this a “yes,” and the simple answer is to change how I eat pizza. And the easiest way to make it healthy is to make it at home. That doesn’t mean taking it out of a Tombstone box and turning the oven on – it means putting some effort into making the crust, adding healthier toppings, eating a salad while it’s cooking and not dipping it in ranch dressing.
* Ice cream: the fact that I don’t regularly eat ice cream makes this a special “no” food. This is a “no” item that doesn’t make the cut on “cheat” Fridays. I will treat ice cream like I have in the past few years – I’ll eat it after my next race.
* Cookies: when looking back over the past couple of months at what I’ve eaten, this may be my problem. Cookies are so easy to eat. One cookie is fine. Two may be OK. But not two in the morning and two at the end of the day. That’s what the holidays will do to you I guess.
* Candy: I sit next to 25-cent Peanut M&M’s and Reese Pieces dispensers. You figure that one out as to why candy is on this list.
* Soft drinks: Soft drinks, including diet, are “no” items. They’re just bad and do nothing for me anyway.
And that’s it really. Other than the things on this list, I have to get my portions under control. I feel like I eat relatively healthy as it is — I just eat too much of everything.
My plan for now is to have a weigh-in day once a week, on Fridays. I think Fridays are good since it’s my cheat day — if I’ve had a good week, I won’t feel so bad eating something that I wouldn’t normally eat. If it’s been a bad week, cheat day probably won’t mean anything.
And now that I’ve put this out there, I feel like I can hold myself more accountable. It’s up to me to blog about my weight and nutrition issues, but it’s also up to you my fellow readers, family and friends to remind me about it. Otherwise it becomes a non-issue and not a big deal. But this a big deal to me, so thanks for your help in advance.
Since the year is almost over, I thought I’d give you a special treat – a look back at the top 5 most read posts of the year. This is all about you, my loyal readers. I can’t make this stuff up. Only WordPress can. And apparently, you like what other people have to say (see Nos. 2 and 3 below), but I don’t really mind.
#5 – I am a marathoner and On the way to 100 push-ups
Technically my post from 2007 after the Richmond Marathon is the No. 5 most-read post this year. It’s not surprising since this has a link in my “About me” section, and I’ve linked to it several other times in other posts. It’s just kind of funny to me that a two-year-old post gets enough page views to be in the top 5.
As for my top 5 new posts this year, a post about my 100 push-ups journey takes this spot. A journey I have yet to complete for various reasons. Bring on 2010.
#4 – Stung in the eye
I would expect nothing less for this post to be here because people like to read about gross things. Three months later, I still cringe when I think about how it felt for a bug to get stuck in my eye. Next summer I will certainly be running more in sunglasses or clear lenses at night.
#3 – Are we really born to run? She says YES!
This was my first guest post of the year from one of my favorite bloggers out there. Go check out that post if you haven’t and click on a link to Michelle’s blog to read about her journey to 1,000 miles this year. It’s enough to make that a private goal for me next year. (Wait … I guess that might not be private now.)
#2 – But I did it anyway
More proof that you like other people, this was also from a guest blogger. Not that I mind – the few guest bloggers I’ve had have been great, and this one is from an ultra-runner who also coaches endurance athletes. Check it out for some inspiration.
#1 – A death near the finish line
This post is far and away the No. 1 post for the year, but it’s not a cause for celebration. This was about my experience as I neared the finish line of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on Labor Day weekend. If you go back and reread that post, you’ll see that something is being planned to honor the runner who died that weekend.
Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog this year. Although I hinted at some changes a couple of weeks ago, I will be keeping this URL and name of the blog. While I want to make some changes in 2010, moving this blog isn’t something I need to do right now.
With many of my thoughts on next year already, my mom gave me a great gift for Christmas this year — “The Complete Runner’s Day-by-Day Log: 2010 Calendar.” If you’re looking for a way to log your miles with some great tips along the way, this looks like something great to have for next year.
In the past few years I’ve used random calendars to log my miles that had no meaning behind them and were not running related at all. I hope that having daily reminders, tips and other running stories will keep me motivated as I train for my second marathon next year.
In this time of reflection, I’m also looking ahead. Funny thing about 2010, though. Besides a couple of races – Shamrock Half and the Richmond Marathon – it seems like I’m setting myself up for a disappointment. I don’t doubt that these races will bring me much satisfaction, but the time has come to do something different when it comes to my goals. I can’t base my goals on miles or race times alone – I need more than that.
So that’s why in January I will start my own exercise program to get the year kicked off right – “31 in 31.” If you know me well, you’ll know that “31 in 31″ was the name of a blog series I helped create in my former job, so I’m stealing my work idea and using it personally.
The idea behind “31 in 31″ will be to do a different form of exercising for all 31 days in January. My thought for this is to introduce (or reintroduce) different exercises to do what many people do for a new year – a recommitment to my overall health and to jump start what I hope will be some weight loss.
This will range from the obvious – running will count as an exercise for Jan. 1 – to some things I haven’t done for years, such as jumping jacks. This doesn’t mean I’ll only run for one day out of the month or do 1,000 jumping jacks one day – a new exercise is simply meant to discover something new and to keep me active. This, I hope, will get me back into the 100 push-ups program or to start the 200 sit-ups challenge. And this will not be an overly complicated program – I’m just picking something, doing it and adding it to part of what will be regular training for the Shamrock Half. (If this sounds confusing, please pose any questions in the comments section below.) If something this basic works well, then look for a more intense version of “31 in 31″ later in the year.
At this time of the year there is a lot of reflection going on in the world. For many runners, this is a time to not only look back, but to look ahead as well. For me, this December feels a lot like many previous Decembers — I want to reflect a little bit, but I want to move forward. In fact, I want to move forward in a bad, bad way.
This year in running has actually been very good to me — as a new father a year ago at this time, I had no idea what 2009 would bring. I never imagined I would have set any PRs, but I have; I never thought I would run two half marathons and feel great about them both, but I have. It’s been awesome.
In the same breath though, I’m ready to start 2010 completely fresh. You won’t see me do a big year in review this year (I’ll still done some reflecting posts, but nothing like usual). I didn’t hit my goals like I wanted, mainly due to injuries back in the spring, but at the same time I set goals without putting meaning behind them. They were too broad — they were based on mileage. Goals need to be more specific — such as a certain time in a race, or doing some sort of streak (like a certain number of days in a row of running, not something in my birthday suit). My goals were safe and predictable. I need crazy goals that are borderline unrealistic, but achievable. I set goals not to be disappointed, but I’ve realized that it’s OK to fall a little short as long as I give it my all.
So call me crazy, but I’m ready to throw my old calendars out with my training logs. While I won’t get rid of my tab on this blog detailing my past, my old training log books aren’t helpful anymore. Since my first marathon two-plus years ago, nothing has worked like I want it to. I’m referring back to old plans that failed me. I’m doing too much comparing of a certain month of a year to the previous year, and it’s not working.
It’s time for a new approach to my running, how I train and how I track it. There’s also the part of me that wants to lose 10-15 pounds and get back to where I was when I did my very first race. I’m not sure why I don’t talk about that more, but I need to. I think it’s time to. It helps me hold myself accountable. I’m even considering changing the name of this blog — while I like “Running … Because I Can,” there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel right anymore.
I’m taking this month to figure out what to do with all this. I might have it figured out a few minutes after I posted this … it might take a few days … it might take until Dec. 31 … but I need this time to figure it out. Any suggestions, as always, are welcome.