Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gearing Back Up and Goals for the Future

With Mohican behind me I need to start looking towards the fall and pick out a few races and set a few goals. I’m the type of person who needs to set lofty goals to provide motivation to train hard. Last summer, my motivation to begin running again was to participate at Mohican. At the time I had my sights set on the 50 miler for 2009 and a goal of finishing the 100 miler in 2010. Well I accelerated my timeline (I’m not always as patient as I need to be as a runner) and finished my 2010 goal a year early, having completed Mohican this past June. I also qualified for Boston, which became a secondary goal mid-year. So how high should I set the bar in 2010? That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with for a few weeks now.

My potential goals have centered around three basic principles: run further, run faster, or run more races.
I’ve considered doing a spring/summer/fall 100 miler. There are so many great ultra’s out there and I’d like to run several of them. The downside of this is that it would limit my ability to do marathons and shorter races and would mean more training on my own, since my running club is geared towards marathons and ½ marathons.
I’ve very briefly considered running further. Reading this month’s Ultra Runner, I saw that Regis Jr. ran the McNaughton 150, which really inspired me. No wonder he didn’t run the Mohican 50k! In the end, I realize that I need to master the 100 mile distance, and all of it’s challenges, before I try and tackle something longer.
In the end I keep coming back to run faster, as the basis of my goal.

After getting shut out of the NYC Marathon lottery I’m motivated to qualify for 2010. That means running a sub 1:23 ½ marathon or a sub 2:55 marathon. I’ve tentatively set a goal to run the 1:23 ½, which is actually 5 minutes off my PR but I ran that almost 10 years ago. As a by-product of this training I may end up running a 2:55 marathon this fall, but I’m not as motivated to set that as a goal.

I had set a goal a few months back to run a sub 18:00 5k, which is an idea I stole from Kevin Martin. I liked the idea of a three pronged goal, Boston qualifier, finish a 100, and run a sub 18:00 5k. Talk about different training requirements, but if I could achieve this I would feel good about myself as an all around strong runner. Last weekend I ran a 18:09, just a bit off my goal, only two weeks after Mohican. I feel pretty confident that this goal will come pretty easily.

Mohican is a pretty inspiring place and it should be no surprise that I’ve derived a few potential goals from my first 100 mile experience. Everyone that has the courage to attempt such a race is an inspiration, but I was particularly inspired by two individuals.

Kevin Martin is a runner I’ve got to know pretty well over the last year. We’ve trained in the Cuyahoga Valley and at Mohican and I would say we’re pretty evenly matched as runners. We both had a goal of finishing the Mohican 100 in 2009 and I’m happy to say that we both achieved our goals. Our Mohican results were quite different though. Whereas I was flirting with the time cutt-offs at certain points in the race because of my inability to keep food and fluids down, Kevin seemed to get stronger as the race wore on. My legs felt strong all race but being sick all day/night zapped my spirits and I didn’t have the will to push myself to my limits. Kevin’s race and top 5 finish really inspired me to set my goals higher at Mohican next year. Looking at his shredded feet after the race it’s clear he was hurting during the race as well, but he didn’t let it slow him down…he kept pushing. In 2010 I’m going to try and have that warrior mentality in the race, and not just a survivor mentality that I had in 2009. Ideally I’d like to shoot for a sub 24:00 finish in 2010, and if everything goes my way who knows how well I can do. In the end the primary goal at a 100 miler is just to finish, but I won’t hesitate to set a secondary time goal to shoot for.

Another runner that really inspired me was Wyatt Horsnby. I hope Wyatt doesn’t mind me saying this, because he’s certainly a stonger runner than I am, but Wyatt doesn’t strike you as an elite runner at first glance. Over the shorter distances Wyatt is a VERY good runner but his times aren’t elite (I’m talking 2:30 marathon). Wyatt is such a great, yes great, ultra runner because he has this drive and toughness about him that is unrelenting. Just before the race start at Mohican a few of us were talking about what a great competition it was going to be this year with Mark Tanaka and Matt Aro entering the race. Mark Tanaka is a great bay-area ultra runner who has won several big races. Matt Aro is no stranger to competing in ultra races; having completed two Double Ironman’s (finishing first and second). These two had resumes that were very impressive, but Wyatt still believed in himself and the training he had done to prepare him. As I was close to DNF’ing at mile 64 (having spent over two hours at the aid station unable to keep anything down) the leaders were just coming through their last time. Mark Tanaka came through with a comfortable lead and looked strong. About 20 minutes later Wyatt came through and he just had this determined look about him…he was a man on a mission. Someone at the aid station, perhaps trying to motivate Wyatt, said “Tanaka is about 25 minutes ahead, but he looks nervous and scared that someone’s going to pass him”. Wyatt’s response was, “He better be scared” and with that he sprung from his chair and hit the trail running. Wyatt’s belief in himself never wavered and sure enough he would catch Tanaka and claim the overall victory, with Aro finishing second. I learned a lot from Wyatt and was incredibly inspired by his achievement. I know his body must have been screaming at him to slow down, or stop, but Wyatt looked as tough as nails 80+ miles into the race. If you really want to compete at a high level you can’t let negative thoughts creep into your head and above all else, you have to always believe in yourself. It’s inspirational to know that you don’t have to be a 2:30 marathoner to be competitive at a high level in an ultra race: you need to be smart, confident, and tough as nails. Eventually I’d like to be at the level where I’m competing to win ultra’s, and not just be competing to finish ultra’s. This is probably not a 2010 goal, maybe not a 2011 goal…we’ll call this a 5 year goal.

Noticeably absent from my goals is a marathon goal. I guess the reason being, that my current PR is so far off from what I hope to achieve that I’m hesitant to put something in writing. I would be disappointed if I didn’t break 3:00 either this fall or next spring but my actual goals (long term) are much much higher. So I guess my goal for now is to keep chipping away at my PR, which is currently 3:10.

I just got my summer/fall training schedule from my coach and let me just say we’re really kicking up the intensity and mileage. The plan has me going from running 3-4 times a week (with cross training) up to 5-6. I guess I’ll have to do my cross training as a two a day, instead of taking an off day of running. We’re really picking up the intensity and variety of our speed-work too. I’m a little nervous about my new pacing guidelines as well: 6:40 marathon pace, 6:10 tempo pace, and 5:40 interval pace. 12 months ago I was struggling to stay up with the 9:30 pace group, and was THRILLED with my 3:30 fall marathon! A lot can change in a year…

Sorry this probably wasn’t the best read and was a little self indulgent, but it’s my blog after all : ). Like I said earlier, I’m the type of person who has to set high goals (maybe even unachievable) or else I get complacent and lazy. One of the things that makes me a good runner is that I'm never satisfied. These goals might be lofty but if I don’t believe in myself than whose going to?

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