2011 Review

With another year coming to a close I have had some time to sit down and look back over the year from a running point of view. It is a bit strange to do it right now, because as I sit here typing this I am a week away from my main goal of this season, which is the 5K, half and full marathons in the same weekend at Disney. As I have set that as my main target it somehow doesn’t seem right to look back over the year with it now being so close.End of 2011 review

However, I need a post for my blog, and being year end it kind of makes sense to do it, so here goes…..

Any way you look at it, it has been my hardest and also my best year running. OK, so I have only really been doing this seriously for the last 3 years or so, and this is the first year I have been able to train for 12 months without a major injury, so really it had to be better than previous years. I guess the statement about being injury-free (relative to previous years) is the main reason for the improvement.

Over 200 training runs, in excess of 1500 miles on the roads and on the treadmill.

I competed in 2 marathons and 2 half-marathons (1 full and 1 half made up the Goofy Challenge in January) as my big races, and as I had never actually raced a half-marathon before the first one then, technically, I set a PB in every race this year, which is a pretty good achievement. In training I also set new PB’s for 5K and 10K, so I have a complete set of 2011 PB’s. I even went out the last weekend of the year and did my fastest half-marathon in Cayman in a training run that was less than 40 seconds outside my actual PB.

So it would appear that everything went swimmingly well. Apart from a pretty bad case of Plantar Facititis back in the first half of the year which resulted in some large medical bills and a ridiculous pair of orthotics that I ran in for about 6 months, I have been injury free.

The Goofy challenge right at the start of the year was an amazing experience, although I only appreciated how amazing in the last 6 miles of the 39.3 that I covered that weekend. I spent the half-marathon stressing I was going too fast, then spent the first 18M of the full thinking I was going to hit the wall, it was only right at the end that I realised just how good a shape I was in, and I am sure I could have gone faster than I did if I had been a bit more alert to what my body was capable of.

I did say afterwards though that I didn’t see myself doing it again anytime soon, yet the first chance I get I am heading back, and this time adding the 5K to the total. I think a whole other post would be required for the logic behind that thought process!

It wasn’t all good though. I made the decision back in May to switch training plans. At the time I was using Hal Higdon’s Spring Training (Advanced) plan, which was calling for 7 days a week of running with speedwork and long runs. The temperatures were getting up here as it was closing in on Summer and I felt I needed a change. I wasn’t enjoying running at the time, so I made the change to the Runners World SmartCoach system. This looked fantastic as it appeared to give me a good plan with only 5 days a week of running, but it would still get me to the races at the end of the year in amazing shape.

Two things went wrong with it though: firstly, the actual SmartCoach website is incredibly buggy, and although you can adjust your plan if you need to change it, the chances of it messing everything up was high, there was also no way to upload your workouts into the system. The other problem was, the site should only really be used for race plans from 16 weeks out, which wasn’t immediately obvious, so it was very confused when I tried to get it to create a 25 week plan. This had me building to 20M weeks in August for a Marathon in December!

The end result was that I had a terrible few weeks from July-September as I tried to build mileage in the long runs, but I was trying to do it in 100 degree heat (even running in the evenings with the sun down). So I had a lot of failures and over the course of 2 months I only made it to 16 and 17 miles, everything else was 12M or less. I guess that wasn’t really SmartCoache’s fault, that was mine for trying to do too much in the heat, when I should have been taking things a bit easier. This left me somewhat demoralised, and it has affected me through the remainder of the year, as I am still nervous that my long run stamina isn’t as good as it should be.

The end result was the decision to go back to what I know worked which was Hal Higdon’s marathon plan. This time I was going for the Advanced plan, there was a good reason behind this and not just a load of hubris! The Advanced plan has more workouts, but they are shorter, so I could do more at lunchtime, with a toddler running around I didn’t want to lose my evenings to long runs.

At the same time I switched back I also raced the Disney Wine & Dine half-marathon. Another great experience; racing at night on a different course to the the ones used in January. Despite a few stomach related issues it was another PB, although not as fast as I had planned, but after the bad training during the summer it was the best I could hope for. The success of the race gave me the confidence I needed to get back into the groove of training. I overcame a couple of issues with long-runs going bad, and actually got to the Cayman Marathon in good shape, good enough shape for another PB in fact. Again, not as fast as I had hoped, but I didn’t really enjoy the run, and there was no runner’s high or big Adrenalin boost, so to PB in the heat here was a good achievement.

Going into Disney with only 5 weeks between marathons I was worried it wouldn’t be enough time to fully recovery, but I am feeling even better than I did before the Cayman Marathon. The training is like an extended taper, with no speedwork, and I am feeling stronger and stronger.

To sum up the year; I have achieved a lot, I have also learnt a lot about what I can and can’t expect from my body. I may have missed the very specific time goals I set for races, but I still hit the main goals of PB’s which is great. The main thing I learnt is that you need a break, you can’t train at a high level for 12 months, which is what I tried to do. Your body needs some down time, and you also need to appreciate the conditions you have to run in. Trying to do long runs in a place like Cayman during the summer months is just asking for problems.

Plans for next year? Well that is another post!

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