To begin shaping my future, I first read Brad Hudson's book for a second time, learning additional tid-bits that I had forgotten or overlooked the first time. Then I turned to other blogs by runners that I respect like this, and this, and that. Reading all of this I came to some a serious realization, I need to change the way I train to respect my limits and my life "factors". The good news is that there is no reason to think that I cannot train at a high level and continue to improve as a runner. After all, I am only in my 2nd season of hard, structured training. And, while it certainly isn't world class or anything, I have now run two sub-3:20 marathons (3:19 at Las Vegas and 3:13 in Ft Collins) weighing in at over 190 pounds. There is some talent there to work with!
Goal #1 - Get Healthy and build back a baseMy first goal has got to be to build a base again. I have barely run in five weeks, and it looks like it will be quite a bit longer before I can run any length again. Unfortunately, it is ridiculous to expect anything other than a huge loss in fitness, meaning extreme patience is going to remain the key ingredient to my training for a while. Once I am healthy, then I need to resume running at GA/Easy/Maffetone paces until I can reach a reasonable goal of 35 - 40 miles per week. And then I should be ready to embark on another training season/schedule.
Goal #2 - Learn to live with my limitsThis is maybe the most important goal of all. It is obvious that I have limits that I must work with to run happy and healthy. These limits come from a number of sources -- body type, work and family obligations, structural deficiencies -- and cannot be ignored any longer. The sooner I learn to work with those limits -- and maybe even change them slowly over time -- the more happy I can run.
Goal #3 - Improve Quality, reduce Quantity (for the most part)Falling into the "mileage trap" is the easiest mistake to make in endurance running. Everyone says it over and over, so why do runners fall into that trap? I think most runners become subject to this mistake because they know miles are critical for endurance running and because they know the elites run crazy miles (and have crazy success). The problem is that there is no exact rule on the adequate number of miles for you. How many miles are right for you depends on a ton of factors. The primary factors are your running history and how often you can/will run. I also think mileage is a tricky thing because it kind of depends on how you get it. My last full month of training for Leadville, I averaged 14 miles every time I ran. That is too much mileage for the amount of training I was willing to commit to. Most of the runners that I know that run 80 - 100 miles per week do it by running nine or more times per week. Brad Hudson suggests that averaging any more than 10 miles per run is pushing the limits of the body. If I only plan to run five days a week, then that means my upper limit is around 50 miles per week. I will probably exceed that on occasion, but not on a regular basis. In the Lore of Running, Timothy Noakes asserts that beyond 50 - 60 miles per week, talent has more to do with success than training. (Experience counts a lot too). In addition to limiting my weekly mileage, I plan to limit the length of my longest training runs to between 25 and 30 miles. No more 50 mile "training runs".
Goal #4 - Run with structureDuring ultra season, I often put aside a plan and just log miles. While I will admit that I usually have a plan for how many miles to run, I rarely have an idea of how to structure those miles. I believe this has lead to a couple of poor habits. The first one is thinking that mileage was more important than structure (see Goal #3 above). And the second poor habit was thinking that lots of LSD running was the key to ultra running. And, I was no longer thinking in terms of periodization and cycles. In the end, my training became sort of haphazard. While I was happy with my Leadville performance, I am not happy about being on the shelf for an extended period of time. My plan this year is to overlay my marathon structure with my ultra marathon miles to blend them both. The ultra marathon mileage plan will actually serve to have me run fewer miles (yes, I was exceeding the plan last year). The marathon structure will serve to help me improve quality and periodization.
Goal #5 - Continue to cross-train at a high-levelI think I am the rare runner that enjoys cross training. Between P90x and high intensity interval training, I find plenty of ways to challenge my body and improve without running. I enjoy it and I believe it is good for me, so I hope to have 2 - 3 hard cross training sessions per week in the coming year(s).
Goal #6 - Work on form, strength, and efficiency on a more regular basisI tend to only work on form and efficiency when I am hurt. Now that I have a plan to run with some structure, I plan to make regular form and efficiency a part of it. This will include regularly scheduled minimal or barefoot runs.
In the end, I am looking forward to this process of re-inventing myself because I am hopeful that I will love running even more when it is done in a balanced manner.