In addition to being something that my coach advocates, I can see the difference that running more miles has made for me in my own somewhat limited running history. I started tracking miles in 2009, the year I trained for my first marathon (Marines Corps) and the year I started to think of myself as a runner. In 2009 I ran 595 miles, in 2010 1101 miles and in 2011 1284 miles.
2010 Baltimore marathon
All of my current PRs are from 2011. While joining a team and starting regular speedwork certainly had a lot to do with my fall PRs (8k, 10 mile, marathon), I know that all of the running I did in 2010 is the biggest factor in the PRs I set last spring (5k, 10k, 10 mile (since broken), half marathon). And I don't think I would have seen as many benefits from speedwork without a solid base. I got to 50 miles in a week for the first time ever and I want to make sure I hit that weekly total more often the next time I am training for a marathon.
So one of my biggest plans for 2012 is to run more. The goal? 1400 miles. While I am putting a specific number out there, getting to 1400 isn't what really matters to me. I'm not going to push to hit a certain number of miles each month or fight through injuries to make sure I hit that number. I'm just going to focus on the process of building and maintaining a strong base and taking a break (or running in the pool) when my legs and body need it.
Pick up the pace on long runs
I introduced speedwork to my training for the first time in 2011. It started with solo visits to the track during training for the National Half and really picked up when I started running with CAR in the fall. I know that this made a huge difference for me and fully intend to keep it up in 2012. However, one area where I'd like to focus on working harder is during my long runs. I know that in order to improve my marathon time, I'm going to need to practice running at a faster pace. I know that there is a danger in running long runs too fast, so obviously I need to find the right balance. So I'll focus on continuing to start slow and finish fast, while working to bring my average pace for the run down.
Just because I love the numbers, here are the times for my last two marathons along with the average for the long runs (17+) during each training cycle.
2010 Rehoboth Beach Seashore Marathon - 4:40:34 (10:42 pace) - Avg. long run pace - 11:35
2011 Philadelphia Marathon - 4:01: 23 (9:12 pace) - Avg. long run pace - 9:50
I know one of the big reasons that I was able to PR by 39 minutes in Philadelphia was that I ran my long runs over 90 seconds faster per mile. I believe that if I work over the course of this year to drop my long run pace by 20-30 seconds, I will see a corresponding drop in my marathon race pace.
Get back to swimming
As a former swimmer, I have burned out on the pool more times than I can count. I took a few years off after college, then did Masters for about two years and then stepped away for a few more years. When I decided to try triathlons last summer, I headed back to the pool again. While I discovered that I am not cut out to be a cyclist, I really enjoyed getting back in the pool and swimming more than a casual 1000-1500 yards.
Unfortunately, once marathon training started in the fall I totally abandoned swimming and didn't go to the pool once between Labor Day and mid-December.
So one of my goals for 2012 is to get back in the pool more regularly. I'm not sure that I want to do any triathlons this summer, but I do want to do a couple of open water swims and I'm already committed to the swim leg of a half ironman relay. If I want to do well in those events, then I need to be swimming more than once a month. I'd like to swim at least 50 times this year. Once a week isn't a lot but I think it's a good average for the year since I'm sure I'll swim more during the summer and less next fall when I train for Richmond. I think having a number will keep me on track, rather than just pledging that I will swim "more."
I am being somewhat optimistic putting this on here. Core and weight training are things I truly struggle to fit in and I don't hold out high hopes that 2012 will be any better. But perhaps by being more aware that this is something I need to work on, and actually listing it as a goal, I will make some progress. I know I need to start simply and that less is more when it comes to adding new activities to my regular routine. If you have any tips or routines/programs that have worked for you, please share them. I will need all the help I can get to meet this goal!
So these are the four areas I'll be focusing on in 2012. I know that January 1 is an arbitrary date, but I like using the start of a new year to evaluate where I am and refocus on where I want to be and what I need to do to get there. I'm looking forward to putting in a lot of hard work over the next 12 months and continuing to progress as a runner.