Kill Your Darlings: My 2015 Running Gameplan

There is a saying that writers use: kill your darlings.

In other words, whatever your favorite word, line, or symbol is in your work, whatever you’re most attached to – take it out. Let it go.

My homework for this week was to think about what I want to achieve in my running this year and come up with some solid goals for 2015. It seemed easy enough as I forged ahead, letting the excitement and emotions I felt about different goals and races guide my thinking.

20141012-184602.jpgBut despite my running epiphany and hitting the reset button, I was still hanging on to some pretty ambitious goals for this year. But it’s okay, I thought, because I have *fewer* of them now! That counts as having more meaningful goals, right?

For example, my big goals were to not only break 1:50 in the half marathon but to beat last year’s Wisconsin Half Marathon time by 10 minutes at this year’s race (aka run a 1:46:42 half) to celebrate coming back to my first half marathon one year later. I also had a goal of breaking 3:45 in the marathon. But all week long, there was something nagging at me. The excitement I felt about these goals was quickly turning into anxiety. Something wasn’t quite sitting right as I started to spell out specific goals.

All of those doubts finally burst out of the corner of my mind and yelled loud enough for me to hear on Friday, when I posted my 2015 running schedule. There was something about seeing that schedule spelled out that really made all the uneasiness I’ve been trying to deny come to a head.

Did you see that schedule? It’s pretty darn packed: 5-6 half marathons, 2 marathons, a 10-miler, and likely a 15K and a 10K. That’s, well, a lot. How can I handle so many big races while training for such ambitious time goals and still manage to stay healthy and sane ? I can’t. For the first time I let it sink in that I’m biting off way more than I can chew.

PicMonkey Collage2What if I just let these goals go, like I am with my sub-50:00 10K that I’ve realized I don’t even really care about? In both cases, I still want to achieve the goal one day. But I’m giving up my need to have it now.

Wouldn’t it be much better if I just let things happen organically? Instead of pushing myself to always want that “reach” goal, instead of trying to force myself into a level I’m just not at yet…I just work with where I’m honestly at, try the best I can, and see what happens naturally? What if amazing things happen once I take the pressure off myself to get huge time goals? Here’s a great litmus test question to see if I’m going in the right direction:

If I could achieve my 10-minute goal at the Wisconsin Half but as a result get injured/burned out and the rest of my 2015 races suck…would it still be worth it?

Nope. Not at all. That’s the answer.

What about just trying my best, letting improvement come naturally, and then trying for time goals next year when I’m a little more experienced? In the meantime, I can live my new running mantra of taking it one race at a time and just be present at each race, have fun and be happy I get to be there running at all. I can go into each of race with an open mind and if I try really hard and don’t have a good race, I have still learned something.

PicMonkey CollageI have many more years of running in me. I will reach my big goals. It just doesn’t need to be right now. It’s time to work on relaxing a bit and not rushing into everything. I need to learn to trust myself that as long as I’m working hard and putting my heart into it, the results and the improvement will come. I need to hold off on gunning for huge goals until it’s the right time for that. Now is the right time to focus on getting more experience under my belt and getting to know myself better as a runner.

With all of that said, I’ve finally decided on my baseline goals for 2015. What I’ve come up with is a smart compromise between huge over-my-head goals and not allowing myself to have any time goals at all.Here’s what I’ll be writing in those anxiously-waiting pages of my training journal:

Goal 1: Purify my diet and lifestyle to become a healthier runner and improve my all-around fitness

Reasons:

  • I want to look better and feel better every day
  • I want a stronger healthier body that will not only enable me to run better now, but also be able to run many more years
  • I want to take better care of myself and not put so many harmful, unhealthy things into my body

Steps:

  • Limit myself to one can of soda and one sugary treat per day
  • Incorporate weekly cross training and weekly/bi-weekly yoga into my routine to improve my all-around athleticism
  • Do simple, at home strength exercises every 1-2 days to make my body stronger and more prepared for the demands of running
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast every morning
  • Limit the amount of processed foods I consume and try to find natural/organic substitutes whenever it is possible/affordable
  • Use our new juicer as often as possible to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my diet

I’m allowing myself to pick one race distance that I can be a bit more of a go-getter and seek improvement a little more aggressively. That distance is the half marathon. The half marathon is  long enough to be challenging and draw on the skills of distance running, but short enough that you can run it aggressively and push yourself to tackle a more challenging pace. I think I am ready to start pushing myself a little harder in half marathons, as long as I’m keeping my goals appropriate.

Goal 2: Break 1:50 in the half marathon.

Reasons:

  • I want to get fast in half marathons to help build my endurance and racing ability for full marathons
  • I know that there is still a LOT more fast in these legs!
  • I want to get better at running fast for longer distances and being able to race 10+ mile distances

Steps:

  • Speed interval workout, or some other type of harder workout, every week
  • Maintain high mileage (at least 25 miles per week. Marathon training should make this a no-brainer)
  • Work out at least 5-6 days a week (not all of these days will be running)
  • Smart, safe training to stay injury-free
  • Emphasize rest and easy/recovery runs in my weekly training
  • Incorporate regular XT into my training
  • Do speed workouts and tempo runs at strategic paces that allow me to practice the pace I’ll need to maintain for my goal

However, my 2 marathons are the most important races of the year. After giving it some thought, I just don’t have the experience to tackle the more ambitious marathon time goals I originally had in mind, and I think it’s best if I shoot for more modest improvement. It’s not as sexy or exciting to make more conservative goals, but I have to remember that a marathon is a huge undertaking, and I’m afraid that my initial goal of breaking 3:45 is just too overwhelming for me right now.

Goal 3: Improve my marathon performance by 5% at Grandma’s Marathon (a 3:50)

Reasons:

  • I want to get better at running marathons and I know I am capable of faster times!
  • I want to get closer to my 5-year goal of qualifying for Boston
  • Grandma’s looks amazing and I want to have a blast running it and make the most of itby having the absolute best possible race I can

Steps:

  • Do marathon-pace runs every week to practice holding the pace I’ll need
  • Include marathon speed work, such as 800s and mile repeats, in my training
  • Maintain higher mileage than last time – at LEAST 35 miles per week
  • Smart, safe training to stay injury-free
  • Emphasize rest and easy/recovery runs in my weekly training
  • Incorporate regular XT into my training

So there you have it: my compass for another year of running. Smart, conservative goals that lay a foundation for bigger long term goals; a strategy that emphasizes gradual improvement at a healthy, flexible pace; and the cultivation of my running journey with habits that foster health and well-roundedness.

I also want to note that these goals are only the beginning. A year is a long time, and it’s hard to project everything that can happen. If it turns out any of these goals are achieved quickly and relatively easily and I need more of a challenge, I will amend or add to them based on a smart and fair assessment of where I’m at in my training.

January 1 is 17 days away, but it all starts now.

 What are your biggest goals for 2015?

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21 thoughts on “Kill Your Darlings: My 2015 Running Gameplan

  1. Those sound like very smart goals and pretty similar to what I have planned for myself this year. I am trying to focus on my long term goals. I’ve been asking myself “What do I need to do now, to see this result in the next few years?” I know I want to improve my half time, but I can’t guarantee that I can take X minutes off my time in a year. I can guarantee that I train smarter and harder during each training cycle.

    1. That’s essentially the realization I came to in not so many words: I realized that I can’t base all my goals on time because, like you said, I just can’t guarantee that I can take X minutes off my time and I don’t want to work so hard only to be disappointed if I don’t reach those goals. You’re right: the only thing I can guarantee is that I try my best and I want to be able to be happy about that no matter the outcome!

  2. I love it, well thought out and and very realistic for your fitness level 🙂 I agree, injury is never worth it, it’s good to be flexible and adjust as you go 🙂 I have found just making small changes in your diet really can help. Trying to make a conscious choice to choose a little healthier is always a step in the right direction, I try to limit my frozen food use too, but sometimes the convenience is nice.

    1. I’m a lot better these days about limiting frozen foods, but eating out is my Achilles heel. We are really bad about grocery shopping these days, so many a day lunch or dinner is Jimmy Johns or pizza. It’s hard, but you’re right: you have to start small!

  3. I love that you asked yourself “If I reached X goal but got injured and couldn’t run for Y amount of time, would it be worth it?” I’m definitely going to start doing that.

    I use a similar method where I always ask myself, “will X goal help me complete a 50-miler by 2016?” If the answer is no, I table it for another time.

    1. I know, I’m so glad that question came to me! It really has helped me put things in perspective and I feel a lot better about not having a million lofty goals. Sounds like both of our heads are in the right place….or at least getting there 🙂

  4. I have to sit down and focus to think of goals…I think writing them out is a good idea. Right now my list looks a lot like your first one, which is too much. I WILL adjust them before the new year!

    1. Good luck! Writing things down REALLY helps. I’m glad the training journal I got makes me list the reasons I want the goal and the steps I have to take to get it – it really made me actually THINK about my goals and why they’re important to me. If I can’t think of a reason it’s important, I throw it out.

    1. Thanks! I can’t help it, I’m a planner 🙂 and YES writing things out is the best. Like I told Cheryl above, I’m so glad this training journal forced me to list out actual reasons for my goals and steps to take. It really made me think about my goals a little harder!

  5. Wow your race schedule is intense for next year! Good for you girl! I think I will always lean on the conservative side after being injured and out of running for as long as I was after my marathon. This year sounds like it will be the year of gaining experience for you which will never hurt in the end. I haven’t really thought about my goals for 2015 yet. I need to get on that!

    1. I have to say, I’m looking forward to leaning on the conservative side. I’ve found that always trying to be a star has just caused me more stress than it’s worth. At the end of the day, this is supposed to be fun. I’m not a pro elite athlete, so if I’m super upset or frustrated because of a race time, then I need to rethink my priorities a bit!

    1. Awesome! Best of luck! It’s exciting to hear others’ goals and be able to follow along in their progress this year 🙂

  6. It’s so great that you’re breaking your goals down to be realistic and not overwhelmingly too much! Way too huge goals just…don’t usually end up working out well.

    For 2015, I don’t want to cut anything out, but I want to maximize my time really well so I can start getting MORE SLEEP. That would be awesome 🙂

    1. Thanks Liv! Yes, I’m glad I realized this before I learned the hard way about way too big goals not working out!

      I should adopt your 2015 goal. I get enough sleep usually, but I too want to get better at time management so I can get more done!

  7. I love how you’ve re-thought these goals and come up with reasons why you want to achieve them and how to achieve them. Smart! Goals should mostly make you excited (maybe with a twinge of nervousness), not anxious.

    1. I know, I’m really glad this training journal I have forces me to list the reasons I want the goal and the steps I need to take to get it. It’s really helped me put a lot of things in perspective. If I can’t think of one reason I want a goal, I probably don’t need to have it right now.

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