I’ve always been a planner. I created my Pittsburgh Marathon training plan over 6 weeks before marathon training starts. The last two years, I’ve been that girl who has her training schedule for the next year plotted out by September and sign-up fees paid the day registration opens.
So, you may be surprised to learn that I don’t have a single race scheduled after the Pittsburgh Marathon. Not even a 5K.
Of course I will end up doing some racing next fall, but this year, I am saying “no” to over-zealous planning, over-eagerness to hit the “register” button and over-spending when I do so, and over-committing myself. Down with the “over”s!!!!
The biggest reason is that I no longer feel comfortable committing to races that far in advance. Every time I’ve tried that, life has laughed quite rudely in my hopeful little face. I don’t know anything about what my life will be like in 6 months. I don’t know if I’ll be injured, burnt out, or simply change my mind about things, or if I’ll be even more raring to go and dedicated to taking on a challenges than I ever imagined.
When I try to picture my running life in fall 2016, all I see is a big question mark, like the one in the photo above. I don’t want to shell out money for races that far away; in fact, I don’t even want to think about them right now. Of course I’ll end up doing some races if I’m healthy, but for now, I’m leaving it open. I’ll wait until that season is nearer and make a decision based on how I feel and what my goals are at the time.
I don’t know right now if I will want to run a fall marathon next year – it seems unlikely, but it’s possible. It’s also possible that if I meet my goal of qualifying for Chicago at the PGH Marathon, I won’t want to run another marathon until that race date in the fall of 2017. I don’t know right now if I will want to focus on training for a shorter distance next fall, or if I want to take that season off for maintenance again.
I don’t know. And that’s a beautiful thing!
I have a nasty habit of over-committing to things and biting off more than I can chew when it comes to activities I’m passionate about. It always gets me into trouble, but I never seem to learn my lesson. Until finally, after my meticulously pre-planned racing schedule fell apart post-Grandma’s, I admitted how much I was stressing myself out by overscheduling myself in an aggressive and impatient quest for improvement. I still care about the improvement, but it took a while to internalize the fact that signing up for more races isn’t going to make that improvement appear faster – especially since, as I was finding at a number of those races this year, I didn’t even really want to be there.
I used to think I could be one of those runners who is basically in a constant state of “training” for something, but that approach doesn’t work for me. It works better for me to have one or maybe two big goals to focus on per year, and take the rest of the time off. I don’t mean “off” from running, I mean no weekly workout checklists, no worrying about when and how much I’ll run this week, no “pre-training” for upcoming training cycles, no putting pressure on myself to PR in the races I run. Off season for me means maintenance running, and that I do whatever style/speed of run I feel like doing that particular day. Time off from training means time off from training, training for a big goal means I’m all in. This “black-and-white” approach just seems to work better for me; I have a lot going on and it helps me prioritize.
The cost of said approach is it means I may not improve as fast as I could. But, it’s a cost I’m learning to be okay with. The more distance I have from hard training, the more I realize I don’t care that much about being “fast” (whatever that even means) or setting all these PRs or breaking X:XX time in whatever race. I’m going to get as fast as I’m going to get, it is what it is. And all those things will happen when they’re ready to happen, and when I’m ready to put in the work. It used to bug me that my PR half marathon was in April and it will likely be a full year before I PR again, but then I realized, I don’t even really care that much about PRing in the half marathon. Sure, it’s always a nice accomplishment high and I’ll take it whenever I can get it, but I’d rather save all that energy and work for a goal that’s a little closer to my heart, like the full marathon.
Also, I am starting to lose my appetite for racing in general. This year I did a TON of races. It all sounded exciting when I signed up, but after a while, it just got old. And expensive. There were a lot of races this year that I lined up at the starting line thinking “why am I even here?” I love races, but what I love about them is that they’re not just an every day thing – they feel special and exciting. Races stopped feeling that way for me when I was doing 1-2 of them almost every month. I want races to have that “magical” feel they used to have. I don’t envy the people who get to race more than I do, I envy the people who are so excited and proud after their half marathon, even if they’ve run half marathons before, because it’s a rare and novel experience for them. I understand that many of you have a different opinion on this topic, but I think that cutting back on racing will help me keep it fresh and fun. Also, did I mention it’s expensive?
Which brings me to my final point about why I’m not signing up for as many races this year: …it’s expensive.
As you saw in my last post, I’m trying to be a lot more mindful about where my money goes. Luckily, other than eating out and the occasional running splurge, I’m not really a big spender. But like everyone else in America, I really need to save more. Kevin and I are taking our first baby steps into the process of looking for and hopefully eventually buying a home, which obviously needs to take financial priority. My Guatemala trip is already probably going to necessitate dipping into my savings, even if I don’t meet my fundraising goal (THANK YOU to everyone who donated so far! It’s a huge help to me and I really appreciate your support!). So not only do I need to cut back on the racing expenses this coming year, I’m also trying to be more selective about my races and support inexpensive, local, no-frills races as much as I can. Not only are they cheaper, it’s nice to support local running organizations.
As of now, I only have two races planned before the Pittsburgh Marathon. I’ll be running the South Shore Half Marathon again, on April 2nd. I wish the timing were better – this is right before my last (and peak) week of training, so I feel nervous about trying to race it and risk injury and recovery… but it would be nice to finally get a half marathon PR again. Hopefully my fitness will be good enough after months of training that I’ll be able to nab a PR without having to race too hard.
During a marathon training cycle I always aim to do 2 half marathon races: one I can race, and one I can use to practice MP. This is also where I wish the timing were better: February and March are a dead zone for half marathons around here. There are NONE (that aren’t a 2 hour drive away). So I’m going to settle for doing the small, local Luck of the Irish 15K on March 20th as MP practice. I’d really prefer something longer, but this is one of those times when you just have to accept the circumstances and make the most of it. It’s actually a great race for MP practice, because it is HILLY. It’s basically non-stop rolling hills. And now that I know this, I can stake out that area for some of my long hilly training routes. Plus, I’ve never run a 15K before so it will be fun to try a new distance.
I’m tempted to sign up for some winter races at shorter distances, but I’m a little hesitant. 2 races during marathon training seems to be my sweet spot: anything more than that and I start to feel like the races are becoming a distraction and interfering with my training.
So, that’s it. I officially have three races scheduled for the entire year of 2016 right now. But for once, the planner in me actually likes and embraces all those question marks, all that unknown space. I’m excited to see what 2016 brings, in running and elsewhere, and let life take the lead this time.