I got the idea for this post when I was listening to a podcast I often listen to called Marathon Training Academy. On the podcast, the hosts Angie and Trevor were discussing taking action and setting goals for running. At one point, Angie was talking about some things that she did during 2018 that were good decisions that ultimately helped her achieve some of her goals for the year. Likewise, not all of her decisions were the best which ended in not-so stellar results. Marathon Training Academy podcast link
While I was listening to the podcast and running, my mind began to drift to some of the running decisions I made in 2018 and how things ended up as a result of those decisions. I’d say overall, 2018 was a roller coaster for me when it comes to running. Right off the bat in January I wanted to do things a little differently and wrote about it in my post Shaking Things Up a Bit. One of the biggest things I changed is going from running hard three days a week with an emphasis on cross-training (with no easy running days) to running five days a week.
I wasn’t sure how my body would handle those extra running days but honestly I feel like it was a great decision for me and my body. The training plan seemed considerably harder than what I was used to, but I would say I handled it well and didn’t end up with injuries, other than some caused by running gear that wasn’t right for my body, which I’ll get into later. The training plan I followed for my half marathons in Idaho-42nd state, Anchorage, Alaska-43rd state, and Arkansas-44th state allowed me to finish in times that I was mostly happy with, but again, I’ll get into more details on that later. More importantly, I was able to follow the plan and only rarely did I find myself not having enough time to fit all of the runs in as specified.
Early in 2018 I also began Heart Rate Training, which honestly wasn’t anything that did much for me either way. Maybe I didn’t give it long enough (I’ve heard you really need to spend several months or even a year on it for you to really see changes) or maybe I just wasn’t doing it like I was supposed to. Either way, I’m not sure I would spend a ton of time on heart rate training again unless there was a specific reason I was seeking it out, like I had plateaued and felt like I needed to try something else to get faster or have more endurance.
A decision I made that ended up to be one of the worst decisions I made in 2018 was to try new shoes without fully understanding the mechanics behind them and how they would work for me. I vowed early in the year to try new shoes instead of sticking with the same brand and style for years on end like I previously had, so I tried two brands that were completely new for me, On and Topo. Not long after running with these shoes, I began experiencing calf tightness and pain when I would run. It got so severe I would have to stop and stretch my calves and my feet started falling asleep when I was running. Initially I thought surely it’s not both pairs of shoes that’s causing my problems, but yes, it really was both pairs of shoes. I finally looked into the shoe specifics and learned that both pairs that I was running in had a much lower heel-toe offset than I was used to. You can read all about the details on that here. I switched to running shoes with a 10 mm heel-toe offset and haven’t had any calf issues since then. Lesson learned, no matter what you may hear, minimalist shoes are not for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine.
One of my better decisions was to do more trail running. That not only helped me cope with the hot, humid weather since it was cooler on the shady trails but it also undoubtedly strengthened my ankles and feet. I won’t lie, though, summer was tough to get through. I couldn’t take any time off from running during the summer since I had a race in Alaska in August and after that I had to pretty much jump right into my next training plan for the race in Arkansas in November.
In 2018 I ran my first “fun run,” Color Vibe 5k,in September and honestly I can’t say now if I think it was a good decision or a bad decision to run it. I had very mixed emotions after that race, mostly because of it not being a timed race. Apparently I’m too competitive to run a race that’s not timed, and this is coming from someone who has only rarely (three times to be exact) placed in the top three in my age group, one time each at first, second, and third place. I think I need to see an official time if I’m going to run a race, otherwise I’ll just go out and run on my own. I also now have mixed feelings about running a timed 5k in 2019. I’ve only ever run three 5k’s in my life; my first race ever, with my young daughter at her first 5k, and this fun run. Although I feel like I’m long overdue to see what I’m capable of running a 5k at, I’m not sure I want to put myself up to that test. Let’s face it, to truly race a 5k is tough, much tougher than a half marathon, in my opinion. Do I really want to do that to myself? I’m not sure that would be the best decision for me.
To cope with the abnormally long summer that stretched well into fall, I began exploring new running routes and other ways to fight boredom on my runs. This in itself was a good decision but I began to develop other issues unrelated to my running route or the heat. Gradually I began to notice my runs were getting harder and I was out of breath more and more. I chalked it up to the heat and humidity but when things finally started to cool off and I was even more out of breath than normal, I went to the doctor to get my iron levels checked. Sure enough, I was anemic once again (I have a history of it). The even worse news is this was just a couple of weeks out from my next half marathon in Arkansas in November. No way were my iron levels going to get anywhere close to normal before the race since they were so low.
I made the decision to run the half marathon despite being able to barely run a mile on training runs without getting out of breath. To my shock and awe, I ended up running one of my fastest half marathons in quite a while in Arkansas, thanks to the downhill course and nice weather conditions. Running that half marathon and especially finishing it strong was definitely a good decision for me. I have no doubt my doctor would have told me to not run the race, had she known, but if I hadn’t run it, I wouldn’t have known what my body is capable of even when it’s not at peak condition.
That pretty much ended the year for me as far as running goes. I decided to take it easy in December and let my iron levels come back up so I just ran when the weather wasn’t too bad and I felt like running. Since my iron levels have come back up, I’ve been experimenting with pushing myself even more. I’ve seen some split times on runs that I haven’t seen in years and I owe that to the ability to push through the pain and focus more on the mental aspect of running, some tricks I picked up after reading Deena Kastor’s book “Let Your Mind Run,” which I have an upcoming review on.
What about you guys? Do you reflect back on the previous year to figure out what worked for you and what didn’t work? This is the first time I’ve done this for an entire year, although I’ve done it for individual races before.