What Did and Didn’t Work for Me in Relation to Running in 2018- Good Decisions and Bad Decisions

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.

Running in the Canary Islands in my Topo shoes that turned out to be a poor purchase

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 stateAnchorage, 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.

Rediscovering trail running

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.

Color Vibe 5k

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.

Finishing strong at the half marathon in Arkansas

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.

Happy running!





Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

28 thoughts on “What Did and Didn’t Work for Me in Relation to Running in 2018- Good Decisions and Bad Decisions”

  1. What a great idea to take some time to reflect on the goods and bads of your 2018! Sounds like there are some lessons learned and some things to build on for 2019. 🙂

    I don’t trail run nearly enough and need to get back on it.

    I don’t think untimed races are for me either.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I’ll join in on the hating of fun runs… if I pay to run a race I expect a time! That said I have ran a glow run 2 years in a row that is mostly families/people running for fun but it’s at least timed and I like racing in the evening for a change up.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post idea! I don’t usually reflect back in detail like you did, but now you’ve got me thinking that I should. It sounds like a good way to check in, see what worked and what didn’t, and to help make improved decisions for this year. Also, I’ll have to check out that podcast! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel better when I run more often. I just hope my hip allows me to do it. Trail running is always a great idea, in my humble opinion! Thanks for sharing what does and doesn’t work for you. It helps everyone who reads it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. a thoughtful reflection, Donna. I think it’s great you’ve discovered trail running and what not to do about shoe purchases, as well as getting your iron levels back up. It’s pretty great that you were able to race fairly well despite the health concern. Kudos for that! As for untimed/fun run races, I really think they are great for getting people to run who are otherwise sedentary. They are, however, also not for me… if anything because I can’t treat it like a fun run and end up annoying whoever I’m running with. My big epiphany from the last year was that it is possible to run every day and still train for (and do pretty well in) a marathon. But I have a lot to learn for next year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate that, Dorothea. “Pretty well” in a marathon for you still means amazing to me! You’re one of the best runners I know and I mean that! You’re absolutely right about fun runs too. I think they’re a great idea for people that don’t otherwise run or are new to the sport.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very nice summary of your year! It sounds like you tried out a good bit of a new things. I was recently reading about the heart rate training and wondered if there was something to it. I’ve never monitored my heart rate and really can’t say I desire to. I think as long as I keep running strong and seeing improvements I’ll keep with what I’m doing. I also haven’t tried new shoes in probably close to 6 years now primarily because I’m lazy and figure as long as the Brooks Ghost keep working for me why bother changing?

    I admire your commitment to running so many days a week. A handful a weeks this year I ran 4x but it seems like 3 is my go to just based on my schedule, weather conditions and interest level. I really like doing DailyBurn workouts and throwing in some strength so that tends to keep me to 3 runs a week. Great job working on finding new routes/running on trails as well – it keeps both your mind and body fresher!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. About your shoes – Topos are zero drop, I believe. If you went from an 8-10 mm drop to zero I’m not at all surprised you had calf issues. I’m the other way – I prefer 0-5 mm, whether it’s minimal or maximal cushioning. Have you tried Hokas yet?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Topos I tried had a 3 or 4 mm drop (I don’t remember which), and I was going from Newtons which were an 8 mm drop. It was too little of a drop for me, and just didn’t work. I haven’t tried Hokas because they seem too cushioned for me. I like to be able to feel the road, sidewalk, trail, etc. when I run. I know a lot of people love them, though!


    1. I was in so much pain when I went to just a lower drop shoe, I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if I were to try zero drop shoes. They’re definitely not for me, at least when it comes to running.


  7. What a great idea for a post. I think it is so helpful to reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t. Changing shoes can be such a killer. It sounds like fun in theory but I’ve definitely made the same mistake and had to spend time off dealing with some injuries. Also, fun runs are the worst!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I think I’ve learned my lesson to pay attention closely when I’m buying new running shoes, so I know exactly what I’m getting. It’s interesting how many runners don’t like fun runs! It’s another one of those things that sounds fun in theory until you actually do it.

      Liked by 1 person

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