I'll start off with the weekly training. I felt like crap almost the entire week. I got very sick to the point that I was sleeping 11-12 hours a day and still feeling exhausted all day. I ended up taking 4 days off running (I had 3 consecutive days off, decided to "stop being lazy" and ran the most miserable 15 miler of my life, and then took another day off). My body was starting to get really run down from pretty heavy training, so it's not surprising. I hadn't mentioned this, but I had been suffering from a nasty cold last week and just didn't let it affect my training, but this week felt like the flu. I never actually threw up, but I felt like I was really close to doing so a number of times and slept with a bucket next to my bed 2 nights in a row. Anyway, here's what happened the 3 days I was able to run:
Monday: 18 miles: I was in Michigan at my grandparents' house and I got a nice 18 in on Monday to make up for my suckage on Sunday night. I did about an hour on this long trail behind his house and then after fooling around and not knowing where I was, I ended up by his house after just over an hour, so I did another 30 out and 30 back on his road, which goes up and over hills for many miles. The whole thing was at a pretty fast clip, the last hour being the faster part for sure though. I tried to take it out pretty hard on the trail, but a good chunk of it was really icy and the shoes I've been running on haven't had good soles in at least a month, so I was slipping around a bit and I slammed pretty hard on the ice 3 or 4 times. I had felt pretty sore after 3 pretty heavy weeks of training, but after only going a few miles on Sunday night due to my headlamp fiasco, I felt good for the majority of Monday's 18.
Tuesday: 10 miles, FAST. This run was a terrible idea. I wasn't going to go 10 miles; it was going to be more like 7 or 8, but I was temopoing at a good clip and I was being totally vain and proud, so I went a few miles more than I intended just to bag a decent 10 mile time. I should mention that I was pretty sore and cramped after Monday's 18 miler and then sitting around in a car for 11 or 12 hours on the way back from Michigan to Minnesota, and then I went fairly close to allout on a treadmill, running 10 miles in almost exactly 60 flat. When I finished, I knew my quads were not going to be good for a few days... I absolutely know that hard tempo runs, ESPECIALLY on treadmills, on super sore legs are ALWAYS a bad idea, but I did it anyway, and sure enough, I was SUPER sore after this run... Hopefully this will be a lesson to me...
Wednesday: 0. I woke up and I could barely walk, so I just decided to keep my running short (I was planning on 7 miles), but I just never started feeling better, and exhaustion started to set in after being awake for only a few hours despite me having slept 11 hours. I eventually decided that a day off was more important than my mileage count, not having skipped a day in awhile, so I just didn't run. Wednesday also happened to be new year's eve and I went to my brother's girlfriend's house with my family. I had maybe 2 glasses of wine and I was just sitting around, but all of a sudden, I just felt INCREDIBLY ill. I felt like I was going to throw up whenever I stood up, so I just had my mom drive me home and I went to bed at 9:45. What a great new year's eve celebration...
Thursday: 0 I slept for 13 hours on Wednesday night and woke up feeling exhausted. I had no energy or motivation and I sat around all day. I think I did like 6 grad school applications while lying on the couch and at one point during the day I think I was lying down on the couch for something like 7 hours without getting up once. Fun times...
Friday: 0 More fun. I started feeling a LITTLE bit better, but I absolutely had no will power to get out in the cold and run. At least I finished my the last of my grad apps by doing another 3 or something.
Saturday: 15 miles. To, from, and around White Bear Lake. I wasn't feeling sick at all anymore, but my energy levels were still super slow. I seriously felt like I was going to fall asleep numerous times during this run, and, despite fairly paved roads, it still took something liked 125 or 130 minutes. I was really worried at this point because I thought that I had just overtrained and I was starting to pound my body into oblivion, but as you'll see more about on my post next week, I don't think this is the case... It was just me being exhausted. I'm a few days late posting this summary for last week and I should mention that today (tuesday) was an absolutely phenomenal run for me, so Saturday was definitely just me being exhausted.
Sunday: 0 Since Saturday was such crap and I woke up on Sunday still exhausted with totally shot quads, I didn't run.
Weekly Total: 43 miles. I know 43 miles is total suckage, but when you're sick, there's nothing you can do about it. Not running more than my 3 times this week was probably the smartest thing I could've done and in hindsight, I probably should've done less on Saturday; it was just that I had been meaning to do that run for a couple weeks and hadn't gotten around to doing it yet. I think having gotten sick will be better for my training in the long run actually... If I had kept up my training without an easy week, I wouldn't have lasted much longer and I probably would've burnt out before Rocky Raccoon. Now that I had an easy week, I'm ready to hit it hard again and if I take this week moderately hard (I'm going to shoot for roughly 70 miles before I fly back to Baltimore on Sunday night), I'll definitely be able to hit 2 more super high mileage weeks back in Baltimore before tapering out for Rocky Raccoon. The 18 miler was really good for me, the 10, while a bad idea, was still a confidence booster since it showed me the kind of conditioning I have right now... If I can run 60 flat for 10 miles with absolutely dead legs, I will be in by far the greatest shape of my life when I taper out. The 15 was a good confidence booster as well I suppose since I very badly wanted to turn around after a few miles and I told myself that I absolutely needed to finish the run. The thing that kept me going is that I knew that I will feel like complete and total crap in the last 15 miles of Rocky Raccoon no matter how well I train. To be in the mindset to keep myself from shutting down near the end of a race, I need these heavily mental runs every once in a while where I have to fight hard to even finish, just like in race conditions.
Summary of December 2008:
Overall, this is the strongest month of training I have ever had. Despite taking the last day of the month off, I ran a total of 348 miles, so basically, I ran 348 miles in 30 days. My previous monthly high was June of 2007 with 346 miles. Since June is only 30 days, I really wanted to break the 346 within the first 30 days anyway, so I was quite happy when I finally did. My one race in December was a 5 miler in 27:55, which is a pretty good time, though I know I'm definitely capable of faster. Next time I race 5 miles (or anything else for that matter), I'll make sure I actually sleep the night before rather than staying up all night playing counter strike... lol... To sum up my weekly mileages in December, I have:
12/1-12/7: 57 miles (couldn't hit a high mileage week due to finals and grad apps)
12/8-12/14: 104 miles (very solid week of training)
12/15-12/21: 85 miles (missed Monday, so it boiled down to 85 miles in 6 straight days, which is quite good)
12/22-12/28: 74 miles (better than it sounds, keep in mind I was running in the snow for most of my runs, which is somewhat like running in sand, only much harder...)
12/29-12/31: 28 miles (last 3 days, obviously not a full week)
Oh, and one other comparison to my next highest month (June 07)... Keep in mind that in June of 2007, I ran 65.73 miles in one day at the FANS 12 hour, so without that particular day, my average daily mileage was MUCH lower than this past month's. Actually, all of the other 4 of my top 5 high mileage months (all 3 summer months of 2007 as well as November 2008) included at least one race of 50 miles or more, which is obviously a huge help for mileage counts.
Overall, I am very happy with December. It wasn't quite as high as I was shooting, but any more mileage honestly would've just screwed me over in the long run. Number games are fun, but I need to remember to always keep my eye on racing performance and/or enjoying my running. If I lose sight of both of those factors and just make it about getting the numbers as high as physically possible, I will not enjoy my running and I will not race as well as I could. Since I did listen to my body reasonably well this month, I know that I will be racing well come February.
Summary of 2008:
2008 was an interesting year to say the least. The best way to describe it would be to compare it to 2007. 2007 was a tremendous success for me... I don't really think a single one of my races went particularly poorly other than the time when I was stupid enough to attempt a 50 mile race 6 days after a 60 mile race (I predictably DNF'd the 50) and the Zoo Zoom 5 miler, where I got terribly lost in the 5th and final mile, dropping from 3rd to something like 10th over an 8 or 9 minute 5th mile, though that obviously wasn't a matter of poor training. None of the times I ran in 2007 would make me particularly happy right now, but at the time, I was running a lot of REALLY big PRs and I was having a blast doing it. Highlights included shattering the Minnesota 19 and under 12 hour distance record by over 20 miles with 65.73 miles in my first ever race longer than a marathon, finishing 100 miles on trails in less than a day in my first attempt at the distance, and running 3 consistent marathons in 5 weeks during the fall, all within a few minutes of each other and all being good enough to qualify me for Boston. Fast-forward to 2008: I honestly didn't train very well in the beginning of 2008, but my solid training from 2007 carried over for a few months and my first few races went reasonably well. I did a 10 miler in 61:xx (xx means I don't remember the change) in February. I was disappointed with the time since I was shooting for a sub 60, but I still have doubts about the accuracy of the time (I ran the first 8 at EXACTLY a 6 even pace and then, despite me feeling like my pace was being perfectly maintained, I ran, according to their mile markers, 8:xx followed by 5 flat over the last 2 miles... right...) Either way, I sucked it up and moved on, still happy to PR since my only other 10 mile race had been in early 2007 in 63:xx on what was probably an easier course. My next race wasn't really a "race" per se for me, but I ran the Greenway Trail marathon+ (supposedly it's 28 or 29 miles) at the beginning of March as a long slow training run for Boston. The trail, while not boasting any massive inclines, was still fairly technical and rolling, so I took it super easy for 20 miles before pushing over the last bit to finish in a super-pedestrian 4:40. I wasn't going in with any goals other than to have fun and I did end up having fun and not feeling in the least bit sore at the end, so I was happy. My next race was a huge success for me: The 2008 Boston Marathon. I was quite scared going in since I knew that I didn't have quality training for the past few months, so I went out at just the pace required to break 3 hours and I ended up finishing in 2:58:57. In hindsight, I was being fairly consistent about my weekend long runs, if nothing else, so I guess I wasn't in as bad of shape as I thought I was. Boston was my first marathon under 3 hours, so I was absolutely ecstatic, especially since I had broken 3 for the first time at, basically, "The marathon of marathons", one that everyone considers to be super prestigious, elite, and all that other nonsense. Anyway, after Boston, things just fell apart. I let my schoolwork consume me and my training was, for all purposes, complete BS for all of May, June, and July. I made an attempt at running 100 miles at the Old Dominion 100 in June, and my lack of preparedness showed. I only had one solid week of training that I was truly happy with and I ended up failing in my quest to conquer the insane course after 81 miles. In July or early August (I forget which), I ran in a 24 hour event and the heat ate me up so fast that I just called it a day after 35 miles, which is absolutely absurd for me. Finally mad at myself enough to actually train for real, I started to be more consistent in August. I ran somewhat well in September's very challenging and super hilly Bachman Valley Half Marathon (83 minutes) and kept training for the Baltimore Marathon. I knew I wasn't in shape since my recovery from the half marathon took a surprising 3 or 4 days, while I can recover from 100 miles in under 48 hours when I'm in top form. Unfortunately, my training effort was too little too late for the Baltimore Marathon, which was an absolute nightmare of pain this year. I was not in shape yet and the course is very tough, so I ran a depressingly slow 3:17, the slowest time I had done in quite some time. After that, I was so pissed off at myself that I finally kicked it in to a much higher degree. I guess I had been training reasonably well before Baltimore, just not for a long enough period of time, so after a few more weeks of good quality training, I raced well at the Stone Cat 50 (more like 52 or 53 miles) 4 weeks later in early November, running 8:42. I could tell that my endurance wasn't totally back up to par yet since the last 12 miles or so were super painful and, while I ran the first 3 12.5 mile loops in just under 6 hours, I finished with a 2:45 12.5 mile (I had to stop numerous times during that loop since I was throwing up, etc...). Either way, 8:42 is a PR for me, despite the race being on pretty tough trails. I am absolutely confident that I will tear off that 42 minutes and even more in April 09's American River 50 in California, but for now, I am content with the time. In late November, another 3 weeks later, I ran the NCR Trail Marathon (emphasis on the word trail), with the intent of besting my Boston time. I had remembered the NCR trail as being a paved trail for some reason, but was shocked to be running on unpacked dirt and gravel the whole time, which definitely slowed me down. I finished in a somewhat disappointing 3:00:42, but NCR is DEFINITELY a harder course than Boston, which is by FAR the easiest marathon course I have ever run or ever will run, despite what anyone will tell you. Heartbreak hill is only 88 feet tall and there are really only 3 major uphills in the entire race (the other 2 being shorter). NCR had a hill at mile TWENTYFIVE that rivaled Heartbreak and I can tell you from experience that it's a lot easier to run a challenging hill after 19 or 20 miles than after 25 miles in a marathon. Either way, I felt that I was definitely in better shape than when I ran Boston; I was only 19 minutes off the winner's time at the NCR Marathon while I was like 50 minutes or something off the winner's time at Boston. OBVIOUSLY, Boston attracts faster runners, but the difference is still evident and I can absolutely assure you that Robert K Cheruiyot would certainly not run a Boston champion quality time at NCR. Also in November, worth noting is that I did a few short-distance time trials on treadmills, pretending that I was under racing conditions. I hit 10 miles in 58:57 (felt like I could've pushed that one maybe a minute faster), 5 miles in 26:59 (no chance I could've gone much faster that day, it took all but a miracle to edge my way under 27), and 5k
in 16:03 (that one could've been a bit faster since I forgot to wait to start until the treadmill had wasted 10 or 15 seconds getting up to speed). Either way, I hadn't had races in any of these in top (or any) conditions in a LONG time, so even though I don't always 100% trust treadmills' speed accuracy, these times felt pretty much sick for me. In December, I raced an actual 5 miler, hitting 27:55. This time was clearly slower, but the course was fairly challenging and hilly compared to an all-flat treadmill and I was racing without having slept a wink the night before (stupidly stayed up all night playing counterstrike). Also, I was playing it safer in the race than I did when I tempo'd on the treadmill due to my need to run a total of 20 miles that day regardless of how much I wrecked myself in the race. I guess that made me fairly confident about the 26:59 accuracy since I was sure that I was running roughly a minute faster on the treadmill.
As a summary, I guess 2008 started off reasonably well, became total crap in the middle, which is usually when I train hardest, and then started to really go well at the tail end of the year. I barely broke 2007's mileage since my summer 2007 training was so strong, but in the end, I hit 2651 miles, compared to 2589 in 2007. I thought at the beginning of the year that I'd do more, but I guess 2009 will have to be my huge breakaway year. Right now, I'm consistently running near the front of the pack in most of my races, but if I can keep my training like it was over November and December 2008, I will finally be able to start to drop times that most other amateur athletes will not be able to keep up with.
My goals for 2009 are the following:
100 miles: Break 20 hours, finish the event 5 times in one year. This is clearly a lofty goal, but 20:00:00 seems to separate the decent runners from the really serious top of the pack runners in a lot of events, so breaking 20 hours is a huge goal of mine. Also, running 100 miles 5 times throughout the year will require incredibly strong base training. I have another few weeks to grind out the miles before February's Rocky Raccoon and I have planned a few absolutely huge weeks in May after April's American River 50 and Boston Marathon to bust myself into absolutely ridiculous shape for my summer races (1 100 mile race in each of June, July, and August, with relatively high mileage training between). I will be running one more 100 in the Fall, but I haven't planned which one yet since it totally depends on where I end up for grad school.
50 miles: Break 8 hours by as much as I possibly can. Ideally I would like to break 7:38 since that would put me under 4 hours per marathon pace and therefore running nearly 2 marathons back to back, on trails, at a half an hour per marathon faster than the average man runs a single marathon on a road course (4:30 is the men's average). That being said, if I could push even a little bit more time off and run under 7:30, I'd be running under 9 minutes a mile, which over a distance of 50 miles, is pretty much awesome. A big part of my ability to run this fast for 50 miles will boil down to my training over the next few weeks since my only planned 50 is the American River in April. I'm going to be doing a 30-40 mile training run the weekend of Jan 17th and the weekend of Jan 24th before tapering for Rocky 100, so if I do these runs well, they will set me up for success in the AR50 in April. If I even break 8 hours, I will be ecstatic, so if I can break 7:38 or even 7:30, that will just be icing on the cake.
Marathon: Break 2:50. I haven't bested my marathon time in 9 months now and it is time to drop that PR. I'm running the B&A Trail (paved trail) Marathon on March 1st and Boston in late April, so I would like to knock off a huge PR at either or both of these. I don't know if I'll be fully ready to hit a 9 minute PR by either of these races, but I'm sure that I'll be able to drop under 2:50 in the fall if I don't do it in the spring.
10 miles: Break 58 minutes. I'm probably only doing 1 10 miler this year and it'll be in February a few weeks after Rocky. I've never "officially" broken 60 minutes, but that seems way too easy, so I'm aiming for a sub 58. If I'm tapered for the event in February, I will probably be able to break 57, maybe even 56 if I'm in SUPER good shape, but 10 miles is not an event that I really focus on much, so sub-58 will make me happy.
5 mile: No official goal since I'm not sure if I'll be racing this distance at any time during the year, but since I know that I can break 27 from unofficial time trials, I'd be shooting to officially break 27 if I run a 5 miler earlier in the year and shooting for a sub 26:30 if I run one later in the year. I guess it all depends on the quality of my tempo work at this point since I definitely have more than enough endurance to properly race a 5 miler.
5k: I want to creep into the 15s this year. It's been a long time since I raced a 5k, nearly 2 years, but my speed in this type of event has definitely gotten better with my increases in endurance. Time trials tell me that this should be possible. The only 5k I'm planning on running at this point is the Blue Jay 5k, which isn't particularly fast, so a 16:30 would make me pretty happy there, but if I can find a fast 5k to run, I'll do it with the aim of breaking 16 minutes.
Oh, one more thing. My main aim for 2009 is to boost my resume so that I will be able to be accepted into Badwater 2010. Basically, this will probably require me hitting my time goals in the 50 and 100 or coming very close to doing so (at the very least finishing all 5 100 mile attempts). I am looking into traveling to Death Valley in July this year so i can crew for any runner that needs another crew member since experience with crewing at Badwater is a tremendous help to any Badwater racing application.
I guess that's about all. This post is crazy long so I'll stop now...
PS, this post is so long that I'm sure no-one will read it in its entirety, but it'll still be good for me to look back on at later times.