Rethinking running plans

Number three made of white paint dots

Image by Horia Varlan via Flickr

Plans have a funny way of getting screwed up.  What’s that they say about the best laid ones?

After I qualified for Boston back in October, I was ready for a change.  I read Born to Run, started running on trails, and genuinely enjoyed running in a way that I hadn’t in a long time.  I was seduced by the idea of running ultras — by comparison to fifty or a hundred miles in the woods, 26.2 on the pavement seemed sort of like watching the black-and-white part of The Wizard of Oz.

And I was ready for a rest.  For six months, I had worked harder than I ever had at running, and I had gotten what I wanted.  It was time to slow down, to still put in a lot of miles but at a lower intensity, and to trade in my post-run sports drink for a few too many IPA’s.  I set the goal of running a 50-miler this year, and without really thinking about it, figured my next marathon would be a slow one at Boston 2011, a delayed celebration of my achievement. (Newbies: my baby’s due date is April 19th; that’s why I’m not running it this year.)

I should have known it wouldn’t last.  Four months later, I’m itching like a schoolboy (?) to get back at it.

The idea of running a three-hour marathon only recently occurred to me.  While Boston-qualifying (3:10) once seemed near-impossible, a marathon time with a “2” in front of it would have been better described as unfathomable, for me.  But when I finally did qualify and realized that I haven’t yet hit a plateau — before my 3:09:59, my last race was a 3:20:30 — what had previously been a no-way became a maybe.


Image by Rennett Stowe via Flickr

And now it’s that maybe that won’t shut up, that won’t let me be satisfied with running trails and drinking beer.  Don’t get me wrong: I love trail running, and the Thursday night runs/drinks with my group are more fun than I ever thought running could be.  A 50-miler this year and the 50K’s in February and March are what I’m focused on right now.  But there’s something about that three hours that won’t go away, and in some strange way I’m craving those lonely track workouts where I feel like vomiting as I finish the final few repeats a few seconds slow.

I don’t know if I’m going to go for it this year.  I do know that if I don’t do it soon, the 3:10 of last October is going to be a tiny speck on my fitness horizon, if only because I don’t keep up that intensity of training when I don’t have a clear goal in mind.  I’d like to, I just don’t.

Three hours at Steamtown in October is very sexy, indeed.  Steamy, even.

More running!

I just got back from a seven-mile run in my Vibram FiveFingers, followed by the now-standard grocery store trip where everyone looks at my feet funny and where I probably smell worse than I realize.  It was the second time in a week that I’ve run seven or eight miles in them, so I’m happy to have finally built up my mileage to the point where I can go out for an hour-long run in them without worrying about getting hurt.  If you’re at all on the fence about trying out a pair, I’d say go for it.  It really is a fun way to run.

Also, I wrote a post on Running Shorts yesterday about some tricks I’ve used for getting out of training ruts, the times when I just don’t feel like running (this happens a lot, actually).  I forgot to mention it yesterday; please check it out so that the number of views it has isn’t quite so sad. 🙁

Tony! Tony!

That’s me chanting.  I always mention Tony Robbins on this blog, and I’m sure there are plenty of you who don’t know who he is.  Well, lucky you.  He has a free 15-minute video online right now about planning for the New Year and the difference between what most people call a resolution and a real decision.  I watched it this morning, and there’s no catch — just good, inspiring content from Tony.  (Not to mention it ties in nicely with plans/goals theme of this post.)  Check it out. giveaway tomorrow!



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  1. SO cool- I think this is a fabulous goal. I’ll be here cheering you along from behind the computer! Hows the wife feeling? I think we need a guest post from her!

  2. Erica, I was just thinking the same thing! I’ve been thinking about writing a pregnancy update post, and then I got the idea that it would be better from her. I’ll try to convince her, now that I have you to back me up. 🙂

    btw, I just responded to your mushroom question yesterday – white button.

  3. Ooo I second the baby update! Have you had to make anything weird for dinner to feed pregnancy cravings? A peanut butter and pickle sandwich perhaps?

    • Evan, not really anything weird, believe it or not. She craved pasta with meat sauce in the beginning, so I made some with lentils and that seemed to satisfy her. Really nothing all that strange otherwise, except perhaps a little more of a sweet tooth.

  4. Matt – if you go to Steamtown, let me know. I will come down the hour and cheer you on. Don’t think I will be ready for a marathon yet in October, though. I am doing a guest post at Motherese tomorrow outlining my running plans for the year.

    And yes, a baby update!

  5. You certainly are an inspiration! Lets see, you’re hoping for a sub-3 hour marathon… I’m hoping to not take too much more than 2 hours in my first half… The nearness in times for double the distance blows my mind. Good luck!

  6. Matt – thanks for the Tony Robbins link!

  7. Hey Matt, I’m a barefoot runner and in the cold I’m getting REALLY freaking bored of the treadmill. Do you feet stay warm alright in the vibrams? I’m not sure where you live but it’s snowed alot here….I can’t go back to shoes!

    • Diana – Actually, my feet get pretty cold (numb, even) in the Vibrams for the first 15 minutes or so, and then they warm up. Since it doesn’t last long, it hasn’t bothered me. I can’t imagine running full-on barefoot in this cold though!

      • yeah, that’s why I’m on the treadmill so much. We have had snow on the ground since Christmas Eve.

        I did a barefoot short race in the fall (my first barefoot) and it was 42° and raining. My feet were painfully numb for the first mile or so but it got better later on
        .-= Diana @ frontyardfoodie´s last blog ..Happy Friday Eve! =-.

  8. I tend to be the same way. If I don’t have a goal to work towards I tend to slack with my mileage. After Sunday’s 1/2 marathon I’ll have to pick a new run to work towards and I’m starting to really think about my first full marathon… imagining making your time with a full marathon totally seems impossible.

    Look forward to reading your getting out of a running rut post!
    .-= Heather @ Get Healthy With Heather´s last blog ..Stability Ball Move of the Day =-.

  9. Wow..a sub 3hr. marathon would be impressive! I’ll be running my first marathon this fall, Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver, so I’ve really enjoyed reading about your tips!

    I’ve also started running barefoot, but I’ve only worked up to a mile so far and only on the treadmill. I don’t think I’ll ever be a true barefoot runner! I’m waiting to get a pair of the VFF Bikilas which come out in the sprint. I can’t wait to get them!
    .-= Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)´s last blog ..Humpastry Day! =-.

  10. A pregnancy update would be awesome!!

    Glad you’re revisiting the marathon goal – sometimes you just need a break and you have to do what makes YOU happy!
    .-= katherine´s last blog ..Spark! Wellness Day 3 and Thoughts Thus Far =-.

  11. Sounds like such an amazing goal to have! Im so looking forward to hearing all about your training for the marathon. Good luck and take care!
    .-= chrysta ´s last blog ..Cookie Dough Hummus and rest days =-.

  12. If the marathon is calling your name, it must be because it’s meant to be! Great post–it’s interesting to see how taking a break, even when it’s just by training differently, can be so motivating.
    .-= Laura Georgina´s last blog ..Reflections On the Childhood of a Bootylicious Bookworm =-.

  13. Go for it! Running a marathon in under 3 hours seems crazy and impossible to me… I just hope I can finish my half marathon in under 3!

    I love the racehorse pic!! 🙂

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