Looking forward, looking back (the obligatory New Year’s post)

My Goals in 2012

1. Break 22 minutes in the 5K: I ran a 21:25 at the Tucson 5000.
2. Qualify for the Boston Marathon (3:40 or better): I ran a 3:38:41 at the Tucson Marathon.
3. Complete an Olympic Distance triathlon: I completed the Mountain Man Olympic triathlon in Flagstaff, Arizona.

What worked

In 2011, I tied my previous 5K PR of 22:51 set in 2008. I was starting to think that I was about as good as I was going to get. I spent the rest of 2011 and all of 2012 working with coach Dean. He gradually increased my mileage and introduced me to some workouts that I loved and some that I loved to hate. Although I had been pretty regular with my running in the past, having a schedule helped me tap into an extra level of discipline. Unless I was completely exhausted or thought I might be on the verge of an injury or illness, the workouts got done (I did need to shift things around on occasion). It also got me out of a workout rut; I tended to do the same thing over and over again.

He also gave me target paces based on my current ability and future goals. The mistake a lot of amateur runners tend to make is that they run their easy workouts too hard and/or their hard workouts too easy. It’s a delicate balance to get give your body the stimulus it needs to improve without breaking it down so much that you do more harm than good. Olympian Ryan Hall expounds upon the subject nicely here: http://runningwithjoy.com/2011/01/20/training-tip-alternating-fast-and-slow-days/. One of my mistakes had been to treat all of my hard workouts like races, striving to go all-out on each run or interval.

I started doing triathlons in 2011, but they had all been sprint distances with pool swims (I live in Tucson, it’s what we do here). For an Olympic distance (1500 meter swim), I would have to venture into the open water. Unless you count goofing around on beach vacations and boat trips, I had no experience. I sought out help from a local triathlon club, the Tucson Tri Girls, and started frequenting the forums on Beginner Triathlete. I was able to join the Tri Girls on a trip to Patagonia where a bunch of us swam while one of the husbands followed us in a kayak. Through Beginner Triathlete I ended up meeting Tracy. She lives in Phoenix, but we were both going to be in Flagstaff at the same time. She was familiar with the Mountain Man course and kindly offered to swim and bike it with me (we also drove the run course so I got to see just how bad the dreaded hill was). Open water swimming can be scary and dangerous, and the help I got was invaluable.

Take away

Having a schedule is important. A coach or a trainer can help you craft one and provides extra accountability. You can also look to books, magazines, or online training plans for ideas. You may need to tinker with them a bit so they work for you. If you have some knowledge in the subject, try writing out your own workouts a week or month in advance.

Other people have done what you are trying to do. Join a local or online community for support, encouragement, and advice. In my personal experience, people interested in health, fitness, and endurance sports are great people and eager to help.

My new goals

1. Break 21 minutes in the 5K. I’d really like to go under 20, but that might be too ambitious for this year.
2. Complete a Half-Ironman triathlon (1.2 miles swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run).
3. Update this blog at least once a week. It’s not a fitness goal exactly, but writing is something that I’ve neglected for a long time and want to do again.

Here’s to 2013!

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