I think I may have jumped the gun on my off-season training post. It’s hard to have an off-season training plan when you have yet to solidify what your goals are for the upcoming racing season. Nothing much has changed, I’m still toying with different training methods, but I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on an off-season until I knew what my off-season was preparing me to do. So what else did I have left to do but pick my goal and my goal race! [Remember that time I said I’d wait before hopping on the “next race” train?]
My half marathon PR (1:42) is over two years old because I haven’t been able to truly race a half marathon since setting it. In fact, at the time of the Pittsburgh Half, it’ll be about a month shy of being a 3 year old PR. Maybe it’s a lofty goal since my recent times haven’t come close, but I’ve only been training to finish the distance in one piece. (A giant double middle finger up to my posterior tibialis and my glutes!) It’s time to train to race the distance again. And boy, do I love the half marathon distance.
Pittsburgh has been an idea in the back of my head since J and I were accidentally there for a mini-vacation during the race. It’s a city I love to be in and it’s one of those places that are close enough, but far away. So I spent Thursday night reading all the race recaps I could find and analyzing the elevation profile before finally deciding. Then Friday morning on payday, after putting some more money down on my credit card (yikes), I spent just as much registering for the race, booking a couple nights in a hotel, and signing up for the Buffalo Half.
Pittsburgh isn’t totally flat, which might scare some people from choosing it as a goal race, but I tend to thrive on elevation changes. Hills have always been a strong suit of mine since my cross country days in high school. I recall doing repeats on a hill near us where as soon as our heart rate was down into target range after the first set, we’d go right back up. My heart rate was always back in target range within seconds and I was running up the hill faster than many of the guys on the team. Believe me, this isn’t a humble brag about being faster than the guys (definitely wasn’t), but hills were just my thing. I had some success using heart rate training before a hilly race and paying attention during it to knock out a time I didn’t know I was capable of. There’s something my body and mind loves about shifting gears with the flow of the elevation. Flat and fast? Not for me. Running strategically because of terrain? So me.
Then there’s Buffalo. It’s a race I feel obligated to do because it’s literally outside my door. I run these roads every single day. I know each and every step of that course like the back of my hand. It holds my PR. I signed up partially because it’s a tradition for me at this point, much like the Turkey Trot 8k, but also because I’m going to want a second try if Pittsburgh isn’t my day. Or maybe if Pittsburgh is my day, a second try to PR again. I know, I know, I’m getting way ahead of myself here.
It’s a little intimidating to talk about next year’s plans right now. Each time I’ve tried to focus on “next” after having a successful “now”, something has gone wrong — injuries, work, you name it. I just have this vision in my head of how much better I could be if I keep the momentum and base I have from marathon training using it to build off it for next Spring. It’s totally uncharted territory for me — even back in high school, I took all winter off. I’d be silly to not be excited about the possibilities.
What’s more terrifying about these two races is that they are just a month apart from each other. Since 2012, I have run just one half marathon per year because of all those aforementioned things going wrong. This year is the exception because I ran one half and then a full marathon. Had I not been so nervous about the ice at Lake Effect this year and stressing my tendonitis, I would have finished, but injury free is the way to be. So 2016? I have planned THREE half marathons. Some of you guys can knock them out like it’s nothing, but my mileage has never been able to handle that. It’s time to change that.
It feels good to put something on my calendar again that’s a goal for the sake of hitting a certain time, rather than a distance. Don’t get me wrong — I’m so happy that I ran the marathon and went through the training. It was a much needed confidence booster and something I need to get myself ready for the goals I want to achieve… the thought of seeing 1:3x on that clock, though.