As a reader of UltraRunning magazine for the past several years, one of my favorite issues has always been the January “Year in Review”; a look back at the past 12 months in our sport. It provides an in-depth analysis of who ran what and how fast, plus an overview of ultra stats and key events of the past year. Many runners with blogs write similar posts in December, looking back at their year as a whole, rather than just analyzing each race as a stand-alone event. I’m sure many of you do the same, even if just in your head rather than a more formal analysis.
I can understand why we review our racing and running, and how satisfied we are with our achievements, on a 12-month basis; it is a natural block of time and with so many ultras selling out early we’re often forced to plan a year ahead, just to ensure that we are able to get into races. But a whole year is a long time, during which many things can change and impact our running, so maybe now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s a good time to step back and look at how our year is going, or not, so far.
We often set out ambitious targets in January. If we have taken downtime from running during the December holidays, come January 1 we’re eager to get back to running and racing. In addition, many races are still several months away, so even the most lofty of targets seem achievable as we feel we have time to train. This can lead us to lay out ambitious running goals – be it the number of races we’ll complete, the distance of our races, the terrain we’ll tackle or the time goals we’ll target. But now, in July, it can be beneficial to sit back, pause and re-evaluate our goals for the remaining six months of 2014. Although it can be easier to bury our heads in the sand and continue with our January 1 targets, sometimes a midyear reality check is needed to ensure that the rest of our running year is both more enjoyable and more successful.
A few things that you might like to look at midyear are:
How Have The Races You Have Completed In The First Six Months Gone?
Did you achieve time/position goals? Did you enjoy the races, and if so – what was it you enjoyed about them? Destination? Terrain? Distance? Social aspects? Were you able to train sufficiently for the races to be satisfied with your performance and enjoyment on race day? This is a reality check – you might have decided to try your first and then several 50 milers this year, but if you have not enjoyed the 50 milers or the training for them, are you really going to doggedly continue to race more 50 milers in the remaining six months of the year just because that’s what you planned to do on January 1? On the other hand, maybe you performed far better than you expected in a particular race, so now you have the confidence to set more aggressive time goals for upcoming races. Maybe you tried your first true mountain run and loved it, so you might decide to scratch the plans for an upcoming road ultra and instead find another mountain race.
Have You Suffered Any Injuries In The Last Six Months That Might Affect Your Race Plans For The Rest Of The Year?
Maybe on January 1 you decided to race a 100 miler in the fall, but if you are now suffering from an injury that is limiting your running volume, you might need to look at how feasible it is to train for and complete that 100 miler. Does the event have a shorter distance that you can step down to? Conversely, you might have been cautious on your goal setting on January 1 if you were recovering from an old injury, but if you now feel that that injury is well behind you, can you consider adding some more races to your calendar for the rest of the year?
Have Other Non-Running Factors Changed In Your Life Since The Start Of The Year That Have Affected Your Running?
This can encompass a whole host of things. Maybe you have changed jobs and your new job is demanding longer hours and impacting the time you have available to train. Maybe health issues have impacted your ability to run. Maybe you have moved and now have different training grounds, which may be less suited to running than your former location. Maybe your go-to training partner, who you aimed to train with for a goal race, can no longer train, so you’re left contemplating a lot of solo running. And the list goes on. But not all life changes have a negative impact on your running. In fact they can have quite the opposite – possibly a new job is more understanding of your running and thus you might feel more able to tackle bigger goals for the remainder of the year than you did on January 1. Or if you have relocated you might now be closer to mountainous terrain and thus feel confident to sign up for some mountain races for the second half of the year, as you will be able to train suitably for them.
I myself was overcoming injury last year but am feeling that that is behind me now, so I can possibly take on more than I originally planned for in 2014. I have focused on road racing in the first half of this year and found that I have really enjoyed it, so I am thinking that I might incorporate some more road ultras towards the end of the year if my schedule allows. However, I have found that as we move into summer, with long evenings and better weather, I am more eager to get onto mountainous trails again, so that will likely be my focus for the summer and fall. I also really enjoyed seeing lots of familiar faces from the ultra community back in March at Chuckanut, so I’m excited to race Speedgoat and The Rut this summer, which will definitely be good social, as well as competitive, races. So…now my plan for 2014 is to focus on roads, then trails, and maybe some roads again late in the year. This is the best plan for my success and happiness with my running this year, but back in January, who knew?