I’ve been having a hard time nailing down my running goals for 2009. I guess that should be obvious, since it’s practically March already and my “Upcoming Races” list at the top of the page still has little more than an 8K and a bunch of question marks.
There are excuses and actual reasons for that.
A big thing is that my work schedule for the year looks like it’s going to be very full. I’m self-employed and do a lot of short-term, freelance kind of work. Luckily, my calendar has filled up nicely for the year. I’m not getting rich or anything, but the income should be steady, and given the state of things in the world nowadays, I consider my self very fortunate to be able to say that.
But the job requires my physical, hands-on presence, and that means less free time to travel and run marathons and ultras. I’ve already had to cross the Clinton Lake 30, the McNaughton Park 50 (or 100), and the Georgia Marathon off my list for the year, just because of scheduling conflicts. Those are all races I’ve run and enjoyed the last couple of years.
The other big factor has been a general concern that I might have been burning myself out just a tad last year on all the long distance races. I had two bright spots last year with my finish times: I pushed through and broke 4 hours in the marathon for the first time in Madison, Wisconsin on Memorial Day; and I improved my time at the Farmdale 33-miler in October, even though I missed a turn and added a mile or so to my race. Other than that, however, my finish time in every other distance race I ran was markedly slower than in previous years. I just rarely felt like I was able to give a race my very best effort.
I did have a bit of illness and injury to deal with last year, and that affected my performance, especially in the first half of the year, but by December, I started to wonder if maybe I wasn’t just a little burned out. Scaling back in 2009 didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
But am I whimping out? Am I just going soft? Am I slacking off? I don’t know, maybe.
But I know this is true: I really think I have a 3:45 marathon in me somewhere. I’m turning 35 this summer, so, theoretically, I’ll only be getting slower from here on out. If I scale back the quantity of races, I run, and focus on the quality of just one or two of them, I can take a shot at clocking a flat, road marathon in something under 3:50. There’s a new marathon being hosted 45 miles away in Kenosha, Wisconsin in May and, of course, Chicago in October once again. Both are flat courses. Both are close enough to home that they wouldn’t interrupt my work schedule. And both races are five months apart.
However, I also haven’t given up this idea of finishing my first 100-mile. I know this is silly, but I really want me a shiny 100-mile finisher Belt Buckle Award to keep my pants up. The Burning River 100 is run between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio in early August. It’s only about 7 hours away, and I might be able to sneak away for that weekend, long enough to take a crack at it. Unlike my 2 marathons this year, I would go into it with NO time goals. I’d simply be aiming to make each aid station and the finish line before the cutoff times. We’ll see.
I haven’t even signed up for all of these races yet, but it seems like a good plan from where I’m sitting today. If I can clock a strong improvement in the marathon, and maybe bring home that 100-mile belt buckle, then when the year is done, I’ll be able to say I made the right decision.