Lessons Learned: 2014 Cycle

Since I’m in my off season (to which my surgeon quipped so what, 60 miles a week?) and won’t gear up again until 2015, it’s time to look back on the cycle for 2014.

What I Learned

I can tolerate big mileage. I consistently ran 75 to 80 miles a week without injury and within 6 months of surgery without much more than occasional soreness. That being said, I was WIPED all the time and my workouts weren’t as solid throughout. Will and I assume that this is a direct result of never being fully recovered, courtesy of the mileage and of course, medical school.

Heartrate training works well for me, mentally and physically. I’ve had a heartrate monitor for a long time but hadn’t really used it much until this cycle when I started rocking it on every tempo run. It made an enormous difference for me mentally because “all” I had to do was get to 168 to 170 and stay there, whatever that pace was. I found it much easier to focus on the workout and not be stressing over pace and in turn, the paces were much closer to what tempo should be. It was the first time I really understood what tempo pace “felt” like.

I’m not done improving. In the back of my mind, I was worried that I had peaked with running and that working hard would bring no additional improvements. Although I wouldn’t call this a stellar racing year (I only ran 1 PR and had a collection of horrid races), I am thrilled with my marathon PR that came on mileage and just 10 months post-op. I’d love to see what happens when I have some speedwork on board and a totally solid ankle.

What I Need to Work On

Strength training. Right after surgery, I was in the gym almost every day and built a great base to come back to running on. As mileage got higher, however, and school got back into session, my gym time dwindled to almost zero. I’d do squats when I brushed my teeth and the occasional pushup, but I really wasn’t working on my strength and my quads paid for it during and after the marathon. I also need to improve my knee drive and I think strength is part of that.

Form. My form is okay and it’s holding up better in later miles but I still have a tendency to twist my upper body and shuffle my legs. If I’m going to click up another level, I need to get my arm swing working well and my knee drive far higher. Will recently built me a step up box for knee drive and I need to make a renewed commitment to practicing running arms daily.

Flexibility/Prehab. My back and hips hurt daily and if I want a successful open (and master’s) career, I have to get this in check before I’m crippled at 35. Some of this is that I currently sit a lot (which won’t improve over the next three months as I prep for Boards). Some of this is that I am not consistent about stretching and foam rolling. I’ve been working on making foam rolling my first activity of the day and am hopeful this will help.

I don’t have 2015 mapped out yet. I’m waiting on the final schedule from USATF NE to see what the Grand Prix schedule is and on a few other schedule related issues. I would prefer NOT to run a marathon in Spring 2015 (training in the winter sucks, I’m taking the boards in February and I am in Maine for my first rotation until May) but if VCM is the Grand Prix marathon, I am likely to join in. In my perfect world (ha!), I’d spend the first half of the year working on speed, getting a stint in at altitude and then target an early fall half for my OTQ. The marathon is more likely to get me in but almost everything has to go perfectly with a marathon that it can be hard to put all your eggs in one basket.

So my to-do list:

  • Build back up to 75 to 80 miles per week
  • Create and stick to a sustainable lifting regimen
  • Foam roll daily
  • Work on form, particularly arm swing and knee drive
  • Regain some speed and turnover
  • Use heart rate training for all workouts

What’s your 2014 analysis? To do list for 2015?

5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned: 2014 Cycle

  1. Dan Button

    Great post. I love doing recaps at the end of a cycle and seeing what I can learn. You’re making me feel all ugh about the deplorable amount of strength training that I do though. I really need to start. Next year I guess. I really like your in a perfect world training plan too, I think I’ll write that down for my next cycle too.

  2. M @readeatwriterun

    Recently found your blog, glad I did!

    I worked really hard coming back from an injury last year and accomplished dream goals (BQ’d for the first time at 47 and then BQ’d in 2 other races at 48 – 2nd BQ was for 2016, and 6+ minutes faster than first), with 2 PRs, ran 2 marathons in 4 wks, with an ultra to come at the end of Dec 6 wks after 2nd marathon). Now I wonder how much faster I can get and plan to work even harder to find out! My first Boston is in less than 19 weeks!!

    I am a “glider” (shuffler) and definitely need to work on knee drive and hip extension. So you recommend box step-ups for that? (I also need to work on eccentric ham strength) Working on core, glutes and just added in very light upper body weights. Definitely need to get stronger so I can get faster and run for many more years. I’ve been pretty good about flexibility – do Wharton AIF 5-7 days a week (7 most weeks) and have done so since last fall. Want to add in some yoga. Do light cycling for XT. Do almost all runs on my treadmill, need to get outside a bit more, but tmill works well for me.

    Nutrition is, like everything else, a work in progress. I have a very constrained diet due to sensitivities and GI conditions (thank goodness no flat out dangerous allergies, knock wood) so I am very interested to learn your nutrition approach and what works for you. (I’ve recently started using GU and am pretty happy with it; my go-to for the last few years has been EFS Liquid Shot in vanilla, whether straight or with water. It’s great on my tummy. Only problem is having to carry the flask. I use their Ultragen recovery drink and like it a lot, my tummy tolerated that as well).

    And then there’s continuing to improve my mental game.

    So many ways to improve my performance and my life – I love running even tho it’s a demanding master! đŸ™‚

    1. runnerunderpressure

      Congratulations on an amazing first couple of years of big time running! I’m so excited to hear about people who found success a little later and also want to keep getting stronger.

      I definitely recommend box step ups for EVERYONE. It helps with knee drive, yes, but more importantly, it really builds functional strength for running. If you step in a hole or are running on uneven terrain, you use the exact same muscles that step ups train to stabilize yourself.

      Let me know a little more about your nutrition restrictions and I am happy to talk more about that. I do use Gu, not because it sits the best but because for the convenience, I truly think it’s the best bet. When I have the option of my own liquids on course, I make Sarah-ade, a version of the original Gatorade that is just plain amazing. I’m happy to share the recipe!

      Nice to meet you!


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