A(nother) Year In Running

A Day in the Life21 Comments

2008 saw the odometer at 1601 miles. Not bad but I knew more could be achieved with more effort. Total miles annually is really just a number. Some run less and are faster. Some run more and are slower. So let’s analyze, reflect, and move on. For 2009, the final number:

Brandon Fuller

I am proud of this improvement but it isn’t a consistent result. I see 2009 as 2 halves. The good one and the bad one. The bad one happened at the start of the year. I started the season straight after the holidays of 2008. I didn’t allow myself to stay indoors on cold days as much as in previous years. I tried to stay consistent and getting 6-7 miles in every day over the same loop. However, I wasn’t really running with any specific training purpose because I didn’t have one. If 2007 was the year of races (trying to do a lot of them), this year wasn’t. I had postponed my LT100 attempt for another year with the birth of Kayla and that left a void in my running agenda. What to shoot for now? So I just ran. The lack of purpose just caused me to run junk miles all the time. It wasn’t terrible but it moved me off my improvement curve more than I needed to be.

Kayla's Birth

Finally, plans for the Leadville Marathon firmed up and I had some focus again. However, I wasn’t really running so well. It was better than before but I found myself tired during runs and being able to talk myself into some pauses. I started getting used to this new routine. I also started getting to Boulder more often to run hills. I thought these would magically improve my skills for Leadville and they probably did but I wasn’t focusing on the outings as much as I could to get the most out of each of them.

Prior to Leadville, I went and ran the Mount Evans Ascent where I had one of those races that just fell apart. They were negotiating whether we would run to the top or not because of weather from the start. The conditions were not ideal. I wasn’t feeling well at all and I just didn’t have fun out there. Left that race totally unsatisfied and wondering if I should ever return to that course.

2007-06-16 -- Mount Evans Ascent 032

As Leadville approached, I started getting much more into the groove but it was too late. I was already too deep in the cycle for where my mind wanted my body to be. I ended up having a great time at Leadville but it wasn’t the finish I had hoped for. I took the day as a sign to get my ass in gear. I wanted to step it up.

Leadville Trail Marathon 2009

GZ was talking about HR training inspired by some dude from the hills — Lucho. I figured — what have I got to lose — so I took my usual training plan generator and had it do it based on HR rather than pace goals. Day 1 was a surprise. I was supposed to run in a certain slow HR zone and it had me crawling along. I didn’t even feel like I was running. Felt like a total waste. But only days into it, I started coming to the realization that I don’t have to pause at this pace. I can run it forever (seemingly). So I kept at it for the cycle. I went from starring at pace to starring at HR. It was a transition that was good for me. I did a few tweaks to hold my plan mileage more consistent on long runs so I could see if it was making a difference. And it was. Every week, I did the loop faster at nearly the same HR. More speed for the same output. This was great and all but I needed another angle. Focusing on one thing is great but I felt like 100% of one strategy isn’t going to pay off as much as 80% of 2 strategies. So I looked to the greats and boiled down their posts, comments, interviews, etc. all into one common phrase:

Run more.

WTF? Run more. Really? Those are the great words of wisdom. I needed to up my game to the next level and the way to do that was simply to run more. Get your body used to running every day, all the time, no excuses. I like measurable goals so I set one. I am going to run 100 miles in a week. Lots of good runners do this. Friends of mine do this. Its not like a world record type of thing but it definitely would test some things. I set out to do it in a balanced way. I would split the miles over 7 days and just nail it day by day. So I went out. And it was fucking boring — at first. About day 3 or 4 I started feeling like all I did was run. Wake up and run. Now it just took about 2 hours and change every day but I did feel this sense of boredom that I mentally had to work through. And I did. I started finding new ways to zone out and to concentrate. To discover new routes. To entertain myself. When I finished the week, I had a sense of achievement and some aches and pains. I felt like I pushed something hard and it pushed back but I won.

Black Toe

I continued uping the mileage to keep the averages higher. 50 miles a week that was the norm in the early part of the year wasn’t going to cut it anymore. I had to be 70-90 depending. Running more would be the solution. All that running gave me lots of time to reconsider my fall goal of qualifying for Boston. I continued to debate up until race day whether or not I could make it happen. Days of excuses followed by days of reasons why. In the end, there was no better chance than to try and BQ in Denver on my home turf. In retrospect, this was the best decision of the year because Boston filled shortly after I registred and an attempt at CIM would have been for nothing.

So I ran hard at Denver. I felt like it was a near perfect day. My 2 failures where: 1) Bowels. Well documented in the post but I wasn’t in control that day of my system and I spent precious time in the pot. It killed my buffer. 2) I didn’t train enough in the 20s mile range. When I capped my long runs at 20, I gained a nice consistent swagger but I didn’t push myself to experience that last 6 miles. Usually, you feather up to 22-24 and then back down. I never did that. I figured it wouldn’t matter but I think it did. In the future, I see myself doing more runs in the 20s in order to build up my ability for that last section of the race.

Denver Marathon

After the Denver Marathon, I was flying high and knew that my downfall for 2010 would be sitting on my butt until 2010. So I made an effort to keep training but stay playful with it. I maintained a few 7 day weeks. I kept hitting the hills. I stayed after it. I was aware that this could have a negative effect but I also knew that the “sit on your ass” strategy for 2008 did not pay big dividends. The hole is too deep to dig out of. I remember running up Bear for the first time ever with JV in January. It sucked from the perspective that I knew I had work to do but it helped light a fire that carried me up and down those hills for the rest of the season. JV has been a real motivator for me this year as he got me out there on the hills more often than ever before and pushed me to get stronger and faster while being complimentary the whole way through. I surely logged more miles with him than anyone this year. Thanks, Jeff. More to come!

Jeff on Bear

So it was just this week during the holidays that I elected to take my first real break. It won’t even be a solid week off but I feel rested and relaxed and sort of jittery. My tanks feel full. I don’t have any aches or pains. The only downer is that we just entered true winter but that won’t stop me — I hope. The days will only get longer which gives me more time to get ready for the year ahead.

Every monthly summary this year immediately had me looking at the prior year. So I plotted it out that was for this wrap-up so I could see how it faired. As I knew, I got out a bit earlier at the start but then lagged 2008 as summer approached because of the lack of a goal. 2008 was the Leadville 50 and that had me scared. So I ran more that year in those months. Then the big miles came and I knew I blew the doors off of 2008.

Microsoft Excel

Looking to 2010 I don’t know if I really care about total miles as much. I guess I foresee surpassing this 2009 mark in that I hope to be more consistent at the start of the year in the higher mileage range that prior. That probably will carry over to a new annual record.

However, above everything, the highlight of 2009 were the friends I made along the way. Up until this point, I had about 2 friends that ran and neither of them lived in my state. However, this year through the interwebs, over a dozen folks have come into my life to add different angles to my running that did not exist before. They challenge me to get out more often, run different places, try new things, and think differently. And I like to think I do that back to them. Each one of them has their own goals and none of us seemingly have the same exact set — yet we all overlap somehow. Thanks, guys.

I could dissect for hours and try to pull out more nuggets but those were some of the highlights for me. However, I have learned that what works for you might not work for me. And vice versa. We are all at different spots on the curve working with a different inventory of skills, time, and motivation. So in list form:

1) Run more – Log more miles, more consistently. This gets your body used to running making it second nature. It makes you stronger by making you weaker (then you rebuild).

2) Get vertical – I can’t completely tell you how much but running up and down hills and mountains makes you faster at everything.

Mount Sanitas

3) Less shoe – Over this year, I went from big fat stability shoes to minimal shoes. I don’t think this is something that I could have jumped to overnight. But as my body got stronger from running more, I felt like I was hurting myself by having too much shoe under my foot. After my knee injury of years ago, I need the support (I think) to get myself built back up. But at some point, it became a hindrance. I needed to start allowing my body to run how it wanted now. By going to a more light and neutral shoe, I became even stronger.

skitched-20091229-193532.jpg

4) Talk the walk – Spend more time talking about running with interested parties. It helped me expand my vision of what I could do it and how I could achieve it. Meeting and talking with people that have achieved similar goals to yours is the best way to learn how to make your goals become reality.

5) HR-based plans – The switch from pace to HR was a major component of my improvement this year as detailed above.

Onward to twenty ten!

  • jmock

    Good post!

    • Thanks! I was surprised in your wrap-up to see that you eclipsed GZ as the mileage winner. I guess you don’t dwell on the minutes so you were the sleeper. Solid year.

  • Great year! Between ’08 and ’09 you have an awesome base to get ready for Leadville! I wanna get up to Boulder again soon, you doing any of those 20+ milers in January?

    We were talking about your mancrush at the Colorado Running Company last night. We figured out why he’s injured so much. He fakes the injuries so he can stay in bed with his hot girlfriend.

    • Thanks! Hoping I can hang with you at Leadville (if you show up!). We can get a 20+ in this month. Will get my schedule straight shortly and let you know where the spots are.

      It is almost 2010 – mancrush will be over.

  • Nice post, Brandon! Stay with it. I have no doubt you’ll be sporting a Leadville buckle.

    • I hope! I will ping you on one of my trips to San Jose and if we can get a run in.

  • christopherjlee

    Brandon. Great post and recap. I know you often comment about being the pupil of other runners but I definitely have learned a lot from you over the past year. The things I am most interested in hearing about is how you regularly utilized HR as part of your training. Were you focused on MAF? Did you do a LT test to get your target HRs? When and now often did you do speedwork, etc? This of course leads me to my another question which is what online training plan generator did you use? There of tons of resources on the internet in reference to my questions, but your improvement as you mentioned really seems to be due to the HR focus and the mileage which is why I am interested in a few more of the details from your plan(s).

    • I didn’t know what MAF meant until about a week ago until I had to google it because too many people were talking about it.

      Anyway, I started using the Runner’s World schedule which you can download into your Garmin. The key reason I chose that one? Because it downloads into your Garmin! That was my only criteria when I started using their plans a few years back. I wanted the watch to just dictate the workout each day and beep me through it. No brains needed. Here is the site:

      http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/racing/rw-schedules-for-your-garmin/3301.html

      As you can see, you can choose pace or HR. For pace, I always tweaked it. For HR, I just let it go as it defaults.

      Now, its hard to say what last fall would have produced if I did pace again (instead of HR) but I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a major shift. Whereas the HR plan was a shift — I had to run slower! That was weird. So I might say that the plan ended up being easier but it got me running more solid/consistently because the paces were tolerable and didn’t cause any injuries.

      But as I said, I did 80% of the plan…meaning I would sneak some extra hard days in now and then, or I tweaked the long runs, etc. But overall, I ran more miles than the plan’s prescribed mileage (100 mile week, 2-fers, etc.).

      Overall, who knows? Worked for me and I tried to figure out what I attribute it to. Those were the thoughts I had on the tip of my tongue. Probably could do a full post on it but I am just talking out of my ass.

  • I didn’t know what MAF meant until about a week ago until I had to google it because too many people were talking about it.

    Anyway, I started using the Runner’s World schedule which you can download into your Garmin. The key reason I chose that one? Because it downloads into your Garmin! That was my only criteria when I started using their plans a few years back. I wanted the watch to just dictate the workout each day and beep me through it. No brains needed. Here is the site:

    http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/racing/rw-schedules-for-your-garmin/3301.html

    As you can see, you can choose pace or HR. For pace, I always tweaked it. For HR, I just let it go as it defaults.

    Now, its hard to say what last fall would have produced if I did pace again (instead of HR) but I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be a major shift. Whereas the HR plan was a shift — I had to run slower! That was weird. So I might say that the plan ended up being easier but it got me running more solid/consistently because the paces were tolerable and didn’t cause any injuries.

    But as I said, I did 80% of the plan…meaning I would sneak some extra hard days in now and then, or I tweaked the long runs, etc. But overall, I ran more miles than the plan’s prescribed mileage (100 mile week, 2-fers, etc.).

    Overall, who knows? Worked for me and I tried to figure out what I attribute it to. Those were the thoughts I had on the tip of my tongue. Probably could do a full post on it but I am just talking out of my ass.

  • georgezack

    Fun getting to run with you this year. My family and some friends were discussing their highlights over the past year. I was asked specifically what my running highlight was and it was undoubtedly watching you go to the well in Denver. That was balls bud.

    No surprise on Mr. Mock and the mileage.

  • georgezack

    Fun getting to run with you this year. My family and some friends were discussing their highlights over the past year. I was asked specifically what my running highlight was and it was undoubtedly watching you go to the well in Denver. That was balls bud.

    No surprise on Mr. Mock and the mileage.

    • My regret is that we didn’t hook up enough! Glad my Denver performance left a stain in your memory. You had a front row seat. I still appreciate your support that day. Like to think I could have done it either way but this was more fun.

      • georgezack

        Stain! Nice. No doubt you would have done it under any conditions. It was very inspiring for me to have the front row seat to see that run through fire.