Sunday, January 2, 2022

2022 State of the Run


New Year, New State of the Run post.  Join me as I dive in to The Year of the Whatever and come up with my grand "what's next" plan.

Annual Disclaimer/Links to Previous State of the Runs

I am not qualified, licensed, or certified in any of this stuff. Anything that I write about running is just an account of my trials and errors.

Past States: State of the Run 2019, State of the Run 2020, State of the Run 2021

My Goals for 2021 and How They Played Out

Goal: Run as much or as little as I want to
Result: I always knew the goal of running "more" miles each year was not sustainable.  In 2021 I ran more miles than I did in 2019 and less miles than I did in 2020.  I can't say that I ran "as much or as I little as I want to" because there were times when I ran less than I wanted to and times when I ran more than I wanted to due to blindly following a training plan instead of checking in with myself.
Goal: Take more cutback weeks and see if I can avoid end of the year burnout that I experienced in 2019 and 2020 
Result: I had mid year burnout instead of end of the year burnout.
Goal: Do not neglect strength training
Result: Success!  I was much more consistent with strength work in 2021 than I have been in previous years. 
Keep pushing the speed.  Run a sub 9 minute mile and a sub 30 minute 5k.
Result: Never tried, did not achieve.
Goal: Run fewer races.  I felt that I was constantly rushing from race to race without ever doing the proper training for any of them.
Result: I don't even know where to start...I worked with a coach to prepare for a half and it was a disaster.  The only PR's that I had in 2021 were for slowest times in the 10k and half.  Toward the end of the year I went on a racing binge and had a blast.

The Frustrating Thing About This Year

The expected story arc is "Do work.  Get results".

2018: ran twice as many miles as 2017
2019: race PRs, first half marathon
2020: got faster
2021: same amount of work as previous years==>got slower and gained ten pounds

So yes, 2021 is the year that is not like the other years, and the year where I had to step back and ask "Why am I doing this?  What am I getting out of it?"  It's a given that I need to have some kind of physical activity in my life, but it doesn't have to be running specifically.

After some soul searching I decided that I'm not giving up on running just yet but I am giving up on the things that don't work for me:

Running a Bajillion Miles.  While I *can* run 30 miles a week, right now I feel like the only thing that I've gotten from it is bragging rights.  I can't figure out how to eat to support the mileage, which is where the weight gain comes in.  My coach had me running 8-11 mile long runs for six months and I was ready to quit my September half marathon at mile's just not working.

Running in the Heat.  I don't know why I have problems starting at the 60 degree mark, but I do, and no amount of reading about "heat acclimatization" is going to change that.  This summer just about wrecked me.  Going forward I will keep the treadmill in play year round and not run outside on extremely hot days.  I reserve the right to cuss out the next person who tells me that "summer training brings fall PR's!!!"

Coaching: I had valid reasons for working with a coach, and at first things went well.  But over time I found myself doing things because they were "on my plan" over following my own instincts.  When I would talk to my coach all that I got back was a canned response.

Me: "I felt dizzy after the first mile of my easy run today and it's going to be even hotter tomorrow for my speed workout, what should I do?"
Coach: "Just base it on effort.  Or move the workout to the coolest day of the week".
Maybe I would have gotten a different result if I had pushed back with "What does "effort" mean when I'm dizzy to start with?  You and I live in the same area and I don't see any day in the next two weeks that's noticeably cooler than any of the others so which day did you mean by the coolest?"  But as it was I gave up on trying to communicate with my coach and clocked in the miles on my plan.  Lots of long runs in the heat where I had to stop every mile to rest...instinctively I knew that I wasn't building fitness and was just training myself to hate running, but I kept at it for much longer than I should have.

I don't think that any coach is going to give me a different plan than running a bajillion slow miles.  If I get to a point in my running where I feel like I would benefit from a different viewpoint, then I might try working with a coach again.  But for the foreseeable future I'll stick with my lonesome.

Half Marathons.  While there is something very awesome about crossing the finish line of a half, this distance hasn't been my friend.  I will be running at least one more half, but it's not going to be my focus going forward.

Race Recaps

Live racing was back this year.  I put in 82.2 miles of racing over 12 races (fun fact: that's exactly the same racing miles that I ran in 2019 with 11 races).  I ran six races in the first ten months of the year and six in the last two months of the year.

March: a hilly 15k and a virtual Shamrock Shuffle

April: 10 miler

June: a very hot and awful 10k

September: a sucky half

October: a half that didn't suck as much as the September race

November: a 10k that was just OK, a 5 miler that I put some spunk into, a Turkey Trot 5k, and a Christmas themed 5k two days later.

December: Christmas Eve 5 miler, New Year's Eve 5k.

My favorite races were the November 5 miler (I used a power walker as my pacer!) and my 2nd 5k of November (best race time).

2021 Shoe Stats

5 pairs purchased, and 4 pairs kept.

The "fail" purchase was the Brooks Levitate 4.  The shoes were gorgeous and felt good, but the built in tongue made the shoe too tight on my right foot.  The Levitate 5 has a "normal" tongue and rave reviews, and as soon as I see a sale I will revisit this shoe.

My other 4 pairs of shoes were the Brooks Launch 8.  Overall I'm a fan BUT:
  • I've noticed that the 8 wears out faster than previous models.  I could reliably get 500 miles out of the Launch 5 and 6 but once my first pair of 8 got into the high 300's there was visible wear on the soles and the shoes were starting to feel a little harsh.  I kept using them because I'm stubborn, but changed my tune after talking to a friend.  She said that she was starting to get some foot niggles after only 200 miles on her current pair of shoes.  I told her the first thing that popped into my head which was, "if the shoes don't feel good, why on earth are you wearing them?  The price of a new pair of shoes is a no brainer if you're having niggles".  And then I said the next thing that popped into my head which was "Why am I not taking my own advice?" and promptly retired the problem pair of shoes at 415 miles.
  • I've also noticed that there is a benefit to rotating between two different pairs for outdoor runs as well.  It's almost like the Launch 8 needs a "rest day" between runs (so far they do not seem to need "rest days" for the treadmill).

I'm open to trying other shoes outside of Brooks, but for right now I feel like the Launch is working for me.

Good Gear

I got a hydration backpack this year and it was a game changer for long runs and racesThis is the one that I have, which is perfect for the price.

While technically this isn't gear, the other worthwhile new thing that I tried this year is Skratch Hydration Mix.  In the end I wasn't able to solve my heat problems with electrolytes, but it sure helped in places.  I tried it because I got a free pack from a Strava challenge, and then forked out my own money to repurchase it.

What's in the Forecast for 2022?  Imma keep running
  • Reduced mileage. I think that the thousand mile mark is probably about right, so mid 80's for monthly mileage.  There is something very satisfying about hitting 100 miles in a month, and it's no accident that I got 100 miles in December.  In the middle of the month I saw that it was possible so I pushed myself to do it (on top of doing a daily running streak), but I didn't get anything for doing it, you know?
  • Bye Bye Streak!  I loved doing my first ever running streak, but I'm good with 38 days.  I don't "get anything" for running every day, you know?  But I do believe that the Winter #rwrunstreak will be a repeat for 2022.
  • Continue to work on speed
  • Continue to work on hills 
  • Yawn, continue to keep consistent on strength.  And I would like to shout out my running coach here - even though the running part did not work out she definitely gave me some good pointers in the strength department.
  • Run on the treadmill 1-2 times per week even after the weather gets better.  As I've said before, I need time to adjust to the treadmill, so that's why when the weather got hot this summer that I couldn't just jump on it for the mileage that I was running.   This chart will look much different next year:

  • Lots of races!  But short ones!  My goal is to run at least one race every month (COVID permitting, but it seems like in person racing is back to stay).  Why?  Because racing is fun.
    • Spoiler, the reason why I'm writing my annual state of the run post on Jan 2nd this year instead of Jan 1st like I have in years past is because I've already run my January 2022 race;-)  But that's a story for another day.
    • As much as possible, I want to run new races instead of repeating the same races that I've run in previous years.  I like the Turkey Trot and my hometown Christmas Eve 5 miler, but I've come to hate the 10k that I've run every June for the past five years.  There are several really cool local races that I haven't run yet and I plan to hit them up this year.
    • I'm not totally done with the half, but it's not a priority.  I have one in late April that I registered for a long time ago because it was on sale for $26.20.  I have my eye on a low mileage training plan. 
That's a Wrap on 2021!  Happy Running Everyone!


  1. Like you, I'm not a high-mileage gal. I've tried to do it, but I've always paid a dear price (injury and/or early-stage burnout). I seem to do alright with my finish times and endurance with the moderate miles logged each week/month. So, if it ain't broke... ;-) I love reading through all your thoughts and insights on year-end review! Best wishes for a fab 2022!!

    1. Thanks Kim! I see you and raise for a fab 2022 for both of us. You have a great sense of what your body can do and when to push forward and when to back off.

  2. Well done on 2021, Birchie!
    12 races is a nice number and that second 5k in November shows that they are a great tool to become faster.
    Which brings me to your goals for 2022: love these! Races, hills and strength training will help you to keep running fun and to get faster.
    I hardly ever run more than 30 miles a week, btw, unless I'm training for an ultra.
    Happy New Year!

    1. Exactly - part of the reason why I used to shy away from hill training is that I was too tired after all of the mileage and speed work. If I take the endless miles off the table I should end up spending my time working on things that will make me a stronger runner.

  3. I've reduced my mileage this year and it feels great. I feel like I'm actually in better shape with all the cross-training. My hips feel great, my knees feel great. Back in 2019, I was in the FASTER MORE MORE MORE zone and it ended up with an injury, big surprise. I think as we age we have to be kind to ourselves and our bodies, and just take joy from running. We don't *need* to be a certain time or mileage, we just need to love the bodies we are in. Happy New Year!

    1. Exactly Nicole! I've had a few years of high mileage, and although I've had some good times overall I'm not seeing a benefit. If I keep doing the same thing I'll get the same result.

  4. I'm just eating this post up with all the stats! I love numbers :-) I think you are absolutely right that it's not sustainable to always try to run more miles than the previous year. So your goals were really on point for 2021. It's awesome that you were consistent with your strength and just had a ton of fun with racing towards the end of the year. Excited to see what 2022 brings for you!

    1. I mean if you don't have a bunch of stats did you even run???

      Thanks Elizabeth! Here's to 2022!

  5. Giving up on what doesn't work for you is so important. I ran crazy for me mileage in 2021 and while I didn't fizzle out until November, I have no interest in doing that again so I'll take a cut back year.

    1. Cari, you nailed it! No more cutbacks weeks and YES to a cutback year.