Total Miles: 1405
Half Marathons: 1
Best Races of the Year:
Run SLC 5K
Las Vegas Half Marathon
March Madness 10K
Early in 2022 I was running extremely well. I had put in a solid effort throughout the winter and I came out pretty strong. My goal was to run consistently in the 23's for a 5K and I started to see that I was fully capable of hitting that time in my first legit race of the year. In a very competitive race, I ran a 23:50.
One of the races I was most proud of was the Las Vegas Half Marathon. It was my only half marathon of the year (more on that later) but I've never run particularly well there. My endurance training hadn't gone quite as well as I had hoped and I was apprehensive about the race. I expected another 2+ hour sufferfest.
This year, though, I ran well and knocked out a 1:57. I felt like I had paced it really well, dialed in my diet and did extremely well for myself. It wasn't a PR effort by any means, but given the circumstances, I didn't cross the finish line disappointed.
Finally, I ran well at the March Madness 10K. This was another legitimate course and I nearly broke 50 minutes. This was another one of my goals in 2022 and I came within 34 seconds of it. I think I lost some time on it as a result of allergies but overall a race that I remember running well at.
Worst Races of the Year:
West Fest 5K
Sound of Hope 5K
Looking back at my logs, I felt like I really only had 2 races where I felt I had run poorly. The comments below do NOT reflect on the organizers. They are 100% my performance-based thoughts.
The West Fest 5K was humbling. The course was very long (according to my Garmin) but still, for a 5K, I ran it poorly. I ran nearly 28 minutes for 3.3 miles. Even accounting for the extra quarter mile it was just a dud of a race for me. Granted, this was my first race in ages and it was also my first race after Covid and dealing with my stress fracture.
The Sound of Hope 5K was baffling to me. I was racing a lot of 5Ks at the time and my times were progressively getting better. It was a flat, accurate course but after halfway through I just died and it was a gut-buster to the finish. I ran a 25:11, which was a major step backwards. I suspect the headwind and a bit of heat caught up with me but I wasn't happy with my race performance.
Goals and Setbacks
So first the setbacks.
In early March 2022, I had a back issue. At first it wasn't too bad but it was generally always there. I kept running on it because I could mostly ignore it and I had a bunch of races I had committed to.
Of course, it got progressively worse, even after rest and self-treatment.
My mileage plummeted and some days I could run 10 miles relatively pain free and other days I lasted 10 yards. Finally in late April or so I went in for an official diagnosis.
I wound up having a stress fracture in my lower back. There isn't anything they can do for it other than wait for it to recover. I took 2 weeks off of running but was told I could resume running and keep it easy until it recovered. I also did a round of Prednisone which drove me absolutely nuts.
It was still bothering me in May so I finally saw a physical therapist. The fine folks at Canyon Sports Therapy
worked with me. It took a while, but I finally got the symptoms under control and was given a regime of exercises and stretches. I am still doing those exercises today, which is a first for someone who loathes strength work.
I do believe it has made a difference for me. I feel like a much stronger, more stable runner. I've also noticed that my shoes don't wear down as fast as they used to as well.
I still deal with the back issue from time to time -- even 7+ months later.
Finally, in late May, I also got Covid. The actual cold / flu wasn't too awful (it definitely was NOT fun) but the recovery seemed to take forever. I had no energy and got winded very easily. I would argue that it took about 2 - 3 months before I felt like myself again. I was able to get in some running but I definitely couldn't hit those top gears like I used. By the time September rolled around, I felt like my old self.
All of these setbacks cost me several half marathons (I didn't attend more half marathons than I completed this year).
So I had a few goals for 2022:
Run 23:30 -- consistently for 5Ks. I semi did this. I came up a bit short but I think that had to do with my injuries and Covid. My training was definitely there and I was inching closer to it by the fall season. However, it just came too late and I never really had that "A" race that I could smash for a finish.
I am happy that I followed a process on this. I did work hard and did weekly speed sessions and my times were getting consistently better despite the setbacks.
Increase the mileage by 10 - 20%: Yet another fail, but sort of close. I miss most of April and May, running a minimal amount of miles. Even the summer months, when I could run just about whatever I wanted to and feel 95% okay with it, didn't see me hit the mileage I wanted to. It was consistently hovering around 25 - 33 miles a week.
It wasn't until Oct / November where I started to see a large increase of mileage and that was because I started to use heart rate training and keep my easy runs easy. More on this in another section.
Eat Healthy Foods: This was another so-so goal. It wasn't spelled out what I wanted to accomplish here. Yes, I had plenty of candy, chips and sweets. But I also ate more healthy stuff as well: snacking on nuts and fruit. My weight did creep up a bit (as of this morning 184) but overall this was of mediocre success.
Growth This Year
This year also saw me obtain some new habits.
With the stress fracture back injury, it was drilled into me that I need to do some stretching and strength work. I had been doing some leading up to the injury (and whether it was the root cause of my back stress fracture remains a mystery) but my physical therapist gave me plenty of take-home exercises to do.
This whole process started in the middle of May and as I type this at the end of 2022, I am still doing my exercises pretty much as directed. My routine is pretty simple: a series of stretches and then a variety of strength exercises with a theraband.
The results have been good. My shoes seem to be wearing down less (i.e. I get more miles out of them) and I feel like my core is more stable.
The other thing I am currently working on is incorporating heart rate training.
I came across a number of videos on YouTube telling me that Zone 2 was the way to go and it could greatly transform your running.
The wisdom I was hearing was that most people do their easy runs too hard. It wasn't the first time I had heard that advice. But I could certainly relate to some of the side effects of constantly running at zone 3 and how super easy running could fix it.
So I learned a bit more about it and most were coaches were telling people you should run in Zone 2 -- which for me is about 126 - 134 beats per minute.
When I first attempted to do this I found myself either drifting into zone 3 (which is a middle ground which doesn't offer you much value) or getting frustrated because I was going into the upper 130's and 140's.
I felt like I wasn't even running.
My easy pace was original 9:30 per mile. For me to hit the zone 2, I had to run at 10:30's, sometimes 11's. I complained to everyone who would listen: it was too hard and how could this benefit me?
I stuck with it and each time I did it, I felt like this couldn't work. I'd be walking to hit the heart rates in zone 2.
But I finally found a calculator. This one worked for me, at heart rate zone calculator
. I had been using the plain old age graded tables which didn't take into any account of "me". I started to play with the numbers and I found out that the traditional tables -- were too low. I was an established runner who had a slightly higher than normal resting heart rate. I definitely knew my max heart rate from plenty of 5Ks I had run. Once I plugged the calculations into my watch, I found it was easier to hit zone 2.
The pace that corresponds to that zone is about 10:30 and sometimes 11. Some days I can run low 10's and still be in zone 2.
The promise on Zone 2 training is that eventually I'll be able to run in Zone 2 with a much faster pace, but it takes time. I am generally reading about 3 - 4 months. I am starting to see some results but the final verdict won't be in until Spring.
Some things I have noticed:
- I feel fresher, more often. I don't struggle with soreness and a feeling of being over trained.
- I am able to hit my harder workouts harder and complete them. I no longer think about or cut them off early.
- My mileage has increased by about 30% without feeling beat up.
- In the late season my 5Ks were improving. But whether this was a result of speed training, cooler temps, or a combination of factors remains to be seen.
I am enjoying it to some extent. I do believe you cannot do 100% of your runs in Zone 2. You do need to train fast and being able to tolerate the discomfort of a 5K. But right now, I try to do about 80% of my weekly mileage "easy". I also have to keep my ego out of it for Strava purposes.
By March or April, I should know if I want to continue this process and whether my easy pace improves.
Goals for 2023
So the goals for 2023 are somewhat similar to 2022's.
1) Continue to work on speed. How: Continue to perform at least once weekly speed sessions.
2) Smash 24 minutes for the 5K: How: See #1 but also continue to race 5Ks.
3) Continue to make my easy days easy. How: Work in Zone 2 and be sure that 80% of my weekly mileage is "easy".
4) Get some longer races in. How: I only did one half marathon in 2022. Most of that was because I was injured and missed a lot of the spring training / races. Keep fit healthy.
5) Continue to do strength training. How: I've got a pretty good routine down that I do a few times each week. Continue on working my core, hips and stabilizer muscles.
6) Get in a destination race that I haven't done before.