Inspiring Runner Friends – Tom Francis

Please welcome Tom Francis as he shares some of his running motivations!

1. Favorite shoes:

Newton is my favorite racing shoe.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

5/3 River Bank Run is a 25k in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spectators form a gauntlet at the six mile turn and line the finishing blocks. It’s pretty cool. My favorite distance is a 10k. You can make up for a bad mile and the distance is not that popular any more. Moab Trail Marathon is currently at the top of my bucket list.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I prefer trails to roads but in northern Indiana trails are rather tame.

4. Why did you start running?

When I first started running it was all about finding out how fast that I could go relative to other people. After several decades of not running, it became about getting back outside and feeling the the changing seasons.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Motivation comes from my friends from college that run. Surprising I am also driven by FaceBook groups. Before I down my first cup of coffee I find out that I’m losing ground to people I’ve never met. So I find myself adding mileage to catch up. Understanding that I’m lucky to still be running with friends keeps me on the roads.

Hurt the Dirt Half Marathon

I did both this weekend. Separately and together which is what happens when you race on a trail tired.

I’m at the peak mileage weeks for my marathon training, so I was going into this race tired. I rearranged workouts so that I had a day off before the race, but after putting many 50-65 mile weeks my body wasn’t as ready as I hoped to tackle the treachery of a trail race.

When I’m tired on a trail run, I fall… spectacularly. Or at least it feels that way in my head. This one was a pretty hard thud on my left shoulder that didn’t bruise nearly as much as I thought it would. I’m probably lucky I didn’t fall more.

 

Hurt the Dirt is at the Luton Park in Rockford Michigan. They offered a full marathon, which was four loops around the course, for the irreconcilably crazy; a half marathon, for those of us who haven’t fully embraced our crazy, and a quarter marathon, whose participants were looking smarter by the mile.

It’s trail race which  I haven’t done since college and even those were wider pathways which allowed room to pass without sliding down the side of the hill or clipping a tree. The ground was soft and the course was shaded and cool; all pluses in my book. Except for a brief mile or so, the trail consisted of ups, downs, and hairpin turns. None of the ups were especially steep or long, but they were frequent. The hair pin turns meant that you could often see other participants in the race if you dared to lift your eyes from the trail in front of you.

Tracey, from my running group, and I ran together for most of the race, which was great. She was brave enough to look around and could see a few of the other runners from our group and cheer them on. That was one of the best things about the race, being there with my running group. We could help each other prepare, we could cheer each other on, and we could commiserate about the scratches and bruises (I wasn’t the only one who got a closer inspection of the dirt.).

After a tough run, I had one more surprise… first in my age group. I guess all the other runners my age had better things to do Saturday morning.

Where I’m going

My last post was about last year and how the path to my goals didn’t work out the way I planned. Of the three big goals I set for the year, I achieved one and only by the skin of my teeth.

Of course lessons were learned and hopefully I can apply them to this year’s goals and training.

One of the lessons I struggled with was reevaluating goals as time passed. I set a yearly mileage goal of 2,015 miles, which averaged to around 7  miles a day if I took a rest day once a week. However, halfway through the year, I was behind the pace and desperately needed the rest time. I was afraid to take it because it would put me farther behind. (I’m a get it done early type of person, so you can imagine how frantic I was.)

It took another three months until I was willing to let go of that goal. I decided to get as close as I could, but if I could only go a mile on a day, I would be content, knowing that I was trying my best and doing as much as I could.

Maybe that’s when the clarity came… once I gave up the tight focus on how many miles I was going to run, I could see everything more clearly.

I discovered the problem wasn’t fatigue and overtraining, but food intolerance.

For 2016, I decided that a yearly mileage goal was too much. It didn’t allow me to make good decisions about rest when I needed it. It added stress when running is supposed to be my stress reliever. I’m not saying that once November and December roll around, I won’t try for a round number, but that isn’t my focus in February.

So far I have three races planned:
  • A trail half marathon In April with my running group.
  • A marathon at the end of May on a flat and fast course, hoping for a Boston qualifying time.
  • The last race is another trail half marathon with my running group in August. I’ve heard horror stories about the hills on this course. I fully expect to fall on my face at some point.
The difference this year is that I look forward to these races with excitement and fun instead of pressure and exhaustion.
What do you look forward to this running year?