In the Paddock

Every year the goal stays the same. Get in better shape, put in 100 miles a month and make it 1,200 (or more) for the year.

Almost every year the goal changes. Usually it goes something like this: everything starts well, the miles rack up in January, February and March and stay fairly steady through the busy spring months April, May and June. July comes and it’s time to press. A decent amount of mileage gets logged early in the month, the Boilermaker 15k helps out and the wheels come off around in the days leading up to and after Opening Day at Saratoga Race Course.

August? Let’s not even discuss August.

Ok, we’ll discuss August.

August might feature one or two runs a week, often on the 5-mile trail at the Saratoga Spa State Park with Sean and Joe, on days we don’t have a deadline looming and more often than not on days when we’re noticeably gassed from said deadlines.

Closing Day arrives and it’s time to get serious again, fall races are on the calendar and since one of my favorite phrases is “the miles don’t run themselves,” it’s back to work. The specter of the Bourbon Chase in mid- to late-October provides a jump start since it’s difficult to imagine going to Lexington, running poorly and answering to longtime teammates about an unprepared effort.

The amount of mileage racked up in September and October typically get things back on track at least for a 1,000-mile year and November and December can be months afforded to a few runs a week, maybe a long run here or there, some trail runs, a Turkey Trot and maybe another road race.

All the miles – plus other tidbits from life – are kept in The Complete Runner’s Day-by-Day Log.” The spiral-bound book – which features a motivational introduction from Marty Jerome, weekly tips and monthly missives with titles like “Longevity,” “Spite,” “Ripped” and “Truckin’ ” – holds the facts. Days where there were runs, days where there were not. Cross-training goes in there, hiking, biking, paddling, whatever.

Random stickers accumulated through the year also wind up on the cover. The 2020 version features 3 – Yeti, Henry Street Taproom and I Voted. Brochures for state parks, printouts of training programs and other random pieces of paper wind up between the pages.

When the year is complete the log goes on a shelf with others from prior years.

The 2017 log shows 1,028.7 miles, not quite 100 miles a month but decent. The 2018 log shows 988.2; hard to imagine what happened late in December to not push me over the edge for those last 11.8 miles to get to 1,000. Things picked up in 2019, with 1,120.5 miles and the closest to 100 miles per month in years.

Then came 2020. To borrow a phrase, from any and all who wrote about the lost year, everything changed in 2020.

The year started the same, a few hikes and walks to start the year then a decent string of weeks leading up to a trip to South Florida for the Eclipse Awards and Pegasus. Hello, 24 miles in five days down there! By the end of February and with a decision to train for a 50k in August I knew I wouldn’t be able to run because of commitments with The Special, the mileage for the first two months of 2020 came in at 222.6.

Now you’re talking. Not only 100 per month but a 22.6-mile cushion that helped out when mileage for March came in at 89.9. A 12.5-mile cushion remained in the back pocket heading to April, when lockdowns and shutdowns were everywhere and about the only thing to enjoy without interruption was running.

By the end of May the ledger stood at 608.8, thanks in part to a 172-mile month in May. Trail runs of 16.3, 20.4 and 22.3 have that effect. June started much the same way and halfway through the year the ledger stood at 716.2.

Everything unraveled from there, like clockwork, albeit much different than most years.

Plans to do a virtual version of a 50k trail race were scrapped – what were we thinking anyway? – and with everything going digital with The Saratoga Special for 2020, solo miles for the meet were going to be tough sledding. Plus I’d picked the golf clubs back up in the spring, finding it to be a good way to still socialize with friends outside while doing something other than sitting in the backyard drinking IPAs. Not that there’s a great objection to that.

By the end of the meet I’d only run 44.8 miles and the ledger read 793.2 on Labor Day. The slide continued into September, with only 27 miles thanks to trips to Block Island and Cape Cod.

The high goal of 100 miles per month evaporated but with 820.2 miles banked heading into the final quarter 1,000 certainly seemed doable.

Need something to jump start progress? Sign up for a race. That usually does the trick, but the trick in 2020 was finding a race. Enter the inaugural Moreau Half Marathon trail race, which billed itself as a “challenging 14-mile tour of the Moreau Lake State Park” scheduled for Nov. 14. Training for that would get me where I needed to be on the quest for 1,000.

After lackluster weeks of 13.7 and 18.2 to close October, I ramped it up to 25.9 and 20.4 heading to race week. After 24.2 miles the week of the race – including 14.8 for the race itself on nearly 2,700 feet of elevation gain – the ledger read 938.9 by mid-November. More than six weeks to do 61.1 miles? Piece of cake, right? Wrong.

The wheels came off again to start December – do you sense a theme here? – and by Christmas Eve I still needed 14 miles to hit the magic 1,000.

Sean and Joe texted words of encouragement when I let them know and again after 3.1-, 5.1- and 5.2-mile runs last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday made the goal a reality. The original plan called for about 3 miles Wednesday but wanting to take New Year’s Eve as a “rest day” to do some hiking, I forged on with an extra 1.7 trail miles to hit the small goal.

Four days into 2021 and the targets are back, with a twist.

After some holiday-season texting and an end-of-year conference call, Sean, Joe and I are all on a quest for 1,000 miles in 2020.

Sean got things rolling with back-to-back 5-mile runs Friday and Saturday, while Joe took to the streets of Newark, De., for the Hangover Helper 5K Friday followed by another 5 and change Saturday.

Not surprisingly with another good New Year’s Day hike in the books, I’m a bit behind with only a 3-mile slog Sunday to show for the young year. Make no mistake, the pages of the 2021 Runner’s Day-by-Day Log will fill up in the weeks and months to come.

See you on the road, or trails. Here’s to 2021, and to 1,000 (or 1,200).

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