Wow! I don't even know what to say. 2012 was possibly one of the best seasons in my career-full stop. I have not even come close since my grad school days in the early 2000s. Lots of people have been asking me and my coach what we have been doing differently in training this year that's produced solid times across the board. really, do you want to know the TRUTH? The single best thing out there to improve performance is good old fashioned S L E E P! I now do this regularly and on a fixed schedule. That means I bed down and get up at roughly the SAME TIME every day and train at the same time and go to work at the same time.
I have no regrets about leaving that nightmare work situation that had me on split shifts and totally exacerbated sleep disorders I've struggled with since I was a teenager. When children don't get their naps, they misbehave and cry. When grownups don't get sleep, we are bitchy and nasty all the time. I got to a point to where I could no longer function normally over a year ago let alone recover properly between hard workouts. I started blaming it on gettin' old but that wasn't the issue, it was lack of regular, QUALITY ZZZZZs and the cumulative effects of that on every aspect of my life. I quit and never looked back and my mind and body thank me. Sure, I have had a recent bout of underemployment in the fall, but it's just about passed and I'm soon to put students on a waiting list again as I have recently got quite a bit of requests. All of these have been through my own channels. Agencies have been 200% fail in recent times. It's mostly that they are simply HORRIBLE with COMMUNICATION and this just wastes my valuable time. I don't want to talk about work, I am interested in REAL WORK, NOW not pussy footing around waiting to get a hold of this one or back with that one. If you have something real and concrete, lets talk if not, don't waste my time. I teach ENGLISH and we have a nice idiom in English: Shit or get off the pot! The only agency I will give credit to is the one I worked for pre 2008. They are still good but just have the full time live- in jobs for now, but I will keep in touch with them. The rest have yet to come up with anything concrete and I'll throw another idiom out there: Time is money. I'm done wasting my time. I'm not the only teacher who feels this way either about poor communication with many of the nanny agencies. It's more a case of, please stop pretending to have work when you really don't!
If any prospective teachers are reading this who are thinking of teaching overseas and coming to Moscow, I will be blunt, do NOT come here and get involved with the language schools, PERIOD. Some use it as a foot in the door then leave because the working conditions suck. I only did for a while because I was stuck and needed a visa after being independent initially. You will most likely be working for peanuts,working in split shifts, and chasing your ass from one end of the city to another all bloody day. Over time, it will ruin your health and well being and kill your social life since you will be working antisocial hours.
If you don't have the experience, qualifications, and know how to go independent, start out elsewhere. In Moscow, if you are going to teach, the only financially viable and practical way to teach is to be independent working as either a governess(or) or privately. Yes, it's loads of red tape and a huge PITA to file independently from the get go, but in the long term, it's worth the initial expense and hassle. Oh, yes, and LEARN RUSSIAN for feck's sake if you are going to live here for a long time. How folks still get by without the language baffles me. I would think it would be akin to living in a boring fishbowl.
Work wise, yes, I really want to get my sweet ass back to Alaska back to my tenured teaching position, but there still is nothing. I am really close to giving up on ever being able to resettle in the US as much as I would eventually like to. I would love to run ultras in the US and maybe see about getting additional sponsorships, but I can't just get on the plane without a contract and job waiting on the other end. I do not want to live in the Lower 48 and there are no jobs there either. Yeah, I'm probably going to have serious re- entry issues after being out for almost EIGHT years now too. If something doesn't give in the next year or so, I seriously need to look into buying a small place in Riga and going. Sure, I'll make less, but if I OWN my place, I won't have to deal with a housing payment and I will be living in a much healthier place than Moscow.
One thing about me is that if you tell me it's unlikely or that I probably can't do something, I will go out and do it just to prove you wrong! I just turned 38 (ouch) and thought my visits from the PR Fairy were just about done especially at the shorter distances. Well, throw that out the window. I saw PRs this year in the 1000m (track),2 mile xc, 50K, and 100K. 5K is very debatable with a handful of 18.42-3s like it was childsplay and not on the freshest legs to boot. One was a 6k split in September still not recovered from 50K World Cup, the next couple were in the US in October. The 18.43 I posted in the US was a couple days after flying in and mostly on crushed gravel-not a fast course and the paved sections were slick that day. I'm pretty sure that rested and on a fast course, I could have taken out my 18.37 from my heyday in Fairbanks. I always questioned that PR since it was my only sub 18.50 other than what I started putting down this year. I'm just not a short distance runner, it's my weak spot, but despite the high volume training for my ultras, my speed was back in full force this year. I didn't have as much luck in the 10K mostly because I ran them right after spring and fall marathons. My trashed legs from the hills the week after Valmiera in Gzhel only came out to 39 and change and the 10 I had planned to run for time in the low mid 38s got mucked up when some a-hole knocked me over at the start. There were no 10s in October in the US on the calendar before the 50K for me to try again either. I ran an 800 in December and came within a couple seconds of my PR from the Palmer Relays in Alaska in 2004 but the performance here was indoors and indoor times (especially on this awful banked track) are always a little slower. I really hadn't been training much I was post-season resting more than anything and doing easy distance. Even my 3000 was a track PR and with an 11 flat xc split late summer in the 3, I knew I was in way sub 11 shape on the track but just nowhere to race which was a bummer. I was shocked that my speed at the short stuff was no worse than it was 10 some yrs ago and maybe a tad better despite the short stuff not being my thing. I was in shape for a marathon PR too but logistics didn't allow for it. I had nowhere to run early spring pre 100K and I sat out my chance at Chicago Marathon in favor of the 50K. It's fixing to be the same issue this yr as well- my fast marathon window will be early spring pre 100k but nowhere to go to do it.
Good ol' perpendicular training has helped me speed and distance wise I think. I trained similarly on my own in Alaska years ago when I had decent speed at short stuff but then could turn around and run a good half or marathon. Perpendicular training ? This is when you do your distance work, long runs, tempos, etc., but then do not ignore speed. For example, I might do a long run on the weekend, long intervals midweek, then come back on Friday and do 200s and or 100s so my speed does not go to hell. It works. I jump into shorter races and get my ass on the track because it sharpens my speed. My endurance is fine from the 500-600KM or so months on end, but speed needs to be remembered. I show up to the mile and people do look at me like "What are you doing here?" "Speedwork," I respond :-). After several top 3 finishes in said miles, I have gotten less of those looks. I really believe it's the track speed that carries over into the fast times in the ultras. Sure, you need to work your slow twitch muscles in those races, but, for me at least, I'm convinced it's what allows me to hammer in the 2nd half of longer races. The endurance is there but without the speedwork, there is no way in holy hell I would ever be able to drop 6 min miles or faster (3.40s kms) in the closing kms of my long races. The Chicago Lakefront 50K proves that. The legspeed to run close to MILE PACE in the last km came from track and speedwork! I'm getting more comfortable holding a faster pace longer. I'm also a conservative starter which leaves gas in the tank late in races too when I need it most.
Most impressive PRs were in the 50 and 100K. I cut 10 min from both. My 100K time still needs work though. Well, I think it does. Performance of the year I narrowed down to Daugavpils and Chicago and I have to go with Chicago. I look at how I ran that race and it has to be one of the best executed races plan and strategy wise alone in my career. I just wanted to try and repeat the huge PR I set in Daugavpils and get the Chicago course record. On Race Day, I had a wrenched lower back and 30MPH winds to deal with in Chicago. I went out like I did in Daugavpils hoping I could just hold on into the wind. The lead woman was up on me 2 minutes at one point and I could not even see her. I just sat back and kept my cool and waited for the right time to go which I did with just over 10k left in the race. I actually raced the final 10k and the final 8 was just insane. That's what an ultra is about though- being patient early on then racing later. I just ran on negative split speed from 38k on gradually building til I was running the final stretch at half marathon pace then dropping to sub 4 min km pace in the final 2 km with a 3.33 closing k. Mentally, that was a crossover for me. I went completely guts and eyeballs out wanting to see what I could do if I did. I also learned a lot about myself in that I have a hell of a lot of reserve I can still tap into if I'm not afraid and hold back. That performance in Chicago left me ranked 32nd in the world rankings in 2012! Physically, I am there, but in running that's only half the battle. In the longer stuff it's all mental. This is what I need to work on in 2013 I think in order to tap into that reserve. I would REALLY REALLY like to do the Chicago spring 50K late March, but it's only happening if I can get mileage tickets. I just cannot afford to pay for TWO trips to the US in a year and I still plan to go in the fall after 100K Worlds. I am getting greedy in old age and want to go for the spring course record while I still can.
Soooooo, this brings us to the Bucket List for 2013! First off is to stay healthy. I would like to once again chase after PRs in the 50 and 100K. Topping my season in 2012 will be a task in and of itself. I have 100k Euros in April and Worlds in the fall. I'll run Daugavpils again in August. I am still figuring out where to squeeze a US ultra in this year because I have a spring and fall 100K. Like I said, I want to do Chicago in March, but not sure I can pull the trip off. I may be left to shop for a 50K as late as mid- late November after I recover from Worlds. I'd like to also keep my speed sharp too and maintain and or improve there. Finally, I'd like to once again thank Vitargo USA and Vitargo Russia for continued support as well. It's really helped in my races and coach Leonid for putting up with me :-)
Pix below are from my annual New Year's run in Kuzminki Park near my place. I can't believe this is the EIGTH year I have done this. Today was a modest 12k because I have a trail race tomorrow. I really look forward to more visits from the PR Fairy in 2013! She rocks!