On today’s podcast, I talk about filling a jar with rocks, pebbles, and sand. What does that have to do with running? A lot actually. 

What is going on everyone! I cannot believe we are a couple of days away from the last month of the year. 2021 has flown by! I can’t we will soon be in 2022. I may take December off since Christmas falls on my usual recording day! Then we can start fresh in season 2 for January!

Today I want to talk about planning your year and coaching.

First up, we are reaching the end of 2021. Have you been thinking about everything you’ve accomplished this year? You should be because I bet you’ve done more than you think you have! We have a tendency to forget what we did WAY back in the first half of the year. So take a moment to reflect on all the awesomeness you’ve done this year. 

It was a lot huh?

Ok, now it’s time to start thinking about what’s next if you haven’t already. I like to pick an A race or main goal. For next year, that is my first ultra. Once that is completed, my goal will switch to maintaining my running and building strength.

But how do you get to your A race or goal?

You plan your year. Put that A race on your calendar. Is it a spring or fall race? Will you do other races to test your fitness along the way? Add those too. So now you have your big yearly plan. Then we gotta break it down into smaller pieces.

Have you heard the rocks in a jar analogy? I’m sure you have but just in case the overall idea is you put the rocks in the jar first, then the pebbles, then the sand to fill in all the gaps. That’s kind of how you should look at planning your year.

So your rocks are your A race and other supporting races. The pebbles? Those are your quarterly and/or monthly training plans. Lastly, your sand is the weekly/daily work you put in. 

After you’ve put the rocks on your calendar, look at the quarters. For me, my ultra is early march so quarter one, January to March is focused on workouts and food to support my ultra. April through June will be recovery, July to September base building, and finally, October to December will be getting ready for a marathon in 2023 (yes, I already have that penciled in). How will your quarters look for 2022? Take some time to think through your cycles for 2022.

Once you have your cycles, you can focus on each month. I like to sit down the last week of the month and plan out the next month. I do the same weekly. Every Sunday, I sit down and look at my schedule and my training and fill in strength training and other cross-training activities. 

See? You start with the big picture now and fill in the gaps.

One last thing before we take a short break. Leave room to be flexible. Life happens and we have to change plans, often at the last minute. Maybe you planned to have a rest day on Thursday but something came up Tuesday and you ended up not working out. That’s ok. Take a look at the rest of your week and move things around as needed. 

Being flexible and consistent is the key to achieving your goals and rocking that race!

Ok, let’s take a quick ad break.

And I’m back!

I mentioned before that I was looking for a coach and had hired one. November was my first full month of coaching and I feel like we got a lot accomplished! She started me back slowly, which was expected. It was a little weird to go from marathon training, to rest, to like 20-mile weeks. 

I know people that have done them and I know what they are but it still made me nervous! For me, and I’m sure many others, doing something new can be a bit scary because we don’t know exactly what to expect. Like, I hate going to a new to me restaurant because I’m like how do I order? Is it like McDonald’s, Chipotle, Red Robin?!? And then if it’s like McDonald’s or Chipotle, there’ll be pressure to decide as the line behind me grows! 

Yes, these are thoughts I actually have when trying a new restaurant. 

Getting back to the time trial. The plan was a 2-mile warm-up, followed by strides and drills and a short rest before the actual 2-mile time trial and then of course a 2 mile cool down. The warm-up, strides, and drills went as expected.

I really struggled to settle in the first mile of the time trial. I had talked to my coach and we had decided 10-10:30 minute mile would be a good aim for me. Well, I averaged 10:39 for that first mile, not because it was hard but because I couldn’t get a steady pace. I was pushing too hard then I’d pull back too much.  The second mile went much better and I got a steady flow going and ended up with a 10:02 mile. 

I felt like I had pushed but not too much. I had enough in the tank to do the 2 mile cool down. The hardest part was breathing. 

The time trial has set my times for easy runs and speed work. It’s pretty similar to what I was doing the past couple of years. Hopefully, with some consistency and a coach, I can improve. It’s been a bit of a rocky past couple of weeks for me. I’ve missed more runs due to weird things than in the past. 

I had weird ankle issues one day. I think it was from my time trial. There was a spot where I forgot the sidewalk was lifted and came down pretty hard. Then I forgot to change my alarm and woke up too late to run. Then I thought we were hiking on Sunday and Justin thought Monday. I gotta get my ish together or my coach is gonna drop me!

I’ve also been hitting the trails again, mostly for my long runs. There is nothing like being out on the trails, especially when no one else is around! It does make it harder to do the fast finish and other little speed things my coach throws in but I try and do what I can. Because let’s be real, my ultra is on these trails so I need to be prepared!

Speaking of my ultra, I am having second thoughts and feel I made a mistake in signing up for this particular one. I have run all the trails it covers, some of them multiple times. But there are a couple of sections that make my anxiety spike. One section is loose rocks. Not like small rocks but decent-sized rocks on an incline. Going up? No issues. Going down? My brain freaks out. The last time I had to go down, I stood at the top and stared for quite some time, trying to psych myself up. I also crab-walked down some of it. 

And the race goes up and down this section.

The other section is also downhill in this race. It’s very narrow and technical in parts. I can do it but I do it fairly slowly. There isn’t a lot of room to pass. It’s rock wall on one side and way down on the other. I wouldn’t want to hold others up as I slowly pick my way down.

Hopefully, I’ll be so far back it won’t be an issue. 

I do plan to get back out to these sections for practice when my long runs get a little longer.


November wasn’t quite as slow book-wise as the last couple of months. I got a little of my reading mojo back. 

I finally finished Hannibal. I give it two stars. The first two books were definitely better. The author spent way too much time and detail building the story. I really didn’t need about half the info he included. And the ending? Enraged! It doesn’t seem like the right ending for this story. 

Then I picked The Endurance Diet back up to finish it. Three stars. I would recommend any other Matt Fitzgerald book before this one. It felt so much of just a way to say I met this athlete and this is what they ate. His other books are better.

I also got the Rise and Run cookbook and read through that. Five stars! I love these cookbooks and someday will actually make all the yummy-sounding recipes from them. 

Then I went on a fiction binge including Five Total Strangers (3 stars), The Bone Box (5 stars), and The Lost Soul of the City (4 stars). 

Five Total Strangers by Natalie D Richards was about five young adults that instead of being stranded at an airport during a blizzard decide to rent a car and drive together. Of course, one of the five has an ulterior motive. Concept was good. The author tried to throw you off from the real culprit but it was so obvious what they were doing that I guessed correctly. It was still a very fast read and well written. The Bone Box is a Waterman & Stark book from Gregg Olsen. It focuses on Dr. Waterman and her family. It’s a short story but very well done and not quite as graphic as his other books. The Lost Soul of the City is the first book in the Nameless season two from Dean Koontz. It’s decent but I thought the last season was better. I will still read the other short stories in season two. This one just felt different.

I have started The Ultra Mindset but Travis Macy and The Upside of Falling by Alex Light. So far I am enjoying both. I will include my thoughts in December’s podcast as I don’t think I will finish either of these before I record this. 

Ok, that is all I have for this week. Tell me, what is your A race for next year? When is it? How will you build your year around your big race? 

If you enjoyed this podcast, be sure to give it a follow. New episodes will air monthly on the last Monday of the month. I plan to keep this schedule for a while since I have so many other things going on. In the meantime, you can find me on Youtube, Twitter, and TikTok at runs on espresso and Instagram at runs_on_espresso.

If you like this podcast, I’d appreciate a rate and review wherever you listen. And be sure to share it with anyone you think might enjoy it. 

If you have a show idea, something you’d like to hear more about, drop me a message at anchor.fm/runsonespresso or email jenna@runsonespresso.com I look forward to hearing your ideas! 

Until next month, I hope your runs are as strong as your coffee!

Categories: Podcast


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.