Wednesday, 31 December 2014

What Is Your Resolution?

I have never been one for New Years resolutions and I do not recall ever making one.

Far from being an anti-resolution type, it is just something I have never felt the need to do.
I am more the type who will try to do something straight away rather than use a milestone such as the start of a new week, month or year to kick something off.
2015 will be no different although running will allow me to set a few goals.

My first is a simple one and one that I have based purely on the numbers I have produced in December. 
That goal is to run 1000km in 2015. 
To me that looks a massive figure and one that I'd never of dreamed of just a couple of months ago.
Reaching it will be another matter but I am confident that I can.
Looking forward to running lots in 2015.
I would also love to break the 25 minutes for a 5km run. That will take a huge improvement on my current personal best but it should be achievable if I work hard.
Individual distances run is an interesting one for me. I originally had no desire to get as far as 5km. Now that I have, I love it.
While it is not a goal that I am exactly     yearning for, the chance of going further in 2015 is a distinct possibility.
I will add to my list of goals running 10km, hopefully on multiple occasions.
My final goal is probably as close to a resolution as I will get. That is more the result of me having an unpredictable work roster and weekend commitments.
The goal is to run in as many organised 5km fun runs as I can. Whether it be Parkrun, the Sydney Summer Twilight Series or any other community run, I will run in any that I am available for.
Summarising my list for 2015, my goals are;
- Run 1000km for the year.
- Run a sub 25-minute 5km.
- Run 10km's at least once.
- Run in as many events as possible.
They appear very realistic goals and hopefully in 12 months time I am writing about achieving them all.
I can not wait to take the next step on my journey.

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A Parkrun Debut With A Nice Surprise

Most people look forward to the Christmas break with thoughts of hearty food and, for some, plenty of alcohol. I found myself extremely excited about the week because it meant that I could run in my first two Parkruns.

Finishing the 5km off at Sandon Point Parkrun.
With Christmas Day being on Thursday, I planned my normal training run for Tuesday and it would be followed by Parkruns on the Thursday and Saturday along with another run on Sunday.

The Tuesday training run was an interesting one. It was a warm up run, followed by a timed fast mile and 10 minutes easy to finish. I managed to shave quite a bit off my best mile by running 8:37. It was a nice little pipe opener before a 5km two days later.

Given the fact that I do most of my running in the afternoon or evening, I was up early on Christmas Day to warm up before a run. I walked two kilometres followed by a 10 minute jog and some dynamic stretching.

Having run the course before I had estimated that I would be happy with a run somewhere around the 31-minute mark.

I was determined not to get “dragged along” by the pace of other runners early on.

After starting, I slipped back towards the rear and was running by feel at a comfortable pace. It was a little scary to know that at the end of that first kilometre, I had gone 5:37, way faster than expected given I was normally closer to six minutes, but I felt fine.

Recovering in the local pool after Parkrun.

Somehow, I managed to maintain the pace and surprise myself. My official time for the run was 28:27, a minute and a half faster than I had ever gone before. Perhaps all the work was paying off.
I headed back two days later on the back of much festive eating and certainly did not feel like I could replicate the run.

To avoid worrying about it, I made an effort to not look at my watch and just run to how my body felt. I never really felt like I was running well during the race but found enough energy to put in a nice last kilometre.
My best 5km run to date.

I was in shock when I saw that I had again bettered my best. The time for the 5km was 27:45. I was certainly feeling the effects immediately after the race but was very proud of my achievements in such a short time.
My partner was also improving all the time so we both had plenty to be happy about.

We finished off with a solid 40 minute easy run on the Sunday which includes a short but steep grade at around the 4km mark known in the Strava Segment world as "Hamilton Pinch". I managed 6.3km in my 40 minutes at an average pace of 6.23 mins per kilometre.

That bought the week to a total of 24.6km in 2 hours and 34 minutes with an elevation of 110 metres.
The next Parkrun I will run in is on New Year's Day, it will be interesting to see where I am at in that run.

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My First Sub-30 Minute 5km Run

Entering a new week of a training plan is always fun but on this particular week, there was something else to look forward to.

After discussing my yearn to give Parkrun a go with my partner and the associated frustrations with very limited availability I had discovered an alternative.

The Sydney Summer Twilight Series is a regular afternoon 5km or 10km run held on varying days at varying locations over the city.

We had the opportunity to attend one (albeit an hour drive away) and thought we would give it a go. I was looking forward to the experience of running with much more advanced runners as well as the challenge of running my own race in a field where it could be easy to get dragged along at a faster pace.

That run was to be on Thursday, with a 30 minute easy run on Tuesday and rest days either side.

We tackled a different course on our Tuesday run where I managed 4.5km in 30 minutes. It was a course that involved one fairly solid hill and it was evident that my pacing was improving greatly.

Splits from my first sub-30 minute effort
All four kilometres were within 30 seconds of each other with the main variation being my hill climb. I had worked a lot on my initial split and felt that I was progressing well.

We headed to the suburb of Prestons on Thursday for the run with optimism. I am still slightly slower than my partner and she had managed a 30.56 effort in our local Parkrun. Based on that I thought that if I could run around the 31:30 for my Summer Twilight run then I would be happy.

I was under no illusions of how far behind the other runners I was going to be, they were mostly low-twenty types, so it was going to be a good test of how I could manage my pace early.

It was a warm and humid afternoon but thankfully the course was as flat as they come. We set off and the field was gone in a blur, I settled a clear last and ran the way I had planned.

The final result was easily the best I had
produced to date. I had managed to break the 30-minute barrier and run all five kilometres within just 16 seconds of each other pace-wise.

In the wash-up, my official time was 29:54, something I was very happy with. My partner had also churned out her best of 29:48 making the trip feel more than worthwhile.

Looking pretty average at the end of 5km
Naturally, I had hoped to break 30 minutes at some stage, but thought it would be more likely in early 2015 if I worked hard. It was a very flat, fast course which is likely to have assisted, but it is certainly something to now try and emulate consistently, particularly over the more hilly course of my local Parkrun.

I would highly recommend the twilight series for anyone looking for a solid 5km run through the week after work. The people were very friendly and it was a great atmosphere to run in. I will definitely be back when I can.

The tally for the week had been 1:59 of running totaling 19.1km with an elevation of 91 metres.

Next week (22/12/14 - 28/12/14) is something to look forward to. It will include the Christmas Day Parkrun (my debut) on Thursday as well as another on the Saturday.

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Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Runner's Worst Nightmare

With the first week of a new training plan completed, I looked forward to another week and making more progress.

It was another week of inroads, however it was laced with a fair amount of disappointment.

I was to have a  fleeting encounter with the bane of all runner’s existences, injury.

The week’s runs included a 20 minute easy run, a 37.5 minute run with intervals in the middle third, another 20 minute easy run and a 35 minute easy run.

It was on the initial 20 minute run that I felt a slight twinge in my left calf. Having torn that calf in the past, I was not overly concerned and attributed it to just general tightness.

However things turned a little more sour in my next outing, including extreme tightness and a particular moment during an interval effort where it “grabbed” quite sharply.

I was still able to get through the run, but pulled up very sore. Even after the rest day and managing it, I was far from happy. I was a picture of disappointment and decided to head to the physiotherapist before risking any further damage.

He delivered some heartening news that the pain was being caused by tightness through my hips and ankles. My foot was striking the ground slightly out of alignment and thus putting extra strain on my calf.

After some solid manipulation plus a stretching regime to follow, along with repeat visits, it has begun to improve greatly. Managing it will be of the utmost importance if I am to avoid a repeat dose of the pain.

My physio was Callum O'Brien at BaiMed Physiotherapy in Woonona, New South Wales. He was great to work with and very thorough, I would not hesitate to recommend them.

The weekly summary included four runs totalling one hour and 52 minutes. The total distance travelled was 17km and the elevation gain was 78 metres.

Having got on top of a small set back that had me worrying I may miss some running, I was looking forward to the next week.

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Beginning A Training Plan

Now that I knew that I wanted to concentrate on running 5km, I could start to search for a training plan.

There is a myriad of options online and I basically just chose the one with the elements I liked. One of the main factors in the decision I made was the fact that it involved interval training.

My partner plays Australian Rules Football in the winter (also known as AFL) which is a sport that interval training is great for. Since she was also going to do the training plan I thought that this one would be most beneficial.

What stood out to me most when searching plans was the frequency of rest days. As mentioned I earlier blogs, I jumped in at the deep end once I started running regularly. Seeing these plans made it clear to me that I had been on a collision course for either burnout or injury.

32:32 was one of my early 5km efforts
Since I have implemented these rest days, I always feel much more fresh and prepared for a run when I do go.

I had already run 5km to start the week and kick-started the training two days later.

It is a six week plan with the assumed goal being a 5km race at the end. I have no plans for that race but am simply aiming towards being able to run a better 5km.

The first week involved three easy runs between 20 and 30 minutes (Tuesday, Friday and Saturday) as well as a 30 minute run which involved interval running during the middle ten minutes.

To date, it is the most kilometres I have racked up in a week (20.7km).

I managed to improve my best 5km effort during that interval run to 32:32 which was over a minute better than the start of the week. I think the fact that I had incorporated two rest days into the week may have been a big reason for this, particularly after almost two weeks of wall-to-wall running in the lead up.

The summary for the week was 2:21 running, 20.7km with an elevation gain of 48 metres.

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The Garmin Forerunner 910XT

I am fortunate to have a very supportive partner who also enjoys most of the sporting endeavours that I do. She is also enjoying her running more than ever and it is something we get to do together regularly.

Much to my shock, she had sensed my newfound love for running and surprised me with what is now my favourite accessory to my training, the Garmin Forerunner 910XT.

The Garmin Forerunner 910XT
This not only meant that there was no more need to lug my mobile phone around, but that I also had one of the best pieces of equipment available for analysing my runs.

It is an amazing unit and the fact that it was about to be superseded meant that you could pick one up for close to half price. I have since returned the favour and purchased one for my partner, we both track all of our activities with it.

We both also swim which it tracks and she is a cyclist too, meaning there is plenty of use for it.

The watch comes with a heart rate monitor which is a superb addition when it comes to monitoring your effort.

The Garmin platform also syncs immediately to Strava and, with wireless uploading from the watch to my desktop, the whole process could not be easier.

I am still learning all of the features of the watch but one of my favourites is the Training Effort (Garmin) or Suffer Score (Strava). This shows you an estimate of how hard your run was based on your heart rate, along with other factors.

There are also other superb features like Virtual Pace. This allows you to enter a pace that you would like to run and it will show you a real time estimate of how far ahead or behind it you are in metres.

For anyone who takes their training seriously, I could not recommend this unit highly enough.

I have only brushed on what the 910XT can do, it is worth checking out here - Garmin Forerunner 910XT.

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Discovering A Goal

After much reading about all sorts of running matters online, one thing I stumbled across was Parkrun. Having gone close to completing a 5km run the previous week, I thought it could be something to aim towards.

Unfortunately my commitments on Saturdays mean that I would rarely ever get to run Parkruns but it was still a distance to aim towards and something that I could do when the opportunity arose.

At the time of writing, I am still yet to complete my first official Parkrun. I have run my local course (Sandon Point) and logged a freedom run but have not had the chance to run with the group.

It appears as though I will get the opportunity to make my Parkrun debut on Christmas Day of 2014. As fate would have it, there is three runs that week and I may be able to run in them all.

Now that I knew roughly the distance I could aim for, maybe I could look for a training regime to fit that trip. However, to start the journey, I decided to run 5km on the first day of that week, just to give myself a gauge on where I was at.
The 5km debut run
It may not have been the most wise way to start a 5km campaign but I think it was more a case of curiosity than anything else.

The result was sluggish but had one positive, I managed to pace myself well enough that my last split was actually my fastest.

History will show the overall time as 33:44, the first four splits were all within 12 seconds of each other with the final split being much quicker at 6:17. It was still not ideal but it was light years ahead of my prior crash and burn attitude.

I went on to research 5km training plans and embarked on one immediately after that run.

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Too Much, Too Soon and No Plan

Armed with Strava as my new tracking system and plenty of enthusiasm, I set off on another week of running haphazardly between November 24 and 30, 2014.
I started to push boundaries a little in terms of distance which was almost a surprise to myself considering I had no plans of ever going beyond 3km at the start of the week.

Looking back on the week, it was a concoction of mixed distances, varying paces and little rest between runs.

One thing in hindsight that was becoming apparent was that I had no plan and no goal.

I mapped five runs in just four days for a total of 15.7km. It was way too much, too soon, but I was enjoying it and did not know any better.

Crash & Burn Style Splits
One 3.1km run felt particularly good. It took 18:55 and had splits all within 15 seconds of each other per kilometre.

The worst run (which is the one pictured) was the first little pointer to me that I needed both a training plan and to space my runs a little more.

It was 4.5km and I gradually got slower and slower. It was clear that I was also still having a lot of trouble pacing myself and this run was probably the one that made me really start to think about that.

I began to peruse as much literature as I could find on running in general. If I was going to keep this up, I had lots to learn.

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Switching From Runkeeper To Strava

Up until this point (25/11/2014), I had always logged my runs with Runkeeper. I love my stats and it is a fantastic app. Unfortunately my shift away from it was due to other factors.

I wear a Jawbone UP24 activity tracker, it is great for monitoring both steps and sleep patterns. At the time I had it synced with both MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper.

On two occasions Runkeeper's data had failed to sync and it was becoming a headache. Online research led me to find that Strava tended to work better in that combination which meant I had to make the switch for the sake of reliability.

A look at a couple of the Strava mobile app pages
Where the problem lies is unlikely to be with either app but simply a small compatibility issue.

Strava has proven bulletproof in that particular configuration and it was a change for the better in my respect.

As stand alone apps, both have their pro's and there is not a lot between them.

Strava allows you to set goals, join challenges and check your personal best efforts. It also has a feature called Segments. These are sections that you can create that you may regularly traverse which will show you how you have gone in comparison to you previous efforts as well as those of others. You can also see how you go on segments created by others with leaderboards showing overall best as well as having the ability to be filtered in numerous ways.

I am now a Strava premium user and enjoy it immensely.

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Becoming A Regular

It would be the 20th November 2014 that I set off on my second run in 14 days. That is pretty much as regular as I had ever been.

Sometime during or after that run I decided that I might try and do it a little more often.

The run in question was probably more than I was ready for. 2.86km's, very flat but simply too far for someone who had barely ever gone beyond that.

It took 21:13 to complete with an average pace of 7:26 per kilometre. The part that highlighted how green I had run was the splits. The first kilometre was 6:53, the second a whopping 8:14, and the last 0.86km averaged 7:08.

Those ridiculous splits
I had never been good at pacing myself, that was never more evident that this run. At the time I just thought I had knocked up, never thought anything else of it. The middle kilometre saw my legs like lead, I'd have nearly walked that fast, but I came home feeling better for it and with much less soreness than the previous run a fortnight earlier.

Something possessed me to try it again the very next day. Again, it was far from the ideal thing to do, but at the time I had no strategy or plans.

The result was a lot faster, I put it down to learning my limitations, coping mechanisms, rhythm and, to a very small extent, pace.

The time was 19:58 and yet again my splits were all over the place but a lot closer than a day earlier. 6:47, 7:14, 6:48 told me I had still launched into a little hard and was looking for a breather mid-run. I'd pushed pretty hard to squeeze out that last split but was still putting it down to lack of fitness rather than lack of strategy.

With it becoming obvious that I had "the running bug", I decided to back up for a shorter run the very next day (November 22). I traversed 1.78km in 11:11, but what stands out about the run is that I had zero concept of pace.

The overall average pace was 6:16 per kilometre yet my individual splits had been 4:55 and 7:59. It was clear that I had gone out like a scalded cat and lugged home like a pack horse. I was still yet to address the problem and was unlikely to improve while I didn't.

I embarked on two other runs on the 24th and 25th of November, both 20 minute runs, 10 out 10 back. Both yielded a tick over 3km, the pacing was slightly better but the first split was still abnormally fast in relation to the others.

There was a lot to learn in every aspect of what I was doing but I was off and running.

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The Beginning - A Chance Encounter

I have never shied away from running, nor have I actively pursued it. I have occasionally gone for a jog, even ran a leg of an aquathon, but never had goals, never gone much further than two kilometres and never really cared.

What made this time any different?

The honest answer is that I do not know. The only real reason that I can come up with is the fact that I had only recently retired from the last sport I played at a competitive level and was probably eating more and doing less more often.

With my Mum and my partner having completed a host of community runs/walks and challenges, I decided to tag along on a training jog.

That jog was on the 6th November 2014. According to Runkeeper, it was only the fourth run I had logged for the year. The distance was 1.97km which took me 11:58 to complete at an average pace of 6:06 per kilometre.

The usual soreness associated with a first-up run ensued and I assumed that it would probably be a while before I went again.

It is hard to say that any sort of seed was planted on that run. In fact it would be another 14 days before I decided to go again which is probably more when running took hold of me.

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Welcome To My Running Blog

I have always been active, I've pretty much had a go at every sport that has been on offer over the years, some more seriously than others, yet I was never a "runner".

During my teens and early 20's, when I was at my fittest, it was not my cup of tea.

Despite being fit enough to run for hours, my affinity with sports meant I'd rather be passing, kicking, bowling or hitting balls of various descriptions. To me, running was simply something you did in between the good bits.

Now, at 40, I have somehow stumbled across a passion for it.

I do not know why I started running again or where it may be headed, but I love it.

My initial idea for this blog was for it to be a tool for me to look back on.

I plan on documenting the trials and tribulations of basically learning how to run as essentially that is what I am doing. Sure I am aware of the basic form known as running but not all the nuances that go with the art of grinding out some genuine distance consistently.

Along the way I will attempt to highlight the mistakes I make as well as review any products or training methods I try.

I am always trying to learn and welcome any advice.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

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