I managed my first 15k yesterday morning. Initially I was planning on running for 75 minutes, but worked out that should carry me roughly 15k, so in the end decided to keep on going to reach that distance. I looked at some possible routes, and settled on the west of Portishead as the extension to my normal loop as it allowed me to run on paths rather than along roads. It also had hills: very steep ones. I didn’t really appreciate how steep they were in places, particularly the road up from the Lake Grounds. I kept going and my stride rate was about the same, but with really tiny steps. Not sure if this is the correct technique, but I made it. While running, the views were fantastic. There were some amazing panoramas across the Bristol Channel towards Wales, and the variety really kept me going. In the end it took me 1:20:29, so about five minutes longer than the 5 min/km pace I was hoping for. Looking at the three 5k segments, I ran 25:34, 26:16, and 28:32. The middle segment was the hilliest, both up and down so more or less averaging out (I had my fastest and slowest kilometers then), but clearly that took it out of me as the final 5k was noticeably slower. I think for my next 10k+ run I’ll see how I go on the flat. It will be interesting to see how much faster I go. That’s looking like tomorrow as my plan is to do 10k, then an easy 40 minute run on Tuesday, then the Tyntesfield Ten on Thursday. Although it’s not a track 10,000m, I’ll use this as my race for the challenge. Really looking forward to it.
It’s been a fairly busy few weeks and I’ve not really managed to get on with things as a result. Frustratingly my running ground to a halt, with a couple of c.10 day breaks between outings. I’ve still managed to keep going though, having run some 5k and 10k routes to test my times rather than trying to keep up with a training plan as it was proving difficult. I was fairly pleased with the results, so far managing 21:31 for 5k and 49:32 for 10k (which included some hills and a few pauses waiting for traffic). At the moment I’m preparing for the Tyntesfield Ten next Thursday, which is going to be a challenge as the hills are a little bigger. I think I’ve discovered that running in the morning is generally better as it’s out of the way for the day, but this is tricky during term time. It’ll be fine for the summer however.
Other than that, the swimming is progressing, albeit slowly. I think my front crawl kick developed this week and I actually started to move forward! Not enough movement I think. The arms are still somewhat out of control, but I think I should crack this at some point. It’s definitely within reach, and I’m still really enjoying it.
There has been little development outside of this however. I have a singles badminton match coming up against Richard who started at the club at the same time as me, so that will mean the sport is complete. I still want to do some road cycling though, but it’s not proving popular with the family for safety reasons. Castle Combe remains a possibility, but it’s a long way and the logistics are going to make it difficult to do in any meaningful way, and I still need a road bike. I basically want a road bike. I really want a road bike. I’m getting very jealous every time I pass someone in lycra while driving (someone on a bike that is). I’ll find a way at some point though. There’s also the possibility of trying out some sailing this weekend. It’s very tempting, but I’m not sure how good my swimming is yet, even with a life jacket….
I need a plan.
It doesn’t get much more exciting than a new pair of insoles. I’ve been getting a sore back recently – possibly due to four longer runs per week – and considered getting some more cushioned trainers. So I popped along to Up & Running in Bristol on Friday, and after a very useful chat with the guy that runs it – he was so helpful – I came away with some new padded insoles. Apparently my trainers are pretty good and moving to cushioned soles would be a step backward. The natural running Merrells I have are good as the keep me on the front of my feet as I land, avoiding pronation. Might be that as I get more tired I tend to land on the heel more. Anyway, £20 was less than I anticipated spending, so all good.
Unfortunately being back at work this week has meant no runs yet. I missed Monday’s session as it was gone 8.30 by the time I had an opportunity and I’d had it by then, and both today and tomorrow are out. To complete Daniels Red 1 this week, I’ll need to run every day from thursday to Sunday, so no chance there. I need a shortened programme for busy weeks, as realistically two or three runs is all I’ll manage. Not sure if taking a week off is a good idea (although my back was better today), so need a plan. Also, no new sports for a few weeks. Must do better….
I’ve been playing around with my new watch over the past week, trying to determine the optimum display settings for running. My main screen gives me my elapsed time, distance, and average pace, plus the actual time. I also now have a screen showing all the different pace options, and another showing how long I have left to go (very good that one). On Sunday I discovered the Virtual Partner mode though: you set a pace, and then it tells you if you are in front of or behind an imaginary running partner who is running at that speed. I managed to keep ahead of the 5:05 pace I’d set on my 40 minute run, coming in at under 5:00, resulting in an 8km total. This feature is telly useful for set distances, and I’m still experimenting with all the other data fields to see what I need. It’s such a lovely piece of kit. I also found the wonderful DC Rainmaker post on this very useful – he’s such a useful chap, everything on his website is genius.
Oh, and my other future running partner arrived this week. Having run past a lot of dog walkers on daytime runs, I’m looking forward to seeing if I can keep up with our lovely Eliza the cockapoo once she’s a little bigger. I suspect I won’t be able to though, given the spaniel in her. People tell me you can also cycle with dogs, but that’s something I think I’ll leave to others braver than me.
I’ve just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and it was just tHe right book at the right time. I’ve read everything he’s written (except the latest novel which is sitting on my desk), and his mix of slightly awry reality is just wonderful. So reading an autobiographical volume about his experience as a long distance runner has been a happy meeting of two things which interest me right now. Although the writing is somewhat different given it’s about him, there is so much here which has inspired me to continue and develop. The account of his ultra-marathon and problems as a triathlete have reinforced my determination to progress in these areas. Although I can only run about 10km as a current maximum, I know I have it in me to do this, and after running my first marathon at some point on tie next couple of years, this is going to be a powerful motivator. I also have his (borrowed) mantra in my head every time it hurts: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. That’s kept me going quite a lot over the last month as I turn a corner into icy winds which nearly stop me in my tracks. So I can thoroughly recommend the book to anyone interested in running. It just keeps me going, like all of his writing.
I just completed my second run with my new watch. This was much more challenging, as Daniels Red 1-2 includes some Threshold pace running. For me, this is currently 4:07/km, so I set my watch to 4:00 – 4:20 as a range to hit in order to avoid it continually telling me off. As it turned out, in the three faster intervals where this pace needed to be maintained, it did keep telling me to ‘SPEED UP!’ accompanied by a slight vibration. Generally I managed this, but the third interval was a real challenge: my three average pace times for these intervals were 4:20, 4:21, and 4:27, so not too bad. It really pushed me though. I’m so glad I got the watch though: I have real confidence in its accuracy, and the need to maintain a specific pace for the Red level is supported and I feel it is pushing me to do this. Thursday’s run has more shorter intervals (4 mins) at this pace, so I’ll need to run faster there. I think this might be easier though as it was towards the end of the longer 6 minute intervals today that I began to tire.
I had my second badminton session last week, and again very much enjoyed it. It made me realise something about my enjoyment of sport though, and it was quite surprising. Apart from a brief period at primary school where we did cross-country running (well, out of the school and round the block down a few alleys really – and I was always third behind Paul Miller and David Wright), I’ve always been drawn to game-based sports rather than sheer physical challenges – faster, higher, stronger and all that. So anything competitive was in – cricket (of course), football, tennis, badminton, table tennis and so on – whilst all the rest was out: swimming, running, cycling, rowing. I think I was drawn to the tension created by testing your skill against someone else in a solo sport, or working as part of a team in group sports. There seemed to be a purpose here – trying to work within a set of rules to achieve a particular end – as opposed to just doing the activity to the best of your ability. Over the past few months since beginning this challenge my view has completely switched. Now I can think of nothing better sporting-wise than running on my own, or swimming, riding my bike (with my son). This was brought home to me by two things over the past couple of weeks. Firstly the badminton experience, where playing doubles with a very wide range of partners made me aware of other people’s expectations. Some players were very accommodating and forgiving of my ineffectual drop shops and poorly judged leaves, while others could barely contain their contempt, waiting for the game to finish before moving on to a better challenge. Both people’s approaches are fine of course: it’s lovely that people can be so generous with their time and support, and equally it’s motivating to feel inadequate, so the pressure created by some of the better players is good too. But I think, like those moments in my cricket where I can’t get the ball in the right place, or it won’t turn, or a batsmen has taken a liking to my bowling, it’s ultimately frustrating. Other sports too – poor skills in tennis, or topping everything in golf – create the same sinking feeling, and although I enjoy the effort, ultimately I become resigned to being fairly average. The other thing was the book I’m reading at the moment by one of my favourite authors, Haruki Murakami. It’s a short non-fiction book which collects a series of essays documenting his experience and views as a long distance runner, with the title What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. There’s so much in here, and I’ll add something about it later, but he notes the importance of running as a personal challenge, even when running with others. This was a revelation, despite the fact it was gradually dawning on me of its own accord. When running, or learning to swim better, or cycling, it’s about me bettering myself. These sports don’t need anything else, any sense of external competition, and rules outside of the very basic techniques of the individual disciplines. It’s up to me to check my performance against my records: getting out there, stats, and self-improvement – all you need. Probably something to do with being an only child too.
Looking ahead, I now feel more motivated by those sports I can do independently of others. I might need some equipment and help, or training and some facilities, but they aren’t dependent on finding an opponent as the role is fulfilled by my own history and expectations. Roll on weightlifting, kayaking, long distance walking, javelin and archery: this is where my sport will be.
I finally succumbed and bought a GPS watch. I’ve had a few disasters with iPhone apps over the last month, either with them measuring very inaccurately, or just deciding to randomly stop and start despite turning off the auto-pause option. So, after extensive DC Rainmaker reading (the man is astonishing), I finally decided I’d splurge all my recent savings on a Garmin 910XT. It’s probably extreme overkill for the standard I’m at, but at least I’m more or less future-proofed (and I got a good deal on eBay). Last Sunday I got to try it out for the first time, not running but during a quick bike ride with my son. We weren’t going particularly far or quickly, but useful to get the hang of the watch at least. Although I’ve not got any sensors on my bike, the basic GPS data all seemed fine, and the auto-pause was good. More interestingly – and the reason I went for this over some of the other models – was my first go in the pool on Tuesday. My swimming lessons recommenced, so gamely strapped the watch on and did a few lengths as a warm up with my newly-found breaststroke skills. The watch is supposed to work out what stroke you’re doing, and then give you all the data from that. I was a little dubious given my somewhat erratic and undisciplined technique. You can mark each length with a press of a lap button, and I forgot to do this at one point, but it seemed to register. Later, during the lesson, we focused on backstroke which is even less secure, but on returning home, I was astonished to see it recognised both! So now I have data for swimming – this is seriously useful as it’s going to make me want to do it more and more.
Yesterday I finally managed to take it out running, This is likely to be the main use, and having set up all my Daniels Red Level 1 programme, I made a start on the first run. It’s quit a simple one, with a series of intervals, but most usefully a pace range so I can see if I’m running at the right tempo. It began beeping at me to begin with saying I was running too fast (!), so slowed down, and also turned the beep off and left just the vibrate alert. This seemed to stop after a while as my average pace was (I think) more stable the longer I ran. I wonder if this is due to the average pace being set, rather than the current pace, which I expect varied a lot more. I’ve just updated this so will see how it goes tomorrow. The run finished with some faster intervals, and I managed to get the right pace for those (3:20 – 3:48/km), erring on the faster side with a few beeps to let me know. It was great though: the graphs seemed so much more accurate and stable, which reflects the feeling of a consistent pace that I feel when running (in comparison to RunKeeper which would routinely give me a variance of 4:00 – 6:30 over consecutive minutes!), and I don’t need to have headphones on either. Having completed all three sports this week, it seems to work very well. I’ve just made some changes to the display for tomorrow so I can see the clock time (back for tea!) and the current rather than average pace, but it’s going to be such an improvement. Looking ahead, when our finances stabilise I’ll get a heart monitor and foot pod, and possibly a bike kit over the summer. Yet again, this is just an excuse to play with gadgets, but why not?
I woke up on Tuesday with severe thigh ache after the badminton the previous night. I couldn’t believe how sore they were after all that running around and stretching. It has taken a couple of days to recover which ruled out any running, although I did manage my swimming lesson on Tuesday. This was the first one after a short break, and it went really well – I managed a whole length of backstroke and this is really starting to make some sense now. My main problem – apart from generally flailing around – is stamina. Although the running is improving my aerobic capacity, swimming really takes it out of me! Before the lesson I did 100m breaststroke, so can add that as a bronze now having completed that distance without a break, but backstroke is going to tak a while I think. My aim by the end of this course of lessons is to be able to do 100m and 200m back and breaststroke, and to have got somewhere with learning front crawl.
I’ve just completed my first session at Portishead Badminton Club this evening. It was a two-hour club night with about 25 players present, playing in rotation. Once I understood the etiquette of the game arranging system, which involves the player at the top of the waiting list choosing three others for then next game, we were on. There were a couple of other new people there, and the standard looked very good, so my first game was a little daunting. There’s a variety of levels, and I’m most definitely towards the bottom, but as my first go at badminton since school I don’t think I did too badly – apart from missing lots of very easy shots, leaving returns that dropped in, being generally immobile, trying too many drop shots that didn’t reach the net, setting up easy smashes for opponents and having the reactions of an elephant that is. It could have been worse – my overriding memory of school badminton was a doubles match with my friend John which involved him stepping back from the net for a smash as I moved forward from the back of the court only to intercept his racket with my top lip. I have a very clear memory of that.
Over the course of the evening I think I played about ten or so matches, playing with nearly everybody present at some point. All the matches were doubles (mens or mixed), so I felt I got to meet most people at some point. As ever, people were very welcoming and accepting of my lack of experience. I hope over the next two weeks that I’ll begin to get my eye in and develop a better tactical awareness and know where to stand. I’m also not entirely clear on the serving rotation and positioning, so need to read up on that this week.
So having played a few games, I can tick off mens doubles and mixed doubles at silver level – these were competitive games in a club environment after all. In simple terms, I just need to have a game of singles at some point, but I really enjoyed myself tonight so will see how things go. It’s highly likely I might not be good enough to join having said that.