Distance Demon Demolished

When the snow cleared in the spring, I hit the trails knowing that I actually had a goal race in mind. Yes I signed up for a Sprint Tri in May, but I saw that as a decent starting point for my running plan for the year.  My focus, my goal,  for the year was the half marathon. I found a few different training plans that I followed, some weeks more successfully than others. I continued to get stronger, not worrying too much about speed, focusing instead on my form and over all running health. I suffered through some minor injuries, I tried new gear, I found new routes. I even ran on my vacation!

I’ve only ever ran a half marathon once before, 5 years ago when I completed the 2012 Army Run Half. Some of my family absolutely refused to believe I actually ran that race. Their disbelief isn’t really a surprise. At that time I was not much of a runner. I didn’t have a training plan, and I certainly didn’t seem to have the skills needed to complete that distance. In fact I did complete the race, even making many of the normal mistakes new runners make, in a less than stunning 2:49. I was just about the last male runner to cross the line, but I did finish. At the time, I said I would NEVER run that far again. Of course famous last words being what they are, last year I got the urge to try the half at least one more time.

Fast forward to September 2016 when I was planning on returning to the Army Run Half. I was thinking that I this was a distance I could revisit as a more knowledgeable and more confidant runner. Part of me was thinking it would be great to accomplish this before I turn 50 — I’m 49 this year — and this being the 5th anniversary of my only other attempt at the Half seemed auspicious. Unfortunately I had to opt out of the race at the last minute. I even had my bib. But not running was the right choice.

After choosing the DNS, I spent much of September and October in a running funk. I still ran, but it was a little aimless, and nothing long. Last weekend, on a gorgeous October afternoon I hit the trails with the plan of hitting the magic 21.1 km mark. My original goal time for the race had been anything under 2:30, maybe 2:15 to 2:20 range, but I didn’t have any real expectation to go faster than that. Using the tried and true 10:1 ratio (thanks John Stanton!), I started running along some new trails. It was a bit cooler than I had thought, a blustery 6C, but it was a sunny day. Fortunately, much of the route was tree lined trails so the wind wasn’t too bad. Of course since I am new to cooler temperature running, I had a hard time figuring out what to wear. Having settled on my Army Run Half shirt and an Under Armour running sweater on top and Lulu Surge shorts and Running Room Calf sleeves on the bottom, I was off. At first I regretted not having gloves, but once I got moving I was fine. In fact I almost regretted the double layer on top, but it was also fine.

Almost done and still smiling

I even found time to take some pictures. It really was a gorgeous fall day.

I kept a pretty steady but comfortable pace the entire way and I was really happy to finish in 2:09 with and average pace of 6:02/km.

When I hit the trails, I wasn’t convinced I could actually run as far and as fast as I did. I had pretty much stopped training and running seriously, but clearly there was enough muscle memory left. And I’m glad I there was because my Distance Demon was Demolished! I knew I could run a Half Marathon distance, but now I know I can do it in a respectable time and without suffering for days afterwards. The Half and I still have some unfinished business, but this time there won’t be any Demons in my way.

Goals Achieved!

At the beginning of the new year I, like many others, set out some goals. Nothing huge, but things I thought I could achieve over the course of the next 12 months. Even though we’re only at the end of October (where has the year gone?), I think it’s time to reflect on the year and my progress. Some goals were realized. Some goals are still a work in progress. That’s okay. I’m happy that I even managed to realize some of the goals.

Let’s recap.

  • Goal 1: blog more
    • This sort of happened, but it has been sporadic. Posts have been a mix of reflections on my exercise mixed with some of my photos. I didn’t write nearly as much as I thought, especially my A to Z Music series. I haven’t given up on the idea; instead I’m rethinking my strategy.
  • Goal 2: sub-200 weight
    • In fact I did achieve this goal. At first I kind of didn’t believe it was true, but when I stepped in the scale and it read 199 for more than just 1 day it started to sink in that I was finally less than 200 lbs. My weight still fluctuates between 195 and 198, and I’m worried that it will creep back up this winter as I’m not running, but my eating habits have improved and I’m working on an exercise plan that involves my daughter’s BOSU.
  • Goal 3: sub-30 minute 5k & sub-60 minute 10k
    • Amazingly I managed to achieve and surpass both my 5k and 10k goals. I’ve written about these accomplishments before, but it still amazes me that I have managed to get this fast. My 5k is usually around 26 mins now, and I’ve even had 25 minutes runs on a few occasions. My 10k time got down to 56 minutes by the end of my running season. These times are a whole lot faster than when I started.
  • Goal 4: regular stretching and exercise
    • How can we define regular? Does once a week constitute regular? Or does three times a week sound more like regular? One of my colleagues works out every other day. She’s transformed her body and self image by following her new regime (and by adapting a strict diet but that’s another story). While I was running, swimming, and biking daily during the spring and summer, the return to work and cold weather has caused me to fall of the exercise path. So I’m trying to schedule time for exercise three times a week. Time that I can spin on my bike in the basement, use the BOSU, or my SWORKIT app so that I continue to be healthy and not lose the momentum I’ve gained so far this year.

How has your quest for goal success gone this year? Any surprises?

Improvements Made, Lessons Learned

The first time I ran a race, the 2009 Army Run, I had never run any long distance.  My training was inconsistent and uninformed.  Yes, I tried to follow the 10 & 1 rule recommended by various experts.  I ran around the neighbourhood and the school track a few times, much to the amusement of my family.  I knew I wasn’t going to finish anywhere near the front of the group, but I knew I was going to finish, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me.  The route takes runners past Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Memorial, and along the World Heritage Site Rideau Canal. It is also the route many students from Lisgar Collegiate Institute have run for years as part of their Canal run in gym class.  As my father was a teacher and Head of Phys. Ed. at Lisgar for 33 years, he knew exactly how long it should take somebody to run that 5k loop.

2009 Army Run Result

When I finished my first race, I proclaimed my success to any and all who would listen. My dad’s response he has stuck with me more than anybody else’s. He was pleased that I had completed the race, but my time of 36 minutes received a less than enthusiastic response: “It should’ve taken you 25 minutes.”  That’s it. At the time I was impressed that I finished at all. Sure I knew I could go faster, like maybe as fast as 30 minutes, but 25 minutes was just plain crazy. That’s the kind of pace/time super-fit, lean, long-legged true runners achieve. Not 220 lb, stocky, thick calved coach potatoes lumber to.

The idea that I could run 5k faster than I did, let alone in 25 minutes, has stuck with me since. As a result, I’ve been more aware of my pace, my form, and my effort. When I did finally run 5k in 30 minutes (last year), my daughter’s wise assessment was “That’s what happens when you run more.” Not bad for a then 11 year old. Typically, though, I do not spend enough time each year running to get much faster. Last year I was averaging about 7:15/km while still holding to the 10:1 pattern. This time held regardless of the distance; sometimes I was a bit faster and sometimes I was bit slower. While I was pretty pleased with that time, I knew I was getting faster and stronger. I started running a couple of times a week in April of 2015, and fairly quickly (no pun intended) I was getting under 7:00/km. Sure enough those times started dropping below 6:00/km and I wasn’t stopping for walk breaks anymore. Imagine my surprise when I finally ran 5k in 5:05/km — that’s a time of 25:22. I had finally achieved what my father said I could do, something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. What changed? Quite simply, I did. I exercised more this year than any other year. I made better food choices. I worked at it.

I weigh less and I move more; that’s a simple equation for success. But there’s more to than that. I value each accomplishment I’ve made, and I recognize that while those accomplishments will come and go like the tide, I have to keep at it. Here’s hoping I stick with into the winter and beyond.