Saturday, August 30, 2008

Week 35: One Month to Go...

Just one more month to go before my half marathon. Things are going quite well, and other than a few scheduling hiccups causing me to miss a bit of walking mileage things are sticking with the plan. Other than that, however, things are looking pretty good and I'm looking forward to the race at this juncture.

The weather this week was a bit unpredictable and made scheduling the workout sessions a little tricky, but in the end everything worked out. Friday was likely the biggest issue, as they were calling for rain and I was a little concerned that I'd not be able to fit in my cycling session on that day. Fortunately, when the time came around the weather looked pretty good so I headed out with the intention of falling back if things changed. This meant that I went out pretty hard in order to get in as much as possible before that happened. As the rain didn't materialize, however, I was able to get the entire session in. My legs were pretty tired by the end of the ride, but it was definitely good to push the limits a bit.

Weekly Totals:

Running: 43km
Walking: 56km
Cycling: 140km
Total: 239km

This week the Thursday session will be switching from hill repeats to speedwork, which I haven't done as of yet so it will certainly be interesting. The Fartlek sessions have gone well over the last four weeks, so the more structured sessions will hopefully turn out similarly. With that said, running four laps at a 4:10min/km pace is not going to be easy any way that I look at it ;)

Other than that, I'll be jumping back up to doing an 18K LSD run tomorrow. Unfortunately the weather forecast is indicating that it's going to be pretty hot, so that will make it a lot more difficult than the 18Ks I did a few weeks back. Either way, it will be a good test to see how I hold out under difficult circumstances.

Upcoming Week:
Sun (AM/PM) 18K LSD/11.5K Walk
Mon (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/60K Cycle
Tue (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/5K Fartlek
Wed (AM/PM) 30K Cycle/10K Steady
Thurs (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/2x1.6K Speed
Fri (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/60K Cycle
Sat (AM/PM) 8K Steady/30K Cycle

Further down the road, the group is planning on doing a dry run on the actual course in place of the LSD run in about two weeks. I've been doing the LSD runs individually in order to train myself to do the half marathon continuously (rather than with the Running Room's run/walk routine), so I'll have to figure out what will be the best way to handle that. I'll likely end up starting out with them and then breaking off at the 10 minute mark, although running with the group would be beneficial given the traffic down in the city.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week 34: Review

Thanks to the weather we've been having lately, I've been able to keep the cycling up on a daily basis this week. As such, this has taken a chunk out of my walking mileage, however the cycling sessions appear to be a better overall workout so the end result is likely positive. It's taking a bit of effort to train my body to get used to the new activity, but things have progressed significantly since the beginning of the week.

Other than that, the running has gone well this week. I skipped Sunday's LSD run given the 15K race the day before, but performed all other planned runs throughout the week. The heat today did make the run this morning a little more difficult (should have gone out a bit earlier), however it wasn't enough to impede performance in any measurable way.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 40km
Walking: 75km
Cycling: 136km
Total: 251km

As for next week, the weather reports are looking good so if things pan out then it should bode well for my workouts. There is a little over five weeks to go before my half marathon, so the work that I do in the next little while will be critical to my performance. Thanks to the results of my race last week, I have a much better idea of pacing that I'll be likely to hit which further helps to refine my training.

Upcoming Week:
Sun (AM/PM) 16K LSD/11.5K Walk
Mon (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/50K Cycle
Tue (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/4K Fartlek
Wed (AM/PM) 30K Cycle/7K Steady
Thurs (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/6x400m Hills
Fri (AM/PM) 11.5K Walk/50K Cycle
Sat (AM/PM) 8K Steady/30K Cycle

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mixing in some cycling...

I'm still in the process of getting used to working cycling sessions into my normal routine. A couple of months ago I decided that it would be a good idea to start trying to work some other sports into the mix, and I figured that cycling would be my best bet. Unfortunately, it had been more than 10 years since I'd done any significant riding, and my old mountain bike wasn't really in the best shape. Further, my goals were significantly different than they were back then and it really wasn't the right kind of bike for what I wanted to do.

As such, I did a bit of looking and picked up a proper road bike (Cervelo Soloist) that would allow me to do some longer and harder rides than my old one would have allowed. Given that my intention was to maximize the exercise benefits, I also elected to switch from platform pedals to clipless pedals. Both changes provide major benefits, however they also have a significant learning curve so it's taken a bit of work to get things down. The last few weeks have been pretty rainy so I haven't had many chances to take it out and continue working on my technique.

Fortunately, this week has been pretty much perfect so I've been taking the bike out for a short (20min/10K) ride each day in addition to my normal workouts. These sessions have gone very well so far, and I was able to make some significant strides in my ability to perform the basic tasks that I was having problems with. As such, I felt that it was about time to attempt a proper session on the bike to see how things go.

I got up early this morning to fit the session in, pulled out the bike and took off. As I'm still not 100% confident in my ability to unclip in an emergency scenario, I elected to remain within the confines of my subdivision and simply do laps. The original plan was simply to do a hard 15km ride and see how things went. Fortunately the ride went great, so I kept adding more laps until I got to 32km and elected to stop due to time constraints. I managed to maintain an average speed a little over 30km/h, and hit a maximum of 51km/h with a few sprints that I mixed into the workout.

Naturally, riding 10 laps around the same terrain wasn't particularly exciting, so I'm definitely going to have to start venturing out a bit more for future rides. Regardless, this ride was enough to (a) show that I can cycle well enough to start doing proper workouts on the bike (ie so I can replace other sessions rather than simply do it in addition to) and (b) give me enough confidence in my skills to consider expanding onto the more dangerous arterial roads.

As such, I'll probably do this a few more times to practice the remaining rough spots but I'm definitely hoping to try out some more interesting bike routes in the near future. Naturally, the ability to start replacing other workouts with time on the bike will also significantly increase the opportunities to do so (weather permitting of course). The running sessions will certainly remain untouched, however the cycling should be more than sufficient to replace some of the walking that I do on a daily basis.

Either way, it's back to running tonight with 6x400m hills with the half marathon clinic group. Hopefully I didn't tire the quads out too much this morning ;)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Race Report: Midsummer Night's Run 15K

I signed up for the Midsummer Night's Run in order to help figure out pacing for the half marathon I will be running next month. As this 15K was nearly twice as long as I had raced before, it was certainly new territory and would be a good stepping stone to the 21.1K I am aiming towards. Further adding to the complexity was that this was going to be my first attempt to run a race without the Running Room's walking breaks (10min run, 1min walk, repeat...).

With that said, I have gone longer distances a few times before on my Sunday LSD (long slow distance) runs. The last two weeks (18K and 21.1K respectively) I had done these runs continuously to get myself used to running without the walking breaks. Naturally, however, the pace of those runs was much easier so, while they helped, there was still a bit of a learning curve to deal with.

Either way, looking at my prior performance my goal was to aim for a continuous pace of 4:50min/km, hopefully resulting in a finish of about 1:12:30. I was a bit concerned that this was a bit aggressive, however the point of this race was largely to test my limits so I figured that I could always slow down if it was necessary.

When the time came around, I drove down to the designated parking lot and took the shuttle bus in to the race site. Once there, I stood around a bit in the shade to relax myself a bit and watched as the crowd slowly trickled in. With about an hour before the race, I met up with some people from my local Running Room store and we chatted for a while to pass the time.

Shortly before the race was scheduled to start, I ran into yumke and said hello before I headed off to the starting corral. Due to long lineups for the baggage check and washrooms, the organizers decided to change the start time so that the 30K runners would go out first. As such, I got back out of the corral and waited.

Once the 30K runners were clear, I got back into the corral quickly to ensure myself a good position. I placed myself near the front of the crowd, but was conscious to allow obviously faster runners to get in front of me. When the horn sounded, I took off with the crowd and stayed with them for the first ~150m before I moved to the right and slowed down to my planned pace. I tried to find other runners going at my pace and follow them, however for the first little while most were a bit erratic so I had to break away every once and a while and find another group.

1K 4:33 160bpm
2K 4:38 168bpm

Shortly after the 2K mark, I caught up with a fellow going at about the right pace so I locked onto him and kept things going as planned. When we hit the water station at the 3K mark, I figured that I'd try and use them instead of my own to get some practice in dealing with them. This worked well, and left the water and Gatorade that I was carrying in reserve if I needed it.

3K 4:48 171bpm
4K 4:43 171bpm

Coming up to the 4K mark, the runner that I was with started to slow down a bit so I decided to pass and maintain my own pace. I was well ahead of my scheduled pace at this juncture, was feeling good and my heart rate was under control so I pushed ahead a little more. At this point the crowd was pretty thin, so I was basically running on my own.

5K 4:41 171bpm

At about the 5.5K point, there was a quick dip where we crossed a small foot bridge and then climbed a hill on the other side. The terrain was loose gravel, so while small, the hill took a noticeable toll and I was starting to feel a bit tired. I was a little concerned that I'd gone out too fast at this point, so I slowed down a bit. Fortunately, my heart rate was still relatively comfortable (~176bpm) so it didn't take too long for me to get over it.

6K 4:45 171bpm

Just after the 6K mark, we hit the second water station so I grabbed some more water which helped things out as well. At this point I had found another runner going at a similar pace, so I elected to stay with her to keep myself under control. Within the next kilometer or so, we caught up to a few others who stuck with us as well.

7K 4:47 172bpm
8K 4:51 172bpm
9K 4:44 172bpm

At about the 9.5K mark, the group I was with began to fade and I elected to break off from the group when another runner passed us. While he was going faster than I'd planned, I was feeling quite comfortable again so I figured that I'd stick with him for the time being and just break off if I started getting tired again.

10K 4:26 171bpm
11K 4:51 170bpm
12K 4:43 172bpm
13K 4:39 173bpm

I managed to stay close for the first kilometer or so, but his pace was a bit fast so I started backing off a bit. After crossing the 13K mark, he accelerated so I gave up trying to maintain chase and just continued on my own. At this point I was again running alone, however there were a number of volunteers along the route that were extremely encouraging and helped me to fight through the final two km.

After turning onto Commissioner's St, I caught up to another runner and passed her just as I crossed the 14K mark. I was definitely starting to feel tired at this stage, but with the finish less than 1K away, I opened up to try and get as good a time as possible.

14K 4:37 176bpm

When I turned the final corner and the finish line was in sight, the timing clock had just clicked over to 1:10 so I broke into a sprint to try and hit it before it made it to 1:11. When I hit the finish line, I was moving at a 3:42min/km pace with a 106spm cadence and a heart rate of 184bpm (~90% MHR). That burst of speed was sufficient, getting me over the line in 1:10:51.

15K 4:36 177bpm

Aside from a finish that was much better than I had anticipated, I was overjoyed that I had enough left in me at the end to handle a sprint at that intensity. Dialing this time into the predictor formulae, they seem to indicate that a 1:41-1:42 half marathon is possible, which is much faster than I had initially been planning. Either way, we'll see how the rest of the training goes, but after this race I am a lot more confident in my ability to handle the half.

Chip time: 1:10:51.3 (overall results)
Gun time: 1:10:53.1
Pace: 4:44K
Place overall: 45/623 (92.8 percentile)
Place in men: 37/196 (81.1 percentile)
Place in age group: 7/34 (79.4 percentile)

Average Heart Rate: 172bpm (~84% MHR)
Full Telemetry

Friday, August 15, 2008

Long Road...

Ever since I was a kid, I had been battling with my weight. I had been walking short distances (2-3km) several times a week, however my work had me sitting at a desk all day so that was pretty much the only activity that I was doing on a daily basis. I'd loose a little weight here and there, but I'd catch a cold, get derailed for a week and fall back again. Add in the fact that it didn't take much of an excuse to convince myself to skip a session (bad weather, something on TV, etc.) and at best I was simply treading water.

First Steps...

Fast forward to December 2006. I had just had a physical and got reamed by my doctor once again for gaining weight, and was just coming off of a nasty cold that shut down my exercises for a week or so. Given the short term determination that those stimuli prompted, I decided to make up the lost mileage by doing two 3km sessions a day for the next week.

By the end of that week, I was down about 3lbs and the extra mileage felt quite good so I figured that I'd stick with it for a little while longer. Things continued to go quite well, and while the weight loss dropped to 1-2lbs per week pretty quickly, it remained enough motivation to keep going. As time passed, I got faster and began adding mileage to maintain the session time. That in turn reaped significant benefits, so I slowly began increasing the time of the sessions as well. The progress continued over the next few months.

By March I was up to about 12km per day (two 6km walks), however I ran into a bit of a snag as I was beginning to develop some nasty blisters on my feet which stopped me from pushing much further. A week off (due to a trip out west) and new pair of shoes temporarily remedied the problem, however the crappy Reebok cross trainers that I was using didn't last long and it came right back a couple of months later.

The Importance of Proper Equipment

When the new shoes began to self-destruct on me (around June) and the blisters were worsening again, I figured that it was about time to get fitted for a proper pair. A new Running Room store had opened in the area, so I figured that it was my best bet in finding a shop with staff that actually knew what they were doing. That turned out to be a very good move, as the fellow that fitted me was extremely helpful and spent about 45 minutes finding the right shoe and getting some proper (non-cotton) socks to go with them.

Armed with proper equipment for a change, I was again able to begin increasing my mileage and speed. As before, this reaped significant advantages and by August I had settled into covering about 20km per day (two 10km walks). At this juncture I was approaching 200lbs, feeling much better than I had for many years and was determined to keep things up. I flirted a bit with adding some running into the mix, however I didn't really have any sort of formal plan so my success was limited.

By the end of September I picked up a Polar heart rate monitor to help me out with my training. Being an Engineer, the concept of working with hard numbers and objective measurements was quite appealing. Naturally, it proved to be a very powerful tool and helped me to take a much more formal approach to the exercise. Especially useful was the ability to quantify the number of calories that I was burning, as it put those little numbers of the nutritional panels into context. Eating a 100 Calorie snack is a lot less appealing when you consider how much work you'll have to do to burn it off ;)

From Walking to Running

When the new year rolled around, I joined the Learn to Run clinic at the local Running Room store to step things up a notch. In addition to getting a proper background and formal plan, this clinic also gave me a great group of people to run with, helping to make the transition a lot easier than when I attempted it on my own. The clinic sessions went well, culminating in a pair of 5km races (due to scheduling conflicts).

The first of these was the Frosty 5K in Burlington in the beginning of March. In addition to being my first attempt at running a formal race, it was also the first time that I would be running this far (the LTR program only targets running for 20 minutes) so I went into it not knowing what to expect. Given my prior runs, I hoped to finish somewhere in the range of 25 to 30 minutes, but I elected to run the race by feel and not worry too much about it.

Shortly after meeting up with the group and getting into position, we were away and navigating through the crush of people. After about 5 minutes I managed to get ahead of the main pack and was moving along at a much faster pace than I had attempted before, but I was feeling great so I elected to keep it up. When I hit the 4km mark fatigue started to set in, however I managed to fight through it and keep going. The final stretch of the race was a pretty nasty hill that took a lot out of me, however I managed to make it up and hit the finish line in 24:22 which was much better than I had expected. Needless to say, it was an incredible experience and drove me to want more.

Two weeks later, armed with some real world experience, I ran the second goal race (the Achilles 5K in Toronto). In addition to being another great race, it also provided an opportunity to met up with a couple of friends from University (yumke and Fitzy) who were also running it. With a more detailed plan this time around, I managed to further improve my pace throughout the race. Compounding this was the fact that Fitzy passed me near the end of my second walking break, making it into a proper race with both of us sprinting to the finish and me clocking in at 23:43.6.

After the race, we met up for lunch to catch up and yumke managed to talk us into running the Harry's Spring Run-Off three weeks later. Unlike the previous races, this was a hilly course running through High Park so it added another variable to the equation. While I had some (smallish) hills on my normal training runs, I hadn't done any formal hill training (the Running Room doesn't add this until the 10K clinic) so I began adding some on my own. It certainly took some getting used to, however with a little work and some minor pace adjustments it quickly began to get easier.

When April rolled around and Harry's 5K approached, I headed down to high park a couple of days before the race to pick up my kit. While I was down there, I walked the course to get an idea of what I was going to be looking at. It was certainly a much more challenging course than the previous races, however knowing what to expect helped me to work out a rough plan to make sure that I had enough left to conquer that final hill.

On race day I headed down early to pick up my timing chip, and met up with yumke near the 8K starting line. After the 8K race started, I headed back down to the 5K start and met up with Fitzy. We talked for a while, and then proceeded to the starting line to make sure that we had a good position near the front of the pack. When the race started, we headed off with the pack. Looking down at my Polar, I saw that our pace was way too fast at about 3:50min/km so I moved over to the right and slowed down to the 4:40min/km pace that I had planned, letting Fitzy go ahead. Given the topology of the course, I closely monitored my pace and continued to hold back to make sure that I had enough in me for the final uphill push.

When I finally did hit the hill about 450 meters from the finish, I was still feeling quite good so I opened up and headed up as quickly as I could. As a good number of people ran out of steam at this point, I passed about twenty of them on the way up which did a lot to boost my confidence. My legs were pretty tired as I crested the hill, but with yumke and jellypepper cheering me on I pushed through and gave it a sprint for the last 100 meters finishing in 24:03.4. After the race Fitzy, yumke, jellypepper and I met up and headed out to grab some lunch.

At the same time as the above, the LTR clinic had finished and I started with the Running Room's formal 5K clinic. Our previous instructor was teaching it as well, and the majority of the group from the LTR clinic also came along so it made for a seamless transition. Things went along very well, and by mid May I was out for the Hazel 5K race (part of the Mississauga Marathon).

The start was a bit rocky due to a large group of children that positioned themselves at the front of the starting line. This forced me to go a little faster (~3min/km for the first 300 meters, ~4min/km for the next 200m) than I would have liked to in order to get past them, which left me more fatigued than I was used to. Either way, I fought through and covered the 5km course in 22:41.2.

Going Further

As the Running Room's 5K clinic was based on timed runs rather than fixed distances, I was up to doing about 7-8km per run by the time it was finished. With a few weeks before the 10K clinic started up, I figured that I'd look for an intermediate distance race and work toward it in the meantime. After a bit of digging, I settled on the Night Crawler 5 Miler in mid June which yumke was also running.

The training went quite well and was mostly a matter of figuring out what kind of pace was realistic for the distance. When the race came around, I headed down to the course and picked up my kit on site. After meeting up and talking with yumke, we headed up to the starting line and after a bit of confusion of where exactly that was we got into position. When the horn was sounded, yumke took off ahead of me and I headed out at my planned pace.

Due to a much more competitive field than I was used to, there was a lot more traffic to deal with for the duration of the race. Fortunately, I found a group that was moving at about the same pace as me so that didn't pose too much of an issue. Things got a little crowded heading up the hill near the end of the race as some people started slowing down, but with a little weaving I made it up. Once over the top of the hill, I opened things up for the final ~500 meters hitting the finish line in 38:18.

Next Steps

This, in turn, brings us to the present. With the Night Crawler under my belt, I originally planned to start the 10K clinic but elected to do the Half Marathon instead (as the former was a bit less aggressive than I would have liked). I'm now in the seventh week of that program, with the goal race being the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon on September 28th. I'm also getting ready to run a 15K race (Midsummer Night's Run) tomorrow in order to get a better idea of what pace to attempt for the goal race.

Anyway, from this point on I hope to use these pages to record my progress and hopefully provide some tidbits of information that others might find useful. Having gleaned a lot of great information and inspiration from other blogs (especially yumke's), it seems like a good way to pay that back.