Monday, 31 October 2011

How I started running (C25K)?

If anyone is thinking about starting running or is interested in how I started running, then this is how I did it in terms of the programme and equipment/clothing used.

I followed the Couch 2 5K (C25K) training programme over 9 weeks (schedule here) and downloaded the 9 Robert Ullrey podcasts (1 for each week of the schedule) from here.  I then transferred them all to my music player that I would be taking on the sessions.  Then you just start the podcasts in the correct order e.g. Week 1 for the first week of the schedule and then simply follow Robert's instructions  which follow the C25K schedule.  It couldn't be simpler and the podcasts provide tips, encouragement and music to help you along each session.

In terms of footwear, to start me off, I bought some basic Nike running shoes at Brantano's but, if you think you are going to stick with it, then I recommend getting some decent running shoes at the very start as the basic Nike shoes gave me blisters.  I still completed C25K with them but as soon as I moved on to better shoes (Asics Cumulus 12) designed for running and my type of feet (you can find out what type you are here, in my case I am more or less neutral footed) then the Blisters went away extremely quickly and running became easier on my feet.  

Even after a further 350 miles of running so far in the Asics shoes I still have not had any blisters or aches/pains in my feet (after the initial break in period which lasted about a week).  They are starting to wear out now and I'm already thinking about their replacements but, I'm still not getting any blisters so that is a testament to their quality and its why they should be the first purchase of anyone who is serious about wanting to run!

For other clothing, I bought a cheap pair of running shorts and a base layer t-shirt made of wicking fabric which helps to keep water away from the body. After a few more months I purchased some running socks which further helped to keep my feet protected, comfy and blister free.  As I moved into Winter I expanded my running gear by purchasing a long sleeve base layer top, some jogging trousers and for Xmas I was also given a reflective running jacket for those cold/freezing, dark and wet/snow runs.  

Again, its a relatively cheap sport as I still regularly use both the shorts, base layers and socks that I bought early on and as Winter approaches I will be getting out and wearing the jacket.  Like anyone, I have started to refine my running clothing collection as I now require smaller and tighter fitting clothes following my weight loss and the need to reduce other potential running issues such as chafing on the longer runs.  I'm still trying to build up confidence to buy some running tights though...

In terms of equipment, you don't really need anything other than a watch to follow the schedule, but listening to the excellent podcasts on my music player really helped me and it was also fun to track my workouts through the use of the Nike+ app and external sensor (containing a small accelerometer) on my Ipod Touch.  Following each workout, I could then upload my workout data to the Nike+ website which I did from 11 Aug 2010 until 04 Mar 2011 from where I could track my progress.  Other than that, I didn't buy any other equipment such as Water Bottles until I was running for more 30 minutes and in warmer climates.

My top tip if your struggling, is to slow your pace right down, just focus on controlling your breathing (especially if your asthmatic like me), work on the technique that best works for you and do what Richard says.  Then slowly but surely you will move through the schedule (cross off workouts as you go), then before you know; you will start believing that you can complete the programme and you will start to transform into a runner.

I quickly discovered that the Nike+ sensor could only really be used as a guide which is great to begin with but it was not very accurate in terms of tracking your pace/distance, and the data that you could view on the Nike+ website was limited although I do miss the video's from 'athletes' that showed when you reached a particular milestone or had a good run and the community that you could join.

I updated my phone in Mar 2011 so I took the opportunity to move to a GPS based running app  (free) which would be a lot more accurate in tracking my running and could provide me with a lot more useful data.  I was unable to carry on using Nike+ which is tied to Apple devices as I sold my Ipod Touch which didn't have GPS and moved to an Android based GPS phone.

At first I tried RunKeeper and then Adidas Micoach but I eventually settled on the free version of Endomondo which provided the best features, was well supported and was the app that I found most reliable e.g. it rarely lost data, the GPS locked on quickly at the start of runs, it accurately tracked my runs and it was easy to upload my workout to allow me to track and analyse my workout data on-line.  After a few months, I paid a couple of £ to support the developers and to unlock the pro version with additional features on the app and the website.  
As an example of this content, refer to the data I posted in my City of Salisbury Half Marathon Race Report.  This might sound like a lot of faff, but once its all set up its easy and there's nothing like some statistics to help you track your performance, help with your motivation and allow you to see how your running pace/distance develops over the course of your workouts as part of the C25K programme and beyond.  Here is how my running has developed since using Endomondo:

Click to enlarge
Back to the C25K schedule; if you just take it easy, steady and slow, follow the podcasts and the C25K running schedule, then after 9 weeks, you will be running for 30 minutes, 3 times a week and by this point (probably a lot sooner) you will already have a good idea as to whether this running lark is for you and will have started to decided whether you want to maintain this distance or like me move on to the next running programme e.g. the One Hour Runner (OHR) for another challenge.  It's only a shame that Robert Ullrey didn't make any more podcasts as that would have made subsequent running programmes a lot more fun and easier.

So there you go, that's a quick round up of what training schedule I used to start running and the clothing/equipment I acquired in the first few months to get me started.  If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Galloway Run-Walk-Run Method

Detail on this method is here.  Advantages that I hope to achieve using this method are to reduce fatigue, break up longer distances into manageable chunks, speed recovery, reduce the risk of injury, allow me to feel better after long runs and hopefully allow me to start enjoying the longer runs.

However, the last time I walked in a running session, apart from when I hit the Wall, was as part of the Couch 2 5K running programme last year when most of the sessions included run/walk intervals.  Since then all my sessions after warming up have just contained running elements as part of my routines.  

So is it a good idea now to reintroduce walking elements back into my running and will I still consider myself a runner?   I think that as long as you put the effort and commitment into running regularly as part of your weekly routine regardless of the technique you use then you can still consider yourself a runner.

I have come to the conclusion after reading differing views that everyone has their own opinion and beliefs on who and what makes a runner based on their own style of running and their ability.  I'll never be an athlete, only a casual/amateur runner and as long as this technique over the next few months allows me to reach my goals i.e. to reach my target weight, keep fit, to escape the office, to enjoy and still have fun running with the possibility of being able to complete a marathon then I'll be happy with the walk breaks.

I'm going to be experimenting with different run/walk ratios and putting this technique through its paces over the next few months so I will report back on how I am getting on...

Saturday, 22 October 2011

New Goal...

...right it took some time but, I've now decided on my new goal and with that a new running plan which will give me all important structure to my runs over the next few months!

I've concluded that I'm not built for speed as the increased cardio/effort required doesn't seem to suit my aims of keeping my breathing under control in order to keep my asthma at bay during runs but, I've  also concluded that I'm not built for endurance either as I struggle with the longer runs in terms of keeping myself going mentally....however, I had to focus on perhaps fool heatedly this time around I've decided to focus on endurance and build on my Half Marathon and go the whole hog....and aim for a Marathon... it seemed silly to me (or it did at the time) to reduce my distance when I've already built up my mileage to half of what is required.  If I feel like I have a shot, I will be entering the North Dorset Marathon on 06 May 11.

For the plan I will be using Jeff Galloway'swhich lasts 32 weeks and is based on 3 runs per week which is what I want to reduce down to after fitting in 4 runs a week with the Half Marathon plan.  However, the flexibility remains to fit in cross training activities if I can be bothered required.  The plan consists of 2 x 3 mile runs plus a long run which will vary from 3 to 26 miles over the next 32 weeks. 

This time however, I do not intend to run the the whole way, I intend to use Jeff Galloway's technique of a run/walk combination for the longer runs which can improve running times and help with recovery and I'm hoping that it will help me in terms of keeping going which I have struggled with in the past.

When I was thinking what to do next, the walking aspects did worry me as I have always seen walking as a failure in runs, however if they are scheduled walks which will help to improve my running and recovery then I'm willing to give them a try.  I feel that as I have run 13.1 miles non stop, I can now try to enjoy my runs more and this technique might give me the opportunity to do so.

So I will see how it goes in terms of its stated goals and how well the technique suits me and my plodding style.  I am also hoping that this technique will help keep my mind focused on the longer runs which can be broken up into manageable chunks.  In addition to building my mileage base I am hoping that this plan will allow me to get down to my target weight of 13 stone (8lb to go) and improve my 5km and 10km times.

Thursday saw the completion of Week 1 despite suffering with breathlessness which left my tight chest which didn't help me keep my breathing under control and as a result I struggled with even the 3 mile runs....

....I also used my 'puffer' more times than I did in the entire Half Marathon so I'm hoping that this cold doesn't get any worse and disappears soon and before I attempt a Magic Mile in a few weeks times which will help me determine my expected pacing over the programme.

Friday, 14 October 2011

So what next?

...that's a good question!   Despite struggling in my first easy run today since Sunday's race, I think my mind and body have just about recovered from the Half Marathon and the previous 13 week programme so I feel the need to refocus and find something new to aim for!

Half of me wonders whether I should just keep on going upto a full marathon whilst I'm already 'half' way there although I haven't enjoyed the last few longer runs beyond 6/7 miles and my body/mind certainly begins to struggle more noticeably after this distance but, perhaps the best way to tackle this is to keep pushing out my long run distances?  I have also read that by increasing endurance and distance, my speed with increase over time...and perhaps my enjoyment of longer runs once I become accustomed to them, this is where races might help in terms of the atmosphere and alternative surroundings.

Alternatively, the other half of me feels like I need to try and improve my 5k and 10k times in the short term which may help me achieve longer distances in the future although I have struggled to find a suitable/any training plans that work within my requirments i.e. 3-4 runs per week and for a runner who has achieved 13.1 miles.

The other consideration is that once my breathing is under control in terms of the longer runs, I can just run and forget about my asthma and in the end its my legs/mind that gives up first, but the moment I try to quicken my pace, my breathing and heart rate becomes more difficult to control and therefore my asthma becomes more of an issue, this puts me off aiming for 'speed' and puts be back into the 'endurance' way of thinking.  Decisions, decisions!

Another consideration, is that I want to lose a bit more weight, approximately 1 stone to get down to my target weight of 13 stone.  For that to happen I need to keep running within the 'fat burning' zone achieved in slower/endurance runs as opposed to the cardio vascular zone which is reached during speed/tempo training.

Another idea is maintenance runs, apparantly I can maintain my current level of fitness by running 15 to 20 miles per week over 3-4 runs...but, I don't think I am keen on just maintaining the status quo as I worry that it may make my running boring as I have nothing to aim for.

Although at the time I said I wasn't interested in running any more races, I have read that the turnout for the race on Sunday was quite poor and that races with larger numbers of runners can have a significant affect on the race 'atmosphere' in terms of helping you keep going so I'm not going to completely rule out any more races at this stage and it may help in the future in terms of achieving goals.

So I am still none the wiser as to what I am going to do next....I'll have another think over the next week, in the mean time I'll aim to gradually build up my runs.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Salisbury Half Marathon Race Report

To begin this report I would like to first thank my better half for putting up with me and specifically over the last 13 weeks, especially the last couple of days since booking the race over 3 weeks ago where I was a nervous wreck at times and further thanks for helping me start running last year.  I couldn't have done it without all your support, so thanks!  Another huge thanks goes out to everyone who wished me good luck and supported me on the big day.

Now, on to the race....the City of Salisbury Half Marathon which started at 1000 on Sunday 9th October 2011 at Salisbury Fire Station opposite Ashley Green.  The route:

This run was a huge milestone which marked the end of my current training programme (Bupa Beginners Half Marathon) and what would need to be, my longest run to date!  My objectives were to complete the race obviously but preferably to complete it without stopping / walking and if I was feeling like a third objective and if the first two weren't challenging enough, complete the run in under 2 hours 30 minutes.  Here is how I looked before the race......putting on a happy face somehow but underneath I was really nervous and anxious to start and finish the race!

I made sure I walked around to warm up and carried out my usual stretches to try and alleviate any issues that may arise prior to starting.  Everyone (250+ people) then lined up inside the Fire Station yard, behind the start line/gate (obviously) followed by a race official briefing which gave me time to start my music, adjust my earphones and then start my running GPS app to allow me to alter my pacing as required throughout the race.  Then the horn went and the race began, at least after a few metres I still managed to look happy....  

It took me a few hundred meters to get my breathing under control and regain the use of my legs as they felt wobbly and unwilling to run at first - they are normally used to a walking warm up before any running so I think they were still in shock!  The first mile was fairly flat as it twisted through the northern edge of Salisbury to the countryside on city roads with disappearing pavements / driveways so it was quite difficult to maintain any kind of rhythm or routine until the City ended and the quieter country roads began.  The following 5 miles were then what I would call undulating uphill which I managed fairly well once I had settled into a rhythm and a steady pace.

The first and second drink stations along this stretch provided me with some important hydration, or it did when I worked out how to drink from a plastic cup whilst running, it took a bit of practice!  Jelly Babies caught my eye at the drink stations but I decided against them at this point as I hadn't used them before in my training and I didn't want to upset my planned nutrition strategy and get a stitch!

Following these 5 miles; ending somehow on my fastest mile in the race (Hare mile), I suddenly found myself on the ‘big hill’ pretty much without realising it at first but when the incline just went on and on, I shortened my stride, controlled my breathing, focused on reaching the top where an ambulance just happened to be parked and I managed to get there without a hitch other than zapped of all energy.
Although this segment was my slowest (Tortoise mile) and I my energy was depleted, my confidence received a huge boost and I felt relieved that I had beaten the dreaded hill.  This feeling carried me quite well for the next 2-3 miles.  It also helped that these subsequent miles were undulating downhill and probably contained the best scenery of the race so far although the sweeping river along the first few miles also did the job of keeping my mind ‘active’ and my body focused on running whilst enjoying the view.

That feeling lasted until about mile 8/9, shortly before the third drinks station where I started to encounter problems and the race turned from relatively enjoyable to extremely hard to keep myself motivated and going.  I started to feel tired, my mind was getting bored and my left leg started to felt tight.  I struggled on, breaking each mile down into manageable segments, I abandoned by nutrition strategy and grabbed some jelly babies at the penultimate drinks station in addition to water to give them a go and to try and give my energy levels a much needed boost.  It partially worked as I struggled on for another mile before I reached my worst point so far in the race where I began teetering on the edge of the wall...

...everything seemed to be intent on stopping me from running!  My mind and body wanted to give up, I felt dizzy and unbalanced, running on the road suddenly seemed extremely difficult and the wind was blowing against me!.  This was exacerbated by a couple of runners just in front who were looking worse for wear and were making me feel even more tired just by looking at them and closing my eyes wasn't helpful at this point.  It was a make or break moment that lasted a few hundred meters but felt like it lasted a life time!

Something happened then which allowed me to break free and keep it together; I managed to conjure up enough energy to accelerate past the tired runners (typically, they were on a hill at that point) but I managed it and this gave my confidence and mind a boost and enabled me with a clear road ahead of me and Salisbury Cathedral on the horizon to refocus.  The thought of then only being 3 miles away, less than 5km from the finish line helped to spur me on.

This picture is quite apt as people often say I run like a chicken!
The remaining miles then started to tick by slowly, the final drinks station came and went along with a couple more jelly babies and my last drink.  Salisbury started to appear, houses started popping up either side of the road followed closely by pavements and increasing amounts of traffic.  This helped keep my mind occupied, I was able to relax slightly, my routine and rhythm returned and the tightness in my leg eased and then finally the 12 mile marker arrived which my GPS running app confirmed moments later.

At this point I was now convinced that I was going to finish as it was just over a mile to go, approximately 12 minutes of running remaining.  Unfortunately the official route had more in store for me; Firstly, I had to run past the start, gathering crowds, people milling about....

...and running further on past my family... 

It was about this point, that my GPS reported a distance of 13 miles but I couldn't even see the official finish line, it was at least another 500metres on which when you think you have finished is not an immeasurable distance left to cover!  I had to continue down past the Fire Station, past the red brick building, around the block, through some playing fields...

...and then back around to cross the line; very strange as my mind and body thought I had finished.  It was only brute force determination at this point that kept me running as I had nothing left in the tank.   Considering my GPS reading was correct at the 12 mile mark I'm more inclined to believe that in total by the time I crossed the finishing line I had completed 13.56 miles and not 13.1 miles.

I was expecting a ‘finishers’ medal at the end only to be disappointed and given some promotional rubbish instead, I was later told that this was always going to be the case, and the race info was wrong so I was a little bit disappointed but at that point once finished I didn’t care, I just wanted to sit down, eat some sugary food and drink copious amounts of water!

So there it is, somehow after all that I managed to successfully finish the race!  It's starting to sink in now what I have achieved and I feel really pleased with what I achieved in terms of reaching the distance without stopping/walking and under (just) my target time.  My official half marathon time was 02:29:39 and I didn't come last either...there were at least 14 people who completed the race after I sprinted effortlessly collapsed over the line in a heap.

However, the time my GPS app recorded for the Half Marathon was 2h:25m:15s.  My other distance times and workout details for this run are detailed below, copied directly from Endomondo after I had uploaded my run.

The following graphs (click to enlarge) display my pace and the terrain throughout the race so you can see I was pretty consistent throughout and as reported earlier the Hare & Tortoise miles can be seen in the 2nd graph which occurred in the 5th and 6th mile (before and during the hill) of the race.

Can't really fault much about the organisation of the race other than the start/finishing points and the dubious final 1.1 mile.  It was a shame that most of the runners had already left when other's still had to finish.  The marshals and all the helpers did a great job in keeping me on track, providing me with encouragement and supplying the fuel I needed to complete the race i.e. water and more importantly jelly babies which I don't normally like but they were great in the last few miles in giving me an energy boost.  I'll remember to start eating them earlier next time and work on a strategy for picking up more than 3 whilst running!

Post run, at home, much soreness on my inside thigh's - looks life I've been chafed!  Not once either, 3 of the blighter's which are going to cause me to walk funny over the next few days...walking to get food Sunday night was painful enough!  it's now Tuesday and I'm well on the road to recover, just need to decide when to start running again and what I'm going to do now.

Anyway that's enough for this blog as I doubt many people got this far!  

For further photographs of the race there was a professional company covering the event, I can't copy them into this post as they are protected however if you want to view them, then visit the following web page Charles Whitton Photography.  To display my photographs, enter BZ70 and then click on search.  I'm going to order 'BZ_0852' as I wasn't expecting it (didn't see the photographer) and I think it captures my 'raw' emotions and determination in the closing moments of the race perfectly.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

One run remaining....

That's it! All the runs in the last 13 weeks have been completed bar one.  This is the final post before tomorrow's Half Marathon at Salisbury and the last run of my current training programme.  The preparation this week I feel has gone well, I just need to eat and drink the right things over the next 24 hours, then just simply turn up and run my own race.  Weather and conditions are looking good but a far cry from the weather last week which is a relief (sorry everyone else).  

I'm a little stiff today, but that is due to a round of golf yesterday but hopefully that will ease over the day/night, but then I've been roped into a Skittles evening tonight, unfortunately not the candy variety, so I'm hoping that doesn't cause me any last minute problems, just need to take it easy from this point onwards.

My last run was on Thursday and it started off freezing, coldest run since the end of the last winter and windy too, scrabbled around at home trying to find by long sleeve base layer but then I remembered it was in work....I had to go out in shorts and t-shirt, the first 10 minutes was a battle in getting warm!  

Well it wasn't that cold but it felt like it after last weeks weather!
Last tempo run was on Tuesday and I kicked of last weeks running with an easy 40 minute session on Sunday.  I varied the times I ran this week as I've never run more than 4 miles on a Sunday or that early in the morning before.  I aim to do a full race report on tomorrow's run, wish me luck and hope to post it to this site either tomorrow evening or Monday morning.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Stourhead 5km Race

This is the first Race Report I'm attempting.  It was my first official race that I entered after completing the Couch to 5Km and 1 hour runner training programmes in February 2011 so I felt ready for a 5km race.  The race was organised by Eco Fitness and the run would take place at the National Trust's Stourhead property in Wiltshire...or so I thought...

...I was expecting the run to be around the actual landscaped grounds where the public normally walk around on paths/trails but the route was on common land (grass and a lot of mud) leading up to King Alfreds Tower, a far cry from the types of running surfaces (pavements/roads) I and my gear were used to by that point.

To say I was unprepared was an understatement.  At least there was no snow but it was still freezing hence the trousers and long sleeved t-shirt (if I remember correctly, a base layer on underneath too!) 

As a result, my pace was slow, a good 10 minutes down on my normal pace so it wasn't my fastest run and as expected with that kind of time I finished at the back of the pack, but it was all good experience of running in a race which I'm hoping to carry through to the City of Salisbury Half Marathon next weekend....well that's the theory anyway!