Juneathon Day 6: Blimey Charlie!

Garmin, check. Shuffle, check. Clubcard, check. Monday night is big shop night in the Hopefully household and earlier Athons have taught me that the most effective use of time is to run home from Tesco (well I’m hardly going to get up at half five on a Monday morning am I?). I have long since run out of shame when it comes to going to supermarkets in my running kit (at least tonight I was there pre-run so I wasn’t red-faced, sweaty or muddy, which is a blessing for everyone) and I think more people (me included) were distracted by the sight of a woman who appeared to be wearing a pelmet as a skirt.

To get home, I have a choice of two routes. Both are three miles long. One is an undulating bypass between an industrial estate and a housing estate finishing with my old nemesis hill. The other is mainly flat and runs between fields full of sheep. Guess which one I picked? I know, I know, but don’t judge me just yet…

Yesterday on Twitter, JogBlog was extolling the virtues of owning a Garmin to Hels and the conversation turned to the fact that some let you run against a virtual training buddy (JogBlog’s is named Cedric). This lead to some discussion about training plans which reminded me that I should really get on with some proper training if I’m supposed to be running the Folkestone half in September and Cathy suggested I use a virtual partner. Instead, I used my actual partner (the ever reliable Ginge) to kick my arse as we ran along the canal – the result was that I managed to finish with an average pace of 10.03min/mile over 8 miles (the last 2 half mile splits came in at 9.35 and 9.24 – I have no idea how) and I never do that.

Ginge presented me with undeniable evidence that it’s my head that’s holding me back  from improving at the moment – when he told me that he’d deliberately gone a bit faster than normal, I checked my pace, fear set in and I immediately slowed down.

Unfortuately (and fortunately, I’m not an idiot) now that this particular Pandora’s box has been opened, the fact that I can go faster is fluttering out there like a malevolent moth. I can’t really keep slacking by running at my familiar pace, however comforting that is. And so it was with some trepidation that I pressed buttons randomly on my Garmin until I had managed to challenge it to a race at a 9.30min/mile pace all the way home from Tesco. The result?

It was a bit of a drubbing for the Garmin – I beat it with a minute to spare. Ha. Take that as-yet-unamed-GPS-watch-thingy.

Annoyingly, this doesn’t really affect my cornet count and I now have a higher benchmark than I expected. Arse.


Making my mind up

My post-Juneathon plan appeared to be simple and yet I nearly fell at the first hurdle, which was to find a training plan. I’m not training for a particular event, just trying to get out of doing junk miles and turn my efforts into actual improvement in terms of endurance and maybe a little speed. I decided that a half marathon programme fitted the bill and that’s where the choices began.

Using the scientific method of googling “half marathon training”, I found a multitude of different regimes and didn’t know where to start (and for once this wasn’t just advanced procrastinating).  Did I want an eight week plan? Twelve weeks? Fifteen perhaps? Am I using heart race or pace? Do I want fartleks? Do I want to be paced by speed or subjectively by myself? Am I that much of a Guardian reader that I want to use their training programme, or do I just want the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes from the Saturday magazine?

Eventually I came to the conclusion that they’re all more or less a variation on the following

  1. Run fast on this day
  2. Run long on this day
  3. Run for a bit to recover on this day
  4. Repeat

I’ve plumped for the Runner’s World Garmin ready programme on the grounds that it’s Garmin ready, it gives pace in minutes/mile and I couldn’t be bothered looking at any more as my eyes were going funny. The pace thing is because I need the discipline of sticking to a slower pace on my long runs and if I have to judge it myself, I’ll set off thinking “I feel fine…” and then run out of steam. Using their Race Pace calculator, Runners World have taken my single 10k result (1 hour 6 minutes 7 seconds – it’s etched in my brain) and told me that I’d potter round 13.1 miles in 2 hours 25 minutes. Using the pace guide thingy on the training programmes, I’ve decided that I can knock ten minutes off that and am following the plan for a sub-2.15 (just typing that makes me feel like a real runner). So that’s that.

With the benefit of training plan hindsight, I can say that Wednesday morning’s 3 miles round the village was actually a Steady 3 miles. Even better, my 3 miles up and down the canal hearing about my mate’s exploits fending off amorous Italian waiters (they’ve got some classy lines and only claimed to need two minutes for whatever they were promising. Romantic and efficient…) was in fact a perfect Slow 3 mile pace. I’ve decided that these are near enough the plan to count towards it, even though I only chose the plan after the canal run…

Which brings me nicely onto the second part of my post-Juneathon plan – stick to the plan and not decide that I know better. Trying to run at an easy pace was so much harder than I imagined – it was excruciating and embarassing and I wanted a sign saying “I can go faster you know”. There was no way  that I could have managed to slow down to my prescribed pace of 12.21min/mile; I tried everything, but just ended up with a strange sort of jig-jog where I held my arms like Riverdance and shook my head in despair. In the end my garmin told me I’d done an average pace of 11.46min/mile, but couldn’t tell me any more than that because you can’t use the autolap feature with advanced workouts, giving me a single split of 5 miles which is neither use nor ornament.

So these are the scores on the doors so far, tomorrow should prove to be hilarious.

Week One I should have run… I actually ran…
Session 1 3 miles easy (12.21 min/mile) 3 miles at 11.59
Session 2 2 miles steady (10.44 min/mile) 3 miles at 10.49
Session 3 5 miles easy (12.21 min/mile) 5 miles at 11.46
Session 4 1M jog, 4x400m fast with 200m recoveries, 1M jog tomorrow

Day 15/30 – in which I curse my garmin, but then grin wildly at the thought that we’re over the hump

Or, Day 15/30 – Goldilocks rules

A day’s training meant that it was never going to be an early one today. In fact, I was so stressy about the day that I dreamt vividly and woke up convinced that I had to go to Blackpool, rather than Liverpool today. I’d been looking forward to an evening run and had lots of exciting plans of where I could possibly go after work. Be careful what you wish for – I think I’d got so enthused with the concept that none of my routes lived up to the hype. Everywhere that Ginge suggested was wrong – that was too long, too short, too urban, too isolated (I don’t go through fields), too much like a morning run, too hilly, too scary as I had no idea what the hills would be like…. Eventually we settled on a sort of figure of 8 that I could add on to if I felt like it (ha).

I have lingering grumpiness and all of this took a good hour to sulk work through, by which time I’d nearly convinced myself that Juneathon was a pointless exercise because it’s inevitable that I will fail at it sooner or later, so I may as well stop now. Truly I am a sunshine-filled optimist at the moment.

When I did eventually set off, my garmin had a bit of a hissy fit and chose to ignore the first 0.2 miles – this did not help my mood, because we all know that if the garmin doesn’t record it, then it hasn’t happened… I was also too hot – when I’d left Merseyside, it was cloudy with a nice breeze, back home I’d neglected to consider the properties of the large shiny ball hanging there in the bright blue cloudless sky.

For a good portion of this run, my motivation was the thought that there were no shortcuts home so I might as well keep running, but after a while I was actually enjoying myself (sort of) and did 5 miles (plus the bit that my contraption ignored).  I was also quite pleased that my average moving speed was 10.36min/mile, which for me is a decent plod, especially as I’d felt like I was running through custard.

Tomorrow, it’s back on the 5.45 alarm call for an easy early one. Hurrah!

I don’t like Mondays

The looming prospect of Juneathon has got me thinking about consistency and how the heck I’m going to run every day. I’ve not been in a good routine for ages and as regular readers will be aware, it doesn’t take a great deal to distract my attention. Ooooh look, a pigeon…..

Where was I? The genius that is Running Matters wrote far more eloquently than I can on the matter, and I’ve been having a think about when I run and when I don’t.  Embracing the geeky joy of  Garmin stats, I’ve been looking at my calendar and have found that I don’t like Mondays. In the last few months I have run twice on a Monday, and one of those was a bank holiday so it doesn’t count as a real Monday. Why don’t I run on a Monday? Because in the morning getting up is hard enough and after work is Tesco night (I lead a very exciting life). Tuesdays are an entirely different kettle of fish. I love running on Tuesdays, morning, evening, whenever; if I don’t go out any other day, I’ll go out on a Tuesday.  Luckily, Juneathon starts on a Tuesday.

Fingers crossed, Juneathon will help kickstart getting into a routine (albeit a terrifying one) because it should weaken my pathetic excuse of not having time to fit in a run and might help overcome my dislike of Mondays.

That just means that I need to deflect the distractions and, in theory, I’m on to a winner.  Unfortunately, I’m also let down by organisational skills. For instance,  I’ve found that, at any one time, I can only find two-thirds of my running kit. You’ll be relieved to know that this doesn’t mean that I’m out scaring the horses in my socks and sports bra, just that I can only ever seem to locate two sets of my three decent(ish) running clobber and spend a lot of time running around trying the find something to wear. I have no idea where the third set hides, but it will not outsmart me in June. No sir. Similarly, my Garmin and mp3 player will remain charged and ready to go, rather than hiding their bits in my knitting box.

This is the plan. If nothing else, I’m paving a road to hell with all these good intentions.

NB. Good intentions are not a recognised solution to mending pot holes, although they are economic. (See that?  That’s satire that is.)

Ongoing positivity/running your own race

Following on from the wise words given to me on Tuesday, I hauled myself out on Friday evening. The original plan was 30 minutes out, 30 minutes back (the theory being, if I can do that, I can do 10k). As I set off, I thought I might do 20 minutes  each way but as I got to 20 minutes, I thought I might do 25 minutes. As I got to 25 minutes, I thought I might as well go up to 30. So I did.

This ended up as 5.41 miles, with an average pace of 11.06min/mile. Now bearing in mind that’s the pretty much the same pace that I did 4.2 miles on Tuesday and 2.7 miles the week before and I have to say hmmmm. Maybe I’ve been underestimating myself a bit.

Yesterday taught me why I should set off early when it’s sunny, or at least take water so I avoid bear-paw hands. By the time I left the house it was 9.45 and the sun was well and truly shining, which was lovely until the 3rd mile. Having said that, it didn’t put me off doing a route that I’d chosen out of a dangerous combination of bravado and curiosity. The last time I did this route was July last year, when I was going out regularly and gradually increasing my mileage each weekend. It was also pre-birthday Garmin, so I only had a vague idea of how far it was. So today I thought I might as well try it, as no matter what happened at least I’d know how far it actually is.

The route takes you through the next village, down a lovely big hill (just about 3 miles from home), up a slightly smaller hill into the next village, down by Tesco and then throws in some gradually wearing hills to get home. Turns out it’s 7.5 miles exactly. Could I run 7.5 miles exactly? No. I mainly ran (with about 2 minutes walking spread about at the top of hills) for 1 hour 13 minutes, which covered 6.22 miles. The remaining 1.28 miles was mainly walking interspersed with increasingly pitiful running.

It’s a lovely route, I’m just not quite ready for it (which is hardly surprising given my lack of recent effort) however I suspect that with a couple of weeks going out regularly, I could tackle it much more successfully.

The second half of the title is something that I’ve been dwelling on a lot this week. I’m aware that my times and distances would not have many people quaking in their trainers, but they’re my times and distances and I’m sometimes quite proud of them as I’ve had a lifetime of not just not running, but actively avoiding running. I’m also aware that I tend to talk about my running with a bit of a negative spin and I’m a bit bored of doing that (although even now I’m fighting the urge to put inverted commas around the word running). After a while, you start to believe your own hype (even if you’re only joking) and that chips away at your confidence.

Similarly, when someone else tells you about their achievements, it’s often tempting to compare yourself negatively with that. This might just be me, but I think that this is maybe a bit of a female thing. Competitive arse-sizing would be one example (“My bum looks huge in these trousers” “Don’t be daft, if anyone should be complaining it’s me. Mine’s as a big as a bus”. I paraphrase hugely and never should apply for a scriptwriters job producing gritty and realistic dialogue), but it’s the same with running, “A 10k/half/marathon? I could never do that, I’m far too slow/fat/unfit”.  Maybe it’s out of an unconscious desire for the other person to say something positive in return, maybe it’s unspoken jealousy of the other person, maybe it makes us look at our own failings (real or imagined). I don’t know, but it’s annoying me because I do it a lot and I don’t want to any more. I want to run my own race.