Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Running Streak - Day 100

My Experience Over the Past 100 Days

I made it!  When I started this on November 2, I aimed for January 1 - a streak of 61 days - and secretly hoped that I would make it past the first two weeks.  I was 182lbs and running without stopping 20 minutes (at any pace) was hard.  My legs were constantly sore.  My running clothes, and normal clothes, didn't fit.  I was stiff and uncomfortable all of the time.  I made it past the two weeks and after four weeks things started to feel better.  Running for 30 minutes was a stretch and my clothes still didn't fit, but my legs were not as sore and were not sore all the time.  Fortunately, the weather in Ottawa was blessedly warm and I could run in shorts nearly every day until Christmas.  I say "fortunately" about running in shorts because my running pants didn't fit.  Don't even talk to me about tights.  I popped a button on a pair of suit pants.

By Christmas, the number on the scale had not moved, but running for 30 minutes was starting to feel normal.  My average pace was not increasing dramatically, but my perceived exertion and my measured average heart rate was dropping.  Then Winter finally came.  I knew I had a good inventory of foul weather gear and I was sure that none of it fit, but I had no choice.  It was like slithering into sausage casing, but I got the stuff on and didn't let the cold, snow, freezing rain or bad footing stop me.  The treadmill was there when life got busy and the weather especially lousy.  Just after New Year I could button my suit jacket with my wallet in one breast pocket and my phone in the other, and it didn't pull around the middle.

By the end of January, I ran a 10km race at a pace that was around 1:00/km faster than I could run for 20 minutes in November, and at an average heart rate that was just shy of 20bpm lower.  The scale reads 175lbs.  (The number didn't budge until mid-January.)  My running clothes are not as tight.  My suit pants are getting easier to do up, and I didn't move the button when I sewed it back on.

Today, I am thinking about races and giving my body some shape - not just losing weight, although the scale reads 173lbs today and I plan to eat better.  No one has approached me (yet) to model athletic wear, but I feel much more comfortable in my running stuff.  My suits are starting to hang right.  My energy levels are higher and my mood is brighter.  Running is fun again.  My mind drifts to outdoor activities, not food or "inactivies" (i.e. television and the like).  The streak changed my body, but it also changed my mind, and I think that is the greater accomplishment.

Day 100

Day 100 arrived with more a whimper than a bang. I seriously wanted to get out at noon, but [insert same old song here] I had a deadline to get something complete and needed to work through and well past lunch to wrap everything up.  The weather was perfect.  I had everything packed and ready to go.  The schedule did not cooperate, and the optics of heading out for a run at 2:00PM are pretty bad.

How's this for celebrating Day 100?  I ended up on the treadmill for a 20 minute hill/speed interval session at 11:30PM.  It wasn't what I was hoping for, but hey, it counts.  In a way, it typifies the streak because I had to do things like this many times over the past 100 days to keep it alive.

What's next for me?  I’m looking forward to mixing things up more now: getting on the bike trainer (after figuring our how the Tacx software works), body weight exercises, “speed” skating at lunch (speedy for me anyway), and now that ice is giving way to snow, x-country skiing.  My yoga membership, which has fallen into disuse over the past couple of months, expires in April and I want to start practicing again.  I also have this half marathon training plan on Garmin Connect that I am using to train for a 10 miler in April.  That should give me a good base for the Summer when I have a road half-marathon in June and trail races of 9km and 30km in July and August, respectively.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Running Streak - Day 99

After three days on the treadmill, it was great to get outside again.  I know it was only three days, but it felt longer and running outside is just so much better than moving your legs with everything else staying in place.  The one tough thing was that it was cold.  It wasn't the coldest weather that I've run in this year, but is certainly felt like it.  The sun was great, but the wind was biting and seemingly coming from all directions.

It was one of those "wear everything you brought with you" runs.  Because Ottawa weather is, well, Ottawa weather, I always bring extra stuff with me so that I have options.  When I checked the forecast in the morning, it called for -4C and light wind.  By the time lunch rolled around, it was -18C with the wind chill.  I just dumped everything in my bag on the floor and put it all on (full base layer top-to-bottom, tech shirt, Brooks Storm jacket, nylon pants, toque and gloves).  It was a good call on my part.

The schedule called for 30 minutes easy with my HR in zone 2.  I chose my new go-to 5.5km route that loops over the Pretoria Bridge, and for some reason I had a hard time keeping my HR down.  It was nothing crazy, just slightly into zone 3.  I will chalk it up to a string of late nights and the wind.  I'm not looking for excuses - I think they are probable reasons - and apart from niggling over the HR, the run was fantastic.  The paths were mainly clear; I finished another episode of Zombies, Run!; and, sensation-wise, I felt terrific.  Day 100 is tomorrow.

A note on heart rate monitors...
I used the Garmin Forerunner 610 for this run, and it captured my HR perfectly.  For the last three runs on the treadmill, I was using my TomTom Runner with the HR transmitter pod on the strap that came with it and a Polar premium strap, which is the best strap on the market and works with pods from Garmin and TomTom, and maybe others.  If you look at the treadmill runs over the weekend, the HR curve is a mess, with my HR apparently getting into the 200s.  I think I can safely conclude that HR recording on the TomTom is really poor.  I don't know whether it is the chest strap, transmitter or wrist unit, or some combination of the above.  Maybe it is better with the newer units that use optical technology and no strap.  The web is full of folks griping about problems with straps.  For the most part, I have been able to overcome my problems, but I'm at the point where I think I am going to cry uncle with the TomTom.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Running Streak - Days 95 to 98

One of my favourite bands of all time is The 77s and in 1994 they released Drowning With Land In Sight.  That title sums up where I have been for the past few days.  I know that 100 days is around the corner, but my motivation is in rapid decline.  Much of it has to do with busyness, and consequently, tiredness.  From much personal experience I know that some of my best runs ever have come when I have felt least like doing them - hungry, busy, tired, and other semi-lame reasons.  I'm back to the late-night treadmill sessions and I don't like it.  If I want to maintain consistency in working out after I don't have a streak to maintain, I will need to make sure I get it in earlier in the day.

On Thursday I had a rest day in the schedule, but a rest day was not in my plan.  I struggled to break away from my work to get out in some rather spectacular weather to run for the sake of running.  Just hit the start button and go, and get back in time for the afternoon meetings.  To be honest, it was one of the best feeling runs I have had in a long time.  The run felt smooth and easy.  When I looked at the data afterwards, I was surprised to find that I ran the 5.5km faster than the first 5.5km of Sunday's 10km race at a lower average heart rate - probably 10bpm lower.

The next three days were very reluctant treadmill runs. I wasn't reluctant because I was bored or just wanted to throw in the towel.  I was just really tired and had trouble hitting the treadmill around or well after 11:00PM.  I felt better once I got my stuff on and hit Start, although I wanted to quit at 20 minutes on Saturday night; the last 10 minutes was on guts alone.  I chose the hilliest pre-sets and felt I did some really good work.  I will get outside for the last two runs.  Hopefully the weather cooperates.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Running Streak - Days 92, 93 and 94

As my 100 day running streak draws to a close, I have been thinking of what I want to do next.  Because I bought the MEC 2016 Race Series entry and have an entire year of racing already laid out for me, I decided to simply jump into the Garmin Connect plan I selected to prepare for Race #1 of the series, a 10 miler in April.  (Sunday's race was technically Race #0.  The organizers must have an IT background.) 

Since there was no 10 mile training plan available, I chose a half marathon plan.  A little bit of over-distance training in the first part of the year can't hurt, especially since the training is time- and heart rate-based and I will be running in the snow for most of the lead up.   Just yesterday the race organizers moved up the race by one week, but I am not going to adjust the schedule in GC.  I believe that there is a one- or two-week taper built into the plan, and I don't think I will bother with a taper at all, not for this race.  I think my "A Races" (with a proper peak and taper) this year will be the 30km trail run in the Summer and the HM or marathon in Gatineau Park on Halloween.  The rest will be run like "B Races" - hard training runs for benchmarking performance and draw prizes.

It is week 3 of the plan and the first three days of this week called for an easy run, intervals and another easy run.  Both easy runs were 30 minutes in Zone 2 and I managed get outside for both of them.  The temperature was around 2C/3C for both of them with little wind on wet or slushy pavement.  While the goals for the runs were identical, the runs themselves could not have been more different.  On Monday, I set out at lunch and had a really hard time keeping my HR down in Z2.  The Garmin was chirping at me constantly and I had to repeatedly force myself to slow down.  The average pace was 5:53 - not bad, but not great either.  The cool thing is that I got to run in shorts, which means my "run in shorts once every month streak" is intact for January and February.  Yesterday, I got out just before 4:00PM to run 30 minutes (15 out and 15 back), and I had no problem at all keeping the HR in Z2.  In fact, my HR dropped out of the bottom of the zone a few times, yet my average pace was 5:42/km.  I can't explain it, but it is nice to see me doing runs that weren't possible 3 months ago, where my average HR would have been 30bpm higher and my pace 0:40/km slower.  That's real progress.

For my interval work, I could not get away at lunch and hit the treadmill late in the evening.  Since the workout in the plan would have taken roughly 40 minutes, I selected the most challenging 40 minute workout on the treadmill.  It was a great workout: grades of up to 10% and speeds up to 6:11/mile (3:51/km).  I will definitely be doing that one again.  I used my footpod to measure the distance on the Garmin and it was way off from the treadmill.  I wish there was a good way to determine which one is accurate.  I'm inclined to use the readings on the treadmill.