Another day, another hour.

I guess my body is getting used to running an hour or more at a time. Counting today, I’ve done it 11 times (three of which were on the treadmill, back when the ice storm made outdoor running impossible). Here’s today’s numbers:

IMG_0881

I’ve been eerily consistent in the distances I’ve covered in an hour when running outdoors: so far, it’s been 8.13, 8.16, 8.10, 8.18, 8.09, and 8.19 km. And my two 10K times have been 1:12:30 and 1:13:28. So I clearly have a training pace that I can stick to!

My wife thinks that I will do better in the actual race, partly because of race adrenalin and partly because the Sporting Life 10K is downhill. She predicts a time of about 1 hour 5 minutes or so. I hope to find out one way or another! (There’s always the possibility that something could go wrong between now and then – though, so far, everything is okay. Did I mention that I am a worrier?)

I have a very consistent route that I follow when running an hour (see above). I like this route because it’s not crowded with people and/or their dogs, and I don’t have to wait for traffic much (just at Davisville and Merton, and I can usually get across without waiting, as it’s early). I hate having to stop once I get going!

10K training runs

A while back, I signed up for the Sporting Life 10K as a runner (I’ve walked it before). This meant that I had to actually be able to run 10K in one go – that’s over an hour of running. Yikes. It seemed daunting when I started training to go up from 5K to 10K, but I’ve actually done it now – at least, I’ve done it twice.

Last weekend, I went for a run on the Leslie Street Spit. My goal was to run for an hour and ten minutes continuously, as that would get me close to 10K; I would try to reach it the next weekend. Well, as it happened, I was going at a faster pace than I expected, so I was at 9.60K when I reached my time limit. At that point, I thought what the hell, and ran for an extra 2 1/2 minutes to make it an even 10. Woo-hoo!

This weekend, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to make it the whole way. I had been bothered by a bit of a stomach bug for a couple of days earlier in the week, and was feeling a little weak when I started. I thought to myself, I can stop whenever I want to or have to. As long as I don’t suddenly collapse and injure myself, it’s all good. So off I went.

To make it to 10K, I ran out to the Belt Line from Mount Pleasant to Oriole Parkway, turned around, ran to the Mount Pleasant Cemetery entrance, and ran in the cemetery a whole bunch. Here’s the map of my route:

IMG_0852

This is actually a tougher route than the Sporting Life 10K, as it ends slightly uphill, and the Sporting Life is pretty much downhill all the way. I was reasonably happy with my pace too:

IMG_0853.jpg

I was a bit too fast going out, and a bit slow near the end, but it wasn’t too bad. The 10th kilometre was the uphill bit, and I was happy about that.

This was also the first time I carried two hand-held water bottles with me. I thought I would have trouble, since I thought I might need one hand for one bottle, one hand for another bottle, and one hand to adjust my glasses, put my running earphone back in, or whatever, and that’s a total of three hands – but everything seemed to work out okay.

It was also the first time I had a gel, which is a tiny packet of edible energy boost stuff, about halfway between liquid and solid, that you can eat mid-run to keep from running out of gas. Mine was Chocolate Burst or something like that, and it did give me a bit more get up and go at about the 45 minute mark. I still felt a bit low on energy at about the 9 km mark (you can see it in the results above), so I might need to figure out how to keep my energy level up for the whole run.

On the whole, I’m happy with how it’s going – I’m obviously fitter than I was when I started running a year ago, and fitter than I was when I was at 5K last fall. But I’m not sure exactly how much running I will do after I finish the Waterfront Toronto 10K in June. I’m not going to stop – I enjoy it (most of the time), and I like being fitter. But it’s a fair bit of time, and I find that I am often worrying about whether I am going to injure myself, whether I will get enough sleep on the nights before my run, and so on. Also, all this running means that a lot of my time is heavily scheduled; I don’t have a lot of time to just relax and idly do random stuff. So I don’t know. I’ll keep going for a bit, and then see what happens.

Tunes

Sometimes, it’s more enjoyable to run while listening to music.

I own a pair of Bluetooth in-ear running headphones (that occasionally fall out of one ear or the other while running – argh). They connect up to my iPhone, which I set up to play music from Spotify.

There’s entire collections of music out there that are devoted exclusively to runners. Some of them are devoted to music whose beats per minute match the steps per minute of the runner. (I seem to be at about 175 steps per minute. I run with short, choppy steps.) Others are just upbeat songs that sound good when running.

My current playlist has a bit of both. (I normally don’t get through all of it on a run.) Here it is:

Hello – Martin Solveig
Lose Yourself – Eminem
Remember The Name – Fort Minor, Styles of Beyond
Into Action – Tim Armstrong
Know Your Enemy – Green Day
Candyman – Christina Aguilera
What I Like About You – The Romantics
Shot By Both Sides – Magazine
I’m A Believer – Smash Mouth
Requiem For A Dying Song – Flogging Molly
Bad Luck – Social Distortion
Tommy Gun – The Clash
Run – Foo Fighters
Downstream – The Rainmakers
Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker
Chuck Berry Medley – The Knickerbockers
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Where The Devil Don’t Go – Elle King
All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers
Some Nights – fun.
Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
All My Life – Foo Fighters
Ether – Gang Of Four
Brand New Cadillac – The Clash
Love The Way You Lie (Part II) – Rihanna/Eminem

The Spotify playlist for this is here.

Rain, rain, go away

I went running this morning in the rain. Partly because I wanted to Stay On Schedule, partly because I’m daft, and partly because it might be worse tomorrow, and at least the rain was light.

My attitude towards rain as a runner is different from my normal attitude toward rain. I want to avoid rain when walking or commuting to work. But when I’m running, right away I get about as wet as I’m going to get, and then it stays more or less steady after that.

I’m currently on a training program of running one hour twice during the week (which for me is a little over 8K) and then a longer run on Saturdays.

One tip for running in the rain: if you’re carrying your phone with you, enclose it in a plastic sandwich bag. It stays dry, and you can still operate it through the bag.

High Park spring runoff!

The weekend before last was my second race ever – I entered the High Park 5K spring runoff. Basically, it’s one lap of High Park:

highpark

It’s a very pleasant run – the park is closed to cars for the day, and you get to run surrounded by grass, trees, Grenadier Pond, and other nature things.

The most interesting part of this run, though, is the last 325 metres – it’s all uphill. This hill is so notorious, in fact, that it’s called the Kill The Hill Challenge, and it’s actually timed separately.

Here’s the elevation graph for the run, showing the hill in all its glory:

IMG_0780

That little sharp uptick at the end is the hill.

What I remember about the hill from the race:

  • Saying “Here we go” to myself as I crossed the timing mat to start the hill.
  • Seeing a man with a sign, halfway up the hill, reading “Motivational Slogan”. I think I yelled “Motivational slogan! Woo!” at him.
  • My wife cheered me on at about 3/4 of the way up. (She had run the 8K and I had cheered her on then. We work as a team!)
  • Because it was the end of the race, I could use whatever I had left in my own personal tank. When I got to the top of the hill, I staggered the last few feet to the finish, and then unleashed a torrent of obscenities directed at myself and the hill. Fuck, I was tired.

The run turned out to be a success – I was clearly in better shape than last fall, as I set a personal best!

killthehill

You can see the separate timing for the Kill The Hill challenge.

By the way: I’m now almost caught up to the present time, unless I want to write about the last week’s worth of running on the treadmill, thanks to the unpleasant April ice storm. (I’m writing this on April 19, and you are reading it on the 24th.) I won’t be writing every day any more, but will continue to write here. Let’s see if I can make it to 10K!

Number crunching.

I’m a huge number geek, and one of the things that seems to appeal to me about running is that there are a lot of numbers that you can look at.

My wife and I bought Garmin watches a while back, well before I started running; among other things, it includes a step counter, so that I know how far I have walked each day. (As I write this, I am on 4451 steps – this isn’t a running day today.) Each day, the watch sets a goal number of steps, mostly based on how far you have gone lately; if you make your goal, your watch generates a little shower of fireworks on its screen. Woo-hoo!

The watch became really useful when I started running, as it would keep a record of all sorts of stuff, thanks to its built-in GPS. For instance, here’s the main page for the run I did on April 11 (which was the last outside run before the ice storm hit on the following weekend).

IMG_0776

This is full of useful information, including time, pace, distance, and route covered. If you tap the tab that looks like a bookmark, you get more detailed speed information:

IMG_0777

This includes my steps-per-minute count and my average stride length. (I tend to run with short, choppy strides.) The next tab gives my average pace per kilometre, which is extremely useful:

IMG_0778.PNG

I wanted to maintain a reasonably slow and easy pace throughout the run, as my goal was to get my body used to running for a long period of time, not to maximize my distance. In this run, I started a bit more quickly than I wanted, which meant that I slowed down a bit too much on kilometre seven.

The last tab provides graphs. Graphs are fun.

IMG_0779

I scrolled down here to the fun graph: elevation. As you can see, my training run ended on a bit of a hill, though not too much of one.

I have an entry similar to this for virtually every run I have done ever since I got up to 5K. It allows me to keep track of how I’m doing and, most important, shows I’ve been making progress. Progress is good.

Oh, dear Lord, 10K.

Before I became a runner, I actually participated in a race: I entered the Sporting Life 10K as a walker. (It was a bit stressful, as competitors were given two hours before they cleared the course and opened streets up to traffic. I managed to walk 10K in 1 hour, 49 minutes, so I didn’t have to worry about it.) I actually got a race medal, a souvenir T-shirt, and the whole bit. But, as registration time for the Sporting Life came up again, I wondered: could I actually do it as a runner? Could I run 10K in one go?

Gulp, I thought. I’ll try it.

As you might expect, there are training programs that will take you from 5K to 10K. And, in fact, there was a version of the couch-to-5K app that I used that will take you from 5K to 10K. So I went back on the familiar routine – running for a while, then walking for a while, then running some more. The program lasts six weeks, and once again, it’s finely calibrated. Here’s the schedule for the fourth week of the program:

  • Day 1: 5 minute warmup, 30 minute run, 5 minute walk, 15 minute run, 5 minute cooldown
  • Day 2: 5 minute warmup, 30 minute run, 3 minute walk, 15 minute run, 5 minute cooldown
  • Day 3: 5 minute warmup, 30 minute run, 2 minute walk, 15 minute run, 5 minute cooldown

As you can see, the buildup is extremely gradual – I was running the same distance, but the amount of rest time was being gradually reduced. During the final week, the walking part was eliminated:

  • Day 1: 50 minute run
  • Day 2: 55 minute run
  • Day 3: 60 minute run

I’ve just finished this program, so now I can run for a whole hour! Whee! Unfortunately, I’m not up to 10K yet, as I am a bit slower than the average person who uses this program; I can do about 8.1 km in an hour. But 8.1 km is pretty close to 10 and, as my wife points out, I could probably do 10 if I really had to. I suppose.

I’m going to have to, I guess. And I’m going to have to do it twice. Not only have I signed up for the Sporting Life 10K in May – I’ve now also signed up for the Toronto Waterfront 10K in June. I’m going to be busy this spring, I guess.

Occasional sidetracks.

A few brief paragraphs about some of a runner’s least favourite things: winter, colds, and injuries.

Winter is bearable, at least with the right clothing. Sometimes it can be cold when you start out: it seems crazy to be out there in a thin jacket and long pants when everyone around you is bundling up in heavy winter coats. Thankfully, you get warmer after you run for a bit, even in cold weather. (They don’t call it “warming up” for nothing, you know.) Sometimes, the hard part is ensuring that you don’t wear too much. After a while, I’ve gotten better at determining exactly what to wear in what conditions: so much so that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to run outside in just shorts and a shirt. During the middle of winter, and into April, I wonder: will I ever do that again? Will it ever be spring, or has winter established firm control of the world forever?

One of the many things that winter brings is cold and flu season. It’s virtually impossible to get through the entire winter without picking up a bug or two, especially if you’re like me and travel to work on the Yonge subway (the best way to meet many thousands of your closest friends up close and personal, not to mention breathe in all of their germs).

This winter, I caught two colds. One was minor enough that I could just power my way through it. But the other knocked me flat for most of a week. I had to go nearly a week without running. What do I do? How does this affect my training? I was in the middle of my 5K-to-10K training program when it happened (more on this in a later post), so I decided to just drop my training program back two weeks – I wasn’t in a rush, so I could move up gradually. It worked.

As for injuries: so far, I’ve been lucky – I haven’t sustained any major injuries that have prevented me from running (except for my broken toe, and that was unrelated). However, I am not a young person by any measurement. At some point, I’m likely to tweak something, if not snap something. Will I be able to cope without being able to run, after having invested so much time in it and having built my fitness up? Will I be able to handle the impending disappointment?

The only real answer is philosophical, I guess. We all basically live on borrowed time, and there’s no guarantee that tomorrow will be better or even that tomorrow will exist. I can only control the present, and do what I can at this moment. The rest is out of my control.

That’s probably enough depressing pseudo-profundity for now – back to more stuff about running. Next up: taking the big step, and trying to become a 10K runner (I’m in the middle of this one, so we’re almost up to the present time).

The dreaded treadmill.

In Toronto, the ideal times to run are spring and fall. It’s not too warm, and it’s not too cold: the ideal temperature for running is about 12C to 15C, which is about what it is early in the morning during those times of the year. Unfortunately, these ideal conditions last for about 11 days tops.

With the right clothes, you can run in almost any weather. Serious diehards can put on long underwear, heavy socks, multiple layers of clothes, gloves, hat, and a ski mask, and head out in almost any temperature imaginable. But that’s only when the roads are clear. Snow and ice are a different matter: that’s when you need to go indoors and run on the treadmill.

The one good thing about the treadmill is that I don’t need to wear outdoor clothes to use one – it’s indoors. There’s a spot to store my phone, so that I can link up with Bluetooth to my running headphones and listen to music while I run. (Some dedicated runners even watch movies or read e-books while running.) There’s also a spot to store a water bottle, so I won’t go thirsty.

But the idea of the treadmill still petrified me before I tried it. It’s an endless belt that keeps moving, even if I suddenly stop. What happens if I trip or miss a step? Will I go flying off the treadmill against the wall or the floor, undoubtedly permanently damaging multiple body parts in the process? Do I have to remain vigilant forever? How can I possibly do this? (The inside of my brain is a fun place. If you think you’ve got it bad, I have to put up with me all the time.) I never completely lost the fear of treadmill-related injury, but I gradually got used to treadmilling.

The one problem was maintaining proper form. After my first two or three treadmill runs, I noticed that my right knee was very sore. Uh oh, I thought. Eventually, I figured it out: worrying about falling off the treadmill had caused me to adjust my stride so that my right foot was pointing off at an angle to the right instead of facing straight forward, which was putting strain on my knee. I concentrated on running with my right foot straight ahead, and gradually the problem went away. And, after a few weeks, the weather got better, so I was able to run outside again. (Though, as I write this, they are forecasting an ice storm for the weekend. In mid-April. I might have to go back on the treadmill again. Sigh.)

Next: dealing with colds, worrying about injuries, and getting through the winter.

My first 5K race. Whee!

For those of you keeping track of my running adventures so far: I’ve gotten up to 5K, I’ve recovered from a broken toe, and I’m all set to run my first 5K race ever. But first, a brief digression on race gear.

To run, basically all you really need are two functioning legs. Back in the day, some runners from Kenya and Ethiopia ran in their bare feet. But that’s not really practical for us North Americans. So you need shoes. And, because running naked is illegal, attention-drawing, and probably painful, you need clothes.

When you go into a running clothing store, there’s all kinds of clothes and shoes available. But you really only need the following things:

  • Shoes that provide support so that your feet don’t get sore, and that allow you to run properly so that your knees won’t get sore.
  • Clothes that don’t chafe, so that running doesn’t become painful.
  • Clothes that don’t make you feel too warm or too cold.

I was spoiled: I started running at the end of May, when all you need (besides shoes) are shorts and a T-shirt, or maybe a long sleeved shirt if it was a bit cool in the morning. But, as the weather got colder in the fall, I needed to buy more stuff. Now, as of April 2018, I have:

  • T-shirts (you can get these at races as part of your admission fee)
  • Running shorts
  • Long pants
  • A long-sleeved shirt (I actually have two now, for an extra layer)
  • A lighter jacket, suitable for running in temperatures down to 0C
  • A heavier jacket, suitable for running in temperatures colder than that
  • Heavier socks
  • A neck guard
  • A toque and gloves (these I already had)

I also had the following accessories:

  • A hand-held water bottle that I could sip water from while moving
  • Portable Bluetooth running headphones that allow me to listen to my favourite tunes while moving
  • A watch that tells me how fast I am going and the distance that I have covered (more on that later)

But this was all accumulated with the benefit of experience. At the time of my first race in November, I had never run in 0C weather. I was about to.

The event that we signed up for was the Angus Glen 5K, located on the Angus Glen golf course in Markham. The Angus Glen course is quite a nice layout, and it’s a very good course – they’ve held the Canadian Open there. For an extra few dollars, you could rent a locker for the day, which my wife and I each did – so we got to change our clothes using the same lockers that various professional golfers had used. Boy howdy!

Race day involves a routine. You show up and get what is known as a “race bib”. Contrary to what you might think, this is not a convenient cloth that traps any liquids you might spit up while running. It’s actually just a fancy term for a piece of paper with your competitor number on it. In the 21st century, this piece of paper contains modern technology: it contains a special computer chip that detects when you cross the start line or the finish line. So you don’t need someone with a stopwatch to calculate how fast you went – the computer can do it for you. In fact, it can do it quickly – your posted time can appear just minutes after you have finished. Hurray for the modern world!

Of course, this being my first running race, I was nervous. What if I caught a cold the day of the race? What if my legs hurt? Did I eat enough? Is my race gear warm enough? Will I be able to run successfully when surrounded by a bunch of other runners? Can I actually do this? My wife had to endure a steady litany of worries during the week of the race, and especially the day of the race – fortunately, she’s used to me doing this, and thankfully married me anyway.

So we got out to the starting line. This requires standing around for a few minutes while the race organizers and at least one federal, provincial, or municipal politician say a few platitudes. Then, it’s off we go!

The first question that occurred to me: would I be competing with my wife? She’s a very experienced runner, and is in good shape, so presumably she would be faster than me. But we were originally thinking of running together, at least at the start of the race – what will actually happen? Will I strain myself trying to keep up with her? Is there an actual possibility that I might be as fast as she is? Fortunately, the problem resolved itself rather quickly: a few hundred metres after the start, she disappeared off into the distance, never to be seen again for the duration of the race. With that issue disposed of, I could settle down to running my own race.

The goal here, I was told, was not to go too fast at the beginning. Race adrenalin can kick in at the start, and make you think that you are invincible and about to set a personal record, until it wears off and you suddenly discover that you’re worn out. So I wanted to make sure that I set a reasonable pace. This is where my watch came in: it kept track of exactly how far I had gone and how long it had taken me to do it. So I didn’t go too fast. In fact, I went a bit slow. But after that, everything went smoothly. I ran at more or less the pace I wanted to go, and settled into a rhythm that was actually almost comfortable. I realized that I was now actually one of those eccentric people who voluntarily does this sort of thing: in short, I was a runner. Yay, accomplishment.

Next up: winter is coming, and so is the dreaded treadmill.