Pacing and heat

I’ve just started reading Endure by Alex Hutchinson, which is subtitled “Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance”. One section talks about the idea that the human brain might force you to slow down before you are in real distress. In some experiments, cyclists seemingly involuntarily started at a slower pace when the temperature was high.

I think I might have just encountered this phenomenon myself. On Monday morning, I couldn’t sleep, so I went out and went for a run early. My pace times were in the 7:30/km range, which is slower than my normal rate:

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Even though it was before 5 am, it was still 25C, and it was humid. I didn’t feel like I was going more slowly than usual, but I was.

By way of comparison, here was my next run, two days later:

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I was basically 30 seconds per kilometre faster the second time out (when it was 23C and less humid).

There are possibly a number of other factors to consider. The first run was very early, and perhaps my brain hadn’t woken up yet. I hadn’t had coffee before the first run, and I did before the second. I tried out my new shoes in the first run (they worked okay). So it could have been anything. But I am thinking that my brain might just have auto-regulated my body to only provide what I could give at that moment.

Which leads to the old saying that, in any run or race, you can only do whatever your best happens to be on that given day. If you have a slow day, it probably isn’t your fault.

The ritual of running

I haven’t posted here in a while, but I’m still doing this. After the Toronto Waterfront 10K, I got back up to speed properly this time: I did two easy 5K runs before reverting back to my standard one-hour run, which I have done twice.

When preparing for my last run yesterday, I realized that there is a ritual involved, as there’s a lot of steps:

  • Body glide for sensitive areas in the upper thigh
  • Selecting a T-shirt (I now have a bunch of old race shirts to choose from!)
  • Putting on the shorts (this is more complicated than you might think, as they’re always inside out, and it takes a while to sort that out)
  • Finding where I put the cap that I wear when running
  • Washing out and filling the water bottles
  • Carrying a spare gel in case I gork out and need food during the run (this usually doesn’t happen on my one-hour run, but it never hurts to be prepared)
  • Ensuring that my watch is charged
  • Ensuring that my running headphones are charged and are connected to my phone through Bluetooth
  • Picking a running playlist
  • Packing a 20 dollar bill, my health card, and my transit card, in case I get injured on the way (these need to be packed with my phone in a plastic sandwich bag to protect against rain)
  • Ensuring that my socks are pulled up so that they don’t bunch inside my shoes
  • Putting on my shoes and ensuring that they are tight enough without being too tight (this is usually a multi-step process)
  • Finally, going out there, already

I can’t imagine the level of preparation that would be needed for doing more serious distances than 8 to 10K!

Toronto Waterfront 10K

So I successfully managed to run the Toronto Waterfront 10K last Saturday. Whee!

For a while there, I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to run it. I woke up Friday morning with a cranky muscle in my left leg – ironically, I think it was because I put my feet up for too long on Thursday. Naturally, I spent most of the next day and half worrying about it – I am grateful to my wife for putting up with me during that time! The only consolation I could find was that at least I had run a 10K race once this year already, so it wouldn’t be quite as bad if I washed out this time.

Naturally, on the day, it was okay. I noticed that the muscle in my leg was not 100%, but it wasn’t a muscle I used in running, so everything was fine. Here’s the course that I travelled:

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The first kilometre was down York Street into the middle of a whole lot of tall buildings. This messed up the GPS in my watch, so it appeared as if I had run the first kilometre in a little over 5 minutes, which was not true:

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What actually happened was that I had run only 0.7 km at that point, but my watch thought it was a full kilometre. This meant that my distances were off from then on: for example, when I reached the 3 km mark, my watch thought I was at 3.3.

I started a little slow, possibly because I was thrown off by the deceptive first kilometre timing. But I eventually sped up a bit. During the last kilometre or so, I went about as fast as I am capable of going (which isn’t that fast). I didn’t turn my watch off right away, so my race time was actually a little better than my watch time:

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That was less than a minute slower than my Sporting Life 10K time, and the Sporting Life race was mostly downhill. So I’m happy with this.

Here’s a whole lot more stats about my race – more than you probably need to know, actually:

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My run cadence (a fancy term for steps per minute) is quite high because I run with short choppy steps, which I later found out is actually reasonably good form. I fell into this style naturally because anything else made my legs too sore. It’s better to be lucky than smart.

And the race organizers provided some free photos, so here’s one of me in action. I am conspicuous because I am tall, not wearing the black race shirt, and carrying two water bottles!

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I was pleased that I was able to finish 10K without too much grief (this is partly because I had a gel at the 40 minute mark, so I didn’t run out of energy). I am still a bit stiff and sore, but I plan to do an easy 5K training run tomorrow morning.

I’m not sure of my long-term plans. I think I want to keep my 8K running base – if I can continue to run for an hour at a time at a slow and easy pace, I should be able to enter a race in the fall if I want to. It’s too hot in the summer to run in races, so I have time to decide.

Last training run

I did my last training run on Tuesday for the Toronto Waterfront 10K. I took it reasonably easy – I went down Mount Pleasant, out the Belt Line to Oriole Parkway, and back. It was 5.1 kilometres in 35:12.

After this race, I need to decide what races I want to do, and what my running plans will be. I’m thinking of regularly running an hour (or about 8K) three times a week, but only entering 5K races. I’m thinking that it might be time for me to spend some time on other fitness-related activities (bicycling, hiking) rather than just running. But I’ll see how this race goes.

Two more training runs

So I turned 58 on Friday. Naturally, I took the day off work and went for a run. It was the last longish run before my race on Saturday:

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I was going to stop after exactly one hour, but I decided to finish off by going up the hill near where I live. I was happy with the pace.

Today, I started tapering down by doing a 5K run this morning. I’ll do one more on Tuesday and then rest until Saturday.

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I wasn’t intending to run at a faster pace today, but I just did. I think I knew that I didn’t need to save as much in reserve, as I wasn’t going as far. I felt a bit dead at the 3K mark, but otherwise all is well. This is the best time of year for running – the weather conditions are ideal, especially if you go early in the morning.

Almost ready again

Since I last wrote here, I’ve done two more training runs:

  • Last Saturday, I did my first 10K since the Sporting Life race. It went reasonably well – I managed to maintain a steady pace. I ate a gel at the 40 minute mark, which meant that I didn’t run out of gas before the end. My time was 1:14.44, which is okay.
  • Yesterday, I ran for an hour in Mount Pleasant Cemetery (it’s usually open before the stated start time of 8 am – the closure that one time appears to have been random). I ran at a slow but steady pace, and got in 8.12 kilometres.

Barring unforeseen calamities, I should be ready for the Toronto Waterfront 10K on June 16th. Of course, something could always go wrong between now and then. At the moment, things are fine, except that I have a bit of a sore hip when I sit in my office chair at work for too long. My temperament is such that I never assume that I am going to be doing something – I always just hope that it will happen, barring something going wrong.

Optimal pace time

I’ve figured out that my ideal pace time when training is about 7:30 per kilometre. That’s nice and easy, but not ridiculously slow. Yesterday, I achieved it:

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I was a bit fast at the beginning, and a bit slow at the end, but it averaged out to a perfect 8 km in exactly one hour. Whee!

The cemetery was open this morning, so I got to run my usual route:

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When I’m feeling more lively, I like to end on the same side streets that I start on, which involves a bit of a hill. Yesterday was my third run in five days, though, so I finished up Mt. Pleasant, which has more of an even grade.

I seem to prefer routine when I’m running – I tend to take the same route whenever possible. Eventually, I’ll get bored and want to change it up, but I like knowing that I’m on about the right pace at the right time.

One-year anniversary

I’m not sure exactly when I started running. That information was on the Couch-to-5K app, which was on my old phone (my phone died a few months ago and had to be replaced). But it was about this time last year, so let’s say that today is my one-year running anniversary! Woo-hoo!

I just realized that there is one other good thing about running: it’s concrete and measurable. In other spheres of life, it’s difficult to know whether I’ve done a good job or not. Am I a good enough employee, or spouse, or son, or human being in general? I think I’m trying my best, but there’s no measurable data. When running, it’s definite: if you planned to run for an hour, you know for sure whether you accomplished it or not. (Not that it really matters – all you can do is what your body lets you do.) I know for sure that I have succeeded at running 10K – I can look up the data.

Anyway, enough of that. I don’t know whether I am going to keep posting my running times – it might get boring – but what the heck. Today went better than expected, as I was a bit sore yesterday after doing some errands. In fact, I probably should have gone a bit slower – I’ll try to do that on Wednesday.

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Motivation

Yesterday, my wife and I watched From Fat To Finish Line on Netflix. It’s the story of a team of 12 runners who had lost an average of 100 pounds each before entering a Ragnar event.

A Ragnar is basically a relay race – each runner in the team runs a total of three legs of varying distances. The runners are divided into two groups of six, each of which has their own van. The vans ferry the runners from their finish spots to their next starting spots, and so on. A Ragnar lasts more than 24 hours, so runners run at odd hours of the day and night.

In the movie, the runners who had lost weight were filmed as they ran their legs, and they told their back stories, which featured pictures of them when they were heavier. The runners talked about how running had changed their lives and/or inspired them. I enjoyed the movie, but the testimonials were a bit too much for me, and they reminded me that I didn’t take up running for any of the standard reasons.

I wasn’t particularly wanting to lose weight, and I wasn’t trying to improve my fitness all that much. And I wasn’t looking for meaning in my life. I mostly started running because of curiosity: so many people that were close to me were runners, so I didn’t want to go through my life without trying it at least once.

I’ve stuck with it for three reasons:

  • It’s taken a fair bit of time for me to be able to run an hour consistently, and I would hate to lose it.
  • I’m a numbers nerd, and there’s always a lot of numbers to look at and crunch, thanks to my watch app.
  • I am a bit fitter now, which is a good thing.

But I don’t really feel inspired by my running. I like being out on my own with the tunes going and one foot going in front of the other, but I haven’t often had any sort of “runner’s high” – apparently, I would need to be running more to get that. And the benefits are offset by my tendency to worry about whether I will get injured or whatever. But I guess I’m going to keep at it for a bit!

Running along the lake

Yesterday, my wife and I were heading out to Etobicoke, so we stopped off along the way and ran 8 km along the lake. This was the first run since the race in which my legs felt reasonably good. We sped up a bit for the last part.

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Not much else to say, except on to the next.