Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Log Those Runs


To know if you are making progress towards your goal, you need to monitor what you are doing. Monitor is the 2nd M in the DREAMS Cycle ™.

The purpose of monitoring is to know if you are on the right track and getting closer to your goal. It will help to determine what needs to be adjusted if you have difficulty reaching your dreams. You can also use it to celebrate small wins. Tracking their workouts is something most runners do. When you monitor your progress, you can track more than just your training. You can obviously track your races and race time. You can also track the actions you do, a bit like checking off items on your TO DO list. Tracking your training can take many forms.

The original tracking mechanism was most likely a calendar. When I started running, I used some simple lined-paper that I inserted in a three-hole binder. I then moved on to a compact log book. Obviously, both are quite passé, but they still work admirably. My spouse still captures her training in a paper copy of Plan on Running Your best, a running manual I pulled together many years ago which contains a running log section. I have a few copies left at home from an earlier printing run. You can also simply print a page from the running log section.

With the advent of computers and spreadsheets, for a while, I created my own templates. You can find a variety of templates on the web by googling “running log template”. For a couple of years, I bought a downloadable program, the Runner’s Studio, which worked quite well but does not seem to be available anymore. Today, there are multiple platforms where you can keep track of your running. For those with the right running technology, the tool will capture your running automatically, be it your iPhone, or GPS watch. These watch manufacturers, e.g. Garmin, TomTom, and Polar, have their own activity log that you can find online. The one I use with my Garmin watch is Garmin Connect. A popular platform these days is Strava where you can share your workouts and running routes.

Today most people are using a GPS watch to capture their time and distance. I used a Garmin 610 when I was getting ready to attempt my Boston Qualifier. My spouse bought it for me on our anniversary about eight years ago. The issue in the old days before GPS was estimating the distances you ran. Often your distances were based on your known pace and time. Sometimes you chose a course that was measured by others.

Today, the issue with the GPS is the error. This can be as high as 3%. For a 10 km distance, this represents 300m. Over the course of a marathon, we are talking of over one kilometer off. This is what happened to me during the 2012 Toronto Marathon. By the end of the marathon, my Garmin GPS watch was at 43 km. In another race, the Road for the Toad 50 K in Paris, Ontario, the course had so many twists and turns that by the finish, it was telling me that I was at 48.7 km, again more than 1 km off.

One glitch that I encountered with my otherwise trustee Garmin, was that at one point, after months of not downloading the data to the Garmin Connect, I could no longer access or download the data. I attempted everything I could think of, but in the end, I had to reset the watch and lost three months of data, from October 2018 to February 2019. The lesson I learned was to download regularly, every week if possible. You should also back up your data from any system that you use, lest it gets deleted.

Below is the data I was able to recover from my Garmin Connect account for the month of March leading to my spring marathon goal race of the Ottawa Race Weekend.

Date
Distance
(KM)
Time
(hh:mm:ss)
Avg Pace
(min/km)
February 28, 2019
10
0:58:44
5:52
March 2, 2019
10
1:03:12
6:19
March 3, 2019
25
2:11:00
5:14
March 5, 2019
5
0:33:25
6:41
March 6, 2019
8
0:50:10
6:16
March 7, 2019
12
1:10:30
5:53
March 10, 2019
10
0:59:55
6:00
March 11, 2019
8
0:50:20
6:17
March 13, 2019
12
1:12:30
6:03
March 14, 2019
10
1:00:00
6:00
March 17, 2019
35
3:17:26
5:38
March 20, 2019
12
1:09:14
5:46
March 22, 2019
8
0:47:22
5:55
March 23, 2019
7.49
0:50:41
6:46
March 24, 2019
25.62
2:37:37
6:09
March 26, 2019
10
0:59:31
5:57
March 27, 2019
12
1:12:19
6:02
March 28, 2019
5
0:32:17
6:27
March 30, 2019
7.33
0:47:52
6:32
March 31, 2019
15
1:29:41
5:59

By looking at the month of March, which was two months before the race, I can see that by having done a 35 km run, I should not have too much difficulty with the marathon distance. Having done only one run above 25 km, however, might be a problem as it is not what my plan prescribed (see the previous post on my action plan). I should have done two runs of 30 km and above. I also see that the fastest pace was a 5:14 for a 25 km run. Quite acceptable, but there was only one of those in March. One can wonder if I am running fast enough in my runs.

As you can see, by keeping track of your training, you can compare your activities to your action plan and adjust accordingly. So no matter what tool you use, go ahead and track those runs.



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts with One Step


All the dreaming, all the goal setting and all the planning will not get you closer to your goal without taking that first step, figuratively and literally. To reach your running goal, there is no substitute, you must lace those running shoes and get your legs moving. You can get out the door or on the treadmill, but you must move. “Moving Forward” is the first M of the DREAMS Cycle ™.
For me, taking those first steps towards my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon was not an issue. I have been running for over 30 years, with only a few instances where injury prevented me from running regularly. When I started my training to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I was averaging about 40-50 km per week. The issue for me was thus not to start running, but to start serious training for the marathon.

Taking those first steps is not always that easy.  There are many reasons that prevent people from moving forward.

I am afraid
This could be the fear of hurting yourself, the fear of running alone, the fear of embarrassment and even the fear of not knowing how to run. For me, when I set my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, a few fears popped up. The fear of failure was one of them. I was afraid of falling short and not qualifying. Another fear was of not being able to put the right amount of training. I know how hard it is to qualify. The first time I tried to qualify, it took me ten years and ten attempts as recounted in my memoir, Take 10 and Reach the BostonMarathon.

I don’t know where to start
This is the fear of not knowing how far to go, where to run and how fast to run. For me to qualify for Boston, I had already defined my training plan so I knew what to do, I just needed to execute.

I can’t find the time
Running takes time, but it is all worth it. However, when you start running, or you start on your quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon, you sometimes have difficulty figuring out how to get all the required distances in. The biggest concern for me was how to spend 2-3 hours on the weekend doing long runs and leave my kids possibly alone. To deal with that, I completed my long runs in the morning when they were still asleep; luckily two of them like to sleep in. In terms of leaving them alone, they had reached a reasonable age that they could be left alone. However, I always felt the need to bring a cell phone in case of an emergency.

My other concern with time was to complete some mid-length runs during the week after work. When I get home from work, my second job starts as a tutor for my kids while they do their homework. Sometimes this does not end till 9:30 pm. The later it gets, the lower my energy level; when I start my run later than 8 pm, I feel I am dragging my butt and starting is so much more challenging.

I don’t have the right shoes, clothing, equipment
The beauty of running is that it takes so little equipment. A pair of shoes and socks, some shorts and a top are all you need. Of course, to make running more pleasurable, equipment can make a huge difference. The right shoe can not only prevent injuries, but it also has the potential to make you faster. Ask all the people who bought the Nike Vaporfly 4% to see if they thought it was worth spending over $250 on a pair of shoes.

In my case, I had all I needed to train. I even had a Garmin Forerunner 610 watch that my spouse had bought me about 8 years ago.

I don’t have the money
Although running can be inexpensive, racing is another matter. Running a marathon can set you back a good $120 just in registration fees. If you are lucky enough to have a race in your hometown, you don’t need to travel, but often people will travel to find a Boston Qualifier. Luckily for me, my attempt at Boston would be the Ottawa Marathon in my hometown.

I have something better that keeps coming up
In a previous post, we talked of the 5L’s of Life: Labour, Love, Learning, Lifestyle and Leisure. There are so many activities in our lives related to those 5 L’s that can distract us from going out the door. A recent attention grabber is social media. I even get caught looking at my phone to see if there is any message before I go out the door for a run.

I don’t feel well enough to run
Running takes a certain amount of energy. The less energy you have, the less likely you will get out the door. Moreover, if you are sick, you don’t feel like running and most of the time, you probably should not.

I don’t like to run outside when it is cold, wet, and dark
Fairweather runners are those that only want to run when the weather is just right; not too hot, not too cold, not too wet and not too dark. Most runners will deal with some level of bad weather, but when the roads get too icy, it is great to have an alternative. This could be a gym or in my case, a treadmill. Apart from shoes and clothing, the treadmill is the best investment in my running that we have made. No more excuses because of the weather.


No more excuses - How to motivate yourself for those first steps

By setting your goal based on your situation, many impediments to starting your Boston Marathon training should be dealt with, e.g. training plan, equipment, money. Getting out the door for those first steps should be simple, but sometimes you need that extra push. Here are a few approaches that can be used, not only for your first steps but for many others.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Fear is thinking of something that has not happened. It is something in the future. Focusing on the moment will help you deal with fear. Even in the presence of fear, you can still move forward. Feel the fear and do it anyway. This is accepting that you will be afraid, but you will do it anyway.
In the past, I have sometimes felt the fear of tackling a distance, telling myself that I did not belong at the starting line. That was the case when I competed in my first two Ironman-distance races. As I was looking over the water not seeing the turn-around buoy almost two kilometers away and looking around me at the slim and trained bodies, I was telling myself: “I don’t belong here. These people look so much more ready than I am.” All I could do was trust my training, feel the fear and take those first steps in the water as the gun went off.

Don’t think about it, just do it.
The loftiness of your goal can sometimes paralyze you and prevent you from moving forward. Under those circumstances, don’t focus on the end goal, but on the action you are taking at that particular moment. The action is to run. So get dressed, put on your running shoes and take that first step. Before you know it, the run will feel more comfortable and you will finish that run that will ultimately take you to your goal.

Same day, same time.
Nothing works better than a routine to get things accomplished with as little mental energy as possible. Routine allows you to clear your mind of having to remember and to fret about it. My general routine now is to come home, work with the kids on their homework, have dinner, work some more with the kids and start running by 8 pm. I do this Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I don’t have to decide if I will run that day on not; it is part of the routine, so I just do.

Start small and build using baby steps.
The goal that you set for yourself might feel daunting. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is no easy feat. In order to get there, you know you need to train consistently over the course of months. A training program also involves building up. All you can do is start from where you are and build on that. You take what looks like baby steps to get to your objective. Soon, the long runs will get longer and your pace will get faster.

Get company.
Walking through the shadows of darkness is almost always easier with someone by your side. This also applies to running on a dreary winter day. Running with a buddy is probably the most effective way to get going. Your running partner can encourage you and is someone you do not want to let down. Make plans with friends to go running.

Register for a race.
Another step you can take to increase your motivation and to move forward is to register for your planned race. Registering early in your training cycle also gives you the opportunity to get the early-bird rate. I registered with my spouse for the Ottawa Marathon on April 1st as they had an April’s Fool rebate of $32.50 off the normal $130.

There are other techniques that can help you stay motivated and moving forward and these will be explored in a future post on Staying Focused and Motivated. Check out this website for more on this.



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Boston Qualifier Action Plan

With the knowledge gained on what it takes to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I need to pull it all together and create an action plan, which is the second A in the DREAMS Cycle ™. The action plan is comprised of two parts, the training plan and the logistics plan. 

Training Plan 
The training plan is a description of the daily runs you will need to complete to get ready to attempt your qualifying marathon. It describes what type of run (e.g. long, steady, hills), the duration, the pace or effort of each run. The length of the training plan will depend on how much time is available before the chosen race. When I started training for my qualifying marathon, I had 22 weeks. 

You can develop your own training plan based on what you have learned and experienced. You can also find some sample training plans on the internet through websites and online platforms. Another option is to hire a coach. Here are a few sources of training plans: 

Runcoach – Online platform with free and paid options 
Plan on Running Your Best – A manual that includes many training plans 
Garmin Connect – Online plans linked to your Garmin device. You need to register 
Runners’ World – Plans from the famous running magazine  
Cool Running – Running website  
Hal Higdon – Famous runner and coach  
Boston Marathon – What better place to find a plan to run Boston 
Active – Website for active people  
Verywell fit – Website for active people  
Nike – The running shoe giant  

As mentioned in a previous post, in order to reach my goal of a 3:30 marathon, I figured I needed to reach at least 75 km per week and complete some 35 km long runs. My base running was comprised of four training runs per week with a long run of 15 km. Executing my plan would take a gradual buildup. The increase from a consistent running base should be limited to about 10% distance increase per week and no more than 5 km increase per long runs.  

Here is the plan I devised for myself. Initially I did not define the details for the Hills and Speed workouts; I was going to set those up as I went along. 

Week 
Monday 
Tuesday 
Wednesday 
Thursday 
Friday 
Saturday 
Sunday 
Total 
1 
Rest 
8 km easy 
8 km easy 

8 km easy 

Rest 
8 km easy 

15 km long distance 
47 km 
2 
Rest 
8 km easy 

8 km easy 

8 km easy 

Rest 
8 km easy 

15 km long distance 
47 km 
3 
Rest 
8 km easy 

10 km hills 
8 km easy 
Rest 
8 km easy 

20 km long distance 
54 km 
4 
Rest 
8 km easy 

10 km easy 
8 km easy 
Rest 
8 km easy 

15 km long distance 
49 km 
5 
Rest 
8 km easy 

10 km hills 
10 km easy 
Rest 
8 km easy 

25 km long distance 
61 km 
6 
Rest  
8 km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
8 km easy 

15 km long distance 
51 km 
7 
Rest 
10 km easy 

10 km hills 
10 km easy 

Rest 
8 km easy 

30 km long distance 
68 km 
8 
Rest 
10 km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
8 km easy 

15 km long distance 
53 km 
9 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km hills 
10 km easy 

Rest 
8 km easy 

35 km long distance 
73 km 
10 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

15 km long distance 
55 km 
11 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km speed 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10km easy 

35 km long distance 
75 km 
12 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

15 km long distance 
55 km 
13 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km speed 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

35 km long distance 
75 km 
14 
Rest 
10 km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

15 km long distance 
55 km 
15 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km speed 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

35 km long distance 
75 km 
16 
Rest 
10 km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

15 km long distance 
55 km 
17 
Rest 
10 km easy 

10 km speed 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

35 km long distance 
75 km 
18 
Rest 
10km easy 

10 km easy 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

15 km long distance 
55km 
19 
Rest 
10 km easy 

10 km speed 
10 km easy 

Rest 
10 km easy 

30 km long distance 
70 km 
20 
Rest 
10 km easy 

8 km easy 
10 km easy 
Rest 
10 km easy 

15 km long distance 
53 km 
21 
Rest 
8 km easy 

5 km easy 
8 km easy 
Rest 
8 km easy 

12 km easy 
41 km 
22 
Rest 
8 km easy 

Rest 
5 km very easy 
Rest 
Rest 
Ottawa Marathon in under 3:30 
55 km 

Logistics Plan 
The Training Plan will provide guidance as to what you need to do on a daily basis in terms of running. The Logistics Plan will highlight the activities and tasks you need to do to get to the starting line of the marathon. 
My Boston Qualifying race was the 2019 Ottawa Marathon. To run the race, I needed to register. To get good prices, the earlier you register, the better the prices. I was a bit behind on this, but my spouse noticed at the end of March that the Ottawa Marathon had an April Fool’s rebate of 25%. This was too good to pass up so we registered on April 1st, eight weeks before the race. 

To train and race for the marathon, you need to have the proper running shoes and attire. I tend to run my shoes into the ground, but to race a good race, I figured I needed some new shoes. My old Sketchers and Reebok needed to be replaced. I found a pair of Brooks on sale that provided a bit more stability as I tend to pronate. Over the years, I gathered a few running shorts and I settled on the most comfortable pair. For a shirt, in order to avoid any rubbing issues, I found that the 2018 Ottawa Half-Marathon shirt was the lightest I had. For socks, I had quite a few relatively thin ankle socks that I bought at Giant Tiger that were just right and inexpensive. 

Nutrition during a marathon is critical. It can be the difference between finishing strong or crawling at the finish line. Over the course of the 22 weeks of training, I would need to determine what would work best for me in terms of hydration, electrolytes and fuel. Your basic Gatorade Thirst Quencher is fine, but it is not sufficient during the marathon. I also have suspicion that my stomach does not agree with it. I decided to purchase some powder and mix my own. In Canada, I could not find the Gatorade Endurance. Instead, I visited a local Popeye’s Supplement and chose eLoad, which was created by a Canadian sports medicine physician and a track athlete. I then searched for some gel packs. The least expensive and the ones that contained caffeine were the GU Energy Gels. I ordered a box from Mountain Equipment Coop and one from Walmart. The last item I figured I needed was some energy beans. I bought a package of organic beans at the grocery store and then bought a few Sports Beans packs from Sports 4. 

I now had a training plan and a logistics plan. Now time to move forward.