Week Six – Ugh

This isn’t going to be a standard weekly progress check in, because this week has been one of those weeks. You know the kind… the ones where nothing quite goes right, but it’s not so bad that it’s a bad week. Yeah. One of those weeks.

I’ve been doing some running, but I’ve started noticing a twinge in my right shin at about the 2km mark. You and I both know what that can mean… so I’ve been taking it easy on the running, and been concentrating on my stretching and cross-training to build strength without the impact. Thankfully, England’s country-wide lockdown ended earlier in the week and the gyms are open. Huzzah!

So, I’ve taken pause on the training plan this week. I’ve had three short runs, but no longer run today. Hopefully this is going to give my leg the rest it needs and I’ll be able to pick up again next week. But I’m not going to put pressure on myself to do it – I want to take this risk of injurt seriously, and right now my body is telling me not to push through.

That, and it feels like everything I touch breaks right now. Today’s highlights include…
…. I woke up to a massive, swollen lip – an allergic reaction to something
… went to take the rubbish out and the bottom of the bag opened straight up. And then I managed to somehow spill a pint of bin juice across my kitchen while tipping said rubbish into a new bag. And I don’t usually have bin juice, so I’m extra pissed it was today
… I opened my mail to find a £558 power bill. Splendid.

Yeeeeeeeah.

I’m in good spirits, and none of this is going to hold me back. I’m sharing because I can see the funny side. Resilience is something very front-of-mind for me, and I’ve worked bloody hard to build mine over the last couple of years. That said… I’m not going to push anything the universe is resisting!

So, erm, watch this space, I guess?

Week Five – Progress!

This week was a step up. A promotion? Graduation? Whatever it is, it was progress!

I’m now at the stage of my training plan where my runs are set out by distance, not by time. I can stop running and walk for a bit if I need to, but I’m not working to set intervals, and I’m loving the feeling of being able to just… run.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not running fast. And I’m still stopping to walk every now and then (usually, conveniently, at pedestrian crossings waiting for the lights to change). But this is very real, identifiable progress, and I’m very thankful I’ve set myself this challenge.

It’s not always great in the moment… but moments pass.

Today was my first time running more than 5km on this plan, and the day hadn’t started as planned. After a couple of glasses of wine on my Friday night lockdown Google Hangout with the girls, I has passed out on the couch exhausted. I woke up at some stage late in the night, turned off the TV and took myself to bed. Where I proceeded to sleep another 11 hours. When I woke up, I felt rough. I took a couple of hours to rehydrate, eat something, and went out for my run anyway. It felt awesome about 1km in.

I’m so glad I still went.

The Stats:

Mon 23 Nov 2020PMOutdoor4.0 km7’30” pace
Wed 25 Nov 2020PMOutdoor2.5 km6’40” pace
Fri 27 Nov 2020PMOutdoor4.1 km7’30” pace
Sat 28 Nov 2020PMOutdoor6.0 km6’51” pace
Total distance16.6 km

Heart health –

  • Resting heart rate – 68 bpm (previous week: 65 bpm)
  • Fitbit ‘cardio fitness’ rating – 33 : “average” (previous week: no change)

Observations:

  • I’m really not sure why my 6km run was more similar in pace to my 2.5km short, fast run, than my 4km standard ones… I certainly stopped to walk less on the longer 6km run, but I ran a lot slower knowing I had 50% further to go. Maybe it just goes to show that slow and steady wins the race.
  • My resting heart rate has increased shockingly the last couple of days. I suspect the jump this Saturday compared to last Saturday is a combination of weekday caffeine overload, and Friday evening alcohol. Makes sense. Sorry, not sorry.

Week Four – Progress?

I did not want to run today, but I did it anyway.

I’m not particularly proud of my progress this week – it’s not what I would have liked it to be. But I know I need to give myself some grace. It is still progress, and life isn’t about making great bounds of progress every day. That’s just not realistic.

Cutty Sark, Greenwich Nov 2020
Cutty Sark, Greenwich, Nov 2020
Of course it’s blurry… please do not assume I run with grace

Actually, I had a couple of really fun runs along the Thames and back through the Old Royal Naval College. The more I think about those while I sit here typing this and pull up photos, the more I’m looking forward to heading out and running there again.

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Nov 2020
Complete with COVID-19 social distancing signage

The Stats:

Sun 15 Nov 2020AMOutdoor4.1km7’50” pace
Thu 19 Nov 2020PMOutdoor4.5km7’51” pace
Sat 21 Nov 2020PMOutdoor3.3km7’40” pace
Total distance11.9 km

Heart health –

  • Resting heart rate – 65 bpm (previous week: 67 bpm)
  • Fitbit ‘cardio fitness’ rating – 33 : “average” (previous week: 34 “average”)

Observations:

  • My resting heart rate has been all over the place this week. Overall, it has reduced (it had dropped to 65 for a bit last week, too, but last Saturday saw a small increase). This is probably what explains why I appear to have gone backwards on my fitbit cardio fitness rating. Hey-ho.
  • Work had me quite distracted earlier in the week. By Wednesday, I found that my concentration had dropped quite a bit, and my caffeine in take jumped up to accommodate. I hadn’t been running as regularly as the last couple of weeks, and my heart rate stats were all over the place. Of course they’re all related.
  • On a positive note, I’m finding it much easier to regulate my speed and run for longer periods without walking. Looking at my pacing for this weeks runs, the numbers confirm what I was feeling on those runs. While running longer at a regular pace is great news, I think the biggest win here is that I’m listening to (and better understanding) my body. That is pretty f*cking empowering.
Thames, Greenwich, Nov 2020

I’ve also been telling more people about my goal to run a half marathon – not just strangers on the internet – but people who know me but perhaps don’t get me, like my colleagues at work.

That makes it feel very real. Everyone has been great and encouraging. Some people were surprisingly exciting about it all, and offered to join me for the odd run. If I don’t succeed, these people will know. That’s neither motivating or demotivating, it just is.

I’m not doing this for them.
I’m not doing this to say that I have.
I’m doing this so I know that I can.

But the accountability can’t hurt.

Week Three – Progress

This week started with what I thought were two broken toes, which were the absolute last straw. Parent still in hospital on the other side of the world, London still in Lockdown and a list of other things which – on their own – would be completely managable, if they hadn’t snowballed into a giant pity party.

Then, the calm came. An acceptance that; yes, things are shitty, but there is only so much in your control.

And I ran in the rain.

The Stats:

Mon 9 Nov 2020PMOutdoor2.8km7’19” pace
Tues 10 Nov 2020PMOutdoor4.2km7’15” pace
Thu 12 Nov 2020AMOutdoor2.4km8’15” pace
Fri 13 Nov 2020PMOutdoor5.0 km7’46” pace
Total distance14.4 km

Heart health –

  • Resting heart rate – 67 bpm (previous week: 69 bpm)
  • Fitbit ‘cardio fitness’ rating – 34 : “average” (previous week: same)

Observations:

My breathing has been much better this week – probably a combo of the above, and my improving fitness – and I can really feel the difference. It doesn’t necessarily show in the runs, but look at that change in my resting heart rate!

I’m also learning a lot about what does(n’t) serve my body. In particular: hydration. I can run for half an hour without a water bottle (which would have been unheard of two weeks ago!) but I struggle to do it on morning runs – presumably because I’m not drinking water throughout the night, whereas I’m fully hydrated when I head out in the evenings after work. Makes sense, of course, but it’s helpful to know in the training toward a much longer, early morning race.

Week Two – Progress

Week two has had great points, and not-so-great points.

I had my favourite run so far earlier in the week, but hospitalised family and the new lockdown had my anxiety through the roof. I was signed off work for a couple of days and though it meant that I was able to get out for runs in the daytime, I had one false start.

If ‘false start’ is an accurate way to describe a complete inability to breathe. Which it probably isn’t.

Blackheath, London. 5 November 2020.

Thursday saw things settling a bit and I was able to get through a good run and clear my head a little. I still need to work on that breathing, but Thursday was the first official day of Lockdown 2.0 and we were met with foggy weather to match. It was my first time running in fog, and visibility was terrible. I had to concentrate on what I was doing and where I was going the whole time, which was actually pretty good for getting me out of my head.

It was also a good excuse to get out an old fluro race shirt, too. I haven’t had the guts to wear it in public much… I didn’t even enjoy wearing it for the event. It kind of stands out…

I had to mark the occasion with the stairway selfie, ha!

The Stats:

Tues 3 Nov 2020PMOutdoor3.9km7’45” pace
Wed 4 Nov 2020AMOutdoor0.6km
Thu 5 Nov 2020AMOutdoor4.5km6’48” pace
Sat 7 Nov 2020AMOutdoor4.4 km7’51” pace
Total distance12.8 km
All mid-week runs were run-walk intervals to a 30min time limit.
Weekend long run was for distance, with minimal walking.

Heart health –

  • Resting heart rate – 69 bpm (previous week: 70 bpm)
  • Fitbit ‘cardio fitness’ rating – 34 : “average” (previous week: 32 point something: “average”)

Observations:

This week’s observations have been largely anxiety-related. I can feel my fitness improving – you can see it in my stats – but breathing is a real struggle.

This morning’s run focussed more on how long I could run without taking a walking break, rather than how far I can get in a 1 min running interval, and it felt really, really different. Breathing wasn’t easier, but I could tell that this is what will help me reach my goals. That, and I know I couldn’t have done this run two weeks ago.

I’m so excited to see what I can do two weeks from now.

Favourite Yet

Tonight’s run has been my favourite yet. I’m not sure why exactly, it could be a couple of things – but I was totally there for it.

30 minutes of run / walk intervals. Just under 4km, with a good mix of (slight) up-and-down-hill sections. And alllllllll of the endorphins.

… maybe it was the weather. Tonight was beautiful and clear. It was cool, but perfect with a jacket. I didn’t get too sweaty, though I know I worked hard.

… maybe it was the fact I hadn’t been on a run for a couple of days. Yesterday I did a bit of cross training at home, after my morning run plans fell through. And I had intended to run this morning before work, too, but dropped that hope when I was still wide awake at midnight.

… maybe it’s because I haven’t been sleeping or breathing particularly well lately. Yeah… that’s one for a different post.

… maybe I just prefer evening runs, where my body is fuelled by meals earlier in the day, and I can turn off my thoughts of work. Transitioning from work mode to relax mode, claiming this evening time as mine.

Whatever it was, I really enjoyed it and I can already feel the progress I’m making, even just in week 2.

I didn’t even stop my jog for tonight’s (wonderfully terrible) photo. One of those lines is a giant, red moon that was sitting low and bright tonight. Can you guess which one? Ha!

The Importance of a Plan

To quote an arrogant, but in this case correct, ex of mine; failure to plan is a plan to fail.

Uplifting, isn’t it?

But it’s true. Having a plan is important. That plan must remain flexible, and it may change, but it’s important to have one. And to follow it.

Not just in running, but in achieving any goal.
Structure is important. A goal without a plan is just a dream, right? The structure, the steps laid out, and followed are what make the goal attainable.

Think about it like the degree you did at uni. You likely started with a rough idea of the papers you wanted to do, the steps you’d take, to get your major(s). Those probably changed a little as you went, but if you kept with it, you graduated. You got that degree (even if it looked a little different to how you intended at the start).

So, I’ve searched the internet for a free training plan – there are so many out there, and this is my first half marathon. I don’t have a goal for time, and I don’t want too many options to choose from. In the absence of a personal recommendation, I’ve searched for beginners plans with a focus on completing a half marathon without injury.

Completing a half marathon without injury is my goal. While I’m hopeful that I will have the fitness that will enable me to run it well, with a good time, my primary focus is on finishing. And if I can do that in under 3 hours, I will be over the GD moon.

And with that in mind, I’ve settled on one.

I’m going to follow the ‘couch to half marathon’ plan by the Marathon Handbook.

It’s a 15 week plan, and I have 21 weeks until race day. I will follow this plan, but I can be flexible. My current expectation (note: not plan!) is to repeat some of the latter weeks at the 10km-ish stage, but I’m going to listen to my body and respect it – and the plan – as much as I can as I go.

And I start tomorrow.

Week One – Progress

What a week. Even with hiccups, it’s gone pretty well. I’ve been out for 4 runs; all varying levels of success.

It’s not about the numbers, but I’m keen to track my progress somewhere so I can look back at where I started, what changed, and (hopefully) just how much I’ve improved. Weekly summaries feel right.

It is, after all, a (half) marathon and not a sprint. Sorry, not sorry.

The Stats:

Sun 25 Oct 2020AMTreadmill2.2km9’47” pace
Tues 27 Oct 2020AMOutdoor2.7km8’22” pace
Thu 29 Oct 2020PMOutdoor3.3km8’48” pace
Sat 31 Oct 2020AMOutdoor5.1km7’23” pace
Total distance13.3km
All runs in the week were interval run / walks. No specific training plan followed.

Heart health –

  • Resting heart rate – 70 bpm (started at 71 bpm on Sun 25 Oct)
  • Fitbit ‘cardio fitness’ rating – 32 point something (average)

Observations:

There are a few things that haven’t been measured for me, so while they may not be wildly accurate, I think they’re still important to recognise and note.

  • Nutrition – I haven’t really done anything differently this week. I’ve limited my alcohol intake, but no food has been off limits. Based on Tuesday’s run, this is gonna need to change, but I’m only prepared to shock my body so much…
  • Weather – I’ve been lucky that the weather hasn’t really prevented me from getting out (though, it has made it harder to get out of bed…). As we head into November, I don’t expect the weather to cooperate much longer, so I’ve ordered more water-resistant clothing and a second pair of runners – heading off the excuses now while I’m still motivated!
  • TIme of day – this week was a mix of fasted morning runs and evening runs straight after work. I’m not sure which I prefer just yet, so I’m going to keep mixing it up. But I definitely do prepare running outdoors to inside on the treadmill.
  • Music – I’ve been plodding along to a random rock workout playlist on Spotify, then cooling down with an audiobook on the walk home. I do not recommend listening to ‘Know my Name’ by Chanel Miller when walking home in the dark (however, I do recommend it literally any other time of day, because it’s powerful and an important perspective to hear. Get uncomfortable.)

So yeah, it’s been… a week.
Here’s to the next one!