Category Archives: Training Plan

Running with the Dogs

Hi strangers! Sorry I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks. 

The marathon training was all going well and I got up to my 21.25 miler the other week, and then realised that I’d picked a target weekend that my wife is away running a half in North Carolina… so I’ll be on daddy-duty and unable to do a marathon. 

Doh. Rookie mistake. 

Anyhow, I used the chance to take a little time off (1 week) which coincided with us having so relatives visiting, so that was quite nice. I was able to partake in late night imbibing without fear of impacting my early runs. 🙂

Today I squeezed in a 6 miler locally before taking my kids to their first swimming lesson. 

I was literally dogged by neighbourhood dogs all through my run. Many were just loose in their yards and hemmed in by invisible fences. 

I’m quite the dog person and don’t get scared by them, but when there’s no visible fence and the dog is hurtling toward you barking it can be a little unnerving. 

There were five dog walkers that I ran out into the road to avoid. 

Then there were three ‘loose’ dogs in their yards that came at me barking. One was behind a physical fence but the others were not. 

When they are on a corner lot, the dog will run around the edge of the property with you barking and getting all excited about seeing someone running. The loudest was also really close to my turn-around point so just a minute or two later I came back to see her. 

It wasn’t particularly early on the Sunday morning (around 8:00) but certainly I suspect that it would have annoyed some of their neighbours. Ah, well, nothing I can do to stop them. 

I managed to do a solid reverse split on my timing. In fact, it was more like a pyramid as each mile got progressively faster. Starting at a 9:00 pace and ending up near 7:20 pace. 

Dog owners: what would you suggest as a strategy to minimise their barking? 

Marathon Training Update & Nike+

Early mornings can suck sometimes. Especially when you have to run on a holiday. 

But then you come across a view like the photo above and it’s all worth it. Very few others saw this site. All of time waited for me to witness this. 

My Nike+ training plan gave me a relatively light week last week but is stepping it up this week. 

I had several speed runs last week which I still find tough to get motivated for even though only last for half an hour at the most. 

I had two speed workouts; one that was 12×200 and another that was 8×400. All with short recovery times because the mornings were chilly. 

The Nike+ Running Club app on my phone has now broken one of the nice new features! It no longer repeats the info from the phone on your Apple watch. Twice this week it crashed on the watch but kept running on the phone. In fact, it never really started up properly. 

I had to delay my Friday long run as we decided to have a family breakfast and I couldn’t run after that! So I ended up going out on Sunday morning for a 12.75 miler in the temperate weather that hit this weekend. 50F is rather surprising for February. 

Later that day, Nike+ asked me to update my run programme and when it did this it put down a 12.5 mile run for Monday too. What a cow! I think “Nicki” (my name for the voice of the Nike+ app) has got it in for me. 😦

This week is going to be tough with the 12.5 miler today, a benchmark run, a 6 mile recovery run and then an 18.5 miler on Friday. 

I’m going to have to increase my food intake as I’m starting to feel like my legs are very heavy and underpowered. 

Nike+ Niggles Resolved

Mostly.

Last week Nike released an update for their Apple Watch and iPhone app. 

One of the major things that it fixed is something I had commented on in these pages before: when you start the run from your phone it doesn’t put any info on your watch! 

Thankfully, they seem to have resolved this along with putting some additional thought into the solution. 

For one thing, once you start the run on the phone and then get going , if the watch loses contact with the phone it will politely ask you if you wish to continue the run from your watch. Nicely done, Nike. 

Also, if you are running this way and you pass a distance milestone (each half-mile in my setup) it will announce the distance through your headphones that are connected to the phone, but also do a little chime on the watch so that you know you are progressing. 

All-in-all this was a nice update from Nike and I haven’t seen any new problems from it. 

On Friday morning I followed along with my running plan and completed a sixteen mile run. 

To do this on a Friday morning met hitting the streets right around five AM so I could complete it and still get into work on time. The picture above shows the view from my front window. 

It was very cold at 8F (that’s including the windchill; 20F actual) but it was beautiful out. The full moon illuminated the streets perfectly and was enhanced by the snow fall from the previous day; so, while it wasn’t quite full daylight, it was very easy to see without a flashlight. 

To get to sixteen miles I had to make up a new route as all my usual runs of that distance would take in State Parks or Trails and they were all covered in five inches of snow. 

So I concocted a route on the roads of Trooper and Skippack that gave me the necessary distance. An out and back route that wound through some pleasant neighbourhoods and skirted along the side of the Evansburg State Park. 

I wasn’t fast but a steady 8:35 pace was pretty good for that early in the morning and being so  dry thoroughly wrapped up (this makes it harder to run). The route had quite a lot of rolling hills, hence the elevation number above. Notice that t also has my heart rate recorded! 

The rest of Friday was a struggle as I was tired and very hungry(rungry). I didn’t help myself as I was in such a rush to get the run started that I didn’t eat beforehand and I only took half a Clif bar with me; oops. I managed not to eat too much junk though. Honestly. 

Nike+ Running Club Update #3

Another week goes by and more quirks are experienced.

Firstly, and perhaps most annoyingly, I had problems with the Apple Watch Nike+ during my long run last week. I was scheduled to run 13.5 miles (on a weekday morning which is, in itself, ridiculous) but at mile 5.5, the damn app just stopped working.

I tried to restart it on the watch but it came up as starting afresh. I didn’t have time to investigate too much as I wanted to complete my run, so I just started the app on my phone and continued for the remaining 8 miles. When I got home I checked in the log and it did at least still have the data for the first run. Phew. 

Then what do you do at the end? The training programme only lets you put one run towards the goal for the day. You cannot combine the efforts. So, after playing around a few times, I gave up and manually created an entry for the 13.5 miles and attributed that to the training plan.

On the Friday it had me doing a 4×400 meter speed run, with 4:30 mins recovery. It was only 21F outside that day so there is was no way that I was going to hang around in the cold for four and a half minutes between each set of reps. I did 1.5 mins and then started out again. This meant that by the last set I was pretty knackered. 

For the route, I found that the cul de sac behind my house was almost exactly 400m around the perimeter. The first run took 6:28… not too bad. The second was faster at 6:08 and then the following sets were back up at the 6:28.

Again, the speed run requires that you keep the phone in your hand so that you can press the button for the start and end of each rep. This makes me feel a little uneasy running hard with a cellphone in my hand.

More on the Nike+ Running Club Experiment

As I progress through the marathon training programme concocted by the Nike+ app, I am enjoying the challenging runs that it is assigning me. 

After last week’s benchmark run it has started to add pace requirements to the runs that I do. Currently, they are all well below the pace that I generally run at which seems a little strange. Perhaps this will adjust as the programme continues?

On Sunday I decided that I didn’t want to do the suggested exercise which was to tryout the Nike+ Fitness Club application. Instead, I opted to run 12 miles. 

The run went well and was an enjoyable run on the Perkiomen Trail from Schwencksville. 

On completing the run, I chose to categorise it as an ‘Other’ event as I had already competed all the runs for that week. 

Come Monday morning and a new training week and guess what? The app tells me I need to do an 11.5 mile run. On a Monday morning. After doing 12 miles the day before. Bugger off!

I tried to reclassify the previous day’s run so that it would count as this one, but to no avail. There’s no way to edit the assignment of previous runs; even the website doesn’t offer a way to do this. Boo. 

Because of this, the app thinks I bailed on the long run for the week. :-(. 

I did actually go out and do a four miler but that isn’t twelve miles!

Roll on to Wednesday morning and the prescribed run was a speed run with 8x800m intervals and 2:45 recovery (strangely specific). 

I wasn’t too happy about this as that’s a lot of intervals but opted to hit the streets. Running track intervals on the road is tough as you have to allow for traffic and the ground is not flat; hills in fast intervals. Yuck. 

For the recovery periods I simply jogged a little and ended up running a total of around 7.5 miles. 

Did you notice how vague that was?

Why? Well, the speed test only counts the distance you run during the speed intervals and not what you cover in the recovery. 

Four miles is all that counted from the 7.5 I covered. Grrr. Not best pleased. 

Any way, one useful thing you can do with these 800s is use them to calculate your estimated marathon time using the “Yasso 800” approach. I know this is a correlation prediction rather than a causation, but it is fun to play with numbers. 

After some finagling of the numbers I worked out that my marathon time would be 3 hours 43 minutes. That’s pretty close to my current expectations of my performance. 

Back to the Nike+ stuff: I’m not best pleased that I have to run the speed tests with the phone in my hands. As I got sweaty I was worried I’d drop my phone. I think I’m going to stick some strong magnets inside my gloves so that they will grip the metal plate in my phone case and take some of my worry away… I’ll let you know how that works out. 

Have a fun week running. 🙂

Nike+ Run Club: Strange Behaviors

Two more runs on the books since we last spoke; Monday was a quick run with my friend Ed and today was a 45 minute run as prescribed by the Nike+ marathon training programme I’m testing out. 

Which brings me to Nike+ Run Club: what is going on with this? It’s behaviour is very inconsistent. 

I’ve used it four times now and get different behaviours most times:

  1. First run Sunday: started from watch. Recorded heart rate but no elevation. 
  2. Second run Sunday: started from watch. Recorded heart rate but no elevation. Same so far. 
  3. Monday run: started from watch. No heart rate or elevation. 
  4. Wednesday run: started from phone.  No heart rate but elevation recorded. 

Also, it seems that there is no integration between the phone app and the watch app. If you start the run on your phone the data doesn’t show up on your watch as you run. I assume this is why it isn’t recording heart rate, too. 

It’s all a bit odd to me and clearly there are som edges that need to be rounded off. 

The app itself on both the watch and phone are very slick looking but have some internal integration issues too. If you start a run as part of the programme and compete it correctly, it still doesn’t mark the run as being done in the programme. You have to go into each run and assign them to the various programme activity. Weird. 

I’m trying to be good and did a few stretches after the run. My son decided he would be my coach; very helpful, I’m sure. 

Work 5K: SEI Cares Rush Hour Run

It is once again that time of year when the SEI Cares Rush Hour Run happens in Oaks, PA. 

For the first time in many years the temperatures were a lovely favourable 75F. Generally they are in the high 80s with high humidity, so this was a rare treat. 

After a Monday morning run and cycling to work Tuesday, I took Wednesday off running to save something up for the 5K. Now, I’ll admit that this feels a little pathetic as it is only a 5k but the field is very competitive. What do you expect from an Investment Banking company?

And also, this:


There were 500 people at the race at $40 a head, so we successfully raised $20k for charity. 

The race always sells out in a matter of days as there is so much free food and beer after the race. It is quite the party on our riverside/lakeside campus! 

Lots of local vendors give free food away and some raffle prizes, too. 

With the temps so perfect, I had no excuse for under performing… Or so I thought. Then I realised I’d left my phone strap at home and so wouldn’t have pace info. What the hell, I decided to run tech naked. 

As we set off past the Chik-Fil-a cow, the pace at the front was aggressive. Some people can’t pace themselves and I knew I’d soon be passing many of them. 

The course is a very fast route. It starts at the top of a hill and runs down into a riverside park (Lower Providence Valley Park) and along the Perkiomen Trail, then turns around near a dam, but ends before the hill climb! So, you get all the benefits of the downhill with no hard work later. Hurrah! 

Most of the route is in the shade, too, except for a brief portion running directly onto the sun. 

At the half way point I was flagging somewhat. I had no idea how hard I was running but the effort was starting to bite. I slowed a little and a couple of people slid past me, then it got easier.

My wife and kids were waiting about a 1/4 of a mile from the finish so I high-fived all of them and accelerated towards to line. There was no way I was going to catch the people that had overtaken me as they were too far ahead. 

At the end I finished 31st over all and 7th in my age group… With a 20:47 time! That just shows how fast the people in this race are. This time is my second fastest 5k ever and my record was set quite a few years ago when I was more sprightly. 

The guy that won it (for the 8th year in succession) ran 16:3x or something like that. He was two minutes ahead of the next person! 

After a recovery down at the finish line and cheering a few people across the line, I headed up for the after-party. The food and drink were excellent again this year with Dia Dolce cupcakes, Frank and Jenny’s Gelato, pizzas, chik-fil-a sandwiches, pasta, etc… Oh, and a plentiful supply of beer. 

My legs were a bit tight the next day, but not too bad really. It was a good family outing. 

Good Estimation

As I geared up to leav the house for my run this morning, my wife asked, “how far are you going to run?”. I thought about it and said, “somewhere between ten and twenty-four miles.”.

Looking back this seems like quite an odd statement for anyone to be able to make. My back has a slight kink in it currently after I fainted jumping out of bed on Friday morning (see the lovely black eye photo inserted below), but other than that I felt okay.  

 I ran twenty-two miles last Sunday but didn’t want to just run the same route and add a mile – that would be boring. So, I conjured up a new route that had me going out along a route I did a few weeks ago (8.5 miles), coming back in on the route I did last week (11 miles)… And the unknown bit in the middle joining the up would make up the difference. 

Turns out that my estimating skills are pretty darned good. Went I reached my driveway I’d clocked 24.3 miles. Nice. 

Running through Evansburg State Park, Skippack township, Perkiomen Trail, back through Evansburg State Park and then towards home. Very scenic. 

Everything feels fine although the last couple of miles consisted of a little more plodding that I would have liked. 

Now I’m doing this sort of distance in a training run where do I stop? Do I keep just adding 10% each week and see where it takes me? It is starting to chew up a lot of time on a Sunday morning…

Any way, now to each as much of anything I like. Need to reload with calories starting with the family bag of Twizzlers that I bought yesterday on the off chance I’d need them today. 🙂

New Year. New Intervals.

My friend and I decided that it was once again time to increase the length of our running intervals.

It has been a long road to get to this point in the running plan. We’ve taken it very slowly to eliminate the risk of any injuries along the way. This very slow and steady increase in both the interval durations and the distance covered has meant that he has been able consistently build his running performance and avoid all the usual pitfalls along the training pathway.

We are now doing this set:

  1. Walk for 2 mins to warm up (although it isn’t really warming up in the current temperatures of 10-14F!)
  2. Speed Interval: Run for six minutes
  3. Walk Interval: Walk for two minutes
  4. Repeat until 6 miles covered.
  5. Walk for one minute at the end.

One thing that we do try to do is achieve a ‘reverse split’. This means that you make the return trip faster than the outward trip.

We achieve this by reducing the walking intervals on the second half. After we turn around at the 3 mile point, we wait until the first walk interval and delay it by running for an additional 30 seconds. We then start walking for 1 minute 30 seconds.

If we feel fine at the next walk interval, then we run for an extra 45 seconds. After this we start walking for 1 minute 15 seconds.

At the next walk interval, we decide whether we will try to run straight-through to the end, or just push it up to one minute of extra running.

This flexibility in the return intervals allows us to push a little harder and further each time, but keeps us in tune with the various muscles and stops us doing anything stupid. It also means that we can gradually build towards the next interval goal and let’s achieve ‘course’ records regularly as a form of motivation.

Having gone from walking for 2 miles to run-walking 6 miles in around 58 minutes, all with no injuries incurred, I’d say that this has been a successful strategy. We’ve built up to this over the course of 15 months, so it isn’t a fast way to get from ‘couch to 5k’, but that’s not what I encourage anyway. Most of my friends who have tried those plans either got injured or found it to be tiresome and stopped running altogether.

I’m interested in encouraging people to run for the rest of their lives; not for a single event.

If you are looking to learn to run and don’t want to fall by the roadside, side-lined by an injury, try a run-walk-run approach like this.

Additionally, my friend can now run four miles without any walk breaks at all. He’s certainly set to get a new 5k record next time he runs one, that’s for sure.

If you need to know how to setup intervals like this, most popular running apps will support it. We use mapmyrun but it is an advanced feature that you have to pay an additional fee for. Make sure you have the volume turned up so you can hear the announcements. RunKeeper also offers a similar function. I know that Garmin devices generally support this approach too, so there’s plenty to choose from.

As a footnote (pun intended), you should track the mileage on your shoes. Most of these running apps will support this. Depending on your weight and running style the mileage you will get out of a pair of shoes may vary, but typically 300-500 miles is the most you can get.

Also, if you are just starting out and have a janky old pair of shoes that you used to wear for gym class, get rid of them. Go to a specialist running shop and get them to help you choose some appropriate modern shoes. They may ask you to walk or run on a treadmill to see how you move. Be prepared to have to spend an hour or more on this task and probably over $100 for a decent pair of shoes. Your body will be glad of the investment.

Get out there. Try running. And learn to love running by taking a very slow approach to increasing your distance.

Last Pre-Marathon Run

Well, that was it. The last gentle three (and a half) mile run before my marathon in Rehobeth Beach, DE, tomorrow. I’m nervously looking forward to the race and hoping that I can keep my pace under control in the first few miles; I must not go zooming off too quickly. 

I’ve packed all my running paraphernalia and some warm clothes for afterwards so that I can hang out for the after party. I’ve heard that the party is pretty good and has lots of pancakes; I will definitely avail myself of those!

  
Picture by TheOatmeal.

The temperature is looking to be perfect; around 40F with a light wind. There hasn’t been much rain recently so the trails will be in good order and I’ve managed to avoid the cough/cold bug that the rest of my household has been suffering. My throat is sore but it hasn’t impacted any of my running or my breathing.

This morning was supposed to be a very easy three mile run but it’s just not worth getting up and out for that so I made it a 3.8 with some hills. It was good to run as the taper has meant that I’ve done very few miles this week. 

  
Picture by TheOatmeal. 

I’ve not had too many of the taper-hebegebies; not going crazy in the office or getting stressed at the wrong times. I had two parties to attend last night and managed to have plenty of water with my meal. 

In about an hour I will hit the road down to Delaware to pickup my race packet and check in to the hotel.

I’m definitely getting excited now.