Running

Half Marathon – Finisher

I finished the Half Marathon. March 3rd i join the rank of runners who have successfully completed a half-marathon. I finished the race in 2 hours and 47 minutes. Agreed, the last few miles were the hardest. There were moments when i just wanted to stop and go home. The pace i was running did not make it a physical challenge, but the monotonous nature of the activity was getting on my nerves towards the end. The volunteers and the crowd along the Woodlands roads were doing the best to cheer people along.

I wanted to finish the race no matter what and i had planned to run the race conservatively. I expected myself to let go towards the end, but in reality fear of not succeeding kept holding me back and i pretty much finished the race in the pace i started. I know i was not the last in my age group but i do know that i am in the bottom 10th %. The cramps disappeared after a banana and some juice.

A day later, my body has completely adjusted and i feel that i did not push my body enough during the race. I do actually feel bad that i did not finish faster. Anyways, this experience is already making me rethink my fitness goals.

Someday, i don’t know when. I will run a 10K in 60 minutes and also look to run a Half in 2.15. Rest now.

 

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Weeks 7-10

At the end of Week 6, i was hobbling on the way back to the car. I was unable to walk without wincing. The pain subsided a lot as the day progressed. A preliminary diagnosis revealed that it was a minor case of Shin splints. The primary cause of this injury seemed to be worn out shoes. The Nike has been around for a couple of years now and i have logged more than 250 miles on it. I have made the mistake of using the running shoes for every day use because they are extremely comfortable. Running shoes have a “life” of about 300 miles. So all the walking and running did put a heavy work load on the Nike Pegasus 32 and hastened its demise. I spent a couple of days researching the various shoes and i zeroed in a couple of brands. The Brooks Ghost 10 and the ASICS (Boy! do they have a lot of models) seem to be the leading choice for most serious runners. My hunt for the shoes took me to various stores across the town. The online market has really wiped out the shoe stores (Luke’s Locker is closed!). Most stores i went in did not have the correct size or they would not have the color i wanted. As soon as tried on the Ghost i knew this was the shoe i wanted. Man! the comfort level of the shoe is something that i cannot describe. The Nike has the feel of wooden sandals when compared to the newer models.

Week 7 The first couple of runs with the new shoe was on the treadmill, i was able to do a 3 mile run and another 6 mile run without any problems. The pace was steady at about 11:37. I had to wait for a week before i could try the Shoe on the roads of Houston. I also understood the concept of stride slowly, the importance of running along a straight line is slowly sinking in. The runs on the treadmill are only tracked on the Garmin Connect and the Nike Website. Runkeeper seems to have issues in tracking the Treadmill runs.

Week 8 I did two runs of about 3 miles each and a single long run for 8 miles. This is the longest i have ever run. The 8 miler was along the bayou and the trail was so muddy that my shoes had about an inch of mud on it afterwards. Victor was laughing at me crying about my new shoes. But i am particular about things like that. The average pace has been around 12:30 minutes. The cadence has really improved to average consistently around 162 strikes per minute.

Week 9 I had such a busy week at work that i did not get any runs on the weekdays at all. I decided to bite the bullet and run 9 miles on the weekend. The plan was to lap the memorial park thrice. I now know that i can run 10 Kilometers without difficulty. The pace will not obviously be great but i reason i can do it in about 70 minutes. The strategy is to cover the remaining distance in intervals of 4:1 (Run 4 minutes and walk a minute). I tried this method for the 9 miler and turns out this approach makes me faster than if ran without stopping. I think i have to just swallow my ego and do this. The approach also does help with the recovery by a huge margin. I do have to give it to my buddy Victor the guy does not even stop! He has about 50 Kg’s on me. Respect!

Week 10: Just one more week before the race. It has been busy again and i am not getting enough time to put the runs during the week days. The wife and i ran on Friday morning, While she can run faster for short periods of time. She wants to slow down for the 5 K runs. I kept her company and we did 2.7 miles at a leisurely 13:01 pace. I will want to do one more of this distance and run another 10 miler before i wind up preparations for next week.

Stay Foolish.

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 6: Advantage

For the first time in a few weeks, things seem to be in control. There seems to be a design in place for me to finish this. The weather gods were in an extreme good mood and Houston did enjoy the good show. I used the first two days of the week to recover from the long run last week. Wednesday Run. Everybody is back at work and that means there are more meetings during the work day. The meetings have been forcing me to stay late to finish up my pending tasks. I do plan to leave work early and then go out for the run around the residential area but that rarely happens so the treadmill it is. I do not want to test my eyesight or my courage in the dark. I have been running around the 12-minute pace for a quite some time now. I can manage a steady rhythm around that mark and I know for sure that this pace is at least two minutes faster from when i started a couple of years ago. I thought this was the right time to inject some pace into the training and ran 4-miles at a 11:37 pace. The average cadence stood at 164 spm.

I have been getting lazy with the strength training workouts, i use my off days to rest and get other stuff done rather than focus on improving the efficiency. This lethargy i am sure will be burn me soon. Friday Run. It was a beautiful day. I set off at noon, when the sun was high and the breeze gentle. I was able to match the pace from the early run (for the most part). I ran 4.25 miles at an average pace of 11:47. The average cadence stood at 162. The runs have started to get quicker, and i was all excited for the long run this weekend.

Victor, Lindsey and Ricardo wanted to bike on Sunday. So, I had to run alone on Sunday. I did not go to the Buffalo Bayou Park, instead I took the outback to the Seymour Lieberman trail @ Memorial Park. I think the memorial park is better for the knees and it is also easy on the eyes. If you know what I mean. But, the trail is only 2.9 miles which means you have to run laps if you want to run long distances. I am not a big fan of laps because you know what comes next and that wears me down pretty hard. The rains had softened the trail up nicely and i was able to run well for the first 4 miles. I did make the mistake of not carrying a bottle along with me. The park has plenty of water fountains along the trail, but i was not ready to trust the fountains yet. I stopped by the car to get a swig during the second lap. I have been using Gatorade regularly and the switch to water did not seem to work. I felt my legs cramp after mile 6. I thought i ran the 10 K in a record time, but the watch showed me that i had missed my best by 30 seconds. Either way walked the rest of the distance to finish the week with a 7-mile run at a 12:11 pace. The average cadence hovered at 160 in spite of me walking the last ½ mile.

I need to come up with a strategy to refuel during the race, the cramps are an indication of missing energy. I still have 4 weeks to figure that out but right now I need to address the searing pain that is cropping up in the left shin.

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 5: Hold

I am through 50% of the training plan. The weather has started to deteriorate and I am expected to run 14 miles this week. It has been so cold that everything is frozen solid. This is the third time in the last month Houston has seen Snow/Ice. The highways have iced up so bad that we had to work from home on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sure Houston is no Erie, but the drivers are definitely worse. It is a good thing that the city shuts of most roads and schools so people can stay safe and warm in the comfort of their homes.

Wednesday Morning. The Sun is out today. The Ice has been thawing but the temperatures are expected to dip below freezing tonight. All the water from the meting ice is just expected to freeze again tonight. The sidewalks are still slippery and dangerous. I have no choice but to use the treadmill in the Gym again. To be honest the treadmill setup is not bad. I play the music out loud and also can use the privacy of the gym to be more carefree. The first run of the week was for 4 miles. The pace was 11:06 and the average cadence stood at 162 SPM. The fourth mile was the fastest i had run in a long time. I wrapped the session up with a 10 minute cool down routine. So far so good.

Thursday. The Ice/Snow mix has disappeared almost everywhere. I had to go back to work Today and stayed late at work to finish up a few things. I am planning to substitute the cross training session with a long walk. I just realized that the last two weeks slowdown has made me drop out of the 70K Garmin Activity Tracker challenge program. Those guys sure do have a high bar and have bumped me to the 55k program for the poor showing the last couple of weeks. 

Friday Run. I don’t think i am ready for the road yet, so I went back to the treadmill. I ran another 4 miles at a slower pace but did maintain a higher cadence throughout the run. The pace was 11:21 and i maintained an average cadence of 164. This is the first week that i have not thrown in a strength training routine in the mix. This might come back to bite me badly. But for now i am hoping that the walks are compensating enough.

Sunday Run.The Houston weather is back to being its unpredictable best. We have gone from -14 deg C to 23 deg C in two days. It is humid as hell. Ran along the bayou with Victor and Lindsey. I ran 5.6 miles in an Hour and 9 minutes. The pace was 12:21 and the average cadence was 161. It was an extremely difficult run but boy do those Tacos taste great after a run.

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 4: Progress

It is the inability to practice what I preach that lead to the fiasco that was last week. Last Saturday as soon as i woke up made tea I decided that I needed to run a few miles to make up for the days i did not. I did not warm up, did not wear the proper attire and went out thinking that my body was ready to accept whatever i threw at it because i have been training for a few weeks. Yes, the human body can do great things but it also needs nutrition, conditioning and rest to be able to work efficiently. I had made the mistake of not attending to the three basic principles and paid the price. The IT band acted up, my ankles hurt and my legs were as heavy as lead when i stopped.

I was forced to rest the next three days to make the tightness go away. I went back to the foam rolling, and dynamic stretching to alleviate the muscle strain. Thursday i managed to do some strength training before my mind folded completely. I think it was the fear that I would injure myself and stop the training program that was limiting me. The wife decided that I was not being reasonable enough and goaded me into getting a run on Friday morning. She ran along with me along the Briar Forest trail. I was quite surprised by her running stride, and her pace. I kept trying to catch up with her and convinced her to go slow as I did not want to burn out and stop. The run was for 2.5 miles at 13.26 minutes per mile. I did not feel any discomfort, but my wife did comment on my gait. Apparently, I swayed a lot when I ran. I had to make a mental note to correct this as really you are not gaining anything while you move sideways while running. It helps to minimize any sort of movement you are really expending energy in useless fashion. There is a video on YouTube that shows the Kenyan runners training routine. These runners mechanics are something that i only can dream to achieve.

More foam rolling and stretching on Saturday helped set the resolve that I was ready to do this again. Sunday morning. The weather was a miserly 1 degree C. this is the first time we are seeing the Sun come out in a week. I got to the gym and locked the doors up. The atmosphere was so liberating that I was tuned in to get the maximum out of my workout. I started off with the warm up routine that included forward and reverse lunges to activate my legs. Did the side switches and stretches to activate my hips and quads. 10 minutes later i stepped on the treadmill and set the machine to roll at 3.5 miles an hour. I walked for the first five minutes, before i started feeling the warmth in my chest. I ran. When i stopped i had run 5.01 miles in about 55 minutes at a 11:19 pace. The average cadence was 161 strikes per minute. This run alone burned through 600 calories.

I was so warm from the run that I had to walk back to the house with my hoodie off. Did the cool down routine for 10 minutes and slipped on the compression socks to aid recovery. The last two weeks have not been ideal in the long-term prep for the half marathon but boy you are not giving up. Not yet, not now.

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 2: It’s not the age but the miles

I feel i have been doing this training plan forever but it is only week 3. There is solace in the fact that this will end soon. The first two weeks were all right, and my body seems to be holding up so far. I have already clocked the most miles in a month and it is only going to get worse from here. Being the year end, I had enough time off work and the workout plan was to do 3 runs totaling 12 miles and do a couple of workouts to strengthen the body.

The first run was on Tuesday, the day after Christmas. The weather was extremely pleasant and the afternoon session seemed apt for the workout. I had planned to run 3.5 miles. The chance of precipitation was listed at 60%. The weather men here do make Mr.Ramanan look good at times, and apparently they do not stop a race for the rain. I decided to take a chance and went out with a rain coat. A little onto the run it literally started pouring, the coat did withstand the initial burst, but the water did manage to seep through and made me feel cold. I had to stop under the beltway bridge after a mile and a half as the water started getting into my eyes. The salt from the sweat stings like crazy when it gets  into the eyes so please do more to protect the eyes. Note to self use a cap the next time. I waited for the rain to subside and ran back home. I was not able to focus on the cadence but the rain did help with the pace and helped me clock an average 10:57 for 2.5 miles.

The fitness blender toning exercise came next. Kelli’s body weight exercises training focused on the core and lower body. I cant help think that she is a beast when it comes to these toning exercises. I was grunting my way through some of the exercises. The core seems to be the weakest link in the body, not that the rest is strong enough. The three magic exercises for runners are Planks, Push-ups and Lunges. I suck at 2 out of the three. The stretches helped alleviate the DOMS for a while but i did feel a bit sore the next day. The wind chill dropped the temperature to single digits and the cold made me feel my bones. The Thursday run was for 3.5 Miles at a 12:24 pace. I was able to hold the cadence at 161 and did manage a steady breathing rhythm. The three workouts felt good, but boy do these things make you feel hungry and tired. I decided to walk the next two days to alleviate any soreness. The “runger” is back and i am devouring food at a crazy pace as well.

I needed another 6 miles to hit the target this week. The weather forecast for Sunday was for a cloudy morning and then all hell was expected to break loose in the evening. I trusted the weathermen after their accurate prediction earlier and did go to the bayou equipped with the right gear. There was a steady drizzle and Victor assured me that it was for the best. The first five miles were fantastic i think i clocked 5 miles in about an hour. I had high hopes of finishing a 10 K within the 72 minute mark before i was laid waste by a couple of hills (elation of about 50 ft) and by the freezing wind towards the end. Ended up running the remaining 1.2 miles in 18 minutes. I was so upset that i ended up eating two tacos right after the run. The taco shop is strategically placed to fatten anyone leaving the park.

Foam rolling, stretching and a long nap seems to have set the body up for now. The temperature has been falling steadily all day and we are looking at negative temperatures tonight. I think i have done enough to earn the extra cup of tea and laze around all day. The forecast for next week is extremely bleak but you know what we got 12 more miles to go.

It was also extremely funny to see the laundry bag this weekend. It had all my workout clothes and a single workday shirt. 🙂

Happy New Year Guys!

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 1: Speed and Distance conundrum

From a training perspective this was supposed to be exactly like week 1. I had to log 3 runs, 2 workouts and total 10 miles. Things did not go exactly to plan, had to run several errands this week and for sure it did affect the workouts. So i had to compensate with brisk walks for about 4 days and gave up on strength training for the week. I sure hope to God that i don’t regret this.

Got two runs in for the week. The First run was for 3.05 miles, managed to keep the cadence around 161 the entire run. Zero Stops. The pace was 11.47 did have to breathe hard towards the end. It was extremely windy so did struggle to keep the temperature up all the time. The second run was what it was meant to be. The plan was to do to 5 miles along the bayou with Victor. The temperature drop was substantial and had think about the tacos a lot to get motivated. The cold helped me start briskly and i tried to focus on the cadence. The higher cadence did leave me feel a little bit more energized and also helped with the pace (12.09) a bit, i was able to look straight and breathe more easily. I had to switch to the kinder foot trails after mile 3. I wanted my knees to hold and the hard concrete trails were not helping. Completed five miles in an hour this time. I think i have got to the point where i can run for about an hour without stopping but i am concerned at the distance covered. At this pace i am looking at 2.5 hours of running (at least). Not good bruh!. Need to find ways to improve the speed and ability to run longer. I think i need to take the strength work outs far more seriously.

Ended up with 70K steps and placed second in the Garmin step challenge. So off we go now!

Woodlands Half Marathon Prep Week 0: 10 Miles

Week 0: Preparation

All right. Done with Week 1. This would be week 0 for me. I have been following Hal Higdon’s novice half marathon plan and the first week plan includes 3 runs, 2 cross training days and 2 days of rest.  A cold and rainy start to the week ensured that I stayed indoors on Monday. Tuesday was colder, but I got the ball rolling with a round of body weight and strength training exercises at home. A combination of lunges, squats and pushups followed by some good old dumbbell training. My trainers are a couple in YouTube and more often than not I struggle to keep up with their reps and pace as well. I do hope that this improves as I work on it.

Wednesday, was kind of a disappointing day at work. Thanks to the daylight savings, it gets pretty dark up here by 6.00. The cold, traffic and my own laziness made me get home late and I had to contend with the broken elliptical machine in the apartment gym. 30 minutes of aerobic activity with the HR in zone 2 and zone 3 (40-60% of the max HR) made me feel much better though. Thursday, was the first run for the week. I felt a little tight in the calf and I had to foam roll for a good ten minutes before I felt ready. I ran 2.1 miles with an average pace of 12.24. The cadence was scattered all over the place partly due to the broken pavements and lack of light. Either way finished the run and ate a hearty meal. I don’t think burning more calories than what I am eating is going to go the right way this time.

Friday we reinforced our commitment towards healthy eating and restocked the supplies with vegetables and fruits. The sun was out the first time this week and I started early. The plan was to do a 3 mile run and I wanted to run the whole thing with no stops at a decent pace. Started off slower than usual and focused on the cadence and breathing, I think I started to feel the rhythm close to mile 2 and I did finish strong with a 9 minute pace. 3 miles in 36 minutes.

Two runs in two days was a little hard on the ankles. The concrete pavements are not particularly kind to the knees. Used the copper fit ankle wrap and had to pop in an advil to fight the inflammation. Rested the whole day and ended up missing my step goal target for the first time in 61 days. I did feel bad at first but then these are just numbers so you know what screw it.

Sunday Long run day. The last time I ran along the bayou my legs cramped around mile 4 and had to walk the way back. This time I wanted to run the entire loop (~5 miles). I had to take a bottle of Gatorade along with me so that I could fuel myself along the run. The weather was beautiful, and yeas I was able to run 4.69 miles before I stopped to take a call from HISD (on a Sunday morning really?). So there you go 10 miles in 3 runs. See you next week!

 

Getting on Track

Three years after I started playing tennis, I noticed that my shot making skills had improved yet my fitness levels remained the same. I would start getting tired towards the end of the first hour and then get progressively worse with each passing second. I blamed the heat, the lack of food, too much food and even my desk job for not being able to outlast my training sessions. I do hit the gym once in a while and do about 20 minutes of cardio and another 20-30 minutes of random strength/weight training. I have a BMI of 22 and i can still fit in pant from my college days, these trivial reasons made me believe that I was fit enough. It took a few more rubbish sessions and a fitness assessment to make me realize that I lacked endurance and my mental focus was absolutely ridiculous when under duress. The fitness assessment report was not very flattering, most of my “numbers” were in the slightly above or average category. My blood pressure, cholesterol, body fat percentage, strength test result numbers looked shaky for the most part.

I am not a competitive person, but I do like to believe that i like to do a thorough job. i was not honestly impressed by my numbers and i did want to know ways to improve them as well. Running I was told was the best way to improve, so I decided to put myself up to it. I signed up for a race as an incentive to train. The 20 minutes of cardio that I used to do in the gym did include running on a treadmill, so I was not exactly worried about completing a 5K race. The first few days felt good, I was so excited about the prospect of winning the race that I ran every other day. I finished my first 5K in 34 minutes and was in the 30th percentile. The guy who won the race did it in 15 minutes. While I was happy that I finished, the finish time bothered me. I signed up for another race and trained even harder. I took off a few more seconds from my finish time and somewhere along the lines I fell in love with running. I enjoyed the activity so much that tennis became my second interest.

I stopped worrying about the finish times, I ran for the feel. I ran along parks, sidewalks, asphalt roads, dirt trails and boy did i feel good. It was very different from running on the treadmill, the scenery, the broken pavements, twigs, lizards on the sidewalk all somehow contrive to help you move. I started to work on a breathing pattern, I would take breath in for a two count step and breathe out for a two count step. I started to work on exercises to improve my stride length, and cadence. At the end of my first year I had run 180 miles, finished 3 5k and 2 10K road races. I only lost two pounds from the last year, but i did lose 5% body fat, and my tennis sessions no longer seem to be brutal anymore. I ran a 5K in 30.31 minutes, a 10 K in 72 minutes. I know these numbers are not great and I am still so far away from the winner but now I have edged myself to the 50th percentile.
So if you are like me and want to get started on running here are a few lessons that I picked up along the way

  • Wear the right clothes, do not wear tight/loose fitting clothes, do not wear cotton, wear dri-fit shirts that fit. Ill fitting clothes cause chaffing, will make you hate running.
  • Buy a pair of running shoes, a good running shoe will provide comfort, cushion and prevent injuries so get to a shop that watches your foot strike and get you shoe-fitted.
  • Hydrate – Running is hard on your body. Drink water and hydrate yourself before and after every run.
  • Fuel – Like I said before running is hard on your body, if you do not provide your body with the necessary food, your body will break down. Choose food that is a combination of high fiber (greens), with high protein (lentils, beans, meat, dairy). Carbohydrates are essential but do limit the amount of rice and bread you take. Try to avoid processed food and reduce sugar intake. Remember Nuts, Fruits and vegetables are your best friends.
  • Breathe – Sounds silly, but remember to breathe through your nose. Taking in air through the mouth will cause bloating and well gastrointestinal difficulties.
  • Effort – Watch for the effort that you are putting while you train. If you have difficulty breathing or if you feel discomfort at any level the please stop. A reasonable indicator of effort is if to try talking sentences without gasping while running. If you can then the effort level is good, if not try to slow it down a touch.
    • Warm up and Cool Down – Every run should be preceded by a warm up and finish with a cool down
      • Chris Henshaw warm up – Best warm up routine out there.
      • Cool down stretches, walk until your HR is low, or until you can talk without difficulty
      • Foam rolling is another great way of relaxing your muscles.
  • Alternate – Running is a very mechanical activity, once you get your posture and technique right you end up exercising the same muscles over and over again. Do something else like strength training, swimming or play a sport like tennis, basket ball that exercises other parts of your body.
  • Rest – The value of rest is often overlooked. The body needs time to recover from a run. Over training or over working will not help you in any way.

Go ahead tie your boots and get on a track and run see if it makes you any wiser and stronger. Either way If you pass me on the road I will say this to you Good day!.