The Dying of the Light

Tonight was a bit of a slow plod. I had a low point on the way out, somewhere near halfway, where I was just dragging my body through the motions, and feeling pretty heavy with it.

But I persevered, mostly with the help of PJ Harvey’s astounding Mercury prizewinner Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, which is one of my favourite albums of all time. It would be perfect without the whiny Thom Yorke guest track in the middle, but luckily I excised that from the playlist 🙂

Sometimes, it seems, you’re just not in the mood. Maybe it was the long day at work, maybe it was that this is likely to be my last weeknight jog along the (unlit) towpath, as it was near sunset when I got back.

Still, if you can run anyway, then at least there’s a sense of achievement at the far end.

Hopefully the next run will be more bouncy. And as this one was Week 9, Run 2, then it’ll also be the official last run of the C25K plan!

Hiatus Over

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If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have been wondering where I’ve been for the past week and a bit. Galavanting, that’s where1.

Last weekend I nipped over to Clovelly, in Devon, to see my friend Steve. This weekend I was at my friends Kavey & Pete’s wedding anniversary party. In between I took a whistle-stop tour of Devon.

I nearly packed my running gear, but in the end it was just that little bit too much to lug around, plus I knew my chances of running were actually fairly slim.

The week hasn’t been entirely exercise-free, though. I did a fair bit of walking, including a 10-kilometer hike around Dartmoor, which was lovely, and hopefully combated some of the ice-cream-based indulgences which inevitably made an appearance 🙂

Today I’m back at home, so I figured I’d get right back on top of things as soon as possible. I’ve just come back in from Week 9, Run 1. It was hard work, and my stomach was clearly a bit fuller than I thought — yesterday’s anniversary party involved quite lot of lovely Indian food and not a little cake — but I took it slow and steady and just plodded on through it.

So, that’s my first “official” half-hour run of the C25K done, and I’m very nearly at the end — just a couple more runs to do!

I’m not going to count myself as done with the C25K, though, until I’ve actually run 5K. This isn’t, after all, the Couch to Four-and-a-bit K plan. At the moment I’m running about 4.25K, so all I need to add is another three quarters of a kilometre. So — better figure out exactly which shiny new compact camera I want fairly quickly, I think!

  1. Galavanting is a small holiday resort in County Galway. Okay, I may be making that up… []

Reward

I’ve decided what my reward’s going to be for getting to the end of the C25K. I’ve been needing a new compact camera for a while now. My venerable Konica-Minolta DiMage X‑60 was a good first digital camera, but it’s now battered, bruised and lacking in battery staying-power.

Not only that, but at 5 megapixels with a not-so-hot lens, pictures from it are looking pretty rubbish compared to many modern compacts.

I’ve seen a few good views while I’ve been out running that the rubbish camera on the iPhone couldn’t do justice. And while I have got a much better camera, it’s an SLR (a Canon EOS 400D), and not the kind of thing I want to take jogging with me.

So, a shiny new camera that takes good pictures and is light and small enough to take along in a pocket or a bumbag seems like an appropriate reward for getting running. And maybe it’ll help spice up the pictures on this blog a bit…

Traitor!

Today, for the first time, I didn’t use Get Running. I’ve only got a few runs left in the C25K programme, so I figured I’d play with RunKeeper, one of my options for continued geekiness after I check all of the little boxes on Get Running’s “progress path”.

RunKeeper is one of the best iPhone running apps. I don’t see it as a competitor to Get Running; they’re different applications, for different users.

Get Running does one thing — gets a beginner running from scratch. And it does it extremely well.

RunKeeper is more general-purpose, and programmable, uses the GPS, links in with a web site, and does all manner of other clever things.

RunKeeper has a higher learning curve. There’s just a lot more to it, so it’s necessarily more difficult to get started with. Get Running effectively does one thing, and has one button, marked “Run!”, in large friendly letters.

RunKeeper needs you to turn off your WiFi (otherwise it might use the less accurate positioning information instead of the GPS), program your exercise yourself, if you’re following a plan, and starting off seems to involve pushing a few more buttons. Plus you’ve got to remember to stop it at the end.

(Also, RunKeeper’s synthesised voice prompts have nothing on the lovely, human, encouraging voice of Clare, who recorded the voice prompts for Get Running!)

But, when you get to the stage where the runs are just a half-hour of running, and you want to know a bit more about your pace, your progress, and how far you’re running, RunKeeper can make a very confident entrance into your training plan.

So, before I set off today, I programmed RunKeeper with the Week 8, Run 3 run of the C25K — carefully putting in two consecutive 14-minute runs, rather than one long 28-minute run, so I’d know when the halfway point was — and set off.

Today I’d decided to push my pace up a bit, to see just how far I could get in my 28 minutes. One RunKeeper feature I particularly like is a mode where if you tap the screen, it’ll tell you how you’re doing — your time, distance, and current pace.

This means there’s no need to crane your neck to figure out where you are in your run, or whether your pace has dropped off. I just slapped my conveniently-armbanded iPhone and the voice intoned my stats.

Anyway. Here’s the killer feature of RunKeeper, and why it’s called RunKeeper — the website integration. I’d created an account on runkeeper.com. I finished my run, hit RunKeeper’s “stop” button, told it I wanted to record my run, and by the time I was back indoors, it had been automatically uploaded to the website, and I could see it mapped out. And, even more hoopy, I can share it, like this:

Got to say, that’s pretty cool. And look — I’m doing pretty damn well! That’s 4.18km in 28 minutes, at an average pace of 6:45 per kilometer. That’s fast, for me, by the way 🙂

I’m going to use Get Running for the final week of the C25K, rather than RunKeeper — Get Running is easier to use, prettier, and the voice prompts are much nicer (and playback is slicker — Get Running fades the music down, speaks, then fades the music back up. RunKeeper just merges in with the music, making it difficult to hear.)

After that, I’m going to have to explore my options for getting up to 10K. RunKeeper will definitely be on the shortlist.

That’s Another Fine Mess I’ve Gotten Me Into

Today I did Week 8, Run 2. Instead of my customary mixed-up playlist, I took the chance to listen to this year’s Mercury prizewinner, Speech Debelle’s Speech Therapy. Running seems to be a good time to get back to the rather old-fashioned pastime of listening to entire albums, as long as they’re suitable. Speech Therapy worked well, with its relatively gentle beat and melancholy feel keeping me at a moderate pace all the way through…

Today’s run did hurt a bit, though, because I had a really good massage yesterday. If anyone wants a fantastic Thai massage in Bristol, by the way, get yourself down to Absolute Thai Therapy, just off Whiteladies Road, near Richer Sounds.

Their massage left me extremely relaxed, and a little tender here and there, which probably slowed me down a bit. It also perhaps put me into a more suggestible and optimistic mood, because yesterday evening, a few hours afterwards, I signed up for the Bristol 10K!

I’d been chatting to Mike, of the Bristol Running Resource, over lunch yesterday. He mentioned the 10K after asking me what my running goals were, when I realised I didn’t really have any, beyond finishing the Couch to 5K.

The 10K takes place in May, giving me more than six months to get ready. This seems a comfortable distance away. It also gives me a goal to think about once I’m through the C25K. And another reason to keep on running, which can only be a good thing.

So, encouraged by Mike, and weakened by massage, I got home, headed for the website, put my name down and paid up. Once the Couch to 5K is completed, looks like I’ll be doing a 5K to 10K — somehow…

Aye, there’s the rub

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Today’s update is brought to you by Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel. In my 28-minute road-test this evening, it did exactly what it says on the tube. I recommend it to any other runners out there whose thighs (or anything else, for that matter) tend to rub together a bit too much…

Anyway, with that bit of too-much-information out of the way, today’s run was fine. I had an extra rest-day in between weeks this time, not because of my extra-long run at the end of Week 7, but because I went to Bristol’s Organic Food Festival yesterday.

That didn’t leave me with the energy for a run; I’d spent too much time on my feet by the evening, and the unseasonally lovely, sunny weather was just too much for me. Give me a bit of drizzle any day 😉

So, I skipped a day and ran today, instead. As you’d expect, after Wednesday’s half-hour effort, I coped fine with the 28 minutes of Week 8, Run 1. I ran the towpath again, and got just a little bit further down it than I have done before.

The leading lights, strategically placed down the side of the Avon to mark the deepest part of the channel, guiding large boats away from the shallows, have replaced the Suspension Bridge as my halfway landmark, so that’s today’s picture.

Week 7, Run 3

This evening, I failed. This is the first time I’ve found myself unable to follow an instruction from Get Running on the C25K.

Specifically, I failed to stop.

Today, I set off on yet another different route. This time, I headed into town instead of out of it, down the harbourside.

That was fine; there weren’t too many people about, and there aren’t any roads to cross. I’m finding that this is a huge advantage of living next to a middling-size river, and close to a bridge: there are plenty of routes for running that don’t involve crossing roads, because people rarely want to drive into the water.

Anyway. I got to the halfway point at 12½ minutes, according to Get Running, and I was pretty much in town. I knew that I wasn’t halfway around the harbourside, but some part of me just thought I should carry on.

So I did. The “stop running” voice prompt came when I was still on the other side of the river, but with not too far to go, so I just pressed on. Feeling like I’d taken on a challenge, somehow, I crossed the bridge and ploughed on back to the place I’d joined the harbour at the beginning, reaching it just after Get Running told me it was time to warm down, so five minutes on from the official end of the run.

According to the GPS (I took it with me because I only realised at the last minute that there was only 20% battery left on the iPhone, and I wanted a backup timer) I ran for 2.55 miles, averaging 5mph, for 30-and-a-bit minutes. That’s 4.1km!

Bearing in mind how I used to slow down to a walk when the PE teacher was out of sight during cross-country running at school, that’s probably the furthest I’ve run in my entire life 🙂

Anyway. Pretty chuffed. You can see my route here, though I’ve (probably slightly naughtily) taken a snapshot of it for the blog below.

I’m going to carry on with the rest of the C25K, of course, and maybe not push myself past that limit again — but it’s a good feeling to know that I’ve already run for the full half-hour that the plan builds up to, and survived!

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Imagery © 2009 DigitalGlobe, Infoterra Ltd & Bluesky, GeoEye, Getmapping plc, The GeoInformation Group. Sourced from Google Maps

Personal Best

IMG_0188.jpgI decided to try a little experiment this evening. Was my cheerful, bouncy performance on the last run because I’m getting better, or because of the different route I took?

So, I went back to the old route, along the towpath. I also took my venerable Garmin eTrex along with me again.

And I’m pleased to report that it wasn’t the route on Saturday that made me feel like I could go faster and carry on quite cheerfully all the way to the end!

This evening I bounced through the towpath run with similar alacrity, and set a new personal best, I think (although I’ve not measured all my runs, I’d be surprised if the one 25-minute run I didn’t measure was a good one.)

On this route (via Gmaps pedometer) I got a little further along the towpath than ever before, and the eTrex confirms my overall speed as 5.1mph, which is a shade higher than any previous average speed I’ve managed, breaking 5mph for the first time.

I guess the 8mph max speed was done on a downhill stretch, possibly the ramp down from the flyover at the beginning 🙂

The Garmin (more accurate than the Gmaps pedometer, I guess, as it knows exactly where I ran) says the overall distance was 2.15 miles, or 3.46 kilometers. So, rounding up, I can run 3.5km in 25 minutes, which seems pretty good to me. A bit of arithmetic tells me I’d be able to run 5K in 35 minutes, keeping up that pace.

Anyway. I also felt pretty damn fine after the running (especially after the shower!) So, I reckon I’ve broken through the first plateau, and got to the point where I’m starting to enjoy the running itself, as well as the “having finished running” — previously my favourite part by far 🙂

A New Way

Well now that, that was a doddle. Really. Week 7, Run 1, done.

Today I decided to try a different route for the first time — not wildly different in direction, though, just along the other side of the river. Here’s the route on Gmaps Pedometer.

But it’s amazing what kind of difference the width of a river makes. On the north side of the Avon is the A4, a main route leading from the west of Bristol, where I live, out north and west towards Avonmouth — and then perhaps to Wales, if you join the M49, or down south towards Devon and Cornwall if you join the M5.

As you’d expect, then, it’s far from the pleasant little towpath on the south side. But with the drawbacks — traffic and tarmac — come some pluses, with street lighting, a wide pavement, and a lack of big puddles. I figure this will make a good fallback route as autumn kicks in.

Whether it was the change of route, me getting better at running, or just a particularly good day, I did well. I don’t think I was any faster or slower than last time — my venerable old Garmin eTrex that I carried along says I averaged about 4.8mph, which is about the same. But I paced myself better, and had enough bounce left in me to actually speed up a bit for the way back after the halfway point.

And it was all pretty enjoyable, the whole way through. I felt I had easily enough left in me to shove another five minutes on to the end, if I’d felt like it.

But I shall stick to the plan. There’s plenty of time to push up to half an hour, and there’s always the possibility that I’ll have an off day at some point, just like this was an “on” day…

One interesting point about my new route — I passed a seven mile marker. Not a personal one, mind, but one that’s been put in place for the Bristol Half Marathon, which is happening tomorrow. Good job I ran today; wouldn’t want to get sucked into that by accident. While I felt like I could carry on, I certainly wouldn’t last another 11 miles!