Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The importance of goals and the importance of realism.

I mentioned before that I was going to start running a few pieces for beginners. Well, a few people liked the idea so here is the first of (hopefully) many of these.

One thing Ive discovered with running is that you have to have a goal. You need something to aim towards.
At first I thought this was perhaps just me. Well, obviously not JUST me. I realise that many people are “goal oriented” etc. I however am not really one of those goal focussed kind of people generally speaking. With running/ training though, I am. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, I need something to kick my ass and get me off the couch when Im tired/ its cold/ its raining/ its snowing/ its midnight/ I don’t want to or all of the above reasons try to hold me back. I need a reason to do it. Something that says I have to do it, something that can stand above the snow, the exhaustion, the fact that Ive been on a 12 hour flight and my body clock thinks its 2am. I need something to drive me.
The more I look at it the more I think this applies to everyone. We all need training goals.
At the start it may be for you as it was for me.. The desire to be able to run 3 minutes without stopping.

My next goal was to run a 10k.
My next was to run a 10k without injuring myself.
After that a lot of my goals were about not injuring myself.
But I’ve kept resetting my goals.

Once you achieve you goal. You need the next one. In fact, for me, I need the next number of goals planned out well in advance.

I think this is advantageous for a number of reasons. The most important three being MOMENTUM, FOCUS and PERSPECTIVE.

Momentum is really important. There is nothing worse than having a goal, achieving it then thinking.. “now what?”.

The second key is focus. Knowing what your next goal is keeps your focussed. This is obviously directly connected to momentum.. right? So, for me my goal was a 10k. But while training for a 10k, I already knew that I wanted to do a half marathon. I hadn’t picked one at this stage, and injuries held it all back for a while… but I knew I wanted to do it, and it allowed me to focus on sorting out my injury problems.

Finally, and most importantly to me, is perspective. It’s important to have perspective. It’s also important to aim high. I’m not going to talk endlessly about this, I’m just going to explain how this works for me.

When I was training for my first 10k, I knew I was going to be doing a half marathon. This made the 10k seem not that bad. It was only 6.2 miles. I was aiming to do 13.1. IT reduced the size of the initial goal. It put it into perspective.

I’ve now done two 10ks and two half marathons this season. When I started training for the half marathon, this was also easily put into perspective.
I’m doing a marathon.
I’m doing it THIS YEAR.
That’s 26.2 miles. Thus, 13.1 doesn’t seem that bad.

Again, even the marathon.. I haven’t even started my marathon training plan yet… but… my GOAL is to do an Ironman triathlon next year. So all of a sudden the marathon doesn’t seem so insurmountable. It doesn’t seem like such a huge thing. Its just one in a series of goals. Each goal is a small step… but it’s also a giant leap forward for someone who couldn’t run the length of himself a year ago.

Finally, as I mentioned in the title. The importance of realism. I have lots of goals now. This season, another 10k or two. Two sprint triathlons, one Olympic length triathlon and a marathon.
I want to get my half marathon time under 1 hour 40. I want to get my 10k time under 40 mins.
The point where realism comes into it is to remember that if you’re setting yourself high goals, don’t set yourself up for a fall.
If I cant do the Olympic length triathlon this year, that’s fine. I will do it next year.
If I don’t think I will be able to do an Ironman in 2010? No bother, I will do it in 2011.
It’s important to be thankful for what you’ve got. To always look back as well as forward.
If I hadn’t got a PR in my half marathon last week would I have been pissed off?
Hell no! I couldn’t run a year ago and I completed my second half marathon.
So… For the more experienced folks who may have stuck with this for this long… If you’re about to kick yourself for not qualifying for Boston this year… before you do, how about allowing yourself to be amazed that you ran a marathon in 3 hours 30 mins? (or whatever your time was).

Aim high, but don’t beat yourself up for failure. Celebrate your successes, don’t even think of anything as a failure. Look at the part of it that was a success and celebrate that.

Hope this has been useful. If there are any specific topics you would like to hear me ramble endlessly on about, please feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Back in San Francisco / Endurance

This week I am back in San Francisco.
Transatlantic travel can be totally exhausting. Regular trips to the West coast are really hard to take.
Interestingly though, I think as I train more (particularly endurance training) it is getting easier.

Endurance: the power to withstand hardship or stress; "the marathon tests a runner's endurance"
Basically, I'm finding that as I build my running and cycling endurance, its having a knock on effect of just building overall physical and mental endurance.

I flew over on Monday, which was a long day. I was up to travel to the Airport in Dublin at 5am. 2 hours journey to the Airport, 2 hours waiting around and an 11 hour flight later I arrived in SFO International airport. By this stage Ive been awake for 16 hours, but its only 1 in the afternoon.
I headed to my hotel, grabbed a cup of coffee and decided to go out for a run. Amazingly enough I managed to run just over 10k. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon by the time I headed out... which by my body clock was 11:30pm.

The biggest problem with the run was the fact that my hotel was at the top of the worlds steepest hill.

You can just about see the bottom. Running down this was virtually impossible so i sort of half jogged half walked.
For this first run, I had a destination in mind. I actually had to pop to Sports Basement to pick up a Tri Suit for my first Tri next month. I picked myself up a pair of Sugoi shorts and Zoot top. Man those things are tight. I'm by no means vain.. but I can be quite self conscious. Wearing these in public is going to be weird!
Anyway, shopping done I ran back to the hotel. I managed to run all the way up the hill right until the last block.. where the incline had to be close to 90 degrees.

I had to give up and walk. There was just no way I was running up that!

The next morning I woke up superearly, like 5am or something, and headed out for a run again. I planned on doing a run across the bridge again, but was undecided whether that would be Tuesday or Thursday morning... I decided to just run and see where I ended up. Once I saw the bridge through the mist, my mind was made up and off I went.. I couldn't resist the call...

I do love the Golden Gate bridge, and as Ive said before, its a pretty awesome feeling to run across one of the wonders of the modern world.

My camera phone really doesn't do it justice at all, but I do like to take a few shots while out running.

I ran across the bridge and on the way back, weirdly, had to stop as there were guys doing something maintenance related. At that time of the morning, there weren't a lot of people around, but there was me, a few more runners and about 10 hardcore looking cyclists all waiting by the time they let us through.

After that, my run was undisturbed and I had a nice easy 14 mile round trip that took me about 2 hours 13 minutes. Once more, I walked the last block of the hill.

While on this run, I had been watching the cyclists and thinking how much fun it would be to ride across the bridge as well. I popped into a bike rental place on my way back and picked up a leaflet. Turns out they rent some nice road bikes. The next evening, when I was finished work, I popped down and picked one up. It was a Giant Defy 2.. and man was it awesome.

Back home I ride a mountain bike that isn't even made by a bike company.
Its made by Reebok.
Yeah, the shoe company.
Its, to put it nicely, a heap of crap.
It weighs about 4 tonnes, and cost less than £100 new.

So, when I got on this £800 racing bike... Imagine the difference. I could easily lift this thing and carry it under my arm. Riding it was so easy compared to what I was used to. I could get it up to 25mph on the flat without really feeling like I was straining. My bike at home hits 25 mph going down the steepest hill i can find with me pedaling all out.

So off I went on a spin. I headed across the bridge and went up the hill and I saw this lovely view.

See that long, windy, very hilly road? Yes, I went down there. Many was that exhilarating. Scary too.. a bit... but really good fun. Amazingly enough, climbing it again on the way home wasn't even that bad. What a difference a decent bike makes!

I followed this really pretty road out to Sausalito
Once I hit Sausalito, there was a really nice cycle path.. so I just kept going.

Eventually, somewhere, I came off the bike path, cycled up a hill and decided that this sign was telling me it was time to turn round...

The view from this point was quite breathtaking... again, the crappy cam phone picture doesn't do it justice, but at least you get an idea.

On the way back, once I came across the bridge, I turned a different direction from the way I came and took a spin up into the hills, then down through golden gate park and back (eventually after getting totally lost a few times) to the hotel. I ended up riding 33.91 miles. The longest bike ride of my life!

The next morning, I rose early once more and headed out for more of the same. This time I went a bit further on via another route and ended up in a place called Corte Madera a pretty little town. I stopped off here and popped into Pete's Coffee to grab a caramel latte. When I came back out someone had left a little present for me in my bike helmet...

A cute little toy monkey.
Kinda weird.
But nice.
I put him in my bag and he will be joining me on my journey home.
I can only guess that the kid who owned him saw the helmet hanging there and thought that looked like a comfy bed for the monkey. Bet they didn't expect that it would result in their little toy monkey flying halfway around the world!

After my coffee, I got back on the road and headed back. With sadness I handed the bike back and wandered down to fisherman's wharf for some quality recovery food... Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Tasty

Total distance for the day was 36.32 miles. At one point though, I had paused the Garmin at a traffic light and forgot to hit start again and may have lost out on a mile or two, regardless it was still another longest ride ever.

In total over a period of 24 hours I manged to ride 70.23 miles and had 8,644 feet of climbing... And I enjoyed every bit of it.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Before and After / Family running

I'm merging two topics together here. Y'know, because its my blog and I can damn well do as I please.

First up.. been planning on doing this for a while.

I ha vent been running / working out long. I started in summer 2008. There were a variety of reasons... probably foremost of which was my spreading waistline. I used to be a SKINNY guy. And man do I mean skinny.. underweight, malnourished looking. Often sick looking. So, it was rather a surprise to discover one day that I was a fat guy.

I wasn't Gilbert Grape's mother fat. But for me... a skinny guy.. I was big. My BMI said OBESE. In about 2.5 years, my trouser size had gone from a 30 to a 36.
That's a hell of an increase.
Now, a year and a bit later, Ive got rid of most of the excess weight. I'm still not exactly where I want to be. There is still a bit of excess body fat I want to get rid of, and I still have a lot of toning up to do... but on the whole I think its time for a before and after photo.

First up, a nice shot of me and my proud stomach with my lovely wife taken in June of Last year. Shortly after I began running and long before it had a chance to do me any good. You can click the image to see it in all its glory.

What a damn fine specimen of manhood. Check out that double chin. Check out those moobs. Admire the prominent gut. A lot of wine, GOOD food and hard work went into sculpting this Adonis like physique.

OK. Skip forward one year. I have not done any crazy diets. I still eat a lot of junk food. I still eat a PERIOD. BUT, Ive worked out a lot more. I run, bike and occasionally swim. To be honest, the running was all I did for the first 6 months or so. Ive really only started the biking this year. Since starting the cycling and swimming Ive found the weight loss easier. Although that's because I now train at least 6 days a week.

On Wednesday night I did the Craigavon 10k. I dragged my long suffering wife and long suffering son along for the ride. Well.. not just for the ride. I signed them up for the 1km family run. Which was a lot of fun. So, my photos to show the weight loss were taken on that night... First up... me and the lil guy finishing the 1km race, and yes... he beat me.

Now.. don't get me wrong. I'm not a vain guy. I am no model. But I'm proud of the fact that i manged to go from overweight couch potato, to something that resembles a fit human being.
Ive enjoyed the journey and at some point, very early in the process, I became obsessed with running. I'm also sorta obsessed with the idea of triathlon, but until i do one, I cant say much on that.

So, I ran the 10k. My first 10k was a disaster.. I was injured and dragged myself round the course. My second 10k, my target was to do it in under an hour.
I did it in 48 Min's and 30 secs (ish)
Which amazed me. I was really happy with this time.
My only aim with this 10k was to beat the last time... but I am in base training at the moment, have done no 10k prep and virtually no speed work.. So I was REALLY happy when I did the 10k in 45 min 49 seconds. Shaved nearly 3 minutes off the last one. Totally over the moon with this time.
The best thing was, the next day I felt fine. No stiffness, no pain, no injury. After the last 10k I was unable to run for a good few days and ended up having to see a physio and podiatrist. This time round, in the right shoes with orthotics.. faster and no pain.
In fact the next night i went out for a 13 mile cycle.

Anyway, here is me mid 10k. It was a very hot night so I was throwing cups of water over myself while running... so basically.. the wetness on the shirt isn't all sweat.
I really enjoyed this run. I'm off to San Francisco again next week so will do another run across the Golden Gate bridge. Will undoubtedly blog from there.

Ive also been thinking of using this blog to put together some advice for beginning runners and first time wannabe triathletes. If anyone would like to see bog posts on this subject, please leave a comment.

Just to finish off, here is the before and after... side by side.