90 Minute Challenge: November Time Trial

I completed my first time trial run today and I'm thrilled with the result as I am actually almost two months ahead of schedule. The November target was to complete 6.25 miles in 48:26 (7:45 mins / mile). I actually completed the run today in 45:10 (7:14 mins / mile). This is actually the best run I've done in over 2 years. That's a fantastic feeling!

I picked a beautiful day for my run. The sky was pretty clear and there was a bright winter sun. It was cold enough to encourage me to run in my oh-so-attractive running trousers. I'm glad I did. It was still fairly chilly. The wind was light, so no painful headwinds to contend with. That really helps. Especially as the course does feature a couple of really steep, albeit fairly short, climbs.

Today's pace is much, much better than I had expected at this stage. I did a couple of months of training in July and August, but before that I really hadn't done anything more than sporadic spurts of training and my base level of fitness was not there at all. I really thought that I'd be more towards the 7:45 mins / mile timing. That would have been fine. That said, I've known for the last couple of weeks that I'm ahead, so I was confident starting today that I'd do well.

What's also very pleasing is that I can see how I can improve on today's run, even with my current level of fitness. One of the key things about running training is learning to mentally accept the discomfort of pushing yourself hard over a long period of time. I haven't really run hard enough, for long enough recently to get there. So I think I could probably have pushed a bit harder today. The fear I have, and I suspect many runners have, is that I'm going to push too hard too early and find that I've really run out of steam by the last couple of miles. It's quite a difficult prospect to be a couple of miles from home and be exhausted to the point where you have to walk or jog back. Equally, it's not that realistic, particularly over the kinds of distances I'm currently running. So, one of the things I'm going to work on over the next month is getting comfortable psychologically with this aspect of running.

So now I need to think about two things:
1) What should my goals be for the next couple of months since I'm already at my January target?
I think I'll see if I can get down to the 7:00-7:05 region in December and then try to start lengthening out the distance to 8 miles for my time trials.
2) Is 90 minutes not challenging enough?
If I'm running at this kind of pace now, then there's a good chance that I can build on this to go even lower. One key thought on this is that I wanted to set myself a challenging, but realistic goal. If I keep making that goal harder, I'm going to reach a point where it becomes unachievable and demotivating. I think I'm going to keep 90 minutes as my target and not get carried away. I still have plenty of training to do. If I find that by May next year I'm really well ahead, then maybe I can think about pushing myself that bit harder. Also, I need to remember that the target is to beat 90 minutes. So, if I'm ahead, that's great. I don't need to keep setting the target lower and lower.

My reward for achieving my goal was a blowout pizza fest from Pappa's Pizzas. Including the world's saltiest ever pizza with serrano ham and green olives. I will shrivel up like a slug overnight.


Happy Birthday Sebastian!

It's a parenting cliché, but it truly is amazing to think that, as I write this right now, one year ago H and I were just about to set off to the hospital for the first time and that Seb wasn't born. On reflection it's all the more remarkable that in about 10 hours time, I'll be able to write that it was one year ago since he was born.

It is true that the time seems to fly past. More than anything else, I can't get over how much he has changed in such a short space of time. I know that I keep mentioning that 3 months is 25% of his lifetime, but even so, the rate of change is amazing. You only have to look at the photos from this year to see the difference.

Here's to a very happy birthday for my little boy!

[The pictures are from an early birthday party with the grand parents this weekend]


The March of the Seasons

I posted a couple of photos of Bradley Stoke's autumn colours a week or so ago. A week and a few windy nights later and Bradley Stoke seems to have tilted quickly towards winter.

The changing seasons in England always make me appreciated how lucky we are with our weather. I really enjoy the different conditions. Today was grey, wet, chilly and blustery. I was still out for a lunchtime run. I do find that the darker evenings make live a little less enjoyable, but the weather itself rarely gets me down.
It feels a bit of a shame that Seb is just too young to fully appreciate the autumn / winter seasons. Next year he'll be ready to wade through the fallen leaves in his wellington boots, but this year I think he's not quite ready.


90 Minute Challenge: Time Trial Goals

In order to run a half marathon in 90 minutes, you need to be able to average 6 min 52 second per mile pace.

To measure my progress towards this goal, I'm going to run a time trial at the end of every month's training. I am not following a prescribed training guide. The goals below are based on my experience of my own running and how quickly I can expect to improve.

End November 2010: 6.25 miles in 48:26 mins (7:45 min per mile)
End December 2010: 6.25 miles in 46:53 mins (7:30 min per mile)
End January 2011: 6.25 miles in 45:19 mins (7:15 min per mile)
End Feb 2011: 6.25 miles in 43:45 mins (7:00 min per mile)
End Mar 2011: 10 miles in 73:20 mins (7:20 min per mile)
End Apr 2011: 10 miles in 71:40 mins (7:10 min per mile)
End May 2011: 10 miles in 70:00 mins (7:00 min per mile)
End June 2011: 6.25 miles in 41:09 mins (6:35 min per mile)
End July 2011: 12 miles in 83:00 mins (6:55 min per mile)
End August 2011: 12 miles in 82:00 mins (6:50 min per mile)

There is a small amount of science to the targets. There are various conversion charts that show the rough equivalence in time for running pace over various distances. The target for June 2011 is roughly equivalent to the 10 km race pace that equates to 90 mins for a half marathon. Two things are therefore important about this target. Firstly, it means I will know that I have the speed in my legs. The second is that any further endurance work I can do to run at that pace for longer gives me a better chance of meeting or exceeding my overall goal.


Living Through Music

"I've been through many times in which I thought I might lose it, the only thing that's saved me has always been music" Professor Booty, Beastie Boys
As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening to Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins. I noticed that I felt that I was hearing every drum beat, every chord, every vocal just a few moments before it was actually played. I realised that I have listened to the album so many times over so many years that I know what is coming before it arrives. But it's really more than that, the music is triggering a physical response. I explored this idea further as I drove along, listening to the music that I know so well (which did make driving a little difficult, but I think I was still safe). I began to realise that as I listen to various songs, subtle, emotional memories bubble to the surface. I recognise that different songs evoke images, feelings, senses of different times. For example, the opening few beats on the first track on Ill Communication, Sure Shot, are completely intertwined with images of Virtua Racing on the Mega Drive and memories of sitting in Danny Inglis' bedroom in Hartshill playing that game for hours on end after school. I don't know why this is particularly true, but it is.

What I also find intriguing is the fact that a quick run through of evocative songs in my head finds me thinking of songs that evoke memories of my life between the ages of around 15 to 21 and then not an awful lot outside of that. I suspect this reflects the fact that that was the period of my life in which I obtained the majority of my music.

Mostly, my memories are linked to particular songs, but occasionally it's an album that evokes a particular feeling or concept. What I thought might be an interesting thing to periodically post to my blog was a few recollections of particular pieces of music and the memories they trigger.