Running Slow to Get Faster

Yesterday I started a Training Peaks Half Marathon plan designed to get me across the finish line at the Busselton Half Ironman relay in 1:45. Well, I signed up for the plan two months ago when May seemed a long way off and I still believed in miracles! The schedule for Monday said 8km easy, so I ran 8km maybe not easy but strong, but not pushing too hard. It was one of the best training runs I had done in weeks. My Garmin watch, which is still under warranty, is out of action at the moment. I had to send the faulty charging cable to Garmin Australia in NSW for repair/replacement. So yesterday, I couldn’t actually see my pace as I ran. I was running purely by feel, recording the run using the Strava App. I felt great! My average pace turned out to be 5:10min/km. My last kilometre was sub 5mins. I guess I got a bit carried away with myself but it felt so good!

When I got home I checked the training plan again and noticed for the first time that the pace indicated for the run was just under 6min/km. Not only that but this pace doesn’t increase for any of the non-interval runs throughout the 10-week plan. Surely this must be a mistake. How can you go out and run 21.1km at 5min/km pace or faster when most of your training runs are done at a minute slower per kilometre!? I dismissed the plan as lightweight.

As Monday progressed, my energy levels did the opposite. I was zonked. Today’s planned interval session didn’t happen at all. It’s almost 3PM and I’m still dressed to run but the only run I’m doing soon is the school run, in a car. So as fabulous as I felt in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s 8km, I’m not feeling somewhat deflated. Day two of a plan and I’ve already skived. Day 1 and I’ve already over-trained. So what to do?

Well, buy a book of course! And finish a novel. I should slip that in too that instead of running today, I had a little nap then finished a novel I’ve been working on for three years. No one has read it yet so it could be complete tosh but at least it is completed tosh.

Back to my purchase. It’s called 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower. Its main message is that in order to run faster, runners need to train slower. Yes, its counter-intuitive but the premise is based on scientific studies and analyses of athletic performance. I’m still sceptical but I think it’s worth a read. Certainly, the press coverage for the book has been very positive.

fitzgerald Book

It’s hard to run slow when you feel you can run faster. It’s also hard on the ego to deliberately run slower that you are capable of 80% of the time, then display the fact on Strava. Well it is for me! That said, my constant attempts to run every run as fast as is comfortable without pushing too hard isn’t paying dividends other than in measures of frustration as I’m not actually getting any faster. I’m feeling tired and heavy legged a lot of the time, and I am developing new aches and pains on a weekly basis.

So, I’m ready to try something new, ready to slow down if it really means I’ll stay injury-free and run faster in the long run. I’ll let you know what I think of the book. I’ll let you know too how long it takes Garmin to return my cable!

If Only Guinea Pigs Could Fly

Tigerphoto Last Sunday night, I sat down and did something I’d been procrastinating over for weeks. I made a poster advertising our four guinea pigs for adoption. And I cried. Guinea Pigs can’t fly, even on commercial airplanes, so we can’t take them with us to Australia. We’ve had Tiger, Dexter, Hermione and Grace for between two and a half and three years. It’s a bit complicated how we ended up with four in three separate cages but a Twitter feed description of the story would go something like: Two boys, one death, one boy, new friend, friend is a girl, lucky discovery before pregnancy, two more new friends, now two pairs, boys fight, separate, girls live happily ever after together. I put a few copies of the Guinea_Pigs poster in the trunk of my car with the weak intention of placing them on noticeboards at my children’s school. I hated the idea of advertising our little pets to total strangers. At physiotherapy, I told Akmal about my tale of projected loss and woe. ‘I’ll take one,’ he said as he released my posterior tibialis. ‘You will?’ Talk about making a girl happy on a Monday morning! Then Diana, a lovely lady with three children, who works at the clinic said she’d take one. I promised pictures. On Friday, at my 50th physio session since September, Diana was very excited about the guineas and agreed to take the pair of girls. An hour of so later, she Whatsapped me to ask if Dexter was still available as another physio wanted to take him.

GP PosterSo I didn’t need the poster, the animals are going to people whom I know will care for them, and all because I suffered a PTT injury which still niggles especially after hill workouts. Ain’t life funny. I haven’t handed over the animals yet but am very, very relieved that this major emotional hurdle has, if not been breached, well at least approached with a minimum chance of upset. I hope. In other news, I received an email from Garmin Malaysia today in response to my query about sponsorship – back in January. Yes, they’d like to sponsor me with a custom-made run top for racing and a watch, in return for reviewing their products and wearing the top and publishing photos of me wearing it on my blog. They suggest I get a Forerunner 620 from them, Aarrgh! My husband bought me a new Forerunner 620 four weeks ago for my birthday – and I love it. And I’m leaving Malaysia. But I hope I can still work something out. I have four races in Malaysia over the next six weeks, all of which I will write about, and during which I will used my Garmin watch. And I’m not going to stop racing when I get to Australia. I’m just going to be a lot further down the pack. But I plan to still write about my experiences. This is another reason why it sucks to move about. Good things  – and friendships too by the way – always materialise as you’re heading for the exit!

Strava to the Rescue (of my ego)

My husband is a very keen and competitive road cyclist who spends most Sunday mornings dragging himself and his hideously expensive (to a non-cyclist) bike up hills on the outskirts of KL. After each ride, he usually sits in front of a computer and analyses his ride data, and tells me that he’s just been declared King of the Hill, or fifth fastest ever on a stretch of road, that kind of thing. The ride data is assessed on a website called Strava. I will admit that my eyes have frequently glazed over at the sight of Strava, spotted over my husband’s shoulder. Until yesterday, that is, when it attracted my full attention for the first time.

Yesterday, being a holiday, the routine went as usual. My husband was on Strava, looking at the data from our run the previous day in Bukit Tunku. The website collates running data as well as riding. ‘You’d probably be Queen of the Hill on some of these route segments here,’ my husband said.

Whoa! Hold up a second? What!? Faster than it takes to set up a Facebook page, I registered on Strava, uploaded over 400 runs from my Garmin watch, and found that yes indeed, I had set course records (CR), personal records (PR), and even Queen of the Hill records on a variety of run segments that are popular locally. I received a deluge of virtual medals and trophies.

My Strava accolades
My Strava accolades

Now I’m not getting carried away with the glory of all this virtual ego-boosting as none of the fast runners I know are on Strava, but still. If you’ve read my previous post – no? – then off you go and do that now here and please come back.

Back? OK. Where was I? Race anxiety, that’s where I was, setting PBs in training but failing to come up with the goods on race day. Strava means that my training runs are recorded and visible so that when I do manage to run my fastest, the results are visible online, and if they are good enough, I receive a little virtual trophy for a course record, or a medal for a personal record. As someone who tends to run fast for short distances, way shorter than most races, it means I can still get recognition for my short, sharp bursts of speed. Unfortunately my happiness is a bit too dependent on recognition – other INFJs will understand 🙂

Strava is really a social networking site for people who love to run and ride, a place where it’s perfectly acceptable – indeed it’s de rigeur –  to advertise your latest athletic accomplishment, be it a 150m hill, or a 7km loop, without fear of alienating your sedentary friends. You can also comment on people’s training sessions and Like (give Kudos to) friends’ runs or rides.

Stravaprofile

I’m thinking too that it’s probably a great way of discovering new running routes too, something I’ll be facing when we relocate mid-year. The site is free, though Premium membership – my husband has it – provides lots of extras such as pace analysis and goal setting. I’m not quite ready to commit the money just yet but I suspect that like joining Facebook and Twitter, it’s probably inevitable now that I’ve discovered the site.

Here’s a link to my Strava profile if you want to follow me there, and I will return the favour. At the moment, I only have one Follower. My husband, of course 🙂