I will soon begin training with a running coach to build my speed and endurance. My current goals are to be able to complete a half marathon without walking, and to be able to do so at a sub 9 minute pace.
I believe these goals to be within the realm of reason for me, even in my mid-thirties. Often, though, I start way too strong and burn out down to a 10:30 pace after the third mile of a solid run. I run more than three miles pretty regularly. I have to find my pace.
So, why did I invest in a runner’s coach to help me get to my goals? Primarily because I’ve never had a personal coach, and I want to see what it’s like. Plus, I feel like I can learn a lot from the experience.
The only formal coaching I had was a very brief stint on track and field during high school. I would race and hurdle against our football players. Even then, it wasn’t personalized.
The future is bright, and I hope to improve so that I may achieve this year’s goals. I might even pick up a couple of more races. We’ll see.
Most runners like to track their progress. Whether tracking their runs with a gps runners watch, counting laps on a track, or gauging their fitness metrics; there’s probably an app for it.
The ones I will mention here today are definitely available for iOS, and might be available for android as well. There are more features in these than I will touch upon.
The apps I use:
I use this app in order to track my macro nutrients and calorie intake. It does have a social aspect, allowing you to share your weight loss progress and add friends. You can plug in a weight goal and it will tell you how long it might take to achieve, then assign a calorie goal to every day along the way.
I use this app because I need a way to export my Apple Watch data into other apps that are not HealthKit native (I think that is the correct terminology.) it will export data as a .FIT file to the cloud and other designated applications at least once per day.
This is the primary biometric data app that I utilize on my phone. This is the app which produces my lovely load out screenshots, ex:
It will give you awards for your activity, (little digital medals,) Map your runs, and has a pleasant interface.
This is a free app that helps coaches interact with their athletes and peers. This is the app I need HealthFit for, so that it can access data from the apple ecosystem. People can share their workouts, and plans can be posted as well. I’m still new to this app.
There are a few more applications that I have considered, and (special mention) I used Garmin connect for over a year. It was excellent. However, I consolidated my information so the apps could all communicate more easily.
Okay, so you want to start running! Fantastic! You only have boots, and you can’t afford to drop $100+ on running shoes? Hmm, well. I might have some advice you can use.
Before we begin, I cannot stress the importance of getting fitted for an ideal type of shoe at a running store even if you plan to go and thrift up a pair of used runners. It will help you prevent injury and determine how much support you need.
Now, you can certainly walk into a goodwill or other thrift store and pick up a pair of shoes that someone ditched after running twice. I have! Here are my points of inspection:
Shell: The upper part of the shoe should be in good structural condition, no gaping holes or huge tears. Pinholes in non critical locations or very minor separation of rubber from the toe box might be able to be remedied with super glue.
Tread: Look for spots of wear and compare them to your own. No two people are going to have shoes that wear exactly the same way. If the previous owner had a significantly different wear pattern than you typically put down on your shoe, I do not suggest buying the shoes. The tread blocks should not be all the way gone. At least half of it should still be present.
Cushion: Is the foam stack between the shell and tread severely compressed? Are there chunks missing? Then stay away! You want a shoe with some absorption ability left.
Insoles: I suggest replacing the insole. It’s just a smart move and doing so reduces the risk of injury.
Since you only plop down (typically) about 6-10$ for some used running shoes from a thrift store, you should not be afraid of giving them back to the store if they’re not serviceable for you.
Do walk about in them for a day or so to get accustomed to their behavior before actually running in them. Then give them a jog. If they still feel good, give them a real go. Bam. Cheap shoes.
If you don’t want to totally rely on stumbling upon perfect shoes at a thrift store, you can apply these same principles to purchases from eBay or an REI garage sale. For instance, the two pairs of trail running shoes below were purchased at one of those REI garage sales, and both pairs only ran me 38$ in total!
Obviously, buying new shoes is ideal and reduces risk. It is possible, however, to take a chance and end up finding a gem of a deal. Make an informed decision, take your time getting used to them, and understand that when you buy used, you get zero guarantees. I have had used shoes work for me, and I’ve also had a couple of failures. Be diligent!
Yesterday evening I ran 5 miles. It was the first time I tried to run a sub 9 minute pace this year, and the first time I’ve ever run at sunset in the city.
First off, the little clip light I brought fell within 30 meters of the start. Not good. I blame myself, in part, because I clipped it to the bottom of my shorts. I’ll try it again and secure it better. I strapped the reflectors to my ankles, and almost immediately moved one to my right wrist, anticipating some chafing. I took the other one off. The headlamp never made it out of my car.
3/4 of a mile into my run our group hit a stoplight. I like stoplights. You can sneak little breakup exercises into your run and hit the water bottle. I usually work my knees. Stretch or lunge, whichever I feel would be best. Good thing we paused, too. We were going way too fast for me, hitting a near 7:30 pace, and I knew I had to fall back or I would not finish.
It was upon this realization that I got distracted and forgot to unpause my tracker. I kept right on going at what I thought was a 9 minute per mile pace. My philosophy is, even if it is not recorded, it still counts! Eventually my tracker told me I was exercising and offered to record what was happening. So, naturally, I accidentally hit the “stop” button, further failing to track my run. I, readers, am a silly person.
At the three mile mark we rested and got our wits about us. All of us in the group that I fell back into were unfamiliar with the route. So out came the maps! I am eternally grateful for runners who know their area, because I would have been lost about 3 times were it not for a native that was in my group that knew how to read directions better than I did.
The final two miles of our run were punctuated by stops and even featured a closed road detour. On the final half mile I wanted to finish strong, because it was mostly downhill. I pulled out ahead, thinking I could finish at least in second out of our little group. Nope. Some nausea nailed me at the bottom of the bridge. Dang. “I WILL STILL FINISH!” I proclaimed, and rode an easier pace down to the finish. It felt good. I was in doubt about my abilities for a little bit afterwards, but the facts were still there. Despite my bumbling, I finished. That is always the primary goal.
For the majority of my time running I have been in ASICS. Specifically, the Gel Corrido model, which is definitely a minimal style of running shoe, and discontinued. I loved the gel that ASICS uses, and their light weight was a major selling point. My current pair has logged just over 280 miles, so it’s time to retire the little soldiers.
I believed I could make it through this year with them, but my advanced training schedule and the sheer amount of running I was doing often left my knees sore and toes a little pinched. Something was up. I was in the wrong shoes for longer runs.
So I found myself at a Pro Bike and Run store Sunday morning, taking advantage of a daylight savings time sale. Or, trying to anyway. It occurred to me that I should be examined and fitted for shoes this time. I’m 35, only just beginning to get serious, and maybe I should put more thought into my gear to help prevent injury. I walked so that the marathoner on duty could examine me and explained my situation- I thought I was neutral. NOPE. I got pronation! Well no wonder my knees hurt. I was brewing a disaster by running with the wrong support!
I tested both the ASICS gt 2000 and Brooks Ravenna 10. Neither of which ended up being on sale. Ah well, such is life. I used their treadmill, jogged on the Brooks shoes, and made probably the easiest decision I’ve ever made with regard to shoes. I bought them.
Right. Out to the river trail for a trial run.
Running with a stability insert made a huge difference for me. Not in speed, but endurance. My knee pain was not made worse, I felt good, and my form felt better overall. They’re a bit heavier than my old runners, but I suppose I needed the extra durability.
Overall, I absolutely recommend going to get fitted for your shoes by a runner or pro shoe person. I feel like I can get back to focusing on the run, rather than on my knee. As for the Brooks, if they’re recommended to you, I would say that I enjoy them immensely. Give them a shot.
This blog entry details my view on race and gear costs.
There are certain reasons for getting into a sport that we all have. I choose to run in large part because of its simplicity, and the connection it helps me to feel toward the environment. When I began running it cost me nothing. Doing so was a matter of taking the shoes I already had and then jogging / walking / jogging until I was satisfied. The birds were chirping loudly that morning, so I pretended they were cheering me on.
The memory of this idyllic first experience helps carry me through the wallet abusing process of race sign ups. Certainly, runs can be found that are inexpensive; $20 to run in a 5k, $35 to run in a 15k, and so on. Those local and fundraiser runs are what keep me going. It’s the big race days, the main events, that are wallet killers. Running in the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon can cost someone upwards of $135! Not cheap. But I do understand the service costs and logistics involved.
Gear and training are another consideration when thinking of more intense event races. A marathon and all of its training can knock nearly half of the life span off of your $100 plus running shoes with special insoles that you needed to be examined and fitted for. There are bottles, hats, glasses, hydration packs, activity trackers… Gym bags, and special clothing, and ointments, and gels, and the list can keep right on going. If you get really into that stuff, if you enjoy it; I can dig it. We all have our “thing.” It just piles up fast if you don’t spend smartly.
What you should keep in mind if you love running is that doing the thing is what is most important. If I can’t afford a race, I run my own circuits. When things get hard for me financially, I go down by the river, listen for the birds, and run. When things get hard for me emotionally, I walk out my front door and just go.
It is possible to run cheaply and feel fulfilled by doing so. I like to say that, as humans, we were made for it. Just get up and go.
Today was my first real training session leading into next month’s “Not Another Polar Vortex” 15k. It will be a low key run on a pretty flat trail, so the most important things for me will be to build up to the distance, and pay attention to improving my form.
I attended a clinic on running form before hand, emphasizing core activation, posture, arm swing, and strike (a strike is the way in which your foot hits the ground.) I would say that it definitely does help to mind these “little” things while working toward your big goals. They give your brain something to chew on when you start to drag, and help to improve performance.
Most of my day to day running is up and down massive hills. A common run for me at this time is a 15 minute run composed of a 10 minute mile with 150ft elevation gain. I use all three strikes (heel, center, and toe) on the slopes. A flat training run like this morning’s enables me to bump my mile time to 9:30 very comfortably, adopt mostly a center strike, and I felt like I had more in the tank when we got back to the starting area. Next week I think I will shoot for at least 5 miles at 9:30. Speed will come when I polish my form a little more to this type of running.
I ate an apple and drank a pint of water one hour before the run. Just before running we warmed up with some aerobics. (I will post my pre run routine in full on a later post.) After the run I walked about for a few minutes and then ate a banana. You can see my vitals for the run in the image below.
What I want to work on: consistency in form, and a slow improvement in cadence. I am still learning how to use this dern watch 🙂