Running log excerpts

Over the last 18 months I’ve progressed from being unable to run more than a minute or so at a time to completing several 10k races and a half marathon. I keep a journal, and so my progress and fears are well documented. I thought I’d share some of them, along with a sort of breakdown of the various stages I’ve been through on the way.

Starting out

I started with the Couch to 5k plan that seems so popular these days. It seemed to work for others, and I was starting from zero. Any help was welcome. I got started in late November, and was well into the plan by mid December. I wrote about the process and my progress last February.

December 17, 2012

I went running again tonight, even though I felt tired and shitty and stressed out. I was worried the longer intervals would give me trouble, but surprisingly I made it without stopping early. The last 3 minute period was hard, but I did make it.

January 19, 2013

I went running again this morning, keeping up my goal of 3 times a week. I made it to a mile, though not by a lot.

February 8, 2013

I ran again last night but couldn’t make my goal. I got such a stich in my side that I had to walk for a while. If I could have kept breathing I could have kept running.

Until I finally made it 3.1 miles without stopping in mid-February.

February 16, 2013

I ran a 5k today. 34:50, so a little more than 11 minutes a mile. I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but I just kept going until I did.

Some general running

After finishing Couch to 5k, I moved on to general running, without much of a plan. I thought I’d stick with 2 to 3 mile runs and mostly work on increasing my speed. I almost always ran hard, and generally couldn’t make it must past 3 miles. I thought the way to get faster was to run fast all the time, and just push harder as I went. I mostly wanted to finish a 5k run at 10 minutes a mile. Again, I wrote about that here in May.

March 27, 2013

I went for a run last night, after 3 solid weeks off. Travel and a bad cold. It was hard; I stopped to catch my breath at 10 minutes and almost passed out.

March 30, 2013

I went for a run first thing this morning. I started with a 2 mile jog, though I didn’t actually make it the full 2 miles without stopping.

April 7, 2013

I can finally run 20 solid minutes at below an 11 minute mile.

April 22, 2013

My average pace has improved from around 11:30 min/mile to almost 10:30 a mile. I’m hoping to get below 10 minutes eventually.

May 3, 2013

Last night I ran 2.5 miles at 9:45/mile. I think that I broke through a real barrier a couple of weeks ago.

May 9, 2013

On Saturday the 4th I ran a 31 minute 5k. That’s a big 10 minute/mile goal achieved.

10k training

I still dreaded giving up, so I signed up for a 10k in May to keep myself moving. At this point I started following one of the 10k training plans from Runkeeper, though I started with a much too aggressive time target that I eventually had to give up on. My eventual 10k target time was 65 minutes. I ran that race one year ago, and wrote about it here.

May 10, 2013

Yesterday I made the decision to not only sign up for Midnight Madness, but to go for the 10k rather than the 5k. I already started on a training plan to get me up there by late June.

May 17, 2013

I didn’t make it to 4 miles last night. I had to walk at 3.75.

May 22, 2013

I still can’t quite make it to 5 miles without stopping, and I need to get to 6.2. And at my current speed that’s 66 minutes.

June 7, 2013

I think the training plan I picked may have been too aggressive.

June 17, 2013

My Saturday run went fine, but Sunday didn’t go well at all. I was supposed to do 7 miles and thought it would be no trouble. In truth it was all kinds of trouble.

July 3, 2013

Last night’s run was interesting. I did 4 miles at a 10:30 pace, which is my target time for the 10k, then intervals which were less fast than I hoped. I made it with no real issues, but I had chills by the end and almost collapsed when I got home.

July 7, 2013

My run this morning was hard. 8 miles is beyond what I can easily do right now. I made it almost to 6 miles, and probably could have done a full 10k, but couldn’t go much more.

July 15, 2013

I did the Midnight Madness 10k on Saturday night. Based on my training and current fitness level I set a goal of 65 minutes, and officially I made it! 64:51, 9 seconds to spare.

After the 10k

I kept running after finishing my first 10k. Again I didn’t have much of a plan, but I kept working on my intervals and general speed.

August 7, 2013

I did an 8 mile interval run last night. While I didn’t make it through all intervals at speed or without stopping, I felt good on the whole. I’m still improving and have more stamina than ever. The overall progress that I’m making is pretty awesome.

August 12, 2013

I woke up early and hit the trail. I did my 10 mile run and though it wasn’t fast it was a big milestone. I had to walk a few times, I drank all my water, and my legs felt like lead, but I made it.

August 31, 2013

I had planned to go for a 60 minute 10k this morning, but it didn’t go well. I ran out of breath early and my legs are hurting. My shoes have less than 200 miles on them but I think they may be shot.

September 18, 2013

Another 5 mile run last night. I ran at about the pace that I did the 10k in July, and I consider it to be a comfortable speed. But it is still slow. I am not really certain how to get faster.

Time to try a half marathon

I decided to try a new challenge, and started training to run a half marathon. Ever stupidly ambitious, I set an impossible goal of 2 hours when I started. I later realized that wasn’t possible, and changed my goal to something simpler: to finish.

This was about the time that I started paying attention to the advice that said that most runs should be at a slow pace, with some interval training and occasional longer race-pace runs. Up until this time I was determined to push my pace on every run. Now I was running slower than 11 minutes a mile again, on purpose.

Even now going slow on my slow runs is hard.

I wrote about signing up for the half marathon, and later completing the race here.

October 9, 2013

Last night’s run was interesting. It was hard at first to settle into the slower pace but after a little while I steadied out. Running slow used to be a lot harder.

October 11, 2013

Last night’s run was late, around sundown. It was chilly until I really got moving. I may have to switch to long sleeves before too much longer. The pace I’m trying to maintain is slower than average, which can be its own challenge. But it’s easy to maintain and I don’t feel tired.

November 3, 2013

I did my first long run in a while today. 8+ miles. It was a little rough but really not all that bad. Despite my slacking off I still have some of the endurance that I spent the last year building up.

November 26, 2013

I moved into the second phase of half marathon training this morning with my first interval run. 8 short, fast intervals at around 8 minutes a mile, with slower recovery periods. It was hard-ish, but honestly I did fine.

January 7, 2014

I reset my training plan for the half marathon. I missed more than two weeks of runs between Christmas and getting sick, and realized that I wouldn’t be able to just pick up as though nothing happened.

I pretty much guarantee that running 13 miles at a 10 minute pace will be very hard. It might even be prove to be impossible.

January 13, 2014

On Saturday I did a 7 mile run, which was a lot harder than it should have been. I don’t seem to be fully recovered from getting sick at the beginning of the month. I made it about 6 miles and then ended up finishing with more of a run/walk thing. That’s not good news for running a half marathon.

Getting more complicated with heart rate measurement

Around this time I picked up low end Garmin GPS watch with a heart rate monitor, and started recorded heart rate data. I wasn’t yet training by heart rate, but at least was starting to consider it. I was still foolishly aiming to run my half marathon at a 10 minute mile pace.

My interval sessions and race pace training was still all based on a target time and not heart rate. I hadn’t yet established my resting or maximum heart rates or any training zones. Looking back at the data now I was well into Zone 3 for my easy runs and in Zone 5 for my intervals. I was pushing harder than I should have in pursuit of times I wasn’t physically ready to achieve.

My mileage was piling up at this time, going from long weekend runs of 7 miles all the way to 12 to prepare for the late March race.

January 20, 2014

Saturday’s run was the hard one, as it had 2 15 minute intervals at around 9:10/mile, and I wasn’t sure I could maintain that pace. I did OK though, clocking in about 10 seconds a mile slow.

February 3, 2014

I ran a lot of miles this weekend, but fewer than I had planned. My pace on Saturday’s long run was a lot slower than planned and I ended up more exhausted than expected. I blame running through snow.

February 14, 2014

5 weeks until the half marathon. I’m scared.

February 24, 2014

Saturday’s 10 mile run was very difficult. I hardly made it past 6 miles before I started flagging, and I wasn’t even going all that fast. I worry that getting to 13.1 will be extremely hard even with all my training.

March 3, 2014

Longest run ever on Saturday. 11.25 miles, at a little over 12 minutes a mile. I think that’s about the right training pace, which just reminds me that I’m still very slow.

March 11, 2014

11 days until the half marathon. I’m terrified at how I’m going to do in the actual race. I ran 12 miles and wasn’t dead last week, but if I ever have even a little bit of a time goal that speed does not support it. Everyone says to not focus on a time, to just finish. They’re probably right, but I desperately want to achieve a good time. I would like to beat 2:30. That’s a little less than 11:30 a mile.

March 27, 2014

The race on saturday was up in Golden, on a truly miserable morning. While Friday had been warm and sunny, Saturday was below freezing, gray, cloudy, and threatening snow. Still the race went on. I wore two shirts and long pants, which mostly kept me warm after the run started.

The first few miles felt great, and I settled into what felt like an easy pace. But after the turnaround it was all uphill. I started lagging on the uphill. In the end I made it in 2:28:08. Slower than the 11 minute pace I hoped for, but faster than my target of 2:30.

Changing cadence and using my heart rate monitor

The half marathon was my first run using the Garmin Fenix 2, which records cadence as steps per minute based on the oscillation of the heart rate strap. The data for my half marathon shows I steadily ran at about 160 steps per minute the whole time. Looking at older data from an app on my phone shows that I was usually between 150 and 160 on every run, and that this didn’t change much as I changed speed.

I read a lot about how increasing turnover and therefore cadence was one key way to improve speed, and potentially to reduce injury by shortening stride length. I had been struggling with shin splints, and now that this data was being recorded and displayed on my wrist I had a way to work on improving it. I started with just trying to take faster steps, and over a few weeks a shorter, quicker stride became habit. Now I routinely average 180 steps a minute, and take more steps at faster paces. I haven’t had any shin issues since.

At this time I went off to spend 2 months working in Michigan, and although I kept running I stopped writing about my runs as often. Getting through the half marathon seemed to be the point where I went from worrying about running all the time to considering myself a runner. I signed up for the Bolder Boulder 10k, established a training plan based on heart rate zones rather than specific speed targets, and just kept going.

May 14, 2014

I’m hoping to run Bolder Boulder in around 55 minutes, but between the elevation change and weight loss troubles I think 57 or 58 would be OK. 9 minute miles would get me to 56. I can do that on a flat course in Michigan. Can I do it on some hills in Colorado?

June 16, 2014

I set a personal best at the Bolder Boulder 10k on Memorial Day. I wrote that 57 or 58 minutes would be OK. Well, I ran the race in 57:58. A win, I think.

I’m flying to Iowa in a few weeks to run Midnight Madness again. My target now is to beat 56 minutes, based on the Bolder Boulder results. The Ames course is flatter and has more air, but it will also be hotter.

July 15, 2014

Iowa was great, and Midnight Madness went pretty well. Despite having 3 beers between brunch and lunch, I was hydrated and ready to run when the gun went off at 8:30. I was feeling good the whole way, trying to keep just under 9 minutes per mile based on my watch. Everything seemed primed for my 56 minute target, but I was just slow enough on the two hill climbs. When I saw the clock after the last hill I realized I might not make it, but went all out on the last stretch to try.

I was just short, with an official time of 56:09. Even with the 8 seconds it took to reach the start line—the race only does gun time, not chip time—I would be a second short. I definitely had the reserves to make up those 9 seconds, and the next race will be faster.

What comes next

At this point I’ve achieved my early goals, and most of the ones I set afterwards. I’ve done 3 10k races, improving my time by nearly 9 minutes in just a year. I ran a half marathon too, and plan to do another this year. At this point I think I just want to get fitter and faster.

I plan to sign up for my next big race this week: the Boulder Half Marathon in October. I’m already training for the race and plan to blow my March time away. Along the way I plan to run a few 5k and 10k races. I could be reaching the point where I don’t set personal records on every race, but I think weight loss and running will eventually lead me to a 10k time of under 50 minutes.

Maybe I can improve more and maybe I can’t. But it doesn’t matter. In less than two years I made it from struggling with Couch to 5k to running 3 10k races and a half marathon. I run 5 times a week and enjoy it. I see improvement in my race times and overall fitness levels. I see improvement on the scale.

If you asked back before I started if I’d ever make it this far, I doubt I would have said yes. I see a clear progression when I look back, but I don’t think I could have mapped the path forward. It really is just one step—one run, one race—at a time.

— Steve

Posted on 15 July 2014