Friday, 1 March 2013

February 2013: A Month In Review

It’s that time of the month… again!

That’s right, it’s “Month In Review” time. Back in January, after my 272.4mi (8.8/day), I made two things quite clear:

“I have no intention of going beyond 272mi in February, not even on a pro-rata basis to reflect the three fewer days. But there is one stat above I’ll be targeting, namely the last one as I look to break the 7mph average. Hopefully without shying away from them here hills..!”

So – how did things work out?

In terms of distance, I did indeed manage to run less this month! I clocked 215 miles at an average of 7.68/day – still insane, just not quite as insane as last month! Then again, last month I had the extra motivation of the Strava Run Base Mile Blast challenge. I won’t bore you with the details: suffice to say that 10,408 Strava users across the globe joined in. The rules were quite simple: run as many miles as you can. Obviously, by their nature, Strava users are a keen bunch, so I never expected to do anything noteworthy – it was just something to keep an eye on. Oh, you want to know what position I ended up?
Oooh, let me look into this, because it’s not as if I could ever remember off the top of my head… why oh my, it appears I came 97th. Out of 10,408. Well, fancy that. Not bad, then. Or, to put it otherwise… mind-blowing! Mind, pit alongside the sixteen Strava users I actually ‘follow’, I came 4th. 97th out of 10,408 globally, 4th out of 17 within my little community: that should give you an idea of how crazy/gifted some of the people I “hang out” with on Social Media can be! But enough of that…

…let’s get back to February! Here are those stats in full:

Count:                    31 Activities
Distance:               215.09 mi
Time:                      29h11’24”
Elevation Gain:     8,195 ft
Avg Speed:            7.4 mph

2013 Cumulative:
Count:                    65 Activities
Distance:              489.24 mi (8.29mi/day)
Time:                      69h11’06”
Elevation Gain:    23,534 ft

Avg Speed:           7.1 mph

Remember, when I time myself running to the chippie (because I do give it some welly, trying to get home with the food still warm!) I generate multiple activities by stopping the watch on site. Anyway, let’s go back to my one goal…
I was looking “to break the 7mph average. Hopefully without shying away from them here hills..!”

I admit it: I did shy away from the hills. I shied away from Nore Road and other local steep ones, even spent less time on ‘my’ lap. I did so because I have been focusing on training for Sunday’s Bath Half Marathon whilst also extending the length of my weekly long run. February featured two 20-milers: first time round I took in a few of my ‘laps’, second time round I just stuck to going up and down the flat section of the confusingly-named Down Road. It was 4:30am, folk: both body and mind figured that 20 miles was punishment enough without adding any hills to it. Sure, hill running is a great way to train, as I’ve established throughout this journey: but, when trying to find a decent pace for Bath (which, like Manchester, is meant to be flat – well, so I’m told), it seemed to make sense to stay on the flat. This also gave me the opportunity to focus on my technique and my rhythm, to work out my ideal cadence and stride length, strive for consistency in my pace. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate that “hills are my friends”, as Coach Marriott taught me a long time ago – and I look forward to returning to them to build up strength. But hills would not have allowed me runs where I was hitting the same pace, mile after mile… a key objective as I look to break 1h35’ on Sunday not by keeping a constant eye on my Garmin and working out how I’m doing in the context of 13mi, but by hitting 7’15” mile after mile, bit by bit.

And that brings me to what is arguably my highlight for the month. I did “break the 7mph average”, reaching the dizzy heights of 7.4mph. I don’t have any 2012 numbers to bring to the table, having only started using my Garmin at the end of December, but trust me and my legs (without requiring me to fiddle around with my spreadsheet – for, of course, every run since last April has been logged): I wasn’t going any faster. I ran eight of my nine fastest runs since adopting the Forerunner 65 runs ago in February, including a 5k on Feb 16 at 6’55” miling and my sub-1hr (55’47”) “standard run” (hills anall well, 69ft over 1.4mi, anyway) the following day. So yes, I’ve… well, picked up the pace!

There you go – objective achieved! What about March?

After Sunday, I will only have eyes, mind and legs for one thing: and no, you don’t win a prize, not even a solitary M&M, for guessing it’s the Greater Manchester Marathon. Therefore, my goal for March has to be improving the long runs. Getting up to a 23-miler, ideally. In what time, at what pace… quite frankly, I don’t know. On February 19 I ran 20mi in 2h45’20”, a pace of 8’16”/mi. Now look, if I could maintain that for the extra 6.22mi come April 28 I’d find myself crossing the finishing line in 3h36’45” – and if I didn’t collapse in exhaustion, I sure as hell would do so in delight! Having improved my speed this month, next month I shall need to revert to improving stamina. Happy to target 7’15”/mi for Sunday but even more delighted to target 8’15”/mi for Manchester. And let’s not be having any nutters tell me otherwise, thank you. None of that “eight-minute miling” malarkey, ta much. (Seriously, guys – behave)

Oh, and another goal for March will be to start using my Garmin’s heart-rate monitor. I did try it this month, but either the battery’s dead or there’s none in there: I’ll find out which when I finally open up the device and insert one of the new ones. I decided to wait till after Sunday’s Half because progress was satisfactory enough without brining even more data to the table: hopefully the additional insight I establish next month will enable further tweaks and further enhancements. Small steps… in every sense. I’m also looking forward to seeing what impact the Clif Bar Energy Gels and Clif Shot Bloks will have: that’s what they’ll be dishing out in Manchester, so I ordered some from Up and Running a fortnight or so ago. I just need them to arrive now..! Certainly going on a long-run armed with a mid-session snack will be a new experience – and another piece of the jigsaw..! I’ve looked to improve across several areas in recent months: there has to be some scope to improve nutrition, not because I eat badly but just because I’ve not really made a conscious effort yet. I’ve started, mind: got myself a new smoothie maker, started making myself carrot/apple/orange (well, satsuma) smoothies the night before some of the longer runs as a reward to which look forward..! (I really have lost the plot, havent I?)

In short: If at the end of March I’m here reporting on a 3h10’08” 23-miler, you can expect the tone of the next “Month In Review” post to be a very, very gleeful one! In fact, let’s be honest: if I do have a 3h10’08” 23-miler to report upon, you’ll hear about it well in advance of the end of the month! But hey, Id be delighted with a far slower run, providing Id managed the distance. For now, however, all you have is a wannabe-sub1h35’ half-marathon runner. One whose recent training stats suggest he can go and hit the streets of Bath for 13.1mi at 7’20”/mi, maybe even 7’15”: but one who, for now, is all words and no action. Well, no official race action, anyway – he has run 489.24 training miles in 2013, for what it’s worth. Which isn’t that much, till he does it when it matters. And now he really needs to stop talking in the third person, right?

However Sunday goes, I hope to report back on Monday. Until the Bath is run, this is me signing off. Feeling a tad nervous now that I’ve tied my 1h34’59” target to the mast and the weight of expectation has shifted. But ultimately I’ll still be happy if I don’t hit that, providing I do beat my 1h49’56” PB – otherwise I’ll be disappointed, of course I will.
Should I have kept schtum about my target? That’s one view. My view, in spite of the nerves, is that it will make me even more determined to ensure the Garmin reads 8’15” mile after mile after mile. Yes, I am nervous; yes, I’ve put myself under pressure, at least relatively speaking in terms of an amateur runner competing in a local half marathon. But there’s nothing wrong with nerves and pressure: it’s all about converting them into energy and motivation. That will be my job, come Sunday. Because I can’t hit 1h35’ on fitness alone.

Then again, it’s tempting to not get too close to that 1h35’ target, as such a failure would just leave greater scope for improvement for the homecoming gig – Sheffield, 12/05/2013. Hmmm… I might aim for 1h49’55” instead. Or maybe not. We’ll see.

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