Monday, 24 March 2014

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Dad just scanned in a picture of my first "race" (it was a fun run, really) and sent it to me.  It was back in the early days of the Austin Running Club.  The nation was celebrating its bicentennial, which meant the ARC hosted a 1 mile fun run, Mom fired up the sewing machine and made us all matching Stars & Stripes tops, and I got to do my first race at the ripe old age of 3.  I can't recollect how long it took, but I know it was a PB!

Nearly 4 decades later, the hike & bike trail at Town Lake (now Ladybird Johnson Lake) is still one of my favourite places in the world. Every twist, turn, bridge, and hill seems to hold a memory of one run or another.  When I was very little, Dad would do his run, and Mom was stuck walking with us as we ran/walked/sat.  I can still point out the scar on my right knee from when I fell running downhill (sound familiar?), chasing my older siblings near the gazebo over by the Congress Street bridge.  When I was in high school, racing duathlons, Dad & I would head to the lake once or twice a week after work in the summer to put in some sunny miles.  The little wooden bridge over Barton Creek always meant I was near the water fountain, if I was on the anti-clockwise loop.  Little things, important things.

Nearly 38 years ago, I wasn't quite so tall. Even then, I liked to look at the scenery.

This weekend, I joined our local Sports Relief Mile in Pershore.  Ostensibly, I was out drumming up support for EVRC's local 10K on July 13th, but in the end I just couldn't pass up the chance to run around a park surrounded by runners, walkers, and pram pushers/passengers.  As a race director, I frequently have to set out age limits and rules, fill in risk assessments, and play with bits of red tape. But as I was jogging about the park, chatting with a local teacher who received great support from his primary school students, watching parents sheltering their little ones under trees when the hail became corn-kernel-sized, I was on the other side, enjoying one of the best things in the world - people out running around having fun (once the hail stopped).

Hopefully, in a few decades, some of those little kids I saw on Saturday will look back at pictures of them with their first medal and see the start of a lifetime of happy running memories.  Running comes naturally to most of us, or it did once, and so does laughing and smiling while we do it.

Now, it's time to turn off the PC, get out, have fun, and make some new memories.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Running Diaries - you keep one, but do you use it?

Judging by the volume of Facebook and Twitter chat, most runners do keep (and share) records of their runs.  Whether it's Strave, Runkeeper, Garmin Connect, vast home-made spreadsheets (yes, that's me), a blog, or good old handwriting, we keep a log of anything from number of miles run to the number of jellybabies consumed.  It's a great way to give ourselves a pat on the back, a little gold star, just for going out and doing what we want to.

But how many of us actually use the running diary for anything other than annoying our non-running friends & families or for ammo in the "I kicked your butt on that segment last Tuesday" conversations with our running buddies?  When was the last time you went back and actually analyzed your diary for something more subtle than "how fast did I do my 800m reps last month?"

What brings this to mind?  Well, this week I managed to complete a (not very) whopping 42.5 training miles, including some good trail runs and a full speed session.  It's the first good quality week I've had in ages, and I wanted to know just how long "ages" really was.

So, I dragged out the spreadsheet and hunted for weekly mileage over 40 that didn't actually include an ultra.  After all, weekly mileage that's 90-100% on one day doesn't really count as a quality week.  A quality day, yes, but that's only 1/7th of a week.

Having exhausted the rather short 2014 diary, I changed to the 2013 page and was pleased to see a couple of 40+ weeks in December, one in November, and then ... May.  OK, so I knew the second half of the year was patchy, so I wasn't expecting much.  But, it got me thinking: was it just a figment of my imagination that I was quite happily doing 35-45 miles per week before I made a mess of my ankle over the Summer?

The training diary trawl continued, not looking for specific totals, but trends; little (or big) stretches of the consistency that turns running into training, patterns of good and bad.  To say I was a little amazed at what I found would be a gross understatement.  I was shocked to learn that before my little blip in December, which ended with a total bonk 32mi into a 45mi training run, I hadn't logged 2 40+ mi weeks in a row for a year.  Consistency? Not here...  I knew 2013 had been a bit unplanned, but the erratic up & down was, on reflection, quite easy to spot.  I think I may need a weekly mileage graph on this year's sheet (if in doubt, add more graphs...).

I then started to ask myself a new question:  if I had such a crap training year (and I did, let's be honest), how did I manage to pull off the races I did?  Dig deeper, look at 2012, and there's the answer.  It would seem that the first half of 2013 was built on the laurels of 2012.  One third of my 2012 weeks had 40+ miles. I got through the next 6 months based on that foundation.

I'm not going to further bore you with the rest of what I found on that trawl.  I will, however, say that it's helped to build a picture of what I've done right before, and how I can build on that for the next year.

So, next time you're looking at your latest Strava segment stats, or posting that picture of your Garmin on Facebook, take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  You might see more than you expected.